Archive by Author

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!

yendi global

 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!

YouTube Preview Image

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?)

CCC-hosts

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!

_MG_2927-2

 

_MG_3133-2

CCC-panel

 

CCC-panel2

 

CCC-sBTperf

 

CCC-amcsbt

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!

_MG_3184-2

 

_MG_3405-2

CCC-beeamcsbt

 

_MG_3567-2

 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!

BROWNSUGAMAMA: One Month Of Motherhood

phonto

I find it really interesting that on the first day of summer, at the same moment the sun was making her ascent, my child decided to make her entrance into the world. I’m sure there will be something in her personality or some serendipitous situation that will bridge the link between that and the conditions of her birth, but for now I call her my summer baby; my sunshine dahlin’; and always, my Little Magician.

I’m someone who can be very wary about making close connections with people. In the past couple of years especially, I’ve been crushed by broken promises and shattered trust, and usually feel more comfortable keeping people at a bit of a distance. That is entirely NOT possible with my daughter, which is honestly kind of scary to me. I’ve never cared about anything the way I care about her. I can’t tell y’all how many times I’ve cried – either slow tears that are easily swept away, or hot streams that leave my whole face red –  because of my love for her. I adore her with my whole being, and often feel I don’t deserve her, or that I’m deathly afraid of ruining her, or that I need to apologize to her for being a shitty mom. I’ve done and said all of those things, and for me, the fear of letting her down in any way is simultaneously my greatest motivator and biggest source of anxiety.

If you’re someone who is already very critical, having a child can lead you down an even more self-deprecating rabbit hole. I felt like a failure because I diverted from my birth plan – I went natural for 90% of the way, then at the last moment quietly begged for the epidural. I had a vacuum-assisted birth, and felt like I could have and should have pushed harder on my own. In the first few weeks, she and I did a ‘getting to know you’ dance around breastfeeding – some days were good, others weren’t. When she wasn’t gaining weight as quickly as expected, I just knew I was doing something wrong and wasn’t providing for her sufficiently. Some days she cries and cries and looks at me desperately with her huge brown eyes as if to say, “Help, mom!” and when I don’t know what to do, I cry along with her and tell her I’m sorry.

The good days, though? Those are GREAT days. Those are the days when she lets me get in an extra half hour of sleep, when she’s not too fussy, when HomieLuva and I are able to just sit together and take in the magnificence of what we created. Everyday she uncovers a new gift about herself, or reveals a gift I possess but didn’t see, or teaches me about life, love, and existence in a way no one else can. Life is in high-definition now – when I think about how she’s seeing the world with fresh eyes, it makes me do the same. Colours are more vibrant, music is more melodic, I feel no ways about dancing like a fool in public to calm her cries, and I hope when she’s older we still dance like fools to make each other laugh.

Everything has happened so fast. The best way to prepare is to admit to yourself that you can’t ever be 100% prepared, and just resolve to do your best. Each day when I wake up, I take a breath, look at myself in the bathroom mirror, and say “She needs you. She loves you. You’ve got this. Just do your best.” The fears and anxieties never fully dissipate, but as corny as it sounds, once she looks at me or squeezes my finger or calms at my touch…I know I’ve got this.

I debated creating a brand new blog to document my motherhood journey, but thought I’d start off by sharing some of those thoughts here on ’83 To Infinity. I’m thinking that I’ll house those posts under the BROWNSUGAMAMA category, so hopefully you’ll check them out of if you’re so inclined!  I’m just a month in and I’ve got a lot to share about my pregnancy, my labour & delivery, balancing motherhood and work, getting in shape post-baby, and so much more. Also, in the vein of creating the things I’m always looking for, I’ll use this space to write from the perspective of a Black Canadian mother unapologetically raising a little Black girl in this world. We’ll see where it goes, but I hope y’all enjoy the new dimensions this topic will bring!

Print

And don’t forget: Curls, Coils & Cocktails is coming this Saturday! We’ll be celebrating the diversity of natural hair with a panel discussion, performance & Q+A with Saidah Baba Talibah, amazing vendors, yummy food and drinks, door prizes, gift bags and more! Get your tickets here: curlscoilsandcocktails.brownpapertickets.com!

31 FLAVOURS: Discussing The Diversity Of Natural Hair [+ Event Info]

EthnicDollsbyKarenByrdcBanner

Dolls by Karen Byrd of Natural Girls United

Next month marks 6 years since I big chopped and started wearing my hair naturally. From my days of scouring Fotki for natural hair inspiration to being an admitted product junkie to salon (mis)adventures and more, the past 6 years have brought me eye-opening lessons in hair care, self esteem, and redefining my personal beauty paradigm. Just when I think I know all I need to know and have seen all I need to see, something comes along and shakes everything up.

This year, the running theme has circled around representation in the natural hair sphere. I hosted a panel discussion of women who choose to rock TWAs, which presented the perspective of women who eschewed the more common length aspirations within the natural hair community. Salon chats highlighted a continued problem with poor representation and acceptance of shorter lengths and tighter textures – noticed most in clients who won’t rest until they find the product that eliminates shrinkage and transforms kinks into loose curls. Twitter conversations with writer and mental health advocate Bassey Ikpi brought up the thought of loc wearers being left out of natural hair dialogue – this became an even greater conversation when Essence Magazine featured Ledisi on one of their May 2014 covers for the Beauty Issue.

Ledisi-Essence-2014

These kinds of discussions motivated me to look at my own thoughts on natural hair beauty and diversity. Admittedly, it was easy for me to see the parallels between previously chasing one beauty “ideal” (long, straight, relaxed hair), then embracing my chemical-free texture but still chasing another “ideal” (big, soft curly hair). Early on, the natural hair blogs, YouTube videos, and Facebook forums I frequented all shared the same goal of embracing your natural hair, but there was always an undercurrent of knowing that there was a hierarchy of expressions within it. Short hair, kinky and coily hair, and locs were on the fringe and seen as somewhat of an afterthought – almost giving off a vibe of  “Oh – I guess we should include one of those, shouldn’t we…” Back 6 years ago, my short hair was just a stepping stone to luxurious growth. My kinky and coily sections were interesting, but were obstacles to hurdle in efforts to blend in with my looser sections. I considered locs briefly, but decided I loved the versatility of my loose natural hair too much to part with it. However, I quickly understood the negative way locs were viewed when family members would ask “Are you going to loc your hair?” with a look that clearly meant “You better not!”

Especially over the past year, a number of women have approached me and shared that they’ve felt excluded from the natural hair world, due to not having the “right” texture, length, or style. Where were the spaces for women who had diverse hair goals, journeys, and needs? Many of them expressed being unable to find them, and some identified feeling as lost in the game as I did 6 years ago when I went natural. In my own way with the opportunities I have available to me, I featured (current and previously) loc’d women on ’83 To Infinity, interviewed a Jamaican beauty queen with an interesting natural hair journey, and hosted a Black History Month event focusing on the big chop and rocking TWAs. When plans started flowing this year’s Curls, Coils & Cocktails event, the same theme of diversity and representation came to mind, and I knew that was the angle we would have to take this year.

Print

Because the natural hair community is bigger than we give credit for, it was a conscious decision to use the 2nd annual Curls, Coils & Cocktails event to broaden our horizons. Our panel features 4 women – one loc’d, one rocking a TWA, one newly big chopped natural, and one stylist who has worked with all manner of natural hair. Our vendors/partners (Diana Tracy Collection, Eli’s Body Shop, & Curl Bar Beauty Salon) are a diverse bunch – female-owned businesses designed to ensure that you look and feel good from head to toe. We’ll have a new musical portion this year, with a performance and Q & A session with Canada’s funk/rock/soul queen – and dope loc wearer – Saidah Baba Talibah. DJ Sean Sax will be on the 1s and 2s, mix and mingling will abound, sweet treats and eats from Mellycakes will be available, and gift bags (thanks to Clore Beauty Supply) and door prizes will be on hand for attendees! We’ve kept up the practice of highlighting Canadian talent and businesses, and the theme of ‘Dos & Diversity will hopefully achieve the goal of inclusivity that we’re aiming for.

Do we still hang on to colonial ideals of beauty, even within the empowered natural hair world? What are the roots of some of the biases we have against certain style choices? How do we combat the irrational need to chase after styles or textures that our hair is not capable of maintaining? How do we truly begin to embrace and own our natural hair without apology? The answers to these questions and more will surely be discussed on July 26th at Curls, Coils & Cocktails – and hopefully we’ll be able to carve out the kind of space that celebrates us all, whether curly, coily, or otherwise.

Get your tickets to Curls, Coils & Cocktails here! 

BACK AT IT: 2 Upcoming Events You NEED To Be At! [R&B + CC&C]

Hey hey, y’all! This post will be a quickie but goodie – I’m taking advantage of having both hands free and a quiet baby to bang this one out, so pay attention:

As crazy as it may seem, I’m jumping back into the event saddle later this month, and wanted to let you all know about what’s going down!

rnbjuly2014

On July 19th, I’m back as co-host for the R&B: Relationships & Bullsh*t Show with my homie Lincoln Anthony Blades! The question du jour will be “Can Your Career Satisfy Your Soul Like True Love?” so you know this will be a hot discussion no matter your gender or relationship status. I saw Think Like A Man Too (sidenote: I hate sequels that try to get cute with the “too” instead of “2″ or “two” especially when it feels grammatically clunky. Anyways.) recently, and one particular storyline made me think about how relevant this discussion is in this day and age – so I can’t wait to have some fun with this one! Get more info and tickets at www.rnbsummer.eventbrite.com!

Print

I put on my very first event called Curls, Coils & Cocktails last year with my girl AMC, and have been getting TONS of inquiries wondering if it was coming back. Well, YES! On July 26th, we’ve crafted another awesome Curls, Coils & Cocktails event, focusing on the theme of ‘Dos & Diversity! The original idea for the event was born out of a Meetup.com group I was a part of, and when the group leader was unable to continue with event plans, AMC and I stepped up to put it on. Last year was amazing, and we plan on making this year even better!

It was important for us to focus this year on the diversity of natural hair – often, my friends with locs, short cuts, varying textures, and those who are transitioning with various protective styling methods feel left out of the general natural hair discussion. We wanted Curls, Coils & Cocktails 2014 to be a more inclusive space for us to connect with and learn from each other, so we’ve been working hard on the plans!

CCC3

We’ve got:

  • gift bags for the first 50 entrants
  • mix and mingling
  • music by one of Toronto’s beloved DJs
  • carefully curated vendors
  • a mini-consultation booth
  • a panel discussion on the diversity of natural hair
  • a performance and Q&A with Canada’s top funk/soul/rock artist Saidah Baba Talibah
  • door prizes and much more!

Grab your early bird tickets until July 11th before the price goes up! www.curlscoilsandcocktails.brownpapertickets.com

Phew! There you have it – hopefully one or both of these events will tickle your fancy! Grab a ticket or two, and I hope to see you out and about later this month! Any questions? Hit me up!

SHE’S HERE: Little Magician Has Arrived!

littlemagician

Hey y’all :-)

If you’ve peeped my Facebook, IG, or Twitter in the past couple of days, you’ll know what’s new in my life. Layla the Little Magician made her debut into the world with the sunrise on the summer solstice, and my whole world has been renewed.

I can’t even put into words what the past few days have been like, so I won’t try just yet. All I know is that I’ve never been more in awe, more introspective, more discombobulated, more dazzlingly in love than I have been since she arrived.

Thank you to everyone who sent their well-wishes and positivity to HomieLuva, Little Magician, and I – we can REALLY feel the love!

I’m planning on keeping up with my weekly posts, but there’s a new boss in the household now, so she will play a major role in what gets done and how :) And while my labour was pretty damn smooth (from what I’m told – I obviously have nothing to compare it to!), I’m truly in recovery mode and have to make sure I pace myself.

Don’t forget about me, because I haven’t forgotten about y’all! Until the next post!

AND THE WINNER IS…: 2014 Black Canadian Awards Recap

The best way for me to start off this post is by saying “thank you” – quite literally, if it weren’t for you all this past Saturday would have never played out for me the way it did.

Last summer, I was contacted by the Black Canadian Awards (run via the Diversity Advancement Network). I was going to be honoured as a Role Model in the Black Canadian community, and had also been nominated in the Best Blogger Award category for their 2014 awards ceremony. To say I was floored was an understatement. The majority of my readership and recognition in the blogging world has come from south of the border, so being recognized for my work here at home was an awesome feeling.

We were urged to solicit votes from friends, family, readers, social media followers, anyandeverydamnbody, and I’ll be honest – I kind of balked at that. I’m not the biggest fan of “Who can get the most votes?” methods of award winning, and prefer to be judged on merit and a standard of work. When other nominees have larger social media followings and connections to networks you lack, it can seem very daunting – and the competition in my category seemed fairly stiff. A later email did state that votes plus review from a nomination committee would contribute to winning the award, so I sought votes from you all, but made sure my content and work was the best it could be along the way.

Finally, Saturday June 7th rolled around, and it was time for the Black Canadian Awards! After being rescheduled from the original date of March 1st, I just prayed that Little Magician and I still fit into my hot pink Henkaa dress (doing a version of this style), but luckily we did!

BCA-beesplitshot
BCA-beefulllength

HomieLuva was my dapper date for the evening, so we headed on down to Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre and got ready to soak up the night.

Y’all know I keep it 100, so let me get this piece out of the way. There was some level of disorganization that hampered some of my enjoyment of the festivities. Having food available would have been PRIME. Having event organizers easily identifiable would have been WONDERFUL. Maximizing the media that was present and really making use of some of the perks like the nominee limo procession, red carpet walk, and Role Model recognition ceremony would have been AWESOME. The potential for prestige and the necessity of an event such as the BCAs makes these points even more crucial in my eyes, so I hope 2015 is even better.

Anyways – tons of government officials and political figures were in attendance (RCMP, Olivia Chow, John Tory and others), and they took part in the Role Model recognition ceremony. I snagged my certificate of recognition, then hurried to meet the rest of the award nominees for the limo procession, which picked us up and brought us to the awaiting red carpet at the front of the theatre.

BCA-beerolemodel

After a bit of schmoozing and a quick munch of some poutine that someone smuggled in provided for me, it was time for the show to start!

Hosted by Sean “Subliminal” Mauricette and Dorothy Rhau, the essence of the awards was to showcase excellence in the Black Canadian community, and I appreciated the diversity of the performers and nominees. “Canadian” events in Toronto can be awfully Toronto-centric, but it was great to see the representation from different parts of the country as well. There was a wide range of variety in the performances and the cultures represented therein, with my fave performances being a dope Azonto dance number by Esie Mensah and the Black Stars, and a wicked vocal performance from Shi Wisdom. Though at times it felt a bit too much like a concert sprinkled with awards as opposed to an actual awards show, it was very entertaining.

So. Let’s get down to the most exciting moment, for me, anyways! Near the end of the night, the Best Blogger Award finally rolled around. I was joined in the category by Nikki Johnson, Tatiana King aka Miss Go 2 GirlTeknique, Brenda Chuinkam, and Darling Nicky. As I mentioned before, I felt I was up against some stiff competition, so while I hoped for the best, I was more than prepared to hear one of the other 5 names called instead. Lo and behold, my name was called as the award winner, and I sat there for a moment still waiting for them to say someone else’s name – it wasn’t until HomieLuva smacked me on the leg and told me to get my ass up and get my award that it actually sunk in!

BCA-beeheadshotaward
BCA-jaybeefilteraward
BCA-beeTdotaward

I had to hit a jig in the parking lot while singing “***Flawless” at this point. Lol!

Was I even prepared to make a speech? Not at all – but I got through it without rambling on too much. That was the first time I ever accepted an award on stage, but needless to say, I’ve got the taste for it now (cue up the Freddie McGregor one time)! The best part of it was knowing that the support I received from y’all was so strong, and also feeling like my hard work is paying off in new and awesome ways. Maintaining a blog like mine – not celebrity-focused, not fashion-focused, not in one particular niche – and being a Black Canadian blogger who often gets more interaction from people in countries outside of mine, it’s so easy to feel lost in the sauce of this digital world. At least on some scale, winning this award made me see just how much people support and enjoy my digital comfy couch. As one friend said when I issued my Facebook thank you status:

You can thank us by just keeping on doing what you’ve been doing.

So that’s what I plan to do! Here’s to fresh motivation (especially coming off of my best stats day EVER over the weekend thanks to my Race In Canada post) and a continued sense of pride in creating authentic and engaging content. I hope y’all enjoy, and I hope you feel through this blog how much I appreciate the love, support, and constructive feedback.

Thank you again to the Black Canadian Awards – here’s to an even bigger and better show in 2015!

RACE IN CANADA: Where American Media Went Wrong With Justin Bieber

rocsiwhoopidon

Being a Canadian blogger/writer with a majority American readership, I sometimes struggle to balance topics that I’m genuinely passionate about with those that will resonate with the lovely people who read my words.

I feel at times that the voices and experiences of Black Canadians get lost in the roar of our cousins to the south. Working to uncover our own histories and cementing our own identities is hard enough – we’re either sucked into the cultural vortex (i.e., being called “African-American” by Whites, which they think is PC but we know is geographically incorrect), or our experiences are negated because we live in ‘Canada’ – a land whose name has apparently come to mean “blessed nirvana where social ills cease to exist.”

The latter was all too apparent this week, as Justin Bieber – or La Bieba, as I like to call him – was seen on two leaked tapes (the first, and the second) dating 5-6 years in the past, referencing “niggers” and singing about joining the KKK.

Rocsi Diaz (of Entertainment Tonight) said that La Bieba “didn’t know better because he’s Canadian,” and granted him a pass.

rocsitweet

Whoopi Goldberg (of The View) tweeted that “Canada didn’t have the same history” with the word as America, and granted him a pass.

whoopitweet

Don Lemon (of CNN) wrote about his soul-burning question - “Are we to blame?” (before editing the original title) – asking if African-Americans and AA culture was the cause of La Bieba’s ignorance, and gave him a pass.

If it wasn’t enraging enough that these media figures were finding ways to paint La Bieba as a poor victim of circumstance or an unaware patsy, they did it while simultaneously minimizing or ignoring what I feel is the true grievance – the prevalence of racism in Canada.

Allow me to enlighten you all in simple terms.

I am a Black woman.

I was born and raised, and still live in Canada.

I spent my first 23 years of life in a small town very close to the smaller town La Bieba is from.

And lastly – get ready to clutch your pearls – racism is alive in Canada. Don’t let our Olivia Pope-level (seasons 1 & 2, not 3) PR fool you.

Covert and overt racism exist here. From being hit with bananas thrown at me from passing cars as I walked to school, to having teachers keep me separate from classmates because their parents didn’t want us fraternizing, to being followed in stores like a thief or outright ignored due to my perceived lack of finances, to most recently when my physical space was violated and both myself and my unborn child were called niggers – I’d love the Rocsis and Whoopis of the world to recognize our reality.

beetweet1
beetweet2

Visiting my father’s friends – migrant farm workers – who lived in the country surrounding my and Justin’s hometowns, I distinctly recall having to leave before sundown to avoid “trouble.” Ku Klux Klan activity was known and accepted around my town, and it was commonplace to hear young White children holler “Nigger!” from their front yards as Blacks passed by, to the delight and pride of their parents. I see La Bieba in the same light as these children from my past – absorbing learned behaviours and sustaining those lessons as they move through life. To the Don Lemons of the world, please understand that for many of these children, hip hop and African-American culture were not their introduction to racist terms. The red carpet to that entranceway was rolled out by families and communities who instilled in them the ideologies of racism, White privilege, and Black inferiority, long before a sing-along to Jigga My Nigga or connections with YMCMB gave them any level of permission.

Canada’s spectacular PR team laid out the most delicious of cookies and Kool-Aid, and people like Rocsi, Whoopi, and Don took the bait. Canada is not populated by unsuspecting yokels who sing Kumbaya with their multicultural neighbours. Canada is not a place lacking in its own ugly, painful history (and present, to be honest) of disastrous race relations. Canada is not an idyllic oasis that can solely blame the American influence for the soils and stains on its pristine image. Canada is a place where the intent and emotional effect of hurling racial slurs is the same as it is in America, and it is a place where there is no room for the excuse, “He didn’t know any better.”

To Rocsi, Whoopi, and Don: I hope this helps straighten things out.

Signed,

Your neighbour to the north

%d bloggers like this: