Making the Most of It

Hello FYM Project Readers!!


As promised, the blog is back in full effect as we roll into August! I hope everyone has had an amazing summer and has some great plans as we move into fall!


So, as this time of year is generally full of back to school preparations and first day anxiety, I decided the theme for this month will be College Experiences. I’ll be showcasing three amazing brown girls who’ve all attended different schools: An Ivy League, A PWI (Predominantly White Institution) and an HBCU (Historically Black College or University); and we’ll be discussing their experiences and reflections about their respective schools.

Looking back on my own college experience, I can confidently give this sole advice: Make the most of it. When I was nearing the end of my high school days, the only thing I was feeling was trepidation. I had taken the SATs, finished the applications, visited schools all along the east coast, but I was still so overwhelmed at the thought of leaving my familiar little bubble (I had attended the same school since 3rd grade). While most of my peers were chomping at the bit to reach independence and the “college life,” I felt like everything was moving too fast and wished I had a pause button I could press. On college tours everything blurred together, I had a hard time placing myself in any of these atmospheres. How was I supposed to pick one place to be for the next 4 years of my life?? I’ve been around the same people since I was 8 years old, can I even make new friends?? What if the work is too hard? And to top it all off, I had no idea what I wanted to study…I felt unprepared and far from ready.

But regardless how much I pulled back, life kept moving and soon enough I found myself attending orientation at the University of Maryland- College Park. I held it together as I met my new roommates and my family helped me unpack, but that night as I lay in my lofted bed, I was fighting back tears. You see, I’ve never been to fond of “new” and college was just too much new for me to handle. Even though I was in this new environment with hundreds of new people, I still held on tight to my old life. I went home every weekend, my social life consisted of class and seeing my roommates at the end of the day, and every chance I got I called at least one of my friends from high school. Put simply, I just didn’t put that much effort into making the adjustment. I didn’t attend club meetings, or go to events. I even avoided my own hallmates from time to time. Luckily I had some great roommates, and I had made some friends at a summer program I attended. But to  be frank, I made freshman year much harder than it needed to be for myself. It wasn’t until closer to my junior year that I finally ventured out of my comfort zone, and in my last year of college, I experienced more, met more new and amazing people, and learned more about myself than I had in the first three years combined.

I am extremely grateful that I was able to attend college, especially at such a great school,but sadly, I missed out on lot, all because I was too afraid of the unfamiliar. My experience could have been so much fuller if I had just put in a little more effort sooner. So, for my fellow brown girls who are preparing to embark on the journey that is higher education, all I can say is embrace the experience. Really get invested in learning the differences and exploring schools, find what you like, what you don’t, and make sure that wherever you choose feels like it could be home for you. It is perfectly fine to feel apprehensive, after all, this is one of your first major steps into adulthood, but don’t let that fear prevent you from making college everything it can be for you. College is a privilege that you don’t want to squander: go to class, meet new people, travel, party, date, and above all find what your passions are and pursue them!

Connecting Face to Face rather than on Facebook

When we were young, most of the time, making friends seemed like a breeze…all it took was a shy smile, quick hello or just asking to join in.  And next thing we knew, we had a new running buddy at the playground. Our social circles consisted of our parents, siblings, class mates and play mates that our parents set up. Everything was simple. But as you got older, especially when those awkward middle school years hit, finding and keeping friends became a bit more complicated.  While navigating the personal and life changes that accompany growing up, we also have to learn to navigate between the different cliques, norms and groups that become established and break down during these years, which can be an overwhelming adjustment. And with our generation being so integrated in technology, connecting face to face occurs a lot less often than on a screen.

My first semester in college, was one of the most uncomfortable experiences in my life to date. Coming from a small, intimate high school, where I had known most of my classmates since the 3rd grade then arriving at a huge, public university with 40,000 people was really hard for me. I’m naturally shy and introverted, so the idea of creating a whole new social group seemed impossible to me. I had made a great group of friends in high school that had taken years to cultivate and I had no idea how to find people that could represent those friends in my college life.  But honestly, that was my first mistake.

Coming to college, or when entering any new situation, you have to come open and unassuming. No one owes you anything. To make friends and meet new people you have to 1. put in the effort, 2. let people show you who they are and 3. be consistent. I (unrealistically) was expecting people to come to  me: for someone, anyone to miraculously see me, want to be friends with me and make the first move. My shyness and stubbornness in meeting new people prevented me from taking advantage of all of the new freshman who were living on my floor or in my classes.  Besides my roommates, a few floor mates that I had met through them and a handful of girls that I had done a 3-week pre-college program with, I hadn’t met that many people nor had I tried to. Yet, I still moaned and complained about feeling alone and missing my high school friends. Sadly, it took me until junior year to fully realize that the reason I was missing out, was because I wasn’t pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I hadn’t committed to any clubs, I hadn’t really tried to talk to anyone in my classes aside from group projects…I simply hadn’t put in the effort. But in my last two years, after I pushed myself to do new things and be more friendly, not only did I keep and better my relationship with the small group I had befriended freshman year, but I also met and bonded with a lot of great new people as well. And my senior year, was more fulfilling and exciting than the previous 3 years of college combined.

So the hard lesson learned was that making friends is not that complicated. When entering a new situation, what worked on the playground generally works when you’re older. A genuine smile, friendly hello and asking to join in is the only introduction you really need. And if someone doesn’t reciprocate a friendly hello?…you probably don’t want to be friends with them anyway. Their loss. So when we get stuck in the routine of life, and start to feel like our days are getting mundane, think about trying something new and commit to it. Go to dinner at a new spot, take an art or fitness class, attend an open mic night, try to go places that you haven’t been and reach out to someone while you’re there. Take an old friend and make new friends together. Even if you don’t meet anyone that night, it will feel good to experience something different and go back the next week and see if you find a familiar face.

“Never Compromise Your Morals or Your Heart”



Age: 23
Occupation: Singer and Guitarist from the band SolStar
Hometown: Washington, DC


When did your love for music begin?

Florida Avenue Grill in DC was really live in the 70s. It still is really popular but not to the extent it was back then. There was a lot of live music and there isn’t much there anymore. Anyway, my mother used to sing at Florida Avenue Grill and a lot of other hot spots in DC. She also sings opera and has studied music theory. Fred Foss (jazz aficionado in DC) told me not many people can sing classical and jazz but my mother can and has a beautiful voice doing both. I love it. Growing up in Mama Rose’s house I heard a lot of jazz and tons of classical music. She sings in the Aria Club of Greater Washington and sings for several churches. She taught me piano at a young age. Later, I took up flute and played in the DC Youth Orchestra, and finally in high school I picked up guitar. So when I talk about my love for music it certainly starts with her and encompasses all of those musical experiences I had growing up. I have three older sisters and a brother who are musically inclined as well so I have those influences too. One of my sister’s brought home this world beat CD when I was 8 or 9 and it was the first time I’d heard bossa nova. I think that’s my favorite genre. I’d like to incorporate more of that style in our music.


When did you learn to play the guitar?

When I was 15…sophomore in high school, I saw the classical guitar lying underneath the piano. I begged my mother for lessons. I took lessons for about 1 or 2 months—enough to learn names of strings and basic chords. I started coming to lessons with songs and chords my teacher hadn’t shown me yet-he was shocked. I had always written poetry and lyrics but once I found out about chords—I really dove into songwriting. However, I wish I had stuck with his guitar lessons.


Zayani3Can you tell me about your band?

I met Mosi (violin), Prince (Bass), and Osim (Djembe) at a show at Spelman that I was helping host for student council. They were already a group and had recently chosen the name SolStar. The show we were putting together was called “A love Story” and they were the featured band. They did a beautiful job. Afterward we exchanged contact and linked up to practice. That first night of rehearsal was magic. We started performing around ATL. Our first show together was at the Five Spot. Later on we met Miso (performing artist) who began as our manager but later found a better fit in the group participating in the show doing dance, painting, and crowd interaction. We are a pretty unique band with a mission to spread love and raise the frequency. Our goal at our shows is to invite you into an experience.


What goes into starting and maintaining a band?

I remember posting on craigslist about starting a band–looking for dj, keys, drums, just whatever! Made a few contacts but nothingZayani2 came of it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look for long. SolStar showed up and showed out at Spelman, and we were able to connect afterward. It was easy with them because it seems that we just came together naturally. There are mutual interests and there’s respect in the group so it’s easier to work together. Maintaining a band is like any other relationship where honesty, respect, compassion, and other virtues are important. It can be hard but it’s very rewarding.


Who are some of your favorite artists?

My favorite musicians/artists right now are Thundercat, Janelle Monae, and Robert Glasper, Mosi, Kendrick, Chance the Rapper and Solstar. –My most recent albums I’ve purchased and listen to are from Eric Wright, Elle Varner, India Shawn, Marian Mereba, Brik Liam …  Of all time — Lauryn Hill, Sly and the Family Stone, MJ, John Mayer, Hendrix, John Scofield, Debussy, Pac and Nas.


Advice for other girls trying to get into music?

My advice for girls getting into music is respect yourself and your craft. Don’t compromise your morals and your heart to further you in your career. Accept constructive criticism and don’t forget to have fun.


Zayani5Where do you want to be in the future?

Musically, I see myself a more skilled musician, doing large shows with SolStar globally, and completing awesome albums!
From Zayani:

Hi readers! I hope you get a chance to check out our band’s music! You can find us at, solstarmusic on the gram, twitter, and like us on Facebook!

You can tweet me @zayanirose. I’m on insta @zuniverse_xo.

For booking, email

Going Against the Status Quo

ChenaChena 1

Age: 20
Occupation: Intern at Outerloop Management
Hometown: Beltsville, MD

Describe your love of music:

I’m very reserved, I think so much and deeply about things and I’m an indoor cat, not an outdoor one. Music has always been how I express how i feel and has been

there for me when no one else has.

When did you learn to play guitar?

I picked up the guitar at 14. I used to want to be a singer and felt that I’ll be more interesting if I played an instrument. So one morning I woke up and decided to learn guitar, so I went to the library and got books about it that same day. I always respected people who knew how to play an instrument well because they worked hard at it. To me, you aren’t very talented in music if you can’t understand it in the most organic way or you haven’t taken any time to make it for yourself…without the help of a computer, effects, etc.

Can you tell me about your internships in the music

Chena with Killswitch

Chena with Killswitch Engage


It’s important to get in touch with the right people if you are into music. I had a friend who interned at the Fillmore and she recommended I get in touch with the manager’s assistant. It’s fun, especially if you go to a lot of shows like I do. They can be a money pit. But if you are on the inside, your contributions are compensated with a free entry. Currently I’m at Outerloop Management, where we manage pretty successful metal/rock bands such as Periphery, Darkest Hour, Dying Fetus, Crown the Empire, WCAR. Both internships have to do with marketing 70% of the time and the rest is administrative stuff, making sure the bands have what they need to get on the road and keeping track of expenses. Requirements for jobs like that is to just be passionate about music and be willing to learn. Also a business background/knowledge is great.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

My favorite music is metal, fusion jazz, finger style acoustic and classic rock. Some of my favorite artists are Into

Chena with Chuck Billy

Chena with Chuck Billy

Eternity, Carach Angren, Guthrie Gowan, Greg Howe, Paul Gilbert, Anathema, Carcass, Alter Bridge and Killswitch Engage. My favorite artist of all time would be Stevie Ray Vaughan because I credit him for teaching me how to play guitar just by listening and mimicking what he did. Currently, I can’t get enough of the incredible Andy James.

Advice for other girls wanting to get into music?

Don’t worry about trying to fit in, go out there and explore with an open mind about all types of music. Not the type society says black people are supposed to like. Especially for us ethnic girls, don’t let anyone tell you whats “ok” for you to do. Going against the status quo is powerful, and having your own opinions is empowering. It’s surprising to people that I’m a black girl who’s passionate about heavy music and shreds on guitar. I’ve made friends with very important people in the community because being different is interesting. So go pick up and instrument that’s for “the boys” and become really good at it.

Chena with Jeff Loomis

Chena with Jeff Loomis

Where do you want to be in the future?

Well I love playing guitar because it makes me happy, so whatever I am doing in life (even if its a normal person job) I still want to be playing in a band and be involved with the metal/fusion jazz community. In a perfect world, I would have gone to Berklee or Musicians Institute, but my parents are African…no way that could work out. But I still want to work towards my rock star dreams and hope I can do that full time some day.


Want to see more of Chena? Follow her on instagram @chena_roxx or email her at


Speaking From a Point of Realness


Age: 21
Occupation: English Major at University of Maryland- College Park
Hometown: Bronx, New York

What originally drew you to writing?

I was originally drawn to writing in my fifth grade writing class. Our assignment was to write a poem about something that meant a lot to us. I wrote a poem about my fairy fish that had recently passed away. At the time, my poem was of the bubble-gum nature—I was only ten years old. Something sparked in me, however, to continue writing poems and expressing myself. I originally started off believing that the best poems were ones that rhymed, however I have the opposite mindset today. My poems never rhyme anymore only because I feel that rhyme schemes, if not done properly, can sound childlike and not well thought out. I think the best poems are ones that resemble prose because they speak from a point of realness.

Why do you love writing?

I like to write because it allows me to express my thoughts. I was always an over-thinker, and I needed a way to organize myself mentally. When it feels like no one is listening, I know that my page and pen are. I can write and read poetry for hours. I am the kind of person who searches quotes on the internet to give concrete words to my feelings and emotions. The rhythm of poetry is one that cannot be compared to anything else and it is just so enjoyable for me.

Who are some of your favorite authors and what are your favorite pieces by them?

I really enjoyed reading Richard Siken’s Crush because his poems are generally short and realistic. He speaks in an honest fashion so that the reader can relate and feel the words on the page by connecting them to personal memories. I really enjoy reading his poem “Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out” because it really touches common ideas or emotions that people/everyone feels on a daily basis. One of my favorite poems ever is “Killing Time” by Simon Armitage. It contains so many double meanings to words to represent the Columbine shooting. He writes about the shooting in terms of flowers and nature to give a beautiful image of the innocent lives lost on that day. It is one of the most creative and well thought out poems that I have ever read.

Can I have a sample of some of your work?


Each month that passed freshman year made us more inseparable;
unlike anyone I’d ever met, you were like me and I
was meeting myself for the first time

For everything, and we did do everything or talk about how we
to eventually try. Our thought patterns identical, you would
finish my thoughts so I knew I was on track with the day’s
at the end of the day to sum up our days, making my day

So it’s weird that today I am not with you. I’m in another state
and you’re somewhere in Copenhagen  finding yourself and
losing your path and losing our memories, replacing
them with adventures with new friends and more
significant moments that don’t include me

Or maybe, I’m over-thinking it the way that we both used to
back in high school; I’m probably just failing to understand what
moving on is fully, and the notion of change never being good.
I’m surely having trouble, but I will get it soon enough.

I appreciated that e-mail you sent to me last month telling
me that you missed being my friend. At least I know I’m
somewhere you can still remember.


The Impalpable Sustenance

Flipping pages of a book browned with age and wear
learned fingers trace the words of the story
Literature is life when we define it in the realm of
words and we communicate
with conversation and the blossom of poetry is
when our eyes project the words from the page
written from the faded memories that we never could let go of
we keep covered in dust buried in the back of our closets
behind dead trinkets in pieces and ballerina boxes no longer
playing twinkles
in case we remember them one day
recall what meant something to you
write it and remember it
and that piece of paper with the uneven edges
crushed behind your old red notebook with the silver wiring
with the black inked title in bold letters
you made a statement
crisp words that drip disdain
you write from the photos
crammed with the things that mean the most
your beating heart pumping streams flowing
on the remnants



For the summer-month days that end without
any production taking place;
the tickling moments that
crawl away like the useless red ants
of the June time grass
that come upon us and sting our skin
as we sit Indian style, legs tanned, smooth and
crossed talking to each other.

We laugh about things that
never occur during the wintertime
and pair it with saliva-glazed, teeth-shown
smiles only evoked by the sun
and the happiness can only be
explained by the strong, bonny shoulders
pointed toward the blue pool above
the air, the nonchalant wind
brushes our bleached hair perfectly
behind us
and it flows like seas suspended
eye level in front of us
our eyes share one twinkle
we’re alive.

When word of loss
is upon us, I search for the
touch of the sun’s heat on my skin,
look for tan marks of the previous day’s clothes,
and the fingers of the cool wind flowing in my
golden hair and I want to feel you beside me, I want to know you’ve experienced the same summer
but the space is empty.

Want to see more of Shane? Check out her instagram @shane_no

All That Matters is Me and my Creativity


Age: 16
Grade: Sophomore in High School
Hometown: Mitchellville, MD

What originally drew you to writing?

I was originally drawn to writing in 8th grade when my literature teacher asked our class to submit something original. It could be anything from poetry, to a song, or a short story. I was skeptical at first because I had never even thought about writing something original. Later though, I found that it wasn’t as hard as I thought. Writing seemed to come easy to me. I usually like to write fictional stories about teenage adventures with strong female characters.

Why do you love to write?

I write so that I can escape my life, not because it is bad, but because I give my characters qualities and talents that I sometimes wish I had. Writing allows me to cope with not having certain abilities. It also allows me to enter a different world when I need to. If I get stressed then I will go write and suddenly all that matters is me and my creativity.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

My favorite authors are Rick Riordan, Ally Carter, and Cassandra Clare. I love these specific authors because they all write books about teenagers saving the world. I love reading about teenagers saving the world because it shows that we aren’t kids anymore and we can handle responsibility. They also have strong female characters that can take care of themselves and don’t need a male to save them all the time. I get tired of seeing girls so dependent on a guy when they really need to be dependent on themselves.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I can draw inspiration from anything. The trick for me is to be open to everything and not go looking for inspiration but allow it to come to me. I could be doing something completely random and suddenly have a new idea. But when that doesn’t work I have my favorite authors, television and movies, and the experiences of the people I interact with.

To read some of Alexa’s work, go to: