Monthly Archives: June 2015

Soca Novice

Full disclosure: I have never been to a Soca party in my life.

As the daughter of a Trini-born woman, though I’ve been to Trinidad twice and stayed a month both times, I have only been to Carnival there once. The first time I went, I was a spoiled Yankee brat. The second time I went, I was a fully depressed mess.

I was born in Brooklyn and for many years my mom took my brother and I to the Labor Day Parade on Eastern Parkway and the Kiddie Carnival behind the Brooklyn Museum.  I’ve eaten coconut jelly, coconut meat, coconut water, sugar cane, Coucou, Roti, Doubles, Sorrel (OMIGOD I LOVE SORREL) Mauby, Ginger Beer that my mom used to make every Summer. I’ve grown up with Calypso, Reggae and Soca being played in the house daily. But I have never been to a Soca party.

To be fair, I’ve never really been that much of a party person. There was a short stint for about a year or so in my late 20s when I did a lot of dancing at Pop Rocks, The Pyramid and Lime Light but most of these were very Gay situations and so I felt relatively confident that I did not have to fight off grabby hands or other unwanted advances on the dance floor which was one of my main concerns. In my American mind, the only reason to go out to a party is to meet people and since I’m married and haven’t been single in over ten years, I just do all my wild dancing at home or on the odd occasion with a friend or two at clubs in the Village.

Soulsistah4real has been trying to get me to go to Carnival literally for years and I’ve always declined. My extroversion is very selective and jumping around in public half naked in bold colors is something I’ve only imagined enjoying as a spectator.  But this weekend while taping some footage to promote Soul Sistah Series next event, “Soca & Scotch,” I learned some new things about Soca dance, music, parties and culture that have really exposed my own Westernized ignorance. It enlightened me about the myriad ways in which my perceptions about sex and sexuality have been co-opted by the White Male gaze.

Throughout it’s history, White America  has always consistently and perversely stripped the meaning of so many African and Afro Caribbean cultural rituals in order to emphasize, overexpose  and market the elements of it that are sorely lacking in their own. This results in a prevalent misrepresentation of any bodily gyrations involved in our cultural ritual dances as “primitive,” “loose” and solely of a sexual nature, meant only to draw sexual advances and too often, sexual assault, which was one of the staples of European colonization. The mind that perceives this is that of the colonizer, the conqueror. It is the mind of patriarchy and it works most effectively in the minds of women.

For me, dance is a way to be overcome by feeling, to have a rhythm take control of my body and let my mind go. It’s one the easiest ways I know to decompress and connect to joy, playfulness and sensuality. The times when I’ve done this at a party with others have been unforgettable and definitively bonding times which can never truly be described in words. Dancing is a language all it’s own. The kind of energy shared when dancing in unison with others always makes me believe in the power of numbers. It’s possibly also why I like Karaoke so much. I can sing with people I don’t even really hang out or know very well and still be happy because we’re all singing together. People are different when they let loose or rather they are more a part of themselves that they don’t always get to show when they are trying to be instead of just being. In this way, music is like magic. The drumbeat is a spiritual conductor. This has always been inherent to Indigenous people of the Diaspora both in ancient times and now.  Rhythm is life and there is more going on in Soca dance than just the sexually titillating, and objectifying appropriation used to describe it by White media.

As I learned over the weekend, Soca music is primarily about dancing, making merry, drinking and finding a partner to do it with. It’s about feeling the vibes!  It is a celebration of life, of spirit, of culture and yes, the essence of that will often manifest itself in a sexual manner because sexuality is the reason we are all here right? Sex and life are inextricably linked. I will go even further than that and say that sexuality and the spirit are also inextricably linked.  It only becomes fragmented in it’s meaning when those who are sexually repressed or conditioned to believe that their bodies and feelings are dirty, sinful and forbidden enter the story. That’s why we have to reclaim our true stories and maintain our own culture so that we can continue to dance ourselves free.

Urban Eve

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One Year Anniversary (Tending to Intimacy)

Last week on Monday, June 15th I celebrated one year of marriage to my sweetheart, my best friend, my “Wonderwall”, my “Love Button” my magic man. We’ve been married a year but have been together for over ten years now.

I have to say that no matter how long we’ve been together I’m always amazed when I hear the numbers. Time goes by so quickly these days and the year of marriage literally flew! I feel like we just got married. How could it be a year already? But it has been. And I’ve been learning a lot about the value of marriage, of husbands, and of relationships in general in that period of time.

But the most important thing for me which I will share is being vigilant about sharing quality time, which is one of my top five love languages. Spending time with people I love and care about is one way that I understand and receive love. Last week we went to 67 Orange Street for dinner on our anniversary, had drinks, great food and conversation plus free shots of Hennessy from our kind and generous waiter who made kick ass drinks. The week after that we met up at B-Side, a Pizza Bar which I fully intend on returning to. It’s designer pizza and refreshing drinks in the afternoon! It’s a really chill, laid back spot in Hell’s kitchen with long open landscape windows. I just loved it. This week we went for a walk to the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park which is one of the major parks in our neighborhood. Spending time with my husband keeps me connected to the energy which brought us together all those years ago. Laughing, dancing, sharing our thoughts, being close and still discovering new things together reminds me that it doesn’t really matter what we do together as long as we actively seek to be together, share time and make space for intimacy.

For years I thought I had a full understanding of what intimacy was but I think that I’ve been lending a definition that fell along the lines of the sexual connection between consenting adults. I was “intimate” with that person usually meant to me that you’ve had carnal knowledge of that person. But intimacy is so much more than that. You can share an intimate moment with a complete stranger and never exchange words with them. You can share and intimate moment with a baby in a stroller on the Subway. The relationship I have with nature is intimate. The relationship my husband has with every four legged mammal (he loves animals) he sees in the street is intimate.  Listening is intimate. Paying attention and being aware of the other person is intimate. Being vulnerable, surrendering letting down your accumulated routine defenses in order to allow the kind of connection that can occur when mutual trust is present.

I’m not always the best at it. But I am a good listener and when I experience the kind of intimacy I seek with my husband, I never question it. I’m just thankful. I’m thankful to be able to celebrate that bond in our marriage whenever and wherever we please.

As much as I hate to admit it, it does becomes necessary for you to keep a fire burning after the spark has been ignited. Love is everywhere but if you don’t pay attention and create space for it, you can become disconnected from it’s warmth and inspiration and start to believe in a lot of popular illusions  about love such as the one which states that love doesn’t last. Not only does love last. It has never absent from existence.

When I first met my husband I was in a very jaded place with regard to relationships. I was dating a little but not really connecting to anyone. The moment I sensed the unique and unavoidable spark between us, it was as if I was waking from a long sleep, one if which I had forgotten that I had the capacity to love deeply. And the biggest issue I had with that was that it happened so quickly, so easily, so drama free! Yeah! That was one of my biggest problems! The ease! LOL!

I was raised in a family that was openly expressive and affectionate with one another, both verbally and demonstratively and I’ve never really believed that love has to be hard but these negative messages about love can get into places inside the mind unconsciously, particularly for women, with all the televised romantic melodramas and films we consume. I myself am shamelessly hooked on “Mistresses” but am fully aware of the formula behind marketing involved in engaging a predominantly female viewership and real life. I am blessed to share my real life with someone who brings me peace, laughter, inspiration, joy, excitement and just a sense of being that I recognize is in blissful alignment with what I seek to reflect to the world. It’s a huge part of who I truly am.

Yours,

Urban Eve

Satori

silence_good_anwerEvery sound is born out of silence, dies back into silence, and during its life span is surrounded by silence. Silence enables the sound to be. It is an intrinsic but unmanifested part of every sound, every musical note, every song, every word. The Unmanifested is present in this world as silence. This is what it has been said that nothing in this world is so like God as silence. You cannot pay attention to silence without simultaneously becoming still within. Silence without, stillness within. You have entered the Unmanifested.-Eckhart Tolle “The Power of Now”

As I mentioned in my last entry, I had the honor of co-hosting a Creative Arts Night event, at my job of which centered on a panelist discussion about the ways in which the lives of organizers and grassroots workers among many others intersect with and influence the art they create.

My friend and co-editor kicked it off with introductions of the panelists and their bios. I came up to moderate the Q&A, pass around the mic and then kick off the open mic. Our first and only open mic performer was a young guy, a writer and student who works on our IT staff and had submitted several poems to our Arts and Culture section. The first one he read was one we had published. The second was a poem which concluded with an observation on the death of Michael Brown.

I don’t remember what words came before the last word said in that poem: silence.  After that, everyone became completely silent. I know now after speaking to several attendees that we thought he was asking us to take a moment of silence and we went with it. A minute went by and I thought how powerful and beautiful that we were all so supportive in taking this moment of silence together for the slain Michael Brown. After another half minute, he looked around and asked if he had offended anyone. I thought he was still performing. Performance art often uses confrontation to break the fourth wall and bring the audience into the moment. But  then another minute went by and I became aware that something very immediate was taking place inside of me because I was open, expecting that the silence would eventually be filled with more words but receiving only more silence and feeling stillness.

I heard police sirens in the midtown streets just outside. I heard the ding of the elevator bell in the hallway. I felt the hard chair beneath me and up on the podium I began to understand that what we were witnessing was a young man experiencing performance anxiety yet not running away, not filling up the silence with panicked chatter, but examining it and watching it while we watched him. I spoke to him afterwards and he was absolutely not performing. He could not have planned it if he tried. It was for me, a deeply rewarding and unexpectedly meditative experience. I had entered an umanifested space of pure energy, the moment of stillness before anything, any thought, movement or sound takes place. There was such an immense space there.

In “The Power of Now” Eckhart Tolle talks a lot about present minded living and about the moment in meditative silence when thought stops. The Japanese call it Satori, “when attention rests in the present moment, when the body is alert, sensitive, relaxed and the emotions are open and free.” That’s where I was all of a sudden on a Friday night at my place of work no less after the stressful hours that followed as a part of planning something into which much expectation was invested and then just letting it go. Before that I admit I was stressed out, irritated, embarrassed (the turn out was not what we expected) worried, not to mention sweaty from doing not only clean up from the previous group but also doing a chair set up that building staff was required to do. So I was holding back a lot of negative energy and pressure and taking a lot of deep breaths. In the end all I could do was execute the plan. That unexpected moment of presence made me realize that this was all that really mattered. Not what could have been or might have been or even what might be when we do this again.

Now is always happening now and it is the place where we as human beings reside in our lives the least! We define progress by a great deal of activity and business and running in place and competition and comparison and judgement and keeping up when in reality what we really need, we have already. And it’s not necessary to become a different person in order to see this. It’s only necessary to become who you truly are.

Droppin my Booty, Hosting an Arts & Culture Event and Praising the Ancestors

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So this past week into the weekend has been very eventful and transformative and fun. I’m not used to having such a cluster of activity in my life and I am so thankful that Mercury went direct on June 11th just to ease up the flow of communication as it began.

Last Thursday, Khalilah, aka Soulsistah4real and I took a Soca class at Pearl Studios as part of some research for our next Soul Sistah Series event at the end of July.

More on that soon.

I have not taken a dance class in years so I was really excited and only minimally worried about what it would do to my ailing lower back and creaky knees. LOL!! Well it did nothing but make me sweat, smile and laugh with Khalilah and a bunch of good humored people and our really fun teacher, Kira. There were some steps that came to me instinctively, that my muscles remembered from taking African Dance as a girl and others that were totally new but I was open to it all. One thing I noticed was that in this one really simple move that I loved, I was really challenged by just dropping my butt over and over. I mean it was just dropping your butt to a beat and pushing your arms out to your sides. This is what happens when you don’t go to parties. So I’ve been practicing at home and sometimes at work when I’m waiting for the elevator. Droppin my butt, droppin my butt, oh hi! LOL!!

I also hosted a Creative Arts night event that I and my co-editor at my job have been working on for months. It was not as well attended as we would have liked but the panelists and their presentations were fantastic. Agunda Okeyo, a poet, writer, and activist from Nairobi, Dr. Randall Horton, a poet, and professor, Matt Sedillo, a slam poet from LA who presented remotely via recorded presentation and Farrah Shaikh a writer and painter spoke to the room and engaged Q&A as if it was a full house. Aslo I experienced a totally unexpected moment that had a meditative quality to it by way of a young man who participated in our open mic segment which I will discuss in a post later this week.

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And lastly I attended the tribute to the ancestors at Coney Island with Khalilah on Saturday, an event that happens annually to “memorialize enslaves Africans who died at sea in their forced passage to the Americas.” I had been a few times as a young girl with both my parents but never really understood or paid attention to the great meaning it holds. We went for the entire program which started at 12:00 with great live musical performances, readings and just sharing of wisdom and love of the beauty of our race, our culture and our spirit and how to continue to support and promote that energy, growth and creativity. Then we all stood up to be lead by the drummer in a pray to the four corners before we headed out to the sea a few hours later to give our offerings to the ancestors on the water.

Did I mention that everyone was required to wear all white? Do you you understand how beautiful it is to be lying on a blanket in the sand with a good girlfriend, surrounded by brown people of all ages in white, listening to music and waves and smelling incense and sage and…well…herbs? LOL!

How good it is….

Urban Eve

Ego Reacts Unique Self Acts

“Fear seems to have many causes. Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being hurt, and so on, but ultimately all fear is the ego’s fear of death, of annihilation.”

-Eckhart Tolle

Sounds intense right?

But I barely have to check myself and I know it’s true. I just recently started reading “The Power of Now” which was strongly recommended to me by soulsistah4real and it’s really hitting home for me with a lot of the issues I’ve been confronting lately. It’s not to say that I’m not familiar with the philosophy of present minded living but it’s amazing how you can read something familiar put a different way, from a different source at certain time in your life and that’s all it takes to have an impact.

I’ve had to really be honest with myself in understanding that though I was raised with a lot of access to “healthy” living, literature and spiritual practice it doesn’t mean I am better, more progressive or smarter than anyone else, or rather that that comparative kind of mindset is no more the goal of enlightenment than attaining wealth was to Buddha.

My instinct is to make excuses and explanations but none of that is really relevant. The fact is, I’ve come up against so many barriers to a connection to what I thought was my real self that I’ve started to wonder often if there is any real there, there. And reading PON has begun to crack open some things I’d strongly suspected but never had confirmed until now.

The “pain body” which we all identify with as ourselves is a sick and sad way to define what it means to be alive.  The pain body is a reactive manifestation of the ego and we habitually mistake it for our actual self. “The accumulated pain is a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind.” I think there was a time when, because I was so isolated and sheltered, I was minimally effected by the pain bodies I came in contact with. I was able to bounce back easier and to have a better sense of who I might be apart from the illusion of pain. I remember my dad telling me how I used to cling tightly to him whenever he would carry me to take me out into the Brooklyn neighborhood. He could feel the fear in the tightness of my body. He was right. People scared me. They still do. But I couldn’t live like that. And I still can’t. It’s not living. 

 As I inevitably became more absorbed by society, the pain I once witnessed seemingly from the outside made it’s home inside of me and I began the practice of division and subdivision to navigate fears that were not even mine. I could no longer tell the difference. I doubt many of us can. I feel like in the last five years or so, I have allowed it to really possess me in ways I find nearly impossible to untangle from, not just because of the difficulty, but because it has been a choice. I have looked to the past and projected into the future as a form of escape.

Tolle says: Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to the past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects of your life situation.

I think the last time i lived like that was when I was a girl and that was only because my family was very intentional about creating the kind of home life that made this kind of existence possible. I also understand that for many of us that time was never. At least not yet, because as long as you are breathing, you can attain bliss. I always long to go back to that time, that feeling but I understand now that finding the peace of mind I seek is not about going back but settling in to where I am and making my home in the present.

I know I’m sounding all self helpie and I promise to not break out into rounds of Om but hey, don’t knock Om until you try it.

I think Tolle is one of only two people I have ever read who says the experience you need to have in order to detach your self from your ego and attain the ability to function from a place of presence is one that you have to have on your own. No one can have the experience for you. J. Krishnamurti is the other. He said that truth is a pathless land. But there are guides.

They appear when you walk towards the unknown. And they often write books.

: ) 

Urban Eve

Bey Goes Vegan!

So I read a little something  online today about how some fans were annoyed that Beyonce’s big announcement on GMA recently was about the choice to change to a vegan diet rather than dropping another album and all I have to say is:

DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT BEYONCE IS REALLY GIVING US SOMETHING WE CAN ALL BENEFIT FROM?

I was raised vegan so I know first had what the benefits of a plant based diet is. For years I was raised eating nothing specially prepared dishes made with raw fruits, and vegetables, grains, nuts, no sugar, salt dairy or meat. I didn’t know what it was to eat any other way. I didn’t taste my first piece of white bread until i was like 11. The first time I tasted cooked string beans I felt like I had just ingested a drug. I’m not lying. I’ve been strung out in one way or another on salt, dairy and sugar ever since I emerged from being home schooled to being enrolled at the public charter high school from which I graduated.

Strung out.

Because I looooooove food and i always have. I suspect I always will. And I also love Beyonce’s last album. And i know I always will!

But when Beyonce made the announcement that she was converting to veganism on GMA Monday morning, regardless of what anyone thinks, she was imparting a gift that keeps on giving back, and one that I feel personally inspired by. I know how hard it was for my parents who both used to eat meat before my brother I were born to convert just to being vegetarians, let alone veganism which is a term that did not even exist when they started doing it. I know that it can’t have been easy for Beyonce either. Heck, I know it’s not always easy for any of the women I know to maintain a healthy lifestyle but ummm, I know what veganism can do. And it’s worth it.

So thank you Beyonce! Thank you for promoting something beautiful that we can all do for our insides. As a woman of color, loving ourselves from within is so key. And I can see the love Beyonce puts inside of herself beaming and glowing around her whenever and wherever she appears. I feel like she’s just saying, you can be flawless too!

And we are!

June Full Magic Bath

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“Water shows the hidden heart”

-Enya

So Tuesday night I treated myself to the June Full Moon Magic Bath as instructed by Letgoletgoddess. I’m all about a soak in the tub and have been since I was little girl but I have never added milk to my usual recipe of dead sea salts, the occasional Lush bath bomb and bubbles. I’ve long been titillated and enchanted by images of submerged limbs, visibly cut off at the surface of milk baths but never tried it myself. This one called for goat, coconut or cows milk. If you didn’t already know, I’m in love with the coco, so I picked some up in my neighborhood after work and added that to a hot bath of dead sea salts and piece of a Lush cocoa bath bomb with gold glitter that just happened to create a pleasing Oshun colored gold when released in the water. I was super excited to get in and invoke some magic full moon manifestation.

Being submerged in water has always had an immediate sedative effect on me. And this time the added effect of the milk produced another amazing feature.

I have always been fascinated the shapes that naturally transforming elements make, in clouds, in water in soap bubbles, basically in anything that is constantly undulating moving and turning into something else. I’m not sure this would have happened if I used the half a gallon of milk that the instructions called for but I used what I had which was less than that, and I like what happened.

Last winter I was vacationing at house of good friend on Woodstock with my husband and we were hanging out on the deck in the back. I saw what looked to me  like the shape of a woman in the clouds. She was definitely a mystical woman, a woman who knew her power. Often I wonder if the things we sometimes see in transforming natural shapes are not also within us. Sometimes other people see them too. Sometimes you have to show them. Sometimes they never see it.

Well I saw a lot of interesting patterns the milk made in the bath and they were all beautiful. Your bath water can become such a sacred thing and all that you experience in that space is a reflection of your state of mind, your hopes, fears, dreams and wishes. Plus it’s always made me feel so sexy and sensual and feminine to soak in a bath. It may be one of the first things I ever did as a young woman that made me aware of my body in a very positive affirming way.

I fantasize occasionally about one day soaking in an a deep marble tub with feet like the kind they used to have in the old days or one of those deep copper ones. Oh, I think I could stay in one of those all day!

So I will definitely be adding milk to my future baths, both for ritual and relaxation. The idea of magic manifestation through a sacred bath feels very primordial and instinctive. If you’ve never done it before and you love water as much as I do then bust out a candle, scrub your tub, gather some sweet scents and tastes, start a gratitude list.

It will make you feel good.

I’m adding rose petals next time!!! Oooo!!! Oshun, take me awaaaay…

Treat Yo’ Self “Soul Sistah Series” Style! (Plus a little naked house talk)

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“Your Yoni & You” was my third time in life at a Korean Day Spa. My first time was at Spa Castle in Queens which I’d known about for years and went to for the first time with Soulsistah4real. I remember a co-worker told me about the place years ago and I just didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe anything she was telling me about some amazing place where adults would go prance around naked, luxuriate in pools, saunas, nap rooms with heated floors, get massages and eat in the food court.

What? Okay, yeah I was like that sounds like a magical wonderland and I just don’t understand.

It exists.

And this past Sunday I was able to experience this again at a Mid-Manhattan spa with a  group of Soul Sistahs for our second in a series of bi-monthly events. If, as a woman of color, you have never experienced the liberated and resplendent feeling of rising naked out of a warm pool after sitting in a steam or dry sauna for twenty minutes, you must. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always been fairly comfortable with being naked but that’s because it was never frowned upon in my household to be naked when I was a girl. It doesn’t mean I’m not shy or self conscious. I just don’t feel shy to be naked in spaces where it’s acceptable.

It’s funny, I never even think about or recall anything specific about the bodies of other women at a Korean Day Spa. I’m too preoccupied with feeling how everything feels on my own skin. If anything, I remember conversations I have with women as we indulge in relaxation, and I remember energy. Plus everyone has a towel and robe to put on and or take off before you enter any of the various pools and saunas or massage rooms so you can cover yourself however and whenever based on your comfort level.

I know one thing. Before this year is over I am getting at least one massage from this place because Soulsistah4real literally got her life after the one hour massage during our event. Sadly, I have only had one professional full body massage in my entire life, also as a result of a girls day out (for the first Sex & The City Movie) planned by Soulsistah4real. She really has been about pursuing pleasure for a while now! I’ve had some great massages from men in my life and my husband and I frequently one another massages, but I know I need to start creating the kind of life where I can get a professional massage at least two to three times a month as well as get in some relaxing Korean Day Spa time. Oh, it’s so nice to treat yourself the Soul Sistah Series way!