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.

 

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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.

Falling Into Peace

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I am currently working on a paper for a class, but decided to take a mini break to release my creative energy. This energy was balled up all day and deserves to be let out. Almost two weeks ago, I decided to randomly drive out to Long Island to check out the Fall Foliage. My favorite part about this time of the year is experiencing the beauty of the various hues which pop out from the trees here in New York. I remember when I had this one job with Bricks 4 Kids in Scarsdale. It was far from where I lived, but the best part about it was working with the little munchkins and the drive up. Riding past the city bustle of Queens and the Bronx led to a serene, immense strip of road that made up the Hutchinson Parkway. Less cars, more lanes and a scenery of collective trees huddled together adorning the path ahead was the experience of upper New York. It was difficult not to stop and just bask in the beauty. So this year, I figured why not take the opportunity to bask in one of nature’s wonders more closer to home.

I was in Queens and looked up the best places to view the Fall Foliage closest to me. I decided on Sands Point where it took me about 30 mins to get to. When I arrived, there was literally a castle awaiting me. It had this pull and spoke in silent whispers among the surrounding trees. The warm Friday weather was equally inviting in providing me the ease to exploring. Of course when I started my venture, I got a bit lost. Lol. But the best moments at times arrive in not knowing the destination. While lost, I stumbled into a gorgeous wedding that was nestled on a look out point above the Long Island sound. I embarked in the woods and was greeted with friendly spirits passing by, a collage of yellows and oranges, and a variation of picturesque settings; it was just what I needed. My favorite moment was sitting on a bench on a foot bridge encompassed by the lovely arcs and bends of nature. No city sounds, just the Earth; it’s exactly what I wanted and what my soul was asking for.

As I make November the beginning in my commitment to self-love and self-care, my trip to Sands Point was the first in my journey. I can’t wait to shower myself with love through more spontaneous trips, self research and action to better health, meditation, positive vibes and just an overflow of love and light from anything I put my energy into.

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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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