LOVE LOST: Falling Out Of/Back In Love With My Hair

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The love affair between my hair and I has hit a rough patch.

Nearly a decade after growing out my relaxer and joining #TeamNatural, I’ve regressed in my hair adoration and I’m almost back at that insecure, “not sure what I’m doing” stage I found myself in after my big chop. I’ve had some fabulous hair days since that muggy August afternoon when I emerged from the salon, 100% natural and free – days of cotton candy fluffiness, surprising length, and daring moments with colour that made me feel excited about experimenting with my hair. Learning about my hair’s versatility was so incredibly fun – dry sets, wet sets, stretching twists, blown out, or letting my coils spring free-form – discovering and indulging in it all amazed me. But somewhere along the journey, that excitement faded.

When I co-hosted my Curls, Coils, & Cocktails meetup at the end of February, I admitted this very fact. In the weeks since, I’ve really been thinking about why I feel so despondent about my hair, and I’ve uncovered two main reasons why I’m currently so blah about my crown.

Motherhood Maintenance

Little Magician is almost 2 now (where is time going???) and she literally does not stop moving until you can wrangle her flailing limbs and get her into bed. That being said, it’s become much easier for me to a) rock styles like box braids and Marley twists to get my hair out of the way and still look cute or b) becoming alarmingly OK with not maintaining my hair well, and just praying for mercy from my hair goddess whenever I get around to my next wash day. With either option, I acknowledge that I’m not engaging and falling in love with my own hair – I’m just doing what I need to do to get through the day and look presentable. It takes so much more planning now to be able to properly wash, detangle, set, and allow my hair to dry – and when I’m chasing after/feeding/putting to bed/entertaining a toddler, sometimes my hair transforms from a necessary responsibility to an indulgent luxury.

Skewed Self-Image

Back when I was pregnant, I went for a casting call at a modeling agency. I had recently bought a cute lil half wig that helped me to rock a quick and fly look as needed, and ended up wearing it to my audition. I didn’t book that gig, but they kept my photos on file and I’ve been booking quite a few gigs since, off da strenf of those pics.

Because of the half wig, every casting agent gets excited over my hair and ensures that my hair will be exactly the same as the photos they saw when I show up to set. Even though I always send in current photos at their request, my hair is never acceptable unless it’s coiled and blended into the shoulder-length half wig. I won’t lie – getting awed looks and overflowing compliments about my half-wigged hair in comparison to rejection or shrugs of “I like it better the other way” for my natural hair has gotten to me after a while. I’ve gotten self-conscious about my hair. I’ve gotten used to how my face looks enveloped by the billows of curly additions. I’ve simultaneously been proud to represent in mainstream media as a Black woman rocking natural-textured hair, and felt like a fraud for not being able to book gigs with my hair – the hair I’ve grown, not the hair I’ve bought.

I adore my natural hair and used to have so much fun with it. But now – due to convenience, time constraints, job demands, and narrow scopes of beauty ideals in media, I haven’t given myself the time to fall back in love with it. This past weekend when I had an extra moment to myself, I jumped in the shower with my drain protector, wide-tooth comb, and my favourite lotions and potions – and spent time caring for my hair in a way I hadn’t done as of late. I came out, massaged some coconut oil into my strands, then took my trusty Denman brush and shea butter and detangled then twisted my hair section by section. Today I took the twists down, feeling the softness and silkiness, and admiring the springiness of each coil. My hair felt healthy and beautiful and almost seemed to whisper “Don’t you remember why you loved me?” I do now, and my new goal is to reacquaint myself with her, set time to be with her, and reset my expectations of her and of me. I’m determined to rekindle our relationship, and I think we’re finally on the right track.

FORGIVE/FORGET: Living Through The Process Of Forgiveness

 

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I needed a reminder that I was still a good person.

You see, last week I found myself months-deep in my email inbox, looking for a document for the ever-dreaded tax season. I typed some keywords into the search bar, hit enter, and watched the results populate. The first thing I saw, however, wasn’t the email I was looking for – it was one I never really wanted to see again, but there it was.

I should have deleted that email long ago. To be honest, I think I only kept it to refer to in moments where I wondered, “Did that REALLY happen? Did this person REALLY speak to me that way? Did this person REALLY blindside me like that and make me wonder if I was as horrible as they wrote?” When I needed the reminder that, yes, those things were all true, there sat that email to give me the proof I needed. It probably isn’t a healthy practice to revisit, even subconsciously, a moment that causes you great pain – but I think I was in such disbelief for so long that it was part of my process of acceptance, moving on, and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a tricky, tricky thing – and in this particular situation, the work of forgiveness made me angry. It’s one thing to be wronged by someone and have them come to you, arms wide and heart apologetic as they lay down the acknowledgement of what they’ve done to you. You, as the forgiver, still bear the weight of working through your emotions and granting forgiveness when and how you see fit, but you’re not the only person in the conversation. An entirely different level of effort is required when you have nothing from the other person but the pain they’ve left you with – no apologies, no contrition, no acknowledgement, no agreement to sit down and talk it out – but in order to save yourself, you still have to find forgiveness on your own. It’s exhausting. It’s unfair. It’s anger-inducing. That exhaustion and unfairness and anger wrapped up in the process of forgiveness can make the whole thing implode from the inside out – but as I’ve learned, the process is largely inevitable, so you’ve got to push through.

I’ve had to question how effective the act of forgetting is in relation to forgiveness. Forgetting feels good, and when you remember that you’ve forgotten, it can feel like a step towards being able to forgive. When you forget, and move on, and start living your life outside of whatever connections you had with that person – when you do those things, you start to fill your life with new experiences that can soften the blow of the hurt you felt before. But inevitably, you remember. Something reminds you of that person or that situation, and one of two things happen. Either you remember and it doesn’t hurt as much (or at all), and you’re able to smile at your growth and perhaps even look up to the sky and wish that person well, wherever they are. Or, an uncomfortable pressure builds up in your chest and tries to bubble out of your eyes, and you swallow it down, convincing yourself you didn’t feel it. In one situation, forgetting moves you towards forgiving. In the other, forgetting is a flimsy mask for the forgiveness process. I’ve been on both sides, but I know which one feels better.

When I came across that old email the other day, I felt enough of that pressure building to concern me. In the past, I’d been able to smile and nod to the sky, so hadn’t I reached forgiveness? Hadn’t I actually stated out loud in the past that I’ve forgiven this person? So why was I now feeling like I had taken a step back? What I’ve learned here is that forgiveness can be a straightforward process, or it can come in and out like the tide. Maybe I haven’t fully reached the destination yet, or perhaps it’ll be a cyclical thing where the biggest goal will be to make sure each low moment is higher than the last. Then eventually, maybe one day it’ll all even out.

In writing this post, I can say that my biggest win has been taking the lens of forgiveness from the external to the internal. What I mean by this is that I’ve moved from wondering why, wondering what I did to make this person act the way they did, wondering what was and is going through their head – I’ve stopped caring. I know I’ll never get those answers, and even if I did at this point, they’ve lost the impact they could have on my forgiveness process. I’ve moved that lens internally, where it should be. I’ve learned to focus on what I need to do to feel good, what I can do to be a better person in the future, what I can do to accept what was and move on to what will be in my life. Forgiveness is a process for me, not for anyone else. Once I realized that, the process started to flow more authentically without cliched expectations of how it should feel.

So, I’m still on the journey of this and other paths of forgiveness in my life. Being able to forgive – or more realistically, dedicate myself to the process of forgiveness – reminds me that I’m still a good person, and I’m getting better every day.

OH HELL YES: Making Space For Life To Take Shape

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been binge-watching Girlfriends, one of my favourite sitcoms. I’m currently in the middle of season 5 – Joan and William are (inexplicably) in a relationship, Lynn has connected with her birth parents, Toni is pregnant and ducking divorce papers from her estranged husband Todd, and Maya just got a huge endorsement from Rev. Al Sharpton for her girl-you-can-do-it book, Oh Hell Yes.

It’s Maya’s story that currently resonates with me – our relationship statuses aren’t the same, but our prioritization of our children, our desire to do the work we’re passionate about, and our desperate fear of settling and being stuck in something that makes us miserable ARE the same. Funnily enough, these same traits resonated in a real book I read recently – Shonda Rhimes’ Year Of Yes, which details Rhimes’ journey through a year where she said yes to everything that scared her. After reading her book at the end of 2015, I decided I was going to make 2016 my year to say yes – or, oh HELL yes – and I was going to put themes of priority, passion work, and not settling in the forefront of my mind to create the life I want.

Walking into 2016, I realized that the only way I’d be able to live the life I wanted would be to make room for it. The work I want to do, the experiences I want to have, the goals I want to achieve – none of them will come to fruition if there isn’t space for them to thrive. I took a big leap by leaving my job and taking on a new role that gives me more time for my family, my writing, and my other projects. I dropped projects that were taking up time and not giving me equal ROI. I was approached with some opportunities that in the past, I would have hemmed and hawed over before likely declining them out of fear, but this time I didn’t waste time – I said yes, jumped in, and blossomed because of them. (Note: there’s a message here about innately knowing the difference between declining something because you know in your heart of hearts it isn’t for you, and declining because you’re scared, even though you know you’re capable – or at least curious about your capability. Sometimes fear masks itself as humility, but we know in the pit of our stomachs that we’re lying to ourselves. Might write more about that later.)

I’m determined to see some real progress in a variety of arenas this year, and I quickly realized that a) I had to stop talking about it and BE about it and b) nothing was going to grow if I didn’t clear the space for them to do so. Change is extremely difficult for me, so stepping out of my comfort zone has been an uncomfortable process. However, I believe so earnestly in the promise of the things I’m working towards that sacrificing my comfort is a necessary move.

Last year, my goal was simply to get through the day. Balancing my first year of being a working mom took a lot out of me, but set me up for this year – where I’m back to having goals, benchmarks, and renewed ideas of what success looks like to me. I have big plans, and now I have the space to execute them. This year, I’m not just saying yes. I’m saying, oh, HELL yes.

What is one thing you can let go of to make room for what you want or need in life?

BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT: Moving Past 2015

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Exhale.

It’s after midnight on December 31st, officially making it the last day of the year – and all I can think to do is exhale.

I didn’t even realize that holding my breath had become a habit until recently. While working on my vision board for 2016 and reviewing what 2015 was for me, I caught myself holding my breath. A lot. It didn’t take much for me to hypothesize that that was my psychosomatic response both in anticipation of what’s to come, and in reaction to what had already come to pass. I flinch and hold my breath when I think about what 2015 was. I hold my breath and pray when I think about what I hope 2016 will be.

I had some wins in 2015, but if I’m being honest about this past year, it was simply about keeping my head above water. This year I juggled the most balls I’ve ever juggled, so it’s no surprise to me that I didn’t feel like I progressed as far as I would have wanted – I was too busy standing in one spot, trying to keep all the balls in the air. I grew and I learned a lot, but didn’t move forward in a way that signifies a level of success for me – so while this year wasn’t terrible (asking myself “But did you (or anyone you love) die though?” helps keep things in perspective), it wasn’t one of my best.

I hold my breath when I’m nervous. Or when I’m panicky and overwhelmed. Or when I’m happy and excited (and sometimes subconsciously expecting something bad to happen next). I held my breath when I walked back into work for my first day after mat leave, and when I was about to film a segment for a TV show, and when I awaited news to see if I earned a fellowship position (that I didn’t get). I held my breath when Little Magician took her first steps, and when I stood up for myself in ways I never imagined I would have. There were good moments and great moments – but when I looked back at my resolutions for 2015 and saw that very few of them came to pass, I realized that I failed to breathe life into my year.

Moving into 2016, I plan to hold my breath less and breathe more. I want to inspire and be inspired, and those very words aren’t possible without the intimation of breathing. I want to keep growing, but also progress in life – so those balls I’m juggling? I have to graduate from standing in one spot and watching myself toss and catch them, to learning how to keep them in the air while looking and moving forward.

Here’s to the year that was and the year that will be. And if nothing else, I’ll remember to breathe.

TRUTH SEEK: Black Girls, Natural Hair, & The Cost Of Believing Lies We’ve Been Told

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After wearing my hair naturally for years, writing about natural hair, and producing events aimed at the celebration of natural hair, I try to remember to approach conversations from various perspectives. For every woman who is comfortable rocking her Afro puff in the boardroom, there are 3 more Googling “natural hair transitioning” while twirling relaxed locks around their fingers. Natural-haired women sometimes say to me, “We’re over asking ‘Can you be sexy/professional with natural hair’! It’s time to move on!” While I hear that, I acknowledge that we aren’t all at the same place in this discussion. That disparity is never more apparent to me than when I hear a flagrantly ignorant comment or the report of some egregious occurrence where someone simply dared to wear their hair with its natural texture. One of those occurrences was recently brought to my attention.

A Facebook status made the rounds this weekend, where a woman in Toronto named Kaysie wrote about her niece. After recently having her hair done in a crochet braid style, her niece was chastised by her middle school principal who first gave her a hair tie and told her to “do something about her hair,” then kept her in the office, telling her that her hair was “too poofy,” “unprofessional,” and that “if she were working in a store, no one would buy anything from her.”

After a news story revealed that the principal was herself a Black woman, the reporter asked the women in the salon she reported out of “Does that make a difference?” On the surface, sure – but the root cause of the principal’s comments and the reason why she felt empowered in humiliating this young girl is more common than we think. Anti-Blackness and the reverence of European beauty ideals are themes that infiltrate the minds of many, regardless of race. It’s why we have people the world over bleaching their skin. It’s why we have fashion marketing campaigns choosing White models in order to “convey a positive image.” And it’s why we have Black women denigrating young Black girls who are proudly wearing their hair in natural styles.

Colonialism did a number on Black people and other people of colour across the globe, and its effects can still be felt throughout the diaspora today. When I decided to wear my hair naturally, some of my biggest detractors were older Black Caribbean and African women, who couldn’t fathom why I would choose to run more towards my Blackness than away from it. I am still working to help family members divest from the mental weight of carrying that kind of self-loathing with them, most motivated by comments I’ve already fielded about Little Magician’s hair. Though I’ve been natural for years and love to cloak myself in the bubble I’ve built with friends and acquaintances who love and accept natural hair like I do, I will never forget that there are people – many people – like this principal who feel otherwise.

The same anti-Blackness and European veneration I mentioned before are what leads people to incorrectly believe that natural hair is unprofessional, ugly, wild, or a distraction. It’s what enables discussion to swirl around the fact that hair is not part of this particular school’s dress code, making me believe that this case may create an unnecessary conversation. When a Black girl’s hair is up for debate, even the slightest attempt to find a way to regulate it (in this instance through school dress code, which often only reinforces Eurocentric standards) gives me serious pause. It’s what sets us – I’m speaking to Black girls and women specifically here – up for failure, constantly chasing an ideal that doesn’t belong to us because someone made us falsely believe it was the path to a better/easier life.

I pity the principal of Amesbury Middle School and the fact that she is so dedicated to this fallacy. However, the person I am most concerned about is the child that remains in the midst of this mess. We still have the reminder that there are people entrusted with taking care of our children and shaping their hearts, minds, and souls for the future, but we must remain vigilant and always be our children’s fiercest advocates. We still have a Black girl who needs to remember that she is magic, even if others can’t recognize her sparkle. We still have much work to do with those among us who believe the lies we’ve been told about ourselves, and we always need to remember to work internally to ensure we aren’t perpetuating those falsehoods consciously or unconsciously.

I don’t know what will come of future discussions and interactions between this young girl, her family, and the principal. What I do know is I hope this girl remains uplifted by her loved ones, remains confident (or regains her confidence) in her natural beauty, and continues to side-step the lies while walking in her truth. 

CHANGING SEASONS: The Art of Letting Things Go

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When I started writing this post, I searched “letting things go” on my blog to make sure I hadn’t used the title before.

It felt like something I’ve felt before – and if it’s something I’ve felt before, I’ve probably said it before. And if I’ve said it before, I’ve surely written it before, so my thoughts were that I’d be repeating a sentiment with this piece.

The good news? I hadn’t used those three words in a previous blog post title. The not-so-good news? I’ve definitely expressed this sentiment before: here, here, and here.

I had a bit of a breakdown recently, where I tearfully admitted that “Nothing feels fun anymore.” This blog has led to an incredible amount of awesome opportunities doing things that I’ve really enjoyed. Sure, there have been downsides to it too – chasing freelance publications for monies owed, uncomfortable clashes between online/offline life, battling my own insecurities and imposter syndrome symptoms – but even the crappy moments have become wonderful teachable moments that may not have felt great, but served important purpose. The major lesson I’m learning now is that I’ve hit a wall, and instead of trying to find my way under/over/through it, I need to just sit there for a while with my back against its firmness, and just…be.

At my annual physical, my doctor noted that some of my bloodwork results looked a bit off, and sent me back for a do-over. I’m awaiting those results now, but made the poor decision to find my way down a rabbit hole of WebMD and Mayo Clinic websites, getting more stressed and worried with every click. I’m sure that – as has always been the case – I’m fine, and the majority of my concerns are related to stress that I don’t manage well. In those posts I mentioned before, I’m sure I acknowledged my issues with control, stress, worry, taking on too much, not finding a good balance or taking a break when needed, but I clearly didn’t do a good job of remedying them. I feel like this is the moment where I need to really work on those things and find a way to a healthier and happier me, and I need to be serious about it this time.

I always start out excited about things. Sometimes I’m giddy and passionate about an idea I’ve come up with, or I’m honoured to be approached by someone else who wants to work with me. Sometimes I see a posting for an opportunity that I know I’d be perfect for. Other times I say yes to something because of what I hope it will lead to. The FOMO (fear of missing out) hit me not as a fear of missing out on social media, but a fear of missing out on some incredible opportunity. I’d say “yes” then find myself in the midst of emails and meetings and drafts and rehearsals and busyness with nothing but good intention, ready to grow as a multi-faceted person who’s aware that she’s cultivating a personal brand at the same time. Some of the things I was excited about recently have left me feeling anything but. Chasing entities for thousands of dollars owed, being asked to work for compensation below my worth, consistently showing up for others and noting that reciprocity isn’t in everyone’s vocabulary – these things have been draining me lately, but I’ve kept pressing on.  Other things I remain excited about, but I feel burned out to the point where I have nothing left to give them right now. I miss things like Sunday mornings before anyone else is awake – just me, a cup of tea, and my blog. I miss feeling like I’m not always behind or chasing an ever-lengthening to-do list. I miss taking the time to enjoy life and be inspired by it. The work is fun until it’s not – and it happens so rarely that when I feel it as strongly as I do now, I need to heed the message.

All of the things I do are supposed to compliment each other and give me outlets that other parts of my life don’t provide. When my outlets start feeling like burdens, it’s the most frustrating thing – where do you turn next? During a Twitter chat about making your side hustle a full-time entrepreneurial pursuit, I tweeted that it was crucial to protect your passions – just because your passion becomes your full-time gig, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever end up disillusioned by it like any other job. My passions need to be protected right now. My health needs to be protected right now. My desire to be and do and create needs to be protected right now. All of these things need to be tended to, cared for, nurtured back to a place of fruitfulness and rejuvenation, otherwise nothing that I am or do will ever be where I want and need it to be.

It’s a new season, and we always joke about the cold weather being our sign that it’s time to make like bears and hibernate from the social scene. Instead of thinking of it as hibernation, I’ll take my cue from the trees. There’s something beautiful about the way trees shift, change, and let go, taking time to be still before flourishing again. Maybe that’s what I need. Maybe that’s what more of us need. There’s much to be said about the doing of life, but none of us can afford to miss out on the being. This is the season to pick and choose; to be careful and intentional about what I do and how I do it. I’m sure that soon enough the balance, inspiration, passion, and fun will all return for me, and until then, I’ll just take my time.

HOT EVENT: Mirror Images: The Culture Of Digital Content Creation

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My eyes were opened when I read this literacy study, showing that girls were drawn to digital media while boys preferred print. I was even more intrigued when I read further and learned that Black girls read the most out of any other ethnic group captured in the study, comprised of 32,000 students at 130 schools in the UK. I was a girl who loved to read and write. I’m now a grown woman who primarily utilizes digital media for communication. Children today are growing up in the digital age, and I can’t help but wonder what the future (both near and distant) will hold for this medium. With those thoughts in mind, my next Mirror Images event was born.

On Sunday, September 27th, I’ll be hosting my 2nd Mirror Images event, called Mirror Images: The Culture Of Digital Content Creation. After last year’s awesome inaugural event, I knew I’d be back with another topic to delve into – and I’m really excited about this one.

After reading stats like the aforementioned girls in digital media, and breaking news about the rising rates of entrepreneurship among women, I was attracted to the idea of talking with women who have their hands in one or both of those areas – women who are digital content creators, who have expanded into entrepreneurship, and who have done the research to understand how women – particularly women of colour – are utilizing digital media in unique ways. As a blogger and freelance writer, I constantly engage in conversations about digital media online, but with Mirror Images, we’re taking the discussion live and direct!

I’ll be moderating a lively talk with the group, while representing the blogging/freelance writing side of digital content creation. My incredible panelists include:

Emily Mills: A mom, wife, full-time media professional, and creator of How She Hustles, a network for women. With solely a social media presence – no website or money spent on advertising – Emily has turned her online network into one that thrives offline, consistently selling out her How She Hustles live events.

Nehal El-Hadi: A writer, researcher, media producer, and doctoral candidate in Planning at the University of Toronto, where she’s studying how women of colour engage online through social media.

Sajae Elder: A graduate of Humber College’s Journalism School, Sajae is a digital content producer with a passion for hip hop, film, and cultural identity. Currently, she’s a freelance writer, social media manager, and segment producer of the wildly popular podcast, Gyalcast.

Rochelle Brown: One of Canada’s most popular vloggers, Rochelle is the mastermind behind Crazylightskingirl on YouTube. After vlogging for just one year, Rochelle’s following has surpassed 110,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 64,000 followers on Instagram.

Dope lineup, right? I thought so. My sponsors SoulAfrodisiac and RFlavour are also helping to make this entire event pop.

If you’ve ever wondered about one or more of the following, raise your hand:

How do you start out in digital content creation, and how do you find your niche in what seems like an oversaturated area?

What’s the trick behind turning an online audience into a live one? 

How can digital content creation become an entrepreneurial income stream? 

What is the best way to capture – and keep – an audience or online following?

What are the top social media applications, and how can you use them to share content or build business?

In what ways are women – and women of colour – utilizing digital media uniquely?

To get the answers to these questions and more, take that raised hand and click here to buy your ticket for Mirror Images!

There will be mix and mingling time. There will be an interactive talk with my panelists, moderated by yours truly. There will be a Q&A session for you to delve deeper into some of the themes and topics that arise. Come to connect offline, and leave with ways to improve online!

Here are the details:

When: Sunday, September 27th at 2-6pm

Where: The United Steelworkers Hall – 25 Cecil Street (near College and Spadina – free parking at rear, and wheelchair accessible)

How much? $15 earlybird tickets available at http://mirrorimages.ticketleap.com/digital/ (but not for long! Prices rising soon!)

Questions? Want to be a sponsor? Media inquiries? Get in touch with me.

My 1st Mirror Images event was a great success, and I’m looking forward to the same on September 27th – one month to go! I hope to see you there, where we can connect, learn, and grow together!

#CTFF2015: Celebrating 10 Years Of Caribbean Film

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Celebrating a decade of ANYTHING is an awesome feat, so this year is a really special one for the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival!

I’ve worked with the festival for a number of years now, and I’ve continuously been impressed and inspired by its dedication to Caribbean film. When most people around the world think of the islands, sun, sand, beaches, and temporary vacation bliss generally come to mind. But for those of us with roots and family and history from Cuba to Jamaica to St. Vincent to Trinidad, the Caribbean means much more to us – and that more is what we want the world to see. Using art to tell Caribbean/diasporic stories isn’t new, but finding new ways to accomplish that narrative creation through cinema is CaribbeanTales’ aim.

Similarly to Hollywood, Bollywood, and Nollywood, the Caribbean looks to be the next hub for film. It’s crucial to have a creative outlet to share our histories, present-day experiences, and imagery for the future – and it’s extremely crucial to create a self-sustaining industry that provides opportunities for people in front of and behind the camera.

This year marks the 10th annual CaribbeanTales International Film Festival, and possibly the best lineup of films I’ve seen. #AllBlackLivesMatter nights focusing on stories around diverse expressions of Blackness, Queer Caribbean night highlighting LGBTQ film, films on mental health in the Black community, shifting perceptions of masculinity, natural hair, and more are all covered in this year’s film lineup. Running alongside TIFF, this timing provides both healthy competition and room for partnership with CTFF, but ultimately provides an option for cinephiles who want a more diverse range of films to watch. Not only does CTFF have films made by Caribbean filmmakers and those of Caribbean heritage, but a large number of this year’s films were made by women – something I have been highly aware of, particularly with the rise of Ava DuVernay (especially after hearing her speak at the 2015 BlogHer conference).

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This Sunday, I’ll be hosting the #AllBlackLivesMatter night, featuring a screening of Cristo Rey, a film from the Dominican Republic directed by Leticia Tonos. A Romeo & Juliet story set to the background Dominican/Haitian relations, this film entertains and educates at the same time. After the screening, I’ll be hosting a talk back featuring Ramabai Espinet (a Trinidadian professor of English and author) and Ramón A. Victoriano-Martínez (a Dominican professor of Law and author). Co-presented by Dr. Eric Pierre, Hon. Consul General of Haiti, we’ll get into a discussion on the film and the themes of identity highlighted within it.

Get tickets for Sunday (and for the rest of the festival – running ’til Sept. 19th) and use the code ctff2015-bee for a discount!

If you’re in Toronto, be sure to support #CTFF2015 by attending a screening or two. In the years to come, CaribbeanTales will undoubtedly play a key role in the development of a Caribbean film industry – support diverse film and storytelling, and be a part of the movement!

REJUVENATED: Visiting Toronto’s Body Blitz Spa

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Life has been extremely busy lately, and it’s been hard enough finding time to pee some days, let alone trying to find time to pamper myself. Luckily, peeing AND pampering time presented itself last week, when I had a chance to visit Toronto’s women’s-only Body Blitz Spa.

With two locations in downtown Toronto, Body Blitz Spa focuses on the health benefits of water, utilizing ancient restorative water practices. The spa offers traditional services like massages, facials, body scrubs, and more – but the highlight is in Body Blitz’s water circuit.

I’ll be honest. I know that water is integral to our existence as humans, with 70% of our bodies comprised of the stuff and all. I also know that when I cut out pop and juice in exchange for water, my hair and skin are extremely happy. However – fighting my sweet tooth that prefers juices over H2O can be a struggle, and I’m always challenging myself to drink more water. After one visit to Body Blitz, my belief in the simple power of water has been restored, and I’m already plotting my return.

First off – decide if you’re going nude or rocking a bathing suit. Either option is fine, but if it’s that time of the month, you’ll be asked to wear a bathing suit bottom. Body Blitz provides you with your own locker, flip flops, towels, robe, hair elastics, and a laminated poster detailing the process for the water circuit.

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After an initial shower in the shower station (yummy citrus body wash, shampoo, and conditioner provided), you start off in the warm Dead Sea Salt pool. This pool helps to relax muscles, aids in the removal of toxins in the body, and helps replenish the body with important nutrients. Next, is the eucalyptus oil steam room, which is amazing for relaxation, increasing circulation, and cleansing the skin. The steam room will open your sinuses up and have you sweating like a pig – but it feels incredible.

A quick shower follows the steam room, then it’s time for a 1-minute plunge in the cold pool. This requires a bit of mind over matter, because the sh*t is COLD. But it has a purpose – the cold plunge helps to increase the body’s energy level, tighten your pores, and helps to balance your body temperature.

After the cold plunge, it’s time for the infrared sauna. This sauna draws out 3 times more sweat than traditional saunas, leading to an even deeper detoxification process. Where the steam room was a somewhat aggressive heat that took some getting used to, the sauna was hot but very comfortable. One round in the steam room and sauna, and I sweat like I’ve never sweat before – but it felt so good!

Another rinse in the showers, then another cold plunge is next. The shift between hot and cold temperatures helps to tone your skin and regulate body temperature and heart rate.

Next is the heated Epsom salt pool, which helps to relieve muscle pain, reduce inflammation, improves both sleep and concentration, and regulates a number of enzymes in the body. After another shower rinse, it’s time for one last minute in the cold plunge, and the circuit is complete.

One circuit took me about an hour to complete when you factor in small wait times for showers, water breaks (which you need a lot of to replenish your body), and lingering a bit in some of the more relaxing parts of the circuit. I was quite rejuvenated after two full cycles so I called it a day at that point – Body Blitz recommends no more than 2 hours in the pools, but there’s no real limit on the time spent there. That being said, it is prudent to heed the time frames given for each stop on the water circuit. Too short? You may not get the desired benefits. Too long? Your body may get too much of a good thing or be overly depleted – so be careful. Staff are always around to answer questions or provide you with anything you need to make your stay enjoyable, and they did an amazing job while I was there.

How did I feel after the water circuit? Like a gotdamn brand new woman, to be honest. My body felt lighter, I felt more calm mentally than I had been in a long time, and I felt almost like a wet rag that had been wrung out really, really well. The last thing I wanted to do was put any junk in my body, so it actually helped to kickstart a renewed health and wellness focus. If a Body Blitz trip could be a quarterly treat to myself, whew – I’d be the finest, most Zen version of myself EVER. I’ll be giving up Tim Hortons runs and buying lunches to facilitate this.

At $54 a visit for access to the pools (except for Tuesdays, where the price drops to $44), Body Blitz is a truly awesome experience that leaves you seeing and feeling its benefit even days afterwards. Feel like trickin’ on yaself a bit more? Splurge for a massage, facial, body scrub, or other spa treatment available at Body Blitz.

Since my visit, I’ve been motivated to eat better, drink more water, and get in a good sweat when I can. It was a great reminder that my body requires care to run efficiently, and I’m doing myself a huge disservice by running it ragged with no time to reboot. Thanks to Body Blitz, I feel like I’m back on track – and I can’t wait to go again soon.

P.S. – this was written purely out of my positive experience at Body Blitz, and was not a sponsored post.

All images c/o Body Blitz Spa

#WFC2015: The 2015 Women’s Freedom Conference Is Coming!

WFC-logo

Life has been hectic, but it’s generally been the kind of good hectic that keeps butterflies in my tummy and gives life the sort of exciting, out-of-control feeling that I thrive on at times.

A lot of wonderful new things are in the works, and one of those things is the 1st Women’s Freedom Conference, which I am SO proud to be a part of! If you’re a dope woman of colour, or know a dope woman of colour – keep reading.

While I believe that those of us who are “other” can and should find ways to burrow ourselves into the mainstream, I’m a huge advocate of creating your own space – space to exist, to shine, to share, to be. It’s no secret that marginalized people don’t have red carpets rolled out in their honour, with escorts at the ready to usher them to spaces where they are positively centered. With the Women’s Freedom Conference, intersectional women of colour are creating that space for other intersectional women of colour, to share their stories, their expertise, and their perspectives on life and liberation.

Our Leadership Team and Advisory Board are made up of incredible women like Feminista Jones, Reagan Gomez-Preston, Jamilah Lemieux, Linda Sarsour, and many others who represent the spectrum of women we hope to hear speak on October 25th.

Here’s a bit from our press release:

“On October 25, 2015, the Women’s Freedom Conference will center and amplify the unique voices and experiences of underrepresented women who have been disenfranchised beyond gender alone– women of color whose identities are intersectional and whose womanhood is shaped and defined along those intersections.

Last year, three close friends were having a conversation and one raised the idea of hosting an action that would bring together women of color from around the world together in one space. She asked the other two women if they would be interested in working to make it happen and they enthusiastically agreed. Initially conceived as a “freedom march” that would convene thousands of women in one American city, the women later decided that the platform would be more widely accessible to more people if it was a digital conference that could be accessed from anywhere in the world.”

My favourite thing about this conference is that it’s all digital – no need to travel across states and borders to attend. Find an internet connection, and you’re in there. As the International Marketing & Promotion Committee Leader, this is HUGE for me in encouraging women outside of the U.S. to attend and participate, and eliminates a lot of obstacles that women would face otherwise.

“The mission of the conference is to center Women of Color– our success, our concerns, our work, our activism, and our existence as vital contributors to making the world a better place. We want to make sure that women of color from around the world have a space to speak out and be heard, to teach others and to learn from each other, and to inform people of the work that they are doing in their respective communities.

Our goals include providing practical, real-world information from a diverse group of women, many of whom are actively working to improve the lives of women of color around the world. We want to make this information available to as many people as possible and we believe that utilizing modern technology is the best way to do so. Participants will engage in conversations, seminars, and direct actions focused on the empowerment of women of color by building solidarity and promoting sisterhood.”

Our Call for Submissions is now LIVE! If you are a woman of colour who has something to say or to share with the world, here is your chance.  Please review our submission details, and throw your brilliant hat in the ring!

Perhaps you don’t want to speak, but you want to attend virtually – stay tuned for more info as we get ready to launch the Women’s Freedom Conference on October 25th from 9am-9pm EST! Watch by yourself or organize a “watch party” with some friends, and take in all the amazing things we’ll have to offer! There may be opportunities to attend official watch parties in your city or town (Toronto, I’ve gotchu), so feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to know if someone is hosting in your area, or if you’re interested in doing so yourself!

So, what am I looking for?

I hope you’re as excited for the Women’s Freedom Conference as I am! More good things are on the way!

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