All posts by DLynn

Dana Stringer is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter and poet based in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Dana Stringer: Hidden Dangers of Being A ‘Strong Black Woman’

black woman*Whenever an African American woman displays qualities synonymous with strength, she is characterized as a “strong Black woman.”

The popular phrase is one of the most highly coveted compliments bestowed upon Black women, yielding a deep sense of pride and validation.

By most accounts, it is considered a virtue to be strong, garnering respect for a race of women whose journey has often been one of struggle and hardship.

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Dana L. Stringer: Unconventional Advice for Graduating Seniors

black male graduate *I started thinking about this year’s high school and college graduates a few days ago, and what advice I could offer them that would serve as a blueprint for their future.  So, here it is.

Find your gift and give it to the world.

Whether you discover your natural talents and gifts early in life or later in life, commit yourself to mastering them and sharing them with the world.  The world is waiting for your gifts and talents.

Find your passion and pursue it.

Unfortunately, far too many people rely upon a job to give them a false sense of purpose.   But purpose is fueled by your passion.  If you’re not passionate about what you do, then it probably has very little to do with your true purpose.

Also, the stress of finding a job in order to repay student loans and/or monthly expenses can pressure you into settling for an unfulfilling job outside of your field of interest. The sense of purpose either gets lost or remains undiscovered once you’re launched out into the real world and are faced with the need to survive. 

However, don’t allow the “rat race” or the quest for the proverbial “American Dream” to distract you from identifying and living out your true purpose.  The key is to find out what you’re deeply passionate about, and what it is that gives you a sense of meaning and fulfillment and pursue that.

Find a cause and be willing to die for it.

Unlike the previous two centuries when fighting on the front lines for what one believed in could mean a matter of life and death, the chances of being killed or having to die fighting for certain rights are unlikely nowadays.  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean there are no causes worth fighting and dying for anymore.

Be careful not to be lulled into indifference and complacency because life is good for you and yours.  You don’t have to be a hostile agitator protesting and boycotting in the streets, but at least find out what’s deeply important to you and be willing to sacrifice your reputation, your life and your image serving that purpose.

Find your voice and tell us something we haven’t already heard.

There are both pros and cons to the surge in content online, on mobile devices, on air and in print.   One of the pros is that you have free and unlimited access to content and information whenever you want it.   The con is that much of what you read and hear has been said for the last few decades.  It can be a challenge to find a fresh voice with fresh insight because the majority of people simply recite what others have previously said. 

Avoid the temptation to parrot the words, thoughts and opinions of everyone else.  Find your own voice and tell us something new in your own unique way. 

Find your God-given place in the world and occupy it without fear.

There is a place designed just for you.  And you are individually designed for that place.   Your personal power and influence is in that particular place. 

Don’t allow anyone to dissuade nor discourage you from operating fearlessly in your place in the world.

Find at least one person who truly believes in you.

Finding people who genuinely believe in you and who authentically support your aspirations can be a challenge. 

Although family members and friends love you dearly, they are often too familiar with you and sometimes minimize and discount your ability to achieve the impossible.  Or they want to lock you into what they feel is a “safe” place for you.

The key is to find at least one person who truly believes in you—someone who will support your goals and encourage you during periods of self-doubt.

Find the good in every living soul.

Human beings are fully flawed and consistently imperfect.   But regardless of the vices and misdeeds of others, nobody is all bad. 

Passing judgment has always been too easy.  Therefore, it is important to take into consideration the life experiences of each individual.  The key is to exercise mercy and strive to identify the good in others.

Find the courage to be different.

God created individuals not clones.  There will always be an expectation to conform to the majority and the norm.  There is comfort and safety in familiarity and similarity. 

However, if you don’t fit in with a certain group or crowd, don’t attempt to change who you are for the sake of “belonging.”  Value your uniqueness.  Your difference is an asset.

Find people who know more than you and allow them to either mentor you or help you.

It doesn’t matter how much you think you know, there is always someone who knows more.  They have either been where you aspire to go, or they know a little something about how to help you get there.  Be humble enough to listen.  And realize there’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom.   You will need a blend of both to accomplish your goals and fulfill your dreams.

Find personal integrity and be true to your convictions.

Be who you are and stand for what you believe.  Don’t allow ideologies or the opinions of others and the quest for the ideal to cause you to lie about your reality. 

Good advice, accountability and wise counsel are important.  However, don’t allow any individual, organization or institution to dictate to you what decisions to make and what actions to take.  Trust your conscience and follow it.

Find solutions.

There’s more than enough to complain about in the world.  And there’s certainly enough blame to go around.  Needless to say, there are countless books, articles, blogs, news programs and documentaries that are dedicated to highlighting the plethora of problems that plague our society.    But you have an opportunity to bring 21st Century solutions to the world.

Whether people listen to you or not, be determined to bring either an answer or an alternative to the table.

Find the heart to always forgive.

The likelihood that you’ll be hurt or disappointed by those closest to you is high.   And depending upon what exactly it is, it could leave you emotionally, psychologically or even spiritually wounded. 

The key is to forgive quickly so that hurt, bitterness and resentment don’t fester within your heart and reflect negatively in your attitude. 

Forgiving is simply letting it go so that you can become the best you that you can be. 

Dana L. Stringer is a freelance writer, playwright, poet and activist based in Southern California.  You may contact her at dana@danastringer.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @danalstringer.

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Dana L. Stringer

fantasia barrino

Fantasia: Winning at Gay Pride Festival

fantasia barrino*The R&B diva and Grammy award winning female vocalist is certainly no stranger to controversy and criticism.

But a resilient and liberated Fantasia took to the stage at the 30th Annual Long Beach Gay Pride Festival on Saturday night in Long Beach, California, rendering a passionate performance.

Audaciously fierce and more confident than ever, “Tasia” boldly proclaimed, “I am doin’ me and I don’t care what nobody has to say,” before kicking off her heels onstage.

Dressed in a white, tightly fitted cutout party dress, and revealing a much more slender and toned figure, the exceptional vocalist pumped up the crowd with her brief rendition of Drake’s “Started From The Bottom.”

If the relationship between Fantasia and the LGBT community was strained by her seemingly disapproving comment about gay marriage posted on Instagram in late December of last year, there was certainly no evidence of that as the crowd of thousands eagerly welcomed and embraced her.

To further demonstrate her affection for the supportive attendees, she spent several minutes stating, “I hate the gates” and requested venue workers to “open the gates” that were serving as a barrier between the stage and the front row of the audience.  She went on to clarify that she needed to “feel some people”—a gesture in alignment with her personable and down-to-earth reputation.

But after a bit of housekeeping, ‘Tasia didn’t waste any time kicking into high vocal gear with crowd favorites like “Man of the House,” “Free Yourself” and “Collards and Cornbread.”

Moments after confessing that she was a “music baby” who grew up on the “meat and potatoes” music from the 80s, Fantasia and her band brought the crowd to its feet with an invigorating throwback performance of “Nasty Girl” by Vanity 6, “In My House” by the Mary Jane Girls, Shelia E’s “The Glamorous Life” and “The Bird” by Morris Day & The Time.

Visibly empowered and energized, ‘Tasia continued to walk the crowd down memory lane with her rendition of “If I Ruled The World.”

Although concert goers got a strong sense of Fantasia’s reawakening as an individual and as an artist, when she performed “Bittersweet” and “Even Angels,” humbly stating, “Guess I gotta’ let it go, the situation wasn’t good for me,” we got a sense that Ms. Barrino is still in the process of recovering from the effects of failed relationships and disappointments.  And this could be no clearer than in her hit song, “Lose to Win” which she sang near the close of her performance.

Fantasia’s success with her newly released fourth album, Side Effects of You, and her recent Pride appearance certainly indicates that she’s on the upswing in her career.  Her performance of “Lighthouse” revealed that she remains undaunted by her critics and is determined to continue recording and performing with a greater sense of purpose.   In a nutshell, she’s finally “winning” again.

 Dana Stringer is a freelance writer, playwright, poet and activist based in Southern California.  You may contact her at dana@danastringer.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @danalstringer.

dana l. stringer

Dana L. Stringer

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Dana Stringer: Sports, Injuries and the Will to Win

kevin ware (injury)*For die hard basketball fans like me, this is the time of year when our productivity levels typically decline because the majority of our waking hours are spent consuming March Madness basketball and the beginning of the NBA Playoffs.

Being a native of Louisville, Kentucky, it is no surprise that I spent Easter Sunday afternoon with my eyes glued to the television, watching the number one seeded Louisville Cardinals battle it out with the number two seed, Duke Blue Devils.  They were competing for a spot in the illustrious NCAA Final Four tournament.

Unfortunately, with roughly six and a half minutes left in the game’s first half, guard Kevin Ware went up to contest a 3-point shot but came down wrong on his right leg and broke his tibia. The force of the impact was so great till the broken bone literally punctured and protruded through his skin.  For nearly ten intense minutes, basketball fans, players, coaches and television viewers were completely transfixed and aghast by the severity of the injury.

As several teammates stood by and tearfully watched Ware lay courtside, patiently waiting for personnel to hoist him onto a gurney, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said that even through his pain and likely shock, Ware urged his teammates to just “win the game” …  and they did.

I have to admit, I initially thought it would be difficult for the Cardinals to gather their emotions and win the contest, but they successfully refocused and went on to secure an 85-63 bittersweet victory over the Blue Devils.

Sports commentators and analysts all agree that Ware’s injury was perhaps one of the most atrocious ever witnessed during a game in real time and I’m sure viewers still cringing from having seen the incident would agree.   But, for those of us who play, have played or frequently watch contact sports, we know that the risk of injury is high, especially in basketball.  It’s a sport where athletes often sacrifice their bodies, taking hard blows from opponents, diving for loose balls or chasing one down that’s headed out of bounds, and enduring hard falls plunging into cameramen or fans sitting courtside.  It’s par for the course.

That being said, the high stakes of competing, including risking devastating injuries such as Ware’s is perhaps part of our deep fascination and obsession with sports.  Witnessing such daring passion – along with talent – on display turns us from mere spectators, to emotionally invested fans awed by the players’ resilience, love for the game and their drive to compete and win at all costs.  It’s infectious and speaks to the character of those who play the game.

In the past, there was controversy on whether or not athletes should be regarded as role models, but watching Ware urge his team to victory while in the midst of the agony of his injury favors the former.  Despite being far from perfect, athletes are deserved of a degree of respect merely for being disciplined and enduring the training, practice regimen, teamwork and at times harsh criticism in order to not only achieve their personal and team goals, but to entertain us, the fans – even through horrific setbacks.

Athletes’ ability to persevere and stay focused amid pressure and adversity, finding the will to remain committed to winning as did the Louisville Cardinals on that fateful Easter Sunday, is a life lesson for all of us

Dana Stringer is a freelance writer, playwright, poet and activist based in Southern California.  You may reach her at dana@danastringer.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @danalstringer.

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Dana L. Stringer

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By Dana L. Stringer: The Secret Life of Sandy: A Nonpartisan Disaster

dana l stringer

Dana L. Stringer

*Mother Nature always has a way of reminding us that we are merely humans, and natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy have a way of exposing the fragility of man-made things and testing the quality of man apart from the things that he has built.

I’ve been watching the news coverage on the aftermath of Sandy but I can only watch it in small doses.  After a while I find myself becoming emotionally and mentally overwhelmed by the magnitude of loss and devastation that the hurricane left behind.

However, on last Tuesday, when I heard Republican Governor Chris Christie publicly commend President Obama for effectively handling the situation, and the President vowing to stand with Gov. Christie as New Jersey starts to rebuild, the exchange went beyond the typical perfunctory gestures that elected officials from opposing sides often do for political purposes.   It seemed far more authentic and sincere.   And for those of us who are familiar with Gov. Christie’s leadership style, we know that he’s not afraid to speak his mind, and that he is anything but pretentious.

With Election Day drawing near and the race being so close, Gov. Christie certainly had an opportunity to play politics by criticizing President Obama’s execution of relief for affected areas.    However, when Gov. Christie began speaking from his heart about his personal experience with President Obama, we finally got a rare glimpse of bipartisanship at work.   It was refreshing to see politicians stop slinging mud, finding a common ground and working together for hurricane victims.  Natural disasters are simply nonpartisan.   Democrats, Republicans, Christians, non-Christians, conservatives, liberals¸ immigrants, blacks, whites, the middle-class, the poor and the rich living along the upper Eastern coast where all impacted.

Unfortunately, in the coming days and weeks, the President, FEMA, the Red Cross, relief workers, and city and state officials will not be able to act as swiftly as most people expect them to act.   And some of America’s inequities regarding class and race might become evident as we witness the timeliness in which aid and assistance is distributed to certain communities.   The stress of not having basic necessities and being immobilized will shorten tempers, create tension, and impatience will increase.  But disasters provide us with an opportunity to reflect upon our lives, reevaluate our priorities and redefine who we are and what’s truly important to us.

And buried beneath the debris and rubble, the same important lesson can be found—during moments of pain, suffering and loss, transcending differences and shifting toward interdependence makes us better.  The sacrifices that will be made among neighbors and the support that will come from fellow citizens will be the experiences and stories that might actually restore our hope in this country.

Dana Stringer is a writer, playwright, poet and activist based in Southern California.  You may contact her at dana@danastringer.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @danalstringer.

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Dana Stringer: Chicken, the Bible, and the Battle for Marriage Equality

dana l. stringer

Dana L. Stringer

*It took me a while before I learned how to pick my battles wisely, and to finally realize that it was okay to lose a battle if it meant that I might win the war.  My need to be right wasn’t nearly as important as my interest in understanding and being understood even if understanding didn’t necessarily lead to agreement.  But the most important thing was to keep the lines of communication open.

For several weeks now, embattled Chick-fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy, has been at the center of a public firestorm over his controversial statements regarding traditional marriage and marriage equality.   And of course, my immediate concern was whether the perpetual battle over beliefs was simply a distraction from the actual war for understanding.  Would his public stance jeopardize his opportunity to effectively communicate with non-religious patrons of Chick-fil-A or gay and straight patrons in favor of marriage equality?

Although some would consider Cathy’s public stance bold and heroic, many patrons of his restaurant chain—who don’t necessarily share his views—find his comments offensive.  His statements reflect an unjustifiable assertion that anyone in favor of marriage equality is anti-God, anti-family and immoral.

Quite frankly, I respect an individual’s right to vocalize what he/she believes with courage and conviction. Unfortunately, the law of the land nowadays is to attack, criticize and vilify anyone with opposing viewpoints.  But I’m not necessarily convinced that Cathy is being attacked for his religious beliefs as opposed to the public outrage over his assertion that the judgment of God would come to America over this one particular issue.   But what if God can find at least 10 righteous people in America?  After all, that was the criteria in order for God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah.

Nevertheless, the public backlash from his statements has led to protestors boycotting his chicken empire and several U.S. cities banning the opening of additional restaurant locations.  I’m not quite sure whether he would sue on the grounds of religious discrimination or free-speech, so for now, let’s just focus on one battle at a time.

With global companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Amazon, Nike, Coca Cola, and the family-oriented Walt Disney Company contributing support toward the campaign for marriage equality, the chicken maestro may be in for a long, arduous battle in what basically boils down to a fight between equal rights and personal religious beliefs.

Cathy states, “…We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.”

With subtlety, he raises a doctrinal issue that has remained a source of debate even within the evangelical community.   By including “first wives” at the end of his statement, Cathy also implies that divorce and remarriage are also contrary to God’s original plan.

Scripturally, divorce and remarriage are only permitted as a result of sexual infidelity or the death of a spouse.  Therefore, our modern-day no-fault divorce and divorce based upon irreconcilable differences would have been prohibited in ancient times.   In fact, adultery wasn’t just about a cheating spouse.  It’s defined as something more.  The bible declares:

“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual  immorality makes her a victim of adultery,  and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”  Matt. 5:32 NIV

11He answered, anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.  12And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”   Mark 11:10-12 NIV

“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.   Matt. 19:9 NIV

I’ve included these scriptures only to make a point.  Notice that there were no special provisions or loopholes.  There are at least five additional New Testament scriptures that repeat the same thing.  Now is it just me, or has anybody else noticed the peculiar silence surrounding divorce and remarriage?   Just imagine accusing friends, family members and church folks who have been divorced and remarried of being adulterers.  Well, by biblical standards they would be, and adultery was considered a capital offense, punishable by death in the ancient world.  Yet we somehow manage to permit exceptions that were not traditionally permitted.  And if we’re going to stand for some scriptures and not all, then we probably need to figure out how to best work our “pick and choose” system.

Personally, I’ve always been curious about the selection process for determining what’s permissible for some and impermissible for others, and exactly how these exceptions and justifications are made.  How do we arrive at a consensus on what applied to an ancient society as oppose to a modern Western society?

What I’ve discovered in my walk of faith, study of scripture and exposure to church culture is that we often master the art of quoting and decontextualizing scripture while rarely developing the discipline of studying it.  By reciting verses and isolating scriptures from the historical context in which they were originally written, i.e. ancient Jewish society, culture, customs, traditions, their political, religious and social structures, there is greater potential for error and misinterpretation.

In my opinion, Mr. Chick-fil-A seems like any normal religious businessman freely expressing his views.  But if religious expression also entails condemning others, then it comes across as spiritual arrogance and a sense of moral superiority, which inevitably invites controversy, attacks and immediately shuts down the line of communication that could possibly bridge the gap by fostering understanding on both sides of the battlefield.

In all of my comprehensive study of scripture, I still have yet to find one example that illustrates Jesus battling or declaring war against individuals or His opposition.  Perhaps He foreknew that the Tea Party was coming and would “fight” on His behalf and “take America back” to her glory days of free slave labor and segregation when she was a more righteous nation.

Now what I have found in scripture is His consistent reproach of the religious community (Sadducces and Pharisees) for judging and rejecting the people that He embraced.

In all honesty, it’s quite difficult to raise such morally complex issues and address all of the competing views and values which mainly stem from a lack of understanding.  Most of us fail to realize that the overarching theme of the bible is that God and justice leans in favor of humanity—our imperfections, dysfunctions and brokenness.  And most importantly, our free will.  And if we don’t allow ourselves to become so easily distracted in waging a battle over who’s right and who’s wrong, then we may actually have a shot at winning the victory of conciliation that comes with understanding.

Dana Stringer is a writer, playwright, poet and activist based in Southern California.  You may contact her at dana@danastringer.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @danalstringer.