Celebrating Black Musicians

I decided to make a post about Black musicians because I think that the arts throughout history have been a way of documenting where we are as human beings and capturing the mood of an era.

This will be a short list but I hope you learn something new, are inspired and look up some of the tracks mentioned.

 

Nat King Cole

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Nat King Cole 1919-1965 (Source: mtv)

I remember listening to a Christmas song  when I was a little girl and hearing my mother say, “That’s Nat King Cole nuh” and for some reason, I asked, “Is he Black?” And my mother responded with, “Yes.” I swelled with pride to know that this Black man with an incredibly smooth voice was singing this “old time music.” It helped me visualize Black people doing normal things in times that were so oppressive. Yes, Blacks were living and making incredible music with their incredible talents back then too.

Cole initially rose to fame as a jazz pianist and transitioned into  a pop icon.Cole, most notably known for songs “Unforgettable” and “L-O-V-E”, was the first Black person to host a variety show series in 1956.

 

Louis Armstrong

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Louis Armstrong 1901- 1971 (Source: Wallpaperscraft)

Heello Dolly! This is Louissss, Dolly! Louis Armstrong is a legend in jazz music. The renown trumpeter and charismatic singer also known as “Satchmo” (for his unusually large mouth that was said to be like a satchel bag) or “Pops” was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is probably best known for his songs, “What a wonderful world” and “La vie en rose.” Gritty voiced Armstrong was the first Black man to host a nationally aired radio show in the 1930s and the first jazz musician to grace the cover of Times magazine in 1949.

Louis Armstrong is one of the greatest jazz influencers having impacted the likes of jazz great Billie Holiday.

Bille Holiday

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Billie Holiday 1915-1959 (Source: AP)

Billie Holiday born Eleanora Fagan was as troubled as she was talented. However, maybe her talent could be partially attributed to the troubles she endured. Lady Day as she was sometimes called was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She had a tumultuous upbringing- her father abandoned her family, she was raped at 10 and had turned to prostitution as a teen. However, as a teen, she also discovered jazz music and became one of the most prominent jazz figures of all time. If you’ve ever listened to a record by Holiday, you’ll her the pain and passion in her voice. Her style was distinctive as she delivered songs injected with emotion like no other could. Some of her most memorable songs are “Strange Fruit,” and “God bless the child.” Holiday sadly  had a habit of abusing heroin that led to her untimely death at the age of 44.

 

Nina Simone

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Nina Simone 1933- 2003 (Source: JazzSign/ Lebrecht Music& Arts/ Corbis)

Nina Simone was a brilliant pianist, singer and song- writer that was dubbed the voice of the Civil Rights Movement. Simone famously penned the song, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” after being inspired by the Black playwright, Lorraine Hansberry. She also recorded the song “Why? The King of Love is Dead” following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Simone also recorded renditions of the songs “I loves you, Porgy,” and “Love me or leave me.”

 

 

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Ya a pussy!

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Pussy. Some may use this term just as the syllable before “cat”but sometimes “pussy” is used as a slang for vagina. The word “pussy” is also thrown around usually among males to describe a man that is considered a weakling and here lies the reason for this journal entry.

Being in the Caribbean, I’ve heard men call other men pussies for not conforming to what it is that a man is expected to be- a womanizer, tough, insensitive, crude and aggressive. I am not suggesting that the word is used solely by men in this fashion but I’d argue that it is primarily the case. In my own musings on what it means to be a heterosexual male in some Caribbean circles, it seems as if male straightness is incredibly fragile and dictated by some men who are insecure about their own sexuality and overly concerned about the way that other men live their lives. If a man is met with an unfortunate situation, he is expected to respond with anger and aggression. I recall witnessing an accident during the Christmas holidays where someone rear- end another vehicle breaking one of the tail-lights of the car to the front of him. The young man who was hit came out of his car repeating this one line in Antiguan dialect that essentially means, “This cannot be real” or “You cannot be serious.” He said, “Wha da joke ya tarl.” He repeated this over and over in a way as if he wanted to start something with the person that hit him but lacked the aggression and know how on what to do next. I mean, your vehicle was hit. You have every right to be upset but I  felt that in light of persons in typical Antiguan style flocking to see what had transpired and being asked by persons who missed the accident by a millisecond what had happened, the young man who had been hit was trying to appear more upset than he actually was. To not overreact with aggression can easily cause a man to be dubbed  a “pussy.”

Or what of men who prefer hard sole shoes and work corporate jobs? And young boys who wear their pants on their waists and try to work hard and behave well in school? The young boys that don’t get into fights over dumb ish? They too often get dubbed as “pussies.” If you’ve listened to Kartel’s lyrics in one of his most recent songs “Closed Casket,” you’d hear the list of offenses that should be committed by a young man to not be considered a nerd. Why is it that men have to stay on some dumb stuff to be considered as masculine? To be accepted in the group of heterosexual males, your morals have to be somewhat questionable it seems.

Now on sexual practices, a heterosexual male is expected to have slept with every woman in his community for ratings. It’d be great if he receives oral sex from time to time during his encounters but can he give it? What??! No gyal can sidung pan a real man head. A man abstaining from cunnilingus is one the biggest ways to maintain respect from other males because of course it is another man’s concern what a next man does with a woman. Makes complete sense right? Have you ever been to a party and to get the crowd hype, the male dj would ask, “All da man dem wha know seh dem nah suck pussy, buss a blank?” Brah, why you care? If you are a straight male with no intentions of dating a next man, why are you so pressed about where a next man’s mouth has been? That seems to be something that should be of more concern to women who may potentially date men who may or may not be willing to engage in the practice and would be the ones to make direct contact with a man’s mouth.

Also, a man trying to prove himself to not be a pussy would of course have to be homophobic. I do not think that a person not being keen on the homosexual lifestyle makes one homophobic. I think that we have the right to our opinions because in reality we have views on things or on people that do not affect our lives tangibly. However, some men really are homophobic in the literal sense of the word. They are afraid of homosexuality. I remember seeing men opt to give up their seats in the front of the bus because it was deemed gay for three men to sit in front of a bus in Antigua. Apparently, being bunched between two other males could cause one to switch from loving women like Hugh Hefner to wanting to get involved with other men sexually. I’ve actually heard a young woman say that she hopes that when she has a son, he hates homosexuals and that he beats them up. She said if she heard her son say he has beaten up a gay boy, she would be proud. You see, within Caribbean culture, having a son that is straight can sometimes translate into meaning being violent, hateful and overly concerned with protecting ones sexuality by ensuring persons that have alternative lifestyle preferences are marginalized. By expressing these types of traits one can be sure to not be dubbed a weak fence and a pussy. 🙂

I find it to be sad and lame that a slang for vagina is used to describe primarily weak men when in reality, the very cultural expectations of masculinity lends itself to men who are mentally weak, unable to control emotions and resolve conflict peacefully, lack the ability and will to use education to gain upward mobility and a sexuality that is so weak that it has to work overtime to belittle and threaten others to maintain its “superiority.” Yeah, that sounds quite strong to me.

What’s your fantasy?

Jasmine Tookes also known as “Bae” to me will be wearing the Fantasy Bra in this year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. I learnt of Jasmine’s good fortune in a video on social media showing Jasmine being on a shoot with the Victoria’s Secret crew only to find out that she would be wearing the bra. It was quite evident that Jasmine was ecstatic to be chosen to wear the undergarment. Tookes found out she would be wearing the bra in May, however, it remained a secret until last week.

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Jasmine Tookes poses with $3 million “Bright Night” Fantasy Bra designed by Eddie Borgo.

Jasmine’s excitement  about wearing the expensive piece had me thinking that our dreams really are what we make them. Jasmine was excited for the opportunity because it was something she always wanted and worked towards. Sometimes, people try to belittle our dreams, sometimes out of jealousy and their own insecurities but sometimes… people just don’t get us. Being chosen to walk in a heavily encrusted bra may be considered a minor feat to some, nothing to glory about, but it can mean the world to someone else.

So, what I recommend is that you go after your dreams with vigour. You know what you want and what makes you happy more than anyone else does and  you should not feel that you need the validation of others to pursue your dreams. Be fearless and live your fantasy.

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Getty Images

Things I’ve learnt from the Rio Olympics

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Samir Ait Said (Source: AP)

There’s nothing like doing what you love. French gymnast Samir Ait Said broke his left leg on live television during the qualifying rounds. However, Said is anxious about beginning training for 2020’s Olympics. :0 Said also had to sit out the 2012 London Olympics because of a broken right leg. Now, I’m a believer in knowing when to hold ‘em, fold ‘em and walk away but just being in the Olympics is a huge accomplishment to athletes. Some athletes who may not have been able to qualify for their national teams  have sought to represent other countries just to get a better shot at making it to the big ones. Now, I would think that if you can’t beat your national counterparts to make the team, what’s the point in going to another team with lower standards only to wind up at the Olympics to go up against their original competition…but sometimes a person just wants the opportunity to do what they love regardless of whether they will ever be considered the best in the grand scheme of things.

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US 110 hurdle meter gold medalist, Brianna Rollins (Photo by David Eulitt)

 

“Through this mystical communication within, we keep on coming together,” are some of the lyrics to a Buju Banton song called “Hills & Valleys” that I thought could be applied to the similarities that I’ve noticed between Black people from different countries. Seeing the many different black women reminded me of the once trending hashtag #growingupblack where it was evident that regardless of one’s background, there are some things that are just inherent to the Black human and the hairstyles sported by Black women at the Olympics showed that.

Black culture will never die as long as black people live.

 

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(l-r)100m gold medalist Elaine Thompson, silver medalist Tori Bowie and bronze medalist Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce (Getty Images)

Being happy for someone else is a beautiful thing. In the women’s 100 meter track and meet final, I saw Tori Bowie of the USA who finished second, put herself between Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson who won the race and Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce also of Jamaica, who finished third for a photo op. There was something about the way she did it that showed comradery. She seemed to be genuinely happy for them and ’twas beautiful.

 

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(l-r) 110 meter hurdle winners- Kristi Castlin who won the bronze, Brianna Rollins, who won the gold medal and silver medalist Nia Ali who made it a clean sweep for the USA. (Cameron Spencer/ Getty Images)

 

Natural beauty hasn’t gone anywhere. Now, I don’t want to be one to  relegate women to being nothing more than their looks so I won’t. But it is very hard to ignore appearance given that we are so heavily socialized to ascribe value to a woman based on what meets the eye. However, seeing women who were not overdone and focused on accomplishing their dreams was a powerful thing. It was unfortunate to see that some people have not matured since 2012 as they were some who were still hung up over Gabby Douglas’ hair, but Gabby isn’t a model. She’s a gymnast. And her focus was on winning.

Also, witnessing Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin effortlessly slay with little makeup on was just beautiful and showed that there is so much more to a woman than her looks. A woman’s  passion and dedication to optimizing her abilities can make her truly captivating.

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Maracana Stadium Brazil (Source Getty Images)

 

All things come to an end… so enjoy the now. Unfortunately, an athlete’s career can be relatively short in comparison to other professions because of the demands sport can place on the body. However, the glory of it all can make it well worth it. Enjoy the here and now. Enjoy your life victories because you never know what’s going to happen next. Sickness, injury or the new kid on the block might be your next challenge so don’t be afraid to beat your chest while the light is still on you.

 

 

Every thing that went wrong with Melting Pot 2016

So I went to Melting Pot this year. Before I get to the meat and potatoes (pun intended) of what went down on this night, let me give you a little idea of what Melting Pot is. Melting Pot is an event that was introduced to Antigua’s Carnival celebrations in 2014, that features artistes from different Caribbean islands, hence the name- Melting Pot. Previous artistes featured at the event include  Dexta Daps, Beenie Man and whoever else min deh deh before mi nah know nor business bout (translation: whoever else was there before, I do not recall nor do I care to remember them.)

I’ve never been to Melting Pot before but this year mi decide fi fawwud tru mi hear Alkaline gah deh. While perusing one of the local papers, I saw the lineup for Melting Pot and once I saw Alkaline’s picture, grey braids and all, I said to myself- I am going to go. So like I surmise most people would do after making the decision to attend a show of this nature, I decided to contact a friend so that we could roll up to the event together and have a bomb time. My friend isn’t much of a dancehall fan but she was up for hearing Bunji Garlin and Fayon Lyons who were also apart of the performance lineup and a girls’ night was long overdue. So she contacted another friend and it was decided we’d attend the show.

Other than Alkaline, Bunji Garlin & Fayon Lyons, the usual Antiguan suspects were expected to perform- Claudette “CP” Peters, Ricardo Drue, Tian Winter and old school favourites- The Burning Flames. Kassav- a creole band, El Alfa and Romain Virgo  were also scheduled to perform. Now I was actually looking forward to seeing Tian, CP and Ricardo perform because despite the fact that they’re on the lineup for damn near every show held in Antigua, I’ve never seen them perform live. And Melting Pot has come and gone and I still haven’t seen them live. Granted that I wouldn’t necessarily shell out money just to see any of those local performers perform (’cause they are ever around and you know how it is when something is common, the demand for it isn’t as high) I thought Melting Pot would have been the opportune time to see them.

Anyway, let me tell you what transpired on this Wednesday night. I was to be picked up by my friend between 8:30- 8:45 but it took me a bit longer so we left my home at about 8:50/55 and arrived at the Antigua Recreation Grounds- now called Carnival City for the season. Now the other young lady that ought to join us was in the best position to purchase the tickets as she worked in a location that would be more accessible to where tickets were being sold. So we arrive at Carnival City, and my friend is calling homegirl, like “Where you at?” It took a minute for this girl to answer her phone and when she did she said she’s just about to leave home. 😐 Now, Antigua is small but this woman lived far enough from the venue and we just heard the National Anthem being played so the show was about to start and bear in mind that I wanted to see the local artistes that were likely to go first. But it gets better not too longer after my friend gets off the phone, her phone is ringing, and it’s our ticket bearer. And she’s requesting a ride. Now my friend was pissed and started regretting not picking up the tickets from the young lady prior. But I was like ‘let’s just go and get her’ because the sooner she was with us, the sooner we could get into the show and start unwinding.

But finding where exacting my girl lived was no small feat. And the lord of the tickets was not the best at giving directions so we were once heading in the wrong direction but the lord of the tickets’ boyfriend was able to correct his woman’s messed up instructions and lead us to where his woman was. All the while, my friend was rightly getting more and more upset. Anyway, we finally reached the ticket holder and we were on our way to the event. Now we had to find a new and further place to park and by then both the ticket bearer and myself had to use the bathroom and my friend was also hungry. So we tried Burger King and a pharmacy both of which were closed by our reentry into the vicinity as it was now after 10:pm. Mind you, when we originally arrived in town it was around 9:10.

Anyway, we resolved to enter the grounds and use the bathroom there although we had concerns about its sanitation but hey, public bathrooms are all disgusting right? I decided that my situation wasn’t that serious because although the bathroom wasn’t horrible, I just preferred not to and would soldier it out. But my friend wanted something to eat. Amidst all this back and forth Tian Winter is on stage. 😦 I wait for my friend to be served her barbecue chicken and by the time she gets it, Tian is off the stage. 😦 😦 😦

 

 

Anyway, there’s a long break before another artiste comes on and we’re like what’s the hold up?  Kassav then comes on and it appeared that people, especially older people were pretty excited to see them and were dancing and having a jolly old time which low key inspired me ’cause I wanna go out with my old bae and dance when I’m older as well. However, Kassav singing French Creole songs that I really did not know nor understand made it hard to fully enjoy the long ass time they were on stage. There were some songs that I’ve heard on the radio and they did sound amazing live but they were on stage for WAY TOO LONG. I’m not closed minded but I think it’s natural to want to understand the language that people are trying to reach you in. Also considering the long break before Kassav came on stage, the quicker they came off would have been the better.

After Kassav was El Alfa, I believe. And I actually didn’t even know they were apart of the lineup until the night because I really wasn’t checking for them on the flyer. Anyway, El Alfa is a Hispanic rap/hip-hop duo that is as whack as they come. They were singing in Spanish but whack is whack and I was not featuring these yutes. When they made their exit someone next to me said,” The best time ah di night ah when dem come off.” He ain’t never lied.

Next was Romain Virgo and the Unity Band. Romain was doing the most as if people came to see his behind. Yes, he did cover some familiar songs that got people loosened up after enduring Kassav and El Alfa but Romain was on too freakin’ long.

Before Romain came on and after he came on there was a mix of Jamaican music that was played to ease people into the “Caribbean tour” as the show was sponsored by LIAT. Supa Dymond, the host did a good job with the mix because I love me some dancehall so I was getting my life. Anyway, I was suspect when he mentioned that we were “touching down in Jamaica” because I thought that Bunji & Fayon would have performed before Jamaican Alkaline. Anyway, I wasn’t overly concerned because it was about after 3:a.m. when Alkaline came on. Yes, folks after 3:a.m. to blouse and skirt.

Alkaline then came on with his hype man blazing fire and singing “Formula”, one of his summer hits and hit after hit. I must say that his catalogue is up there. When he reached for a song like “Up”, I was like, ‘Hey, I forgot about that song’ but it was great that he included it. He also sang, “My Side of the Story”, “One More Time”, “Chun Chun”, “How It Feel”, “Mi nuh Like People”, “Bagga Things”, “City”, “Wait Your Turn”, “Champion Boy”, “ATM” and other songs. However, his live band was louder than him and considering that a lot of dancehall music is heavily electronically generated, seeing him perform with a band that played the songs in a different key had an underwhelming effect.  I also felt like some of the songs were rushed but  I must say that he transitioned from song to song quite well. Some people blamed the lack of autotune available to him or blatantly said he can’t perform but as I said, to me it just had a lot to do with the imbalance between Alkaline and his band. The band overpowered him. But he did have a pretty good set. Say what you like about Alkaline but the yute has hits.

Anyway, Alkaline finished performing after 4 and I went walked out the grounds. My friends and I had gotten separated because they wanted to stay at the back and I went to the front by myself and it paid off- I got good pics and a glow stick. 🙂 But being the only one with a bag, I held the car keys and the driver’s cellphone and it was a mess watching, waiting and hoping to see my comrades. Anyway, my friend begged someone a phone call and called her phone and we were able to reconnect.

On making our way to the car we all express our disappointment with the show and both girls were disappointed with the performance of Alkaline, the long time some performers were onstage, not seeing Bunji and the looooonng night we had.

But there’s more, the following day, we learnt that the show ended at about 7:am. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. When we left after 4, Burning Flames performed, followed by Bunji Garlin & Fayon Lyons and Ricardo Drue reportedly closed the show.

Overall, the show was as poorly planned as our night. I think that patrons should get to see everyone advertised for a show within reasonable time. And organizers should not BS people nor waste money on acts that do not add value to a show. Yes, the show is called Melting Pot, but this is not like a music festival where people only attend nights when their fave is performing. It’s a one night thing that nuff people suffered through only to not get to see Bunji Garlin because they have to work the Thursday morning (like I did) or they’re just too exhausted to champion the cause of seeing every act ’cause the show is really too long. Overall, the show gets a 2 out of 5 and the 2 stars go to getting to see Alkaline.

 

 

What’s on My Summer Playlist?

It’s summer time again and as the weather heats up, so should our playlist. What are some of the songs blazing up my playlist this season? Keep reading to find out.

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  1. Formula– Alkaline

Whether you are a fan of Alkaline or not, you must admit, di yute hab some catchy tune.  Formula is about working hard and stuntin’ on the haters as you reap the benefits. While you’re sculpting your body for summer, (no folks, it isn’t too late), Formula is bound to get you moving with its upbeat tempo.

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  1. Fire and Desire– Drake

I was never a Drake fan. Not even a mega- hit like Hotline Bling got me into his music. BUT, this Views album is doing things and changing lives…. Well, maybe changing lives is a bit of an over exaggeration but you get the idea. Fire and Desire probably won’t get you moving like Formula but with lines like, “You a real ass woman and I like it” and “I need you inspired, I need you excited,” this song just heats up my emotions.

 

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  1. One Dance– Drake ft. Kyla and Wizkid

“Baby, I like your style…” Lawd, can I tell you how much of a feel good song this is? The African inspired hit makes you want to do a little jug and has rather PG 13 lyrics that should probably sit well with most audiences. But if you haven’t already picked it up from Alkaline being featured on my list… quite a bit of unwholesome lyrics are permissible by me.

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  1. Ova Dweet– Popcaan

Before the full audio was released on YouTube in April, a flatmate and I were blasting the teaser like it was the real thing. That’s how hype this song is. And by its over 3 million views at the time of posting, I anticipate that this song will continue to be played frequently at summer events.

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  1. On Di Beach– Vybz Kartel

“Roll up pan di sand like waves did…” I know this is an older song but every time I hear it I just feel good. The Cure Pain Riddim featured a lot of good songs with each artiste bringing a different aspect to the rhythm. Not only were the topics were different but there were little tweaks added to the rhythm for On Di Beach and other songs that added something a little special to each tune. On Di Beach will probably always be a favourite of mine ‘cause regardless of where you are in life, sometimes, you just want to be mentally transported to the beach and this song does just that.

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  1. Feel Good– Popcaan

Popcaan with his singy- songy goodness just outdid himself with this one. The song, produced by Notnice is perfect to grind to. “Baby mek mi tell yuh why mi love yuh so much…,” are some of the lyrics featured on this super sexy, sizzling track and I’m sure the ladies will get excited when this track is played at summer parties.

Of gods and energies.

As an island gal, I’ve done my sentence of hard labour in the religious field. However, after a series of events, I am now not religious, spiritual nor any of the fanciful words used by people to describe their relationship  with the unknown, unseen and unproved. I respect that people use religion and other belief systems to deal with life but what I do not understand is the use of religion to avert the progress of one’s life by refusing to deal with issues within oneself.

People who embrace religions and the belief of positive and negative energies oftentimes seem to believe that they spew rainbows, butterflies, peace, and happiness… however, quite often, the contrary is true. People seem to easily dismiss their role in how people view and respond to them. They are the ones always wrongfully being met by opposition by persons who can’t stand to see them shine and by all means must separate themselves from the negative energy or have the bad vibes revoked in the name of Jesus. Sometimes, we get what we give. I will not be as presumptuous to insinuate that everything that we are met with is the result of our actions and I believe in having a positive mindset but I don’t take it to the mystical, esoteric levels that other people do.  A lot of religious people, namely Christians in the Caribbean that have interacted with, have a mentality of entitlement. As a “Child of God” they should be treated well, get the promotion at work and a host of other great things. I remember hearing of a Christian woman who was acting in a position at work and being a deaconess at her church, she would be called upon from time to time to lead prayers. Once, while leading the church in prayer, she  got into mentioning her taking on the position at work and aggressively said her subordinates that were giving her trouble “WILL submit”…. of course, in the name of Jesus.  Although there may be some opposition to climbing the upper echelons of the workplace and the usual “bad-mind” that we Caribbean people like to blame for people not favouring us, there is also the reality that people may sometimes have difficulty with adapting to change. There could also be the chance that she was not conducting her new duties efficiently that caused people to be displeased with her. It could also be that she lead with an iron fist. But instead of considering these possibilities, she made it into a holy war.

Now allow me to address the energy folks. I remember working on an event that started about an hour after it was scheduled to start. As you could imagine, in the between time of when it should have started and when it actually started, people who attended were getting agitated. A young lady who was working on the event with me then said, ” I can’t take being around the negative energy”. Seriously, though?  People getting agitated ought to be expected because our event is starting late. How people are reacting is based off of our own inefficiencies and not their malice. Too often have I seen people blame other people for being the cause of chaos, for being standoffish and a host of other negative things only to realise upon deeper inspection that the persons doing the blaming are only projecting their insecurities and hang-ups on other people.

It’s a difficult world out there and I understand that  belief systems can help people deal with this craziness called life. I know there are MANY straight up haters in the world. I know that we can put our best foot forward and still not be well received. But what I do know is that too many people enjoy hiding under the veil of religion and mystical beliefs that counter their own progress because instead of taking the time to look the ugly truth in the eye. Taking the time to reflect on ourselves and hold ourselves accountable for our own progress or setbacks will prove to be more rewarding as we take the power out of the hands of others and take practical steps at improving ourselves. We shouldn’t be afraid to look people in the eye and address issues that we have with them if it becomes necessary and furthermore, we shouldn’t be afraid to look at ourselves. It’s a look worth taking and when we are honest with ourselves and resolve to improve who we are from the inside out, the results will be beneficial.

1 step forward, 2 steps back?

We as Black people in the West have come a long way (pause for applause). We managed to have a remnant remaining after the Trans- Atlantic slave trade, go through colonialism, lack of access to education, money, and the right to vote and continue to face many other socio- economic issues.
We have also been taught to hate ourselves and have despised persons that have the features most associated with being Black. I am not a fan of simply branding features as being “White” because if a Black person has features such as a thin nose… how can the feature truly be considered as White? So before I get into some of the issues still prevailing in the Black community, let me clarify that I do not believe that certain features such as looser hair, a thinner or straighter nose or lighter skin makes a person less Black. Such perceptions are the ones that come back to frustrate people in the Black community who are tired of being asked, “What are you mixed with?” if they have hair that is more loosely coiled or not as dark in complexion as our other brothers or sisters. I have read comments of people… Black people saying that East Africans look like “white girls dipped in chocolate” and that is a statement that doesn’t sit well with me. Again, I think that it serves to divide the Black community and somewhat disenfranchise Black people who were born with a thinner nose, looser hair, etc. from their right to truly be considered Black. It’s like saying in order for you to be Black you have to have stereotypical features of blackness rather than to just be Black. Black people will even sometimes tell another Black person that they, “sound white” if the person is able to speak in complete sentences… do you see the problem with setting standards of blackness? Anyway, acknowledging that East Africans were not a part of the Trans- Atlantic slave trade does not negate the fact that they are still Black and we here in the West do not get to choose who gets to be called Black or not.
However, the problem is that we as Black people still tend to try to fit into the European standard of beauty. There’s a beauty popular YouTuber that is Black and has blue eyes and Black people seem to be in a frenzy over it. It’s like, “Yes, look at us, we can meet the standard” all while overlooking the fact that the young lady’s eye colour, as beautiful as they are, are an abnormality. There are posts all over Instagram saying that, “Mixed doesn’t have a look” pretty much stating that this girl is Black and her eyes are naturally blue. “Yes, take that! We as Black people can meet the standard”, is what I am getting from this obsession. Again, stressing the fact that I understand that features do not exclusively belong to a particular race, I still see us as Black people doing the absolute most to make it seem as if we can fit into the very tight box that the Western standard of beauty is stuffed into. Even these social media pages that are supposed to uplift Black women sporting natural hair sometimes look as if they are only trying to fill a quota of posting a dark-skinned girl with thicker hair once every two weeks. Whether we like to admit it or not, we as Black people have a long way to go in finding ourselves and loving and embracing who we are.
I believe as much as media representation is important in painting Black people as more complex than liking trap music, doing drugs and trying to be rappers and whatever else it is that the media says about us, it is important for us to love ourselves. No, I don’t mean look over at other Black people who we deem to be more attractive than us because that person falls into a certain standard of beauty but I mean looking into the mirror and loving the person looking back at us. Too often I have heard Black people say, “Yes, he’s fine.” And they begin to note the attributes that make him fine, “He’s light-skinned. And oftentimes, these comments come from people with the darkest skin tones. Or what about comments like, “I don’t have ‘nice hair’, I have real African, nappy hair”. How can a person that looks nothing like their own perception of beauty really think that they are attractive? This is why I believe it is so important for us to build up ourselves and not even rely on people in our own Black community to build us up because the people that we may be looking to for validation may be suffering from their own complexes. Recently, I heard a young man who is literally black say something to the effect that for a woman to be nice…. She has to be light-skinned. Granted that this guy is a straight up misogynist and idiot and I ponder what kind up-bringing he had, I still think it’s quite pitiful that Black people too often tend not to rate other Black people and try to pin negative characteristics on our own. We cannot even use adjectives such as “nice” to describe thick, tightly coiled, what is now known as “4C” hair, because we have given that adjective away to persons with looser hair types. For eyes, as soon as we see someone with lightly coloured eyes, the person’s eyes are immediately deemed as being “pretty” and he or she becomes bae. We simply do not celebrate ourselves enough, we do not wave our banner of blackness or black consciousness. We dismiss ourselves and because of our own self-hatred we cannot lift up our people. I think that we need to stop looking to other Black people to uplift us (yes, Black women stop waiting for Black men to do so), the Oscars and white media to accept us and learn to love ourselves. We should start on the individual level and let that light from within cause us to be a beacon of light to others because oftentimes in our campaigns to build up the Black community, it’s like we take one step forward and two steps back because of the inconsistencies in what we say we believe. We believe in Black beauty… but in only one type of Black beauty and that does not reflect liberation but a mental slavery that only we can free ourselves from.

Living every moment

Sometimes when we think of “living life” or “living life to the fullest” we think about what it is that we can acquire so that we can start “living”. We have to be able to vacation in Dubai… this summer of course, lose 30 pounds to fit perfectly into the new Victoria’s Secret tiny bikini and feel fabulous. But, what do we do in the interim? Are our breaths between our goals in vain? No, babe. Live now and enjoy every moment of it. Recently, I’ve been enjoying the little things in life… trying a different treat at the pastry stand, trying on a new outfit… simple ish. It could be something as simple as finding out what make- up looks work for you or what job you want to work, remember you only have one life to live and don’t be afraid to live it. Don’t be afraid at to try new things and don’t let naysayers keep you from going after what you want, all you will do is wind up resenting the person and resenting yourself. All of our ambitions may not work out but the thing about trying is that we learn, we learn about ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses and what we can do to make improvements for self development. So set goals and ferociously go after them, but don’t hold your breath in between .  Little things add flavour to life, so why not enjoy them?

Is Youth Really Wasted on the Young?

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young”, but is it? I don’t think it is. My interpretation of the statement is that people in their youth do not take advantage of the countless opportunities available to them by virtue of their age; but I affirm that I am not worthy of saying that life is ever wasted on anyone. I think that if we choose to make decisions that may not be applauded by  the majority of persons viewing our lives through a microscope, those decisions are still ours to make. It doesn’t mean that our time was wasted. Sometimes, we make mistakes, something that is innate to the human experience but mistakes give us experience and allow us to learn and grow from them if we choose to. If we choose to live our lives going through the same things over and over again… I conclude it is still a valid life to live as our lives are our own.

Life is not as simple as black and white. There are varying shades of grey peaking out at every crevice and sometimes we have to go through things for ourselves to learn. Life is more than well meaning self-help books. Sometimes, our emotions even keep us from understanding what books or other advisers are trying to say. Our lives are our own to live and our own to learn by.

We are all presented with opportunities regardless of our age and sometimes people believe that they are “too old” to fulfill a life-long dream. In some cases, they resist the earnest urges of their hearts because they value pride over actual accomplishment. Too afraid of being the oldest person in a class, too old to learn to read, too old to dream. There are more factors than youth that keep a person from fulfilling their dreams. It is our choice to prioritize which obstacles are worth getting over to accomplish our heart’s desire.

Do not despair. Drawing the breath of life is enough to make the most of the life you have now with where you are and what you have. Do not be afraid of “wasting your life” or “wasting your youth”. We are humans and mistakes will try to cripple and inhibit our progress; but stand assured that you can overcome and live until you die.