DIAMONDS & DUST: Succumbing To Pressure You Put On Yourself

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I had to do something really uncomfortable the other day. I had to sit down with someone I really cared about, look them in the eye, and tell them, “Hey. You’ve really gotta cut the bullsh*t and get it together.” I knew this person was avoiding the conversation, and I knew they didn’t really want to hear it, but it had to be said.

That person on the receiving end of this reality check was me.

Though I’ve maintained a steely exterior, fault lines have been forming below the surface for some time now. I’m always reminded that diamonds form under pressure, but I’m quick to note that things crumble under it too. I always err on the side of being sparkly, beautiful, and conflict-free, but I finally had to admit that if the products of pressure were laid out like a fork in the road, things were actually heading down a dire path.

I’m a true Taurus in that change is very difficult for me. Becoming a mom, physical fluctuations, moving and becoming a homeowner, leaving my 9-5, having more time for passions, having some passions lose their lustre and turn into burdens – things have changed so much that sometimes I look in the mirror and have a hard time recognizing myself. Being a chronic overachiever, self-critic, and overthinker do nothing to help with my identity shift, either.

I see now that there are things I’ve done, things I’ve agreed to, more for the purpose of proving I could do them than actually wanting to do them. I’ve tried to hold on to parts of life that were familiar, and I’ve tried to mold something magnificent with these new compartments – but the way I feel much of the time shows me that I’ve gone about it all wrong. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve done a good job of internally dealing with all these changes, and I’ve been using external things to pretend like I have.

How common is it to hop, skip, and jump over things that need to be addressed by just layering something else on top of it? Sometimes retail therapy is my chosen cloak of oblivion. Sometimes I get very vain and focus wholly on the external – feeling “together” if the outside is shiny, painted, and pretty. Other times – like now – I get high on achievement and doing things. Doing things keeps my mind busy. Gives me something goal-oriented to focus on. Lets me know people still value me when they ask me to be somewhere/do something. Achievement and accomplishment get a bit addictive, especially when someone even slightly insinuates that there’s something I can’t do. So instead of taking a break, checking in with myself, and giving myself time to adjust to everything swirling around me, I’ve been pushing through, masking my insecurities and poor adjustment skills with doing more and more.

I sat down with myself the other day and said, “Self, this cannot continue.” I had heard it from those near and dear to me, but didn’t take it to heart until I said it to myself. It’s time to assess why I do the things I do, what I may be missing in the constant noise, and how I’m going to proceed. I’ve only gotten as far as that conversation with myself and this blog post, so I have some work to do.

Sometimes the hardest conversations are the ones we have with ourselves. I believe that they’re also the most transformative ones, so here’s to being real, being honest, and coming out as a more balanced and well-adjusted person on the other side.

CONVOS & CONNECTIONS: The Mirror Images Event Recap

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via The Diana Tracy Collection

I’m proud to say I did it.

After much thinking, planning, and plotting, I pulled off my first solo event – Mirror Images: Conversations on Diversity & Representation In Media.

The premise was clear. After reading Big Brother Canada host Arisa Cox’s piece on quitting a television job after being told she’d have to straighten her natural hair, I wished aloud for an event where I could hear about the lived experiences and perspectives of Black Canadian women in media. More about the whys of the event are detailed in my previous post here, but let’s get down to how it all played out.

I’ve just started to get comfortable with public speaking. So comfortable, in fact, that I sometimes confuse my enjoyment of speaking with the enjoyment of event planning. Event coordination is NO JOKE, and Mirror Images gave me a new respect for those who find joy in doing that work. I definitely learned a LOT – dealing with different people, overcoming obstacles and negativity, dotting i’ and crossing t’s, and looking at the event from the perspective of the attendee in order to hopefully create a positive space. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t perfect – but if I waited until it was, Mirror Images would never have happened.

We sold out of advance tickets. We sold out of door tickets. People who showed up were turned away due to lack of space. All this proved to me that the conversation I thought was important was also important to so many. This was so vital because I oftentimes have ideas that I don’t act on because I don’t know if others will get it – but Mirror Images showed that taking the risk can be worth it.

The discussion from my panelists - Arisa Cox, Namugenyi Kiwanuka, Ingrie Williams, Tatiana King, and Kim Johnson – was incredible. Nneka Elliott was unable to attend in person, but added to the texture of the conversation with answers she provided to me in advance. Discussions about Black beauty in mainstream media, the fallacies of Canadian multiculturalism in the industry, dealing with racism and sexism on the job, and much more were covered in an intelligent and entertaining way, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

via Black Lotus Media

via Black Lotus Media

 

via Black Lotus Media

via Black Lotus Media

via Black Lotus Media

via Black Lotus Media

Stand out moments:

When Namugenyi discussed the decision to use her given name in media despite being urged to change her media moniker to something “easier.”

When Arisa detailed the ways she unapologetically navigates the narrow box of acceptable aesthetics in an industry only beginning to understand Black beauty.

When Ingrie talked about providing a voice and space for Canadian diversity within the pages of HOLR Magazine.

When Tatiana discussed building her personal brand through blogging and content creation.

When Kim explained the nuances of working in a variety of Canadian markets, and how her position as a Black woman in media was regarded in each one.

When Nneka shared that she realized her role as a Black woman in media mattered when a young girl saw her on assignment and incredulously told her that her mom said there were no Black people on TV in Canada.

via Black Lotus Media

via Black Lotus Media

The way the panelists provided their insights and interacted naturally with each other kept the audience engaged – and before I knew it, we had reached the end of the discussion. In all honesty, we could have kept that bad boy going for I don’t know HOW long – but venue constraints and flights to catch (Arisa lives in Edmonton) meant we had time limits to attend to. I made a gametime decision to utilize the remaining venue time to network and meet & greet instead of doing a truncated Q&A session with the audience, but next time – and yes, there will be a next time – I’m going to ensure we make it a real conversation between panelists and attendees alike.

Next time? A bigger venue. A Q&A. And other additions that will make Mirror Images an even bigger and better event.

This time? I’m basking in the glow of feedback from attendees like the following:

“I can honestly say that the experience has re-ignited my drive and determination to represent the Black community, more specifically black women, in the media.”

“For quite sometime in Toronto I noticed that in our community (read: young, well-educated, upwardly mobile black women) that more prominent social circles were developed around superficial qualities (who are you wearing, what parties you went to, who you knew etc) and while that can be fun what was clearly missing were the events/social circles that were created around being thought-leaders…less about who you know and more about what you know.  Less about who you’re wearing and more about who you are.  I believe that Mirror Images attended to that gap.”

“I had to let you know that your event was truly monumental. What it represented and created was by far amazing but it also moved me. It shifted my mind and spirit but to a place where it was starting to drift from. A room full of beautiful black women, that wasn’t a party, wasn’t for any foolishness but self betterment, empowerment and eye opening educational purposes. I haven’t been in such a setting in a very long time.”

I want to keep the conversation going. I’m looking at hosting a Mirror Images twitter chat sometime very soon (date and time TBD) and I hope you’ll join in! Also, check out this fabulous recap from Real Delina, and a great video recap from The Diana Tracy Collection, who graciously gifted the panelists and I with her jewelry!

Thank you to everyone who attended, and to R Flavour Inc., Soulafrodisiac, Caribbean Vibrations TV, Harlem Restaurant, Glam & Eros Makeup Artistry, The Diana Tracy Collection, Black Lotus Media, Jeremy John, and my dream team who helped out before, during, and after!

Another Mirror Images will be coming soon – stay tuned!

WISH/CREATE: Why I Created #MirrorImages Ft. Black Canadian Women In Media

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There’s nothing more liberating – and frightening – than deciding to create instead of wait.

Let me explain.

I tend to get myself into trouble (good trouble) when I open my mouth or mind and say “I wish…” I’m usually wishing to see something, do something, have something, or visit somewhere. And I’m usually waiting for someone else to do the leg work in order to grant me my wish.

Lately, I’ve taken a bit more of a proactive approach to making my wishes come true in two big ways.

One day, I openly lamented the scantiness of parenting blogs run by non-White moms and dads in Canada. The next day, I stayed up til 5am buying domains, picking themes, setting up emails and social media accounts, and writing posts for The Brown Suga Mama.

One day, I read a piece about natural hair in the eyes of Canadian media from one woman’s perspective, and openly wished to attend an event featuring Black Canadian women in the industry. Two hours later, Mirror Images: Conversations On Diversity & Representation In Media was born.

The presence of Black women in media has been a major talking point of late. Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, black-ish, Suits, and Sleepy Hollow frequently come up in discussion, opposing the images of Black women offered via reality show vehicles. Here in Canada, the recent Globe and Mail gaffe mixing up Traci Melchor and Tracy Moore led to discussions on the cross-race effect, or other-race bias. Arisa Cox’s earlier-mentioned piece on being ordered to straighten her natural hair (and her decision to quit instead) was the final catalyst to the creation of Mirror Images. These points and more inspired me to forge a space to have an authentic conversation about the issues around diversity and representation in media, particularly from the perspective of Black Canadian women.

I find that the majority of conversations I engage in around race and media come from an American lens. Having those kinds of discussions here in Canada seems rare, but is not something we should be shying from. As I’ve said before, Canada’s PR team is GOLDEN – we often snuggle under our cozy blanket of multiculturalism, but far too often we pull that blanket over our heads and refuse to discuss the nuances of that multiculturalism in various contexts. I’m hoping that Mirror Images will help us to pull that blanket down and bring light to a variety of issues from a Canadian perspective – this is a conversation that EVERYONE needs to be a part of.

I have an incredible panel line up:

Tatiana King: Radio Personality, G 98.7FM’s “The African Groove Show”
Arisa Cox: Freelance Journalist & Host of Big Brother Canada
Kim Johnson: Producer, CityNews
Nneka Elliott: Reporter/Anchor/Co-host, CP24 Breakfast
Ingrie Williams: Stylist & Editor of HOLR Magazine
Namugenyi Kiwanuka: Columnist & Videographer

These women are all representing various arms of Canadian media, and will all bring rich perspectives and experiences to the table. With these women, I hope to foster an important discussion and allow room for new connections to be made. If you’re in the media industry, aim to be, create content, or consume media, this event is for you. Mirror Images sponsors Harlem Restaurant, R Flavour, Soulafrodisiac, and Caribbean Vibrations TV all believe in the vision of the event, and the support has been amazing. Like I said at the start of this post, creating the things you wish for is liberating yet frightening – but genuine support helps to alleviate some of those jitters.

I’m hoping you’ll be able to show support as well – if you’re in the Toronto area, please join us for Mirror Images: Conversations On Diversity & Representation In Media on Sunday, October 26th from 1:30-5pm at Harlem Restaurant (67 Richmond Street East)! Tickets are $10 and available here on Brown Paper Tickets.

Mara Brock Akil’s acceptance speech at the 2013 Black Girls Rock award show has stuck with me since I first heard it. She stated “My work is driven by my belief that the human spirit needs validation,” and continued to let us know, “Even if no one else sees you, I see you.” With Mirror Images, I want us to be seen, to be heard, to be validated, and to be respected. That’s what I wish for.

FEMININE FOUNDATION: Lessons From My Mother’s Room

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about womanhood and my understanding and expression of it. I recently wrote a piece about how my Caribbean heritage played a role in my development from girl to woman, and a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of another way in which my womanhood was molded – by visiting the sacred space known as my mother’s bedroom.

Someone on Twitter threw a question out to the timeline the other day – “How old were you when you realized your mom was fly?” I couldn’t remember the exact age, but I recalled being in Jamaica one night when my parents were prepping for a night out on the town. I remember sitting on the bed watching my mom in the mirror, painting her lips red while fixing her curls. She wore a pretty gold dress and slipped her feet into black pumps before floating out the door in a cloud of perfume, and I swore she was magic. After that moment, I loved being able to sit in my mom’s room and soak up all things grown woman (cue Beyoncé).

My closet was full of little girl clothes, and my drawers filled with little girl undershirts and underwear. My toiletries were pink and purple bottles, marked with cartoon princesses and other accoutrements that signified my youth. My “nail polishes” and “lipsticks” were kid-friendly lacquers that didn’t compare to the real thing, and I knew it. And everything was plastic. Plastic could be cleaned, could drop without shattering, could be refilled when the familiar wheezing sound alerted us to its emptiness. Plastic wasn’t precious.

Meanwhile, everything in my mom’s room had a presence that demanded respect and the utmost care. Waxy lipsticks in rich reds and deep burgundies. Clothes that shimmered, that exposed brown legs and décolletage. Satiny, silky, lacy undergarments folded carefully in drawers. Shoes that my feet swam in, but that pumped me up a few inches when I slid them on. Jeweled hair clips and glass perfume bottles with vintage atomizers glittered on her dresser, and everything begged to be touched. Some of the most fun I had in my childhood was the time spent in my mom’s room, getting lost in her take on beauty and womanhood, and daydreaming about what my own expressions of the same would look like. My childish trinkets weren’t enough for me, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to be a grown woman just like her.

Well, I’m gettin’ grown now and I’m my own woman. Like my mom, a good red lip and black eyeliner are among my beauty staples. I appreciate the power of a hypnotic fragrance, and agree that some of the best fashion statements are made in the small details. Unlike her, my hair and earrings can never be too big. My style isn’t as refined and classic as hers, and we have differing boundaries on what’s ‘too sexy’. She gave me the starting point with which to build my foundations of femininity and womanhood – but even more importantly, she gave me the freedom to develop into the kind of woman I wanted to be.

Time is a funny thing. It can crunch years into a tight coil, making a decade ago feel like a day ago – or, it can take the span of a month and stretch it into what seems like forever. Now that I have my own daughter, I wonder what lessons she’ll learn from nosing around my dressers and closets – and it feels a bit surreal that history is already repeating itself. No matter how much I may be solidifying my own definitions of beauty, femininity, and womanhood, there’s nothing like tiptoeing into Mom’s room and running my finger along her dresser to make me feel like a little girl again.

SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER: Upcoming Tdot/NYC Events

Hey y’all!

It’s been a minute since I did an “upcoming events” post, but there are so many great things coming up that I just had to share! If you’re in the Toronto/NYC areas, take a peek at what’s going on in the next couple of weeks!

CaribbeanTales International Film Festival – Closing Night + Afterparty

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I recently wrote about this year’s CaribbeanTales Int’l Film Festival, and #CTFF2014 has flown by! This Saturday is the final screening date, with festival awards, a special Q+A with soca queen Alison Hinds, and an afterparty at Hush Lounge!

Celebrating the indigenous populations, Caribbean literature, LGBTQ, and many other facets of Caribbean cinema, #CTFF2014 has again thrived successfully in light of TIFF – the film festival Goliath. If you haven’t yet hit up The Royal Cinema for a screening, catch features tonight, then come back for the closing tomorrow! Get your tickets here!

3 The Hard Way Comedy Show

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If you’re a comedy show lover, you do not want to miss 3 The Hard Way going down at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Saturday! Jay Martin, Trixx, and Jean Paul will be back for another gritty and hilarious comedy show after the first sold-out 3 The Hard Way last year – but this time, they’ve got special guests! Filipino funnymen Keith Pedro, Ron Josol, and Big Norm will also take the stage, so attendees will get two times the comedy in one show! Culture clash + comedy = an awesome night! Get your 3 The Hard Way tickets now!

Secrets Of A Side Hustler

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Last year, I was honoured to be on the panel for an innovative event called Secrets Of A Side Hustler held by my friend Chivon John. The event focused on the perspectives of those of us who are juggling full-time gigs and side hustles – the ups, downs, ins and outs of how to manage it all. This year, Chivon has curated another awesome group of panelists for the 2014 event happening on September 18th! Are you balancing more than one job/passion? Are you thinking of devoting more time to your side hustle dreams after you’ve finished your 9-5? This event is for you! Get more info and tickets here!

The Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show

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The Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show is back for its 9th year, and I’m sure it will NOT disappoint! On September 20th and 21st, tons of natural hair & beauty lovers flock to the event to take in educational workshops, shop from awesome vendors, watch beautiful hair shows, and meet and greet with other people in the community! I’ll be speaking again this year on the 20th, discussing Natural Hair In The Digital Sphere: Blogs, Beauty, & Building Bridges. My talk this year will focus on navigating the digital world of natural hair, and how the digital communities and natural hair professionals can work together to strengthen alliances. Get all the show details and ticket information here!

And for the NYC massive…

Live From The Background w/ Durand Bernarr

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My homegirl Keya Maeesha is hosting yet another dope live show in NYC on September 19th, featuring Durand Bernarr with special guest Domi Jo. The premise of this event is a unique one – background vocalists are the backbones responsible for adding to the lushness and fullness of our favourite tracks, and Live From The Background will bring some of the industry’s finest to the forefront! This is also Keya’s last show until next fall, so whether you’ve never experienced one of her shows, or if you’ve been to ‘em all – this one will be special and you do NOT want to miss it. Get details and tickets here!

BEAUTY & THE EASE: My Return To Braids As A Protective Style

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In the last month of my pregnancy, I made the careful decision to get some braids installed so that I would be cute, comfortable, and low maintenance going into the hospital.

I consulted with my girl Glenna, plotted out all the details, and set up my appointment – precisely 2 weeks before my Little Magician was due. However, LM had her own plans and decided to show up earlier than expected, precisely one day BEFORE my scheduled hair appointment. Glenna and I rescheduled, spent a lovely day chatting and doing hair, and I was left with one of the best braid experiences of my life.

You see, prior to this set I’m rocking now, I hadn’t braided my hair in probably close to 10 years. Braiding – especially with extensions – was never a pleasurable experience. I had just come to expect the pain of installation – edges literally snatched, hairline pulled into a pseudo-facelift, contorting myself in order to attempt to fall asleep at night, and stiff braids that took seemingly forever to loosen up. After the same experience over and over, I figured that was just the price to pay for beauty and ease – eventually I’d be able to coax my braids into a bun, and life would be good.

However, the last braid experience I had was TERRIBLE. 14 hours of braiding when I was told no more than 6. Needing more bags of extensions when I bought what was originally quoted to me. Tears in eyes as the finest hairs were pulled and twisted around thick fingers – “It needs to be tight to keep for a long time!” I was told. As my head got more tender and my butt got more numb, I just kept reminding myself of how good it would look when it was done. That dream was short-lived.

Once we were through, I had SO. MUCH. HAIR. My head felt so heavy, and I was told that I just had to get used to the weight. What I couldn’t get used to was the way braids would slip right out of my head from the root and land in my lap at the most inopportune times – well, scratch that. When IS it an opportune time to have your hair fall out? Never.

My hairline started weakening under the weight of all the kanekalon, and each fallen braided soldier sent me a clear message: either these braids go, or WE go. Your choice.

I painstakingly took down the braids and vowed never to do them again.

Twists became my go-to protective style, and while I adore them (and even learned how to do them myself), they never have the lifespan that a good set of braids do. When the time arrived to decide on my preggo/new mom low-maintenance ‘do, I knew I’d get more bang for my buck if I went for the braids. I was hesitant, but through her particular magic, Glenna hooked me up with beautiful, light, pain-free braids as promised.

Here are the simple steps I follow with my braids:

1. Use an ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse to cleanse your scalp. 

I mix about 1/4 cup of ACV with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle, spritz liberally over my scalp, massage it in, then rinse in the shower. This clarifying ACV rinse really helps to remove buildup from my scalp without disturbing the braids. I ACV rinse once a week and shampoo every 3rd, and my scalp seems happy so far!

2. Moisturize with castor oil.

I moisturize my scalp with castor oil all the time, but when my hair is sectioned into braids, I’m really able to get in there and ensure every spot is covered. Castor oil has always helped me with hair growth and thickness – I’m not sure if I’ll succumb to postpartum hair loss, but I’m getting that castor oil in to see if it helps.

3. Mix it up!

When I braided my hair in the past, I didn’t do many styles other than all down, or all up. This time, I tried to have a bit more fun with my braids:

Faux-hawk/pompadour look

Faux-hawk/pompadour look

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Side-swept and pulled back at the crown

Sleek bun

Sleek bun

Not the best shot - but this was a cool freestyled fishtail braid

Not the best shot – but this was a cool freestyled fishtail braid

Thank goodness for the extra headband I found in my dresser – that thing has faithfully kept my braids up in a trusty bun on a nearly daily basis. Added bun bonus: Little Magician finds my bun hilarious for some reason….so it’s a good distraction when she’s about to start wailing.

What my hair looks like most days at home

What my hair looks like most days at home

4. And most importantly – find a braider who knows what they’re doing!

For me, word of mouth is key – if you see someone with a beautiful style, ask who did it and what the experience was like! I ask all kinds of questions: How long did it take? How much did you pay? How was sleeping on it? When could you manipulate them without too much pain? I gets it in. Granted, we’re all different and have varying pain/comfort thresholds – but asking questions is key. Do your best due diligence to find someone who will care for your hair as they’re styling it – and don’t be afraid to speak up during your styling session if things aren’t feeling right to you.

Though I miss my hair, the ease of waking up and not having to do much at all with my hair is a blessing. I’ve got my eye on another protective style, so stay tuned!

BROWNSUGAMAMA: Getting Active With In The Dance Fitness & Yendi Phillipps! [video]

yendijuly2014 (4)It’s been 2 months, and #BROWNSUGAMAMAhood has been quite the journey! We’re getting to the point where Layla the Little Magician is starting to form some semblance of a sleep schedule – nowhere hear through the night, but at least she’s starting to understand the difference between sunrise and sunset.

As for me, I had a great 6 week check-up and have started to ease back into my workout regime. How did I kick off my return to the land of sweat, muscle soreness, and fighting the urge to skip workouts when my Nike Training Club app reminds me? By getting in the dancehall groove with Yendi Phillipps’ In The Dance Fitness class – the Tdot return!

yendijuly2014 yendijuly2014 (2) If you recall, I wined and bubbled with a belly full of magic during the Toronto launch of the Jamaican goddess’ dance fitness DVD earlier this year. We talked then about natural hair, her life as a dancer/beauty queen/TV show host/model/media personality/mommy, and obviously chatted about her In The Dance Fitness project, merging her love of dance with a fun workout you can do in the comfort of your own home. Yendi returned to Toronto in July to give us more dancehall goodness, to tape In The Dance Fitness 2 (yes!), and to fill in as a guest host on Global News’  The Morning Show!

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 via Yendi’s Instagram

As busy as she was, I managed to have another fun interview convo caught on camera with the hilarious and beautiful chica after sweatin’ it out in dance class. Take a peek at Yendi and I, glistening and glowing straight out of the dance studio – talking about motherhood, tips for getting active post-baby, what’s next for In The Dance Fitness, and more!

Bonus: catch my dance moves and Little Magician joining in the fun too! 

So, get ready world! Yendi will be bringing In The Dance Fitness to a city/country near you! Keep up with her moves on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

Photos/video by iShotYa Media

DON’T BOW DOWN: Thoughts Inspired By Michael Brown & Ferguson

via Cleveland.com

via Cleveland.com

It hurts to say this, but I had a moment last week where I looked at my daughter and wondered, “What did I do? This might have been a mistake.”

Not because I regret her presence. Not because I think I’m a terrible mother (well, I have had those thoughts, but that’s another #BROWNSUGAMAMA post for another day). No, I looked at my daughter’s face as she slept and wondered if I made a selfish mistake to bring her into this world, because I wonder what “surviving while Black” will look like for her. In the case of Michael Brown, John Crawford, Renisha McBride and so many others, it’s quite clear that there is still a critical struggle to see the value in Black lives.

I’ve been glued to all things #MikeBrown and #Ferguson since the news started trickling down – then flooding –  my Twitter timeline on August 9th. The fact of the matter is this: Michael Brown, a Black 18-year-old, was shot multiple times and murdered by Darren Wilson, a White cop in Ferguson, Missouri.

Both victim and killer are gone.

One is waiting to be laid to rest after laying in the street for hours post-shooting, after enduring autopsy after autopsy, after using science to shed light on the truths his body holds.

The other has seemingly vanished behind a protective wall of blue, on paid leave while receiving over $100,000 in GoFundMe donations from other police officers, bigots, and racists alike.

Through it all – the mishandling of Brown’s body, the attempts to assassinate his character, the lies told by Wilson and the police department, the treatment of protesters in Ferguson, the mixed messages between mainstream and independent media, and the brazen boldness of racists with internet access – I’m not sure how anyone can cling to the claims of living in a post-racial society. If the jig was ever present, it is now up.

It seems that when Black bodies aren’t being seen as curiosities to be prodded and examined, they’re being seen as threats to be exterminated. Some remain under the belief that respectability politics around pulling up our pants and not dressing like “thugs” and “hoes” will save us, but that negates the fact that Blacks have been harrassed, attacked, beaten, lynched, and shot wearing their Sunday best for decades. Others say well-intentioned yet erroneous statements like “I don’t see colour” or “We’re all just one race” when neither colour nor race is the issue. The beauty in our differences gets marred by the ugliness of bigotry and racism – and it’s that evil that is the real enemy. Do I want to be colourless and melt into one overarching race? No. Do I want to be respected as the brownskinned Black Canadian woman of Jamaican descent that I am? Yes. Frankly, you’ve got me f*cked up if the only way I can earn my humanity is to erase any flavour of individuality that has been handed down to me by my ancestors.

I’m tired of feeling like I have two strikes against me as a Black woman, and I’ll be damned if I allow my daughter to feel the same. I’m tired of worrying about my husband, my brother, my father – living/working both in Canada and in the States, being harassed by police both in Canada and in the States, being feared and having to prove their humanity both in Canada and in the States. I’m tired of snatching the rose-coloured glasses off of people who think we live in a utopia; who think that racism will disappear when victims of racism stop talking about the abuse they experience at the hands of racists. I’m tired of people demanding perfection from Black folk – a perfection that is killing some of us in attempts to attain it, and finding many of us dead in spite of it. I’m tired of deceased Black men and women being put to trial for their own murders, being convicted with harsher penalty than the real criminals. I’m tired of helplessly mourning lives taken by cowards who hold the weapons yet play the victim when face-to-face with skin darker than theirs. I’m tired of being tired and refuse to bow out of the fight. Joining the ranks of Black motherhood in this day and age requires a new burst of energy to protect my child and initiate as much change as possible to make her world a bit better, more liveable, more survivable.

Michael Brown’s death will not be in vain. The mobilization and consciousness around the realities of what’s happening will undoubtedly lead to some level of change. A conviction in his murder? The end of racism? That, I don’t know and highly doubt. But some change is coming. I feel it.

My daughter’s life is not a mistake. The enemy will not take my happiness, as was attempted months ago during my pregnancy. Walking down the street, I had an encounter where I was pushed and called “a n*gger with a n*gger baby” by an Asian couple. I will not fear the decision to bring her here, and will teach her to be fearless and unapologetic in her expression of self.

Not sure what more I can say. Rest in peace, Michael. Stay encouraged, residents of Ferguson. Citizens of the world, I’m praying for us all.

#CTFF2014 IS COMING: Win Tickets To The CaribbeanTales Int’l Film Festival!

CTFF2014

As my granny would say, “Idle hands are the Devil’s playground.” If that’s the case, ole Mr. Lucifer is having NO fun with me.

Over the past few months, I’ve reprised my role within the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival, working on film curation, programming, and more for this year’s festival. Three years ago, I sent in an email with fingers crossed, hoping I’d be able to get the opportunity to do something, ANYTHING with the festival, and I came on as a social media volunteer. In 2013 I was asked back as a film juror, and this year, I’m stompin’ with the big dawgs on the festival team! There’s another post in here around the idea of taking risks, asking for what you want, and watching things grow as you pay your dues – but I may save that for another day. On THIS day, I want to give you the scoop on #CTFF2014, and give one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of tickets to the festival’s opening gala on September 3rd!

Running from September 3-13, the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival is the David in the David and Goliath structure of Toronto film festivals. CTFF runs alongside TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), which is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because CTFF and TIFF partner strategically for various programs like the CaribbeanTales Incubator – a mentorship program for Caribbean filmmakers. It’s a curse because media coverage sways like a tidal wave over TIFF, leaving CTFF to reach out to niche audiences that would be interested in its films. Jamaicans say “wi likkle but wi tallawah” (“we’re small but mighty”), and that phrase undoubtedly fits perfectly with CTFF.

The CaribbeanTales International Film Festival features films from Caribbean and diasporic filmmakers, highlighting the region as the world’s next hot film industry. The Caribbean has always been mined as an ideal location for Hollywood film, but until recently hasn’t had the infrastructure to stand on its own. That infrastructure is still being built, but CTFF does a major part in highlighting the amazing work being done by filmmakers in the region, and those in the diaspora.

The theme this year is “Our Lens, Our Perspective,” and features films on sub-themes like “Indigenous Caribbean,” “Caribbean Literature,” “Queer Caribbean,” and more. In a day and age where diversity and representation are hot topics in film and media, CTFF provides an outlet to embrace those very elements. If you’re looking for something fresh and off the beaten path when it comes to film, CTFF has got you covered!

We’ll be joined by some special guests this year – soca/calypso legend Sparrow will be in town for the opening gala for an exclusive Q&A and world premiere screening of Geoffrey Dunn’s The Glamour Boyz Again! Sparrow and Superior on the Hilton Rooftop. On the festival’s closing night – named Bajan Invasion –  soca queen Alison Hinds will be here for a Q&A and screening of thriller Too Smart, where she makes her feature film debut. In between opening and closing are a number of incredible screenings – see film lineup (including details on the FREE community screening on August 30th) here, and purchase your tickets (opening gala, closing night, single screening, and all-access festival pass) here!

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All that being said – I’m giving away a pair of tickets to the #CTFF2014 Opening Gala! One lucky reader and a guest will join me and Sparrow at The Royal Cinema on September 3rd at 6pm for the gala held in partnership with the Consulate General of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. It’ll be a night to enjoy some delicious food, incredible film, exclusive Q&A with a Caribbean legend, and ring in the festival while rubbing shoulders with major figures in the Caribbean/diasporic film and media industries!

You’ve got two ways to win: 

1. Email me at bee@83toinfinity.com and let me know what your dream Caribbean vacation would look like. Where would you go? What would you do?

2. Tweet this in order to enter for your chance to win!

Either way you choose, you’ll be entered to win! I’ll pick a winner on August 21st – good luck!

Early bird ticket prices end on August 15thget your #CTFF2014 tickets today!

EVENT RECAP: Curls, Coils & Cocktails 2014 (+ Where Do We Go Next?)

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I’ve said it a bunch of times before, but planning an event in the tail end of my pregnancy and into the first month of mommyhood was MADNESS. However, all the hard work paid off on July 26th when my homegirl AMC and I put on the 2nd annual Curls, Coils & Cocktails event!

Last year’s event fell into our laps somewhat by fluke, but the response was so overwhelming that we wanted to bring it back this year. Held at the beautiful Uptown Loft in Toronto, we had a lovely turn out of ladies and gentlemen who came to celebrate the diversity of natural hair!

We mixed and mingled. We admired the wares of some awesome vendors. We got mini-consultations from the ladies of Curl Bar Beauty Salon. We took in a panel discussion on natural hair diversity, featuring women with varied perceptions and expressions of natural hair. We had an AMAZING performance from funk/rock/soul powerhouse Saidah Baba Talibah, and got down to the nitty-gritty of her hair journey. We ate yummy treats and had some delicious mini-cupcakes courtesy of Mellycakes. We had laughter & hugs – I got to meet some wonderful women, and the positivity was infectious – a special moment was when prize winner Carcia (from the blog It’s MusicFashionLife) shared her personal story of beauty and self-acceptance after a diagnosis of alopecia. With chunes from DJ Sean Sax, gift bags from Clore Beauty, and tons of incredible giveaways, I think we coordinated a pretty good event – and the feedback has largely shared that sentiment!

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Special thanks to our major sponsors: Curl Bar Beauty Salon, NaturalButterfly, and Clore Beauty!

Major thank yous to our gift sponsors: Shakara Natural, Luv N Locs, Ola Finesse, Toni Daley, Caheez, and the Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show!

Shout out to our spectacular vendors: Diana Tracy Collection and Eli’s Body Shop!

Big up our two awesome photographers who took some DOPE pics: Ngadi Smart and Sarita Louis!

Big thanks to our social media team: Anya, Nikki, and Kayla (p.s. – keep up with CC&C on Twitter and Facebook)!

And we could NOT have done this event without the assistance of Juliana, Vee, Lincoln, Alison, and Debbie!

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 See more Curls, Coils & Cocktails photos here!

Now that the event has passed, I’ve gotten past the part where I critique myself harshly about what I could have done better, and I’m settled in the phase where I set my neuroses aside and assess things with a clear(er) head. The question I pose to myself now is: “What next? Where does the natural hair conversation in Toronto go now?” It feels like Toronto has just started to get into the natural hair event game, but there’s always room to be innovative and to give the people what they want. I, like other natural hair advocates and event planners, just want to figure out the perfect equation to acquire both.

Being cognizant of those who are at polar ends of the spectrum – longtime naturals and natural newbies – is one thing. Taking into consideration financial trends of event attendees and ensuring they get their money’s worth is another. Finding supportive partners and sponsors who get it is entirely another. Once those factors are settled, the matter of figuring out how to add flair, creativity, fun, education, and all the other unique components that make an event great begins. It’s not easy, but when you get great feedback from event attendees, it gives you the best kind of challenge to do an even better job next time.

But back to my question – where does the conversation go now? Are we over talking about natural hair in the workplace/media/relationships, or is there still room for those discussions? Who are the new voices and faces on the scene, and how do we get them engaged? What do attendees want to do, see, and hear these days? Finding the answers to these questions and more will make life much more hectic, but much more interesting in the days to come.

If you have any feedback on what you’d like to see at natural hair-centric events, hit me up and let me know! And again – big, BIG thank yous to everyone who came out to Curls, Coils & Cocktails 2014!

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