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.


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