Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The BLM Project

At Harcum College's Trout Library delivering my bear called "BLM."
Harcum College is celebrating 100 Years. To commemorate their bicentennial milestone, back in March, they asked artists to respond to the call on Philaculture's Job Bank. The theme was "Bears and Squares" for an upcoming gala to show and auction off the white bear plaster molds and white square canvases. I was more than overjoyed at being selected, choosing to work on the white plaster cast bear- a most worthy challenge. For weeks it sat in my school studio untouched. Critics and I would stare at it, mention its peculiarity, and move on to other random works.
Soon, some volcanic eruption shot right through me and birthed out BLM. Maybe it was the braids in combination with the horrors of the country inciting fervent inspiration. I wanted to create something rich and bold, something that spoke to history as a black life mattering in this society. There is so much fuel to add to the fire, so much terror and fear each day breathing air. As an artist, I needed to illustrate the time, the now in a metaphoric poetry that translates through my personal writings.
The once all white bear has been painted a vibrant copper and brown, with brown eyes, and a defiant aura about her. She is rooted in past and future. Body is of the Egyptian Sphinx- a mystical creature evoking both lion and human qualities. I gifted braids from my own hair, attaching to her head, covering her "bear" ears, and made her "listen" to Black Ivory forever.
I am quite proud of this project and very excited about what is next to come on this artistic adventure.....

BLM on the train cloaked in my Harry Potter Marauder's Map backpack.
My "twin" looks so comfortable. Thankfully no one sat next to us on the train to Bryn Mawr. She sat with red, yellow, and green headphones, listening to Ivory Black.
The back of her features the Ivory Black paint tube acting as a walkman, an iPod. Pan African ribbon adorns the "music."
With a drawn black outlined bear in the center.
Unfortunately the globs of black and brown paint did not survive. See the many languages of Ivory Black-- German, Spanish, French....
Back part of BLM's head. I coated her synthetic hair braids in Argan Oil. Hopefully they stay shiny forever.
Another back look.
Check out BLM's Spinx inspired body. It is Golden's pretty line of rich copper metallics and Gold Painter Marker as well as the Sharpie to spell out "BLM" in patterned mantra.
Spinx body closeup.
BLM's face. Brown eyes. Large pink lips. Lots of iridescent medium. She wears Pan Africa colored ear buds and a bright green flower in her braids. 
Purple braided choker does not have any Argan Oil, but looks quite sheen worthy regardless. Purple means royalty and uniqueness. BLM is all those qualities.
I love the build up of medium on her nose, her snout like a pig more than a grrr bear. Layered, thickening of creamy white sparkle is so fascinating to look at. 
BLM is quite happy. I cannot wait to attend the September gala and see who takes her home.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

New Product Alert: Daiya's New Boxed Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese

 Move over Earth Balance (or at least scoot), a new vegan boxed mac has joined the party. It's slaying harder than Buffy on Halloween night.
Hmmmm, is it me or am I eating too much comfort food lately? By comfort food, I mean macaroni & cheese.
Last week, I went back home to Dayton for a few days to spend time with my family- especially my sweet adorable nephew for Father's Day. Prior to that, I visited my favorite Kroger- the one by Town & Country Shopping Center. I have immensely missed Kroger and their prices! Merci! Merci! Merci! (blows a million air kisses). Lo and behold they had an array of new vegan products that the two Center City Whole Food stores in Philly don't even have yet. I swear they care so much abut vegans and keeping things within budget. I was lucky to find all three boxes of Daiya's stylish sleek design packaged macaroni & cheese and decided on the Cheesy Mac. I believe it was under $4.
Daiya once again does not disappoint! I love them for branching out beyond cheese wedges and blocks. They have taken over frozen pizza and cheesecake in the freezers. Now they are armed and aiming for the pasta shelf. According to this one tested version, they are succeeding triumphantly.
I enjoyed Daiya's animal free, soy free, gluten free version of Kraft Deluxe-- the fancier mac n cheese of childhood that boasted about using real milk and cheese, none of that powder stuff! Daiya is creamy rich decadence. They have somehow put tht familiar vegan cheddar style wedge we know and love gave a little oomph inside of the silver pouch. I followed directions boiling pasta whilst adding frozen broccoli-- yes  love broccoli to death. (FYI: we're getting married, having chocolate babies and registered at a thrift store!) Anyways. Clapping for Daiya. The cheese flavor is strong, mild, believable. Not too salty. I don't like my pasta too al deinte. I like it firm but not mushy. So that also worked out well.
Here is how I created my simple meal using Daiya's innovative spin.

Squeezed silver packet. The mild oil separation was a little funky looking, but that changed real quick!
Stir well. Afterwards, if you are alone like me, pour half into a container. You simply must fight against eating a 3 serving box of addiction.
Enjoy the other portion, sprinkling on basil herb yumminess.
Praise Daiya this is gooooooooooood!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Unconfidental Purple & Black Summer Box Braids Files

Purple is in the air! Happy summer!
These beautiful braids were done on May 27, 2015 by the lovely women of Matilde's African Braiding Salon in Philadelphia. That was the first time I had five women simultaneously braiding my hair. What an experience!
The summer purple braids have been a hit so far! I have getting lots of sweet compliments on the streets, the subway, the bus, online. The shocking swirl of my favorite immersed in the real authentic color of my natural hair has truly influenced even my fashion style. Still rummaging through thrift shops such as favorites Philly Aids Thrift and Goodwill have proven to enhance artistic funky style sense. Plus the retro purple spectacles play a key role. I have barely worn my prescription contact lenses and that's a rare feat!
Thanks to Journey to Waist Length, I found a great way to cleanse my scalp. I've put some Kinky Curly in a spray bottle and once a week, I spray and massage my scalp, rinse, and condition with Shea Moisture's Moisture Therapy (also in a spray bottle). Afterwards, I put Jamaican Castor Oil and coconut oil through scalp and strands. Plus spray on Shea Moisture's Raw Shea Butter Reconstructive Finishing Elixir Sheen Spray.

Straw fedora hats and art making in the studio whilst staying chic and true.
And traveling is never a boring venture with happy-go-lucky selfies and electric purple flair.
Music listening turns and pumps up the volume. 
Next to hair confidence and Hurraw tinted black cherry lip balm, I have been loving and cherishing the opportunity to dress the part of shapely body. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sun Dried Tomato Chickpea Salad

Perfect accompaniment to Gardein's Fish Filets. 
Little piece of good news to start off the day: I was named by Aph Ko, contributing writer of Striving With Systems, as one of the 100 Black Vegans to Check Out. I appreciate the honor-- such an unexpected kudos. Loved being surrounded by the familiar and those new to me worth adding to notice. Thanks to this amazing compiled list, I discovered that a vegan restaurant has been in Harlem all this time. Folks know how much I have been cherishing my visits to Harlem. Now I am planning to eat at Seasoned Vegan soon-- a 13 minute walk from Studio Museum! Yes!!!
Meanwhile, a few days ago at Whole Foods, I found a small tub of sun dried tomatoes for $1.37- lowest priced fancy ingredient next to a 99 cent can of chickpeas. I sampled the chewy Fruit Roll-up styled texture, loving sweet and savory blending together. Since I already planned to be delicious Gardein from the freezer, I wanted to prepare a light, simple entree. Sun Dried Tomato Chickpea Salad was born under hunger and creative freewill. The medley proved to be  chrmn serenade of curry flavors and degrees of chewiness. Definitely adding either crunchy pumpkin seeds or hearty walnuts next time. Plenty of summer tasting sun dried tomatoes to go round.

Chickpea Salad Ingredients and Preparation

1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup red onions, sliced and diced
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of lemon juice

Toss eight ingredients together.
Can either be served at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Sorry about the infuriating orange tint, but it turned out refreshing and delicious.
Perfect yum on a hot day. I suggest maybe even grilling your Gardein  (if Gardein mood strikes), and have this chickpea salad as a solid plate date!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Brooklyn's All Vegan Champs Diner

I can see why my NYC vegan cyber friends always recommend me to try Champs Diner out. It's simply fantastic. Opened from 8AM to 12AM everyday, they have cravings fare from breakfast to brunch to dinner. Relaxed environment with black booths and bar stools. I sat at the stool, admiring baked treats like cinnamon rolls and scones in display cases. I came primarily to order the hit, the top charter.This here is their signature macaroni and cheese with bacon and broccoli. OMG. I drooled the minute this smoking plate was set in front of my face. The smell hit me like lightning. Smelled cheesy and inviting. Truly one of the hottest, most seductive meals yet encountered in my eating out vegan experience, especially as far as macaroni and cheese is concerned.
And they do not skimp on the broccoli either. These are giant, lightly cooked florets that lessen the guilt over mouth watering cheese galore and savory smoked bacon pieces. Rich, creamy goodness seducing the mind with stimulating thoughts of supreme satisfaction. Each addictive bite more euphoric than the last. In between forkfuls of firm macaroni are the crunchy breadcrumbs providing flavorful texture.
In between heavy breathing and rapt closed eyes, I managed to finish. There was no way this macaroni and cheese would survive a take out box anyway. Amazing. Incredible. A winner of the "I cannot believe that was truly truly vegan" moment! I enjoyed the space. The waitresses were nice. It does get uber busy, but there is solid order. No real chaos.  
For dessert, a milkshake. They have options like peanut butter, cookies, chocolate chips or coffee syrup. I decided on vanilla with brownie pieces and whipped cream. Perfect blend! And I walked it off, touring Brooklyn skies, enjoying one amazing meal and the energy to skip around, delighted and thrilled to have finally dined at one of Brooklyn's finest vegan treasures. Cannot wait to come back to carb myself up. They have pie for goodness sakes! Pie!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Art Of The Movement: Ava DuVernay, Toni Morrison, & The Other Voices Rising Above Static Noise

She-ro film director/screenwriter Ava DuVernay lighting the fire, making a sistah swoon with talks of an Octavia Butler film and other projects one longs to see.

School may be out for summer break. Education is forever.
"Stay woke," they preach. "Stay woke."
Violence escalates. Terrifying times we cannot ignore. I find myself in the studio often, making and thinking conceptual thoughts of the documenting maker. I had an unfavorable final MFA review. Bad. Almost heartbreaking. I write a lot. Just write. Words spill out like blood from a wound. Video exploration comes to mind too. I have been dabbling. Both onscreen and screenwriting wise.
I told you all about last December. That time David Lynch had come to PAFA, his alma mater, the place he discovered filmmaking. He told students that one evening he stared at a painting and swore it moved. It was a treat to be there, an honor. I mean it's Oscar nominated, award winning David Lynch. How rare a spectacular event right? Well, as amazing and incredible as that opportunity proved to be, I must admit seeing Ava DuVernay's "Of Art and History" conversation awed me more so.

Ava said that it was important for Black Barbie to have locs.
In April, I came to D.C. purposely for LunaFest (festival of short films created for, about, directed by women). When I heard she was speaking at Smithsonian, hosted by the as yet Smithsonian Institute of African American History and Culture, I registered online immediately. Phenomenal. So phenomenal. To be in the same room feeling that powerful energy, an energy that still cannot be shaken off. She was real. She was genuine. I cannot stress enough how my ardor grew, my inspiration.
For Selma, Ava conducted research. Tons of research. Her parents were helpful too (learn from your elders yup yup). There were five little girls not four in the church bombing. Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon B. Johnson were not skipping through floral fields holding hands singing lolly da as many others want to believe. An audience member even said Ava had Johnson exactly right. Bosses didn't even want Malcolm X in the film. Wow. Talk about trying to diminish and overshadow the honest integrity of the movement. I loved finding out that the jail scene in which Martin and Ray Abernathy share emotional dialogue bosses wanted scene reshot with more lights because "they couldn't see them." She fought hard to keep the original. Fought hard to insert womanist scenes. Further into the artist's role, my visionary she-ros Kara Walker and Carrie Mae Weems were cited. Ava spoke wondered if the public asks too much of the artist, of the artist's responsibility, especially in terms of black fortitude, of black humanity. She asked, "what is black enough?" That question remains lodged in my throat.
As a visual artist interested in telling narratives shedding light on personal experience, it felt good to truly listen, to hear another who knew the game. A black woman. A black voice. Someone who wanted to illustrate our experience in a true, genuine way. She gave us food to nourish on, to chew and savor later. I still think about it. I see her walking on the stage in full length white and green dress with multi-patterned geometric shapes and dark brown locs flowing about shoulders. I hear her words drift in the studio on butterfly wings as though struck by the hit of Venus Williams' tennis racket.
"I'm always shocked to see so many people," she had said, at one point covering flustered face in a sweet showing of humbleness and modesty.
Some captured short documentation:
Ava on Telling Selma from Selma Perspective.
Ava on the LBJ Scandal.
Ava's Advice to Filmmakers.
When Ava discussed joining the movement, she meant AFFRM.
Last week, the second African American Film Festival Release Movement membership drive kicked off on Twitter, trending and trending the #ARRAY hashtag. For eleven straight hours, renowned visionaries like Julie Dash, Gina Prince-Blythewood, Ryan Coogler, Veronica Mahoney, Kasi Lemmons, Debbie Allen, and more took control of the official Twitter handle. Please realize the importance of minority film, black film. We are not just pictorial accounts of famous leaders that academy both love and loathe to celebrate. There are dramas, love stories, comedies, indie features that will warm and incite spirits. I love the vision. It sparks something inside, moving alongside the beating heart. And I think it rhymes. If you agree, if you desire a real change n Hollywood, please join this remarkable quest. Perks like being on the rebel wall,  receiving e-vites to special cyber events, etc are amazing, but the biggest perk of all is seeing diverse stories delivered on screen, stories we were often robbed of seeing.
I will not conclude on Toni Morrison as a mere footnote. She came to Philadelphia on a book tour of latest novel God Help the Child, saying that she loved meeting readers in person. Her voice carried the first few pages, speaking in a clear concise manner, Ohio accent sounding like a silky smooth Southern whip- soft and fierce in the wind but sharp and snappy in deliverance.
In conversation, she discussed childhood, ugly American history, being an editor first (Angela Davis and Muhammed Ali autobiographies were notables), and realizing why she wanted to be a writer.
Toni Morrison On Baltimore.
And then I met her y'all.
Beautiful, witty, charming talented she-ro. Still writing. With silver locs escaping black beret and fine white pearls at her neck.
"Are we allowed to say to Toni?" I asked handlers, whilst staring at Toni in as a bewildered struck fan.
"No!" Toni screamed, all jokish and smiling like she had a secret. Earlier the sole living American Nobel Prize literature winner remembered great grandmother saying to her and her sister that they were "tampered with." She was messing with me in a different context, humorously engaging, albeit a memory to stick inside for eons.
From that moment, I babbled on and on about appreciating her words, how she often inspired n challenged where I dared not go. As both artist and writer.
"Are you a writer too?" Toni asked, gleaming, looking up briefly from signing a mountain of books.
"Yes," I answered, sharing breathtaking words sans vocalization.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

En Route To Summer Braids Part Two: The Night Before With Karen's Body Beautiful Luscious Locks Hair Mask Deep Conditioner

Supporting black business continues. Ingredients for this include aloe butter, jojoba oil, nettle, and carrot seed oil.
The most important part of getting hair to that necessary softness is to use a good deep conditioner at least twice a week. Well, for me. My hair is super duper dry. Like a crispy deep fried brittle dry. Thankfully, new products have slowly recuperated damage. Still commending Kinky Curly for cleanliness, Shea Moisture for amazing conditioners, and clipping ends. I find all three components have been beneficial to summer braids journey.
Now moving forward to the next segment: trying out Karen's Body Beautiful. Like Kinky Curly and Shea Moisture, Karen Tappin's cruelty free line is free of parabens, sulphates, mineral oil, and other harmful additives.
Karen transformed her organic body care line from a modest home-based business to a blossoming enterprise with robust internet sales, a luxurious store and a chic spa. Karen’s foray into the rarefied world of beauty happened by chance. In 2003, Karen, an astute businesswoman, was successfully marketing custom gift baskets during the holidays. Alarmed by the presence of preservatives and possible carcinogens in some conventional bath and body products, Karen decided to create all natural alternatives to incorporate into her gift baskets.
After researching the cosmetic and therapeutic properties of natural ingredients, Karen developed recipes for a full spa line made from all natural ingredients, including lotions, soaps, scrubs, oils, candles and bath salts. Karen’s products were immediately a hit-so successful in fact that the following year she and her husband decided to focus their entrepreneurial efforts on selling bath and beauty products.
Here entails twas the night before protective braids,
another organic product breaks down hair barricades.

After washing with Kinky Curly's Come Clean, I swapped out usual conditioner for Karen's Body Beautiful's Luscious Locks Hair Mask Deep Conditioning Treatment, $24.99 at Target. I used more than a quarter. Sorry. I'm a product addict. And I knew my hair was extra thirsty on top of excited. This is always sold out. And for good reason. Alas, I combed conditioner through, put on a conditioning cap and watched two episodes of Jem and the Holograms-- 40 minutes. Karen said 20. I needed the bonus. I rinsed and tested strands. You know a conditioner is good and true when during twist making, it stays uniformed and shiny-- no product needed. Still, one needs leave in conditioner, oil, and cream anyway. The combing was manageable too. Solid plus. 
Little pic. I hope you all can just imagine how the texture felt. An indescribable feathery existence. These are part of photographic closeups. Part of a future series of Afro hair love. Very beautiful. Touchably beautiful. To sift fingers into this was a dream.  
Soft middle view.
My hair line is so healthy. I'm obsessed with the front view.