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"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Friday, 3 November 2017

Overcoming Fear to Lead and Grow

Fear. It’s one of those emotions that will always rear its ugly head, and to be fair it can be a paradoxically encouraging impetus.  It’s fight or flight. It’s an indication of a deep insecurity or about really caring about what you are doing.  The important thing is to identify whether what you feeling is a positive or negative force, that the consequences of acting upon or ignoring the fear will move you forward, hold you back or worse destroy what you have built.
This year I have come to realise that I have been fighting mostly external fears trying to exert pressure and influence.  This has affected how long it has taken to get to this point and has quite frankly razed a lot of what I accomplished in the last 2 years with my first documentary e18hteam, affected both my professional and personal relationships, battered my self-esteem and has made me question everything.  The good thing is that going through the process has allowed me to identify a few things which really crystallised after I went to the BongoHive Talk Leading the Creative Spirit.
The talk moderated by Rachel Adams, founder of Narachi Leadership, and featuring  leadership insight from  Joseph Hundah, CEO of Econet Media, made me admit to some of the pitfalls I have succumbed to as I fought to retain my voice, values, principles and integrity.  I have excused some of them when really I could have done better to avoid them. The experience, advice, lessons learnt and the leadership qualities, mechanisms and process imparted with the theory behind to further illuminate the ideas being shared, really helped reinforce things I have already been mindful of and am looking to and/or continue to improve. They also reinforced my belief that I do have something to offer, and this multimedia experiment reimaging African storytelling is my calling. I can be at the helm of the ship ZeDream Team and I are navigating through the stormy seas and we will find our treasure. And unlike pirates we’ll share with you because we care!
These are the takeaways from this year of failure and perseverance:
Don’t let other people’s fear thwart you.  Many will tell you they know what you should do, give you unsolicited advice, try to sabotage your efforts, will poo poo  your ideas and what you are doing to.  They will do this hold you back, keep you under their thumb as they are scared it may affect what they are doing, that they are not needed or that they will be left behind and cast aside. Worse is some people may not realise their words and actions towards you are underhanded in this way.  Do not let the fear of not adhering to their views and following their plans force you into submission if that is not the path you should be taking. The truth is  there is no tried and true way to make the transition from success to the next thing. Especially when its your first creative project to your sophomore offering.  Any success that then leads to the next thing is difficult to navigate.  I am not trying to replicate e18hteam with A.C.E. What I am trying to do is move forward with the momentum the documentary created and challenging myself by believing I can do more and be more.  Most importantly the project is a response to my interactions, experiences and the inspiration the ZeDream Team have given me long before we assembled.  Each of them has great faith in my abilities and what I have already accomplished and have the potential to achieve.  Each of them has given me great counsel.  Each of them has been non-judgmental and accepting of our differences.  Each of them has connected with me on profound  and multiple levels.
Still accepting this fact. Even an
empowering photoshoot with Mafashio
for my 35th birthday this year
hasn't quite had this fact sink in.
Photo Credit: Fortress Media
I know this seems rather silly to state but I have had a hard time coming to terms with that fact.  When I do the things I do, create the things I create, become passionate about my passions, it always starts from an internal catalyst. Once I have worked through the feeling or inkling to give shape and form to the idea, I then work backwards using my education and experience in Communication to figure out if what I am thinking is viable and how to go about manifesting it in the right place and targeting the right audience.  A.C.E. is a  personal response to those who follow me on social media and those whom I have met on the journey e18hteam took me around Zambia and the world. It is a visceral reaction to the events that have unfolded in my country and the repercussions. It is an active way of processing the world around me, and sharing with other in order for us to grow together.  I may not necessarily have sought to become a leader, but in doing this I am and I need to own it.  I need to commit fully to what that entails.  I need to believe that I can and am already. My purpose is to create environments and content for people to be able to share, freely express their goals and fears and for us to work together to find solutions and move forward.  I am leading by starting conversations so that you can add your voice.  I need to be A.C.E. so we can be A.C.E together.
Leadership is a journey made up of many journeys, not a finite destination.  There are highlights, stops and milestones along the way, as well as multiple paths to be taken, but it is a never ending process.  The moment you are stagnant and stop, that is the moment you stop leading.  If you never realise that you are stuck, you can have a serious detrimental effect on the people around you who look to you for direction, guidance, support and purpose.  Either you will have a revolt on your hands or if you are extremely charismatic, you will lead people who will follow you blindly into the depths from whence you cannot escape. It is important to constantly check in with yourself and those around you, provide a safe space to be able to get feedback, to brainstorm and troubleshoot both for yourself to reflect and for others to engage you.
I am still in the process of learning how to lead effectively and consistently.  This mad scientist luckily has guinea pigs who don’t seem to be that affected by the fact that things have fallen apart far worse than they did for Okonkwo.  Luckily unlike the protagonist in Chinua Achebe’s famous tome, I have not let the universe continue to conspire against me, but have found a way to turn things around meteorically.  Things are getting back on track smoothly. I have been inspired by the challenges to overcome, not to fold and admit defeat.  Leadership is a commitment – if you take up the mantle, you’ve got to do the work to deserve the elevated seat bestowed upon you.  You have to use your voice wisely as it will be amplified. You must use your influence strategically and not succumb to the way of the despot, becoming drunk with power. You need to respect your potency and those who acknowledge and respond accordingly. For a while I was closed off, seriously and artificially limiting my interaction with the world out of fear of things getting so bad that I would never regain control or worse, that I would have irreparably lost the relationships and access to resources that are important to my well-being and growth as a storyteller.  If all that turned out to be true, A.C.E would be buried under all of that. I would have to abort before the project could be given life.  Luckily things were not as desperate as they seemed once perspective was found.
I have never been afraid of my vulnerability and revel in my humanity.  Some of my biggest mistakes have led to the biggest opportunities, and the fears I have felt have spurred me on to create, succeed, to chart new paths and venture out and experience the best (and the worst) of life. However, people like their leaders to be invincible, to lay down the law, to sniff out weakness and to snuff it out.  Zambians and Africans in particular have grown up with with that rigid form of leadership whether it is at home with their parents, or their leaders deciding that they will remain in a position of power from beyond the grave. Expressing and owning your vulnerabilities is not always welcome as people aren’t used to it and are afraid of what it means: sharing that your are struggling and the process of finding your way back to the surface when you are drowning. Admitting that you don’t know something. Saying that your feelings are hurt and that actions towards you have had a negative effect. These are considered hammering nails into your coffin. I  however have no desire to be impervious and unflappable or to seem so.  It is ultimately not a productive way to go about life.  You end up spending time upholding the illusion of your power rather than exercising the power you actually have despite your deficiencies.
Though I am not scared about my second project and the inevitable comparison that will follow, I was scared of not forgiving myself for not handling the situations, feelings and people who have come my way in the last 2 years better.  As everything starts within myself, I knew this would have a negative effect on how A.C.E. took shape.  My fears were realised, but they have also taught me that these things happen.  Things do go spectacularly wrong.  I always say you can’t please everyone, but I really learnt what that meant recently.  I am finally finding peace with where I am from the lessons learnt. I am rekindling my passions, become comfortable once more with uncertainty and I’m ready to lead a sojourn into the unknown.  I can’t wait to find out what we will find through A.C.E. together!
For more information about BongoHive, Lusaka’s Innovation and Technology Hub and the talks and programs they offer, visit their website and like them on Facebook.
A.C.E. will officially be launching early October so keep checking in for posts and follow our journey on Instagram.
Want to chat more about this and anything else on the blog, about A.C.E. or anything else you can find me on Twitter.
For more about the A.C.E. Project, follow the blog, where this article was originally posted, and follow ZeDream Team on Instagram.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Laughter is not always the best medicine

When I saw this I didn't laugh. One, because the joke was not that funny - it was really predictable and has been told by many an African before this comedian. More importantly, it was a poor use of satire, one of my favourite tools we as humans have to communicate really serious issues in a disarming, more accessible way. I don't think when people watched this they thought goodness, I think that Africa is facing another huge preventable health problem, I think they thought this is so true - it's actually our mothers, grandmothers and matriarchs who have always been the problem. The argument was not strong enough and was poorly presented. It was dangerously dismissive of how this profound change in the way we eat can truly affect us. Worse, globally we have been idly seeing the effects for decades, so we here in Africa are literally following suit with our eyes wide open!

Recently there has been a huge explosion of malls and global fast food restaurants have scrambled to have outlets in them. The thing is, because we have heard about the strict standards these brands tend to have, we feel like we have hit a milestone in our development. In the late 90s and early 2000s only South African chains were opening up in Zambia. We now are worthy of such establishments and we find it cool to go eat and be seen there. I wonder how we will react when Micky D's finally comes to town as they are arguably the pickiest when it comes to granting franchise licences as they are finicky about brand consistency, standards and quality control.  We now have these companies sponsoring cool events, bringing more to do in Lusaka and making them ever more appealing. Worse part is they organise giveaways in the compounds (shanty towns) which I personally think is irresponsible - you are creating the perfect storm for brand loyalty from the most vulnerable in our society to seek out food that is cheap and addictive, not that nutritious and that could potential lead to health issues they will likely be unable to deal with. We are so focused on the appearance and financial gains of development without really stopping to think about the consequences

The growing middle class are excited about their new spending power and they are flocking to buy all the processed products found in the supermarkets in the malls that have flooded our neighbourhoods. I have 3 strip malls between 1 to 5 minutes away from me! It's ridiculous. In the same way we turn our nose up at our traditional grain based flour to make our staple food nshima for the trendier, less nutrious maize because it is white (and prettier than the shades of brown millet, sorghum etc produce), more fashionable and less village, we are doing the same with our food purchases. Why go to the market or grow your own food when you can be spotted at the mall with a trolley full of groceries in plastic bags? We love to be decadent and to show off even if it is to our detriment. We already have been unable to deal with HIV, malaria, TB, cancer and now we are going to further strain our resources by adding obesity and related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes to the list ?! The conversations I have had with doctors and medical professionals over the years scare me. Despite all the campaigns backed by government and development agencies that keep telling us this time we shall conquer, it seems our issues aren't really getting any better and the majority of Zambians are still grosssly under-served by our health resources.

I know a lot of people talk about personal responsibility, common sense and how the overweight and obese should be able to control themselves and exercise, but there are so many studies out there that show that the road to gaining weight is a highly complicated one, and for many one fraught with so many pitfalls as they try to regain control with healthier lifestyles. This issue needs to be treated with compassion and where possible thwarted before it has a chance to embed itself into the culture of a place.  Companies can still make money and be responsible about how they market and label their products.  However I feel that here in Zambia in particular, it may already be too late and we are not equipped with the emotional intelligence coupled with the political will to tackle this next real challenge on our health system. 

I had the most surreal experience with a lady I met through friends at a concert. As we were listening to the music, an obese person stood in front of us causing the lady to express with vitriol how disgusting the person was and how could they let themselves go like that and why was she out in public. I was so taken aback by the unabashed honestly and worse the fact that this lady thought that this wasn't cruel, and that she could freely speak to me like that. I replied that you have no idea why the person has put on that much weight, they are likely to be dealing with something physically, psychologically and/ or emotionally. Rather than judgement, that person has the right to dignified humanity from the world around them. I have heard people callously call children fat off the cuff.  We would rather see the overweight as a sign of wealth and health - being HIV-. Sick and/ or poor people are skinny. I don't think we have the will as citizens to push for change. We unfortunately will not be seeing people lobbying for USD42 million spent on gastric bypass operating equipment or doctor's training, the special ambulances and beds to handle the weight the morbidly obese, the medication... 

I am a really healthy eater. I was brought up that way and naturally gravitate to homegrown and home cooked nutritious food. Even though I spent my first years in the UK, my mother befriended Zambia Airways air hostesses to bring her kapenta (dried sardines). Our protein historically came from lean animal and vegetable proteins.  Fish could be caught fresh daily and dried to last months in the heat before we had refrigeration. It does not require large parties to be enjoyed without wastage. Apenta was one of my first words and to this day, one of my favourite fish dishes to eat.   Mum also found a way to grow beans in the cold Northern English climate so we could have chinkamba (bean leaves) to cook authentic traditional nshima meals.  We always had a garden wherever we lived and we grew things. I remember being proud of growing my own groundnuts (mbalala) and strawberries in my patch as a toddler. In Zambia and Kenya we only bought fruits that weren't growing in the garden. Since I moved back to Zambia in 2011 cashiers and/ or peopel in line behind me at supermarkets comment because I don't buy what the average Zambian purchases when they make the trip. I'm always told "you buy white people things" like broccoli, cauliflower, quinces, parsnips, pomegranate juice or assorted seeds like pumpkin and flaxseed. If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen how I love to post about food grown at the farm in my ancestral village, healthy food bought at stores and how I still eat well when I am travelling and eating out. I don't eat fast food often. When I do it's a guilt-free treat because I only indulge a couple of times a year. 

I'm really passionate about this issue. We are a young population in Zambia and across Africa who are destined to be crippled by so many things before we have a chance to bloom.  So I say if we are going to use satire, let's use it wisely and effectively and regardless, we need to be less dismissive and more proactive about this pandemic which I would wager is likely to become the biggest health crisis across the continent in the next decade.  Though I am the Queen of passion, I don't believe in sticking ones head in the sand or up ones ahem to maintain a sense of optimism in life.  So even though I have painted rather a bleak future, even though collectively we are falling short, I believe if enough individuals stand up and fight, eventually as communties, we can change the way we as society deal with obesity. 

Friday, 27 October 2017

Leadership Poker: Trumping with A.C.E.

Chipolopolo Fans a a game. They featured in establishing scenes about the
importance of football to Zambia in my documentary e18hteam (eighteam)
Over the past couple of months, I have had a series of conversations and experiences at events that have convinced me even more that A.C.E. is the right way to professionally deal with what is going on around me and in the world today, in my own small way.
The first major instance was a Twitter conversation I had with the talented and insightful Zambian songbird Chembo about representation at the first TEDx Eucalyptus Road in Lusaka. Her contention with the organisation of the event by Bloom Management was that there were non-black faces being streamed from abroad as part of the experience.  I contested that the important thing was that there was a high representation of women, particularly in the on-site break out sessions to discuss the themes, which is still unusual for Zambian events.  We agreed to disagree, as she feels strongly that black people/ Zambians should speak to their own people.  I agree to some extent, foreign and mostly non-black faces and organisations are given  far too much freedom to come and tell us how to be ourselves without consultation or understanding of who we are, what we need and what we need to do to get to where we want to go.  I feel however, that sometimes issues like Black Lives Matter, an issue borne from a minority status and amplified worldwide due to the fact that Western Media dominates global media, can obscure reality. We also are prone to jump on the cause bandwagon, designing events round things like HeForShe to show we do care about women, but not to actually really do the work to give women and girls their rightful chance to find their place in society.
We here in Zambia are in the majority, identifying as Black.  When you go to events and hear speakers, the majority of them are usually black/ Zambian.  The problem is they are almost always all men, and a lot of the time its the same recycled speakers unless it is dubbed a women’s event and even then there may not be a female majority. I think it is important to focus on what is salient here, not to bring issues from other places and erroneously conflate them out of solidarity, or issues brought from experiences elsewhere. I do think it is important for young Zambian women to see people who look like them doing more than myopic destiny expected of us. And I do believe both men and women need to give the female perspective chance and also realise sometimes it’s not about gender but about knowledge. Same with race. Does it matter the delivery vessel if the truth is being spoken?! I attended the TEDx event and had a transcendental experience in the breakout session with CEO of COMESA‘s business council Sandra Uwera, who I need to follow up with about encouraging Africans to buy local and products made on the continent and how this ties to how we see ourselves. I enjoyed that fact that she was in a powerful position and from her questions and comments it was clear she was qualified for her job and was the right choice to moderate. If that had not been the case however, I would have written about how disappointed I was. She made me proud to be an African Woman in the world today trying to move things forward.  She is #goals!
Earlier this month, I organised at Modzi Arts thanks to Founder Julia Kaseka’s openess to the idea of showing my documentary e18hteam, with a discussion afterwards about Zambian identity, the future of youth in the country, and the importance of art in public discourse.  The day of, Zesco did not disappoint and was annoyingly and stereotypically inconveniencing, deciding to loadshed that area for the first time in Modzi Art history.  Though we didn’t show film, Samba Yonga and Tangu Msimiko were great panelists with insightful contributions and Julia was an awesome moderator.  During the talk, an audience member asked if I had chosen the panel to be all female on purpose. I have had many conversations about how to ensure better representation and I am not for putting a woman on the panel just to have one. I believe in equality and equity.  If you select the requisite people to speak on the right things I think it will all balance out. If there are no qualified women, don’t force the issue and end up fulfilling another stereotype that women are given opportunities by affirmative action without qualification.  However, I do believe at this time, if you have the choice with equally qualified people, I think one should tend to favour the ladies over the gentlemen, till diverse panels are the norm. In the case of my event, I picked Samba because her company Ku-Atenga Media is one of the reasons my documentary has been well recieved and successful and she knows the film and its journey inside out. I chose Tangu because she reached out to me about mentorship and is interested in creating discourse between creatives as well as in the mechanics of film distribution. We also happened to represent young Zambia being in our 20s and 30s.  Giving women a platform to speak was a coincidental bonus.
Modzi was able to screen the film the next day and I spoke with the audience after and the conversation focused on the fact that we as Zambians need to realise that the Chipolopolo’s story reflects who we are as a people. I have had interactions with young Zambians during and after the elections where they have expressed fear that the legacy of the Freedom Fighters and the current administration will be lack of agency for those of us who follow them.  That they have no place in the country, and that efforts to belong are futile.  I reminded the audience that just like the Zambian National Football Team, we have bounced back from other tragedies such as the deaths of two of our Presidents in the last 10 years, by coming together and persevering peacefully.  I also noted that despite being blindsided continuously with things like loadshedding descending upon us without warning repeatedly ad infinitum, ad nauseum, we continue to innovate and find ways to carry on and succeed.  We did not give in after the day before’s debacle, we rescheduled and made time to have the event properly.  In our lives, we know we have it inside us to surmount the challenges thrown at us and eventually find the strength to keep moving.  Unbeknownst to me, there was a young, Caucasian American lady moved by my impassioned oratory.  She took the opportunity to express how my words gave her hope for the USA, as she wrapped her head round Donald Trump being President-Elect at the edict of her people. She was elevated to tears (I don’t believe crying is a reduction by default but can also be a expression of your strength to being open to expressing vulnerability unabashedly) as she spoke and apologised.  I told her there was nothing to be contrite about, as we are all living through these trying times and it is important to reach out to one another however we can, wherever we are.  I first went to America after September 11th and remember how people rallied together and was present during the first memorial commemorating the tragedy.  I have no doubt America will recognise its greatness and make lemonade out of this this current batch of lemons and slay like Beyonce.
This brings me back to my original sentiments that I expressed to Chembo.  You can learn and be inspired by anyone.  I think opportunities globally should be given to qualified people of all races, colours, creeds, gender, sexual orientation and identities, because as humans, our strength is in our diversity and we all have something to offer.  I think it is important to distinguish between local and global issues surrounding misrepresentation and the flat out blocking of certain perspectives and voices so we intervene and rig for the good accordingly, not to just jump on some cause’s bandwagon for the wrong reasons. Sometimes we need to give voice to those that irk, confuse or have differing opinions or appearance, so long as the intent is to not to promote hate, intolerance and to divide to rule and profit selfishly.  Even if the outcome is agreeing to disagree, I think there is much to learn from our differences and solutions to the worlds problems will continue to come from finding common ground. Tonight my film is showing at the Southern African Institute in Basel and has been given the honour of being the Opening Night screening to officially start the Zambia in Motion Festival.  The aim of the festival is to bring the curated history to life through indigenous voices, to a Swiss audience.  The fact that a tiny country a quarter of the world away is preserving our history and is reaching out to better understand who we are is beautiful.  It is the essence of what A.C.E. is all about: Cultural exchange. Building bridges. Learning from history. Making new paths. Learning and growing together.
Leading is not only about taking care of your own, but its also about reaching out to the other side to gain understanding, to lend a helping hand and above all letting love guide us to conquer all.  We need more of this in the world right now. How are you going to spread the feels and bring people together? What are you going to do to bring about understanding, empowerment and opportunity?
For inspiration, watch e18hteam on video on demand anytime, anywhere online here.
For more on the A.C.E project, bookmark the blog, where this article first appeared, and follow it and ZeDream Team on Instagram.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Introducing ZeDream Team

L-R Tukiya (Mafashio), Chosa,
Sekayi (Mafashio), Leelee
Me (Ngosa)
Photo Credit: Fortress Media
Styling: Mafashio
Though I posted last week that I have been failing with aplomb, I have gotten a few things right.  One such thing is the creation of the ZeDream Team.  Serendipity may have brought each of these amazing people into my life, but their coming together for A.C.E. was by complete design.  They were my first choice, and I am so grateful that they signed up to create with this mad scientist and are equally invested in my multimedia experiment.
Some pick people to work with whom they know can’t challenge them, can’t do what they do, and would never usurp power and commandeer their operation. They want to stand out, be worshiped, and have no intent on truly collaborating and working together to create something that can only be realised because of amalgam of individuals brought together for the common cause.  I have no desire to be the despot. I want to collaborate.  This means bringing people in with different skill sets so that we can all enhance each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses. I want to learn and grow through this process and the only way to do that is to surround myself with people who can magnify the areas I need to work on and amplify my positive traits.  I in turn hope to be able to do the same.
Leadership is not necessarily about being the best, or about dictating to the people you are in charge of.  Leadership to me is understanding group dynamics and ensuring that everyone is able to put their best self forward.  To know how to create magic with the ingredients each person has to put in the pot.  To know how to assign the right tasks to the right person.  To know when to rally the troops and when to pull back.  To know when to micromanage and when to leave people to autonomously go about their business. Sometimes it means stepping back and letting others lead.
Chosa, Puthumile and the Ladies of Mafashio (Sekayi and Tukiya) all have something in common with me: a desire to create, to push the envelope, to question, and to make our world better a better place with content that engages, informs, entertains and explores new paths.  More importantly they are crazy , weird and mysterious in their own unique ways.  They have all pleasantly surprised me in some shape or form over the last couple of years.  They have made me think about things from different perspectives.  They have challenged my ideas and been catalysts to shifts in the way I do things, in the way I see myself and what I have to offer the world.  They are the reason A.C.E. exists.  I wanted to find a way to bottle all that they have to give and create, to then uncork it in an explosion of creative content across media.
I know that though things are uncertain, and the journey we are taking is only just starting to map itself out, that I can count on these things from each of them:
Chosa will always keep a cool head, and if he loses his temper it means that things are really bad and we need to get ourselves together.  That I will always have a visual eye that gets what is needed to capture A.C.E. points of view in stills and/or video in innovative and singular ways.  And when we are editing, we will sink into our easy dance until some sort of rendering, colour correcting or other irritating process will cause me to throw a tantrum as impatience gets the better of me, he will distract me till it is done.
Puthumile will bring all the ideas the team has together and distill them into a beautiful river of words that will touch our souls.  That she will step in when I cannot get to something, and that she will always be there for me to vent, parse ideas, and to motivate me to keep at it when I am thwarted by my mind, or by things out of my control.  She will remind me to keep my eye on the prize and see a new way ahead when I cannot.  All the while pretending to be the Thing, made of rock. I won’t tell that she is really the Pillsbury Boy, all cookie dough, love, and rainbows.
The ladies of Mafashio come as a pair but if their individual personalities and talents did not fit into A.C.E. I would have only asked the one that contributed positively to the dynamic. Luckily I didn’t have to because their brand is a 2 for 1 special.  I always say that once you are Fundafunda-ed you can’t go back.  They are part of a creative familial dynasty and if you ever have the privilege of encountering any of their cousins, be prepared for your life to change. These girls bring a youthful effervescence that counters the over 30 jaded outlook that the rest of us have. They also have a refreshing positivity; a lust for life and new experiences that spurs me on.  They have a window into a world that is beyond me, and they are nice enough to bring me into it.
So long as Chosa, Puthumile and I are not left to our own devices, A.C.E. things happen. When we three meet, things descend swiftly into the silly, the debaucherous and the unfocused as our creative juices flow. We end up having conjured something we have absolutely no means to achieve and depression sets in.  Luckily there is usually food to make us feel better.
Soon we shall be officially launching with a taste of ZeDream Team’s talent and starting production on our first mini project.  I will continue to document the A.C.E. journey on the blog at least once weekly so keep checking in to walk along side us as we re-imagine African storytelling.  For a more visual experience follow us on Instagram. If you would like to chat about the project or just to get to know me better, please start a conversation on Twitter.
For more on the A.C.E. Project, bookmark the blog, where this article first appeared, and follow it and the ZeDream Team on Instagram.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Failing is A.C.E.

This photo was taken during our first A.C.E. shoot in 2016
Photo Credit: Fortress Media Styling: Mafashio

I have been failing. Spectacularly. All throughout 2016. And I have been winning. Why? Because failure is the route to success. If you are truly creative and or/ entrepreneurial, you live in the certainty of stumbling, mumble fumbling and falling.  A thick skin is required to keep picking yourself up, to keep, and carry on.  In Zambia , it is the norm to pretend like everything is okay, as admitting fault, inadequacy or challenges is seen as weakness, not as an opportunity to innovate, learn and grow. The fear of losing out or giving up power is so ingrained, it stops people from actually realising their dreams because they are spending so much time looking over their shoulder.
Moving on to your sophomore project is always hard.  My first production was a documentary about the Zambian National Football Team aka the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) called e18hteam (eighteam).  Last year it enjoyed much success after it premiered in October 2014.  From the unprecedented Zambeef sponsorship of the archival footage rights, to travelling around Zambia and film festivals around the world, winning awards in Indonesia, Spain, the USA, Nigeria and Peru, as well as screening in Cannes, I should be on floating in the clouds, basking in the rays of achievement. That is past glory though and cannot and should not sustain me.  The film continues to go to film festivals and is now used as a tool for motivational talks to motivate, inspire and/ or for cultural exchange, but it is time for a new challenge.
An artist never stops creating and the best place to start is inspiration from the depths of one’s soul.  That is where the African Cultural Exchange project, aka the ACE project, is borne from: a frustration so visceral, the only way to assuage it and turn that negative energy into the positive, is to work through it with my art.  It has taken much to get to this point and I haven’t really started.
Luckily I have 4 amazing people to work with here in Lusaka: 3 Zambians and 1 Zimbabwean. I have dubbed them ZeDream Team, because in another life I was named Big Pun, and they  were my first choice of crazy talent with beautiful spirits to work with. This blog will chronicle the entire process of this multimedia experiment aiming to re-imagine African storytelling, through creativity in all its forms, as I journey with this team down the rabbit hole.
What I have learnt so far, as I have embarked on this sojourn into the unknown, is that I still have much to learn, and that is okay because I believe life is about growth.  Leadership in this new capacity is much harder than I thought.  Collaborating and expressing what is going on in my head to get everyone up to speed is overwhelming, because my brain is too quick and sees everything at the same time perfectly laid out and connected in my head space.  It all makes sense to me, but parsing that out into the world in a way that makes sense is incredibly challenging. Focusing on what I want the project to address first has also taken a while to identify. But we have persevered and things are coming together.
I am known as the Queen of Passion and thankfully this Ndhlovukhazi Storyteller has enough fuel in the tank to keep regenerating, adapting, and is not afraid to change her mind. I am reveling in the uncertainty and in the crazy because beauty is starting to shine through. I just have to trust the process.  Keep tweaking. Keep researching.  Keep bandying ideas around. Staying open and allowing myself to be mentored by the team and people in my life whom I love and trust, while looking for new sources of knowledge and inspiration.
So as we count down to the official launch of the ACE project, to be announced on the blog in due time, please get to know ZeDream team through our Instagram account
In the meantime I will continue to fail spectacularly in style because I know it will all come together in the end.
Here’s to failing spectacularly to success.
For more on the A.C.E. project, bookmark the blog, where this post first appeared, and follow its progress and the ZeDream Team on Instagram.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Ngosa. Alive. Thrive.

So the last post I wrote (eons ago) was all about how I was going to do better at how I put my life out here on social media. I did start off well reloading Pellie Reign, particularly on my new Facebook page, as well as on Instagram and Twitter. However, I am now currently still wading through the right old mess that I have found myself in for most of the year. As usual, my writing on MbA has been affected. Something that really has to change as writing in this open diary is therapeutic. I chose this photo to accompany this article because at the time I was visually portraying my life storytelling in a patriarchal society. The storytelling has never been hard. It's the patriarchy part that is really throwing a spanner in the works amongst other things...
Trying to write my way back to lady bossing, to being my best, bubbly self.
Photo Credit: Kwitu Group Styling: Mafashio Location: KC Vaghela Brand Store

Life is a constant tackling of the haphazard, and it can blindside you when you least expect it. Somehow you are supposed to fashion interwoven narratives to make heads or tails of it all. A deluge of personal and professional f-ery has inundated me in ways that I not only did not expect, and found I was not quite equipped to deal with.  Trying to make sense of it has me battle weary. So much so that since my phone was stolen a few weeks ago, I have been rather listless. I am more overwhelmed than ever.  Last thing I needed to happen to me really.  It has messed with my story by cutting off easy access to global life lines and there is really no substitute for the function my phone has in that regard. So until my new phone arrives in a month, I'm likely to be not quite with it on another level.

I have started over so many times this year, only to have to scrap my course of action to jumpstart things and restart afresh, trying to find the passion I'm famous for. So I have decided to accept that life is a mess right now and that my fires need stoking before they are at full flame consistently. I'm going for (new) small victories to build up to a cohesive effort to make the big changes I had plans for, and the new ones I've discovered are required. So over for the foreseeable future on MbA, this is what I'm going to do:

Share the blogposts I wrote on my currently stalled next major creative undertaking, the African Cultural Exchange project: A.C.E. The first post was all about failure and how it can function as stageposting on the way to success. I am using my current inability to troubleshoot and jumpstart the project to reflect and share here on Soulfood Friday.

Things on Thursday will be, like this post, updating where I'm at in this process of metamorphosis, rediscovery, reclamation and change.

Mama Monday will feature posts on things in Zambia that have me disturbed about the lack of empathy we have for each other and those beyond our borders, and how that is manifesting in really disturbing ways.

I will finish my Love. Marraige. Sex. Babies. series that I started on Woolgather Wednesday.

I will not be furnishing Twit Tuesday on the blog as Twitter is where I'm most active currently, so if you'd like a daily dose of MbA, find you way to my profile.

So long as my name is Ngosa, and I am alive, I will always find a way to thrive he he ;} xo #NgosAliveThrive

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Pellie Reign Reloaded

This photo was taken at PR Girl Media's the Travel Series Zanzibar event in
December 2016 at Latitude 15.
Styled by Mafashio in My Perfect Stitch.
Photo Credit Vince Banda
I coined the term Pellie Reign (#PellieReign): Purple Elephant Reign to signify the way I intend to live life.  This is the era of the Purple Tembo, my production company which derives its name from my favourite colour and my favourite animal - the elephant.  I have no brand. There is no art to what I do.  I basically find a way to incorporate what I love and what I am drawn to, into what I do.  There is no line between my professional and personal, except what I choose to make public or not.  I don't want to have to think about if this or that is on message. I just am.  So sometimes its messy. Sometimes it's slick.  That's life.  That's authentic. Whether it is icky or not, it's true.  

However, I have come to the conclusion that I do need to be a bit more serious about how I put myself out there on social media.  So I have created a new Facebook page to facilitate this.  In 4 days I will turn 35. Every year I create a theme.  Last year was my annus horribilus, and my theme was 34: get off the floor and find that open door. It was that bad.  I turned things around and wanted this milestone birthday to really celebrate the fact that I was able to find the strength to bounce back.  I always pick a rhyming theme so I have come up with:

35. Alive. Thrive.

I am sharing this openly for the first time on a public scale.  My birthday is my new year, so I move forward on my own terms.  I am very excited to share with you all the things in store, that I have lined up.  I will be officially launching the page on Monday the 6th of February. To find out what is just around the corner, please like on Facebook so that you are in the know.  

For previews and behind the scenes you can follow me on Instagram. Don't forget to like my page on Facebook ;}!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Content Single Girl Love Musings: Love. Sex. Marriage. Babies. Part I

Stanford Reunion in Soton with one of my little ones Ahmed
So I start with Love. I believe that God: the energy that rules us all, what ultimately the universe is all about, and what creates (and destroys when at its most twisted), is Love. It is the ultimate ideal in life.  I am a hopeless romantic.  Which is why I am single.  I refuse to settle and all the men out there should be happy because I do not have that most exalted of feminine qualities: a high tolerance for bullshit because you know, he loves me, I know it and that's all that matters of course; no matter how dastardly he is and how abominably he treats me. How people see things is of no import because, in the end, you don't know what really goes on in a relationship unless you are in it.  Yes, I am being facetious. Seriously though, love is not suffering, though you will be tested repeatedly ad infinitum. Love is, at its core, at its most pure, and at its zenith, kind. So why is it set up to make women miserable by duping them into believing that the ultimate goal is to best express this most coveted of human virtues through marriage?! It then is extremely, and in many instances, unavoidably susceptible to metamorphosing into its opposite; the most detrimental of vices. That's how people get their hearts broken, lose their faith in people, in themselves, and in life. People devolve into vindictiveness, disillusionment, meaness and cray cray to misguidedly allay and assuage abysmally.

Recently, I read this article that talked about how married men and single women are the happiest with their situation.  I believe it. Love and marriage are two very different things.  You don't have to be in love to marry, or to make such a contract work. Many who are in love are miserable after they tie the knot and there are those who have spent a lifetime together adoring each other without needing paper to certify their union.  Don't get me wrong, I think the idea of marriage, or without the label: spending a lifetime building, evolving and caring for someone, is beautiful.  It's work though. Everyday. It's an infinite and limitless commitment. Love over a lifetime, whatever form it takes is hard. It's unglamarous. It's unconditional - which means compromise, empathy, humility, faith, tenacity, and evolution are key.  You need grit to keep laying the road to continue the journey, wherever it leads.  When romantic, it's not the wedding, which is a drop in the ocean of moments that you will live through. Neither is it the honeymoon, which is why they talk about the honeymoon period.

Like I eluded to a couple of thoughts ago, Love does not only lead to this contract either.  It is multifaceted and can be expressed in so many ways platonically. It is unlimited in its iterations. There is also beauty in it being finite. Not every Love requires a lifetime to be expressed.  Time is a social construct and a moment can have more meaning than years of perceived bliss. You can do and feel more in a love that has a beginning and an end that one that drags on forever.  See?! Hopelessly romantic.  And it is because of this fact that I am single and I'm sure why many look at me as too idealistic and if I just...but I will not settle. Life is far to short to waste time doing that. Why? Because I have and continue to experience infinitely better love, everyday, in the platonic sphere than I ever have in the romantic, to date.  I will add this is not entirely my or my ex-boyfriends' fault. Those poor men were only acting in a way that was normal and expected.  They followed the script and so did I.  It took me a long time to figure out society sets women up to fail to get what they deserve, because they are led to believe they want certain things.  Patriarchy is Love's anathema. I now have pretty informed ideas of what I want and need.  I have an understanding of how a romantic relationship fits into the tapestry of love already extant in my life,  just haven't gotten round to figuring out how to jumpstart that process because I am a workaholic and I have so many people to care for me. I am not susceptible to grabbing onto anything just so I can feel like I am adored once in a while. I thank the heavens for that.

I have blogged before about how my family and friends are my most treasured possession.  I will above and beyond for them and vice versa.  These are the people I can lean on when times are rough, who do not judge me (or if they do it's from a positive, constructive, loving place).  Even if they disagree with facets of my life or my actions, they agree with me as a package by respecting my choices and allowing for the inherently flawed nature all we humans are burdened with. The male species I tend to attract try to surreptitiously trick me into becoming some sort of trophy.  They try to attack the very core of who I am, the things I am most proud of about myself and what I have achieved, in order to create the idea of me they think I should be. (The more conservative of my family try that tack too. Without tact. Ehk! But I can easily deal with that nonsense.)  There is nothing more painful than the realisation that this person, whom by the very nature of your relationship holds a special place in your social circle, turns out to be your number one enemy.  Whether its not deliberate or insidiously by design, it is heartbreaking. Even though I can see how and why you have acted this way, I am not forgiving because you can choose to rise above it and act authentically lovingly. The long and short of it  is that you actually really don't like me if you are trying so hard to break me and turn me into something else.  Please go and find that person, as that person is clearly not me.  And that is okay.  Why are you trying to force me to be that person and suffer your cruelty even if it is not your intention?! This dynamic is beyond me but anyhoo...

I love me, what I do and how I do it.  The people around the world who care for me already love all of that too.  In knowing this I am pretty confident of this much: romantic Love will never be enough for me to give that all up.  I am not going to be that special someone's everything and leave my friends, my career, my intelligence and my joie de vivre behind. And I don't want to be their everything either. That is an unnecessary and unrealistic set up.  Humans are viscerally social.  Confining them to being social with just one person is just a set up for disaster.  This is when people act up. At the core of it, they are looking to fill the voids that their partner cannot. Whatever the configuration, monogamous or not, heterosexual or otherwise, (I do not judge, do what works for you OPENLY please), it is important to communicate what this Love is and what function it has in your life in relation to all the other Love from family and friends, as well as to the things you like to do and experience.  There is so much in the world: so many people, places, activities, opportunities for growth, stimuli to create, innovate and enjoy in Love. Why we should aspire to reduce the only way to interact with these gifts and experiences through one relationship is ludicrous.  It's creepy too as that is what leads people to do psycho and underhanded things under the banner of romance in the pursuit and name of Love!

I believe that the person you decide to spend a lifetime with should slot in to your network to fulfill a specific, indispensable purpose, not to take over everything and vice versa.  And the reason that married men tend to be happier is they get everything they want, armed with societal norms and pressure, particularly emotionally.  Too many have not  been brought up well and callously disregard the other side in their relationships.  Which is why they even get jealous of their own children taking up their wives' time.  You are going to compete with a helpless baby and get your knickers in bunch, throw tantrums and hissy fits because you aren't always the centre of attention and I'm supposed to respect you?! What kind of Oedipal crazy are women duped into?! You partner ends up being your first child and you are supposed to sleep with him and leave him to head the household as men are more logical, and intelligent and unemotional. WTF?! Society has done a disservice to men by not allowing them to develop into human beings that understand themselves and others emotional needs and has led then to believe they act with logic when they don't. Society has done a disservice to women by saying that bearing the cross is the feminine ideal. That managing male stunted growth makes us martyrs.  That love is suffering and being able to take and shovel poop is our lot in life. I refuse to subscribe to that.

I'd rather enjoy the fact that I am well taken care of by those that I already love.  Most recently that has manifested primarily in: the Beb Gails (baby girls in a Zambian accent) being rocks I can lean on so I can stand tall. Continuing to live with my mother so we can watch over each other and not let our workaholic ways get the better of us. Travelling to the UK to spend Christmas with my younger sister, the love of my life and my number one cheerleader.  Working on self love and treating myself to good food, travel and new clothes. Workationing in Ghana and having an African Stanford reunions with everyone using their skills to build me back up as I do the same for them.  I am about to go to Naija and do the same. I have been housed, fed, loved, pampered, spoilt silly while being challenged, admonished and checked before I wreck myself too.  These people see the best in me and where, and when I can be and do better, they have let me know and are helping me get there.  And they value what I do for them too.  The reason I picked Ahmed to embody this visually is because he travelled for 5 hours from London to Southampton on Christmas Eve to see me for one hour. We hadn't seen each other in seven and a half years.  He then squeezed in another hour by meeting me at Heathrow before my flight.  This is typical of my friends, regardless of gender.  If we are travelling and we can find a way to meet, we do, because we spend many years and even decades between meets and so we make the most of every second.  I have never experienced that kind of dedication from a romantic partner consistently, over a long period of time, to work on and continually cultivate our relationship. Ever. I have been expected to bend over backwards and not get the same in return because I am the problem. They have never understood how my life works or how I operate and express love.  I have been punished for having grown up on 3 continents and lived a great life.  That is not Love. That's some twisted ish I do not want to know about.

So I am happy and content as a single girl, being a problem, around the world, with people who love me unconditionally. I am having a ball unapologetically!  Like I, said I believe God is Love. So I think that it is important to have Love underpin anything and everything that you do in order to honour your faith. I even sleep lovingly and everyone knows how I love my slumber and naperoos.  I don't have to wait for "the One" to do that.  That is just one of the many ways available to humanity to express ourselves and the blessing of life.  The possibility of being able to use that avenue excites me, and because I respect that union, I do not take bonding with someone in that way lightly no matter how fleeting or how long that Love is expressed. Though it troubles many in my life that there isn't a someone special like that in my life, I say to them: it will be when it will be.  In the meantime, I continue to be open to the possibility for that person to join the party so as to manifest Love romantically in a way that I cannot in platonic relationships, while acing it with the amazing people: friends and family I am privileged to have in my life, and sharing love through the work that I do.

I wish you the all the permutations of Love you deserve and I hope that you honour life by sharing the caring everyday, however and whenever you can xo!

To keep up-to-date with this series follow the instructions here. For mini insight-fests, positing and working through stuff, follow me on Instagram.  You can continue this conversation or chat to me about anything and everything on Twitter. To find out how I take action with love professionally, like my new Facebook page!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Open Diary: NG-ma tales, NGangsta Moves

Last year I explained how my moods and well-being can be described on a spectrum based on the these two extremes: NGangsta and NG-ma. This year, I am determined to be NGansta and move forward with dedication because NG-ma will make sure I take care of myself.  Part of that self care involves writing.  I use my blog as an open diary, a way to vent, hash out things weighing on me, to find meaning in the chaos and beauty in life: from the crazy to the heavenly, the mundane to the extraordinary.  As I expand my ken, change my views and adopt new ways, I hope to elucidate ideas for not only myself, but if I can, for others too.  If my sojourns down the rabbit hole lead others to Wonderland, cool! I really do enjoy helping others while helping myself he he. 

I have been thinking a lot about African, global, societal norms, tradition and culture surrounding love, marriage and babies over the last year.  There has been a surge in weddings and births in my social circles around the world.  Many of them, particularly the women, have posted testimonials about their experiences.  They have also shared interesting articles about these major life milestones too. I have been amazed, entertained, shocked, not surprised, disheartened and encouraged by the conversations that have percolated, over-boiled and simmered perfectly around these issues.  I have found that for the educated, progressive, exposed and or well-travelled of female sex, navigating love, marriage and babies in the current milieu is a minefield.  The current global trend of gender equality would have us believe that all is righted in the world.  The reality is that things are only starting to shift.  Even if your partner at home is understanding, earthlings in general are not.  Many still think these "new" ways, ideas, interpretations and positions are alien.  There are a lot of people on both ends freaking out, and the backlash and fighting is fierce. 

Let me state clearly that gender equality and equity is ultimately about choice.  Allowing for a spectrum.  If you believe in traditional roles, good for you, work with that.  I do not negate your views in choosing to want different, or for feeling that certain ways, beliefs and maxims are derogatory and subjugating.  The point is to agree to disagree and to create space for individual decisions for our collective well-being as humanity. That means going beyond tolerance, but actively allowing expression through manifested understanding, catalysed by validating different ways to do, be and act.  That being said, I have been traumatised by quite an ugly shift in local and global contexts, as patriarchy fights back in reaction to feminist movements gaining new fervour, backing and efficacy.  I have also had very interesting conversations about gender, sexuality, identity, self expression, tradition, modernity and culture that I would like to ponder a little more. This has mostly happened on Twitter, so I would like to delve deeper into these issues in a way that 140 characters disallows.  I need an unlimited canvas to use my paintbrush to paint more detailed portraits.

This is a section of the walls inside
a popular Accra Night club, from the
high ceilings to the floor. So beautiful!
I thought Things on Thursday was a good place to launch, as these be no small tings now. So over the next few weeks and months I'm cutting through the black and white of societal norms and delving into the grey:

Woolgather Wednesday will feature ruminations and illuminations through my Love. Sex. Marriage. Babies. series.

Twit Tuesday will be a hodgepodge of profound nonsense that I have tweeted about that I would like to expound on.

It's going to be awesome possum. I know I'm going to have oodles and poodles of fun doing this. So this Dorothy is taking that tornado out of Kansas and I can't wait to see what lies somewhere over the rainbow... 

For mini insight-fests, positing and working through stuff follow me on Instagram and Twitter. To find out how I take action around these issues publicly, like my new Facebook page!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Ndhlovukhazi Storyteller Reloaded

Taken last year at our first the A.C.E. Project shoot by Fortress Media.
Styled by Mafashio
No you have not taken the blue pill. I would highly advise sticking to red with this little one - you don't want to really know how deranged and confused I truly am. However, I am expanding my matrix online by shutting down my public profile on Facebook.  It was originally created as an extension of this blog and a way to be able to connect with the Zambian and African media industry in a more accessible and organic way, that a page wouldn't have been able to do at the time, in my opinion.  However, it is clear I have outgrown it, and the best platform is now a page to interact in a way that I am comfortable with, and makes sense with where I am now, and where I want to go.  So I am in the process of shutting Mwana Ba Afrika down and I have launched the Ndhlovukhazi Storyteller page, aiming to take things to the next level. I believe that this is the best way for me to appear publicly on this platform going forward.  It is definitely the best way to better serve those of you interested in knowing about who I am and what I do in an easily accessible way.  Thank you for your continued support, I really appreciate it xo.  So, please like my new page, and I am looking forward to this new path to go on a journey together!

(To understand my decision better, you can read my Top 10 Posts of 2016, as they illustrate and expound on my growth and metamorphosis: thinking about leadership and finding a way to cope with public life better.)

You can find more information about who I am, what I do and the things I am interested in, from a different angle, by liking my new Facebook Page Ndhlovukhazi Storyteller ;}. 

Monday, 9 January 2017

Top 10 Posts of 2016

.....This is why I hate blogging using my phone! So I've had to start this bleeping post again due to the fact that some part of my uncoordinated extremities touched the screen and I lost all that I had written!

I had started off by saying technology and I have a rocky relationship. When things are good, they are awesome. When they are bad, they are catastrophic. We are in the latter phase once again, as my computer has decided to die at the most inopportune moment.
I hate blogging on my phone. I feel extremely detached from the process. Email, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all feel natural through this device. Writing posts does not. This is incredible irksome. I cannot tell you how bereft I am right now as I am having such a great time on my West African workation (work + vacation). This spanner in the works could have thrown me for a loop for quite some time had I not read the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. (For more about how this book and its impact on my life, follow me on Instagram.)  However, in order to start 2017 on the best possible writing foot, I am at least going to try bang out my usual round up of posts from the previous year. This annual tradition shall not be disrupted by the crazy in life. Whether I will post again before I rectify my computing situation is another matter though...

This was taken during Barefeet Theatre's 10 year
anniversary celebrations. I was conducting a
Social Media Workshop for the Barefeet
Children's Council. I am way to comfortable
with that stick ;}
So I didn't even write 10 posts on MbA last year! Oh dear. Luckily I can cheat with posts from the 52 Bloggers project run by the Lusaka WordPress Meetup Group and from my new project's blog. This is once again a sign that I haven't quite sorted my life out yet. A blatant sign for the last coupla years it's beyond ridiculous now! Clearly still have some growing to do. Certain fundamentals need to be worked out. The writing poureth from the depths of my soul, in beautiful cascades, when I am truly at peace and content. Right now the best I can do is quite pitiful really. Till things improve, here is a hodgepodge of what I could muster across various blogs in 2016, or as I like to call it, the Devil's year worldwide or the Year of Legless: the snake:

These first 5 posts best encapsulate the rollercoaster of emotions, confusion, growth and clarity that I went through:

Funnily enough at this point a spare computer has appeared before me, but I have decided to struggle through with this post, because I'm already in the groove, and for no sane reason, I gotta prove I can do this. At least I know I can write more organically the rest of my time in Ghana. When I move on to Nigeria will have to come up with another solution...
I digress, as per usual he he. Here are the rest of my picks, which pretty much reflect the themes, ruminations, angst, discoveries and ultimate triumphs that dominated this year past:

6. A Reflection on Identity, Growth, Evolution and Freedom on Independence Day

Veni. Vidi. Vici!  Never again if I can help it though. The struggle was too real. Unnecessary and too real!