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NATURAL HAIR DIVERSITY PT. 2: Interview With Rita

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If you missed it yesterday, I featured a guest post from the brilliant Rita Nketiah.

Today is part 2, where we do a bit of a Q&A to get deeper into some of the themes and issues Rita mentioned in her piece surrounding perceptions of natural hair, feminism, the differences in hair choices in Canada vs. Ghana, and more. Read on!

1. Through your various natural hair representations (loose/afro, locs, short cut), have you noted any variances in your perception of self? Have you noticed a difference in how others treated you when you’ve rocked these different styles?

My brain is a little fuzzy now, but, I definitely think that I got the most attention with my locs. But I also think it depended on the space I was in. I went natural during undergrad at Western University, and wore my hair Afro out often. While Western is a predominantly white institution, I was surrounded by a community of Black folk (by virtue of my social circle/my work with the Black Students Association), so I never felt like I wasn’t being embraced because of my hair. If anything, I had a lot of Black women tell me that they thought it was beautiful, and wished they could adorn their own natural coil, but thought “it wouldn’t look good” on them –which I thought was sad, but I understood where it came from. Most of us are socialized to not even know how our hair grows out of our own heads. We can’t even imagine being natural, because we start perming by 6, 7, 8 years old.

2. You’ve spent a lot of time both in Ghana and in Canada while wearing your hair in its natural state. How would you compare the state of natural hair acceptance in both countries?

Well, what’s interesting about Ghana is that there is a small, but budding natural hair movement happening with salons such as Twist and Locs and the various natural hair events and online communities (activism, in a sense) that are cropping up. My time in Ghana was split between village life (shout out to Ajumako district) and the capital city (Accra). I’d say that generally speaking, my locs made me stand out. Ghanaian womyn, generally, do not wear locs–which doesn’t mean that they don’t desire to. I received a lot of compliments. I often heard womyn say that they wanted to lock their hair, but they wanted to wait until after they left their parents’ house or until they got married (which is kinda the same thing –the power and decision to lock usually comes from some other authority figure). Of course, the capital city tends to attract a lot more foreigners and returnees, so I think people were a bit more familiar with locs. Generally, though, there is a stigma associated with locs. Unless you are a Rasta living by the beach, or an upper middle-class woman, it is rare to see locs on a Ghanaian woman (or man). It is definitely changing though. And I applaud those village chicks and the working class/urban class womyn who are brave enough to adorn their locs in such a conservative environment. It also helps that there are salons cropping up that help womyn with their locking journey. A lot of womyn would ask me how I started mine. I feel like if there were more (affordable) options for women to try “rasta style”, more womyn would. The older generation mostly did not like my locs. I was also REALLY low maintenance with my locs when I was in Ghana. I would probably re-twist, maybe once every 2 months. I think it kinda scared them LOL!

In Canada, I think I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by sisterfriends who “got it”. In terms of family, it also helped that Brago and I did it together. For the most part, people thought my locs were fly, but obviously (black) women had questions about how I managed it, which I was always happy to answer.

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3. What was your method of de-locing? Did you comb them out? Cut them off?

Girl, I cut it all off. Combing them out? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

4. Do you have any go-to products for hair health and/or maintenance?

Hmm, I do like my Shea Butter. I often use different coconut oils. But for the most part, I use whatever is available and affordable.

5. The idea of not feeling beautiful in the beginning stages of locing is a common theme. Was there anything specific that worked to help build your self-confidence?

Umm, I used a lot of self-affirmation. A lot of telling myself that this was just a stage that would pass. I had to trust the process. I also allowed myself to have “ugly days” –headwraps became my best friend during those times. And again, I had my sister who was also going through the ugly stages to assure me. I had to work through the messiness of not loving myself on my “ugly days”. That was all deeply political and spiritual work for me.

6. a) Your thoughts on feminism and beauty were really poignant. How did you personally reconcile your views on pride in one’s physical appearance with your feminist values and your thoughts on rebelling against standard beauty ideals?

I mean, beautification is layered for Black women, isn’t it? We live in a world that does not appreciate our natural beauty. We are fed tons of messages about not being desirable because of our Africanness (the broadness of our noses, our melanin, our hair, our bodies). And so, I absolutely believe that our relationship to the Beauty Myth is just not the same as it is for white girls. And traditionally, we have always adorned ourselves. We have always engaged in beautification, so in many ways, that is not outside of who we are as a people. Our indigenous cultures value(d) the vibrant prints, the creative hairstyles, fly jewelry, etc. My feminism begins with my Africanness, not the other way around. I also think it’s important for my nieces and nephews to see Black women in all of their natural beauty and flyness. Ain’t no one gonna convince them that our Black isn’t beautiful.

b) I’ve heard this thought echoed by a number of women who rock their natural hair in various states – why do you think locs were so significant for you in creating this kind of juxtaposition?

Well, because it was the first time that I had really long hair that was my own. (My relaxed hair probably got to the tip of my collarbone, but my hair was the healthiest and grew the fastest when I had my locs, which I thought was interesting.) And I think as much as many of us are reclaiming our natural beauty through our locs, we’d be lying if we said length didn’t matter –because it does. In a way, it is our entrance into whiteness. And you see it in how other people perceive your locs at different stages. I felt like when my hair was long enough to style, I felt more confident, and people took notice of them in a different way. I really had to check that shit in myself.

7. What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced with making the decision to rock your short cut? What is your favourite thing about your current style?

Listen, any #shorthairdontcare chick will tell you that best thing about short hair is the convenience. The get-up-and-go of it. The biggest challenge for me, is in between cuts, and of course, I still have loc envy from time to time. I actually tried to start growing my hair late last year, because I wanted box braids. I thought 3-4 months of growth would be enough to braid it, but it wasn’t and I grew irritated. Lol I ended up cutting it again last week. I was also inspired by Chrisette Michelle then Lupita N’yongo to have fun with my short cut. I currently have a mini-high-top fade. I’m pretty happy with that decision, and I look forward to experimenting with colour again.

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Head to the comments section and let me know your thoughts! Have you dabbled in a range of natural hair styles? How were perceptions (self and external) with the various style choices? Major thanks to Rita for sharing her thoughts and experiences!

MIAMI MOVES: Family, Fetes, & Forward Thinking

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By the time y’all read this, I’ll be leeeeeeeaving on a jet plane – departing Miami and heading back to life, back to reality in Toronto. This morning, Delta emailed me my check-in notification, and I was hit with a twinge of melancholy. The funny thing about good vacations is that I never really want them to end, but I’m still excited to get back home and make life a bit better. Going home sets me up for the challenge of making my days between vacations more enjoyable, and at least gets me back to making the money that will get me back on another plane sooner than later.

Thanks to family and friends in Miami, it’s always felt like a second home. Miami Carnival always falls on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, so my trips during this time of the year have always given me a few extra things to be thankful for. From kissing on baby cousins to wukkin’ up with university friends to jumping up at breakfast fetes (bottle service at 7:30am? There’s a first time for everything!), this past week in Miami has been wonderful:

A little airport reading...

A little airport reading…

Tribe fete...the venue was lovely!

Tribe fete…the venue was lovely!

My little buddy - making him giggle is every.damn.thing.

My little buddy – making him giggle is every.damn.thing.

 

This picture is so truthful of this little one's energy...he just will NOT stay still!

This picture is so truthful of this little one’s energy…he just will NOT stay still!

 

Vale Breakfast Party...jammin' under the sunrise!

Vale Breakfast Party…jammin’ under the sunrise!

 

My eclectic Vale 'fit. The last time I'll be able to dress like this to a fete until next summer...or Trinidad Carnival :-)

My eclectic Vale ‘fit. The last time I’ll be able to dress like this to a fete until next summer…or Trinidad Carnival :-)

 

Frenzy boat cruising w/ HomieLuva and friends

Frenzy boat cruising w/ HomieLuva and friends

 

I'm going to hang onto this sunny, glistening tan for as long as I can...

I’m going to hang onto this sunny, glistening tan for as long as I can…

A peaceful visit to the marina at sunset. Beautiful, ain't it?

A peaceful visit to the marina at sunset. Beautiful, ain’t it?

I got to enjoy a few of my favourite things this past week: summer heat, excellent parties, wonderful shopping, deep belly laughs with friends, sweet kisses from babies, good food, and great drinks. I got to see my soca crush Kees from Kes The Band at not one, but TWO fetes. I got to spend time with some of my favourite family members. I got to watch shows and TV channels that I don’t get back home (VH1? TVOne? Big Freedia on The Melissa Harris-Perry Show? I got my life). I was able to detach from my phone/lap top (not completely, but still in a significant way), and actually started to feel something that reminded me of what it’s like to relax. Relaxation has become quite difficult for me to attain, so re-learning how to take it easy was a win for me. Can I hang on to that win when I get home? We shall see…

For the first time, I actually kind of look forward to going home. This relaxed, freed-up, sexy alter-ego shouldn’t only reside in Vacation Land, and I’m determined to make sure I bring those elements back home with me to real life. And while I may grumble about having to go back to work, work is what affords me the ability to start plotting for my next vacation! So, where to next? If I can squeeze in another trip to a warm climate with all-inclusive food and drinks once the Toronto winter hits, I’ll be a happy camper. After the hustle and bustle of Miami, a trip for two with HomieLuva or even just a solo jaunt with me, myself, and I might be in order. We’ll see which way the wind blows :)

Does traveling tickle your fancy? If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be, and who would you go with?

BEE IN NYC: Our Take On Arise TV, Blogging While Brown + More

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If you follow me on Twitter, you saw me tweet over the past few weeks about the #BeeinNYC escapades I had planned for this past weekend. After a failed attempt at reaching the Big Apple in February, I was finally going to touch down in the city for a whirlwind weekend. Wondering what I got into? Here’s the recap:

Greyhound Fiascos and TV Time

I chose to take the Greyhound bus down to NYC. I left on Thursday night and was scheduled to arrive in NYC on Friday morning at around 10am. Without falling back into the blind rage I was in during my trip, I’ll just say this: the bus was late. Instead of getting in at 10:15am, we pulled into the terminal at the Port Authority at 1pm. Now, sore bum aside – I may not have minded had I not had somewhere VERY important to be.

Last week, I was contacted on Twitter by a TV producer from Arise TV – an American network that’s also carried in England and South Africa. The producer was aware that I was going to be in NYC for the Blogging While Brown Conference, and wanted to talk to me about appearing on their new show, Our Take. I had to re-read the tweet and Google the producer’s name to ensure I wasn’t being punked. Me? On TV? Whodathunkit? Long story short, we chatted back and forth and it was settled – I would be a guest on Our Take on Friday afternoon. With a live taping from 1-2pm, I was advised to come to the studio for 11:45am, dressed and ready for the camera. “Sure!” I said. “No problem!” I thought. My bus gets in at 10:15am. I’ll be about 10 mins from the studio. I’ll get ready at the terminal and head right on over. That was the plan until I ended up standing outside of a Burger King in the middle of the Poconos at 10:30am, calling the producer with “a slight issue.”

Hair and makeup done en route

Hair and makeup done en route

Once the bus got rolling on the remaining 2 hours of our trip, I hustled into Superwoman mode. I took my dress from Bedo into the bus bathroom (with no working lights) and got changed. Headed back to my seat and styled my hair (twisted by Dixie at Curl Bar Beauty Salon) into a fly updo. Pulled out my makeup bag and somehow managed to do a full face of makeup (eyeliner and all) on a moving bus without poking my eye out. Then, I packed everything up so that I would be able to jump out of the bus and into a taxi as soon as we pulled in. With my luck, I jumped into the cab of a driver who said it was his first day on the job, and didn’t know how to get to my destination. Jumped into another waiting cab, and I was on my way.

Luckily for me, the producers were extremely accommodating and had moved my segment from the top spot to the last spot to give me more time. Thanks to NYC traffic, I arrived at the studios at 1:33pm – got miked up, took a sip of water, then was on the set at 1:40pm, ready to go. MAJOR shouts out to all of the staff at Our Take on Arise TV – it was an incredible experience! I spoke on international health and medical tourism, and had a great time doing so.

I STILL haven’t watched myself on camera yet, but here’s my segment:

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Blogging While Brown

My original intent for my June version of #BeeinNYC was to speak at the Blogging While Brown Conference in Harlem. I attended for the first time last year, and was excited to return this year in a speaker’s capacity. I had a wonderful time at the Colgate-sponsored White Party on Friday night, reconnecting with friends from last year and meeting new ones. Saturday was chock-full of incredible information sharing and bonding – I took away some awesome tech tips (the bane of my blogging existence), learned how to improve my writing, and sat in on some great presentations on diversity and accessing business opportunities from blogging. Of course, I had the jitters for the first part of the day as I geared up for my own presentation! Being a blogger from outside of the USA, I wanted to use my experiences to encourage bloggers to look beyond their borders for connections. I’ll say this: for all my stressing and worrying, I think I did pretty damn good! I wanted to just get through the presentation without too many “umms” and “uhhs”, avoid any technical difficulties, and not have anyone fall asleep or get up and leave. The standing-room only at the beginning of my session +the lineup of people waiting to chat with me after my session was just icing on the cake!

Luvvie and I

Luvvie and I

Presentation time!

Presentation time!

Some of my favourite folks in the blogosphere were in the house, including Luvvie, Scott Hanselman, Necole Bitchie, Claire of The Fashion Bomb, Angel Laws of Concrete Loop, and Karen Civil. If you’re interested in attending the conference, next year’s Blogging While Brown will be held in New York City again! I loved the genuine and real conversations I had with people who are all at different stages of their blogging lives – and it was great to support and learn from each other.

An Empire State of Mind

In between all the TV stuff and conference stuff, I got to enjoy a tiny piece of the city. I stayed in Harlem (thanks to a cute little spot I booked through airbnb.com), and LOVED the vibe. Walking up Lenox Ave, eating at Sylvia’s, sitting on my stoop and listening to neighbours chat with each other as they passed by…Harlem was lovely. I ended up doing something I never thought I’d do – take the subway by myself – and traveled to Brooklyn for dinner with a homegirl I connected with through Twitter. Me and Keya Maeesha (the incredible show curator behind Date Night NYC and Date Night DC) laughed it up, ate it up, and drank it up at Sugarcane in Brooklyn, which was DOPE. From there, we headed to MeLa Machinko’s album listening party (cop her album Hov Said It Best now!) where I met more Twitter homies in the flesh, including the incomparable Jean Grae! I ended up leaving 10 minutes before Pharoahe Monch showed up, and I had a major case of the sads when I found out. What can I say? It was a perfect NYC summer night, and I had an awesome time soaking up the entire vibe. I was so happy to finally meet some of the people who I’ve been chatting with forever, and I flew out the next morning knowing I had to come back asaptually.

BWBNYCSylvias

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As crazy and time-crunched as the weekend was, it was an important one filled for crucial firsts for me. I know that everything I experienced in NYC is going to set the tone of things to come, and I’m excited to see what’s next. However, a sista needs a break! It’s time to get back to regular blogging, more writing, and more spending time with HomieLoverFriend. A little time to breathe is always good – until the next adventure rolls around!

Were you at #BWBNYC last weekend? What are your favourite things to do/see in NYC? 

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! 

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? Bee’s Event Updates

Hope y’all are doing well! I wanted to drop a quick post off to let you guys know about some of the awesome events I’ll be taking part in this spring/summer! If you’re in the Toronto/NY area and looking for some dope events to hit up, I got you!

TEASE Fridays at Saviari

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Are you single in Toronto? Do you want to meet cool folks in the city without the pomp and circumstance (and screwfacing) that many events here are known for? Starting on March 22nd, I’ll be hosting TEASE Fridays at Saviari Tea & Cocktail Lounge, where you can do just that! TEASE will be a happy hour mixer where you can come in, enjoy some amazing drinks and tea-infused foods, and mix and mingle with some of Toronto’s flyest. I’ll be there to help facilitate conversations and to maintain the flirty atmosphere of TEASE – and to ensure that you aren’t sitting nose-deep in a corner on your phone. This will be the first event in a while where we DON’T want you to tweet, Instagram, or Facebook promote – we want you to *gasp* actually talk to people! If you can handle that, then TEASE is the spot for you!

The Mystic Effect

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Rolling along with the hosting duties, I’ll be the hostess with the mostest at The Mystic Effect – an amazing art show that covers mediums like fashion, film, visual art, music, and dance. The brainchild of Stacy-Ann Buchanan Productions, this show will be on April 28th at Revival Bar, and I can’t wait! If you’re a fan of art in all its various forms, you’ll want to grab your ticket for The Mystic Effect ASAP! Even better? You’ll be contributing to charity. Part proceeds will support Urban Arts, a non-profit charitable youth organization that offers multi-arts based programs that serve to develop youth as artists and leaders. Do some good and whet your artistic appetite at the same damn time!

R Flavour presents Dead Wit Laugh ft. Donnell Rawlings

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All of the events I’m involved with are special to me, but this one is on another level. I’ve talked about the Dead Wit Laugh comedy shows that had been held at Dazzling Lounge in Toronto last year, but this one is bigger and better – and it’s the creation of myself and my husband! Really and truly, it was his idea to put together a major comedy show  - teamwork makes the dream work, so him and I have been toiling (along with the help of some great friends) to make this show a success. The hilarious Donnell Rawlings (of Chappelle’s Show, The Guy Code, and The Wire) will be headlining the show on June 16th, and guest acts include comedians Nick Reynoldson, Dave Merheje, and Trixx, and spoken word artist Dwayne Morgan. Jay Martin will be our wonderful host, so we have the Toronto talent on lock! The NXNE Festival (Canada’s partner to SXSW) is on board as a partner, so our Dead Wit Laugh show will be the headlining comedy show of the festival week! Early bird tickets are available on Ticketmaster, so I’d better see my local (and international, if you’re making the trip up!) folks there to support!

Blogging While Brown Conference 

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Whew. As if I wasn’t feeling excited and anxious about everything I’ve written about so far, I have this news to add: I’ll be a featured speaker at this summer’s Blogging While Brown Conference in NYC! After attending for the first time last year, I took a leap and submitted a speaker’s proposal…and just when I thought I wasn’t going to be selected, I got the celebratory phone call to say I was in! I’ll be doing a talk tentatively called ‘Cross-Border Conundrums’ which will touch on various aspects of being an international Black blogger and how to maximize our connections across borders and overseas. The world of being a blogger of colour is so much wider in the US, and many people I met at BWB gave me the “There’s BLACK people in Canada?!” question – so I want to do my part to add a bit of diversity to the conference. If you’ll be at BWB this year, lemme know! I need a hotel buddy!

Like I said, a ton of things are on the go, and a lot of hard work is going into each and every one of these events!

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So, there you have it. There are a couple of other things in the works, but as you can see from this post, I’ll be keeping REALLY busy over the next few months! If you’ve got any questions about any of the events I mentioned, let a sista know!

TORONTO TO NYC: Upcoming Events Worth Getting Out The House For

As hard as I try to fight it, the cold Toronto winter makes it difficult for a girl to enjoy a hot night out on the town. Friends are in hibernation, the couch is just too damn comfy, and windchills and snow squalls leave you with very few sexy outfit options. Gone are the carefree days of summer, where you could just plop yourself anywhere in the city and meander about – on the flip side, winter gives you a discerning eye. If I’m coming out of my house in January/February, it better be for a damn good reason. Luckily for my readers in Toronto and NYC, I’ve got a few top-quality events that you’ll want to check out – just get off the couch and out of those sweats, and take my word for it!

Blue Bash

Every year, Toronto-based event coordination company R Flavour hosts Blue Bash – one of the best parties I’ve been to in the 5 years it’s been taking place. It’s a consistently dope party that offers great music, great vibes, and great people without pretentiousness or immature nonsense. This Saturday, the party will be taking place at Dazzling Lounge on the King West strip – DJs Kold Fusion and Soca Sweetness will be on the 1s and 2s, and Studio Cakes will be in the house with some amazing sweet treats! We always celebrate HomieLoverFriend’s birthday there, so we go all out. Don’t forget the most important part (aside from being ready to have a great time and to choose your shoes carefully – Kold Fusion’s sets have caused heel casualties) – wear BLUE! The more blue, the better! If you’re looking for a party to shake off this week’s deep freeze, I’ll see you at Blue Bash!

  • When: January 26th – doors open at 10pm
  • Where: Dazzling Lounge (291 King St. W)
  • Cover: $10 before 11:30, more after

trey anthony’s Millionaire Artist Workshop

Late last year, I featured Toronto’s own media maven/businesswoman trey anthony in advance of  her first Millionaire Artist Workshop. It was such a success, she’s back for another go! If you’re an artist of any kind, seeking to learn how to establish your worth and get on the path to success, this 1-day workshop is for you! trey will be joined by amazing panelists that will be able to give you worthwhile knowledge and help guide you through your artistic pursuits. Mark down February 2nd in your calendar, and be sure to grab your ticket ASAP!

Date Night at Drom in NYC

Y’all remember the post I wrote recently about dating in long-term relationships? Well, let me show you how things fall into place when they’re supposed to…HomieLoverFriend and I will be visiting the Big Apple next month, and one of the feature events we’ll be hitting is Date Night NYC, hosted by Keya Maeesha! The first Date Night went down in November, and from all accounts (including this review), it was the bomb. A lovely, intimate venue, incredible live singers, food, drinks, and good vibes that might make a girl want to go half on a baby – whether you’re boo’d up or not, Date Night sounds like the perfect event to check with your honey or your homies. The Tdot-NYC connection continues with Toronto’s own Ayah, Date Night’s featured performer! I adore her voice, and can’t wait to hear her live! Be there or be square – and make sure you find me to say hey! I’m looking forward to making some in-person connections before the long trip home, so don’t let me down :)  Sidenote: I’m also hoping to organize a little meet up, and will be hitting Donuts Are Forever 7, the annual tribute party for super-producer/OG Slum Village member J Dilla!

Whew! A sista is excited for the next upcoming weeks! Will I be seeing you at Blue Bash, the Millionaire Artist Workshop, or at Date Night NYC? Let me know!

BIENVENUE A MONTREAL: My Canada Day Escape

Today is Independence Day for my friends of the American persuasion, and Americans – I’ma let y’all finish, but right now I want to recap my weekend in Montreal for Canada Day!

Thanks to some good friends (heyyyy, KB and V!), the main squeeze and I had round trip, business class tickets to Montreal on VIA Rail, and we were more than ready to get away. Planning this trip wasn’t as easy as I expected. Between his busy weekends and mine, it was almost impossible to find a weekend where we were both free to run away from the city. We finally sorted things out, and we were on the way!

I was especially looking forward to this train ride, since I can barely remember the one time I took the train when I was younger. Traveling business class? Free drinks and food? Comfy seats and ample leg room? I was ’bout it. Everything was lovely until we took our rightful place at the head of the boarding line, and the line was stopped to allow us on first. I didn’t realize that line bypass was one of the business class perks, and it seemed that a few folks in the economy line didn’t realize that either. Or, maybe it was just good ole ignorance rearing its ugly head. You see, the White couple in front of us had no issues, but when HomieLoverFriend and I walked up, we were met with “The end of the line is back there!” and “ex-CUSE me?!” Sigh. The VIA Rail staff were kind and professional, and the sting faded away once I got a rum and Coke in my hand.

Started out with this bangin' dry Bantu knot-out, but MTL humidity wouldn't let me live

VIA Rail meals weren't too shabby! The tilapia was DELISH!

My pinky finger STAYED up during that whole trip!

About 6 hours later, we finally reached our destination. After checking into our hotel, Le Centre Sheraton Montreal, we hit the road to do what would be a frequent activity over the weekend – eat DELICIOUS food.

The weekend was full of delights that appealed to my Taurean spirit. Decadence, luxury, good food, drinks, and other pretty things – Montreal had it all. When we weren’t sitting on a patio eating some amazing pasta or burgers, we were on a patio drinking 2-for-1 drinks and colourful cocktails called The Hawaiian Punch. Montreal nightlife was interesting. With the legal drinking age at 18, it seemed like a LOT of the freaks that came out at night were young as all get out. I realized that if I REALLY wanted to party in Montreal, I needed to get up on some Haitian tunes – the songs sounded dope, but I had no idea of the call and responses and accompanying dances that everyone else was doing. Most food joints were open til 5am, so finding after-club eats wasn’t hard at all. Poutine, burgers, and Pogos were the go-to late night foods, and I enjoyed every single bite!

We hit up the Montreal Jazz Festival, which was surprisingly lackluster the day we went. The most entertainment we had was from a street performer named SnapBoogie who had a gang of people posted up on the sidewalk, watching him as he did tricks like jumping and flipping over 5 petrified audience members. The streets of Montreal were more interesting than any organized event, and this was also true on Canada Day.

Snap Boogie 'bout to jump over a lil one...

...and prepping to jump over these scared folks

The day started out calm and cool, with polite old ladies and babies in parks waving Canadian flags. We saw a few picnics and some gatherings at downtown cathedrals, and I marveled at the quaintness of Montreal’s celebrations. However – that all changed after Spain won the Euro Cup. Montreal turned into Little Espana, and all quaintness was gone. People screaming, cars honking, huge Spain flags billowing out of windows – the city went wild. I just shook my head. Canadians always talk about the brash patriotism of the US, but here we were, celebrating Spain’s win more than we did our own country. Meh.

My favourite part of the trip was when the Boo and I took a walk through Old Montreal. The oldest area of the city is nestled near the St. Lawrence River, and houses historical buildings from the 1600s. A history lover like me was in heaven with the old architecture and cobblestone streets, until my comfy flats broke and I had to traipse around in platform wedges o__O

A gutted building transformed into a cute garden resto

Horse-drawn carriages were all over Old Montreal

Loved this old courthouse

Teetering in platform wedges in a narrow cobblestone alleyway...no broken ankles though!

Before we knew it, it was time to head to the train station and make our way back home. Another comfy VIA Rail ride awaited us, and soon we were back at Union Station, greeted by the sounds of horns honking and taxi drivers cussing. Ah, Toronto. There’s no place like home.

My Canucks: How did you celebrate Canada Day? What do you think of our level of patriotism here in the Great North? For my Americanos: Happy Independence Day! We thank you for Michael Jackson, Texas BBQ, and the dudes with the cute accents who visit us at Caribana time! How are y’all gettin’ down for the 4th?

 

BLOGGING WHILE BROWN 2K12 PT. 3: An Introvert’s Take On Networking

Lovin' the crew: Slim, Patrice, Ruth, Moi, Amber, and Sharontina

At best, I’d find another shy soul and build a connection over shared stories of awkward networking events. At worst, I’d spill a drink while trying to shake someone’s hand, answer “yes” when somebody asked “what’s your name?”, or leave Philly with the same amount of business cards I came with because I spoke with absolutely NO ONE. These were the items on my Scale Of Social Interaction For Introverts And Generally Clumsy People, however I had no choice but to face my fears and get social at this year’s Blogging While Brown Conference.

Through the entire conference, I had my sista sidekick Rowena with me, so I never really was alone. However, you never want to come off as the anti-social, standing-in-the-corner-gossiping-with-your-homegirl type at social events either. So, how did put my shyness aside and make the most of the human experience at Blogging While Brown?

Musical Chairs

Break time during the panels seemed to be a game of Musical Chairs. People would get up to grab a snack, make a call, or say hello to a friend, and next thing they knew, someone else was in their seat. Ro and I had pretty prime seating, so while we stayed put, we were treated to a rotation of different people joining our table. It would start with a smile, or a shared laugh over a joke. Then, the question: “So,what’s your blog about?” followed by “Where are you from?” Ro and I were the only non-Americans in the house (that I knew of), so when people heard “Toronto”, that opened up an entirely new conversation. The Musical Chairs game really helped me to practice my blogging elevator pitch – finding an efficient and interesting way to answer “So, what do you blog about?” Eventually, I was totally comfortable talking about myself and my blog, and learning about everyone else’s too. Added bonus – my business cards got WORKED! Extra extra bonus? Meeting a VP from a dope hair care line that’s READY to do an event here in Toronto…

Myself, Rowena, and Eva of Socamom.com

With the ever-dope Luvvie Ajayi

No Such Thing As Coincidence

On Friday evening, something truly awesome happened when Ro and I returned after a break for the evening panel. We walked back up to the room where the earlier panels had been held, only to find the room empty, save a few women. They noted our confusion and advised that the Relationship panel was in a different room downstairs. Before we had a chance to turn around, one of the women commented on my hair and asked for some hair tips. As we talked, another exclaimed “Oh my God – you look JUST LIKE ILYASAH!” then turned to her friends saying “Doesn’t she look like Ilyasah? With her skin and her glasses and her hair – and Ilyasah’s hair is natural too!” Everyone at the table emphatically agreed that I looked identical to Ilyasah, so I had to ask – “Who is Ilyasah?”

“Oh – Ilyasah Shabazz. Malcolm X’s daughter!” I thought it was cool that these women were friends with a woman from such strong lineage, and wondered if I really did look like her. One of the women told me to find her on Twitter. “Tweet Ilyasah and tell her you met Teresa here – and Teresa thinks y’all look like twins!” I agreed, but ended up thinking I’d come across like a lunatic, so I put that thought in the back of my head. Later that night at the hotel, Ro asked if I had tweeted Ilyasah. I changed my mind and was about to do so, however I forgot the woman’s name who I met hours earlier. I found Ilyasah on Twitter and followed her, and left it at that.

The next morning, we just happened to run into the same woman from the day before! “Did you tweet Ilyasah?” she asked. I told her I was going to, but forgot her name. “It’s Teresa. TWEET HER NOW!” So I did:

@ good morning! I met a friend of yours (Teresa) at #bwb2012 - she said we look exactly alike & I should tweet you! So, hello!

Then she replied:

An honor, Sis! 🌺🌺RT @: @ good morning! I met a friend of yours (Teresa) at #bwb2012 - ... http://t.co/9VxD7tFG
@ilyasahShabazz
ilyasah Al-Shabazz

Then I geeked out:

@ trust me - when I googled your picture, the honour (sorry, I'm Canadian) was ALL mine! Great to connect with you!

Then she made me geek out even harder:

I'd like to do the same. Send info, pls 😊 RT @: @ trust me - when I googled your ... http://t.co/uoRNqG55
@ilyasahShabazz
ilyasah Al-Shabazz

Then I DM’d her my contact info and blog link, and she replied saying she’d be checking it out.

Then I realized, I’m tweeting with Ilyasah Shabazz. Don’t tell me Twitter is a waste of time. Had we not ended up in the wrong room, and had I not run into Teresa again out of all the people at the conference, I would have never connected with Ilyasah. Something to think about.

Nighttime Is The Right Time

Friday and Saturday nights featured various mingling events. On Friday, we attended a Mix & Mingle event sponsored by Curls Unleashed. It was at this event that I learned how just being genuine, no matter how awkward I may feel, was the best way to connect with others. Complimenting someone’s hairstyle or shoe game (and really meaning it) opened the door to meeting so many awesome people! ’83 To Infinity business cards were whizzing out of my hands left and right!

With Thea of GBL Sales

Saturday night was the big afterparty, thrown by Patrice from Afrobella and Shea Radiance. Ro and I got dolled up and hit up The Reef, an awesome Jamaican restaurant and lounge. It was the Blogging While Brown sendoff, and everyone seemed really comfortable and ready to have a good time. We feasted on veggies, beef patties, and jerk chicken wings, and tried HARD not to wine down low when we realized that The Reef was playing some damn good reggae! The Caribbean contingent couldn’t hide though – we were soon joined by Patrice and Eva aka Socamom, and enjoyed a little well-behaved bubble. This part was “easy” – by then, I had spoken with, or shared a smile/laugh with almost everyone in there. It was nothing to strike up a convo with someone at that point, because just being at the conference already gave us a common ground. I met some more great people, chatted with the founder of Shea Radiance, Funlayo Alabi, about visiting Toronto, and got my eat on. I was a happy camper – and then the real music started. We turned The Reef out! There I was, in my reggae & soca element, cracking jokes with Scott Hanselman – and it happened. In a Nutty Professor moment, I started to get a bit too into what I was saying…started talking with my hands…and next thing I know, Scott’s drink was on the floor and Patrice was checking herself for any water damage. Sigh. I guess you can mask being a introvert, but you can’t ever mask being clumsy as all hell.

So, what did I learn? Have an interesting elevator pitch. Make sure business cards are easily accessible. Walk into the wrong room sometimes. Be genuine. Remember what you have in common. And for the love of God, Allah, Buddha, and any other deity, try NOT to dash a keynote speaker’s drink halfway across the club!

Attending the Blogging While Brown conference really helped me to continue the process of working on my shyness. Overall, I think I did pretty well! This post just barely covers the impact of connecting and interacting with the other conference attendees – and I think the true impact is yet to be seen. How are you in networking settings? Are you a nervous wreck or a schmoozing king/queen? Let me know how you cope!

BLOGGING WHILE BROWN 2K12 PT. 2: Breakouts and Breakthroughs

The Chemical Heritage Foundation Center - where all the magic happened

I’m back to give y’all some more insider info on this year’s Blogging While Brown Conference – if you missed part one, click here to get caught up!

Friday night, we took in the evening panel – “Love is a Battlefield” featuring Michelle Talbert (of Black Love Rules), Damon Young (of Very Smart Brothers) and Kaneisha Grayson (author of Be Your Own Boyfriend). I missed a bit of the beginning due to a very interesting conversation I had, all by accident (more on that later) – but I got in just in time to catch the jokes and knowledge from the panelists. Relationship blogging is always interesting, especially when you’re IN a relationship. I got some interesting perspectives on maintaining privacy while still being true to yourself and your audience.

After the panel, we stuck around for the Mix and Mingle networking event sponsored by Curls Unleashed. I’ll give the full rundown on all the social aspects of the conference in my next post, so let me get right into Saturday’s conference schedule…

We kicked things off with what turned out the be the most hilarious and entertaining session of the weekend – the opening keynote “Your Personal Brand: It Actually IS All About You!” led by Adria Richards (of But You’re A Girl), Luvvie Ajayi (of Awesomely Luvvie), and Scott Hanselman (of Scott Hanselman’s Computer Zen & Microsoft). Personal branding is crucial to a blogger’s success, as it fully establishes how people feel about you when they see your face or hear your name. Luvvie covered the voice aspect of your brand. How do you say what you say? Adria covered the medium aspect. How do you best get your voice across? On a blog? Youtube? Twitter? Facebook? A mix of all of those and more? Scott covered the reach component. When you’ve established your voice and found your medium, how well is your message getting to the people who need to/should get it? Overall, the same point was emphasized that I heard in the Blog To Big Business panel – content is king. If you have great content that resonates with your audience, you will find that you have a strong, unique voice that stretches across your chosen medium to effortlessly reach your target.

It reminded me of the quote “if you build it, they will come” – as a new blogger, I’ve been very cognizant of hits and subscribers and comments, and used those analytics to base my growth and success. The personal branding panel opened my eyes to the fact that yes, numbers are important. However, what’s more important is to have content that is authentic, creative, well-crafted, and from a place of passion, and that’s what I aim for in every post on ’83 To Infinity. Scott summed it up with another great quote regarding relying on content to create blog longevity: “It’s one thing to watch the first episode of a show. It’s another to watch the last.”

After the keynote panel, we had the opportunity to attend break-out sessions. We chose from one of 2 or 3 sessions happening based on our personal interests, and the smaller groups helped us to be a bit more interactive with the speakers and each other.

My first break-out session was “Blogging Without Bounds: Taking Blogging Offline Into Local Communities” led by Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks from Black Girls Run. These ladies have done an amazing job of taking their online presence offline by the creation of events, meet-ups, and BGR chapters across America. They gave me great advice on my struggle with taking ’83 To Infinity offline – do I wait until I have a certain number of readers, or do I go ahead and put on an event, and hopefully gain new readers? I won’t give away the answer, but just know that it definitely helped to steer me in the right direction as far as creating some kind of external community as well as the blog community.

The whole group came back together for the lunch panel on “Social Media & Technology: What’s Next?” tabled by Anslem Samuel Rocque (of Naked With Socks On, and most recently – like as of the day of the panel – new Managing Editor for Jet Magazine), Marlin Page (CEO of Knowledge Brokers and Microsoft Diversity Recruiter), and Tony Williams (Director of Government Affairs at Comcast). We learned about different apps to help bloggers manage their social media platforms, national programs to promote technology education for youth, and a number of other interesting technological tidbits.

Next Level Sister Bloggers panel

“Next Level Sister Bloggers” was the next break-out session I attended. Paneled by Patrice Grell Yursik (of Afrobellawho I met last year), Kathryn Finney (of The Budget Fashionista), Maria Niles (Client Services Director of BlogHer), and Elisa Camahort (Co-founder of BlogHer), this session covered each woman’s journey and experiences in the blogging world. Patrice’s story resonated with me, especially when she spoke about the negativity she endured from her 9-5 while she chased her blogging dreams. It can be a struggle, but success is possible!

The keynote panel, “Netroots, Blackroots, Grassroots: Social Media & Social Change Five Years Later” was tabled by a ‘Who’s Who’ of local and national activists: Tamika D. Mallory (Nat’l Exec. Director of National Action Network), Naomi Leapheart (Philadelphia activist and teacher), Prof. Terry Smith (Research Professor at DePaul College of Law), and Kimberly Ellis, Ph.D. (aka Dr. Goddess). This panel looked at the role social media can play in social change, and how to move from behind the computer screen to take activist blogging to the next level. It was such an interesting perspective for me – coming from Canada, I was immediately aware of the differences of political awareness and activism between us and our neighbours to the south. Eye-opening to say the least.

At the end of Day 2, my notebook was FULL. I had scribbled so many quotes, notes, tips, and teachings that I didn’t know what I was going to do with all that info. What I did know was that my understanding and knowledge of blogging was infinitely deeper than when I left Toronto days before. Closing remarks by Gina McCauley, Founder of Blogging While Brown and Amina Hanan, Exec. Director of Blogging While Brown were met with rousing applause from veteran conference-goers and newbies alike. When I heard more than one BWB vet say that THIS was the best conference ever, I was so happy that I chose to come this year. If you’re involved in any way with blogging, branding, or social media, keep in touch with the Blogging While Brown gang so that you can be ready for 2013!

So – that recaps the amazing lineup of panels and speakers that taught me SO many blogging lessons! I’m not done yet though! A very important part of the weekend (and the part that made me the most nervous) was the social aspect. In my next post, I’ll give you the lowdown on the part of the conference you couldn’t experience unless you were there – and drive the point home about the importance of face-to-face connections (especially for us shy folks!) – stay tuned! 

 

 

BLOGGING WHILE BROWN 2K12 PT. 1: The Business of Blogging

I’m an introvert.

I’ve been told I mask it well, but at the very core of this being called Bee, I’m the type of person who gets anxious at networking events, may come off as aloof when I’m around a group of people I’m meeting for the first time, and prefer to recharge my batteries at home – ideally with a book, music, and my own company. So, when I registered for the 2012 Blogging While Brown Conference, I was filled with excitement and chilling fear. I was a new blogger – would I be totally out of my league? Many of the folks I follow on Twitter had been to BWB numerous times – would it feel high-school cliqueish? And how damn awkward would I be with the daunting task of networking? All of these questions swirled through my mind in the days leading up to my departure, but I had a few things on my side. One: I wasn’t alone – the homie Rowena from Nubiansoulslocks was rollin’ with me, and two: my desire to learn and grow was greater than my fear of all of the unknowns. So last Thursday, we reached Philly and hit the ground running!

The trip to Philadelphia was…exhausting. A 10 hour bus ride became a 12 hour bus ride due to hold-ups at the border and traffic stops. Excitement kept Ro and I going for a while, but when that faded it was the struggle of all struggles. A packed bus, wi-fi access as scanty as Naomi Campbell’s edges, and chatty passengers made for a long ride. Anyways, we finally reached Philly, checked in at the Hyatt, and hit the sheets to catch some shut-eye before our 1st day at the conference.

Walking to the conference, and realized that the street we needed to be on was a bit out of reach. Lol.

The next morning, Ro and I trekked it the few blocks from the hotel to the Chemical Heritage Foundation Center where the conference was being held. Friday was dubbed the “Business of Blogging” day, and I was curious to see what that would entail.

Panel #1 was “Blog To Book”, featuring Angel Laws (of Concrete Loop), Demetria Lucas (of A Belle In Brooklyn), and Todd Hunter. Angel and Demetria are successful bloggers-turned-published authors, and Todd is an editor for Atria Books. They shared invaluable information for bloggers who have aspirations of being published as well. Key takeaways from this panel were:

  • Ensure that your book is part of a bigger brand. It will help if bloggers-turned-authors have a sizeable social media presence, with the potential to build more – that still may not translate into automatic sales, but will help to sell you to a publishing house.
  • Write proper book proposals! A guide was mentioned for those looking for help in this arena: How To Write A Book Proposal by Michael Larsen

Next was “Blogs and Brands”, featuring Tyrha M. Lindsey (Managing Director at LAI Communications), Jennifer Polk (VP at Edelman Digital), and Mananya Soobhawan (Digital Supervisor at Weber Shandwick) – all amazingly intelligent women with backgrounds in PR and brand collaboration, especially in the online world. A large amount of blog monetization comes from bloggers and brands partnering together, so these ladies explained what brands are looking for in bloggers, and how bloggers can be prepared to take the next step to monetization. Important points were:

  • Blog analytics (# of subscribers, comments, unique views, Twitter followers, etc.) are important, but many brands place more value on the credibility, authenticity, and uniqueness of the blogger. Build your numbers, but BE YOU!
  • Want to pitch a proposal to a PR agency/brand? Use a 10-slide Powerpoint presentation, not a Word document. Include hyperlinks to a few sample blog posts and/or screenshots from your blog. If you’ve done any work with brands in the past, include a case study of what you did/what happened. Ensure to have graphics, like an image of yourself, your logo, etc. Include contact info. IMPORTANT – make sure your About page is ON POINT! Agencies/brands will usually look at that and your most recent blog post to get an impression of you.

Ro, our new friend LaTasha, and I at lunch

Myself, new homie G. Ann, and a Caribana-like model from Philly's Global Fusion Festival

The after-lunch panel was “Blog To TV”, led by Harry Hairston (Emmy Award-winning journalist), Lou Dobbs (Social Media Editor for WCAU-TV), and Alexis Garrett Stodghill (New York and Lifestyle Editor for TheGrio.com). This panel was great for educating bloggers on their role in TV media – from obtaining guest spots on live TV to the blogger vs. journalist conundrum. Here were some key take aways:

  • If you’ve never been on TV/radio before, record yourself using your phone and play it back to hear what the tone, cadence, and inflection of your voice on tape.
  • Many people attempt to connect with anchors and journalists via Twitter, but you may have better luck reaching out to the news directors instead. Anchors/journalists can have such tunnel vision that they may not respond to an alternative view. News directors may be able to see your vision.

The last panel of the day was probably the most polarizing. “Blog To Big Business” was paneled by Fred Mwangaguhunga (Founder/CEO of MediaTakeOut.com), David Wilson (Creator/Executive Editor of TheGrio.com), and Jennifer Williams (CEO of J Sharpe Agency Public Relations). I was looking forward to learning about how to grow your blog into a media empire, but we definitely got much more than that at this panel. Fred from MTO had the room buzzing and Twitter on fire with his quotes that “passion and love for the Black culture are all you need to have to work at MTO” and “in the future, we’ll look back and see that MTO was positive for Black culture”. Yeah. MTO has never been one of my favourite sites to say the least, but I was glad I’d be able to hear the real deal from the man behind the ratchetry. However, when he made those statements, I tuned out until David started talking. David’s story explained the upward trajectory of how he left corporate America to complete a documentary about his family’s history, and how he eventually created TheGrio.com and sold to NBC. It was impressive to hear him discuss his presence and impact in NBC’s boardrooms because of his beginnings with TheGrio.com. Overall, the main lesson I got from this panel was the importance of passion and excellent content. Write about what you love, write it well, and the right people will come knocking.

Here’s an awesome highlight reel that captures the essence of Day 1:

YouTube Preview Image

That sums up Day 1 of the Blogging While Brown Conference – The Business Of Blogging! Stay tuned for a recap of the Relationship Panel, Day 2’s social media focus, and my forays into successful networking and socializing with complete strangers (including how I got through the weekend without my usual clumsiness – until the last night)…

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