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?

ATWC’S Favorites From Curl Fest 2016

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The ladies and the legends Left to Right: Gia, Simone, Melody, Charisse and Tracey


            We were unable to attend Curl Fest this year, nonetheless, the hard work, consistency and black girl magic that is expressed by the beautiful ladies behind Curl Fest 2016 never goes unnoticed by ATWC. Although we could not be there in person, we were there in spirit and stalked all the happenings via social media. The crowd was gorgeous and came to slay! Good Job ladies!  Here are some of our favorites.


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Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 9.31.19 PMThe Smiles

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 9.30.46 PMThe Pop of Color

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Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 9.33.55 PMThe Lines

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Did Anyone Attend Curl Fest This Year?
What was it Like?

Share!

Shanti Goes To Paris (Part 1) The Great Escape

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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?


 

The Great Escape

Fuck it, I’m going to Paris.

I bought a ticket to Paris because I feel as if I am riding on a wave of good luck and freedom.

So what if I just quit my job and I ain’t got another one waiting.

So what I just got into a car accident and now I don’t have anything.

The insurance company just cut me a check which will hopefully carry me over for another month until I have to dip into my savings

which I am praying will continue to save me

until I find my stability

in this new freedom

loving stride

I’m swaying

because Got damn it

I feel free.


I’m in a new place in my life.

I’ve dropped my attachments to a man who at one time I’d drop everything for.

For him

I’d drop my plans,

another call,

my panties,

my dignity,

my pride.

I’ve left a job that sucked the life out of me.

Monotony.

Negativity.

Absolutely no

creativity.

I can’t sell my soul for money.
I can’t limit my life because it’s safe.

I can’t wait.

So I’m buying a ticket to Paris.

   

Travel Guide for the Carefree + Black in PARIS

 
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Once I booked my ticket to Paris, I made sure to hit up Kristin Braswell from Crush Global for some advice on what to do and where to go while there. She offered me this really sweet travel guide for the carefree black girl in Paris.

 
“The days when we walked through Les Halles singing, loving every inch of France and loving each other … the jam sessions in Pigalle, the nights spent smoking hashish in the Arab cafes, the morning which found us telling dirty stories, true stories, sad and earnest stories, in gray working men’s cafes.” – James Baldwin


MORNING

What’s a day in Paris without a perfect patisserie visit? Here are two to start your day
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This almond chocolate croissant soaked in butter and sprinkled with sugar made me weak. I sat on a dirty stoop in the middle of a busy street and made out with it slowly, tenderly and oh so gratefully. 

1. Du Pain Et Des Idees
Grab a pistachio snail and rose croissant from here. You will not be sorry. 
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34 rue Yves Toudic 75010 Paris
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For brunch head to 2. West African restaurant Le Nilaja
17, rue de la Forge Royale
75011 Paris
 

EARLY AFTERNOON

Yes, the Louvre is all the rage, but Paris has exhibits that will blow your mind far more than Mona Lisa’s smirk. 

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Spend your afternoon at one of the museums below:
 
1.  Grand Palais – On Exhibition is Photographer Seydou Keita
I fell so deeply in love with the way the Malian photographer blended the props of the West such as vespers, cigarette holders and three piece suits. If you are in the city of Paris, you must go check this exhibit out!
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LATE AFTERNOON

You’re going to want to people watch, and you might be a bit hungry again today. And that’s perfect for you, because Paris is one of the best cities in the world for picnics. It is a pasttime enjoyed by Parisians all over the city, near the Seine River, under the Eiffel Tower, and in flower clad gardens that look like a fairytale.

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For your picnic, you’ll be heading to Parcs des Buttes Chaumont in the 19th arrondissiment. Pick up some cheese from Pascal Beillicaire (http://www.fromagerie-beillevaire.com/) and a crusty baguette from any nearby bakery. There is also a wine shop near the park called L’epicerie 104. Bring a book, bring the joy of peace. This park is just beautiful.

If you prefer not to picnic, Bastille Market is a great place to buy a little bit of everything and people watch. Get there early for the poulet roti (roasted chicken). The French don’t play when it comes to a good, grilled bird. 
 
EVENING

If you want to dine with the locals, head to Chez Janous. It’s a quintessential bistro where you’ll feel lucky to grab a seat and have an affordable meal. My favorite place to eat? An unassuming restaurant called John Viande, with pasta and cocktails that are unforgettable. 
 
For a pinch me, I’m in Paris moment: Stand under the eiffel tower at night. Far less tourists. Far more magic. 
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Thank you Kristen for the wondering tips and sources!

Follow

CrushGlobal on Instagram and Twitter @crushglobal

 If you are preparing for travel and interested in a more curated experience, including a few surprises and a very local experience, email contact@crushglobaltravel.com

 

 

“With Love”

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Antoinette’s story behind her new album “With Love” is nothing short of amazing. It is a story of trust. It is an example of what magic can come from trusting that God, the universe, fate (or whatever you want to call it) is always ready for us, always presenting opportunities to us and all we need do is show up as best we can.  Nearly two years ago, Antoinette called me with an amazing story to share….

One Friday night, Antoinette was serving tables at the Jazz venue Dizzy’s  as she did every weekend. On this particular weekend the great jazz vocalist  Kim Nalley was performing. 

Somehow Antoinette and Kim had  graduated from the required role play of  “How are you? What can I get you to drink?” to more personal conversation and Antoinette revealed to Kim that she was an aspiring jazz vocalist. Nonchalantly, Kim told Antoinette that she would invite Antoinette on stage some time during Kim’s set to sing a song and advised Antoinette to be ready when she was called up.  Antoinette thought that was highly unlikely and assumed Kim was just being nice because what established jazz vocalist invites some “nobody” unto the stage to share her shine? 

Nonetheless, Antoinette prepared herself just in case Ms. Kim was serious. She practiced in the bathroom that Friday night but Kim didn’t call her up. She practiced Saturday morning before work. Saturday night passed. Kim hadn’t called her up. Sunday night came and lo and behold’ Kim called her up to stage and to Antoinette’s surprise she indeed did not want to share the stage with Antoinette, she wanted to give the whole stage to Antoinette for herself. Antoinette shed her waitress apron and stepped unto the stage and sang. Although scared, she gave it all she had. 

Here is video from that very night.

Unbeknownst to Antoinette,  there was a man in the audience that would fulfill one of her greatest desires. Everyone at Dizzy’s was familiar with him. He was quiet, sweet, tipped well and had a peculiar affinity for Fiji water (which Antoinette took incredibly seriously often running to nearby stores to get him The Fiji water if the restaurant was out of it). He became what we affectionally call in the restaurant biz as “a regular”. On this Friday night, after Antoinette performed, he whispered in her ear “I want to pay for you to make an album”. The rest is history.

No, he wasn’t a sugar daddy, no there were no strings attached. He was just an extremely wealthy man who simply wanted to use his wealth to help young, talented people follow their dreams (yeah, those types of wealthy people exist). He financed Antoinette’s entire album.

Produced by the incredibily talented bassist Christian McBride, Antoinette has created an album with selected jazz standards about love performed “her way”.

The Making of “With Love”

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I recently went to see Antoinette perform at her album release party and I was struck by my best friend. I saw her in a way I had never seen her before. Onstage, I saw her stretched and expanded in her greatest artistic form.

My God, the impressions we can make when we push past fear and step forth into the boundlessness of our life’s purpose. My God, the inspiration we spark when we do the hard work required of us as we push towards completing our goals. When we pursue our art, when we strive to fulfill our inner dictates, when we complete our goals, we allow ourselves the possibility of perfection through the eyes of others. I really saw my best friend during her performance and she was flawless. 

She stepped unto the stage, barefoot, with a tight royal blue dress clinging to her ample form, hands folded in a prayer and resting on her thighs, with lowered, bedroom eyes she tossed her waves over her shoulder and looked into the crowd with a shy, innocent smirk which stretched into a wide knowing smile, which opened into a laugh. The crowd was transfixed. Black girl magic. Her entire performance was a reflection of who she is at her core – sensual, controlled, generous and oh so very vulnerable.  I hope she knows how beautiful she was that night. I hope she knows she has a gift. I hope she knows how deeply she touches people. I hope she continues to share her richness with this starving world. Love you girl! 

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Antoinettehenry.com

Antoinette’s album “With Love” is also available for purchase on iTunes!

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