Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Comforting Love Letter to the Black Woman: Self Care Through Art Is Here

Landscape, from Anatomy of Architecture series, Simone Leigh, digital collage, 2016.
When the world turns its negligent back on black women, with heavy weighted abuse thrown carelessly along fragile, easily damaged psyches, where can black women find both trust and comfort? Where can they seek refuge mentally, emotionally, and physically? 
The latest horrors on Leslie Jones' have reached an explosive breaking point.
Esmin Elizabeth Green's senseless death in a Brooklyn waiting room serves as one of the catalysts of Simone Leigh's latest work. "The Waiting Room," at New Museum, is an installation centralizing on granting women a safe, medicinal healing space.
“We feel the urgency because of what happened to the state of US health care, which is not good,” says Leigh. “From what I have observed, we have one of the worst healthcare systems internationally. And it adversely affects people of color.”
Once stepping off fifth floor elevator, walking forth though dimly lit space, alluring black aligned rectangular cushions make greeting. Circular black shapes resting on solid gray floor, adjacent to each other in evenly spaced rows, serene unity matching that pleasant smell. At the end, lies a black and white image of seemingly monumental figure, firm and staring above, head held high.

A holistic approach to health.
The Waiting Room has varied herbs encased in fat, cylinder jars. They're natural, organic shapes, muted colors, and sparse textures are attractive, almost seductive, pushing against the glass.
At front desk, dried lavender, crushed rosebuds, and velvety hibiscus are opened, exposed to air. We are meant to hold up these large glass baubles and let our nostrils fully breathe in their 

Every Saturday is a Guided Meditation for Black Lives Matter featuring therapeutic workshops with tea prior. Acupuncture, wellness, and herbology classes are offered as well as outside exhibition hour projects. In fact, Leigh's spearheaded Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter is getting noticeable attention for bringing one hundred black artists to form an underground collective together.
White heavenly pillows invite viewers inside the meditation clinic where apothecary awaits.
Glassed natural herbs and tied cinnamon barks have pristine orderliness. They also smell sweet and fragrant.  
This great bulk of earth and smaller jars, perhaps meant for participants to gather.
Set up like a grocery store shelf (or better yet the GNC), rowed jars display varying textures-- some sparse, some smooth, some fragmented. Rawness is how it differs from grocery store familiarity. Whereas harmful chemicals and GMOs ingredients fill most processed foods, Leigh's installation is pure, unadulterated, bare. It's a special thoughtfulness behind dedicated tenacity to bring natural awareness to our minds, bodies, hearts, and souls.
A black figurine girl is nestled between exposed and the contained.
Colors are subdued, calming that heightens profound relaxing escape. From brown speckled off white to a warm mellowed pink, and organic browns, peaceful palette visually stimulates brain to embark on a quiet journey within. Its as though the viewer takes a spiritual trek in the heart of nature, uninhibited and unafraid of dangerous unknown, to find the peace missing from chaotic earthly existence. 
Julia Baker: Did they tell you I'm colored?
  Dr. Chegley: What color are you?
Julia Baker: Wh-hy, I'm Negro.
  Dr. Chegley: Have you always been a Negro, or are you just trying to be fashionable?

Theme of black women as healers continues via video format.
Julia, the first non-stereotypical television role for a black woman, starring the amazing Diahann Carroll, is the only short shown in Technicolor. On a repetitive cycle runs memorable phone call nurse-to-be Julia makes to Dr. Chegley. Julia's skin color has nothing to do with her credentials as a woman invested in healing and medicine. Yet at the time, this was controversial. 
Leigh bringing apothecary and medicine into art, especially an art museum, is something refreshingly different. It begs a viewer to do more than staring at objects and analyzing meaning. She offers a discussion as to how is the womanly self and how are womanly others around the self-- are you well Sis?
"I don’t pretend to be a public health expert.... The project is more about remembering and honoring the work of the Black Panthers and getting back to the basics of learning how to take care of yourself. In the global south, I have noticed the use of herbs as an everyday, foundational way to care for the body. Some of the herbs in the installation are from a single block in Chinatown on Grand Street that houses several apothecaries, only a few streets from the New Museum itself. I think we have gotten to the point where we don’t realize that pharmaceuticals are in fact derived from plants, and we think the plants themselves are suspect."
“The doctors couldn't treat us. So the women used music as medicine.”
Inside of one of America's first black OBGYN's Josephine English's old grounds, people are invited to do yoga. Cinematic black and white documentary focuses on individual bodies moving to inner rhythm, slowly twisting back and forth. Camera pans to their synchronized fluidity, the empowering strength witnessed in the arms, back, torso, and legs.
As one student readied to leave for the day, the host tells her that she has a nice smile- a lovely sentiment. Sistahs should not only ask the other if her mind is good, if her health is good-- let her know when she is looking and being at her best. As Leigh shares in this necessary health space, we women can heal ourselves and each other.
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Sunday, August 21, 2016

En Route to Africa Part II: What Lies Ahead

As the dream gets closer and closer to fruition, romantic drawings continue to past my time-- in between speech practicing.
Black Portraiture [s] III: Reinventions: Strains of Histories and Cultures schedule is officially up.
Big names like Henry Louis Gates (host of PBS's Finding Your Roots), Misan Sagay (writer of Amma Asante's Belle), Julie Dash (writer/director Daughters of the Dust), artists Lyle Ashton Harris, Zanele Muholi, Alison Janae Hamilton, Rashaad Newsome, and others are attending and presenting. Panels entitled Imaging the Black Female Body, I dream in colour”: Imagining and dreaming as subversive postcolonial masquerading strategies in the visual artworks of South African women-of-colour visual artists Mary Sibande and Senzeni Marasela and Venus on my Back, Girls of Color, Inheritance and the Hottentot Venus Narrative are among primary interests. Post-conference receptions will be held at the renown Goodman Gallery and MOMO/MoCada. 
This is major.
Excitement has boiled. My GoFundMe has been fully funded. Everything is almost booked.
I made a couple of mistakes including debating whether to add an extra hotel day (my plane arrives in Johannesburg at 11:30PM on Tuesday evening though my hotel reservations are set for Wednesday), purchasing air shuttle service (why did I think this was complimentary), among countless random little preparations.
Hardest part seems over.

Dreamy, romantic pencil and watercolor sketches feature Yinka Shinobare inspired fabrics. These are a metaphor for my truest, deepest feelings within about this upcoming travel.
I would be lying if failing to mention doubt or fear brewing inside. November is around the corner, sneaking up on fragile piece of mind. I know my words are worthy. That they need to be heard. My drawings and paintings want to be seen by this audience, this audience that will surely carry me through the course of my future-- brimming in African/African American rooted study. That future burns hot with hopes of further pursuing educational hierarchy and other opportunities to present papers-- whether these papers are research based, creative writing, or poetry. I believe that this is the beginning of a rather profound journey. Why let discouragement rue my thoughts?
In the meantime, a few weeks ago, I had a ball as a guest feature on Stephanie Renee's MOJO-- a Philadelphia based morning-afternoon radio program on 900AM WURD. I discussed Black Portraiture [s], a brief reflection on my paper, and excitement over this upcoming experience with Stephanie, a phenomenal host who sounded just as enthusiastic. This was so great and fun-- a different way of interacting with radio DJ beyond trying to score concert tickets or a free CD. 
For now, I will continue practicing in the mirror. No faltering allowed.
Also, since I also have opportunity to attend panels (before they get booked), I plan to read over each listed and go on from there.....

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ranch Macaroni Salad


I finally got my hands on Hampton Creek's new Ranch Salad Dressing. It has a superb homage to traditional rich, creamy flavor that a typical ranch offers. For my macaroni salad, I added colorful carrots, red onions, shreds of zucchini, and this amazing dressing.

Ranch Macaroni Salad Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup macaroni, cooked and chilled
1/2 cup rainbow carrots, steamed and chilled
1/2 cup zucchini, spiraled
1/4 cup red onion, chopped and diced
1/4 cup Just Mayo Ranch Dressing
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon salt
 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine ingredients together and refrigerate.
Simple.



Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Recipe for Surprise Parties & Killer Peanut Butter Walnut Brownies

Good foods like Slice Pizza (they make vegan pie), unforgettable fresh homemade salsa, Whole Foods mild guacamole, tortilla chips, and this strawberry topped peanut butter chocolate brownie (by me) were great party fare. In the background is a pretty scrumptious looking vegan gluten-free Sweet Freedom Bakery cupcake gift. Yum!
This is more than a step by step process of preparing something in the kitchen.
This is a walk outside, a train journey, eleven floors up the elevator.
On a casual, seemingly innocent Tuesday evening, we the Visitor Services Staff of PAFA threw a little appreciation party for Matt-- our kind, sweet, cool as a cucumber supervisor. He works super hard and often can't spend time with us outside of museum life due to hectic schedules and whatnot.
It was high time to bring the party to him, to celebrate him, let him know we just appreciate.....
The idea escaped the mouth of one appreciative devotee and spread like a delightful communal virus. I say delightful because no sneezing, coughing, hiccuping or anything hazardous transpired between us. Nope. Just conspired a plot to celebrate a super amazing person.
Everyone was stoked-- wide-eyed and joyous over throwing a surprise shindig.

Just a few treasured words to describe Matt-- calm, peaceful, fabulous, stylish, eclectic, and creative are some other words I should have added. He's a terrific artist and phenomenal writer. I've spent many a time at PAFA's Arcadia Library reading his thesis.....
We had major trickery help from museum education department-- one of his besties and PAFA class of 2014 gal pal. She lured him up to the eleventh floor. We bombarded him with loud cheers and rambunctious clapping. It was such a sight, a wonder, to see him so happy and astonished at the same time. Of course, we had the same rowdy glee when the pizza arrived.

Most of the gang in present with Matt holding the Scrabble board of adjectives.
A huge thanks to another of my co-workers (fellow vegan alert) for co-conceiving this killer peanut butter brownie recipe. I knew that brownies would be involved, especially aince Matt liked the previous batch. There is no cocoa butter (used remainder for homemade lotion) and coconut oil was a big giant no-no.
I used Whole Foods Organic Peanut Butter-- the only ingredient is peanuts. Stored at room temperature, the peanut butter had a nice oily consistency mirroring melted oils or butters. It's not the same as subbing with applesauce, pumpkin, or a ripened avocado, but since the peanut butter flavor was desired that mattered not.
Overall, the surprise party was amazing. The pizza, these brownies, that salsa, my co-worker/friends....
We definitely celebrated in style.

Killer Peanut Butter Walnut Brownies Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almond milk (or any dairy free alternative)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup walnuts, crushed
1/2 cup unsweetened peanut butter
1 package Driscoll's Strawberries, sliced (optional, but it gives the brownies lovelier presentation by covering fork marks of impatience)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 8' x 8" baking pan.
Mix dry ingredients together.
Add in dairy free alternative milk and vanilla to dry ingredients. Stir evenly.
Pour in that bit of apple cider vinegar. Combine.
Lastly, swirl up the peanut butter and walnuts in the brownie batter.
Lay and smooth batter over in the baking pan. 
Let bake for 25-33 minutes.
Cool for an hour before placing strawberries or any other fresh fruit.

Dessert at the party.....
Here's what remained when I brought the pan back home.
One piece with an ice cold cherry smoothie served in a mug. Superb dessert-- a satisfying end to a wonderful surprise party day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Vegan Crepes & Scones

For a friend's birthday, it seemed like a good idea to give Little Choc Apothecary a second chance. My intuition said "yes."
First of all, they now have a brand spanking new renovated upstairs. Varied jars of colorful spices and natural herbs line the back wall in beautifully organized display.
Toasting to the birthday girl with an iced chocolate orange shake and banana almond smoothie.
Pizza Crepe meets Room For Mushroom (with added homemade cashew cheese).
Bits of the interior action. This is a fulfilling amount.
So filled, the crepe oozed out bursting goodness on the other side.
Cinnamon raisin almond scone and complimentary hot tea-- which was extremely flavorful with lovely floral notes. My friend chose apricot jam. I selected raspberry.
Take a look at the creamy, luxurious raspberry jam and the thick clotted cream.
The vanilla flavor was a strong complement to sweet chewy raisins and spicy cinnamon component.
Magic number 7 to end a wonderful meal. The staff was friendly, courteous, and sweet this time around. Plus I received a 10% coupon on my next visit. I cannot wait to bring another pal!
After brunch, we did bump into Ghostbuster Leslie Jones outside of Madame Tussand's. I bet she would have loved Little Choc Apothecary too!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mushroom Tofu Scramble

Imagine my surprise that my friend named a dish after me.
She's back in wonderful Toronto. I'm breathing Philadelphia air.
Still, as that smooth My Morning Jacket song goes "only memories remain...."  
While in splendid Queens reprieve, jamming to great 80's songs, having a fun ole time, we made incredible tofu scramble. It was well worth that last minute evening grocery stop for important ingredient turmeric. Just a pinch makes for a tasty start to summer morning.   

Mushroom Tofu Scramble

2 tablespoon olive olive
1/2 chopped red onion
1 1/2 cup portobello mushroom (or any other mushroom)
1 8oz package extra firm tofu, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3-4 slices of Field Roast Chao (or any other dairy free cheese alternative)

In the sizzling heated oil, combine onions and mushrooms. Let them glisten and hiss.
Add crumbled tofu and the traditional tofu seasonings-- turmeric, salt, and black pepper. Stir for about 7-10 minutes.

Melt the Chao in last. Turn off heat. Share with your bestie.
Cooked broccoli-- perfect side dish, perfect veggie addition.
Colorful set table.
She had fresh ground coffee as beverage of choice. I created a blueberry cherry almond milk smoothie.
Close up.
Watermelon slices beautify the breakfast experience.

Monday, August 1, 2016

By Chloe's: The Chic Vegan Experience

by Chloe is certainly worth the modest wait time.
After a day full of art and intellectual thought, we walked from The Greene Space towards by Chloe on Bleecker St. From outside, the seemingly Chanel inspired awning featured homage to a fashionable admiration of vertical black and white aka the classic pinstripe.

Sophisticated decor of a vegan fast food joint.
Humorous aesthetic likely had a nod to comic books too-- refreshing charm in the restaurant field.
The fancy napkins touting "so fresh and clean" have a vintage vibe yet also call out Outkast's funky rap song. Plus the little restaurant wait buzzers all have adorable messages such as my "thank you berry much!"
Fancy cupcakes, cookies, and cake teased the eye in a tasteful colored display.
I ordered the sweet potato-cashew macaroni & cheese topped with shitake bacon and almond Parmesan. It was the most superb combination of flavors. The creamy cheese sauce mirrored some rich fascinating heavenly cloud of euphoric bliss while crispy smoked mushrooms took on the challenging task of providing meaty flare. Easily one of the best vegan macs ever tried.
My friend had a guacamole burger, fries, and Kombucha. The fries were delicious and the curry beet ketchup was absolutely divine! Yes, I did have a contorted face, so used to tomato based fry savior, but beets changed my mind quickly. Plus I believe my friend fell in love with the curry beet ketchup as well.
All in all, a pleasant experience. Loved the black and white noir nostalgia and the retro packaging! I will have to come again to try out desserts. And more curry beet ketchup....