SZA’s “Ctrl” Empowers

SZA

SZA my dear, I love your music. Even though your album has been out for some time now, I must write about it. I fell in love with your surreal sound about a year ago when Spotify introduced us. At first, I was thrown off by your ethereal aura which resonates through much of your music, but it is also what caught me. I was instantly attached when I heard “Warm Winds.” The streaming service continues to keep this love strong when they throw in your tracks from time to time on my playlist. So of course, I feel I must dedicate time to addressing my feelings towards your latest project “Ctrl.”

SZA, you are phenomenal. Weird and honest. Beautiful and loving. An emotional warrior who is true to herself and owns her self-discovery through the highs and lows of relationships. It is the combination that I see and others see, that makes you so easy to vibe to. Thank you for going against the norm and charging forward in your truth. This expression of said truth is eminent in “Ctrl.” This songstress is rated R – raw, real and relatable. Her music stands a testament to what many of us want to say, but have difficulty in finding the words.

In her track “Normal Girl,” the beat has a trance like energy that intertwines with a hip hop sound. This track resonates with me through its message. Many want their parents to be proud of them. However, it is difficult to be yourself with the weighing feeling of your parents’ approval. Now to be approved by your lover’s folks too? Ugh! It’s tough to get a break.

I can hear the passion from her croons in “Broken Clocks.” I cannot see her, but I feel it in the way she sings. “Ohhhhhhh!” Yes girl, I hear you. Her story is truth; she sings of having an overwhelming job while dealing with a chummy dude. LIFE!!!!! Hahahaha. Many of us deal with situations in which we shouldn’t entertain our energy into. But yet, nothing is ever so simple to do, because you know, “You love me.”

SZA continues in tales of self-discovery through “Pretty Little Birds.” Poor aves, they got to deal with flying into the stupid window repeatedly. And yet, they still flap their little wings and fly towards the sky. “Pretty Little Girls, Pretty Little Girls, we hit the window a few times;” in truth we are very much like these feathered creatures in how we make mistakes but are dynamic in our strength to never give up. My soul wants to twirl to this track. Heavenly and full of flight, the collection of sounds can make one want to soar.

Ms. Twenty Something herself reveals her truth about the fear of love, not being where she thinks she should be and holding onto those who matter most to her heart in “20 Something.” We stumble through these times making mistakes repeatedly trying to figure how to do this adult thing right. May she survive the stormy waves of this period; when the waves are rough they always become calm again.

Another tune about birds comes through in “Doves in the Wind.” The song is lit. The end. Oh, and clearly, we control men with our babymaker “flowers.” With bars from Kendrick Lamar describing the wonders of our wombs and the hype, the smooth sound pounce into the ears making one enamored with excitement from the track. Sit back, bob your head and chill to this feature.

SZA packs in a gutsy punch of honesty in  “Supermodel.” We all want to be a supermodel to someone. Perfect skin, hair, butt, boobs, abs, lips or whatever it is that society is telling you must be excellent in to make you a match for that person. She goes in on this track letting it all pour out on how much she needed her man and how she gave him a gift of “dirt” after he left her for someone else.

“Why I can’t stay alone just by myself, wish I was comfortable just by myself, but I need you, I need you, I need you.”

Whoever is reading this, I want you to look in the mirror, look into your eyes and say “I need you.” There is no one out there that can do more for you than yourself. You can be happy with yourself. You can have peace by yourself. Whatever you are looking for in that other person is already residing right from within. Heaven knows, I used to feel like I needed to be someone’s supermodel, but I am super in just being myself; flaws and all. Know that you are too.

More tunes from this package of sound give me life through her journey of sharing a man in “The Weekend,” not-your-average girl anthem in “Drew Barrymore,” her bubbly wild tale “Love Galore and more. SZA makes us listen and warms the hidden parts of us afraid to live in our imperfect truth. This daring dive into her attempts for control decked out in 80s sounding nostalgia and hip hop grooves allow one to feel freer in accepting their own truth. For sure, I know I do. Thank you Queen for doing what you do best and never feel afraid to lose control.

Do Not Gentrify Health

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Vegan food sold by black vendors at the International African Arts Festival

Write. Write. Write. What is it for? To cure my inner demons? Turmoils? Traumas of the world? Is it the source of peace? A random combination of words that crazy people like to put together? Or is it just my soul speaking? Well folks, she’s speaking.

This is something that I just feel like getting off my chest. Recently, I saw someone post something on Facebook that supporting Veganism or indulging in it was supporting slavery. It may have not been those words verbatim, but it was pretty similar. I gaped at the post, rolled my eyes and kept scrolling. However, I have been seeing posts from people dismissing certain foods and seemingly applying it to gentrification. In an article, someone mentioned getting the side eye if you order avocado toast and another hated on sriracha. There is probably another example, but I cannot remember at the moment.

One thing I do not understand is why are some people equating veganism to gentrification. It makes no sense. I understand that the people moving into our neighborhoods are carrying with them their gluten free foods and non-dairy products as well as their lack of culture of the very place their taking over. The overpriced juice bars and dumpling shops come to New York like a green shadow pushing out the small businesses and homes which belong here. I hate what’s happening to New York. Gentrification is making Brooklyn residents strangers to their own home. It’s pissing me and many people who live here off.

However, the healthy choices that comes with it is not the problem. Sure, it definitely is a selling point to those moving in. The foreigners that are invading our neighborhoods can afford to eat healthy so of course the marketing ploy is to get them comfortable and turn a place like Bushwick into something it never was. But the foods in our neighborhoods is the true killer of our people. Seriously, look at what is sold in your corner store. Can you truly say with an honest heart, fingers crossed, and all that good stuff that any of the cuisine in our stores has any nutritional value? What about the chicken spot on the corner or the Chinese food store? It’s easy to eat when you don’t want to cook, but is it something we should be eating all the time?

I work with kids and I see them eat the unhealthiest things. What evil person invented Takis? All the kids rave about them, but many know nothing about how bad it is for them. Do you see this product selling in the Upper West Side? What about Tropical Fantasy?

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French toast the kids at WIN made as a part of the Food In the Big Apple program.

One thing that I have started to become more passionate about is for children to understand more about what they are eating; for them to know how tasty food from the land can be and the joys of cooking food themselves. I work for a program called Food In the Big Apple through my company City Science. We teach kids the science behind food while teaching them different, tasty recipes every week. They learn about the five senses through food, the differences between chemical and physical reactions, the essential food groups, parts of the plant and the importance of local farming. It’s an incredible program that I have great joy in being a part of.

With this program in place, I wish there were more opportunities for nutritional health to be introduced to my people. There is so much people that do not know their health. Here are some facts you may or may not know when it comes to nutrition:

  • Some of the culturally accepted meat dishes in the black community were undesirable leftovers from the slave master. (Chitterlings and pigs feet for example) Our ancestors did this to survive, not because they chose to. (Dude, it’s even mentioned in this Boondocks episode.)
  • Processed foods (the foods in our stores) are a leading cause of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Sugar is also a leading cause to heart disease and cancer.
  • Consuming too much gluten products can increase your risk of getting Celiac disease.

I am not here to try to convince people to change how they eat. Please eat how you like. You like red meat, feel free to eat it. If you like to only eat vegetables and fruits, please feel free to eat that too. We all have minds of our own and can make choices with them. What I learned through research and by watching all these documentaries is what I believe to be true. However, it is not the same truth for another person. It is important to read on your own, accept your own truth in your own time and make your own decisions.

My point is to highlight that eating healthy is not the enemy. Since my approach to a more vegan diet, I feel more energized when ever I drink a juice blend. I lost a lot of weight. I learned about the diversity of our natural buffet of herbs, vegetables and grains. I learned different ways in how we can fulfill our daily intake of vitamins. I feel healthier in general. Eating this way is what works for me. Eat the way that works for you. I listened to my body. It said “Tiffy, you know this is good for you. Yes! Chicken is amazing, but you don’t need to eat it.”

Why does bringing in a gluten free, dairy free diet have to be a way that’s destroying our culture? In fact, a lot of the culture we have become so accustomed to is part of our painful past. Do we need to continue this tradition especially with what we know now?

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Vegan chicken wrap with the Sutter Solution juice blend from Blendzville.

Why can’t our neighborhoods own healthy eating? There is this up and coming spot in Brownsville called Blendzville. They make the best juices all while appetizing your palette with dishes like the vegan chicken wrap, salmon burger, a quinoa salad and more. And by the way, it’s black owned. I am seeing more juice spots and vegan choices from black owned businesses. It is a beautiful sight to see my people owning their health and making it available to their brothers and sisters.

Going vegan, vegetarian or just making better choices in terms of your health (less meat, more veggies, no sugar, etc) does not have to be part of the “white people taking our homes” thing. Let’s face it, kale salads and green juices are marketed to the rich, heart disease and death is marketed to the poor in the form of chicken wings and beef burgers. We just refuse to see it because of the tempting nature of the very food that is killing us. Get out of the smoky sweet haze of sugary treats and wake up. We can take back our neighborhoods as well as our health.

 

 

 

Rain On Me

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Flowers from my mom’s garden at night.

So I was supposed to write this the other night. But after finding out Chester Bennington passed away, I lost the urge to pour my words onto this page. The thing about words though, they tend to have a way of finding their way from the brain to actually breathe life. Sometimes, I just can’t let them fade away. It’s crazy how many thoughts I have that I want to write down and it just never makes it. My brain is constantly in a word fertilization stage – probably 85 percent of my thoughts don’t escape my lips. Maybe 15 percent either show up on this humble space, leaves my mind to another’s ears, or shows up in some other form of communication. But there is this true sense of refreshment that lights up throughout me whenever I decide to let these words live.

I constantly tell myself that I need to write more, but I end up just writing in my head. But let me tell you, it feels so good when I finally ignore my daily distractions and allow myself to indulge in this space. For those of you reading now or have read in the past, I truly appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time to experience the little increments of my mind and spirit in the form of literary expression.

Anyway, the other night I went into my backyard looking for some mint my mom grows. She has a garden of various vegetables, fruits and herbs including tomatoes, cucumbers, thyme, dill and raspberries. I was going to make myself a fruit smoothie. As I was about to go outside, it suddenly started raining. The sweltering heat broke for just a bit to cool our little corner of the Earth. I hesitated for a bit, but then decided to go because I really wanted the smoothie. Plus, it’s only rain.

Outside, the water felt so nice. The whole atmosphere of it all is incredible. Have you ever done it? Just gone outside and stood in the rain? You got to try it. Let the water touch your skin. The cool wind will spiral around you however it feels. The pitter patter sound of the rain drops will enter your ears and sooth your mind. Close your eyes. Let the moment take you.

After I got the mint, I stood outside longer, closed my eyes and imagined being in a rain forest. I could see a stream of water on the forest floor. Tall trees surrounded me enveloping the whole area. The sky was adorned with leaves only left with a small space to see the grey hovering above. I was enamored by the moment. The pleasant sense of it all kept me grounded. I breathed in the positive energy flowing around naturally and breathed out any stress or worries that consumed me. For that moment, I was in paradise.

After some time, my stomach reminded me that I needed to feed it and I went inside. As humans, I think it is important for us to remember to be still sometimes. We live in this fast paced world. We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us what to wear, how to spend, how to eat, how to basically live. Stress plague our minds on a daily basis. We often times forget how to honor ourselves. How to cherish our light. How to breath and even embrace the beauty in being able to let air fill and leave our bodies.

There is power to the simplicity to do the very thing we did the first moment we entered this world. Peace enters your life the second you choose to embrace you. I ask you to take  one moment at least once a day to just forget your day’s qualms, sit still and simply breath. Cherish you; always.

I let the rain bring me back to that moment of honoring myself. Any time I get caught in the rain and it is not too intense, it feels great to let the rain bring me to peace. After society tries so hard to shake my senses and make me feel like I am crazy, nature always has a way of bringing me back to the true reality of just being. For when those skies open up and the storm ain’t too crazy, (Let’s be real; I won’t be caught getting struck by lightening or intentionally soaked), I will embrace what the Earth has to give. For sure, I want the skies to rain on me.

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An Unsaid Lesson in Healthy Eating

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Cucumber salad with some tomatoes.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother would make these amazing snacks. She would whip it up for both my cousin Chris and I in what felt like no time. Instead of opting for the Vienna Finger cookies my mom used to buy, we would get excited about the cucumber delights grandma would make. All she did was peel the cucumber, slice it up and sprinkle some lime and salt over it. Viola – edible goodies for us to munch on. My grandma used to garden and would sometimes get the cucumbers right from our backyard. At first, I would just wait for her to make it. Over time, I started making them myself. Of course it didn’t have her touch, but it was still good.

At the time, I did not realize that my grandmother was teaching us how to eat healthy. She was my chef, teacher, nurturer, protector, guide – everything packed into a perfect ball of energy that spread to everyone including my mom, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins and more. Her knowledge and her presence stays with me even today. Now I find myself making the same recipe again, but with a heavy appetite for knowledge about what I am eating.

In the past few months, I have been transitioning to becoming a vegan. It all started with one of those documentaries on Netflix (Sustainability I think it was). Honestly, my whole life, I cared for the welfare of animals. As a child, I refused to wear fur. However, I was backwards, wrong or not fully into the plight as I still had products with leather in it and ate meat. I agreed with the notion that meat was a necessary component for our diets.

It bothered me though that we ate meat. My cousin Chris and I stopped eating chicken for a week after we watched Chicken Run. We were traumatized by the fact that the chicken lived in a place their whole lives to be fattened up just to end up on our dinner plates. We were triumphant in our quest to protect the poultry from our stomachs for that week. But the smell of fried chicken tempted our vulnerable noses during that time. The waft scents of chicken wings in the air filled our nostrils guiding us to the plate like the house in Hansel and Gretel – tempting but dangerous. Eventually, we went back to eating chicken again.

Do not get me wrong, the wafts of chicken still tempt me. Everywhere I go, especially in busy areas, that smell is back to tempt me. It calls to me “Remember me Tiffany? You know you want me. We had such great memories together.” However, now my mind is much more resilient than it once was. For months after making this transition, I would still occasionally eat chicken, beef or fish as well as dairy products. Although when I randomly decided to watch What the Health last week because I was bored and needed something to watch, my night time entertainment turned into a final stamp on my stance of my eating choices. Now every time any meat or dairy is offered to me I think of animal pus, overcrowded farming habitats, or the unfortunate souls in Duplin, North Carolina. (If you think oppression does not exist, look up Duplin, North Carolina hog farms. Or just click this.)

I am not sure how long I can resist the enticing nature of meat and dairy when it surrounds me everywhere, but I will be sure to. Knowing about how the agriculture poisons the environment and our bodies is enough to keep me away. Through these documentaries, I learned that meat and dairy can cause a whole list of problems in the long run including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. I learned that the companies that we generally buy our products from lie about the ingredients and how they were manufactured. I learned that protein, which many think is necessary to get from meat and eggs, actually comes straight from plants. We do not need to eat meat or dairy (We also do not need wheat, but that is another tale).

So I am going to continue following the lesson my grandmother taught me in which she did not even say a word. The best food we can get is right from our garden. There is so much more I could write about this, but bottom line, the best way you can trust your food is from what you see right in front of you. From the beginning, you learn to eat your fruits and veggies. After trying out different recipes on the web, drinking fresh natural juices and of course the cucumber salad that started this all, I discovered and am still learning so many nutritious ways to eat healthy that taste amazing. So why do we eat to die instead of eating to live? Let’s go back to our roots and discover the possibilities of eating healthy and happy.

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Healthy, happy Tiffy! =)

Moist Kinks

For anyone who caught my post last week, dry hair is a terrifying feat for me. My tresses deserve to have the right moisture to keep it popping and smooth like I know it can be. And of course, that’s up to me; I am the sole person responsible in the quality of my hair.

I did some more research after discovering that my hair has low porosity and put it to the test last week. Some of the natural hair queens on the information highway (Remember when it was called that?) told me that butters and oils are important to hair’s moisture. A site also mentioned that Shea Moisture’s African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo (I know, I know. Don’t judge. I still use Shea Moisture. Despite their stupid mistake, I can’t deny that their products work well for me) does magic for dry hair. In my resistance to the dry hair plague, I had to proceed to try this product. Let me tell you when I massaged this poo into my scalp, something happened. My hair felt different. I consistently wash my hair once a week. It always feels the same until I put this product on my scalp. My hair TRANSFORMED. Like Bumblebee going from car to robot, my hair came alive. It felt more silky and smooth. I had found the cure; Well one of them.

However, the replenishment of my kinks did not end there. The queen from Napturally Curly asserted on using oils like argan oil and apricot oil to seal in moisture after applying water to the hair. After I applied some apricot oil to my hair, the magic was done. My hair has not felt so much moisture in a long time. I was pleased to finally give my tresses the caressing that it needed to slay. Of course, the process does not end. There is still so much for me to discover and to understand about my hair. But I am glad to discover even a little bit from the tree of knowledge in the betterment of the overall health of my kinks.

My Hair after I washed it and applied Cantu’s Shea Butter Leave In Conditioner and an apricot oil grape seed oil mixture.

My hair after I did a twist out. I applied Cantu’s Shea butter Leave In, the apricot oil mixture and Shea Moisture’s Coconut Hibiscus Curling Enhancing Smoothie (The ever so wonderful LOC method – Leave In, Oil and Cream) to my hair before twisting it with curling rods after wash day. I left it in for another day, took it out and voila – what you see above.

Dry Hair, More of a Scare

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So I am a huge Walking Dead fan. (In fact, check out this vid of me talking about it with the awesome crew on Drinks with Geeks) Well I watch it every Sunday when it comes on. No one can interrupt me after 9 pm. No texts. No calls. I prefer that whatever urgent thing you have to tell me it can wait until either a commercial break or when the show is over. I can wait for the tea; the suspense of Rick and the group dealing with Negan is way more cray. I am also really into the follow up series called Fear the Walking Dead. It finally came back to kick off season 3 this past Sunday. My buddy reminded me and I almost forgot (I know. I should be ashamed). Anyway as 9 o clock approached, something else strange happened. It was a horrifying thing I myself have been dealing with. I usually try to push it out of my thoughts and deal with it the best way I can. However, that night it crept up on me like an annoying mosquito. A chill went down my spine while the thought possessed my mind. It took over my conscious making me ignore the most important thing on a Sunday night. I was being taken over, but I could not stop it. I had to know how to fix my problem. I had to find a way to combat my dry hair.

Yes people, dry hair. I have been dealing with this horror for months. Naturalistas gave me advice on how to keep my hair from being dry. Moisture is key they said. Deep Conditioning is important they said. However, after deep conditioning my hair once a week, my hair always eventually became a dry Brillo pad. I love my kinks and you must nurture what you love; I must continue nourishing my tresses. The itch for understanding took over this past Sunday and I missed the first seven minutes of Fear the Walking Dead. (Side note: It was an incredible episode. Please check it out if you have not. We got the gift of two.) I started looking up my hair type – a search I completed about a year ago but was still not completely sure at the time. A dope site called Black Naps had a quiz which helped me learn that my hair type is…… drum roll please………4b.  I learned that my hair type shrinks up to 70%, benefits from protective styles like buns, twists and braids and requires a lot of moisture, continuous deep conditioning and gentle cleansers.

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Through more research, the goddess at NapturallyCurly showed me the light in understanding why my hair is a Brillo pad. In an article about moisturizing your natural hair, the author of the site Lisa wrote about the importance of understanding your hair’s porosity which is how open your cuticles are on your hair shaft. Low porosity means that your hair is not getting enough moisture while high porosity means your hair is getting too much moisture. There was a link that led to a test in discovering your hair’s porosity. An adventurer at heart, I had to continue the quest in creating moisture for my kinks. As Travis was going through hell in fighting for his family, (Bit of a spoiler but you still need to watch to find the goods =p) I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water. The test: I had to put a strand of my hair in the cup to see if it sunk. If it sunk, my hair has high porosity. If it floated, my hair has low. As I sat back down to continue my show with the cup in hand, I sent a mental message to my hair follicle; “Little buddy, I am depending on you to help me understand you. We’re all rooting for you. I know you can do it.” I put the glass on a surface and placed the hair strand in the water then waited. While Fear the Walking Dead continued, my kink peered up at me as it stayed on the surface. A few minutes went by and it was still chilling at the top.

Discovery: my hair has low porosity. After all this time, now I finally know. The article  went on to explain how to care for the both high and low porosity hair which for me is with buttery products and oils like jojoba oil and coconut oil. The quest in understanding my kinks continues. I plan to try some butters and oils this week and see how it may help my hair. Though I loved the premiere of Fear the Walking Dead once I was able to fully focus, the fear of dry, brittle hair is far more scary. These now brown red, tapered kinky coils that sprout up from my scalp are a representation of who Tiffy is; I must honor, respect and treat them with care.

 

Holistic Event: Recharged and Loving It!

A few weeks ago, I went to a Holistic event in the Bronx called Let’s Get it Twisted: The Eclectic Bronx Natural Hair and ART Fest. It was hosted by the Bronx Holistic, Natural Healing and Wellness Center. I usually do not venture into the Bronx, but I kept seeing the ad for it on Facebook and I had to go. The world of holistic healing has been calling my name for years. I have dabbled in crystals, learned about chakras and meditate or do yoga whenever I can. But there is this world waiting for me to explore. Here comes this event that introduces this space to me a bit more. The first thing I did was buy this incredible painting by a beautiful spirit because as soon as I saw it, I knew it belonged in my room. After meeting the artist who made it Katya, I walked into a room that embraced me with it’s inviting energy. Another artist named Evan Bishop asked me how I could use my passions to help people. I had engaging conversations with a crystal jeweler and another fellow writer. I met amazing women who were entrepreneurs dedicated on working together on bringing more harmony and knowledge of self into the world. It was so refreshing. Not to mention, I also could not stop buying soaps and hair accessories. There was also a great workshop by an incredible sista named Katori Walker who spoke about the reality of natural hair in the workplace. I most definitely will continue this journey into holistic healing and natural health. My body is my temple and I strive to take care of it. Meeting so many energizing people is also a wonderful recharge to my spirit. If there is anyone else out there who is engaged in this world, feel free to reach out. I would love to here from you.

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