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.

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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! =)

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.

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

Twist Out Blues

You what I hate these days? I hate what Trump is doing to America; I hate driving in New York City and I hate doing a twist out and my style disappearing within two days. Honestly, it takes a lot for me to dislike or have anger towards anything. I find comfort in being cool about most things. But when you put time and energy into a style and it is gone…..it becomes increasingly challenging to maintain that zen like mood.

On Sunday night, I put my hair into twists. I sat in my bed while watching the Walking Dead and preceded to do my hair. My hands worked through my hair carefully parting each strand to the best of my ability. (I actually am very bad at parting, ha ha.) My hands put some time into each piece of hair treating it delicately. When I was done, I put a hair cap over it to preserve the look. My hair was left in the twists for about two days to continue the preservation of the look I wanted. On Wednesday, I took the twists out and the style did not look too bad. It had a mixture of perfect and lopsided curls that accentuated my style. It was not perfection, but it defined my look.

For some reason this morning, it looked even better. It had definition, volume and the curls were looking great. I was so excited. I went on to take a shower like I do every day. However when I was finished, the popping volume was GONE!!!! My hair had shrunk so much. It looked like how it normally does after a few days of a twist out. This has happened before after taking a steamy shower, but I am just so sick of it. It sucks when humidity ruins your hair. Venting here is making me feel a bit better, but it truly is frustrating when the warmth that actually puts you at so much ease into your routine destroys the time and effort put into your tresses.

However, I cannot help but love the diversity my hair naturally possesses. It changes when it feels best. I can only do so much to control it. I am loving my kinks but that love turns into frustration at times. It is like loving a child; you come into your once clean kitchen and find a tornado of a mess. Your anger rises quickly, but you find a way to swallow it and handle that situation like a champ (or try to) because in your heart you know the love you have for the sometimes wild one is unconditional. My wild mane will always have my heart. I will do my best to understand it one day at a time. So for today, I will put on my armor of chill and embrace the shrunken kinks my hair decided to morph into.

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This was after a successful twist out. =)