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.

 

 

 

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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! =)

Black Girls Learn Love Hard by Ras Baraka

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I went to this incredible conference called Queen Geniuses founded by Regine Roy at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn on March 18. The whole day was filled with enthusiasm, spirit, passion and an overflowing feeling of inspiration through speeches, workshops and performances. I was truly happy to be there. One of the components of the day included a workshop called “It Really Takes A Village” hosted by black feminist Dequi Kioni-Sadiki. I learned a lot including how the Black Panthers are the reason our kids receive free breakfast in their schools. Towards the end, Kioni-Sadiki shared an empowering poem called “Black Girls Learn Love Hard” by Ras Baraka (Dope poet and the current mayor of Newark, NJ) I fell in love with the difficult truth it portrayed about the struggles of being a black girl. Check out this engaging tale of how hard a black girl loves:

“Black Girls Learn Love Hard”

Black girls learn to love hard, A concrete love

An in spite of love, Even though love

An in between crying love, They learn love hard.

They rush to grade school dodging whistles.

And lewd stares from passing cars of men on their way to work.

They learn vulgarities as compliments

They pretend to get used to being touched when they don’t want to be

And get attention because they are pretty

Everyone wants to feel them, Press up on them

Rub against them, throw them down

Cuss them, Smack them

Penetrate them, Out of love

A be strong love, A hard love to swallow

Young girls sit on stoops and porches, In beauty parlor conversations

Watching their older sisters, With black eyes and bruised self-worth

Learning to be second, And how to hate men and love them.

All in the same sentence…..

Some girls watch their mothers get beat before, Breakfast

And get a ride to school quietly, In their boyfriend’s car

……They carry his drugs, Hold his weapons in their purses

Do time in jail, Fight other girls over our indiscretions

They love hard

Some girls learn to be alone, Some fall in love with crack or wine

And strain their withered brown bodies across the hood, Like a forgotten dream

Some girls met love in the dark while they were still

Vulnerable and small, From a familiar hand in a place they knew

Before they were even virgins, Shaking with terror and confusion

They know love as fear, Something they did to themselves

Love can’t be trusted/it’s ugly and happens to you when

Your back is turned, Love is too hard 

No one remembers that they used to be beautiful, Or smart

Or someone’s daughter, Someone’s sister/friend/a human being

They don’t get to be sweet or gentle, Or cared for

They have to do it alone, No help

……No time for pain or tears……..Black girls learn love hard

They learn sex as dialogue

They reason/their worth/best thing they have to offer

And some start talking at a very young age

They got a “ill na na”

Black girls learn to love hard, A concrete love

An in spite of love, An even though love

An in between crying love

They learn love hard.

Memories That Last a Lifetime: Mason Catering Wedding Expo

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Flowers are a gentle reminder of the slivers of beauty that exist in the world. They come in all types of colors, styles, and sizes. These products of nature are a unique part of the Earth in which we live in. Flowers were a beautiful addition to the Mason Catering Wedding Expo that took place on March 25, 2017 at the Adria Hotel & Conference Center in Bayside, NY. Like a flower, each vendor there had their own uniqueness shining through. They all represented an integral component that makes up the sensational spirit of a wedding. Each of them are a part of the formula which makes the spectacular union between two lovers magical on their wedding day.

“We are natural born entertainers. We make people happy.”  Benny Hype said from GT HIFI, a Mason Catering sponsored entertainment duo making their place at the event.

The DJs have been entertaining party goers for over 20 years at bridal and baby showers, bar mitzvahs, clubs and graduations.

Nigel Alfred stated that he’s happy when the bride is happy. A photographer who has traveled the globe, Alfred has worked professionally at birthdays, maternity and newborn shoots, engagements and baby showers, but has a strong focus on weddings.

“Wedding photography was a great source for me to develop my work,” he said.

Once invested in mostly street art, photographer Ricky “Dean” Scott is passionate about making the day special for the bride.

He said that no bride should ever have to worry about her pictures on her day as he retold a story of getting wet in the rain to capture the bride’s special moment.

“It (Weddings) happens so many times and every time it takes my breathe away,” he remarked.

At this wonderful event, an array of entrepreneurs made up the community dedicated to making the best of a bride and groom’s nuptial. Also in attendance was Pottery Barn, a known venue for bedding, kitchenware and more; Pauline’s Treats, a specialization in traditional and vegan baked goods, YoDog Media, a media company focused on digital and print videography and photography, photo booth rentals, web design and logo design; M & V Limousines Ltd, the largest limo company in NY that provides luxury vehicles; Rose Sweet Designs, a custom candy company that provides catering for sip & teas, baby and bridal showers and christenings; IP Phone System, a phone company that provides computer phones, video phones, phone greetings and much more telecommunication services; Bigga soft drinks, a flagship brand of the Wisynco group that is the only soft drink made locally in Jamaica; and Orchid’s Flowers and Gifts, a family owned business that specializes in day of the wedding services.

Renee Giscombe of Orchids Flowers and Gifts provides everything a couple needs for the day of their wedding. Wait staff, make-up artists, limos, photographers, hair stylists, fresh florals, candy stations, and more.

“From soup to nuts, we do everything,” Giscombe said. Her mother Ruth and brother Leo also have their own entertainment businesses located next to each other in which they all work together as a family.

Garrick Mason brought this community of entrepreneurs together to celebrate and showcase the magic they create for matrimonial ceremonies. After migrating here from Jamaica 10 years ago, Mason has been in the catering business for six years and four months.

Delsha Monroe, administrator for Mason Catering Services, said their goal is to make every event a memorable one. They offer cooking, meal preparation, and catering services (wait staff, bartenders, plated/buffet service, tables, chairs etc.) for all events whether big or small.

Once an employee at Golden Krust, Mason saw a need for low cost business for food. He started Mason Catering with only $150 in his pocket.

“I can never stop. I have to keep going. I always try to go forward no matter what,” he said. With three kids to motivate him, Mason aspires to take his business nationally. Mason Catering is already in Texas, Florida and California.

“If you think about it, you got it in you. Before a tree blooms, it goes through changes,” he said.

Like the changes and evolution of a flower, the talent, drive and compassion of all these individuals work together in blossoming a forever memorable moment for those ready to say “I Do.” I was honored to meet all the unique individuals dedicated to making the beautiful moments of a wedding incredible.

 

 

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Renee and Ruth Giscombe of Orchids Flowers and Gifts

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YODOG! Media

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Nigel Alfred Photography

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Rose Sweet Designs’ Candy and Cake Station

Gliding into 2017

Today, I am choosing to write a sort of reflective piece about the past year. I seriously do not want to write some cliché new year, new me garbage. Heck, it is cliché to even crap on people who do that. However, there is an innate desire for people to want to reflect on the ups and downs of the past year. We cannot help it as human beings as we fumble through this mess called life. Yes, I do it too. I wonder who will I be next year, how will I evolve or how will I stay the same. I personally feel in every second that we are breathing that distorted oxygen in and out of our lungs we are changing. You are never the same person the following day. But at the same time, you are not going to be completely transformed. It is more of a glide than a race to who you will become. 

This year has been an incredible year of growth, change and struggle for me. I got accepted into Hunter Silberman School of Social Work. In this grad school experience, I am learning so much about self-awareness, the social injustices that plague our society and about interventions on how we can assist those suffering from the many demons that haunt them. That whole experience deserves a level of it’s own and that is not the only level of growth I have experienced this year. I also had to fully embrace my natural hair. I learned and am still learning about what makes my kinky coils, how to take care of it and most importantly how to love it. Becoming natural was not easy, but I am thankful for every moment that I am experiencing this hair change. It was not just a change in hair texture; I feel like I am owning who I am and who I was always meant to be. As my hair transitioned, I transformed. I am finding myself becoming more health conscious. I am more invested in the world around me and want to do more in understanding the real truth about it. I no longer just accept what I hear and try to challenge what I hear on a regular basis. I smile but shake my inner fist at the world for not doing better. Ha, of course this is also school’s doing to opening up my mind to how everything works. I also find my style changing but at the same time it represents who I have always been. My growth is a representation of what I was always meant to become.

However, I am still trying to figure out who I am and what is it that I really want out of life. I know I do not want much but I do have the simple goal of being happy. In a way, I feel I have already accomplished my goal. There were some moments in 2016 that made it difficult for me to work my facial muscles into a smile even if frowning is more difficult. Trump winning was the biggest shock to many people this year. Even Trump seemed to be shocked. How could such a misogynist, racist bigot be our president? Especially against someone who was clearly more qualified. As I slowly understand a bit more about how the world works, I wonder if there is some outside force secretly laughing at the way the gears of society is turning. Of course, they must be pressing some buttons to cause those gears to turn. The continued rise in police brutality and injustices against my people only seem to grow while this man is getting closer to accepting his place at the white house. (If he ever leaves Trump tower of course). Many questions plague our minds as the shock settles into acknowledgment of a new era that our hearts truly cannot accept. However, there have been bands of unity across the country that is working against the hateful attacks that attempt to break us down. In these dark times, one thing I know for sure is that we will not be brought down. As a nation overflowing with so much beautiful diversity, we have come so far. Even as the laws may change, we have to start paying attention to the surprises to our liberties and fight it. We must continue to stay strong as a united front against these systems that work to destroy us. After all even with the negative back story to how this country was founded, it is still our home; let’s make it our home.

Twenty sixteen was also an end to some relationships I thought would never end. I do not want to waste too much time writing about this, but it was something I definitely was surprised had terminated. I did fight very hard to make it work. I learned so much about myself in what I did wrong and how I could work to do better in the future. I thought about ways that I could have rectified the situation. I constantly berated myself for the stupid mistakes that I made that could have made it work. However, through time I learned that in all my effort, both of our effort, it was not meant to last. The pains we carry with us our embedded in our spirits as a push, a lesson, a means of strength into conquering tomorrow. I would not be the person that I am today if I was still in that place struggling to make it with that person. My growth happened because of the pains I endured while in that space. The age old saying that everything happens for a reason is always on constant repeat in my mind. But it is there as a reminder that all of the crappy, uncomfortable, pains to my spirit are there to build me up into the phenomenal human being that I am becoming. It is obviously working because I am usually way more humble. Believe me, I love being modest. There is still so much more work to my character that will come to place as I get older. But I think it is OK for everyone to sometimes acknowledge how fantastic they are. As long as you are also aware that you are never done becoming awesome.

Anyway, I am mostly content with the way 2016 played out. I have accomplished so much, grown in ways that I did not expect and now I am excited to see where my growth will take me in 2017. For those of you reading this, I know you are some pretty incredible specimens on this Earth. Please remember to honor your growth however big or small they may be; each moment is responsible for making you into who you are destined to be. Every morsel of pleasure, pain and comfort are the necessary ingredients to being. Laugh, smile, cry, scream; do whatever feels comfortable to you in your moment. Let us go into 2017 like stars and keep on shining. Have a wonderful New Year! 

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Hello All!

This post is literally here to explain my absence.  My writing has been indulged in a more academic platform as I have started Grad school this Fall at Hunter. So my words have been plastered on Blackboard posts, journals, mini papers and regular sized papers. But my creative side has been pinching my insides for weeks. I will try my best to let my creative energy out on here. But yea, this is just a little update to my whereabouts. I did get some writing done in my personal journal, but it would be awesome to let you guys in on my thoughts as well. I also keep coming up with ideas for blog posts, so hopefully they will come to life. (They must!!!)  It would make my little heart pump so much faster. =). I hope all is well with everyone. I am excited to continue my writing journey here with you guys.

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Random photo from my Cali ventures. =). (My travel tales was strictly left for my journal)