India.Arie told us over ten years ago she would not fit into society’s narrow beauty boxes. “I’m not the average girl from your video,” she sang on Acoustic Soul (2001), without apology, “my worth is not determined by the size of my clothes…”
What? This made it on the radio, I thought as I listened intently. I remember those lyrics vividly; her words were living with so many of us brown girls. She unpacked our truth in one song: we, too, were beautiful, we merely needed to believe.
India.Arie’s music heals, elevates and nourishes the spirit. This is heart and soul music, transformative, life affirming, it questions your perceptions as all moving art should.
Perhaps more than any other point in my life, as I struggle with insecurities, fear and obstacles, I hear her most clearly, urging me to release those shackles and welcome freedom.
Here are a few of my favorites songs, with moving lines such as “I am light. I am not the things my family did. I am not the voices in my head. I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside.”
Live In Color! – Emelda
If you read this blog occasionally you know I am a girly girl through and through. I believe in tutus, decadent desserts, sparkling stilettos and celebrating life in color and style!
So when Michelle Dowell, owner of Ruffles Ribbons N’ Bows Boutique, and I started talking about partnering for a tutu giveaway in January (date to be announced) , neither of us could contain our excitement. One of my best friends / sisters and I working together? Fabulous times 10!
We will be sharing more details soon (giveaway rules, etc.), along with photos of yours truly wearing the official Live In Color blog tutu, designed by Valencia (beauty / style editor) and I. Michelle hand makes these amazing tutus and hair accessories, and sells them here on Etsy.
We cannot wait to help you start your new year living in color! Truth and fearlessness is authentic style, lovelies.
Live In Color! – Emelda
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Up until a week ago, I literally wanted to hang up when family and friends advised me to, “Just think positive.” Oprah, Iyanla Vanzant, Joel Osteen, all of them were truly getting on my nerves. “THINK POSITIVE?! Are you kidding me? YOU try to think positive when all you’ve had is disappointment and setbacks.”
So, when my best friend-cousin called to chat about life’s problems, I MUST have been channeling someone other than myself, or maybe the wise “Buddha Shannon” who I doubted was still alive.
I also have to thank John Randolph Price for his magical offering, The Abundance Book. I started it again, for the third time, ten days ago… and guess what folks ? I’m thinking positive! Yup, me, the girl who wanted to marry Oscar the Grouch.
But back to my conversation with best friend-cousin, Tee. “Tee”, I said. “What if for every positive thought we think, someone gives us $50? And for every negative thought, the same person takes $50 away. I don’t know about you but I would try to make several million in just one day!”
So, that’s what I’ve been doing! When I wake up in the morning, I tell myself, “Self, let’s make some money today.” I imagine that instantly I get $50 for each positive thought. And each time I’m having a negative thought, I quickly try to change it around so I don’t loose a whole $50.
This might sound silly but I promise you it’s been working all week! Last night when I went to bed, I was overcome by joy. It was a bliss that was supernatural. As for my mental bank account, I add $50 bills all day. As a matter of fact, I just added another one by pausing to think about how much I love the color green. CHA-CHING!
I hear your question, “Is this really going to manifest into tangible money and the life of my dreams”? All I can say is that I surely do hope so.
I’ll keep you posted.
LIVE IN COLOR! – Shannon
Authentic artists push against boundaries, inspiring us to see the world with fresh eyes. When you hit play on Saint Heron, a compilation CD curated by the forward-thinking Solange, musical boundaries evaporate. Eleven different artists are featured, twelve tracks, each voice distinct.
We hear established singers such as Cassie, Sampha, and Jhene Aiko, with up-and-coming musicians like BC Kingdom, India Shawn, and Kelela . This is the R&B commercial radio refuses to touch – bold, invigorating, exploring without reservation.
Some of my favorite tracks include the defiant and melodic, “I’m Alive” from India Shawn, and Kelela’s sensual “Go All Night.” Quite a few of the artists are based in LA, Shan’s (co-editor) future home. Still, the CD doesn’t sound like New York, LA, or anywhere else, it’s a collective of young creative souls transforming rhythms into music, and that is universal.
Listen to the full CD on Spotify.
Check out this interview from Madam Noire with Solange about the meaning behind her label, the diversity of R&B, and her unique fashion sense:
Valencia (or V as I say), hair stylist and diva for days, is an energetic and loving mother of six beautiful children committed to success. V speaks her truth without apology or a second blink. She’s a pull yourself up by your stilettos kinda lady. Period.
Shannon (or Shan as I call her) never met a pair of cowboy boots or timberlands she didn’t like; she writes and sings freedom music. Big ideas keep her up at night, and she relentlessly pursues them. Oh, and Shan has some famous big cousins, too. Have you seen Braxton Family Values?
My roots are spilt between Honduras, the South, and East Baltimore. They call me a workaholic and activist (my husband Kes says I want to save the world), but I am simply committed to the passion of purpose. Heart warrior, poet, standing tall in heels any day of the week (doesn’t every good fashionista?); faith and family nurture my soul.
3 women, 3 different lives, with 1 Cause. What’s that? Living life in color and on purpose, while inspiring and empowering you to do the same.
Well, last Sunday, despite frigid chilly November air and relentless winds, we tucked away our insecurities and fatigue. We headed to Baltimore’s Herring Run Park for our fall photo shoot, big girl shoes and all, y’all. Glamour on an otherwise mundane Sunday afternoon. Check!
Shan and I spent the weekend obsessing about our hair, makeup, and clothes; as we drove over together in the car, we anxiously checked the mirror. Was every hair in place? Eye shadow defined?
Yet in the end, it all comes down to collaboration, those moments of magic when everything coalesces without effort or pretense. Keston (Keystone Productions) my husband and creative partner, shot these photos in under thirty minutes, while our children played, even throwing the leaves you see in these photographs. This is part of what it means to live in color! You embrace the flow, and let go.
American media deceives us, convinces women jealousy and bickering are second nature. “Reality shows” portray us at one another’s throats for entertainment – particularly women of color. Over and over again, the message repeats: “Women don’t get along.”
Well, ultimately, it’s up to us to shut out the noise. Refuse the boxes; their narrow definitions of femininity. We can and do get along, every day. Collaboration is beautiful and liberating! Valencia, Shannon and I dwell in possibility, as poet Emily Dickinson once wrote. Three women, three different lives, with one cause – living fully and color! Come along with us on this journey; you will soar.
Live In Color! – Emelda
Talk to Us
Do you believe the hype that women cannot get along? Why or why not?
Every year of my life, I’ve spent Christmas day with my cousins, playing in my Grandma’s basement. Now that Grandma has passed, we all gather at my parent’s house, still in the basement, to sing, dance, and take a plethora of ridiculous pictures. Anything goes at the Braxton home on December 25th.
I guess the tradition of our family gathering started before I was born. At one point, close to all of my maternal cousins came through Grandma’s door on Christmas. It was about 100 Murphys , 1,000 Phillips, 50 Lanseys but only 2 Braxtons. Where were all my Braxton cousins? Well, I don’t know.
You see, my Grandfather Braxton was a rolling stone. I know a few things about him. He was married to my Dad’s mom, two of his very smart sperm made my father and aunt, and he liked to get his “party on.”
Daddy says I met my Grandfather Braxton once when I was a baby and to my knowledge, I’ve never met any one else on his side of the family. Maybe it’s because everyone on my mother’s side of the family looks just alike and I stick out like a sore thumb. Or because most of my maternal cousins have traditional careers while I’m a starving artist. Whatever the reason, I’ve always yearned to meet my grandfather Braxtons’ side of the family, where I’ve imagined many similarities lie.
My dad must have known that I felt incomplete on the day he showed me and my little brother an invitation to the Braxton Family Reunion. I was in elementary school, maybe middle school and I read the invitation out loud with so much joy. At the bottom of the letter read, “Cousins Toni Braxton and The Braxton Sisters will perform on Sunday.”
“What !! I exclaimed! They are my cousins??! I remember how tickled my cute little brother was, and I was just so happy to be invited to our Family reunion. We didn’t have too long to relish in our joy before my father took back the invitation and said we weren’t going.
I don’t know why we didn’t go.
As uninformed children often do, I pieced together clues and assumptions. Now that I think about it, maybe Daddy didn’t want to go just because he didn’t know anybody. Now, I don’t want to offend any of my blood relatives; I love to party, too. But, God knows the reserved members of my mother’s side of my family have been my angels on earth. You see, Shannon-Eli Braxton is a lot like her cousins Trina, Traci, Towanda and Tamar, And, like Toni too. I have a love for Pina Coladas, a mouth that has gotten me into more trouble than a little bit, and like these women, I have risen against adversity; I have not surrendered to illness. I have used my hard life lessons to mentor others, and I will never stop listening to my heart a.k.a. the voice of God.
So, thanks Dad for sharing the information you had. Approximately 20 years later, while watching an episode of Braxton Family Values, I scanned my TV to see the faces of all of my Braxton cousins at Michael Braxton, Sr’s birthday party. There they all were, right here in Maryland, partying it up. Oh, how I would’ve loved to have been there.
I bet many of you can relate to my story, whether your father’s side of your family has a reality show or not. My big cousin, Tenyo Pearl, professor at Coppin State University, often talks to me about post slavery syndrome. One of the symptoms of the 400 years our ancestors suffered is the dishevelment of our families. As a result of the slave trade and it’s legacy of dysfunction and pain, it’s not uncommon for African-Americans not to know our paternal family and even worse, it’s not rare to not know your father at all.
So, for you Daddy, I am immensely grateful. And for you too Granddad Braxton, may you rest in peace. And, to Toni, Traci, Towanda, Trina and Tamar, Auntie Evelyn, Uncle Micheal and Mikey, to all my little Braxton cousins including the newest cutie patootie Logan, you all are my inspiration on many dark days. I am so proud of you and love you always.
Yes, lovelies, it’s Monday, and if you are like me, you would rather pull the covers over one last time before facing work deadlines and real life drudgery. Insert a collective sigh here. Well, cheer up, because Mondays on Live In Color blog are a celebration of music – the kind of beats and lyrics moving us to dance and sing along loudly!
Today we’re highlighting the the Noisettes, a British indie-rock band. What immediately resonates with me on a visceral level is seeing a beautiful brown woman, Shingai Shoniwa, singing lead. We definitely don’t encounter enough of us in rock music, despite our deep roots in this genre. Shoniwa also has such phenomenal style.
Her fashion sense is nearly as eclectic as the duo themselves who met years ago while in a music class together; their personalities are often described as opposite, but somehow her charismatic charm and his steadfast love for the blues connect in song.
For nearly seven years, they have captivated audiences, first with live performances all over the United Kingdom, and then through smash singles like “Never Forget You” (see video below) from the CD Wild Young Hearts (2009).
There is an amazing band live session on YouTube filmed at the Lightship95 in East London, too.
Have those Monday blues left yet? Rock out some more with us! We’ll chase them away.
Live In Color! – Emelda
What’s your favorite music for chasing away the Monday blues?
This year alone I’ve dated a person who was barely legal, one who was barely sane and another one who claims she didn’t even know we were dating.
At the beginning of the year, all I could pray for was a partner, a wife, a soul-mate to save me from my loneliness and help me to carry the burdens of life. “Please God, PLEASE”, I literally cried as my motherly relationship with a person, who could have technically been my child, ended and spring allergies starting whooping my tale. “Life isn’t meant to live alone”, my snotty cries turned into screams, tantrums, bargains and countless conversations with Mel.
If you read our blog, you know that Emelda, or Mel as I call her, is happily married with an adorable one-year-old daughter (my Godbaby, Naima). Even though she understood my pain, without me having to tell her, I talked to her all summer like she didn’t. “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND MEL! You have Keston and Naima, you never come home to an empty house, if your car breaks down, you don’t have to think about who to call, LIFE IS NOT MADE TO BE SPENT ALONE!!”
I was convinced I was miserable, the sole reason being my singleness. Then, as always, God answered my prayer.
She was perfect for me. An artist with a fierce devotion to God. We laughed and partied, we talked about our dreams and our purpose, we simply could not get enough of each other…for one amazing week. At the end of the week, my life turned into a Zora Neal Hurston book. She started foaming from the mouth, as if infected with rabies, and I had to shoot her because I thought she was about to kill me.
What did happen though was a very clear series of omens. First, my car was towed, then I got a flat, then I broke down on 695 and then a dead bird flew into my car window and landed directly in the place where she was previously sitting. Laugh if you will, but I believe in signs.
And thank God almighty I was listening. Not too long after the dead bird encounter, “the perfect match” revealed that her God did not approve of homosexuality but, “when God looks at us, all He sees is the blood-stained banner” therefore, she accepted being in an unnatural and sinful relationship.
I quickly exited stage right!
Could any love be better than hers? Well, Adele sang it best. “Nevermind, I’ll find someone like you” became my August anthem.
I was at peace with things. Still not happy about being single, but clearly there was nothing I could do but patiently wait for divine intervention and work on myself so my future wife would meet the ideal version of me. OK, I did get weak and tried to compose an online dating profile but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. No, not because I judge online dating but because I’ve had some terrible, I mean awful experiences with scary people I’ve met there.
Now it’s winter and I’m in love. I’ve found her, my everything. Don’t worry, I’m not going to say that I’ve fallen madly in love with myself. I’m very happy for people who have. I think myself is wonderful but who’s even better is my DREAM self!
I know, it’s just as corny but I’m truly in a committed relationship with my goals and I’m happy about that, today.
Is this the curse of being thirty (something) and single? We attract relationships out of desperation and self-pity, then decide that we really don’t want to be in a relationship at all. And we do this year, after year, after year.
If you’ve read this far and haven’t noticed by now, I don’t have any answers for this perpetual dilemma. I’m just a single woman, taking it day by day. Today was a good day. Today, I renewed my commitment to fulfilling my dreams. Today, I played with my Godbaby, I got my hair done with Mel, we did a little shopping, I talked to some hommies and I wrote this amazing blog post.
Tonight, I won’t be lonely. I can’t wait to curl up with my warm blankets beside new my toasty heater. And tomorrow, I will still be single. That’s the one thing I know for sure.
Always Live in Color! – Shannon