Sunday, July 31, 2016

From Queens To Coney Island

That beautiful morning view from the Long Island window.
When my good friend from Toronto planned to visit New York City for two weeks whilst house sitting in Queens, she kindly invited me to stay with her. Most wonderful to be given such a cordial opportunity, I welcomed the latest NYC adventure. She shared with me not just Queens-- Westbeth Artist Community, Coney Island's fantastic freak show, and beaches were new sights to behold. I showed off art spots and vegan fare.

My first stop was to funny, wise, talented Gloria Miguel's 90th birthday party-- a dear respected thespian my good friend knew very, very well. Gloria stays at the renowned Westbeth Community in the West Village. There was plenty of food, cake, ice cream (even vegan varieties from Trader Joe's), live music, and dancing. After the party and cleanup, we packed everything up to Gloria's. Her place was magically divine. She had vintage posters of her past performances as well as her children's. beautiful photographs of her past everywhere. Uniquely decorated apartment certainly felt distinguished and packed with history.
Classic performing Gloria from Spiderwoman Theater's site.
During Coney Island Part I, we saw the most amazing freak show. Justin Weber caused effective illusions when he rolled a glass ball around his limber arms and hands without dropping it. Later on he showed off mad yo-yo skills. Betty Bloomerz swallowed sharp tipped knives and got "sliced" in the old wooden "box of death." Nola Star consumed fire and blew smoke on her arms and legs to Purity Ring's catchy "begin again." Afterwards we left the amazingly fun show of magical wonderment to be caught up in a terrifying rain storm, not knowing that Coney Island had not only been put on a lash Flood Warning, but a Shark Warning as well! Yikes! We were safe for a while inside the hilariously bad candy and comedy shop-- Williams.
On a trip to MoMa, we saw their recently acquired Faith Ringgold massive painting Die.
Ringaround Arosie, pencil, acetone, varnish, enamel paint, ink, and cloth-covered electrical wire on papier-mache and masonite, Eva Hesse, 1965.
A part of Black Girl's Window, wooden frame with painted pasted papers, lenticular print, framed photograph, and plastic figurine, Betye Saar, 1969.
My Grandparents, My Parents, and I (Family Tree), Frida Kahlo, oil and tempera on zinc panel, 1936.
Dun Well Doughnuts is always an exciting place to visit!
Colorful doughnut splendor on rounded wood grain.
The "Be your own kind of beautiful" heather grey tank dress was found at H&M for $9.99. The statement fits an individual not playing by societal rules-- especially a doughnut aficionado like myself. While my friend had a soy milk iced coffee, we split lemon, strawberry-lemon, chocolate peanut butter, and traditional glazed doughnuts. Yummmmm!!!
I arrived late to The Greene Space, having to resign myself to standing in the back. However, Deborah Willis, Tisch University Department Chair and prime reason for going to South Africa in November, fled past me. Plus the ever fashionable Kimberly Drew creator of the informative blog, Black Contemporary Art was standing by.The urge to say "hello" and flash my camera grew and grew. But alas, I never had the courage to anything. Other than stare out of eye corners.
As for the talk, thankfully I hadn't missed a huge majority of amazing conversation. This year's graduating crop of Studio Museum in Harlem's artist-in-residents were figurative painter Jordan Casteel, performance artist EJ Hill, and poet/author/photographer Jibade Khalil-Huffman. For the second consecutive year, the collective three were invited to Greene Space for a lively discussion with a Studio Museum in Harlem A.I.R. alum of their choosing. Kerry James Marshall, Kevin Beasley, and Dave McKenzie were selected among the many.
Jordan and Kerry pondering answers to intense questions. Jordan's response to a question about painting black males struck a cord.
"I feel very strongly that I am present in these paintings, that the black woman is not absent. Every person is reconstructed through my lens and my experience as sister to brother to cousin.... there is great power in that vein. The power of a man painting the female has been present throughout history for decades, for centuries. Not many questions are asked around that.... Breaking a bridge as much as building one. Diversity is where we say 'getting numbers in the room.' Inclusivity is actually making voices present. "
EJ with host Q2 Music's fabulously dressed Helga Davis.
Kerry, Kevin, and Dave discussing artistic life post Harlem.
I met Kerry James Marshall-- one of my favorite painters in the whole wide world. His phenomenal works, often large scale and filled with enriching perspective, places ebony skinned models in contemporary and historical context. To render forms so convincingly, to see their distinctive facial features carved in darkness of their flesh, next to array of vivid schemes truly showcases the full scale of black being the presence of all color.
I excitedly shook Kerry's hand and exclaimed, "I'm such a huge fan of your work!"
He chuckled and beamed, responding with, "thank you! You must be a painter too."
A vegan soft serve gelato spot on Bleecker St. that I will visit someday.
Further down Bleecker St is a Vicki Khuzami's Bohemorama acrylic painted mural celebrating Greenwich Village geniuses. James Baldwin (with "Another Country" being typed out behind him) is in good company.
Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Woody Guthrie.
Billie Holiday next to Patti Smith with Charlie Parker and Miles Davis in the front roll.
This part included Elaine de Kooning next to John Sloan (PAFA alum and former faculty), Edie Sedgewick, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollack, Lee Krasner, Mark Rothko, and Marcel Duchamp.
On Wednesday, we visited Coney Island again-- this time on a clear, hot day. The Art Walls called our names.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh creator of Stop Telling Women to Smile.
Nina Chanel Abney captures the fun, fabulous symmetry of playful black mermaids in her signature abstract shapes with mingling symbolism and word play. Her work is discussed at length here.
John Ahearn.
Sam Vernon's collection of Coney Island stickers and torn photographs create a homage collage.
Closer inspection.
Anonymous concrete ground "not art."
"I am a story told walking..." a piece from Stephen Powers' massive collection of catchy phrases used like commercialized pictionary.
Your lighthouse saves me from the perilous shadowed waters?
Lifeguards on duty.
It was my first time ever coming to the beach. In singly landlocked Ohio and Pennsylvania, there no places to dazzle in plentiful sunlight, an endless body of rippled water, and beige sand simultaneously. The air is cool and pleasant. Weather is perfect. The breezes are welcoming wonders against a face that cannot stop smiling.

On Wednesday evening, we took a walk down to the pier, viewing Long Island view at night.
Gorgeous sight to behold!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chasing The Dream: En Route to Africa Part I

Preparing self for the biggest journey of the year.
Africa desires weren't dreams potted and planted overnight. Seeds took time to be fruited within.
Childhood illusions fostered American happily ever after with hetero normative married life, white picket fences, and kitty cats. The masquerade had been a misconceived brainwashed efforts of majority. Pillars of realized destinies came after reading books-- eye opening books that gave deeper comprehension. Looking past embellished history to look at the real horrendous picture. Ancestors were stolen, robbed of their beautiful living. They made this country without receiving a lick of credit. And that story has been glossed over to the point of obscurity.
Some of us will never have fiery desire to visit Africa. Allegorical return is something whispered from past life to spirited soul. That ancestor singing its melodic hymn, walks alongside, unable to speak visible communication. That ignited inkling longs to be scratched.
I want to view ancestral place. I want to make art there. I want to write there.
Last month, I had received the most incredible news. Out of 200 proposals, I was selected to present "Metaphoric Idiosyncrasies: A Fable in the Vine," my paper/PowerPoint (from grad school), at Black Portraiture [s] lll: Reinventions: Strains of Histories and Cultures in Johannesburg, South Africa.
First, I told my thesis reader.  He was happy (proud too!). My mom-- not so much.
“Do you have to go?” She asked, before the “Africa is a dangerous place” spiel.
No congratulations. No praise. Just don't go to that ugly, horrific continent.
Philadelphia is a lot more dangerous. Heck, the United States in general has become a major terror, especially for marginalized people.
Is it so wrong to visit for a few days and possibly inspire change in someone's life? To write a few words? To draw a few pictures whilst in the land?
My heart says no.
I wrote out a GoFundMe twice. I would post and then immediately delete. Guilt was powerful. Shame more so. It's easier to help others than ask others to help you. I kept telling myself that I didn't need anything from anyone. I'm independent. I can do this alone. Most of my life, I've overcome many challenges-- both external and internal-- alone. Often without a word.
My third GoFundMe became an unexpected yet very sweet success.
Thanks to substantial help received from school friends, generous associates, and hometown buddies, my airfare/accommodation are paid in full.
It's really, really happening! I'm going to Africa!
My plane adventure starts in New York City's JFK airport to Charles de Gaulle in Paris (with long layover to have great vegan French cuisine and see Eiffel Tower again). From Paris, it's off to O R Tambo Airport in Johannesburg! I'll be staying at Protea Hotel Parktonian All Suite which offers airport shuttle and is a thirteen minute walk from University of Witswatersrand. I am excited to meet Deborah Willis (who was just nominated for an Emmy) and a host of others. My goal is to not only speak with authority and enthusiasm for my writing and art, but to also build relationships with the other invited artists, scholars, and activists. Afterwards, I will explore the land for three whole days. Then, finally, my next plane adventure begins in the Netherlands and ends in New York City.
I am so ready for this. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Blueberry Ice Cream

Last Friday night, I had the pleasure of standing in a long line just to try out the vegan blueberry ice cream at Franklin Fountain. Philadelphia's famous sweet dessert is served in style similar to Asian takeout container with signature insignia on the front. Other flavors such as dairy free vanilla and chocolate were also being catered to vegans, but unique blueberry's potential dynamite flavor called out in siren's song.
I hadn't had blueberry in an ice cream, let alone a sorbet or sherbet.

Oh my! This was incredibly fantastic. Lovely lavender color, sweet tangy blueberry in a soy milk based foundation, the little blueberry bits-- a new found addictive. I savored my ice cream with a joyous relish, wanting nothing more to eat blueberry meets vanilla forever and ever.
When the eagerly monstrous inspiration bug hit, making my taste buds itch with fiery anticipation, I raced to the kitchen in hopes of creating a Franklin Fountain knockoff ice cream.
Unfortunately, my desperate attempt didn't come out as pretty, having more of a faint nod to purple and a bigger vanilla flavor than needed. Next time-- soy milk and less vanilla (or more blueberries).
Still, I will not downplay good results.   
My blueberry ice cream is a great summer sure shot-- a delightful, berryful way to beat sweltering heat.

Blueberry Ice Cream Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup frozen blueberries
1 13.5 oz. full fat coconut milk
1 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine ingredients together in a blender or food processor.
Pour into steel bowl, cover tightly, and freeze for 5-6 hours or overnight. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Revisiting "The Electric Lady's" Powerful Fist Bump

#LoudBlackGirl trended on Twitter the other day-- a vocal message to demand people listen and respect a marginalized group that they want to quiet, shut down even.
I could not resist thinking about "The Electric Lady's" titular track. After all, Janelle Monáe did bellow out, "electric lady's gonna scream out loud!" That we do.
It's hard to believe eclectic alternative R&B gem "The Electric Lady" approaches third birthday come September. Philosophical, knowledge dropping music is as fresh picked as a jazzy ripened green apple on a splendid morning. With the MTV Video Award winning "Q.U.E.E.N." (a sultry satisfying empowerment jingle with amazing Erykah Badu), it still is a surprise that other accolades hadn't stacked high against so charming a venture. For Cindi Mayweather and her fleet of droids deserved more than a gritty slide under the sinkhole. They more than deserved a place at the table. They've earned. And few people have yet realized how importantly feminist this album is.
Beautiful soul stirring ballads like "Can't Live Without Your Love" (my personal favorite), passionate tribute to the late Sally Ride (a thumping melody with chanting rhythm towards end), and the affectionate dance number "Dance Apocalyptic" (a hip shaker attributed to "Michael Jackson's Jheri Curl") keep the avid listener's attention from beginning to end. Despite years passing and others coming and going, "The Electric Lady" still resonates, striking a cord running deep within heart.
I want to hide in provided genuine authenticity, playful spirit, rebellious tenacity, and romantic sentiment forever. Ignore the Michelle Obama copycats, the Leslie Jones riots, senseless murders of black people, and other horrible harms to black women today.
Monáe has all the necessary elements to salve wounds-- at least temporarily.
"Dear reader,
May these songs bring wings to you when you are weak and humility when you are strong. May the evil stumble as it flies through your world."
Like yesterday, I remember her concert held at Philadelphia's The Electric Factory (perfect venue)-- a showstopping, energetic blaze of wonderful live opera octave vocals, jittery slick dance moves, and open mic diarist entries. To be that close to such a figure was to be a part of cemented history, delivered in climatic awe. Not to mention, her amazing associate album producer-- Roman Gianarthur who performer opening act duties.
I dusted off "The Electric Factory" for resurgence, for strength, enjoying Monáe's afrofuturistic paintings (serene meet subdued colors are wildly impressive), and production writings. The production writings are sweet and humorous. I love knowing birth of her influences and reasoning that a great song has been fruited into being. It's honest truth. When it comes to the gritty, manufactured, over-sensualized, cheap, tawdry music business, she is a breath of welcoming, humanizing air-- droids and everything. Intelligence + talent never goes out of style.

"...laser lyrics, lead vocal prophesies..." of "Suite IV Electric Overture"
"...lead howls, background acrobatics, additional bass shotgun blasts of "Given 'Em What They Love" featuring the late great Prince.
"....psychodancing lyrics, freaktastic vocals.." of Q.U.E.E.N.
"....electro lyrics, crackling lead vocals, background vocal shocks..." of "Electric Lady" featuring Solange
"... lyrical gaze, lead vocal brushstrokes, background colors..." of "Look Into My Eyes"
"...cyberlove lyrics, lead vocal kisses, background whispers...." of "Can't Live Without Your Love"
"...hypno lyrics, lead vocal ecstasy, background vocal seduction..." of "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes" featuring Esperanza Spaulding

Highway robbery of nominations and awards don't matter. Not anymore.
Life without these well-produced songs, these powerful songs that satisfy ear aches on the worst of days would have been the most inconceivable loss. One moment can be a chance to explore moonwalk glide whilst washing dishes, another ignites desire to be an encouraging champion to someone unseen during creative session, and the next is valuing truest, most internal, mediated self when feeling low. One cannot ask a musician to grant more feeling than that is gifted.
"The Electric Lady" will, without shadow of doubt, stand the test of time. 

Let us hope that magical, wondrous songwriter/singer/artist/producer Janelle Monáe aka Cindi Mayweather continues to lead like a young Harriet Tubman in a place where some blindly believe that they are not sheep in this ruckus and the woke others just want to wave "freak" flag freely.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Black Rice With Chickpea Cream & Mushroom-Tempeh Stir Fry

A satisfying bowl of texture and flavor.
Long ago, I swapped out white rice for brown rice. Occasionally I revisit white rice at Asian restaurants, but that's about it. I no longer prepare it at home. As for brown rice-- those days are somewhat over. Now black rice has become the main rice staple. It is a beautiful rich color. When paired with bright colored foods and sauces, ebony brings a special significant contrast to the plate (or bowl). Quite stunning to view at times.
With a simple chickpea cream and classic tender mushroom-tempeh stir fry, this black rice dish is a delicious comforting well-balanced meal.

Black Rice With Chickpea Cream & Mushroom-Tempeh Stir Fry Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup cooked black rice
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup portobello mushrooms, chopped
1/2 8 oz tempeh block, chopped and cubed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup almond milk
3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

avocado (optional)

In a skillet set to medium-high temperature, heat olive oil, red onion, and mushroom.
Add tempeh cubes, salt, garlic, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and black pepper.
Mix together for 8-10 minutes-- when tempeh is browned on all sides.
For chickpea cream-- pulse chickpeas, almond milk, nutritional yeast, salt, and black pepper together until smooth and rich.
Top prepared black rice with stir fry and chickpea cream. Add avocado.