Mindful Living

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Written By Victoria B., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The last time I wrote, I spoke of the perpetual journey we all take to finding our purpose. The beauty of this is that there is never an endpoint. We all continue to grow. Since becoming aware of this, I am able to point out all of the distractions in my life. The first step into fixing the issue of overexertion is to realize that there is one.

7 hours and 40 minutes. That’s the amount of time I spend on my phone daily. That astounding number adds up to around 2.2 days out of each week and 114 days out of my year that is essentially wasted. There are so many things that I could do with that time. I could write a book in that amount of time! Since the invention on the smartphone, people are becoming increasingly unaware of the world that surrounds them. Yes, in many cases it can act as an equalizer, leveling the playing field for so many across the globe. But in retrospect, it detaches us from reality. Our social skills are beginning to deteriorate as almost all forms of communication are executed through technology. This is becoming increasingly evident when people enter the professional world cannot properly function in social settings due to the lack of practice with their communication skills. 

This absence of synergy among us in our society has also been established as a direct correlation to the amount of well-being that we all feel. “Whether it’s someone you’ve never met or it’s friends and family, spending time with people face to face is linked with happiness” (Lynne Peeples). It also inhibits the number of different opinions we are exposed to. 

This utter fascination with technology also inhibits our minds to ease. The fact of the matter is that we aren’t truly allowing ourselves to relax and decompress as we so desperately need. Going forward, I am going to challenge myself and anyone else willing and able to limit phone usage to just 2 hours a day. Anything less, realistically speaking, is not achievable at this point. Personally, I plan on doing this by not checking it immediately after I wake up. Instead, I’ll put on some gentle morning wake up music (you know the kind) and get energized that way. Throughout the day as I get tired, I’ll try to close my eyes, have an engaging conversation with someone or maybe even read the rest of my book that I have been working on for the past 6 months. This will give my mind the time to truly “shut down” and connect with others around me. When I get home in the evenings, instead of spending hours on Instagram, Tik Tok, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. I’ll read the New York Times magazine that I’m subscribed to, cook with my mother, or draw something in my sketchbook that has been neglected since the start of my higher education. This way, I’ll still be caught up on the current happenings of the world and doing something that sparks joy without submitting myself to inevitable distractions that my phone gives me. 

Through this, I am hoping to become more in tune with the physical world around me and less tethered to the facade or mask the internet creates. This will enable me to establish my roots in the present and allow me to explore other options of spending my time doing something more productive.

 Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Next Step: Adulthood

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Written By Aspen S., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Adulting. It’s one of life’s necessary evils that many millennials like myself were hoping to hold out for as long as possible. But now that I am in my first salary-paying job and I have real bills, I think it is safe to say that adulthood has found me for real this time. While I often joke that this adult situation is really for the birds, I’ve recently taken some time to think about the other and significantly less expensive aspects of adulthood.

  • Making friends is kind of hard. I am blessed to be living in an area where I already have a well-connected social network but I have quickly learned that this is somewhat unusual. Since I am one of the newer people to join my work environment, I spend a lot of time with the other new people and they often tell me that making new friends is very difficult, especially ones outside of the work environment. At first I was like “just talk to people!” but that’s much easier said than done and as an introvert, I of all people should have understood that. So clearly, I really dropped the ball on validating their experience as a friend but it got me thinking about how I have formed friendships in the past. As I ran through my mental contact list one thing became clear, I became friends with people through school — classes, leadership opportunities, and on-campus employment. So, my peers were definitely right. Making friends is indeed quite hard and as someone who is from the DMV, my new mission is to try my best to be a better connector amongst people. Adulting is hard enough so nobody should have to go through it alone.

 

  • But maybe some alone time is great. The idea of expanding social networks actually brings me to the second realization that I had about my own personal journey through adulthood. As I mentioned, I have quite a bit of friends in this area who I have had the pleasure of reconnecting with. I also grew up in a household of seven. I then went off to college and then to graduate school where I always had roommates. Now, I primarily live alone (my best friend stays over some times to avoid work traffic) in a two bedroom apartment. At first I was very afraid that the sheer silence would make me feel lonely and drive me to a bad place mentally. However, I really enjoy being alone. As I’m sure many of you can tell by now I am a very reflective person and although I can turn my extrovert on I am truly an introvert at heart. So, I always enjoy when I am visited by friends and family, especially those traveling far and wide to visit me (shoutout my Florida friends!) but I also love being able to close my door at the end of the day and sink into my bed without a care in the world. I like being able to store 100 beets in my refrigerator without anyone judging me and make smoothies at 9 am OR 9 pm without feeling like I will disturb anyone. I can return as late as I want without telling anyone where I’m going or with whom. Overall, I feel a sense of liberation that I have yet to feel in almost 25 years and so that is what I associate with adulthood more than anything else.
  • Adults can have fun too. And the last thing that I’ve learned so far about this whole adulting endeavor is that adults deserve to have a good time too. Although I work a lot and never have money because I’m still paying emergency surgery bills and credit card bills that accumulated throughout grad school, I still need to make time for fun. I don’t have to rush to pay bills if it means that I will have no spending money to go out to dinner or the movies every so often with friends. I am grateful for my friends, especially those approaching or in their thirties who constantly encourage me to take time for myself and pursue opportunities to travel or do things that will bring joy into my life. 

 

If I’ve learned anything about this whole adulthood situation so far, it’s that it requires balance. Things that were once so easily or accessible or never a concern are at the forefront of our experiences now. We make memes that describe adulthood like it is a bogey man that you should keep running from without looking back. But like most things, I’m learning that it is yet another venue for personal growth and just another new set of challenges that I know I can navigate if I just give it my best energy, take it one step at a time, and lend myself a little grace when I inevitably mess something up. 

 Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Hate U Give: The Black Community, “Christianity”, and the LGBTQ Community

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We can’t be free unless we’re all free

This one is long overdue. I’ve been purposely collecting my thoughts to address a topic that is still, to members of the Black community, seen as taboo or un-Christian-like. I’ve also been figuring out how to keep my heterosexual privilege in check to not offend members of the LGBT community. When I say offend I mean, I don’t want to speak for the LGBT community. I want to use my platform to stand with them as an advocate. I want to use my privilege as a heterosexual woman to speak to other privileged heterosexual people in the Black community about how discriminating against members of the LBGT community is wrong. 

It’s important to provide a little context to the basis for this post. Recently, my home state of Illinois passed a law that requires public schools to teach LBGTQ+ history. While I was happy with the new legislation, many were “outraged”. A quick sidenote: I recognize that because I’ve studied and do diversity education for a living, I have a better understanding of how nuanced diversity and inclusion work can be. I also recognize that folks have freedom of choice. People choose to not change their mindsets and that’s okay. But they have no excuse to say no one ever tried to help educate them. 

Anywho, folks were outraged (everyone is fake outraged on social media about everything), but I felt a wave of disappointment when I saw the number of Black people having the most ignorant and distasteful comments about it. Of course, this is not the first time our community has spewed hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve been doing it since the beginning of time. Our fathers have told our sons to “stop crying and acting like a (insert homophobic slur here)” or how we’ve all heard the rhetoric “I know my kids better not turn out gay”. Our community sits in silence when a Black transwoman is murdered but flood the streets when a Black person is killed unjustly by law enforcement. [Note: I believe unarmed Blacks being killed by police is a heinous crime, but I’m trying to make a point]. We shun our girls for wearing baggy clothes or “dressing like a boy” because it’s unlady like. We’ve fallen into the socially constructed bullshit that the perceived elite white people created to maintain positions of power. 

After I saw the negative comments about the Illinois law, I made a FaceBook status about how disappointed I was in Black people for what they were saying. The first person to comment on my status was a white guy I went to middle school with. This first amused me because I was clearly talking to Black people on my status and a white person inserted themselves into a conversation that had nothing to do with them. But historically, white people tend to insert themselves in places that weren’t meant for them…but I digress. The comment said something along the lines of “They shouldn’t be trying to force our kids to learn that”. I forgot what exactly I said back to him but it was along the lines of understanding that the law is not about forcing sexuality on children, it was about teaching LGBTQ HISTORY. HISTORY being the keyword here. Historically, LGBTQ folks have been victims of violence, oppression, and discrimination at the hands of systems of domination. Just like Black folks have in this country. But outside of the horrible things that have been done to the community, LGBTQ+ folks have been writers, painters, law makers, instrumental people in the fight for justice for all that has helped shape this country into what it is. Students in schools would be learning about those important figures in that fight for social justice. 

 But my response to him wasn’t enough. Others joined into the conversation. This time, more Black folks. Some agreed with me, others saw my point but still had some reservations, and others were downright out of control. So out of control, that I had to block someone I used to go to school with for how vile his comments were. One common theme I saw among the comments was the theme of “Christianity” and “God”. Now, I identify as a Christian. Not the type of Christian that casts stones at others and not myself, though. People said that LGBTQ people weren’t of God and that it shouldn’t be mandated to teach children about the history because it isn’t what the Bible says. Of course, my rebuttal to that was “God also said to love thy neighbor”. 🙂 Anyway, there was much back and forth on my status and next thing I know, I had 130+ comments. I decided to delete the status because it was getting out of hand and I wanted to ensure to not hurt some feelings. I felt myself going down that route. 

My point here is, Black folks we can’t be down for a socially just world if we are constantly trying to oppress a group of people. WE are already fighting oppression ourselves. We’ve been fighting for centuries. You can’t believe Black Lives Matter if you participate in the demise of another socially oppressed group. News flash, Black people are also members of the LGBTQ+ community and have been pioneers in their work towards equity. You’re upset that Illinois wants to educate the youth about LGBTQ+ history. You feel that they’ve done a piss poor job at teaching Black history in schools. However, you forget that Black experiences are intersectional. Your favorites, James Baldwin and Audre Lorde were Black queer writers and activists. The founders of the Black Lives Matter Movement are three Black queer women. Your niece or nephew, your brother or sister, is a member of the community and afraid to confide in you because of the hate you spew. 

One of the reasons I’ve heard Black millennials have drifted away from the Black church and even Christianity altogether is because of the hypocrisy of the religion. Christians turn a blind eye to everything but feel the need to chastise people’s biological attraction. Christians say nothing when they gossip about each other at church. They say nothing when they have babies out of wedlock, or do hard drugs, or lie. You can’t teach someone to be gay, lesbian, bisexual. We do teach heteronormativity because we don’t believe in anything outside of the “norm”. White people rule everything because anything outside of the “norm” doesn’t fit into their plans of power. It’s the same thing.

We can’t be free unless we’re all free.

❤ Queen T

Live In Love <3

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Written By Mesha G., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I’ve allowed my heart to love. Now, before everyone thinks this is all about a guy, it really isn’t because it’s about so much more.  I’ve allowed myself to love me and everyone around me. Moving through life with love is way different that what many would anticipate, it’s freeing, a little scary but definitely freeing once it’s been embraced.  

Recently, a couple of my girls and I began a book club and our first read is a book dedicated to loving yourself and finding the love you want.  The read was definitely insightful and challenged me in a way I wasn’t anticipating on being challenged. How we navigate through life are indications of if we are moving through life with love or not. The way we decide to handle adversities are a direct display of how we ultimately feel about ourselves and how we view ourselves. We can believe and lie to ourselves saying that we are living life through love but can be driven more by anxiety or fear.  

When we navigate life through fear, we are always in fight or flight mode.  One of my favorite quotes that I have on my work monitor is “when you are going to stop living in survival mode?”  This particular quote was in reference to how we overwork ourselves so I kept this around after I heard it because I continued to find myself making decisions as if I didn’t have my feet on the ground. Living in fear or anxiety rather than love creates emotional dissonance.  We aren’t empathetic or compassionate to others, we tend to listen to respond rather than listen to recieve, amongst a host of other things that create an unhealthy existence for us. And if we do find ourselves in empathetic or compassionate places, it may be very easy to be walked over because it became an avenue for approval. 

I didn’t realize how moving through life without love meant that I was cutting myself short of so many opportunities; the opportunity to be truly and internally joyful rather than just a delightful person for others to be around. The opportunity to not be mad about shit that I cannot control or embrace being mad and letting it go. And the opportunity to let go of skepticism that life gifts us with. Throughout the more recent experience I’ve had learning how to live through love, I’ve learned so much about myself and how to react (or not react) with others.  Most importantly, I’ve learned how to choose me in the midst of all of the demands of the world without guilt. Moving through life with love is so underrated.

 Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

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My Journey to Becoming…

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Written By Victoria B., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

“Am I good enough?” 4 words asked by former First Lady, Michelle Obama, at the beginning of her book, “Becoming” that ran often through my mind.

Last winter I decided to pick up a copy of “Becoming”. At that time, I had no idea how much I would relate to Mrs. Obama and her feelings towards the roller coaster we call life. Before reading her words, I thought she had always had her life together and knew exactly what she wanted (I thought everyone did). It wasn’t until further reading did I realize that she, like the rest of us, is figuring it out along the way. This sudden comprehension felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. 

From the age of 11, I knew exactly what I wanted to be. I made sure to tailor my high school electives, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work to gain experience in the field that I had chosen. I did this all throughout high school and the beginning part of college. It wasn’t until starting at my university did I feel that I had chosen the wrong major. I was constantly under an overwhelming amount of stress, got sick/ injured often, and wasn’t succeeding in the way I knew I could.  I felt as if I wasn’t realizing my full potential and I didn’t know why. I would often end up questioning my abilities even though I knew deep down that I had what it took. I distanced myself and seldom wore the smile that I am so well known for. I finally had enough of feeling low and decided to take matters into my own hands, listen to my body, and not go against the grain as it felt like I had been doing for so long.

 I took a step back and reevaluated what I wanted to achieve and how I was going to pursue my dreams. I did weeks of research on different career options in the related field of my precious choice. I chose one that I knew I could succeed with great potential for advancement. I listened to my intuition and decided to change everything. I started a new university job, switched both my major and my minor, and even redecorated my room. It felt like I had a new lease on life. I began achieving the grades I knew I deserved/worked so hard for, was awarded many different professional opportunities, and started to develop my sense of self. Of course, I have to give tremendous credit to my wonderful mother who not only supported my decisions but guided me in the right direction. Without her wisdom and counsel, I have no idea where I would be.]

What Mrs. Obama taught me was that life is a never-ending journey of lessons and growth. To get “to know the richness of [your] own mind” is something achieved after many experiences in which you learn a great deal of yourself.  I think it’s important for everyone, especially young people starting their voyage, to understand and respect the process that we must go through. It isn’t just a straight shot toward achieving your goals but rather a turbulent one filled with highs and lows. One must always trust your instinct and try their hardest.

 Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

We All Want to FEEL Something

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Written By Aspen S., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

For the past eight weeks I have spent my Sunday nights anxiously waiting for the clock to hit 10:00 to watch what has quickly become my favorite television show, Euphoria. The show, executive produced by Drake, is HBO’s newest original series. The story details the life of high school students and the intricate yet somewhat connected storylines that each of these students experience. The show itself is reminiscent of the UK series Skins or even the beloved Degrassi but it bears a level of honesty and rawness that I personally have never seen before in a show. Its incredible story lines are then augmented by beautiful cinematography, a robust soundtrack that includes the like of Too $hort and Arcade Fire in the same episode, and a score compilated by the musical genius that is Labrinth.

The show is loosely based on an Israeli series of the same name but is also very personal to the show creator, Sam Levinson, who battled drug addiction and navigating his own mental health through his teen years, two themes that are heavily discussed in the show. Zendaya’s character, Rue, is the main character and narrator of the show and the show features a variety of other amazing actors including Hunter Schafer, Maude Apatow, and many others, some of whom are in their first acting role and still managed to get me deeply invested in their characters (shoutout Angus Cloud #feznation). 

Now that the season is over, I have taken some time to really reflect on it all and have come to three major realizations.

1. We are all humans who want to be loved. The show does a great job of detailing the trials and tribulations of the characters but at the end of the day what truly connects them is that they are all aiming to feel loved and comforted in who they are. For some this first means figuring out who they are and for others this means finding someone who honors who they are through the waning good and bad times. This can easily be translated to real life when we think about our own unique lived experiences and how this may look or feel completely different, but as the tagline mentions, we are just hoping to feeling something – and preferably something good. This is what drives our actions, steers how we perceive our interactions with others, and how we choose to navigate the world around us.

2. We have a bad habit of becoming out of touch as we grow older. When the show first aired there were so many parents who were shocked by the content. They were even more thoroughly shook when they watched it with their kids, only to find out that the show manages to convey a pretty accurate portrayal of life for high school-aged kids. I had a very similar conversation with my own mother who I recommended the show too. I didn’t expect her to watch but surprisingly she did and just like me she was hooked after the first episode. After that, we would always be sure to text or call each other on Mondays to discuss our thoughts on most recent episodes. At first she felt very disconnected to the characters but after I gave her my take on it and related the characters to myself, my siblings, and/or friends and peers in my life that she knows well she was even more intrigued. It got us talking with a level of depth and honesty that I cannot recall us previously every doing. I am grateful for the ways that Euphoria has unexpectedly brought me and my mother together and I hope we can continue to have these conversations, especially as they pertain to our own experiences, leading me to realization number three.

3. We are all doing the best that we can and that’s all that we can ask for. As my mother and I reflected on our experiences, I came to realize that in the moment we are really doing the best that we can in the best ways that we know how. For parents this doesn’t always mean that they are the best parents in the world and for kids it doesn’t always mean that we are making the best decisions for our futures. But we are reacting to our experiences and making decisions in the moment in a way that works for us, in a way that we can avoid pain, and in a way that will allow us to hopefully suffer the least. It doesn’t always work out for the best, but that’s all part of the journey.

Despite going into this show with zero expectations (it came on after Big Little Lies and I wasn’t ready to move from the couch so I stayed to watch), it has allowed me to think about so much more than I ever would have thought. It has gotten me to reflect on my own teen years and continued early adulthood and has sparked conversations with friends and family.

The show has already been renewed for a second season which will likely air in the summer of 2020. In the meantime, I’ll be on Twitter every day, blowing up Labrinth’s mentions as I beg him to release the show’s ear-gasmic score.

 Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Stop Inviting Me Over If Your House Ain’t Clean

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To some, the title, Stop Inviting Me Over If Your House Ain’t Clean may be alarming. But to others, you know exactly what I mean. I’m even going to flex, I used to date this guy who didn’t know what cleaning meant. His apartment was always a mess, the bathroom looked like it hadn’t tasted a lick of Scrubbing Bubbles since the building was built, I was scared of the kitchen because I thought something was growing in it, I mean…it was bad. Since that relationship has long since ended, I vowed to never go to anyone’s house that wasn’t clean. 

Since being back on the dating scene, it’s been kind of weird trying to figuring out if a guy’s apartment/house is clean before I decide to go over there. It’s weird to come out and say “hey, sir! Is your apartment clean? Is your bathroom clean? Do you know how to use bathroom cleaner? Do you wash your dishes? Do you leave your trash in the can for days?” I remember I was on FaceTime with this guy a couple weeks ago and I could see his room in the background. It was an entire mess. I made a mental note to stop talking to him after that moment. I’m unsure if this is shallow or not but I don’t feel comfortable being in someone’s space that isn’t clean. That tells me so much about you as a person and what type of companion you will be in the future.

And most times, a messy and unclean house is a sign that there may be deeper issues going on with the person in the first place. That’s what I learned about my ex. 

I try my best to ensure that I keep my place clean. I do this for two reasons. The first, I can’t focus on anything if my apartment is not clean. If there are clothes everywhere or I have a sink full of dishes, my mind and body cannot relax because I feel like I’m in chaos. Being at home is supposed to relax you after a long day at work. Coming home to a messy place doesn’t settle me down. The second reason is, if I have guests over, I don’t want them to think I’m a dirty person lol. It’s just not sanitary for anyone and I don’t get how some guys feel comfortable inviting people (especially women they are trying to impress) over knowing their space is filthy. The new me who is appreciative of the standards I set for myself, cannot stand for this. 

But the title goes beyond apartments and houses. Cleaning your “house” means yourself. I don’t think it’s fair to pursue a relationship with anyone if you don’t have yourself together. Here’s a few examples of what I mean.

  1.  If you know for sure you are not ready to be in a relationship because you aren’t ready to give up the multiple other people you’re messing around with, stop inviting me over if your house ain’t clean. Situations like this are tricky. It’s important that when you are searching for someone to be with to date multiple people. I am all for it. But don’t be talking to me about how I’m the one and only but you know good and well I’m not the one and only. Be honest. Let me make the decision if I want to continue to talk to you or not. 
  2. If you have lots of emotional baggage that you aren’t ready to address with a licensed therapist, stop inviting me over if your house ain’t clean. Mental health is very important to me. I’ve met many people who still don’t believe in going to therapy and they carry around all this shit and take it out on the ones they are with. Being mentally healthy is an on-going process just like exercising and eating right. It is part of a longer and more fruitful life and you are doing me and yourself a disservice if you don’t take the time to work on yourself.
  3. In connection with mental health, if you don’t take your physical health seriously, stop inviting me over if your house ain’t clean. I come from a family with a history of heart disease and diabetes. I’ve been big my entire life and in 2013, I decided to make a lifestyle change for myself. I stepped on the scale in 2013 and I was approximately 250 pounds and I couldn’t take it anymore. It is important to be cognizant of how you are treating your body. Although I workout here and there, I can’t be with someone who doesn’t believe in doing some type of physical activity, be it walking during the day or going to the gym a couple times a week, who doesn’t believe in drinking water, who doesn’t eat at least 2 green vegetables. Trust me, I love my share of sweets and things that aren’t good for me. I’m not saying deprive yourself of the things you want, but think about your body long term. Anddddd, on a selfish note: if you’re overweight, that probably means you snore when you sleep and I cannnnnnnnot! lol
  4. If you know for sure you’re not ready to pursue a relationship, stop inviting me over if your house ain’t clean. In my experience, guys know if they want to be with you or not. If you are not sure if you want to be with someone, don’t lead them on and have them thinking you want to be with them. There’s a difference between saying, “I’m not looking for a relationship” and talking and acting like you are looking for one. That does nothing but lead us on and waste our time. Be open and honest about the expectations, especially if you know the woman is starting to catch feelings for you.

This list isn’t an end all be all and to be honest, having a clean house can go with friendships, too. I was talking to one of my really good friends about this. There has been times in the past where I have gotten close to other women and thinking we are friends and then they turn around and disrespect me in the worst way possible because of their own insecurities. 

To conclude, it is important to do self-reflection and self-work before you try to invite people into your space. My best friends tell me this all the time. I had to do lots of self-reflection last year. I realized that at that point in time, I wasn’t ready to allow someone into my life because I still had lots of emotional baggage going on in various avenues in my life. Now, that I am in a better space, I hope this helps someone else who feels they need to clean their house (literally or figuratively) before they invite people over.

❤ Queen T

My Modern Day Religion Journey

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Written By Mesha G. – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Religion is the basis of America. When we look at the dollar bill it says “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Controversially, public schools still recite the Pledge of Allegiance and that says “one nation under God.”  Regardless of your religion or lack of religion if you live in America, you have been infiltrated with religion, specifically Christianity.   

I grew up fairly involved in a (non-denominational) Christian church and still identify as a Christian. However, like many others, my experience in the church has led me astray from the fellowship that occurs when the church congregate.  Nothing terribly traumatizing happened at church other than judgement. I can take some conviction, now. But the “holier than thou” vibes were something I actively made a choice to not fall into because I’ve experienced life… and by life at that time just meant I went to college LOL but I got a chance to experience people outside of my bubble.  

I attended the epitome of a state school so everybody and they mama from all over Illinois attended with sprinkles of people from other states and countries. But I learned so much about others upbringings and traditions (and religion) that shapes how they view the world from people who lived relatively close to my hometown.  I’m very appreciative of my upbringing, it made a bomb ass woman. I’m not always right as I tend to feel I am but I’ve grown grounded enough to be unwavering with my beliefs while still making myself open and available to other regardless of where they came from. And THIS is something that isn’t true typically shared among our church folk. 

Many millennials and younger generations have fallen flat to the idea of maintaining a religious relationship in the church.  They may have some groundedness in spirituality, like myself, but no longer have a church home or spiritual guide like a pastor. I honestly teeter back and forth with myself if I need it or not.  Sometimes, I miss it…most times I don’t. 

One of the rationales why I don’t miss it is based off the word, our goal is to be salt and light in the world. I’m not being in the world sharing light and being salt if I sit with Cheryl every Sunday and Wednesday night and judge the people that don’t feel comfortable walking through those doors.  By nature, we hang with people who are very much alike and aligned with ourselves. And because of this natural habit, we are not being vessels…. Ooh that’s a word. 

And the very reason why I don’t miss it is the very same reason why I do, under great leadership and even better community, there’s amazing opportunities to become true leaders in the community and the world without the opposition of forcing views down people who may view life different than you.  As a true testament of God’s will in your life will shine without force. You will literally radiate from His grace and from there opens a window of opportunity to share the word should you choose to. 

Maybe my ideology doesn’t align with the ideal Christianity and I don’t care…honestly and truly.  I do the work of the Lord in my best form without being barbaric and I still be blessed. 

 Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Ballet Noir

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Written By Victoria B. – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Idols. Ingrid Silva. Michaela DePrince. Precious Adams. Carlos Acosta. Andrea Long. Harper Watters. One of my earliest memories in ballet was in 2003 when I was patiently waiting in the hallway for class to start. My eyes danced around searching for something to catch my attention. Finally, they fixated on a stunning portrait of what I thought was a princess. It was of a black woman en pointe in a light pink and fuschia tutu. At the time, I didn’t know who she was. All I knew is that I wanted to be just like her. From that moment on, I saw her everywhere I turned. From being in magazines as the Firebird to on a portrait hanging at the dancewear shop as Cleopatra (the role specifically created for Ms. Anderson by former Artistic Director, Ben Stevenson)  I then found out that she was Principal Dancer, Lauren Anderson. Her bright smile, shining eyes, and impeccable technique will forever be sketched in my memory. Besides, Ms. Anderson, I never had many ballet idols that looked like me. Now, because of the diversity revolution and social media, we are exposed to many black dancers. This is not to say everything is perfect. Change is slow but inevitable. 

Apparel. “Why aren’t your tights pink?” Was a question I used to get from my fellow classmates. Confused, I used to ask my mom if she bought the wrong color tights because my legs never looked like everyone else. She tenderly explained that they were, in fact, the same color but darkened because of my skin tone. When I was growing up the default universal “nude” shade was a light pink color. This can prove to create an internal conflict when your skin tone doesn’t match the norm. While it might not seem like all that big of a deal, to a child it makes one feel isolated and like they don’t belong. The hues of pink also severs the extension that should be accentuated by the tights and pointe shoes.  “It changes the aesthetic, you want there to be a continuation between your upper and lower body and there’s a big disconnect if I put pink tights on.” (Precious Adams, 2018). This could be quite discouraging for a dancer chasing their dreams to feel.

Opportunities. “We don’t want to break the corps line.” An excuse young black dancers are often met with when they aren’t chosen for a role. Ballet is about synchronicity and uniformity. Everything, especially the corps de ballet (the body of the stage)  should be precise and balanced. Some companies use the notion of disturbing the line to justify their decision to leave out the dancer with a darker skin tone. Maya James, a close friend of mine, recounted the feeling of being the only black dancer at her studio, “When I stood at the barre and looked around the room before class, I did not see a single person that looked like me. Being the only brown face in the room made me feel a real sense of alienation – despite these other girls being my friends, I felt alone in the sense of being the only girl who had to apply foundation to my shoes and sometimes even to the flesh-colored parts of my performance costumes.” To maintain the aforementioned continuity, Maya found herself, like most other black dancers, being placed in the back during performances. “It’s almost like you’re the ugly duckling because the decision is purely to maintain aesthetics so that each dancer in the front looks the same. But what about talent? What about drive? If a black dancer exhibits these qualities, then why can’t they be in the front?” One might ask the simple question, “What’s the big deal if everyone looks different?” Former dancer with the New York City Ballet and Principal Dancer of the Dance Theater of Harlem, Andrea Long,  says, “A lot of the ballets are so programmed into people’s heads that they can’t see it any other way.” Often times people fear change. It shouldn’t be seen as an attack but as progress towards a more diverse and cohesive society.  

Hope. “When I see someone that looks like me that’s when I get inspired.” (School of American Ballet student, Kennedy Sheriff). The power of representation is unparalleled and vital for our people to feel accepted and included. There has been a shift in ballet seen in recent years. The taboo topic of race has been discussed more openly on huge platforms thanks to Misty Copeland, Michaela DePrince, etc. Harper Watters, Soloist for the Houston Ballet, has a popular Youtube Channel that gives insight to the life of a dancer. Carlos Acosta, a former dancer for the English National Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Houston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, has been appointed as the next Artistic Director for the Birmingham Royal Ballet starting in 2020. And Michaela DePrince, Soloist for the Het National Ballet in Amsterdam has been featured in many documentaries and magazines.

 In the past, black dancers would have to “pancake” their pointe shoes with their stage makeup to match their skin tones. Now, with companies such as Gaynor Minden and Mariia Dancewear, dancers of color are starting to feel welcomed in the dance world. Even though we have made leaps and bounds, we have a long way to go. Despite headway being made in creating a space for black dancers, the disparity between opportunities extended to white dancers and black dancers is glaringly apparent. We mustn’t be discouraged but inspired to create a world we are not only able but encouraged to thrive in.

 Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I AM My Hair

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Written By Aspen S. – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series 

Having recently moved to a literal swamp environment I have noticed that my curls just don’t have the same bounce that they used to. My hair and been pretty dry and even though it’s very humid here, Maryland’s summer humidity is much different than the year-long humidity that envelopes the entire state of Florida. But with that being said my hair products just don’t hit the same these days. So, I’ve been doing quite a bit of experimenting in these past few weeks. 

I’ve done some research on different hair types and have determined that I definitely have low porosity hair. In less scientific terms, it basically takes hours on end for my hair to dry. If I do a wash-and-go in the morning, I have to bring a sweat towel with me because my hair will be dripping for the first three hours in my office (even after 15-20 minutes of towel trying because I truly try to avoid blow drying it). So no matter how cute my wash-and-go, my hair always ends up in a bun to keep the moisture contained. 

Like most people with low-porosity hair, my hair cuticles tend to block moisture during initial contact. The best example of this is when I get into the shower and the water will come in contact with my hair and literally bead up like oil and water. And while yes, I’m definitely putting oil in my hair it is not so lathered in oil that it would repel water like that. However, the low porosity means that after a few minutes of being in the shower, my hair cuticles will start to hold onto the water and at that point the hair actually won’t let it go anymore.  It is almost as if my hair is dehydrated and has found the last cup of water on earth. It will do anything to make it last. 

My low porosity hair is also easily affected by products. Since my hair cuticles are saturated by water after a wash, any products that I put in are not able to get into the hair cuticles. Instead they tend to build up over the cuticles and the ingredients are not absorbed well in my hair. This also means that my hair is not getting well-moisturized even when I put in product to do just that. This can lead to breakage to my hair when it finally dries. 

Before I go any further, I wanted to add a tidbit on high porosity hair. If you high porosity hair, your hair is very likely to dry very quickly but will frizz easily with the slightest exposure to moisture. This is because your hair cuticles are very receptive to moisture. Unlike my hair, high porosity hair will grab on to moisture very quickly but it will also lose it very quickly as well once absorbed, thus avoiding that over saturation. 

I’ve been looking for products, techniques, and styles that are good practice for low porosity hair. Products can be expensive so my experimentation is going little by little. I am starting off with being better able to moisturize my hair. Deep conditioning is something that I have always been super lazy about, but that is one of the best opportunities to moisturize my hair. Using a shower cap or other system that creates steam in a concentrated environment helps lift up the cuticle so that product can be absorbed. I’m also on the hunt for sticky but light products that can really attached to the cuticle, but not build up very thickly if it isn’t absorbed. 

In all of this, I’ve become very grateful for my many natural hair friends who have shared their hair experiences, products, and routines. I’ve realized that hair has a special way of bringing people together. I’ve also grown appreciative of the diversity of Black hair and how different my hair can look on any given day because it truly has a mind of its own. I’m looking forward to my experiments and maybe even exploring new hair opportunities that are completely new to me such a clip in hair, wigs, etc. that serve as both protective styles and the chance to serve new looks and styles. 

Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

**FOR AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT***

Let us know your favorite hair products or routines in the comments!