Fashion Forwarding

Fashion Forwarding

Last week, I had the pleasure of being a media guest at the Atlanta Swapnista Party, which was cosponsored by Pretty Girls Rock Dresses, a movement I support and has had me way more conscious of being girly girl. The premise behind the event is to take your gently used (or still new–you know some of us still have clothes with the tags on buried in the closet) and swap them out. I mean, why not? You never know what you can find. When you get done with an item, forward it to someone who may love it as much as you once did.

When I walked through the door, I finally met in person the infamously dress-wearing Dearroka. Then. I. Lost. My. Mind. Within 30 minutes, I had completely raided half of the black-owned stores that were vendors set up in this very cute Castleberry Hill space. First, I bought some ultra amazing beaded hoops from Nappy Rutz similar to these.

Then I walked to the next booth and bumped into some old friends that I hadn’t seen in years! What a pleasant rendezvous! (Hope your birthday was fabulous, Leah!!)

Nada Jo, Toya, and Leah

Back to the booth (since these ladies got some goodies, but didn’t quite lose their minds–I think because they knew what to expect and had already set a budget), I found these awesome clutches from Cupcake Diva Handbags. So very cute. I made myself choose though. And y’all know me. As much I love quirky, I love vintage even more, so I chose the 1940s clutch that I can not WAIT to show off.

Y'all I love this one because I'm a Word Feud beast! nadajo.com
1940s goodness, had to have it
The owner's nephew buttering me up... And then I got it. lol

Then, I made my way over to another booth,  Funky Flair Boutique, and was told that everything on the rack was 50% off. What did she tell me that for? I ended up with 3 garments and a pair of earrings from there. Here’s one. I can’t wait to rock this somewhere. Hot mama!

In the dressing room. Hubba hubba.

After that, I headed upstairs because I just couldn’t even tempt myself at any more booths. For a full listing of the vendors, click on the Swapnista flyer at the beginning of this post. LOTS of great stuff. Upstairs, there was a makeup artist and masseuse giving free pamper sessions. Oh yeah, and I can’t forget the mimosas. Yum. Who can resist an innocent light libation on a beautiful afternoon? Finally, the moment we were all waiting for–the fashion show and swap session.

Now, I had no idea that WE were the fashion show. Luckily, before I left the house, I thought, “Self, if you’re going to a fashion event, you should make sure you’re fashionable.” Besides, I knew I’d see Dearroka, so I wanted to make sure I had on a dress! Who won the fashion show? You got it! Me! I’ll give part of the credit to that model walk I learned in 10th grade after I finally learned how to wear heels in time to participate in my first pageant. 😉

Since I don't have any full body pics, here are my shoes. I think they're another reason I won.

::update:: Here are more pics from the event!

Guess what I won! A gift package from Carson Bryce Trading Company, another vendor that I wanted to visit but was worried I wouldn’t have any self control. I LOVE my sugar scrub and soap. They smell soooo wonderful.

After that was the actual swap. People were called by the number on their wrist band, and they went upstairs and searched through the racks for clothing and handbags they wanted to take with them. Everyone seemed pretty happy with their selections.

Overall, this was a wonderful daytime spring event. I met new people, found some new businesses to stalk (and add to my Black Entrepreneurs list over there on the right side of the page – yes go look at it!), saw some old friends, spent a little cash, and strutted my stuff on the impromptu catwalk. I highly encourage you to check out the next Swapnista Party! You won’t regret it!

Sowing Seeds

Sowing Seeds

It’s spring time, and this year I was inspired to start a deck garden. As much as I talk about healthy/sustainable living, it is time for me to put my money where my mouth is. I have a ways to go to completely turn my home into a place I can completely brag about. Especially when it comes to plants. I haven’t had much of a green thumb, exhibited by the couple of plants that haven’t made it. It never made sense that it didn’t come naturally, though, because my parents and grandparents are great with plants, so I thought to myself, ‘Self, you are a quick study. If anyone can figure this gardening thing out, you can.” So I scoured the internet and read as much as I could find about deck/container gardening. I also got some great tips from my friend Sylvia who started gardening last year.

On Friday, I was excited to see my deck railing planters sitting in their box on my doorstep. I went to Home Depot and picked up all the items on my list that I needed to get started. Saturday, the time had come. I put on my gardening gloves and got started.

Now for the veggies I planted, I decided to start with seedlings. I wanted to make sure I set myself up for success. Along the way, I gained inspiration from my fajita bell. When I got home from the Swapnista Party, which I’ll blog about later, she was kinda withered looking (I wish I had taken a picture). But not too long after she got her new home, she started looking even better than when I bought her yesterday. That really got me revved up and ready to continue this adventure. I used potting soil with fertilizer already in and I will just have to make sure I give my plants some food from time to time (and of course, water them regularly–that will be the real challenge when I start traveling this summer).

Fajita Bell is on the left looking purty and Cajun Belle is on the right
Okra
Crookneck Squash. I'm a little worried about the one on the right. :-/
Cucumbers!

The rest of my plants, since I am experimenting, are starting from seeds. The strawberries and the flowers will be interesting to watch.

Strawberries (I hope to have to move them to a bigger container, but... I'm a little nervous) and flowers in the smaller two

If I’m super successful, I may end up having to build an long, elevated (Smokie will eat them if given the chance) gardening area out there. I already know that it’s totally possible for my veggies to outgrow the containers, but we’ll see when we get that far.

My deck garden, which is being watered by rain right now 🙂
Smokie, my little helper

I’ve gotten the initial steps out of the way. So now it’s time to tend my gardens and wait for the harvest. I really can’t wait to see what happens. Maybe I’ll host a 1st harvest party and cook a little something for my friends with my fresh veggies. We’ll see.

So in honor of the spring and of my new deck garden, my blog is now green. 🙂 I’ve finally planted my veggie seeds, and now I need to take an inventory of the life seeds I’ve planted. What seeds are you planting this season?

In Defense of a Revolutionary

In Defense of a Revolutionary

If you didn’t know already (I’m sure you do, right?), Afeni Shakur is much much more than Tupac’s mom or the recovering crack fiend in his song Dear Mama. She was a leader of the New York City Black Panther Party and part of the famous New York Panther 21, a group accused of a conspiracy to wreak havoc on NYC. Pregnant with Tupac, a young Afeni ended up having to defend herself  against over 150 charges–and she was acquitted. If this piques your interest, I have two ways for you to gain more details. The first is pick up her biography, Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary by her friend Jasmine Guy. The book was a super quick read and very conversational. I enjoyed every second and gained so much insight about the atmosphere during that time.

The second is a play entitled Afeni Shakur: In Her Defense and exhibit that premieres tonight at the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation in Stone Mountain. Inspired by one of the most expensive political trials ever in the State of New York, this play is opening 40 years exactly from the day Ms. Shakur’s acquittal. The accompanying exhibit includes court records and TV new coverage. This is sure to be well worth the trip out to Stone Mountain ( 🙂 @ my outside of perimeter friends). It runs until May 22, so put this on your calendar as soon as possible!

And don’t worry–I’ll be back to share my thoughts as soon as I see it! I’m so excited!

Where History Meets the Future

Where History Meets the Future

Last weekend, I traveled to my hometown of Jackson, MS to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom and to Tougaloo College to perform my annual national alumni board duties as the Atlanta alumni chapter president, Southeastern Regional Representative, and Assistant Secretary of the Board (and yes, I had to take minutes for a three-hour meeting, lol).

Every time I go back to campus, I’m reacquainted with my memories of “coming of age” at Tougaloo. A pretty precocious 16-year-old, I was pretty sure I was making the correct decision by bypassing my senior year to enter college and start pursuing further education in my passion–mathematics–as well as an education in life and an advanced education in black history. Growing up, I was exposed to lots of heritage because my parents were very determined to ensure that I knew about where we’ve come from and what I would endure to get to my future. Attending HBCUs, for summer academic programs and for college, solidified all of that–by showing me that there were lots–i.e. a campus full–of young black scholars with different backgrounds and goals that were still very much like me. This was important to a kid who grew up one of a handful of black kids in the gifted program, the accelerated classes, the AP classes, the academic organizations at a majority white school. I kept wondering–is it really diversity if I’M the diversity? It meant volumes to me to see that I was not an anomaly. In addition, as a math student, it was important that I had professors who made a conscious choice to teach at my institution–not because they had to, but because they cherished the meaning of it–and who made a concerted effort to push students to the cliff and made us jump into our unknown greatness. First, Dr. Raffoul, who was the dean of the math department when I got to Tougaloo, sat down with me in his office and told me that although I hadn’t taken AP Calculus (since I hadn’t been a high school senior), he was confident that I could take Calculus I with a bunch of upperclassmen and excel. It was tough at first, but with help from mentors and my professor, I aced it, setting the stage for several more semesters of pure math training. Fast forward to my sophomore year midway through Differential Equations when Dr. Fahmy, whose opinion I cherish until this day, challenged me because I had been slacking off. We had a conversation that I’ve never forgotten because it shook me to the core. He told me that when I came into his class as a freshman, I was something special–I was going places. But lately, I had been merely mediocre. And if I wanted to settle for mediocrity, that was fine, but surely he wouldn’t be spending so much time supporting me and helping me to find opportunities to shine and prepare for my future. I didn’t cry in front of Dr. Fahmy, but as soon as I passed through his doorway, I bawled from Kincheloe Hall to my room in Berkshire Hall, and I got my stuff together immediately. I got my first B the semester before, but that was the only B he gave me for the rest of my college career–and do believe that I worked for those As.

Congressman Bennie Thompson '68 and Ranada Robinson '02

The other thing that made Tougaloo so special is our tie to black history. Tougaloo was vital to the civil rights movement, and it was nothing extraordinary to have a conversation with someone who was right there in it. As an example, just last weekend, I got history lessons while touring the new Bennie G. Thompson Academic and Civil Rights Center. First, while giving an address at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Congressman Thompson, class of ’68, told us about his time at Tougaloo and how he met while on campus not only his wife, but Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael.

Joan Trumpauer and Anne Moody

Then, while looking at the beautiful photos that adorn the hallways of the building, Dr. Doris Browne, class of ’64 and the VP of the Tougaloo College Board of Trustees (and my Gamma Omicron soror), told me about her time at Tougaloo–she graduated at 18–and her academic decisions after she left! She was friends with the Tougaloo Nine, and she told one of my classmates and me the story of what they did and why. She then pointed out Joan Trumpauer, the first white member of Delta Sigma Theta, who she still knows today (and they both live in the DC area), and Anne Moody. Now, my eyes got big when she said Anne Moody because I read her book Coming of Age in Mississippi when I was in junior high, and she’s always been a historical figure in my head–but not a real person. It really means so much to me that those kinds of conversations are commonplace if you’re interested.

Finally, the connections are invaluable. I meet someone new every time I visit the yard, and more often than not, seasoned alumni are happy to give encouragement and advice to students and younger alums. After the TCNAA meeting on Saturday morning, I met Eddie Irions, class of ’60, who is the Memphis chapter president. He told me how he’s revived the Memphis chapter and gave me suggestions on how to meet my goals with the Atlanta chapter. He gave me this quote, that I’ve been chewing on ever since:

Inch by inch, it’s a cinch… By the yard, it’s hard.

Simple, but so resounding because I’m the queen of wanting to get it done NOW. But I’m learning that some things just take time and small steps, and I’m happy that a fellow math graduate took the time to have a 30 minute impromptu conversation with me because he wants to see us succeed.

This is the testimony of an HBCU graduate. Despite the advice of my high school counselors to stay my senior year and see who else offers me money (simple answer–any school to which I would have applied) and the advice of people who thought a 16-year old on campus was a bad idea, I absolutely made the right decision. The time and dedication and effort put into students at HBCUs and maintaining ties to our values while forging ahead with 21st century initiatives (omg, Tougaloo has so much in the works!!) are truly noteworthy. No, HBCUs aren’t perfect, but what institution is? It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just a place to fill our brains with more information (although Tougaloo, for one, does a very spectacular job doing so, ;))–but it’s also a place to fill our hearts and spirits with motivation, self-confidence, a strong identity, and meaningful connections.

Now, it’s just up to us to support our institutions–it’s up to us to make sure that they maintain viability and that we encourage continued relevance. Alumni giving and community support are imperative to ensuring that our institutions are able to train our children for the world–building and expanding networks, encouraging entrepreneurship, finding more and more avenues for research and innovation, but most of all, providing them with the foundational skills and knowledge that are necessary for critical thought and good decision-making. They’re our schools and our future. As President Bevery Wade Hogan said this weekend:

If the people who know you best don’t invest, why would anyone else?

Let’s make it happen.

Be You

Be You

This song popped in my head while chatting with a friend today. It’s a song that’s actually a Stevie Wonder classic that I’ve always loved since the first time I heard it watching School Daze when I was a kid.

Butterflies begin from having been another
As a child is born from being in a mother’s womb
But how many times have you wished you were some other
Someone than who you are

Yet who’s to say that if all were uncovered
You will like what you see?
You can only be you as I can only be me

Flowers cannot bloom until it is their season
As we would not be here unless it was our destiny
But how many times have you wished to be in spaces
Time places than what you were

Yet who’s to say with unfamiliar faces
You could anymore be loving you that you’d see?
You can only be me as I can only be me

Now when I was a kid, I may have just liked it because the college queen was being crowned to it and the guy sitting on the steps was just crooning away. But now I like it because it’s something that I really strive to live by. So many of us spend so much time trying to go against the grain of whom we are instead of identifying then leveraging our talents and skills and personality traits to the fullest. We spend lots of time focused on what we (or actually, most ofthe time, others) perceive as flaws, instead of focusing on the essence of ourselves. God made us who we are on purpose. That’s not to say there aren’t things in life we don’t need to work on, but we need to just be. How do you even know what flaws you have if you really don’t know what makes you tick or understand what is really important to you and what’s not. Be who is naturally you. And let me be me.

I think there are several people out there that have issues with the fact that I. Am. Always. Me. I can’t even help it. It’s just not in my make up to even give a thought about being something I’m not. In fact, the couple of times that I’ve consciously tried, usually specifically just to make someone else feel at ease, it was a mega disaster. I know I’m quirky, I know I do based on what I feel, I know I say what’s on my mind, I know I can be hot or cold–which just so you know, is directly related to the fact that I’m either all in or pretty much completely unconcerned and I’m very passionate or nonchalant. I have dabbled in the gray, but it’s not often–usually it’s black and white. I’m okay with that. Why? Because I know it about myself, and I’ve learned (and am still learning) how to utilize the natural characteristics I have.

You know what’s really difficult for me? Dealing with people who won’t be themselves. It’s much much worse than dealing with people who are themselves and I just don’t agree with them or like particular attributes. But the genuine sincerity of just being commands my respect. We’re all different so we won’t always agree or even click, but at least we can have a real conversation. I’ve encountered this in dating because I’ve met a couple of guys who wanted me to direct them into being who I wanted them to be. Well, I can’t. I just want them to be themselves. If you being you + me being me = compatibility, then great! If not, that’s ok. It happens. But who wants to live a life of keeping up a mask to make someone else happy? Does that make you happy? If it does, well, … alrighty. But I know I wouldn’t be happy with someone imposing their ideas of whom I should be onto me, so I can’t do that to anyone else. Not on purpose anyway. Dig it?

I just really think that we really have to look within and appreciate our good qualities and recognize opportunities to drive your own life using those qualities as tools instead of always being worried to death about flaws that may or may not be flaws and letting them inhibit us from our dreams and goals.

Well that’s all I have for you today. 🙂  I’ll be back later. Until then, hopefully, I, while being me, will bump into you being you.