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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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?

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.

   

How To Thrift – Philly Style

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Philly has a wealth of fantastic thrift stores. I love thrifting and I wanted to share with you all some of my favorite Philly haunts.  My first reveal is a Philadelphia gem – PHILLY AIDS THIFT.

 Philly Aids Thrift is wonderful. The inventory is added daily so you could come everyday and find something new. Proceeds go to benefitting work towards AIDS research and relief.

Located in South Philadelphia one block from south street at 710 S. 5th Street. Phila, PA 19147 

Here is my comprehensive step by step guide to thrift shopping. 

Step One

Pick a day in which you have nothing but time to waste with listless meandering. Find a best friend and with an open mind, full stomach and a little bit of money to burn – head to your nearest thrift store. 

Step Two

Begin by browsing. Don’t go with high expectations of finding amazing pieces immediately. Thrifting is like finding love. The best comes when you least expect it. 

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Don’t be afraid to try on crazy, costumes. Think outside of the box. Don’t be afraid to go vintage, embrace 80’s bling, bulk and fringe. You will be surprised at what works for you. 

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Step Three

Take advantage of all that the thrift store has aside from just clothing. You may find some amazing music as well as household items. When I first moved into my apartment, the thrift stores were where I got almost all of my odds and ends such as cups, pots and some of my furniture.  You can find great scarves, jewelry, DVDs, and artwork. Think outside of the box!

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 Mason Jars! Do you know the DIY possibilities of mason jars?!

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Step Four

Have a photoshoot- imaginary or literal. Try on clothes, ask your friend’s opinion, allow them to talk you into items you don’t really like or need! Feel excited by your purchases because you saved mad money and your pieces are unique. 

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 Tsehaitu in this amazing purple and leather blazer. I had to talk her into getting this! Betch whet? She wasn’t feeling it at first. Its amazing isn’t it???!!

Step Five

Go grab coffee or lunch with your BF and enjoy the things that really matter like friendship and shit. 

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  On a serious, preachy note, thrifting is really important. We live in a society where “fast fashion” is as toxic as “fast food”. Companies such as The Gap, H&M, Old Navy and Forever 21 resource majority of their labor to third world countries where the labor cost is inhumanely cheap. People are living on less than $160 dollars a month making our clothing. The labor force which consists of more than 85% women are forced to work long, sufferable hours in unsafe environments. Any unions that are attempted are squashed with beatings and even death. It is modern day slavery.

There is a great cost in lives being wasted and lost under the weight of consumerism and capitalism so that we can buy flimsy shirts for $5.50 and a dress for the night for $40 at our favorite teeny bopper store. For more information check out this video trailer “The True Cost”. You can watch this movie on Netflix.

When you decide to shop at thirft stores, you take away the demand for “fast fashion”, you lessen the effect on the environment, you show corporations that you are aware and strong enough to make your own choices. You wash some of the blood from your hands and pay respect to the hard working, real people you are inevitably connected to in this world. 

Ignorance is bliss. Wake up.

On the Cover but not the Average CoverGirl. curlBOX BODY

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This isn’t a photo of a greasy girl in her bra and underwear. This is a photo of a woman standing proudly, in her glory, celebrating all that she is and all that she thankfully, is not. Thank you Curlbox for celebrating with her.


A Thank you Letter

Dear Body, 

Thank you for keeping me safe and protecting me during the times when I needed it most. Thank you for standing strong when life and its many lessons, seemed too much for me to bare. Thank you for being plentiful for it has kept me warm when no chicken soup could soothe my soul. Thank you for being broad because it helped me block those that did not belong. Thank you for holding me close. Thank you for healing me. Thank you breathing air into my lungs. Thank you for keeping me going. I love you. 

Stay.

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I am in love. Meaning, it’s mutual. I love someone and they love me back. They told me so. I hear it. “What if I told you that I loved you”? I replay those words in my head daily. Filled with all the feelings, I look up. I. see. him. Handsome, sure and smiling. I am overcome with gratitude and resolve. This. is all I’ve ever wanted. He’s more than I’ve imagined. He is love. My love.

I am in love. Meaning, I’m wide the fuck open and for his taking. I’m all in. Exposed. Naked and Vulnerable. In the past, I’ve stretched my body out anticipating civilization, but have only been met by ruins. Here, I am safe. Here, I can be still. Here, we are kind and just.

I am in love. Meaning, I’m devoted. All in. Chin deep. Soaked. Invested. Thinking of the future. Envisioning a future. All his. All mine. All of me. All and all.

I am in love. Meaning, I am thriving. I aim to be my lover’s every(any)thing. His go-to. His best friend. Therefore, I want to be my best self. I am becoming my best self. In his eyes, my reflection is clear and I bask in its glory. I am better now, than before he found me.

I am in love. Meaning, I am in lust. Wide. Open. Ready. Needing all. of. it. Unafraid. Unabashed.

I am in love. Meaning, I am (re)learning. Love languages. Love truths. Love confessions.

I am in love. Meaning, I am healing. I do deserve love. I do deserve peace. I do deserve clarity. I do deserve affection. I do deserve admiration. I do deserve him. I am enough.

I am in love. Meaning, I am terrified. Now, that I have found this. feeling. Now, that I have been loved, I’m afraid. I need love.

-Anonymous.

Practicing Safe Sex “What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Sex”

Listen up ladies! This is meant for you to learn and gain strength from!

“Safe sex” is protection from so much more than just STDs and unwanted babies. I have learned time and time again the hard way about maintaining clarity and my integrity before sharing myself sexually with another person. I hope you all take heed and avoid the pain, confusion and disappointment that is often the sad remains of relationships fueled solely on sex. 

New Video: What’s Love Got To Do With It?

New Video! Candid conversation about what is needed in a successful relationship? Is family, religion, money, race and class important or does love conquer all?

 

Comment Below with Your Opinions!

Self-Love: Nobody Said the Shit Was Easy

 

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It is morning. I open my eyes and immediately the memories begin. Im flooded with montages of us walking hand in hand, strong kisses, his mouth when he laughs, our arms and legs tangled under the heat of cream sheets, the quiet of his apartment after secrets, fears and hopes are confessed and the dark brown of his sloping, sweet sad eyes. Hot tears stream down my face and tickle my ears. I want to scream. I want to go back to sleep. I want him.

I check my phone. Nothing.

After walking into the bathroom, I  read aloud the “post-its” pasted on the top of my mirror. “I make good decisions”, “I complete things that I start”. With a sigh, I study my face. My normally smooth, brown skin is adorned with small bursting white heads, my lips are dry and my eyes are still wet from tears. It has become more and more difficult to like my own reflection. It has become more and more difficult not to notice the darkness cast beneath my eyes, the unkept, misshapen curls atop my head and my complete disinterest in changing any of it.

I suppose this is natural when you are in mourning.

The heat from the stream of the shower feels good on my neck. I lather my soap and quietly praise the areas of my body that I am proud of like my shapely legs, generous hips and thin, firm arms which move mechanically over the areas of my body I ignore and try to hide like my small, sagging breasts streaked horizontally with stretch marks and my weak, pouch of a belly tattooed just the same.

I plan on working out now and really taking care of myself. I want to consume kale in every way possible, I want to wear skirt sets and have my belly show shadowed and flat. I have hopes that I will somehow feel how I  hope to someday look – healthy, confident and amazing. Someday, I tell myself.

I check my phone. Nothing. I check his instagram and scroll.

Instagram has become an inspirational guide for me. I scroll and “like” every post advocating themes of “Self Love”, “Fuck ’em girl” and “This Too Shall Pass”. I have difficulty maintaining these sentiments after my head is raised from the white light of my screen and my phone is stuffed into my pocket.

On my way to work I daydream about him re-routing his path to catch me. Like a scripted movie, breathless, handsome and assured he will tell me he loves me, tell me he is ready, tell me I’m the one, tell me he misses me so much and he just had to see me or at the very least simply ask me to share a damn coffee with him.

I check my phone. Nothing.

At work, I serve many couples. Young, smiling, happy couples with nothing but their shared futures ahead of them. It doesn’t matter if they may be faced with sadness, deceit, anger, disappointment and loss. They are together. I hate them.

It’s late. I have had two glasses of wine. I want to call him. I want to see him. I want to lay next to him even though I know I will wake in the morning feeling like I have killed someone. The guilt, the shame, the emptiness would take me weeks to recover from. I look at my phone and wait. If he were to call or text, I know my ill equipped, third world walls of defense would crumble against his established power.

I check my phone. Nothing.

I am driving home. I need support, reassurance. I put on Stevie and he sings to me,

Little girl be fair show yourself you care Let others care for you before it’s too late ‘Cause time won’t wait till your heart’s no longer blue

Little girl be smart don’t break your own heart There is love waiting for you before it’s too late ‘Cause time won’t wait till your heart’s no longer blue

 

The tears start again. They are hot and I can’t stop them.

I am alone in bed. I am alone with myself. I am still crying but I feel a stirring, soothing strength within me.

I cry until I fall asleep and have to wake to face another day.

Ladies (and Gents), 

What does self-love look and feel like to you?

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