… and at one moment, the whole world stopped. Some might say it was progressive, or that we knew it was coming, but not me. For me, it just stopped. This grinding halt gave us no time to get our footing, and even less time to prepare. There was no time to stock our cupboards and refrigerators, to arrange childcare, to set up a fleet of homeschooling teachers, or even to have enough money in the bank. It just stopped. I mean, what are our plans in the grand scope of life itself?
So, what more is there to do in this moment, but lean into this dramatic pause, into our worries, our fears, our questions, our feelings, and our anxieties. And then, lean into one another. Yea. Take a deep breath here. How, during this time, can we find solace in each other and resist the urge to retreat? Look. Retreating ain’t gon save us. Retreating won’t keep us safe. We: you, me, our communities will.
In this time, we call on each other for peace, for a zoom chat, a cup of rice, and for that beloved, deeply valued roll of toilet paper. We call one another for a moment to cry when the children have gone to bed, or for help with teaching that damn schooling at home packet teachers frantically copied and sent home. We lean on the friends and family members we wish we had more time to speak to when we were so on the go. We check in on their wellbeing and offer love. We breathe with them.
We call on our bloodlines; our many, many lifetimes of Ancestors who experienced various epidemics and crises and survived. We are proof of their survival. We call on the Earth which has known many rotations of survival over billions and billions of years. We are proof if it’s survival. We touch the grass, we feel the wind, we hear the birds. All proof of what it means to survive. We also honor the spring equinox. It is proof that seasons change, and they will this time too.
In this time, you owe us nothing but your survival – not a completed school assignment, not a checked off task list, not a spring-cleaned home… survival. And for all of you essential workers, we say thank you. For every member of our community who is battling with this virus, we offer healing energy. We extend our love, and our positive vibes to you all and your families.
Not one of us is alone. We have each other. We keep us safe. We are the mutual aid.
Back in July of this year, a good friend of mine, Malcolm Edwards, who goes by the rap moniker name of So EZ, releaseda dope album entitled Therapy.
If you’re local to Los Angeles, you may have stopped by, or at the very least, heard about a fire ass day party event called So EZ Sundays that ran from around the end of 2016 and 2018 that used to be held at the Comfort LA downtown location (food is amazing by the way)!
He got the juice (Sangria5), no seriously that’s his Sangria brand that would sponsor the parties and he’d sell bottles and cups at almost every function. A couple DJ homies and royalty from my hometown of Buffalo, New York – which is where I crossed paths with this Cleveland, OH creative cat, even stopped through and blessed the wheels or were in attendance at some point: DJ Slim Gus, DJ TJizzle, DJ Tiger, Venzella Joy & Vidie. What a time to be in Los Angeles the fun was guaranteed, the weed was always lit & the feels were cozy. We even met Teddy Ray Comedy at one of the parties it was that type of kickback turn up vibe. Cool as fuck. Dope as fuck. Historic as fuck.
Getting back to the hot, 10-track summer release by So EZ, Therapy.
This project is very raw, eclectic, upbeat and passionate. EZ decided to take us on his personal journey as a young Black male attending therapy sessions via his music.
A few of my own personal favorite songs off the album are listed below.
BuffaLowe’s Picks off Therapy: Go Live feat. Jimmy Hustle, Pray For the Gang and All My Niggaz.
The outcome of this album was pure bravery, genius and innovation. Laying it all out there and being so relatable to so many others who can’t express these thoughts or feelings.
Fast forward to now, in November, almost 5 months later, Therapy has taken on more of a prominent role in all facets of So EZ’s life.
Read our exclusive interview below to learn more about the reception of this album, upcoming events and new merchandise with So EZ!
BuffaLowe: How do you feel about the overall reception regarding the release of your most recent project “Therapy” that came out in July!? What feedback have you gotten from listeners and fans?
EZ: The response from my album Therapy has been dope. I pay attention to the details. I don’t have the greatest streaming numbers but the overall response from this project is more than I could ask for. When you have people say things like “bro I felt like you was talking to me on that track” or “your music helped me when I was going through a tough time”, “Your project made me think about going to therapy.” What more can I want?
EZ: I used the project to let out emotions and feelings that I didn’t know how to verbalize in a conversation. If you listen to the project I’m rapping but everything is saying something. My words are speaking, the instruments are speaking. Sometimes the instruments are screaming.
I go to therapy and have an amazing Black woman as my therapist but I needed this project to free my mind of a lot of things. My ultimate goal is to help more men feel more comfortable with talking about their issues, especially Black men. We deal with so many things that we classify as normal, but it’s not.
I want people to realize that just as much as you go to the gym for your physical appearance or strength we need to do that much maintenance on our minds. I could’ve named the album anything but I thought Therapy made the most sense. My thought was maybe people will see the word “therapy” and it might make them say “maybe I should try it”.
BuffaLowe: I’ve seen you began facilitating more mental health workshops lately. What is Therapy Hour and why did you start this particular event?
EZ: I began going to therapy in March 2018. It helped a lot – Therapy Hour is an event I created that takes place at the new Inglewood Comfort LA. It’s two hours of conversation facilitated by Krystyl Wright, L.C.S.W doing journaling and mindfulness exercises that are fun and challenging.
I wanted to create something where people could come together and realize they might not be the only people going through the shit they are going through. Therapy Hour is somewhere people can write their thoughts down.
Sometimes I feel it’s easier to do these things with a group. I want people to build the habit of taking care of their mental health. We aim to provide people with information on finding a therapist as well. Especially Black people who are looking for a Black therapist. We are still building information and resources. It’s is not, however a substitute for therapy.
BuffaLowe: When is your next follow up Therapy event?
So EZ: The next Therapy Hour event is next week, Thursday, November 14th from 7-9PM at the Comfort L.A. Inglewood location! The address is 902 N La Brea Ave Inglewood, CA 90302.
I got merch dropping before the end of the year hopefully (Laughs). It’s been a two year process trying to get it right. But we’re at the finish line. I’m a true creative I’m not dropping shit until I’m 97% satisfied because I’ll never be satisfied. Content yes but not satisfied. If that makes any sense and I’m dropping another album this coming summer.
I also have the best beverage in the world called Sangria 5. Stop drinking that weak ass dry wine the sister-in-law you don’t like make and drink Sangria 5 for the holidays! (Laughs).
BuffaLowe: You right about that EZ, You right about that (Black Dynamite tone)!
Please be sure to take a moment to follow So EZ and all of his brands on Instagram!
Did you know that masturbation and femme self pleasure does not have to be penetrative?! As obvious as it is I recently came to this realization. Partnered or alone, penerative sex has long been my norm- that is until I challenged my pleasure practice to intergrate new sensations. I used to limit my pleasure to one area of my body, which was limiting myself from feeling the depth of pleasure when I engage my Full body. Now I can bring myself to orgasm without penetration in its place the power of sensation of touch and noticing of my body. I’ve learned how to do this through Bondage and rope play.
At the intersection of my Healing and Pleasure journey exist Bondage. I am in the month nine of practicing this sensual art form. I became interested in BDSM culture by follow Asha, Black Dom on instagram. Her practice is centered on using BDSM as a tool for Healing Trauma while also engaging the body in pleasure primarily on Black Femme bodies. After following her for some months, I paid for a phone consultation that changed my life for the better. Through our conversation we discussed many things – who I am, my interests in kink, and my health both physical and mental. From that information she gathered, she assessed what type of play would be best for me. I was fortunate that my kinky interest for BDSM play aligned with what she believed would fit my personal needs: Rope play and bondage!
Rope play and bondage is soothing for folk that experience anxiety and depression because when tied properly it simulates the same comfort as a newborn being swaddled. Asha explained to me that us humans never grow out of that need of being held to help ourselves calm down and rope play brings about those comforts. She then explained to me steps to follow as I began my journey into Rope play and bondage . First step was learning the Ropes, Literally.
Asha suggested the best rope length to begin with and for me to learn them intimately.First, I had to get used to tying them around my limbs and body (with surgical scissors always handy!) before allowing myself to be anyone’s lil rope bunny. As I tie the ropes she invited me to breathe. I make it a practice to notice my breath with each movement my hands make with the ropes in them. I let my mind focus on what I am doing- how tight or loose I am tying them and any adjustments I need to make, in real time.
Although her suggestion was for me to practice my ropes alone without partnered play for the first three month of play , I am now at nine months of solo play. In this time I have found ropes to be a useful tool for when I feel a range of emotions from anxious, overwhelmed, sad, and sexy. I play music for myself, burn incense and begin my personal session: I mediate in my ropes. I take sexy selfies and videos when the mood strikes me. I feel and touch all over myself and ropes everytime ensuring it is always enjoyable. In those moments I feel deeply powerful to know that I can grant myself both peace and pleasure with my Ropes and my own two hands.
This piece will contain explict content about living with mental illness and self harm. This is my warning, to you as a reader, that this content may be triggering.
I have a testimony I want to share with y’all about depression and suicidality.
The week of my 26th birthday, I made the difficult desison to receive a mental health check up that resulted in a 10-day in-patient hospital stay to treat my mental state. It was at this time I was diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder and Suicidality. Suicidality is a condition that when triggered results in a person having obessive complusive thoughts of self harm and suicide. These are conditions I have lived with for all of my adult life that have gone untreated by medical professionals due to my own fear.
To understand my fear of medicine and medical facilitates, we have to time travel back to my youth. When I was sixteen healing for the first time from sexual trauma, I made two attempts on my life that resulted in me being heavily medicated for a time on antidepressants. Now, at sixteen my brain was not fully developed. The medication I was being prescribed intended purpose was to stablize my moods, and treat my suicidality. Yet the side effects made me feel numb and like a shell of a person. This experience with medication was traumatizing to me. I developed a fear in my adult life of receiving medical attention for the depression and suicidality. For a long time I self medicated with smoking weed and eating edibles to mellow out my intense mood swings and quiet the thoughts of self harm when they got too loud.
I spent my birthday alone in bed sick with a viral infection trying to get to soothe myself with a blunt when I realized that living in this way did not feel useful or helpful anymore. I am grateful for the relief weed gave me intermediately and for the awareness that I was in need of something more. Getting admitted to the hospital felt scary and embarrassing. I admitted to my mother that I felt weak and incompetent. She, like all great mothers, reminded me there is No Shame in receiving mental health help- in fact it required a considerable amount of strength. She was right. It will be one week since my release and going on three weeks since I have been on mediciation treating my mental state.
Within the first twenty four hours I felt the first wave of mental clarity – it was Ah- Mazing ! The relief of being on antidepressant and antipsychotic does come with a cost. Due to my weight and biological make up I have felt all the the side effects at one time or another intensely. After completing simple task like cooking a meal, washing dishes, or bathing my children I feel completely wiped out physically. I get dizzy and this interferes with daily life as well.
In the span of the past few weeks my life has shifted. I learned the importance of priortizing my own care. Being hospitalized I was forced to sit my busy ass down and face the darkness within myself. I have been trying to distract myself with organizing, performing and other community based activities than face the reality that I am lonely. And that loneliness is a direct result of when I self isolate when sad. I have for a long while found comfort in retreating inward, and for a time that was what was safest to do. At this current moment in my life I have had to sit with how not being expansive, and projecting my fears is actually limiting myself. I am leaning into challenging myself to expand my comfort zone by sharing my story with y’all.
Healing is messy work. It requires that we be present while doing it. There is no right or wrong way- but there is trial and error to see what is best useful for you. Let my testimony inspire you to take charge of your mental health wellness. I invite you to stop for a moment and Breathe with me. Give yourself a gentle loving touch and say this with me :
(while you breathe in) I am Grateful for the Gift that is this Day .
(while you breathe out) I release all my shame to be transformed into compassion.
Combing social media on a regular day at the beginning of this month of May, a post on Twitter caught my eye. It was someone sharing a post about some good looking body butter, so I floated around to locate the source of the original tweet and I soon found out, it was Deja’s Brahma Body Butter who happens to hail from my hometown of Buffalo, New York.
I’m huge on natural and holistic health and wellness so I was very curious to learn a bit more about Brahma Body Butter and Deja’s path to start this type of business.
Read our exchange below:
BuffaLowe: First of all thank you for taking time out to chat with Flagrant City. Please introduce yourself to our readers and followers and let the people know who you are and what it is that you do!
Deja: Hello and thank you for giving me this opportunity to chat with you about my amazing Brahma Body Butter! My name is Deja Lawson, I am 24 years old and I currently live in Buffalo, NY.
I am a full time abstract artist, certified holistic crystal and aura healer, cat mom and body butter maker!
When did you realize you had a passion for a holistic lifestyle and how has that journey to good health been for you?
My love for holistic healing came from wanting to create a better lifestyle not only for myself but for my family and those around me. My mother and aunts have always been into holistic healing, creating creams, flu shots and cleanses all from plants and spices so naturally I was taught to heal others which caused me to be inspired.
Holistic therapy and healing has been around for many years, not only in my family but around the world, and with new products coming out that smell good but were chemical based, I feared holistic healing would disappear or just be another trend, so its something I wanted to bring back for good.
For whom did you create this product and why?
I created my fabulous body butter due to my sibling’s skin reacting badly to chemical based lotions and moisturizers that he had been using, which caused severe eczema.
Why is your product so special, and what ingredients do you use that set you apart in this field?
Instead of opting for another chemical based topical cream to seek relief for my brothers inflamed skin, I decided to reach into my bag of old tricks and knowledge and create a moisturizer that would be safe, chemical free, organic, GMO free and all natural.
My Brahma Body Butter is extremely special, using fair trade Shea Butter that not only gives back to our skin, but gives back to those in Ghana that harvest this beautiful moisturizer, fair trade Cocoa Butter, Hemp Oil, Rosehip oil, Jojoba Oil and mixed essential oils creating a cruelty and paraben free product.
This moisturizer is quite different from other body butters because each jar is blessed with certified crystal therapy, using my personal cleansed crystals placed on the lid of each finished jar, burning sage and palo santo, letting the smoke pass through with pure intentions of love, beauty, healing and relief from all skin issues.
What piece of advice would you offer to other young people pursuing their dream to own their own business?
A piece of advice I’d give to young entrepreneurs creating their own business is to never give up. Ever. If you have an idea and you believe in it then put your whole heart into it, even if people tell you your idea won’t work or you should give up (like I had many people tell me!), keep going.
When your intention is clear and your energy is real, you can create anything you put your mind to. What you think is truly what you manifest, it all starts in the mind…
What’s next in store for yourself and your brand?
What’snextfor me, is to keep spreading knowledge and education about living a more natural lifestyle, starting with what we put onto our skin, setting up my products in educational workshops and demos, smoke shops, botanical and black owned businesses.
I can’t wait to create new products through the Brahma Body Butter line, including CBD oil infused butters and much much more!
You’re a girl after my own heartlooking to incorporate CBD oil into your butters soon.I’m not sure if you know but I have two cannabislifestyle brands, Rhonda Jane & The Dope Mom Lifestyle Collective thatadvocates for thebenefits of thisplant. Hopefully we can work together and supporteach other in theseendeavors. It was so great speakingwithyou Deja and learning more about you and your budding business, Brahma Body Butter!
I learned about this event by way of my girl Adri V’s Instagram story last week. Jamil Crews, who kindly honored myself and several other nominees in October 2017 at the 4th Annual 30 Under 30 Changemakers Awards, is hosting a mental health forum and I strongly encourage anyone who can attend to go!
Hopefully our resident Buffalo blogger Marielle can make it to this so we can share the information provided on a later post!
It’s time to have some real conversations about Mental Health.
Jamil Crews assembled some really dope speakers to talk about mental health as it relates to people with learning disabilities. Those disabilities can take a major toll on your mental health and he wants to help you learn to manage it.
Karl Shallowhorn from Community Health Center of Buffalo is coming in to speak. Karl himself has dealt with having mental health issues, and has now dedicated his life to helping those manage their own mental health issues.
Janielle Mckoy, who is a fashion producer, is coming all the way from Toronto to speak. She had to learn to deal with having dyslexia, and she’s going to talk about that.
And a person who really doesn’t need an introduction, Danielle Roberts from the YMCA will be on hand to speak as well. Danielle is truly passionate about the community she serves and she’s going to talk about a lot of the great programming coming out of the Y to help people with learning disabilities.
It will be hosted by the very talented Yasmin Young from 93.7 WBLK – The People’s Station.
They will also have free mental health screenings on site.
Over my posting hiatus I dedicated my time to reflecting on my life’s experiences, wrote fiercely, and had the opportunity to perform in shows that aligned with my core beliefs as a queer black femme dedicated to the liberation from oppressive systems. I was literally riding this high celebrating when I was attacked and violated by a stranger. The days and now weeks that have followed since this incident have tested my abilities that I have written about in the past : loving myself and my spirituality. In the wake of the trauma I was cared for by the women and femme folk that I am blessed to call my community. This experience has inspired me to write again in a public space about the transformative power of love, survival and sisterhood.
I woke up completely sore trying to shake the feeling of a night terror that clings on after sleep. Without moving I looked at the disheveled state of my room, house then down at my body that confirmed what I had feared to be true. Still in shock, I reached out to two of my close friends one of which before leaving the club we were at the night before told me to let her know when I had made it home safe, which was not the case. At some point in my drunkness I accidentally called two more of my friends, one who called me the next day and I told her what happened. I am extremely thankful at how quickly everyone moved into action to guide me into a recovery process that I am currently still undergoing.
Over the next two weeks I spent time sharing living spaces with friends as I still felt unsafe in my apartment. Among themselves they organized their availability to when they could be present with me when I was fearful of being alone. Each friend I stayed with and supported me during this time poured their loving energy into me as I began this new phase of my healing journey. They each passed along to me essentials for thriving through healing that I had forgotten in the wake of the most recent incident.
Natasha and Ebony reminded me of the importance and simplicity of self care and spiritual balance. They both had their own unique take– Natasha reminded me to trust and return to my body through affirmations like ‘my body is doing what it knows to keep itself safe’, taking me to the hospital, and pushing me to take time to sit and rest. Ebony reminded me the importance of my connection to nature by going on walks and spending time with me in the park. The warmth of Shaketa and Zoe’s support reminded me of the feelings of my family that I longed so much for that is absent in my life and restored that love inside of me. Jayden restored my hope of my future self, that the care I dedicate now does extend to the me of tomorrow and thereafter. Eve and Rachel reminded me that coping can be unorthodox even messy, but writing will always be healing.
‘my body is doing what it knows to keep itself safe’
So many more of my dear friends imparted their love,wisdom and magic that has nourished my soul. They all collective came together at my home to celebrate my twenty fifth solar return. With sage, paleo santo, candles we set intentions and reclaimed my space. Before bed that night I did a separate ritual where I reflected on my life’s course. I can honestly say I love my life.I cherish the experiences I have had and am excited for my future.
Coming forward with this new chapter of my story is a struggle. Grappling with flashbacks, triggers and unhealthy habits is harder than I remembered. I get angry and frustrated with myself for not progressing at a rate I aspire to in my mind. But each day I have to accept the fact that these wounds are fresh and new – I have to be gentle with myself.
If any of this resonates with you- if you are overcoming a trauma, a hardship of any form let me remind you of this: patience is key on this journey.
Love and self compassion will restore and recharge you continually.
When fear feels larger than life itself, shrink it by connecting with someone who genuinely cares for and loves you.
You are not alone in your battle for reclaiming your birthright of a peaceful liberated life. I hope my posts will remind you of this as I recount pieces of my own journey.