Here I am again, this same time and place as I was last year. Celebrating another year of life, another year of growth, inspiration, purpose, and peace. As the years continue to go by, much faster it seems, I have learned to appreciate each and every one of them for what they bring.
As a younger woman, with not one single clue in the world, I had a notion etched in my brain that 50 anything was ancient and so amazingly old. The mere mention of anyone around that age resulted in instant laughter and a sometimes innocent igornant approach towards life. I simply didn't know any better. Hindsight is so blatantly obvious at this point in time of my life that I smirk as I remisince on my 'younger' thoughts.
As I continue to age, I realize that it was never what I thought it would be. The grey hairs are quite bold, yet beautiful in a way that reminds me of my grandparents. The back aches come and go and with them come a few extra oohs and ahhs. The need to be out and about just isn't the same as it once was.
The everything in and about life is just different.
I am in awe of how beautiful life is at this age. I'm grateful, blessed and so amazingly happy for all that my eyes have seen and all that is to come. The graceful season of aging in peace, joy, love and an endless amount of blessings, is where I am.
Happy Birthday to me!
~AJ #51 🎂
I'm not sure when the dreams began, however, I recall being immersed in this mind-boggling, sometimes emotional, other times frightening, most definitely weird, and very often, mesmerizing and emotionally stimulating place, and I wanted more. It was and still is a safe addiction, and I am ok with that.
It became my 'thing'. Oh wow, would you look at the time, well let me turn in for the night because chances are I have something waiting for me in what always felt as if I was stepping into another realm of reality.
My imagination has always been on another level, which I believe lends a hand in where I allow my mind to go when I am resting. As a writer, I see it as a gift that keeps on giving.
My dreams have taken me to places full of the most beautiful colors. My dreams have taken me down dark and dreary roads that led to an open palace of floating pillows and peaceful music. My dreams have also led me on a search and find for a special person, only to stumble upon one single horse leg. In reality, the sight would make any person scream in horror, however, in my dream, I picked it up in hopes I would stumble upon this horse with 3 legs and somehow re-attach it. I recall a recurring dream when I was a teenager and it has never happened again. It's not too often that I dream of people close to me, family or friends, but it does happen here and there. The faces that I see are typically that of a stranger and the moment I awake the images forever vanish, never to return. There are nightmares, however, I realize that only happens when I have eaten something that didn't quite agree with me.
Dreams are weird. They reside on the other side of fear and allow my wild imagination to take flight!
"Dreaming is an act of pure imagination, attesting in all a creative power, which if it were available in waking, would make every man a Dante or Shakespeare." -H.F. Hedge
There was a period of time when I did not dream as often. I was in the middle of moving which is very stressful and I didn't feel relaxed. I grew a bit worried as dreaming was my getaway in a sense and I wanted them to return. In my past research on what dreams meant and why a person would have them so often I have read that dreams typically happen when a person is stressed or going through something mentally. I beg to differ and I can tell you that is quite the opposite. When the stress began to leave, my vivid dreams returned. Not every night, but very often. Describing the feeling is hard for someone who doesn't experience what I do, so I tend to keep them to myself unless they are just too weird not to share.
I used to keep a notepad by my bed to immediately jot down the details of my dreams and then google what it could possibly mean. It's my dream, so how would another person be able to tell me why I was floating on a magic carpet with my coworker.
Last night I dreamt I was in jail. I have no idea what I could have possibly done to land there, but I can tell you with great certainty when I awoke, I was in my nice cozy bed, smiling from ear to ear. I no longer wonder where my dreams come from, I simply allow my mind to run free and take me on a journey.
As the clock struck midnight, I was leaving my wonder years behind and crossing over into what I call, the other side of 50. It’s a milestone. After all, I have been floating around this great universe for half a century, that surely has to count for something! A celebration, a look back over the years full of changes, growth, and lessons learned with some being very hard and some showing me the reasons why. Either way, I was looking forward to this next journey. It goes without saying that even though I feel prepared for this next phase there are some questions about how I will handle what is to come.
Growing older is a gift that I cherish and never take lightly. Part of growing older is wondering what life after 50 will be like. Will I still be able to enjoy life as much as before? Or will I have to slow down and take things easy? These questions can be daunting, but there is much to look forward to as any of us who are faced with these questions enter the second half of our lives.
Great change and opportunity don’t magically end because you have added that extra year to your life. While it may be tempting to slow down and take it easy, there are many reasons to embrace this new chapter of life. From pursuing new hobbies and interests to spending more time with loved ones. It’s important to remember that everyone has a different story, but there is so much to enjoy and appreciate as you grow wiser and evolve into the best you.
As a writer, I often speak on what’s in my heart, what affects me and the things that matter.
On this latest episode of Being Black in America...
Recent gun violence has and continues to take its toll on so many lives. Losing a loved one at the hands of evil is the most unimaginable pain to have to face. After the shooting in Uvalde, Texas last year, my hope was shattered, it was devastating to know that so many bright young smiles were taken away.
And here we are again. Another mass shooting in Nashville Tennessee that took the lives of three 9 year old students and three adults. When does it end and when will change happen?
Well… Rep. Gloria Johnson, Rep. Justin Jones & Rep. Justin Pearson staged a demonstration on the House floor calling for gun reform and leading chants with a bullhorn. In an effort to have their voices heard after their microphones were cut off whenever they raised the topic of discussion, they took matters into their own hands to get their points across by any means necessary.
But no one ever likes to address the elephant in the room. Imagine that
Two of the state representatives were expelled. And what a shocker, they just happen to be black. Rep. Gloria Johnson was not expelled although she participated in the same demonstration.
The message is loud, but far from clear. Saying that Jones and Pearson had a “history” of being disruptive during proceedings is backed by nothing but fear of those who are outspoken and go against the grain. What that actually means, they should have known their place as two young, powerful and brave black men and only said what the others wanted them to hear.
I commend these young leaders for speaking up, for making steps towards a change even if those who don’t agree try to silence them. The ignorance is amazingly scary… this has only wakened so many who will walk with them.
I stand in support of their message, their commitment, the bravery it took to be bold, to speak up and be looked at as strange and different and most of all I pray for this continued fight and their safety.
PROTECT KIDS NOT GUNS
#thetennesseethree #gunreform #protectkidsnotguns
This world is so wicked right?! So many opinions and hatred towards another person just because their melanin is popping. Imagine that!
I will forever be amazed by the ability of society to separate black and white and make one gesture ok for one but not the other.
As Reese stated, “I don’t fit in the box that y’all want me to be in. I’m too hood, I’m too ghetto. So this was for the girls that look like me, that’s gonna speak up on what they believe in, that’s unapologetically you.” Congrats to Angel and her amazing team in this monumental and historic victory! Keep riding this wave, living life, and shining bright young queen!
When I see her, I see my nieces. I see the beauty in who they are and I will always encourage them to be the best of whatever they choose and to go after their wildest dreams. After all, the world is all of ours, not just one race.
This has been another episode of Black Girl Magic 💜
The stories that come together due to the sounds of music will forever be never-ending. A perfectly synchronized beat. The mix of a song that leaves you with an unforgettable vibration of soul shaking and life changing tunes. It’s all for the love of the game and that game is one that true music lovers never tire of playing. A true artist and music lover to the core, Jamal Ahmad born and raised in College Park, Georgia found his love of music at the age of 5. As we know, most love stories start before we truly know who we are, but they set the tone for who we are to become. Ahmad cut his first demo at the age of 16, played in the legendary House of Funk marching band for Morehouse College during the 90s and allowed his love for the craft to carry him even higher. He is a songwriter, a musically gifted artist, a dreamer and crafter of those higher vibrations we love to groove to. Come along with me and dive into a truly enlightening conversation as we learn more about his band, The DangerFeel Newbies, the latest release of his single, Somewhat Loved and the power of music and its undeniable influence on his life.
There aren’t too many who know the story of Dangerfield Newby. The son of a white slave master who would later be freed. Newby made a living as a blacksmith and eventually joined John Brown and his raiders in hopes to free his wife and family. What was it about his story that led you to call your band, ‘DangerFeel Newbies?
That is a brilliant question. Because the story of Dangerfield Newby is so intrinsically connected to the universal struggles of the human spirit. When I first heard about him while watching Ken Burn's Civil War documentary back in 2007, I remember his name striking a big chord with me. I literally came up with the band name, The Dangerfeel Newbies, after hearing his name. It had a vibration that felt like there was more to his story. So I did research and found out there was so much more to his story and when I discovered the love letters between him and his wife Harriet, I knew that their story would be felt deeply by all humanity. Because it's a story that's essentially about what sacrifices would we make for love, family and our people. It's like the Prince song "I Would Die For You". It's the ultimate black love story. When I saw the plaquer in the National Museum Of African American History & Culture with her quote, it affirmed my deep affinity for their story.
Blues, jazz, soul, funk, hip-hop & house are all music genres that have deep history. How has the influence and culture of music inspired you as a musician?
Sometimes we as African Americans forget that one of the greatest commodities we've given to this world, outside of our epic symbol of struggle, is our music and its spiritual and healing qualities. It's changed the world many times, going all the way back to the Fisk Jubilee Singers and Ella Shepherd creating what we now call Negro spirituals. When folks like Queen Victoria, Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain and royals all over the world heard their songs that were once referred to as "cabin songs", they heard something so hauntingly beautiful and soulful. Even the great composer Johann Strauss proclaimed at one of their shows that this was the greatest music he'd ever heard in his life. So that's how our story begins. It starts in this deeply cathartic space where the music is healing to our people who had been enslaved for hundreds of years and then set free in a cold wilderness. And everything else that came after it, ragtime, jazz, rock 'n' roll, soul, R&B, funk, hip-hop, house, techno, whatever, came from this same place and effectively changed the globe. That's why I take all these genres so seriously. You can see how the world moves to our beat. It's not the other way around lol.
I’ve grown accustomed to truly experiencing all four seasons in the Midwest, however, I adore the beginning of Spring and love everything Summer has to offer. The sun shines bigger and brighter. The flowers are in full bloom. The vacations have been planned, and it’s time to pull out the sandals! With the change and turn of the seasons, it’s also necessary to make small, refreshing, and inexpensive updates to your home.
It might seem daunting and overwhelming as you truly don’t know where to begin. I have found that starting with smaller projects and working your way up will lead to a feeling of accomplishment. Warning: Once you start making updates, it becomes addictive!
Over the years I have dibbled and dabbled in my fair share of DIY projects. The results are the most rewarding, so when it’s all said and done it is worth it and then some.
Often not receiving the credit they deserve, small projects are just as important as bigger projects. Sharing my favorite, simple, and budget-friendly spring refreshers. Get your mind into this, and as always, have fun with it. Don’t forget to turn the music up because it just makes everything better.
Not only was that easy, but your house also smells amazing, you feel refreshed and a sense of accomplishment has covered you like the warm afternoon sun!
There never seems to be enough time or hours in the day to accomplish everything on your list. For some, our days start early and end late. Great balance is time for family, an efficient and productive work day, personal time for yourself, and carving out just a bit of your life for actual fun. It doesn’t typically happen this way, but with all things, after a little practice and patience, you can create the environment and space that makes you happy.
Wednesday was a day like any other. I woke to the cats scratching on the door and meowing as if they were trying to alert me to an intruder, a missed early morning Amazon delivery, or maybe just to hop on the bed to show me their loving affection as their trusted caretaker. Their automated food bowl turned and there was nothing in it. Oh, the joy! My life has equated to falling into the demands of my hairy children.
Life goes on...
I digress. Now, where was I? Oh, Wednesday. So the day progressed, I worked, had a little water, not nearly enough food, and developed this banger of a hunger headache. You know, the kind that says drop any plans you had for the remainder of the day and just relax. So I listened to my body. I ate dinner, talked to a friend, and poured myself a glass of champagne. When it didn't help my headache I thought for a second I should have another glass, but I opted for a little murder mystery to soothe me right on to sleep. I am different, this I know.
Waking early is part of my routine. I hopped out of bed before it was safe to text anyone WYD, so I decided to get a good workout in. I could feel reminders of my headache from the night before but I ignored it and surprisingly it went away. I knew that today I would be on a mission and would need a colorful day. I've acknowledged the chapters in my life because they have perfectly shaped the way I view and feel things. This chapter, this amazing place I have found myself in is called, 'COLOR'
I name things as I see fit. The blonde-haired squirrel that visits in the spring, I've named Blondie. The exquisitely dressed porcelain frog that sits on my patio at the first hint of summer, his name is Ferdinand. My chapters, in all of their glory, are no exception.
Color enhances my already exuberant mood. It just makes me feel so damn good. The colors of light, the way it feels when they glow perfectly onto a canvas. The color of my shoes that are so amazingly bright I can't stop looking at them. And I surely cannot forget the many colors that have found their way onto the walls in my home. They all make me feel bright and vibrant.
And then there are the colors in this early morning bowl of oatmeal. I wanted and needed something that looked as good as I knew it was going to taste. I needed subtle yet invigorating excitement to set the tone for my day. Exploring and diving into what feels and looks good is a personal journey. I mean look at that drizzle of honey that has created an almost dew-drop-like essence! Yes, I am serious about my creations even if they are in a paper bowl.
I encourage you to find simple happiness, choose your color palette and allow those tastes and feels to come to life.
Now... What'll it be for lunch?! 🎨
I've always been intrigued by the notion of a booth that offers kisses for only a quarter. Is this just a peck on the lips, a sweet and sincere kiss on the cheek, or a weird yet effective kiss in the air? Either way, I give props to the person behind and in front of the booth.
It's love day! A special day set aside to celebrate the passion and beauty of love. The gift of its existence and the sexiness behind this man made national holiday that we all love so much. Flowers are ordered, gifts have been shipped, and special nights are brewing for that special someone. If it seems appropriate to raise both eyebrows in a rapid motion, now would be the time.
What does love mean to you? It could be many things, but I do know it is different for everyone and that is what makes it so unique.
The feelings you have when you spend time with your family. A racing heartbeat when a certain someone comes around, or the way you feel about your little 4 legged friends. The feeling of being connected to someone in ways that speak to the love language you two have created together. Just as good as this day can feel, there are some who can't wait for this celebration of sorts to end. Perhaps you have gone through a failed relationship, or maybe you are grieving over the loss of your loved one. It is safe to say most of us have experienced both at some point in our lives. There is also a strong possibility you simply don't get into the fluff and hoopla of it!
I get into the festivities as much as I feel the need to. It's fun for me, however I am also a hopeless romantic. I'm a sucker for a sappy love story on screen and in real life. I believe in love at first sight and all things that are of this perfect gift from God. Love is expressed daily, not just when the world says we should show it the most. As fortune would have it, I found love within myself, for without it, I wouldn't know what true love should feel like, or more importantly, how to express it.
Happy Valentine's Day! I hope your day and all days are amazing, full of love and happiness from the inside out. My curiosity has gotten the best of me, so I'm headed out in search of this kissing booth. I want to make sure I'm first in line!
"Love thy neighbor- and if he happens to be tall, debonair and devastating, it will be that much easier." -Mae West
In all things great, one never seems to be enough. Aja Graydon and Fatin Danztler are the Philly-based dynamic duo you all know and love as Kindred the Family Soul. Their voices marry together in a way that has created a dynamic vibe you want to hear over and over again. As we listen to music we pay close attention to the lyrics, but we also want to feel the songs and have a true connection. The authenticity of the music they have created over the years allows the listener to relate and groove at the same time. Celebrating 20 years since the release of their debut album, Surrender To love, this married duo gives us an inside view to the start of their careers, the importance of maintaining the love, their latest and 7th album release, what they are working on next, and much more.
This year marks 20 years since the release of your debut album, ‘Surrender to Love’ which received a Soul Train Award and BET Award nomination. What was it like to release your first album and were you nervous about how the world would receive your music?
AJA - It was very exciting because both of us had been in some facet of the business since we were teenagers, trying to find our identity and our place in the business. Finally, we'd reached the point where our art would be presented and so we naturally felt nervous and relieved. We had 2 small children by then and much was riding on the success of it. I also remember a great sense of accomplishment, it made us that much closer.
FATIN - Surrender to love turning twenty makes me think back to a much simpler time in our lives but one that was full of a lot of great creative energy. We were overwhelmed with gratitude and joy to release a record that was literally born out of the live performances we put on weekly in a small club. So to try to translate that LIVE energy and bottle it up for sale was difficult and challenging but has been a true blessing to our lives. It stands as a time capsule to a milestone period in our lives. We certainly were nervous as to how it would be received, but also confident in the ways the material had resonated with the audience we had earned early on.
Music is a soulful feeling that tells a story in the most unique ways. The way that your lyrics and voices come together is always a head-shaking, and vibe-induced moment. When you are writing the lyrics to your songs, how do you know once you have created something magical?
AJA - We just listen for what clicks. No matter who takes the lead on an idea, it's about a vibe. When it connects authentically to us, we feel pretty confident it will resonate with someone else.
FATIN - I wouldn’t say you know lyrics are magical but you do know when they speak to you and that’s the first step of being confident enough to record them. You hear it back many times before anyone else does so you begin to believe in it before it’s critiqued. Sometimes it’s golden and sometimes not so much, but it always comes from the heart.
"This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard." -Neil Gaiman