It has always been my belief that conformists don't change the world; rebels do. Whether you stand alone or with others who recognize the need to exist, create, and be seen through lens and filters diametrically opposed with systemic mainstream thinking, such an opportunity exists with AFFRM.
Deep in the throes of penning book three in the Experience Life from a Different Perspective series and while doing a bit of research I came across this clip from the 2011 Awards Season Roundtable series which prompted me to watch the entire discussion. As a result I fell deeper in love with this gentleman, accent notwithstanding, whose blatant honesty is refreshingly welcomed in an industry that bleaches reality into one accepted / expected face. Bravo, Steve McQueen. Nicely played. Hats off to The Hollywood Reporter for making a point to ask and have the question answered.
During this segment, the level of discomfort is palpable and the silence pregnant with truth. If you listen closely you can feel and hear both.
* Point of clarification: These conversations aren't new. From time to time different players (writers, directors, actors) are asked a similar question, nevertheless I'm always fascinated how from one generation to the next the conversation is still relevant and one that requires readdressing yet again. This is not a black and white issue, it is a conscious one with all the faces of the world needing representation in cinema.
Many discussions and distractions of trite and inconsequential matters permeate the news cycle and yet substantive issues are dismissed or talking heads / political pundits infuse hatred in their rhetoric. Where's our humanity?
No lengthy post. No insightful, thought provoking commentary needed. The footage alone is 'Mos Def' enough.
It is so easy to get locked into one way of doing, seeing, thinking, and even being because we believe there exists no viable reason to fix that which is not broken since the current way continues to serve us and has done so for so long for so many. Too often the common responses offered up to those seeking a change in perspective is "What for?" or "If it ain't broke, why fix it."
We follow traditions and customs, well, because they're traditions and customs. We're born into a way of life that will shape the way we view and define ourselves and those we encounter. With this introduction we are not only taught how to think, but 'what' to think. We fall effortlessly in line with ideals that imprison instead of liberate and the cycle continues. We live inside the box.
Question: If something is currently working does that mean we adopt a hands-off approach because clearly it is considered a waste of time to look to improve upon what is and entertain the possibility of what can come next?
Imagine if others before us believed this to be true. Would we still walk in darkness without the use of electricity? Would we still believe the earth flat? Would we still etch hieroglyphics in stone to preserve our stories for generations? Would we still be enslaved? Truthfully, we are in a different sense. We are prisoners to ideals and our programming; with one word we've determined whether we'll listen or dismiss the messenger.
What if the laws we believe govern us governed nature? Would the seed stop growing after cresting the soil? Would the chick remain confined in its shell for fear of the unknown? Would the fawn fail to stand upon birth because it believed the task too complex? Thankfully nature isn't restricted by our beliefs. All things of nature grow, becoming what they were intended to be. The elements innate. We, too, however, are nature and so it, too, is inherent.
Imagine our world if the dreamer believed change wasn't necessary and what is is what should continue to be.
It's in the asking; the answers come when we ask questions that challenge conventional truths.
Writing is art. Not the kind displayed in galleries, where patrons reflect on the intentions or musings behind the piece. To view our art, one must crack open a book, turn its pages and allow the artist to take you on a journey through the power of the written word. The writer is an artist. Our canvas is the blank page. With a stroke of our pen or rhythmic taps on keyboards, we paint with words, driven by passion to tell a story. When a writer paints from the heart, readers lose and find themselves within the pages. The content becomes real — a part of the reader, perhaps inspiring action or stirring up memories.
Hopefully, the information below proves helpful to those who share a love and passion for the written word.
1. Stories are everywhere. Ideas are in everything. Writers write and write some more. Just start writing. Don’t get caught up in trying to the write the next great American novel or bestseller. Simply give yourself over to the creative process and write from the heart that which compels.
- Don’t worry about the clean up when you’re writing a section or a scene. Transfer everything that’s playing in your head onto paper or a laptop. Somewhere during this phase, you’ll probably look over your piece and may even consider it worthy of the trash bin since, at present, it doesn’t resemble the literary masterpieces you’ve come to love.
- Writers understand that writing takes time. Allow your canvas to fill up with the basics—ideas and thoughts.
2. For me, once I’ve gotten a scene down, I must go back and begin to flesh it out. This is where I begin to carve out the characters and scene. It is important, as the writer, to paint the picture. Whatever you imagine in your mind, the reader should be able to recreate a similar image from what you’ve written.
- Not every detail of a leaf is necessary when it’s not the focal point of the scene or story. However, if detailing the leaf illustrates a character lost in thought or an artist’s keen eye for detail, perhaps an in-depth description is of importance.
- Details add dimension to your canvas. Paint with sharp or subtle contrasting strokes to evoke a sentiment or emotion.
3. Dialogue is key. How the characters communicate is just as important as the setting, if not more. Their interactions, vocal inflictions, little nuances that are specific to them add dimension and depth. Adding these elements heightens character awareness.
- Visualize and act out some of the conversations. Make the conversation real. So real, the reader feels as if they’re overhearing or eavesdropping on a private conversation.
- Conversation adds color to your canvas. Paint with a vivid palette and watch your canvas come to life.
4. Edit, edit and edit some more. You’ve finished your piece and are ready to shout, dance and jump for joy. Do all of those things, but recognize you are far from done. Your writing is nowhere near the masterpiece it can be and will be without proper editing.
- Masterpieces take time to develop. Editing is where extraordinary things happen. To me, this is where creativity truly kicks in. You’ve gotten the story down, cleaned portions of it as you wrote, but now you it’s time to switch hats and become more critical of your piece. I can easily spend double the amount of time it took the write the piece in editing it. This is a potentially never-ending process, yet the most important.
- Before you display your work, consider seeking the services of an editor. Their objective eye can provide insight into making your piece something truly unique.
Masterpieces are created, birthed from a thought and guided by ideas. Don’t rush the steps; don’t rush the process. Readers deserve great stories. How about we paint a few for them?
*Originally a guest blog featured in October 2011.
The other day while driving with the kids to pick up my mother from the train station, the radio was playing softly in the background as we chatted about teenage stuff. Don't ask me what compelled me to turn up the volume. Couldn't tell you. The last few seconds of a song was playing. The voice sultry, the music melodic immediately touching, tugging and connecting with some part of me. Seconds later, I asked the son or the daughter to Shazam the song and give me the deets. To my surprise, and pleasantly so, it was Anthony Hamilton. I tried to tuck this information away for recollection later in the evening when I'd have time; of course, that time never materialized. Fast forward a few days, the song was on the radio again and, once again, I asked the kids to Shazam it and tell me who the singer was. 'Mother' and 'forgetful' are synonymous in my book. Son doesn't get that. Son was like, "Mom, you asked this question just a couple days ago. It's Anthony Hamilton." Dang! Sorry. No need to be so brutal. Anyhoo, it was the end of the song, but from what I heard I loved it.
Like a splinter, this song stayed with me. Yesterday, I purchased it from iTunes, but didn't get a chance to listen. Why? Was off running crazy errands and a spare second was not to be found during the day or night. This morning, however, the song popped in my head. I played it, swaying as the music began. Anthony sang. I froze.
"What did he say?" Pressed rewind. Pressed play and listened. The first two words Anthony sang said it all, as does the entire song.
I see you, Anthony. I see you and I say thank you!
Violence is not the solution nor the answer. The effect of which is only more violence. When will we, sentient beings, learn the lessons and say enough to the senseless killings? We are the only group of living creatures on this planet that kill for sport, to convey a message or advance an agenda. How sad.
Ever have someone tell you what you couldn’t do? How your dreams were too big? How what you wanted to accomplish was a veritable impossibility? How did what they share about your dreams, your aspirations make you feel? Did they empower you or did they make you doubt your ability? No matter what was said nor the message conveyed or who said it, those words had an impact. All words do. How you choose to allow those words to effect you is of importance. It is a matter of cultivating the graveyard of dreams or nurturing the birthplace of the greater tomorrow you envisioned.
This is one of the primary reasons why it is important to protect your dreams, your passions. It is also one of the reasons why many choose to keep their dreams private. In sharing, there exists the opportunity for someone to utter words that will snuff the kindling passion birthed in your gut, creating a mountain of doubt were only peaks and occasional valleys originally existed. Yet there are others who, upon hearing the naysayers list of reasons for caution or redirection, use those words as further motivation. Instead of snuffing out, the contrary occurs — the spark to succeed in spite of.
Regardless if whether the comments are external or from the internal monologue that, at times, plagues each of us, the internal response should always be the same: watch me.
Some people in their sharing of advice or counsel, honestly believe they mean well. They believe they have your best interest at heart. Cull through their words, determine what serves you. If there are words of truth, keep them. Analyze and see what adjustments, if any, are necessary. All words which do not serve you nor your intended purpose, shelve or dismiss.
When others put limitations on the heights we can attain, there is a moment of defiance each individual feels. In those moments, you believe in the possibility of your dream. So much so, you can taste it and may have even imagined what it feels like to walk in it. Remember these moments and set out to bring your dream or next greatest achievement to fruition making it your reality. Develop a plan, endeavor to accomplish something every day that places you one step closer to your goal. Outline your steps. Your intention will drive your outcome.
By sheer will, perseverance, hard work and determination, with eyes set on an what can be, move forward and walk into your tomorrow. Enjoy every success of each completed phase. When you've accomplished your task, achieved your dream and are able to live in its reality, there is a no need to gloat. Your success will adorn you and will serve as a catalyst for shifts in the lives of others you, directly and indirectly, impact. Make sure to listen to the stirrings of a new dream, a new height and move forward blazing a trail for yourself and others. And if you're ever privileged to hear another's dream, be on the receiving end of a 'Thank you' and not a 'Watch me'.
So what do you wish to accomplish today? Tomorrow? In five years? Ten? Think about it. It isn't selfish to desire a better life; it is disheartening to deny yourself the possibility of experiencing one. In receiving and achieving, you're able to give and inspire.
* Originally posted on BlackHairKitchen.com March 29, 2013 *
Say it ain't so!
I'm not a fan of guns and violent flicks glorifying scandalous occurrences, but from the looks of this three-minute trailer, I anticipate a damn good film. Is it August yet? Truthfully, it doesn't hurt that Bleek Gilliam is in the movie. "Who's Bleek?" you ask. Can't help you there. Do your research.
"You saw that move coming?" "That's correct. Gimme the keys."
Of course he did!
You know I love this chick, so it's really no surprise that I was happy dancing the moment I saw a tweet from this songbird debuting her new single, "Cocoa Butter" from her forthcoming album. India is one of the baddest in the game. Lyrically and in every way that matters, she, Jill Scott and Rachelle Ferrell do it for me.
You were missed lady. You were missed.
Press play. Listen, bop, dance, sing, sway and feel. Hit replay and do it all again.
As mothers we knew this thing called motherhood would consume every drop of our free time, but what we, or at least I, didn't know was that the ride would be a hilarious one. A sistafriend of mine captured some of the hilarity in emails she'd send us periodically and now she's created a blog to share those moments with you.
So mothers around the world, unite and read the musings of one mother who is lot like each of us. I promise, regardless of ethnicity and cultural differences, the stories are quite similar to your own. Merely change the faces, insert your crew and voilà, it's your life reflected in these posts.
The onhavingOvaries forum provides a platform for sharing. Read, comment and let's see if we can truly figure out these little people with stubborn minds and mulish wills who believe that everything warrants excessive amounts of drama.
Just take a look at OnhavingOvaries logo. Doesn't that say it all? Every time I see those faces, I can't help but smile because children are truly hilarious without trying to be. Click the image to visit the site. And, remember to share with family and friends.
- Did you see her last night? I can't believe she allowed herself to be filmed wearing that?
- You got a mirror? I suggest you look in it, because clearly you did not have an opportunity this morning.
- Wait? Tell me she isn’t wearing white after Labor Day? Who told her that was acceptable?
- She lip-synched the National Anthem? And with all that pageantry. What the hell? Chile, puh-leez! She needs to go sit down with that foolishness.
- She should just slap a perm on that crazy mess of hair! Walking out the house looking like that. It's embarrassing.
- You know she should just go on and BC. Remove all that chemically processed hair and embrace her natural beauty.
The verdict has come in. The gavel has come down.
We are GUILTY.
What’s sad? It doesn’t matter if we don’t know the details, or perhaps we have a few or we know the entire story, we (me, myself and you) render ourselves judge, jury and issue a scathing verdict, broadcasting worldwide via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and some other social media site sharing our judgment on the matter. Sometimes it's regarding a primetime reality show and sometimes it's our relationships with each other.
In Los Angeles and New York, media moguls are reclining around the table in a boardroom brainstorming possibilities for the upcoming spring and fall season television line-up, hoping to bring to market the next big reality show. Armed with data reflecting the viewing habits of certain demographics they know that cattiness and bitch fests are slam dunks. Their bottom line is increased because cattiness sells and bitchiness sends the ratings into the stratosphere. Female viewers are more interested in watching women gouge out another woman’s eyes, tug hair, kick arse or speak words that incite rage, fury and are blatantly disrespectful.
With all of our daily chatter, I do believe we make their jobs easier. We provide them with the narrative and from this they storyboard, focus group and package to the masses. Do we object? Or do we subject ourselves to hours of watching? What's worse? When the show is over, we cut a side-eye at a sister on the street and wonder what her objective could be.
What was once man’s ultimate fantasy has become our own: Women wrestling in mud, slipping and sliding all over the place in bikinis and the like. When did that become something we actually enjoyed? The catfights? The name calling? The neck rolls? The eye rolls? The ridiculousness of it all?
Now I know I probably stand alone on this limb — with a few million women — but watching that is not my idea of entertainment. Regardless of race, I do not want to watch my sisters treat each other in disrespectful ways. Granted, reality dictates there will almost always be someone who aggravates us and steps on our last good nerve, but why broadcast the fallout in such grandeur. What's the objective? To hurt? Or perhaps laugh at someone's pain?
You want more responsible programming? We have to be responsible consumers. I still believe in the power of the people. Television programs require viewers. These programs require financial backing from advertisers. Advertisers remain vested based on numbers. With dwindling numbers, programs are cancelled. It has been proven throughout history, when there is enough of an outcry or demand for change of any kind, the most beautiful thing imaginable occurs: revolution.
Once upon a time, we moved mountains, changed laws, redefined a people and that's only in this nation. Don't tell me it cannot be done. The world over we've seen proof that mountains of impossibilities are scaled by perseverance and determination of a united people.
I don’t judge you, my sister. Here’s my hand. I stand with and walk along side you because you are a reflection of me.
The revolution must be televised! Let’s script it.
* Originally posted on BlackHairKitchen.com March 12, 2013 *
I do not recall what serendipitous happenstance or celestial alignment led me to LV Lewis, but all I can say is I'm glad it did. Before I continue, I must issue a bit of a disclaimer:
I'm a member of a small subset of earthlings who fall into the category of not liking the original bodies of work.
That said, back to LV. Just typing those two letters has me smiling and happy dancing in my chair while humming the chorus to Steve Wonder's "Jungle Fever" (I kid you not).
To rephrase a portion of my Amazon review: I'm hooked, I'm a fan, I'm all in! Chick had me at the Kente necktie featured on the cover and kept me with a female protagonist who is no slouch and despite the "ghetto" label in the series, she is anything but. Keisha is an intelligent, gifted sister who ventures into the music industry as co-owner with her college BFF, determined to succeed.
The man blessed to catch her eye and tug at her heart is an intriguing fellow, but not because of wealth or bewitchingly, mind-numbing good looks. Tristan brings to the table confidence that oozes from their initial run-in to her abrupt departure. He appears sure of himself and what he wants. Nothing deters him ... not even Keisha's initial reluctance to his offer. Also endearing are the strokes of vulnerability LV uses to paint Tristan. His is a heart carefully tucked away from himself and Keisha, although it becomes quite evident to the reader.
Both characters, it would seem, appear to hide from the truth of their emotions based on issues in their past. Interesting dynamics also arise in this D/s relationship between a caucasian man and an african-american woman. Just how will that work? I'll tell you this much, LV does not shy away from addressing the basics. Love that.
The chemistry between Keisha and Tristan is sizzling from the opening pages until the end. I shall refrain from going into any further detail. Read for yourself and enjoy.
My recommendation: Grab a copy today.
By the way, the story doesn't end there. Here's the cover for Exit Strategy, which is due to be released shortly. Can you say fiyah? Click on the sexy cover to visit LV's website and read the first two chapters of Exit Strategy.
When you recognize and acknowledge beauty, worth, and/or value in yourself, you’re more prone to notice these attributes in others. I’m not talking about cultivating narcissistic and haughty tendencies. I’m talking about recognizing and cultivating the good within you. Whatever you need, realize you have it within. Tap in to it, acknowledge it and give it to yourself daily. Be it a kind word or a wink in a window as you pass by or a smile because you woke up this morning and was greeted with another day, another opportunity. Allow this positive energy room to blossom, grow and affect those in and around your sphere. You have the power to influence by example. We all do.
Hey beautiful! How are you today?
Don’t turn around. I’m talking to you! Yes, you … in the mirror.
All to often we seek validation, compliments, adoring looks and words of praise from spouses, peers, colleagues, friends, family members.... I can go on, but you get the general idea. We seek it from others. In many ways, sometimes daily, imploring them to acknowledge how fabulous, grand, gifted or talented we are. We can easily fall into the pit of “I do and you tell me” mode, where we’re looking for some thing, some one or some word to plug the hole in our soul and gently stroke and soothe our ego. We do great things and want others to tell us how great we are. We embody the very definition of fierce and want others to acknowledge our fierceness. Why is that?
Love of others, starts with love of self. I cannot give what I’m an unable to give myself. It has even been said, we can’t give beyond what we know. While that is true, here’s another truth: The good news is every single day we are above ground, sentient and willing, we can grow beyond where we currently are. It is your choice.
Mirror, mirror on the wall—stop. There really is no need to continue. Look in the mirror. Love what you see. Give it to yourself and repeat after me: I am.
* Originally posted on BlackHairKitchen on on February 13, 2013 *
One simple word. One unconscious act. We do it anyway. Yet sometimes we neglect to realize just how vitally important breathing is.
The other day traveling to my doctor’s office for my annual physical, I was stuck behind—on two different occasions—not one, but two slow moving vehicles. To know me means you know my blood was singing in my veins well on its way to hitting some note that’s off the register; I’m talking higher than a note Rachelle Ferrell can hit in REM sleep.
Why is it when you need to be somewhere at a given time, obstacles pop up invariably slowing down your progress? Good question. Another post; not this one. Now if I’m being truthful, I was running late. Left the house, drove a few blocks, realized I’d forgotten the daughter’s school medical form I needed to drop off at her pediatrician, swung a U. When I finally made it to my appointment, I was ten minutes late. Sat my butt in the waiting room where I remained for another ten. Ask me if I took a breath.
Finally I was ushered into the exam room after all routine procedures were completed with the exception of one. When chick—the nurse—pulled out the blood pressure monitor, I grunted. Literally grunted. I knew what the reading would be. I didn’t need a monitor to tell me a thing; my body already informed me. So before she placed the cuff around my bicep, I drew in a few shallow breaths as if that would help.
185/92. Hmm. Chick looked at me and walked out with “The doctor will be with you shortly” falling from her lips. That afforded me about a minute or two of laughter and a few deep breaths.
When we tense up, our breathing is stilted if not halted for a time and bizarre things take place in our bodies. If you’re in tune with your body you’ll notice, almost immediately, the subtle and not-so-subtle changes. We can attribute this tense state to numerous factors and variables: stress, anxiety, worry, career pressures, deadlines, an overactive mind and, even slow a** drivers. The moment you feel off kilter, edgy, or antsy, it is important to consciously breathe—draw deep breaths in and out through the nose. This act alone is a calming and centering one.
Sometimes early in the process, my mind has yet to quiet. Distractions vie for attention. As a result, my breathing is shallow. I repeat the breathing technique until I’m able to draw in deep, full breaths that naturally lift my chest and expand my lungs before slowly releasing. So wherever you are, I’d like you to close your eyes and breathe with me. A deep, slow breath in through your nose, hold for a count and out, slowly releasing the breath through your nose. Let’s try that a few more times. After a few minutes, notice the difference you feel in mind, spirit and body.
Consider incorporating this technique into your daily routine. It does wonders. When time permits, find a quiet space, sit in a comfortable position, back straight and begin this breathing exercise. Be sure to empty and quiet your mind of all noise and distractions. The stresses will still be there when you’re done, but now you’ll be in a calmer place to deal with them or perhaps, have a new perspective on how to. In addition to rocking the proverbial ‘S’ on her chest, she is also rocking the word ‘breathe’ as a gentle reminder to do so.
By the way, the two readings my doctor took on either arm were met with approving nods. 112/70. Go Michelle! Now back to my car. Damn! Just breathe.
* Originally posted at BlackHairKitchen.com on January 28, 2013 *
I'm exhausted down to my bones and the fine hairs on my toes. Why come that sounds like a quote lifted from a Dr. Seuss book? Hmmm. Regardless of how it sounds, it is true. The reason: Just spent the weekend with family. Three days and two nights … kay, something's wrong. That definitely sounds too much like the beginning of an advertisement for a family cruise or mini-vacay to Disney World.
Anyhoo, let me continue …
The weekend started with a one-year memorial for a beloved daughter, sister, aunt, godmother, colleague and friend to many. We celebrated her life and remembered the countless ways she impacted those around her. At the memorial, we saw family we hadn't seen in years. Memories that seemed like yesterday came flooding back. We partied, danced, laughed and, of course, cried. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, a group of us journeyed to a place she once called home and filled every crevice with warmth, laughter and love.
When I stop and reflect on various parts of my life, the five women I spent the weekend with have been there for just about all of my greatest joys and deepest pain. Seems like we experienced the joys of heaven and the pits of hell together. These women were my rock and my strength during the toughest incident I've ever had to deal with on this side of existence. Nuff about that …
There was Sunday morning chuuch in the kitchen. Yes, I said chuuch … in the kitchen. Auntie V is a powerful vessel. Later, the son and nieces directed and starred in our very own Harlem Shake video, which Nick has to splice and edit. Perhaps I'll be brave enough to post. We shall see. In those few days, there was so much we did, but I won't bore you with the details. When it was time to head home, gotta be honest, it was a painful experience. Thankfully, we'll be meeting up in ATL in a few days to celebrate the 40th birthday of one of our precious angels.
What I love about us:
No matter the distance or the time that has lapsed, when we are physically together we love like you won't believe. We love hard and we wouldn't want any other way!
Take some time today and tell a family member how much they mean to you!
Just when I thought we'd make it through another winter without much snow, we get walloped with this monstrosity that dumped more than two feet of snow in our lovely hamlet. Certainly makes for pretty scenery and beautiful pictures, but honestly, two inches would have been better. I mean we couldn't even see our cars, deck, where the yard ended and the street began. And forget the fact that we remained buried for days. And now just as warmer temperatures are ridding us of this dirty white stuff, they're predicting another round. Ugh! Might be time for another trip to the supermarket to stock up on essentials and I'll also be spending a little time contemplating relocation ... to the islands or something.
Geesh. Didn't the groundhog predict an early spring? Amazing.
Chase and Tia aren't complaining. They enjoy having me hemmed up like this. Selfish, selfish, selfish.
This piece has been sitting in my spirit for some time. However, I never saw the need to put pen to paper to give it form ... until this weekend. When inspiration rears its head, I tend to listen. Recent observations birthed this latest post. Click the chick and enjoy.
So the characters are back, occupying my sleeping and waking hours.
As Chase and Tia's story continues in this third book, I find that I cannot write or type fast enough to get every word down before they advance the scene or jump to another. Conversations, dealings, happenings and conscious streams of thoughts are taking place almost simultaneously. There is so much going on; so much they're addressing and I'm the one left with the task of making sense of it all. Writing the story as it unfolds; capturing it in a manner that you, the reader, can recreate in your mind. Daunting, really, but oh, so very worth it.
My process of writing is one of isolation. Shutting myself off from people and distractions allows me clear access into the story as it unfolds in my third eye. Therefore, I retreat, listen and watch either in my home office or bedroom where I'll type or sit visually capturing the mental images of the scene(s) as they play out.
There is no outline I write from. There is no point I consciously decide to include. The characters drive the story. They always have and they always will. The insertion of the actual events that have happened during the chunk of time in which the story takes place is another element I must keep track of. That alone is the single thing I admit to making a conscious effort to include, especially if I'm guided to believe it bears some relevance to the scene or story in general. Next are conscious streams of thoughts, or words of wisdom. I call them WoWs. Those, for me, are among the best. Well ... that and watching how Chase and Tia and their host of family and friends interact. That's the entire story, really. What am I saying? I love it all.