Aresenio Hall hosted a late night talk show with a segment entitled “Things that make you go Hmmm . . . ,“ where he’d point out some random thing or occurrence that most people ignored, until he made you think about it.

My own “hmmm” moment came during an exchange with the administrative assistant who took my copayment, via debit, for my dental visit.  She didn’t offer me a receipt to sign.  When I asked her about this, she replied “You’ve been here before, we trust you.”

Hmmm.

Signatures protect consumers.  If I noticed a fraudulent charge on my credit card, I could dispute it with the company by saying “Show me my signature!”  If they couldn’t show me proof that I approved the purchase, they would have to remove it from the bill.

What’s my protection now?

Another hmmm.   Increasingly, gyms want either a credit or debit card on file.  Hypothetically, let’s say I set up an appointment two weeks from now for yoga; then I change my mind and cancel in accordance with their cancellation policy.  What do I do if the company charges me anyway?  Since no signature is required, how do I prove that the company is wrong and get my money back?

The tables have been turned.  Years ago it was clear that the money in my bank account (or on my credit card) belonged to me, and if a business wanted to get at my money, they had to ask my permission and get my written authorization.

Now most businesses regard me as merely a steward of their money.  They don’t believe that the money in my bank account is really mine, but theirs.  They’re just letting me use their money for a while before they take it from me.

I’m retiring my cards and going back to cash.

Rhonda Harrison completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

 

Sitting Down

with

Cyrille Aimee

Cyrille Aimee

As a musician, every now and then I run into a person that inspires me by his or her approach to what they do. I met Cyrille Aimee on the subway one Saturday night while hanging out with my high school b-ball teammate, Steve. She was very friendly and we talked about music and life. She said modestly, “We will be playing a Birdland next week; you should come check out the show.” Although I didn’t make that show, I did get a chance to check the show out about a year later. Cyrille turned out be one of the most authentic musicians I have met in my life. Her personality is as genuine on stage as it is off stage. So when I got the opportunity to interview Ms. Aimee for my blog, I naturally kicked it with her like an old friend, a new ally, and a fellow musician. Check out what Cyrille had to say about her music, and how she approaches this stage of her career.

Jeffrey C. Suttles: When did you start singing?

Cyrille Aimee: Hmmm, I started when I was around 13 or 14 years old.

Jeff: Did your parents inspire you to sing?

Cyrille: Well my parents always loved music and musicians. My mother is from the Dominican Republic, so she loves to dance. I actually started singing when I met these gypsies.

Jeff: What school did you attend?

Cyrille: I came here to study at Suny Purchase College in Westchester, New York. I loved going to school in that area of New York, they have a great music program.

Jeff: Your new project, Let’s Get Lost, did you do the writing and production or did you collaborate with other musicians?

Cyrille: A little bit of both, some of the songs I wrote by myself. Some of the songs I collaborated with the guitar player in the band. There are some songs I did in French and I also did some covers. It’s a mix!

Jeff: How much are you touring these days?

Cyrille: I just got back from France two days ago, and I’m headed to Japan next week. So I’m pretty busy.

Jeff: How often do you get back to France, to visit your family?

Cyrille: Well I was there last week, and I’m going back in June. I try to get back as much as I can, I usually go when I have a concert. I try to stay a little longer to spend time with my family and friends.

Jeff: How does your family feel about you success? Are they happy for you?

Cyrille: Yeah, of course they are.

Jeff: Who would you say influenced you the most, as a musician or an artist? Who inspired you to do what you do?

Cyrille: Hmmm, many artists have inspired me. Ella Scott Fitzgerald heavily influenced me when I begin my career. But I’m also crazy about Michael Jackson. It’s so many artists that influence me. The list is very long!

Jeff: How about Sade, some of you vocal work reminds me of Sade.

Cyrille: Yeah, I love Sade.

Jeff: What do you feeling is missing right now in jazz culture?

Cyrille: I would like to see jazz become available to wider audiences. Jazz has an old connotation to it, and it’s not that at all. Jazz is a very evolving music and the only thing is people don’t know they like it because they are not exposed to it. If they were exposed to it more, they would discover more about it. I would like to see more jazz on TV and on the radio.

Jeff: Yeah, it would be nice to see commercial radio and TV embrace the jazz culture. Okay last question, what words of wisdom or suggestions do you have for young artist aspiring to do what you do?

Cyrille: Hmmm, do be afraid to get back on the horse when you fall off. You are going fall many times, and basically the job of an artist is to use the times that you fall as constructive criticism and learn from it.

Jeff: Hmmm-great advice Cyrille, every young artist should apply that concept. It’s always a pleasure to kick it with you. Have a safe trip to Japan; we’ll talk when you get back. Peace.

Click to follow Jeff on Twitter

Jeffrey C. Suttles is a Master of Arts candidate in Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute. He is an independent songwriter/musician who completed his undergraduate studies at The City College of New York. He is currently a CUNY CAP student who continues to pursue career opportunities in publishing, communications, and the arts.

 

 

 

I’m currently reading Waiter Rant by Steve Dublianca and I can’t stress how excellent the book is. There is something so amazing when someone is just honest and forthcoming about their personal experiences. It’s like an invisible connection of emotions and thoughts that we can relate to. The writer explains his experience working in the restaurant industry.

For starters, I commend him. Working with the general public is difficult but the food industry is a beast all in its own. I tried my hand at working at a local Cuban restaurant when I was about 14 and made it through about a 1 day, 4 hour shift and I never went back. A few years later and one of the only times  I was able to not work and simply focus on school, I took a temp job at a Subway (at least it was temporary in my mind). That lasted just long enough to pay off my newly minted credit card. It wasn’t a hard job, but the clincher for me was when one day I was getting ready for school. I had taken a shower, gotten ready, and got to class. Of course, I always sat in the back and still do like the genuine handful that I am. The thing is that I caught a whiff of Subway. If you’ve ever eaten subway you know they have an incredibly distinguishable smell. It was only after a few minutes that I realized that smell of subway was me. I didn’t last, I cracked. I was still around 19 or 20 years old, super self-centered and self-conscious and couldn’t fathom going to school smelling like I’d been bathing in Subway. Needless to say I quit.

The writer of Waiter Rant talks a lot about humanity, the socioeconomic disparity and more importantly, the ruthlessness in our own humanity. One of the examples he talks about is a women who suffered a stroke in the restaurant. The woman is waiting for an ambulance when a couple walks in and proceeds to argue about the table they want, all while this woman is on the floor having a stroke. If you shook your head while reading that, take a second and think, are you that person on the train that has watched someone pass out and sucked your teeth or sighed out loud at the delay? Because I’ve watched this happen before. Right, because the person laying on the filthy subway car totally planned on botching your morning commute. I’m ruthless and cutthroat in a lot of ways, but on the other hand I am empathetic and understanding. So if I’m stuck under ground or plain stuck because your having a medical emergency, I think, oh well at least I’m still alive to see another day, the person who’s on the floor might not be that fortunate.

The book talks about a homeless guy who sometimes gets food from a restaurant. It reminds me of the homeless problem in New York and nationally. A few years back I was out with one of my best friends. The weather was brutal, I could feel the cold through my 1 Madison fox fur, goose coat. (Okay PETA advocates, have a seat. I didn’t know at the time it was authentic until I read the tag). The thing was that there was a woman with a thin coat asking for a coffee. Yes, a coffee. What upset me was everyone ignored her. She wasn’t asking for change, she wasn’t asking for money, she just wanted something to warm up. Now I pose this question, how can you say no? I’ve often asked homeless people if their hungry. I may not be rolling in the dough but how can you justify denying someone a meal. This past week this has been bouncing around in my peanut head. If I can afford a $300 Coach bag, how can I justify denying someone even a $5 meal? Can you? I know I can’t. Let’s put it this way, if you own an iPhone you know they retail for about $600 or upwards unless you have contract etc.. If you own an iPad, your walking around with now $1,000 in goods at minimum. So just think about that.

I’m not saying it’s up to one person or anyone to dive in financially and help the homeless or to jump in and save the life of a passed out passenger. What I am saying is we need to be a bit more conscientious of our attitudes towards each other. The truth is—even me included in this—it’s easy to be consumed by the work and school grind, however, no matter the pursuit, you should never lose sight of your humanity.

Here is my fave quote from the book:

“My Godfather, a Catholic Priest, once told me: ‘You may be the strongest and survive-only to win a life not fit for living.'”

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

Respect is the grease that turns the gears of the workplace.

In some offices, workers respect the boss but the bosses don’t respect their employees. In other offices, some groups of workers are given respect while others are not. In a productive office, respect flows freely, from top to bottom, bottom to top, and laterally across colleagues.

Respect is a tricky currency. It can be gained simply through authority. However, the most enduring respect is earned. To earn respect, you must first give respect. This is not an overnight process. It can take many tries and many years. It can take many small gestures. It can also be thankless, with no guaranteed result. Even so, there is a good chance that showing respect will improve your career trajectory.

The Berenstain Bears

Here are some tips to respecting your colleagues:

  • Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
  • Exercise sympathy. Keep in mind that you are seeing only the cover of the book. You do not know that person’s history. You do not know the struggles they have endured to get to where they are. You do not know if they are experiencing personal or family hardships.
  • Be realistic. Some people are already doing the best they can. If you feel you are dismissing people because they do not meet your standards, consider that they may want to help you, but are not able to due to their abilities.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right. If you feel the need to disrespect somebody because they disrespected you first, remember that this cycle will lead to nowhere good. You cannot dig yourself out of a hole by digging deeper.
  • Think of your future. People who you might have conflicts with today could become your best friends a year from now. Approach people in a way that will not burn your bridges.

Finally, despite the title of this post, hate is not a constructive emotion. Work to remove the word “hate” from your vocabulary. Find alternatives to your negative thoughts. Over time, this can improve how you connect to those around you.

Armenoush Aslanian-Persico has worked for New York City since 2013, doing program management and process analysis. She was born and raised in the Bronx and enjoys learning about city operations. Armenoush is currently a student in the Data Analytics (M.S.) program. 

With Dick Gregory

On

Easter Day

Dick Gregory

On March 27, 2016, I was blessed with the opportunity to witness a veteran, who has made his mark in activism as well as comedy, do his thing! Mr. Richard Claxton, known to the world as Dick Gregory, gave the audience at Caroline’s, in New York’s Times Square, the treat of a lifetime. As a long time supporter of the messages that Brother Gregory endorses, I felt honored to spend 2016 Easter Day with the man who has literally lived through it all.

As Mr. Gregory hit the stage in his pink hat and long white beard it was obvious to the audience that he was ready to work. Gregory, full of jokes and observations, blended serious content with the state of mankind. He gave the audience several examples of how human nature continues to be our greatest obstacle as we labor to obtain true liberation. Gregory called his oldest daughter on stage, as he shared stories about his wife, Michael Jackson, and O.J. Simpson. Brother Gregory, no stranger to “keeping it real,” let the audience know that it’s okay to laugh, but life is a serious game. His message to the people was simple to pay attention and train your mind to think for itself. At times he used unorthodox techniques to get his point across, but it is safe to say all who attended will remember what this veteran shared with us, as we celebrated resurrection day together.

I really recommend that if you are allotted the opportunity to check out this 83-year-old man go to work, you do so. He remains sharp, compassionate, and in tune with the people. His ability to speak from a wide range of topics gives him insight that only a grandfather may possess. I truly enjoyed Mr. Dick Gregory, his life is an example, of what we as black men should aspire to do. Love your family, stand up for what is right, and give unconditionally. Ultimately, I hope he goes on to do his thing forever; this brother exemplifies the term SHINING STAR!

Click to follow Jeff on Twitter

Jeffrey C. Suttles is a Master of Arts candidate in Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute. He is an independent songwriter/musician who completed his undergraduate studies at The City College of New York. He is currently a CUNY CAP student who continues to pursue career opportunities in publishing, communications, and the arts.

Dear Journal,

Coming from a family of nurses and having been one for some number of years, I feel I have come away with many things by having seen, having been, and having done quite a number of things while working.  I was born into this profession and I always pursued those quiet moments where I realize that at last I have survived, still. One shift at a time and through job experiences, when looking back one would seemingly never quite find the words to really tell it. Let alone explain the many levels of demands you have to dig out from the depths of, before you can say your job is done, and afterwards finally go home. Still, there is that lingering notion in my mind that is forever hoping and praying my efforts, thus far, have been worthwhile (aside from myself that is):

Let me be a godsend

broken me in and out to mend

let me be a godsend

volunteer to the sleepless down here

as guardians of us mere

blimps of time and creation

try to stand test of time, but only in our proliferation

as our lines continue on, equally disappearing

along with the death and dying

but the disturbance on the big ripple that I insert, I will do so with such great forceful shove

that its speed will felt up there, from up above

-Inah Castro

Inah Castro has been a practicing nurse since 2009. She first started out as an LPN and is currently attending CUNY SPS for her BS in nursing. She is bicoastal, as she is licensed in California as well as New York, and has over the years worked on both ends of the country. Inah enjoys writing, cooking, and boxing/kickboxing. 

Do you hate your job?

Many people answer yes. Some people say no and instead tell you how much they love their job. Regardless of the answer, the financial reality for most of us is that we need to work.

When people talk about how their job angers or frustrates them, they are rarely talking about their actual work. Rather, they complain about their colleagues, about rude conversations, about being confronted, slighted, bypassed, embarrassed, and humiliated. The greatest challenges at work are rarely about mastering the material. Rather, they are about mastering relationships.

Over these next few posts I hope to share some lessons I have learned from workplace interactions. We all have these stories. By sharing and reviewing our mistakes, we can improve not just our lives, but the lives around us, and the culture of our workplaces. Taking a thoughtful approach to a difficult situation can mean the difference between hating your job and loving it.

Armenoush Aslanian-Persico has worked for New York City since 2013, doing program management and process analysis. She was born and raised in the Bronx and enjoys learning about city operations. Armenoush is currently a student in the Data Analytics (M.S.) program. 

Have you ever seen that 1990’s movie about a dentist that goes whackadoodle over his wife who’s having an affair with the pool boy? Well I know they don’t really do that but I have an extreme aversion to dentists. In fact, I would sooner let a tooth fall out of my head rather than indulge in going. I never even had my wisdom teeth knocked out of my head. They’re in my mouth living a delightful life. However, years ago I had a bad tooth that eventually cracked but the pain eventually stopped. So when I had an issue a few years back and I was forced to go to a dentist, it turns out they had to extract what was left. This was my first experience that wasn’t a routine cleaning or planing.

To say I would rather eat off the floor of a subway car than to go to the dentist is a pretty bad analogy considering how filthy those carts are. But I can justify that one since people in other countries eat off the floor and they’re okay. What did we do before plates and bowls (cavemen times)? The moral of this story is that I went. They numbed my gums which was painful in itself and then he proceeded to crack my tooth like a nutcracker as my head moved around like I was bopping to a happy beat. I was horrified and traumatized all at the same time.

Needless to say, I avoided the dentist for a few years after that once in a lifetime joyous experience. Recently, actually a week before Christmas, I received the most priceless gift ever! A toothache. Of course it was so bad I had no choice but to seek human intervention. Now, I like this dentist but I can’t stress how long I put this off for. My root canal was just finished a few weeks back, so I literally put off a visit since December. I didn’t show up like twice and I rescheduled like 4 times. God bless them for putting up with me, but I guess the girls know I have a strong aversion to the dentist. Unless I’m dropping dead on your floor, catch me if you can…

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

I tend to think that I’m reasonable. There is nothing that you can’t explain to me that I won’t understand or try to understand. I heed advice because I’d rather avoid the pitfalls of life than go through something that someone can help me avoid. I think I’ve been through more than enough at this stage of my life.

The one thing that drives me insane is that I don’t listen to people who don’t have a leg to stand on. If your a hot mess trying to tell me what to do—your nuts, bonkers, mad—I don’t even want to hear your spiel. Get yourself together first then lets assess.

This isn’t limited to my own parents. It’s not that I’m still holding on to the resentment of the past for essentially raising myself as a teen. But I can’t understand where mostly my father gets off trying to tell me to save for my daughters college—something I’ve done since she was in the womb and he did not do—or anything else for that matter. Kids don’t come with a children for dummies manual. But some things I like to think you can figure out on your own.

My Achilles in life is my daughter. Where I may not have any feelings or emotions towards anything else in life, and my actions might be cold, she’s the one person I whole heartily would do anything for and this includes sacrificing my own peace and happiness to make her happy.

I have a 1,909,093,000 worries right now. So to get a call this morning from the man who helped create this whole that I’ve been struggling to get out of, after I’m helping him, to lecture me on my daughter, is insane. I’m outspoken so of course I said my peace, because my initial reaction was, “How dare you.” How dare you lecture me when I’m the one carrying the burden 15 years after you left me fending for myself. I suppose there is a thin line between reason and insanity… and my life remains in remnants of insanity.

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

I attended a NASW Annual Conference workshop entitled Legislative Advocacy & Campaign Building.  Since presidential campaign season is in full swing and because New Yorkers have four chances to vote for a variety of offices this year, I thought to share the tips I gathered.  Some of you might have a “cause” you want to champion.

Register to Vote

Politicians want to get re-elected.  First it takes more than one term to learn the job.  Second, seniority comes with power and the ability to make change.  Therefore, politicians make decisions based on what the voters in their districts want.  You can register through the Board of Elections.  If you’re not registered to vote, you’ll have to sit out the election on April 19th, but you can still vote on June 28th.

Know the Official

It’s important to do a little research on the elected official you want to reach out to.  Does the person sit on or chair a committee that’s relevant to your policy issue?  In regards to the problem at hand, is the official on your side, or against?  How has the person voted on the matter?  One good research tool would be Vote Smart.  Do some research on elected officials who oppose your side.  You may find it useful to hear their position and try to persuade them to your side.

Join an Affinity Group

There’s a group for just about every cause we want to champion.  The Professional Staff Congress (PSC), for example, is rallying unionized CUNY employees in order to get a new contract.  I also found Support CUNY via google search.  There are other advocacy groups based on a host of other concerns.  A google search should help you find whatever you want or need.

Build a Relationship

Affinity groups often organize legislative lobby days to visit elected officials.  Politicians are accustomed to getting visits, and used to seeing people disappear until the next lobby day.  Smart advocacy entails relationship building.  After the visit, there should be follow up with a phone call or thank you letter.  The organization should remain in touch with the official to regularly discuss progress on the matter at hand.  You’ll know you have a solid relationship when elected officials begin to call you about policy.

Rhonda Harrison has just completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

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