She was bold and did something out of her ordinary. What happens is not necessarily the outcome that I wanted, but I’m still glad that I got out of my comfort zone and tried something new. Who knows. Maybe I will run into Albuquerque again some day (insert shrug).
Graduation season is in full swing and recently I had the absolute honor to be the commencement speaker for my Alma Maters Black Graduation. It was a full circle moment for so many reasons. At University of the Pacific, I found my voice. It was where I discovered my confidence and realized that being Black was a privilege. I could explain it further but I thought there was no better way to show my sheer amazement for the day but to post my actual speech.
I am incredibly grateful for Marshea Pratt and her entire staff for asking me to speak and congratulations to the 2019 University of the Pacific Black Graduates!
Good evening! How is everyone doing today? Greetings friends, faculty, staff, alumni and the illustrious class of 2019! Yes, you better make some noise for yourself! You did that!
My name is Alicia Jay. I received my Bachelors in broadcasting in 2002 and my Masters in Public Relations in 2003 right here at Pacific. I see you sitting there trying to do the math and let me just do it for you...I am 38 years old and looking great I might add. Now the burning question, did I play a sport at Pacific? Yes. I was the captain of the soccer team. The tallest goalie Pacific has ever had. Y’all actually believed me?
Really, I played basketball for 5 years because I redshirted for a season. For those of you who don’t know what that is, I was granted an extra year of eligibility because I needed to get stronger. When I walked on this campus I was a very skinny girl, with absolutely no muscle, who didn’t know who she was, with zero confidence. I came all the way down from Beaverton, Oregon where I was one of a few black kids in the school district. Not the school...the entire district. I would walk home from elementary school with my little brother and someone would yell nigger out the window. I had a teacher that would bring me up in front of the class on a regular basis and tell everyone how poor my spelling scores were and what a terrible student I was. Later when I began my career in basketball, my Father pulled me off of the court during a game because he could see that I was visibly shaken due to the other teams racial remarks against me. On top of that, I was bullied on a regular basis for being exceptionally tall. Now, I know that they were making fun of me because they wanted my gift and couldn’t have it but at the time every comment felt like a knife to my side. So by the time I arrived at UOP, I was depleted. I was low. I was suicidal.
During the first week, my teammate and I got a knock on our door and when we opened it, we were greeted by every black person on campus. The entire black student union came to make sure that we knew that they were there and more importantly that they had our back. After they left, my roommate and teammate who was from Oakland (shout out to Ahshalic) was shocked that the group were ALL of the black people in the student union, but for me, I was juiced! I finally had MY community with me. The 15 people at my door made me feel seen. They are my best friends to this day. They are the people who brought me back from hating who I was and more importantly taught me what a privilege it is to be black. They are my Sorors who I crossed with in 2001 when we reinitiated Delta Sigma Theta Sorority incorporated right here on this campus. They are my community that reminds me every day that I do in fact belong in the rooms that I am in and have the strength of every single black person who paved the way before me.
Look around you right now. No matter where you go, you will always have a thread of being in this graduating class with each other. This moment is the starting point to the rest of your lives. Now, I’m gonna take it church. I need you to greet your graduating class right now. Hug your neighbor to the left and the right. Congratulate them. Really. Do it right now. Don’t make me come down there and hug each and every one of you because I will...
Now, why am I up here? Sure. I have accomplished some things. I could talk about how after graduating from Pacific, I commenced a 13 year career in corporate America with the Golden State Warriors in Game operations and marketing. I won awards, produced championship games, I was in parades and I have three rings which of course I am wearing tonight because I earned these bad boys and paid the taxes on them so please believe I wear them whenever I get the chance.
I could talk about creating a successful lifestyle platform called TallSWAG that helps people to stand tall every day, in every way, that has brought me to many stages just like this one, enabled me to change lives and even star in a number one hit television show on TLC that was watched by millions of viewers. BTW I’m @TallSWAG on all social channels.
I could also talk about meeting Michelle Obama. I have proof y’all. Look. She is hugging me like I’m family. That’s not photoshopped. I still can’t believe that.
But I am not going to talk about any of those things. Today, I am going to talk about painting your own picture.
The other day, I went to one of those paint and sip classes for the first time. If you haven’t been, it’s a class that teaches you how to paint the template of a picture while you sip the drink of your choice.
This was the one that we were going to paint.
So, I get there. Find my easel. And I see the outline that is drawn. I make sure all of the colors are there and I am ready to paint it exactly how they told me too and something just clicked...why? There’s nothing wrong with it but I don’t put flowers in my hair and these colors don’t really go with my apartment...why did I have to stay in these lines? The answer is...you don’t.
As you walk into the rest of your lives there are many people that are going to try and box you in and up. They will put parameters around you and give you parameters to stick to.
They will tell you your hair is too natural,
that you can’t deviate from the plan,
that you are intimidating,
that you don’t deserve the promotion, a seat at the table or can create your own table.
That is their version of the painting. Those are their lines. Don’t let those lies incarcerate your truth. You are bold. You are dynamic. You are a game changer and a history maker. You are everything that many people don’t want you to be
and they will do things to make you believe that their version is better. Do not let them.
8 months ago I listened to myself say this and walked away from a guided portrait to pursue my own work of art. I am now a full time entrepreneur. It has been challenging, it is taking prayer, patience and persistence but any great feat does. In your path you will encounter many lessons and it is your job to live through them, learn from them and pass them on, so today that is what I am going to do for you. These are lessons I learned for someone in this room today and you better appreciate them because they were not pleasant but like all lessons completely necessary...
Starting over is essential. You will do it many times throughout your life. They will all be scary. They will all be worth it. You arrive at every new start with the necessary lessons for that level of your life. Nothing is wasted. Use the levels, don’t let the levels use you.
You belong in the room. Whether it be a room that you created or one that you are helping to create, you deserve to be there. Your path led you to this place.
God makes no mistakes. Embrace it and thrive in it.
You are the only one with your gifts. No two people are the same. We are created to accomplish things that only we can do. Stop comparing your gifts to someone else’s. There is no comparison. Create your lane and thrive in your purpose.
Congratulate and Collaborate. We are here to build with our community. We achieve together. Our gifts are to be shared and celebrated. Contribute to and gain from your community.
Hard work always pays off. You must move your feet or someone else will. Purpose cannot be achieved without movement.
Never stand at closed doors. Closed doors are a blessing. They carve our path just like open ones do. Do not stare at them. They are there to create movement. Thank them for the experience and move forward.
The bear is scared of you. Your gifts will scare people into forming weapons against you. They will not prosper. Move past their noise and towards the achievement of your goals.
Ignore the clock. Shed the worlds timeline of success. Work hard. Follow your path and let your purpose unfold in the way that it was meant to. Don’t rush your story. Live it.
Get out of your own way. Your feelings will stop you from doing what it takes to accomplish your purpose. Choose faith over feelings always.
Leave it here. You will never see a U-Haul behind a hearse. You are here to leave a positive mark on the world. Get out there and use your gifts to do it. Use your influence to the fullest.
Now, these are very important points but really it all comes down to this very moment. You have accomplished something amazing and I am very proud of you but if you don’t do anything with it, you just paid a lot of money for a cap and gown. Use your gifts, your black privilege and the knowledge that you have gained right here at UOP to change the world in the most humble way possible. There is nobody that can do it in the way that you can except for you.
It has truly been an honor. Thank you for having me and congratulations to OUR new class of 2019!
Exercise is not something that I can say that I enjoy from my soul. It does amazing things for my body, soul and depression but actually doing it is not my version of fun. So I table it often. I can go for months without doing it but in reality it’s something that I must make myself do. My body is literally my temple and I have not been stewarding it well. My family health history is no bueno and I am not helping the cause.
So it’s time. Time to get this healthy living started. Sigh. I really have to mourn my bad healthy eating habits and lazy couch days for a moment because they are so incredibly comfortable, warm and friendly. I go back and forth on uncoupling with them forever or simply hollering at them every now and then. I just don’t know if I can move forward without knowing that I have access to them.
But what I do know, at the current moment, is that I have to be active at least 3 times a week. That means discipline, time and money because training myself is not my forte. I know my strengths and I need someone to coach me or it will more than likely not happen. Side note: if you want to work together with me in some way to strengthen my health and showcase your strengths, let’s make it happen!
So I started this week and got two days in. Those 2 days made me feel phenomenal. I know that I am on the right track and need to continue to push myself because health truly is wealth. I need to do this for my mental, physical and future. It’s not an option, it’s a must.
Of course, I ran into the problem of workout clothes. We are constantly in capri mode. And while that works, it shouldn’t have to be that way. So when I tried on these workout clothes from Long Tall Sally, I lightweight cried. Full disclosure, this doesn’t take much. I am known to shed tears over emotionally charged commercials but having workout clothes that fit definitely is a moment.
These workout pants are everything. I mean everything. They have just the right amount of stretch, are long and I LOVE a high waisted pant so these are my entire jam. The overlay tank is great as well but these pants are legit. In my opinion, they are worth the money because of the fit and construction. Think about how many $30 pants you have bought over the years. Think about how many of these pants that you could have bought with that money. Pants that fit and last? Yessir. Sign me all the way up.
That leads me to another thing I am working on. Quality over quantity. I am selling, giving and pairing down a lot of my things. Things that no longer serve you weigh you down. You have to release them to realize the full power of your path. So you will see me wearing these often because you don’t need a full closet of workout clothes to work out. What you need is a washing machine and I am blessed to have one. Side note: washing machines are a luxury item. Most of the world don’t have them. Be thankful.
I look forward to working on these things with you. I really appreciate you being here. I know it’s hard but I am thankful that we can stand tall through it all together.
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of beautiful young women at Westlake Middle School in Oakland, CA. It was an amazing afternoon of positivity that Principal Maya Taylor spearheaded. I was honored to share my story and life lessons at the first Women’s Empowerment Day at Westlake. Check this Oakland Post article out for more details on the beautiful event.
While I pray that I impacted everyone who needed it, by far, the person who was impacted most on this day was me.
While leaving my job of 13 years has been imperative and amazing, I have struggled with direction. There are so many things that I feel God wants me to do, it has been hard to trust myself to select where He wants me to go next. However while speaking at Westlake, He affirmed something in me that cannot be denied…no matter what I must continue to speak about confidence, bullying and standing tall in every way.
I literally went through (and go through) everything in my life to help build others up. It is my life’s purpose. I can see Him working through me in amazing ways. I do not know how I am going to get there but what I do know for certain is that He will make it happen in His timing. The work He has for me is great and I will trust Him through all of it. I will emphatically move my feet and let Him beautifully connect the work together for His purpose for my life.
Currently, I am in the process of revamping TallSWAG to not only be a space to stand tall in style but in all things. I aspire to inspire in all areas of life through the lens of my own. I want to do this through speaking, writing, lifestyle, events, design, travel and every other constructive way I can.
If you feel compelled to connect in any of these spaces, please do. If you have a lead, open position or idea for me that aligns with my purpose, I dang sure want to hear it. God doesn’t waste anything and maybe you are reading this right now to link me to the next step in His plan for me. You never know and I sure don’t see any harm in putting it on the table.
I want to be the light that He needs me to be and will work tirelessly to make it happen. I’m not above giving God a conduit to connect. He uses all of us and I will continue to walk down the avenues He presents to me.
If you have ever read my blog or followed me on social media, I have made no secret over the years that depression is a part of my life. It’s real, it happens, it sucks but I eventually overcome.
Currently, I am blessed to only be effected by depression in certain ways. Mainly, I just get sad and can’t shake it for a sporadic amount of time. It could be a day, a couple of days, a week or as long as a season. When it sets in, for the first couple of days I am like what is this? It’s strange. As an occurrence that I am acquainted with, you would think that I could easily detect it but it’s almost like I am in full denial that it is happening again.
When I finally realize that it’s not just a bad day, I have acquired knowledge over the years to attack it and outwardly function in it. Bible reading, sermons, a lot of calls to my Mom and a strong series of workouts all act as antidotes for me. Personally, I don’t take medication. While there is nothing wrong with it, it doesn’t sit well with me. I took it once when I was a teenager. It not only intensified the feelings, it made me feel completely out of control. I flushed those pills down the toilet and vowed to never take them again.
This current match has been nearly 5 months long. While it’s no coincidence that the last 5 months has been an unfair period of time for me, I have to look at the entire picture and pinpoint my part in it. While medically, there are some things that are out of my control, at the end of the day, you are responsible for your overall happiness. Nobody can dictate it or put it back together for you. If you rely on someone or something to complete it, it will never be whole or real.
With this in tow, I’m taking an inventory of the ways in which I fail to take control of my happiness.
Yes. I said FAIL.
Embrace that bad boy. All of us fail in some way every. single. day. The more you run away from failure, the further away you are from making the change that will transform you into the exact person that God wants and needs you to be. We learn far more from failure than we ever will from success. Sometimes it takes a good fall to learn exactly what makes you stand the tallest.
I contribute to my unhappiness in the following ways;
FOCUS. Instead of focusing on the amazing things that are going on in my life, I tend to fixate on what I have lost. The lost things hurt my soul and I just stand there looking at them while completely ignoring the beautiful people, places and things around me. It not only sucks the happiness out of my life, it’s disrespectful to the beauty that God has placed in my life. Place all of your focus on the light and it will spread throughout your life.
DISTRACTION. When I am down, I power down. Instead of attacking with the word, fellowship, prayer and physical activity, I run to the house of Netflix. Basically, anything that deters me from working through it, I embrace. This isn’t happiness. This is denial. Anything that keeps you from overcoming is a step in the wrong direction.
PROCRASTINATION. I often prolong my sadness by delaying decisions that I know are standing in the way of the path that I am supposed to be on. Are they hard decisions? Yes. Are they essential in living my best life? Absolutely. Stop delaying the life that God promised you because you are afraid to make a decision. Seasons are to be greaduted from, not stayed in. Are you listening Alicia?
LANE SPLITTING. Are you in someone else’s lane? Completely guilty. If you are comparing yourself to others, trying to follow in anyone’s footsteps that aren’t God’s or fighting for someone to see you in the way that God does, you have inevitably taken yourself out of the game. You are no longer walking down your path yet occupying another that you will never see success in. Find respite in your lane, strive and seek God to direct all of your steps. His orchestration brings peace, light and love.
PERSPECTIVE. Alicia, your current situation isn’t the only situation. Stop making your world small by painting yourself in only one picture. God’s landscape is vast. His promises always win. Live in a lavish point of view. God isn’t small and neither are His plans for you.
Selfishly, I wrote this because I really needed to read it today but I hope that you gathered some power from the lessons that are occurring in my life.
Bring it on failure. Bring it on Depression. Little do you know, I will use both of you for my strength.
I hope everyone had an amazing Christmas filled with light and love! I know I was blessed to be surrounded by my loved ones. We laughed, lounged, ate amazing food and opened gifts. While gift giving is wonderful, did you know that there are many gifts that you can give all year long that require no purchase?