Black Musicians!

Hello FYM Project Readers!

Remember art appreciation month? Well, I really liked finding and showcasing the different talents, so I decided to dedicate a whole month to one form of artistic expression and this month is MUSIC!

music monthMany say music is a universal language, it connects people. Despite language, class, race or space; music brings people together and influences the masses. My favorite thing is that music is like an infinite treasure chest. There is always something new to discover or old to find. Some of my best moments were through music: Getting a standing ovation at my piano recital in the 3rd grade. Singing with my middle school choir. Driving in the summer time, with my new license, windows down and “It’s Love” by Jill Scott blaring through the speakers!

And for many of us, along with the songs we adore, we admire musicians as well. Whether its their style or their spirit, female musicians stand as role models for generations. Billie Holiday, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Tina Turner,  Anita Baker, Sade, Whitney Houston, En Vogue, Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, TLC, Aaliyah, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, India Airie, Janelle Monae, Emeli Sande, Esperanza Spalding and countless others

…all artists that have reached timelessness and have changed the way black women are perceived and how they perceived themselves. Music is an iconic part of our culture that shapes society. It enables everyone to create their own soundtrack for their life. No matter what, there is always a song to fit the mood. Therefore, this month is dedicated to celebrating and appreciating female musicians. For those who play, those who sing and those who just love to listen.

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All About the Business!

Hello FYM Project Readers!

As we enter a new month (and hopefully spring), I encourage all of us to start new projects! A friend told me that the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to working is that “it’s always better to work for yourself, than for somebody else.”

When it comes to the 9 to 5 grind, I know a lot of us see it as a necessary evil. We all got bills or we will soon…But have any of you ever considered pursuing another route? Ever had an idea or a passion that’s a hobby that you’re committed to? Ever considered turning it into a business?

Now I am not saying drop your day job, that’s a very romantic notion that not all of us can afford at the moment. But instead of just settling for that one paycheck, think of starting a small business of your own on the side. A little extra pocket money never hurt anybody. Like making jewelry or art, can you do hair, do you love writing? Make an Instagram or Facebook page advertising your goods or skills. Start making customized birthday cards for your friends and family. Start doing your roommates’ hair. Can you sew? Make an Etsy page advertising your handmade goods. Love to bake? Try to cater a friend’s birthday or baby shower. You can turn nearly any skill into a profit. Start small and see how it grows, you never know! With all of the social networks out there today, there are countless venues where you can advertise and network, its all about putting yourself out there!

And even if you don’t want to commit to starting your own business, find one of your passions and pursue a career in that. If your job involves something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Therefore, March on the blog will be dedicated to celebrating and connecting young black businesswomen! I’ll be featuring two ladies who’ve started their own clothing store, a woman whose made some big moves in journalism and overall tips when it comes resume building, the job search and job interviews.

Have a business you’d like me to feature? Email me and I’ll feature you on the instagram page and write a short blurb for the blog 🙂

“Creating New Spaces”

KESIA ALEXANDRAKesia

Age: 23

Occupation: Student at Boston University

Hometown: Washington, DC

What originally drew you to writing?

I read a lot as a kid because my mother made me. Eventually it became something I enjoyed doing…Boxcar Children, Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, Goosebumps… just to name a few titles. I think I was originally drawn to writing because it was a way to tell stories without getting in trouble for lying. The first time that I remember writing a story was in third grade. I know I was coming up with stories before that because I would talk to myself a lot as a kid, and get in trouble for it. Which made me feel really embarrassed but I basically get it. When I see little kids talk to themselves it freaks me out too. But I still talk to myself a lot.

In eighth grade I tried to write my first book. There might be a copy of it somewhere. I lived in a house with a lot of kids. We would have writing competitions and everyone always liked my stories the best. Also every Monday I would come in to school with a new story from the weekend. My friends and I would sit on the windowsill and I would tell them whatever the story was. These weren’t made up stories; they were stories about what had happened to me over the weekend. Something was always happening to me over the weekend. That first book I tried to write was really bad though. I remember one of my friends telling me that.

Also in eighth grade I got in trouble for a gossip blog about my classmates. This might have been one of the most important things that happened to me in terms of writing.

My mother didn’t care about me getting in trouble for the blog. When the principal sent her what I had written alls she said was “wow, this is good.” I didn’t even know that it was. I was just bored and wanted to mess with people. Anyway my mom decided then that we should start writing a book together. I agreed because I was in eighth grade and didn’t have anything else to do. But that’s why the gossip thing was so important. Because if I hadn’t done that, my mom might not have found out I was good at writing and never would have encouraged me to pursue it. A large reason I’ve made it this far in academia is because of her encouragement.

When I got to college I started taking writing classes and that’s where I am now.

Why do you like writing?

There are a lot of things I actually like a lot more than writing. I used to play the violin and the bassoon. I was okay at them but they were never the logical response to negative or exciting events in my life. Playing instruments was never the thing my gut told me to do when something happened. Music is life, I’ve heard a lot of people say that. That’s probably because they have musical talent. I wasn’t blessed with musical talent. I was blessed with writing talent. That’s just the way it is. I always wanted to sing or be really good at playing instruments. One girl I use to live with was an amazing violinist. It doesn’t matter how much I practiced, I could never be as good as she was. It came naturally to her. Writing comes naturally to me.

Book Cover for "Freshman Year: Bullies Beware!"

Book Cover for “Freshman Year: Bullies Beware!”

Anything you’re working on now?

My mother and I wrote a book together called “Freshman Year: Bullies Beware!”. That book is not based on my life, which a lot of people ask me, but it is based on a lot of stuff that I saw happen or was told about happening at private schools in the DC area. I wasn’t bullied by kids in the private school system. Not in the outright way that some people I’ve known have been. In fact, I was actually called a bully on a couple occasions, the gossip blog and when I made the dean of students cry in front of the entire school (which landed me a four day suspension).  

But, I was bullied by the faculty a lot. I see now that they probably thought they were doing me a favor. Letting me know my place as a poor black girl in the world. However, that failed.

But we didn’t write about my experience being bullied because it’s a much heavier issue to talk about a child being bullied by adults. And it’s also less common in this context. It was a very particular case. For me to write about it as fiction would be pointless. Anyone who was at my school would know it was a real situation; but I would actually want people to know that because those people really tried to f*** with me. But it’s a different story for a different time…

Anyway, in the book, the Tiara Johnson character is much more wholesome than I am. I think people will really like her a lot. She’s smart, athletic, level headed and I intentionally made her this way. She’s the type of person anyone would want to be friends with, however, racism is a main issue she encounters. Also her family is wealthy, another intentional characteristic, because it shows that it doesn’t matter what your background is, if someone is racist, their perverted concept of blackness is all that they care about and all that they see when they look at you. I wanted to write a story that showcases how even in “privileged” environments, many still struggle with unfairness and judgement.

Can you talk about the process for publishing your book?

We knew we wanted to publish independently for a lot of reasons. For one thing, we need the money. My mother has two kids in college. Funds are tight. We didn’t have space to be giving money to publishing companies for doing the advertising work for us. This is ten years of work. We didn’t do all of that to only walk away with 20% or whatever it would be.

Also we wanted to be honest and a lot of publishing companies have been known to mess with black characters and change who they are. Make them more “urban” or stereotypical. I used to do interviews for the Amsterdam News and a lot of authors told me about their experiences with this and it’s really horrible. It wasn’t worth our time to explain to anyone who didn’t already get it, that wealthy black girls exist. I’m not one of them but I went to private school and I’ve studied briefly at Howard and I know that they’re there. There are even a good handful at BU.

My mom had been contacted years back by an Englishman who was really interested in another book she’s written, for adults. He was pressuring her to sell the story so hard that she was like, “this must be better than I thought.” So she did all the research for independent avenues.

A lot of people think that if something is published independently it might not be as good as things published through established companies. That’s not necessarily true. The piece is edited by professionals. We paid for that service. The difference between independent publishing and going with a company is the risk. If we don’t sell a certain number of copies, we don’t make any money and that’s on us. With a publishing company you get paid upfront and you sell your work to them. You no longer own it. But the thing about that is you know the company will push the text for you, because they’ve invested in it. Well most of the time. With self-publishing, you have to push the text yourself. Which means you have to make people believe in you. That is a lot of work, but we’re hoping to do it right. My mother and I know a lot of people who believe in us. We wouldn’t have taken this risk if we didn’t.

What would you like to do in the future with your writing?

I have a lot of things on my computer that are finished and ready to go. So does my mother. There are a lot of reasons why we had to wait so long to publish. Family things. But over that period of time we were still working. My mom has about six books completed. I have three.

“Freshman Year…” Is part of a series. We’re working on the second book now. I really love it and I’m having a lot of fun with the characters.

There is something we’re working on that I can’t really discuss yet but it will open the door for other writers of color, which is one of our goals. There’s nothing wrong with Urban Lit (Hood lit, hood erotica, etc) and I really mean NOTHING is wrong with it. But there have to be platforms for black writers who are writing other things. And it has to be consistent. Not just one person of color a year in some mainstream publication. We’re trying to make a new space for that.

Want to see more of Kesia? Check her out on these other sites:

Instagram: kesiaalexandra

Tumblr: freekeewee

Facebook: Kesia Alexandra

kesialexandra.wordpress.com

For the Love of Writing

Instead of going the traditional route for February and having the theme be

relationships or love, I’ve decided to focus on Black Female writers for this month! I’ve always had a love for reading and recently began writing more, mainly for my blog 🙂 Reading has always been a form of escapism for me. Any time of the day, I can immerse myself in an entirely different life or world if I wanted to. And writing has given me another form of expression; a way to vent while still keeping my thoughts to myself. As I’ve gotten older, through college but also through blogging, reading and writing has become a large part of my life.

So this month on the blog, I’ve decided to celebrate black women who write. Poetry, short stories, novels, fan fiction, everything! If you have work that you’d like me to post, email me at raven.best5@gmail.com 😀

The Myth of the “Strong Black Woman”

How many times have you heard about the “Strong Black Woman?” What do you

know about her?

She doesn’t take any mess. She’s independent. She sacrifices. She often puts the  needs of her loved ones before herself. She doesn’t always do what she wants to do,

For many of us, when we think of that title, we think of our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends and ourselves. We claim that title with pride.

But is there ever a time when that title can cause more harm than good? When many of us see a ‘strong black woman’ we assume she is bulletproof, an impenetrable force that never falters. However, this also leads us to assume that strong black women are unemotional, that they are too busy and responsible to hurt or feel pain. And oftentimes, in an attempt to fulfill this image, many of us ignore our own feelings. Pushing away feelings and people instead of addressing them. Tell ourselves to “suck it up” and “move on.” Never let them see you cry. But strength is not the absence of emotion and showing a vulnerable side does not necessarily make you weak.

In fact, to me, those who can show their pain, speak on whatever flaws they have and express what upsets them but still have the perseverance to keep moving, are the strongest of all. For the many of us who strive to be a “strong black woman” and unfortunately put our needs and feelings on the wayside in the process, we are only selling ourselves short. Internalizing emotions causes unnecessary stress that takes a toll on our relationships and ourselves. Black women suffer the most from undiagnosed diseases, both mental and physical. Often because we have learned to suppress rather than to express and cope. You’d be surprised at what relief you’d feel when you allow yourself to release whatever tensions you’ve pent up inside of yourself.

There is nothing wrong with being strong, but not at the expense of emotional health. So, when you’re feeling depressed, angry, annoyed, frustrated, whatever; don’t bury it. Find an outlet, whether it be writing, running, cooking, drawing, dancing, a girls night or just a day to yourself; make the time and take care of yourself. Emotions are not a bad or irrational thing. Owning them, addressing them and learning to control them takes strength and time, but can be so beneficial and rewarding. Don’t fall for the myth of the strong black woman.

The Most Important Relationship…

For many of us, ever since we were little girls we’ve fantasized about love: planning our wedding dress, getting Barbie ready for her date with Ken, reading magazines about the do’s and don’ts of dating. Even our favorite Disney heroine has to find her Prince Charming. For women, it seems like the pinnacle of life is to find that significant other…

But what we don’t learn about is how to fall in love with ourselves. It seems to be an assumption that we all just have it together, that we’re born with confidence, self-respect and love. But that can’t be farther from the truth, we have to be taught it and practice it. Today, women are constantly in the middle of a whirlwind of opinions:

What makes a woman beautiful? What makes a woman sexy?

How does a lady act? What is a turn off?

How to get a significant other? How to make your significant other stay?

The list goes on and on…But no one seems to be asking the important questions:

What makes you happy? Do you find yourself beautiful? How would you define yourself?

Do you even like who you are?

So many of us are concerned with fitting into society’s preconceived (and often narrow) categories of what it means to be a woman and a spouse in the hopes of being accepted, that we forget to assess our own needs and desires. Being in a relationship does not prove anything. Being single does not mean you’re lonely and being in a relationship doesn’t always make you happy. Before you can give love to anyone in any kind of relationship, you need to have love to give.

It begins with you; once you recognize and own the power and regalness you were blessed with, no one can take it from you. Acknowledge and accept your flaws, they are what make you unique. Don’t compare yourself to others or try to meet others’ expectations, there are too many to satisfy. At the end of the day, the only opinion that matters concerning you is yours. Don’t depend on others for love, because if they go, so does their validation. Self-love is a journey that is never complete; some days you’ll feel like a queen and others…you might not. But despite the ups and downs of life, know that the most important relationship you have to maintain, is the one with yourself.

The Power of Music

LYNIQUElynique2

Age: 20

Occupation: Student- Junior

Hometown: Gaithersburg, MD

 

What is your favorite form of artistic expression?

My favorite form of artistic expression is music. I am a singer!!!! I sing just about every genre except for country and electronic. Music education is my major here at University of Maryland. My mother says I have been singing since before I could talk. There are many picture of me as a baby holding a mic and singing in my diapers. I loved everything about singing, just because it is an art form that involves the whole body. Although music is something we listen to, it is also something we watch and feel. Going to a concert we don’t want to just hear great music we want to see the artist having fun expressing every word of every song. So I guess I am in love with performing as well as music.

lynique1What are the hardest and best parts of how you express your art?

One of the best things about singing is that I can do it wherever I am because I carry my instrument with me. I am my instrument. The frustrating thing about that is if I am sick I cannot actually sing because my body is too weak to even begin to think about singing. Also, when I am learning a classical piece sometimes it is frustrating because I have to actually spend time learning the notes and rhythms to even begin making music. On the other hand it is a way to perfect the craft of music reading. A way for me to work on perfecting my ear is to listen to music of the Gospel or R&B genre and break apart harmonies. I love breaking harmonies and hearing them together it is one of the most satisfying feelings ever.

What inspires you when it comes to your art?

I feel inspired knowing that someone can be feeling down and they can listen to me sing and that immediately turns their mood around. The power of music is often overlooked. Music is a powerful experience for the performer and the audience. The thoughts that race through the mind during a performance cannot be explained. The emotion that the audience and performer feel cannot be explained. It is an extremely intimate experience but one that can impact life forever. It sounds cheesy I know but there is no other way to describe it.

What do you hope to do with your art in the future?

My plan is to become a music educator. I want to have some sort of impact on students lives. People say it all the time, “Children are the future!” It is a true statement and it actually inspires me. I believe that if the next generations could be inspired the way I was in elementary school then they have a chance to do something greater than the generation before.

Want to hear Lynique sing? Check out her youtube page!

“An Expression of Life…”

TAYLORTaylor2

Age: 21

Occupation/Placement in School: Dance Major at Alonzo King LINES Ballet B.F.A Program-Senior

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

What is your favorite form of artistic expression?  

I started dancing when I was eight years old and it has been a passion of mine ever since. I have trained in ballet, tap, hip-hop, jazz, and modern and now I have a love for contemporary ballet. I love the way I feel when I dance and I love to share my joy for this art form with all audiences. Additionally, I think it is the most beautiful art form because it is an expression of life itself.

 Taylor 1What are the hardest and best parts of how you express your art?

Honestly, training to be a dancer is very challenging. It is demanding not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally. Also, it requires an enormous amount of discipline and sacrifice. And through all of the hardships, it is incredibly rewarding. I love being able to connect with people and to inspire others with my art. Dance is universal and I have experienced how it can heal a community and bring happiness to many peoples lives.

What inspires you when it comes to your art?

I feel that I draw inspiration from everything like music, art, literature, nature, people, or experiences in life. Through dance, you are able to communicate ideas or concepts that words may not be Taylor3able to express. Additionally, other dancers and choreographers of the past and the present are a huge inspiration to me. For example, Misty Copeland, Alonzo King, and Aesha Ash, just to name a few.

 What do you hope to do with your art in the future?

In the future, I hope to become a professional dancer and inspire other young black girls to dance. I would also enjoy traveling and sharing my love for dance with the world. In addition, I would like to become a physical therapist for athletes and dancers to help people recover from injuries and sustain a career as an athlete or dancer.

Want to get in touch with Taylor? Email her at: taylorcorrine24@aol.com!!

Imagination and Animation

ERINErin 1

Age: 21

Occupation: I am a senior at Colorado State University

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

 

What is your favorite form of artistic expression?

My favorite form of artistic expression would have to be drawing. I couldn’t tell you exactly when I started because I’m sure I was still in diapers. I’ve always been a drawing girl but I don’t do it all the time. I only draw when I’m moved to do so. But it is those special times that produce some of the best things I’ve ever drawn.

I like drawing because the pencil only moves when I tell it to. I can capture exactly what’s in my mind on paper and from there I can scan that drawing and mess with it in Photoshop or Illustrator. And if I want to change what I’ve drawn it’s as easy as turning my pencil over and using the eraser. Also, with drawing I can engage so many of the viewer’s senses to really make them experience what they’re seeing. Like if I sketched a turtle shell, I could draw light reflecting off of it a little to show that it is wet, or rough, or hard. I could put a shadow on the curve of an egg shell to give a sense of darkness or cold. I can make the viewer experience anything I wanted to express. Drawing for me is like the ultimate form of communication.

 

Erin 3What are the hardest and best parts of how you express your art?

What frustrates me the most is when I want to create something and have absolutely no idea what to create or how to get inspiration. I’ll go online and look at other people’s work and it will be so good! I’ll sit there and say to myself “Why didn’t I think of that?”. Sometimes it’s easier for me if I’m given parameters for the things I create. For example, it’s easier for me to get inspired if I’m told that the thing I have to draw must be green or if it’s a tattoo idea that somebody has and they just want me to make it look cool. I love doing my own thing when I have inspiration, but there are those times when I get artists’ block and I can’t think of anything extraordinary to draw.

On the other hand the BEST parts about artistic expression is when I’m done with my latest thing and I can look at my work. I step back, my hands are covered in ink and charcoal, and I can look at the awesome new thing I created with pride. Then I get to share it with other people on various different social networking sites and start thinking of new ways to make a better version of that thing I just made.

 

What inspires you when it comes to your art?

When it comes to my art I am inspired by nature. Animals and plants show up in just about everything I do. I Erin 4like the different forms that plants and animals can come in. Everything is different with its own texture, characteristics, and musculature. Plus the relationship between humans and nature goes back to the very beginning. I like how much depth and symbolism there is behind artwork that includes nature in it.

 

What do you hope to do with your art in the future?

Truthfully, all any artist wants to do is spend their days creating the things they find appealing. I’d love to work metal, carve stone, paint, and draw for the rest of my life. But I also have a huge soft spot for cartoons and animated things, plus there is more economic stability in computer generated artwork. At this point I would like to get into concept art and computer generated imagery for movies. That’s why I love watching films like Thor, Transformers and Lord of the Rings. Making one’s imagination come to life in such a realistic way would be an amazing career! I’m also sure I’d dabble in cartoon animation as well. I’d love to take part in drawing for the people who make Adventure Time and I’d love to take some time away from America to go to Japan and work in anime production and to work with one of my favorite artists and movie producers of all time Hayao Miyazaki. It’s a lofty dream but I have to start somewhere, yes?

 

Erin 6Want to get in touch with Erin? Here are the links to some of her other pages:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erin.wildlife1

Tumblr:http://arcytumbls.tumblr.com/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/kisettelisette

Diving into the Arts!

As we switch into December, the new theme for The Free Your Mind Project is ARTISTIC EXPRESSION!!!

For many, art in any capacity is a form of release, a stress reliever. Whether its dance, writing, photography, sketching, painting, acting, singing, videography, etc. art is not only a hobby but a way to express emotions and escape reality when needed. In 2010, the American Journal of Public Health published an article talking about the positive effects art can have. After reviewing several studies, they found that “creative engagement can decrease anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances…through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and reservoir of healing.” Simply put, art is good for you and it makes you feel better. And I can personally attest to that fact.

Reflecting on what makes me happy, the obvious comes to mind: family and friends, but

when I was little the first thing I would say was drawing. Give me a pen and paper and I could be occupied for hours. In fact, I not only sketched often but played the piano and wrote short poems. However, as I’ve gotten older, those things have taken a backseat to the “priorities” I’ve acquired over the years…

But for many who stuck with it, art has become a vital part of their identity and personal expression. And this month on the blog, I’ll be celebrating those women who’ve made art an integral part of their lives. I’ll be featuring a dancer, a singer, a graphic artist, a photographer and a director.

Stay tuned 🙂