Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Nia: Using My Power in the New Year

This has been a very full December. I've got to so many great things in such a small period of time and I feel as if my cup is truly full. As I sit at my desk now contemplating how grateful I am, I can't help but focus on what a young lady said to me after the Dec. 18 show at the Potter's House.

After I came off stage, this young woman came up to me and said, "You were great. You have such amazing power and you inspired me to use my own power. I have power, too!"

This exclamation from her took me so fully by surprise, as you can see, because I've been thinking about it ever since.

Power. The idea of power usually brings to my mind a struggle or bullying situation where one person is lording authority over another. I guess, I've always-- consciously or unconsciously-- perceived the idea of power negatively. But, in that brief encounter with a encouraging audience member, I was presented with an alternate idea of power and how it can be something to influence, inspire and promote positive change.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've been writing for years in blogs and articles about the positive influence of peer pressure by youth doing positive things in their schools and communities. But, to have that idea be looked at in another context and in reference to me and the work I do as a performance artist really had me evaluate who I am on a deeper level.

I will be honest. This year, while bringing me some really amazing opportunities and experiences, was one of the hardest years for me when it came to handling the energy sent my way from those in my circle of influence. I had folks I've admired from afar commission me to work on projects with them and then turn around and present my work as their own. I've had folks that I've met over the past years through creative work welcome me into their circle of sisterhood, only to find that there is a fine line between the idea of sisterhood and the actual practice of it. This year has been very challenging indeed. Yet, as I remember what the young lady at the Potter's House said to me, I can't help but know that there is a greater purpose to what it is that I do and who it is that I am that I am not clearly able to see right now.

Today is the fifth day of Kwanzaa, Nia, which means purpose. It's the African name my mother took on as her own when I was young and it is the name of one of my younger sisters, so I hear this word a lot in my own life. But, what does that mean, to have purpose, to live a purpose-directed life if it is not clear exactly what your purpose is? Dr. Wayne Dyer has said often in interviews that I've listened to of him that he has never been one to create goals but he has always known that his purpose is to help others by using his own life experiences as a catalyst to discuss, examine and share. He said that he did that when he was recovering from a tragic childhood, substance abuse and even now as he lives with cancer.

As I process, I think recognizing my own personal power and its influence on those who come into my realm of experience is my first step in living my own purpose-driven life.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Date Night & Chili Night All-In-One

(In photo: The singer Goapele looked every part of the glam songstress, with killer green stillettos to boot--pun intended. I wish the sound was better so I could know what lyrics she was singing. I like singing along at concerts. I took this photo despite being shoved from all sides from folks smushed inside the tiny venue. Can we say fire code violation?)

So, this past weekend, I had a ball. The holiday season has been fantastic and what a better way to top off a holiday weekend than a concert with an indie artist? I had bought tix online to see Goapele for my partner and I wasn't able to print them out immediately because my printer is temperamental and prints when she feels like it. Typically, when I need things printed and my printer acts up, I ask my partner to print something (if its small) from his job and just bring it home, but, I couldn't very well do that because the tix were part of his Christmas gifts. So, I basically forgot about them until the day after Christmas. Which was the day before the concert. I know. I'm a mess.

So, the day of the concert, we decided to get there about an hour early so we can order food at the venue and get in early to grab a seat. That wasn't happening. I wrote about it all HERE.
All in all, we had fun though. We broke out of the concert early and headed to Ben's Chili Bowl where we enjoyed some wonderfully greasy chili dogs and an orange beverage that tasted like Tang (he hated it). Do they still make Tang?

(In photo: Goapele is one cool lady. You could feel the positive energy as she stepped on stage. We left early, not because of her, but because it was so tight up in there that folks would be on each other's backs if it got any closer.)

(In photo: Me and my other half. We escaped out while the little one was kicking it with the grandfolks. My business partner took this shot prior to the venue filling up to the max.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Kwanzaa Time is Here!

I LOVE Kwanzaa!
The day after Christmas is the first day of the African-centered holiday called Kwanzaa. I've always celebrated Kwanzaa in some form or another since I was a little girl and moreso when I became an adult. My partner's family has an annual Kwanzaa celebration on New Year's eve that I've attended for the past five years and in my work as a youth worker, I've always produced some sort of Kwanzaa festivity, my most memorable celebrations being when I worked at Covenant House Washington for almost six years and the celebrations were mainly led by the youth in the program. We had so much fun...

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are so important to me and I honor them by trying to uphold them throughout the year. They are: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work & Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). Yesterday's performance was definitely an example of Umoja.

So, this Kwanzaa, I wanted to be sure to participate in a Kwanzaa celebration, particularly to perform my Kwanzaa song "Kwanzaa Time is Here". I'm trying to have a holiday CD completed by next fall for the holidays and "Kwanzaa Time is Here" will definitely be on it. I wrote it about six years ago and distributed it to my family and friends as a Kwanzaa gift and continue to get requests from folks who wish to use it for their own Kwanzaa celebrations. I sent a video of me performing it last week at the Potter's House to wonderful Carolyn Malachi who is CEO of Smart Chicks, Inc. and a brilliant performer in her own right and she invited me to perform in this year's Kwanzaa Celebration at the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center that she produces annually for the resort chain.
(In photo: My beautiful snow princess in front of a wall of lights in the ICE! exhibit. Photo by Hook)
(In photo: Ice creations in the ICE! exhibit. Photo by Hook)
(In photo: An ice teddy bear for the kiddies. Photo by Hook)

(In photo: I'm performing with Stan Cooper and Kristen Arant who agreed to perform literally the day before the show. We had never rehearsed (and I had never met Stan), so the performance was literally as impromptu as you can get! Photo by Hook)

Impromptu is Theme of the Day
So, the performance was in the ICE! Pavilion across the street from the Gaylord Resort on the National Harbor. ICE! is this traveling exhibit of various creations made of ice held in an area that is so cold that visitors are given a thermal coat to wear ON TOP of the winter coats and clothing they already have on. I wasn't performing in this freezing cold space, but, instead, right outside of it in a space that was designed as a backdrop depicting the DC city of Georgetown. My family got to go thru the ICE exhibit before my performance and they took the cute photos above in front of the different things that were a part of the exhibit. One of the running jokes between my spouse and I is that I can only perform at places where I can get free admission for the family to save money on family field trips, and they have to be cool enough that the kids have fun and learn something in the mix. Well this was definitely a fun family field trip.

The performance was a one-of-a-kind experience and nothing I could have expected. The mic I was singing in had no monitor, and the speakers were not in the same room with me. Instead, they were throughout the ICE exhibit. While this was way cool to have my music transmitted throughout the exhibit, it was a bit disconcerting not to hear clearly how I sounded through the system. So, I could not hear myself singing and my musicians could barely hear me, as my guitarist was amped and my drummer was, well, a drummer. Drums aren't quiet. But, we worked it. I told them, if all else fails, I have my maracas to shake!

The two musicians, Stan Cooper and Kristen Arant had literally agreed to perform with me the day before and I had never met Stan before. My friend and regular accompanist Gary Young was on vacation in Boston and I was scrambling fast to find accompaniment and was helped by the top-notch musician Walter Cosby, who I initially asked, but he was already booked for a gig. Both he and Stan have performed with some well-known acts, so to have Stan to agree to work with me was an honor. Kristen was so incredible last week at the Potter's House show that I begged her again to come out to accompany on the Kwanzaa song, and she wound up performing the whole set. She too is a traveling drumming diva who has performed with some of the best as well.

The ICE! exhibit was packed! The event sold out before noon that day. My spouse told me that someone came up to him and asked "Who is that band?" when we were performing and was texting about us. That was cool. Hopefully the text wasn't one joking about how this crazy woman was singing into a mic that was not turned on, LOL.

All in all, it was such a great to play more Wii!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Xmas Time Is Here Again...

Ahh, xmas. It was nice. So nice, I have so too much to say, so I'll just show you my highlights. Wii wins for gift of the year hands down! I am so sore already from Wii overload!

(In photo: Even our dog Bella was feeling the holiday mood)
(In photo: We have all of the best Wii games, rock band being the family favorite. I, of course, was on vocals)
(In photo: Little mama getting her dance on on this Wii game. I admit that I whipped her. She can't touch her big mama!)
(In photo: I can begin to live my dreams of painting masterpieces! I have to call on some advice from my Liberated Muse family. Thanks to my sweetie for this wonderful gift. He listens to my dreams. I love him.)
(In photo: Best shot of the day. Was not staged. My nephew opening my gift to him. I bought him a couple of Transformers. He made me feel like I was giving him a million bucks! I love him and am so glad I got to spend time with him this holiday.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Religion

I was cleaning off my desk which is in my office which is the library/family room/land of forgotten things and came across this fortune from a fortune cookie that I got earlier this year. It's kinda crazy how some things just appear arbitrarily to affirm the path you're on. I was appreciative of this moment of synchronicity that I took a photo of it so I could look at it when I pleased and in the event I lost the original fortune (I'm a pack rat, so I put it "up" somewhere to be retrieved by accident again).

Yes, I have a deep interest in all that is artistic. I don't explain why to people most times but I am not too shy to admit that art is my religion. The act of creating art, in my opinion, is a sacred act and is something incredible to behold. I believe that all people created are creators but only seldom do folks feel empowered to display and engage in that which is god-given. I think those of us with that deep interest in the arts are here to encourage and inspire those who are not in flight yet but need support in wearing their wings.

Tomorrow's Christmas Eve btw, and I'm as excited as a six year-old-- my six year-old to be specific, who needs to be tucked in. Until well. Thanks for reading:-)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Show in the Snow, and Boy Was There Snow!

So Friday's show was sooo much fun! It was the 7th Anniversary of the Sounds of Hope series at the Potter's House in DC. I had a ball. The Potter's House has been a sacred space for me as producer of Liberated Muse events which have taken place there numerous times this year. During the Sounds of Hope series, Liberated Muse raised money for students from the DC College Success Foundation, the Saartjie Project and Southeast Ministry. Our first art exhibit also was housed by the Potter's House from Sept. 11 to Dec. 1. The Potter's House has been our biggest partner this year. I was honored to be asked to come perform for the anniversary celebration which was also celebrating the holidays. My friends Gary Young and Angie Shaw were my band of friends who performed with me-- Gary on strings and Angie on backing vocals.

I was on the bill with Tom Goss (below) who I think is amazing and I actually won the raffle and got his CD...what a great belated birthday gift! Tom is an acoustic guitarist/singer and an activist for gay rights. He is a very talented musician whose music reminds me of the Dave Matthews Band. Was honored to be on the bill with him...

My daughter (above) had a ball at the show. She especially loved being part of the show when drummers Kristen Arant and Kweku Orusu perfomed (below). Kristen is founder of the DC-based group the Young Women's Drumming Empowerment Program. She met Kweku who is a Ghanian drummer who is visiting the states. They met and decided to collaborate where Kristen will be traveling to Ghana next month to work with his students, in his effort to attract more girls to his program. They were amazing! See a vid of them HERE.
I had to take a photo with them (below). In the photo with us is George, Kweku's student who performed with Kristen and Kweku with Kristen's student Maugerita. Kristen was wonderful and accompanied me and my band of friends on my song "Kwanzaa Time is Here". It rocked!

Soooo...during my set, which closed the show, it started to snow. Really hard and quick. Driving home was crazy slippery and dangerous. By morning, there had to be at least three feet of snow. We are not snow people, us DC metro area people. We were not ready for this. All day Saturday, the streets were practically deserted. My spouse and I decided that we, the family, would walk to the nearby 7-11 to get some staples and to take a look at how the neighborhood was looking. In the photo below, my daughter can be seen attempting to walk. The snow was so high, she could barely wade through it, it came to her thigh.

This shot of the eskimo above is me right as they got me in the face with a snowball. Snowball fights in DC were not the safest things to do in DC. Check out this video of a cop pulling a gun out during a snowball fight in the city. Craaazy...

What did you get into during the snow? Leave a comment and share. Before I leave, check out this clip from Friday.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Celebration & Facebook Farewell to Kick Off the Weekend

I LOVE the Xmas Holiday

So, a week ago I turned a year older and next week I will wake up a year broker. Such is life during the holidays. Exactly one week from today is Christmas and I celebrate it, despite my circle of influence that includes folks who believe the holiday is designed to corrupt the reason for the season and encourage you to spend with wild abandon.

Ok, I admit, I was very much a part of that circle of influence before I became a mama. It is soooo easy to judge and begrudge a holiday that promotes spending when you don't have someone who you live and wake for.

I live and wake for my daughter, yes I do. And, I admit, she is pretty darn fun to be around (outside of those times when it is time-to-get-ready-for-school). She and her dad. So, the Christmas holiday is just one big party for us. From decorating the house to dressing up in our red and taking photos, to shopping for gifts for folks we enjoy, the Christmas holiday has traditionally been for us, for the past seven years, a really fun time for some quality family time. When folks around me start talking about how the season is designed to get us to spend and its commercialized to the point that the reason for the season is lost, I politely smile and move on.
Though I like to think of myself most times as a revolutionary, I can't rebel against the joy I get from anticipating the day of opening presents with my family.

Plus, I enjoy shopping during this time for myself because the sales are always good.

Farewell Facebook
So, in the midst of all of this Xmas love this week, I deactivated my personal Facebook account. I deactivated it because I may go back to it, but right now, the privacy changes and the whole space in general has lost its luster for me. The love had begun to slowly dwindle for some time, really.

Facebook and I met in 2007 when I was working at a university, running an academic program. My students weren't reading the flyers we posted for them and we really needed to meet them where they were at so they could utilize our services and prevent their academic record from falling. I had created a MySpace page for our office, but that was around the time that MySpace was starting to drop in its popularity. One of my student staff members hipped me to Facebook then and I became a member. I created a group where I would advertise our services and events and we easily had over one hundred students linking to the space regularly.

Facebook, even then, was the space of TMI-- too much information. Students selected to add me as a friend, not realizing that they were leaving their antics open for judgement when I was able to learn things about them I previously probably never would have (wanted) to know. At the time, I was responsible for making determinations about whether failing students were eligible for student housing (they sent their appeal letters to me) so, it was often not in their best interest to add me as a Facebook friend where I could see that you were failing-- not because of the sick relative you said you were taking care of in your appeal letter, but due to the fact that you couldn't successfully balance clubbing every night with waking up in time to attend your classes. Facebook's cool points were earned though with the way students were more apt to use it to connect with me early on to ask questions on how to get back on track academically or details on an event moreso than they would have done in person or via phone.

So, that was how we met--Facebook and I. Once I left the university (and deleted most of my former students as "friends"), I began to link back up with friends from as far back as elementary school. It was way cool to see who became the doctor, or rock star or writer. Through Facebook, I realized I was in fifth grade with Dave Chappelle which is still one of the biggest highlights to date about joining the site.

But then, I started making the mistake of adding folks who I didn't really know all that well.

I started feeling weird when folks who could not identify me, nor I them, in the street made a comment on a status or pushed "like" to acknowledge they agreed with something I wrote. So, I started to "purge" as I called it, deleting profiles from my friend list every month of folks who I could not remember where we met or, realistically, did not remember liking too much. By the summer, I had over 700 "friends" on the list and it still was way too many for my own comfort because, at this point, I had over 100 photo albums and I didn't want my photos being open to everyone especially those that weren't of my events but of my family. Maybe I was cautious because my online stalker had resurfaced, but it urged me to continue the purge until I was down to only a little over 200 "friends". I also changed my settings so I could not be found in the search engine, nor could folks add me as a friend.

I was still using Facebook regularly though for Liberated Muse business-- managing our fan page and profile page. I realized that keeping it professional was probably in my best interest. I realized then that Facebook was no longer fun, really, and though (in my mind) I had accused folks of getting too attached with the online platform or taking things too personal, I, too, had begun to use Facebook irresponsibly-- checking in more than once a day and posting fun family photos too regularly. The new privacy changes which now allow friends of your friends to access your profile (reading your friend list and seeing your profile photo) and add you as a friend were also kill-joys for me as well. So, I ended my tumultuous love affair with my personal page on Facebook this week. How long will it last? Who knows...

Thanks for reading, as always and be sure to come and celebrate the holidays with me today during a holiday show at the Potter's House in Washington DC. You can click HERE for details. Don't be surprised, the details are on a Facebook event page! (smile). I will be performing with my band of friends-- Gary and Angie-- and singing covers and holiday songs including my original song "Kwanzaa Time Is Here". If you would like a free mp3 of the song emailed to you, leave a comment or email me and I will shoot it to you. Check out the video below by Tom Goss who is one of the performers performing as well at today's event. I love this video and was surprised to see folks I knew in it. It reminds me of my family-- our daughter is always in bed with us, STILL, lol.

Be good and stay unboxed!

Friday, December 11, 2009

My List of 36

So, today's my birthday! I am thrilled to have another year behind me that I can honestly say that I am quite pleased and proud of. Here's to my new year ahead!

I had people ask me what do I plan to do on my birthday, what am I looking to get this year. And, of course, I gave the same answer I give every year-- I'm gonna party every day of the week leading up to my birthday.

I laugh as I write this.

I just turned 36. True partying for me--- which entails actually leaving the house-- ended about 7 years ago. Nowadays, I usually leave the house for professional appointments-- gigs, meetings, doctor visits, to shop or for all things Khari (my little girl). Her dad and I consider taking naps our own personal form of date night, so, yeah, going out, even on my birthday is something that may not happen in real life. But, its so fun to pretend.

I actually went out for a few hours this past Wednesday to hook up with some friends for drinks at this spot where older folks (50+) hang. Getting myself together to actually leave the house was an ordeal. My daughter doesn't react well to me going out because its so infrequent and she is so used to going practically everywhere with me. So, on Wed, at least a half hour was spent consoling her that going out did not mean that I was leaving the family. I had invited two friends of mine with kids to meet us out and they didn't even make it past the door, so at least I made it out of the house. I had a ball and am pretty content if that is as good is it gets with partying on my birthday.

List of 36

I am so grateful for any type of gift I get, especially on my birthday. My darling spouse and daughter got me a warm fleece set for my morning walk/runs that they gave me this morning and I was thrilled. It is probably the few pieces of name-brand stuff I own in my closet-- I don't understand the difference between Northface and whatever they call the stuff Target sells. Target is my shopping paradise.

Though I am grateful for any and every gift I get, here is a list I put some careful reflection in of 36 things I would gladly accept as a birthday gift if anyone was trying to give it to me.

36. A all paid trip to any Carribean island of my choice with unlimited beach-sized banana frozen drinks

35. A ticket to be one of those gazillion-aires who get to take a trip to outer space

34. How about a gazillion dollars?

33. The opportunity to chat with Cornel West. He is so smart and animated and makes me smile whenever I hear him. I especially loves how he uses those big words and I know what they mean!

32. Get my all-time favorite girl group Zhane back together. Then (31.) give me a ticket to their concert.

30. Pro Tools lessons

29. An unlimited gift certificate to Target

28. A pill that obliterates fat without having side effects that are usually worse than being fat

27. The instant love of exercise. I am sooo thrilled that I can now use my name and jogging in the same sentence, but the love is not there yet.

26. A building I can transform into an arts hub and (25.) produce all of my theater shows in

24. A mentor who can help me on how to relax, relate and release while creating

23. More contracts

22. Someone who can blog for me while I dictate to them over the phone what I want them to write and what pictures to post (I know, that's just lazy...but, I'm saying...)

21. A remote control that can control the tv, clean the house, cook dinner and drive my daughter to school...

20. A date with Stevie Wonder and Maxwell at the same time in a piano bar where they take turns serenading me and singing my Kwanzaa song with me

19. A personal stylist who shows up each morning to dress me and decorate my face with the top of the line MAC products

18. World Peace that doesn't come with a price tag of people's lives and the hope that (17.) there would no longer be the need for a military but, instead, an army of smart people who do things to come up with ways for the world to be happier, non-polluted and healthier

17. Hugs unlimited.

16. Real race talk in this country by Barack Obama. Healing can not begin until this country addresses its issues with race.

15. A law passed that says that the "media" is no longer allowed to report on people's infidelities, personal addictions or dress history

14. School choice. I want Montessori for my daughter but can't afford it. Didn't get the lottery in my county. So, my taxes pay for the other parents' kids to enjoy Montessori. I pay tuition for a school that doesn't even know what Montessori is.

13. Hover cars. Back to the Future really teased me with this concept. Can engineers hurry up already and make them available for public consumption? I want mine now!

12. A robot driver. Until my hover car is available for my use, I would be more than willing to have a robot driver. I love the idea of robots and not having to drive myself.

11. Paid utilities. Ok, Obama, the whole tax credit was lovely. Cash for clunkers, beautiful. How about something to get rid of having to pay for utilities? These electricity folks have lost their mind.

10. Legislation for working moms & dads to be able to be available for all of the milestones in their kids' lives without being penalized by their employers

9. Mandatory recess. Taking away recess from our kids is helping to create soon-to-be-adults who will have no idea how to decompress.

8. A new printer and a printer pass that would allow me to get a new printer whenever my current one has a nervous breakdown (as you can tell, this is my issue now)

7. A kinder gravitational pull

6. A society that reveres gentleness

5. Unlimited back massage coupons

4. Guaranteed health for all my loved ones

3. Paid art school for my baby girl

2. Universal Love

1. Continued crazy, fun times with my wonderful family

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What is an STD and Other Tales with My Emerging Reader

So, earlier this week, while minding my business, my 6 year-old decided to start reading. Of course, I like to see/hear this-- she is a mathematical genius, often preferring math problems to picking up a book, so hearing her choose to sound out the words around her, I was pleased. However, I sensed early on as she started sounding out words she read around the room that we were heading into murky waters. Particularly when she started sounding out words on some of the folders lying around in my room. I am a youth facilitator and a pack rat and have hordes of folders from past workshops I've facilitated. One workshop that I've done this year was on STDs.

"What is STIDS?"

My eyes opened (I was napping) and I knew immediately what folder she was looking at.

"Um, that is an acronym. It is read S-T-D."

"What's an acronym?"

"An acronym is when you have letters that stand for words."

"So, what words do the S, the T and the D stand for?"

Oh boy.

So, I will be honest. I have facilitated reproductive health workshops for the past ten years in various capacities, working with elementary school-aged children to adults and I have to say that I was never stumped so badly for words until this very moment. I have done parent workshops for parents on how to bring up the dreaded topic of SEX with their kids, but, this moment with my own very curious 6 year-old was that damnable chicken coming home to roost.

And, after exhaling, a quick mental scramble for words and such, I entered the scary waters of conversation where the balance between TMI and "what you need to know" is a maddening chess game that you don't find out the results from until after the child is grown and you hopefully don't have any tell all books written about you on how you ruined their childhood.

So, let's just say that I answered A LOT of questions once my 6 year-old found out the S stood for sexually in STD. The explanation of the word led to other questions my little one had been holding in about this curious world around her. Of course the famous question little ones have about kissing and pregnancy was among the bunch.

She has been having a lot of questions, I realize, because first grade isn't like it used to be. She has classmates who talk about having "nervous breakdowns", kids who talk about the medication they are on and teachers who explain to the class what hair weaves are and how they are grown ups way to play make-believe (Long story). So, yes, my child has a experience I wasn't privy to at six.

My Trophy!

I take her with me often when I facilitate workshops with youngsters and most recently when I worked for 8 weeks with the youngsters I mentioned in an earlier post. I was working with these kids for a poetry slam they competed in this past Thursday.

My daughter loved being around these kids and started to feel like she was a big kid too when she would come with me during these sessions. She related so much that when they won the first place trophy on Thursday, she didn't understand why she could not bring the trophy home with us.

"Mommy, make sure you get the trophy now so we can go home."

"Um, that's not our trophy. The kids won it."

"But, weren't we part of the team?"

"Um..." I was not liking where this was going.

To make a long story short, she had to be led out of the building crying.

In the car, I had to explain that trophies are won usually in competition. She did not compete on stage, therefore, she does not get any part of that trophy. I told her she could win her own awards if she decided she wanted to stick to the things her dad and I have enrolled her in this year, including Tae Kwon Do that she recently stopped going to because she always fell asleep on the way home from school (and I never had the heart to wake her up.)

She grumbled something or another about how that's not fair and when she gets home she is going to make her own darn trophy.

I admit, I couldn't stop chuckling to myself about that one. A girl has to do what a girl has to do I guess.

Friday, November 27, 2009

No Stomachs Were Hurt in the Making of this Meal

(In photo: Our well-fed family)

(In photo: The family after some hearty eating on Thanksgiving 2009)

Yeay! Thanksgiving dinner was a success! And to think you were worried!

Ok, I admit, I was pretty darn scared. I will be honest, too. The pumpkin pies were not that great, but, hey, who is counting when the turkey was divine!

(In photo: The little one was in charge of table decor.)

(In photo: The man of the house injects the bird with some taste goods)

(In photo: The beautiful bird. And, yes, it was slathered in olive-oil based mayo)

(In photo: Our spread-- green beans, corn, sweet potatoes, turkey, gravy cranberry sauce & mac & cheese with a twist)

So, hopefully you are up to speed on my cooking tribulations. I am not the world's greatest cook. I am not the greatest cook on my block, nor in my house. That award goes to my dear partner who has the cooking skills of any of those on the Food Network. I swear. His skills are that good. But, he only lets those of us with lower skills and palates partake of his skills when (a) he is in the mood to cook (b) when it is a holiday or special occasion or (c) when he feels like it, which is really the same as (a). For the meal yesterday, he bestowed upon us the most heavenly sweet potato casserole ever and mac & cheese to die for. He also was the muscle behind flipping the bird during the three hours it cooked and injecting it with the seasoning.

I, however, take full credit for everything else regarding the bird. I brined it, rubbed it down and talked to it tenderly, begging it profusely to not burn, go dry or taste unseasoned during my first Thanksgiving run at cooking. It didn't disappoint.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nation-Sanctioned & Societally Supported Shout-Day

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays... and one of the major reasons is the eating to be done on this day. Yes, the food. The yamming down. The munching and crunching. The eats, the sweets and the drinks. It is this society's only day when it is acceptable to gorge oneself on the best meat, vegetables, starches and desserts you can find. Who doesn't love that?

But, most of all, what other day do you get to gorge yourself and tell your family you love them and are grateful for them in a crowded room or on a blog and not be self-conscious or be perceived as just overly geeked and pressed? Valentine's day is mainly for sweethearts and Christmas is mainly about giving big-ups to Jesus Christ. No, Thanksgiving is the only nation-sanctioned, societally-supported day to give the entire family shout-outs (or at least the members you actually want to give shout-outs to. Let's be real, everyone doesn't get props).

So, here is my list of Thanksgiving shout-outs (in no particular order) to my family who I love beyond words:

  • I am thankful for my dear spouse of 5+ years of co-parenting rigor. Without his easy demeanor, calm and patience, there would be no example of balance for our daughter when she sees us two--her parents together
  • I am thankful for my child. Her beautiful face is only a glimpse of the beautiful spirit she is. Her feisty energy coupled with her artistic ways never cease to amaze. I am so blessed that her spirit chose me to mother her.
  • I thank my mother for always loving me. This has been a hard year for her, particularly with my brother being deployed, but she still maintains and supports all of her children in the best way she knows how. I love and appreciate her for that.
  • I am thankful for my daughter's paternal grandparents. Any parent knows how important grandparents are in a busy parent's life and boy, my daughter has some of the best grandparents. Through all of our traveling this year, they kept our daughter whenever asked and never fail to love her--their home is her home. They are also very loving to me as well and I couldn't ask for better in-laws.
  • My siblings-- all four of you, I am thankful for you all. You all being born have allowed me to be a big sister and allowed me to know that one child was quite enough for me when I started having kids of my own ;-)
  • My step-daughter, I am very thankful and blessed to know you. You are a stunning young woman both inside and out. Watching you grow into a teenager has been amazing.
  • I am thankful for you, my little nephew. You are funny and talented and I am looking forward to seeing an upcoming tennis match.
  • My Uncle Butch, you are always there when I need software and computer hardware. Though I have no idea where you get your hook-up, I am grateful always for the hook-up you give me.
  • Amenta-Maat, my cousin aka Valerie-- I am thankful for your support of all of my artistic endeavors. Seeing your face at two of my events this year and receiving your emails of support has made me so thankful for your love.
  • Bella, our family dog, I am so thankful for you. I am particularly thankful that this Thanksgiving you are trained enough to not use the bathroom when out of your crate. Please keep up the good work. I want this kind of thankfulness to extend into the new year.
If you are reading this, I want to thank you for reading! And, yes, I am thankful for you, too! Happy Thanksgiving!...and most importantly, Happy Eating! (fingers crossed the turkey comes out ok. Will post dinner story after Thanksgiving)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How Not to Poison my Family & Other Notes to Self

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I have never prepared a Thanksgiving meal by myself. I have never hosted people over for Thanksgiving. Technically, I won't be doing either tomorrow. But, alas, I will be preparing the Thanksgiving bird. Of course, my spouse will be supervising all activity I'm involved in in the kitchen, but, I will be in charge of the turkey ultimately.

For most women, this is expected. For me, this is a totally new experience because I have always been the family eater. When folks needed a test subject, that was me. I have honed the gift of eating other people's cooking. Hence, my own cooking skills have never fully been stretched to their potential. Of course there are the common food concoctions I've mastered-- spaghetti, grilled chicken, heating up of canned items, etc., but a big, whole, turkey? No. Never did it. Seasoning is a big thing for me (I admit I do make spicy foods well because I love seasoning) so the prospect of seasoning a big ole bird is a bit daunting. Seasoning injector? Brine marination? If you know what these things are, then you probably are a good cook already. If not, then you are in the same boat with me. I learned yesterday while perusing the Food Network's recipe list of turkey suggestions what brine is. I never knew it was a good thing, it has a sour, putrid ring to it.

I had posted on Facebook my decision to follow a co-worker of my spouse's suggestion to cook the turkey after rubbing it in mayonnaise. The co-worker said it will make the turkey come out juicy. My Facebook friends immediately wrote on my wall to drop the mayo immediately and DO NOT put mayonnaise on the turkey. See what happens when you share your next moves with folks. They save you...or confuse you even more, it's up to you to take it for what its worth. I'm a bit in the confused boat still and I have less than 24 hours left to make a decision on what I'm going to do with this damn bird.

In my other Worlds...

I've begun to lessen the number of involvements that I'm a part of. I am really in touch with my internal workings and lately I've been noticing an energy drop. I've disengaged myself from things that have been really important to me this past year, specifically the Saartjie Project and my writing stint for a paper that I've written for for almost four years. I have loved both opportunities immensely, but, I am now narrowing my focus to two projects I'm hoping to drop in the next year. I hope I am able to share them before the end of next year. Wish me luck...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Unexpected Spirituality

I've been to four states in the past month along the east coast and in the midwest-- Florida, North Carolina, New York and Kentucky. While New York was for business (presenting in a conference), Kentucky and North Carolina were travels that were more personal. Kentucky's visit was one to determine if Kentucky will be our new home while North Carolina's visit was a sad send-off of my little brother to war in Afghanistan. So, the Florida two-day visit was a very well-needed vacay that didn't require much thinking, emotion, or prep. The biggest concern was deciding between going to the pool or heading to an amusement park.

Everyone needs a break. Not sure if mine was long enough though.

When I returned from Florida yesterday, the feeling of stress quickly grabbed ahold. I had to get into producer mode for the 7pm Liberated Muse event--Capital Rhythm and Soul. This was especially challenging because my business partner actually had another event he was co-producing with co-workers at his day job and he was not able to really contribute to the promotion of the event nor be present during the logistics. The show was a benefit concert for the nonprofit Southeast Ministry that I've worked with this past summer, so, there were volunteers from Southeast Ministry that I needed to confer with as well prior to the event. When I got back from Florida, I was running very late and did not have the opportunity to drop my daughter off at her grandparents (her dad was still in Florida for business). Between getting myself ready and getting my daughter ready, we were already a half hour late. Did I mention that I was supposed to perform as well?

Well, I called my back vocalist Angie, a good friend of mine, and gave her a heads-up that I was running late. She was already there and had immediately stepped in as the contact for the volunteers and other artists who were performing. She did this without me even asking. When I arrived, all was fine, with several other performers having time issues as I had but everything working out overall. I took a grateful inhale and exhaled deeply.

Prior to the start of the show, we (performers and volunteers) met in the back and did a peace blessing acknowledging everyone who was present, praying for those who had to call out of the show last minute and allowing the volunteers , performers and members of Southeast Ministry to get to know each other. This moment really helped ground me.

When the show began, the hostess, a beautiful spirit named Dehejia Maat, began her MC duties by settling the crowd. She did this by reading passages from the book "The Secret" before engaging them with her poetry. The spiritual tone of the evening immediately began to take shape.

This wasn't a typical Friday evening of music. It was very warm, magical and almost spiritual. There was a very small turn-out, but that did not impact the performers, each one who gave their all to the audience. My own performance was very heartfelt as I sang out to MJ in my rendition of "Never Can Say Good-bye" and poured my heart out in my song "My Tragedy".

I felt refreshed, invigorated and deeply grateful for having the experience on Friday at the Capital Rhythm and Soul event at the Potter's House. I experienced the support of a friend, enjoyed reflective moments with friends and strangers alike and fellowshipped with others through music and song. What more can you hope for? I found unexpected spirituality in an everyday setting and it blossomed gratefulness in my heart.

(In the Video: Footage from last night's Capital Rhythm & Soul and other past events that I've produced through Liberated Muse)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Channeling MJ, Adoring Minnie & Passing the Hosting Duties

(In photo: Me performing earlier this year. I'm anticipating my set this Friday)

So, this Friday, I will be performing in a show I'm producing for Liberated Muse Productions. What most folks don't realize is that I am reactivating a performance career that was pretty much put on hold for about four years when I became a Mommy.

Now, I didn't disappear from the arts during those four years-- I still actively wrote and produced shows for the jobs I had since giving birth, but, I wasn't performing--singing, specifically-- like I had been doing before becoming Mommy to Khari. So, the task of putting together a set, getting yourself vocally ready and just being stage ready is something I am still growing into again. I've been performing this past year and a half with the Saartjie Project, singing and acting, but a set that has you singing for 20 minutes + straight is a bit different.

The performance at the Green Fest last month was my debut doing a full set. Gary and I had worked together in May for a benefit show, he playing guitar as I sang the Janelle Monae song "Sincerely Jane". He was naturally the person to turn to accompany me for last month's set at the Green Fest. Gary and I went to college together and came back in touch with each other about three years ago, mainly via Facebook and Myspace. It was only this year when we connected in person again and its been awesome.

Gary has really helped with putting together the set. He wrote a song I performed last month at the Green Fest about the earth and its children and he has a musical ear that is phenomenal. He has really done magic with the original piece I perform "My Tragedy" and the other cover tunes I hit. This coming Friday, I will be singing a song by the Jackson 5 and Gary picked up the melody in minutes. He is brilliant.

(In photo: My friend Gary is a phenomenal musician)

I must admit that I am nervous with the MJ tune. I miss MJ, as if he were a relative, and I am hoping I don't cry during the song. I will also be doing a Minnie Ripperton cover. Now the fear with that one is the hope that my voice doesn't crack. No, I'm not hitting those ceiling reaching notes like she did, but I will be singing pretty high. I hope that my voice doesn't decide to go "sike-a-boo-boo. we don't do that!"

My good friend Angie is doing backing vocals and I am thrilled to be on stage with her and Gary. Their presence lends some comfort to the performance for me. This will be our first event at the Potter's House that I haven't hosted. This will be new for me being there as a performer and handing over the hosting reins. The hostess is a phenomenal poet named Dehejia Maat. I hope you can come out. Check out the flyer below for details.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

First Art Opening Helps Me Learn the Art of Chilling

(In photo: Me with artist Marshetta Davis who is in the book Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul and in the Celebration of Freedom exhibit.)

Yesterday afternoon was the first art opening hosted by my group Liberated Muse Productions. Our exhibit, Celebration of Freedom, was inspired by the book I edited Liberated Muse Volume I:How I Free My Soul. Artists featured in the book and artists part of our network who are part of the exhibit were on hand yesterday to talk about their art, mingle with guests and sell their art.

(In photo: Artists featured in the art exhibit-- Pru Bonds, Sherry Burton-Ways, James Terrell and Sharon Burton who is in the exhibit, created the cover art for the book Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul and curated the exhibit)

Almost all of the artists (8 of the 10) showed up last night, supported by friends and family members to take part in the artist talk and enjoy refreshments provided by the venue hosting the exhibit, the Potter's House.

(In photo: Artist Shan'ta Monroe and her piece "Pandora's Box". Shan'ta is a painter and photographer and is featured in Liberated Muse Volume I:How I Freed My Soul and was the photographer for the Capital Hip Hop Soul Fest this past year, an event I produce each year with Liberated Muse Productions.)

I had never produced an art opening before this one and I learned a grand lesson in the art of chilling out. I've produced dozens of performance art events-- including festivals, concerts, cabarets and panels--often serving as the MC-- and a high amount of energy necessary to multi-task, keep things moving along and always have a plan B is always required. With an art opening, especially one that was as casual and community-based as this one (as opposed to upscale and exclusive), the energy required is on a much smaller level. For a busy bee like me, it was a teachable moment.

(In photo: Stephan Cox and his pieces which are part of a series he started as a student in Morgan State University.)

At an art opening, when people come in to view art, converse and navigate a room, the atmosphere is so different from a programmed performance. I was able to chill and just allow folks to find their way in the gallery area, offering smiles when necessary and just having the opportunity to catch up with folks I hadn't really just talked to. I especially enjoyed conversing with one of the artists in the show, Stephan Cox.
Stephan is a young man who I worked with when I worked at Morgan State University. I have been so happy keeping in touch with him and seeing him grow more comfortable showing his art. He is not only a visual artist but a performing artist as well. I got to know him very well when he had a singing role in my play Shades of Black: A thought in progress. His sister, brother-in-law and nephew came to support him at the reception last night and I was surprised to recognize his brother-in-law who was in my photography class I took earlier this year with the Washington School of Photography in Bethesda, MD. Such a small world.

(In photo: Me and Sharon Burton who led curation of the exhibit.)
(In photo: The artist Choke and her pieces. Choke sold the first piece to be sold from the exhibit when it soft opened in September)

I didn't have to be "on" and got to socialize which I really don't get time to do at the events we have. (excluding our event two weeks ago which had a really low turn-out)

While socializing with the artist Choke, I learned that she just got a license to do hair "art" as I call it (hair design) and she just returned from California where she is now taking classes in glass art. I am really impressed with her exploratory nature and as a young artist (only 22), she is utilizing her youth wisely, exploring areas of interest and not being mired in thoughts of playing it "safe".

(In photo: The group the Ash Lovelies were at the Potter's House rehearsing prior to our reception and decided to stay during the reception, actually providing the event music. Synchronicity is amazing. I had purposefully not invited any performing artists, not sure how we could swing that when the area in front of the art is usually the stage area. The Ash Lovelies were practicing in a corner of the room that did not encompass the gallery area. It was wonderful to meet them. They actually performed the same day I did at the Green Fest and I had caught them on that day when my family stuck around to enjoy the fest).

I had a good time. Sharon and I made the decision to push back an art exhibit we had originally scheduled for December (the Potter's House exhibit ends on Dec. 1) at Meroe Gallery in Baltimore, MD. We are shooting for the spring to ensure that we get more submissions and get a breath of air to relax. Maybe.

The next event I'm producing is this Friday. If you are reading this, I hope you plan to attend. Click here to RSVP on Facebook.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Celebration of Freedom Art Exhibit Reception @ 4pm

Today is a reception for the artists in the art exhibit Liberated Muse is showcasing in the "Celebration of Freedom" currently up at the Potter's House. It's from 4-6pm at the Potter's House.

I've been really happy that my organization Liberated Muse has been able to create venues for visual artists as well as performing artists. Our social network has been a community full of all kind of artists-- from literary artists and performing artists to visual artists and fiber artists. Exhibitions were only a matter of time.

It's thrilling to see the community grow and the events increase. If you're reading this, hope you can make it today. If not, make sure you mark next Friday, Nov. 20 for your calendar. Click here for the details. I'm performing with Gary & Angie and there are other fabulous artists performing.

As I get ready today, I grabbed a snapshot of a piece my daughter was working on this morning. "Aliens from outerspace". She said that this is me and her. What a great way to start the day.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Teaching the Kid about Giving folks Credit. No, the Other One.

My daughter Khari told me this morning, as I was still asleep, that she didn't have to wear a uniform today, she could wear her "own" clothes, as she calls them.

First, I was stunned because she was awake before me on a school day. Very rare.

Second, there was absolutely no way I would know the truth before showing up to the school because they never answer the phone at the school in the morning. I decided to take Khari's word for it.


So, I picked out an outfit for her to wear, even though her new 6 year-old habit has been to play "Sike" with me. Sike is when she tells me a lie and laughs when I believe her. She hasn't mastered the art of using the word yet, because she often doesn't say "sike" until at least an hour and up to a day after she told the lie. This inability to get the proper use of "sike" down is identical to her difficulty in understanding the idea of what a punchline is. She doesn't understand that "Knock, knock" is not the funny part. But, I digress.

So, I believed that she wasn't siking me. Turns out she wasn't. She could wear what she wanted because today was APPLE DAY. Of course you are asking, WTH is APPLE DAY as I did. Khari told me that they were sampling different types of apples and she had to bring an apple in. We had grapefruit, plums, watermelon, bananas and strawberries in the house. No apples.

Khari asks her father does he have an apple somewhere in the house and he suggests to her to bring in some apple juice. We had an unopened jug that could be shared with the class. I heard him tell her this in the other room. When she came into the kitchen where I was, she said that she had an idea. How about, she said, I take in a bottle of juice.

"That's a good idea," I said.

"Yeah, that's why I came up with it," she said.

I turned and looked at her.

"Oh really?"


And she begrudgingly admitted it was Daddy's idea. That's when I decided to teach the lesson of giving folks their credit. No, not credit as a money loan, but credit as recognition for their ideas and work.

Idea Snatchers

Did you ever have a convo with your mom or dad about giving people credit where credit is deserved? I didn't. And, the last thing I wanted was for Khari to endure the wake-up call when someone she worked with (in school or on a job) took credit for something she did. Or, worse, she became the person who took credit from another person. No matter how minute.

See, I've watched folks who do that, to the point that it has become second nature and they don't realize they are doing. They are the ones who you tell an idea to and two seconds later they repeat it with an "I" in front of it. Like this,

You: "Ms. Turner rocks. I think I'm going to throw a celebration for Ms. Turner because she is a great teacher and deserves a going-away party."

Them (two seconds later): "You know, I think Ms. Turner deserves a party. I'm gonna throw one. Wanna come?"

You may be thinking that the important thing is that Ms. Turner gets the party and it doesn't matter who throws it, but, I am adamant that the folks who steal ideas are usually the most trifling people on the team who are often the least likely to do ANYthing required to get the job done OR, they reap tons of the benefits (if there are any to be had) and share none of the benefits. We can look at the creator of Facebook as a main example of this.

There are many ways to address idea stealers, but my hope today with my talk with Khari is to prevent the development of one.

There is creativity and ideas everywhere, and, yes, while we are inspired by the work we see others do, if we are completely copying and repeating what it is that they are creating, saying, doing or building we are not revering them or paying homage, we are being lazy and disingenious with our dealings. Folks have a hard time trusting, too, those who they feel steal their ideas.

Giving folks credit for their work and ideas is an action of respect. It is a behavior that, when practiced everyday, becomes a habit. A good habit to have. And, I believe it ultimately comes full circle, where you are given credit for what you do when it matters most.

When I finished sharing these gems with Khari, I wasn't too sure if she understood my point. She looked at me, shrugged and went off to put the juice in her bookbag.

Maybe she did get it though, because, as we walked into the school, me wearing a hat and yesteray's outfit, she wearing her pink outfit of choice--she kissed me good-by and before parting, gave me my credit for wearing a hat. Thanks, I said, pleased that she admired the beret I had just tossed on. "You're Welcome," she replied. "I wante to give you credit for wearing a hat because your hair is looking pretty scary this morning Mommy." Of course today she decides to understand the use of a punchline.

Check out the video below I had fun adding blurbs to this past week. I get a kick out of watching it because (1) I love watching Binah dance and (2) it cracks me up how Khari just climbed onto stage with me and I just kept on performing. We are classic. It is from the 2009 Green Fest which was here in DC last month.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saw Lupe Yesterday & Stumbled Over My Words

(in photo: students forming a line outside of the auditorium to see Lupe Fiasco)
(in photo: Lupe Fiasco and Chris Moore)

Last week I had to call out on my Monday for the news at WPFW because I was way behind with everything. I had just gotten back from North Carolina, had an event and really needed an exhale moment. So, yesterday when I returned to do the news as I've done since August from 1pm to 3pm, I was returning after two weeks.

I was late getting in.

I had gotten cocky thinking that I didn't need that much time to gather news, but, yesterday proved otherwise. I got in so late that I had to scamble to get the news together and then when I got on the air, I was so halting and jumbly over my words, it was an effort just getting things out. It was a mess.

I got it a bit together at 3pm when I read it again, but I definitely wasn't rocking my radio voice in splendor like I strive to do each Monday.

Avoiding the Boot
After WPFW, I dashed to George Washington University to cover an event featuring hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco. I got lost and when I found a parking space, I got immediately nervous because I have unpaid parking tickets and even if you park legally, if the parking cops do a computer search of your license plate and find you have unpaid tickets, you can get booted. My car was booted after my interview on Fox 5 for the Capital Hip Hop Soul Fest. Nothing brings your high down any quicker than having a grand interview and finding out your car is booted and you are stranded miles from home. All of my unpaid tickets, ironically, have been garnered from past day jobs where I've been required to drive and park and get held up and can't move my car within that damnable two hour time frame. The wonderful places of employment (and I say that sarcastically) didn't even pay for the tickets when it was agreed that they were garnered during work time and because of work...but I digress.

So, I didn't want to get a ticket. I was feeding the meter and ran out of coins and this wonderfully nice lady stopped and gave me coins when she saw my expression of frustration when I ran out of coins. That made my heart feel good---> nice people still exist.

However, I still needed another dollars worth (had already plugged in about three dollars worth). As I was walking to this nearby bar to get change, I saw a parking cop. I saw him eye my plates and speak into a walkie talkie. And, then I did it. I began to follow him.

"Excuse me, um, excuse me," I called to him.

He turned around. And then he smiled. I think he thinks I'm hitting on him, I thought.

"Um, did you just call someone about my car?"
His smile disappears. "Which one is your car?"
I point. "Nah," he says. "We getting the one in front of you. You straight."

As I exhaled a sigh of relief, I wanted to write a note of warning to the car in front of me. See, they weren't about to get ticketed, they were about to get booted. As I looked in my purse for paper to write the note, thankfully, I saw the owner of the car jump in and pull out. If only they knew how close they were to getting booted.

Lupe Fiasco

So, I got to the GWU media center and signed in as press and later took part in my third press conference ever. It was fun. Check out the video below and photos from it. Read my article for about the event yesterday.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Mosaic Literary Conference

Mosaic Literary Conference
So, yesterday, I was in NY for the Mosaic Literary Conference hosted by the Literary Freedom Project and Mosaic Books. I presented last year when it was the Re:Verse Literary Conference & Festival and was honored to be selected to be a part of this important conference again. The Mosaic Literary Conference gathers educators-- mostly from the Bronx area in NY-- and shares ideas on how to connect youth to literature and inspire life-long readers. I presented a workshop about how Story Quilting has worked for me for the past few years as a tool to connect students-- from emerging readers to relunctant readers regardless of age-- to literature through art. Above are some photos from my workshop. The group of six women in my workshop were wonderful.


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