Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Badu-ism, Cherry Blossoms and Being Free as a Kite

I'm so sad that I'm having issues uploading photos to this blog b/c I really wanted to share my photos from the Cherry Blossom festival:-(

So, this past weekend was a busy one. I loved it. I hung with the fam on Saturday down on the National Mall, enjoying the cherry blossoms as the National Cherry Blossom festival kicked off. Now, we initially set out to go there to fly kites because the Kite Festival by the Smithsonian was going on, too-- outside on the grass on the National Mall and inside at the Air and Space Museum. However, we missed the Kite Festival festivities and decided we were going to check out the cherry blossoms after we got to flying our kites apart from the festival. I flew a kite for the very first time in my life!

Now, as a child, I've made kites, I mean, what child hasn't? But, I always made kites with heavy materials like sticks and construction paper with no sense of gravity and no guidance from an adult to be like, "look kid, that is never gonna work". So, my homemade kites as a kid never made it off the ground. We didn't put our daughter through that whole experience of personal trial and error. We bought the dollar store kites made of thin, almost balloon-like materials, and set to flying. My spouse is a kite flying King and our daughter and I watched him like eagles. It wasn't long before we all had turns taking our two kites into the air. While kite flying seems like the most inane activity ever, it is actually exhilirating to see your kite up, up, up in the air.

When we brought our kites down, we walked to the tidal basin and snapped photos of ourselves with the flowers.

Erykah Badu Gets Naked
So, this weekend, Erykah Badu released the video to her song "Window Seat" this past weekend. Her album comes out on Tuesday. As a music writer, this was big news and the Twitter world was abuzz over this new vid Miss Badu put out. Always edgy, Badu always puts on a twist on things that seems avant-garde and original. For fans like me, that is what is most appreciated by the eclectic singer. In her new video, she doesn't fall short of expectation.

In "Window Seat" Badu strips to her birthday suit in the area where President JFK was assasinated. Now, while there is a bit of time that goes by before she is actually butt-naked, her nakedness has been the main talking piece around this video. Most men are unabashedley drawn to discussing how curvaceous and round her butt is, while women who are fans have marveled at how she has used her nudity to draw attention to her message about how indivduality is shot down in the face of what she calls "group think".

For someone brazenly outspoken like myself, this video was a salve to a very irritated wound. While I purposefully selective on who I allow into my space, it is often a crap shoot who I will encounter when I have less control over my environment. I have bore the brunt of many encounters with people who have chosen to silence me or retaliate because I have maybe not agreed with them in one instance or I've been resolute about something in another instance. This is usually when I am new and entering an environment where change has been infrequent and often met with conflict or alienation.

In all instances, I've been an advocate for unboxed thinking and one's right to have an opinion and opportunity to explore different sides to any one situation. Needless to say, I have never done well in situations that have required the group think mentality of cliques and circles. Badu references this in her video-- the word group think is above her head as she falls. The term was coined in 1952 and I encourage you to read about it on Wikipedia. Just google it. Type in "GroupThink". Man, oh, man.

Erykah Badu's video just resonated profoundly. I even tried explaining it to my daughter, but I wasn't able to find the words yet to make it accessible to her. Then, it would require backdrop, and I'm not so sure it would be helpful to her understanding Badu's video. I don't want my own baggage to be handed to her. Not necessarily a loner, I have definitely been known for my easy way of asking questions and speaking up. I don't follow because its just the "right" or "easy" thing to do. I also don't believe that you are being confrontational when you say "no" to someone's imposition on you. So, all of this-- all of this experience, this way of being just came to fore when I watched her video. It's so powerful to me. The gunshot-- killing someone risking being bare, it's so symbolic, so tragic, and so freeing to watch all at once. How do you explain all of that to a 6 year-old? I'm mulling on that now.

I've initiated discussions on my Facebook page about this and one of the writers on one of the music sites I write for posted a post about Erykah's thought-process going into creating this video. There is a lot of talk going on about this. And, this can be nothing but good for the sale of the CD. But, some questioned whether Badu's sole intent was to sell CDs. I say that it doesn't matter. First, I think it is crazy how it is expected that artists who wish to provoke thought also wish to be broke. Why can't a thinking artist want to sell CDs or be recognized positively for what they do? That's not selling out. I think it's daring to infuse a message in your work that is not misogynistic or self-hating when the trends in today's mainstream music always teeter along those lines. Here is the video. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Performing the "Blame Game" This Thursday @ Busboys & Poets in DC

I was sooo thrilled to find an email in my inbox this morning telling me that my song I had submitted in a songwriting contest last week had been selected and I am to perform in the event detailed in the flyer above. The event is part of a 3 part concert series exploring topics of health, education and the environment. I had written a song about the health debates and political fervor going on about health care and they liked it. The irony is that I was notified the same day that Barack Obama signed the new health care reform bill into law.

I'm not sure how I feel about the new bill. While, I think in theory it is ideal to want healthcare to be accessible to everyone, what does that mean? The fact that we will be fined if we do not choose a health care plan is frightening to me. I am part of an HMO now where I receive very substandard health care already (I can blog on for days about that) and to imagine a day that will come soon where I won't have the option to drop them if I wish does not rest well with me. I think what I would have liked to see in the plan is what standards are going to be placed on doctors. We read how the insurance companies are prohibited from dropping folks for prior illness, but what standard will the doctors have? Currently, we have many doctors in the business of being the lapdogs of the pharmaceutical companies, prescribing things that people don't need or have not been properly diagnosed for. I NEVER use the prescription drugs prescribed to me. I go to the doctor for diagnosis, particularly for sprains, breaks and such but from there, I usually try to heal myself holistically. Prescription drugs have historically made me ill. Could there come a day when it is mandatory that we take prescription drugs? Those are the kinds of thoughts that lead me to not being particularly giddy about this new health care bill.

Here is the song/poem I submitted that I will perform on Thursday:

The Blame Game

I can’t sleep, I have illness in me

In this land, they say, they won’t heal, if I can’t pay

I grow cold, cause my health is getting poor

In this land, they say, they won’t heal if I can’t pay

My health, they say, is the result of how I live

And now debates around swirl me as if I am not real

I feel alone In this land I call my home

But who is to blame, when my health is now their game

I feel my breath, it’s all that I have left

In this land, they say, that soon for it I must pay

I can walk, I can hear and I can talk

In this land, they say, that soon for it I must pay

Monday, March 22, 2010

The BAM Network

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have ideas pouring out of me at every minute of the day. I dream about new ideas-- from new play ideas, to new activities to do with my daughter and the other children I work with. This year, I've been about putting my ideas into action in ways that support the causes I believe in most. Earlier this year, I took part in DC Arts Advocacy Day which was my first official foray into policy advocacy and this summer I am going to be producing my second play which specifically speaks to my platform issue of late-- equity issues regarding women and families.

My play "Running: AMOK" will debut this summer in the Capital Fringe Fest in Washington, DC and will feature some the best vocalists in the DC area who happen to be great women as well. I was particularly pleased that three of the main characters are actually mothers in real-life who also are performing artists. On the play's website, I started what I call The BAM Network which showcases women who are mothers doing great work in the arts. BAM stands for Bad Ass Mamas and is my little way of supporting women like me who are mothers first and building our passions around our life's most important work.

While the page for The BAM Network is still under construction, there are some women already featured on the page. Check it out and meet Seshat Walker-- wife to a hip-hop performer/producer who is also a brilliant producer in her own right, producing a stage play, and serving as consultant to numerous artists and special events. You will also be able to learn more about the photographer known as Jon Vee who is grandmother to 12 grandkids and is as sexy at 50 as your favorite 20-something celebrity. Also listed in the BAM Network is Valijeane Jeffers. Valijeane is part of my network on http://www.liberatedmuse.com/ and is a writer of two novels with a third one on its way. Valijeane was featured in my anthology Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul and shares the nickname "Moon" with me. Read all about them HERE.

Do you want to be featured on the page for The BAM Network? If so, email your bio and photo at LiberatedMuseProductions@gmail.com with links to your website, portfolio, etc.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sex Talk & Periods

So, today, I presented my "Body Jeopardy" presentation at a conference in Maryland for girls 13-20 years-old and I had more fun than I expected.

I hadn't been doing as many workshops in the last six months around reproduction, self-esteem and the like as I was doing last year and when I was the Assistant Director for a youth program in DC from 2001-2006. I had decided to facilitate at this conference because I always like to keep my feet fresh as a youth worker and the conference was specifically targeting African-American young ladies.

I talked to them about Saartjie Baartman, the woman known as the Hottentot Venus, and how her story of exploitation is a useful parable to look at when we think about self-esteem and body image. I learned that my session had been a bit controversial when parents had read what my subject matter was about. Because of my honest approach to reproductive health, self-esteem and sexuality, only girls 14 years-old and up could sign up for my session. I had about fifteen girls the first session and about seven during the second session. Two girls from my first session actually snuck out of their second session to come back to my session during the second session. I put them to work as my co-facilitators and they were so wonderful. It made my heart smile how the girls lapped up the information. Young women really want us older ones to talk to them about things in an open and accessible way and today's sessions really confirmed that for me. They asked me everything from how to put on a condom to the age-old question about getting pregnant while you are on your period.

The sessions were only an hour long and both ended before the conversations were really able to conclude naturally, but hopefully, all of the young ladies present got something valuable from our time together. I hope that my daughter and I will have such an easy time talking about the subject matter addressed today. Right now, she tells me that she thinks it's gross every time I say "Vagina".

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Busy Week: Concert, Teaching & Hosting

Janelle Monae Concert

This week's Monday kicked off with an evening concert checking out one of my all-time favorite acts Janelle Monae. This lady is a diamond. She is truly an amazing entertainer. I am drawn to her use of theater in her stage performances and recordings. My sweetie bought the tickets on Friday and by Monday, had forgotten about the concert which I had to kindly remind him about. It was so funny. I had texted him to let him know my mother was going to watch our daughter so we could go out and he texted back, "oh, do you have an event tonight or something." He had forgotten the concert that quickly, lol. He wasn't eagerly anticipating the concert like I was.

I came across Janelle Monae in 2008 and have been a fan ever since. Our daughter is also on her groupie bandwagon right along with me. Check her out singing "Sincerely Jane" last year. I've sung Monae's song "Sincerely Jane" at least four times live as a cover during my own performances this past year. My spouse swore that the concert wouldn't be packed because he couldn't believe that folks knew about her like I did. When we went to the Saul Williams concert at the same venue last fall, it was pretty sparsely attended and my spouse could not believe that Janelle Monae was more well-known. But, sure enough, the line was down the street waiting to see her. Luckily we had tickets.

Having tickets though didn't stop us from having to wait. Apparantly Janelle's opening act cancelled, so, instead of coming out sooner, she waited to come out to when she would have normally come out after her opening act. We waited for two hours for her to hit the stage! That was a bit much and pissed me off very much. I wrote about it on one of the blogs I write for HERE. But, at the end of the day, the truth is is that Janelle Monae is the full package-- an awesome entertainer, gifted song-writer and someone you don't mind your child emulating.

Winds, Strings, & Percussion

Today, I visited my daughter's school and gave a music lesson to two classes there, teaching about the three groups of instruments-- Winds, Strings and Percussion. I had so much fun, and I think the kids did, too. My daughter said she had fun and gave me the thumb of approval for being a cool mom.

This Friday, Folk Music for Cancer

This Friday I will be hosting the Sounds of Hope benefit Concert at the Potter's House. If you're into folk music, hope you can make it out! Last week I hosted the Sounds of Hope benefit concert for SEW, an organization that empowers women in El Salvador to start their own businesses. Their benefit concert was amazing. They raised about $1000 from those who attended. The flyer for Friday's show is above and features Boston folk singer Ron Israel.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Casting More Actresses

(In photo: Me & the ladies of the theater company The Saartjie Project about a year ago performing "Deconstructing the Myth of the Booty". I was singing my song "All of Me". Since leaving the Saartjie Project, I've been pushing forward my new play "Running: AMOK")

Ok, it's almost midnight and I am still up, on a high from tonight's auditions and subsequent casting of almost all of the characters in my play, Running: AMOK.

The actresses are stupendous and I can't wait until we dig into production! Our first rehearsal will be in April. The cast has the next month to memorize their lines at least by 30% so that they will be partially off book for when we rehearse for the first time. I want them to spend some time with the script, allowing it to marinate before we dig in. We have scheduled a staged reading and an outdoors concert in the park singing the songs from the play before the play debuts in full-length in the Capital Fringe Fest come July.

I'm going to update the play's website by this Saturday with bios on the actresses and more information. Can't wait!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

New Play, Preparing for Spring & Enjoying my Art

So, my new play Running: AMOK will be in this year's Capital Fringe Fest and I'm excited. Yesterday, auditions began for the play and my former bandmate Quineice was the perfect choice for the character LESHELL. Quineice is an amazing vocalist but yesterday, I had first-hand knowledge on how amazing an actress she is. She took the character LESHELL and turned her into a flesh and bone person and it was so thrilling to watch the transformation. I am stoked! Auditions continue this week and here's hoping that I can cast the remaining characters soon so we can get started on production.

I found out also yesterday that the exhibit I had been accepted in, the Making Herstory exhibit, was no longer including me in the exhibit because I missed the two hour window frame to bring in my painting. I was very disappointed at first, especially given that they were extremely disorganized in articulating information and very last minute with giving details on when and where to drop off the paintings-- you would think they would have been more flexible. But, I realized that it was all for the best. Thinking I was going to be in the exhibit forced me to pay for framing of my painting and I love it! It has such a refined appearance now that it is framed.

I haven't finished the painting I began after creating my first one, but I am so inspired to finish it soon. It's the first piece in the Mami Wata series I had been dreaming of creating for the past year now since I saw the Mami Wata exhibit at the African Art Museum. I've been photographing my progress, so I may share that in the coming months if I ever finish the painting *smile*.The weather is getting so pretty here in the area I live and I can't wait for Spring. Once Spring arrives and the weather is more outdoors friendly, I am going to experiment with painting outside on my canvas. I did my affirmation murals that were on wood outside, but never painted on canvas outside. Being outdoors inspires so differently than being indoors does, it's crazy.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Day in DC Advocating & Sight-Seeing

Today, I took my daughter with me today to participate in Arts Advocacy Day in Washington DC. We spoke with Ward 7 council member Yvette Alexander's chief of staff for quite a length of time about our ideas on arts legislation and funding. It was a wonderful dialogue and inspired my business partner and I to pursue meetings with other council members who chair committees and have actual decision making power. The share of government, foundation and corporate funding being directed to the arts in DC is in an unmistakable decline. Between 1998 and 2007, the percentage of foundation funding directed to the arts decreased from 14.8 to 10.6 percent. The corporate giving share to the arts decreased from 10.3 to 4.6 percent during the same period. Read More HERE

After advocating for the arts, my mini me and I did the tour of DC, walking along the numbered blocks taking in the architecture as we made our way to the Smithsonian museums.

Today was a great day!


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