posted by on community, creative, culture, empowement, Inspiration, Inspirational Links, women, women of color

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Actress Lupita Nyong’o accepts the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role award for ’12 Years a Slave’. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Last night when the news broke about Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar win, I nearly cried. As she spoke, I thought of all those mahogany hued sisters rendered nearly invisible by white supremacy, colorism and our own collective self hatred.

Those simple yet profound words of hope resonate so deeply with me:
“When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.” Oh what a way to begin the week!

There is so much dynamic writing and music online about empowerment (our inspirational word of the month), awareness, life lessons and dancing in the rain. I hope you’ll enjoy reading these pieces, too!

On Changing Dreams

Re-Learning to Dance In The Rain

Fear is the Root of Your Problems

What’s Wrong With Telling A Little Girl She’s Pretty?

Pictures of people who mock me

Live In Color! – Emelda

posted by on art, artist, awakening, awareness, creative, culture, empowement, Inspiration, jazz, live and love in color, music, performance

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Rhonda Robinson  Photo courtesy of Rhonda Robinson

Rhonda Robinson
Photo courtesy of Rhonda Robinson

Listen  here to our February blog chat with accomplished jazz musician Rhonda Robinson. Read more about her fascinating background below (from rocket scientist to jazz vocalist and flutist). Don’t miss her upcoming event at An Die Musik, Hot Winter Nights Part 6: Rio in Baltimore on Friday, February 28, beginning at 8pm. If you miss the 8pm performance, don’t despair, there is another one at 9:30pm.

The Rhonda Robinson Quartet L-R: pianist Todd Simon, bassist Steve Synk, vocalist Rhonda Robinson, drummer Robert Shahid  Photo courtesy of Rhonda Robinson

The Rhonda Robinson Quartet
L-R: pianist Todd Simon; bassist Steve Synk; vocalist Rhonda Robinson; drummer Robert Shahid
Photo courtesy of Rhonda Robinson

 

It’s that time of the month again! If you are a regular, you know we feature inspirational folks in a variety of fields from the arts to business for our blog chat series.Yesterday I spoke with local jazz vocalist and flutist Rhonda Robinson about following your passion, creative inspiration and more.

This former rocket scientist, educated at Johns Hopkins University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, left behind an engineering career to pursue her first love, music.  She now leads the Rhonda Robinson quartet and regularly performs throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, appearing at An Die Musik, Creative Alliance at The Patterson, and at a host of other venues.

Some of the group’s notable appearances include opening for prominent poet and activist Amiri Baraka and Blue Ark Ensemble at University of Baltimore and performing for “A Night at Ethel’s Place,” a fundraiser for city concert artists, which also honored legendary jazz vocalist and Baltimorean, Ethel Ennis.

This coming Friday, February 28, beginning 8pm, don your party attire and catch her performing live at An Die Musik for Hot Winter Nights Part 6: Rio in Baltimore featuring world-renowned Venezuelan pianist Benito Gonzalez, accompanied by bassist Max Murray, and drummer Jesse “Jay” Moody.

Live In Color! – Emelda

posted by on activism, awakening, books, business, community, creative, culture, empowement, entreprenuer, faith, family, Inspiration, life, live and love in color, love, music, performance, progressive, reflection, self love, Style, women, women of color, writing

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Photo Credit: Keston De Coteau

I lose whole chunks of time reading, whether on the bus ride home, or in those rare hours of solitude at a cafe. These days, my mind and eyes move quickly, zig zagging from articles and blog posts to podcasts (NPR, SoundCloud, Marc Steiner show, etc.).

Yes, sometimes this leads to information overload, but it also pushes me to continue growing, exploring and understanding novel ways of seeing the world. The inspirational links below connect to an overarching theme, love: love of self, culture and community. Enjoy!

Colorful and vibrant paintings by Kenyan-American artist Jamilla Okubo on Specter, an elegant art and literature online magazine.

Treat yourself royally, every day. Be your own boyfriend and soar according to relationship expert, author and all around inspiring personality Kaneisha Grayson. While you’re at it, explore the site for Walker’s Legacy, an awesome business collective for women of color.

Are you in a rut? I find myself digging out a lot lately. Find out how to fall back in love with your life on Tiny Buddha.

Nina Simone, 1966. Photograph: DAVID REDFERN/DAVID REDFERN/REDFERNS

Nina Simone, 1966. Photograph: DAVID REDFERN/DAVID REDFERN/REDFERNS

Nina Simone taught us so much; one of those lessons is to reach back and pull the generation behind you up. Check out this clip on the awesome blog, In Her Shoes.

One woman in Chicago made a home for her family and fought foreclosure. What odds? She blazed through obstacles! Read her encouraging story on Yes! Magazine and then get the book by author Laura Gottesdiener, A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home.

Live In Color! – Emelda

posted by on awareness, books, creative, culture, empowement, Inspiration, reflection, self love, women, women of color

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I am convinced, great books find us. Oh the euphoria of connecting to words which resonate so deeply with your own experience. A few weeks ago one of my best friends, Shannon (former Live In Color co-editor) blessed me with two books. One of them, Smart Women, Smart Choices: Set Limits and Gain Control of Your Personal and Professional Life by Hattie Hill, is transforming the way I think about lots of stuff.

Hill, an entrepreneur, international speaker and consultant, lived the lessons of this book, and after the dissolving of her first marriage, she reflected inward: “When did I cross the line from smart, independent woman to one whose cape was so weighted down with others’ concerns that I could no longer fly? In fact, I could barely walk.”

It’s taken me years to admit this to myself, but I am a pleaser, easily placing other people’s needs before my own. Yes, I know it’s detrimental, but until now, I had no concrete language for understanding these choices. With each section of Smart Women, Smart Choices, Hill helps me confront pieces of myself.

We meet women who do it all, and fit into various roles: “the juggler, ” “the achiever,” “the doer,” etc. Yet each shares a common trait, in addition to caring deeply for others, they carry them, shouldering more than their load with co-workers, friends, children and spouses. Oh, how well I relate!

Hill, though, is not satisfied for us to simply observe similarities, she demands change. At the end of each chapter there are questions and exercises. Clearly, we must do our work.

I am ready. For me, 2014 is about clarity, and doggedly removing obstacles which impede growth. Currently, because of my own busy life, I read a little at a time. Here are some of the passages that stand out:

Superwoman is a myth. No longer is stronger, faster, better, the formula for success in living a meaningful life. Women must discover a new way of meeting the overwhelming demands of modern times and that requires new choices.

We need to differentiate between carrying and caring.

Caring is an act of love. Carrying is a misuse of love.

Control is the illusion that we can make everything happen to perfection if we keep a firm grip on the reins. We really don’t trust anyone to get the job done but ourselves. As we take over the controls, either subtly or overtly, we begin to carry.

Loving starts with ourselves. If we don’t love ourselves, we cannot love one another.

Live In Color! – Emelda

posted by on awakening, awareness, creative, culture, empowement, entreprenuer, Inspiration, Inspirational Links, live and love in color, progressive, reflection, self love, women, women of color, writing

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Photo Credit: Emelda De Coteau

I am addicted to inspiration. Admitting is the first step, huh? One of my favorite blogs, Rowdy Kittens, which honors the beauty of living small with gratitude and grace, regularly posts links to other great content around the web from articles to podcasts.

Recently, while brainstorming in the shower (isn’t it the best place for ideas), I thought, why not add to the effort? The world always needs more motivation and positive energy, right? So, visit Live In Color each Monday, and connect with content which feeds your soul. I cannot think of a better way to begin the week.

Here’s what caught my eye today:

Fractured Atlas Book Club: Build Your Dreams

11 Reasons Why ’14 Will Be a Break-Out Year for Women Entrepreneurs (via Forbes.com)

Live Like Stan

What kind of creative are you?

Why I Went Natural & My Personal Hair Journey

Live In Color! – Emelda

posted by on awakening, awareness, empowement, Inspiration, live and love in color, love, reflection

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The light of our souls, my daughter, Naima De Coteau
Photo Credit: Emelda De Coteau

Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.

- James Baldwin

We’re kicking off the months at Live In Color blog with one inspirational word, a guiding light to carry us through our days, especially during those moments when all feels dismal. Isn’t this the beauty of inspiration? It empowers us to see the world with fresh eyes.

Throughout February, we celebrate love. I know. I hear you groaning! Valentine’s Day is Friday, the stores are overrun with teddy bears, chocolate candy and flowers. Our focus on love though is no ode to these superficial sentiments wrapped in commercialization.

No. It’s about increasingly moving towards an authentic love, rooted in faith, family, and self confidence. It is taking time to celebrate the enormity of subtle moments we ignore: your child tugging at you, eyes reaching for affection and reassurance, a friend’s easy laughter over lunch, or significant other’s hand falling subtly against your skin, carrying both warmth and fidelity.

Those instances when you realize life, in all of its complexity and beauty, presents you with endless possibilities to see it anew. This is love which inspires, transforms and uplifts. We hope you will join us in this ongoing journey.

Your Turn
Please do share how love guides you this month, not merely as a word, but a principle within your life.

Live In Color! – Emelda

posted by on afrocentric, awakening, awareness, creative, culture, Inspiration, music, MusicMonday, performance

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Photo Credit: Keston De Coteau

It’s challenging being a brown girl in a world where lightness is synonymous with beauty. Some of us feel invisible at times, ignored and marginalized. Often, when we are acknowledged it’s through the prism of stifling stereotypes, from gold digger to gum poppin’ baby mama.

Ambush & Kareem Ali, a DMV-based hip-hop duo, are out to change all of that. Their latest track, “Love In My Heart” is an ode to everything commercial rap refutes, authentic black beauty. The video, shot by Keystone Productions (yes, full disclosure, that’s my hubby’s company) follows one woman’s journey to self love.

We watch as she struggles with a boyfriend who refuses to see her, even as she acquiesces to his notions of Eurocentric femininity. But Kareem Ali reminds us with a confident grin, his voice steady over the vibrant beat, “…when chocolate looks good, baby, nothing looks better.”

In a world where singers and rappers extol “yellow model chicks” without hesitation, it’s refreshing to hear and see a brother admiring skin tones the color of rich mahogany. Images matter immensely; this visual essay, these rhymes, stand as a testament to the power of resistance, and a willingness to define ourselves for ourselves. It’s all rooted in love; Ambush & Kareem Ali didn’t have to work to convince me.

Enjoy more of their music on SoundCloud.

Live In Color! – Emelda

posted by on awakening, awareness, creative, culture, Guest Blog Series, Inspiration, live and love in color, management, writing

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A few weeks ago, my good friend and fellow blogger Michelle Whitney wrote eloquently about creativity and how, sadly, our culture shuns it at every turn.  Her post was a response to Jessica Olien’s piece on Slate, Inside the Box.

Michelle is all about resistance and rebellion, and not blending into society’s narrow definition of who she should become.  She says without apology: “I choose to live creatively.  It is at the essence of who I am as a person in this world.”

When not writing at Surviving a Creative Life , Michelle creates everything from dazzling tiny ornate hats to yummy applesauce. We are pleased she is our first guest blogger for 2014!

creativity melting

Photo Credit: Michelle Whitney

Is your creativity melting away in this 9 to 5 world?

Jessica Olein has written an interesting article on Slate about how people say they value creativity, but they really want everyone to jump in line and dutifully follow the status quo, even if it is to the detriment to those who talked the talk about valuing creativity in the first place.  I hate to say it, but as someone who lives in the 9 to 5 world, she’s right.  I see it almost every day.

Though her company initially hired her for her problem-solving skills, she is regularly unable to fix actual problems because nobody will listen to her ideas. “I even say, ‘I’ll do the work. Just give me the go ahead and I’ll do it myself,’ ” she says. “But they won’t, and so the system stays less efficient.”

Ideas for how to manage projects, streamline workflow, and integrate technological advancements are nearly always met with metaphorical brick walls in the workplace.  If the ideas are presented from the bottom to the management then they are almost certain to fail or to be dismissed outright without even a friendly ear.  After awhile, people become apathetic and stop suggesting creative solutions to problems.  The resistance to creative change, even in the positive, is astounding!

Most people agree that what distinguishes those who become famously creative is their resilience. While creativity at times is very rewarding, it is not about happiness. Staw says a successful creative person is someone “who can survive conformity pressures and be impervious to social pressure.”

To survive a creative life we can’t let that apathy consume us.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard, “We’ve been doing it like this for XYZ, which is why we should keep doing it like this going forward.”  This is not a reason for doing something if there is a way to improve upon it–especially in our technological world of lightning-fast changes.

“Everybody hates it when something’s really great,” says essayist and art critic Dave Hickey.

I ran into this myself in a creative writing class back in 1990.  I had written a first-person short story from the point of view of a character who dies (not that my story was really great or anything, but who am I kidding, it was pretty awesome for a high-school kid).  The character continued to narrate the story from beyond the veil of death.  My creative writing teacher insisted that I couldn’t do this.

“You can’t have a narrator that’s dead.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“You just can’t.”

In 1999 the movie American Beauty was released, and guess what–that’s right, the narrator of the story was dead.  That movie won 5 Oscars and according to IMDB had 74 total award nominations and 94 wins.

Why again couldn’t I write a short story in which the narrator is dead?  It’s exactly what Olein is talking about in this article.  The story was something new at the time–it was definitely out-of-the-box. My creative writing teacher had quite a bit of jealousy rattling around inside her when it came to my burgeoning writing talent (there were many other issues that made this abundantly clear, but that’s a post for another day…).  And just because she had never seen someone write a story with a narrator who dies, she rejected it as an impossibility.

Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.

And even if our teachers do support us in our creative pursuits and encourage new ideas and innovation in our thinking, what is our current obsession with testing doing to the creative among us?

Even if children are lucky enough to have a teacher receptive to their ideas, standardized testing and other programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top (a program whose very designation is opposed to nonlinear creative thinking) make sure children’s minds are not on the “wrong” path, even though adults’ accomplishments are linked far more strongly to their creativity than their IQ.

I’ve had long conversations with a teacher-of-the-year friend of mine about No Child Left Behind and how it leaves no room for creativity in its curriculum demands. We also talked about direct instruction (mostly experimented with on low-income children, of course) being the same way.  We’re teaching our kids only to follow directions and stay within the lines.  Teaching a test is not teaching problem-solving, which is something that life requires of all of us.  Problem-solving often involves finding creative solutions to complex issues.  You can’t learn this by picking A, B, or C on a multiple-choice test.

To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself.

I choose to live creatively.  It is at the essence of who I am as a person in this world.  I’ve never really fit–I’m the proverbial square peg and I refuse to carve corners to try to wrongly wriggle into a round hole.  I choose to be myself and, accepted or not, here I am.  Now if I could just let go of satisfying myself…

As writer Anais Nin once said, “Perfection is static, and I am in full progress…”

Michelle Whitney creating art. Photo courtesy of the author.

Michelle Whitney creating art. Photo courtesy of the author.

Michelle was born a creative genius (really, I swear!). Okay, maybe not a genius, but definitely creative. She works a stressful 9-5 that is creative-adjacent, but lacks in actual creativity. In order to survive this situation while still being able to pay her bills, she seeks to find the creative in situations all around her.  It’s a survival tactic, because surviving a creative life is not always easy and often it makes you question yourself down to the very fibers of your being.

Michelle is a trained writer and photographer and an autodidact in just about anything else she can get her hands on.

 

 

posted by on fashion, Fashion Friday, Inspiration, women, women of color

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hm-solange

Solange at an H&M event in Mexico City
Photo Source: AfriPOP!

Style rebels decimate boxes, crushing rules with stilettos, sneakers, timberland boots, or any other form of fabulous footwear! Solange, singer and founder of record label Saint Heron, easily fits this description, a free spirit willing to take risks. In our era of stylists and filtered selfies, it’s refreshing to watch a celebrity experiment.

Years ago, she embraced her natural tresses, eschewing straight weaves which show up on female entertainers of color from red carpets to magazine covers. Folks were upset, tweeting furiously: Who did she think she was cutting all of her hair off like that? Wearing it natural?  Why?

We love Solange for not allowing the pettiness of public opinion to dissuade growing feelings of freedom and joy. Her taste is a genuine reflection of a global sensibility; some of our favorite pieces marry African prints with bold colors and intricate shapes. Lately, these looks are catching our eye:

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Live In Color – Emelda

posted by on Blog Chat, business, creative, entreprenuer, Inspiration, January 2014 Blog Chat, women, women of color

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Photo Courtesy of Shanise Morris

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
- Albert Einstein

It’s a new year, and we are excited to bring you our first blog chat! These interviews with inspirational people in a variety of fields from artists to community activists, educators and entrepreneurs, are so uplifting for us. A little over a week ago I chatted with Shanise Morris, a young talented entrepreneur whose background spans communications / writing, culinary arts, poetry and painting. What is such a multifaceted person to do? Why become your own boss of course! She recently founded Plush Plum Events, which specializes in event design and planning.

Shanise is part of a steady trend as increasingly women combine professional experience and education to start businesses. According to statistics gathered by the Center for Women’s Business Research (2009), “one in five firms with revenues of $1 million or more are owned by women.”

Yes. Women entrepreneurs rock! So relax, put up those feet, and watch our interview. We’re sure Shanise will inspire you, too!

Stay Connected: Follow the innovative work of Plush Plum Events on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Video produced by Keston De Coteau (my talented husband) of Keystone Productions.