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FEEDING BODY + SOUL: #BrunchWithBee Event Recap

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Ghandi is quoted as saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Loosely translated into Bee-speak, I say “Stop complaining about the lack of something in your life, get off your ass, and make it happen.”

And that’s exactly what I did this past weekend with Brunch With Bee.

Back in February, I griped on Twitter about the dire need for a brunch date in my life. Visions from reality shows where women dressed up in fab outfits, munched on yummy food and sipped delicious drinks, and engaged in any level of drama and messiness danced like sugarplum fairies in my head, and I wanted to partake (minus the drama and messiness). Couple that with the dismal and harsh winter that had us in its grips, and I was thirsting for the chance to spend a nice day catching up with some lovely women over a delicious spread.

I could have waited for an invite to someone’s brunch shindig, but thought I’d get more satisfaction and immediacy out of organizing it myself. I placed a couple of calls, send a couple of emails, and pushed the details out in my new monthly newsletter (sign up here!) – and Brunch With Bee was born!

This past Sunday, I was joined by about 20 0ther women at Toronto’s Hot House Cafe for their infamous Sunday Brunch Buffet. The plan was simple. Show up, eat, drink, meet and greet with women you know and others you don’t. Attendees ranged from my mommy to friends from high school/university to women who I was meeting for the first time in real life – and it was beautiful.

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 Some of the things I learned via the brunch event were:

An increasing number of my good real-life friends were all born out of social media connections. When I went around the table to give brief introductions, the amount of women with whom I had initially connected with via blogging or Twitter was astounding. In a way, social media has helped me to find like-minded spirits more easily – and luckily for me, the majority have translated into awesome flesh-and-blood sistafriends.

I’m no longer “surprised” by the fact that women can get along. For me and my experiences, the scale has balanced between situations where women have been catty and competitive, and situations where women have been supportive and genuinely sweet. I no longer marvel at the fact that 2 or more of us can gather and foster an energy of positivity and love, though it’s taken me some time to curate a circle that reflects that. Brunch, with its familiar and new faces, was just another experience to add to the supportive side of the scale, and it was wonderful.

Different generations of women have much to learn and share with each other. With attendees ranging from the age of early 20s (my sister) to mid 50s (my mother), we had a variety of life experiences to discuss, which added to the richness of the afternoon. Talks of motherhood, career, health, and more were embellished by the different perspectives we all had, and I think we all learned lessons from each other that we may have missed out on in a more homogeneous group.

The hustle is real. I’ve admittedly gotten used to being surrounded by women who are juggling life responsibilities and their various passions – excelling in their respective areas of expertise or working damn hard towards that level of excellence. I didn’t want to position Brunch With Bee as a hardcore networking event, but was happy when connections were made and business cards shared organically. My mom marveled at the full lives many of the ladies were living, and the unapologetic way we were chasing dreams and making them realities. It was nice to take a moment from the grind and celebrate each other – the things we’ve accomplished and just the sheer fact that we wake up and we try. Hard. Very hard. Special shout out to Mika of LishauNaturals who donated a beautiful gift set – and to Fiana who won it!

All in all, Brunch With Bee was so much fun, and turned out to be better than I expected. In reality, I currently love any opportunity where Little Magician and I get to eat amazing food, but thought tying my own selfish needs into a gathering with other awesome women would feed my body and soul. What better way to end off the weekend, March, and Women’s History Month? Brunch With Bee Round 2 will be coming soon!

*Most* of the ladies who attended - thank you all!

*Most* of the ladies who attended – thank you all!

The best way to keep up to date with any special events such as Brunch With Bee is to sign up for my monthly newsletter – if you’re so inclined, sign up here!

TO THE POLLS: Vote For Bee In The 2014 Black Canadian Awards!

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If you’ve followed me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram over the past few months, or if you know me in person, you’ll likely be aware that I’ve been nominated for a Best Blogger Award at next month’s Black Canadians Awards. Well, the day has come for finals voting to commence, and I need your help!

The Black Canadian Awards are hosted by Canada’s Diversity Advancement Network, and aim to showcase success stories and range of achievements across the Black Canadian community. March 1st is the big night – the awards will take place inside Toronto’s gorgeous Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and I’m so excited! Please make sure you visit the site to get more details and to purchase your tickets to the awards!

Being nominated for this award back in the summer was HUGE. After starting this blog in 2011 as a personal outlet, it’s continued to grow and surprise me in ways I could never imagine. In the beginning, I looked at ’83 To Infinity as a way to indulge my love of writing and shift the trajectory of my mind after I came home from work. Unlike my previous blogs, I decided to actively share this one with friends and family, never once figuring that people would pay much attention to my random musings about things like natural hair and newlywed life. Looking back, what’s the biggest lesson that ’83 To Infinity has taught me? That I have a terrible habit of underestimating myself. Little by little, my self-deprecating practices of second-guessing myself, playing small, and selling myself short have started to chip away – now I’m ready to step out of my shell and go for what’s mine!

So, why should you vote for me? I’m up against some stiff competition, but here’s why I’m claiming the Best Blogger Award as mine:

Bonus? Blogging has gotten me speaking engagements at conferences, TV features, interviews, event hosting gigs, freelance writing opportunities, and more – and has enabled me to embrace my passions and make some coin on the side. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been a blessing.

It may sound odd, but I can truly say that ’83 To Infinity has changed my life. I’ve embraced a new level of transparency in my writing, and have worked hard to grow in my skill as a writer. I’ve been able to dedicate myself to a project that (until recently) had no real monetary reward – I’ve been doing it for the love for over 2 years. I’ve stretched myself beyond what I thought I was capable of – working on my public speaking fears and trying new things like video interviews and TV spots. And now, I’m on the threshold of stepping into official entrepreneurship – all because of this blog.

I’m also incredibly touched when people take the time to share my pieces, constructively critique, comment, and let me know one way or another that something I’ve written has resonated with them. With such an influx of bloggers in the blogosphere, I almost talked myself out of starting ’83 To Infinity – what would make THIS any different from the millions of other blogs out there? Those moments when readers show their support make me so glad I pushed past that defeatist thinking.

So – let’s get down to business! Please visit the Black Canadian Awards nominee site and scroll down to the Best Blogger category. Click VOTE, select Best Blogger, and enter Bee Quammie as your favourite to win! Your email address will be required for validation, but no spamming after the fact should occur. You can vote 2x per day per email address, so use ‘em all! You can also share your support by clicking the Twitter bird to tweet the following (right click to open in new page):

Tweet: My vote goes to @BeeSince83 for the @BlackCanadians Awards! #BeeQuammie4BestBlogger! Vote for her here: http://ctt.ec/s5W9Z+

 My vote goes to @BeeSince83 for the @BlackCanadians Awards! #BeeQuammie4BestBlogger! Vote for her here: http://ctt.ec/s5W9Z+

I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the support you all give me on a regular basis – winning this award will be icing on the affirmation cake (and I’ll get to put mine on the mantle beside HomieLuva’s), but win or lose, I’ll still keep rolling on this fun and challenging ride. Thank you!

xo Bee

UP NEXT: SisterTalk – A Celebration Of Sisterhood [11/16/13]

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“Sisterhood anchors you.”

That was a tweet I read the other day – utterly simple, yet so powerful. Sisterhood is something that has been crucial for me and my development as a young girl and a grown woman. From my blood sister to my chosen sisters, being embraced by a positive, loving, and empowering circle of femininity is one of the most important things to me. Ain’t no time for the “Ugh – I just don’t get along with women” paradigm or looking at women with distrust before love. Like that tweet read, sisterhood anchors you – it gives you strength, understanding, and another place for your heart to call home. There’s truly nothing like it.

This Saturday I get to put sisterhood on a pedestal at SisterTalk: A Celebration of Sisterhood at One King West, hosted by my girl Karlyn Percil. What started as a monthly meeting between a close-knit group of women has grown into this, the first public SisterTalk event. What is SisterTalk?

A platform where women meet monthly to have real and honest conversations about life, love, career and relationships. Through open and honest dialogue, women tackle the things that prevent them from leaning in and creating the life they love and deserve. The SisterTalk group has been meeting for over a year and a half and in September 2013, Karlyn and some of the members appeared on Oprah’s Lifeclass.

Via SisterTalk eventbrite page

Via SisterTalk eventbrite page

After that dynamic appearance on Oprah’s LifeClass show, plans were solidified to bring the essence of those monthly sessions in sisterhood to the masses – and the event goes down tomorrow.

It’ll be an afternoon of meaningful conversations, inspiring connections, and activities to bring out the authenticity of what happens in those monthly SisterTalk meet-ups. I’m looking forward to discussing the multifaceted aspects of life as a woman – integrating self-care + family + career+ more, and I’m excited for performances from spoken word artist Nadine Williams and keynote from Diane Clemons. I’ll be doing double-duty as a Table Host with my girl Chivon John, and will also be the Social Media Correspondent for the day!

I’m ready to pamper myself with hair/nails/fly outfits, but I really can’t wait to connect with the other amazing women in attendance. As if the personal gains from the event aren’t enough, I’m ecstatic that proceeds from ticket sales and online donations will go towards Break The Silence – a partnership between UNICEF and Bellemoun Community Youth Network aimed at ending the stigma and taboo of child sexual abuse. At $100 per ticket, the price may cause some to feel they have to miss out this time around – but the ladies behind the event have sponsored tables and tickets for women who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford the entrance fee. Looking good, feeling good, and doing good – SisterTalk: A Celebration of Sisterhood will encompass it all!

If you’re a last-minute kinda gal but think you want to come out, hit up the eventbrite page – tickets may likely be sold out, but it doesn’t hurt to try! If you’re looking for me, I’ll have a fruity drink in one hand and my phone in the other, but my arms will be open and available for a hug! If you’re not going to be in the house, never fear – stay tuned to my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as I share live, behind-the-scenes coverage of the event!

Whether you’ll be at the event tomorrow or not – take this as a reminder to anchor yourself in sisterhood this weekend!

What else is on the go? Next Tuesday, I’ll be on the panel for Secrets of Side Hustler, then on November 30th, I’m co-hosting my first blogging event called The Syndicate! Y’all know what to do – click the links for more info! 

EVENT ALERT: The Syndicate – Toronto’s Blogging & Social Media Forum

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TORONTO! I’ve got something for you!

After attending blogging and social media conferences both in Canada and the U.S., I’ve been intrigued at the variety of discussions, information sharing, and collaboration that comes out of the events. To be completely honest – I’ve been a bit let down with some of the offerings I’ve experienced closer to home, and wondered what I could do to add something different to the Toronto blogging/social media scene.

Enter: The Syndicate.

The Syndicate is an idea that I’ve had for a LONG time, that came to fruition with the help of my friend Chivon John. We both discussed the need and desire to have an event that highlighted diversity in the city; that pushed collaboration over competition; and that provided attendees with the kind of information they REALLY want and need. If you pay $200 for a conference, and the most valuable thing you walk away with is a cool swag bag, something is off.

With The Syndicate, I wanted to provide an afternoon of information, collaboration, and networking that would actually help someone – like the multitude of people I speak to about starting/maintaining/growing a blog, or finding better ways to maximize their social media presence. If this sounds like you, keep reading…

At The Syndicate on Saturday, November 30th at the IndustREAL Arts Room (688 Richmond Street West) from 1-5pm, we’ll have an interactive panel discussion and break-out sessions with a number of “experts”: in addition to myself and Chivon, we’ll be joined by my friend Lincoln Anthony Blades of the awesome blog This Is Your Conscience, and Monique Daniel, a PR Coordinator from Porter Novelli Canada. Do you have questions about monetizing your blog, working with PR agencies and brands, transferring from blogging to freelance writing, figuring out how to translate blog readers to customers and event attendees, and more? We’ll be there to discuss from our learnings and experiences, and to give you the info you need. In addition to the panel, we’ll also each host breakout sessions where you can learn a bit more about our various areas of expertise, and all attendees will leave with a guidebook filled with tips from all of us.

So, set aside the afternoon of November 30th, and get ready to come out and learn, be inspired, and get connected! There are too many awesome people in the city who don’t know about all the other awesome people in the city, and we want to bring everyone together so that we can all learn from and support each other! Whether you’re considering starting a blog, figuring out how to go full-time with one, or just wondering how you can maximize social media in other ways, The Syndicate is here for you!

Get your $25 tickets on our Eventbrite page: http://thesyndicate2013.eventbrite.ca/

Any questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me: bee@83toinfinity.com

See you on November 30th!

ARTSY FARTSY: Interview With Camille Lauren + Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show Giveaway

Arta Gallery, Distillery District

At Arta Gallery, Distillery District

Sometimes, you’ve just got to say no.

I found myself in a rut with this blog not too long ago – I was getting a lot of requests to either post things on my blog or do blogging favours for other people, but when it came down to it, the other party always fell through. I shunned the idea of partnering with anyone else for a while, then I got an email inviting me to an art gallery event in the Distillery District. I had met one of the featured artists before, and her publicist invited me to the event with the hopes that I would feature her on the blog. I was so ready to send my “thanks, but no thanks” email – but first, I satisfied my curiosity by going to her site.

That “no” turned into a “yes” with the quickness.

Camille ‘Ciel’ Lauren is a Toronto-based, Curacao-born visual artist currently studying at OCAD (Ontario College of Art & Design) – her company Art of Ciel is inspired by sea and sand, a nod to her Caribbean upbringing.  As the Branding Director for the multi-arts production company Spoke N Heard, she was a driving force behind the creation of the Emanate Gallery Exhibit held at Arta Gallery last month. I fell in love with the art on her site – from her commissioned pieces to her inspired artwork to her live event paintings (yes, she will capture your event live and on canvas), I could see the talent and beauty that radiates from her pieces, and couldn’t wait to see them up-close.

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Brown Sugar Steaming by Camille Lauren

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NaturalistaGlam by Camille Lauren

I was lucky enough to do a quick interview with Camille where she told me more about her work and inspiration:

On how her love of art was born…

“Art was just my most natural response. It’s been a way to express myself ever since I was 4. When I came to Canada, it was a thing I used even more to…maybe like a shield in my younger years. I was very shy, so if I was moving to a new school, I’d always have my sketchbook – and even if I didn’t make any friends, art was my way to interpret the world. It just continued – in high school I started painting on canvas, and I loved it. ”

On her biggest inspiration…

“My inspiration comes from conversations, stories that I hear from people – they make me want to reach in and depict that. I like to create an eternal moment to share. You can have a feeling about something, and maybe you tell it to someone and they forget. When you paint it, it’s there for everyone to see.”

How she got involved with Spoke N Heard…

“Three years ago, Spoke N Heard’s creator told me about his vision to unite the arts. Over time I found myself doing graphic design and promotion, and then I became the Branding Director. With this show, Celia Wilson (Creative Director & Curator) and I worked really closely to refine the theme, and the team brought it together. We sent out a lot of different artist submission calls on the web, as far as we could go.”

What her 5-10 year plan is with regards to her art…

“I’m starting my own business, Art of Ciel, to reach further with my art. It’s growing into much more than just art, but I’m taking it one step at a time. I’m looking to art merchandising, and clothing embellishments and design – just trying to broaden it out a bit.”

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Camille and I

Camille and I

To say I’m happy I didn’t decline Camille’s invitation is an understatement. Her art really spoke to me with her use of colour, texture, and movement, and it was amazing to see them up-close and personal. It was also wonderful to hear her tell her own story about her inspirations and aspirations – and sidenote: her hair is DOPE. Now…all I have to do is start saving my pennies to get a piece or two!

Check out Camille’s website, and follow her on Twitter – and stay in touch with Spoke N Heard to support amazing art and artists!

P.S – Don’t forget that I’ll be speaking at the Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show this weekend! I’m giving away 2 sets of tickets to the show – one full weekend pass and one Sunday pass. Saturday is all about informative workshops (including mine called ‘Navigating Natural Hair in the Online World’), and Sunday is workshops + vendors + hair and fashion showcase and more! Comment here and let me know why you want to go the TNHBS – bonus points if you follow me on Twitter and tweet me to say that you entered! The winners will be drawn and announced on Friday! 

FASHION MOJO: Vintage Shopping at Vintage Vibes Boutique

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While writing a new piece for UPTOWN Magazine on getting my fashion mojo back (inspired by Kerry Washington’s quote in October’s issue of Glamour“I’m missing a really important tool. If I am the CEO of the Kerry Washington Corporation, my marketing department is really lax.”), I decided to take a work break and put my plans into action. Vintage shopping is something I always wanted to dabble in, and thanks to my homegirl Glenna, my sister and I took a trip down to Toronto’s Leslieville area and visited Vintage Vibes Boutique.

I have a confession to make. In my proud Jamaican family, it was somewhat of a taboo to wear second-hand clothing. There was a lot of pride behind the ability to afford brand new clothes and shoes, and thrift shopping was met with nothing more than a kiss of the teeth. Needless to say, I never invested much interest in the practice. Fast forward a few years later to my current stay in Toronto: I decided to stick my toe in the waters of vintage shopping, and was immediately turned off. I was either referred to places with great finds but exorbitant prices, or spots that redefined the word “cheap.” Lately, I’d been hearing a lot of great things about Vintage Vibes Boutique, so I figured I’d give vintage/thrift shopping one more go.

Located at 717 Queen Street East, Vintage Vibes Boutique is owned and curated by Debbie Parks – the self-proclaimed ‘Chief Treasure Hunter’. Parks was raised by a British mother who trained her up in the ways of vintage shopping, and she leaned on those lessons when she moved to NYC years later. Surviving in style with great vintage finds, Parks eventually settled in Toronto and decided to recreate the same experience here.

Almost immediately after stepping foot inside, I felt at ease. Debbie greeted my sister and I and gave us a quick tour around the store, which houses vintage furniture, clothing, jewelry, and accessories. The jewelry tables immediately caught my eye – big baubles, sparkly earrings, gorgeous detailed necklaces – and I was in heaven. Once I saw the price points (nothing over $15 in the jewelry section), I felt like I had found what I was looking for – a vintage shop with unique, quality items that wouldn’t drain my bank account.

The clothing section, however, would be the real test. There, I found awesome secretary dresses, sequined sweaters, jumpsuits, fly heels, and much more – the majority of which were under $35. “Nothing in the shop is over $100,” stated Debbie. Creating a store where people could find affordable, good quality, and one-of-a-kind pieces was her ambition – and from my eyes, she succeeded. The next 2 hours were spent wading through the racks, trying on clothes, having a mini-fashion show in the middle of the store, chatting with Debbie and the other customers, and generally having fun.

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Debbie Parks (owner of Vintage Vibes Boutique) and I

I ended up leaving with 4 pieces – the yellow & blue silk top and sequined sweatshirt in the photos above, plus a dope black patterned dress and high-waisted midi skirt. The most expensive piece was the dress at $35, so I walked away with a happy (and only slightly less full) wallet. Debbie advised that she finds new pieces on a nearly daily basis, so I’m excited to head back soon and see what else I can snag! Thanks to Vintage Vibes Boutique, I feel like my fashion sense got a much-needed shot in the arm. Being fly and frugal is possible, and I’m glad that I’ve seen the light! If you’re in Toronto, visit Debbie at Vintage Vibes Boutique and tell her Bee sent you! VVB will also be featured at the Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show on September 22nd, providing fashions for Hair By Glenna’s hair show – I’m also speaking at the show, so make sure you grab your tickets asaptually!

Follow Vintage Vibes Boutique on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook – and be sure to stop by the store at 717 Queen Street East from Thursday-Sunday, 12pm-6pm! 

WHAT’S YOUR FANTASY: My Ideal Date Night + #DateNightNYC

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Has anyone ever asked you to describe your perfect date? I was asked that recently, and it was one of the hardest questions to answer. Different activities are “perfect” in different ways, so there’s no one date plan that will make me smile, swoon, or be ready for a little after-date action, na’mean?

That being said, I absolutely love nights like this:

HomieLuva is decked out in his effortless casual/sexy outfit (dark jeans, slightly fitted V-neck shirt, blazer), and I’m stuntin’ in a dress and heels high enough for me to match his 6’3″ self. He holds all the doors open for me, and we ride off in our car that has just been detailed, oil changed, and gassed up (hey – auto maintenance makes me happy). We arrive at a blink-and-you-might-miss-it venue and settle into an intimate booth, order wine and delectables, and prepare for an evening of live entertainment. What kind of live entertainment, you ask? How about a live band and incredible vocalists who perform jazzy, soulful R&B – the kind of music that makes you sit a little closer to the one you’re with; that makes you whisper-sing lyrics in their ear; that makes you put a hand on their thigh to tap along with the percussion…

We might get up and dance. We might snuggle and share a joke that makes sense to no one but us. One thing is for sure: put me in a sexy venue where I can get lightly intoxicated by some good wine and HomieLuva’s cologne while eating delicious food and taking in dope live music, and I. AM. GOOD. I think it has something to do with indulging and engaging all of my senses like a true Taurus loves to do, but whatever it is, it works.

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So, why do I mention all of this? Well, if you’re in the NYC area and looking for an environment very similar to the one I described, then you might want to check out my girl Keya Maeesha’s latest event, Date Night NYC w/ Chris Turner, Shi Wisdom (big up Toronto!), Black Spade, and Nikko Gray! Keya curates incredible events, and has a knack for treating her guests and artists in a way that turns 1st-time attendees into repeaters, and inspires performers to give 110%. In other words, Date Night NYC is a fabulous way to spend an evening, whether you’re single or taken. Date Night NYC goes down at DROM on September 1st – click here for more info, and here to get your tickets ($15 adv, $20 at the do’)

Now, if you CAN’T head to the Big Apple next weekend for Date Night NYC, I’ve got you covered! Keya and DJ PHAZE joined forces to create Cupcakes & Handcuffs – The Date Night Mixtape, compiled of some of the sexiest chunes by various Date Night NYC artists. My next date night with HomieLuva will consist of nothing more than this mixtape on repeat while we have a picnic on the living room floor. Having fun can be free, y’all ;)

Date Night NYC info and tickets

Follow Keya Maeesha on Twitter and like her on Facebook

Have you hit up a Date Night NYC show? Are you going to next weekend’s show? What was the BEST date night you’ve ever had? What’s your fantasy date night? Share, share, share!

HOT FOOT: Tdot/NYC Events That You Won’t Want To Miss

I frequently sit back and express gratitude for the things I’ve been blessed with, and ask God to continue to bless me with more amazing opportunities and experiences. Welp, they say “Be careful what you wish for” for good reason. The next few weeks are about to be a whirlwind in my life, but for my Torontonian and American peeps, I wanted to keep you up-to-date on where I’ll be and what I’m doing. Looking for a dope event to hit up? This post is for you!

June 14th: Battle of the Sexes: For Love or Money?

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If you recall, I had my first-ever panelist experience last November as a member of Telisha Ng’s event, Battle of the Sexes: Is Monogamy A Myth? I got up there on stage not knowing what the hell I was going to say and just prayed I didn’t sound stupid when I did speak – and left the event feeling like I could verbally battle with the best of ‘em! My homegirl Telisha is bringing her BOTS show back to Toronto after a successful stint in Oakland last month, so if you’re in the Toronto area this Friday, you don’t want to miss it! 4 panelists (including my good friend Lincoln Anthony Blades) will debate the various issues around relationships and money, so you know it’s going to get hot! Check out the BOTS website for more info and to grab your tickets!

Bonus: Here’s a clip of one of the more brazen moments at last year’s BOTS show were Lincoln and I challenged an audience member’s thoughts on cheating (language NSFW)

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June 16th: Dead Wit Laugh ft. Donnell Rawlings

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I’ve told y’all about this show before, and I’m telling y’all again: I have NEVER worked so hard on something in my life. Never had something take over my life the way this show has. Never took a risk this big before. But hey – you’ve got to try new things and hope for the best, right? That being said, HomieLoverFriend’s event coordination company, R Flavour Inc. is putting on an AMAZING comedy show just in time for Father’s Day! Dead Wit Laugh features amazing Toronto stars like Nick Reynoldson, Dwayne Morgan, Trixx, Dave Merheje, and Jay Martin – and our dope headliner is Donnell Rawlings, Mr. Ashy Larry from Chappelle’s Show himself! Dead Wit Laugh serves as the only Canadian stop on Donnell’s Ashy to Classy comedy tour, and is the headlining comedy show of this year’s NXNE Festival (sister to the SXSW Festival that went down earlier this year). The icing on the cake? Since HomieLoverFriend lost his father to diabetes complications a few years ago, we’ll be donating part proceeds to the Canadian Diabetes Association! So come on out – do some good – and laugh til yuh belly bus’! Check the Ticketmaster link to get your tickets before they’re sold out!

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June 21-23: #BeeinNYC for the Blogging While Brown Conference!

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After a failed attempt at hitting NYC in February, it’s going down for real next weekend. I’ll be speaking at the Blogging While Brown Conference, doing a presentation called “Cross-Border Conundrums: Being An International Black Blogger” – and I can’t wait. I’m nervous as hell, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t wait. I had an awesome time last year, and I’m looking forward to amping it up this year by learning more, meeting more awesome people, and slaying my presentation! Are you going to BWB as well? Live in NYC and want to link up? Holla at a sista!

 

August 15-17: Warsan Shire in Toronto

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This event is a couple of months away, but I had to let y’all know now so that you could get in where you fit in. I found Warsan Shire on Twitter, and my life as a poetry consumer and creator was forever changed. A 24 year old Kenyan-born Somali poet/writer based in London, England, Warsan Shire has made a name for herself globally. Author of Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth and an acclaimed poet who has read her work all around the world, Warsan will be in Toronto for a special show called The Ism, and for a series of intimate workshops! I definitely made sure to sign up and get my spot – Warsan is the truth, and Mama ain’t raise no fool. Check out IFreeCan’s site for more details and to grab your tickets!

Ok. I think that covers it. If I can get through June, it’ll be smooth sailing for the rest of the summer – I hope! You never know what might be up next…

Am I seeing you out at any of these events? Let me know! 

HOW SHE HUSTLES BRUNCH RECAP: Thoughts On Having It ‘All’

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This past Sunday, I attended my second How She Hustles Brunch, hosted by the amazing Emily Mills. Though this was the 4th annual brunch, it was year numero dos for me – check my recap of last year’s awesome brunch here.

Like last year, I spent a gorgeous afternoon connecting and re-connecting with some incredible women who are all hustling in one way or another. I met photographers, teachers, law students, singers, actresses, mothers, and more – and soaked up all the positive vibes they brought with them. At the lovely Hotel Ocho, 130 of us talked, laughed, hugged, exchanged cards, and snapped photos with each other while enjoying a delicious meal and an awesome event.

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Unlike last year, I’ve gotten much more comfortable with mixing, mingling, and networking with others. My shyness has dialed down a bit. Though my introvertedness will never go away, I’m much better at *gasp* making conversation with strangers and getting to know others without needing to assess the scene from the comfort of the corner of the room first.

Not only did I meet some great women, eat some great food, and win some great prizes (like a beautiful necklace by Nikki Clarke), but I got insight on something I’ve been thinking about. In the spirit of hustling, we often think about the age-old question of “Can women have it all?” ‘All’ is a funny concept, because the general discussions I’ve read/witnessed tend to assume that women are a monolith who all want the same things – and common sense would tell us that’s not true. Each woman’s ‘all’ is a unique and personal entity, and I was reminded of that in conversation with many of the women in attendance at the brunch.

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At its simplest breakdown, my ‘all’ looks something like this:

A happy, loving, passionate, supportive marriage.

Beautiful, healthy, and happy children.

A career path that fulfills both my spirit and my bank account.

Incorporating my passions and creative outlets into ways to diversify myself and my income streams.

Owning and maintaining a beautiful home.

Financial stability and prosperity.

Maintaining a thriving lifestyle centred around holistic health. 

Supporting my community, supporting my friends, supporting my family.

I could drill down and get extremely specific about what all of these things look like to me, but in a general sense, the above points encompass the ‘all’ that I feel I deserve, want, and can attain.

At the How She Hustles Brunch, I was reminded of just how diverse and unique we are as women – and I was again bolstered by the fact that there is no ONE right way to do things or move about life. I met women who are living some of the things I dream about, or are thriving through the some things I fear would be too challenging for me to handle. I met women who were defying convention or redefining convention, and it motivated me to release a bit of the pressure I’ve been putting on myself.

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To me, the debate around whether women can have it ‘all’ is a trick question. Are we placing a cookie-cutter mold on womanhood and our capabilities therein? Or are we accepting of the fact that not only can women have it ‘all’, but that their definition of ‘all’ and their game plan of how to achieve it are incredibly multitudinous? We need to beware of allowing the common threads that connect us as women to turn into strangleholds that tie us to perceptions that don’t actually fit. Do: Assess your values, dreams, and goals, imagine your ideal life, define your ‘all’, and create your gameplan to achieve it. Don’t: Compare yourself to another’s journey, follow a route that you feel forced to take, and focus too much on doomsday news reports and statistics. Create the life of your dreams, and live it well.

Were you at the How She Hustles Brunch? If so, how did you enjoy the event? Have you defined you ‘all’? Do you feel that it’s attainable? What’s your gameplan?

Special thanks to Samantha Clarke Photography for the beautiful photos!

EVENT RECAP: Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Foundation Gala

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Names are interesting. One of the most important signifiers of our identity, they hold an immense weight as we move through life.

The funny thing is – if we forget who the person is behind the name, that signifier becomes somewhat of an empty placeholder in history. It starts to roll off your tongue just as easily as your order from Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts, and we slowly start to forget what and who that name actually represents. I was reminded of this last Thursday at the Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Foundation’s Amazing Aces Awards.

In honour of Herbert H. Carnegie – one of Canada’s first Black professional hockey players – the Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Foundation was created in 1987 as a means to support and empower youth. Through partnerships with schools and community figures, the foundation has provided youth in the GTA with scholarships, self-esteem workshops, and mentorship. While the annual gala is used to highlight exceptional youth and people in the community who embody the Future Aces creed, this year’s gala was a bit different. The current Executive Director of the foundation, Ms. Bernice Carnegie, stepped down after 17 years at the helm. The gorgeous night was largely in her honour, and highlighted her passions and achievements within the foundation. I was happy to attend the event as the gala’s official blogger and social media maven, and was ready to soak in the entire night.

Held at the lovely Grand Bacchus Banquet Hall in Scarborough, the gala was beautifully arranged. A silent auction and string quarter graced the front hall where people mixed, mingled, and posed for photos before heading into the banquet hall.

Dinner was a delicious spread of hot stations featuring fish, samosas, sushi, salads, cheeses, and more, so I had to make sure to fill up my plate and enjoy! Live music filled the room and attendees mingled with people like gala hosts Marci Ien (of CTV’s Canada AM) and Kerry Lee Crawford (of G 98.7FM’s Steps After Dark), the Hon. Lt. Gov. David Onley, and Marcia Brown of Trust 15. I saw a lot of familiar faces, and enjoyed getting caught up with everyone before the main event began.

Bernice Carnegie and the Honourable Lieutenant Governor David Onley

Bernice Carnegie and the Honourable Lieutenant Governor David Onley

After the dinner portion of the evening, guests took their seats and got ready for the show. Opening with a cute father/son performance from Errol and Shay Lee, the inspirational theme was well-established for the night. After a few official welcomes from the Hon. Lt. Gov, MPP Michael Coteau, and others, Marci and Kerry Lee took us right into the Amazing Aces award. Recipients like Nicole Coco LaRain (motivational speaker and artist), Rudolph Clarke (writer, lawyer, founder of the Black Law Student’s Association of Canada), and Clive Hylton (former President of the Markham African Caribbean Association) were honoured, and it was amazing to learn about some of the incredible people who have done great work in our city.

Now, I mentioned names and the importance of them because of what I learned about Herbert Carnegie, and in turn his daughter Bernice. While many people took their turn at the podium to share the wisdom and inspiration they received from Ms. Carnegie in her tenure as Executive Director (including a heartfelt speech from her daughter that had me ready to tear up), it was hearing from her in her own words that showed me just how much of a force she is. Her passion for youth and her mission to continue her father’s legacy were not at all lost on me. She was a dynamic speaker, and captured everyone’s attention – not merely because it was the polite thing to do since the evening was in her honour, but because you couldn’t help but stay fixated to her as she spoke and moved about the stage (and dropped it like it was hot to James Brown’s I Feel Good).

Bernice receiving a standing ovation and hug from Marci Ien

Bernice receiving a standing ovation and hug from Marci Ien

With the wonders of technology, I was able to hear from Herbert Carnegie himself – even though he passed away last year at the age of 92. Video and audio captured the man whose name I had known, but whose legacy I did not, shamefully. One of Canada’s first Black professional hockey players (and scouted as one of the best of any skin colour, though racism blocked him from playing in the NHL). An honourary York Region police chief. Investors Group’s first Black employee. Member of the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada. A man with both a public school and a community centre named after him. These are just a few of his accolades that I learned about at the gala, and witnessing the power behind Herbert Carnegie’s soft voice and kind face motivated me to learn more about him and his foundation.

With Bernice Carnegie stepping down from her role, the Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Foundation will now be in the capable hands of Tka Pinnock, the incoming Executive Director. The proverbial torch was passed on at the end of the gala, with Herbert Carnegie’s words “Be my eyes, be my heart, be my voice” lighting the way. The foundation has had a successful and important history, and will undoubtedly have a bright and exciting future ahead. My “official blogger” duties may have ended that night, but I look forward to supporting the Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Foundation in the days and weeks to come.

Incoming Executive Director Tka Pinnock

Incoming Executive Director Tka Pinnock

Check out the Foundation’s official website, their Facebook, and Twitter – and search the #futureaces hashtag to see tweets from the night!

Are you familiar with Herbert H. Carnegie? Were you at the gala? Have you been involved with the foundation? What prominent figure are you aware of, but would like to learn more about?

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