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Self-Love

align.

align.

that five letter word casts a powerful spell; presents solutions; is the gateway to all; balances mind, body and spirit (soul). yet to arrive, to get to, you must and will grow through some things. that is inevitable. and the growth can be painful, frustrating, sorrowful, yet rewarding.  

seasons shift, bringing with it the lesson for the time and our souls align naturally . . . soul knows. soul trusts. soul sees. mind and body are reluctant, resistant followers. hesitate and delay they do. they pull (due in part to years of conditioning, programming, normalization, desensitization) to redirect attention away from this work.

this work to align, relentless.
the distractions, endless.
the need to balance, necessary.
this growth, now.

this is the season for major shifts. it is in the breeze, the squawk of geese, the flicker of a squirrel's tail, the blade of grass, the bark of an oak tree, the spark of an idea, the earth beneath feet, the soil between toes and on the rays and in the warmth of the sun. shift to align. guard thoughts. filter access. remove toxins in all forms. detox and reintroduce that which is given from source.

your journey is your own. let no one rob you of that experience . . . most of all, be not your own saboteur. 

333 + 21:21

we build on what is and drop seeds where we stand, wherever we stand.

align.

Photo by Luke Carliff on Unsplash

A Seed. . . Momma Maya

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For many Dr. Maya Angelou was more than a beloved poet, author, singer, dancer, actor, national treasure, educator, civil and human rights activist. Dr. Maya Angelou fulfilled, unknowingly perhaps, the role of mother / nurturer. She enlightened individuals across oceans from varying cultural backgrounds and religious affiliations, impacted consciousness of human existence by demanding of us an awakening. For that reason I have always seen Dr. Maya Angelou as Momma Maya. Over the years, Momma Maya's pen partially chronicled her pains, joys and successes. Each story reaching deep and stirring the seed within reader, listener, student or friend to recognize all aspects of life: the sun, the rain, the beauty, even the hell. Thus fertilizing our lives with the seeds from her own.

Her words, provocative; her voice, soulful; her essence, inviting. The reality of Maya far greater and grander than the idea of her. This day, with her passing, I, one among many, an admirer and lover of this phenomenal woman, cannot boast sadness nor feel a sense of loss because she is no longer physically here. What Momma Maya represents has always transcended physicality. She was never contained by it. Momma Maya is. And because of Momma Maya we know ... we understand the song of the caged bird and the joy experienced upon its release.

To a love beyond love.

Maya Angelou in San Francisco, at the time of the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1970. (© Bettman/CORBIS)

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AFFRM

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.

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Would You Consider A Change In . .

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.

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Watch Me!

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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 *

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Judge. Jury. Verdict.

  • 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.

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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 *

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Hello Gorgeous!

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?

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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 *

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The Importance of that Deep Breath

Breathe.

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.

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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 *

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Meet the Ladies

The Harlem Holiday Doll Show was this weekend at LeRoy Neiman Art Center and as you read in a few Facebook updates or news posted on this site or by virtue of knowing me, I have developed a healthy obsession for these dolls. Tanya Montegut, creator of these precious, unique and splendid pieces, is the bomb diggity.

So as promised, I attended the event and did so with every appendage of limbs crossed in hopes of rounding out the females of the Experience Life from a Different Perspective series with a Megan and Stephanie acquisition. Well, guess what? I have indeed found my chicas! Meet the ladies in all of their fabulosity (don't give me the stank side-eye; look it up, according to Webster it truly is a word):

The-Ladies

Now in all honestly, I'm not sure if I'm done acquiring all of the women. There are still a few sisters who require representation and who knows what individuals will pop up in future novels. I certainly don't; we shall see.

Right now I'm all about acquiring the mens. So who's up first? Chase, of course. Then Derrick, then Peter, then David....

Interested in your own DollsbyMonTQ contact Tanya. The holidays are right around the corner ... think books and dolls!

Toodles!

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Introducing . . .

 
She was the complexion of a Hershey Kiss with black shoulder length wooly hair. Her hair had natural waves that came from opening twists and running your fingers through them to give them a bit of body.
— Never Said It Was Easy / mr
 
Katherine Richards

This description references Katherine Richards. While writing the sequel, the second Kat made her appearance, she quickly became one of my favorites in the series. I'm sure that as you read she will maneuver her way into your heart, as well. In my opinion, she is that good. Here she is in all of her fabulousness.

So what about Megan and Stephanie? What happened to them? In December I'll be attending the Harlem Holiday Doll Show at Leroy Nieman Art Center, expect for me to return from this event with a few more characters. Fingers crossed for Megan and Stephanie miniature embodiments to jump out at me and scream for me to take them home. We shall see.

Love Kat? Let Tanya know. Interested in attending the doll show, here's the information:

For three days I had the pleasure of attending (thanks to a friend) the Arts Off the Main exhibit at the Jacob Javits Center. While I was able to speak with many about my novels, I was in attendance to lend my support. This year, three shows were combined into one and some of the hottest talent in Crafts from around the country were able to share the spotlight with the likes of Woodrow Nash, George Nock, Franco Castelluccio, Stuart McClean and Edwin Lester. Well, Tanya Montegut of Dolls by MonTQ was present and you know the rest ... her dolls were a hit! What's not to love about sisters captured in miniature?

Although a number of Tanya's dolls spoke to me, they always do, one in particular held and kept my attention. My original thought was to round out the cast of It's Simple with either Megan or Stephanie or acquire both, so I was surprised when I found myself coming back to this doll and recalling a passage from the sequel, Never Said It Was Easy.

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Recap - Circle of Sisters 2012

As an author and a first-time vendor at this event, I must say I enjoyed myself immensely. One thing I enjoy slightly more than writing is conversing with lovers of literature and like-minded individuals about the things that matter most to them. Circle of Sisters at Jacob Javits provided that platform, allowing for this exchange of ideas and beliefs. So much so that at the end of the first day of this two-day event, my voice sounded much like sandpaper — coarse and gritty. Surely tea and a few hours of sleep would remedy this, right? Absolutely not. With one more day of this level of talking ahead of me, I was certain any and everything I uttered would be unintelligible and the sisters would give me the side-eye as I tried to answer their questions. I managed with the help of my incredible team: my daughter, Nia and my dear sisterfriends Nicole and Stephanie. On the first day, the husband and son also came out to lend their support. Love them! Of note, no matter how many events I attend, Tia Maddison and the cover photography of It's Simple are of primary interest. At Circle of Sisters this was no different. Not only was Tia her fabulous self, but this time she was rocking her one-of-a-kind Moetleh bag thanks to booth mate and bag creator, Winnie Burch.

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"Are you an interior designer?" I can't tell you how many times women and men thought It's Simple was about interior design or that I, myself, was an interior designer because, as they shared, the cover art was so "stunning", "beautiful" and "elegant." Incorporate the table presentation and the 5' x 8' banner, one could easily understand how that assumption could be made. However, after sharing that the cover art was a welcome into the lives of Chase and Tia and a taste of what's possible in their own homes as well as relationships, the women readily agreed that we need to associate positive self portrayal and beauty of our surroundings in the pages of literature and other forms of media when it comes to people of color. Each time I heard women or men, regardless of race, affirm this, I was refreshed.

The ensuing conversations were insightful, encouraging and filled with personal examples of the beauty in their lives. Some boasted years of happy married life; others years of struggle and therapy before the marriage became something each respected, wanted and finally cherished. I loved listening to others share their experiences and how those experiences shaped how they handled subsequent relationships. One such lively discussion took place minutes before the doors opened to the public on Sunday with vendors, male and female, passionately sharing their views on what each partner should bring to the onset of the relationship and what was needed to maintain it.

For every three positive exchanges, there was one negative. Belief in the possibility of better did not exist because their experience(s) had been filled with heartache, betrayal and pain. Hope for them wasn't an option nor a viable choice. Those exchanges saddened me, yet still I could not help but want more for them ... for us. But is it possible to experience better if you don't believe better is available? How can individuals exist without hope or a belief in something better? The reality and hard truth is, many live in that realm of disbelief and hopelessness. That is their universe and the orbiting stars, moons and planets align daily sending and sharing the same sentiment to its human creator. My reality is to write for both the believer and non-believer in hopes that some day, one day, some thing will awaken a seed of newness in their spirits and they will shift their outlook to reach for more.

Saturday and Sunday were filled with many of those exchanges, stories, dancing, lots of laughter and a whole lot of love and fun with participating vendors and those in attendance. The team even managed to take in the sights on the convention floor and the daughter, accompanied by her Auntie Nicole, met and posed with Nicole Ari Parker and Olympic swim team silver medalists. Lucky her.

Congratulations to the winners! Tina Billie and Charmaine Parker are the winners of the It's Simple Saturday and Sunday raffles. The lovely centerpieces featuring the sequel to It's Simple, Never Said It Was Easy now belongs to them. Enjoy!

As of this evening, Sunday, October 14th, my voice is still not a 100%. Yet in spite of this unfortunate occurrence, I look forward to attending Circle of Sisters 2013. Hope to see you there!

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It's Simple: Great Day in Harlem

WBLS hosted a Great Day in Harlem and we were there to support the community, meet people and talk about my series: Experience Life from a Different Perspective, of which It's Simple and Never Said It Was Easy are the first and second novels, respectively. For the most part, the weather was cooperative. There was only a passing thunderstorm that lasted all of ten minutes, if that long. Our children walked the streets, ate delicious food, purchased African art and jewelry, watched the fashion show, listened to soulful tunes from a vendor who digitized the vinyl classics and were finally serenaded by Freddie Jackson under the stars. It was another great Saturday in Harlem and my husband and I fondly expressed to our children, during our drive home, how much we miss the city. Living out in the suburbs, at times, you can feel disconnected.

Folks tend to run from the city once Friday rolls around to enjoy the beach or tranquility of the Hamptons; we seem to run to the city. When you no longer live among the noise that once lulled you to sleep as a youngster, you find yourself missing it.

Photos: Radiant Amar Photography

Dondré (my son in the background)

Tia Maddison (Dolls by MonTQ)

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Introducing Tia Maddison

Thanks to Tanya Montegut of Dolls by MonTQ for creating this fantabulous work of art. From the moment I saw her, I knew this doll embodied Tia Maddison. Can't you just feel the confidence and sass in her manner of being? Her posture? I am fairly certain you can. Although Tia made her debut in the pages of It's Simple, her official coming out party was the 2012 Harlem Book Fair. Needless to say, Tia was the belle of HBF. She certainly added another layer of sophistication to our booth and turned many a heads as a result. Tia was is FIERCE!

Tia Maddison of It's Simple

In case you're wondering, her Chase cometh ... soon.

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It's Simple Tote

This adorable tote is a little token of appreciation for those who purchase a softcover or ebook copy of It's Simple at the Harlem Book Fair. The tote easily accommodates It's Simple and Never Said It Was Easy and a few other items. Durable and cute. Great to rock at the beach or however you prefer.

Like what you see? Drop us a note and let us know.

Check back often for more news and events featuring Michelle Richardson.

Blessings!

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It's Simple Tees

ISTank

In preparation for Harlem Book Fair 2012, we wanted to do something different. The ladies will be rocking It's Simple tanks.

Tanks were designed by Alison Edalere-Gordon and produced by American Apparel.

Like what you see? Drop us a line and let us know.

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MR Interview with Jamie Fleming-Dixon of ForColoredGurls.com

Michelle was recently interviewed by Jamie Fleming-Dixon for ForColoredGurls.com to discuss her novels It's Simple and Never Said It Was Easy. ForColored Gurls.com was founded when Jamie noticed that mainstream magazines for teens and young adults did not feature and showcase enough positivity and/or substance in their messages nor did they include a significant representation of women of color. Only recently have these glaring disparities gotten mildly better. Jamie's immediate remedy to this issue was to create For Colored Gurls (a play on words from the 1975 stage play for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange).

Her website is about inspiring and empowering women to live their most fabulous lives now so it is fairly easy to see how Jamie and Michelle would have lots to discuss since they share a common passion to empower women of color regardless of age.

Click on the ForColoredGurls logo below to read Michelle's candid interview with Jamie.

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