February 6th, 2023– “Expanding the Archive & Classroom: Channeling Blackness, Comics and the Speculative”, UVA Wise-Black History Month Lecture Series (Register to Watch Here)
February 7th, 2023- Suffolk Discovers + Black and Super Live Talks: Afrofuturism with Dr. Grace Gipson [IN-PERSON + LIVE] (Register Here for Zoom)
*March 17-18, 2023-The Past Into The Future: Afrofuturism & Ancient Egypt [Featured Speaker], Berkeley Center for New Media [BCNM]-UC Berkeley (Berkeley, CA), Free to Attend, For More Info
March 25th, 2023- “Imagining a World of Possibilities Through Comics and Graphic Novels” [Keynote Speaker], Friends of the Library Presents-CulpeperCon 2023– Culpeper County Library (Culpeper, VA), Free to Attend
With all the conversations and reactions surrounding the teaser trailer of the upcoming spring film “The Little Mermaid” myself and another colleague of mine Bethan Jones decided to put digital pen to paper and share some of our thoughts. The piece is titled, “Part of Your World”: Fairy Tales, Race, #BlackGirlMagic, and The Little Mermaid.”
Here are a few excerpts…
In 2016 Disney announced a live-action adaptation of its 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid. Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 fairy tale, the animation earned critical acclaim, took $84 million at the domestic box office during its initial release, and won two Academy Awards (for Best Original Score and Best Original Song). Given Disney’s recent foray into creating live-action adaptations of some of its most successful animated films, it’s no surprise that The Little Mermaid was added to the list. Yet controversy rose when Black actress Halle Bailey was announced as Ariel in July 2019. Among the critiques was the argument that the adaptation should be as close to the original as possible, and the original featured a white mermaid; that if a Black character was re-cast as white in a remake there would be uproar; and while representation in all forms is important it shouldn’t override the history of the characters…
We even provided some history and background into the significance and importance of Black mermaids.
While the original fairy tale from Hans Christian Andersen does describe Ariel’s character as “her skin was as clear and delicate as a rose-leaf, and her eyes as blue as the deepest sea” this does not mean that there were no mermaids who were of color. In fact, water spirits and Black mermaids existed even before Christian Andersen’s 1837 fairy tale. It is important to note the global history of mermaids and water spirits due to the fact that the existence of Black characters in fantasy, magical realism, and science-fiction is often non-existent. If we think about this from an Afrofuturistic lens, these early Western tales did not see Black characters as even being a part of these narratives. The waters have always been seen as a sacred space literally and figuratively within African folklore. Housed within many African traditions, the water serves as a bridge between otherworlds, life and the afterlife. And the sea deity Mami Wata or La Sirene (which translates as Mother Water or Mother of Water) serves as the beginnings of many African mythical tales.
Habari Gani, my friends?? What’s the good news?! Today is the final day of Kwanzaa and my favorite principle, Imani (Faith)!! Through Imani, we “believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.“
As a spiritual person this principle hits home for me as I am always trying to keep the faith!! While, it may not be easy, faith – especially during difficult and trying times – brings us closer to making our dreams a reality.
None of the other 6 principles would be able to come to fruition without that mustard seed of faith!! Think about this in order to have cooperative economics, we must have faith in the businesses that we support.
To have purpose, we must have faith that we are here for a reason. It is essential that we have faith in ourselves, our leaders, teachers, parents and in the victory of our struggle. As a free, proud and productive people we can do ALL things with just a little bit of faith.
“Faith is put forth as the last principle as unity is put forth as the first principle for a definite reason. It is to indicate that without unity, we cannot begin our most important work, but without faith we cannot sustain it. Unity brings us together and harnesses our strength, but faith in each other and the Good, the Right, the Beautiful inspires and sustains the coming together and the commitment to take the work to its end.“
Allow yourself to let go of any worry and trust in your Black excellence!! Never lose faith in yourself and our community. Be proud of who you are and the community you live in!!
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Until next year, while Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th-January 1st know that you can practice any and all of these principles year around! Remember Kwanzaa is a celebration of culture, community, and family!
Today we celebrate my second favorite principle Kuumba (Creativity), “to do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.” The principle has both a social and spiritual dimension and is deeply rooted in social and sacred teachings of African societies.
Having creativity requires a few things – motivation and inspiration! What I can definitely say with pride is my people practically ooze creativity, just look at social media, in the classrooms, on television…everyday all day!! The creative minds of Black folks have birthed ground-breaking inventions, culture-shaping entertainment and fashion and new ways of healing and uplifting the community.
Some ways to practice Kuumba, include taking part in a musical Kwanzaa celebration, painting a mural, starting a garden in your neighborhood, building a new app. Just know that you can create something new, whether it be a piece of art or simply a new idea.
On this day, it is also customary to host a large feast called Karamu, which can be held at home, a community center or a church. The menu usually features foods and ingredients native to the African continent such as yams, okra, tamarind, peanuts, collard greens and hibiscus.
Think about this for a moment…What creative skills do you have that can help build your community? Maybe it’s something you do with your hands, maybe it’s writing a proposal, managing the books as an accountant or leading a team.
It’s the last day of 2022, we are almost there folks!! So the pandemic is still real, but somehow we are managing it. Let’s just say this was another unforgettable year!!
Definitely had some moments that shook the nation with such things as abortion no longer being a constitutional right, the ongoing war in Ukraine, the tragedy in Uvalde (TX), banned books, the retirement of a tennis legend Serena Williams, we got the slap of the century when Will Smith cold clocked slapped Chris Rock, and jaw-dropping seasons of Euphoria and Bridgerton.
In sports news, Argentina wins the World Cup, the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl (along with an AMAZING halftime show-Hip Hop and R&B reigning supreme), the Houston Astros win their second World Series title…then you got the suspension of Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka (and his split from Nia Long), Tom Brady retired…back in the game and then divorced, Brittney Griner is released from a Russia prison and returns home to the U.S….and one of my fave moments the Golden State Warriors reclaimed the NBA Title throne!!
Lena Horne became the first Black woman to have a Broadway theater named after her…Two Literary Pioneers were honored with USPS stamps, Toni Morrison and Ernest J. Gaines!
In politics, for the first time in history the four largest U.S. cities New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston will all have Black mayors after this year’s midterm elections…Karen Bass sealed the deal with her historic win! And THANK GOD Georgia did not elect Herschel Walker into the U.S. Senate, we can all breathe a sigh of relief!
The elements are still having their way whether its the frigid winter storm in Buffalo, Hurricane Ian and Fiona, and heat waves coming in July, August and October!!
The Little Mermaid teaser trailer…Just wow!! I’m so ready!!…Also, definitely gotta shout out some good friends for putting me on to Billions and Yellowstone, talk about some good tv!!
Speaking of good tv let me just drop a few more nuggets:
Riches (Amazon Prime Video)
Reasonable Doubt (Hulu)
Abbott Elementary (ABC)
Blood & Water (Netflix)
Dahmer: Monster-The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (Netflix)
Raising Kanan: Power Book III (STARZ)
Final season of OWN Network Queen Sugar and FX Atlanta
Cherish the Day (OWN)
The Bear (Hulu)
Let’s Go To The Movies… I was so glad that the theaters have opened back up again, feels good to sit back and relax at my local AMC!!
The Woman King: Finally these stories are being told!!
Everything Everywhere All at Once: Brilliant movie that definitely did not get the pub it should have…such a good movie!!
Top Gun: Maverick: Now that was a fun ride!!
Descendant (Netflix): Gotta love history, especially when they speak the truth!
Confess, Fletch: Pure laughs!!
Bullet Train: Who knew you could enjoy a movie that is set on a bullet train…
Nope: Layered and complex!!
Prey (Hulu definitely knows how to drop those gems!!)
Devotion: A piece of history that I didn’t know about but glad I do now!
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: Not a dry eye!! Ryan Coogler & Ruth E. Carter you did it again!! Angela Bassett proved once again why she is that one!!
Remembering those we lost in 2022…Folks that definitely made some sort of impact on my 41 years of life!!
Sidney Poitier (January 6th): The epitome of elegance and stage presence!
Lani Guinier (January 7th)
Bob Saget (January 9th)
André Leon Talley (January 18th)
Charles McGee (January 23rd): One of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen!
Cheslie Kyrst (January 30th): Mental Health is real!!
Ivan Reitman (February 13th): Ghostbusters!!
Johnny Brown (March 2nd): Ohhhhh “Good Times”
Traci Braxton (March 12th)
William Hurt (March 13th)
Madeleine Albright (March 23rd)
Gilbert Gottfried (April 12th)
DJ Kay Slay (April 18th): Ahhhh takes me back to my undergrad days
Naomi Judd (April 30th)
Bob Lanier (May 10th)
Ray Liotta (May 26th)
Sam Gilliam (June 25th)
Paul Sorvino (July 25th)
Nichelle Nichols (July 30th): SO Grateful and Thankful for the barriers she broke and the history made!
Bill Russell (July 31st): A legend in every sense of the word!!
Roger E. Mosely (August 7th): I will always remember those days of watching Magnum, P.I. (the original)
Olivia Newton-John (August 8th): Such a sweet soul taken from this earth!
Hanae Mori (August 11th): Haute Couture at its finest!!
Denise Dowse (August 13th)
Mikhail Gorbachev (August 30th)
Queen Elizabeth II (September 8th)
Ramsey Lewis (September 12th)
Pharoah Sanders (September 24th)
Coolio (September 28th): One more “Fantastic Voyage”
Charles Fuller (October 3rd)
Loretta Lynn (October 4th)
Angela Lansbury (October 11th): Murder Mysteries will never be the same!!
Leslie Jordan (October 24th)
Rev. Calvin O. Butts III (October 28th)
Takeoff (November 1st)
John Aniston (November 14th): Soap opera’s will never be the same!
Irene Cara (November 26th): I just wanna dance forever!!
Dorothy Pitman Hughes (December 1st): Co-founder of the prominent feminist publication Ms. Magazine
Kirstie Alley (December 5th)
Paul Silas (December 11th)
Stephen “tWitch” Boss (December 14th)
Franco Harris (December 21st): There will never be another “Immaculate Reception” … One for the books!!
Pelé and Vivienne Westwood (December 29th)
Barbara Walters (December 30th)
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (December 31st): The longest-living pope, having surpassed Pope Leo XIII in September 2020, known as “God’s Rottweiler”.
Beyoncé gave us her 7th studio album, Renaissance...Afrobeats continues to rise and I’m here for all of it! Usher’s Las Vegas show makes huge waves…Ari Lennox brought us Age/Sex/Location…And another bomb soundtrack from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever!!
The housing market was a win for sellers, but it looks like that is taking turn back for buyers (I hope so, cause your girls will definitely be looking in 2023). Twitter was bought by Elon Musk…We witnessed our first Black woman Supreme Court Justice, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson (RBG is definitely smiling)…and soooooo much more!!
For me 2022, was all about roller coaster rides of life. I had many valley lows and just as many high moments. Sold my house in ATL (the end of an era)…I dealt with with anxiety, some depression, some trauma, and deep loss. Losing my Uncle Oscar hit me deep in my core! And if I am being honest, I am still grieving and probably will for some time. He meant so much to me, he will never be forgotten. There is not a day that doesn’t go by where I just want to shoot him a ring and ask for him to pray with and for me. But when it is all said and done I know he is watching over me, smiling, and having a good laugh with my Grandma!! I definitely got a chance to travel and collect some more passport stamps. I went to New Mexico for the first time, tried real Belgium waffles IN Belgium (Twice)!! Presented at Wonder-Con (Anaheim, CA), gave a keynote lecture at Ghent University (Ghent, Belgium). Got to celebrate Black History Month twice once in the US and in London!! Went to the Roots Picnic in Philly…Celebrated many of my friends 40th Birthday’s….that was fun!
Even got me a new ride…a Christmas gift to myself!!
This year I got to spend a lot of time on several beaches and oh was that therapeutic (Thank you Turks and Caicos and Playa del Carmen)…Lord knows I love the water!!
…It was good to be back in the classroom for another semester with some AMAZING students!! I am truly grateful to have this job/career. I look forward to completing 2023 as I will (I’m claiming) get through my Third-Year Review and become another step closer towards Tenure!! Oh and I got boosted again! I launched a new project, Black Girl Magic in Media (BGMM) and let me tell you I am very excited about what is in store! Be on the lookout for what is in store!
I continue to learn more about myself…grow…find balance…navigate all the moving parts of my life…and taking one day at a time!
Let me just say I am also very thankful for my BFF family and friends!! I look forward to bringing you more good news and culture in 2023!!
Today, we celebrate one of my favorite principals of Kwanzaa….Nia (Purpose). Through Nia, the principal seeks “to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.”
Examine your ability to put your own skills and talent to use through service to your family and community at large. When we take time to reflect on our expectations from life, we can take the opportunity to discuss one’s desires and hopes with family and friends. On today, try to determine your purpose and how it will result in positive achievements for family and community.
In thinking about how you can reflect on Nia, consider these few practices:
Reflect on finding your purpose in life outside of your career
Add some books and movies that educate you about your ancestry and your history
Set short term and long term goals that will set you and your community on a path towards a more intentional and purpose-driven life.
What’s your purpose in life for today and in the future?
On this day we celebrate Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics),“to build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.“ As noted on the official Kwanzaa website, Ujamaa embodies shared work and wealth, economic self-reliance, and obligation of generosity. Karenga notes, “To share wealth and work, then, is to share concern, care and responsibility for a new, more human and fulfilling future”.
It’s about working together, making a change, and creating legacies!!
In that spirit, here are a few ways in which you can practice Ujamaa:
Organize a buying club in your neighborhood, housing co-op or apartment building. Items such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, socks, sanitizing wipes, water, and a variety of non-perishable goods can be purchased in bulk and the cost shared so that everyone gets these items cheaper than what they would pay buying them retail.
Support black and local and independent small businesses or businesspersons, cooperatives, artists, practitioners and others who are community- and environmentally-minded.
Join a city and/or community garden in your local neighborhood
Shop at your local farmers’ markets (National Farmers Market Directory)
As each of our families celebrate Kwanzaa and richness of African-American culture this year and every year, let us all find inspiration in the principle of Ujamaa in the development of a new global economy built through communal values and cooperatives.
On Day 3 of Kwanzaa we celebrate Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)!! This means “to build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.”
Today we recognize the fact that without collective work and struggle, progress is impossible and liberation is a far distant memory. This is when we must truly embody the idea of “it takes a village.”
On this day, I think about the impact of those that we lost this year who made such a great impact on our local, national, and global communities. Their commitments and efforts to the cause will never be forgotten. One can only hope that we continue to be inspired to follow in their footsteps and build on their legacies!
When thinking about how you can celebrate Ujima today, consider teaming up with members of your neighborhood to help renovate a community center, offering to shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk, or even just helping out around the house more often.
And as a way of sharing with my community, here is an event for all my native Richmond folks this coming Friday celebrating Kwanzaa!
Capital City Kwanzaa Festival
December 30th, 2022…. 5-10pm….Greater Richmond Convention Center
Celebrate the season with Elegba Folklore Societyand the creator of Kwanzaa, Dr. Maulana Karenga, at one of the largest annual Kwanzaa events on the East Coast! Come to enjoy a cultural ceremony, performances, workshops, engagement for children, and an African market.
We have come to another day of Kwanzaa…The second principle of the Nguzo Saba is Kujichagulia which means Self-Determination!! To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.”
“In a time in which occupation and oppression of countries and peoples are immorally presented as necessary and even salvational, the principle of Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) rejects this and reaffirms the right of persons and peoples to determine their own destiny and daily lives; to live in peace and security; and to flourish in freedom everywhere.”-Dr. Maulana Karenga
Consider these three questions as you embody Kujichaguilia:
1. Who am I? 2. Am I really who I say I am? 3. Am I all that I ought to be?
Have a conversation (with yourself, or with another person) about what truths you want to live into in this coming year. In addition, check out thisvideo reflection from Dr. David Goode-Cross, as he shares the importance of making life decisions from a place of being grounded in our most authentic selves.
Once you begin to process and internalize the above questions/thoughts consider these few actions that you can do to celebrate Kujichaguilia:
Make the celebration focus on your family
Make the celebration festive and joyous
Try to have a special meal- at home or away
What I like about Kujichagulia is that it also has a personal meaning. As you reflect over this past year, can you identify ways that your self-determination paid off? How did you take more control over your life?