ETERNAL & EVERLASTING: Rest In Peace, Maya Angelou

Photo via: harlequinteaset.wordpress.com

Photo via: harlequinteaset.wordpress.com

Every once in a while, you come across someone in life who gives off the air of eternity. This could be a person who has preceded and has outlasted many others. It might be a person who may not be present on a daily basis, but consistently pops up in the important nooks and crannies of your life. It may be a person who persevered when life tried and tried to knock them down and drag them out. It may be a person whose wisdom flows like a never-ceasing fountain, always, always providing you with something cool and refreshing when you need it most.

Every once in a while, you may find some such person. Rarely do you find all of these everlasting attributes in one being, but for me, Dr. Maya Angelou possessed them entirely.

The news of her passing stung. Though my common sense knew better, she was always one of the immortals to me – a being who just was and would continue to be until the end of time. It’s a selfish thought, I know – but it’s a testament to the way Ms. Maya gave onto us, both purposefully and unknowingly, for 86 years.

I wasn’t even a teen when I found Ms. Maya. I’m not sure how she came to me, but I remember the day I went to the library, pulled out a crumpled paper scribbled with notes, and asked the librarian for a book called “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” I cracked open that book, drank in her words, and realized that I had been thirsty all that time. Maya satisfied my personal remix of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and filled me with the desire for more. I got my hands on anything Angelou that I could find, and the transformation began. She wasn’t my only guide in life, but Ms. Maya helped me to discover myself while discovering her.

Photo via: vintageblackglamour.tumblr.com

Photo via: vintageblackglamour.tumblr.com

We came from different times and places, different trials and traumas, but Maya Angelou’s works and life story exposed me to an expression of Black womanhood that was new to me. I was at an age where my limbs stretched and extended towards a 6′ frame like hers, and when I didn’t know what to do with all this length and brown skin and a body that demanded a confidence I didn’t yet possess, I had Maya. When I wondered what it meant to own one’s sensuality, I had Maya. When I wasn’t sure if it was OK to be more than one thing in life, I had Maya. Her very existence was a symbol of possibility, and I carried that with me as I grew from a girl to a woman.

Those possibilities were numerous. Because of Maya Angelou, I saw the worth of telling my own stories from my own experiences. My love of writing and literacy grew tenfold thanks in part to her; she made me want to read more and write better, and when I lacked motivation to do the latter, one quick read of her work was like a gentle smack upside the head to pull it together and be as great as I could be. She exhibited vibrance and trained me up in the ways of being unapologetic in my femininity, my Blackness, and the intersections therein. She knew that life was no crystal stair for us, but taught me how to stand in defiance, dare someone to negate my flyness, and say “I’m here anyways.” She showed me how to be better than I was yesterday, and the discovery of new quotes and anecdotes of hers were gifts. She helped me to be phenomenal, to recognize the authenticity in others, and to not be satisfied with surviving – we were meant to thrive. I agreed with her often, but even in disagreement she pushed me to investigate my convictions and stand firm. Her words saved me from heartbreak, and when I was too stubborn to heed her wisdom her words were a salve for my wounds. Through Ms. Maya, I bloomed and was healed – and though the cycles of life found me hurt and closed in a tight bud time and time again, she reminded me that I could always be open, whole, and full.

Seeing Maya Angelou in Toronto a couple of years ago with the invisible cloak of age across her shoulders, I just figured she’d find a way to accommodate. She’d find a new way to write, to speak, to teach, and to inspire when current methods became too taxing, but that would be it. I regarded her as an eternal fixture but never took her for granted as such, because I figured she had forever to grant us new lessons and to uncover new truths about herself and her life. Alas, reality hit me on May 28, 2014 when I learned that she had stepped behind the veil of this existence, and had moved on to the next.

The more I think about it, I realize she didn’t let me down with her position in my mind as an eternal being. She has found a new method of communication. She did find a way to accommodate. She was able to uphold immortal status. She just showed me that she didn’t have to be here in the physical to do it – her work and her life story will do it for her.

Rest well, Ms. Maya.

THE GAP: Where Are The Black Canadian Mommy Bloggers?

Photo via Huffington Post

Photo via Huffington Post

With Little Magician about to make his or her grand entrance in just a few weeks (where the hell did time go?), I’ve been spending more time online – getting info on Braxton Hicks contractions, finding prenatal yoga videos on YouTube, and sticking my toe into the unfamiliar waters of mommy blogging. Up until now, reading parenting blogs was done with an air of general interest and curiosity, but these days I find myself more drawn to the words and experiences of other moms in the digital sphere.

Sites like My Brown Baby, Mater Mea, Baby And Blog, and Black And Married With Kids have given me awesome insight to the complexities of modern African-American parenthood – but that’s part of my current conundrum. I’m not African-American.

Searching for parenting blogs by Black Canadians has been extremely difficult. On lists like Savvy Mom’s 75 Most Influential Canadian Mom Blogs, Yummy Mummy Club’s 24 Mom Blogs You Should Be Reading, and Reader’s Digest’s list of Canada’s Top 10 Mommy Bloggers, I could only readily identify 2 blogs by Black moms – Peg City Lovely and Globetrotting Mama. I haz a sad.

Visiting the aforementioned African-American blogs often makes me feel like I’m at a summer BBQ with the people who “get” me – those Black moms (and dads) who are navigating the ups and downs of raising Black children in today’s world. However, every once in a while, a post here or there will remind me that I don’t quite fit – like that distant cousin who brings the questionable potato salad to the festivities. Simply put, the African-American experience doesn’t always resonate with my African-Canadian one, and I yearn to balance that with digital offerings this side of the border. That’s proving to be quite difficult, though.

I attended a Canadian blogging conference a year and a half ago, and found that mommy bloggers rule the world up here. I met one Chinese-Canadian mommy blogger and one Sri Lankan-Canadian mommy blogger, but aside from them, the rest were White. Now, I know that that was just my finding at one random conference, but Google searches and requests for referrals from others have yielded very similar results.

Where are the Black Canadian mommy bloggers? Where are the mommy bloggers to discuss how provincial government cuts affect the statistics around Black children and education? Where are the mommy bloggers that have the scoop on cultural programs and events in the city? Where are the mommy bloggers who’ll write about the first time they introduced their babies to cornmeal porridge, yam and fried dumplin? I understand and acknowledge that there are a multitude of motherhood topics that transcend race, but damn – sometimes I want to read about the experiences of parents who more closely share my cultural identity.

BCAvotingpng

I was having a conversation about this with another mother of colour, and she stated that she’d love to start a mommy blog, but wanted it to be just that – a mommy blog, not a Black Canadian mommy blog. Concerns about alienating potential readers and brand partnerships were at the top of her list – “You’ve got to be careful not to make things too Black up here – I don’t know if people are ready for that,” she said. My response was, “What is ‘too Black’? And how will people ‘get ready’ for us if we don’t make our presence known?” Similarly to people who think that racism will go away when Black people stop talking about race, I feel that Canadians think we’ll truly embody our happy multicultural identity when we stop drawing so much overt attention to our multiculturalism. I could go down a rabbit hole on thoughts around diversity, representation, appealing to the mainstream, access to business partnerships and much more (both within and outside of the digital sphere), but I’ll hold off – for now. All I know is, if I can visit a Canadian mommy blog and be intrigued by a kids’ DIY featuring a Scottish family crest and tartan, why can’t someone visit another Canadian mommy blog and be intrigued by a recipe for a healthy kids’ snack using ackee and saltfish? As a Black Canadian woman, I’m inspired by things totally unrelated to my culture all the time. We do ourselves a disservice when we place a label of normalcy on one cultural offering, and assume that our offering is too different to be accepted – leading us to seek acceptance by assimilation. You (yes, you, reader!) may disagree with me, but I don’t think that should be the blueprint. And if I choose do go down that mommy blogger road, I don’t think it’ll be mine.

Ah, yes. If I choose to go down that mommy blogger road. While searching the web for that particular blog niche, a familiar voice popped up in the back of my head saying, “Be the thing you’re looking for.” Many of the goals I’ve accomplished and risks I’ve taken have all happened because I started out wondering when someone else was going to do them – and this mommy blogger thing might be the next task on that list. Now, I haven’t fully committed myself to the idea or conceptualized what it may look like, but I do know that the best things come to me when I identify a gap and fill it myself. As ’83 To Infinity is already my digital comfy couch, it’s a given that I’ll be posting about the journeys with my Little Magician from time to time – but how far do I want to take it? Until I figure that out, I’ll continue to dabble in the digital offerings on both sides of the border and beyond, and see what other mommies have to say. I’m sure I’ll add my own voice in my own way soon enough.

Who are your favourite mommy/parenting blogs? I’d love to check them out! 

KNOW THYSELF: Birthday Lessons & My Script For 31

So, this past Saturday was my birthday, and I’m still basking in the glow.

There’s something about marking the day of your birth, starting a new revolution around the sun, and having the opportunity to celebrate your own personal New Year’s Day that tickles me to no end. Now, I know not everyone feels similarly – but for me, the period of quiet reflection and delicious anticipation around my birthday is like no other. People close to me – like my cousin Mike who shared the same birthday – no longer have the privilege of blowing out birthday candles, so I embrace every year. 

While I simply planned a group dinner at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen followed by a Teedra Moses concert to celebrate, HomieLuva whisked me out of the house bright and early at 9am for a surprise photo shoot with Lawrence Kerr Photography and spa visit at Toronto’s Rhythm Spa.

The ambiance-setting entrance to Lawrence's studio

The ambiance-setting entrance to Lawrence’s studio

 

A candid sneak-peek shot by HomieLuva

A candid sneak-peek shot by HomieLuva

 

I got me some DELICIOUS cupcakes courtesy of Studio Cakes Bakery!

I got me some DELICIOUS cupcakes courtesy of Studio Cakes Bakery!

 

I loved all the services I received...but my massage was heavenly.

I loved all the services I received…but my massage was heavenly.

 

Had to rock Afrobella's exclusive "All My Purple Life" MAC lipglass for the occasion!

Had to rock Afrobella’s exclusive “All My Purple Life” MAC lipglass for the occasion!

 

I LOVE me some Teedra!

I LOVE me some Teedra!

 

Squeeeeee!

Squeeeeee!

 

Little Magician got some Teedra love too!

Little Magician got some Teedra love too!

 

The Facebook status I wrote the morning of my birthday read:

Hello, 31: that curious point in life where – if you’re blessed – you not only feel like you’ve lived a full lifetime already, but you also feel like you’re just getting started. I’m blessed.

And I truly mean that sh*t.

At different points during Saturday, I felt three things: loved, free, and capable. I feel like I’m at a point where I have a good handle on how I express love and how I expect love to be expressed towards me. I feel like I’m at a point where – though new, huge responsibilities are coming – I possess a sense of freedom that I’ve never had before. I feel like I’m at a point where I believe in my capabilities – I no longer feel like I’m constantly ‘faking it til I make it’ with self-assuredness, but I’m beginning to believe the narrative I’ve created for myself that I am a woman capable of achieving the things I desire. With life about to change in some of the most monumental ways you could imagine, I know that I’m caught up in the flux of life – but at least on May 10, 2014, I felt like I had a good foundation to weather the storm.

31 is going to undoubtedly be an exciting year. I’m going to be a mom. I’m going to be a homeowner. I’m going to be pseudo-funemployed while I take time off for mat leave. I’m going to grow into a better writer. I’m going to expand my media work. I’m going to love up my husband. I’m going to strengthen family (blood and chosen) ties. I’m going to laugh more. I’m going to learn more. I’m going to remember how the risks I took last year paid off, then take some more. 30 felt like the beginning of a new act in the play of life, and I’m excited to co-write the script for 31 with the help of the higher power I believe in.

It’s such a good feeling to know yourself. While I also know that things can and will change, I feel comforted that I can finally look in the mirror and say that I know myself. No more trying on identities to see what fits, and more time acknowledging and accepting the fact that I may not always fit. No more seeking security in jobs or relationships, and more time discovering it by becoming secure in myself. I’m still a work in progress, and I’m constantly learning how to catch or dodge the curveballs life throws, but hey – this “getting older” thing ain’t so bad if you spin it right.

I’m ready, 31. Let’s go.

P.S. – sign up for my monthly newsletter here, and get more awesome updates and information!

COZY BLANKETS: The Curious Connection Between Baby Girls & Our Comfort With Misogyny

 boygirl

So, I’m rounding the final curve of this pregnancy run, and the experience thus far has been extremely positive. It hasn’t been a complete walk in the park, but I think I’ve handled the changes much better than I ever expected I would. In about 9 weeks, I’ll finally be able to answer the question that so many people seem so fixated on:

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

Interestingly enough, quite a number of people have no qualms about following up with “I hope it’s a boy – girls are (insert negative attribute here).” If there’s one thing that pregnancy has opened my eyes to, it’s been the ways in which we “innocently” uphold misogyny in 2014.

I can’t help but feel that we set our girls up to fail before they even take their first breath. While many mothers playfully ascribe to the old wives’ tale that ‘girls steal your beauty,’ I often hear a bit too much bitter disdain in the voices of moms who believe the statement. On some level, no matter how minute – baby girls suddenly become the enemy. Catch me on a good day, and I’ll undoubtedly hear the commentary that I must be having a boy – that glow! that hair! – eliminating any threat that a baby girl would pose to my vanity.

Aside from the patriarchal messaging around boys being better protectors and having the power to maintain the family name, people seem quite comfortable with embracing misogyny – consciously or unconsciously.

“Girls are always spoiled – they’re too much trouble.”

“Girls these days are too fast.”

“Trust me – you don’t want no girl bringing home no babies in high school!”

Whatever the statement, we suddenly blame girls for qualities that we place upon them; circumstances that are far too often misconstrued by adult assumption; situations that require the equal participation of someone’s son, but places sole blame on someone’s daughter. Let some people tell it, my potential daughter will come into this world naturally primed to be a spoiled, promiscuous slut – but of course, no one means it that way, right?

Curiously, the majority of people I find making these kinds of comments are other women. As women, we somewhat curse ourselves when we curse our baby girls, don’t we? Perhaps we’ve been blamed, chided, knocked down a peg. Perhaps we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that this is just the way things are. Perhaps in some strange way, we feel we’re preparing our girls for a world that largely works against them by speaking these things over them. All this tells me is that patriarchy and misogyny have become such cozy blankets that we don’t realize when we’re suffocating under them.

From the comfort of our homes in the Western world, we often sip iced tea on our front porches and suck our teeth at the barbaric behavior of our neighbors over there. Girls aborted, abandoned, abducted, raped, and killed – and we wonder, how can people treat precious children that way? How can they not see their worth? While my experiences here in Toronto may not reflect the brutal realities that girls and women face in other parts of the world, I often wonder the same: when we speak negatively about our baby girls, when we burden them before they’re born, when we accept their position as second-class citizens and perpetuate the notion without question – how can we treat precious children that way? How can we not see their worth?

To the friends, elders, and complete strangers who have expressed some level of concern with the possibility of Little Magician being born female, know these two things. One: raising ANY child (especially a child of colour) today comes with challenges that we’ll have to weather, regardless of said child’s sex. Boys and girls have their unique lessons and obstacles, but as a first-time mom, I hardly look at either being easier than the other. Two: as a proud woman who was an awesome little girl, I won’t be complicit in negating my existence by cosigning your misogyny. Wake up, throw off those cozy blankets, and realize that upholding misogynistic and patriarchal ideals stifles both our girls and boys. Deconstruct, unlearn, and let’s help them to flourish, not fail.

TRAVELLING GAL: Journeying To Face Fear [+ Hot Event Giveaway]

Bee-Chimamanda quote
I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Over the last year and a bit, I’ve been doing a lot of travelling. Not necessarily the kind of travelling that finds me packing bags and booking flights and arriving to stretch my limbs on the soils of new lands, but the kind of travel Chimamanda spoke about. I’ve made a concerted effort to face a number of my fears, and I’m proud that say that that journey has afforded me the ability to return home and find myself – a new and improved version – there.

One of the biggest fears I’ve had to overcome has been my fear of public speaking, and within that, my fear of voicing my opinion. Though I went to a performing arts school in my childhood, I rarely felt comfortable with the spotlight on me. I preferred to express my art in quieter ways, so writing and visual art became my close confidants. As I’ve mentioned time and time again on this blog and in other spheres, I’ve always loved writing – but I think writing became a crutch for me to express myself when I felt my spoken words were lacking. When it came to vocalizing my opinion on a topic, I found that extremely difficult as well. I was afraid of sounding stupid, of having people disagree with me, or of having people simply not understand what I was trying to say. The frustrating thing was that I wanted to be a performer. I wanted to embrace the spotlight. I wanted to engage in debate and be confident in my stance – I just…couldn’t. These fears lasted well past childhood and have followed me into my adult life.

A couple of years ago, I decided to pack up my mental/emotional baggage and take a trip that would force me to confront my fears head on. That journey was called the “Just Do It Like Nike World Tour” and the premise was simple. To go from place to place, I’d have to get there by doing the things that scared the sh*t out of me. That was the only way. And so I did. Public speaking opportunities? I took ‘em. Chances to respond clearly when someone asked me my opinion on a topic? I embraced ‘em. I made myself promise not to shy away from anything that scared me, and listen – I have grown.

rnb3SOLDOUT
This coming Saturday, I continue the JDILNWT as I co-host The R&B: Relationships & Bullsh*t Show Live at Trio Lounge with my homie Lincoln Anthony Blades. This is the 3rd installment of our conversation party about, well, relationships and bullsh*t, and it’s been a big part of my personal journey. Standing up in front of a room of hundreds of people, cohesively managing a crowd, hosting an event, and sharing my thoughts on everything from sexual taboos to monogamy and cheating? Bee of Days Past must be in a parallel universe, watching this unfold as she chews her lip out of stress – but 2014 Bee is doing it. This time, we’ll be discussing the question “Are People In Toronto Still Interested In Serious Relationships & Marriage, Or Do We All Just Want Casual Sex?!” and guess what – as I typed this very post, I got word from Lincoln that the show is SOLD OUT. If you’re one of the lucky folk who grabbed their ticket early, I can’t wait to see you out – and just know that I appreciate your role in this journey of mine.
mysticeffect

Never fear – I’m part of another amazing event coming up in Toronto on May 4th at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club, and you could win a ticket! Last year, I took a HUGE leap by co-hosting Stacy-Ann Buchanan’s fashion and art show called The Mystic Effect, and this year I’ll be back in the role of Social Media Correspondent! The Mystic Effect intertwines fashion with music, poetry, dance, and film, and this year will be incredible. If you aren’t able to attend, make sure you’re following me on Twitter and Instagram at @BeeSince83 and follow the hashtag #themysticeffect for all the show details! However – if you’re in Toronto and want to attend, I’ve got the hook-up:

 To win a ticket to The Mystic Effect on May 4th (doors open at 4pm, show starts at 5pm), simply tell me about one fear you’ve overcome. Comment below, tweet me, comment on my Facebook, or email me – any way you wish! I’ll pick one winner on Tuesday, April 29th!

Good luck to all entering the ticket giveaway, and good luck to any and everyone who is working on challenging their fears. May we all travel along that journey and come back home to find ourselves, stronger, better, and more fearless!

FEARING THE GOOD: Getting Over The Disbelief Of Our Blessings

Via bravegirlsclub.com

Via bravegirlsclub.com

What’s your general reaction when good things start happening? Happiness or fear?

If you’re anything like me, it’s easier to trust the process when bad things happen in life vs. when good things happen. We come to expect the negatives in life and we look at the positives with skepticism, protecting ourselves in advance from unseen disappointment. It starts from childhood. In efforts to peel back that layer of naivete that makes us sitting ducks for the harsh realities of life, parents teach us that we’ll often tango with trials and tribulations – and we get used to it. We grow and expect it. We court the bad of life, giving in to the inevitable fact that the bad will always be a part of our existence.

This training is necessary. So many things in life have plans to either kill or strengthen you. Sometimes they shatter you and force you to rebuild yourself, but we’re constantly reminded to trust the process.

Trusting the process means acknowledging that bad things happen to good people. That life isn’t fair. That struggle and strife are meant to serve us a purpose, even if we can’t see that purpose upfront. We accept so much of the negative that sometimes the only positive we can embrace is the fact that we survive through it.

Surviving is vital, but what happens when we see an opportunity to thrive? Much of the time – if you’re anything like me – we don’t automatically trust that process. We’re reminded that all that glitters ain’t gold – but even when we’re handed gold, we’re reminded that things are often too good to be true. We inherently learn to be wary of goodness – and if you’re anything like me, the first thing that happens after a blessing is wondering when the winds will shift again, bringing us back to the struggles that we’re familiar with.

Lately, good things have been happening for me. I’m looking at life and seeing that some of the blessings, the things I’ve worked for, sacrificed for, and struggled towards are now coming to fruition. Sadly, my first instinct is to be afraid. Good things can feel like a trick, or a temporary sunny reprieve from the darkness I’ve become accustomed to. Good things are met with hesitation, and have to prove themselves to me before I’ll tentatively accept them into my life. I don’t want to be played for a fool – and the surest way to be fooled is to be deceived by shiny things that promised you happiness and satisfaction.

However, the surest way to block your blessings is to act like you don’t deserve them. If you believe that being blessed is foreign to your DNA or isn’t part of your birthright, you’ll be proven right. I realized this weekend that one of the saddest things I’ve ever done was being distrustful of the blessings that have come my way. How sad is it that it’s so hard to believe that we’re worthy of good? How sad is it to fear the recognition of good, lest we find bad around the next corner? How sad is it that the acceptance of the bad in life has taken up so much space that we have no room to accept the good? I don’t plan on embracing that pitiful paradigm for much longer.

I’ve seen some formidable lows in life, and I know that I could always end up there again. Today I choose to bask in my blessings, knowing that if/when things change, I can survive. Today I choose to bask in my blessings, knowing that they are part of my DNA and my birthright. Today I choose to bask in my blessings, knowing that as much as I’m made up of dark complexities, I’m also made up of stardust and success.

All this to say: start believing and trusting the process when good things happen. Celebrate the good things in life. Expect them. Know that they have a place in your world. Realize that luck is capricious and you aren’t merely “lucky’ when good things happen – you are worthy of them.

Now, go forth and embrace the good. It’s real, and it’s yours.

FEEDING BODY + SOUL: #BrunchWithBee Event Recap

9

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.

brunchwithbee1

brunchwithbee2

brunchwithbee3

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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!

CATHARSIS: Caught Up In The Rapture Of Life’s Transitions

I'm trying to be her.

I’m trying to be her.

Truth moment: lately, I’ve been feeling totally, completely, and utterly off. I’m talking disjointed from reality, swirling around in the after-effects of the worst planetary retrograde ever, frustrated with nearly anything breathing or inanimate, and living under the unrelenting stare of grown-up decisions waiting to be made. I’ve been feeling like I’m pushing against a force that refuses to let up and let me be great – and I just really want to be great, dammit.

I’ve at least identified that force, which I guess is half the battle, right? Change. That’s the beast I’m up against, and it’s putting up a hell of a fight.

There’s the most apparent one, which is Little Magician’s rapidly advancing “Hey, world! Here I am!” date. At 26 weeks, I’ve shifted from counting up to milestones and find myself counting down to the biggest one yet. With less than 100 days to go, the realness of the situation is hitting me in a brand new way, and I feel fully unprepared. Are we moving? Have I registered for the shower yet? Am I up on the latest and greatest must-haves for the baby? Do I even know what I want to name this child? Every day, my to-do list multiplies.

I’m in the throes of the biggest transition period of my life, and while Little Magician is a catalyst to that, he or she isn’t fully to blame. I’ve been blessed to receive some incredible opportunities this year that have me viewing myself and my world in entirely new ways. Solidifying some excellent freelance writing partnerships; flexing my developing public speaking muscles with workshop facilitation, event hosting, and TV appearances; and being urged to embrace my entrepreneurial side by HomieLuva all have me looking at my reflection in the mirror, almost able to see my cells and molecules shifting and taking new shape under my skin. I’m becoming a new woman with new skills and new possibilities at my fingertips, and the biggest question that comes to mind is, “So, whatchu gon’ do with it all?”

One thing I’ve unfortunately learned NOT to do is talk to certain folks about my plans, fears, goals, and ideas. I was listening to Jay Electronica and Jay Z’s “We Made It” remix and heard a line from the show Eastbound & Down that made me pause:

Kinda makes me wonder why the hell so many people are tryna tell me to slow down. Seems like motherf*ckers should be shutting the hell up and enjoying the show.

Slowing down is something I’ve heard over and over – either in being told I should “slow down” now, or tinged with the salt of a snide chuckle when someone tells me I’ll be “forced” to “slow down” later.

Instead of slowing down, this transition period has me wanting to ramp up speed. There are many who don’t understand my excitement at melding my existences as mother/entrepreneur/woman, and instead try to discourage. Some of the discouragement comes from a place of genuine concern: “I just don’t want you to be disappointed if you can’t do all of the things you want to do,” they say. Others come from a place that’s easily perceived by me as bitterness: “Well, when I had MY child, I couldn’t do ANYTHING!” they say. 

Life transitions come with the possibility of disappointment and your high hopes crumbling and having to switch directions at a moments’ notice. Life transitions are also deeply personal and no two journeys are the same. I know this. I just wish more people would be cognizant of that fact before trying to save or stifle me.

Who knows what I’ll think or feel in the next 3 months/6 months/1 year – maybe I’ll realize that I was totally naive in my aspirations – but for now, I’m combating my fears of the unknown by holding on to my hopes, dreams, and goals. I can rest, but I can’t slow down. I can be realistic, but I can’t be pessimistic. I can get caught up in self-doubt, but I cannot afford to stay stuck there. Housing twice the life in one body has granted me my second wind in life, and has motivated me to live twice as fully going forward. So, slowing down? Not an option. I’m just getting started, so shut up and enjoy the show.

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!

NATURAL HAIR DIVERSITY: Rita’s Story of BlackWomanAwesomeness [Guest Post]

Allowing guest posts on ’83 To Infinity was always something that made me very hesitant. Shaping this site to be a place that authentically represents my voice has been a continuous journey over the past 2.5 years, and introducing new voices to the mix gave me pause. However, I’ve been thinking of some awesome ideas that require the help of others. I’m ready to challenge myself by entrusting this precious space to likeminded individuals who fit my vision while bringing something fresh and new.

Highlighting the diversity of natural hair has been a focus of mine this year. Aside from my own hair documentations, I recently shared Rowena’s story of cutting her locks, and today will share Rita’s story – in her words – about her own hair journey. Rita is a brilliant university friend of mine who embodies diversity in natural hair. Sit back and take in part one – her guest post – and stay tuned for part two, a Q&A, to come tomorrow.

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Take it away, Rita!

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In February 2008, I decided to do something that I had always dreamed of as a kid – and I did it with the womon I considered my first love: my big sister, Brago. This was the womon that taught me everything she knew about blackwomanawesomeness. She was strong and independent, and my surrogate mother at times growing up. Brago is five years older than me, but we have always been close. I wanted to be everything like her when I was younger. I would steal her clothes when she left for school, and rush home before her, to put it back in its rightful place (gross!). She taught me how to dance (which, growing up in Rexdale, Toronto in the 1990s was a huge deal –or rather, a huge deal for black girls who had no rhythm). We did everything together. We shared a room for most of the nineties. I saw her go through various hair stages. I remember how much of a big deal it was when she decided to go natural.

None of the womyn in my immediate family had been natural as far as I had been alive, so for Brago to step out on her own to cut the perm off was so eye-opening for me. I did not entirely understand what she was doing, but I trusted her enough to know that she knew what she was doing. It had to be something cool if my big sis was doing it. She inspired most of my musical choices growing up, too: from Brandy and Monica to Jill Scott to Erykah Badu to Nas; I soaked in all of my sister’s musical tastes with the quickness. The one artist that we both admired, (and listened to her LP back to back everyday for like a year straight) was Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I wanted so desperately to have locs after Lauryn Hill came out. I remember telling a boy in my 7th  grade class that I was gonna start locs soon, and I kept saying I would get them, but never did. To me, Lauryn Hill’s locs became representative of natural black womyn’s beauty. I was in awe of her ability to carry her rasta with such rebellion. I wanted that. I wanted to love who I was rebelliously. I wanted black people to believe that we could be beautiful in our natural state. My hair was deeply political.

Not until winter of 2008, after I returned from a visit to St. Kitts and Nevis, however, did I finally make the decision to start the locking journey. Both Brago and I were ready to start the process. At the time I had had an afro, which I loved. I just knew that locking was always the “end goal”; the ultimate way to solidify my contribution to the black love/blackisbeautiful movement.

It was also quite symbolic that I would be starting my loc journey with my big sister, the womon who was responsible for igniting my radicalblackwomonpolitics. Together, we journeyed to Nanni’s Hair Salon in the west-end of Toronto, where we were embraced by an awesome group of womyn, all at different stages of their loc journey. As we entered the space, it was like I could feel all the strength/power that existed in these womyn pouring from their locs: their stories, their triumphs, their resilience, their love. It was all there for me. There wasn’t much conversation happening; (any conversation that might have happened would have been drowned out by) womyn under dryers, womyn under wash, womyn with hands in their hair, carefully re-twisting each loc. Not much conversation at all –which was atypical for black womyn’s hair salons. But it was clear to me then that this wasn’t just about a basic hair routine, this was blackwomonritual. Not much needed to be said because the conversation was in the ritual. I relished the opportunity to be a part of this new community.

But I have to admit the first time I left Nanni’s with my freshly palm-rolled baby locs, I was disappointed. My locs looked nothing like Lauryn’s. I know I said I was ready to be all black-womon-roaring, but it wasn’t supposed to be like this! For at least the next two years, it was a constant struggle to see myself as beautiful while adorning my baby locs. (This was pre-the first wave of natural hair bloggers, by the way.) Don’t get me wrong, most days, I loved the challenge (and sometimes, threat) that my natural coils posed to my African community; a community as brainwashed by colonialism as any other; a community that starts perming at age 6; a community that would sometimes stare at my sister and I in everything from wonderment and admiration to concern or disdain when we walked into a room. I loved that womyn and girls in our community would ask us questions about the maintenance of our naps. I appreciated the respect and adoration I received from men in my community, as well (albeit, mixed with a bit of the exoticism of Black dreadloc’d female bodies).

But, there were days (usually between washes) that I wanted to give up. On those days, I sometimes felt guilty for being so vain. While my bad hair days helped me discover the wonderful world of head wraps (shouts out to my girl, pieces2peaces), I wondered if I was just faking the funk on this radical black hair politics shit. I mean, after all, weren’t my locs supposed to be a big “Fuck you” to the Black and White Beauty Myth? Why was I still so obsessed with looking pretty? And yet, why did being pretty make me (feel like) a bad feminist?

Through all of that, I kept my locs for almost five (5) years.

Until the Summer of 2012.

I was simply just tired of maintaining it and decided that I needed a change. In the end, it wasn’t about what my family or society thought, or about feeling “too black”, or about what employers would think: I simply could not bear the thought of washing and re-twisting my locs one more time. I couldn’t bear the thought of combing any hair at that. I don’t regret the journey at all –I might even do it again in the future, but for now, I am enjoying my short do –which has brought a whole new set of body image issues that I will continue to work through. And in the end, black hair is still deeply political for me.

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we got egos like hairdos

they’re different every day

depending on how we slept the night before

depending on the demons that are at our door

-Ani DiFranco, Egos Like Hairdos*

*This was written in Summer 2012 –before all of that weird racist shit went down.

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Stay tuned for my Q&A (with more photos!) with Rita tomorrow!

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