Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chasing The Dream: En Route to Africa Part I

Preparing self for the biggest journey of the year.
Africa desires weren't dreams potted and planted overnight. Seeds took time to be fruited within.
Childhood illusions fostered American happily ever after with hetero normative married life, white picket fences, and kitty cats. The masquerade had been a misconceived brainwashed efforts of majority. Pillars of realized destinies came after reading books-- eye opening books that gave deeper comprehension. Looking past embellished history to look at the real horrendous picture. Ancestors were stolen, robbed of their beautiful living. They made this country without receiving a lick of credit. And that story has been glossed over to the point of obscurity.
Some of us will never have fiery desire to visit Africa. Allegorical return is something whispered from past life to spirited soul. That ancestor singing its melodic hymn, walks alongside, unable to speak visible communication, but ignite certain inkling, an inkling longing to be scratched.
I want to view ancestral place. I want to make art there. I want to write there.
Last month, I had received the most incredible news. Out of 200 proposals, I was selected to present "Metaphoric Idiosyncrasies: A Fable in the Vine," my paper/PowerPoint, at Black Portraiture [s] lll: Reinventions: Strains of Histories and Cultures in Johannesburg, South Africa.
First, I told my thesis reader.  He was happy. My mom-- not so much.
“Do you have to go?” She asked, going into an “Africa is a dangerous place” spiel.
No congratulations. No praise. Just don't go to that ugly, horrific continent.
Philadelphia is a lot more dangerous. Heck, the United States in general has become a major terror, especially for marginalized people.
I wrote out a GoFundMe twice. I would post and then immediately delete. Guilt was powerful. Shame more so. It's easier to help others than ask others to help you. I kept telling myself that I didn't need anything from anyone. I'm independent. I can do this alone. Most of my life, I've overcome many challenges-- both external and internal-- alone. Often without a word.
My third GoFundMe became an unexpected yet very sweet success.
Thanks to substantial help received from school friends, generous associates, and hometown buddies, my airfare/accommodation are paid in full.
It's really, really happening! I'm going to Africa!
My plane adventure starts in New York City's JFK airport to Charles de Gaulle in Paris (with long layover to have great vegan French cuisine and see Eiffel Tower again). From Paris, it's off to O R Tambo Airport in Johannesburg! I'll be staying at Protea Hotel Parktonian All Suite which offers airport shuttle and is a thirteen minute walk from University of Witswatersrand. I am excited to meet Deborah Willis (who was just nominated for an Emmy) and a host of others. My goal is to not only speak with authority and enthusiasm for my writing and art, but to also build relationships with the other invited artists, scholars, and activists. Afterwards, I will explore the land for three whole days. Then, finally, my next plan adventure begins in the Netherlands and ends in New York City.
I am so ready for this. 
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Blueberry Ice Cream

Last Friday night, I had the pleasure of standing in a long line just to try out the vegan blueberry ice cream at Franklin Fountain. Philadelphia's famous sweet dessert is served in style similar to Asian takeout container with signature insignia on the front. Other flavors such as dairy free vanilla and chocolate were also being catered to vegans, but unique blueberry's potential dynamite flavor called out in siren's song.
I hadn't had blueberry in an ice cream, let alone a sorbet or sherbet.

Oh my! This was incredibly fantastic. Lovely lavender color, sweet tangy blueberry in a soy milk based foundation, the little blueberry bits-- a new found addictive. I savored my ice cream with a joyous relish, wanting nothing more to eat blueberry meets vanilla forever and ever.
When the eagerly monstrous inspiration bug hit, making my taste buds itch with fiery anticipation, I raced to the kitchen in hopes of creating a Franklin Fountain knockoff ice cream.
Unfortunately, my desperate attempt didn't come out as pretty, having more of a faint nod to purple and a bigger vanilla flavor than needed. Next time-- soy milk and less vanilla (or more blueberries).
Still, I will not downplay good results.   
My blueberry ice cream is a great summer sure shot-- a delightful, berryful way to beat sweltering heat.

Blueberry Ice Cream Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup frozen blueberries
1 13.5 oz. full fat coconut milk
1 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine ingredients together in a blender or food processor.
Pour into steel bowl, cover tightly, and freeze for 5-6 hours or overnight. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Revisiting "The Electric Lady's" Powerful Fist Bump

#LoudBlackGirl trended on Twitter the other day-- a vocal message to demand people listen and respect a marginalized group that they want to quiet, shut down even.
I could not resist thinking about "The Electric Lady's" titular track. After all, Janelle Monáe did bellow out, "electric lady's gonna scream out loud!" That we do.
It's hard to believe eclectic alternative R&B gem "The Electric Lady" approaches third birthday come September. Philosophical, knowledge dropping music is as fresh picked as a jazzy ripened green apple on a splendid morning. With the MTV Video Award winning "Q.U.E.E.N." (a sultry satisfying empowerment jingle with amazing Erykah Badu), it still is a surprise that other accolades hadn't stacked high against so charming a venture. For Cindi Mayweather and her fleet of droids deserved more than a gritty slide under the sinkhole. They more than deserved a place at the table. They've earned. And few people have yet realized how importantly feminist this album is.
Beautiful soul stirring ballads like "Can't Live Without Your Love" (my personal favorite), passionate tribute to the late Sally Ride (a thumping melody with chanting rhythm towards end), and the affectionate dance number "Dance Apocalyptic" (a hip shaker attributed to "Michael Jackson's Jheri Curl") keep the avid listener's attention from beginning to end. Despite years passing and others coming and going, "The Electric Lady" still resonates, striking a cord running deep within heart.
I want to hide in provided genuine authenticity, playful spirit, rebellious tenacity, and romantic sentiment forever. Ignore the Michelle Obama copycats, the Leslie Jones riots, senseless murders of black people, and other horrible harms to black women today.
Monáe has all the necessary elements to salve wounds-- at least temporarily.
"Dear reader,
May these songs bring wings to you when you are weak and humility when you are strong. May the evil stumble as it flies through your world."
Like yesterday, I remember her concert held at Philadelphia's The Electric Factory (perfect venue)-- a showstopping, energetic blaze of wonderful live opera octave vocals, jittery slick dance moves, and open mic diarist entries. To be that close to such a figure was to be a part of cemented history, delivered in climatic awe. Not to mention, her amazing associate album producer-- Roman Gianarthur who performer opening act duties.
I dusted off "The Electric Factory" for resurgence, for strength, enjoying Monáe's afrofuturistic paintings (serene meet subdued colors are wildly impressive), and production writings. The production writings are sweet and humorous. I love knowing birth of her influences and reasoning that a great song has been fruited into being. It's honest truth. When it comes to the gritty, manufactured, over-sensualized, cheap, tawdry music business, she is a breath of welcoming, humanizing air-- droids and everything. Intelligence + talent never goes out of style.

"...laser lyrics, lead vocal prophesies..." of "Suite IV Electric Overture"
"...lead howls, background acrobatics, additional bass shotgun blasts of "Given 'Em What They Love" featuring the late great Prince.
"....psychodancing lyrics, freaktastic vocals.." of Q.U.E.E.N.
"....electro lyrics, crackling lead vocals, background vocal shocks..." of "Electric Lady" featuring Solange
"... lyrical gaze, lead vocal brushstrokes, background colors..." of "Look Into My Eyes"
"...cyberlove lyrics, lead vocal kisses, background whispers...." of "Can't Live Without Your Love"
"...hypno lyrics, lead vocal ecstasy, background vocal seduction..." of "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes" featuring Esperanza Spaulding

Highway robbery of nominations and awards don't matter. Not anymore.
Life without these well-produced songs, these powerful songs that satisfy ear aches on the worst of days would have been the most inconceivable loss. One moment can be a chance to explore moonwalk glide whilst washing dishes, another ignites desire to be an encouraging champion to someone unseen during creative session, and the next is valuing truest, most internal, mediated self when feeling low. One cannot ask a musician to grant more feeling than that is gifted.
"The Electric Lady" will, without shadow of doubt, stand the test of time. 

Let us hope that magical, wondrous songwriter/singer/artist/producer Janelle Monáe aka Cindi Mayweather continues to lead like a young Harriet Tubman in a place where some blindly believe that they are not sheep in this ruckus and the woke others just want to wave "freak" flag freely.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Black Rice With Chickpea Cream & Mushroom-Tempeh Stir Fry

A satisfying bowl of texture and flavor.
Long ago, I swapped out white rice for brown rice. Occasionally I revisit white rice at Asian restaurants, but that's about it. I no longer prepare it at home. As for brown rice-- those days are somewhat over. Now black rice has become the main rice staple. It is a beautiful rich color. When paired with bright colored foods and sauces, ebony brings a special significant contrast to the plate (or bowl). Quite stunning to view at times.
With a simple chickpea cream and classic tender mushroom-tempeh stir fry, this black rice dish is a delicious comforting well-balanced meal.

Black Rice With Chickpea Cream & Mushroom-Tempeh Stir Fry Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup cooked black rice
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup portobello mushrooms, chopped
1/2 8 oz tempeh block, chopped and cubed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup almond milk
3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

avocado (optional)

In a skillet set to medium-high temperature, heat olive oil, red onion, and mushroom.
Add tempeh cubes, salt, garlic, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and black pepper.
Mix together for 8-10 minutes-- when tempeh is browned on all sides.
For chickpea cream-- pulse chickpeas, almond milk, nutritional yeast, salt, and black pepper together until smooth and rich.
Top prepared black rice with stir fry and chickpea cream. Add avocado.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Almond Topped Brownies

Soft, moist brownies topped with a light almond crunch.
One of my favorite past times is baking sweet treats for others, especially those I love and respect.
Brownies are yummy, scrumptious, and addicting-- chocoholics beware.
I had to create a special batch of brownies. This incredible vegan brownie recipe comes from Gimme Some Oven with slight alteration. First of all, fair trade organic cocoa butter on eBay-- primarily a beauty ingredient-- is incorporated in place of olive oil. Cocoa butter brings most alluring scent and creamier texture to chocolate desserts-- almost authenticating decadent experience.
Raw crushed almonds on top counteract sweet chocolate bite. That satisfying nutty crunch providing balance and texture to dessert.
My next step is concocting a cocoa butter frosting for next brownie batch. That'll perhaps be even more splendid.

Almond Topped Brownies Ingredients and Preparation

1/4 cup pumpkin puree (apple sauce or avocado would sub fine)
1/4 cup cocoa butter, melted (olive oil or coconut oil)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
1 cup raw almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8" x 8" inch baking dish. 
Mix pumpkin puree and melted cocoa butter together. Warning: it will smell divine.
Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together.
Combine pumpkin puree and melted cocoa butter with dry mixture. Add water.
Pour into prepared baking dish.
Crush almonds into a blender or food processor. Put over top of brownie batter.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Hot and fresh from the oven, ready to be carved. Let sit 20 minutes.
Dense, irresistible, pretty brownies. 
To give out chocolate is hard, but remember sharing is caring.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Black Girl Magic Lit Up Colored Girl Museum's First Festival

Colored Girl Museum was beyond lit. Beyond fire. Set us all ablaze.
We needed the healing a special Saturday afternoon granted.
Underneath this spiritual umbrella, providing shield from the violence thundercloud of our country, the audience were raptly attentive to the woman gracing the stage.
Radiance shone bright. And yes, my eyes teared up, remembering not just Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile. Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tanisha Anderson, Mariam Carey, Rekia Boyd and Sandra Bland, and countless other sistas we can never ever forget.
Now the Colored Girls Museum uniquely houses stories, experiences, and objects of the colored girl.
The Colored Girls Museum distinguishes herself by exclusively collecting, preserving, honoring, and decoding artifacts pertaining to the experience and herstory of colored girls. This museum shall serve as a clearinghouse of multidimensional arty-facts, objects and information about Colored Girls: equal parts research facility, exhibition space, gathering place and think tank. This Colored Girls Museum is the first institution of its kind, which considers memoir, in any form, as well as objects of personal and historic significance, as evidence with empirical value.
I have always wanted to visit. The Colored Girls Museum is opened on Sundays only.
And I work every Sunday.
Someday I'll go.
For now, I reminisce on the Colored Girls Festival at Fringe Arts and its magical medicinal properties.

Commendable hostess Ariadne DuBois wearing the Colored Girls Museum t-shirt in between introductions.
I missed Nikki Powerhouse. Her name alone resonates uplifting vibe to dwindled spirit. I wish I had seen her live. I did, however, find this to be wonderful-- The Art of I Am. Still, she's a local actress. Hopefully, a next time will arise.
M'Balia Singley strummed acoustic guitar, serenading with a combination of charming humor and sweet affection.
Jasmine Combs, an eloquent, brave poet threw out frustration with honesty and love in her barbs.
Maritri sang and struck her guitar, her voice like melodic honey dripping sap.
Blakbushe instructed through soulful song and cymbals to challenge patriarchy, to have sound mind, to love ourselves. With a touching tribute to Prince, taking her spin on "The Beautiful Ones," eyes mystified and it remained hard to hide how touched whole experience gave.
Poignant images flashed on the widescreen projection. These were women admired late in life. Eartha Kitt, Ruby Dee, Angela Davis, even a whole Serena Williams tennis match.
We were clapping and shouting bravo to our talented entertainers and women flashing on the screen.
That was all power, all strength.  
After last performance, DJ Ian Friday got the global soul dance party started. Maya Angelou's majestic timbre recited her impressive, always relevant poem "Phenomenal Woman" mixed with Chaka Khan/Whitney Houston's "I'm Every Woman." Perfection. She was alive again. Alive in soul, alive in spirit.
I captured several moments and compiled them together here: Colored Girls Museum Festival.
Please watch and share with others. These ladies will bring fire in your heart and joy in your steps.
I will be eternally thankful to them and the Colored Girls Museum. This was remarkable. And needed.
So very, very needed.

Treasure trove of dangling beads among African sculpture hummed diaspora melodies.
Fancy stylized earrings and vibrant patterned bib necklaces appear to be straight out of a glamorous African Vogue magazine.
Fabulous abstract designed, bold colored prints on tote bag purses.
Most epic way to showcase handcrafted jewelry.
Little girls seeing dolls in their skin tones? Beautiful moment.
"I've got to learn to leave the table when love's no longer being served."- Nina Simone
Co-worker/friend and I exiting the festival, spirits alive and joyous. What a gift!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Frida Kahlo Through the Lens of Eyes of Nickolas Muray

"Frida With Picture Frame (on Self Portrait Remembrance of an Open Wound)," Coyoacán, 1938.
Happy 109th birthday to one of the most profound artist women of this century-- Frida Kahlo. An inspiration for as long as I can remember, she holds a resonate place in my heart. Despite some believing she has become kitschy, too famous beyond paintings and lithographs, I stay true to my ardent adoration.
Everyone knows her name. Everyone knows her pained history, her vivid personal work, her cultural fashion, her unique beauty.
Today is the best day to revisit Toronto's special exhibit on beautiful portraits of Frida by one of her lovers-- Nickolas Muray.

Last summer, Textile Museum of Canada spilled details of an illustrious affair between artists-- photographer Nickolas Muray and painter/diarist Frida Kahlo.
On the walls, Muray's prints were adhered to walls alongside fragments of their clandestine letters to one another. The romance was a short lived one, but the ghosts flew out of sacred catacombs, resting in the space, confessing raw, fervent language.
Brightly lit digital presentation feature inventive design and vivacious provocation that comes in regards to having remarkable Frida Kahlo as focal protagonist. Part of Frida's charm is that she is not demanding or overpowering the space she reigns. Instead her quiet force of nature-- stark, vulnerable yet mysterious-- bursts through two-dimensional orientations, taking the viewer on wondrous journey to arresting genius. Whether embodying love for Diego Rivera, her sister Cristina, or pleasure meant for the photographer's discernible gaze alone, fierce tenderness and wild spirit dally between pieces, showcasing facets of Frida's personality-- naughty mischief, intelligent intrigue, and scandalous come-hitherance. Enchanted spectator has no choice to fall under the spell of such a softened predator.
Muray's staged quite sophisticated play in his concise attention to detail, making glittery-eyed sitter a star of high contrasting compositions. His color play is like fresh, ripened fruit, lusciously tantalizing and sweetly forbidden. Spectator has no choice but to succumb to temptation-- to the earthly capture of a phenomenal woman, a talent still utterly missed by the world.

"Frida With Hand at Her Throat," Mexico City, 1940.
"Frida With Granizo," Coyoacán, 1940.
"Frida With Blue Satin Blouse (final portrait)," New York in Nickolas Muray's Studio, 1939.
"Frida," Mexico City, 1940.
"Cristina and Frida," New York, 1946.
"Self-Portrait With Frida Kahlo in Her Studio and on Her Easel Her Self-Portrait Me and My Parrots," Coyoacán, 1945.
"Frida," Coyoacán, 1938.
From the "Frida in Her Wheelchair" series, Coyoacán, 1945.
Posing with "Frida on a White Bench (Carbro),"  New York, Nickolas Muray's Studio, 1939.