Category Archives: Personal

We’ve lost A Legend…

The great Muhammad Ali passed away. Many people viewed him as one of the greatest fighters in the ring, but I see him as the greatest individuals who of impacted a social justice movement.  Ali was the apitome of courage, strength, and love for his people.  He was the voice of a people, the man amongst men, the guy who not only talked, but walked the walk. 

I did not agree with everything he believed in, but without him, I will not be able to voice my opinion on anything in America. He was a great example of a black man expressing his viewpoint, speaking his truth, and influencing people of all races to come together as one.

His physical prowess show us his God-given superiority, his wit impressed us as he illuminated his intellect, and his devotion to his religion showed us the power of walking by faith.  Every human being could take one aspect of his life to improve their own.

Mr. Clay, thank you for being one of my father’s favorite athlete, thank you for showing me not to give up as you face a battle physically throughout your adult life, and thank you for being an influence on American Culture; not just for the brothas and sistas, but to everyone, proving to them we are not just equal, but superior. 

You will be missed, but your impact will carry on forever. 

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Women ROCK! Seriously… Y’all Do!

Though March 8th is touted as International Women’s Day, I want to make it clear that I won’t use this day only to celebrate women, or verbally praise or acknowledge, or even go above and beyond my education to “learn” of the contributions women have done in my culture, society, or the world.  I will not trivialize this day like many do Black History Month (yes, I took a jab at all of the ignorant people who don’t care about black people outside of February…), because I somewhat understand the importance of this day; it’s not to force-feed people into feminism, nor is it a mandate that today people have to consider everything woman says is true out of guilt from the past transgressions men (and other women) have put on talented women who approached a glass ceiling, preventing them to achieve their personal, professional, or aspirational goals.  No, that’s not the reason of the declaration of International Women’s Day.

We acknowledge International Women’s Day because you ROCK, and having a designated day to reflect on how women impact our lives provides food for the soul (pun was intended) as we (myself included) in all of daily lives can improve how we interact, consider, or treat women throughout the rest of the year.  That’s the spirit of this day (similar to Black History Month, or Small Business Week that was last week, or National Hispanic Heritage Month that we will celebrate in the fall).  It’s a day to say “thank you” and ensure we remain conscious, as human beings, that we shall move forward, and not fall backward…

There were (and are) numerous women who’ve impacted my life…  First, my mother, who without her I will not exist, is a remarkably strong women with a kind heart; the real backbone of the Houston family.  My sister, Natalie, whose spirit, strength, and intellect is so contagious that I can’t help but smile and do the right thing because she laid the appropriate blueprint for success out.  My girlfriend, who is so smart and cares for her students so much, that she will directly be the cause of a better society, not only through her work, but her influence in college students.  I’ve grown up with friends, peers, and mentors who have motivated me to be a man; physically so I can protect them, intellectually, so I can teach them (I KNOW they don’t want to hear that, lol) , and spiritually, so I can lead them, and vice versa.

Without saying too much more, and for me to spread out this appreciation throughout days outside of March 8th, I just want to say “Thank You” to all the women in my life (and abroad) for your presence, your contributions, and being awesome teammates.  You all ROCK!

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BLACK is a dirty word?????

So today is March 2nd.  And I’m about to write about Black Culture.  Yes, I know I’m a month late (or am I????) and I’ve had an itch to write on this topic for the last 30 days, but my reasonings to write evolved continuously as I was more of an observer/witness of people throughout the month of February; how the political environment has unfolded this season (both locally and nationally), how my black friends continue to be frustrated as we are experiencing history repeat itself as people marginalize our contributions until it’s convenient (I’m typing this at a coffee house and hear nothing but pop songs that were either performed or written by African Americans, after Black History Month-that says something) but then totally exploit what we do through mass media outlets (mostly our negative attributes) to reinforce the mindsets that blacks are buffoons and should be confined to the realms of entertainment, athletics, or pleasures, except of course for an exceptional few that escaped and “gets ‘American’ culture”…

I also witness how my non-black friends are either VERY CONFUSED why we even celebrate Black History Month; they get defensive because their culture don’t receive the same amount of “exposure” or judge blacks for not conforming to the system and just accept “the American Way”…”Matt, how would you feel if we had ‘White History’ month?”  Ahhh… You do…  “So why don’t they celebrate other cultures like the Asians or Hispanics?”  Ahhhh… They do  :-(… It’s so draining to hear every person outside of my culture (and some idiots who are black) question EVERYTHING we do.

Conversely, other non-blacks, who are empathetic of our struggle, gets railroaded by both sides, being shunned out of white or “mainstream” culture for venturing out too far from home base and being in the vicinity of the “leopards”, but then being the beneficiary of a vicious lashing out blacks would dish out on them out of frustration from our situations, either placed via a system or themselves….  Frustrating and confusing them why they are evening trying to enlighten either themselves or others.

I can write a book about this (in fact, there are several books we ALL can read, starting with the Mis-Education of the Negro- so if you want to blame someone for Black History Month, go to the source and see his rationale and then talk to me… and understand it’s not about it being the shortest day of the month…) but I only want to make one observation hit me like a ton of bricks this year:  People are genuinely scared of the mere word “Black”.  That’s it.  That simple.  Before we can even go deeper of the human aspect or socio-economic factors, or phycological effects of slavery, Jim Crow, drugs, and the exploitation of blacks, people are automatically turned off by the word…. Black…. The tint (not a color, btw)….. Black.  This 5-letter B-word alone derails any communication…People literally shut down when the word “BLACK” is articulated in the conversation.  Seriously, the word Black…. wow, my mind is still blown even as I type.

This may seem a bit too much, or even overkill, but the fact that rational people, who are either educated or experienced in life and who have made serious and complicated decisions can be distracted by tint or color is very discouraging for progress and growth:  don’t be afraid of the word BLACK.  I do understand the denotations and connotations that Black relates to darkness, and evil in certain senses, but remember that being in the black also means that your business is surviving.  When dealing with people, black is ONLY a descriptor of either a race or culture, nothing more, nothing less.  How you think about a black person is up to you…  Don’t make an excuse to call us evil because of our skin (this isn’t pre-industrial, racist America).

I’m starting to get on my soap box (which it is not my intention for this post).  I’m passionate about this because if we stop communication and discussion based on a word doesn’t tackle the true issue, then progress is futile.  I want people to continue to build relationships with all people of colors, not try to ignore colors and assume we are a monolith…   that’s easy out and frankly, a cheap way to communicate.  Let’s learn that in the case of skin pigmentation, black doesn’t mean evil, just as white doesn’t mean pure.   GET BEYOND THE WORD BLACK.  Instead, understand there are different positive attributes of that color, then understand that I can at least entertain building a relationship with someone, despite their color. We are all people, and our culture/race can be learned at any time…  not just February for me.

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Support National Lemonade Day!

I am an entrepreneur.  I absolutely LOVE IT.  Most people think that people who “run their own business”  are ones who refuse to have bosses, or they want to create their own schedule, or even worse, can’t work with anyone else in a corporate setting or organization.  Those are SO FAR FROM THE TRUTH!  In fact, successful entrepreneurs often need high level of organization, customer service, and product satisfaction to be successful, and a great way to learn these things is the participate in Lemonade Day May 7th!

I was introduced to business ownership through my family; both my paternal and maternal grandparents had businesses that supported their families  and served their communities.  My mother’s father owned the country grocery store while my dad’s grandfather ran the town’s pool hall and convenience store.  Though these aren’t the “sexy” jobs that we see popularized by television or business school case studies, these businesses provided foundation on a quality of life that allowed my parents to not only survive, but to gain a quality education and meet/network with people from all over the region.  Being owner of businesses like these also afforded opportunities to stay engaged civically, politically, and allowed those owners to have the flexibility to contribute to society, even during work hours.  As I grew up I gravitated toward this life style as I see the importance of not only “getting a paycheck” but having the flexibility to contribute to society through volunteerism and outreach.

One example of a great outreach is Lemonade Day (www.lemonadeday.org); this day allows adults to educate all types of children the essentials in earning a profit by selling a product everyone loves and can’t get enough of; Delicious Lemonade!  Participating in this day not only allows you to create this great product, but gives people a chance to build relationships with our future; informing our youth of the importance of their schoolwork and how that relates to “the real world”.  You build a rapport with kids who thirst for your attention, as they will soak up every bit of information you give them.  It’s vital for the future health of our economy and culture.

So how do I sign up?:

  1. Go online to dallas.lemonadeday.org and register for the FREE materials
  2. Work through the program-learn to set goals and plan your business
  3. Open your business (or help someone) on Lemonade Day, May 7th ,2016
  4. If you have any other questions, please contact Tiffany Rubi, the City Director, at tiffany@lemonadeday.org

There are a plethora of ways you can give back to enhance this day.  Select how you desire to contribute and help a life.  Trust me, as a product of a group of people that supported me as a youth, they’ll never forget it!

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Love is MUCH Deeper than this Day…

Before I get started, I DO want to wish a Happy Valentine’s Day to each and every one of you!   This is not a pagan holiday bashing, as I’ve participated in these festivities in various ways (texts, calls, cards, flowers). I believe there needs to be a day to observe and recognize love.  Unfortunately, similar to Black History Month, some people only want to exercise acts of love on this day ONLY and not use this symbolic gesture to perpetuate this thought/feeling/recognition throughout the year, or even worse, use this symbolic act to protest love and not recognize any aspect of this day, its importance, or how observing this holiday can positively impact society as a whole (now thats going into my beef with the naysayers of Black History Month).

  

Getting back on topic, on Friday, I participated in “Love Unscripted”, hosted by Dr. Sheron Patterson (www.drsheron.com) where 4 men gave our perspective of what love is, and how women can “find” love in a healthy way. Though none of us are love doctors (ESPECIALLY ME), there were some good takeaways and upon further reflection/interaction w/ family and loved ones on Saturday, felt the need to write on this day three things we should strive for:

  1. Communication
  2. Empathy
  3. Trust

If these things are realized in a relationship, I feel we can not only have healthy relationships, but can push the needle to improve society as a whole. I’ll write more about those things later, as I want to spend time practicing these things on this day. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Adding Millennials To Your Team Can Innovate Your Organization

For over 10 years, I have been involved in numerous organizations; including student activities, a fraternity life, young professional groups, established institutions, organizations that serve my community, national organizations, start-up companies, and start-up nonprofits. I’ve even been head of a 90-year old established organization (www.dallasblackchamber.org).  I have peers who are younger, my same page, and who are considered elder statesmen (women) in our society.  My takeaway from my experiences (and advice to existing companies/orgs) is to infuse more millennials to your decision-making processes; don’t just hire them, empower them.  If there’s a combination of young horsepower and strategic thinking from individuals who’ve been in the organization, we can effectively innovate ANY organization or company.  

 

One thing that frustrates me is the lack of cross-communication between age groups in an organization, as this leads to ineffectiveness.  Organizations are either too young, with not enough experience or depth, or it’s archaic and rigid, where outdated processes suffocates innovation and productivity.  A simple cross-pollination of vitality and expertise may assist in preserving companies who have been successful for generations, but are striving to maintain relevance in today’s society.  

 

We allow petty arguments and mis-characterizations stunt our development of ideas, service, and achievement, prohibiting us to make the best decisions possible.  It is the stereotype that millennials are narcissistic, entitled, and rash decision-makers.  In actuality, millennials are most comfortable with technology as we are the first generation to fully incorporate computers with our way of life (education, work, leisure, etc.); similar to Steph Curry’s comfortable nature with the basketball, he was practically born with the basketball in his hand, and with all of his practice, is able to perfect all aspects of the game…  It’s also believed that once you’re old, you are useless, stubborn, and slow to change anything.  The truth is, veterans in organization carry institutional knowledge on how the current process was derived that is invaluable to all members;  the former descriptors will start conflict (leading to an adversarial relationship), while the latter shows understanding and cooperation, making everyone happy.

 

In order for avoid this, there needs to be actions done with BOTH parties.  Young people, slow down.  Process information more and communicate with tenured people so you can receive the full context, allowing you to provide the best solution to the problem.  Also, withstand the initial criticism of veterans in organizations; they are intimidated by the amount of change in technology, and may not be able (or do not choose) to articulate with you their vulnerabilities.  Building a rapport will help bring the walls down.  In their words, you can analyze their frustration and provide a solution.  

 

Older/more tenured professionals, don’t get intimidated.  Embrace a new perspective and ACTIVELY engage with younger individuals, building a relationship (which we millennials typically appreciate).  Transition to the mentor role.  Allow your organization vibrancy by having a younger person create new ways of solving problems.  Sure, there will be some dissonance initially, but once a foundation of trust is set we can proceed with completing our projects.  

 

Both age groups need each other to survive.  Let’s actively work with each other so we can continue to build organizations that promote productivity and positive impact.

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Should Dallas Pass The Torch, or Turn Up The Heat?

Dallas has come a long way in our history; from a settlement that sits on a prairie in the middle of the country with no major natural resource or natural means of transportation, to a metropolis that has become one of the major logistical hubs in North America.  Our city does not only transport precious materials/cargo across the world and throughout the globe, but also catch the attention of major multi-national corporations, attracting global talent that will not only improve their company, but can impact our city through innovative and diverse problem-solving techniques.  Consequently, we are on track to being an international city, where we will serve as a destination place for all, similar to Paris, Hong Kong, London, etc.  These feats were attributed to the intellect, talent, and planning of our city’s forefathers, which then attracted young, ambitious, motivated individuals to pass the torch.

 

However, with all of our successes and ingenuity in the 20th century, we were still handicapped by a myopic cultural view; where societal prejudices of minorities, women, and sexual preferences caused not only Dallas, but many American cities, to not maximize on their potential in terms of inclusion in education, economic development, social interaction, and cultural formation.  In essence, though we were progressing at a rate that was better than the “norm”, we still were underachieving based on our capabilities.  

 

Dallas is standing at a crossroads; should we “Pass the Torch” to the next chosen ones, providing a blueprint of how Dallas became successful and consulting the groomed establishment not to deviate from the existing plan, or should we “Turn Up the Heat”, creating an analysis of our where we are, understanding how we got here, challenging one another to optimize our performance, and providing a new strategy that incorporates relevant factors that were not included in the original plan: culture, people, analytics, etc.  I argue the latter will maximize our talent pool to catapult Dallas to a realm where we are solving our challenges more effectively using all the talent that’s available.
I’m not that naive to think I can provide a solution to this question on one blog; my hope is that people read this, analyze where they are in the situation (age, status, professional, influence), and create an inclusive conversation so we can utilize the experiences and talents we’ve attracted to our great region.  Let’s move Dallas Forward, remembering (both the good and bad) of our past, creating a plan in the present, and providing a gift for our future by inclusive leadership.

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Small Business Owners, #GETCOVERED !!!!


This morning I met the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia M. Burwell, at a small business in Dallas, Salon Artist, in Deep Ellum.  Secretary Burwell is on a tour for the next couple of days imploring small business owners, entrepreneurs, and citizens to enroll in the ACA marketplace before the February 1 deadline (www.healthcare.gov).

I was honored to have the ability to ask a couple of questions and have a conversation with the Secretary (thanks @DFWBlackBloggers), as she has impacted my life in her past profession; she was a part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which funded it 100% of my college tuition at SMU- The place where I met my first business partners and started my companies (www.gmsp.org).  So to see her in such an important role regarding the quality of life of people doesn’t surprise me.

At the salon, there were are range of questions from individuals transitioning from their parents insurance, to the interaction between company health care and the marketplace, to the different improvements ACA have made since its launch October 2013. Burwell explained the importance in reaching all people through different communication mediums (snail mail, email, text messages, etc.) so all citizens can be covered, not only for emergency needs, but to receive information and tips for preventative care.

Obamacare directly affects me as I NEED this marketplace to have basic coverage while I figure my path as an entrepreneur; I don’t have the luxury to have a corporation to provide me healthcare, so I need a vehicle to guide me in selecting the best plans for my health.  I’m proud to say I enrolled for the 3rd time this month and my coverage begins February 1!

PLEASE, GO TO http://www.healthcare.gov to enroll for 2016 before the deadline on Sunday!  Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, it’s imperative to have the safety next “just in case” something happens!  #GetCovered #GetCoveredDallas

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The Mis-Education of the Millennial

This is a like to my IgniteDFW talk on the 4 ways both millennials, Baby Boomers, etc. can work together to build better relationships…

  1. Contemplate
  2. Communicate
  3. Cooperate
  4. Complete

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Even at SMU, Black Lives Matter!

This message serves as a reflection from an event I attended at my alma mater, Southern Methodist University (SMU), where they hosted Alicia Garza, the architect of #BlackLivesMatter….  I know, I was shocked!!!!  I’ll reserve my state for another post… this post is to share some of the takeaways I received from her from her VERY INTERESTING, WELL ATTENDED talk in the student center ballrooms:

 

You need a strategy, not just an emotion

Her plans for “Black Lives Matter” weren’t a knee-jerk reaction to some discrimination she encountered, there was a deliberate plan that was well thought out and executed to ensure sustainability.

 

“Hashtags does not make movements, people do”

This was a quote she stated that’s stuck with me.  Recently, I did a talk for Ignite DFW (post of the presentation coming soon) where I give advice to millennials on how to survive in leadership roles; the main point is to not stop once you state something on Facebook or twitter; go beyond that and act!

 

You NEED to have a broad reach/network

Her network did not just include her friends; but people she interacted with all over the country before the incident…  Which means she’s not only known but have positive relationships with individuals of all backgrounds, allowing her to be an influencer.

 

“Black Lives Matter” was a love letter to black people

This was beautifully said…  I know this seems weird or exclusive to non-blacks in the audience, but let me explain; Unlike MOST ethnicities, blacks are the most exploited type of people in current media, for better or worse.  Therefore, we are bombarded with information about “us” from everyone- the media, papers, strangers, aliens, etc.  So it’s endearing to me when someone from our own culture actually expels energy to positively communicate to us.  Thanks Alicia…

 

Both sexes need to work together in the strategy process

We’re facing an on-going battle of the sexes, where men and women are establishing footing for newly formed gender roles in our society.  This is a good thing, as we are going through “growing pains” as a society; dispelling our past misogynistic ways and working toward a more, equal partnership in leadership.  Consequently, there needs to be more black women at the planning table to dictate future strategy.

 

Black lives matter is not Anti-Police, it’s anti-violence movement

For people that say the line above either ignorant or purposely wants to be polarizing…  The solution for a systemic problem isn’t inflicting pain to the oppressors, it’s creating an environment where all can be pain-free.  #BlackLivesMatter is so popular because it resonates with SO MANY people’s feeling that Black Lives DONT Matter in our society…

 

“Pay attention to the culture we create”

This is applicable in so many facets of life.  You are what you eat, you are the company you keep, all of these sayings I’ve heard from my influencers come to life as I breathe each breath.  The same goes with the macro-systems we create/operate/exists in.  By creating a sociologic environment of discrimination and prejudice, we assist in poisoning our future generations…  The culture we create isn’t so important to us, but to the ones that follow; but if we don’t care about anyone now, how could we have the capacity to nurture an environment for people that don’t exist yet????

 

 

These are just some of the great things said by this influential sista.  I appreciate you sharing your words, experiences, and thoughts so we can analyze, ponder, and take action!

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