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Rebirth of Culture
$2.50 is how much it costs to get everywhere and nowhere. For those who want to get lost and those who want to get found in the melting pot of Atlanta. Missing the train isn’t that deep. Or that terrible, I would say. No. What is terrible is missing the view from the window. The local window seat which glides you close enough to the crown of metal clouds. You see the graffiti walls down below and you soar so close to trees you can kiss them. The view from the window seat is the only luxury of the local transportation.
I reach my destination—Ashby train station, located two blocks away from the historic West End, and one street down from the Atlanta Student Movement. I feel like a tourist in my own city, passing by new Black Owned Businesses, hopeful messages, and the unchanged parts of history that lie in the area—destitution. As a college student attending Clark Atlanta University, it wasn’t surprising to walk the same streets of crackheads and homeless people to get to the Walmart located near campus.
Now the Walmart is burned down. Cardboard boxes surround the area. Wooden boards are thrown upon the windows of not only the Wally World, but several other places that marked the location.
Heading onto the college campus, nostalgia continued to creep onto me with what was, and what is. A clear division of time marked the streets of the local homes which only housed college students. The houses were one-story level basic homes with unkept grass, and shady renters up charging per room to college students who wanted budget friendly freedom in the City of ATL. Across the street. Sat two, maybe three-story houses with clearly pearled renovations which stretched down the street. I wondered when the time would come when the memories, I shared in those budget friendly houses would become memories I could no longer touch.
My feet soon stood before the Lyke House church. A barrier of a thin string separated me and the property lot. It was the church which provided broke college students as my undergraduate self, financial reimbursements for overly priced once used textbooks. Now, my memory of this holy land is stained in the blood of Jatonne Sterling, the baseball player shot to death in this parking lot. I used to cross this very lot after my commute on my way to class, just as I am walking now.
My eyes were wet in the blanch stains of history. Nonetheless, the veil of my sunglasses blinded my eyes from the college students peering in, but not of me having them wide open looking out. I climbed the stairs of once was Trevor Arnette Library to the museum which held the art of Hale Aspacio Woodruff: The “Art of the Negro.”
6 murals by Woodruff paneled against the antiquated wood of the historic building. “Muses,” was the last of the 6 panels, and it was the one I came to see.
I hadn’t seen the mural since my early college days, but the impression of the painting’s message is still impeccable. I sat with the mural since I hadn’t seen it in years. I wanted to see how much of my own interpretation of its meaning had changed or remained. After all, it was my favorite painting of the mural collection.
Two deities rest nobly atop a sea of historic Black men. An African deity and a Grecian deity, and the African diaspora below to represent the cultural amalgamation of the two which contributed to the prestigious range of arts within Black life. As inferred by the museum text, the painting represents the involuntary marriage of cultures. But, upon seeing the painting itself, I think Aspacio was intentional in painting two prominent cultural influences atop the Black men.
Below the deities' ranges artists and artisans of the African diaspora. Some of Spanish, American, Brazilian descent who contributed to the Black intelligence through poetry, activism, art—all interwoven like macrame for their contribution to Black canonical study. Smack dab in the middle was Shango* dressed in horticultural African garments. The mystery of antiquity resolved.
It’s no thunderous blow to history tracing back the blends of culture which shaped a group of people over time. If anything, I think it makes the essence of culture more beautiful. Especially being able to capture the impact of cultural hybridity in a painting and highlight it versus show its detriments.
The museum curator, Sol, noticed my writing and decided to give me a textbook regarding the murals of Woodruff.
In Jerry Collum’s essay, “The Art of the Negro,” he covered Aspacio’s legacy behind the murals and the history of craftsmanship which went into the historical murals. Between 1941-42, Woodruff proposed the murals collection to the dean of Atlanta University to be placed in the library, but he responded they didn’t have the money to fund the collection. Woodruff was fed up with the whole thing (Cullum 121). Woodruff was eventually able to negotiate a $2,000 dollar salary raise as compensation for the murals, but Spelman College and Atlanta University settled on $200 (121). He began drafting the 6 panels until he received a teaching position at New York University, where he resigned from teaching at the two universities to relocate. Between the time working at NYU, he was commissioned to create a mural collection for Talladega college. The mural collection for Talladega college encompassed slavery, the colonial slave trade, the overall horrors of Black life. The debut for the Talladega College murals was grand and well-received. In 1950, Woodruff had finally finished his 6-panels for Atlanta University while still residing in New York. He shipped them down south, but the shipment content was contrary to the expectations of AU’s dean. They wanted something closer in subject matter to the murals done for Talladega College, but instead, the murals reflected the evolution of Woodruff’s perspective through his art. By virtue, possibly due to the influential conversations he shared with other prolific artists in New York University regarding “personal invention with cross-cultural investigation of African Art” (125). Nonetheless, Atlanta University still held a modest ceremony for the mural collection debut, but it was evident the collection was not that well received. Woodruff said the murals were the “most important work along this line,” and that they had been, “almost ignored and treated with indifference, “possibly because, “The murals don’t deal with slavery in this country; they deal with a very remote past” (Cullum 123). I wish I could ask Woodruff which of the panels did he favor most.
In Collum’s essay, “Muses” is said to be the last mural done, and by the painting's context, it is easy to see that. His thought process had changed; therefore, the painting had too. They didn’t know how many drafts Woodruff had done before settling on the murals he did, but the evolution of his artistic perspective within the decade is clear in the paintings. There’s an address to the mural collection meaning within the legacy:
[Woodruff] asserts the right of the artist of African descent to pursue whatever aspects of the vast range of history, form, and culture seem most promising and appealing as a subject of the artist. And in The Art of the Negro murals, Woodruff does exactly this, establishing a globalized and contemporary context in which to reconsider and reconfigure the continually evolving heritage of Africa and the African Diaspora. (Collum 129)
As creators and changemakers through art, we reserve the right to articulate the world from our eyes how we see fit. The best motives of the artist are the ones which are raw, and authentic to love and the passion behind the meaning of the art created. Whereas what is most appealing to an audience. Sometimes, what is least appealing is what is most needed. Ironically, Woodruff succeeded in doing something appealing and needed.
It’s something special about understanding our past to determine our future. Embracing change or sticking to what you know. Static. When I think of this world we live in, I can’t help but think of this painting. Woodruff wasn’t painting a cloud of darkness around the cultural hybridity of African and Western civilization. That was a topic covered many times before in slave narratives, fiction, and even his own art. Instead, he was introducing at the time, a new ideology to the influences of African Diaspora art. The history is truth and researchable, but the acknowledging of the past and the future was implemented all in one in “Muses.” History doesn’t have to stain anyone's future, if we let character arches develop with positive turns in the road. No matter what the culture is, there is hope. It is an image of the African Diaspora thriving everywhere throughout the world, and rectifying the people who were once labeled sable, as an identity obsolete to their magnitude.
One of the lasting messages I decode from “Muses” is a testimony of unity. What brought each of the men painted in the mural together through history can also bring them together in their futures. All the men in the room represented a shared lineage, but only Black men sat in that room, embracing their identities as pillars for their futures. Black people uniting through their talents. The sweet unspoken language of artistry.
I returned the textbook to the museum curator and ventured back towards Ashby train station. On the promenade I see staged strolls of Greek organizations. Students gather around to watch the AKA’s stroll, and a mild cacophony of hound barks trail behind, or after. 808 stereo beats rang through, and an overjoyed crowd of students buzzed. Memory flushed I almost forgot what time I was in.
As I cross Atlanta back to Decatur the thought crosses my mind when Zeus traveled to Aethiopia. Homer does not acknowledge the Aethiopian’s pigmentation, but instead revels in their close partnership with the gods, and how they feast in “holiday-leaves.” Food and culture blended together like salt and pepper for a savory dish. Creating, something, soothing for the soul. A potion as potent as art becoming the vehicle for love, or vice versus. We can blend our cultures within the diaspora. We can extend out to blend our cultures in the world.
Change isn’t always bad. Hale Aspacio Woodruff knew that. He invented, embraced, and created change in his thoughts, therefore within his paintings. I think sometimes there is a slight peace in ignorance: like a glass half-full half-empty business. Because it leaves room for a blank canvas to embrace who one is today and can create from that. Aspacio was still paying homage to where we came from, and as Sankofa implies, we must fetch from our past in order to know where we’re going. Acknowledge the past but don’t let it control the future. We need both past and present. We need unity. Going forward in time as the chapters of a book. I hope the day never comes where hope, love, and unity will be intangible as distant fog.
Cullum, Jerry. “The Art of The Negro.” In The Eye of The Muses: Selections from the Clark Atlanta University Art Collection. Clark Atlanta University, 2012, pp. 119-129.
Homer, and Stephen Mitchell. The Iliad . New York: Free Press, 2011.
Woodruff, Hale A. Muses . 1950. The Art of the Negro, Trevor Arnett Library, Clark Atlanta University.
Lift Every Voice and Sing: The Narrative of the Liberation Song
By: KRF Students, faculty, and staff wildly file into Epps Gymnasium. They search for their friends, colleagues or coworkers to sit and converse with for the duration of the next two hours until the orator chimes in to break the noise. It is Clark Atlanta University's 31st Convocation. The students, faculty, and staff all wait patiently as the program starts. The audience is pegged to stand for the choirs next three selections: the opening hymn and the alma mater-- which the choir receive little to no “call and response.” Though, when the third selection --“Lift Every Voice and Sing”-- is played, the crowd sounds in unison as though church is now in session. Only the first verse is sung, but the wave of black folks sound with bombastic rhetoric --as though their spirits hailed them to empathize with the lyricism. During an HBCU convocation this is played, during Black history month this is played, during any function celebrating the legacy of black people —this song is played. Despite the functions being celebratory of black history --the question of ‘why do we play this song?’ is never piqued. It is seemingly though that all the black Americans who sing along loudly and boldly, blindly recite the words to follow the narrative given to them. It is almost as if they rejoice in the narrative of the song celebrating the humanity of black people. Or the narrative of James Weldon Johnson writing this poem for the man who dismantled the slavery institution. The possibilities as to why this song is heavily embraced can go on, but the underlying factor is that black people have been miseducated on the narrative of the anthem that is socially praised in the black community. The African-American community has been made to believe that this song resonates as a liberation anthem, when in reality —it mocks the reality of modern day slavery black Americans are still facing. Labeling “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as the negro national anthem mocks the pedagogy of African-Americans about their independence, which thus calls into question whether this song should be the liberation anthem for black people? To begin, the premise of this paper is the narrative behind the song/ poem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and the center question is the justification of why it should be Black people’s liberation song. James Weldon Johnson wrote “Lift every Voice and Sing” initially as a poem in 1900, and it was later set to music by Johnson’s brother in 1905 (Gates). The poem was performed first as part of a celebration for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (Gates). It is significant for the poem to first be performed for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, due to Lincoln being known for setting the slaves free. Then in 1919, the song was indoctrinated as the Negro National Anthem by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), because the song voiced a cry of liberation of African-American people and transcending hardships (Gates). Claudette Lindsay-Habermann explains in her article, “Till Victory is Won: The Staying Power of Lift Every Voice and Sing,” how for this reason, this liberation song has been catching global waves in the African-American community and reminding African-Americans to unify for one cause. She says this song has been highlighted amongst many performances by African-American musical artists, who use the song to pay tribute to the trials Black people face saying, “Motown's Kim Weston sang it to nearly 100,000 people at the historic Wattstax concert in 1972. In 1990, singer Melba Moore released an all-star version that included Anita Baker, Stevie Wonder. . .Gladys Knight and Bebe Winans added their own rendition in 2012. . .Beyoncé sang it at Coachella, highlighting black culture to a largely white audience” (Lindsay- Habermann). Despite the wave of tributes the song has cultivated throughout the years for African-Americans by African-Americans, the history of whom this song was initially dedicated to is problematic. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” is dedicated to Abraham Lincoln who is known for abolishing slavery and drafting the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves. In modern day society, it is familiar for people to dwell on the idea of a post-racial society, but most of those citizens are unaware of the staggering facts. Such as the Thirteenth Amendment ratified by Abraham Lincoln December 6, 1865 states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This first section of the Amendment states that slavery nor indentured servitude shall not be permitted within the United States territory, unless for a punishment of a crime that that person is convicted of. The exception clause in the middle of the Thirteenth Amendment calls for an eyebrow raise as to what is implied by it, but the historical facts stemming from this clause causes the black American to question whether or not Lincoln actually did abolish slavery. The implication of the exception clause in the Thirteenth Amendment is highly questionable, but the facts of why it is present is not dismissable. Firstly, the character of Abraham Lincoln does not represent a man who was an abolitionist. Although Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment with the intentions to end slavery in the south, he was not fully supportive of the ending of enslavement nor the equality of blacks and whites. In the article “5 Things You didn’t Know About Abraham Lincoln” by Sarah Pruitt, she explores lifetime facts about Abraham Lincoln with his views on slavery and equality being two of the first facts. In her first section she states that Lincoln was not an abolitionist saying, . . .in the fall of 1854, Lincoln presented more clearly than ever his moral, legal and economic opposition to slavery—and then admitted he didn’t know exactly what should be done about it within the current political system. Abolitionists, by contrast, knew exactly what should be done about it: Slavery should be immediately abolished, and freed slaves should be incorporated as equal members of society. (Pruitt) Pruitt is stating in this quote how Lincoln was morally conscious of the fallacies in the slavery institution, but was unsure of how to move about correcting the wrongs of the institution possibly in the favor of everyone. But, Pruitt is also saying how he would not be an abolitionist because if he did feel guilty about the institution of slavery, than he would know exactly what to do to rid the country of the immoral sin. To continue, Pruitt also proves what a true abolitionist thinks like by using William Lloyd Garrison as an example of what a true abolitionist would think and act like stating, “Leading abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison called the Constitution “a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell,” and went so far as to burn a copy at a Massachusetts rally in 1854”’ to further prove her point about how Lincoln condoned the institution of slavery (Pruitt). In addition, Pruitt further proves her point about Lincoln’s attitude towards enslavement when she pulls a debate between Lincoln’s U.S. Senate opponent, Stephen Douglas, who accuses Lincoln of being supportive of “negro equality where Lincoln makes his opposition clear saying, “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races” (Pruitt), and then she goes on to explain how he opposed Black people having the right to vote, serve on juries, and have interracial relationships with white people. Though, he did believe that Black people had the right to enjoy the fruits of their labor just as white people; but slavery did not entail this which is what he believed made slavery morally wrong. In addition to Pruitt’s facts regarding Lincoln, Lincoln also voiced why he thought slavery was justifiable based on skin complexion in relation to intellect in the article “Lincoln on Slavery.” On July 1, 1854, Lincoln encountered questions regarding his views on enslavement, and he would give his most candid attitude towards the institution. In one section of the article, he is justifying why slavery is permissible due to skin color equating wits saying, “If A. can prove, however conclusively, that he may, of right, enslave B. -- why may not B. snatch the same argument, and prove equally, that he may enslave A?-/ You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own./ You do not mean color exactly?--You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own” (“Lincoln on Slavery”). Lincoln is addressing the different arguments posed to him about slavery, and rationalizing why it is justifiable. He uses the examples of intellect being based on color to articulate why whites are more superior in intellect because their skin is more fair. With this information, the question still remains of why did James Weldon Johnson dedicate this song of empowerment, surmounting adversity, and hope for a better future to a man who did not see Blacks and whites as equal? Why does the African-American community deitize a man who did not favor the equality of Blacks and whites, and was pushed to end slavery due to the need to unify the United States? The answer possibly lies in the education of African-Americans over the Westernized-narrative they were given regarding Abraham Lincoln and his want to abolish slavery. In a survey, twenty-six people ranging from ages eighteen to sixty-nine took a poll to test how much they knew about the history of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and why they believed it should be the Negro National Anthem. The majority of the voters considered themselves Black/ African-American, and only one person was white, but the staggering overwhelming population did consider “Lift Every Voice and Sing” the Negro National Anthem; only three people said they did not consider the song the Negro National Anthem. When asked if they knew the full first stanza, only nineteen voters said yes, and when asked who wrote the poem, twenty-one voters said James Weldon Johnson. Three people said W.E.B DuBois wrote it, and two people said that Francis Scott Key wrote it as well as Rudyard Kipling. But, when asked who was it written for almost half the voters said W. E. B. DuBois, and fifteen voters said Abraham Lincoln. Some of the results are skewed because some voters texted and said they had to Google the answers to know the answers to the questions, when the point of the survey was to test how much knowledge one had about “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The most interesting results came from the short responses on why the people thought “Lift Every Voice and Sing” should be the Negro National Anthem. The last question of the survey was “Why do you think “Lift Every Voice and Sing” should be the Negro National Anthem?”’ Some of the responses were pretty funny such as “because we black,” which was one of the less than serious responses—unless that person genuinely thought “because we’re black” is justification for liking this song. Other responses which were along the lines of what I expected were, “It’s a reminder to how strong we are as a people,” “it speaks on our struggle,” and even “it was written acknowledging people of color.” Their were a combination of responses that ranged from severity, to just plain evasive such as, “the lyrics,” “no,” “that’s what it’s called,” “idk it just is,” and even “nice little tune.” These responses were lacking in depth of how the song was significant to being the Negro National Anthem. Though, two responses stuck at the most which were, “Because that’s what I was taught,” and “I think because it was written by James Weldon Johnson this creates the perception that this song was meant for black people. If another suitable anthem is created, I’m inclined to think about choosing that one.” The first one was significant because it addresses the pedagogy of the Westernized canon. Black people were taught to embrace this song, just because it is representative of them. This was a response which was most candid, and fit the narrative of what almost every Black person is told to do in regards to this song. The second response also concurs the first because of the underlying honesty of how Black people are supposed to accept the narrative given to them. The responder stated, “Because it was written by James Weldon Johnson this creates the perception that this song was meant for black people. . .” which calls into question whether James Weldon Johnson should be the one persecuted for dedicating such a song of empowerment to a man who did not care for the African-American community? From the results, it seemed that almost all the responders were given the same narrative about the song being drilled into their heads at youth, forced to rejoice with the song not because they were cognizant of the content of the song --but because they were pegged to do so by their school systems and church affiliations. Though still, no responders surfaced the question on why it was dedicated to Abraham Lincoln. Questions still remain regarding to what purpose does the song hold for the Black community if the premise of the narrative behind it is questionable. Does the song mock the modern day enslavement Black Americans are still facing under Lincoln’s exception clause? Or even does the premise of the narrative demean the powerful lyrics written by James Weldon Johnson regarding Black Americans’ liberation? If the song were dedicated to W.E.B. DuBois, David Walker, or even solely the entire Black community to uplift and empower the fight for freedom–then the substance of the song would not be questionable. But, it is still in memorial of Abraham Lincoln and the accomplishments he has made for the black community in ending enslavement nationwide. The exception clause in the Thirteenth Amendment is merely a small fragment sandwiched between the two clauses which would duly abolish slavery, but that small clause has caused a generational path of incarceration of Black people. In Abigail Parkiss’ essay, “Abraham Lincoln as Constitutional Radical: The 13th Amendment,” she praises the radicalism of Abraham Lincoln for abolishing slavery in America during a time slavery was the primary commodity for southerners. At the end of her essay she poses questions regarding the current significance of the Thirteenth Amendment saying, Despite its significance in American history, the Thirteenth Amendment is not one of the more frequently invoked parts of our Constitution today. Now that slavery is a part of our past, the Amendment’s current relevance is subject to debate. Does it govern the fairness of modern labor practices? Does it empower Congress to pass broad-ranging civil rights laws? Whatever the outcome of those debates, though, the Thirteenth Amendment deserves recognition as an historic and solemn promise that slavery will never again exist in the United States. (Parkiss) The initial questions Parkiss poses are highly significant due to them being unanswered in modern day politics. The Thirteenth Amendment’s relevance then protected enslavement of people committed of a crime which it still does till today with inmates who perform free labor in jail. In the article, “Prison Labor and the Thirteenth Amendment,” the exception clause is discussed in relation to how the abolishment of slavery left a void in the Southern labor market. Due to the gap in economic resources, the criminal justice system began to take advantage of the exception clause by legalizing the involuntary servitude of Black Americans. The pressing issues to continue free labor was heightened, and the only way to do so was to find massive numbers of individuals guilty of crimes. After the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment, Jim Crow laws were placed in order to, “arrest and imprison large numbers of black people,” and even went as far as to, “lease prisoners to private individuals and corporations in a system of convict leasing that resulted in dangerous conditions, abuse, and death” (“Prison Labor and the Thirteenth Amendment”). This shows how the exception clause in the Thirteenth Amendment caused years worth of strife for the African-American to succeed, and vehemently worked to ensure that African-Americans were not guaranteed the same equal rights once convicted of a crime. To further prove the point of incarceration being the modern day enslavement based on the Thirteenth Amendment, “while states profited, prisoners earned no pay and faced inhumane, hazardous, and often deadly work conditions. Thousands of black people were forced into a brutal system that historians have called “worse than slavery” (“Prison Labor and the Thirteenth Amendment”). Based on the staggering results, the question still remains if this song should be the Negro National Anthem if the person the song is dedicated to did not seal the gap on freeing the enslaved, and instead worked to ensure its future continuation. James Weldon Johnson was more than likely a victim of the educational system as well about the importance of Abraham Lincoln, and although his poem is beautiful in messages regarding hope and prosperity —the substance is diluted when associated with the man who purposefully meant to keep slavery in tact covertly. In conclusion, I’ve come to the understanding that the narrative of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is simply just that —a narrative that everyone wants to believe in and will listen to others on why they should believe in it. The beauty in the lyrics of the song are powerful, but the history behind it undermines the fight for freedom articulated in the lyrics of the poem. The Black community uses the song as a placeholder to remind oneself of the trials Black people have overcome, and are still surmounting —which clashes with the ideologies of whom the song was dedicated to. All in all, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is a memorialized song for the Black community, and hopefully one day the dedication can solely be addressed to Black people.
Works Cited “Lincoln on Slavery.” National Parks Service , U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/liho/learn/historyculture/slavery.htm. Lindsay-Habermann, Claudette. “Till Victory Is Won: The Staying Power Of 'Lift Every Voice And Sing'.” NPR , NPR, 16 Aug. 2018, www.npr.org Parkiss, Abigail. “Abraham Lincoln as Constitutional Radical: The 13th Amendment.” National Constitution Center – Constitutioncenter.org , constitutioncenter.org “Prison Labor and the Thirteenth Amendment.” Equal Justice Initiative , eji.org/history-racial-injustice-prison-labor. Pruitt, Sarah. “5 Things You May Not Know About Lincoln, Slavery and Emancipation.” History.com , A&E Television Networks, 21 Sept. 2012, www.history.com
Make Love Last Forever -Divine Afro Mind
A conversation on Making Love Last Forever by KRF In a time where love can seem withdrawn from the world, there are times where a person can come and remind you that love is as timeless (unconditional) as air. That’s how I felt when I first met LaTanya Smith, the owner of Divine Afro Mind (D.A.M.). She sent me some sample products to review flaxseed gel, an oil marinated in herbs, and a rose water mist spray. I used the products on my daughter’s afro, and my afro at the time. Her flaxseed gel had a shelf life of 6 months, and her oil could last however long I needed it. Due to the size of my afro then, I needed that oil like a crackhead needs crack. Now, I no longer have my afro, but instead timeless memories of using LaTanya’s products and the everlasting advice she’d given me behind her philosophy of love and curating it in every facet of her humanity. Of our final interview sequence, she was the last person to touch my afro delicately. There is sustainability in love. And listening and watching LaTanya draw upon her creative process in meditation, curating a safe space, down to the expression of her clothing, everything is intentional —therefore our first interview session regarded love and the intentions that flow from it. We sat on the ground with our legs crossed: a lavender incent burning on my side and a patchouli incent burning on hers. In the meditation process, our incents weren’t enough for the meditation space which was about to take place. Meticulously, she styled and restyled our interview setup until she felt most comfortable introducing herself. She moved a plant here, put a plant there, moved the camera here, bent it forward then back, and at once added items to set the mood right. I brought white sage as my peace offering. We burned it, a rosemary smudge stick, and palo santo. She passed the palo santo for me to wrap my body in its smoke, and I asked, “What is this –is this a piece of wood?” And she responded it’s palo santo.” I bit it and said, “I knew I was smelling burnt wood,” and then proceeded to tell her of my unfamiliarity with the scent. “It’s [palo santo] supposed to be sacred, the closest purifier to God,” she said. The scents filled the room creating an aromatic concoction perhaps spiritual people understand, but a lingering smell I had become all too familiar with as her natural scent. We held hands. A crystal sandwiched between our appendages. She called it, “conduction.” I said I loved it. My white sage burned intensely. I said, “I can tell when I need the spiritual enhancement, my sage will burn forever.” She responded that “white sage does something to you —it’s good for reflection.” We sat in silence. Our chests rising and falling to the cadence of the heart frequency music. I’ve told her how I never enjoy so-called meditation music, but she prefers music without lyrics. It’s easier to not attach a memory to the lyrics, thus emoting a recollection of emotions you suddenly now feel. I still love my lyrical tunes. But, sitting cross-legged, in silence, with only a sound tuned to the heart –it was something peaceful about it. I broke our silence with a question of sustainability and how she repurpose items instead of throwing them away. “Ask yourself in every facet of your life, ‘why do I want to preserve this? If it is no longer serving me, do I just throw it away, does the love just dissipate?” In which LaTanya responded, “No, no it doesn’t. When it becomes a thing we’re extending too much, that’s when it becomes a problem. I don’t think it’s a problem until it’s taking from us –we’re giving out an empty cup or a half-filled cup. We have to fill our cups up first.” “Even with glass, it didn’t take five minutes to make. We live in this fast-paced world where everything is just so disposable. It’s not helping our planet. It’s not helping us. It’s not helping the generations to come. If we want our lineage to flourish, we have to take care of the earth.” LaTanya said. I responded, “It’s truly love in making something last forever.” “It’s all about consideration [LaTanya speaking on why sustainability is necessary]. You know that something is happening, based on what the outside world is doing. We have this egotistical living where we think we are above nature, but nature is what takes care of us, we are aligned with nature.” I responded, “We even look at people as waste.” She laughed, “It’s that simple.” Our conversation turned philosophical. I picked up one of LaTanya’s glass bottles, “Even in the Japanese culture, there’s this art form where, if this piece of glass broke right now, it cracked, they would take colorful glue or glitter, and make a new piece of art out of it. Can we have that humility to do that? Now it’s broken –now it’s trash. This person is broken –now they’re trash. I cannot fix this person, and you shouldn’t have to, but there’s this Isley Brothers lyric when he says, ‘it never pays to give up on someone.’ Even Biblically, forgiveness is always pushed: turn your cheek let them slap the other.” “What humility is essentially, is just putting your pride aside carrying out your purpose to serve. The reason why we’re here is to win people over to God’s kingdom, not my ideals or my mannerisms, it’s just to let you know that you are loved. As much as God forgives us every single day that we wake up, we have the opportunity to recreate and get a second chance. Who am I to deny forgiveness to somebody, when I get endless options from the Most High.” “How can you ask for forgiveness from someone, when you can’t even give forgiveness?” I asked. “Or even forgive ourselves.” “Sometimes, I live with things I have not forgiven myself for what I had done so long ago, and now I just –live with it.” I confessed. “You can always forgive yourself. You can always refer back to that moment and be like, ‘you know what, I’m okay with that happening.’ Sometimes we think forgiveness is overnight.” She begins to rapidly snap her fingers, “Because of how fast paced this world is, we don’t have patience. We only have patience for the people that we love, or the things that we desire, but when something comes up, we’re like ‘I’m out.’ ‘I don’t have time for that.’ “We really make ourselves more of an enemy than the enemy. We’ll literally beat ourselves down more than anyone else will. Self-love is truly the best love. You cannot empower someone else if you cannot empower yourself,” Latanya begins to snap her fingers and I continue with my hand crossed over my heart, “You cannot love someone if you do not love yourself.” So, whenever I think about my extensions of love with my friends, I think about what fragment of me am I giving to you?” “You can literally emit love to a total stranger because you have that much self-love, self-empowerment.” I said. “Just like you said, giving love to a stranger is reciprocity. Giving love is receiving love. You're openly giving love, you’re open to receiving love. That’s reciprocity.” She said in response. LaTanya continued, “Love is like this current [speaking about us holding hands with the crystals sandwiched in between], it is endlessly flowing. You will always have a lifeline, and the ability to forgive. You will always be able to give without the intention to receive. Someone with a heavy heart cannot give love. Some people with a heavy heart cannot even give love because they’re not able to receive love. All that they can think about is the hurt and the trauma, and they’re not capable of embodying love.” I responded, “Say for instance a person who is broken in that way, do you think that it’s love that’s going to heal, or time that’s going to heal?” “I think time doesn’t exist, it’s just based on a person’s mindset and how they see the situation. I want to ask you the same question: do you think it’s time that heals or love that heals?” LaTanya says. “I definitely think it’s love that heals. Patience is perhaps the word, the better measurement relative to time –it's all about Divine Timing. We can try to manipulate time as much as we want as humans, or manipulate our circumstances to fit time, like putting our ducks in a row, but I truly think it’s love that heals wounds because it takes a large portion of loving yourself to heal yourself. We can dump love into others. Someone might have had their love taken away, and they may need someone to help come and put it back in.” “Do you think that is sustainable love though? If the love is only dependent on someone else giving it.” Latanya questioned. She continued. “Because that’s the main destination for us, to master ourselves. To grow to be independent, and not dependent on other’s capabilities to give us what we cannot give ourselves. If someone cannot give love, it’ll in turn drain the other person because they’re always filling you up when they need to also be filled too." “That goes back to our empowering others when you are not fully empowered. You cannot outpour from an empty cup,” I restated. “I’m going to say people, because as humans, I’m sure we can all get caught up in doing this, giving something that we don’t have. It’s good to have that foundation of love. I do believe that you can be a beacon of hope in that way, but not when you’re just taking to be blessed to receive." "I think it’s all about perspective. My grandmother, for example, would give me everything that she has. Or every grandma really. They get twenty dollars for Christmas, and then turn around and slide it to the grandchild. We can’t fault them [for giving] because what if you mean this? I have a job; I am able to get money. I am sustained.” Latanya said. “You can’t expect to give your last dime with the expectation of getting it back or giving love to a person expecting love back. It’s the intention that you put out there with what you are giving. "I said. “I think with my grandmother she knows it’s more that’s going to come for her, so she doesn’t mind giving this up because she’s good –she's going to always receive. When you have a lack mindset, when you’re holding onto this, I’m not going to get it back. When you have an abundant mindset, it’ll always come back to you. You’ll always be like, I’m good.” “You have people who have an abundant mindset who are doing it out of the kindness of their heart.” “It’s genuine.” LaTanya chimed. “You truly have to be lighthearted when it comes to whatever you give, especially with love. If you know that you’re expecting –first of all the word expectation shouldn’t even be in front of love.” We simultaneously laughed and crossed our arms to “x” out the word expectation. “Expectation should not lead before your love. Love will come naturally, whether it’s your dog your cat --.” “Your occupation your passion. Whatever it is. You put love into things, love is going to flow back. It’s just universal law.” LaTanya added. “It is the universal law. Ebb and flow. I am a strong advocate for putting out love in every aspect. If your name is attached to it, your heart and soul must be too.” I asked her a closing question, “Do you think there is love in listening?” “Definitely so. Most of the times, the things that we want to know, God is using people as vessels to flow that information through so that we can receive it. So, if we’re not listening, then we’re not going to receive it. God is in everyone and everything.” “I do think in love you have to be patient; you have to be intentional; you have to be–I think we should just write down everything we think love encompasses.” I proceeded to rip out a bunch of heart shaped sticky notes and LaTanya grabbed her notebook and we both wrote out what we think love is and what it entails. From this we created a poem, line by line, based on love. “How to Love” by KRF and LaTanya Smith Love is what you give, Without the intention to receive, Filling ourselves and each other up, Without trying to deceive, Love is not what you want, But it is what you need, Having patience for our truest desires And taking things with ease How can you want love, When all you want is to please? It is essential to love, Without resistance or greed, Because just as the sun and the moon, Love is the only light you’ll see, Just be free! LaTanya “Chrissy” Smith Instagram: @divineafromind KRF Instagram: @vinyle_zine Photographer, Jullian Fowlkes @xva
Let's Talk About Sex! -ME Emporium
So let’s talk sex! I visited the ‘me emporium’ in November last year with the CEO and founder of ME Emporium, Tristen Simms. If you know me, you’ll know I’m unafraid to take a walk on the wild side, but this was different. It wasn’t my personal wild side, but it was definitely some entertainment I could get jiggy with. I have yet to test out Tristen’s ME Emporium products, but she showed me the physical ailments of the ‘emporium’ and what it should mean to people who truly want to feel satisfied in ways unspeakable. In ways, for me, unimaginable before we met for our interview. Tristen showed me how she stood by the ideology of ‘me’ being the emporium that should be satiated in charming, classy, and sultry ways. She took me to Tokyo Valentino in Buckhead, Atlanta, and I was culture shocked by the sexually free world people truly immersed themselves in. “Why not take a walk on the wild side?” Is what I want to think crossed through her mind before failing to brief me on the literal sex rooms at the bottom floor of the store. Of course security ID checks everyone before entering the “video rooms,” but it was really the liability of no one underage getting a taste of something they weren’t yet mature enough to handle. A man was waiting by the hallway door after we finished our ID checks, and he ushered Tristen and I to follow him. Like a dummy I did, simply thinking that the man wanted to take us on a tour. The hallway was short and immediately turned to other hallways that were just as dim or unlit. Tristen said nothing as I let this man usher me through the hall, but it was when he touched my back —it felt almost like a caress. I pulled away and said, “don’t touch me, thank you.” But then, we reached our short destination which was a door. I didn’t know him so I looked at him crazy, and then I looked at Tristen because I was about to hit this fool for trying to get me to go into a room with him. He didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak his language, but “no” is a universal word. I walked away tight asking Tristen if she saw that, but she was chuckling. After two more men tried to get at me and I snapped on them, she intervened and said “stop you’re going to get us kicked out.” She told me I had consented without knowing I did to the first guy, but that’s what people came here for —sex. The lightbulb went off in my head, but I still kept my cool. I understood why people were trying to get at me now, but I still think some of the men were not trying to take “no” as an answer. One man approached me with eyes as wide as a deer at headlights, and asked me for company. I declined. We went to the bathroom to take selfies, and the man was standing at the end of the hall watching us. We walked past him in the opposite direction up the stairs to a room that had a tall cage in the center. I jokingly went inside and began to dance, and a small wave of men followed us inside and circled the cage. Tristen also slowly circled the cage closing the doors, and said, “Make your money girl.” I pushed the door open and walked out since that wasn’t my cup of tea. As we walked away Tristen told me she bumped into a man behind her when I opened the caged doors, and his penis was out. The man who kept following me was also outside of the cage room. Tristen and I kept walking, and the sausage party trailed the kitties. We pushed open one of the video rooms to get away from the swarm of guys. The pornography wasn’t for free, but we still got down to something that was—music. Tristen turned on Cardi B’s “W.A.P.,” and we danced in the small cubicle. Tristen whispered to me that the man in the cubicle next to us was watching us through the glory hole as we danced. I laughed a little, but she also told me that we could not make fun of people for being sexually free either, because this is what they come to Tokyo Valentino for. And, we can also get kicked out for not abiding by this. We danced a little more and took a few more selfies then left to find more ventures. The creepy man was outside the cubicle room too! We held each other’s hands as we walked at a casual pace. Tristen told me that security are usually at every corner, but perhaps the lights were too dim to make out the perverted men from the security men. A large dancehall became our next location to get down to since no one had encountered this space yet. The music was loud and a huge mirror was displayed before us. Maybe the men heard us laughing, but the nest flew in, and soon enough we had a mini crowd. I’m fine with the cautions of, “you may look but you cannot touch,” but the men in Tokyo were thirsty for kitty that night --they were awfully close. So we dismissed ourselves from the dancehall. We walked up and down the three floors, passing one woman giving fellatio on a large open mattress in a spacious room, and two men behind her watching. We continued to curve men left and right telling them we were each other’s girlfriends, or simply, “no,” but the swarms still followed us. We strode up the stairs to a pole room with lounge couches. The group of men followed us, passing the woman giving fellatio, and missing the one woman on the pole. I don’t know what they thought was about to go down between Tristen and I, but I was ready to slap everyone with choice words. The lounge couches were sectioned like a small maze, so we were at a dead end of our tour with no other exits to scaddaddle to. Suddenly, a man walked up confidently to us and asked if he could sit next to us. I told him, “no,” and he asked could he take a seat in the chair next to us then. He still somewhat sat down next to me, and I ushered for him to move further away. As soon as he sat down though, the whole group of men waiting for Tristen and I to perform cleared away. The man claimed a lot of things which were very funny. He claimed he wanted to chivalrously approach us since we were the only two women in the club. He claimed he was from New York. He also claimed that he was not remotely interested in the sexual escapades going on in Tokyo Valentino. We firstly thanked him for clearing out the nuisances following us since they clearly did not understand “no” tonight. Tristen told the guy I was new to the scene, which he claimed he was virgin to as well. He also stated how he was from New York, which Tristen immediately debunked saying, “you don’t sound like you’re from New York.” He then followed up saying, “Well I grew up in Connecticut, and moved to New York.” Tristen responded, “That’s probably it. We went to school with New York people. They’re rude.” He responded again, “but I moved around a lot.” We both probably said, “yeah okay,” in our heads. He continued to talk about why he was there, and then brought up the woman giving head on the mattress. He said, “I don’t want to be lined up behind some niggas to get head.” Tristen asked him to repeat it, and he did. She said she didn’t see a woman giving head on a bed. He quickly responded to her, “do you want to see it.” She politely declined, and asked him, “do you want to see it.” We spent another ten minutes climbing the three flights, but the males cornered every angle we turned so we danced a little more than left. I felt a newness as I drove home. Sex was not alien to me, but seeing people be content with sex openly was. I enjoyed the experience more than I expected. Kandice Fowlkes Chief Executive Officer Vinyle zine Savvi Word Tech www.vinylezine.com
"For The Love of Pink" by KRF
Pink is your typical hot girl color, and 'the neighborhood' trap lord’s tailor choice. But in my most recent years, pink has become an obsession. Purple is my favorite color; and has been my favorite color for years, but it isn’t until I struck adulthood that my obsession spiked. I've heard that we choose our favorite colors based on how we're guiding through our lives. Pink was my sister's favorite color, and since her death my closet has stacked pink purses, pink raincoats, pink furs, various scarves in different pink shades, pink clothing for my daughter, and now even hot pink UGGS. I don’t even wear UGGS! I can’t get the color out of my head. I don’t know why I openly disdain the color as an overrated, overused, and extremely saturated color, but the color’s aura is magnetic. My partner claims that I’m in denial of pink being my favorite color. Looking at my closet, I’m starting to think I am too. I decided to do a little soul searching and retrace my steps to see where this mania started. Mommy always pushed the color pink on my sister, Raven, and I as girls. It was almost as if she wanted to make the color our favorite. Raven ironically loved the color, but personally, I couldn’t stand it. I thought it looked like Pepto Bismuth splatter. It was too icky for me. Who wouldn’t grow up disdaining the color though? From birth, pink is the assigned gender role color for girls. People just think girls love the color pink because it is seen as delicate and feminine. Mommy would dress me and Raven in matching pink outfits. All of the Cabbage Patches she gave us for Christmas wore different monochromes of pink. One time we had even come home from school and our entire room was painted in pink and blue hues: with giant Strawberry Shortcake displays on my side of the room, pink curtains and wall trimmings throughout, and creepy Disney princess cut-outs on Raven’s side. Personally, I couldn’t stand it, but it didn’t seem like it bothered my sister much since she never complained about our room feng shui as much as I did. She had even gone along with the pink material assets acquiring a pink canopy and pink comforter to match her side’s feng shui. Her pink materials didn’t start to come down until she became a teenager and wanted to have a more “mature” look for her room. Little did I know, her love for the color pink was fleeting from our childhood bedroom, but little did I know, mines lay dormant waiting to fester. A color that I could stand as a pre-teen was purple. I can’t recall why I chose this color as my favorite, but I remember the interesting things I would read about it. My oldest sister used to check-out witchcraft books from her school’s library, and buy red, pink & purple candles to burn. There was this one little pink spell book she bought that I could I tell was her favorite --therefore I had my little nose in it all the time too. In the first few pages of the book, it gave a description of the powers of each of the ROYGBIV colors that one could harness. Purple was described as the most powerful color because it represented royalty, luxury, and grandeur. I didn’t necessarily harness these royal powers, but I still carried it’s legacy donning the purple throughout my middle school years. I wore purple mostly because my family knew the color was my favorite, and they would get me different assortments of gifts in violet. One year for Christmas, my oldest sister gave everyone in our immediate family gifts from a retail store called AJ Wright in Belvedere Plaza. She told me before Christmas came she put all of our gifts on lay-away, but she just knew that I was going to love my gift when I got it. The gift bag was purple and silver, and inside of it were different outfits styled in purples and grays. Over the span of my middle school years I can recall donning the color in so many different fashions. I received purple gifts from left to right. Skinny jeans were in style in middle school, so I had various pairs of purple skinny jeans. I had a rich eggplant colored pair of skinny jeans that had small soft rips in them (of course with patches underneath since no skin could be shown). I had a violet pair of skinny jeans with a splash of pink acid wash going down the middle. One Christmas, Mommy gifted me with a purple peacoat with pink plaid stripes, and a black pleather belt that cinched across the waste. This white woman even knitted me a purple and white yarn scarf, because I had told her it was my favorite color. I never denied the gifts they gave me, until one day --I just stopped liking how I looked in purple. I wore small stuff in purple like purple scarves with pink small fringes here and there. But as I grew older, whenever I looked in the mirror while I was wearing purple, all I saw was a child. It’s almost as if the color looked kiddy on me, and represented my adolescent clothing phase. So after 8th grade, I never really wore purple again. That summer before I officially became a high schooler, I wanted to officially rid myself of the childish pink museum Mommy would not let us let go of. I had finally done our bedroom in, and shredded every piece of pink in front of me. I had a fight with Mommy and decided to test her patience by tearing down all of the pink curtains, Strawberry Shortcake posters, and creepy Disney Princess cut-outs. She came home from work and yelled at me to put everything back up on the wall like it was. Tragically, the pink curtains were well on their way to crossing from window skirts to shorts with a few more stitches, and Strawberry Shortcake had become dumpster scrap fragments. My sister and I contemplated various times taking down all of our childhood assets that were just too “cute” for our age. She gave me a nod for how bold I was to do what I know she wanted to do a long time ago --way before her senior year of high school. But I did it, and never looked back on it. Raven graduated high school and was gifted with a peach-pink Steve Madden purse at her graduation party. She started college that fall and I started high school. I received my first pink gift outside of my mama my junior year. Her name was Rosa, my friend who gave me bags of vintage clothes from her mother’s closet my junior year of high school. I considered it a consignment refinery, especially since I was known for being economically stylish. One of the gifts she gave me was a pair of flowy neon pink shorts. I accepted them solely because they were cute, and I had none like it. I never wore the shorts because they were a little too short and airy for school, plus we had begun to wear uniforms the following year so I never got to wear them for my own leisure. Mommy never really let us out of the house in our teenage years either, but even if she did, I still had nothing to match the neon shorts. Raven was in college when she began to take notice of my style. She would ask me what was my inspiration behind my style, and why I dressed the way that I did. Honestly, a lot of people in high school asked me that same question, but I could never put a concrete answer to it. Raven and I both had Twitter, so she would repost pictures of me posing in my uniquely styled uniforms with captions that praised my swag. That same year was the year Raven and I had fallen out. Our family gatherings weren’t so giddy anymore. There was unspoken tension that clouded the room and made me more unsettled withholding my rage. We sat at polar opposite sides of the room. We lived our lives individually in the family. She graduated from college 2015. I graduated high school the same year, and was gifted with a blush pink sling purse from DSW. Neither of us attended each other’s graduation. It was in fashion magazines, or perhaps thrifting, that I truly found my love for pink. I had my first thrift haul at ½ Off Wednesday’s and found various shades of pink in blouses and blazers. All of which were on my back-to-school shopping list of course, but this could be where the obsession started. The pink beast that lay dormant in me waiting to fester. I remember it so clearly because my hand had never touched so much pink before that day. I had just finished assorting my fashion palette for that fall, and different hues of pink were included in almost every outfit. The fashion collage included pieces that made pink look high-class, egocentric, and out of my league. I wanted those styles. I strode along Value Village’s aisles dragging my fingers along pastel pink silk blouses, blush ruffled oxford tops I’m certain Prince would have worn. I remember my first pink blazer. It was an INC double breasted bubblegum pink blazer. A pink blazer that reminded me of the pastel version of Katy Perry’s in my fashion palette. I had finally found my neon pink shorts match. I wore my pink assets intermittently throughout my first semester of school. My outfits weren’t that eccentric, but looking back they were all still so memorable. I would tuck my pink satin blouses with the button cuffs into my neon pink shorts. I’d strut the promenade in my brown chunky-heeled oxfords, pink bubblegum blazer and dark denim skinny jeans. I would wear my oversized baby pink blouse with the smocked cuffs over a pair of black tights, bottomed with black heeled oxfords. I can recall more outfits, but I see where I unknowingly began to fall in love with pink on my chocolate skin. Raven’s style had been maturing since she graduated from high school. She began to wear oversized gray and noir cardigans. She wore knee length dresses with flats or chic business casual heels. I remember one fall family outing we had in Decatur. Raven wore a knee length mustard dress with caramel brown Moccasins that met right in the middle of her knee. She, of course, also had on a cardigan. Scarves, cardigans, and a nice shoe were all my sister’s “things.” Throughout her grown and chic palette of clothing, I had rarely seen her spice it up with pink. Maybe it’s because we barely hung around each other. We became close again my freshman year of college. We began to talk more frequently on the phone as I made grocery runs to Walmart alone. We went out together for my 19th birthday to Atlantic Station where she took me on a shopping spree. She knew about my tattoos and recommended my artist to her friends. She saved me and a friend from being stranded at Lenox mall, and she even took me to see Beyoncé. My mother never brought up how we became close again, but I knew she was happy. Raven died at the end of my first year of college and she was buried in a rose gold casket. I was gifted with a hot pink Furla bag from my cousin Gierra after she left Raven’s service to go back to St. Louis. I can’t recall why she did, but it was a generous asset to add to my back to pink collection. I was about to start my sophomore year of college, but my sister had just died. I couldn’t watch as Jullian and Pops brought in her things from her apartment. She had loads of shoes, clothes, nail polishes etc., and now it was all stored in Mommy’s basement. It was perhaps four weeks prior to the semester starting that she died, and two weeks after death that I took a peak in the basement to see Raven. Jullian came in there with me since I asked, and we just went through her things like nosy kids do. I would pick up then put down some things, because I couldn’t help but swell up. She kept a pink & purple manicure set Mommy bought for us both. The whole set was there. I couldn’t even start to recall where mines had gone. She kept a pink & purple pillow that Mommy had also bought for us both. I used to carry mine in 7th grade to sleep in class, with my MP3 player stashed in a little break of the pillow’s thread. I saw the peach-pink Michael Kors purse she was gifted with at her graduation party smushed underneath other designer leather bags. I saw pink, pink, pink. I thought she had fallen out of love with the color all of the years as her style matured. I hadn’t even made it to the other side of the basement, yet my hands touched so much of her pink things. I had never been in her more recent apartments. I began to wonder what they had looked like. The cheetah and pink decorations my mother would rave about in her home that I now would never be able to see. Had we grown so distant? My mind lingered with many what-ifs and regrets. It was while I was peeling through my sister’s belongings that I found an unopened pink yoga mat. I looked at the label’s picture which showed the mat laid out with the words, “Pray Continually, Be Joyful, Give Thanks Always” printed across. The semester following my sister’s death I returned to school having barely spoken a word about the huge losses I suffered that summer. I had been hospitalized for depression and anxiety, I lost my significant other, and to top it all off —my sister passed away. I still attended school despite the emotionally tumultuous summer I had had. I made plenty of friends based off of my fashion my sophomore year of college. My style was mature, eclectic, but still screamed conviction and demeanor. As my style grew, so did my closet of pink assets. I began to get more and more comfortable with how I looked in pink, so every store visit my hand touched something pink. On Valentine’s Day, I wore my high waisted neon pink shorts with a blush pink blouse that buttoned all the way to the nape of my neck. The cuffs were belled then buttoned, and they peaked out from the sleeves of my bubblegum INC blazer. I strode around campus that day in my white stockings and snakeskin egg-shell heels with a red lollipop in my mouth. I even remember a pink dish set that my mother gifted me with. A friend in an art club I was a part of came over to my dorm one night for a movie. I told him to wash my dishes out after he used them and I walked out of the kitchen back to my room. When I returned, he was scrubbing away with my pink dish loofah. Mind you, there were at least two other dish sets to choose from which were my roommates. I asked him how he knew which one was mine and he said, “I don’t know, I just figured it looked like you.” By now I had acquired a baby pink oversized fur coat, a pink cropped fur jacket, pink raincoat, blush pink curtains, and had an entire bedroom styled in only baby pinks with sexy bubblegum colored rugs. My life began to get consumed by the color that I couldn’t separate myself from incorporating it in everything, even in the smallest things. I remember the second Christmas that came without Raven being present. I bought my family three gifts each, and the third gift was small, but special. It was the second Christmas my boyfriend and I were together and he had been teaching me about crystals. The third gift that I bought for all of my family was a rose quartz crystal necklace that I stored inside individual pink suede gift boxes. I bought them from a friend from the tribe, and had him custom wrap their crystals. We took a picture together on my polaroid camera after he was done. I told them to unwrap this last gift together when it was time to give out my gifts. I remember everyone being excited about them, but I specifically watched for Mommy’s face. I didn’t get her a crystal necklace like everyone else’s since I knew she wouldn’t like it. So I bought her a rose quartz bracelet. Their gifts were physically small, but it was the cherry on top for all of their gifts because of what the crystal meant: love, partnership, and compassion, but on top of that top --it’s color is pink. I chose the stone to symbolize our Raven always watching over us. My brother lets his dangle from his rearview mirror in his Nissan Maxima, Monette. My nephew’s crystal turned translucent after overwearing it. I never saw my oldest sister nor my dad wear theirs, but Mommy told me verbally that she liked her bracelet --although I had never seen her wear hers either. My partner and I had just finished watching the remake of the movie Witches, and I was struck by Anne Hathaway’s purple ensembles which did the original film justice. The best description I can give of her looks in the film are Devil Wears Prada meets modern day evil Disney queens. Her looks were truly stunning, but it was one specific outfit that took the cake. It was the scene where the witches revealed their bald heads. Anne Hathaway was the head witch, so she wore the finest garments. This bubblegum pink peacoat with the giant bow screamed head chick in charge, but it was when she dropped the peacoat to the floor that we really got busy. She was wearing a royal purple dress that was adorned with a jeweled snake that wrapped around the frame of the dress and tailed at the end. It was so striking that my eyes popped. I went to sleep with the jaw dropping ensemble still on my mind, but what woke me up wasn’t as pleasant. I thought about Anne Hathway’s pink & purple ensemble, but this thought catalyzed something that I guess already lay dormant in me. It was in the middle of my slumber when I realized that all of my favorite things, my most prized possessions —were all pink & purple. I jerked up from my sleep in awe as my eyes searched around the dark room and spotted pastel pink and lavender bushels of flowers, rich violet and hot pink clothes palettes, blush curtains with cotton lilacs and brown stems draping through the holes. For God’s sake my entire room is pink & purple! My last apartment’s room was monochromatic pink with lavender colored Asian ornaments. What is wrong with me? My mind searched the room for more and more pinks & purples. Did I really live my life so vicariously that I hadn’t realized I immersed myself in pinks & purples? Since my epiphany, now everywhere I turn the colors stand out to me like a sore thumb. I catch the two colors out of the corner of my eye —almost as if they are watching over me. A friend of mine went out to eat with me at Mangoes on Edgewood Ave. for my 24th birthday. She brought me a bouquet of fuchsia pink roses alongside a bottle of Pink Moscato. In a week and some change --the roses began to fade into an ombre pink with a deep violet hue. I catch the two colors out of the corner of my eye —almost as if they are watching over me. My father gifted me this Christmas with a long purple robe, and while on my Christmas vacay, I noticed a large number of women in New Orleans donning purple. My partner’s mother adorns herself in purple constantly since it’s her favorite color, but this year was my first time acknowledging how royal the color made her bathroom look. It was an ordinary dalmatian tile bathroom, but the color took its design to a more graceful level with the purple hand towels and silver and purple complementary ornaments. She made the color fit her “klass.” I can even recall one Mother’s Day when his mother glided across the floor of the church in a magenta satin button down evening dress, while wearing large jeweled studs that complimented the dress’ shade. When we returned from New Orleans on New Years Eve, we decided to grab Gut Busters for breakfast. As I sat in front of the Gut Busters on New Years Eve contemplating my goals for the new year, I noticed a pink & purple neon ‘open’ sign blinking letter by letter behind a potbellied Santa Claus eating a po’boy sandwich. I pointed out to my partner later that night how I never noticed the colors in my face --always dangling like a carrot in front of me. He responded, “So what are you going to do with those colors?” Kandice Fowlkes Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Vinyle Zine Savvi Word Tech B.A. English www.vinylezine.com E: email@example.com
The ATLien Rap Game - A13Mando
When it comes to music --good tunes can never go out of style. Atlanta is a music hub everyone flocks to in order to let their voices be heard, but it is the true vocalists who are able to fully penetrate our souls --and our pockets. Did you hear the cha-ching with those last concert tickets? Atlanta is becoming an over saturated melting pot of various arts from films, fashion, to keeping the title as the glorious hair mecca! But, music will always be what Atlanta is known for as we are the southern leaders of Hip-Hop. I asked Armando, "A13Mando," how does his music express his soul. As an Atlanta native, I was interested to see how he thinks what he does really reflects his soul. "My soul purpose in music is to not have my voice be ignored. I feel I was predestined for greatness, and I refuse to let anyone stop me from it. My message of self confidence and freely speaking is something that can never be removed from my lyrics. I was born as an ATLien in the southside of the city. In my hometown, many creatives feel repressed because they are not supported to fully express themselves, in fact it's just the opposite for me. I can not leave this world, knowing that people still don't understand the power in creative expression. I'm a mediator for the misunderstood, a champion of the people, I Am A13mando." Handles everywhere: @a13mando
Breaking Barriers- Fatoumata Barry, "The Holistic Wellness Coach"
Mental health awareness has always been a burning passion of mines for outreach --specifically to Black creatives who struggle standing in the power of their identity. This Black Owned Business (BOB) really stood out to me amongst the many I've worked with in my past for Vinyle zine, because she is the first wellness practitioner I've come across in the millennial BOB pool. I am certain that their are others that model her same values, but once I began to read her articles and what she is trying to bring to Black women and men -I was instantly drawn in. Mental Health and holistic health are starting to transition from being a once taboo topic in the Black community, to something we can feel slightly more easy about opening those cans of worms. Nonetheless, the transition is still in its adolescence, and plenty more work still needs to be done in order to finally break generational cycles. I asked Fatoumata my favorite question, "how does your work express your soul?" I believe the soul should always provide the framework for any pursuit driven by passion and relentless hustle; ideally, our opinions matched. Here is what she has to say: " I work as a holistic wellness coach. I specifically focus on empowering people to create a sacred space for themselves through mindset work, and self-care practices that allow growth in all areas of their life. The soul is known to be the driver of the body. My work as a wellness coach is an expression of my soul, because it literally is where my soul has always driven me towards ever since I can remember. I've always wanted to be in a field that’s about helping people, especially people who look like me. As a Black woman, I felt driven to create a space that allowed conversation about Black mental health. I work to encourage Black people, especially women, to put themselves above everything else. We live in a world where Black women will show up for everyone, but no one really shows up for us. My platform is built to allow Black women the freedom to discover and affirm to themselves all that they are deserving of in this world. It is also a place where they can work on healing and finding balance in all areas of their lives. The best part of my work is that I get to show up as my full authentic self by choosing to also be transparent about my own mental health, and sharing my wellness journey on the Positive Exchange Blog. I don’t have to pretend to be a perfect human. I show up with my heart and soul, while my physical body serves and delivers the message that allows all of my clients to feel empowered and live their best lives. I get excited when I complete a self work coaching session, and my client says something along the lines of , “I feel so inspired,” or, “this has really helped me refocus my goals,” or even “I'm hopeful.” That’s what brings a smile to my soul! In my wellness shop you can find my Balance Affirmation Cards. This 35-card deck of affirmations focuses on balancing the 7 chakras in our body. All affirmations speak love, health, abundance, and spirituality into our lives." Learn more about my 1:1 coaching and wellness programs Instagram : @ positiveexchangewellness @___f.barry Website: Positiveexchangewellness.com
Black In Love- Nailah Herbert Photography
If you've ever shot with Nailah Herbert, then you'll notice how her and her camera are in sinew as they move around their muse. The recent newlywed shared with us the meaning behind her photography that she felt best she could explain. Honestly, pictures are worth the 500 words we asked her for when articulating how her artwork expresses her soul. Nonetheless, here is what she has to say. My photography is an expression of my soul because I love to capture the moments. I love taking photos of people or flowers. I like taking pictures of flowers, mainly because it’s a God-given gift to man and woman. We can use flowers and herbs to heal our body, mind, and spirit. I love finding the beauty in things. When I see the beauty in people, flowers, and things, beauty then turns around and sees the beauty in me. I capture photos, but my camera encaptures me. For more of Nailah Herbert's photography and art, tagged below are her social media handles. IG: @photobynailah @herbnailah
If You're Reading This --Learn to Thrive in a Black World
Despite the media distractions going on around us, the mission is still the same --to build a Black world where we capitalize off of ourselves. If you're reading this, that means you haven't experienced what it feels like to be a #hashtag yet in your community. You haven't experienced what it feels like to watch from the Kingdom as your family and friends keep your name alive through reposts, hashtags, and countless protests to seek justice --for you. I used the word "yet," because any of us can become a target or a hashtag in a matter of seconds. We can all become that hashtag, but it is what we do habitually for the Black community which will pivot the change for the American future. This future includes learning to thrive in a Black world. The social injustice African-American communities are rendered has catalyzed the millennial cult to shift its perspective to the ascension of the Black community.This catalytic uprising is typically cyclical following the murders of Black men, police brutality, and the need to fracture the canon of internal oppression. But our millennials are showing that if change is needed, it starts with us. From this, we have gotten a plethora of Black productivity’s such as the highly credible Black Lives Matter activism and awareness movement, GoCapway -a Black owned financial institution which teaches economic literacy, and creative productions such as Tyler Perry studios —and Vinyle zine, a Black owned editorial hub showcasing the various creative disciplines by African-American artists. These are all different functionalities that are still imperative to making a world go round- and helping to teach the value of circulating the Black dollar within the African-American community whether knowingly or not. In total, no matter what career choice you pursue -you are still a valuable asset to the economy of the world you invest your dollar in. “Cash rules everything around me -C.R.E.A.M,” isn’t just a catchy song by the Wu-Tang clan, the hook is a living statement that holds prevalence to how money does make our world go round. Rappers drop financial dimes just as much as they do misogynistic lyrics. They drop dimes about the new cars, clothes, or paraphernalia they’ve just invested in -or like Jay-Z, who dropped a whole track dedicated to taking money from whatever source you’re getting it from, and buying back Black residential areas. The building blocks to capital wealth are steep and it takes great discipline, but I am here to say that you can start the foundation by doing two things: 1. Investing in a Black Owned Business (BOB) 2. Investing in oneself. How can you expect to be a millionaire if you cannot save $10,000? How can you expect your friend’s BOB to prosper if him/ she does not have supporters. The problem to the solution starts with the one who holds the dollar. If you want to save $10,000, you must first learn to save $1,000. This means with every check you receive, put money into your business piggy bank to help start/ continue your business. If you want the Black community’s businesses small and large to ascend -the power starts with disciplining where your dollar is going. The conscious efforts to no longer invest in capitalistic companies that condone systematic oppression, value economic goods over the lives of a race, or render inequitable services based on race, gender or any other associations is what will be the way to dismantle the corruption of this country; but still bridge a new pathway to a prosperous world. A Black World. I am still a student of financial ethicacies, but I understand its power greatly —so I will share a closing story. I attended a film screening by director Althea Brown in 2016, when she debuted her documentary, A Trek to the River’s Edge. The documentary was screened at Hammond’s House, a museum around the corner from my undergraduate HBCU, and the documentary regarded the Atlanta Student Movement of the 1960’s -history that I was coincidentally just learning as a freshman at Clark Atlanta University. It was the closing of my freshman year and my mind was already stockpiled with Black history, but it didn’t hurt to attend a film screening. Plus, what I had learned that day was pivotal. In Brown’s documentary, the narrators who were the original creators of the movement spoke about the various civil rights strikes going on during the 60’s. One of the stories recounted was the foreclosure of all the Rich’s department stores. It piqued my attention because I favored Rich’s as a child because my mother loved to shop there. We would stop at South Dekalb mall Rich’s, and tear through their clothing from the clearance racks, run through the aisles playing hide-and-seek behind pale mannequins, beg our mother for $0.25 to buy bubblegum from the big old gum ball machine. I hadn’t heard the name in years, but the memories that resurfaced were completely contrary to the statements made by the 1960’s activists. Montages of protest footage was displayed across the screen showing the racial disparities Black people faced from the company until they said “no more.” During this time, Black people avidly shopped at Rich’s, but the value of their dollar was still undermined, and they were poorly serviced or not serviced at all. In turn, Black people began to boycott Rich’s. The boycotts were the initial thing, but what followed was the consistent discipline to no longer support this business because they did not value their humanity no matter how green their money was. In the end, the money did the talking. Rich’s department stores began to close down nationwide, and one of the last ones standing closed in the early 2000’s down the street from my mother’s house. I was nineteen watching that film, and no information about Black history prior to that day reflected how much value the Black dollar was really worth. This was my enlightening experience that it is possible to dismantle a systematic corruption, while building and capitalizing off of your own.
Vinyle Talks w/ 34 Young Cash
Vinyle is introducing a new segment called "Vinyle Talks," and our first Vinyle Talks is with Atlanta rapper, 34 Young Cash. We caught up with the Atlanta native to ask him our favorite question, "how does your artwork express your soul?" 34 also dropped some helpful tips for upcoming artists getting their feet wet in the music industry, and even some that are on the intermediate level. Regardless of whatever discipline you're in, support this young rapper as he documents his journey, and shares his story with you. Follow this link to our interview with the rapper.
Brandon Hardy Enterprises: The Name You'll Want to Know
I personally think it's hard not to flaunt when you got it like that. But, for Brandon Hardy, being smooth never looked so humbly. For this month's BOB, I'm Ready (Black Owned Business) feature, Brandon Hardy Enterprises (BHE) was spotlighted as our soul capture. Hailing from Atlanta, GA, Brandon Hardy -CEO and Founder- has been growing his platform of instilling self-confidence in the youth, and advocating for maximizing potential regardless of circumstance prior to his college matriculation beginnings. Now post-graduation, Brandon Hardy views the world as a sea of opportunity, versus obstacles. At Vinyle, we view anything stemming from the African Diaspora as art since the Black community is the most viably notable appropriated culture, so of course we view Brandon's humanitarianism through his clothing line as a dutiful job curated by a fellow running mate. We asked Brandon how does his artwork express his soul, here's what he has to say. "Being smooth never looked so humbly"- KRF In late March when I decided to start my own company I had no idea what I wanted to do. What I did know was that we were in a Global Pandemic, I was sent home from school during the last couple months of my senior year of college, and I needed to be creative. Thus, I started my own company, with a vision of inspiring others to seek greatness through the various companies that I want to start up. Brandon Hardy Enterprises or simply BHE is a management company, I wanted BHE to be a conglomerate company to manage all my companies. It is the Parent Company. The first company that I launched was my clothing line, BHARDY CLOTHING. The goal of BHARDY CLOTHING is to encourage customers to be authentic, expressive, unique, and simply to BE YOU. This is very important to me, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” In today’s world being true to who you are is not easy, it takes courage, grit, and leadership (all characteristics are my companies core values). I wanted to create something special, something that was consistent with who I am and that is what I did. My work is a replica of me; thus it is an expression of my soul. I have always been against the status quo, I am bold, unique, and very expressive and although that comes with controversy, I want my customers to know that it is okay to be YOURSELF. This brand is about authenticity it is about self-love and self-expression, these are things that come from my soul. I embrace being me, I love being me, and I want to inspire that in others. In my opinion, people today are more willing to be conformist, and they are unsure of who they are or what their purpose is or should be. I want BHARDY CLOTHING to help change that. This is my purpose and I want to fulfill it.
Instagram: Personal Bhardy__ Twitter: Personal Bhardy___
Instagram: Company Bhardy.Clothing Twitter: Company BHE_BHARDY
Unique Beats All - SaseeChic music
Ordinary has become the new "weird," so from there on --one must continue to find a way to be unique in a forever changing atmosphere. Benny James, i.e. SaseeChic, is the artist/ producer that will continue to update his portfolio with more content contrary to the norms. the artistry in his photography are thematic and out of this world, but his music was a change of tempo so we had to ask our favorite question, "how does your artwork express your soul?" Here's what he has to say. Have you ever had nervous energy hit the pit of your stomach and didn't know why? I realized it was an overwhelming feeling to create. Something that would hit my eyes or ears a certain way to let me know it was worthwhile. A simplistic composition that is all based on mood. Whether photography or music it has to command my attention. If not images or sounds are perused until something speaks or it’s revisited later. The photography is a reflection of whatever I feel like the visual reality is. No rhyme or reason just what resides in my world. Something diverse from mainstream. Pop Culture, Hip Hop to Anime. The music is meant to be played in the background for one’s daily life. Picture instrumentals playing in the back --helping to push your day along in a good way. Played anywhere and anytime. Think being in a chill mood after a long stressful day, entertaining guests, exercising, traveling, intimacy or simply to close your eyes to relax. If this is you? Here’s your soundtrack. SaseeVille by SaseeChic EP Now Streaming https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/saseechic/saseeville-2 Benny James Artist/Producer SaseeChic Music Social Media @saseechicmusic @iambennyjames