Everyone is an expert these days. Every time you log on to social media or watch the news there is some new face claiming to be a specialist or expert in some field. It appears to be a little too easy to become an expert these days, especially in relationships. How does one become a relationship expert? Is it a title that is given to oneself or given by others? What are the qualifications of an expert? I ask this because it also seems that people are turning to these “experts” to sort out their own relationships. You know you’ve seen the IG, FB, and Twitter posts as well as the books. All this “act like a lady and think like a man” stuff and “make him wait 90 days before you give him some.” You have women posting videos on how to understand men and men posting about how to understand women. So called “real men” posting videos teaching women how to catch and keep a “good man” pop up every day and all I can think is – are people really buying into this stuff? 

Seriously, let me know. Are you taking these tips, warnings and lessons as law and actually applying them in your own lives and relationships? Ladies, are you really out there making men wait 90 days to sleep with him? Do you find it easier to learn how to understand men from other women? What have you learned from these social media relationship “experts” and books that have worked in your relationships? I want to know if I am missing out on the next great source of information or income. You see I consider myself to be a pretty knowledgeable guy. I know a lot, but I don’t know everything (I'm still working on that). So if I am missing out on some great information, I want to know about it. 

Before you start running off the IG handles and FB names, let me ask you this; who are these experts? Who are they really? What is their background and how did they come to the title of expert? We have to be careful whom we allow to feed us. I look at knowledge as mental and spiritual nourishment. It feeds the mind and soul and if consumed on a regular basis can feed the body as well. Knowing this we have to be aware of who we allow to poor knowledge into us. I am not talking relationships today, I will soon... Stay tuned for that. 

When it comes to relationships, I do not consider myself an expert. Who can be? We all make mistakes and we all fall short in the eyes of God on a daily basis. When it comes to relationships I am often of the mindset that whatever happens between two people should be discussed, managed and resolved between those two people. For example, if I am in a relationship and my woman and I are at odds I would feel a little uncomfortable if she comes to me with “my friends said this” or “Mr. or Ms. IG expert said all good men are supposed to do this.” Again, I am speaking for myself. 

This is not a post hating on relationship “experts,” I am no hater. What I am saying is, consider the source. If I want to learn something, I will look to someone who has succeeded in what I am trying to do. For example, if I am looking to open a business, I am looking to someone who has built a successful empire. If I am looking to practice law I am seeking out a judge as a mentor. Conversely, if I am looking for advice about my relationship and I feel the need to involve a third party why would I turn to someone who is still single? How can you trust the advice of a single woman on how to get and keep a man? Why would I listen to a single man tell me how to better understand my woman? Can a person that has been divorced multiple times counsel you on how to stay in a marriage? That is like taking flying lessons from someone who has never been in a plane, or better yet, a race car driver! Who is feeding you? 

Now if I am missing the mark on this, let me know. Jump down in the comments and tell me the real deal on these “experts.” Remember, I am talking relationships in general, not just romantic relationships. Who are you turning to for business advice, financial planning, spiritual guidance, nutritional advice, or anything else that is supposed to "improve" the quality of your life? I am all for mentors. I fully support the idea of connecting with individuals who are doing what you aspire to do and learning from the best. I promote networking with people who don’t do what I do so I can fill in the gaps. Who do you turn to for advice? What is some great advice you have received about life, relationships, family, money or anything else? How did it help you and what made it stick with you? Jump down in the comments and lets talk about this!

Say Their Names  

In the words of Brooklyn’s Finest, Lil Kim, “I’ve been gone for a minute now I’m back with the jump off!” Greetings Lifestylers, (in my Varnell Hill voice) did you miss me? While the gems I have dropped so far are still noteworthy and will be revisited, it is time to talk about something very important. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Black History Month! We are talking Black History, American History, our history. While Black History should be celebrated and studied year round, this is the time to take a closer look at where we come from, how we got here, and speak the names of the individuals who helped shape us as a people and a culture. Remember, Black History does not begin with slavery. 

With that said I am going to address and issue that you may or may not have noticed, the whitewashing of Black History and Black History Month. In recent years I have noticed that the accomplishments of African Americans have been overshadowed or diminished in one form or another. We as a people have always been and continue to be responsible for telling our own stories, especially if we want the story to be told correctly. As the colonizers (white people) become more and more fearful of their establishment crumbling to the ground they have become determined to silence the voice of truth. We have to speak up, my people. “If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you liked it.” Preach, sister Zora Neal Hurston. 

One example of whitewashing was the report on The Today Show about the research surrounding ancient Egyptian Queen, Nefertiti. First, I have to ask, do you know who Nefertiti is? Let me briefly explain to make sure we are on the same page. Neferneferuaten Nefertiti (try saying that three times fast) was born around 1400 BC and was an Egyptian Queen. She was the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. With her husband, Nefertiti ruled during what was arguably the wealthiest period in ancient Egyptian history. History shows that Nefertiti ruled as Pharaoh briefly after her husband’s death and before her son, Tutankhamun (King Tut, in case you were wondering) ascended to the throne of Egypt. Let’s pause here for a second. I highly recommend you take a closer look at ancient Egyptian history. Please read about the Kings and Queens, the cities and dynasties, the inventions and even the myths and legends it is truly fascinating. 

The image of Nefertiti has been created and recreated dozens of times over the years. The bust of Nefertiti made famous by sculptor Thutmose now sits in the Neuses Museum. The bust that has celebrated Queen Nefertiti for years clearly depicts this powerful woman as a woman of color. Guys, the melanin runs deep in our sister. It’s Egypt. If you are not hip on your geography, take a moment and pull up a map of Africa. Yes, Egypt is in Africa. You will see that Egypt sits in the north part of the continent. History has shown that the people of this area where people of color, dipped in melanin. 

Why am I explaining this? If you let the reporters on The Today Show tell it, Nefertiti was a fair skinned woman. Completely untrue and does not come close to the demographic of the area in which she ruled. These colonizers will have you think that a powerful Queen such as Nefertiti could not have possibly been a woman of color. Nefertiti was one of the most notable and powerful figures in ancient Egyptian history and to attempt to whip away the melanin is an outright insult. 

History is filled with melanin royalty. King Hannibal is said to be the greatest military leader and strategist of all time. King Musa I of Mali was one of the wealthiest rulers in the West African Mali Empire. Shaka Zulu was one of the most influential monarchs of the Zulu Kingdom. Yaa Asantewaa was queen mother of Ejisu in the Ashanti Empire, which is now part of modern-day Ghana. The Queen of Sheba is a biblical and Quranic figure. The story of her visit to King Solomon has covered various faiths. You see, before we were trapped and put in chains we ruled as Kings and Queens, we took care of our people, built empires and universities. 

If you don’t already study our history, use this Black History Month as motivation to learn these names and those that followed. It is up to us to tell our history, people. Lets tell the complete story.

Puff, Puff - I’LL Pass, Buuuuuuut... 

Alright guys, I am really stepping out of my comfort zone with this one. I am going to talk about something I don't have any, ANY, hands-on knowledge of, marijuana. You may be thinking, “Krat, if you don’t smoke weed why are you talking about it?” Well, as I explained In The KRAT House, I am here to give you my thoughts on hot-button topics and let you know what the effects could be on our people and community as a whole. I am keeping you in the know! With that said, let's roll (pun intended). 

On January 2, 2018, the sale of legal, recreational marijuana opened in West Hollywood, California. You read that correctly, legal AND recreational weed in Cali. According to shop owners of MedMen and Alternative Herbal Health Services, they are expecting a rush of business and have been stocking up on inventory in preparation for opening day. California’s new cannabis licensing rules require that weed shops, both medical and recreational, get permits from local authorities before obtaining a state license. As of December 29, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control has issued approximately 47 recreational retail licenses, all of which are temporary. 

To bring you up to speed, there are currently 29 states and the District of Columbia, with legal marijuana laws in place, New York being one of them. Before you get excited, each state has different possession limits, meaning you cannot ride around puffing and passing with pounds in the backseat. I suggest those of you who smoke (medicinal or recreational) become familiar with the possession limits of your state. New York, the possession limit is a 30-day supply of NONSMOKEABLE marijuana. 

So lets bring this home; what does this have to do with US. I could talk about economic effects. Did you know that in 2015 Colorado collected more than $135 million in taxes and fees from marijuana sales? Sales in the state totaled close to $1 billion dollars, $996 million to be exact. California is expected to surpass these sales by an insane amount. Experts predict California could collect close to $3 billion dollars in tax revenue. Why aren’t all states doing this? I asked myself the same question. My personal thoughts on weed aside, that's a nice piece of change. 

I could talk about the legal aspect. Everyday, there are more than 140,000 people in local jails on “simple” drug-possession charges. As many of you may already know, a large number of that are men and women of color from low-income areas. Because these “offenders” cannot afford to post bail, they sit behind bars waiting for their day in court, which could take months or years. To take it a step further, we all know that men of color are convicted at a higher rate and sentenced to longer bids for “simple” drug-possession charges. So now while in one state someone can smoke openly and business owners are cashing in, there are still areas where people are doing serious time for weed possession. What about those who have done time and have felonies and/or misdemeanors for something that is now legal? Where is the balance? 

As I mentioned earlier, I have no working knowledge of marijuana because I don’t smoke. What I want to know are you thoughts on the business and legal side of marijuana. Would you consider going into legal marijuana sales? I think there may be more money in it than selling it illegally... Do you think weed should be legalized nationwide? Jump down in the comments and tell me what’s on your mind. Lets talk about THIS...

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop!  

We touched on this briefly in The KRAT House, so I am taking this time to elaborate on this a little more. Media and Hip-Hop mogul, Sean “Diddy” (he is STILL Puff to me though) Combs announced via Twitter that he's interested in buying the Carolina Panthers NFL team. For those of you who don’t know why Diddy made the announcement, the Carolina Panthers founder and controlling owner, Jerry Richardson, will put his majority interest in the club up for sale at the conclusion of this season. The announcement came from the team just two days after the Panthers disclosed Richardson, 81, was the subject of an internal investigation over alleged workplace misconduct. According to media sources, Richardson and the Panthers parted ways after reaching a confidential settlement with four former employees who had reported allegations of sexual harassment. Another one bites the dust. SMH 

Now that you’re up to speed, lets fast-forward because we have to dissect this. This doesn’t stop with Diddy announcing via Twitter his goal to purchase controlling interest in the Carolina Panthers; we are also talking about the world’s reaction to it! When the news first hit, Diddy quickly got the support of other celebrities and sports figures looking to make it happen (Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors and my fraternity Brother, Colin Kaepernick to name a couple). When Diddy made the announcement he pointed out that there are not African Americans in a position of ownership in the NFL. FACTS!! However, do you think Diddy is qualified to break the current mold? We all know Diddy (let's refer to him as Mr. Combs for this one) the music mogul who brought us hit after hit with a variety of artists. We know his fashion sense with Sean John. We know about the vodka, water and countless other business ventures. We know he can build a brand. We also know he is a marketing genius, but can this transfer to NFL team ownership? Is it “same rules, different playground,” or will Mr. Combs have to step his game up a bit for the NFL?

One other point I want to address, is the general public’s reaction to Mr. Combs' announcement. At first, it appeared as if no one as taking him seriously and even joked that he was not as qualified as most may think. What bothered me the most is that most of this criticism came from Black people! I read comments stating that Mr. Combs would apply the same methods he supposedly used while managing artists on Bad Boy, claiming they would not be paid. Some critics claimed that he would use the Carolina Panthers to market his own brand, Sean Jean jerseys and Ciroc sold in the stadium. Now this may all come off as jokes, and maybe I am reading too much into it but it comes off as more crabs in a barrel to me. I used this phrase yesterday, but do you know what I mean by crabs in a barrel? I’ll explain... When crabs are captured and transported they are placed in barrels. When the crabs try to escape, they are unable to crawl out one-by-one because as soon as one climbs up another will pull it back down. This is what these types of comments say to me and I'm bothered by it.

The next thing I want to point out is a specific example of what I was just explaining. Have you read about this Henry Wofford guy? So after Mr. Combs makes his announcement via Twitter, naturally the media outlets picked it up. So, Wofford, a brother, decided he wanted to use his platform to tear down Mr. Combs. When speaking to a colleague Wofford said “The guy looks high right there in this video” (referring to the Twitter post). Wofford continues with “He looks like he smoked a blunt and drank a 40. Come on, I’m not taking him seriously.” Wofford continued with more disparaging remarks and laughed about it with his colleague. Wofford later issued an apology for his comments and stated that he was joking and it was wrong to suggest that someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I am not sure we as a community should accept his apologies, how about you? Is this a pattern? A platform is used to make disrespectful comments about African Americans, they are hit with some negative feedback, they say they were joking, and we move on? I'm tired of it! 

So I leave this to you guys. What do you think about Mr. Combs' plan to purchase the Carolina Panthers. It is important to note that while he is very wealthy, and could likely pull together a group that can offer the amount that Richardson is going to ask, is the NFL ready for a Black majority in team ownership when they are insensitive to the struggles faced by the demographic that makes up almost 80% of its personnel? Furthermore, is Mr. Combs the "type" of Black man that the NFL owners would be comfortable with allowing into their "Good Ol' Boys" fraternity? Personally, I have the utmost respect for Sean Combs as a businessman, he is constantly evolving and breaking new ground and THIS would be the ultimate. Do you think he can make this happen?

Skin Folk vs. Kin Folk  

Zora Neale Hurston was an American novelist, short story writer, folklorist, and anthropologist known for her contributions to African American literature. Out of all the work Sister Hurston has contributed to African American…no, American literature, Sister Hurston is arguably best known for her novel, Their Eyes Where Watching God. One or more of us were required to read this in middle or high school. If you have not read this book, I am adding it to the book club reading list that will be coming at you real soon. I digress. 

I am speaking on Sister Hurston because her words inspired this post. “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.” Let that sink in, people. What does that mean to you? In my opinion, Sister was speaking on the relationships we form within our own culture and realizing that just because a person has our skin type, doesn’t mean their moves and motives are for the best interest of the culture. This example has been shown time and time again throughout our history, even during the slave trade. History has shown that Africans participated in the capture and the transportation of other Africans during the slave trades. Shocked? Look it up! 

Today we can look to African Americans with large platforms and in positions of “authority” whose moves can be considered questionable at best. Need an example? Let’s name a few. Starting with former law enforcement official in Wisconsin, David A. Clarke. This controversial, cowboy hat wearing brother (and I use that term loosely) has spoken out against the Black Lives Matter movement and has often referred to it as an “anti-cop’’ organization. He has accused its supporters of encouraging hateful ideologies. Furthermore, Clarke has made a number of disrespectful comments about Hilary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, and continues to disregard the issues affecting African Americans. He’s skinfolk, but he isn’t kinfolk. 

Need another example? Let’s rewind to former White House staff member, I say that because while she was given a title her exact roles and responsibilities were a bit vague, Mrs. Omarosa Manigault-Newman. Time for a history lesson. Ready? For those of you who do not know, Sister Manigault- Newman was introduced to the world in 2004 on season one of current President Trump's reality show, The Apprentice. Manigault was quickly named the bad-girl and the villain, titles she disputed. Fast-forward to 2010, Manigault confirmed that she was in a serious relationship with actor Michael Clarke Duncan (the brother from The Green Mile, Armageddon, and a few other films), Manigault and Duncan was set to marry until his unfortunate passing in 2012. Rest well, my brother. Fast forward again to the announcement of Trumps candidacy for president and his eventually election. Manigault-Newman has stood firmly by her former, future, former employer’s side and spoke openly during the campaign and the early days of his election that she would have a “top-position” in his cabinet. With all the things I can pick apart about this sister and her stance on issues I have two main things to address. The one thing I can respect about Manigault-Newman is that she is a smart, educated sister who when faced with backlash does not waver and expresses herself very well. What I have a problem with is, she appears to be willing to put her culture and her community in jeopardy for a platform. When she defended Trump's reaction to the horrible acts in Charlottesville, VA over the summer, she was disowned. You tell me, skin folk or kin folk? 

We are not a monolithic culture, we do not look the same, act the same, or think the same. What we are is a culture at risk of collapsing on itself because we are willing to pull one another down trying to make it up. Crabs in a barrel. SMH... I am not saying we all have to think the same to push the culture forward, but what needs to happen is a deeper level of unity amongst us. Do you see how other cultures move? Look at the Jewish culture; a perfect example of how a culture protects, educates, supports, and uplifts their own. Someone tell me why we cannot do the same as a people? Are there too many skin folk and not enough kin folk? Let’s talk about it.