The talented musical duo, Black Violin, continues it Classical Boom Tour with a second Atlanta Symphony Hall performance on Sunday, December 2 at 8:00 pm. This is a special treat that I wrote about in May, and a perfect way to embrace classical music with an urban twist. Experience something new with your young budding musician, a night out with family or friends, or maybe even a unique date night experience. Limited tickets remaining. Black Friday discount promotion may apply (Friday25). Learn more or purchase at https://www.atlantasymphony.org/ConcertsAndTickets/Calendar/2018-2019/Black-Violin-18.
Violin music can be soothing and entertaining, and the violin is a beautiful instrument. I remember for one year during middle school that I attempted to learn to play the violin. I would practice but just couldn’t seem to get the sound right. It sounded more like grating and I didn’t feel encouraged to try because it wasn’t coming naturally, and I knew my Mom couldn’t afford lessons or to rent the violin. So why bother, right?
Not so fast with that line of thinking. I should have stuck with it because those early memories came flooding back a few Sundays ago as I listened to classical music with hip-hop influence performed by two very talented African American men, Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste, of Black Violin along with the Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra.
This experience was a breathtaking musical treat that included the two violinists along with DJ SPS and drummer Nat Stokes helping to liven the illusion of a underground classical concert party scene (if there is such a thing). The laid back vibe was set to tempt emotional sensibilities that included Wilner belting out smooth vocal tunes and Kevin charmingly hyping the crowd with his infectious smile and personality. The music was romantic and simultaneously robust while capturing the urban rhythmic essence of Cardi B over Mozart and Bruno Mars and the old school sounds of Michael Jackson and Boys II Men in some of their music.
My mind was all over the place thinking about what great role models these men are in supporting music education for our youth and showcasing the uniqueness of culture, music and art. Kevin and Wilner were able to conceptualize the idea of Mozart being hip and capturing the ingenuity and improvisational versatility of music as a multi-genre art form referred to as “classical boom.” A beautiful experience and powerful expression of what musical genius looks like when limits and stereotypes are removed.
Below is a short video of some of the performance. Hope you enjoy and plan to check out Black Violin for yourself.
The Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest is accepting entries with NO FEE and $2250 in prizes. The deadline is April 1, so HURRY!!! More information at https://winningwriters.com/our-contests/wergle-flomp-humor-poetry-contest-free.
Looking for more ways to focus your writing? Consider the 30-day writing challenge with Shut Up & Write! The challenge begins April 1 and involves daily writing exercises that can be completed in 20 minutes. This challenge can help aspiring and dormant writers to develop a writing habit or spark creative juices to get those stories written. Learn more at http://www.shutupwrite.com/30-days-of-writing/.
“Wow” is the best word for me to describe Marvel’s Black Panther. It really requires no introduction but in case you aren’t aware, it has quickly become a top-grossing movie directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed).
I went solo and saw it on a very late Friday night in an IMAX theater several weeks after its opening. The IMAX ticket was pricey but I had heard so many positively encouraging reviews and comments about the film that I felt it necessary to be immersed in a complete theatrical experience when I viewed it. Words really cannot explain my giddiness at the vastness of messages and positive portrayals in this film, and I am definitely happy for the IMAX experience.
I am no comic book fan by no means. My superhero knowledge is, or let me say, WAS limited to the regulars. But this Black Panther movie, let me tell you, was excellent. I felt so much pride in seeing all the beautiful Black faces, acting finesse of seasoned and newcomer talent, the superhero storyline and the vivid imagery of Wakanda (a fictitious African nation). The character of King T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) was great. But honestly, most of the movie I forgot it was about Black Panther. But no movie spoilers or critiques here; you must go see this movie yourself. This post is on my women-centric thematic takeaway from the film in honor of March’s Women’s History Month (with respect to February’s Black History Month).
Year of the Adored Ones. It seems so apropos that this movie released in an immense season of female empowerment where women have used their collective voice to create societal change and norms about valuing women. I became enamored by the character and strength of the warrior women body guards called Dora Milaje, the general of armed forces (Okoye), the smart, tech-savvy younger sister (Princess Shuri), and of course the characters Mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Wakandan spy Nakia (Lupita N’yongo). In doing a little Black Panther and Marvel research, I learned that the name Dora Milaje means “Adored Ones”, and that truly is an apt name and description for all of the women. The Adored Ones are courageous, confident, loyal, smart, talented, persistent, tenacious and regally beautiful. In their core beauty and essence of black femininity, these women’s hearts reminded me of myself, my friends, and any woman that I admire for being true to their power and uniqueness.
Beauty in (Black) Women’s Complexity. The principles of honor, love and power are thematic throughout the movie, and are adeptly representative of real life challenges that many black women face. For example, there is a scene where Madam General Okoye immediately makes a dramatic decision during the height of the movie that I’m like, “Yes!!! Stand in your truth.” From a survival perspective, I see similar daily scenarios by black women but which often get overshadowed under misogynistic labels and negative stereotypes that dare acknowledge the complexity of womanhood and blackness. It is not always easy to stand on the principles of survival because our hearts get in the way and passionate presentation is misinterpreted. But more representation of Wakandan warrior princesses on film could help shape a conversation on the perceived mysticism of black womanhood and their real world instinctual survival skills, perspectives and experiences that are too often devalued.
Endless Possibilities Do Exist. The telling is in the sharing of our stories. Last year we learned in Hidden Figures of the amazing contributions of black women in science at NASA. We also learned how a black woman’s cancer cells have advanced international medical research with the immortal cell line HeLa in the film, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. While ficticious, what makes Black Panther’s Wakanda just as powerful is the telling of its technological advancement led by a young black woman, who looks all of 15 years old. If I were a young black girl or teen in 2018, I would be doing flips at the commanding presence and intelligence of Princess Shuri while signing up for my local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes. When given the opportunity to be and show our best in an inclusive and supportive environment, black women can and will do much to advance society and life. This is what we should be teaching our young black girls and supporting and encouraging them towards greatness and excelling in areas in which they show gifts, talent and technical strengths.
Lastly, I learned of a petition to create a Wakanda series on Netflix and wanted to share for those who also have fallen in love with Wakanda and want to watch the backstory unfold. I imagine it would be rich in African history and pride and a great legacy story. Please share and spread the word.
I am a Taraji P. Henson fan. I love every character she has played, especially as Cookie in Fox’s Empire. She always exhibits a level of sincerity, grit and tenacity as an actress. For me, her characters are always very relatable and multi-dimensional. She’s like your favorite cousin, keeping it real auntie, friend that has your back. When I saw Sony/Screen Gems’ thriller action Proud Mary last weekend, I was again impressed with Taraji. But not because the film was great.
I did enjoy the movie, but Proud Mary was not a box office hit, grossing about $14 million by its second weekend amidst projections of $20 million in its opening weekend, and debuting in eighth place as a box opener. The movie, however, broke even so that’s always a good thing, especially since Taraji has executive producer credits.
There were elements of the film that were lacking (production quality could have been better, writing could have been tighter, would have liked a better build up in beginning and more action in the middle, maybe her face off with another female — something her Cookie character does flawlessly), and several character’s acting were not up to par (what was up with Danny Glover and Billy Brown). But looking beyond all of that to focus on Taraji’s character, Mary, she performs entertainingly (albeit stereotypical) as a fearless, bad-ass, gun-toting female assassin showing maternal instinct, empathy, and survival skills in protecting Jahi Wilson’s character, Danny, the son of one of her victims.
As a sparse movie goer but avid supporter of black women-led roles, I always look beyond the entertainment aspect of films and focus my understanding on the character’s backstory and its reflection of societal norms, values and beliefs. Mary’s backstory was not fully developed, but the storyline was clear enough to ascertain that she was an orphan taken in by a crime family who had an encounter that woke her up. She decided to reclaim her life, her goals and dreams while also giving Danny a chance to experience maternal love, hope and stability. Trying to regain control from a patriarchal environment is a familiar script that many women face in navigating their lives, but just like a bad movie, there are always some take-aways worthy of any experience.
- Trust your gut. Mary’s career choice was more about survival that desensitized her actions and ruled her life. But when she saw the kid in her mark’s home obliviously playing video games, her instincts told her it was time to move on, but not without curiosity or concern of who she was leaving behind. She thought about the kid often and checked up on him. She recognized that a change in life was due. As women, we have a unique gift and often know when we are in a bad job, have toxic relationships, and make unhealthy life choices. We must remember that it is our divine nature to trust our gut and know when it’s time to make change to do the right thing, not only for ourselves, but often for others. Let’s not ignore that nagging feeling or sign that we know is meant to get our attention.
- Be willing to start over. The organized crime family decided Mary’s destiny was assassinating folks. It took her orphaning a child to realize her life was more valuable than that, so she decided on a re-do, to live life differently, and on her own terms. A re-do can happen at any time, age or stage in life but a person must be willing to let go of the past and anything negative weighing them down. Unlike in the movie, I am NOT suggesting being extreme and taking out an entire family, lol, but there is no shame in distancing yourself from people who keep you in a bad place because of their lifestyle, actions, dysfunction, and/or attitudes. It is possible to outgrow people and move on, especially after we’ve learned the lesson they were in our life to teach.
- You can always make a difference. Danny needed Mary in his life as much as she needed him. She learned that his mother left him and he felt abandoned, and that his father was not a good guy. Just the little bit of compassion she showed to him softened him to know that he mattered to someone. We never know someone’s story and the impact that life has had on them. Kids do become the adults we interact with and it’s the sincerity and small kindnesses that can make a difference, like a smile, holding the door for the person behind you, a quick email, text or phone call to let someone know you were thinking about them, an authentic compliment, or just paying it forward in your own unique way with the expectation of only good karma from the Universe.
Are you a closet writer looking for an audience? Have you been told that you are a great storyteller? Personally, I enjoy writing and creating meaning through words. Often in my writing journey I find interesting and helpful information to share with others. For January, consider joining me in entering a flash fiction contest with The A3 Review’s Losing It writing prompt. Cash prizes are $220, $130 and $95 and the contest only requires 150 words due by January 27, 2018 with a $5 entry fee. May seem simple enough, but flash fiction tests your ability for brevity in writing while still developing a character(s) and a plot. Ready, Set, Go!
There are other ways you can let your voice be heard through your writing. I recently learned about a few other writing contests that may be of interest.
Old Farmer’s Almanac Essay Contest (Deadline: January 26, 2018)
- Sponsor: The Older Farmer’s Almanac
- Theme: How Weather Changed My Life
- Prize: $250 / $150 / $100
- Entry fee: $0
- Words: 200 words or less
- NOTE: Yankee Publishing retains rights to submitted materials.
For more details and contest guidelines, visit: https://www.almanac.com/form/2018-essay-contest
#MeToo Nonfiction Essay Contest (Deadline: February 28, 2018)
- Sponsor: Memoir Magazine
- Theme: Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse
- Prize: $500
- Entry fee: $12
- Words: 100 min/7000 max
- NOTE: Pseudonyms allowed. All writers welcomed; emerging writers and underrepresented voices encouraged to submit.
For more details and contest guidelines, visit:
It’s time to change the way we think and speak about our dreams. Transforming a conversation, just like manifesting a dream, begins by setting an intention. Your intentions will assist you in taking greater control of your life.
A working definition for intention is: “to have in mind a purpose or plan, to direct the mind, to aim”. Lacking intention, we sometimes stray without meaning or direction. But with it, all the forces of the universe can align to make even the most impossible, possible. My intention is to transform the conversation around dreams from fear and doubt, to hope and possibility, followed by action and results.
Some might say this is not the right time to dream. But it’s always a good time to dream and believe and want better for your life. Without our dreams, all we have is our present reality. While our present reality is what’s in front of us, the greater challenge is our attitude around “reality” and being “realistic” and what being realistic has cost us. Often that’s our passion and joy, our hopes and dreams.
Setting intention allows us to be in the moment of reality by making a conscious choice to shift thinking to what we want. Given the unknowns and sometimes craziness of life, there’s never been a more important time to dream and setting your intention is the first step. When should you set an intention? You could set an intention every day. Your intention could be to work less and make more, or to find a new career that you are passionate about. It could be to get healthy and physically fit, or to spend more quality time with loved ones or alone.
How to set your intentions? It does not have to be hard. At oneword365.com, individuals set their intentions by focusing on a single word. Others use journals to capture ideas and write action plans for their goals. My son purchases a desk calendar each year to add his weekly goals for propelling his comedic acting career. Many of my friends use walking apps or their watch to reach daily fitness goals. Others partner with people, like friends or coaches, to encourage and hold themselves accountable for their goals. There is no one way to set and manage your intentions. The best advice I can offer – besides setting your intention – is to do what works best for your lifestyle and personality, and then ACT!
You mustn’t be afraid to dream bigger, darling. ~Line from the movie Inception.
In the stillness of time a dream can come alive. In its path found extraordinary outcomes for those who believe in the power of a dream. But there’s more than just having a dream and capturing its vision, it is having intention, passion and focus. I recently had an opportunity to reconnect with a friend who has been teaching young children the past few years in Abu Dhabi. I reached out to her via email on a whim because I heard her name in a song. To my surprise, she was in town and literally staying less than 10 miles from me.
We met up and while listening to her journey, I learned that it was a wonderful, contemplative experience that is now leading her to Indonesia in less than a week to teach adults. I was fascinated by her fearlessness to pack up for another country to live and work. It made me recall the desire I had in my early 20s to travel abroad. My short visit with her rekindled my passion to get out of my box and explore my dreams and aspirations. To help guide me, I searched for women-centric quotes as motivators for me to dream big(ger). I am sharing below in hopes the quotes will inspire you, too.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. ~Lupita Nyong’o
When you have a dream you’ve got to grab it and never let go. ~Carol Burnett
Not fulfilling your dreams will be a loss to the world, because the world needs everyone’s gift – yours and mine. ~Barbara Sher
Dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change. ~Shonda Rhimes
I don’t just dream, I do. ~Aamito Stacie Lagum
The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams. ~Oprah Winfrey
I have dreams and I feel like I have a power to actually make those dreams become a reality. ~Beyonce
The only requirement for having a dream is believing in it. ~Molly Barker
Little girls with dreams become women with vision. ~unknown
Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. ~Gloria Steinem
No dream is too big to come true. You are born to manifest the glory of God on earth. ~Lailah Gifty Akita