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.

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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brunchwithbee2

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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!

***

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.

***

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

REMOVING THE BLINDERS: When You Realize Your Parents Are People

BeeMommy

Sometimes I marvel at how much I learn by keeping my mouth shut and just observing.

I thought I had my parents figured out by my teen years. I had both their personalities pegged; I could tell you what they’d each laugh at, how far I’d be able to push it with each one, what key words to use with whom, and what their respective consistencies and limitations were. It’s only recently that I’ve learned just how wrong I was – well, maybe not wrong, just premature. I now liken my parents to excavation sites – what you hit near the surface is usually only a glimpse at the treasures you’ll find if you just keep digging.

Lately, my new found observational skills have enabled me to soak up some new lessons from my mother, and they couldn’t come at a better time.

One day, my mother and I sat in a park in my hometown, and she opened up to me about parts of her life – both blissful and painful- that I had no clue about. This was when I first started to recognize the excavation site that was my mom – and when we walked away from our park bench, the woman standing beside me seemed so familiar and yet so different. I was just like her and nothing like her at the same time, and I knew that investigating the various parts of her would teach me so much about myself. I couldn’t have been more right. 

My mother is a true Virgo. Exact, critical, and sensitive, she’s hard and soft at the same time. When life gave her lemons, she persevered by using superhuman strength to pulverize those suckers into sweet lemonade. I’ve never thought I was as strong as her. It was easy to take her strength for granted until the tides turned and she was brought to tears by an offhand comment or tough love from someone close to her. I’ve never thought I was as sensitive as her. With Black women being constantly prided, upheld, and revered for their strength, we often forget about the underlying strength in vulnerability. We expect Black women to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and turn a setback into a setup for a comeback – and my mother is a master at this. However, her openness to be vulnerable and sensitive reminds me of the human essence of Black women. Sometimes this focus on Black women’s strength hurts us; the world believes we can shoulder more and more and more, rarely stopping to see if we’re OK or if we can manage – because, hey! We’re always OK! We can always manage! My mother’s ability to wear her emotions on her sleeve has taught me just as much about strength as her ability to endure life’s struggles. Her hard and soft parts make sense to me in a way they never did before. MC Lyte said it first, but my mother is the living, breathing icon:

Do you understand
The metaphoric phrase ‘Lyte as a rock?’
It’s explainin’ how heavy the young lady is

When it comes to being brave and taking risks, no one does it quite like my mom. Stepping out on her own with 3 kids to raise after leaving a marriage that wasn’t serving her? She did it. Daring to fall in love again and risking possible heartbreak? She’s done it. Choosing to challenge herself with a new job after 20+ years of comfort and familiarity? She’s doing it. My mom may not skydive or bungee jump, but quietly watching her take these life-altering risks and express sincere bravery at being OK no matter what makes me proud to be cut from a part of her cloth.

If my mother’s cloth is a quilt, one of the patches would read “Boss.” Much debate has ensued over the word “bossy” and what it means for young girls and women since Sheryl Sandberg launched her  new #BanBossy campaign – but as shy as I’ve been for the majority of my life (I can see y’all who know me now rolling your eyes!), being called “bossy” was never something I really had to contend with. In recent years, I’d like to believe that I’ve grown in my boss-ness, and that is definitely due to my mother. Her flavour of bossin’ up has never been related to power grabs and lording over others – instead, it’s rooted in knowing your shit, being assertive, and not allowing anyone else to walk over you. It took me a few years (read: a couple decades) to get comfortable with exercising these tenets, but now that I’ve started, I’m not prepared to stop. I think that part of her legacy is embedded in this – she never sounds more proud than when I’ve proven to a non-believer that I knew my shit, or when I’ve stood up for myself, or when I’ve stiff-armed an attempt by someone else to railroad me. The more she encourages, the more I know I can develop this boss muscle that I was given in birthright. I see now that the best way to honour her is to honour myself.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to see my parents in a new light. The blinders that block you from realizing that your parents are actually people serve to protect you when needed, but must be removed at some point. Little by little, those blinders have been lifted, and I welcome the light.

GET MOVING: Unique & Free Workouts To Keep You Happy & Healthy [via For Harriet]

Dance is a great full body workout! Check me out on the far left, ready to get my bubble on with Yendi Phillips! [photo via HeyDoYou.com]

Dance is a great full body workout! Check me out on the far left, ready to get my bubble on with Yendi Phillips! [photo via HeyDoYou.com]

One of the biggest challenges with implementing fitness into your life is doing it in a way that is real and tangible for YOU. I’ve recently been appointed a Community Health Ambassador for the Have Faith In Healthy Living project run by Toronto’s Women’s Health In Women’s Hands Community Health Centre, and will be running a series of workshops this month on ways to do just that! If you detest the gym like I do, you may be wondering how can you find fun, unique, easily accessible, and cost-effective fitness options. Look no further! Here are some fitness choices that will help you hit your health goals!

I’ve personally found that dance is a full-body workout that is so fun, you don’t even realize how much work your body is doing. Since moving from a small town to a big city, I’ve been able to take part in different forms of diasporic dance such as Afro-Cuban and West African dance – and I’ve loved every minute. The best dance classes are the ones that challenge your body to move and maneuver itself in ways you likely haven’t before; they encourage you to leave your apprehensions at the door; and they give you a bit of context into the history and culture surrounding the art. Whether you’re into salsa, dances of the Orishas, hip hop, or jazz – see what’s in your area and take advantage – or purchase a cost-effective dance DVD like Yendi Phillipps’ In The Dance Fitness!

Socacize is a unique workout created by Trinidad-born, Toronto-based Ayanna Lee-Rivears. Combining cardio, weight training, and strength training with dance moves and music from the Caribbean, Socacize’s popularity has exploded thanks to its ability to be a fun yet effective workout. Classes are available in Canada, St. Lucia, and across the U.S. in both 1-hour class and special 2-hour bootcamp class formats. If you like to “wine and tone” to some reggae or get your heart pumping with some soca, Socacize is for you!

If you have a smartphone and/or a laptop, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home to get a good workout in! The digital world is filled with a multitude of awesome and free resources to help you get and stay healthy! The NTC Nike Training Club app is one of my favourites – select a carefully curated 15-, 30-, or 45-minute workout, fire up your music playlist, and get to it! NTC is great for a variety of reasons – one, being that each exercise move is timed, so you can pace yourself and do as many as you can in the given time slot. Two, because the app gives you the opportunity to watch a video tutorial of any move you’re unfamiliar with. Three, because you don’t necessarily need to have any workout equipment to feel the burn. Bonus? At the end of each workout, you’re prompted to set a reminder in your phone for the next one!

Another great free site is The Daily HIIT (high-intensity interval training). I’ll admit – I was a bit intimidated when I first visited this site. The rock-hard bodies of the fitness models and online trainers made me feel that maybe I wasn’t ready for it just yet, but I tried it anyways. Surprise, surprise – I was happy to learn that I could keep up a lot better than I expected! Granted, these workouts are quite challenging, and some do advocate for the use of workout equipment like hand weights or kettlebells – but at no more than 12 minutes in length, these workouts are a great way to squeeze in some quick yet challenging exercise into your life.

A bonus free workout that I never considered until recently is mall-walking. Working at the mall during high school, I often saw groups of seniors power walking through the corridors in the early morning before stores opened. It never crossed my mind again, until I became pregnant and everyone said, “Walking is the best exercise!” Being pregnant in the middle of one of the most brutal winters Toronto has seen makes that a bit difficult, so mall-walking popped back up as an option. If you like to walk (or even do a light jog), and want a free, indoor option, check your with your local mall and see if mall-walking is available!

Have Faith In Healthy Living official poster

Have Faith In Healthy Living official poster

So, there you have it – a few options for getting fitness into your life in fun and nearly free ways! Want to learn more? Join me at one of my two Have Faith In Healthy Living workshops that are open to the public:

March 8th at 1:30-3pm at WHIWH (2 Carlton Street, Toronto)

March 13th at 1-3pm at Malvern Family Resource Centre (1321 Neilson Road, Scarborough)

Workshops are FREE – snacks will be provided – and you’ll get to meet other great women in the community! Email bee@83toinfinity.com to RSVP!

Post originally published on For Harriet

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