Monday, October 31, 2016

A Good Night's Sleep: The Latest Exhibit at Colored Girls Museum

In the heart of Philadelphia's Germantown District is a beautiful, warm environment to heal wounds and reflect on history.
Rest but don't forget to weep.
The Colored Girls Museum contains harrowing levels of metaphoric entryways into once traumatized eyes of the black girl. This provincial ghost overcame dishonorable past. Oppressive chains and tyrannical rulers whipped flesh off back and placed choke hold on her mind, body, and soul. Now released yet not entirely freed from damaged control, she tells many stories inherently stretched through visiting artists. Their works adhere to her walls, sleep on her mantles, stand on her floors.

Porch canopy bed scene whispers an invitation to slip between white sheets and dream the dream of peace and solitude on a cool moonlit evening.
First floor salon features Michael Clemmons' Four Girls in Birmingham. The first two are Cynthia Wesley (April 30, 1949-September 15, 1963) and Carole Robertson (April 24, 1949-September 15,1963). These porcelain sculptures are also comprised of oxides, wood, paper, photo transfers, and acrylic. Created in 2007.
Addie Mae Collins (April 18, 1949- September 15, 1963) and Denise Menair (November 17, 1951- September 15, 1963).
Latest exhibit, “A Good Night's Sleep,” soothes 400 year tired bones. Various range of mediums sates ravenous appetite for truths that were stolen blind. No longer robbed and aware that collected riches existed, this vibrant spirit shares indulgent histories for all ages. From here, viewers take apart spirited ancestor's storytelling rooms. They follow in her ghostly footsteps, apprehensively turning corners, down the creaky spiraled rabbit hole stairs are murals and woven fabrics.
First, rickety porch contains an inviting twin sized canopy bed, a see through blissful fortress of puffed white pillows and tucked white sheets. For exhausted souls, such a sight purely seduces, its intentions to beguile eyes into succumbing to relaxing mediation.

Unknown artist. The woodburn is excellently rendered portrait with wood chips inventing a convincing cloth.

Lovely artist Initstar Hamilton in the turquoise and gold kitchen she painted entitled "River Bed."
Trees and grass swirl around cabinets and countertops in a mesmerizing ode to the spectacular world Mother Nature provides to those who seek solace.
Endless swirling possibilities mirror our innermost desires to experience joy and magic.
Inside the stove, however, Initstar keeps her stashed art supplies.
An elegant brown woman doll seems to dance in the center, a gracious hostess that beckons revelers to wander into Betty Leacraft's curated "The Dream Space."This includes poets: Pheralyn Dove and Bea Joyner, fiber artists: Linda Black and Leacraft herself, and quilters: Asake Jones and Dindga McCannon. Plus Jihan Thomas and M. Nzadi Keita.
Pieced fiber optic quilt by Dindga McCannon tells a story of various women draped in glittery clothes and regal headscarves against a patterned blue backdrop and sunny jagged border.
Stitched lettering closeup from McCannon's quilt. Impressive detail.
Unique arrangement juxtaposed mixed patterns and images together, forming a message infused curtain.
Adored Africa Rising fabric.
"The Colored Girls Washroom," curated by Janet McDonald and Suzanne Burgess, contained a plethora of positive messages on the walls, the mirrors, the shower curtain....
Bathroom selfie.
Throughout the museum are various piles of stacked books. Topics range from black artists to black authors to children's literature.
At the top of spiraled stairs, a painted kitchenette more magical than the swirling paintbrush imaginings of Vincent Van Gogh, a bathroom with posted positive self-help quotes. In next room, an impressive library of books ranging from John Steptoe's Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters to Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow travel from impressive library shelves to mind as a couple discusses black female nudity wrapped in a flag-- an extraordinary flag made with synthetic hair and cotton, created as the artist watched Alex Haley's Roots. 

Tasha Douge created this American Flag by braiding together synthetic hair (bought from Asian hair stores) and strategically placing cotton whilst watching Alex Haley's "The Roots." Certain areas of this flag showcase extreme tightening due to the film's horrific scenes. This in turn caused Douge to integrate frustration into her artistic procession.
As a part of a brilliant collaboration, Jessica and Oliver Tingling of Boogie Down Spring Productions took Douge's flag and photographed it alongside various models. This woman, who is bare with synthetic braids atop her head, wraps herself in the metaphor.
Model travels with the American Flag.

On second level, inside bedroom of beautiful black yarn dolls and vanity mirrors, while Nina Simone's deep bellows an onslaught of blistered, gut-wrenching jazz out of ancient jukebox, Barbara Bullock's painted portraits of commending black women add glow to warm earth hues.

Another Michael Clemmons work. This porcelain is in the muted second floor big bedroom, part of "Every Shut Eye Ain't Sleep" curated by Clemmons and Vashti Dubois.
Propped either on beds or vanity tables, Lorrie Payne's enchanted dolls (some faceless) with cornrowed yarn for hair, are dressed in lengthy ethnic fabric dresses and fat dangling beads while radiantly reflected by warm, incandescent glow.
The Colored Boys Room, curated by Clemmons and Betsey Casanas featured work from Casanas, Sheena Garcia, The Black Boy Project, Olivia Nelson Haynes, and Torian Love.
Lastly, a special presentation called The Colored Boys room features poignant portraits of black youth forever trapped in pigeonholed society. Made up of powerful stamina, a video plays of middle schoolers discussing race, identity, and growing up in America.

Clip from Olivia Nelson Haynes' video, "The Black Boy Project" has interviews by middle and high school age boys discussing unique circumstances and dangerous perceptions while growing up black in America.
"My Brother's Keeper III," Sheena Garcia, digital photograph on fabric, 30" x 24," 2015.
Book Loves Part II.
Another Book Lovers Paradox: The Sequel.
Overall, The Colored Girls Museum is rich in fascinating tales to spread down generation to generation like glittered heirlooms a mother can pass to her daughter (or son)-- intelligent, open-ended thoughts of a liberated, enchanted world.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Andrea Bree Glasper Crawford: March 13, 1993- September 26, 2016.
A few weeks ago, my younger sister died. She was only 23 years-old.
I just found out yesterday.
I wasn't there. I wasn't there when she needed me to be.
Brooding on death is difficult and not knowing the whys is partly the problem.
Why it happened? Why now? Why her? Why?
Emotional weight of loss has broken eye capillaries, broken spirits. Crying has been a nonstop rain colliding down cheekbones. Sadness is rolling thunder of ruptured thoughts, loudly blasting within. Grief is an intense agony that no Band Aid can stop and smother. It stays unwavering in its intent to linger forever in the moment, excruciating pain enveloping mind and body.
Last month, she protested in Charlotte over the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott. Facebook has an indicator status that protesters can switch on to inform family and friends that theyw safe and alive. That was a sigh of relief mixed with being proud of her then.
Now is pure chaos.
I reflect on our phone conversations, which sometimes reached two- three hours. Funnily enough, we had much in common despite not growing up together. Our voices were similar-- bright and chipper. We loved the arts. We appreciated the natural hair movement.
She liked cooking, performing arts, and kids. She was an infant teacher. She just started college at DeVry University. She had only been married two years.  
Unfortunately, we hadn't had a phone conversation in a long time, primarily communicating via social media. Her last message, which Facebook has deleted, was to bring her something back from Paris and take lots of photos.
It's my fault. I know that much. I should have reached out more.
And now I'll miss completing true sisterly bond:

I'll never get to meet her.
I'll never get to say "I love you" to her in person.
I'll never get to touch her hand.
I'll never get to hug her.
I'll never get to kiss her cheek.
I'll never get to cook her a meal.
I'll never get to slather homemade facial mask over her face.
I'll never get to see movies with her.
I'll never get to brush her hair.
I'll never get to take her picture.

Rest in peace, Andrea. Tell Grandmother Elizabeth that I love and miss her as much as I love and miss you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant

Originally, my friends (this beautiful couple I know) and I were going to see a special screening of Hayao Miyazaki's memorable classic "Spirited Away" film at the Ritz. It was sold out. Thus, we made plans to New Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant-- a star vegan spot in Chinatown, on a Sunday instead. We ordered the special four course meal which consisted of house soup, veggie pancakes, three entrees, and dessert.
This 3-4 portioned House Steamed Bun Soup was absolutely divine. Plump cooked to perfection steamed buns filled with veggies surrounded in flowing carrots, peppers, and leaves, sitting in a clear vegetable stock.
Fried addictive veggie pancakes. Hard to eat one let alone two.
The soup was delicious!
"Beef" tips in broccoli and mock fried fish both served with broccoli. I usually am not a fan of faux meats, but New Harmony is doing something right. They're solely using tofu and seitan in uniquely innovative ways. They're seasoned well, the textures aren't chewy and awkward, flavors are spot on. Nothing is too salty or in need of salt. Though they gave us white rice instead of brown, the food was amazing.
I believe this is the mock duck-- triangular shaped tofu cutlets in a dark brown gravy decorated with broccoli and large white onion slices. Absolutely superb. My personal favorite of the three entree selections, these crisp, tender "meaty" additions were exceptional. I often dreamed of getting my tofu to taste similar.
Yum yum jasmine tea. I like enjoying Asian teas without the sugar. The flavor notes are strong and powerful. Extra sweetness interrupts pleasant herbs.
I was surprised by this fantastic fried raspberry cheesecake. My friend pulled a candle out of his pocket, stuck it in the candle, and lit the wick. He coaxed our friend/co-worker Laura, who was sitting at a table nearby, to engage in a quiet "happy birthday" serenade as not to disturb the other guests. To our disbelief, everyone in the section chimed in. The terrific moment almost made my eyes water. I hadn't expected such a wonderful showing of solidarity. It definitely felt like a scene out of a feel good film.
Neapolitan dessert trio: one had strawberry, one had chocolate, and one had vanilla. The delicate crunch, edible fortune cookies  tasty (like a real actual thin cookie) with my fortune reading, "enjoy three desserts a week.." Sweet ending to an otherwise superb meal. There's already plans in the works to try out the Sunday all-you-can-eat vegan buffet that just might end lives.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Peanut Butter Tofu

One of the most irresistible addictions know to womankind.
Let's pretend that this warm October day isn't named after an evil murderous villain who terrorized and wiped out a nation of indigenous people which then in turn upstarted roots of problems still existing now. No. Let's not go there at all.
Instead, I'll embrace the glory of peanut butter:
  • Peanuts are actually not nuts but legumes grown underground.
  • The U.S. is the third largest producer of peanuts (Georgia and Texas are the two major peanut-producing states). China and India are the first and second largest producers, respectively.
  • More than half of the American peanut crop goes into making peanut butter. 
  • U.S. president Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer.
  • It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • Americans eat around 700 million pounds of peanut butter per year (about 3 pounds per person).
  • An average American child eats 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before graduating from high school.
Also, peanut butter wasn't invented by George Washington Carver. However, he did discover 300 other uses for peanuts. I'd like to imagine that he made some tantalizing nutty variation that history won't allow us to know about. 300 is a lot of inventions-- for peanuts alone.

George Washington Carver, born into slavery without an accurate known birthdate, was a celebrated botanist and inventor. He had been kidnapped as a baby, raised by his slave owners after slavery was "abolished," witnessed whites killing a black man, and rejected from various schools due to his race. Yet he excelled on. He attended Simpson College in Iowa, studying piano and art, having a prime interest in painting plants and flowers. His art teacher persuaded him to pursue botany at Iowa State Agricultural College. While there, he was the first black student, writing a thesis called Plants As Modified by Man. Booker T. Washington then invited Carver to head the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Institute. Carver taught at Tuskegee for 47 years. He was well known all over the world. From being respected by presidents Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt to being honored by Time Magazine to becoming member of the Royal Society of the Arts in England to being a consultant for peanut farmers across the nation, Carver earned much fame and fortune. Yet he was humble and frugal. In fact, he donated $60,000 (equivalent to over a million dollars now) to his George Washington Carver Foundation, an exhibited legacy of his work. He is buried next to Booker T. Washington.
Now nothing makes us aware if George consumed a lot of peanuts during his earthly time.
I would hope that this celebratory peanut butter dish brought joyous light to his table and belly-- as it did mine. Peanut butter tofu is an incredible meeting of sweet and sticky with salty and savory under currents. Chewy interior has a tender meaty texture while the star powered exterior has a delectable crunch holding all flavor components together.

Peanut Butter Tofu Ingredients and Preparation

olive oil
1/2 tofu block, drained and diced
1 cup creamy peanut butter (used Whole Foods one ingredient peanut butter)
2 tablespoon Bee Free Honee
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
pinch of ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Pour olive oil onto a skillet set to medium high temperature.
Mix peanut butter, honee, garlic, cumin, turmeric, ginger, salt, and pepper.
Add tofu, evenly coating as much as possible.
Drop into hot skillet.

Stir constantly and cover in between. Takes 10-15 minutes for peanut butter tofu to be fully cooked.
Paired with broccoli and black rice, flavorful peanut butter tofu made an amazing contribution to dinner.
These leftovers were still impressive.
Definitely adding crushed peanuts at next attempt. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Birthday Pictopost

On a horrific week that started with cleaning out discarded property and a lost uninsured phone, nothing was more pleasing than Google opening the day with special inedible yet fancy colored treats and a personalized "happy birthday."
And Twitter came with the profile balloons popping.
In North Philadelphia, I checked out Duafe Hollistic Hair Salon with Shea Moisture's dandruff line. I loved the minty smell of both shampoo and conditioner, feeling my scalp cool and desensitize under hairdresser's ministrations and gentle cruelty free healing. Fresh hairstyle by Miss Geneva, this new hairstylist (one of the friendliest chicks ever) who created this sophisticated open ended crown, is quite wonderful.
Cornrows up and around. Not too tight either.
It's such a beautiful, complicated design that I myself wouldn't have thought up. In fact, this wasn't what I had in mind, but in the end, I fell deeper and deeper in love. Superb.
A Confident Stance: I found this Jones New York vivacious purple dress at Philly Aids Thrift for a whopping $1! A solid steal! Definitely one of the best hidden rack treasures of the year. For a whole day, I didn't feel discomfort about body shape. I loved the color, the form fit, the bit of gold embellishment-- overall perfect for me.
A big thank you to my high school art teacher. She sent me this beautiful pink box of meaningful gifts.
A new scarf, journal, and trinkets were sweet, but the growing herbs carton (thyme, basil, oregano, and more) had a gazillion happy positive raining in my head. How I have always dreamed of growing an herb/veggie patch! I hope this works out.
Stopped by Dottie's Donuts (naturally) to indulge in true love. Just in luck, I grabbed the last pumpkin pie donut with cream cheese filling.
Lunch at Govinda's treated by my friend/co-worker. Note to the wise: not all vegan cheese are created equal. We were disappointed in the wet, soggy cheese fries. I took them to go and melted Field Roast Chao on top. Now that made those fries the bees knees.
Evening ended with a sweet phone call to my mother, an early time off work, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, the latest episodes of "Queen Sugar" and "How to Get Away With Murder," and Ava DuVernay's new release 13th, which surprisingly enough contains powerful moments from various people speaking at Black Portraiture [s] this year. I highly recommend that you all watch this gritty insight on prison systems and the truth behind wording of the 13th amendment. Nothing is ever as it seems.
This special birthday card signed by staff and friends (along with some kind social media messages) made the day magical.