How Have I Only Just Discovered Laura James?

I look to art and design a lot for inspiration, motivation and occasionally to improve my mood. And when I say art, I mean anything from fine art to street art, to fashion, to performing art, to the way any medium is crafted to mimic or honor or comment on a vibration that resonates intentionally with the human heart. Like when Migos says ssskrrrrrrt!

I like art that effectively communicates a feeling and expands or explores it. The feeling cannot be contrived with the crude and oppressive language of mainstream or standard commercialization. Obviously, for a series of reasons, not all art is effective in disrupting those destructive normative conditions. And so it’s all the more sweet and priceless and irreplaceable, that feeling when you come upon a work, which connects you squarely to your spirit in it’s execution.

This was how I felt when I came upon Laura James painting of Oshun as I was perusing pinterest for Orishas, which is what I do for inspiration and motivation and to improve my mood when necessary, along with the 7 other things I do at the same time on the internet.

I have a page on my board called “The Originals” where I curate images of Orishas created by artists utilizing all kinds of mediums, interpretations. Visually, Oshun is one of two of my favorite Orishas to see images of.  I don’t want to incur a wrath of jealousy among the others so I won’t say who my other faves are here. But there are sooooooo many! So many depictions of Oshun!

YemeyaGo ahead and google Oshun now and click on the images link. Make sure you come back, although I can understand if you don’t. You got lost in Oshunlandia™. You drowned in Yemeyatopia™.

I GET IT.

 

 

 

Of all the incredible images of Oshun I have collected on Pinterest, this one below just filled me right up and in all the right places.

It’s the colors I respond to initially. I love colors and the way in which a good painter uses color combinations and shades to evoke specific themes, feelings, moods and undercurrents of energy. Laura’s colors are playful but not juvenile. They are unapologetically vibrant and joyful and seem to reference a lot of popular Mexican and Egyptian art.

orisha-OSHUN-by-Laura-James

Then it’s the forms. Laura’s Oshun curves her hip to pop her booty out to the left, her proud breasts jutting out in the opposite direction of her head which is tilted towards an up-stretched arm as she looks down into the water, which she is pouring from a soft pink shell onto the ground. There are also fish being poured from the shell. There are bees buzzing around her yellow clad form, ya know because she’s sweet like honey. The tail of a peacock in a tree on her right hangs down almost to her knee. There are birds gathered in a tree to her left. There are lotus blossoms and lily pads at her feet. the tiny yellow orb in the upper left corner seems to be descending into the blue of a twilight sky. In fact all the plains of the painting, the hills, the ground are painted in the same blue that blue goes shortly before it turns into night. There is purple in the blue. There is yellow in the blue. There is blue in the blue.

The shapes are simple, triangles, ovals, wavy lines. The bottom of her dress blooms out in a series of down turned  lotuses. On her waist is a belt of cowrie shells. Her hair is a rolling network of orange and blue circles that mimic the tale of the peacock.

And the last sweetest detail, a form, which seems to imitate a cloud or gust of wind is a brown face curled in profile looking down over her with an approving smile.

OH, I love this painting!

And lest I forget what looks like a frame of uniquely arranged cowrie shells painted around the entire edge, against an outer frame painted in gold.

I didn’t even know James painted this image of Oshun until last week. The more I looked at it, the more I needed know about the artist but the signature on the low res image I saved was hard to make out. I recognized Laura, made up what I though was her last name and let google do the rest.

Laura James 2.jpg

I learned that she is an Brooklynite of Antiguan heritage! YAAAAAAAAZZZ!!! She Blackity Black! And she has painted a series of religious, spiritual and secular images in the same style. She calls her art, “Art for the People.” I have to keep my eye out for her next show because I would love to see her work  up close. Anything more I turn up or discover about her, I will happily report here.

 

Advertisements

Saving My Coin for Fenty

Full coverage vs serum foundation, blending brushes, transition shades, highlighter, primer, setting powder, eye shadow base, facial serum… Over the summer my obsession with make-up expanded my jargon and practice a great deal. I have gone from the one foundation that I first bought when I first decided I wanted to wear foundation to…I don’t know, like…

10?

That might sound like a lot but I like to experiment. I have had to do a lot of experimenting and sampling to find the products that work best for my skin, my shade and my budget and in the last week or so, I have finally gotten to that point My nightly make-up removal and skin care routine is real and consistent. My morning make-up routine is also a ritual I look forward to literally every morning. Depending on my timing, I might miss out on one or two things but the foundational basics never get skipped. I believe that if you can slay every day, whatever that means for you, you should.

D myricks

So now that I do all of the things and I would like to mention that my make-up routines consists of brands from two amazing Black owned beauty companies, Juvia’s Place, whose eye shadow pigments are incredible and named for cities and locations and monuments from the continent of Africa like Burkina and Gizeh. The highlighter I used on special occasions (and at work, who am I kidding? LOL!) is by Danessa Myricks, part of her Illumunaters powder line in “Gocha Glow.” Danessa reminds me that Black people can never shine too much. The light against the numerous shades of skin we live in is lit for real. Her models are on the next level of Glow Up. And I have never seen any other highlighter that shows up on my face the ways hers does.

 

So of course, now that I have all the make-up arsenal I will need for a while and am no longer shopping around and experimenting, Khalilah drops me a line this weekend that Rihanna’s line of make-up Fenty Beauty is about to drop on September 8th!

So what’s a supposed former make-up junkie to do?

Ignore my idle impulses at Sephora or any other make-up brands online and save my coins for Fenty! I mean duh! It’s Riri! I gotta check it out. I may have all I need but I have to support my girl. At the same time, I also really want to guard against buying anything that looks similar or identical to any make-up I already have. Other than that, I’m excited to see what she has to offer because if it is truly inspired by her wild, playful, intense, out of the box spirit, it’s gotta be good.

Hey Siri, Where Can I go to find Black Joy?

I knew we weren’t going to be able to fly off to an island for vacation this Summer and I was fine with that. There are plenty of great places to go in New York for a decent staycation. I also knew Mercury retrograde would come along and shred our ability to communicate effectively whatever the heck it is we wanted to do during my staycation. And that was fine too. This is not my first time at the Mercury Retrograde rodeo.

What I did not know was that hundreds of unmasked White Racists would take to the grounds of Charlottesville University on Virginia with lit tiki torches, protesting their rights to not be replaced? It seemed inevitable that once they were allowed, (because not one law enforcement officer stepped in try and stop them) the KKK, Masks off Eddie Beuer edition would go on a violent rampage.

My husband and I were was hosting a late lunch with family when it happened and to be quite honest, there was so much going on, that it didn’t sink in for me until they had gone. Khalilah had texted me and I didn’t check the info until later on.

Who wants more salad with Goat Cheese? Who the hell turned over the Taboo hourglass timer before time was up. Image of White men with Tiki torches? …is this a new add for camp gear?

Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnno.

It’s a trip down racist ass memory lane, the good old boys’ lynching days are back, well never left but most definitely ushered in with no attempt from government or law enforcement to shut it down, call it out, hold it back until blood was spilled and a life was taken. Actually, no, not even then, still to this day, it has not been dealt with. Because it’s never been dealt with. Its been ignored, enabled, perpetuated, supported, maintained, slapped on the wrist…

So naturally my instinct is to wanna get the heck out of town… but where in America is safe for Black person these days?

I like to travel. I like to go on long drives upstate to Nyack, Woodstock Hyde Park and such. And all the time that I have been doing these things, I’ve been aware that the further I get away from NYC the more I am surrounded by uncomfortable Whiteness that I can no longer sidestep the way I have done for years. In just the last couple of weeks, any plans I had to leave the relative safety of my apartment or NYC has been cancelled.

Understand that for me, ever since Travon Martin, and now with this recent Charlottesville event, Whiteness has indisputably come to be mean violence, brutality, terror, fear and a deep psychological sickness. And the struggle to disentangle myself from it’s very deeply destructive and embedded structure is real.

whitness.jpg

My husband and I searched the internets frantically for places to go in New York where Black people lived, owned property, could be seen in community. The best we found was Martha’s Vineyard. But ultimately, anger and frustration and heaviness gave out to weariness and no one wanted to spend that long driving with no concrete idea of exactly where we were going. The Blackest place we could be was in our own neighborhood (Inwood) and in Brooklyn where I was born and a large chunk of my heart still resides. We spent the afternoon there lounging in the magic of nature, the soft breeze, the slowness of pace and nostalgic respite that the Botanical Garden has always been for me. I was frankly shocked at how comfortable I was staying close to home. But then these are some shocking ass times we’re living through and self care for Black and Brown people everywhere, however they can get it, is vital as fuck. It always has been.

Neutrality has been neutralized and there is no longer a place, nor perhaps should there ever have been, a place for White people to be satisfied with simply not having been there on the day when their forefathers decided to institute decades of systematic, mental, physical and spiritual terror on enslaved and descendants of enslaved Africans. Most of my life as a Black woman, I have been open and accepting of most White people (Ha!) thinking that this was a choice I had made rather than an implicit instruction. If I had chosen to be as open and accepting of my own people, I’m certain I would have learned sooner how little choice I was afforded by a majority of White Racists who existed quietly all around me. The good Whites, the liberal Whites, the oblivious, the seemingly harmless Whites in the cut who do nothing, say nothing, plead ignorance because they claim no one told them otherwise, and  in the age of massive social media oversharing and limitless access to information, they remain inactive, dumb, and ultimately dangerous and destructive.

Sigh….

I would totally have asked Siri where we could go to find Black joy but Siri sounds like a White chick to me and she does not sound down for the cause. So I switched her off. I don’t need her. Never really did.

We stayed in the hood and found whatever peace we could there while we could because we will surely need all the energy we can get to gear up for next month. Because August has been crazy…

Guess what September is going to be like?

I Feel Like Something Blooming

Life showed up differently for me when I realized that everything is sex and sexual. Once I learned that, life became dare I say easy or easier. It’s like when you’re watching a movie and begin to cry. You are being penetrated in your heart to trigger tears. Penetration is sexual; the movie scene is going inside you. Ahhh (throat open please). Sitting in nature is sexual. Communicating with a stranger is sexual, as the communication gives rise to the inner body penetration or what we call “feelings.” Watching CNN is sexual; the news either leaves you frustrated, hopeless or pissed off. The information has penetrated and is now inside your body. With that consideration and understanding, when I now eat food or drink something tasty, I sen that excitement, nourishment and joy throughout my body temple.

-India Am’eye

As a girl, without the consciousness or language to express it, I experienced taste and physical touch as sensual and necessary to my most primal reasons for wanting to live. Color, texture and natural/artistic sensory experiences came next. I will even say that I have not had the language to express this or the affirmation of it until reading these lines from “You Look Like Something Blooming.” This book is next on our list as part of the Soul Sistah Series monthly book series and it is blowing my mind. This excerpt is just a little sneak preview, though you can pick it up and start reading anytime.

Continue reading I Feel Like Something Blooming

White People Stories in Black Face

I recently expressed on my Facebook page that I wished Jay-Z would drop a new project from 4:44 every week for the rest of the year. Ya know, just to have something to balance out some of the absurd fuck shit of a nightmare taking place daily in the Whitehouse right now.

Having switched over from Apple Music to Tidal when 4:44 dropped, I get really excited when I tap on the app and see a new video or footnotes for a video from this brilliant project.

Now, I have to say, that although I love this album, Moonlight as a track on it’s own was always my least favorite. It’s the only track on the album I don’t ever really need to hear when I listen to 4:44, not because of the message, which I totally get. It’s just, as a music track, it doesn’t really move me. But see, that’s the genius of 4:44. The visual components to each track, present a deeper read of each one. And the video of Moonlight, which dropped this past week did just that.

A good friend shared the promo from Issa Rae’s IG account with me and I was really excited and delighted to see this tongue in cheek reimagining of “Friends” with an all Black cast, featuring Issa Rae, Jerrod Carmichael, Lil Rey Howery, Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, and Tiffany Haddish. Their theme song was “Friends” by Whodini which I thought was greatness. I was all set to just sit and watch the cast act out word for word what I believe is an actual episode from the dominantly White casted hit show. Watching these actors go through the motions of playing a Black Chandler, Ross, Monica, etc., it became clear how this was also a satire of the show itself. But then it goes even further by following Charmichael offset after a break in the scene.  He discusses the questionable success of this Black Friends version with comedian, Hannibal Buress who doesn’t mince words about his feelings on how far Black people have come in their ability to tell their own stories from their own perspectives.

“You gonna do black ‘Full House’ next? ‘Family Ties?’ Why stop there? ‘Home Improvement?’”

This is where I believe Jay begins to asks the real questions. And it ties right into a conversation I was having with Khalilah this weekend about films like “Girls Trip,” which has received many mixed and conflicting reviews from the Black community (I haven’t seen it yet) and the Netflix movie, “The Incredible Jessica James” (I watched this weekend) which imagines a reality where class, gender and relationships issues are on tap but race is addressed zero times. It’s like the new formula is just put Black people where you normally see White people, be sure to keep some White people in there and wallah! EQUALITY!

We stuck in lala land. Even when we win, we gon lose was a line I didn’t like hearing. It’s a hard truth. I was so anti- “Lala Land” last year, it was ridiculous. I was disgusted that Hollywood was harkening back to the days of old in this day and age as if those good old days were good for anyone else but White people. The fucked up thing is, I like musical films from that time. But uhhh, I didn’t have to not live through that time. Musical films came about as an attempt to distract and entertain Americans living through a brutal depression.

CAN WE PLEASE MOVE THE GENRE FORWARD?

Doris and Lynching

In Peck’s “I am not Your Negro,” the solid case for White people delusion is made with scathingly juxtaposed old Hollywood scenes put up against images of lynching and Black civil rights protesters being beaten and of Dorothy Counts being spat upon by a bunch White children for attending on of the first schools in Charlotte, NC to be integrated.      At the same time that fucking Doris Day was singing in her pristine make believe kitchen set in front of a camera, Black people were literally being killed because they demanded the right to sit at the same food counter with Becky.

In 4:44, Jay Z has interrogated several key systems of oppression and has taken it a step further by questioning what our true voices are. Can everything we do to thrive, to be seen and heard and felt stop being a reaction to what White people do or think about what we do?

Can we see ourselves outside of the oppressors gaze?

 

All for Love and Love for All

Sunday evening found me, my husband, my dad, mom who has been visiting with us for the month of July, my brother and his wife, at the very last show of “The Three Musketeers” at Marcus Garvey Park. The classic play, based on the book by author, Alexander Dumas, was performed, free to the public, by Harlem Classical theater, which I never even knew existed until a few weeks ago. My friend and co-worker, an elder Trini, told me about it and urged me to go. I’m so glad I listened to her and brought the family.

Continue reading All for Love and Love for All

Message of The Cardinal: Bird Sexism and The New Moon in Leo

Cardinals have existed in NYC forever but I only started noticing them in parks a couple of years ago. Though I can’t see how I’ve missed them all this time. They’re the most brilliant, bold, hard to miss birds ever!

I took my mom to the New York Botanical Garden last week and saw the first one I’ve seen all Summer. And then last Sunday while walking through Fort Tryon Park with my husband, I spotted another. I got close enough to take a picture and posted it on IG where I mentioned that I tend to think of Cardinals only as male, since I make the immediate association with Cardinals in the Catholics church that they’re named after and I felt bad about that because this one could very well be a female. Indeed, one of my followers identified the Cardinal in my photo as female because of the dusty brown coat and I confirmed the id through google. Why did I choose to confront my own bird sexism at that moment? Who knows! Maybe I felt her feminine bird vibes.

LOL!!!

Cut to the New Moon in Leo and it’s connection to the spiritual meaning of Cardinals.

I don’t practice my New Moon and Full moon rituals consistently like I should but I am generally always aware of the phases. In relation to my cycle, my flow of energy and the energy of those around me, my cat being more high strung than usual, the moon phases are always connected.

Not surprisingly, the New Moon in Leo is all about finding your authentic voice and using it to express and fulfill your desires and taking bold risks towards manifesting your dreams. Leo, at it’s best, is a proud, noble and heroic sign, all qualities that I sometimes struggle with representing in a substantial way. But when I see the Cardinal, something about it draws me closer without thinking twice. The Cardinal’s bright red color and pointy crest with black framing its eyes and beak, is so attractive, regal and alert. It is visually and spiritually inspiring as well as unmistakably easy to spot. Cardinals are a bright beacon of courage and a call to action.

The confidence flowing from the Cardinal exemplifies the recognition of its own powers and gifts, and doesn’t take it lightly or for granted

If a Cardinal has flown into your realm today, spend time in retreat and ask yourself, what could be the message from the Cardinal be showing me? Do I need to own my power? Do I need to slow down? Only you can know what the message is, and how to put it to use in your life…

Black Leos2

For me, the Cardinal represents the ushering in of Leo New Moon energy. Leos don’t shrink for anyone. In fact, they seek unabashedly to be seen, receive recognition, honor and notoriety in whatever path they choose to dedicate themselves wholly and nobly in service to others. Think President Obama, Angela Basset, Iman, Viola Davis, Marcus Garvey and James Baldwin who are just a few among many Leos who best exemplify these qualities

It’s time for me to untangle myself fully from learned associations of low self worth, shyness and fear and step up to the task of being unapologetic in the ways I work, love, self care, create, play, rest and restore myself. The first steps I’ve taken forward have been shaky and uncomfortable. But growth usually is. Leo demands self promotion, courage, and authenticity. It also requires that you are aware of of your own purpose and gifts. No one can advocate for you like you can for yourself.

Who Am I to…

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

-Marianne Williamson

Have you heard this quote before? It’s from “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson, a book I really do need to read again. I was laying in bed one Friday morning, not wanting to get up for several reasons and observing the thoughts my mind engaged in as a way of self protection, avoiding confrontation, and comforting myself. I even remembered some dreams I was having.

If you check out your dreams, not necessarily the exact details but the feels, the general scenarios and the people who pop up, you get to know what is your subconscious spinning an escapism narrative involving comfort against fear, anxiety, and unhappiness and what is your intuition speaking to you from beyond all that, which is something that can happen even when you’re awake.

Continue reading Who Am I to…

Notes on 4:44: Black Male Vulnerability

You know I thug em, fuck em, love em, leave em 
Cause I don’t fuckin’ need em
Take em out the hood, keep em lookin’ good
But I don’t fuckin’ feed em 

-Big Pimpin

Jay-Z

Everybody wants to be needed on some level

Chris Rock

 

My brother was the one who brought Jay Z into my world. And a lot of what my brother paid close attention to when I was growing up inevitably entered my consciousness as well. X-Men comic books, metal ninja stars, GI Joe, Hip Hop…

I remember my brother buying a lot of Jay’s albums and a long landscape poster of Jay Z on his bedroom wall. I didn’t think he was attractive. He just looked like a regular dude to me, whatever that means, but his confidence was undeniable. And I remember thinking, who is this guy? What capital does he have to impress me with if he’s not super good looking? When I listened to him, I got it right away. He was not unlike like Sinatra who was also no studio heart throb. That didn’t matter though. He was gonna do it his way.

Continue reading Notes on 4:44: Black Male Vulnerability

Hearting Cardi B…again

If you a pusssy you get popped,

you a groupie you a op,

Bet you come around my way,

you can’t hang around my block.

And I just checked my accounts,

Turns out I’m rich, I’m rich, I’m rich.

I put my hand upon my hip,

I bet you dip, he dip, she dip…

So I woke up Monday morning and spirit told me I needed some music. I woke up my iphone and looked st 4:44 but then I was like, lemme listen to a woman’s voice for a change. I’ve switched to Tidal since 4:44 dropped and I’m still rebuilding my playlists there. I pulled up Solange and played “A Seat at the Table while putting on my make up and dressing for work. But when I hit the street, I played “Bodack Yellow.” And when I got on the train I played “Bodack Yellow.” And when I got off the train I played “Bodack Yellow.” And on my way to buy breakfast, I played “Bodack Yellow.”

You get the point…

Turns out my girl Khalilah, who has loved Cardi for much longer, was on that Bodack Yellow wave length that morning as well.

It was instinctual. I think it may have been the culmination of residual collective feminine energy that I got from the our weekend Soul Sistah Series “Spirit of Intimacy” event. In this case, Cardi B on “Bodack Yellow” just delivers on a gut level, a power level. It just hits on all the right places. And I know many will say it’s ghetto, ratchet, ignorant, maybe even exploitative. But I can’t help what I feel. With music, I listen with my heart or I try to. And I can’t deny it. The more I listen to Cardi B, the more I really like her, the more I really hear an authentic, fighting but sweet person inside. Even in her decisions to alter her appearance, I get authentic, no bullshit reasoning. Plus, I never knew a woman could have a deep and cute voice at the same time. LOL!! She’s so hood and tough and adorable.

Who does that?

But I’m not intimidated by her toughness. I respect her gangsta. I’m inspired by her. And as I said before, I never in a million years expected to even like her.

I’m discovering that Cardi B has more than just a couple of marbles rolling around in her head. She reminds me of girls I went to high school with that I looked down on and reduced to a stereotype because my colonized mind couldn’t imagine that their values were worth considering. She also reminds me of girls who made me laugh about silly shit in high school and whom I harmonized with in class on some fluffy pop song in a moment of candid downtime.

Ultimately, Cardi is a real woman, who pushes and punches through all the haterade to defy the forces who tell her who she should and shouldn’t be and what she does and doesn’t deserve in life. Many years ago, I was easily one of those people.

Today, I need Cardi B in my life. I need Bodack Yellows and Pop Offs to get my energy up sometimes and feel unstoppable. You see male rappers do that as well, but a woman like Cardi B. puts the Pussy glitter as gold in the mix. And then all I can do is feel dope as hell.

LOL!

Thank goodness for evolution.