Saturday, February 13, 2021

Celebrating "Black Love"

"Nya Akoma!" This greeting is how to acknowledge Black Love Day, which is TODAY apparently. I didn't realize that we celebrated such a holiday on February 13 until I saw multiple posts across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram earlier this morning - hence my inspiration to author my first blog post in over a year.

I announced to my fiance this morning about the African-American designated holiday, interrupting his puzzle construction time with the boisterous declaration, "Happy Love on Me Day cuz I'm Black!".  A White man, he posed some great (and funny) questions...well, funny to me as I have a warped sense of humor.  "Do we both have to be Black to celebrate Black Love?" "Can we celebrate Black Love as a couple if only one of us is Black?" And of course, I added to the barrage of questions including "could today be Black 'self-love' Day", "could I participate in Black Love Day if my soon-to-be significant other is White," and the most important question:  "why am I just hearing about this holiday TODAY?!"

According to a quick Google search, Black Love Day was established in 1993 by Ayo Handy Kendi.  This day is intended as a "day of atonement, reconciliation and celebration."  Lifted from a Twitter post from Ujima Community, this 24-hour commemoration is to express love towards "the Creator, for self, for the family, within the Black community and for the Black race."

While skimming through social media posts tagged #BlackLoveDay, all I saw were photos of Black couples.  Though I highly agree that Black romantic love is important, given the state of our society as demonstrated through the unjust murders of people like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, we really need to broaden the scope of this special day.  But, I've gotta give it to mainstream media as they are behaving just as I suspected:  capitalizing on the privileges of romantic love, something a lot of folx (including myself until recently) were outsiders to this over-hyped club.  

Now knowing what the actual day is about, I'd like to take this opportunity to reclaim it and recommend movies and television shows that I love that embrace the concept of "Black Love" that is especially important.  FULL DISCLOSURE, I've been looking for an excuse to curate a list of favorite "Black Love" movies for a long time, one that was a list of films and shows that explored love from the perspective of chosen family, self-actualization, coming-of-age, and romance.  Today is a great reason to do that.

Here are several films and television series I'd recommend to watch as a way to celebrate Black Love Day.


Amazing Grace (2019)

Originally shot in 1972, audiences get a front row seat to the live recording of Aretha Franklin's
groundbreaking gospel album.  What made me consider adding this documentary to the list is how the relationship between Franklin and her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin is depicted.  There are several precious moments shared between the two that highlight their special bond.

Hair Love (2019) 

The Oscar-winning animated short film by Matthew A. Cherry shows the special bond of a father and daughter through tending to the little one's hair while her mom is recovering from cancer.  Recalling times with my dad as a little girl, this movie is especially important to me as it demonstrates the importance and influence of such formative relationships like the ones with our parents.  If we were to fast-forward decades from now and interview the young female protagonist of this story, I'm willing to bet that she would have grown into a fairly confident adult because of this relationship.

If Beale Street Could Talk

Adapted from the James Baldwin novel of the same title, this film makes the list because of its tenderly treated sex scene and the way the family embraced the soon-to-be young mother.


Moonlight (2016)

Of course, this film had to be added to this list.  There are so many reasons to love this Best Picture Oscar-winning independent film by Barry Jenkins.  I don't want to give away any spoilers but prepare yourself for a beautifully told story of self-exploration and discovery.


Southside with You (2016)

Starring Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter as Barack and Michelle Obama, this independent film chronicles the first date of the future First Couple. 

Medicine for Melancholy (2008)

A beautifully shot black & white film by Barry Jenkins, viewers gain insight into the aftermath of an unexpected one-night stand.


Waiting to Exhale (1995)

Though intended as a romance movie, the thing I most appreciate about this film is experiencing Black women finding their way to joy.  The sisterhood in this film reminds me of my own friendships, some of the most important relationships in my life. 

Paris is Burning

If you're looking for a film on the importance of chosen family, this documentary is a MUST SEE!



Mahogany (1975)

I first watched this film with my mom.  Starring Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams, I appreciated this film as a child for its beautiful love story.  As an adult, I am able to identify and analyze the problems of this complicated relationship and learn from watching Tracy Chambers (Diana Ross) grow into herself.

Television/Web Series


I would like to acknowledge the fact that though I haven't seen an episode yet (which is one reason why I added it to this list as a reminder to start watching it).  This FX series is too important to the culture to miss.


No Shade (2015)

A web series available on YouTube, No Shade is a unique coming-of-age story set in Brooklyn, New York. Yes, I believe that adults can be the protagonist of these stories too.

Soul Food:  The Series (2000-2004)

A spinoff of the film of the same name, I personally adored this Showtime series simply for the super HAUTE love scenes.



Noah's Ark (2005-2006)

I remember when this Logo series first aired!  Though short-lived, this comedy-drama is especially important as it chronicles the lives of four Black gay male friends, which I believe was a first for its time.




I hope that you'll make time to watch one or more from this list today.  If you do, let me know in the comments section which one(s) you selected and what you thought of it!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Paving the Way, Paying it Forward

Originally written for and posted on Straw Dog Writers Guild website:

My interest in writing emerged when I first relocated to Western Massachusetts in 2007.  Joining a writing a performance group as a way to learn more about the area and make friends, I discovered a hidden passion for scripting story through poetry.  From there, I began writing plays, maintaining a blog and even writing articles for local newspapers.  I uncovered a gift that laid dormant for some time…as I did win a statewide poetry competition in third grade back in Michigan.

Fast forward to 2011.  I had a substantial amount of writing and thought to start submitting for publication.  Like many writers, I got rejected from countless journals, emerging writers’ competitions, retreats and workshops that required an in-depth application and intense screening process and anthologies geared towards supporting writers like myself.  I gave up for quite a bit, not practicing art for several years.  Though returning back to writing in 2017, I stopped submitting as I was told that I needed to learn the science of getting accepted.

Frustrated, I reached out to friends and acquaintances who have been published before to inquire and identify what I was doing wrong and what I needed to understand about this very competitive process.  I was told things from find a mentor to apply for an MFA in Creative Writing to just continue blindly shooting your shot. All of these things cost something, whether it’s time, dignity or a lot of money – as I possess an MFA in another field and have already acquired a significant amount of debt.

Later in 2017, my life was suddenly derailed unexpectedly. By Christmas, both parents have died (both sudden). As many loved ones do, my mother and father left behind money so that I can care for myself beyond their days.  Thinking back to all of those rejections, I decided to take power in my own hands in order to garner exposure of my work.  In 2018, taking all of the work that I’ve written since 2009 I self-produced a spoken word album.

Thinking of all of the lessons my parents had taught me, I felt the need to do something for other writers who may not have the means that I do. I am taking the income generated from album sales to create a fellowship program for emerging women and gender nonbinary writers of color – people like me who may be experiencing similar hardship in finding their foot in the door in this industry.

I specifically chose Straw Dog Writers Guild to host this program as not only do they support writers of all stages, they have welcomed me and my work with open arms helping me to get the exposure my labor of love has deserved for so long.  Under Straw Dog’s auspices, I’ve been a featured reader at open mics and have served as an MC for several events including Voices for Resistance and the Dead Writers Dance – multiple opportunities to have my work finally heard.

We will be hosting our first fellow in 2020.  This program, which will run 12 months, will occur on a biennial basis.  We will recruit applicants from all four counties, those represented by Straw Dog membership:  Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden.  With the intent of meeting the needs of the fellow and their current writing goals, we will provide mentors to assist with craft and other guidance on the business of the industry. The fellow will also receive a stipend and will have access to a one-week residency at Patchwork Farm.  At the conclusion of the year, the fellow will share their work during a public reading.

We would love your support!  There are several ways to get involved in this initiative.  Through volunteering as a mentor or making a financial contribution, you will have an opportunity to get in on the ground level of supporting a groundbreaking program in Western Massachusetts. You can either make a direct donation to the Emerging Writers’ Fellowship Fund or purchase one of my CDs as I will continue donating proceeds to this cause. We anticipate opening the application submission process in early August and will announce our first fellow by November.

To purchase my CD, please contact me directly.  I'll be more than happy to autograph your copy as well!

I would like to personally thank everyone who has contributed thus far to this program and to those who will give in the near future.  It means a lot to have the support of my community in embracing our next generation of writers.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Whose Body is it Anyway?

For those who know me well, you'd find it very ironic 
that my blog post has this photo (my deathly fear of snakes).  
But this image captures so much with so little.

"Putting yourself on the market" is a reference mainly associated with the act of dating.  When you think about the hustle that comes along with looking for "the one," this sentiment makes complete sense.  For those of you who (like me) are mostly meeting people through sites and apps like OKCupid, Bumble, Plenty of Fish (one I haven't tried yet for a host of reasons), Match, Tinder, and FetLife (yes, I've been on this site and will dedicate an entire blog post to this "adventure"), you have to think of strategic ways to sell yourself.  Write the perfect profile introduction.  Post the most desirable, yet tasteful, photos to catch someone's attention.  And then, be cautious about what you choose to share with that person once you've started conversation.  Dating is more than a game.  Dating has literally become a system of commodification - people going above and beyond (and in many cases, doing things they find unfavorable) to be taken off said "market."

I thought about this concept as I reflected on a charged exchange from a particular Facebook post from a few days ago - one that I posted, of course.  I wrote the post in response to recent legislations passed in Missouri and Alabama around abortion.  I stated something along the lines of how can cisgender, heterosexual men these day proclaim to want unprotected sex (well, their words usually are "I want to cum inside you" or "shoot my huge load in you") with lack of commitment all the while conservatives are trying their best to abolish women's rights to choose how to proceed with an unwanted pregnancy or one where her doctor and her family may find not be in the best interest of the "carrier" (said future mother) and the child.  The person challenging my statement said (paraphrased) what about both sides and both people when it comes to this act.  I asked for more details but the conversation went off course.  While I wasn't able to gather enough information to garner a meaning behind what the responder was attempting to say, I did think about this notion of "both sides."

What I think this person meant is that it takes two people to partake in an act that could lead to an unwanted pregnancy.  While a man can propose wanting to have sexual intercourse without a condom, the woman would have to oblige in order for said act to take place.  Here's where I'd like to call b***s*** on the notion that the woman has the right to back out and say "no."

Patriarchy, unfortunately, defines many relationships.  I highly believe that women who are interested in dating men create this persona so that they can be found attractive, henceforth taken off the "market".  I'm definitely guilty of it.  The women of Uppity Negress podcast calls this group the "pick mes"where cis women interested in dating cis men do particular things for men to find them desirable.  I've fallen into this trap a million times!  

Men who I've met online have all given me the same story upon the initial meeting.  They can see me as a potential long term romantic partner and they can make good on the ills left behind by those before them...the numerous men who have rapped the same lines before and left collateral damage because they've hurt me so badly (this is going into my memoir but when men who have gone out with me more than once end things, they tend to give an unsolicited exit interview offering the reasons why I suck as a girlfriend and why they've decided to date a specific other woman...and in many cases, they share explicit detail on who the woman is and why they deem her better than me). 

We go out on the first date.  Things go swimmingly and then the end of night dating ritual falls upon us.  They mention wanting to have sex with me, which honestly, I'm game to having one night stands and have offered this many times...but men continue to say that what they want with me is much more than that but in the end, it becomes the one night stand as they vanish after the first date.  And, they tack onto the "proposal" how badly they want to have sex with me without a condom (of course, using the choice constructed sentences I mentioned earlier).  Along with other words and displays of affection, many of them I rarely hear as I don't think that I fit the stereotype of what I think men are looking for, I give in.  Following those who have came before them, they have completely vanished immediately the next day.  I log onto the dating app where I initially met them and they've blocked me (with OKCupid, you can tell because your message thread vanishes and you can't find them on your "like" list) and when I go to contact them via the cell phone number they've provided, I call and get transferred to voicemail OR the text message is never "delivered" as many of these men have iPhones.  So, I've been blocked from any and all communication.  And what's extremely upsetting about all of this is if I were to come up pregnant or contract an STI from our "one nighter," I have no way of reaching these men to let them know the news.  While I could have said no to sex, these men need to take more responsibility for their actions...either by insisting we use a condom, not have sex at all or completely tell the truth and be honest about what it is they're looking for as oppose to misleading me to believe that there could be more.

There's been this major shift in the culture, one that I hope to identify as there are so many other women like me who have and continue to share in these experiences.  What is happening?! What has changed?! Why are men like this?!

Though not directly related, yet it could be as I suspect many of the men who move through the world in this way are also some of the men pushing for these laws, I find it quite strange that there's so many cisgender heterosexual men who are 1) willing and wanting to have unprotected sex, 2) disengaging with women upon completion of desired sexual act, AND 3) pushing legislation preventing me from making the decision that I need to make if the unlikely outcome of the one night of splendid bliss is what I'm being blocked from having the autonomy to make the best decision for myself.  I cannot believe that in 2019 I'm asking the question "whose body is it anyway"?!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Process is Progress: Discovering Yourself Through Writing

Originally written for and posted on Straw Dog Writers Guild's website:

I’ve always been involved in the arts in some way but never would I have ever thought I’d become a writer. I picked up my first musical instrument at 8 years old, started off as a music education major in undergrad but left with a degree in theatre.  I’ve been on stage as an actor, worked behind the scenes as a stage manager, director and producer, and have played in several pit orchestras for musicals but never would have thought that I’d take on such a solitary form of creating. It wasn’t until I arrived in Western MA over 11 years ago that my subconscious would hit the pen and paper for public consumption.

Being 27 years old and living in a college town, it was hard to make friends.  It was recommended to me that I join a writing and performance troupe for women of color in the area.  I had no clue what I was getting into yet was open to whatever results followed.  From this experience blossomed the need and desire to write even more beyond the material generated just for the group.  The same woman who made the recommendation for me to join the troupe also suggested that I then enter a playwriting competition.  Acting, directing and stage management were skills I was most comfortable with.  Spilling my soul to paper again beyond the form of a monologue was yet another challenge I was willing to face.  This play received an important accolade, one that encouraged me to continue writing.  It was an award named for my favorite cultural critic, essayist, playwright and poet James Baldwin that came along with a nice cash prize.  This recognition gave me the permission to explore further this newly discovered trait.

As I learned more to exist in this space, one quite different from the one of vital formative years, I became more open to pursue writing on my own.  I took on journaling, which I now have several bookcases dedicated to the journals I’ve accumulated over the years, as a way to reflect on writing projects past.  From the time of being a member of the writing and performance ensemble to the themes that emerged from the play, I realized that my writing assumed a very important mission.  I discovered that I was writing about how my identity has changed through “growing up” in Pioneer Valley – and that was through the world of dating.

Unlike most people, I didn’t begin seriously dating until I moved to this area.  One would think that I would have pursued love earlier on in life but through attending undergraduate and graduate school years prior, I was more determined to make my parents proud with degrees in hand and a substantial way to support myself.  The things I learned about myself through dating were very eye opening.  I didn’t want to acknowledge the harsh self-awareness to myself yet I was willing to share it with the world through the monologues I wrote for the performance group and the play (which deals with interracial dating and my qualms with its associated issues).  My writing also became more of a social justice issues as only negative stereotypes about women who are like me (both women of color and plus-size women) are relegated to hyperinvisibility in mainstream media as it pertains to romance and dating.

Sometime in late 2016 after dealing with the sudden loss of my mom, I needed to dive head first into a project.  I collected all of the free write poems and journal entries I’ve written over the years and saw how multiple themes around the person I’ve become while living in this area emerged.  At now 39 years old, having now lived on both sides of the “tofu curtain,” My writing reflected the experiences of a very proud, still single plus size Black woman with natural hair and a very statuesque figure living in an area that is extremely monochromatically different than where I spent the first part of my life and of someone who spent a lot of time out in coffee shops, restaurants and movie theatres alone.  Born from all of this was In/Put. 

In/Put, a self-produced spoken word album, was recorded live at Click Workspace earlier this year in March.  Instead of looking to get the poems that became this project published, I thought to recite them for people to listen to them as a way to pay homage to my earlier theatre training.  Plus, I love to hear myself on the microphone.  The idea of the live recording was inspired by stand-up comedy, a form of entertainment that I absolutely love yet have found the courage to take it on.

After a successful Indiegogo campaign, relying on very talented friends and having my parents’ indirect support (both of my parents have since passed on as of Christmas of 2017 and I was fortunate enough to have access to an inheritance), In/Put:  Live from the Valley will be out in February of 2019.  One of the most important things that I did for this project was to hire a dramaturg/script advisor.  Though poetry, I wanted to create an experience for listeners – as I’m a storyteller, I needed all of the work to make sense together as a collection.  She, the dramaturg, helped curate the order of the poems and gave some very good feedback on the work.  I did several rewrites on some of the poems before the recording.  And also given my theatre background, I wanted the work to flow like a monologue as it is easier for me to perform rather than recite poetry. 

I am very much looking forward to sharing this work with others and continuing to still learn more about myself as others experience this work for the first time.  I’m unsure what types of writing I’d produce next which I’m finding it rather difficult to write about any other subject than dating and identity.