Tag Archives: LaToya Hankins

Hot Tea and Ice 16

Appreciate, Don’t Hate

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins  

     Greetings Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  I trust you are well.

     The temperatures are dropping, clothing is getting thicker, and we are getting into that holiday frame of mind. Even if you do not subscribe to a particular faith, the remainder of 2017 should offer you at least one day to spend time with loved ones, do some shopping–or smile at someone who has to work while you enjoy a day off.

     One major break in the monotony of daily life that approaches is the fourth Thursday of November. For one day, we are supposed to give thanks for all the good things we have in our lives. That is in between gorging on carbs, plotting a way to drop sums of money at retail stores, and watching television in between power naps.

     Thanksgiving means different things to different peoplehaving one day to be thankful is okay, but I would say expressing appreciation should be a year-round event.

     And what is the difference between being thankful and the appreciation of thankfulness?  Being thankful is the actual expression of gratitude, while the latter is the tendency to recognize the worth of someone or something.

     Sometimes, we are so caught up in the swirl of our affairs that we neglect to recognize those who avail themselves to make our paths clearer. We tend to see past people’s good deeds and do not let others know that we see their good works– and appreciate them for doing things they do not have to do.

     A popular train of thought that has chugged through many of our lives has been the adage “in life, no one owes you anything.”  Yet, so often, so many of us benefit from things we are given.  But unfortunately, we do not take time enough to show appreciation.

     I will be the first to admit that I do not often show my appreciation for those around me for making my life easier. For the most part, when I wake up in the morning, my partner sets the coffee maker for me so all I have to do is press “on,” and “voila!”  When I exit from the shower, my morning addiction greets me. Because of our differing work schedule, she arrives home before I do, and dinner often greets me when I get there. Those gestures make my day flow so much better; however, I on occasion neglect to let her know much it means to me that she does those things.

     While she never has to worry about the dishwasher being unloaded and clothes making it from the laundry basket to her closet, it still would be a nice gesture for me to recognize what she does to make my morning and evening better.

     Imagine how much better life could be if we simply let people know that we appreciate them for being kind and helpful. We teach children to say “thank you;” but how often do we incorporate that into our own grown-folk conversations?

     I refuse to accept that we cannot appreciate other people’s goodwill; or for that matter, we do not understand that when someone does something nice that they aren’t necessarily doing it for the applause– but because it is just the nice thing to do.  Sometimes, it’s the simple “I see what you are doing and I appreciate it” that makes such a difference.

     If you want to go full-out with floral arrangements, sweet treats, or power ballads to let people know you are appreciated, then that’s cool. However, sometimes the simplest gesture gets the message across just as well.

     All of us should be more proactive about letting people know we appreciate them in minor and major ways that fit the situation. It may be a simple wave of appreciation when the driver on the expressway lets you in his/her lane, or the smile and head nod when someone with a cart full of groceries lets you and your three items go ahead of them.  

     It could be as grand as a day when all your partner has to do is get up– because you have taken care of everything.  And, friends aren’t exempt from showing appreciation. Show that bestie who always “has your back” or a spare twenty dollars until payday.  In turn, you can appreciate the gesture by treating your bestie to lunch or cocktails.

      The simple act of appreciation doesn’t cost anything, but it can actually add value. Try it sometimes, and feel how good it makes you feel. True, it doesn’t compare to that slice of pie your aunt only makes this time of year; but it’s still a good thing, nevertheless.

     Until next time:  Adios, au revoir and I “holler!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya  earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is an active member of the, The Black Lesbian Literary Collective,a non-profit organization organized in N.C.  The Collective’s mission is to create a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, latoyahankins.com ; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com;
Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins;
and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 15

Roll With Being A Role Model!

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins  

     Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  Trusting you are well and staying cool this summer. I’m currently giving thanks every day for air conditioning, cool beverages, and lightweight clothing.  Although I’m a Southerner by birth, this heat is something else!

     Despite the high temperatures, I spent this past Fourth of July outside surrounded by my extended family. I considered it a blessing to be in the company of five generations ranging from my great aunt–who recently celebrated her 93rd birthday–to my twin third-cousins from Virginia who was spending the summer with their grandmother.  I ate too much, sipped on something…and had a chance to bask in the stories of days gone by.

     One thing I realized between bites was that I have so many role models within my family. My great-uncle, who has spent over fifty years being the only black barber in Brunswick County, North Carolina, sat beside his nephew, a U.S. Army veteran, retired fire captain and the father of two exceptional daughters. Across from them sat my younger cousin who, in her forty plus years, has lived several lifetimes:  she’s been a college student and ferry boat worker, and currently earns her pay as a nuclear power plant worker. She’s a devoted wife, exceptional big sister–and knows how to stunt on a motorcycle like nobody’s business!

     Too often, we look to celebrities and big names to be role models. We sometimes forget just being the people we are–lovers, friends, and family members–we are setting examples for others to follow. Celebrate that by doing what you do and doing it well:  this inspires others to step their game up. Roll with being a role model.

     I would venture that if you sit down and really think about all that you have done in life, you’d realize that you have accomplished at least three things no one expected to do. Because of that, you have the potential to encourage someone to push him/herself to be better.

     Two of my biggest role models are young men who live vastly different lives in two different states, but they each inspire me to do better. Calvin was a high school football stand-out who had potential to make it big. Instead, he decided to be a family man who nurtures and shapes the lives of his daughter and sons.  His social media pages are filled with pictures of his children, his wife and his family.   

     Calvin is a devoted family man who works hard to provide when so many of his former teammates are living it up. Despite having a frame that made an opposing player drop the ball rather than be tackled during a high school game, he is so gentle and affectionate with his children that it leaves me in awe.

     Leslie spent the first thirteen years of his life as a young Black boy in a small coastal town where he was the only Black student in his pre-K program.  He  spent his early education years being one of a few–if not the only–student of color in his advanced classes. Now he’s a globe-trotting, MBA-having, Eagle-Scout who “handles his bizness” for a Fortune 100 company.  And, he still keeps me cracking up with well-timed texts and social media posts.

     And then there’s Laura. Of Caribbean heritage, her family immigrated to America from Canada when she was eight. She worked hard, and earned her Master’s in community agency counseling in two years in a hostile educational environment. Laura works with children with mental health issues, takes splendid care of her friends and pets–and is the only person I know for sure who has read everything I have written in the past four years.

     We are all somebody’s role models. Own it and hold your head high because your actions help prove to someone else that whatever you want is possible. No setback is permanent, and we should see obstacles as opportunities.

     Walk in the reality that you are someone’s role model…and stay cool.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!” 


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya  earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is an active member of the, The Black Lesbian Literary Collective,a non-profit organization organized in N.C.  The Collective’s mission is to create a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, latoyahankins.com ; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com;
Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins;
and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 14

Parents Are People, Too!

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

     Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers! I send a virtual shower of confetti and a round of kudos for the college graduates and their family members partaking of this month’s literary offering.  Regardless how long the journey took, you made it to the end and you should be celebrated.

     Along with college graduations, May meant Mother’s Day. Based on the cascade of profile pictures which blanketed social media, a lot of you have pretty fly mothers who know how to accessorize and strut. I also realize that for every picture of Momma and Mini-Me, there are those whose posts about that second Sunday reflected mothers who didn’t have the time, inclination or ability to be there for their offspring. Many people are estranged from their mothers due to old hurts, and the fresh pain of rejection.

     For many of us, that distance is necessary for our mental–and sometimes physical–safety.  But for others, it’s because they are clinching too tightly to things that happened in childhood.

     For many years, I was in the latter category. But this spring day, my advice to you is that sometimes, we have to let some of that stuff go.  If possible, we need to see our parents as persons now that we are adults–and stop seeing them with the eyes of a child.

Parents

     This is not to diminish the hurt, or disregard the damage done. But in order to heal, we have to really see and then try to understand the choices our parents have made.    Being adults ourselves, you know that adults make mistakes all the time; and if possible, we need to extend understanding and grace to our parents so that we can move beyond the past. 

     When I was six months old, my mother and I parted ways.  She sent me to my grandmother and great-grandmother to be raised in my hometown while she worked and attended school in the District of Columbia.  My mom wasn’t there when I lost my first tooth–or second or third, for that matter. She didn’t teach me how to ride a bike.  Nor did she stand by my side when I got my first library card.

     She was there when I had major surgery when I was five–but only for a brief period before she headed back to D.C. We didn’t reconnect until I was eight.  That was when my grandmother died and she came back home to live with my great-grandmother and me.

     My mom and I didn’t live together on our own until I was eleven.  Unfortunately, her reaction to something that occurred just added to my feeling of disconnection from her.  It was an incident with a neighborhood boy who simply didn’t understand that “no meant no.”

     You see, I loved my mom; however, I just didn’t like her that much. After all, you really can’t like someone whom you don’t know.

     So many times, we have trouble understanding the motivation behind our parents’ actions because we can’t see them as people.  We give more credit to people who cross our paths than to the woman who gave us life. Depending on the circumstances, I would like to suggest they deserve better.

     Getting to know the woman she was before she became your mother sometimes helps clear up misunderstandings, and helps form a bridge that will allow you to move closer together.

     Because so much of my early years was not spent with my mother, I never fully appreciated her and the sacrifices she made until I was well into my adult years. My mother–like so many others–sacrificed her time, talent and treasures in order to make a better place in the world for herself and myself.

     So last year, we began talking about who she was before, during, and after I made my appearance into the world. We addressed misgivings and hurt feelings and began building a stronger relationship.

     It is not going to be an easy fix, but I feel it’s worth the effort to start understanding the woman that is my mother. I encourage others who are ready to entertain the thought to reach out.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

Hot Tea and Ice 13

Spring Cleaning the Negativity Out of Your Life

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

     Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  We are now officially in the middle of spring; and depending on your faith, past the pastel parade that is Easter Sunday when it seems that everyone has to break out the suits in shades of sherbets.  For the most part, the weather is better and people are making plans to get together for weekend cookouts, family road trips, and just being out and about. Good things abound and while the living may not be totally easy, the only ice to be found is in glasses.

     Warmer temperatures tend to put people in a better frame of mind. It’s just something about the sun shining that seems to make things seem not so overwhelming.  However, even when it’s warm enough to break out the open toe shoes and short sleeves, some people seem fixated on holding onto people who and situations that have nothing good to offer.  The reasons for this are numerous.  They include, for example, that we’re comfortable, complacent or confused about something better being possible.  And unfortunately, the results are the same.

     Too many of us are tied to negative thinking, to the point that it clouds our vision to what good there is within and around us.  I’ve been guilty of being down hearted about things I couldn’t change, while totally ignoring the opportunity to celebrate the thing turning out right.

     Let this be the year when we leave negativity behind like those corduroy pants we bought that were too tight when we left the store. We just have to be prepared to do some spring cleaning and shake the dust off our feet, and “keep it moving” when it comes to negativity.

     Just as flowers are beginning to break through the dirt to emerge, we have to push through all the dirt that will hold us down and embrace the possibility of positive thinking.

     Now like all things worth doing, a spring cleaning of the negativity in your life will not be easy. Negative thinking is hard to break.  And sometimes, the most negative person in your life has been there the longest.

     The key is to step back and evaluate the matters at hand. Does focusing on what went wrong really solve the problem? Is it really worth spending time listening to your friend complaining?  You have to stop and realize that while negativity seems like a comfortable blanket that wraps around you so neatly and tightly, there’s no need for it when you can avail yourself of so much warmth outside.

     Challenge yourself to get rid of attitudes and people that no longer work. Put on mothballs that self-doubt and that one friend who never has anything good to say about anybody.

     Just as when we do spring cleaning, we start with one room at a time, ridding yourself of the negativity.  Start in one area of your life at a time.  Slowly cease  hanging out altogether with that person who seems to have a perpetual grey cloud hanging over his/her head, or who possesses a mouth that utters a complaint instead of a compliment.  Instead of doubting your ability, find something to do that brings you happiness.

     It will take time to change your social circle and your outlook, but it’s well worth the effort.  It will be like having clean windows: everything will be clearer, and you will be able to make better choices.  

     Hopefully, having a lighter outlook will attract more positive things into your life.   As well, that perspective should attract people to fill the space left vacant when you cut loose of those that weigh you down. 

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

Hot Tea and Ice 12

Who Do You Think You Arr?

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

    Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for spring to officially arrive. I love the opportunity to bundle up with thick sweaters and strut my stuff in cute boots, but I’d much rather leave the house wearing a light jacket or long sleeves rather than worry about a bulky coat. But seasons come and seasons go. All we can do is carry on and look good in the process.

     For those who keep up with such things, March is recognized as Women’s History Month.  For 31 days, we aim to recognize those women who have made strides in so many different arenas, ranging from politics to business.  For example, you have Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress.     

     Then there’s Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist for female education, who at the age of 17 became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.  Ms. Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against the suppression of children and young people, and her battle to help guarantee the right of education for all children.

     We honor Katherine Johnson, who helped send a man into space.  There’s Shonda Rhimes, who keeps us glued to our devices every Thursday. We celebrate our foremothers, our sister superstars and those who are up and coming. We pay tribute to those women who know who they are and what they are “working with”–and don’t shy away from letting others know who they are, what they have done, and can do.

     During Women’s History Month, we recognize those women who know the value of their achievements and didn’t shy away from being proud of their talents. As a woman who is not ashamed of admitting I Goggle myself to remind myself of all that I’ve achieved, I fully support being proud of the things that set you apart.

     As the saying goes, it’s not bragging if it’s true. If you have something to be proud of, celebrate it to the fullest!  Don’t hide your talent under a bush. Let your  little light shine.

    There’s no worth in doubting your value. Be vocal about all that makes you special and trumpet your talents. You are exceptional.   And while you may not have snatched up trophies on a national stage, you have conquered something.  Don’t  shy away from being proud of that achievement.

     My mother likes to tell the story of how she graduated top of her class in nursing school, but never really talked about it that much because she didn’t want to be seen as a show-off.  If I were able to work a full-time job, carry a full course load and still have time to catch Parliament Funkadelic shows whenever they came through D.C., I’d have no problem letting everyone know.

     If you don’t celebrate yourself, not one else will. Be proud and promote yourself.   I’m not endorsing purchasing a roadside billboard or a full page newspaper ad, but nothing is wrong with letting people know how and where your skill sets “soar.”

     If you know something about a topic, don’t be afraid to speak up and share your experience. Get involved in projects where your experience can be an asset. Trust that your achievements are worthy of being known, and that you’re the best person to make sure everyone knows how much of a superstar you are.

     For so long, the notion of being proud and sharing your achievements was looked down upon as being unseemly. Put But now more than ever, it’s important to let others know how you manage to excel because it serves as example that it can be done.   Put your pluses out there, and prove that success is possible.

     While March is Women’s History Month, seize the remaining days to celebrate and share your own points of pride. Who knows:  maybe your accomplishments will earn you a spot during an upcoming history month run-down!

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

Hot Tea and Ice 11

Who Do You Think You Are?

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

     Greetings and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  I send well wishes, and hope that 2017 has been filled with good things. We are not going to talk about what happened in D.C. on the third Friday of this month. It is enough to say we should not focus on being discouraged. Instead, we need to commit ourselves to being active, and refuse to let anyone ignore or minimize our value and contributions to this country.

     Within this climate of wanting to minimize the diversity that strengthens our community, I want to step forward and represent myself fully. I am a Black-Southern-Virgo-East Carolina University graduate-only child-pet owner-lesbian. That’s just for starters! With enough time I could list even more hyphenated identified groups of which I’m proud to belong.

     Depending on the setting, one hyphen might take center stage more than the others. For those who follow social media, J16 saw a lot of doves flying, and blue and white profiling in recognition of my sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, Inc., celebrating its ninety-seventh Founders’ Day. There wereabundances of graphics incorporating our national symbol–the white dove–soaring around.   

     If you read my books, you know I own being born and reared in the land of sweet tea and “Bless Her Hearts,” known as the South.  I’m proud of all the facets of my identity. While I may not celebrate them all the time, I have no problems claiming them.

     Our distinctive hyphens make us exceptional. We should never diminish our shine in order to make someone else feels comfortable. You should claim all your methods of belonging and identifying because it celebrates that you accept all that you are, and never just one thing. Those of us with hyphenated identities are mosaic masterpieces. The sum of the pieces makes a one-of-a-kind work of art.

     Far be it for me to make the process of walking boldly when others want you to fragment your identity seem easy, for it is not. For a lot of us, it’s easier to not claim our space as a woman, person of color, same-gender-loving individual, and immigrant in order to assimilate. However, when you remove a piece of your puzzle or try to rework your edges, it feels unnatural and ends up being unnecessary.

     Now more than ever, it is important that we wear our hyphens boldly. We cannot fade away or leave a piece of us behind on the nightstand or in the car when we venture into the world. Representing to the fullest is a mandate we need to follow through on every chance we get. Others are watching, and when they see us showing up in all our fullest, they have two choices. Get with the program and allow our brilliance to flourish, or get back.

     Maybe your hyphens are immigrant-Muslim-historically Black university graduate-single mother-Pisces or same-gender-loving-Trinidadian-bearded-Floridian-divorced-veteran. So many combinations contribute to the achievement that is us. We all have different hyphens; and depending on the situation, the order changes. The key is to never be ashamed of any of them.

     Claiming your hyphens and brightly beaming all the facets of your personality like a diamond are powerful. We need to claim that, and walk boldly and dare someone not to salute our greatness.

     So, as we move forward into a new year with new leadership (which may not be your choice), realize that within all parts of your identity is the tool to endure and inspire. Draw upon those hyphens, and force those who want to doubt your validity to see that you are too fabulous and fulfilled to be denied. While some may see hyphens as strikes, they instead can be seen as building blocks to help you soar and get over the hurdle.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.  Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department.  Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science. 

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities. 

You may reach LaToya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

Hot Tea and Ice 10

Looking Back to Move Forward

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins

 

    Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  Can you believe it has been an entire twelve months since we were introduced? My, doesn’t time fly! For those whose 2016 has been filled with all kinds of shiny and new things, I send thoughts of congratulations and celebrations.

    For others, this has been a year filled with losses and setbacks. For you, I offer a virtual hug and hope things are looking better and brighter.

    We only have to look at the in-memoriam ticker running on our TV news programs to realize that a lot of our great talents and loved ones shed this earthly coil and became the dearly departed.  Also, depending on how your voter’s registration card looked, the election results may not have been your preferred outcome.

    But in a few weeks, an electronic apple, peach, acorn, or whatever your municipalities use to mark the transition will drop, and 2016 will be in the record books–and a new year will be on deck.

    2017 is a blank slate right now. It awaits our actions to define how it will be remembered. Will this be the year our greatest hopes will be realized?  Or will this year be filled with disappointments so profound that it makes the heart heavy? Who knows?

    The new year is ripe with potential to inspire, impress, and improve our lives in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. But with all this looking forward, let’s not forget how we got here.

    There is a saying about what happens when you don’t remember past mistakes. It implies that forgetting incorrect actions results in those actions being repeated. No matter what happened during the past 365 days–be it good, bad, or indifferent–we should not let the lessons learned to stay in the past. We need to bring them forth, and be prepared to put them to good use.

    For me, 2016 provided so many opportunities! I began writing this column, reconnected with three friends through social media who saw me through the best and worst of times, and pursued an opportunity to enlarge my family unit.

    The year also resulted in me losing a member of my family who helped influence my view of what a true man should be–lover of family and friends, faithful to his church and community, and not afraid to get his hands dirty when the time called for it.  That family member was my great-uncle, who after serving in the Korean War, was both a gardener and garbage man.   

    I also bade a final farewell to one of the LGBTQ Pride organizers I had worked with for the past seven years. She was an inspiration and influence to so many dominant lesbian women in the Durham community.

    As well, she was someone I considered a friend. Her influence was so strong that my fiancee asked her thoughts about proposing to me—along with asking my mother for my hand in marriage.

    And through the evolution of two of the organizations I work with, I also came to realize that my leadership styles needed to be tweaked in order to be successful and faithful to the causes I supported.

    In short, 2016 gave me the opportunities to learn so many lessons. The challenge for me, for you, for us all is to take those lessons and move forward with them. Sometimes, unlike Lot’s wife, you have to look back to appreciate where you are going.

    We have to realize that while the erroneous steps we took in the past can’t be wiped out, we can still move forward in a better direction if we apply the lessons our mistakes provide us. 

    There is no shame in admitting that our actions weren’t always the best and that the outcomes weren’t always good. While dwelling in the past never saved anyone, seeing where you went wrong and avoiding doing the same thing again is a solution that doesn’t cost. Your experience is proof of bill paid.

    Time should allow us to see more clearly what went wrong, and that a new year is the opportunity to take that insight and move forward. Reflect on the situations, retain the lessons you learn–and realize you can move forward.

    Many of us begin the New Year with a list filled with things we are going to do differently. That’s great!  But accept that one of the best ways to be successful is to acknowledge the times you failed, so that you can take that knowledge to strengthen your resolve to get it right this time.

    I hope to learn from my past to let people know when I appreciate what and how they do things, instead of assuming they know how I feel. I also want to be more diligent about being open to other people’s ideas instead of operating in the following way:  that just because director/president goes behind my name, it  doesn’t mean I can’t be challenged and open to different methods of doing things. 

    My motto for 2017 is this:  as long as I can open my eyes on a new day, there is a chance to improve on my mistakes and avoid making new ones. Part of that plan is to think about what I have experienced so I can appreciate and handle what is coming for and to me.  I encourage us all to reflect and be open to using that knowledge to shape what lies ahead.

Until next time:  Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 9

Family Matters:  Not the TV Show

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

     Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  The holiday time is upon us with all the trappings that come with it. Travels plans will be made. Diets will be broken. And of course, the holidays are also the time that the concept of how much family matters is held up as a standard.

     For many of us, family is a mother who complains either you put on too much weight, or it looks like you aren’t eating enough. It is that cousin who needs to borrow money and promises to pay you back when she gets her income tax check. Don’t forget about that one aunt who never misses a chance to ask when you are going to find a good woman and settle down, totally ignoring the fact that you have brought Darryl as your plus-one for ten years to every family gathering.

     The coming together of those who share your last name and some of your facial features takes place throughout the year–but really starts being a constant factor during the latter half of the year. We gather around Thanksgiving tables, Christmas trees, Kwanzaa mkekas, and plates of pork and greens to mark the New Year. The families we are born into share laughs about old memories, shed tears for those no longer with us, and swap differing viewpoints about issues.

     For every one of us who looks forward to spending time with our assigned families, there are those who shiver at the thoughts of spending one hour, minute, or second with our relatives. Those families shame, shun, and silence those who don’t meet their expectations.  As the saying goes, no one can hurt you more than your family.  And for so many, this is especially true during the holidays.

LaToya Hankins

     This year will mark the fourth holiday I will spend with my partner and my forty-fourth one with my mom. This year, however, will be my first one with a trio of young people I hope will become part of my larger family unit.

     My partner and I recently went through foster parent treatment, and are looking to open our hearts and homes to a set of extended relatives seeking a safe place to grow and thrive.  We are in the process of starting our own version of family.

     We all have created families that go beyond the ones we are born into. For some, family is the neighbor who looked out for your place when you traveled out of town; and in return, you blessed that neighbor with the outpouring of your kitchen. For others, it is your work buddy, her wife, their kids and the baby daddy who makes the bomb mac and cheese–so they let him come around during the holidays. Still, for some, it’s your “boys” who have been with you through one wife, two boyfriends, three jobs, and more nights spent at the club that either of you will ever want to admit.  However family shows up, the point is that it’s a family that we create.

     I encourage us all to be open to redefining our views of family, and challenge us to keep that definition fluid as life changes. Accept what life hands you, and shape it to ensure that you always have someone around you that supports and nurtures you.

     In creating a new family structure, embrace the fact that you don’t have to spend extraordinary amounts of time with folks who don’t love you for who you are at this stage in your life. There are too many ride-sharing programs and public transportation options to spend a minute more with someone who doesn’t celebrate you. Family obligations are burdens that sometime have to be carried, but guard your spirit as much as you can to avoid it breaking you.  While Uncle Skinny is going on about whatever his liquor is telling him to talk about, turn your mind toward the gathering you are going to have with the family that loves you.

     The key to the family is not if you all look alike or even think alike. The value of creating your own version of family is that you understand each other and want the best things possible. I challenge us to respect the family we have created, and flourish from the strength it gives to accept ourselves.

      So this year, when I grasp hands to say the traditional Thanksgiving recitations of things for which I am grateful, there will be three extra names and experiences I will list.  And, I will do this surrounded by someone who shares my last name, someone who shares my home, and someone who shares my hope for a future filled with great things.

Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 8

“Grown Folks’ Friendships”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

 

Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!  Sending wishes, and hope fall is doing right by you. For many of us, it is time to move away from shorts and open-toe shoes to sweaters and sturdy footwear. Nights are getting longer, temperatures are dropping and before you know it, store aisles will be decorated for the winter holidays.

For those keeping score from my last column, I am now five years from fifty. My partner threw a phenomenal surprise birthday party for me. In attendance were co-workers, fellow writers, and folks I consider friends. Those in attendance have seen me through a few ups and downs. The get-together was a great experience not only because of the presents received, but also for the faces in the place.

Looking around at the diverse group that makes up my circle, I realized the power of grown folks’ friendships is often underrated. Many of us had ‘best friends’ when we were younger.  Mine were named Charlotte, Vicki, and Jodi. Those friends were the ones we swapped lunches with at schools, took turns spending time at each other’s homes, and got into trouble when we ”acted like we were grown.”

 For a lot of us, friendships formed through neighborhood or educational settings helped us pass a class, get that special someone’s phone number, or exposed us to worlds unlike our own. My friendships introduced me to different religions, family structures, and racial differences.

Friendships formed before the age of consent are fine. I celebrate those who have childhood friends they still hold dear. But I would venture, it is friendships formed once reaching adulthood that really help us become better people.

I consider myself lucky to have been blessed with the friendship of several people who helped me rise to a higher level of being an adult. Those friendships sparked me to start and end relationships by pointing out things I willfully ignored. My friends supported my visions when I was reluctant to stretch out. 

My adult friends are risk takers and empire builders. They have traveled the world, started empowerment projects for women from scratch, and refused to let their assigned gender keep them from expressing themselves as God intended.

We have taught each other so much by living our lives and allowing each other to be a part of the journey.

LaToya Hankins

Having the opportunity to see how other “grown folks” handle their business gives us the push to be on our game.  Adult friendships are the fuel that keeps the best of us moving forward. However, so many of us don’t take care with our adult friendships. We fail to realize once friendships are formed, they also need to be cultivated and nurtured in order to be successful.

We schedule dental appointments and get our hair/nails/feet done, but how often do we schedule time to support our friends?

Adult friendships allow us to not be “Daddy,” “Miss Hankins” or “Juror 91871.” We can be ourselves and share our ambitions and hurts in an environment that provides the support to get up when the world knocks you down.

Adult friends are invaluable resources, and you should ensure that they stay strong. I admit I have taken some of my adult friendships for granted. I didn’t take the time to make the calls just to check in or return that email in a timely fashion.  Friends I considered quite close soon faded away; and as they became “chance glimpses” on social media, I read the postings of their accomplishments.

In a life filled with little regret, my failure to maintain some of my adult friendships is one I carry.  I have a feeling I’m not the only one who shares that thought.

Unlike friendships when we were younger, adult friendship take work to maintain. People have schedules, family, and ten thousands things that need to be done. Still, the rewards are worth it.

The media is filled with portrayal of adult friendships. From The Best Man to Noah’s Arc toWaiting to Exhale. Challenge yourself to incorporate those portrayals into your own life.

My birthday wish for my readers is to reach out to those in your friendship circle to make sure that ties that bind stay strong. Make time to connect over coffee, cocktails, or whatever is legal in the state you reside in. No judgment: part of the fun of being an adult. My hope is that the payoff will be great, and it helps the rest of your adult life go a little bit better.

Until next time:  Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 7

“Age Is Just a Number”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

 

     Greeting and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers. I hope this month finds you all in good spirits–and staying cool. As for me, I’m coping with the heat by drinking plenty of cool beverages–some of them adult–and trying not to exert myself too much. I believe that a true lady shouldn’t appear slick from sweat by simply walking from her car to the door; but sometimes, temperatures in the upper 90’s cause strange things to happen!

     My body’s reaction to the heat is just one of the many ways I feel that my numerical age is starting to creep up on me. When I was younger growing up in my small North Carolina hometown, I could spend hours riding my bicycle or playing with my cousins without any regard to the summer heat blazing down. Now if I’m outside for any length of time, I feel “mugged” by the heat.  It seems that my tolerance has decreased for those bright sunny days.

     Still, I can’t use my advancing years as a crutch to shy away from being involved and active in life. I urge my readers sporting a few graying hairs to resist the urge to shirk opportunities to try new things. I’ve always felt that one shouldn’t be held back by the number of birthdays you’ve celebrated.You are never too old to reach out and grasp your heart’s desire and your mind’s potential.

     A little over a month from now–provided the creeks don’t rise–I’ll celebrate my forty-fifth year on God’s green footstool, or what we call Earth. A lot has transpired from the time I drew breath that early Saturday morning. I graduated from college, explored at least five different career paths, buried loved ones, found love, and accomplished at least three goals on my life’s To-Do List.

     Still, I don’t plan to rest on my laurels; I plan to continue to strive forward by embracing opportunities.  I realize that until I close my eyes for that last time, there is always more to do. I shouldn’t let the fact it may take me a little while longer to get back up when I “drop it like it’s hot,” to keep me from getting my groove on, to getting things done.

     We can’t let the fact that we’re getting older keep us from branching out and stretching toward our full potential. Our life’s experiences are the best tools to conquer the unknown. Every disappointment allows us to develop the sharper vision to see and achieve the goals we want to scratch off our To-Do List.

LaToya Hankins

     Those of us who have been there, done that, and have the scars or stories to prove it have the tools to conquer new adventures or create opportunities to stretch ourselves in different ways. Getting older is a blessing to those of us lucky enough to experience it–and should embrace it fully. Step out of your comfort zone and explore different horizons.

     The longer we live on this earth, the more we realize that it doesn’t hurt to try something different at least once. If we don’t like it, then we don’t have to do it again. If we do like it, then we have found something which brings even more joy to our lives.

     Since 2016 began, there has been so much sadness, and things no one ever expected we would live long enough to see. We have followed the hashtags, seen the social media posts, and participated in the town halls, marches, and vigils to know that so many of us will not be able to enjoy their next birthdays. We owe it to those snatched away by violent circumstances to challenge ourselves by dipping our proverbial toes in different ponds. 

     Just like many of us have moved away from having the birthday cake with the candles we feel pressure to blow out with one breath, we have to think about how we approach the process of getting older. We can no longer view it as an excuse for slowing down! This is when we need to rev up and move forward.

     Now, I’m not saying that you have to explore bungee jumping or running with the bulls, if extreme sports aren’t your thing. I’m suggesting that you be open to new things if they come your way, and not staying stuck in how things used to be.

     I have changed in so many wonderful ways, and I’m looking forward to changing so more. I wish the same for all those looking to add to their list of enriching encounters when they find themselves trying something they never expected.

     It could be walking into the role of activist, serving as a parental figure to a younger person in need, or simply switching that hairstyle you have worn since LL Cool J and Queen Latifah were known for simply being good rappers.

     So, I leave this birthday wish for you all:  Let this upcoming year be filled with great adventures and tremendous and unique experiences! As for me, I plan to enter this next stage of life with high hopes and big plans to challenge myself.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 6

“The Power Of Pride”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

 

     Greetings Hot Tea and Ice Sippers!   Hope you are staying cool in this summer heat. Although I consider myself a proud daughter of the South, even I sometimes find the rising temperature a little bit too much to take. Days of ninety plus weather leaves me praising the person who invented air conditioning—and mastering the art of sweet tea.

     For many in the LGBTQ community, June is the month we fly our Pride flag freely. We attend festivals where we eat, drink, dance, march, flirt, and triumph in the sheer bliss of being out and about.   But unfortunately, on June 12, forty-nine members of our community enjoying the freedom of being themselves were taken from this world by an atrocious act of a misguided and angry soul.

     That Sunday morning, hearing the news of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history rendered me speechless. My heart and mind battled to reconcile the reality of what had taken place in Orlando.  I joined the millions around the world wavering between anger and grief. Viewing pictures of vigils and hearing the voices of survivors, family, and friends almost made me exit social media. In order to guard my heart, I retreated from my ritual of listening to the news.

     But then, I remembered:  June is LGBTQ Pride month!  By definition, pride is “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.”

     For thirty days, the LGBTQ community celebrates the power we possess that allows us to thrive when others want to diminish us. That power comes from acknowledging and living authentically as the person you were meant to be–instead of what society expects. The Power of Pride empowers hundreds of men, women, and those who reject labels to walk in their truth–be it in sensible shoes or stilettos.

     While some point to the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969 as when the Pride movement started in full effect, the reality is that the Power of Pride has always existed. It is the force that allowed members of the community to rise above the rejection of family and friends. Pride is what kept us going and moving past tragedy.  

     Now, more than ever, we have to seize the Power of Pride in ourselves and those who have gone before us to shake the dust off our feet–and keep pushing forward.

     The LGBTQ community, and by extension anyone who has been discounted for being who they are, have endured far worse and risen. We have survived and thrived! No one is strong enough to snatch away the many victories we have worked so hard to achieve.

     The massacre in Orlando should encourage us to dig deep and harness the Power of Pride so that we can continue to hold our heads up, reach out to others to help strengthen them, and continue on the path of being the individuals we are meant to be.

     Claiming the power that lies within isn’t always easy. Sometimes barriers such as shame, sexism, racism, and just sheer lack of self-acceptance block our power from coming through at full force.  But know that we are powerful when we embody our Pride.

LaToya Hankins

     While June is LGBTQ Pride month, the achievements which earned us the right to hold our heads high are something we should celebrate year-round.

     Unfortunately though, being powerful in our Pride won’t prevent obstacles.  Dark forces gather when communities seen as powerless try to assert their natural power.  We saw it in Charleston, S. C. last year when a killer gunned down nine church members during a mid-week service. We saw it in Los Angeles during the riots of the 1980’s when decades of mistreatment boiled over in majority-minority communities. We saw it across the South in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement when men, women, and children were arrested and killed simply for exercising their rights.

     The powerful cannot back down. We have to harness our Pride to push back the forces that want to diminish our shine. We can’t concede and allow those misguided, ill-informed and just plain wrong individuals to define and defile us.

     It is good and necessary to grieve for those who have been snatched away by and through hate.  But we have to lift our heads and walk strong with our Power of Pride.

     So I know it may be difficult, but I encourage everyone to unleash their Power of Pride this summer. Don’t limit yourself to the calendar. Go beyond the thirty days and use the Power of Pride for good. If we all unleash our power, perhaps it will defeat or weaken those who seek to derail our accomplishments.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.

During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 5

“No Confetti Required”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

     Greetings and salutations, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers! Happy belated Mother’s Day and early Father’s Day to those who fall in those categories. Also, we observe a moment of silence and loads of respect for those who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. We honor you all on Memorial Day.

      Along with honoring parents and veterans, this is also graduation season. This is the time of the year everyone pulls out their good suits and hats to see the next generation leave behind an academic institution, and become part of the real world. Be it high school, college, or for those special graduates leaving behind the wonders of kindergarten, everyone it seems dons solid-color polyester robes to line up and march in step. Some will sit under the spring sunshine listening to some celebrity try to inspire and impress. Others will be shoulder to shoulder with classmates in auditoriums or gyms.

      Regardless of the setting, the feeling of accomplishment is universal. It doesn’t matter if the graduate walks with honors or through the grace of Most High, graduations are good times. It brings together family members who otherwise wouldn’t speak to each other unless under court order, and usually ends with a meal where everyone laughs and loves.

     Yes, graduation ceremonies with the handing out of diplomas, requests to hold applause until the end of the ceremony, and cards with money inside are wonderful things. Graduations are formalized ways of celebrating the achievement of accomplishing a goal, which in some cases, may have taken four, fourteen or even forty years.

     However, even if you are the Class of 19- rather than 2016, you have something to celebrate during this graduation session as well. We may not wear mortar boards or have someone say our full name in front of strangers and classmates who never knew your middle name is MyCole, but we are graduates of the hardest school there ever existed–life.

      Some of us graduated when we decided to no longer define our worth through someone else’s lenses. We turned our tassels when we left behind situations that weren’t beneficial to us.

LaToya Hankins

     We may not have heard Pomp and Circumstance played when we walked into that job,  but we graduated. There was no need to put on a robe or walk across a stage to confirm we made it through whatever tried to keep us back. We have our confirmation when we look in the mirror and like the person looking back.

     Take time to celebrate your individual graduation situations. When we honor the journey, the destination becomes even more valuable.

     It is easy to get (Set) Adrift on Memory Bliss,” shouts out the musical group P.M. Dawn (for my ‘90’s ‘peoples’, Y’all), when we see the pictures on social media of friends, family, and friends of family. I admit, my mind went back to the summer of 1989 when I was a young woman getting that high school paper or that day in May when I officially left behind Emerald City (Greenville, N.C.) after four years to start my bachelorette with a bachelor’s life.

     Then I remembered I didn’t need Wake County Schools or the North Carolina Board of Governors to confirm my graduation from being a shy school girl to a self-assured woman. My graduation took place when I realized I had the power to create my own better life.

     We all have graduation stories we need to remember and draw upon when we face challenges. Just like when we walked into those classrooms those first day, nervous and unsure, only to emerge years later strutting and serving it up for those in the back rows.  You see, we graduated to something better. Celebrate your achievement and realize you don’t have to hold the applause until the end. Take pride in your triumph.

     So get loud and throw your hands, hats, and heels in the air because you have graduated to the next part in your life’s journey. Have a graduation dinner and invite all those family and friends who adore you and hopefully don’t think you are too big for a gift card—or card with cash inside.

     Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 4

“It’s Not How You Got Them, It’s How You Keep Them”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins    

 

        Greetings and salutations, Hot Tea Sippers. Hopefully, temperatures are warming up in your neck of the woods, and you are getting ready for short sleeves, shorts, and sundresses. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s just something about shedding layers that leads people to consider adding a “plus one” to their lives. Perhaps it’s the increases in wedding invites, pop-up BBQs that lead to hook-ups, or you finally realizing that the cutie who has been sitting across from you on public transportation all winter long actually has a pretty smile–when it is not hidden by a wool scarf!

      And then there are those of us who have spent the past several seasons in relationships. We are usually the ones buying yet another present for friends who decided to jump the broom.  We are the perpetual hosts for the BBQs because we have the houses/condos/apartments. 

      The mystery of knowing what each other looks like with or without the scarves is long gone because we probably purchased the items–or “borrowed” yours. Spring time is indeed for lovers; but sometimes, long-term partners don’t feel the enthusiasm.

      It’s easy to take each other for granted when you see each other day in, day out.  I know. After three years, I have to admit my partner and I began acting more like simply friends than lovers.  We spent our nights doing the same old dinner in front of the television thing, rehashed the same conversations about work/family/friends, and went to bed at a “decent” hour where we fell fast asleep.

      Don’t get me wrong:  it is good to find a comfortable existence with the one who feeds your spirit. Relationships don’t have to be a go-go party every night to be authentic. Still, you have to challenge yourself with the thought:  if we didn’t do this when we dated, why are we doing it now? The two of you are the same people who talked long into the night about complex topics, traded favorite movie lines, and got down with the get-down every chance you got.

      Why is it too easy now to pass as few words as possible when you do pass each other, fuss back and forth about what to watch on TV, and can’t remember the last time you got “funkdafied?”

      Too often, we can find time for everyone else, but sometimes our partners find themselves slipping farther down on our priority list. So many of us have our days scheduled on our smart phones to the “Gawds,” but can’t find an extra moment for our special one. For those who have someone special, reflect back on when it was new and exciting. You didn’t get her or him by talking about what your irritating co-worker did to vex your spirit once again. So, why do you think that will keep him/her?

      Being in a relationship allows the best of you to come forward and connect with someone to make a fantastic whole.  It takes work to form a suitable and sustainable bond. Once the hard work is done, keep it going may seem to be a task– but it’s worth it.

LaToya Hankins

      When you reconnect with your significant other, you are also reconnecting with yourself.  That fun, engaging, enticing self whose milkshake or frozen yogurt brought the boy or girl to the yard is still there. Dig deep and unleash that person back into the world. In the process, you have the potential to stoke the relationship fire and get your own flame burning brighter.

      So, first things first:  use those time management skills you have mastered through juggling work, friends, and community involvements to schedule time for you and yours.  And no social media allowed!  Don’t worry, it will be there when you get back.

      Focus on something totally fun and freeing. No bills, no nagging, no picking the same fight you have had for the past season. It you need to switch up the scenery to get it going, go for it! The key is for the focus to be on each other.

      For me and my spouse, we decided to break out and get back to what brought us together.  We started telling each other fantastic stories about ostriches with gambling skills, fictionalized titles from memories, and how our hips were too dangerous to be insured. Those creative bursts helped bring us together and hopefully will keep us together. We instituted date night where we attempted to pick each other up using our best lines. Sometimes it worked, sometime it didn’t. But it was always fun!  

      We decided to treat each other to a week without cooking. When it’s my week, I cook for the house and when it’s hers, she cooks for me.  Nothing is better than coming home to a home-cooked meal or at least a meal ordered from home.

      So as spring causes all those singles around you to get sprung, I challenge all my paired people to focus on keeping love going and value the other person who shares your space. The payoff will be priceless. 

      Until next time,  Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 3

“It’s All About March-amorphosis”

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

    Greetings and Salutations, Hot Tea and Ice sippers near and far!  I hope your spring sprung in the best way possible; and, if you plan to partake in Easter festivities, your basket will overflow with good things.

    This month marks a transition into a new season. Time to put away the coats and boots in order to embrace short sleeves, light fabrics and open-toe shoes (provided proper prior pedicure protocols have been followed).  It is also a perfect opportunity to metamorphose into a person prepared to embrace new opportunities, and rise to the challenge of being better versions of ourselves.

    Every day, we are presented with situations to expand our horizons; but too often, we don’t step forward and claim them. We get stuck in our ways and find comfort in the status quo.  

    Now, there is nothing wrong with sticking with the “tried and true.”  Finding something that works is wonderful, and I commend those who have found their lane and maximize its potential.

    But there is also something to be said for taking things to the next level and embracing the beauty of metamorphosis, or coming out and into your own.

    Stepping into your potential is a scary prospect. For a period of time, I was afraid of stepping out and changing how I did things. I was comfortable just going to work, coming home to my Gaston County (N.C.) apartment, and spending time with my fiancé. I was afraid to challenge myself to do something beyond what was expected of me–get a job, get engaged to my college boyfriend, and get ready to spend the rest of my life doing what was expected of so many southern African American women.

    Then I realized I couldn’t spend the rest of my life not stepping out of my comfort zone and allowing the true me to come out. I had to break out of the cocoon of conformity, and spread my wings to soar.

LaToya Hankins

    So, I placed an ad to have a one-night stand before I got married. Sure, there were other things I could have tried to expand my horizons. Truly, I didn’t expect a response to the ad. I just wanted to do something unexpected to break up the monotony of what my life had become.

    Spring with its longer days and warmer weather is the perfect time to become that person open to trying new things and discovering talents that lie dormant. Flowers shouldn’t be the only things that should bloom. March should be a time to metamorphose into a better version of the person who started the New Year.

    Metamorphosis could be something as simple as getting a haircut, being the person that speaks up at meetings with a suggestion that could make things better, or finally deciding to make that move to a better place. The key is to find that thing or things that allow you to flourish.

    To be sure, change is never easy. The first step toward metamorphosis is usually the hardest, and the one that is going to be the most uncomfortable. There is the uncertainty about whether or not you are making the right move, the unease of being outside your comfort zone, and the off-chance the time isn’t right.

     Then, there is the chance your challenging the status quo will leave some people hurt or left behind.  My choice resulted in a broken engagement, coming out as a lesbian, and some tense holiday dinners since it took my mom a few years to accept my sexuality.

    However, my decision also led me on the path toward co-founding a black Gay Pride organization, becoming a published author, and being comfortable in my own skin. By treating my worries about going into different directions like some many sweaters–things to be packed away–I metamorphosed into someone following a path I believe will take me to a much better place and state of mind.

    Just like pulling out last year’s spring tops only to find that they “shrunk” while they were packed away, metamorphosis is going to require getting rid of some things in order to make room for the new. The key is to be push through and move forward.

    How will you know how well your process is coming along?   That depends. The measure could be an increase in your paycheck, the number of hours you can sleep, or the number of times you smile during the day because you have metamorphosed into someone who is committed to being a better version of her or himself.

    Until next time, adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice 2

“Missing The Ones That Didn’t Get Away” 

 Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

     Happy February!  It’s also known as the shortest month, with the most reasons to break your diet.  I hope your Mardi Gras was filled with “flava,” your Valentine’s Day was full of love, and you have recovered from Beyonce’s “Formation” domination of the world’s conversation. While this Carolina girl wasn’t happy about the outcome of the Super Bowl, I appreciate the effort both teams gave–and the spread my partner made for us to enjoy while we watched the game.

     For those who read my January introduction, you know that this year I am focused on the art and craft of being grateful. One of the things topping my list is the woman I call my “Canadian ChapStick.”   My sweetie took her first breath in a Canadian hospital, and moved to America when she was eight years old.

     We met during a Lesbian book club meeting held at the LGBT Center of Raleigh, and it was my beloved second occasion as the facilitator. Actually, she was the co-facilitator. I assumed the other woman leading the meeting was her partner.

     So when I asked where they were from, she quickly corrected me that she was from Delaware. She left the other person to fill in her own “blank.”  She was single, and I was in the midst of shucking off a bad relationship.

     The next occasion we crossed paths, we were both single ladies. That time it was during a Shades of Pride brunch.  Shades of Pride is the LGBT pride organization I co-founded in North Carolina’s Triangle area–and to which I still devote my talent, time and treasure to when I’m not “dazzling the world with my written words” and working for the State of North Carolina.  I was the hostess and she was a guest.

     The third time was the charm to convince us we were meant to be together. While I was in Charlotte and she was in Durham, we conversed via text messages during the CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) basketball weekend. We had our first face-to-face date the first Monday in March, and the mythology of us began.

     With her, I think I have found my forever.  I know:  the whole thing is so sweet, you feel like you need to brush afterwards!  (Smile.) 

     One of the ways that I know she is the right one is because I have had my share of bad ones. I’m not talking about “it’s not you, it’s me” type of bad.  I’m talking, “Oh my Gosh, what was I thinking?”

     Stop me if some of these scenarios sound familiar: (1) the “cutie” that couldn’t keep a job–it was always “the man” trying to hold a “conscious” person down.  (By conscious, I mean they claim they’re all about being “positive” and  “righteous,” but knock anyone that doesn’t adhere to the same natural-fiber wearing, natural-hair-sporting, last-poet-quoting line they follow.)  (2) the “boo-thing” who felt the butterscotch candy between her thighs was too good to limit it to just one person; (3) the person who got jealous if someone had more than a five-minute conversation with you about something other than the weather. 

     Sometimes when my mind drifts back to those females (and males), one of the lines from my favorite songs comes to mind, “I wish you were the one who got away.(Hey—I, too, had a “straight” phase!)

     Then, I realize that if they were the ones who got away, I may not have fully gained the ability to appreciate the good person I have in my life right now. Going along with the theme of being grateful this year, I am grateful for bad relationships because they helped me appreciate the beauty of the good one I am currently experiencing.

     Bad relationships allow us to challenge our standards, prompt us to reevaluate our value, and rise to the occasion of seeking someone who deserves us—that is, if we are in the market to expand our horizons to include someone romantically. 

LaToya Hankins

     Don’t get me wrong:  many bad duets involve two people singing off-key In order to move forward, you have to challenge the part you played. But while you are doing that, embrace the memories of that special someone who always asked to let them “hold something until payday.”  If handled properly, it can create a path toward greater appreciation of that person who always has their own–and has something for you, too.

     Remember that ex you couldn’t bear to bring around your friends because someway, somehow, that person and one of your “friends” always ended up in a secluded corner–“just talking about you?”  Consider that when weighing the value of something so trustworthy even your 86-year-old grandmother would let them hold her purse while she went to the bathroom.  (Also–you may need to check your circle of friends.)

     Remember that insecure individual who had to have your attention placed only on them? That relationship can serve as the measuring stick to see how far you have come with that new person by your side.

     If you are single and looking, your exes can serve as an excellent checklist to assess if the effort to get to know someone is worth your time, talent, and treasures. The people we have dated are great tools to see how we have progressed in our appreciation for what truly is important in relationships.

     Don’t wallow in your bad relationship choices. Learn from them and move forward when considering dipping your toe and other body parts in the dating pool. Appreciate those who let you down, so that you can value the ones who lift you up. 

    Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”


   LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Hot Tea and Ice

“It’s About That G-Thang”

Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins 

Happy 2016!  I’m trusting all is well in your world.

Please allow me the opportunity to introduce “my selves” to you.  I may be an only child raised by an only child, but I feel I have a not-so secret identity I want to share with you.

By day, I am LaToya Hankins, a 44-year-old polite woman who works for the State of North Carolina. LaToya drives a compact car, has a dog named Neo, and shares her home and birthday with a “Canadian professional listener” (a mental health therapist), and two feline divas named Percy and Patches.      

However, once the sun sets, LaToya takes off her badge, “lets loose” her locs (dreadlocks) and becomes…Toya!  She’s the author of books, short stories and clever social media updates who creates worlds where LGBTQ persons of color who call the South their home thrive.  Toya loves potatoes, pasta, and the percolator (that popular 1980’s dance where you rapidly gyrate your legs in time with the music and “pop” your booty)–which she does furiously in her mind when she listens to the Pandora house music station.

LaToya Hankins

Over the next few months, I hope to share more about LaToya and Toya with you, and I hope to learn more about you as well. However, with this being a New Year, let us start with what probably passed through most of our lips on January 1st (besides collards and black eyed peas): New Year’s resolutions.

Like many of you, I resolve to lose weight, cut back on my television watching and save money. All of which is cute.  But what I really want to work on is being more grateful for what I have, in order to allow more great things to come into my life.

Many of us know the power of gratitude, but we have been reluctant to claim it as part of our lives.  Maybe we don’t know how to start, what we should be grateful for, or how to show it.

There is no wrong way to be grateful and it’s quite easy to do once you put your mind to it. The first step is to be grateful for simply being you. Many people didn’t make it to 2016, so celebrate the simple fact that you are still among the number. 

Next, take a look in the mirror. When looking at yourself, be grateful for the achievements which followed you across the threshold of the New Year.  Last year, many of us gave ourselves peace of mind by shedding failed relationships. Others gave ourselves the power to believe in our own abilities by starting new businesses, going back to school, or accepting the fact that we are better than our circumstances. We have to be grateful for the opportunities provided and created by us to step outside the lines to be better people in 2016.

Along with being grateful for the achievements we have manifested, we need to be grateful for those who have been in our corner celebrating and commiserating with us. It could be your mother, your best friend, your beloved, or that neighbor you have had a crush on forever. We all have someone in our lives whose laughter chase away the storm clouds, knows just the right time to call to shake us out of our foul mood, or comes through with a home-cooked meal (depending on the situation) to feed our souls and stomach. Be grateful for the simple treasures of that person who has your back, stands in front of you to shield you from trouble, and stands in the gap for you when you can’t stand alone. 

     Many of us have memorized “The Color Purple,” but one of the lines that stands out for me is the notion that walking by the color purple in a field pissed God off. In this New Year, we have to be grateful for the simple acts of beauty and kindness we see all around us. Express gratitude by taking the time to listen to raindrops hitting the windows when you are inside with no particular place to go, and then acknowledging that perfect symphony of sound.  Show gratitude by standing still and finding calmness in the sight of twilight when the sun exits the celestial stage, allowing the chorus of stars to be showcased. Display gratitude for the touch of a loved one by expressing thanks through your words and deeds for their contributions to your life.

     Showing gratitude allows us to feel better and opens us up to receiving more good things. Happiness attracts happiness.  And no matter what resolutions we set forth, the main objective is to be happy. Gratitude doesn’t require gym fees, special fees, or new clothes. It’s free and feels good. So indulge!

This is my first column, and I am grateful that you have read it. I hope it sparks you to think about what you have to be grateful for so far in 2016, and I hope it inspires you to add to the lists of gratitudes with each passing day. 

Adios, au revoir, and I “holler.”    


   LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism.  An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya   earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.  During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N. C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.  You may reach La Toya at her on line home, www.latoyahankins.com; email, latoya.hankins@yahoo.com; Facebook, www.facebook.com/latoyahankins; and on Twitter, @hankinslatoya.

 

Honey, Let Me Tell You Something! 4

LaToya Hankins:  Madame Triple Threat

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman

     LaToya Hankins is an author, poet and an activist. Upon graduating from East Carolina University, she earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Journalism and a minor in Political Science.  Currently, she is the president of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority graduate chapter in Raleigh, North Carolina (N.C.) As co-founder of the Shades of Pride organization, she helps create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of N.C.’s LGBTQ communities.

     Her two books, “SBF Seeking…” and “Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood, focus on the lesbian experience–not just through the eyes of the main character, but also on how North Carolinians react to that main character’s lifestyle. Ms. Hankins’ entire body of work demonstrates that she is an inspiration to us all.

LaToya Hankins

     Just recently, Nathaniel Octavius Nerdo (my alter ego) sat down with the charismatic, enterprising and multi-faceted Ms. Hankins for one absorbing and enlightening experience.

     Nathaniel:  LaToya, welcome to WYATTEVANS.COM!  Thanks for granting me this interview.

     LaToya:  You’re welcome!  It is my pleasure and I am excited to talk to you.

     Nathaniel:  Well, before I inquire about the “LaToya’s World” in North Carolina, I first have to ask you to tell me the story of what happened to you when you were five years old. I found it amazing, creative and inspirational.

     LaToya:  Oh, yes. When I was five years old, I had open heart surgery. And since I was in a small town in North Carolina, everyone knew; especially since I was not in school for a while. And kids, by themselves are curious.

    So I figured: why not capitalize on their curiosity and make me some money for ice cream and candy? So I was charging, I think, a dime to see my scar!  Kids would follow me to the bathroom, and I would pull up my shirt and show them my scar.

     And my teachers got wind of it because every time I went to the bathroom, four or five kids would follow me.  And one day, one of the teachers came in and I said, “Where’s your dime?”  (LaToya and I both chuckled.)

     Nathaniel:  So you just pulled up your shirt?

     LaToya:  Oh, yes… The scar goes from the middle of my chest to my back, so I would just pull up my shirt. The kids got their money’s worth, and I got ice cream and candy.  But it didn’t last that long.

     (We laughed again.) 

     Nathaniel:  Well, thank God you made it through!  You are such an example. And secondly, I think that was a very entrepreneurial idea to have at such a young age.

     LaToya:  Thank you so much!

     Nathaniel:  So what about junior high and high school?  Did you do other imaginative, innovative things?

     LaToya:  I didn’t do too much exciting stuff in junior high school. I basically kept to myself. But in high school is when I started questioning my sexuality, although I didn’t act on it. I started wondering and noticing some things. And I was feeling some kind of way but I never spoke about it.

     However, I did the typical thing:  I had a boyfriend in high school, and we were close. We were friends before we became boyfriend and girlfriend.  And, I had another friend in high school that said there were some things that I said or did then that they would start questioning and wondering about. But they would put their thoughts about me to the side because I was from the era that “nice girls don’t do that; especially nice black girls.”

     Nathaniel:  So in high school you didn’t know or do anything with women?

     LaToya:  Well, no. I am a procrastinator by nature and I just didn’t take the time to do anything about it. I focused more on my school work. I really focused on just being involved with school projects.

     Nathaniel:  So in college is when you came out?

     LaToya:  Well, no. I didn’t come out until I was 25 years old. In college, I didn’t focus on my sexuality. I focused on school work and my career. I had a good friend who was a guy and we did everything together. And he knew his sexuality; that he was gay. But we never discussed it, We were like each other’s cover because everyone thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend.

    But years later, I realized that all the signs were there for something to happen in college with women.  I just never acted on it.

     Nathaniel:  So, was your sexuality an issue when you pledged the sorority?  Did anybody know?

     LaToya:  Well I did an intake into the sorority. So I didn’t actually do the college pledge thing. And at the time, most people didn’t know and it was not an issue. But today, with Facebook and whatnot, I am sure my sorority sisters know.

     Nathaniel:  Did you start writing in college?

     LaToya:  I did!  But I worked for a newspaper and a minority magazine. So it was more featured topics, or should I say, “assigned topics.”  I wrote some poetry and short stories. I did not do fiction writing. I did an internship with a local newspaper, so it was all non-friction writing.

     But I always wanted to be a writer.  I am a big reader, so I appreciated works of fiction.  However, I always thought I was the one to read the books—not actually the one writing the books.  

     Nathaniel:  Do you prefer writing short stories, or writing books?

     LaToya:  Well, I prefer short stories because I like it when you have a definitive beginning, middle and ending. And writing books, you may think you are at the end; however, something comes up and then it becomes another chapter or two.  It’s hard to write a lot of words and make it make sense and interesting.  It takes, craft, dedication and commitment. You have to actually sit still and write, and edit and re-write.

     Nathaniel:  I assume that your books do not mainly focus on the “gay thing,” so to speak.

     LaToya:  They have gay characters.  And one thing I realize is that as gay, lesbian, transgender and people of color, we don’t exist in a vacuum. We have friends, family members and work experiences with people who are not gay. I wanted to make sure that when I write my books, I incorporate gay and straight characters.  I wanted to show that gay people can exist with their family members and friends who are not gay, and that everyone can respect each other. 

     Nathaniel:  Now with your first book, “SBF Seeking…”  You did accomplish that with the coming out scene. I loved the way you wrote that. 

LaToya Hankins

     LaToya:  Yes.  The main character came out to her straight friends and family, and they all had different reactions. And in my second book, “Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood,” one of the line sisters comes out, and it tells how she deals with the rejection from her sorority sisters.

    Therefore, I wanted to make sure that if you read my books and you are not lesbian, you can still find yourself in the pages. You can find a character that you can identify with.

     Yes, you may want to identify with the main character who is a lesbian.  But also, you may be a divorced women with two kids, or a women on her second marriage or somebody’s mama. There is a character for you to relate to.

     Nathaniel:  Now you have two books.  Do you plan on writing another?

     LaToya:  Actually, I am in the process of writing my third book which is initially called “Waterworks Whispering.” I plan on releasing it in January 2016.

     Nathaniel:  Why should people read your books?

     LaToya:  Great question!  Because they are interesting and relevant.  It is easy to find yourself in one of the characters, and they give you food for thought.  I think my books make you see things in your own light and in the light of others. And it gives you a chance to visit North Carolina through my eyes because that is what I write about and where I reside at and from.    

     Nathaniel:  How is food an inspiration when you write books?

     LaToya:  Food is the great “smoother over” for negative emotions.  Because you can’t be mad with anyone with your mouth full of food!  You can’t be mad if your mouth is full of ham and beans.  (She’s smiling.)  You have to swallow your anger.  Also, I think most life decisions are made over a plate of food.  I wanted to incorporate that in my books because everything goes better with food.  If you share a meal, you can break down barriers. And in my books, I mention actual restaurants in the Raleigh area that are black-owned that gay people go to all the time.

     Nathaniel:  Now you are not just the president of the largest graduate chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority in North Carolina, but also the co-founder of the Shades of Pride organization. What’s the organization all about?

     LaToya:  The Shades of Pride organization brings people together to share life’s experiences with being gay. We are an active supporter of LGBTQ issues and address health disparities that affect our community, especially our young people who are coming out younger and younger each day. We need to educate them so that they feel good about themselves and their lifestyle, so that they accept themselves–as well as others accepting them.

     Nathaniel:  What is your message to the LGBTQ community in the South?

     LaToya:  I want to represent the South in a positive manner because we are doing great things in the LGBTQ community here.  We have an “out” lesbian on the city council.  And she is sitting on that council with an “out” black gay man. We have had an “out” black gay senator. We have a lot of out gay black people doing many great things in North Carolina. When you think of the South and gay events, it is not just Atlanta. 

     So my message is “Don’t sleep on the LGBTQ community in the South.”  We are doing a lot of positive things in North Carolina. And I am here to represent, and support and spread the word that we are here and you will hear more and more great things going on down here.

     I try to capture the essence of the African-American Southern experience, and live by the motto, “I don’t weep at the world; I’m too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

     Nathaniel:  How can people reach out to you?

     LaToya:  At www.Latoya Hankins.com.  On Facebook, LaToya Hankins; on Twitter, Hankins Latoya; on Instagram, Toya Hankins.  My email is Latoya.Hankins@yahoo.com.

     Nathaniel:  LaToya, it certainly has been a pleasure talking to you!  You are in inspiration to the South and the LBGTQ community as a whole.  And, we will continue to look for the inspired, extraordinary writings and works that you do that support our people and the community.


R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home, www.rlnorman1.wix.com/honeyletmetellyou; by email at: rlnorman@aol.com; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.