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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

"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 E:

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:

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 Benny James Artist/Producer SaseeChic Music Social Media @saseechicmusic @iambennyjames

Come Learn w/Bearfootx - Music/ Poetry

I don't think humans experience enough rawness in their day -no sexual innuendos intended. I am discussing authenticity being dispersed which hopefully helps others see there is nothing to fear when being oneself. Bearfootx incites a rawness that is unfiltered, uncanny, and un-abiding. But enough about what I think of him, read his own perspective of how his artwork expresses his soul. Such a wonderful question! I’d like to first say I appreciate the opportunity to be featured on here. The best way to explain it is that, my art has been a big key in my vulnerability towards family, friends, strangers of all kinds and especially for myself. My work expresses the full honest life of an aboriginal man living in a corrupt system; which has left a generation of beautiful beings to not only heal themselves, but the world we’re living in. My art shows the duality of life --the ups and downs-- while taking a hard look in the mirror of my own reflection to make sure I’m becoming my best self everyday. At times it can come off as dark, but that's the point of the duality of life I’m trying to depict. As one of my favorite quotes by Alan Watts says, “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance,” which means to me --to make real change you have to face your demons head on and as vulnerable as possible to accept and see real change. Making music and poetry has been a journey especially since I started it all studying film, but life has its ways of pushing you towards your destination whether I like it or not. To think that I was only freestyling and making poetry to help express my thoughts, to now seeing people not only enjoy it, but understanding. I also have some of the greatest friends a human can have, it honestly has been the biggest blessing for me this year and this year has been pretty rough to be frank. But you can find me on Soundcloud, Instagram, and Spotify at Bearfootx. I have a new EP coming out soon named. My neck of the woods: Karma’s Lust. It is a journey of love, heartbreak, healing and self love. It is also the first of many projects and collaborations soon to come with me and a few of my beautiful friends that I can’t wait to show to the world. A{Poem} : Bare in Years For the first time in years I cried, happiness with tears I never thought in a lifetime I’d be facing my fears Up against my own peers For the first time in years The spotlight on bear People aware, paid attention they care ‘bout every word out my mouth like king why was you scared For the first time in years My emotions out in the air Like who cares their right there It’s ok to be bare

The Sunflower That Grew From the Concrete- Nadiyah Gulley, Stylist

'The sunflower that grew from the concrete,' isn't a story I've ever heard, but I bet if I were to ask Nadiyah Gulley what it means to her, she'll paint herself as the Sunflower protagonist. Conviction might be an understatement when it comes to this woman's ferocity, but her soul is epic when poured into her work. It speaks volumes, just scroll below and see for yourself. Regardless, we asked Nadiyah to express her words of how the artwork she does expresses her soul, here's what she has to say. To me, styling is a judgment free vision of the world and who I truly am. It is my ambitions, sexuality, and conscious connection with the universe all wrapped up in one. It's the art of self expression, giving a chance to be as feminine or as risqué as one desires. Like my personality, my styles keep you on your toes. I like to keep it bold by using patterns and colors along with pieces that go against the grain of trendy Prêt-à- porter fashions. When styling, my inner fascinations with meaningful decades from the 20's thru 70's, (when women were rebellious, talented, and classy) started to appear. No matter if they are corporate cuties or eccentric musicians, I channel my inner Josephine's and Betty's to bring my clients' rebellious ambitions to life! The evidence is in my company, Swanky D's which consists of strong and uniquely themed concepts. During the naming process, I made sure to pick a word that captures the essence of my soul and brand -hence the word Swanky meaning stylish and luxurious. All of these adjectives capture the balance of my free spirit and corporate lifestyle within the brand. Nadiyah Gulley Owner of Swanky D's Ig:@swankyds_fashion Fb business page: Swanky D's Linked:Nadiyah Gulley

Celestial Divinity in Art- Bri Simpson, Artist

Art should entice your mood, no matter which direction the piece shifts your emotional balance. The feeling of serenity, balance, and power could be the adjectives to describe your wave of emotions when viewing Bri Simpson's artwork. A lot of purple covers the bodies of her painted women, and something so tranquil about their poses are striking in pondering, 'what was the artist thinking?' So we asked the artist, Bri Simpson, our favorite question here at Vinyle. "How does your artwork express your soul?" Here's what she has to say. Painting has always been therapeutic for me. I would finish my homework in college so I could have weekends to myself filling my room with new artwork. There is something magical about taking raw materials and building these worlds for others to experience. As a kid, I loved art, but for a while, I struggled with connecting to what I saw in museums and textbooks. The women in the paintings I would see didn’t look like me. The artwork hanging up in galleries wasn't colorful or vibrant. Then when it came to black art, there always seemed to be a focus on particular times in history. Slavery and sharecroppers, civil rights, and social commentary. I longed for something more, something different. When I started participating in art shows after undergrad, it was an eye-opening experience. Here I was, traveling up and down the east coasts to cities I'd never been to before, completely vulnerable, and on display. People would come over and start asking questions, and the next thing I knew, I was having these long conversations with strangers about self-care and womanhood. Over the years, my artwork has grown from being this simple act of self-care into an entire experience. Now when I go to create, I think of the stories I can tell; I choose the colors with intentions; I'm more conscious about who my audience is. I'm also more aware of the fact that who I was when I started painting is different now. My art is always changing, always growing, and still exploring new ideas. As I grow and experience new things in life, it shows in my work. The biggest take away I want people to get from my art is that black art can be more than just the pains and sadness black people have experienced. Black art can be colorful, spiritual, feminine, and enchanting. I want black women, especially to be able to see themselves in my work, as these divine, multifaceted beings. During this time of global shift, it’s becoming more apparent that we all have talents and gifts to share with the world. I hope to continue to use my platform to celebrate and uplift black women and black art overall.