Fashion is my first love. As a teenager, I devoured Vogue, Essence, Elle and many other style magazines. Much to my parents chagrin, I plastered pictures of beautiful supermodels all over the walls. This young writer found herself surrounded by sumptuous handbags, dazzling stilettos, magnificent dresses, and an array of accessories.
Fast forward to the present. I still adore style, and after a flash of inspiration this week, I decided to start Fashion Fridays on Live In Color because a life in color is ultimately a celebration of beauty and fabulousness!
I hope you enjoy this first Fashion Friday feature, photos of my brother David, a visual artist whose fashion style oscillates from preppy to rocker and countless other looks in between.
There are few things in life more dazzling to this writer than art in all of its myriad forms (music, theater, visual art, fashion; oh those Manolo Blahniks!). So imagine my euphoria when I learned Carolyn Malachi, the dynamic Washington D.C. Grammy-nominated independent artist, performs on May 16 at 6pm at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum.
If you are unfamiliar with her work, Malachi eloquently weaves jazz, hip-hop and spoken-word into thought provoking songs. I interviewed her in January for the monthly blog chat.
No excuses! Do not miss performance, which is part of the museum’s 3rd Thursdays series. A life in color is imbued with beauty and art!
Say it ain’t so! Red Emma’s, my source for all things radical in Baltimore from books to an array of cool talks and presentations is closing its doors (800 St. Paul Street) this weekend. The great news?! Come fall, the store reopens in a gleaming new space at 30 W. North Avenue.
In the meantime, get your discount shopping on beginning Thursday, May 16 until Sunday, May 18 with 20% off all books! Plus, those radicals love parties; come out Saturday, May 18 at 6 p.m., and say goodbye while rocking out to music.
Twitter is a peculiar place, a mix of self absorption (do we really care how much you hit the bathroom), and intellectual gems. Oh those quotes populating your feed! Amidst the explosion of verbal clutter one phrase stood out a few weeks ago: “No = Next Opportunity.” As time progressed, I found the phrase lingered in my consciousness.
What an insightful way to process rejection, not as complete failure, but an opportunity to begin. Often
our perceptions of setbacks limit us more than the obstacles themselves.
Our challenge then becomes not merely accepting the “no,” but viewing it as an invaluable gift, a window for awakening to never imagined opportunities.
Perhaps a job you applied for said thanks, but no thanks. Stop. Think for a moment. What were your motives for applying? Is it in alignment with your passion, or the seemingly obvious next step? Remember, God speaks to us through open and closed doors. The lesson emerges when we listen, absorbing it all with an open heart.
Of course none of this is easy to process. I am still on the journey, working to make sense out of it all.
Two Ways to see Opportunity in a No:
1. Keep it in Perspective : Do you aspire to become an entrepreneur? Did the bank deny your loan request? Take a hard look at your long range goals, and put it all in perspective. One no will not eviscerate your dreams; if anything, it may strengthen your will to succeed, ultimately searching for alternative solutions.
2. Become Your Own Cheerleader:
Celebrate your strengths (intelligence, warmth, courage, etc.). We are rarely gentle with ourselves.
Recently, a good friend implored me to ackowkedge my accomplishments from taking out recycling to caring for our daughter.
Part of seeing no as the next opportunity is realizing the word is not an indictment against you. It’s simply a no, and by celebrating the awesomeness that is YOU, you realize this is a part of the journey. We are all arriving, constantly awakening.
Well, readers, I’ve missed you. Sometimes life, in all of its minutia, takes over, and the things we love take a back seat. But, I am back, bringing you blog posts twice a week about life, love community and culture. Plus, introducing periodic blog posts from artists, writers and fellow bloggers!
This first guest blog post is a short story by Sean Pollard, a veritable renaissance brother who is also a hip-hop artist (Vex Davortex and formerly of the group The Boogie Monsters), visual artist, writer, and eternal student.
I’m sure you will enjoy reading his short story, “The Wedding Date,” a humorous and beautiful tale of love.
The Wedding Date (Inspired by The Kebra Negast)
by Swordsman Pen
The dense, night air seems to thicken and stifle her as she grows more distraught about what to do. She has never contemplated anything so many times in that silent thinking space within her head. She can taste the salty tang of her own sweat beading up above her upper lip and slowly being seduced by gravity into her mouth. She is a nervous wreck. Both were all too familiar to her, like noisy trains.
It is one of those humid, muggy, sticky summer nights in Brooklyn, New York City, and where she is headed is only closer to hell in both location and temperature- the Nostrand Avenue subway station. To make things worse, she only has this problem to take her mind off of her next destination as her heels tap loudly on the concrete steps of the terminal entrance. A man whistles as she descends down, flicking her now frazzled cigarette butt into a street-level sewer drain in a streaming trail of bright, orange embers like a tabletop paper football pro. Her legs shining now from a thin layer of sweat, she is exquisitely dressed, yet hot and distraught.
This digression into the bowels of Brooklyn’s subway system in the mid-summer is the perfect metaphor for her worry, it seems; a sweltering situation getting progressively worse by the moment in her mind…
The stench of stagnant water, aged filth, and discarded trash begins to permeate profusely as she swipes her metro card through the turnstile and passes through onto the steamy platform, her mind briefly honing in on the screech of steel on the tracks in the distance…
“Of course the train just left and I gotta stand here thinking about this,” she dotes aloud, looking around for the Police as her voice echoes ominously. “May as well poison myself,” she murmurs, pulling a fresh cigarette from the back… savoring the soft echo of the crackling soft pack, and lighting up. “At least this will kill down this damned funky smell!” She stares at the warm, orange glow at the tip…
She is bronzen- beautiful, an ironic juxtaposition alone against the drab, grey walls and beams of this underground conduit. Dressed to the nines- aqua spaghetti strapped dinner dress, perfectly accentuating jewelry, Louis Vuitton handbag, and red bottomed Louboutins… From a distance, she resembles a surreal rose growing through the concrete- her curly, brown hair twisted into a flawless bun.
“I guess I gotta look at this like a good thing. “ She murmurs to herself aloud. “He’s waited for 2 years- not only that- in Iraq fighting a senseless war. I feel nearly the same, emotionally, even though I’ve been trying to hold off until our wedding date…. We are so close to our date, but I don’t want to lose this man denying him what he wants… he needs… all for a piece of paper and promises already made… And, besides, what else could I possibly offer him after his being away for so long, yearning to reunite with me? Besides… my LOVE?”
She thinks about his steamy words haphazardly scrawled across his unit’s stationery below the military letterhead- the hasty, forward slant of his letters when using the green ink pen they’ d chosen- his code for being in the mood… hence the use of green… which they both agreed was the “horny color.” She grins silently.
…Staring into the tunnel’s darkness, she takes a deep pull of smoke- inhaling and puffing out a smoke ring into the hot, dank air- her aqua blue MAC lipstick parting to release more betwixt verbiage- her tone contradicts her flawless visual perfection.
“These women out here are not going to let up on him any more til than either… These stank hoes probably just can’t wait to welcome MY soldier home!”
She takes one last drag, staring off of the platform into the dark tunnel, seeing a distant light- repeating the cigarette flicking ritual effortlessly- watching its tumbling ember trail disperse and dissipate; briefly revealing the silvery train tracks below, cloaked in the darkness.
She could begin to feel the distant rumble of her train coming and hear the rowdy voices of last minute platformmers, an excitement and arousal filling her…
It was enough to temporarily stifle the stifling heat of the underground station as a slight, but frothy, breeze developed from the train pressing forward towards the terminal. It was a smelly, heat wave of a breeze, but a breeze nonetheless. She waits, watching the train slow for her, as did her inner tensions…
“Well, I’m gonna come hard and fast like this train is coming, she speaks aloud, grinning- stretching her aqua blue lipstick to its limits. “I’m gonna be so damn good he’ll wish he would have waited. I look good, I feel good- hopefully smell good after these two stops,” she says louder and more confidently, giggling to herself, her flawless teeth parting the hues of oceans on her lips. She slides her hand in her bag and pops a stick of gum, flipping a compact to quickly check her subtle make up.
The-train-comes-to-a-screeching halt- doors opening… jaws dropping at the sight of her…. She smiles and exclaims “it’s my Wedding Date!”
~(Fin: Short Story Chapter I)~
…The boxcar roars in reactions of cheers to her stunning appearance and gleeful announcement of joy to the complete strangers of all walks of life, shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. Oblivious to her exact meaning of this “date,” the men congratulate her as the females take turns giving her warm hugs and wishing her well. She explains it begins with a romantic dinner for two and a drive to Manhattan.
The two stops are over before they begin, and before she can thank her fellow New Yorker’s for their unusually warm regards, the doors are sliding closed and they are waving goodbye as the train glides and screeches into the tunnel’s darkness to its next destination…
The ominous, eerie shadows cast around the dimly lit station are but a blurred backdrop to her as her red bottoms tap happily though the turnstile and up the stairs leading to her lover who awaits her for dinner at Brooklyn Moon- now just a block away- the sounds of street life and night life now viscous in the corridor…
A refreshing breeze cascades around her as she reaches street level to the sounds of car horns and scuffling shoes complimented by the well-seasoned scents of gourmet cuisine and Ray’s Pizza. The city has wrapped her gift of a night in a bow of lights and excitement, brimming with both energy and intrigue.
“Aight, let’s do the damn thing, then,” she says to herself- smiling- men parting to let her pass and admire her stride while whiffing her sweet, exotic trail of fragrance. It’s her night, and all eyes are, more than supportively, on her.
She begins to hear merengue music playing in a passing car in that same little space in her head that was just filled with utter anxiety and worry… An ecstatic electricity surges through her body as she tastes one last bead of sweat pass her lips.
..She gets rid of her gum, her jitters, and heads into the restaurant
to her destiny…
~(Fin: Short Story Chapter II)~
Her reservation is confirmed and she can’t help but allow her eyes to examine the cozy, violet lounge for Solomon, the man she was seeing for the first time since he left for his Army tour in Iraq. She was ready to lock eyes with him and let him know- without speaking- that she would be his everything- that this just wasn’t a welcome back dinner date, but their wedding date, the night the two would cleave together as one flesh; even if without the formalities of their vows and the actual wedding ceremony.
Her eyes are instead engage and lock onto a set of eyes that are much like his, but not his eyes. Even the semblance of the forehead, the bridge of the nose, and eyebrows are like his, but not his. The taunt, golden brown skin is his. The darker brown freckles across the high cheekbones- also his. Even the passion within the eyes belonged to Solomon, but they aren’t his eyes- and these eyes are full of tears.
It’s a familiar face, and as the confusion of anticipation clears, her mind becomes cognizant of the sorrowful gaze she is now being guided towards. It’s Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, and she is clearly distraught. She stands up at the table with arms stretched open wide. She is dressed as if she is mourning something.
“Makeda,” she sobs, “My beautiful, sweet Makeda…” collapsing on her in a tight embrace. “I have to tell you…”
The restaurant begins to quiet, focusing on the two as her eyes begin to well up- Makeda looking bewilderedly at her saddened, new mother. “I can’t even bring myself to say it. Not here, not like this… just come with me.”
The violet walls of the Brooklyn Moon and its occupants seemed to morph to together in her mind like a surreal painting of depressing insanity as Bathsheba’s firm grip leads her out of the venue. All the sounds of the urban nightlife outside seem to meld with an echo in her brain like that moment one leaves their r.e.m. dream state and awakens from the subconscious. The sweltering heat made her feel faint as she noticed the long, black limo her mother-in-law-to-be was leading her to.
They get in, and Bathsheba begins crying more hysterically and speaking more incoherently in reference to her son as Makeda comes to terms with what might be being attempted to be conveyed. Both now sob and hold each other’s hands somberly as the Limo bends several city blocks in the heat of the dark, hot, Brooklyn cityscape.
~(Fin: Short Story Chapter III)~
The limo halts at Bathsheba’s home church in Fort Greene, and as she peers through the glass, it is sadly apparent where they were and why they were here.
Her mind is silent, and she suddenly feels tears of sorrow welling up in her eyes as a dream-like lightheadedness and despair floods over her very being. She had never imagined she would be seeing Solomon like this upon his return. She thought about the journey from the subway train to this now tumultuous and traumatizing shock on the event horizon. The huge, wooden doors of the church appear dark and lifeless as two ushers open them, allowing the two to enter, revealing a congregated blur of white and black shapes before their tearing eyes. Clutching her mother-in-law-to-be’s hand, she looks at her and blinks her eyes for clarity- revealing to Makeda that her new mother is… smiling? …Gingerly?
Her eyes reveal to her a church filled with her closest family and friends all wearing that same smile. Her father and mother, Agobo and Ismeni, approach, beaming- smiling- her father saying “that is the BADDEST blue Wedding outfit imaginable.” Bathsheba chimes in… “Gotcha, daughter-in-law! I’m sorry… but I’m not,” smiling, as her favorite love ballad is played and she is escorted down the aisle to Solomon, dressed in a white tuxedo and glowing from head to toe. A scent of fresh cut roses and burning lavender rises to the high ceilings inside the church. A tall, reverent, Pastor smiles and gazes down on Makeda as Solomon takes her hand…
“Surprise,” he whispers, smiling and holding a 9 carat Wedding Ring. “I know what I made you think, and I’m sorry, babygirl… I’m back, baby… and I love you so much, Makeda… Let’s get married… Right here- right now- like we promised each other… You look absolutely perfect, baby… Perfect for ME…“ Makeda is so taken by the moment, she falls limp into her King’s embrace- smiling, crying and speechless.
He smiles even bigger, whispering, “You also promised to stop smoking those horrible smelling cigarettes… I hope and pray so, Makeda… ‘cause it’s our
The Wedding Date References:
Some days, my husband and I have spirited debates about the b word, that ubiquitous word in American culture – from hip-hop music to sitcoms. Why, he said, in exasperation, “were so many folks angry about Common’s use of the word bitch in “Ghetto Dreams,” his track with Nas?
Rattling off the laundry list of positive elements, he began by mentioning that this was an ode to black women (how rare is that in popular culture), a dark-skinned woman, Bria Myles, was the love interest in the video (which is not seen often enough). Yes. Nas and Common are conscious brothers, but why must they remain in that box relegated to incense and kente cloth?
He thought the song would make me happy. Wasn’t I always propagating the message that women of color are not included enough in our own culture, let alone mainstream society? Here are two hip-hop artists, veterans of the game, uplifting black women, and all I could focus on was one’s use of the word bitch on the song? Why can’t I just let it go, he seemed to say silently as I continued talking about the impact of patriarchy on the psyches of women and girls, channeling the noted writer and intellectual bell hooks.
Somehow, I couldn’t release it. The sting remained with me long after the hypnotic beats ended. Granted, as a loyal fan of this music form, I am all to familiar with the word’s use on tracks, but as I evolve more, I’m beginning to ask myself about ignoring and/ or excusing it with the lame rationale that “I’m not that kind of woman.” or “Some women behave that way so…” Like many other writers and thinkers, when I am wrestling with an idea or reaction to something, I reach out to others, eager to hear their point of view.
A few of my girlfriends disagree with me, pointing to African-Americans (and other groups) frequent use of the word nigga, which has become a term of endearment for some. The word has been desensitized, they argue. Shannon Braxton, a warm and funny woman, says,” The word bitch doesn’t bother me if the intention behind it is not hateful. Missy Elliott reclaimed the word for black women as many male hip-hop artists reclaimed the word nigga. If I say that’s my bitch, other sistas know what I mean.” While Qiana Fountain, graduate school student and mother of three, admits the word used to offend her, but she has heard others she knows use it affectionately. ” I find it distributing,” she says” when a man uses it because its being used as a way of degrading that female.”
Their rationale is not uncommon. Millions have insisted, particularly in America’s post-civil rights era, that in part, we (people of color), can overcome oppression by appropriating language which has traditionally labeled us as inferior. While I understand the desire to rebel and create one’s own unique form of expression, I cannot embrace this word’s use. What do I teach the next generation about their own self worth if they bear witness to me, and other women, referring to ourselves not by our birth names, but an expletive?
Several years ago, Audre Lorde, the dynamic writer and thinker, called for white feminists to look beyond their privilege and acknowledge the struggles of poor women, women of color, and lesbians – along with their right to be heard in that movement. “The master’s tools, she said, “will never dismantle the master’s house.“ While our subject matters differ, her words echo my own thoughts on language and it’s power to either heal or diminish.
Why do some of us view the solution to empowerment as embracing what ultimately dehumanizes us? If worldwide, women are to ever move beyond mere objects, defined solely by such superficial attributes as physical appearance, doesn’t it first begin with loving ourselves enough to ask and examine this question: Who are you calling a bitch?