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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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Madiba Mandela

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Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.
— FROM AN INTERVIEW FOR THE DOCUMENTARY MANDELA, 1994

I see you. We see you.

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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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A Question and Pregnant Moments

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.

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A Matter of Importance

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?

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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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One Question: WHY

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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.

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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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What? What! What?! Denzel and Marky Mark

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!

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One of My Favs! India.Arie: The Sistah is Fierce!

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.

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Motherhood: Who Knew?

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.

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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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Fifty Shades of WHAT?!

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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.  

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Family

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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!

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Blizzard 2013

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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.

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MR at BHK: Give It To Yourself

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.

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Writing Confessions

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.

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MR: Contributing Writer for BlackHairKitchen.com

As a woman of color, I can't say there was ever a time I wanted to be anyone other than who I am ... who I was born to be. With all our differences, I realized at a very young age that we were not born to blend in, but meant to stand out. Yellow pencil conformity was never really my thing. When my soul cringed and my spirit challenged me to look deeper into any situation or ideology that demanded such a shift and stymied growth, I did. Still do. I'm a bit of a paradox that way. Always have been.

So it does my heart a warming justice to see sisters by the millions, I suspect, cutting off their chemically processed hair and embracing the beauty of their naturally, voluminous, curly mane. In full glory it reminds me of a King of some place ....

As a contributing writer to BlackHairKitchen.com (BHK), I encourage you to check out the website as it offers a one-stop shop to sisters no matter how you choose to rock your hair and a forum for exchange of ideas. The official site launch is slated for March. I'll be contributing in the Natural Hair section, focusing on my daughter's hair journey and also in Health (Physical/Spiritual/Mental).

Click the beautiful logo with the sister rocking both natural and relaxed hair for my first post regarding the question most mothers of color find ourselves asked at one time or another: "Why is my hair big and poofy?"

Till next time, stay warm of heart and body. We're freezing over here. Overall, it has been a rather mild winter, so I shan't complain.

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