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!
Is fleek cool still? Ah well. We are gonna rock with it.
Let me tell you about coffee. It was my constant companion until I started the Daniel Fast and gave it up completely.
It was sad y'all. Those first 3 days my body was in legitimate detox. It wasn't pretty and it showed me that my body was reliant on the company of the magic bean. I went 43 days without it, but still missed my friend and thought I would try to see her again without becoming co-dependent. So I drank a cup of coffee and guess what? We are cool again, just not on that level.
I drink coffee when I want it and not because I need it. I also leave all of the sugar on the curb because I think that is what I was really craving. My coffee was more sugar than it was coffee. Now my pal is straight up with a splash of some almond, soy or coconut milk. I love this new, healthy version of my compadre and she is a much better friend in return.
With that said, I love waking up on the weekends, throwing on some effortless cute, packing some strong coffee to go (that I make on the cheap) and explore my city. It's the perfect way to spend the morning and spark my day.
One thing that is hard for us to find is tall, chic, leisure wear. Thus, when I found these Super Soft Joggers in 37" inseam, I quickly selected every color and put them right in the basket. You can wear them with anything and it feels like you are walking around in your chonies. YES to all of that.
Another thing that I am in LOVE with is my personalized ID Bracelet from Candid Art. You can say anything you would like in an 8 letter package. Please believe I have more bracelets in the works...this Tall girl has a lot to say!
As you enter into the weekend, take time out to explore the things that you want. Whatever that is...do that in the exact way that you want to do it. Be YOU. Love YOU. TallSWAG.
Recently, I had a close friend tell me that a concern that some men may have when it comes to dating me is that I (as a virgin) would not be able to satisfy them.
That statement hurt me to my core. I cried. I cried a lot. It was a gut puncher. How could something that I think is so special, be a potential reason why I am still single? I have definitely felt that way many times but never had someone say it to me in such a direct manner. So many things went through my mind until it hit me…
If anyone should be concerned about being satisfied, it should be me.
You see, the misconception that virgins have no idea what they are doing is completely false. If anyone knows their bodies well and know what they like…it’s a virgin. We have had ample time to get acquainted with self and furthermore we have had a plethora of time to make a complete and thorough list of what we want to do. With all of that said, it is a gamble for ME to bank on 1 (one) person to be able to satisfy all of these wants and needs. How do I know that this person has what it takes to give me all of the wonders that I deserve and have been so patiently waiting for?
I don’t and that is a risk that I am willing to take. Saving my virginity for my husband is not just about sex. Do I want to have sex? Of course (and badly). My virginity is hard to keep. It is something that I battle to maintain on a daily basis. It has been tested a time or twenty but at the end of the day the goal is to keep this for him and only him. I guarantee, whomever he is, will deserve it and you better believe will not have a question about the amazing gift that I have worked so hard to protect and deliver.
My tears turned into a valuable lesson. While in no way do I think my friend intentionally meant harm, a statement like that from anyone shouldn't make you feel bad about your goal, rather it should validate that you were specifically picked to handle it. Not everyone can handle or recognize the value in an objective that you are pursuing and that is OK. Continue to pursue it anyway. It is your vision, not theirs. Listen to what people have to say but never let their misgivings about your plan deter you from attaining something that God put in your heart. He didn't place it in theirs, He placed it in yours so keep at it despite the naysayers. Often a person who is questioning your pursuit is doing it because they don't have the strength to begin one on their own.
You are built to win. Stay steady on the track. Don't let mere words derail what God has already guaranteed.
Hello my Pretties! I hope you are having a day filled with light and crazy joy! If not, stand tall and walk confidently through the haze until you get there.
Today's look is on the comfy side. You know we love a high heel but there are days that call for fierce, flat moments. So many details to talk about...
This Tall Bomber Style Jacket is brought to you by Talltique. It's by the actual Talltique brand and made from eco-friendly vegan leather that looks and mostly feels just like the real stuff. It has a 29.5" arm length and can be worn in many different ways. One thing, make sure you check the sizing before you order. I am wearing a size 2 and I wasn't even a size 2 at birth. It's a fabulous staple for any Tall Girls closet. If Caramel isn't your thing, it also comes in black.
The layers of shirts are prime examples of what I constantly talk about. The striped top was one of those I tried it on in the store and ohmygosh it actually works pieces and the Tall chambray top is a Tall basic I ordered online that was a little pricey but totally worth it because I use it as a foundation for SO many outfits. I mean I have worn this bad boy so many times that the cost has become obsolete (at least that is what I tell myself).
The shoes, the shoes! So...I searched the globe for size 12, chic slip-ons that didn't require me to donate one of my organs to pay for them. No dice. But then, out of the clear blue sky, (I am so dramatic) arose a perforated, sleek pair that goes up to size 13 for the glorious price of $19.99. Run that debit pronto. By the way, Payless, go on ahead and make a Tall Sista (specifically me) the face and voice of your extended sizes. Please and thank you.
Lastly, the busted knee jeans. Sigh. I couldn't find a pair to save my life. If I did, they were high-waisted and even though I live for a good pair of those, that's not what I wanted in my busted knee beauties. So, I took the task into my own hands and busted those knees right out of an old pair of 37" alloy jeans I had. I just put the jeans on, placed scotch tape where I wanted them busted, took them off (very important), made a small cut and then ripped them open. Wow. That sounds like an episode of Criminal Minds. Of course, right after doing so, life presented a Tall pair from ASOS. Don't be shocked if you see them in a post.
So there you have it...my little slice of casual Heaven. What do you flaunt on your kickback days?
This story has been on my heart since last week. I am not sure why I am sharing it, but know that there is a purpose for it.
On this particular day I was extremely tired, in a bad mood but had a lot to accomplish. I was running errands at lunch and noticed a woman who was riddled with illness. Her hands were permanently clenched, back painfully arched and both legs were barely keeping her up. She had a cane and was literally stepping in inches to her destination.
Regardless of her illness, her pride was shining through. She wasn’t giving up. Even if it took her hour to get down the corridor, she was going to make it on her own. I wanted to help her but could tell that it would be an insult to do so. She was determined to beat her body. Her mind wouldn’t let her physical state win.
I immediately felt ashamed of my ridiculous worries and insignificant feelings. Who was I to inflict self-strife for such futile emotions? She had every reason to throw an extravagant pity party and chose life, faith and focus. With tears welling up in my eyes, I looked away from her in sheer disgust for myself.
And then she stopped,
demanded eye contact,
and said hello to me.
Her hello was a distinct lesson for me. She was not her illness, she was a person walking forward in faith through the fire who would not let me walk by without showing me that I could do it too.
I have been through a lot in my life, weathered many storms, but the insignificant day-to-day ‘struggles’ in many ways affect me more than life changing events. Why do I have insurmountable faith in overcoming large obstacles in my life and not the same resolve for the speed bumps that happen on a daily basis? If this woman could take the time out to smile through her enormous test how could I continuously fail pop quizzes?
The answer is, I can, I will and you can too. No matter what is going on, from tiny to gigantic, walk in constant faith knowing that this is all in the plan. Every state is there to shape you into the exact form that you need to be in to execute God’s plans for you. The tests prepare you for the execution. They all require faith. One isn’t any more important than the other. Stand tall and learn from them rather than wallowing in the discomfort they create.
I am going to make a concerted effort to live these words and maybe I wrote this to show you that you can do it too. Thanks for listening.