The Other Side Of 50
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.
The Tennessee Three
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.
Bigger and Brighter
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?! 🎨
Kisses For Only A Quarter
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.
The More You Know
I remember with great certainty that history class was by far the subject I truly disliked studying the most. Reason being, I never felt a connection with any of the stories I read in the provided textbooks. What was deemed by the school board as standard for teaching guidelines, left the students lacking and void of their history which is rich in culture and holds centuries of legacy.
James Baldwin stated, “I began to be bugged by the teaching of American history, because it seemed that history had been taught without cognizance of my presence.”
The thoughts of Baldwin would be echoed by many before and after him. Half a century earlier, when Carter G. Woodson, a scholar whose dedication to celebrating the historic contributions of Black people led to the establishment of Black History Month, set the foundation in 1976 for what would become today’s national Black History Month, observed each February.
History has said to have a bad habit of repeating itself. The good, the bad, and often times the ugly. Rewriting the past is impossible, however, helping shape the future is a task we are all faced with and should be concerned with. As times continue to pass me by, the importance of Black history is forever in my mind in hopes that it is never lost.
Knowledge is one of the keys to life, and with it comes a treasure far more precious than any rare gem you could ever find. As we enter into this month long celebration of Black history we are in no way shape or form saying that the other 11 months of the year shouldn’t reflect on the history lessons that are forever there, it is just giving our culture a special moment in time to celebrate and add to the legacies before and long after us.
There are many ways to celebrate Black History month and learn more about the culture, life and legacy of those past and present. A history lesson is not just taught in class, it extends far beyond into your home life, the work that is done in the community, and the ways you can help to continue adding to our rich history.
The more you get involved, the more you know. The more you understand, the more you are able to teach and share. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, it takes time and patience to truly educate yourself on the important facts of our culture. The beautiful thing about history is, once you know more about the past your eyes are now opened to the possibilities of the future. Keeping the stories alive, sharing our life experiences, learning more of our heritage, are all reasons this month is so important and will always be.
“With our future ahead of us and the ancestors beside us, THERE’S NOTHING WE CAN’T DO!”
The Bigger Picture
I’ve spent the better part of my life wondering what the plan was for New Year’s Eve. Where is the party and most importantly, am I invited?
Over the past few years, I have been asleep by 9 p.m. so there goes that notion of partying well into the new year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s so much fun, but I feel as though those days are well behind me.
As much as I would like to say I don’t believe in resolutions because everyone makes them seem so cliche and corny, I believe in them with every fiber in my being! There, I said it! And let’s be honest, there is nothing better than writing down a list of goals and dreams that you would like to see happen in the new year and actually making them come to life. The idea of speaking things into existence is so very real. Health fanatics say you are what you eat right? Well, you most certainly are what you think! So, think big of yourself and all that you hope for, the sky is the limit in your own imagination.
But, before you can start on something new, you must say goodbye to what once was. Closure is just that. Sealing the chapters of what at times seemed like a never-ending story, it is now time to start the next chapter, and the best part of all, you get to determine how your story will go.
I can easily reflect on the previous year. All that I accomplished. The people I have met who have changed how I view certain aspects in life and the goals I was able to accomplish and some that I barely touched if at all. It’s ok though and it has led me to this bit of enlightenment. As you continue to step and grow through life, with grace you will continue to evolve into who you were always meant to be. How amazing is that?! And as you grow through this evolution, your entire vision changes, which in turn allows you to finally see the bigger picture.
Have you written out all that you have done in the year prior? Try it and I promise you will be amazed at everything you were able to accomplish in just 12 months.
List or no list, make it a mission to succeed at the things that make YOU happy. Not your family, your friends, your dog, or the energized cat running in circles at 2 in the morning, but you! It’s perfectly fine to do for others, however, it’s easy to get caught up and forget about what’s important to yourself.
As for me, I was not invited to the party and I was perfectly fine with that. I no longer feel as though I am missing out or forgotten because I can see the big picture. I can’t share what it looks like, just trust you will know once you see it.
Be well, be amazing, and take this new year by the horns and own it!
Hello 2023, I’ve got plans for you!
AJ is a creative writer and storyteller writing from her home in Indiana.
"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