Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thursday Throwback: I'm Not Your Plaything

ending the decade jammin' (to 2 decades ago).

happy new year, sisters and brothers.  tie up those Loose Ends (wonka wonka wonka)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"I Wonder" Wednesdays: Everything is Martin Luther

this man's voice does things to me.  you don't really want to know what those things are.  trust me.  this glimpse into some of his new material comes to us today courtesy of the folks over at SoulBounce.

you may remember Martin Luther from his first vid:

yes, that's saul williams.  and ?uestlove.  and nona gaye.  and yes, wood harris.  really the "you are my daily bread" refrain is the best.  and it's uber lovely accoustic.

i wonder when his next album is coming out...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Flowers for the Garden: Distant Relatives

Damian Marley and Nas are said to be working on a collaborative cd, to be released in March 2010. the working title is "Distant Relatives," and the proposed cover art is shown here. funny how people always refer to these efforts as "best of both worlds" projects after Jay-Z did a collabo with Robert-that's-not-me-on-the-tape-Kelly. it's as if they don't remember this.'s not really the same thing. i just like any excuse to mention the Bee Gees.

moving along...i'm not a Nas fan. i'm still holding "Oochie Wally" against him. i'm a music snob who holds grudges. i am, however, a Damian Marley fan. he's my brother in my head. so we'll see.

what say you?

UPDATE: check out this trailer that D. Shanks posted in the comments below. he's the greatest.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thursday Throwback: Christmas Blows

i went last-minute christmas shopping with a friend today.  today was his FIRST day of shopping.  all that to say, my clevermeter is at about a 1.  i tried :)  merry holiday season of generic type and possibilities (unless you're pagan.  then merry winter!)


Friday, December 18, 2009

Memorial Flowers: Alaina Reed Hall

*sigh*  i supposed i should've waited until the year was actually over to do a post for those who died in 2009.

Alaina Reed Hall, probably best known for her roles on Sesame Street and 227, passed away today.  according to What Would Thembi Do, her death is believed to be the result of complications due to breast cancer.

rest peacefully, Alaina.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Letter from the Garden: Dear Spirits

dear spirits,

the closer i get to christmas, the more i think about the fact that i won't be able to see my father this year.  i predict all holidays and birthdays will have this effect on me for a while.  since his death, i've struggled through father's day, my brother's birthday, my birthday, and thanksgiving.  i'm still adjusting to not being able to talk to him.  my, how i took that for granted.

while i was sitting here thinking of this, i thought of how many times i complained that 2009 was full of death.  i've gotten on the other side of that feeling for the most part, though i'm still anxious for the year to be over, as if somehow i'm owed a better 2010.  ah, entitlement.  i've digressed yet again.

i wanted to take a moment for those of you who transcended beyond this crazy world this year.  at the risk of sounding crazy, i call on some of you for strength and guidance the way some folks call on patron saints for help in certain situations.  i appreciate being able to do that.

so, today i honor you.  some of you were made famous for your service and your talent.  some of you weren't well-known at all.  but all of you were somebody's somebody.


sistergarteners:  i'm posting some of the famous spirits who passed away this year.  it's a moment to remember, and perhaps to learn something you didn't know about a few of them (homework!).  please feel free to use the comment space for remarks on any of them or anyone else you wish to honor.

John Hope Franklin

Bea Arthur

Ernie Barnes

Dom DeLuise

Ed McMahon

Michael Jackson

Farrah Fawcett

Steve McNair

Frank McCourt

E. Lynn Harris

John Hughes

Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Sen. Ted Kennedy

Dominick Dunne

Adam "DJ A.M." Goldstein

Johnny Carter

Patrick Swayze

Thursday Throwback: Nothing Ever Lasts Forever

Tears for Fears is BEYOND.  i loved the 80s.  deeply.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"I Wonder" Wednesday: Sugar Mamas

i wonder, have you ever been a sugar mama?  i was recently on the peripheral of a conversation amongst a group of women, mostly college students, who were discussing at least one relationship in each of their lives where they had "scraped their last pennies together" to take care of their partner.  so they asked me, "when were you a sugar mama?"  i thought about it...and i came up with nothing.  i have to admit, i suddenly felt as if this were some woman's rite of passage that i had missed out on.  i really wanted to come up with an answer.  i wanted to be a part of the "in" crowd, even though the crowd was lamenting.  it's even funnier as i type it.

so then i began to most women have a sugar mama story?  i realize i'm a strange bird, so maybe sugar mama status is indeed a rite of passage right up there with your first broken heart and your first crush on a middle-aged blue-eyed soul singer (just me?  you sure?).

so what say you, sistergarteners?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Flowers for the Garden: Bonnie Raitt

timeless song about unrequited love.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Flowers: Lilith

Lilith Fair is back.  part of the 2010 lineup was recently revealed, and i cannot wait to check out the Philly leg of the tour.  thus far, the lineup for the female-centric music fest includes co-founder Sarah McLachlan,  Corinne Bailey Rae, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Mary J. Blige, Indigo Girls,  Janelle Monáe, Tegan and Sara, Jill Scott, Chairlift, Sara Bareilles, and Erykah Badu.  says Erykah, “Magic happens when you bring this many artistic women together. I'll never forget the frequency and energy that I felt that first time I performed at Lilith. Between the sistas on stage and those in the audience, it was powerful!"

this is an amazing lineup already.  future announcements will reveal even more artists.  how awesome would it be if Sade was added to the lineup?  just sayin'... (and prayin').

for more information about Lilith Fair, visit the official site.

be.  fly.

*photo: it's a little odd to have Corinne's album cover here, even though she's mentioned in the post.  but i'm SO EXCITED about her new music that i couldn't help myself.  carry on.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Sun is in Your Hands, Player...

this is a song that makes me spill out all my guts...~Bilal, "Sometimes"

i saw Bilal in concert last night.  great concerts always inspire me.  i get lost in them.  for moments in time, i am moved, inspired, awestruck, and most importantly, i am not dichotomous.  i am my full self.

all of these feelings were hightened during Bilal's performance.  this man gets FREE.

a little background:  i've been trying to see Bilal in concert for YEARS now.  i finally had a ticket to one of his shows a couple of years ago and ended up not being able to go due to health reasons.  there i was, sittin' at home on a beautiful summer evening with a ticket to a Bilal concert, watchin' a Law & Order marathon instead.  luh me some Law & Order, but it ain't Bilal.

anyway, he finally booked another local show, and i got to see him.  his voice is insanity.  i already knew this, but i hadn't witnessed the control he has.  and really control is a poor description since his voice is likely led by the will of his spirit, as it pleases.  so that's probably the very opposite of control.  at any rate, it was flawless in its roller coaster-like transitions through octaves and tempos.  and aside from the sheer beauty of his voice (and his speckled face--i can't front.  i objectify.  and i've got a weakness for freckles), his committment to expression is timeless.  the kind of freedom i'm striving for in my work.  and i'm getting closer (an inch is closer even in a span of miles).  but artists like Bilal and performances like his remind me that i've come so far and i've got so far to go (pun intended for the pleasure of fans) (*edit: a good friend pointed out that this reference is actually D'Angelo.  it sounded like Bilal in my head.  eh, well).

inspiration is a glorious blessing.

be.  fly.

*photo isn't from last night.

The Bluest Soul

i rarely use the term blue-eyed soul.  i'm believe soul music is just that...soul.  but i have to admit it's extra impressive when you hear something extra soulful and then find out that the singer behind it happens to be white.  it is what it is.  plus, "blue-eyed soul" gives me an excuse to bring you this list:

rhythm's top 10 14 "blue-eyed soul" artists of all time:

14.  Christina Aguilera.  stay with me, people.  her James Brown tribute at the 2007 Grammy awards solidified her spot.

13.  Amy Winehouse.  Amy is like my white 'Tasia.  that actually makes sense to you, doesn't it?

12.  Lisa Stansfield.  and not just for her infamous forehead curl.  she can sAng.

11.  Thicke.  yes, he performs as Robin Thicke now, but i was introduced to his artistry as Thicke, and that's how i still refer to him when we have conversations in my head.  "I Need Love," from The Evolution of Robin Thicke is by far one of the sexiest songs of all time.

10.  Simply Red.  simply underrated.  so much more than "Holding Back the Years."

9.  Steve Winwood.  i was about to type "so much cooler than Michael Bolton," which made me realize Michael Bolton didn't make the list.  oh, well.  Steve Winwood had Chaka Khan on background vocals of "Higher Love."  that's major blue-eyed street cred.

8.  Bobby Caldwell.  some of y'all still think he's black.  i'm just sayin'.

7.  Annie Lennox.  "No More I Love You's" is one of those songs that's painfully beautiful.  That's not what puts her on the list.  just something i felt like mentioning.

6.  Kenny G.  i bet you can "sing" all of "Songbird."

5.  the Bee Gees.  i can still remember the very first time i heard "How Deep Is Your Love."  i was maybe 7?  it was playing on the car radio, and my mom got really excited and turned the volume up.  she was singing along and seemed so excited to be exposing me to this classic.  she's so dope.

4.  George Michael.  where do i even begin?  he earned a mention in my Christmas jams post as a part of Wham.  and you could already guess "Carless Whisper" is one of my all-time favorite songs.  AND apparently he was the first white solo artist Aretha did a duet with.  "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me" was the hotness.  again with the blue-eyed street cred.

3.  Hall and Oates.  this is another one i attach to my mom.  i vaguely recall thinking she was saying one person's name.  as in, Hollanotes.  i thought it was a terrible name.  i have absolutely no research on this, but i'm willing to bet they're on some list for being highly sampled by hip-hop artists.  m-e-t-h-o-d-o-f-l-o-v-e.

2.  Teena Marie.  everybody get up!  she's probably on the list mentioned in number 3.  she writes.  she plays guitar (and piano?).  and she's still going strong.  take notes, Amy.

1.  Michael McDonald.  i'm obsessed and biased.  but this is my list.  say somethin'.  this man gets DOWN.  when he became lead singer for The Doobie Brothers, their whole sound evolved.  he is greatness.  he, too, did a duet with Aretha.  and Patti.  and he was on the monitors in the background on 40-Year Old Virgin.  by far one of my favorite parts of the movie.  AND he actually happens to have blue eyes.  i still can't decipher half of his lyrics (my mama can).  so what?

Honorable Mentions:  i mean, as long as the list was a random number, i coulda just added these to it.  but that would be too much like right.
  • Jane Child
  • Billy Vera
  • Rick Astley
  • Jamiroquai (it's a band, not a person.)
  • Remy Shand
  • Elliot Yamin (yah-mean!)
Green-Eyed Soul:
an artist who sings mostly country released an album called Green-Eyed Soul.  the artist is Lari White.  the song "Loved Right" deserves a post of its own ("you ain't never been loved right...").  it's one of my faves (thanks, Pandora).  it's a bit obscure, so the only link to it is on her page.  have a listen.

today's list was brought to you by the letter S, the color white, and readers like you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"I Wonder" Wednesday: R&B Christmas Music

r&b Christmas music.  i wonder, does it get any better?  "I Can Hardly Wait 'Til Christmas" by The O'Jays just kept me from going off on a well-deserving target.  she should mail her thank-you letter to Eddie Levert.

r&b Christmas music is definitely on my list of top 5 holiday perks.  maybe i'll blog about that list...anywho, as i'm typing this, i hear "Christmas is the time...we have picked to give...each other giiiiiiifts."  Alexander O'Neal's "My Gift to You."  i don't know if i can't stand all the throwback deliciousness.  and the best part is... *little drummer boy drumrolllll* this is all from my newest Pandora station.  yup.  they have their holiday songs tagged "holiday" (of course), and whatever holiday song you begin with sets the tone for the rest that play (just like a regular Pandora station).  i think i started with "Let it Snow" by Boyz II Men.  classic.

i swear The Jackson 5's "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause" is the only version of that song i can tolerate.  that says something.  not only does r&b music have a history of "new classic" holiday songs, but it also claims some of the best renditions of the standards.  i'm getting all warm and egg-noggy just thinking about it.

one drawback to this r&b holiday jam extravaganza-- it doesn't include Wham's "Last Christmas," in all it's ChristmasPoptasticness.  by far one of my favorite holiday jams.  but if i ask Pandora nicely, they just may include it.

i wonder, what's your favorite r&b Christmas song?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Shiny Things

my dear friend austin asked me something about what i'm doing for Christmas.  i said that i don't "really" celebrate Christmas.  when he asked what i meant, i explained that i buy a gifts for a few people, but that i don't put up any decorations, and that it's not technically in celebration of the birth of Christ, (not unlike most people's recognition of the holiday), so i try to refrain from referring to it as "celebrating Christmas."

i ramble and go off on tangents.  by now, you've noticed.  i'm well aware of these tendencies, so i usaully check in to be sure folks are following.  when i asked austin if what i had said made sense, he replied, "that makes perfect sense.  i love it.  i just like the lights because i'm drawn to shiny things. *shrugs*."  so y'all know how i do.  i got all poetic and thought about being drawn to people's inner lights.  all that from some walmart tree lights.  ah, such is inspiration.

i, too, am drawn to shiny things...shiny spirits, shiny creativity, shiny minds...???  anyway, so that line made me think of all the beautiful people in my life.  as of late, i've really made an effort to be more grateful for them and let them know how much they mean to me.  give 'em the flowers while they can still smell 'em, so to speak.  so to my beautiful family (near and far), my amazing friends (real and imagined *coughs "mos def"*), my inspiring arts family (check out my sisterly sites and garden reading to the left, including Max Reddick, B Harg., and Hasan Malik), and all of you at the garden, thank you for having such beautiful lights.  namaste.

check out austin's blog.  he's been slacking lately, but it'll pick up next month when he begins chronicling his adventures in ghana!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Garden Review: Facebook Addiction

Are you a Facebook Addict?  this is the question that author, Nnamdi Godson Osuagwu explores as he teams up with the New York Daily News and creates parallelisms between chemical and social networking addictions.

the concept is genius.  on december 1st, nnamdi osuagwu released his second book, Facebook Addiction: The Life & Times of Social Networking Addicts.  the book uses fictional characters to relay social networking scenarios that are all too real.  Facebook Addiction is a fun, easy read, with a few somber moments that give it balance.  while at first glance, one may scoff (holla at my vocab) at the idea of social networking addiction, the truth is, anyone with a facebook account can likely relate to at least one of the stories in osuagwu's book.

and the best part?  osuagwu happens to be a tech genius, so the movement behind the book is interactive.  readers can visit the Facebook Addiction site and submit their own stories on the blog, join the fan page, and do tons of other things that feed social networking addictions *wink*.

Facebook Addiction is available at and Barnes & Noble.  aaand *swings jacket open to reveal gold necklaces*  it's even available on Kindle.  stocking stuffer, anyone?

are you a facebook addict?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ruby's Garden: Zucchini

i was sitting here eating japanese takeout.  as i thought "mmmm, this zucchini is good," i then thought, "[the grandmother] would be so proud."  my maternal grandmother, god rest her soul, was one of many family members who was always up in arms about my eating habits as a child.  i was picky, and i didn't eat much of the few foods i did like.  i can say with certainty my grandmother would be shocked to see a) that i eat quite a bit now and b) that i eat vegetables at all, much less zucchini.  albeit, zucchini really tastes like whatever seasoning it's murrrrinated in, but that's neither here nor there.  whenever i would turn my nose up at [insert food here], my grandmother would say "chile, you don't know what's good!"  this included chitlins, so i'm not conceding that point.  ever.

so during this stream of consciousness, i thought, "i should blog about that," which led to "i should make a regular feature of rubyisms."  i think i'll do that.  and another out of my mother's isms (the lady is hilarious, and i've always joked and said i was going to make a book of them).

in search of my (grand)mother's garden...

be.  fly.
ruby's granddaughter

*photo: i "borrowed" this one since at the time of this writing, mine was devoured.  carry on.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday Throwback: Dreadlocks

so, maybe i never saw this vid before.  'cause when i found it, i was a bit surprised.  there's a lot going on here.  maybe i just forgot.  at any rate, in honor of all that was dope in the 90s, i present to you Me'Shell Ndegeocello:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"I Wonder" Wednesday: Vison Boards

*edit pictured: not my vision board.  eh...somebody else's.

i wonder what i'll ask the universe for next.

i'm in the process of creating a new vision board.  if you're not familiar, a vision board is a visualization tool, a collage of images and words one compiles in order to utilize the law of attraction.  the idea is that you create a visual reminder of what you're asking the universe to bring you.  visualizing these things is strong reinforcement of your thoughts and actions as you work to attract what you want and need.  ideally, the board is placed somewhere you'll see it regularly.

i've seen first-hand the power of vision boards.  in fact, the house i live in today is very similar to the one i glued to my vision board a little over 3 years ago.  but i don't just include material goals on my vision boards.  i also include images and words pertaining to health, spirituality, and relationships.  i usually review my vision board once or twice a year to see how many goals i've realized.  i may start doing this more frequently.  when i feel the need to re-energize and set new goals, i create a new vision board.  some goals are new, while some long-term goals re-surface as i see fit.

and so it's that time again.  i'm getting out my scissors, magazines, and glue.

i wonder, do you make vision boards?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Brother Story: Ernie Barnes

i saw a segment of a show on TV-One last spring.  the segment was about artist Ernie Barnes.  and i've been fascinated by him ever since.  i learned a few weeks ago that he passed away not too long after that segment aired.  i didn't hear about it when it happened, but i was caught up in a whirlwind of crisis and trauma at the time, so i don't know if i missed the news due to that or due to a lack of media acknowledgement.

at any rate, he has inspired me so much lately.  and something he has been quoted as saying strikes me at the core.  he said that he tended to paint people with their eyes closed because we fail to see the humanity in one another.  i've been carrying that sentiment with me since the first time i read it.

most people are familiar with mr. barnes' most famous piece, "Sugar Shack," which was feautred during the closing credits of Good Times and on Marvin Gaye's I Want You album.  but Barnes has a vast collection of soulful, engaging pieces that have inspired so many people.  in fact, in response to one of my random twitter posts (is "random twitter post" redundant?), artist tuki carter said ernie barnes was his favorite artist and inspired him to become one.  i'm a big proponent of learning about my influences' influences, that is, learning who inspired the people who inspire me and whom i respect as artists and people.  so that tidbit made my exploration of ernie barnes even sweeter.

i also learned he supposedly died of a "rare blood disease."  as did dilla.  and as a line in my tribute poem to dilla says, "rare blood, indeed."

*pictured: "My Miss America" (top) and "Song of Myself" (bottom)

Global Garden: World AIDS Day

peace, sistergarteners.  today is World AIDS Day.  do something.  send an email.  get tested.  learn something new.  whatever suits you.  just do something.

see what john legend is doing (just 'cause i like him)

another option is to consider doing some local volunteer work.  sites like idealist.orgVolunteer Match, and allow individuals and groups to search for local volunteer opportunities year-round.

along those lines, a group i'm working with has started a monthly arts benefit event with the goal of fundraising for individuals affected by different health issues.  i'll post more on that later.  what i'll say now is that the knowledge that my work was supporting a person dealing with a particular issue (as opposed to an organization) was so overwhelmingly wonderful.  it put a face to the work and made it so much more tangible.  it's getting beyond statistics.
*stepping off soapbox*

any other ideas about HIV/AIDS awareness and activities for today and beyond?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thursday Throwback: Picture Pages

mr. cosby's hip hop album made me miss mortimer ichabod marker.  i present for your viewing pleasure "picture pages":

happy thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"I Wonder" Wednesday: Cosby Does Hip-Hop

i don't even know where to begin.  bill cosby has put together a hip-hop album.  i use the term "hip-hop" because the review does.  and based on the review alone, i'll probably never find the occasion to listen to it.

i'm sure he means well.  but i think this approach is flawed.  partly because i think it reads as "i have issue with your medium, so i'm going to use your medium to prove my point," which might have been clever if done well.  but it doesn't appear to have been.

but alas, i'm basing all of this on conjecture and one review.  which i would normally not do.  but i was skeptical from the moment i read the words "bill cosby's new rap album."  in honor of thumper's rule, "at least he's not rapping..."

i wonder...what's your take?

Monday, November 23, 2009

In the Shadows of Our Younger Selves

i didn't want to blog about the american music awards (AMAs).  i really didn't.  but something significant struck me about a couple of the performances.  there were at least 3 women (2 of whom are generally praised as icons) who in many ways were competing with their former selves while on that stage.

janet jackson opened the awards show with a medley of some of her up-tempo hits and her latest single, "make me."  though her attire left everything to the imagination (i just had the brilliant epiphany that maybe the bucksin 'fit was a nod to peter pan, for her brother.  that wasn't a joke.), for the most part the choreography was a throwback to the janet we all know and love.  and i think that's what made the performance odd for me.  she's certainly evolved as a person and a woman.  why don't we get this in her new music and her stage show?  one might argue that she's catering to a younger crowd (not the near-30-somethings and older who make up the majority of her fanbase), but the poor sales of her last 3 studio albums (the most recent didn't even go gold) should suggest that might not be a good game plan. interestingly, i thought her single "twenty foreplay" foretold of what the more mature janet might produce.  it was demure yet sexy, classic in its hat-tip to the legendary dorothy dandridge.  that was 1996.  i'm not always right.

after writing that last paragraph and taking a mental trip down janet's memory lane of entertainment greatness, i've decided to not devote a lengthy paragraph to jennifer lopez and her performance.  that one's too obvious.  "...not in the same league, don't shoot at the same baskets" -jay-z.  i'm right on this one.

that brings us to whit.  ms. houston gave her highly-anticipated performance of her latest single, "i didn't know my own strength" to a slew of viewers, some praying for the best, and surely some praying for disaster.  what we all got was something in between.  whitney has definitely lost her famous powerhouse voice to drugs and hard living.  and in their joy that she was able to come back from rock bottom (stop), many viewers praised her underwhelming performance as if her comeback had actually reached their expectations.  and maybe it did.  but the song was dull (and not just because robert "'r' is for fill-in-the-blank" kelly wrote it), and her vocal delivery rarely accomplished more than a speaking voice.

what's my point?  i have a couple.  i think we're often expected to be who we've been.  as people.  as artists.  as [insert myriad roles here].  and i think that's unfortunate, especially when we've grown beyond our younger selves. "people keep talkin 'bout 'hov, take em back'. i'm doing better than before; why would i do that?" -jay-z.  somebody should really make me stop quoting him.  another point is that once artists have reached "icon" status, we often are so overwhelmed by the memories of their ascent that we're not really paying attention to the person before us now.  on one level, that shows respect for the artist's greatness.  on another level, it's an insult for us not to continue to expect actual greatness.  and when (hear that, universe?  when) i'm so fortunate as to reach my own desired level of greatness, i don't want anyone to let me off that easily.  mj blew audiences away to the very end (and beyond) with his performances, not just with his legacy.

evolution is beautiful by nature.  and once we as a culture embrace it wholeheartedly, our idols will be able to more gracefully do the same.

be.  fly.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Flowers: Biographies

so, i'm obsessed with biographies.  actually, with anything that has a "true story" bent to it: biographies, documentaries, biopics, law & order episodes based on current events.  okay, that last one was a stretch.  but i am an avid watcher.  i digress (but don't you expect me to by now?).  you may notice that i didn't include autobiographies in my list of true story obsessions.  while i do ocassionally indulge in a memoir or autobiogrphy, i don't prefer them.  something about the bias of one telling his/her own story deters me.  i'd rather hear the story in a person's actions, as told by an (hopefully) objective source.

in reading biographies, i also tend to think about my own legacy.  what would my biography read like?  would anybody want to write it?  or read it?  what story would my actions tell?

having said all that, my current biographical journey is into the life of ms. zora neale hurston, via valerie boyd's Wrapped in Rainbows. it's an excellent read, and i'm pleasantly suprised at all of the little gems tucked between the pages of this well-written account of zora's life.

so, of course, i wanted to share with you!  and in return for my kindness, you can share with the Garten some of your favorite biographies.  sharing is caring.  happy reading!

be.  fly.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday Throwback: Me, Myself, & I

in a week full of reminiscing about p-funk, my childhood, and the intersection between, i give you de la soul:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brother Story: Leftfield

Leftfield's American in Paris is one of the best CDs of 2009.  if you haven't heard it, i'll be sure to hook you up by the end of this post.  if you're nice.

the atlanta-based hip-hop duo was born in greenville, south carolina  and blends their southern roots masterfully with influences from across the nation and around the world, "because someone out there in leftfield seems to be listening"... i guess that officially makes me someone.  i was getting worried there for a second.

Leftfield, through their sound and lyrical content, speaks to the listener who knows good music in any package.  so i'll skip the part where i tell you what to expect and who you might compare them to.  suffice it to say you'll get solid beats and provocative lyrics.  and maybe those are expectations.  but dare i say those are expectations we should have of all music...


and because you were nice, you can get the entire CD for FREE...just email Leftfield and mention SisterGarten in the body of the email.  free music in a recession?!?  the woman must be mad!!!  take advantage.

be.  fly.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Don't You Wish You Had Hair Like This? Then the Boys Would Give You a Kiss"...

talkin' 'bout good and bad hair...whether you're dark or you're fair...go on and stare, see if i care...good and bad hair...
-jigaboos and wannabes, from spike lee's "school daze"

it's time to cut my locs.  off.  i've had them for 7 1/2 years.  colored them a handful of times.  cut about 6 inches off over a year ago.  carried all kinds of experience, growth, and trauma in them (yes, that thing you hear "dreads" or people with locs say about carrying energy in our hair is very true).  it's time.

and the backlash that has ensued upon this declaration?  bananas.  some people simply say "but [your locs] are a part of you."  others have gone so far as to say a woman's beauty is in her hair.  unfortunately, i've tired of the latter response to women's hair in general that i rarely dignify it with a response at this point.  i do realize that some people simply think my hair is pretty and aren't ready to deal with change.  i also realize that the majority of the people who have reacted negatively are coming from a much more twisted perspective.

what i've been suprised to find is that even for natural hair, many people have european standards for what is considered beautiful.  my shoulder-length locs hold more value [to those people] than a TWA ever could.  conversely, when i first cut the perm out of my hair in the spring of 2002, resulting in my hair being that very length before i started my locs, that was THE first time i felt truly beautiful.  so the naysayers don't bother me.  well, i should say they don't affect my decision to cut.  but the fact that they've placed long locs above a short natural on their oppressive hierarchy of "good hair" is beyond bothersome.  we need to do better, people.

it's one thing to have beautiful hair.  it's a whole other thing for one's beauty to be defined by his or her hair (or any other feature, for that matter).  simply put, if your beauty lies in your hair, then your beauty is a lie.

be.  fly.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Brother Story: Traum Diggs

i had the pleasure of opening for hip hop artist traum diggs last month at busboys and poets in dc.  up until this point, i had never seen him perform live.  having known him for a few years, i know he has an impressive work ethic, and i dug what i had heard of his music online before.  but his live show...insanity.  his energy and raw soul filled the building that night.  on "the mission tour," traum travels with his band and a rotating roster of singers, comedians, and poets that move the crowd with ease from one emotional apex to the next.  according to, "Traum Diggs is a Hip Hop artist whose style, ability, and approach shatters conventional wisdom and all preconceived assumptions."  that sounds about right to me.

in honor of pure dopeness and the approaching season of giving, i present to you traum diggs.  you're welcome.

a tribute to MJ, "Mike Jackin' 4 Beats," a MUST HEAR:

and because i'm super generous, you can download the entire mixtape for FREE:

for more info on traum diggs and "the mission tour," visit

be.  fly.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday Throwback: They Come to Build a Wall Between Us...

i was listening to jay-z's BP3 today.  most days, actually.  on "so ambitious," he and pharrell talk about using naysayers as motivation.  somehow, today, this song led me to one of my favorite songs:

be.  fly.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sister Story: White House Staffers

First Lady Michelle Obama has announced a year-long mentoring that will be facilitated at the White House.  High school girls from the surrounding neighborhood will be paired with senior White House staff members, including senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, domestic policy advisor Melody Barnes, Obama's chief of staff Susan Sher and social secretary Desiree Rogers, reports the Washington Post.  source:

We each need to mentor at least one young person.  Period.  Young people can never have too many mentors.  Find something you're good at, and share it with someone younger than you.  He or she could b 5 or 25.  You could help with math or creating a resume.  Do something.  Make a difference.  *Jumping off my soap box now*

Be.  (Help someone) Fly.

"I Wonder" Wednesday: Are the SEPTA Strikers So Wrong?

i wonder if the reason i'm not angry at the SEPTA workers is that i no longer work in philadelphia.  i no longer rely on their services, and i'm not inconvenienced by their strike.  i've read and heard reports that the union refused a great contract and that essentially they're just being greedy.  i don't do their job (nor do i know the details of the contract), so i don't feel equipped to judge.  what i do know is that i currently feel over-worked, underpaid, and under-appreciated.  if i had a union full of folks ready to strike with me, i'd probably be making a picket sign right now.

be.  fly.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sister Secret: If You Can Read, You Can Cook

this is just one of the many things my mother has always said to me which has (suprisingly?) turned out to be very true.  i think my grandmother used to say it to her.  let's digest (tee hee).

if you can read, you can cook.

1.  this does not mean you cannot cook if you cannot read.
2.  this does not mean you can cook well simply because you can read.

this simply means that if you happen to not be innately good at cooking, you should be able to learn to cook well by starting with one simple recipe at a time.  following this basic principle, i now have 4-5 signature dishes that i have practiced, improved upon, and made my own.  and they're all crowd favorites.  ask me to deviate from these standards, and a meltdown may ensue.  but as long as i stick to what i know, all is well.  when it's time to add to the menu, i simply experiment on the fiancé until i get it right.  it's usually edible.  he lives.

and whenever i'm asked to contribute to family dinner or a potluck, i make one of my signature dishes (usually vegetarian).  people get over the whole "ewwwww vegetarian?" thing and devour the offering.  and usually (if they don't know me well), they think i'm a really good cook.  and of course i am.  i'm a southern woman, after all.


*pictured: my signature "broccoli hot damn," my modified version of my aunt's "unbeatable broccoli casserole"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rhythm In Motion

peace, sistergarteners.

a few of my pieces were just published in In Motion magazine.  check me out, along with a few of the other participants from the first annual Hope Springs Women's Poetry and Performance retreat.  there's also a great article about the retreat.  as i mentioned before, that place, that experience, and those women have forever changed me.  and i am so grateful.

be.  fly.

The Spirit House, photo courtesy of Hope Springs Institute

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"I Wonder" Wednesday

i wonder when it will sink in that MJ is gone.  it's been about 4 months since his passing, and there's still a surreal element to that fact.  at least for me there is...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sister Story: Sarah Kruzan

nnamdi osuagwu over at Ice Cream Melts brought my attention to this heart-wrenching story of a woman who was sentenced to life in prison when she was only 16-years old.

the sentence and the reported comments from the judge are commentary on the lack of value our society places on our children, particular female children.

for more on sarah's story and human trafficking, visit's human trafficking site.

Thursday Throwback (Yellow is the Color of Sun Rays)

so, i really have to make an effort not to live in throwback mode.  they're just so damn good.  but in support of my forward movement, i'll allow myself a weekly venture to the land of throwbacks.  moderation will help keep it in check, right?  so to kick off this installment, we'll visit Soul II Soul's "Keep on Movin'."  get it?  it fits the category of CLASSIC throwback, and it encourages us to move forward!!!  i'm too good sometimes.  you're welcome.  and i dare you not to jam.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tupac and Omar Little: Ode to Dichotomy

"That woman raised me! And for as long as I been grown, once a month I been with her on a church Sunday, telling myself ain't no need to worry, 'cause ain't nobody in this city that lowdown to disrespect a Sunday morning!" -(Michael K. Williams as) Omar Little

"I never committed no crimes that weren't honorable" -Tupac Shakur

i recently got involved in one of those "who's the greatest mc?" (online) conversations.  i'm not nearly astute enough of a hip hop fan to have an informed conversation on this topic.  so all i offered was this: "i can't choose the greatest, but my personal favorite is tupac.  besides the fact that he was dope lyrically, he captured the dichotomy of a lot of black men: the gangsta and the good brotha.  he's the prototype of omar little, if you will.  i just came up with that last part.  i think i'll blog about that now."  so i am.

omar little was by far my favorite character on hbo's "the wire."  his dichotomy was fascinating.  he robbed big time drug dealers for their money and drugs.  but he made a point to pay in full for any items or services he needed.  he spent most of his time engaging in illegal activities, but he consistently escorted his grandmother to church once a month, and he almost never used profanity.  he was a complex man with complex values that somehow seemed simple.  his character was masterfully written and portrayed in a way that made me (and most viewers, i suspect) truly enjoy watching omar shift between the roles of gangsta and good brotha.

i enjoyed watching this beautiful struggle so much, partly because i knew the writer and actor were capturing a phenomenon that really occurs within many men (black and otherwise).  sometimes you hear people refer to the old gangster code or the way street life used to be honorable.  they're referring to the idea that "back in the day," gangsters had a strict "code," or set of morals and values which dictated their behavior and activities.  for instance, omar thought he could safely escort his grandmother to church on sundays because there had previously been an unspoken understanding that one should not disrespect such an activity.  "a man got to have a code."  such a code exists in the midst of all kinds of vile and inhumane acts.

tupac is a classic, real life example of this phenomenon.  and that struggle is what intrigued me so much about him.  it's almost a form of double consciousness.  and while some would call it hypocrisy, it's deeper than that.  the man who wrote "dear mama" followed up with "hit 'em up" and then "life goes on" and so on and so on.  all of these voices were his.  but i truly believe he was struggling with this dichotomy.  and the fact that he honored the good brotha within him by allowing him to speak showed a tremendous vulnerability that men, particularly MC's, don't normally show.  letting the gangsta speak is relatively easy in a world where that's what's fed, encouraged, and expected of you.  tupac was dealing with the conflict between the two.  it was real.

and so are the struggles of many men.

so omar wasn't just a figment of some crafty artists' imaginations.  he was as real as tupac.  perhaps even inspired by him.  art imitating life, indeed.

Coming Home...

round and roud the world will spin.  oh, the circle never ends.  so you know that i'll be coming home... -john legend, "coming home"

this past weekend was homecoming at my alma mater.  sometimes i hesitate to use the term "alma mater," as it's literally translated as "mother of my soul," or more loosely, "nourishing mother."  but i'm beginning to understand and accept that this beautiful institution was indeed a nourishing mother for me.  so much of who i am as a woman, particularly a young black woman, can be directly attributed to having attended this HBCU.  and i'm proud to count it as one of my influential mothers.

walking that campus and seeing my brothers and sisters, some warmly familiar and some new, i felt like i was indeed coming home.  i get this feeling every october, and yet i somehow manage to forget how good it feels until the next time.  and for some reason, visiting that home makes me feel so good about growing older, emphasis on growth.  in that space, i am able to better appreciate the things that i have accomplished since living and learning there.  and i have a sense of renewal, with which i can continue to move forward towards accomplishing more goals.

i love my alma mater.  and i'm grateful for the people and memories that make it so beautiful.

be.  fly.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Broken Boys

broken boys*

leave his casket open.
let the world see what it did to him,
creating a face even a mother couldn't recognize
couldn't know again
post his picture.
not the way his mother presented him to the world
but the way the world sent him back home
bloody teardrops
missing teeth
aborted heartbeat
made-for-TV horror flick
no, not that station; the other
candle blown out by his city's harsh realities,
much deadlier than its wind
let his broken limbs
tell of how society couldn't arm him against its ills
or brace him against crippling odds
we build broken boys
of splintered wood
2x4's that beat them down could have been their brothers
with strings attached
but they instead are weapons
with matching boxes to be buried in
boxes that should be left open on display
for us to see what we've done
what we've done
to our boys
for even less than whistling
emmett's horror tilled this land
for an even uglier fate.

*for derrion albert


Monday, September 28, 2009

Home is Where the Art Is...

peace, sistergarteners.  a few weeks ago i mentioned starting an open mic/hang suite in my home.  well, this past saturday, about 30 poets, artists, and supporters of art gathered in my family room for a soothing evening of good food, good vibes, and amazing talent, set to flickering candles and a playlist of my very best soul music collection.  i was beyond grateful for the turnout.

i've never organized an event before.  not even a birthday party.  so i'll admit there was quite a bit of trepidation upon entering into this venture.  but something within kept urging me to stop getting in my own way and to just do it.  at best, it would be a great success.  at worst, it would be a huge flop.  either result would be better than being too afraid to try.

so i did it.  and i think i'm still in awe of how beautiful it was and how gracious the guests have been with their gratitude and praise.  and i know it was a simple gathering of kindred spirits, not a major feat by any stretch of the imagination.  but it represents something more; i had a vision of a place i wanted to visit, and when i couldn't find that place, i created it.  at home.  and it was good.

be.  fly.


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