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Langston Hughes and the American Dream

In the 1920s, a revolution began that would change the face of American culture: the Harlem Renaissance.

The spark of the Harlem Renaissance can be traced to the writings of W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois questioned how Black people in the U.S. could create an identity for themselves that encompassed their African ancestry while under the blanket of societal practices that sought to strip them of such an identity.

The result was a mass exploration by Black Americans in several diverse fields across the country. The revolution earned the nickname “Harlem Renaissance” because the New York City borough seemed to be the epicenter.

One of the most famous writers associated with the Harlem Renaissance was poet and novelist Langston Hughes. Hughes’ ability to convey the feelings a lot of Black Americans felt made him one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. His work is still often quoted to this day.

The American Dream is a theme Hughes often visited in his work. Hughes expressed hope for its fruition, but more often expressed the reality of the time: that freedom, justice, equality and fairness didn’t exist for all of the types of people in the United States.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

— from Let America Be America Again (1938)

A Hughes work commonly quoted is Let America Be America Again. In the poem, he espouses on the principles America was founded upon–as stated in documents such as the Declaration of Independence–while pointing out the principles are more working theory than fact.

One thing I respect about Hughes’ work is that despite being in the midst of the struggle for civil rights, he doesn’t limit the inconsistencies of the American Dream in practice to just Black people. His writings include references to poor Whites, Indians, immigrants, and all the other who, as literary critic James Presley once stated, “share the dream that has not been.”

It’s amazing that themes so prevalent 80 years ago are still at the forefront today.

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Please Stop Lowballing Freelance Writers

Among a group a freelance writers, or those of us who write for a living, the conversation about people lowballing for writing services comes up from time to time. Here’s an example of one of the more egregious job ads I’ve come across recently:

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Where do you start with this? (Other than the typo in the first sentence.)

First, $16.50 or $18 is good for a hourly rate, not project-based work. This is a project that could legitimately be given a quote for more than 3x what this company offered. Here’s how it breaks down.

The company wants two 500-word content pieces per week. A good freelance (or per project) writer should be charging no less than $0.10 per word, which means each piece in this instance is valued at least $50 — and this company is hinting towards wanting someone with some experience by asking for applicants to “have past work for us to see, please.” Frankly, those with more experience and/or specialized knowledge will (and should) be charging more. Quality, experienced freelancers with specific knowledge areas charge in the area of $1.00+ per word.

Plus, crafting a good piece of content isn’t as straightforward as simply writing about the topic. You have to give consideration to the keywords potential website visitors may use when they search, and weave them into the piece in a natural way to rank as high as possible on Google or any of the other search engines out there.

But that’s not all. This company also specifies that there is a second item it wants for each deliverable, or content piece: a two-sentence meta description. A meta description is the short blurb you often see on Google, Facebook or elsewhere that appears under the featured image of a link. Typical meta descriptions are about 150-160 characters.

Usually, freelancers don’t just include a meta description along with the content piece so it might cost extra depending on the freelancer’s policy.

Job ads like the one above illustrate how the general marketplace doesn’t have a grasp on the value of writing services. Imagine how you’d feel if you saw an ad for a job you know costs at least $55 per piece (truly, significantly more to be honest) and it’s only offering $16.50 per piece ($18 if you do well on the first 3 assignments!). A little disheartened, right? Unfortunately, it’s a common feeling in the world of freelance writing.

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Philosophical Gems in Unexpected Places

Sometimes your entertainment can make you think. One of those deep thoughts came while listening to Pre-Game 95, which is one of the shows done by TBGWT. The Pre-Game is a discussion about of a number of miscellaneous topics before the co-hosts, Rod and Justin, do the network’s sports show.

In a discussion about a clip from Tiny and T.I.’s reality show that relates to reasons behind their impending divorce, Rod made a really good point about how the destruction of infidelity goes beyond the physical.

“This is why I don’t cheat,” he said. “The problem isn’t even the cheating or getting away with the cheating. That’s what everyone thinks the problem with cheating is. No. There’s probably a ton of people who get away with cheating. The problem is you rob your relationship of trust and you rob yourself, first and foremost, of trust. You can’t trust your significant other ’cause you know what you’re capable of while keeping [an affair] under their nose.”

That stuck out to me. Essentially what Rod was able to verbalize is while the physical act of cheating is bad, it may not be the worst part of the act. In committing infidelity, the cheater robs themselves of the peace of mind that trust can bring and allows paranoia to move in. Paranoia that in many instances leads to actions which eventually dissolve the relationship.

I’d post a clip or the episode here, but it’s part of the network’s paid subscription offerings. If you happen to subscribe to the TBGWT premium feed, this part of the discussion happens around the 1:24:25 mark of the episode.

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Everyone with a Brand Needs an App, But Who’s Going to Develop Them?

Something I thought about recently: there’s an app for everything now, from entertainment to medical, and it’s not just large companies or tech firms that are expected to have mobile apps.

As Scott Shane, professor at research university Case Western Reserve, says:

“Having a web presence alone is no longer sufficient, as online activity continues to shift to mobile. Simply put, smartphone apps have become too important a marketing tool for small business owners to do without.”

Millions of people (myself included) manage their a great deal of life from their phones. An estimated 90% of phone time is in use of an app. Apps allow small businesses — or anyone with a brand, really — to engage with customers and potential customers on a daily basis. It helps that biz or brand owner develop a relationship and lie in wait for the moment a person needs that business’ particular product or service, no matter when that need arises.

App development has become more accessible in the last couple years — much like website design did — meaning it will become easier for the masses to design their own. This means a market opportunity for those willing to teach app development, or create a system that makes step-by-step app creation a possibility. Think of how successful a WordPress-like system for apps would be?

However, the odds are good that most small businesses and those with their own brands to tend to will turn to existing businesses that offer tech services. Not to mention freelancers who can use their graphic and tech knowledge to help others. Often small biz owners have too much on their plate to add another thing to the to-do list. Plus, some just won’t want to deal with the hassle.

One last thing I thought about on this topic. The spread of app usage also means that soon we might be venturing into a time of personal apps. What would your app include?

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Fast Food Consumers Are Seeking A New Fresh

Professionally, I write about the business franchise industry. While doing some research for an upcoming project, I had an observation: fast food is going through a transformation that may be unprecedented. My observation doesn’t really fit into the piece I’m writing there, so I decided to explore it further on my own time.

Look at what’s going on with Subway, for example.

“Eat Fresh” has been Subway’s motto for years. However, the nearly 50-year-old franchise has been wilting to a degree in the past year. Continue reading “Fast Food Consumers Are Seeking A New Fresh”

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What is Personal Pensism?

You might have noticed my blog underwent a bit of an overhaul.

I wanted to make it more me. So I changed the theme, dropped the more generic title of  “My Mixed Bag,” and switched the name to “Personal Pensism.”

What is Personal Pensism? Here’s a breakdown:

Personal: adjective meaning of, relating to, or coming as from a particular person; individual

Pensive: adjective meaning dreamily or wistfully thoughtful

-ism: a suffix of many English words used to denote a specific ideology.

I love writing and I tend to do a lot of thinking. Pensism is my coined way of expressing the things that I think about through written word.