Category Archives: Uncategorized

Happy Birthday MJ!

Once many years ago when MJ was still with us, I remember being in one of my favorite music stores on Times Square. Virgin Mega Record Store. They had listening stations on the mail floor where you could listen to entire albums (if the headphones worked) before you decided whether or not to buy the CD. I loved it so much. I would go there and just listen to music and lose myself in a store full of hundreds of people. I would move down the line, listening to one album after the next. I remember on one particular day I was there wandering around when I began to notice that everyone in the store was facing the same direction, looking up at the large screens inside the store where they would play music videos. Like everyone! I looked up at the screen and a Michael Jackson video was on. I don’t remember which one. I don’t remember if it was new. All I knew was that I had never experienced anything like that before. Witnessing the attention and energy of such a large crowd of people be drawn to one direction was something I never forgot. At that time I probably felt that I had long since been flooded with Michael Jackson music and memories and as he was still alive at the time, whatever was playing on the screen at Virgin that day wasn’t that big a deal to me. But seeing all those people stop everything to look up at him was something to behold.

There are songs by MJ that move me in indescribable ways and sometimes I avoid digging back into the past because music can grab me and send me into a nostalgic wormhole for hours if I let it. But today I will allow myself to indulge in all the beauty that Michael blessed us with. I was so excited to hear Drake; track with MJ, “It don’t matter to me” off of Scorpion. It’s a beautiful tribute to all that MJ continues to contribute to music to this day. His work is universal, timeless, and unlike anything that ever came before it.

I remember seeing him moonwalk for the first time on TV and I think that I’ve never stopped feeling like he was this strange and beautiful and somewhat lonely human being (though he was often surrounded) who was never really understood but who made other people feel understood with his music.

Man, I am so blessed to have come up in the age of Michael Jackson. Yup, I’m starting to talk like an old person. LOL! As my physical therapist told me yesterday, aging is a beautiful thing.

Advertisements

Like Home

When I think of home,

I think of a place where there’s love everflowing.

I wish I was home.

I wish I was back there with the things I been knowing…

 

It started with “Love is the message,” episode 6 of Pose. I was crying through Billy Porter’s rendition of “Home,” which he sang to his lover who was dying of AIDs. That entire episode slayed my fucking life. Please stop reading this now and go watch it. I’m serious. It’s On Demand. I binge watched all the episodes until I was caught up.

The  episode after that ended with Electra Abundance and Angel being turned out by their respective sugar daddy/boyfriends and dancing in the peephole cages to Tina Turners “Private Dancer.”

Now,

I think I must have been like 10, 11 when that album came out? Remember, the one of Tina Turner sitting in a regular degular metal chair with a black cat superimposed at her feet?

Tina_Turner_Private_Dancer_US_CD_cover_art_1984_original

I-loved-that-song. “Private Dancer” just paints the whole scene like Mama Tina did her research! LOL! It’s a haunting and seductive and lonely but beautiful song. After that episode of Pose, I went and created a playlist of all my favorite Tina Turner songs on Tidal. Then I remembered Annie Lennox. Oh God, Annie Lennox. Man, did she get me through some times.

Whitney BW

Cut to last weekend when I went to see Whitney with my mom and dad and my God. All the feelings of what it was like to love Whitney Houston as a teenager just washed over me like monsoon. I remembered everything. I remembered singing her hit songs to my white wall covered with posters in my room. I remember singing songs about heartache I never even experienced yet. It was just that Whitney’s voice could do that, could take you there, could make you want to experience such heartache just so you have to this beautiful voice to lift in song to show for it.

Nothing will ever make me feel like “How Will I Know.” “I Get So Emotional” will always make me think of my very first boyfriend. “I Will Always Love You” and the entire The Bodyguard soundtrack will always go straight to my heart. I don’t care how much Cardi B, Drake (well Drake is different LOL!) or Migos I love and listen too. My music will always be the music of the 80s. “One Moment in Time” will always bring me to my knees. I think sometimes that this is the reason why I avoid the music of the 80s, because I know that just one note and I will be taken back in time, and I may never get anything else done that day. I’m dead serious. I can get shit done with Future and Big Sean or Kendrick Lamar on. But when Tina Turner sings “Beyond the Thunderdome” don’t you know I gotta close my eyes and belt it out? I never in my life even saw that damn Mad Max movie and never intend to, not it’s sequels, remakes, cousins or step-children. But when I listen to that song I feel like I understand all I need to know about it. Tina brought it the fuck on.

I guess I’m starting to age out of caring about keeping up with what’s cool. Who needs that shit when you came up at a time of artists who were legitimate megastars because they were talented as fuck with voices that, as Jackie Morena, the music producer on “The Get Down” were literally were a “public service,” performed actual factual miracles and changed lives?

Sigh…

Man, I can’t think of anyone who could ever step in their shoes, let alone walk in them.

Yikes, I really am sounding like an OG.

Well…I am.

I love singers. I always have. And frankly I miss them. Not the auto tuned, synthesized, sound engineered sound alike singers, but just a Mariah Carey ass diva and a mic with music, some back up singers, a band or orchestra and nothing else, just the power, the mastery, the heart and soul of a ballad that lives on forever.

Oh it’s definitely going to be a memory lane night.

 

Urban Eve

Dear Khalilah, It’s been weird…

My feelings are complicated. This whole thing has been surreal.

To say that I lost a friend is a glaring understatement. To say I believe it is even more of a stretch.

I haven’t been counting days or moments since Khalilah’s home going. There are other methods of measurement.

Text messages. Voice messages, Pictures. Email accounts. Social media.

Music…

Drake, The Carters, Nas, so many things I know she would love, that I would want to hear her thoughts about or get her feedback and approval on.

I worked for her. We worked together. Our things were close together. We did Soul Sistah Series together. Sometimes things were too close. It was what it was. We learned as we went.

She wasn’t an easy person and she knew it but her hard won approval was worth  everything. She pushed because she loved.

“Iron sharpens iron” she would say a lot. Arguments weren’t a big deal to her. She wasn’t scared of confrontation. She welcolmed it. It was the only way to grow she would say.

I’ve had so much other stuff going on. Heavy, grown, complicated stuff. Still going on. And all I can do is take everything as it comes and be thankful for everything, the pain, the uncertainty, the regret, the way that light affects my mood, morning showers that cleanse and rebirth me, keeping myself hydrated, taking in things that touch me and stretch my heart, know when to stop holding on to what no longer serves me.

It’s not easy.

Occasionally I will wake up angry, looking for a fight, clenched fists, impatient, ready to push. Sometimes I’m numb, on automatic pilot, didn’t even notice where the day went. Other times I hear the voice inside. I stay connected to what makes me smile, laugh, cry, feel anything. But it’s strange, painful, inconceivable to think that you won’t be around in my future. Not the way you were.

When I’m stalking you across time I stop short at a cliff looking over into infinity. Where did you go? Did you fall? Did you fly? What’s out there? Will you report back? You always shared so much. I honestly expect you to let me know what it’s like wherever you are. But I’m also scared. So maybe I won’t hear. You know me. Perpetually torn.

You know me.

Perpetually seeking…

5:32

 

All I’ve been doing is texting and taking calls and making calls and then sleeping. Just passing out from sheer mental and emotional exhaustion. Going through motions, not really in my body. And then sleeping. It’s 5:32. T. texted me. I had a strange dream that I can feel but not quite remember in detail but it was a far out one. It was in Brooklyn. There was music and a lot of Black people, dancing. And floating.

It’s only Monday. One day since I called your mom and she told me you were gone, suffered cardiac arrest. My body aches. I can’t put my feelings into words. I have not engaged with social media because I can’t. Every time I think I’ve called everyone I know you would have wanted me to, everyone that you connected me to while you were here on this plain, there’s one more. My heart aches. My chest is tight. There is a hole in me.

My eyes are wet.

I get up to write this. It’s all I know how to do right now.

I saw you on Friday at a beautiful event where you were both the host and the guest of honor. So many beautiful Black people, friends and educators gathered on a beautiful Friday evening to hear you speak. You moved around the room, networking, laughing, connecting, doing what no one else can do the way you do, a force of love sweeping through, fierce and full of integrity.

I saw you on Saturday at Mamajuanas, which is right by my apt. You texted me that afternoon to say you were having lunch with a colleague. I was on my way downtown with my husband but I came out and popped down to see you and we spoke briefly about a great visit you had to a school in the Bronx that morning. I had watched a video you made about it on IG and I remember thinking, wow she don’t stop. She don’t stop ever. I remember looking at your face and just feeling that energy of yours that seemed to come right through across the screen and into me as you talked about how Bronx schools always seem to be neglected. I remember what a huge response people had to the content we put up from the Friday event. Someone who taught in the Bronx said they needed this to happen there. You were like bet, let’s make it happen.

You made things happen. You made things happen all the time.

And I still don’t understand how this happened. I keep wanting you to call me, text me, send me something from wherever you are to explain. Explain yourself. I think I even know what you might say. That you didn’t plan for this. That you didn’t mean to leave in this way, that you wish you could be here to help us cope.

No one understands. No one can believe you are gone. A part of me feels you, ever present. A part of me waits for you to tell me, what to do next, how I should do it, what are we working on next? What do you need me to create, to edit, to put together, to send. I cannot conceive that you will not ever give me something to do again. I can’t.

It’s 5:50pm. I’m in bed with my husband as I write this. He has been the perfect supporting counterbalance to my grief. I don’t know what I would do without him and I don’t know what I’m going to do without you. But I don’t intend to ever be without you. In many ways, you are more alive than ever, and yet still, I cannot bare the thought, I will never hear your voice, your laughter, your Ago, Ame, or see your face, dip into hot spa pools with you, talk waist beads, coconut oil, shea butter and ancestors and Black liberation with you again. I cannot believe it.

It’s 5:54.

I didn’t go to work today and I don’t know how I’m going to be able to go in tomorrow. I’m afraid for emotions that I don’t have control over. I need to see the rest of the CREAD team soon. I need to see so many people who knew and loved you as I did. I need to be around people who understood how dedicated and passionate and unyieldingly loving you were. I need that and I need rest.

And I need you. I don’t think I ever expressed to you how much.

Yoshidoll Life

It’s been a hectic month. It’s been a heavy month. And It ain’t over yet.

This review by Yoshi of her mom Ellarie’s latest collaboration with Coloupop was just the right brand of light silly Black Girl joy that I needed. Yoshi keeps her opinion on her mom’s line of lip colors very real even with her mama right behind the camera. LOL! I love how playful and silly and confidently honest she is. And of course I love how passionate she is about her favorite color because color makes me feel really good as well.

Take a brief little break from adulting and enjoy.

 

Don’t Freeze: Love and Vulnerability in Black Panther

I remember in the trailer for Black Panther watching the scene over and over again where Okoye tells T’challa before he descends to from the ship, not to “freeze.” And of course he says, “I never freeze” before putting on his helmet falling through a hatch release into the night.

I kept wondering it meant. In what situation would a superhero freeze or let his guard down? I couldn’t imagine the scenario and I really wanted to know.

As a bonafide movie lover, I have a collection of moments in films that I love and adore and among them is the moment when a man looks at the woman he loves, the moment when he is just openly gazing at her and time stops no matter what is happening. I love to see his openness, his vulnerability, his total surrender. But then of course he needs to be equally capable of getting it together again and carrying on his duties. LOL!

When Black Panther descends on a van of girls captured by the Boko Haram in order to save Nakia who is embedded among them on an undercover rescue mission, the aforementioned freezing begins. But not before he and Nakia stealthily dispatch of the armed men.  Then, thinking they are no longer under threat he faces her and says…hi. His mask is on so you can’t see his eyes but you can tell that he’s no longer in Black Panther mode. Okoye then appears and kills a man that neither or aware of because they’re too busy sharing a moment. LOL!

To be immediately engaged with both the vulnerability and strength of Black Panther in this initial and pivotal scene was just one of hundreds of ways in which the movie has shattered previous notions about what it has meant to be a “superhero.”

There is also no Clark Kent/Superman identity crisis conflict to deal with here. Among his people, T’challa does not hide as the Black Panther. Black Panther is not his secret identity. It is who he is. So when he looks at Nakia and freezes as Black Panther in the midst of battle or as King T’challa walking leisurely through the marketplace with her, it’s all the same man.

With Nakia, T’Challa is able to safely express his doubts about being the kind of king he feels he should be and he entrusts all the women around him, his mother, sister, general with the responsibility to support, inform, guide, strategist, and help him protect and defend Wakanda. They are all uniquely necessary and equally committed to this mission.

T’Challa’s vulnerability is his strength and he never seems to be at odds with it. I have never seen that treated with such balance and normative reverence in a superhero movie before. To feel the burden of so many of the oppressive and conditioned narratives we’re used to in movies; Whiteness, the male gaze, hyper sexuality, and more,  lift away for just a few hours is indescribably liberating. When I first saw Black Panther, I froze as well. And after the third time, time still stopped for me. And each time I see it, I come back to the world slightly different.

The Shifting of Happy Places

Just a few years ago, when I was fully immersed in a doll collection hobby, knitting and crocheting and generally making things by hand, Flickr was one of my primary happy place hubs. I went there to share photos, and to be social with other collectors, crafters and photographers. There were many women there whose feeds I looked forward to seeing each day but there were a special handful that for unique reasons really gave me life. Over the years of messaging, commenting, trading custom tips, sending dolls and items back and forth, I noticed that the activity of some of my faves started to peter out, to fizzle.

Life changes.

One of my fave photographers became pregnant and her gorgeous photographs which incorporated scenes from the nature preserve she lived nearby stopped showing up. One of my favorite, not to mention the only Black Blythe custom crafters, who gifted me one of my most cherished dolls just stopped activity altogether with no explanation. And the one friend that I made through the hobby (like met in person and actually got to know beyond dolls) fell in love, moved to Chicago, got married, and just recently had to move back to LA where she was born for a job while her husband is still working and living in Chicago, which I know has been heartbreaking for her. Needless to say, her doll feed activity has also been non-existent.

Life changes.

Happy places change.

I  hope that happy exist in new places for these women whose work I was so pleased and inspired to view on a weekly basis. Our lives are so much more than what what we choose to share on social media. Real, deep and intimate connections, within and with others require more than just logging in.

These days, due to business, the season (I’m so done with Winter or whatever this is) and location, my happy places have shifted as well. I packed up a bunch of my dolls almost a year ago because I just wasn’t feeling it. I even gave a bunch away during a series of Spring decluttering spurts. It felt good.

Currently, my happy places include make-up, skincare, wig play and social media/technology. I’ve immersed myself in some more successfully than others. But for the most part, I’m involved in using, crafting, learning about and being invested in these things on a daily basis. Who knows what my happy places will be in the next few years. I’m blessed that I have happy places at all. Because look at the world right now. We need all the happy we have access to.

Peace out.

UE

73 Questions with Sean

I’ve recently become obsessed with Vogue’s 73 Questions interview on Youtube. I love a great interview and one that boasts 73 questions is also more like a crazy challenge than just a run of the mill interview. My first favorite one is with Tracee Ellis Ross and since then I’ve just been looking for “73 Questions” with Black people because I like to keep my Youtube viewing Very Black.

This week I noticed one with Puffy Sean John Diddy Love Combs.

Let me just go ahead and say that although I’ve been a fan of Diddy’s work I have never really like him as a person. I’ve loved several of his hits and people he’s produced and I even watched “Making The Band” but I’ve always thought Sean was obnoxious, his brand of flamboyance has never resonated with my taste level and well he’s just not always been my cup of tea.

But in under 9 minutes and 22 seconds I began to like Sean John for the first time, as a person.

I can tell he’s grown up a lot just from the answers he gives in this video. From his pride in Kaepernick to his wishes for happiness, peace of mind and economic independence and prosperity for Black people, it’s just not a Puffy I think I’ve ever imagined he was before and maybe he has been for longer than I’ve known or let myself see. It was beautiful to see one of his sons for a minute, to hear him talk about how proud he was to win the CFDA award. As a fashion junkie I remember that first Sean John show at Fashion Week years ago when I was glued to Full Frontal Fashion every day and it was some unapologetically Very Royal Black shit! I had it on tape and I think I must have cried when I accidentally taped over it. It was unforgettable. It was like a fusion of the wedding in “Coming to America” And Grace Jones landing at the Winter Gardens in Battery Park in “Boomerang.” It was the first time I saw male models walk the runway like some masculine fucking men, with the swag and the diddy bop. It was sexy as hell.  I was like okaaay Diddy. You got it.

And he did have it.

He still does.

Who’s on Your Buy Black on Black Friday List?

You do have one right?

‘Cause if you’re in the Diaspora and haven’t noticed the incredible things that are coming out of Black owned and small Black businesses lately, you’re definitely missing out. I mean not only is there are there always Black owned and made jewelry and make-up for junkies like me, but my Soul Sistah, Khalilah put me on years ago to the Black owned companies that create the kind of basic goods we use in our lives every day! Detergent, cleaning supplies, deodorant, toothpaste, and more. If you follow  We Buy Black, you are sure to find anything and everything you have bought for years from “trusted” White owned brands (that we don’t even think of as White owned because White supremacy is constructed to be invisible) made by and for us!

Now look, I’m not saying everything I buy is Black owned…..

YET!

But I damn well am working up to it. Because every time I scroll through IG or on the interwebs or Khalilah, who is herself a Black entrepreneur, shoots me a link to some dope Black owned business, or Dupe Black on IG which puts me on to Black owned beauty alternatives, I get so hyped at how beautifully reflective, soulful, industrious and entrepreneurial we truly are. Heck, a girlfriend of mine just recently sent me the product summary for a brand she’s planning to launch soon because she needed some feedback and a critical eye. I am so proud of her and honored that she would tap me to hold her accountable. I am so proud of all of us, who push past fears designed to keep us trapped in economic slavery to materialize our dreams of liberation, spreading Black Joy, health, love of community and empowerment.

Vote Black

Just this week I recently got some amazing soaps from HerbnEden and a few beautiful pairs of earrings from Toni Daley that I just adore! They are items that fill me with a satisfaction which is more fulfilling than what comes from base consumerism. Knowing that my money is going directly to supporting a business that is Black owned allows me to see the broader return on my investment in my community. I also love  how much more transparent small Black businesses are. I connect with so many of the owners online because they are so much more visible and accessible to their community and that feels so connecting and conducive to building and cyclical support.

I was gonna be stingy and keep my list to myself but that’s sooooo White Supremacist. LOL!! So I’ll share a few. I used to hate Black Friday but now that it’s been reclaimed by actual Black businesses I am so excited to invest my dollars where it counts, I can hardly wait!

JXL Pops is an earring maker of some seriously “Poppin” earrings and her Black Friday sale online is going to be “Poppin with Purpose” I am really looking forward to this sale. I have seen sneak peeks of her new Blackkity Black line and well, if you wanna see it you know where to click.

This is The Read, one of my favorite podcast has Black Friday merch that probably launched already which means that they might already be sold out because their stuff goes mad fast. But it may be worth a check out.

Juvia’s Place is the only beauty line I own three eye shadow palettes from and they’ve been on sale for days now so Black Friday is gonna be real. I’m virtually crouched and ready to grab the Saharan palette so if I push passed you to throw it in my cart it, don’t take it personal. LOL!!

CREADnyc.com, founded by my girl Khalilah will launch the pre-sale of “The ABCs of The Black Panthers” this Friday at 9am! I was honored to play a role in editing the book so I got first looks at the incredibly beautiful illustrations and lovingly crafted narrative that guides both parents and children to learn about the members of the Black Panthers and other seminal Black Activists who played key roles in their formation and ideology. I plan on buying several copies myself because the holidays are right around the corner.

UMMM… soooo this is not Black Friday related and I know I’ve mentioned it once or a hundred times already but you know Fenty Beauty is dropping her Stunna Red Lip Paint on the world on Thanksgiving right? I’m hoping she’s got like 5 other lip colors poised to stun us as well but I’m getting it no matter what. That’s just one more dope thing to be thankful for.

Maaaan..if I hadn’t read Zora Neale Hurston in HS, I woulda been even more of an asshole.

I was editing a fantastic blog entry for CREADnyc last week about the importance of Black female authors in Highs School. Please get your life, go there now and read it but remember to come back! LOL!

Among the 3 Black women authors Khalya wrote about, she mentioned reading Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” for the first time in college.

The crazy thins is I had been thinking about that book a lot lately, not necessarily because it was among my favorite works of fiction, but because it was assigned reading in my high school humanities class and because it was the first ever book I had ever read in dialect. And I can remember like it was yesterday how quick I was to look down my uppity nose at that writing until it was made clear to be my my teachers that this book was not only worthy of cannon like status, but that it was, and is, a brilliantly written piece of literature, meant to be studied, deconstructed, theorized and revered.

As Khalya mentions in her piece, we all know what it’s like to struggle with Shakespeare, but love iambic pentameter or hate it, we see Shakespeare held in the highest esteem absolutely everywhere. And as Khalya also points out, no one has ever spoken like that. Where as dialetic is a phonetically written expression of the way real ass people talk. We hear it all the time. But we rarely ever read it. The only other example of a book written in dialect I can think of is, Trainspotting by Irvine Walsh which the film by the same name is based on. I love that movie and I totally respect that it was written in Welsh dialect but ain’t nobody got time for that! LOL! I had to watch the film with subtitles!

But back to Zora. See, when I was a teenager, I was already walking around thinking I was better than other Black students because I thought I acted and spoke the way I was taught was acceptable and appropriate. And although I hated reading dead White people classics, I never said a word in protest about it. By 9th grade I had already started reading Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis’ collections of Short stories and Terry McMillan and I was very proud and feeling myself about that. But that just meant I was a snobby Black chick. I couldn’t stand Donald Goines and a lot of the work that came from what was at the time,  just developing “Black lit” genre from publications such as Triple Crown. I never read Zane or Push by Sapphire because I didn’t think these writers were worthy of being considered “literature.” Even in an alternative, progressive public charter school that was very subversive in it’s approach to education, I had still developed an idea about what I considered to be good writing that was of course informed by oppressive White supremacist media. I knew what kind of writing flooded the mainstream and occupied the majority of my YA bookshelf and none of them were written by in dialect by Black women.

In America, a young Black person’s learns very early that the only rewards worth anything are the ones we get for aspiring to Whiteness and hating ourselves and one another. Racism never sleeps. Slavery was never really abolished.

Their-Eyes-Were-Watching-God

The introduction of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” in high school impacted me in ways I wasn’t even aware of until now because it was placed on the same level by my teachers with Shakespeare, Salinger and Harper Lee. In addition to Romeo and Juliet, we also read and did a class production of scenes from “A Raisin in the Sun.” We read “Down These Mean Streets” by Piri Thomas who grew up in the same neighborhood in Spanish Harlem where I attended high school. This was a rough book for me to get through as well, more because of the content than anything else but when I look back on it, I remember appreciating some it’s rawest moments the most.

As a huge fan of reading, if I hadn’t been exposed to these books as a teenager I might have tied myself to the notion that great fiction and literature could only look and sound one way or only be produced by a certain class of Black people. The fact that most of us are not exposed to these writers until college is no coincidence. Self hatred in Black people is a seed planted by institutional and systemic racism that historically has always been bent in one way or another on creating slaves.

Thanks to resources like CREADnyc.com, which I am continually proud to be a part of and the brilliant educators and writers there as well as Decolonizing Education Publishing which was created to empower Black children with sociopolitical consciousness and yes, thanks to the Cheeto in Chief, those who have dedicated themselves to Black revolution are providing integral entry points to the dismantling, diminishing and dencentering  of White supremacy.

Much like Janie, in “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Black people are the world and the heavens boiled into one drop. We don’t need to conform, convert or assimilate in order to be worthy of love, equity and humanity. We never have.