Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Ashton Smith — The PBS Blog

Today is a special edition of Introduce Yourself. Please help me to welcome Ashton Smith to The PBS Blog! Ashton is an amazing young woman from Fort Worth, Texas, with a powerful story. She’s a world-medal award-winning swimmer, author, and corporate speaker. She is legally blind in one eye and has difficulty seeing out of […]

Introduce Yourself: Introducing Guest Author Ashton Smith — The PBS Blog

I read this article above and was overcome with emotion. I would be lying if I said I was surprised because capitalism and the ability to take from others what’s rightfully theirs or prevent others from making sustainable income is the primal American way. But I am saddened, deeply saddened by Ashton’s story, and I abhor the entities/organizations/people who have placed her in this position.

But I know and feel as though, better days are coming for her.

Read her story via Yecheilyah‘s blog. It’s truly worth it.

Threaded Chapters

I will miss her sunshiny presence, but I am happy she will have a new beginning

Photo by L.A Co. on Unsplash

My neighbor is moving. It appears I say that phrase now more than I care to. Since the rent has increased in my apartment complex for many of us by $115.00 to $250.00 (depending on the type of unit you are leasing), the choice to leave is easier than the choice to stay. Some have found their new homes in cities right outside ours — shifting from one county to the next.

They are doing this, from the outside looking in, without fear — without a pressing feeling to remain planted where they are — without wondering what they will do in the next town.

She lives (lived) across the breezeway — directly from my unit on the third floor. She is soft-spoken, sweet, and very much a talker. She cannot remember Jernee’s name, and oddly enough, I have not been able to remember hers. But I have “Yes, ma’amed” and “No ma’amed” her for nearly five years and I do not want her to move.

And this is a dilemma of mine — fear of change — of adjusting to the differences that lie ahead. My therapist says, “You just have to run straight through it, Tre. It may not be as bad as you think it will be.” And I know she’s right — I know she has seen more than I have — I pay her for her expertise and the connection we have built over the last three years.

Back to my neighbor. I will miss her sunshiny presence, but I am happy she will have a new beginning. She is excited about the move — about the city where she will be living. She found a place for senior citizens that will cost her $275.00 less than what she was paying at our apartment complex.

And as she told me this a couple of weeks ago to prepare me for the move, I couldn’t help but say, “Look at God. He found a place for you that isn’t too far, and is also less expensive.”

She smiled at me and said, “And He will do the same for you, too.”

And while I believe her, I both want to leave this place and I don’t want to leave this place, and if I do, the mountains are calling me — they are calling me home to them.


Everyone is moving, the community will not be the same

This scares me — what keeps me inside most days and away from new people who do not exchange “Hellos” and “How are yous?” They are too busy walking briskly to the mailbox or shoving themselves into their cars to recognize one’s presence. They have some business to attend to, and you are not it — you’re a blip in their time zone, a speck to be brushed away at the right moment.

You could pass out in the middle of the street, and the one thing they would probably focus on as important is the color of your shoes or, even worse; the color of your skin.

The people in my building talk — we share our workdays with each other, our experiences. The people across from us and next to our building — it is the same. We have built up our community and look out for one another, and with all the new people moving in, I see less of this, and it hurts me — hurts me truly to my core.

I foresee it being more of a selfish thing, as they fill the vacant units to the brim with people simply looking for a place to stay and not a place in which to live. (Let that sink in for a moment.)

We are losing our elders. We are losing the single mothers who look forward to you wrangling their kids along for them. We are losing men willing to shovel your hatchback compact vehicle out of your parking space after an overnight snowfall.

And I am not settling well with this at all. But I guess I will have to, and soon.


She’s not gone just yet, but she will be

She tells me she is paying rent at her current place and the new place because her lease is not up until January. The catch is, if she did not jump on signing the lease with the senior citizens’ spot, she was going to lose her unit there. Her sons can help her these last two months — they will help her.

I say, as pleasantly as I can, “I understand that. You had to get to it while the getting was good.” She smiles and shakes her head in agreement. She then tells me, “So, I’ll be back. You’ll see me coming in and out — cleaning up — getting the place in order. I’m not gone just yet.”

And a small piece of my heart releases the strain it automatically pressed upon me.

I always wonder who my next neighbor will be when someone moves. Will they be kind? Will they be considerate? Will they understand we live in an apartment building and not their own home with a backyard and all their customized trimmings?


We live in threaded chapters, turning the pages of each other’s books

When the day comes that she says her last goodbye, I want to have a housewarming gift for her — something she will look upon and remember me and Jernee. I am having a hard time figuring out what that should be, but I know I will select the right thing at the right time.

We live in threaded chapters — connected by time and space and community. Some of us are more apt to pick up each other’s books and turn the pages and learn something about each person as we move forward.

And as I look up from my laptop, I see another moving truck back in. Two people exit and then pull up the truck’s door. The bed of the truck is empty.

I think to myself, “Who is moving now” and I close my blinds and shake my head.

And just like that, I have another book to read.


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

A Cornered Gurl (via Medium) is Back!

Remember when I talked about bringing my own table because others have refused to let me sit at theirs as a writer/editor/creative thinker? Well, It has been a year and five months, and I am getting the care I need for an eye disease (keratoconus), and I will soon be introduced to scleral contacts that will help sharpen my vision. It was time for me to bring A Cornered Gurl back to amplify the voices of others, so I did.

We are also on Instagram, too. I am sharing this with my WordPress family, just in case, some of you are interested in becoming writers for ACG.


ACG (Reboot) Publication Cover. Created with Canva.

A Cornered Gurl is Back

And I have missed it so much!

Being that I am getting the care I need for keratoconus and will soon be introduced to scleral contacts to enhance my vision, I felt it best to get started again here in A Cornered Gurl. I have truly missed it.

This will be our clean slate. A chance for ACG to move forward for the remainder of 2022, and walk into 2023 with an exhilarating presence and a resounding, WE ARE BACK pumping through our veins and leaving our mouths.

I have had a fair share of writers ask me from time to time if I would ever get ACG up and running again, and I thought (at those times) that I would not be able to do so. This publication is too much of my heart, soul, and mind for me not to pick it back up and lend your words the love and space they need.

It is time.


A few things have changed, but not many. There is a new logo and a new publication cover, but the heart of ACG is still the same.

What is the theme?

A Cornered Gurl: We want the REAL you. A Cornered Gurl is a space for writers to “come as they are” and truly be who they are.

What will I publish?

•Heartwork (to include fiction (1,200 words max), non-fiction (1,200 words max), & poetry) •Tales of the South •Our Story (Stories about who you & and your family are) •Micropoetry •Challenges

When will I publish content?

Mondays, Fridays, and Sundays by 7:00 pm, US ET/EDT. A total of 8–9 pieces will be published on those days.


For those of you who were here for ACG’s start back in 2017 as a standalone publication for my work only to watch it transition to include other writers as well in 2019, I hope you will join me once again.

If you wish to become a writer for A Cornered Gurl, please adhere to the submission guidelines and follow through accordingly.

I cannot wait to begin this journey with you again.


This is your time to “come as you are,” and truly be who you are. At A Cornered Gurl, We want the REAL you. Always.

Submission Guidelines|Follow us on Instagram

I Had a Dream About Oprah Winfrey

And she was writing a book I would love to read

I rarely dream about celebrities. It is a rare occurrence, and in order for it to take place, I would have had to watch a movie or read a book about that person right before going to sleep. And I certainly have never dreamed about the incomparable Oprah Winfrey before; the woman whose net worth is 2.5 billion dollars.

The dream I had early Sunday morning on September 11, 2022, struck me as peculiar, yet intriguing. I was in a dark room and the only area with an inkling of light was the small space where Oprah sat.

She wore her famous square-rimmed, flashy glasses, her hair was pulled up into a neat bun, and she donned a white blouse and brown slacks. She was shouting, “I am writing my book in Chicago about the children I never had, and I will need my fucking space!”

It echoed throughout the room. I simply stood there in awe. I could not move. Both my body and mind knew exactly what was taking place. I was in the company of one of the most influential Black women who was shouting repeatedly at the top of her lungs about a book she would need space to write, and I could not move.

There aren’t usually smells in my dreams, but in this one, I could smell a sweet and earthy scent. It was welcoming — a scent that provided safety and peace. Could it have been a signature perfume of her choice wafting from Oprah’s body? I don’t know.

I just knew that there I was, watching one of the most beloved women in the world declare frantically of the book she was writing. And it was both painful and motivating to witness.


Oprah does not have children and neither do I

Why did I have this dream? What does it mean? I do not fancy myself as someone who analyzes dreams. I simply try to understand them in my own way. Of late, I have had my share of weird ones, though, and this one is no different.

Oprah Winfrey does not have children. She has been open about this in many of her interviews and speaks about it candidly without regret. Her career path did not have room for the time, support, nurturing, and care she would have needed to allow for children, so she passed on that opportunity.

She endured giving birth at 14 years old to a baby boy who was the product of familial rape from an older cousin. The baby died after just two weeks.

I think about what she must have lived through — how she had to cement herself — become hard enough to keep moving, and I tear up.

I realized, ‘Whoa, I’m talking to a lot of messed-up people, and they are messed up because they had mothers and fathers who were not aware of how serious that job is.’ I don’t have the ability to compartmentalize the way I see other women do. It is why, throughout my years, I have had the highest regard for women who choose to be at home [with] their kids, because I don’t know how you do that all day long, Nobody gives women the credit they deserve. — Oprah Winfrey

I do not have children. Not for the same reasons as Oprah, but my reasons are also valid enough for me. I have always had an incredible fear of not being able to love my children how I would need to or losing myself enough to forget my past and not burden my children with my baggage.

I also found out in my early 30s that it would be difficult for me to have children naturally, so I did not take that risk. Not to mention, I have yet to have a partner worthy enough in my eyes to share such a responsibility as parenting.

“I am writing my book in Chicago about the children I never had, and I will need my fucking space!”

I have watched many women give their all to their children — love them unconditionally — lift them up where they have faltered; teach them right from wrong, and these same children grow up to leave their mothers crying senselessly about the choices they are making or have made.

How much of it is nurture? How much of it is nature? One can never know who or what their children will become until it has happened. That is a weight too heavy for me to carry.


And there was music and tears and nervousness too

I am no stranger to music in my dreams. Music seems to be the way I love — the way I lean into life when everything else becomes too tough to tackle. I speak using music and the world around me silences itself to hear me.

The song that played in my dream was Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “We Are One.” It repeated the following lyrics:

Sometimes I feel
That we try and make each other sad
(I don’t know why)
The things we do
How we make each other feel so bad
We’ve got so much
We could all be having so much fun

This song sends me to a space and time that is both nostalgic and a sad reminder of my past. My mother’s family always had these wild cookouts and family gatherings. I say wild because there would inevitably be an argument, an altercation, and someone or more than one person would head home in tears or angered by the day’s events.

Her family frightened me. So much anger. So much intensity. And oddly enough, amongst the pain, so much love, too.

Funny how the mind works, huh? To have this song on repeat in a dream reflected around the non-existence of children, Oprah Winfrey, and me as the voyeur — there’s more here, I know it.

I try to dig a little deeper. A fellow writer left a comment for me after we’d been conversing regarding my most recent article in An Injustice Mag, stating, “Exactly my point, leave their table for yours. In fact, write a book about the hypocrisy you face to become a writer. Be the change you want to see. Prove them wrong and exceed their limitations.”

His suggestion sent my mind swirling, and several moments of creativity flashed before my eyes. I can do what he is suggesting.

In the dream, I was nervous. I have yet to figure out if it was because I had been standing in the presence of the great Oprah Winfrey or if it was because of all the things I have lined up for me in the coming months. I am excited. I am full of fear. But it all will be worth it in the end.

I have always had an incredible fear of not being able to love my children how I would need to or losing myself enough to forget my past and not burden my children with my baggage.

And there were tears from both me and Oprah. With Oprah’s frantic shouting, came free-flowing tears that streamed down her face gently. Her declaration hadn’t bothered her. Her voice bull-horned without the bullhorn. Everyone, I am certain, who was anyone, could hear her.

I cried. Watching her in this intense state shout about needing the space to write about the children she never had, moved me — both in the dream and when I woke up.


The truth is in the details

We miss, sometimes, what we never had. And perhaps, that’s our link in this dream — knowing we have not and want not, but we sometimes regret it, even if we tell ourselves we don’t.

The truth is always in the details if we’re willing to plow through the dirt of us and retrieve a cleansing state.

I had a dream about Oprah Winfrey, and she had been writing about the children she never had while I stood there as a witness, which led to me thinking about the children I never had. Maybe it is a coincidence, this dream. Maybe there is nothing there and nothing I need to search for within it.

But I would love to read that book.


Originally published in The Narrative Collective via Medium.

I Will Bring My Table if You Refuse To Let Me Sit at Yours

And I won’t ask for your permission

Photo by Clarke Sanders on Unsplash

The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman. — Malcolm X

I have learned, in these last five months after venturing into applying for writing positions (once again), that as a Black woman in America, this industry is crucial — a rigorous trail of dangerous terrain, and many of us will not pull away from it without broken ankles or worse — a broken spirit.

I have applied to countless organizations, entities, magazines, and journals. I have updated, tweaked, upgraded, and enhanced my résumé hundreds of times. I have submitted examples of my writing, samples of copy as per requests, and details of my experience and longevity within the industry. Yet, I stand before you, jobless in the field I have dreamed of making my full-time career choice.

I want to tell you that this is my first time with these results, but it is not. And I know I am not the only one. The older I become, the harder it is to gain traction in the world of creative arts — particularly literary content, and every time I find the strength to give it one more go at it, I get the wind knocked completely out of my sails.

So, what is different this time around? I know what I can offer. I am aware of my potential. I am not afraid of a challenge or hard work. I can pursue intense and controversial topics, interview big names relative to various subjects, and do all of this in a way that will connect the reader and bring them back continually.

However, I have gotten several proverbial doors slammed in my face because I do not fit the model the company seeks; I am not interested in writing solely for marketing purposes. I refuse to write about or attach my name to something I do not believe in or advocate for, and the list goes on.

The tables they have designed for those seeking to eat among their peers have no more room. Or is it simply what they lead us to believe?


Why are we almost always at the bottom regarding pay in most job markets?

I work full-time in healthcare. I am a central scheduling specialist for radiology. To make it plain, I schedule radiology scans and interventional radiology/invasive procedures for our patients. The job is not one for the weary or faint of heart.

I commend my love of words and for people regarding my ability to build rapport, remain empathetic, and ensure a timely and effective scheduling process for our patients.

I will be honest. The pay is not what I would envision for the tasks and overall processes we have to endure, but I love my job.

Am I stressed out on some days? Sure. Do I wish it would get better for me and my co-workers? I do. Would I want to do this job with any other group of people? No, I would not.

The people I share these tasks with are exceptional and we are a rainbow of glorious individuals who show up daily to do what we do best; give patients a remarkable radiology scheduling experience.

Healthcare has been the backbone and most convenient way to keep me afloat, while writing always held its own on the sidelines. I have never gained enough to fully sustain and live comfortably from writing.

You may be saying to yourself, “Why do you think this should change?” I have always felt my heart speaks more when I am writing. My mind is at ease — anxiety is curbed significantly.

And the monetary comparisons are laughable. I can earn more by editing and publishing, and submitting commissioned articles in one month (whenever applicable) than I can in healthcare scheduling.

When I step back and look at the overall differences in pay gaps and wages for White men, Black men, White women, and Black women, I am left speechless.

In an article by Michelle Holder entitled, Addressing the ‘double gap’ faced by Black women in the U.S. economy, the author states:

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics detailed this double gap in June 2020, releasing data on average weekly and annual salaries broken out by race and gender:

White Men: $1,115 weekly, $58,000 annually
Black Men: $828 weekly, $43,000 annually
White Women: $929 weekly, $48,300 annually
Black Women: $779 weekly, $40,500 annually

This is wage inequality by race and gender in a nutshell. — Michelle Holder, November 30, 2021

We, Black women, are at the bottom. The average salary for a healthcare scheduling specialist position in North Carolina is $16.19 per hour as of August 22, 2022, according to Zippia.

If we go further into it, for my state alone, we share the bottom rungs with Hispanic women and Hispanic men, with women of color making up about 35% in North Carolina.

If the current trends continue, working women in North Carolina will not see equal pay until 2060! — NC Council for Women and Youth Involvement

Where is the fairness in the statement above? Will there ever be pay equity for women, more specifically, Black women?


I have to be a sounding board for others and bring my table when there are no more seats left

Although I have not gotten my seat at the table of writing, I am making moves in order to bring my own table and invite others to sit with me too. I am unafraid to be vulnerable and authentic. I share my experiences. I let people into the parts of my world where I feel a connection will take place.

“When one door closes, another one opens.” In my case, I can say, “When hundreds of doors are closed before you, build your own, then knock it down.”

I have this unstoppable quality marked into my making, and I cannot see myself “taking a knee” because I am being forced to.

Women writers outnumber men writers in the United States of America. However, we are still paid $0.96 to their $1.00.

Writer Demographics and Statistics in the USA
  • There are over 46,256 writers currently employed in the United States.
  • 53.8% of all writers are women, while 46.2% are men.
  • The average age of an employed writer is 41 years old.
  • The most common ethnicity of writers is White (78.9%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (7.4%) and Black or African American (6.0%).
  • The majority of writers are located in New York, NY, and Los Angeles, CA.
  • Writers are most in-demand in New York, NY.
  • Writers are paid an average annual salary of $66,143.

The above stats have been derived from Zippia and are the most recent analysis for Writer demographics by gender, location, and race.


I will not ask for your permission. I don’t need it.

Many writers come and go. I have broken bread with editors, authors, poets, and content creators. I converse with struggling journalists, Black women in Tech, and Black women freelance writers. The “game” was not designed for us to be on top.

No one will say this out loud — this information is the “quiet part” about which we should not speak. It is a thing someone continually forces us to move through, and when we arrive, they mount another obstacle for us to maneuver.

There are countless Black women in various job markets who can stand in front of you and say they have had to pivot to entrepreneurship because no one else would hire them. They are carving out spaces for themselves because countless doors have been closed in their face. They are currently pulling themselves up into the spotlight and bringing a few of their colleagues along because they know what the struggle entails.

I am at the age now where I fervently believe that it is high time for me to construct my table, sit it alongside the path of others, and help catapult Black women writers to where they want to be.

And I will not ask for anyone’s permission — not anymore. I don’t need it.


Originally published in An Injustice Mag via Medium on September 07, 2022.