Monthly Archives: April 2015

Mary Mary…

As Spring has begun to emerge in NYC I’ve realized officially that while I don’t miss our tiny apartment in Harlem, I do miss the neighborhood.  As antisocial as I can be, I miss the small neighborhood feeling of being in residential a brownstone neighborhood where the tallest building for a few blocks around is not more than four of five stories high. And nothing beats living across from Marcus Garvey Park and watching the seasons change in the foliage there. Ohhh, let me not get too nostalgic. It starts to get me emotional. I have to embrace my new surroundings in Inwood, which is exactly what my husband and I did this weekend.

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The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park was the one thing I had been looking forward to visiting when we moved to Inwood and we finally got to go this past Sunday. First of all, Fort Tryon is just beautiful! I can’t wait to go back when everything is in full bloom. I love that it’s so close to us on the A train. I have so many plans for that park! LOL! The lovely, leisurely ten minute walk to the Cloisters and the Cloisters Museum was perfect. When we arrived at the Cloisters I was totally enchanted by what looked like a castle or a Abbey on a steep hill. It appealed to all my childhood “Sound Of Music” indoctrinated fanaticism.

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We didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the historic details and paintings or artifacts. Mainly we walked around the beautifully assembled structure and enjoyed the peace and stillness of the architecture. I love the use of arches in Medieval European church architecture. I always have. Over the years and as a result of some art history classes I have learned a bit about the strength and receptivity of the arch. Not only is it an aesthetically pleasing shape but it is able to withstand more weight than the more traditional post and lintel door way. To me arches and archways represent the feminine and in Holy places this feels justified.

Medieval art on the other hand does nothing for me but make me cringe. Remember those reprints of Unicorn tapestry that were all the rage in the 70s? My mom had them around when I was a baby and they kinda freaked me out even then. After seeing “Unicorn in Captivity” at the Cloisters, I know my freak out was warranted. At first you think oh it’s a Unicorn that is fenced for protection in and looks pretty content. On closer inspection you see that the Unicorn has been taken by force, has been hurt and is bleeding in places were it’s been poked and prodded. Unicorns aren’t even real! Leave them alone sickos!!

I digress.

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There was one painting I saw that I remember studying in art history class whose significance has deepened for me this time around. It is one in which the Virgin Mary is visited by an angel telling her that she will give birth to the savior. The painting was commissioned by a married couple who it is said were hoping for a child of their own which is part is why they requested it. I cannot find the painting online for the life of me but it’s something like the one above.

I think what made me pay attention this time was the relatable aspect of a married couple wanting a child. It made me really look at the Virgin birth as allegorical and archetypal.  The birth of “Christ” represents the spirit of the creator in the birth of every child. Mary represents a doorway to salvation through Immaculate Conception but that doesn’t mean that sexual intercourse is evil the way many organized religions teach. To me, it means that if we are consciously and purposefully intimate, we are in communion with something bigger than ourselves in order to give birth to more love than there was before. That’s my read anyway. Also, I think Angels are very cool and Mary was just a regular chick in her time who became a celebrity because of a divine visitation. There is Mary and Oshun and an Angel in us all.

See what going to the Cloisters did to me? LOL!!

I can see myself going back there just to hang out, read, write in my journal or have a picnic with close friends. Oh joy!

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I’m Urban Eve and I’m Part Dollaholic and Geek

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Darius Reid is the only Black Male doll I have ever lusted after. He is expensive as hell!

Not only do I have a unnecessarily large collection of dolls for an adult woman but in my spare time I am also obsessed with avatar makers, virtual selfies and graphic arts. In other words, in addition to be an introverted home-schooled vegan raised Black lady, I am also part geek. This reality is harder to negotiate when you’re Black because even when I’m in the presence of other geeks of color I question them! I judge! I judge them for not being “Black” enough when my own “Black” card has been pulled countless times.  Continue reading I’m Urban Eve and I’m Part Dollaholic and Geek

Everything’s Coming up Yonis!

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While creating some flyers for Soul Sistah Series next upcoming event, my sister friend and co-worker came up behind me and made one of those sounds we make when we see something that makes us go Ooooo!! Like when you see someone naked unexpectedly. The words “Yoni and You” caught her eye and while she initially responded coyly the way most women are conditioned to respond when we see words describing intimate body parts, but she was also intrigued. She is someone who is open to the concept of learning and dialoguing about issues which affecting our bodies in ways that unify rather than divide us.

When soulsistah4real first told me about “Vagisteaming” for the first time last year, I was more than skeptical myself. Since then, Vagisteaming has been on the rise in trending discussions about female health. My sister friend told me that she heard about it from a certain female celebrity whose name I’m sure we can guess and whom I will not pay more lip service to here.  I told C. that this was not a new practice but an old one that women have done since ancient times to condition and heal themselves as well as enhance their sexual pleasure.  She happens to be on the Soul Sistah Series email list so I told her to check her email for our latest newsletter which talks about our first event, “Manicures & Mimosas” as well as explaining the history and the benefits of vagisteaming.

More ohhs and ahhhs came from my friend, but this time they came from joy, interest and excitement!

YES!

I’m not perfect. I’m always surprised by how unconnected I am to my own body and spirit, even when I think I am. But I never question the moments when I do find myself fully present in my body, trusting the divine energy that connects directly to my heart. And I know that as women of color, there is no better time than right now to start having more open and transparent conversations with each one another which will hopefully lead to an understanding that the bodies’ connection to pleasure is also a connection to health and well being. Reclaiming the bliss that comes with embracing contentedness to the five senses is part of the essence of life.

My Gyn Has Candles in the Examination Room

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Well not real candles. I’m guessing that would be a fire hazard. They’re those fake candles that are actually like flickering electric lights in candle holders. My gynecologist has those going on the table across from the examination table and no overhead light ever.

Whenever I’m there on the table with the sheet wrapped around me, waiting for Dr. Simmons to come in, I’m usually pretty relaxed and at ease, the light from the faux candles have a very calming effect on me. Naturally, I’ve had several gyns before and it occurred to me while I was there last, that this is not the usual examination room experience. Simmons tells me that this was the intention of her and her partners when she opened the spa, and that this room and the candlelight effect was intended to decrease anxiety and lower the heart rate. I love it when women put thought into creating spaces that evoke warmth, relaxation, calm and insulation, particularly in any medical capacity. This is not a room that you want to hurry away from but one that allows you to really settle and be present. In situations where you need to be vulnerable and be examined in intimate ways, this is very important. Plus my gyn has a great bedside manner. The candlelight room is like an extension of her attitude so I never feel like I’m being handled, treated roughly, being rushed in and out like cattle or being neglected or forgotten. I’ve also never witnessed crowding or even remotely heavy traffic at the practice. When I arrive there are never more than three or four women in the waiting room which is also softly lit with low music playing always.

Continue reading My Gyn Has Candles in the Examination Room

I don’t feel like I’ve been on earth for almost 40 years!

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I’ll be turning 40 this year.

I always thought it would feel different.  To be honest I felt the same way when I turned 30. I had no idea how that number related to me. I mean, it’s true, I’m definitely less limber (which is something I need to start working on ASAP) I have more lower back pain than I did in my 20s. My knees are definitely more sensitive. I can’t make more than two trips to boroughs outside of my own in one day without feeling tired and then getting whiny. No, don’t ask me to leave my house for something that starts after 8:00pm. I’m in bed clothes by 6:30.

But those are physical stamina related things, not mental or emotional stuff. I still feel like a childlike, playful, silly, crazy person who would just as soon (and will do soon) run barefoot through a meadow as attend a weekly meeting and take notes. Though I have noticed I have more weekly meetings scheduled than ever before in my life, though thankfully they revolve around projects I actually care about, not mind numbing meetings regarding things that drive me to doodle and check my IG feed under the conference room  table.

Still forty years just sounds like a long time doesn’t it? And in so many ways I feel like there are things in my life and about myself that I’m only just starting to learn about, which feels more like being born than growing “old” to me. Is that possible, that’s taken me almost 40 years to get to really know myself? My good friend at soulsistah4real quoted someone I can’t remember to me a while back, saying something like “The first 40 years of childhood are really rough.” I laughed out loud.

Continue reading I don’t feel like I’ve been on earth for almost 40 years!

What Does it Mean to be Black?

Queen Tiye

One of the topics that came up at the Soul Sistah Series “Manicures & Mimosas” event last Sunday was the question of what Blackness is. Oh it was so good!!! But it was also kind of troubling. We all know what it means to be defined by nationality. I never refer to people Latin descent by a racial category. And although Chinese, Korean, and Japanese are often referred to as the Yellow race, I never think of or make reference to anyone of those nationalities as a Yellow person. Haitians like my husband are categorically Black in America, but they define themselves among themselves primarily by their nationality the way that most Blacks of West Indian/Caribbean living in America do.

When the question was asked, “What is Black?” there was a lot of speculation, some very interesting self-made identities but nothing concrete, nothing definite.  And there was the silence of the question hanging in the air, which to me is not silence at all, but a total sense of disconnection to a part of oneself that has been denied on multiple levels for so long, first by Whites and then, quite often, by our own selves

When I think about all of the media that I believe has defined me from my earliest consciousness to now, the first thing I can identify that stands out as Black is music. My parents played Calypso, Socca, Reggae, Jazz, Funk, Pop, R&B which segued into my own love of Rap, Hip-Hop, Neo Soul, Rock and more. I got a sense of what it meant to be soulful, spiritual, rhythmic, loving, cool, funny, rebellious, and revolutionary from Black artists who were the foundation of soul and blues and Jazz (the only original “American” Art form) and passed it on to the next generation of Black artists. The origins of all popular music influence can easily be traced back to the continent. But for everything else, pride in self, a sense of connection to a tribe, ritual and culture that was inherently “Black” my mom had to get it in around all the usual white archetypal narratives that flood into our lives as Black people from further back than we can even remember.

If it were not for her being vigilant about finding children’s stories like Ashanti to ZuluAnansi The Spider, A Story A StoryCorduroyBringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, and the series of Golden Legacy comic books created to teach children about great Black inventors, explorers and pioneers,  trips to the museum to see ancient African and Egyptian Art, taking my brother and I to the Shrine of Ptah to learn the History of Khamit and more, what would we be left with?

Elvis, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume, Little House, The Waltons, White “His”story, All in the Family and well I could go on but you get the point. Not to say that I don’t love these shows and didn’t love reading those books or hearing that music but what does any of that stuff have to with my roots, with where I come from, with who I am in any way other than what basic human experience declares and which was an experience denied to my ancestors during slavery, post slavery and still is in many ways? What if anything, besides music, do I connect to that tells me what it means to be Black other than all the negative stereotypes put out by White media and internalized by us in the form of self-hatred, paranoia, shame and fragmentation?

Double consciousness is a trip. And for those of us who identify as Blacks in America with no clear definition of what that means, racial identity politics often consists of a series of the most unwanted, destructive and misunderstood associations ever.

Suppose you were told establishing stories and fairy tales as a child, which included the faces of those who looked like you and those stories were confirmed by the majority of the institutions, organizations, television shows, magazines, literature, etc.  that you came into contact with for the rest of your life. This would mean that an immense and bloody effort was made over the course of hundreds of years to this day, one you are barely even aware of, (unless you’re Tim Wise) to ensure that simply by default of your skin color, you would benefit from a privilege that anyone whose skin color has been categorically targeted as a threat could never experience. And you would learn in ways you are not aware of to deny and even prevent any effort to prove this and defend every campaign to uphold it.

I live in a country built on the backs of Black Slaves. The first and largest crops of these slaves were stolen from the continent of Africa. They were ripped from their soil, their culture, their identities, their language, the very foundation of their lives, brought in chains to a foreign land and eventually over generations and struggles for basic rights came to be known as Negros, as Coloreds, as Afro Americans, as Blacks. We have been named by the oppressor, reclaimed names that remind of us of a past we were cut off from, made up names for ourselves, reclaimed derogatory names and some of us have even tried to embrace an “American” identity. Are ancestors are not immigrants who made the decision to adopt names that would strategically erase their Italian, Polish, Armenian, Latin, Greek, etc. descent so that they and their next generations could come to fall under the racial category of White. There are records of these arrivals and records of their connections to their actual heritage and identity. The same is not so for Black Americans.

I for one occasionally experience a constant internal struggle with feeling too “Black” not “Black” enough,  having too White tendencies, adapting to different spaces and, conversations and discussions based on whatever part of me is called forth to be most present in order to communicate, negotiate and chameleon my way through life and always being a bit self conscious about the things I do feel comfortable with based on the interpreted connection to what could be considered inherently a part of me.

Yeah, a mess.

I got exposed to both Queen Tiye (luckily) and the White Cleopatra played by Elizabeth Taylor. But I was never exposed to discussions, Black versions, books, music or Literature to confirm Queen Tiye’s existence. Unless Black youth are trained to be critical thinkers, to do research and get beyond the blinders of lies so readily available in the standardization of Whiteness, it becomes second nature to think of oneself as second class without even being aware of it. On many levels the subconscious effects of this imbalance are still coursing through me. And it is only through the vigilance of spaces created by women and people of color to ensure that we don’t ever continue to marginalize or own history, beauty, brilliance and worth that the richness of our broad and multifaceted identities can be re-discovered, preserved, celebrated, loved, revered and passed on for generations.

Are you self proclaimed Black woman? What do you think it means to Black?

Does the answer come to you quickly? Do you need a moment to think about it?

…silence?

Let us learn together.

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