I Felt That Shit: The Power of Art & Uses in the Movement

In a dimmed room Eve rose from the front row with her poems in hand then began speaking. Her words bore life to worlds I never seen but through her knew, she shared who she was that was hidden beyond view of who stood before us of her childhood scars to her travels; then she read I don’t want my baby to be a hashtag. Her voice spoke the fear that I had never said aloud, the  joy and pain I have as I watch my son grow was hers too and the sobering knowledge of what this country can do. As her pace speed up saying what I had known to be true, tears swelled and wetted my cheeks by the way she had captured a black mother’s pain so beautifully. That was the first time I watched her perform a set, and the first set that I had seen in my adult life that had hit me so hard to inspire me to action. At nine months pregnant with a four year old and trump presidency on the horizon, I hungered even more to be the change I wanted to see, if not for myself for my family. Now as I reflect back on my origins to organizing I realize how important radical art was to becoming a part of this movement.

Art is one of the main uses of propaganda- in film, television, visual arts, music, theater and literature because of its undeniable power. When we interact with it, listen to, see it, we resonate with art on a level of shared experiences within the audience and artists.  Which is The purpose of art: to incite emotions- whether they are true or not doesn’t matter as long as the intended audience got the message and felt that shit.

Back when black folks first were “freed” from slavery, films like ‘Birth of a Nation’ were created to affirm the fear white Americans had towards black Americans and that in order to preserve the sanctity of white people that there was a need for the KKK. Moving forward Jim Crow the popular character of a minstrel show, a musical show of the 1830’s that featured white entertainers in blackface, became the slang term for the racist laws that kept the caste system functioning despite the end of slavery.

In the midst of this prominent misuse of art was the rise of black entertainers that portrayed their truth and reality in this country in what is now known as The Harlem Renaissance. Artists like Zora Neele Hurston reclaimed African American Language in their literature as a radical act of personifying black folks for generations to follow. Fast forward to the civil rights era Nina Simone, James Baldwin and Maya Angelou were popular artists that stand out for being vocal about their distrust of this country as black folks and their desire to be free through their art.

To now- Beyoncé shutting down the 2016 Super Bowl performance of Formation in Black Panther inspired regalia then later released visual album that incorporated the work of past and current black artists. Kendrick Lamar that same year used his Grammy performance to showcase that slavery never ended, but shape-shifted into the current prison system.

Their big names drew more attention to the calls of action of Black Live Matter/ Movement for Black Lives than the media had intended to cover. Black artists of the past and currently living understand the responsibility that their talent provides relief to their audience and is a preservation of their time period- the beliefs of that era, the shared feels and experiences with it.

To all my artists’ friends You Matter. Your work Matters. History will thank you for your contributions.

To honor y’all I will be starting an appreciation series dedicated to the talented black and brown artists that are killing shit and those who are working in the movement!


Issa Interview: The Othrz

Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing the musical duo Reginald (Sir Michael Prince) and Stephon (K- Swift) that are known as The Othrz about their recently released self-titled EP. We talked about their creative processes, inspirations and motivations. Enjoy their insights!

Here’s a quick key so y’all can follow:

Q: Question

K: K-Swift

R: Reggie

Q: How did you to meet and begin working together ?

K: We met when we were both 15 years old, have known each other for over ten years and have been working together three years.

R: We wanted to work with more people and were planning on collaborating with other artist but it didn’t work out- that’s how we came up with the name ‘The Othrz’.

Q: what is your creative process?

K: (Our) Creative process to make music is to make people feel good. I pick sounds that sound new and just living in that moment of creating what comes to us.

R: It all depends for me and the feel. I listened to the beat for ‘Don’t let me fall” for four months before writing the lyrics and freestyled “Ride”

K: yea, depends on the vibe.. Quick back story on “Can We” the first song on the Ep:

I went on a date to the Albright Art museum, myself and my date were walking around not feeling anything we were seeing. Then we stopped and looked at this picture I called it “love and cautious” just from feel of its wild colors. When I got home I began working on the beat inspired from it from 8pm to 2am and from 2 am on I wrote the lyrics then called Reggie. It turns out the name of the piece was conversions, which means a place where two places meet and that’s what this was: The correlation of art and music. The beauty of creating something out of no where and having someone years later relate to it. When you creative inspiration in you it comes out randomly.

R: For me it’s speaking your truth. In my life I put people ahead of me but now I need to look out for me. Because if you are not cool with yourself, if you are not right within you not going to be able to relate or be with anyone.“In my arms” was inspired by that beginning phase of a relationship, just when it starts up and being true in that.

Q: What keeps you motivated and going musically ?

K: My passion for music. I like so many different artist of all genres, languages – if it feels good and sounds good. It doesn’t matter to me if people like it, but how I felt making it keeps me going that feeling I have making it and I’m open with doing it. Don’t put yourself in a box. Timberland and Pharrell inspire me, watching them and how they’ve changed, its fun.

R: growing up around the way you see everyone doing the same thing. I didn’t want to grow up and be average. I was surrounded by artists – my brothers, uncles, they all were in it. I looked up to Usher, Michael Jackson, Miguel, I knew and saw that words had such an impact. I cant move or function without music. I just kept pushing, moving and hanging around the right people, like minded individuals.

Q: Any last remarks ..?

K: If Anyone is ready or looking for work, we’re here!

If you haven’t check out there latest EP, check it out Here !

‘All the Stars’ Visuals are the embodiment of Black Pride & Majesty

Last night Kendrick, Sza, Dave Meyers and the homies dropped the visuals for ‘All the Stars’ and I’m still in amazement.

It was announced that Kendrick Lamar will be composing the soundtrack for Black Panther, and earlier this week the playlist was released inspired by what we have yet to see on the silver-screen. ‘All the Stars’ was the first single from the soundtrack we were blessed with and the now these beautiful visuals to accompany it.

It opens with Kendrick standing majestically looking out beyond the sea of black folks he is being carried over to a scene with a patron black Woman overlooking black children dressed is African Regalia.

I got emotional watching Sza dance among the stars embodying verses I have written in my own poetry of black women becoming one with other Dimensions .

Each scene ranges of dominate bold colors like red, blue and gold while incorporating vibrant African Prints. Black Pride is felt throughout this with the representation of dances from African Countries and overall Continental images.

The imagery of black women being exalted into their full lengths standing fully in their power as Kendrick is left in awe of it, I can only imagine what the Dora Milaje representation will be in the Black Panther Movie.

Click this All the Stars link to view this black magical experience. 🖤✨🙌🏽

Dive in with Tiffany Gouchè

California based R&B singer Tiffany Gouchè captures the art of musical storytelling in her latest single ‘Dive’. Tiffany opens singing about wanting a woman that is apprehensive. Not wanting to rush her, but making intentions clear by the chorus Tiffany’s sultry voice sings away any remaining fears. Her lyrical word play captures the essence of those new found emotions: The trying feeling within the beginning stages of not wanting to be too much, battling feels of lust, building until that moment of shared acknowledgment and passion.

I’m in love with this song because of its raw emotion, for it’s unapologetic expression of black woman sexuality. Tiffany’s embrace of her sexuality as a queer black women while simultaneously encouraging vulnerability for the sake of connecting intimately is a vibe I have been channeling in 2018. Give this Song a listen , Tiffany’s yearning voice over the smooth nostalgic r&b beat creates a vibe that can be left on repeat!

Black Girl in Om: Healing the woman I am within

I wanted to create space to speak a mini testimony of what has been a successful practice for me to manifest greatness and appreciate the greatness in my life : listening and being inspired by black women/ femmes.

Last January I was struggling to find my voice as writer, how to become an active part of the change I wanted to see in my City, and finding, loving me. For each challenge that I stumbled through somewhat blindly there was a black woman there to help guide me back on to my path.

My Writing

My dear friend and talented poet, Eve routinely sent me invites to poetry events, readings, her featured shows until I began to show. Listening to her truth spoken boldly and feeling that connection to her spiritual left me in tears many of time and inspired to honor my own truth through my voice. As our relationship grows she challenges me to improve my writing in ways I didn’t know were possible. Im so grateful of having that experience of someone in my same medium. Some months into 2017, one of my closest friends, Taylor suggested me to a mutual friend that owns a site called FlagrantCity that was looking for bloggers, which led me to Rhonda. Rhonda has provided me the creative freedom to express on a platform while also giving me advise on how to build my own brand,and I deeply grateful for this. From this experience had led me to my most recent accomplishment of being hired as a freelance writer for Vocally!

Organizing & Self Awareness

I was in awe of Shaketa’s leadership and Natasha’s strategy: their combined efforts is black girl magic to me. As I continued working with them and growing closer to them; the experience of their patience, their love, their ability to see me in my fullness in a way I had yet to see in myself was affirming for me which led me to BOLD Praxis .BOLD was an experience that shifted my inner narrative of my life. This past Friendsgiving I shared the experience of how BOLD affirmed my worth, dignity, abilities. How, in the future, I wanted to carry healing our traumas and self care through words/ art into my organizing when Linda asked if I had listened to Black Girls in Om, it was a Chicago based podcast run by black women, that centered self care – she strongly suggested that I listen to it.

Black Girls In Om

From their first episode Lauren’s soft voice over subtle instrumentals speaking BGIO’s mission: “To promote holistic wellness and inner beauty for women of color, encouraging self care, self love, and self empowerment for communities of color” was an affirmation of the exact mission I have been envisioning. To the present with the episode number 30: “Intentional living with Roe of Brown Kids” .

There were several things that Roe said that resonated deeply with me. On creating a capsule wardrobe, a wardrobe that can be carried throughout the year and importance of buying quality clothing . Coming home from my experience at both Bold and Just Resisting retreat, I have come to terms within myself that I did not feel up until then worth period – Let alone luxuries of expensive clothing . After twenty four years of living in Buffalo, NY I did not own a down coat or bought good winter boots in at least five years, because I did not think I was worthy of those new things. I realized that stemmed from conditioning: my parents treated shopping as a reward and growing up in generational poverty. As an adult when I did splurge on anything self indulgent it was lingerie, something super sexy, maybe a casual thing – but never my essentials that would actually care for my body.

What Roe and Lauren spoke to about living in a limbo state is something I have been struggling within my own space. Since my breakup a year ago with my daughter’s father, I struggled financially that constantly left me questioning where my family will be each month. Now as I gain stability I’m adjusting to how to have a functional and comfortable space for a toddler and school aged child. This episode like the previous connect with me on levels that I am actively trying to unlock within myself that leaves me amazed each time. Lauren’s work with partynoire as a yoga instructor grounded in spiritual awareness and Deun’s creative works rooted deeply in spiritual gratitude strengthens me daily to continue on with my current collaborative projects with H.E.A.L and Black Magnolias.

If you have not listened to Black Girls in Om, I very much suggest that you give them a listen!

*The top two that I have on repeat currently are episode #29 and #18 (Five Challenges in Creative Entrepreneurship) and strongly advise all black women and femmes listen to #1, #13, #27 and of course the latest #30 .

SevenSixteen’s Truey V: ‘Trap Rage’ review

Trap Rage is the perfect EP for this moment in 2018- with its Authentic Buffalo pride as the Bills make the Playoffs for the first time in 17 years and we are amidst our first Blizzard of the winter solace.

I remember the first time I heard about Trap Rage, it was at a kick back after Curtis Lovell’s show. It was a crew of us black creatives chilling, talking about our different projects we were working on . Truey was sharing with Rhys some of what was completed from his new project, Trap Rage over his Beats as the rest of us vibed out. I remember Rhys said aloud ‘this was about to be a hit. ‘

Fast forward to the first time I heard ‘No Snaps’ and ‘Hussle’ was during Truey’s set at Beau Fleuve Music and Arts Event during the silent disco. Each song created a vibe of pride of this city when it dropped that everyone danced out to. Trap Rage has accumulated its own success over the past few months since its October release. With some of the most popular songs ‘Hussle’ , ‘No Snaps’, ‘Fuck Five’ that highlight the experiences and weaves narratives that all black folk can relate to with flows that interchange from smooth vocals to Truey’s hype is fueled by the frustration and joy of millennial existence.

I couldn’t help but feel the connection not only to the music but the Collective experience of being Buffalo Natives, being black , being millennials, affirming that this will be our year – and how Trap Rage is the personification of all that. I enjoyed all elements of this from the beats, Truey’s lyrical flows, to the catchy hooks( especially in ‘No Snaps’ & ‘Inuyasha’).

Give this EP a listen if you haven’t already, it’s filled with hits that are perfect for your 2018 playlist!

Trap Rage EP

On and On an’ On and On: Afro Spiritualism and black millennials

In the January Vogue Erykah Badu will be unleashing a spread that has been long fermenting among black millennials – return to Afro Spiritualism.

In the article released before the hard print, Erykah is photographed kneeling in front of her altar that is covered in crystals, gems, and idols. Her face is serene as her eyes are focused on the crystal she is holding in her hands- looking at this I can feel the connection between the two and her Goddess presence.

There is a meme of this picture sparking a conversation among Afro spiritualist Practicers, that after this January release there will be a wave of crystal toting black magic girls dabbling in spiritual practices making it 2018’s first pop culture trend. The cynical tones about this are concerning since as we all know that have a spiritual practice- that there is enough space for all who want to explore and experience new ways of connecting and spiritual awareness.

There is enough crystals, sage, palo santo, candles and rituals for every black person that’s ready to begin their spiritual practice with it. This is not an erasure of those of us who have been on this journey for a bit longer, more so highlighting that we here and are growing in numbers.

I see this more as an introduction to those who have maybe not been exposed to it or seen it presented in this way, a way that they now feel is something they can actually participate in.

It wasn’t until this past year that I began learning and incorporating more practices that center my ancestry, heightening my own appreciation of myself and my own journey. Learning more about spirituality outside of religion opened worlds of consciousness and connections that I had no idea I had been blind to.

There is a mythology in the black community about African Spiritualism – mostly stemming from Christian religions- that it is “demonic” or carries negative/ dangerous powers. I know this to be true because from my religious upbringing I was taught to never experiment with any of this. For a long time I had harbored feelings of fear and curiosity towards it, until I began to find out Afro Spiritualism truth. It journeyed over the Atlantic in Slave Ships practiced, taught, and preserved by generation to generation to find me here- the power, love, and connection felt from that can’t be compared.

Afro-Spiritualism has always been around, ready to reveal itself to those who are ready to experience it. I hope this spread does inspire people to not only talk about spiritualism but, also experience it in a beneficial way.

Cover art :Erykah Badu at home in Dallas, Texas

Photographed by Mark Borthwick, Vogue, January 2018