Trump Is a Wake Up Call to Love

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TODAY’S WAKE UP CALL by Tyra Sammons


My 3hrs of sleep last night was restless and my dreams filled with anxiety and dread. I woke up feeling a sense of loss. This election has left me feeling violated… disregarded and I am truly grieving. 

Grieving the loss of Hope i had in the Human heart. The hope & faith I had in ‘people’ to make, (WHAT I thought) was the ‘right’ decision.  In my Heart of Hearts? I truly believed that the majority would rule AGAINST someone who would so easily exhibit such reprehensible behavior.  I feel lost…. I feel BETRAYED!! I feel sick in my stomach AND in my Soul. I Feel ANGRY as Fuck. I feel disrespected, discarded and disowned. I feel sad…  and in despair…

And OHHHHH it feels SO fucking  good to ALLOW myself to FEEL ALL that I am feeling as I grapple with the thoughts and stories and images whirling within my mind and body. Dammit! I’m trying to wrap my head around what’s happened! I’m trying to figure out what it all means!!  WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT THOSE IN MY COMMUNITY??! Those in MY Country??!! What does it say about those folks who lined up willingly to ‘co-sign’ sexual assault, racism, sexism, classism & moral ambiguity.

There are pieces within me that want to lash out, spew hatred & make them ‘wrong’ for their choice. I wanna give them a taste of their own medicine and make up stories and lies in my head about how racist and immoral they must all be, [an attempt to make myself feel better and self righteous in my judgement of course]. 

Honestly,  if I’m to be completely real In THIS moment?? There’s a part of me that WANTS shit to go horribly wrong so that I can POINT to the ‘co-signers’ and say with blood dripping blame….

“SEE!!!!  LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE BY CHOOSING TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY??!!! THIS IS YOUR FAULT”! I want to shake & POINT MY FINGERS at them for not HONORING Me. For not valuing me. For not caring enough about me, my Black experience, my Femininity and the Basic rights of human beings to At LEAST choose someone who didn’t OPENLY represent and instigate such hatred. 

But then (deep breath… ugly cry)

Then… 

Then, I remember who I am.  I remember who WE are. Powerful Co-Creators that have FORGOTTEN Who we are, WHY we are here and that we are all connected. I am reminded of the futility in pointing fingers, and the sometimes destructive consequences of anger and blame. The repercussions of acting unconsciously.  I am gently reminded that no one, and I mean NO ONE, has the power to MAKE me feel, think OR act in any way that I don’t agree to. We ‘agree’ to GIVE our power away EVERY single TIME we act out unconsciously with judgment, fear, hatred, anger, blame, etc. So… learning how to manage our emotions and use them to our benefit is paramount.

That said… I am far too Conscious and AWARE to be angry, resentful or hurt for very long. I have access to too many tools to remain in a state of suffering. 

I Am That I Am… 

A Gift. Priceless. Worthy. Divinely Created. Intelligent. A Blessing. I Am Peace. I Am Love. I Am Truth. 

And with THIS Knowledge & Understanding…

I Am Powerful. 

Listen, the results of this election are a jarring wake up call. And depending on which side of the line you stand, it may indeed feel tantamount to someone violently emptying a bucket of ice cold water over your head. But friends, we mustn’t be consumed by our emotions. Nor should we allow our emotions to run amok and unchecked. When used properly, however, our emotions can move mountains. And well, that’s what I’m challenging ALL of us to do. We each have a part to play and a responsibility to not only heal our nation but ourselves in the process. If we aren’t simultaneously working on ourselves, we won’t have enough to give to what we’re passionate about. 

When we don’t do our inner work we can’t possibly be as effective as we’d like to be, whether your purpose and passions take the shape of your family, career or community. I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Well, we have a responsibility to go within and explore… examine, how we violate, disregard and dishonor ourselves.

How can we go outside and heal that which we haven’t recognized, owned & resolved within?? 

Think about it. 

Are you running out ‘there’ somewhere to change the world with a broken heart? 

A hate filled heart? 

Or a heart full of love? 

Is your purpose being fueled by old wounds? Or a healed heart?

Getting my feelings out of my body and on to paper has been extremely cathartic. And in light of the recent election of our  new president, I hope that I have not only given you some food for thought but also given voice to the depth of emotion that may have been stirring in your heart.  We can be faced with a slew of emotions on any given day. Some days are easy breezy. Some days turn into weeks or longer, metamorphosing into deep dark emotional caverns we can’t easily escape.

The following is a guided meditation exercise to help you take a closer look at the negative thoughts or emotions that may be lurking underneath the surface. Those emotions that can discolor and disrupt your daily life experiences. The goal of this exercise is to help you be more present to your subconscious thoughts & emotions. It’s an opportunity to put aside any judgements we might have and offer compassion and understanding in its place. When this occurs, we are able to see ourselves and our situations with a clearer mind. And with a clear mind anything is possible!!


Carve out some time for yourself, (a minimum of 15-20m), before you began: 

1. Set an intention [What would you like to get out of this ex.? More clarity? A particular answer to a question?]

2. Find a pen and some paper or a journal. 

3. Sink into a comfortable chair or lay on a comfortable surface with the intention of bringing your focus and attention inward. 

4. Close your eyes and take a minimum of 3, very deep breaths, slowly inhaling all that you can and then gently allowing it to flow out of your mouth with a slight airy sound. 

When you have completed this brief and simple exercise to help bring you into the present moment, put one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. 

If necessary, feel free to take a few more deep breaths. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ here. Take as many deep breaths as YOU need to feel calmer, more centered and still. 

As your breathing begins to settle, bring your attention to the rise and the fall of your chest. Notice how it expands and how it contracts. 

Become aware of your heart. Become so STILL that you can feel its quiet thumping in your chest. 

Offer thanks and deep gratitude to your heart for the amazing job it does, pumping blood in and out , thru the roller coaster of life, each and every day. 

Now… I want you, the Powerful Co-Creator You Are, to go on an exciting journey inward. 

I want you to imagine that within your body, within your very heart, lie the answers to your question or concern. 

Imagine also, that you are ready to hear the answer to your question or concern. 

Take a deep breath and ask your Heart:

“Heart… In what ways do I dishonor, devalue or disregard myself”? 

Take a couple deep breaths. Be open to the possibility that the answers have been there all along. Imagine they have just been sitting there, simply waiting for you to pose the question. 

Ask the question again and allow yourself to soften, feel compassion in your heart. Allow the answers to come…as feelings, images, sensations or words floating across your head. 

After a few moments, move on to the next question:

Heart… In What ways do I harbor resentment or anger? And if so, how do these thoughts & feelings express themselves in my life and in my life experiences?”

Again… allow your heart to reveal your truth to you in a fresh, yet sobering way. 

A few more deep breaths, as you patiently wait to be shown your truth, be it thru feelings, images, sensations or words that come to you. 

There’s no judgement here, no right or wrong, it’s merely information. Information that could prove to be extremely insightful. 

When you feel that you have received everything you can give thanks for any insight you received. 

Give thanks for the miracle of your body & your body’s innate intelligence. 

Give thanks to the Supreme Power that exists with-out and within you. 

And then , slowly but surely, begin to gently wiggle your fingers, your toes and start to open your eyes.

Next, pick up your paper & pen without going to your head to ‘think’ about what just happened. 

Stay in your heart space and write about the experience you just had. 

What did you notice? 

Did you see anything? 

Hear anything? 

Feel anything? 

Did you have any revelations about your life? Your current situation?

Did it feel good to be still? 

Was it unusual? 

Great job friends!

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My name is Tyra Sammons and I am an Intuitive life coach. This is just one of the many self care tools I’ll be sharing with you in my upcoming “Wellness Wednesday” Posts on the blog in collaboration with Around The Way Curls. It can be Life Changing to our families and communities when we learn how to cultivate and model Self Love & Care for our divine selves. 

For a recorded version of the guided meditational journey inward or to learn more about my Intuitive Life Coaching services, please contact me at:

Tyra@evolutionaryliving.net

You can also check out the launch of my new website this Sat. Nov. 12th:

www.EvolutionaryLiving.net

 

Natural Hair Directory in Philadelphia – The Co-op Shop

We often get folks who want to know where they can get their natural hair done in the Tri-state area. I have taken it upon myself to create a natural hair directory or “look book” so to speak of Philly’s natural hair salons and barber shops so that folks can find the perfect hair salon to meet their varying natural hair needs. I hope these posts are helpful and will assist in connecting black and brown small business owners to hopeful clientele. 

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The Co-Op Shop 

If you are looking for shaping, short cuts, fades, classic cuts, layering and clean + natural lines. Catering to all hair textures. Men, women + kids.($$)

8232 Germantown Avenue

www.thecoopshopphl.com   

   Open 7 days 10AM until 5:00 PM

The co-op shop was opened in 2016 by Shaun Miller, Kelsey Baranek and Angel Pabon. Nestled in quaint Chestnut Hill, the shop brings a youthful and fresh vibe to the area catering to a diverse clientele of both black , white, yellow, Puerto Rican and Haitians with all different hair textures!

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Each stylist brings their unique talents to the table although none are confined to styling just one specific texture and style. Shaun caters to shearing, fading and shaping Afro-textured hair, Kelsey specializes cutting mens hair with skills in layering textured and curly hair (2b – 3b) as well as bridal styling while Angel does weaving, braiding and coloring.  

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 Shaun used to cut my hair when I wore my hair in a mohawk. I can provide a personal testimony of his work and talent. I decided to document the work of Shaun and three of his clients with different hair textures and styles. 

BEFORE

(2b curls. mohawk shaping. shearing + clippers)

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THE PROCESS

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AFTER

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Natural Hair Directory – Duafe Presents “The 2 week Wash + Go”

We often get folks who want to know where they can get their natural hair done in the Tri-state area. I have taken it upon myself to create a natural hair directory or “look book” so to speak of Philly’s natural hair salons and barber shops so that folks can find the perfect hair salon to meet their varying natural hair needs. I hope these posts are helpful and will assist in connecting black and brown small business owners to hopeful clientele.  duafe-holistic-hair-care-562-325-c

Duafe

 (If you are looking for locs, braids, extensions, flat twists, cutting, coloring, wash + goes that will last forever and all things natural hair care) 

 3129 N 22nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19132 (267) 297-7636

dua-fe.com 


 We are natural hair bloggers. We have been doing this thing for a little over 5 years. With that in mind, this is the first time that we have ever come across the idea of a 2 WEEK WASH AND GO! Welp ladies and gents prepare to have your minds blown and all the life given to your hair because it is possible! 

I have been a fan of Philly’s legendary holistic hair salon”Duafe” since I was a young girl (want to learn about Duafe and it’s owner click here + here).

Duafe is still revolutionizing shit with this wash and go technique. The technique consists of a simple process of taking each strand individually, coating with Duafe’s “WHIPPED” product (buy yours now) and stroking each strand into a smooth coil then setting the curls by sitting under a dryer and enjoying defined, shiny coils for weeks on end. Pow! Thats it. 

We followed and interviewed Danielle during her visit to Duafe to document her process. 


BEFORE

 Danielle’s “naked” hair after washing and conditioning (hair type 4a-4b)

 

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How long have you been natural? Did you big chop or transition?

I’ve been natural for about two years. I decided to go natural after suffering from having a chronically itchy scalp caused by the perms. I have always had short hair so I basically transitioned. I cut my straight ends with each hair cut until my entire head was natural. 

How long have you been coming to Duafe? How often do you come between appointments?

I’ve been coming for  5 months now. I come every two weeks. Quite honestly I could probably stretch even longer between my appointments because my hair still looks good but… 

How long does it take for you to get your hair done with this process from start to finish?  

    It generally takes about an hour.                                


THE PROCESS

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AFTER

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So let’s recap : You can have a super defined, moisturized and shiny wash and go which lasts for nearly 2 weeks and only takes an hour to get done from start to finish?!!!

In collaboration with ATWC’s Duafe is taking 10% off of the service if you mention this post! Just tell them Around The Way Curls sent you!

 

Philadelphia Print Works – Fashion is A Message

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 1.Tell us about the mastermind(s) behind PPW. Where did you go to school? Where do you currently reside? Are your backgrounds rooted in art or design?

 Philadelphia Printworks was founded in 2010 by myself, Maryam Pugh, and Ruth Paloma Rivera-Perez. Neither of us had any artistic technical training. But, we were both very creative people who were passionate about social justice. Ruth had some experience with the DIY community and I was very interested in learning. We taught ourselves how to screen print and that was the beginning.

 Ruth left in 2012 and I have continued to run the company since then with an extremely passionate and supportive team.

 I attended Cheyney University of PA, an HBCU in suburban Pennsylvania. There I received an undergraduate degree in Computer Science. Afterwards I completed my master’s degree at DeVry University, majoring in Computer and Information Systems with a concentration in Programming Languages. I am now a Senior Test Engineer at Oracle, Inc. and I currently reside in Ardmore, PA.

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Co-Founder and CEO Maryam Pugh

 2. I love to hear stories about inspiration. I love to understand what sparks an idea. For me, they are like conversations with God. Holy moments. What was the moment like in which PPW was conceived?

 That moment was pretty magical. Ruth and I met through mutual friends and immediately clicked. We were interested in so many of the same things: DIY culture, screen printing, social justice and business. We used the enthusiasm behind these similarities to fuel our drive and ambition over the next few years. That partnership really made PPW possible.  

3. Can you explain the curation process behind your collections? Is the idea conceived first then the artists are seeked out? Do artists present their ideas to you? Explain the collaborative process.

 The collaborative process is very flexible. I’ve worked with a number of artists and social justice activists in all different ways. The creative process is developed based on the needs of the project. One of the reasons I got into screen printing was because of my own desire for a creative and artistic outlet. So, when possible, I try to do the designs in-house. Unfortunately or fortunately, I have a lot of hats to wear. So, I’m not able to devote as much time to the creative process as I would like. If I have a concept that I feel is outside the breadth of my own skillset or calls for a different aesthetic, I’ll enlist an artist that I feel can execute the vision.

 On the other hand, there are also artists who I come across on social media who are amazing and who care about social justice. When I find that combination I usually reach out to them and ask them if they’d be interested in a collaboration. If they agree, I ask them to choose the theme and they handle the concept and design from there. In those cases, once the designs have been finalized we usually collaborate on the remaining art direction required for the launch of the products (i.e. photoshoot, etc).

 So, sometimes the idea comes first. Sometimes the artist comes first. Sometimes the activist comes first.

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James Baldwin Tee

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Flux Comic “Genderqueer” Collaborative Tee

4. In what ways do you feel clothing/self adornment can be revolutionary?

Fashion is a message. The clothing people choose to wear and how they choose to adorn themselves reflect their personality and the things they care about. Philadelphia Printworks is an extension of that.

 It is also revolutionary to support black owned businesses. Cooperative economics is something that is important to me and something that I prioritize when seeking partnerships.

 Philadelphia Printworks also invests 10% of the proceeds from the majority of our products to organizations tied to the theme of each design. Organizations who are on the ground doing work that needs to be supported both financially and socially.

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5. Did you have any experience in business before the launch of Philadelphia Printworks? Has it been hard to balance quality content, accessible price points and making a profit? What has been your greatest lesson in business thus far?

 I did not and that was also one of the reasons we decided to launch a clothing line. Starting a t-shirt company requires a low initial financial investment compared to many other ventures. It’s more accessible than starting a restaurant, a food truck or owning property. So, we were eager to learn as much about the entire landscape of what it means to own a clothing line in terms of both business and creativity.

 As Philadelphia Printworks continues to grow I am becoming more and more aware of profit margins. Providing a product to as many people as possible without sacrificing quality is one of my major concerns.  As we begin to expand to stores I’ve had to find ways to make our production costs more efficient. It’s an ongoing process. But, one that I’m constantly aware of.

 I think I probably learned the most last holiday season when our School of Thought line launched. The popularity of that collection was like nothing we had ever seen. Absorbing everything that comes with that popularity was challenging. But, I learned from it and made adjustments.  Since then we’ve employed 2 new customer service people and we’ve hired a social media editor and a blog editor. The greatest lesson, so far, has been that you can’t do everything by yourself. Surrounding yourself with talented, responsible and passionate people is paramount to operating a successful company. 

6. I am always curious as to what folks are rocking to musically these days. What albums do you have on repeat most recently?

 Hmmm… great question. I’m currently going through an Afro-Beat phase. I recently discovered the Lijadu Sisters, identical twins from Nigeria who were big during the 70’s. They were known as Africa’s Pointer Sisters. I really like the song “Orere-Elejigbo”.

 I’m also stuck on Opposite People by Fela Kuti. I have that and Follow Follow on repeat. I am truly amazed at how we’ve found a way to continue to document our struggle through what I would consider oral tradition. It’s really beautiful.

 Finally, I have to mention The Budos Band, “T.I.B.W.F.” and “Magus Mountain”. And “Bra” by Cymande which was made popular on the soundtrack for Crooklyn.

 

7. How have you each grown individually as artists/humans with PPW? What are you most proud of about yourself?

I’ve grown a lot. I think in a lot of ways the evolution of PPW has been a direct evolution of my own personal maturity in both business and social justice critique. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately learning about strategies of liberation. I’ve been studying cases of successful revolution. It’s very empowering. I hope to apply these strategies to the future of PPW.

8. Do you each have a favorite collection from PPW? If so, why?

I love them all. They’re all my babies, lol. It’s hard to pick one. We have shirts from the beginning that aren’t even on our website. Shirts about Fracking and shirts about MOVE. Shirts against Monsanto. They’re all close to my heart. 

“Cats Against CatCalling”

In Collaboration with artist Alain Ewins this line addresses street harassment 

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“School Of Thought”

Designed by PPW and Mars Five, this line imagines universities established on black genius such as Harriet Tubman, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Ida B. Wells and Marcus Garvey. 

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“The Pre-School of Thought”

A Collaboration with Eryn Amel

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“The Lavender Collection”

Celebrates feminist women of color. A collaboration between PPW and Diata Crystal

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9. Why Philly? Do you find Philly to be a progressive city? Is there a spirit or movement or awareness that is central to Philly that you all feel is reflective of the PPW brand?

I’m from Coatesville, PA, a small town 45-minutes outside of Philadelphia. I moved here after graduating from college and after having my daughter. Her father is from here. That’s why I moved here.

But, I stayed because there’s a lot of opportunity and history in Philly. It’s situated perfectly between DC and NY which provides a built in extended community. The artistic community here is very welcoming. Artists such as Paul Robeson, Nina Simone and Thelonius Monk have spent time here. In my experience, people here love to work with each other and partner on projects. If you want to do something there’s nothing stopping you from doing it. Anyone can have an event.  Anyone can start a band.  There are a few cliques. But, I’m sure that’s probably true everywhere.

10. Where do you see the brand going in 5 years? Do you see expansion outside of clothing?

Philadelphia Printworks will stay primarily focused on t-shirts. But, we will also begin to incorporate additional products such as buttons, stickers and posters. I’m also considering a quarterly news publication of the articles from our blog. I think it’d be great to see the articles in print, offline and in the hands of people who don’t spend a lot of time online. We’re also launching an online electronic zine distro.

We’ve been focused mainly on mobilization for the past few years. At some point I will shift my attention back to community outreach and organizing. As I learn more about strategies of liberation I’ll try to apply them to on-the-ground organizing events.

Thank you for taking the time to ask me these questions. I love your platform and I am grateful for this opportunity.

Nah, thank you Maryam!


If you want to purchase from this bomb ass brand check out the website

www.philadelphiaprintworks.com

and if you want to get all of your intellectual and activist life, check out Philadelphia Printworks blog. (Aspiring writers may feel free to submit their works as well)


Philadelphia Printworks Blog

Truth To Power | Rock the Vote

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What is Truth to Power?

“To launch Rock the Vote’s Truth to Power campaign to engage and mobilize young people in the 2016 election, join artists and activists from across the nation coming together against the backdrop of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

In partnership with #Cut50 and other national and community partners, Rock the Vote will host a large-scale pop-up art exhibition, discussion forum and live performances designed to elevate and illuminate the most pressing issues facing young people in the United States today.

Together we will lift our voices, identify solutions and get organized to speak truth to power in November.”


I attended  the first night of the The Truth to Power (TTP) series (July 25-27). I walked in and studied the workings of Philadelphia’s tight nit community of movers and shakers.  Men were dressed sharply in crisp khaki pants, nonchalantly cuffed, revealing bare ankles above bright white Reeboks or Adidas sneakers. Broad shoulders  gave form to freshly pressed collared short sleeved shirts, buttoned high  to Adam’s apples, shadowed by handsomely groomed beards. Hair was cut in either classic all American fades or pulled slickly into the ubiquitous top not. Cigarettes dangled from slack lips.  People arrived  laughing loudly and smiling . Large gauged ears swung as shoulders pressed in hugs and hand clasps.  Septum piercings were worn by many. Wild curls framed faces, tight dresses hugged hips, minimalism shrieked loudly in the form of simple black pants, white loose tops, messy buns and small gold studs and rings. The vibe was “you got to be down to enter”.

The evenings festivities included a bar , a live DJ and a performance by the lovely Andra Day. I arrived early and wandered around the venue which consisted of two rooms – the art gallery  and the performance space. I went into the gallery and was blown away. The art pieces varied from sculpture to photography, paintings to hanging  instillation pieces from artists such as Shepard Fairey and Banksy (see all artists here) The themes were provocation,  deviance, vulnerability and the exposure of the government’s failings. Centered around  minority populations within America, the exhibition displayed critiques of White supremacy, the criminal justice system, economic inequality, patriarchy and environmental decline. The art work felt like it pointed a stiff finger towards the left of my chest and pushed hard until I found my ass on the floor.

Unlike the censored political narratives being pushed by the media that leave me dazed and confused, the art of Truth to Power helped me to connect politics directly to all that matters the most to me –  people. It smacked me in the face with the issues that I have become accustomed to tolerating as if they are normal, as if they are out of my control. Citizens are being executed by police by an alarming rate of 3 deaths per day,  immigrants are stripped of their humanity and dignity and the disparity between rich and poor, black and white, them and us is growing with no near halt in the future. What the fuck do we do? 

I  left the event without any answers. Beyond being included with the “cool crowd”, I left without the spirited camaraderie needed to keep people inspired with the will to fight for one another. I am not sure that those haunting artistic visuals helped me to feel more empowered to partake in politics within the construct of this system. I feel like we wondered the gallery in a stylish stupor of cognizant dissonance, aware that the stakes were high, aware that all evidence points to corruption and that the real power is held in the hands of the few, yet like a dehydrated and starving caravan we stumble towards a wavy mirage of democracy. 

I am not criticizing this event. I think it is so very necessary and amazing. It has brought up so much for me. I needed this. We need this. My experience was only limited to the night time portion of this amazing event. I am fully aware that it has so much more to offer. From 11am to 7pm there is an amazing line up of FREE discussions that bring focus and perhaps offer answers and sympathy to those cynical and scared like me. Here is the schedule of times and topics.  I will be sure to go to see the other side to this series as well. 

To all those in Philly please attend this event, please. Let me know what it meant to you. 


The Art

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Shanti Goes to NOLA


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This post is way past due. I don’t really reflect on my time in NOLA. The memory of my time there has been darkened. I will share what I do remember. 

I do remember rows of houses painted in beautiful colors of coral pinks, raspberry reds, aqua blues and canary yellows. I remember Bourbon street with a stench so ripe and thick it seemed to crawl up my legs as I walked with a crowd of people who sipped bright green liquor from fish bowls, red faced and laughing as they gawked at side shows of bare backed black boys clapping and tapping out of rhythm smiling for donations with sweat dripping down their skinny torsos. I remember a heat I ain’t never felt before. I remember stepping out of air conditioned buildings and having my breath snatched away from the force of it. I remember feeling sweat trickle from the small of my back and build in-between my thighs. I remember a friend asking, “Can you imagine picking cotton in this heat? Or cutting sugarcane?”

I remember the food. I remember it being delicious but that’s not important to me. To mention the food in New Orleans feels cliche and easy. What’s more important were the the folks who took my order and brought food to my table. These were genuine people with warm smiles and deep laughs. They were women who fussed over my well being asking over three times in a span of a half hour, “How ya’ll doing? Ya’ll alright?”

Or women who silently expressed their  helplessness with the twist of their lips and raised eyebrows as I sat at a table with an empty water glass watching as these women ran in circles taking orders, wiping tables and dropping heaping plates of soul food in front of patiently waiting customers. I couldn’t be mad at ’em. I loved them. They felt like family.

I remember a large, heavy set black man with beads of sweat on his  forehead waddle to my table with my first catfish po’boy from New Orleans. He approached my table with a stained apron. The plate which he held looked like a child’s play dish in his large lined hands.

“Who got a cat fish po’boy?”

I raised my hand and with grace he set down the plate. All the Northerners at the table squealed with delight as he put the huge fried fish sandwich before me.  His sheepish smile revealed four gold teeth as his shoulders shook with a chuckle. He seemed so soft. So kind. So innocent.

I remember leaving New Orleans feeling good. I remember flying home. I remember the morning I scrolled instagram and watched the murder of Alton Sterling. I remember watching the pixelated pool of blood spread across his white t-shirt on my phone. I remember sinking to the floor next to my bed, shaking my head saying “No, no, no.” I remember seeing his picture on the news. He looked back at me heavy set and smiling with two gold front teeth. I remember feeling like I lost a family member. He felt so familiar. So innocent.


 The Homies

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The Sights

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The Food

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I know, I know, it’s Mexican BUT it was so good and the restaurant Casa Borrega was sooooooo beautiful!

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The restaurant owner and newly made friend Hugo Montero (artist)

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Afro Latino Festival 2016

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What is the Afro Latino Festival? 

“The Afrolatino Festival of New York celebrated the contributions that people of African descent from Latin America and the Caribbean have made to our city and the global culture as a whole. Now in it’s fourth year, the summer cultural event attracts a wide arrange of artists, both local and international, as well as entrepreneurs, academics and community leaders. With conferences, culinary presentations and artistic showcases, the festival highlights the work, values and issues important to the Afrolatino community. “


I was honored to have been invited to volunteer at New York’s fourth annual Afro – Latino festival in Brooklyn two weeks ago. It was one of the dopest events that I have ever attended, full of the most gorgeous, generous, talented people, seasoned with amazing food, cool vendors and the undeniable pulse of music from all over the Afrolatino diaspora.

I am always interested in the people and stories behind ideas. I am always amazed at the scope and persistence of human potential. The story and people behind the Afrolatino festival that have worked so hard to make it bigger and better each year are truly inspiring.

It all started four years ago on a hot summer night in Brooklyn. Husband and wife Amilcar Priestley and Mai- Elka Prado gathered their friends and family together, cooked some food, played some music and sang and danced together all in the name of love for their Panamanian culture. Amilcar Priestley is the son of George  T. Priestly, who was a beloved scholar and social justice activist from Panama. Mai – Elka is a singer and song writer and the couple have been compelled to continue in their cultural traditions of social justice and music.

Ever since that magical night in Brooklyn, Amilcar and Mai-Elka have worked their asses off (with little to no experience in promotion or event production) to share their Afrolatino pride. They have grown from a spontaneous block party into a full fledged 3 day festival featuring some of today’s most influential Afrolatino academics and music artists. It fills my heart with joy to see such a tenacious display of black excellence and love.


The Beauty of the Diaspora 

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Shanti Goes to Paris – “Last Day” (Part 4)

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I feel claustrophobic. The smell of cigarettes and the human scents of breath, sweat and hair weigh on top of me as I lay in a dark room on the top bunk in a small bed, wide eyed, mind racing, as my arms and legs push and pull the thick blanket on top of me.

I rented the bed from a hustler. He has some how managed to stack 20 people unto bunk beds in a 3 bedroom apartment. He has a shaved head, glassy yellow eyes and an addiction to chain smoking and early afternoon beers. Nonetheless, he has been kind to me. Upon my arrival he advised me,

“Please make yourself comfortable. Please be quiet and don’t mention anything about Air Bnb to my neighbors. If you are asked say you are a good friend to Renaud. Nice to meet you, I am Renaud”.

It is my last night in Paris. I go home tomorrow.  I have spent the last two days alone. Today,  I wandered into the Sacre Coeur cathedral and marveled at it’s architectural magnificence. I tsked at all the cold, still white statues of saints and angels and Christ which looked down on me, seemingly avoiding eye contact with me no matter where I positioned myself beneath them.

Nonetheless, the cathedral took my breath away and I was yearning for a moment of peace and so with closed eyes and a straight back I allowed my mind to empty into the deep echoes of the cathedral walls. I prayed.

Here I am. I am a young, black mother brought safely to Paris to enjoy. Thank you. Here I am, single and jobless and like Christ I raise my arms wide and fall backwards into an unknown abyss praying, wanting, hoping, trusting, doubting that I will be caught once my descend is over. God, catch. God, love me enough to catch me.

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Shanti Goes to Paris – “Midnight in Paris” (Part 3)

 

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I have not danced in a long time.

I have not lost track of time in a long time. 

I am here

and now. 

The lights are rainbow.
The bodies are black

and brown and honey 

and sweet

and glistening.

The music feels like tough love.

It feels like it will pull me off the ground by my ears.

I anchor my face into the wet warmth of his neck.

My hand is settled on the sinew of his back.

His hands move from my shoulders to my hips to my ass

and we rock

and we laugh.

We pull away and marvel

at each other. 


I have been wanting to share my experience in Paris for a while now. I have started many posts only to stop because they didn’t feel authentic enough. I felt like I was being fake and the content I was creating was not mine but a carbon copy of everyone else’s picture perfect travel pics which consist of a cute outfit and a picturesque back drop with some remote location posted with hashtags #travelnoire #travel #runningoutofpagesonmypassport 

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Paris. I made sure to see all of the touristy sites. I ate well. I took pictures. I tried to look cute. But those were not the most important parts of Paris to me. What was most important was what drove me there. What went on within me internally while there. And what I carry with me continuously now that I have returned. I wrote a lot in my journal during my 8 days so I figured rather than create posts that are superficial, I’d share you all the real deal knowing that we are going through the same things. What’s there to hide?

       

Shanti Goes To Paris (Part 2) “For Single Mothers Who Think They Don’t Deserve Flight”

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I lost my passport.

My plane leaves in 12 hours.

Why

can’t

I

keep

my

shit

together?

This is really for my own good. 


It’s a lesson.

I don’t deserve to go.

I don’t deserve flight.

They say,

Slow down

Be more present

Tell that to a woman in a burning house.

Tell that to women running as fast as they can,

blinded by sweat in their eyes

as they tear forward,

fighting against fatigue,

powered by super human endurance

unknown to men.

Repeat.

We have to keep running, finding private schools, paying tuition, washing clothes, folding shirts, buying socks, and dresses, and dance classes and soap and groceries, and insurance and doctors visits, and braiding hair, and washing limbs and giving kisses, and reading books, and making dinner and lunch and breakfast, and paying bills, and playgrounds and play dates and teachers conferences, and running hot water for baths, always conscious of shoe sizes and keeping track of winter hats, and arranging care with grandmothers and friends and begging men to do what they should be doing with a lumps in our throats and rage in our chest, and lonely tears at night, and hope for the morning that things will turn out alright.

Repeat.

We deserve to smile.

We deserve to laugh.

We deserve relief.

We deserve dance.


We deserve help.

We deserve flight.

Repeat.


I lost my passport the morning before I was to leave to Paris. The emotional roller coaster was real. I decided I deserved to go and a day later I was in the air. Self love at times feels like  a constant battle where I am fighting no one else but myself.

I have been wanting to share my experience in Paris for a while now. I have started many posts only to stop because they didn’t feel authentic enough. I felt like I was being fake and the content I was creating was not mine but a carbon copy of everyone else’s picture perfect travel pics which consist of a cute outfit and a picturesque back drop with some remote location posted with hashtags #travelnoire #travel #runningoutofpagesonmypassport 

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Paris. I made sure to see all of the touristy sites. I ate well. I took pictures. I tried to look cute. But those were not the most important parts of Paris to me. What was most important was what drove me there. What went on within me internally while there. And what I carry with me continuously now that I have returned. I wrote a lot in my journal during my 8 days so I figured rather than create posts that are superficial, I’d share you all the real deal knowing that we are going through the same things. What’s there to hide?

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