Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Week of School Down, Looking Forward to the Fall

"Ok mommy, enough with the pictures already!"

First Week Done. Check

This past school week was busy, confusing, exciting and quick all at once. The kid had just as contradictory adjectives to describe it as well when I asked her how she liked her new school. She liked it but missed her old school. She loved riding the bus but wasn't so thrilled when she had to get off. She got stickers and accolades from her teacher for her school work but felt her teacher didn't like her as a person. Yes, she said that. At six, she was dissecting the anatomy of what "liking" someone meant.


"Woman, are you really
taking pictures of my in my class?"
For me, I was the mother lioness determined to make sure that this past week was as non-traumatic as it could be. It wasn't easy.
From day one, when I dropped my daughter off at school and later came to pick her up-- standing with the dozens of other parents who came to pick up their elementary school aged kiddies-- the message from the school was basically for us parents to back-off and stop being so attentive. The principal basically told us to stop driving them to school if they were going to be riding the bus regularly. In our case, she must not have gotten the memo that the bus didn't stop at my kid's bus stop like it was supposed to. That's right. That blickie drove right by us. So, after personally going to each bus to find the correct bus driver on the first day after school, I had the opportunity to let the bus driver know that we would be waiting and to see which bus corner we had to stand on to ensure pick-up. It took three days for this to be coordinated right. Apparently, the bus driver was unclear on what side of the street she would decide to pick up on. I didn't lose patience though. I was already nervous about my daughter being in a classroom that was larger than her last school in a school that is 20 times, literally, the size of her last school. But, my daughter showed me how resilient and adaptable kids are. For her, she loved that fact that recess was longer and more fun than her last school and that she had more kids to trade lunchbox items with. Bus drama and the other inconsequentials were beneath her care. Boy, wouldn't it be great to have that mentality in adulthood?

Fall Rush
So, in the part of my life where I am not Mommy, I am gearing up for the Fall with new projects and such. On the workshop end, I will be doing some workshops for a nonprofit I've established a relationship with this past year and a half and I will be using the book I edited, Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul as the text. They will be purchasing books for the students and afterward, I will be doing a book signing. I am always excited to do these writing workshops. The students are adults earning their GEDs, so they have this wealth of life experience that you don't really get when you work with younger students. Watching it come out into their writing is always amazing.

I'm also offering a blogging workshop in October for new bloggers who need help with getting started and integrating their blogging with their time spent on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. If you're reading this and interested in that workshop, you can click here. I'm excited about that because I'm sure I will have participants present who I will learn a lot from as I share with them what it is that I know. That's the best part of workshops, that two-way sharing. I believe, as a facilitator, that you have to be open to it.

Va-Va-Va Voom
So, in my ever-growing world of varied roles, I decided that it was paramount that I work on my own image. The physical image, that is. I give solicited and unsolicited advice to artists about image as a music critic and publicist, so, it was high time I got my own image together. As a performance artist, I've always been earthy, and very natural appearance-wise, so it was crucial to integrate my persona as an artist with my persona as a speaker, facilitator, spokeswoman, etc. Where to begin, I thought. Photos would be a start. So, I started with getting some new head-shots.

The fact that photographer Camille Mosley-Pasley was offering a sale on head-shots came at the perfect moment. Camille has been a member of my artist network Liberated Muse since we started and I've interviewed her before for her work when I was a writer with East of the River newspaper. She is amazing. She had a photo exhibit called "Mama Love" in the Smithsonian Museum in Anacostia DC that was breathtaking. It came out around the time I was a new Mommy, so, the exhibit was particularly significant to me.

So, yes, I was going to her as my photographer against hell and high water! The fact that she was going to have a make-up artist there was a plus because I don't wear the stuff really and I could use all the help I could get.

Man, I tell, you. The make-up artist Sharon Richmond was divine. She hooked me up, for real. Here are some of the shots.
















Camille took tons. Going through the proofs reminded me of America's Next Top Model when you have all of these photos and its hard to pick which are the best ones. Through them all I had to look to find the one that she will retouch and make high-res. I think I picked the one that will be a good one to use as my professional face. Two of them will make good ones to use when I'm ready to have a CD cover made.

You can check out Camille to hire her for headshots at www.PasleyPlace.com. Sharon Richmond can be found at www.richmakeupartist.com. She will going to West Africa to facilitate self-esteem workshops for a stint, but you can email her at richmakeupartist@aol.com to consult with her.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Steam of Consciousness on Schooling, Being Late & Starting Something New

Am I Setting My Kid Up for a Chance to Lose Her Creativity?

So, public school starts Monday. I am nervous. My kid is just excited she will be starting school. Yes, she's THAT kid. She likes school and hanging with new people. She's very social and, though she's been to at least four schools in her six short years (due to me moving around due to work and such), she is pretty flexible and open to new experiences most times. So, I know she will be ok. But, my own projections are cropping up.

Don't get me wrong, I loved elementary school. I went to three schools for elementary myself, but, I loved them all, particularly the school I was at 4-6 grade. The childhood friends I mentioned in my blog about my play's run who showed up were friends I hadn't seen since 6th grade. I loved that school! (I recently learned that I was in 5th grade with David Chappelle and didn't realize it). But, my little one has been in private schools until now, and the larger class size will be new. I've been working with her this summer sporadically on math, writing, reading and money identification with the hopes that she will be able to jump in once school starts. But, all those things are moot. My biggest issue is whether she will retain that creative genius that I see emerging in her. When I was in school, we had art, and chorus and instrumental music and a whole host of things that kept us testing and challenging our creative envelopes. But, that appears to have waned in the years following my school days.

The whole forced uniform thing is really the thing that irks me. Though its public school, there is still the need to purchase uniforms. The whole uniform thing is sad to me. I don't like the whole idea of stressing uniformity when a child is so young. I think it does something to your critical thinking skills. I always let my daughter choose accessories to accent her uniform or something to that affect so she can at least have the wherewithal to have an opinion. Though I want my daughter to excel in school, I don't want that to come at the expense of losing her individuality or ability to critically think. I think this young lady puts it best in her valedictorian speech about what schools seem to be fostering today. I know she doesn't talk about uniforms, but her ideas on how school is more intent on conformity than learning was spot on. Isn't this amazing?
javascript:void(0)

While She's in School


So, while my darling is in school this school year, among the many things I do, one thing will be trying to put together a collective of creatives with projects who, with me, will put on an event in the Spring, cross promoting all of our work. Maybe it will be a festival. Or, maybe something else. We'll see.


Being Late

So, I wrote this post on Soulbounce.com about lateness. I wrote it after reading about Erykah Badu being late to her latest concert. This was before she was fined $500 and given probation for her vid shoot of "Window Seat". She has a history of lateness and it just rubbed me the wrong way. Mainly because, its behavior like that that makes live concerts not enjoyable for me anymore. I don't like lateness when the public is waiting, and I think it takes away from the brand. For one of my events this summer, we actually docked pay on our sound vendor who failed to arrive on time and made us start our event late. It's just that deep to me. On the post, folks were generally in agreement with sentiments but one person said that its to be expected. I don't think so. I think its a diva move. Particularly if its something you are known to do, show up late. The one who I think can be late is the audience member, for, its their dollar they are wasting if they do arrive late.

I had talked about in an earlier blog post how I was miffed that so many folks who came to my play Running: AMOK at the Capital Fringe Fest had been turned away because they hadn't arrive on time. I was mad, particularly b/c some of those folks had paid on line already for their ticket. Yes, it was articulated in print upon purchasing the ticket that they wouldn't be able to enter the theater if they were late, but, we are talking about people who were 5-20 min late not being able to come in. That was a bit much. But, I do believe that if me and the cast started later than 10-15 min. on schedule, then we would be unprofessional. I view performing as a business. I don't think I am entitled to an audience showing up, paying for my performance and I give them whatever, whenever. I think when we allow artists to think that that is acceptable, then we are doing them a disservice by enabling that behavior. I'm an artist & performer, yes. But, I'm also an audience member.

Someone had written on my post that they had never attended a show that started time. Well, I have. And they have been by some of the best artists ever-- including the legendary Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Fertile Ground, Amel Larrieux and the late Luther Vandross. It can be done.

On a Personal Note

I came across some old music from the band I was in with my spouse and good friend of mine about eight years ago. Some of the CDs have scratch vocals on songs that we never got around to finishing. I think I'm gonna pitch to my honey that we work on one of the songs this week before our daughter comes back from vacation with her grandparents. Right now, I'm in one of those aimless creative moods-- I have so many ideas, not particular goal as of right now, but so much energy to create. Let's see what I come with.

Finally...
I don't know if people do this on blogs, but I wanted to give a public word of support and love to my friend and collaborator Gary Young. Apart from being one of the only people who reads this blog, he is also a very important person to me who is going through some challenging things right now. He shares them lovingly in his blog which I hope you check out for yourself. Gary, this hug is for you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Stop. Motion. The Creative Genius of Karen Walrond



I still haven't unpacked from last weekend's BlogHer experience in New York. I think that is a subconscious attempt to hold onto the great memories. I had such a great time. What I enjoyed so much was viewing the video above created by my co-panelist Karen Walrond. She is such a creative wonder. She created the vid above in stop motion fashion from photographs she took. The photo of me in the left panel of this blog was taken by her and part of the video. Check it out! You have to visit her blog HERE.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bound for 2nd Grade!

Entering the Public Zone
So, we registered our kid in public school yesterday and, of course, it was blog worthy. This will be the first time our daughter enters public school, so, I'm amped because the money saved from tuition will be great to have, but, I'm a bit nervous, because, of course, public schools get a bad rap. Our neighbor's daughter attends this school, however, and has said its not bad. But, of course, she is not as neurotic and particular as I am, so, this will have to be something we play by ear.

We decided to try public school because last year, I volunteered a lot at the school our kid attended, and the behind-the-scenes drama was over the top. My daughter's teacher was fired, and I learned the principal would be teaching both 2nd grade and 1st grade. I wasn't feeling that, so we decided to try public. My daughter was fine with it, because we learned that a lot of parents were taking their kids out of the school, too, so none of her friends would be returning.

Registering for public school was something else. Glad we both were there, the paperwork was book-long. One of the things that we have to wait for is to see if the principal allows my six year-old to start 2nd grade since, in public school, you have to have a birthday by Sept. 1 before entering 2nd grade. Cross you fingers and wish us luck!


So, as the summer comes to an end,and we get ready for school, I look back and realize that this summer has been, yet again, a whirlwind. My play took up a lot of my time, but keeping my daughter home and engaging her this summer was a blast. Our trip to New York was the highlight, of course, but the weekly swimming trips was such a great inexpensive way to spend time together and still have fun. I had tried to get her in a theatre summer camp with the DC Theatre Lab, but she was on a waiting list and never got in, so, her summer was spent in my make-shift summer camp. Right now, I'm trying to edge her back into being in school mode by having her work on workbooks and practice her writing. She's been watching a lot of tv (which is my fault-- its usually when I'm on the computer working on a project), so weaning off that is also I'm trying to instate. I want baby girl ready for school and continue her excellent progress as a student.  Stay tuned to see if she decides to play an instrument!

No Africa for Me this Fall, But, We'll See
My projects are picking up, as they typically due as fall approaches. I have one that I'm writing an invoice and description for right after I complete this blog. I will be facilitating writing workshops and working on a story-quilting project. I'm a bit sad because I was supposed to be in Africa in September. A woman who was a dear friend of mine when I was in graduate school-- she and I were both resident directors at colleges that were near each other--lives in Kenya and runs an educational organization that was in the process of developing an arts hub. She wanted me to come and help them get started-- facilitate workshops and trainings-- and I was so excited! Unfortunately, she deplores the job and gave them her notice that she is leaving. While I'm so happy she recognized she was not happy and plans to move on, I am a bit bummed that that means I won't be in Africa anytime soon. Facilitating theatre workshops in Africa would have been so cool!

DC Black Theatre Festival

But, I'm used to plans shifting. At least this summer has made me to expect the unexpected. I didn't update you, but I never made it to my workshop to facilitate at the DC Black Theatre Festival. It was more because no one from the festival ever got back to me to give me logistical info to prepare my things to bring. I was disappointed because I really wanted to participate. I read a review on the DC Theatre Scene website where a commenter left the same message-- they were trying to get info but there was none to be found. I wonder what is up with that. I know I was soooo thrilled and flattered when the festival's director Glen Alan acknowledged me, saying he was familiar with my work. But, I think that my involvement was something that was not articulated to his staff clearly, so no one got back to me. I wasn't on an email list or anything. I hope it was just an oversight and not how things were run, because I would like to produce my play for the festival next year.

Call for Actresses

Speaking of my play, I'm putting out a call for actresses. So, if you're reading this and you act (and sing), make sure you respond! Read the call for actresses HERE.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I Heart BlogHer '10

Fisher Price toy that she won't unhand
I've been home for only a couple of hours since returning from New York, but I wanted to get to typing and sharing about this weekend before I forgot anything. I had an absolutely amazing time. Shame on me for not knowing the wonder that is the BlogHer conference. The BlogHer conference is everything that I envisioned a gathering of smart, articulate and progressive women to be. Granted, there is a disproportionate number of women of color who attend in comparison to those who blog, but I know that the organizers work each year in building the presence of women of color. This woman of color was damn sure happy I attended. I met wonderful women, picked up some networking tips and met some companies that may be potential sponsors of upcoming events and my blogs. I would say it was an experience well had.

How Did I Even Wind Up at BlogHer?

Where do I begin?

Well, for starters, as a reminder, I guess I should tell you how I even wound up as a panelist. Not sure how long you've been following the blog, but, some months past, last fall to be exact, I wrote a blog post as entry for a contest of another blog-- the Black Web Blog Awards Nominee My Brown Baby, run by writer Denene Miller.  You can check the post out right here. In the blog, I shared my tale of being Mommy to my little girl and gave an account of our school morning tussles. Blogger Ananda Leeke encouraged me then to submit to be a community keynote for BlogHer after reading it and that led me to checking out BlogHer. Honestly, I had heard about BlogHer, but hadn't really done any real read up about BlogHer. This may be due to the fact that, not until recently, did I even refer to myself as a blogger. I had done panels before about online marketing and youth development, but a specific blogger conference for me was a first.

I visited BlogHer and liked the site immediately. I set up a profile and submitted a proposal to talk about how online blogging and networking has contributed to my life as a creative and as a leader in producing arts events and creativity online community among artists. The proposal I proposed used the tagline of my organization, Liberated Muse-- "Transforming Places into Art Spaces". Elisa Camahort of BlogHer contacted me and let me know that they liked the title of the proposal (they inserted "Online") and were interested in making my proposed topic into a panel that they invited me to be a part of. How cool is that!?

The panel was to be moderated by the vivacious and lovely photographer and writer Karen Walrond who is currently promoting her new book, and also include visual artist Carol Gilliott who lives in both Paris and the US (how cool is that?), penning a fabulous blog that highlights her experiences as an artist and her own artwork as a visual artist.


New York City baby!

So, I'm not unlike many of the women who I read on Twitter talking about how they couldn't attend BlogHer because of the cost of traveling. While getting to NYC is merely a bus ride for me, the cost of staying at the New York Hilton (where the conference was being held) was not in my budget. I decided at first that I was going to just ride up by bus on Saturday when my panel was and then come home afterward. I changed my mind closer to the conference week when I caught the excitement of what was in store for folks at the conference. My plans included my daughter later who decided that she was tagging along for the go-see in NYC.  So, it turned into a vacay-conference weekend with me and the kid. What a ball we had!

I will share that we stayed at  the Hotel Carter on Times Square which had been called the worst hotel in the country (until last year). Yes, I'm a brave woman. But, I'm also a journalist AND PR person and know where to look to get second opinions when the web is only shooting out the bad ones. I came across this article about the hotel and a few others and felt confident that, while the hotel was by no stretch the New York Hilton, it was a decent place for the barely $80 a night I paid (in comparison to the $200 a night price tag to stay at the Hilton). Our room was not at all like the ones you can read about if you do a search on Hotel Carter. It was clean, no bugs, no rodents, no peeling paint, etc.-- no horror story that folks have made it out to be. I was prepared to go somewhere else if that was the case, but, the reporter in me was curious. There was really no story here. Hotel Carter really reminds me of the apartment complex that I was resident director of during graduate school at a university in Baltimore. That place was actually worse than Hotel Carter.

The room we got was great, mainly because we spent limited time in it. As soon as we dropped our stuff in our room on Friday, my daughter and I hit Times square-- Toys R Us, the King Tut exhibit, Ray's Pizza, Haru Sushi, etc.-- and didn't get back in until around 9pm, falling asleep shortly thereafter.

BlogHer Saturday

So the next day, we hooked a cab to the Hilton (which we could have walked to probably) and began our BlogHer experience.

After a beautifully laid-out breakfast, I dropped my little one off upstairs at the childcare suite sponsored by KMart. (The folks that my daughter spent time with in there should be commended. They were great. My daughter asked today could she go back to hang with them until I told her that they were there only as long as the conference, which is over.)

Before the morning keynote began, I came back to the ballroom and met bloggers Megan Smith and A.L. Venable who I had a fabulous time meeting.

Keynote Speakers-- Incredible!

I can't rave enough about the women who were the morning keynotes. You can read about them here as well as the transcript from their panel. Here are some of my tweets during their talk:

"I love Esra'a talking now as the morning keynote. She is a baddass for something important." #inspiration #blogher

"RT @zchamu "if you're gonna piss a lot of people off you'd better do it very well". #blogher @ealshafei

Esra'a Al Shafei, founder of mideastyouth.com is my new hero #blogher

Dushiyanthini Pillai is amazing as well. Jouranalist/blogger/photographer from Sri Lanka #blogher







Khari sharing some love with Mrs. Potato Head

Khari and Marmaduke

Khari checking out some treats from Jimmy Dean. She liked the corn dog sausage. Not so much the french toast griddler. I liked the french toast griddler which had turkey sausage.

The honey exhibit was fantastic. Brought back lots of recipes for honey treats and skin care remedies.
check out the gear from the Let's Dance exhibit.

Took some photos before and during my panel. Here's one. Hi everyone!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Submission for MY GENERATION essay competition

The Cultural Center of the Inter-American Development Bank, with the help of a grant from the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities, announced in June an essay competition open to all writers of the District of Columbia metro area. A First Prize of $1,000, and Second and Third Prizes of $500 will be awarded. The title and theme of the essay is MY GENERATION. The winners will be announced in September. I submitted my essay below. Check it out:

I drew my first breath in DC—the Columbia Hospital for Women to be exact. Early years of hearing traces of Earth, Wind, and Fire singing from the living room where my dad was as I napped in the bedroom with my Mommy when I was two years-old stay settled in mind. I don’t forget. Window views that can see Malcolm X park are still photographed in my memories as I proudly know that I was an uptown baby before I knew what area of DC uptown was. I don’t stay settled though. Fast forward twenty some years and I return to DC after parental splits and youth years spent between Maryland suburbs of PG and Montgomery counties. This time, I rep the Eastside. Anacostia and Congress Heights are the neighborhoods I know and service. Working for Covenant House Washington for almost six years, I work in the schools, on the streets and in homes of the children I know and love. Living in the neighborhood I work in, I am even more committed to where I am. This is the life. My life. Fast forward five years and I now have a business partnership formed east of the river. I see the colors of the faces in the community change hue, suntans in reverse. I am sad for the families I know that I served that no longer can afford to live in DC. I am like them, too and had to move. But I didn’t leave. Not for good or completely anyway. I bring music and art when I come. I transform spaces into art places, convening events that celebrate, uplift and spew hope unabashedly. I watch dance, hear song and witness visual art brilliantly revitalize spaces and I believe that magic can happen, and I know truly, where my home is, for always. My generation remembers. We remember the MLK Memorial Library before the Verizon center blocked it from getting sun. We remember when the Metro Green line ended in Anacostia and when the trains stopped running before midnight. We remember hearing our voices amplified on the mic at Mangoes off of U Street before Bus Boys & Poets came to town and Bar Nun and Republic Gardens were the spots before Liv and Almaz transformed into club venues. While now we have a different menu, our memories keep track and allow one to preview what DC was before and compare it to now. We old folks remember, here to show the youngins the “what”, the “why” and the “how”.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Two-For-One Win-Win (#blogher '10 with the kid)

So, I'm still reading tweets from ladies preparing to arrive in NY this week for the BlogHer '10 conference and the excitement is contagious! I'm looking forward to participating on the panel on Saturday about blogging for/about your art and its always fun to meet new folks, but, I'm most excited about hanging with my 6 year-old in the Big Apple. Yup.You read right. I'm bringing the kid with me, and I have to admit, I think I will be one of a handful who will be bringing a kid who is not nursing or requiring of a stroller.

The thing with me is that I don't get to vacation as often as I like, so, whenever I perform or present in events, particularly in fun or out of state places, I bring the fam along. My spouse would be coming with us if we weren't leaving while he was at work. I realize that, for me, having my family along is not a hassle or headache because I had healthy number of opportunities throughout my 20's to travel alone or with girlfriends, so I don't have those moments where I need to experience a space on my own. Don't get me wrong-- I need breaks and enjoy "me time", but when I go a distance, or perform or present somewhere that's "kid friendly", I like to bring my fam, particularly my daughter along so she can experience something new. I can't afford now to take vacations as often as I like or explore new places, so, mixing business with pleasure with my daughter is something I always fit in when able. She can't wait either, she is always planning what outfits she's bringing and writing in her Hannah Montana To-Do List Sticker Book what she has planned for us:-)

What I'm trying to do while vacationing/conferencing with her, however, is save money.  We are going to be near Times Square, so I found these websites helpful in planning our trip:

Time Square with the Kids
New York Kids Events Calendar
New York City with Kids
Cheaper Ways to See NY with Kids

Sociable

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