Summer of Rouge

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The summer may bring a combination of sweltering heat, pesky mosquitoes and hot garbage stench in the air with it’s putrid mask that suffocates the masses, (Yea, I really can’t stand the smell. Lol), but this season also brings an array of events and activities for our active minds to go wild in enthusiastic galore. Yesssss, I love the freedom the warmer weather and months carry. Beach days, lounging by the pool, and cool nights on a rooftop are some of the amazing wonders about this time of year. One thing I definitely enjoy are the concerts. Hearing music float in the air as you watch one of your favorite or a new pleasure perform is always magic. Last week, I was enamored by the sensational Yuna. Spotify put me on to this artist years ago and ever since, I couldn’t let go of her sound. Her music is so pleasant, down to earth and fun. It was a gift to my spirit to hear her live last week at Sony Hall here in NYC. She has such a humbling and filling presence that it just moved me the entire time. You could tell the crowd was enchanted by her aura. She performed some favorites like “Used to Love You,” “Crush , and “Pink Youth.” It was amazing!

Please do yourself a favor and check out her latest album Rouge. This project has a funky, lively, cool vibe to it that’s destined to move the spirit. Meaning red in French, Rouge possesses a fiery energy that lifts the senses into a youthful frenzy of carefree moments in each tune. Yuna’s voice captivates the ears as it playfully glides through each piece majestically.

“Black Marquee” is definitely a time machine run to the 70s from the funkadelic charms of the rhythm and Yuna’s crisp vocals. This one has my body attempting to recreate the moves of decades ago from it’s free and fun uptempo sound. Another favorite of mine,”Like,” has such a dope message about a girl who avoids the pressures of drinking, smoking or showing her skin but still enjoys being herself. The tune also brings attention to the toxic nature of social media. Yuna and rapper Kyle manage to keep me bopping my head while contemplating the nonsense of social media and people’s judgement. However, my favorite from this musical creation is “Forevermore.” The fast paced, flare of sound embedded with her natural home grown flavor entices me continuously. The unique, repetitive, yet unpredictable changes of the beat flow together and grow like a flame beautifully harmonizing with Yuna’s enchanting vocals. This song mesmerizes and keeps me wanting to come back for more.

Rouge is an eclectic combination of sound that delightfully captivates the vivaciousness of youth and being yourself. It is a delectable gift to the ears that one should give to themselves. I was so pleased to provide myself with the honor of being in this incredible artist’s presence last week. The wonders of listening to an artist live is an embodiment of self care in how it enhances the feel good vibes bubbling from within. I’m pleased that these months bring more opportunity to take in the musical sensation of summer concerts. Listening and experiencing Yuna was definitely the seasonal package I was ready for.

Crystal Calling

I’ve always been into crystals. Well not forever but definitely within the past decade. In a way, maybe it’s been a part of me for longer. This interest went from simply collecting stones to reading about crystal energy and chakras to walking around with crystals to wearing crystal jewelry to creating them. I went to this amazing wire ring making class a year and a half ago. I made one and then two and then three and kept going. My spirit wouldn’t let me stop. My energy went into making crystal rings and here I am today. I created a brand called Tiffy Star Gems. I’ve been making rings for almost a year now and I love it.

My buddy Mike, incredible rapper/designer/sound engineer/dope friend, and I took over the streets of Soho and Coney Island for some photos. Check out his awesome Fenix sneaker collection and my latest line of Phoenix jewelry below.

These rings were made with citrine, malachite, lapiz lazuli and agate wrapped in gold aluminum. I also made some aluminum gold hoop earrings with citrine and agate stones and an aluminum wrapped tiger eye necklace. I love wrapping rings, have fun wearing them, and love expressing the different energy and meaning from each piece. It was such a blast doing this and I will be continuing in this journey.

Let me know what you think about the jewelry or if you would like to purchase any. Feel free to check out Tiffy Star Gems page. Also definitely be sure to check out the homie Mike Wilson. We’ve featured this down to Earth, conscious rapper before; you’ll be sure to love his tunes. Peace and I hope you all are following your dreams. It’s important to let your energy flow to your calling. As I grow each day, I’m slowly evolving into the person I was always meant to be. This is another beautiful part of that journey. I hope you’re becoming your beautiful selves as well.

Sis’ to Sis’

I just randomly wrote a poem. He he. I think it needs more work, but I might share it some day when I feel the need to. There is something else I feel I must share. It’s just been on my mind lately. The other day, I met a woman who was sitting by the pier. She decided to talk to me and asked me why I was there. She remarked that we both had our journals out and were writing. She asked me what brought me to the pier. She said that we don’t talk to each other enough (As black women or women in general). She was a stranger in the beginning, but during our talk, she became a mentor, a teacher and a fellow sister in my journey of self-discovery.

At times, I question the decisions and the direction I have made in own life. I am happy to have my MSW and to be closer to becoming a licensed social worker. I am glad to have pursued my creative endeavors by still writing at times and starting out with making jewelry. (Which I need to post more on here) I have joy in partaking in fun filled activities either by myself or with others to make my life that much more enriching. However, there are moments when I go down that dark hallway of my mind and question the choices that I have made.

I am starting to realize that the way things are manifesting in my life is exactly what I always wanted; I must push myself more and have confidence in my decisions. I must learn not to let the naysayers, even those close to you, tear down the strength behind my choices.  God or the Universe will take care of me; always.

The higher power above will take care of you too. You will take care of you. The path and the choices that we make define our lives. We must believe in ourselves more and stop comparing or allowing the negativity of others to take us down. You know why you did what you did; don’t regret it. Even if it’s not working out in your favor yet, it will. Or it will be an important lesson for you in your journey to success if it does not work out. This is the road to who we are. The mistakes, the wrong turns or the right ones lead us to who we have always been.

In this journey that we take, it is also incredibly important to take time to self-reflect and discover who we are. There is something that I am starting to notice more, but I also see that it is quite disturbing in society. We put so much emphasis in getting these successful careers so that we can make a lot of money. The goal has always been to get a high paying job, get the house, get the car and you will be successful; you will be happy. However, I cannot help but notice some famous, rich people who appear to be quite happy in accomplishing all of this on the surface, but in truth are hiding behind their success. Big time celebrities make excessive amounts of money, travel the world and have the adoration of millions of fans, but are still unhappy. Many of them strive so much to be successful for objects but may not be successful with self. So many of them still have the same internal issues or worse than the rest of us. For some of them, it may be heightened because of all the energy they collect from users, naysayers, or any other negative forces they take in from those around.

My point is, why is it that we do not strive to know ourselves? Why is it embedded in us to sacrifice ourselves for these material things instead of saving time for ourselves as well? I mean it’s not wrong to want things and to work hard for them. But why is it OK to put in almost all your energy into gaining objects instead of gaining experiences or positivity from others? We could be uplifted from each other. We could be uplifted by our journeys in self-discovery. The concept of self-care is a huge theme in the caring profession since so much of our energy is utilized by giving to others. But the same can be done from other careers. It is so essential for us to know who we are and to take the time to do so. We tend to lose who we are and become mindless robots for the green. The biggest treasure out there is becoming who you are as a person and sharing that with others. When we empathize and work together as a society, we evolve.

Going back to the conversation with my fellow sister, she said she was relearning herself now that her children are out of the nest. She had her kids young and was rediscovering what she wanted to do with her life after having a rewarding career as a social worker. This queen was taking the time to get to know herself and through her words, she helped me. She had me realize how important it is to take the time to know who you are and to talk to one another. So much can happen with just a smile or a few words. We are so powerful in our own unique ways. We all know who we are at birth, but we must find the tools along the way back to ourselves; choice words she quoted from the outstanding soulstress Erykah Badu. Stay true to yourself and work on you, it is the most important goal you can have. Without it, nothing else matters.

Below, enjoy some sounds from the spiritual, neo-soul queen below.

Marvel Magic: Black Panther

***Spoilers Ahead***

Many of the various cultures making up much of this planet were excited to see Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther which came out this past Friday, February 16. Hype for months went down for the premier of the Wakandan super hero in this epic installation of Marvel. Many are gassed for the awesomeness this movie brings. Well I know am. Fans either dressed up or dressed down for the royal magic emanated from this film. I was actually one of them.

 

 

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Hey, I couldn’t help it. Normally, I don’t like to dress up too much, but this was an opportunity I could not miss. When my friends and I went to see Black Panther, it was more than just a movie for us. It is a symbol of progression for our people. It is a united front for Black Americans and people from the continent of Africa. It is a presence of excellence that we rarely see on film. (Literally, the last time was Coming to America) It is a positive image of our people. It is a Black super hero who is the main protagonist. (Blade was dope too though)

This was also one of the few times people actually dressed up to go see a film. I mean really dress up. It reminds me of the early days of film when people used to get dressed up to see the latest movie; decked out in fancy hats and gowns. In the beginning of the 20th Century, when film was still in black and white and was silent, movie goers would put on their best threads in excitement for the latest installation of cinema. Even during the later part of the century, people would get down with their groovy selves and look fly for film. However, it has died down a bit for being a spectacle to dress up other than for just cosplayers or comic book nerds. (Love y’all. =)) It is exhilarating to see fans dress up in traditional African garment or their own eclectic twist adorned in their own personal flair. Donning the various styles from the African continent, this was also an opportunity for Black Americans to make a connection with their African roots.

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that there are numerous directions I could go with how dope this film was. However, I will focus on what stuck out the most for me. Right above was literally what Black Panther brought to the table for scores of individuals before even seeing it. Now to focus on the actual film.

Tribal Wear:

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The first thing that stood out for me was the diversity of their attire. It wonderfully captured the essence of what is worn in the nations across the continent. There were 11 tribes seen in the Marvel film including the Surma and Mursi tribes in Ethiopia where you see the body modification lip plates, the Zulu headdress of South Africa worn by Queen Ramonda (Angela Basset), the futuristic garments of the Massai people of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania worn by the Dora Milaje army and more. You can see all of the dress worn in the film yourself here.

The Tech:

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Can I say out of this world? That is the best way to describe the technology of Wakanda. It was extraordinary that they were a nation shrouded under mystic waterfalls to bestow a nation embellished with such advanced tech. Vibranium is a powerful metal that absorbs sound waves, other vibrations and kinetic energy. It was deposited to the planet thousands of years ago and is now a special source which generates the city of Wakanda. It was incredible to see how high tech the nation is.

The Characters (Especially the empowering women):

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Everyone seemed to have their own story line other than just the prestigious T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). However, they all had their own incredible tales of independence, passion and loyalty to their cause. We learned about his love interest who was more than just that. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’O) was a spy who wanted to do more for her people and help others in need. She was very independent and was loyal to her cause as well as her nation. Shuri (Letitia Wright) was my favorite. She was responsible for much of the advancements made in Wakanda – as a teenage princess. Sister to T’Challa, she kept him in check and was an incredible asset to the country. I also loved how witty she was. (I can’t wait to see her interact with Tony Stark) Okoye was a traditionalist loyal to her nation. She was a dynamic fighter who fought to protect King T-Challa alongside the ferocious women of the Dora Milaje army (They are also a homage to the eminent Dahomey Warriors of Benin). Even Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) as evil as he was, had a very relatable back story. Many can understand his rage and can have respect for what he aimed to do to a world so drastically colonized including his own.

We Got You: 

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It was beautiful to see how T’Challa trusted the women in his life to have his back. He had his brilliant sister, his courageous love and the strapping femme warriors of Wakanda on his side. They were with him in battle and were a voice of reason when not. It was MARVELous to watch on film. (See what I did there. He he.) It is a bondage that we must entrust within ourselves. We can be there for each other. We are one in this journey of life; let us unite and avoid being divided. It was also incredible to see the unity between Black American and African culture. Our heroes got to see the struggles of the broken communities in urban settings through the unfortunate bridge that was Killmonger in how his story came to be. Like his ancestors, he was stripped from his culture and banished to a foreign land where he was no longer connected to his past. However, T’Challa became a beacon of hope not only for Wakanda but for the inner city community where Killmonger was raised and witnessed much destruction of those he loved. This story line was a fantastic example of how we all should come together in learning, understanding and taking action in becoming a united front against the oppressive forces that attempt to take us down.

Overall, this movie was beyond dope. It was a collection of powerful messages that we all needed to see. As a Marvel fan, this was my favorite film thus far. And not just because my heroes were black, but also because of the overall progression of excellence in the myriad of themes exuding hope, pride, thought, history, culture, loyalty and so much more. While I sat there in my African inspired threads, it felt real for me in what was taking place for us all. If you have not seen it yet, if there is any pessimistic doubt or barriers eating at your spirit, do not let if keep you from the brilliance that is Black Panther. If I or others sound too hyped up, challenge our position and see it for yourself.

 

The Shy Butterfly

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This was me possibly in fifth grade or middle school; the Fear Street loving, braces having me. Here, I’m happy to be taking a picture, but I’m not used to smiling. You wouldn’t know what my teeth looked like because I rarely smiled. It was a rare commodity for me. My mouth was shut tight like a hyper security center protecting something sacred. My words were private or at least they were stored and kept away from the world in my mind. Letting people know who I was was something I could not dare do. I spoke when spoken too and liked to sink into the vessels of my soul. My thoughts and my feelings were a secret I could not let just anyone see. Only those people who could deal with my silence and be willing to walk past my force field of protection could maybe get a little sense of who Tiffany was.

Today in 2018, this Tiffany still exists but far more open than once before. The castle of Tiffy is open for all (For the most part). My smile is a regular gift I provide to those around me especially those who care. My thoughts are welcome to those willing to hear them. My feelings are still a bit locked up tight, but I definitely open up the safe for those worthy of hearing them. In 2018, I have evolved far more than this Tiffy that you see above. I used to be so quiet that my voice would get scratchy when I finally did open my mouth. Now I’m a chatterbox to some friends (Well when I have some drinks to loosen up the ole vocal chamber) I love meeting new people and showing them a puzzle piece of who I am. Of course, it would take years to solve the puzzle of Tiffy, but I believe the same goes for every human.

I am more of social butterfly, but I definitely still have my introverted ways. Sometimes, I want to be alone and unbothered by the world. Friends or family call and all I want to do is delve deeper into my space of solitude. I’m out in the streets or nature and at times I just want to be alone, collect my thoughts and experience my surroundings in my own skin without the companionship of another. When I write, create, listen to music or read, my alone time is definitely of utmost importance to me. Then there are situations when I am around others that I either get awkward or I recoil in my shell; especially when I am around others who are super outgoing or extroverted. This invisible form of protection has blocked me from social encounters my whole life. I am not willing to just throw it to the side.

My wings, you will see them soaring at times. At other moments, you will see them hiding under the enclosure of a leaf. But I have definitely blossomed from the cocoon that was once my home. I am free. I am Tiffy. Take me as I am; Nothing more, nothing less. And for other social introverts out there like myself, you are awesome when you show your wings but also when you don’t.

Super Fly: Black Comic Book Festival 2018

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Tony Medina, author of “I Am Alfonso Jones” and myself.

This past Saturday, I was in Harlem and just happened to pass by the Schomburg Center. There was a line with people waiting in this crazy cold weather. Curious, I asked someone what was going on. I found out that there was a Black Comic Book Festival going on that day. I knew about it, but thought I missed it. This was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

After waiting in the annoying freeze, I encountered the library for research and black culture filled with comic book enthusiasts. Different tables showcased the melanin authors work on the main floor, upstairs and in the basement. It was dope. I geeked out and bought like four. I honestly wished I bought more. There were various books filled with pages of crime fighting child engineers, a super mom trying to win back her child from her own company, an infested South Bronx world overrun by zombies, and more. One author even created an encyclopedia of Black Comic books. Someone was even selling the entire collection of Black Panther. (They had a bunch of dope content on Black Panther the day before) However, the book that most intrigued me was a graphic novel about a child who was murdered due to police brutality. It follows the child in the afterlife as he meets others on a ghost train to guide him through in the spiritual realm. I had to get it.

As a writer still navigating my way through this creative space, it was a real treat to meet accomplished melanin folk doing their thing. I loved how they brought their dynamic energy to the editorial space and gave it life for others to enjoy. I wish them all the best and hope to get more of this experience next year.

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Living Up to Your Truth

 

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Nola Darling (Tracey Camilla Johns) Credit: IMDB

So Spike Lee has always been an iconic film maker in the wacky world of film. He is a mogul to look up to not only in the African American community, but as an overall creator of art. Growing up, especially if you come from Brooklyn, you had to catch a Spike Lee joint. I tried to keep up with as many as I can. When his movies was popping, I was a little Tiffy crawling and running around on the carpet of our Brownsville/East Flatbush apartment. I can never forget the favs: Do the Right Thing, He Got Game, Crooklyn and School Daze. Upon hearing about the remake of his 80s hit “She’s Gotta Have It,” I decided to check out the original. Home girl was living it up. Ms. Nola Darling had three attractive men pawning after her. The black and white flick was bold in introducing a type of romance you rarely see highlighted. This woman was owning who she was and not allowing anyone to control her desires. She saw the good in all three men she was dating; Jamie was the poet who kept her feeling secure, Mars had her rolling in laughter while Greer was all about the sensual experience. She had the best of all worlds; she enjoyed the makeup of what they had to give cause she had to have it all. My point in this little write up is that Nola Darling was a woman unafraid to live how she wanted. She refused to bend over to society’s standards; she refused to bow down to the roles placed on women. Nola was honest in what she wanted. She often times mentioned that these men could leave if they could not rock with her ways.

I admire and respect her for her strong stance. She is a mountain of unwavering beauty which seeks to be honored for how she sees herself in the world. She hated to be called a freak. She hated to be boxed in by men or by society. She needed to define herself to her own choosing. I resonate so much with that. In truth, I did not like that she was dating three men at the same time when they all seemed to want her for themselves. However, I loved that she was so strong about what she wanted.

Our culture says that women must only be with one man while men are praised for being with countless females. We allow men to define us based on what has been passed down by our parents and their parents and so on. We become defined by what we see in the media. We get dressed up in labels to honor without much choice. Otherwise we get the side eye or attitude from anyone within distance. We are defined on whether we are married. Our womanhood is tested on whether we have kids or not. We are judged on if we can make great homemakers. Growing up, I learned it is standard for a woman to know how to cook, clean, and raise kids. Oh and she got to have a bangin’ body too. All of which revolved on whether a man wanted us or not. This is what I was used to, but it is exhausting. (While writing this, an image of Barbie popped into my head. *shudder.*) In the midst of this tornado of labels, where do I come into the picture? Can a brother like me for me and not just whether I can throw down in the kitchen? I have always been about something deeper; Connection for me is key. Intimacy is key. Intellectual stimulation is key. Spiritual growth is key. Communication is key. Anyway, Nola breaks through the barriers of what society tells her to do. “F*** you societal labels. I’m doing me.” (My own words of what she is doing.) In a sense, Nola is living in her truth and not the one someone created for her. This, for me, is perfection.

It is important for us all to live in our own truth. The compelling authenticity of Nola is her stance in not allowing anyone to define her. The remake of this incredible tale does a great job in doing this as well. (I binge watched the series on Netflix. It is pretty dope. I like the characters more actually and love how they highlighted today’s issues. Nola is also such a dynamic artist. She makes me want to pick up a brush.) I think we should all not allow society or other people to define us. Live up to who you are in the best way you know how. Let your true self shine.  Don’t ever let anyone overshadow the essence of who you are. I know I won’t. Thank you, Nola for being you.