#BlackBusiness of the Week | "Black" Pin Makers

Black Business Trend Alert: Pins!!!

Those who know know me, know that I love accessories. Earrings, bags, shoes, bracelets, head bands. I love them all. And now, I love pins.

I first noticed the pin trend several months ago on Instagram (where I discover most of my favorite black businesses). With pins featuring a variety of afrocentric messages (e.g., "black girl magic" and "black & proud") and images (e.g., Michelle Obama and afro-haired women), I had to get some.

The first pin I bought was a 

"She's Gotta Have It" brooch (priced at $25) by Rachel Stewart Jewelry

. This solid wood brooch is inspired by the Spike Lee movie of the same name and is F-L-Y. Every time I wear it, I receive tons of compliments about its beauty and questions about where I bought it.

At work wearing my "She's Gotta To Have It" brooch and "Still I Rise" pin. 

The past two months I have gone pin crazy. First, I bought a

"Still I Rise" lapel pin (priced at $10) by Radical Dreams

 to represent my love for the famous Maya Angelou poem, and then two weeks later, I bought their

kneeling "Colin Kaepernick" lapel pin (priced at $8)

to show my support for the former NFL player and his fight against racial injustice and police brutality against black people in America. I have worn these pins several times this past month to keep me motivated on the days that I feel weary and frustrated with the things happening in this post-Obama world. Most recently, I purchased an

"I'm Judging You" pin (priced at $14) by Pin Vibes LA

. This metal pin is part of a special collection celebrating the release of

I'm Judging You: A Do Better Manual

by Luvvie Ajayi aka

Awesomely Luvvie

. I love to wear this pin to work (use your imagination on why 😬).

Judgey but motivational with my "I'm Judging You" and "Still I Rise" pins.

I like to make statements with my clothes and accessories. And, anything that allows me to show my love for black culture and black people and be fashionable is a must-have for me. I absolutely LOVE the fact that "black"pins allow me to express my pride, my beliefs, and my mood without having to say a word.

They are great for work and play. You can wear one pin, or a bunch of them, anywhere. Pin them to your jackets, shirts, bags, or hats.

Make a statement with your accessories and check out these black pin makers today.

#BuyBlack Spotlight: Designs by Bolaji

I discovered the beautiful paintings of this young black female artist Bolaji Ogunsola, while attending a holiday concert performance on Harvard University campus. She was selling her paintings in the lobby of the venue and I was immediately attracted to the bold colors and the images of black women with large carefree afros. I had to have one of her paintings to add to my collection of black art. 

If I had more money, I would have bought more of her paintings. Instead, I have made Designs by Bolaji my #BuyBlack spotlight of the week. 

For information on the artist and her work, check out her website: http://www.designsbybolaji.com

#BuyBlack Spotlight: Kashmir.VIII

I love

Kashmir.VIII

(**Oprah voice**). This creative brand is one of the coolest businesses that I have discovered in the last few years.

Created by young, black, and fabulous artist Kashmir Thompson, this brand is the definition of dope. Kashmir.VIII offers one of a kind items, including prints, clothing, calendars, accessories, and home decor, that features two of my favorite things: vibrant colors and 90s hip hop/black pop culture (i.e., tv shows, music, and movies).

From A Different World t-shirts (note: Issa wore one on an episode of hit HBO show Insecure) to painted drawings of the cast of Martin to Lil Kim "Queen Bitch" clutches,

Kashmir.VIII

has unique pieces that exudes creative, fashion, and black cultural pride.

I recently bought a Living Single clutch from the brand. I used as my main purse during a recent trip to the DMV and I received tons of compliments on it.

Highly recommend that you head over to the website of this week's #BuyBlack Spotlight pick

Kashmir.VIII

 (http://www.kashmirviii.com) and check out all of the unique items Kashmir Thompson has to offer. (And if you buy something, let her know I sent you!!) 

**This business is certifiably For Us By Us***

#BuyBlack Spotlight: The Watercolor Portraits of Debra Cartwright

I was exploring Instagram this past weekend and I came across this beautiful watercolor portrait of three women standing arm in arm (in arm) with each other. What I found most touching and socially poignant about the image is how the women are embracing the woman wearing a hijab (a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women). The embrace among women appears loving, natural, and reciprocated. The two women are embracing the women wearing the hijab, as much as she is embracing them.

This image feels me with HOPE. 

With the current political situation occurring here in the US with the 45th President's "Muslim travel ban," I thought this portrait and the artist deserved to see potlighted and celebrated. This image speaks to what we need to be doing---EMBRACING and SUPPORTING EACH OTHER in spite of our differences. 

Debra Cartwright

 is a Harlem-based artist that creates watercolor portraits of black woman in all of their wondrous, magical, strong, and beautiful GLORY. 

For more information about the artist and her work, check out her website www.debracartwright.com 

Buy Black On Black Friday: 13 Black-Owned Businesses For Your Holiday Shopping

It is Thanksgiving. Since I got such a great response to my "Buy Black on Black Friday" shopping list last year, I decided to do it again. I have mix of some brands I love and some brands that I just discovered that you can find either online or in your local stores.

With an unpredictable four years ahead of us, it is important that we support the businesses of marginalized peoples--black-owned, women-owned, immigrant-owned, etc.

1. 

Loft324

 - clothing

2. 

Rachel Stewart Jewelry

 - jewelry 

sale: 25% off purchases with code: POWER (11/25-11/28) 

3. 

Ariel Brands

 - clothing, prints, accessories, and games

4. 

shadrieka

 - prints and greeting cards 

5. 

DorcasCreates

 - prints, accessories, and greeting cards 

6.

DEMESTIK

 - African print clothing

sale: up to 40% off; additional $25 off purchases of $200 with code: DRR1124

7. 

Kashmir VIII

 - prints, accessories, and clothing 

sale: $10 or more off all items; additional $5 off all orders $75+ with code: 5off ; additional $10 off all orders $120+ with code: 10off ; $20 off all orders $200+ with code: 20off

8.

Postively Perfect Dolls

 - multicultural dolls (available at local Walmart and Target stores)

9.

Philadelphia Printworks

- clothing 

sale: Sale with Free Shipping with code: BLACKWALLSTREET (until 11/28)

10. 

Nubian Skin

 - lingerie and hosiery for women of color (also available at Nordstrom stores)

sale: 40% off Lace Collection with code: NSBLACKFRIDAY (until midnight 11/25)

11. Ty Lite - LED lighted phone cases (aka selfie phone cases) 

sale: 50% off all cases (until 11/27)

12.

Iman Cosmetics

- beauty products for women of color (also available at Target and Walgreens stores)

13.

Bevel

- grooming products and services for people of color 

4 TV Series Starring People of Color You Should Watch

I love tv. I especially love tv shows that feature people of color in their main casts. Since for some time in the past decade there were so few black, brown, and tan faces on the small screen, I make sure to support the shows that portray people of color well. 

Last fall, I blogged about some of my shows featuring black main characters that I was watching and thought you all should be watching too (check out it

here

). Here is my list of must-watch black shows for this fall: 

1) Insecure (premieres Sunday, October 9th at 10:30pm EST on HBO)

Insecure explores the black female experience in an unclichéd and authentic way. Rae stars as Issa and Yvonne Orji stars as Molly, two modern-day black women and best friends who must deal with their own real-life flaws as they attempt to navigate different worlds and cope with an endless series of uncomfortable everyday experiences.

Good for:

those who are looking for an adult comedy showcasing the lives of young black women trying to figure love, life, and everything in between. Issa Rae is a brilliant and funny writer and actor. 

2. Luke Cage (available now on Netflix) 

Luke Cage was introduced in the Netflilx series Jessica Jones. He has impenetrable skin and super strength, but prefers to keep a low profile running a bar in Hell's Kitchen. However, the increase in metahuman individuals has turned the Kitchen into a battlefield, drawing Luke into the thick of things whether he wants to get involved or not.

Good for:

those who love the current influx of Marvel and DC superhero movies and tv shows but hate the lack of superheroes of color in them. Luke Cage is tall, dark, fine, and bulletproof. 

3. Fresh Off The Boat (airs Tuesdays at 9pm EST on ABC)

It's the '90s and 12 year old, hip-hop loving Eddie (Hudson Yang) just moved to suburban Orlando from DC's Chinatown with his parents (Randall Park and Constance Wu). It's culture shock for his immigrant family in this comedy about pursuing the American Dream. 

Fresh Off the Boat

 is based on Chef Eddie Huang's memoir 

Fresh Off the Boat

.

Good for: 

those who are looking for a family friendly comedy showcasing the hilarious escapades of a Chinese American family navigating a mostly white suburbs in Orlando, set to a 90s hip hop soundtrack. Constance Wu who plays mama Jessica is hilarious. 

4. Superstore (airs on Thursdays at 8pm EST on NBC)

This hilarious workplace comedy "Superstore" is about a unique family of employees at a supersized megastore. "Superstore" centers around Amy (Ferrera), the store's most stalwart employee as well as the glue holding the place together, and newly hired Jonah (Feldman), a dreamer determined to prove work doesn't have to be boring. Their fellow associates include the sardonic Garrett (Colton Dunn, "Key & Peele"), the ambitious Mateo (Nico Santos, "Mulaney") and the sweet teenager, Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom, "Shameless"). Overseeing the store is Glenn (Mark McKinney, "The Kids in the Hall"), the store's affable, clueless store manager, and Dina (Lauren Ash, "Super Fun Night"), the aggressive assistant manager who enforces Cloud 9 policy with an iron fist.

From the bright-eyed newbies and the seen-it-all veterans to the clueless seasonal hires and the in-it-for-life managers, together they hilariously tackle the day-to-day grind of rabid bargain hunters, riot-causing sales and nap-worthy training sessions. 

Good for:

those who are looking for a good workplace comedy with a funny (and culturally diverse) ensemble cast.

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Highlights from the #BlackGirlMovement Conference 2016

I had such an amazing experience at the first national Black Girl Movement Conference in New York City. It was an indescribable feeling to be in a room filled with black women, black girls, and black female scholars, activists, and game-changers talking about the greatness of black girls and black girlhood. Looking around it felt like I stepped into a different world. 

There were black girls of all ages, shapes, shades and hair textures, proudly proclaiming their love for themselves and each other. The three days of the Black Girl Movement Conference was a celebration of black girlhood and all the things that make us unique, from the games we play to the way we wear our hair. Even though I am in my 30s, I sometimes need a reminder of how great it is to be a black girl because there are so many times that we are not shown how beautiful, smart, unique, strong, powerful, talented, and amazing we are, always have been, and always will be. 

The mainstream media largely ignores us. When we are assaulted, kidnapped, or killed, we do not get the same attention and urgency as our white counterparts receive. We are often told that we are not beautiful. Our bodies are scrutinized, fetishized, and degraded. Our hair and hairstyles are considered  unkempt, dirty, and unprofessional. But, when a white girl displays any of our characteristics, features, or cultural stylings, there are considered attractive, fashionable, exotically beautiful, and innovative. 

This conference truly is a movement. It is a reminder, declaration, battle cry: BLACK GIRLS MATTER AND THEY ARE ALL THE MAGIC THEY WILL EVER NEED.

I really hope they continue this conference for years to come. Here are some of the highlights: 

Panel Session: Writing and Researching Black Girls

Only at a Black Girl Movement Conference will you find a sing-along 

Little bit of black girls moving, led by Camille A. Brown. 

Check out those moves (and smiles). 

#BlackGirlArt:::Picturing Black Girlhood exhibit (at Raw Space in NYC)

My black girlhood, all you needed was chalk and a pebble. 

Join the movement:

http://iraas.columbia.edu/Event/black-girl-movement-conference

#blackgirlmovement #bgm2016

#MotivationMusic: Closer by Goapele

I have big things on my horizon. With all of the negativity and distractions in the world, listening to this song (and Goapele's voice) soothes my soul, calms my fears, and reminds me every step I take is bringing me closer to my dreams.

Hopefully, this song helps you stay motivated and focused on your dreams. Enjoy

#PhenomenalWomenMonth : Old Skool Ladies Hip Hop Classic "I Wanna Be Down" Remix

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Old Skool Ladies HIP HOP ... Classic I WANNA BE DOWN // BRANDY...

Old Skool Ladies HIP HOP ... Classic I WANNA BE DOWN // BRANDY // QUEEN LATIFAH .... #PressPlay

Posted by Vintage OLD SKOOL on Sunday, March 20, 2016

Talk about "Black Don't Crack!" : 1995 (image on top) and then 2014 (image on the bottom)

Martinique: My First Solo International Trip

martinique

If there is one thing that you need to know about me, it is that I love to travel. I like discovering new places and experiencing new cultures, especially the food. My top bucket list item is to travel to 6 out of the 7 continents before age 50---thus far I have traveled to North America, Asia, and Africa (note: Antartica is not on my list because I do not like the cold). 

Out of all the places I have been, the Caribbean has been alway, and will always be, my favorite. I am a Caribbean girl. My parents immigrated to the US from the small island of Dominica. I spent the first five years of my life traveling between my mother's home in Boston and my grandparents' home in Dominica. The Caribbean is home. 

So, when I saw this super sale from Boston to Martinique from Norwegian Airlines, with prices as low as $49 one way for direct flights, I could not pass it up. Plus, I had never been to Martinique. I was not able to take advantage of the unbelievably low (low low low) $49 flight because of my class schedule, but I was still able to get a great price--$188 for roundtrip ticket for Sunday, March 13 to Wednesday, March 16. 

If you have never heard of Martinique, it is a French island located in the Caribbean Sea, south of Dominica and north of St. Lucia. The capital is Fort-de-France. The island features black and white sand beaches, rainforests, and a volcano, Mt. Pelee. Once a longtime colony of France, the national language is French, and the culture, food, and architecture are mix of French and West Indian. 

Highlights from My Trip: 

The Hotel

I was lucky to find a reasonably priced 4-star hotel in the capital Fort-de-France on Booking.com. Simon Hotel is a brand new contemporary hotel, featuring modern furnishings, free wifi, a bar/restaurant, clean, spacious rooms, English-speaking staff, and views of the city and the sea. It is also within walking distance of restaurants, air conditioning, shops, local attractions (e.g., the public garden La Savane and Fort St. Louis), the cruise ship terminal, and the ferry (which provides easy access to the southern beach town of Les Trois-Ilets). 

hotel entrance 

hallway of rooms

view of the hotel from the ferry

The Food & Drinks

I am a foodie and I love to drink. My favorite thing to do when I travel is to try the local food. Here are some of my favorites from my trip. 

First night, I tried a local ti punch, which is a rum based mixed drink, popular in the French-speaking Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti, and French Guiana. Funny thing is when I saw it on the menu, I thought it was rum punch, a staple of the English-speaking Caribbean islands.  To my surprise, the waitress brought out a glass of rum, a bowl of brown sugar, and a lime wedge. As you can expect, this drink is STRONG. If you are not a drinker, skip it. But if you are a drinker, start your stay in Martinique with this local drink.

My first full day in Martinique I took the ferry over to Pointe du Bout in Les Trois-Ilets. I spent some time on the beach and then walked over to Havana Cafe in Creole Village. Food looked good on the menu. Unfortunately (for me), the staff did not speak English and I do not read or speak French; and so, I ended up picking my food based on the pictures on the menu and my rudimentary translation of the menu (thanks to 6 years of latin classes at my high school alma mater). With all of that said, I ordered th 1/4lb rotisserie chicken and french fries and Copa Cabana Sun cocktail and they were delicious. Note: if I could read the menu, I would have ordered my favorite, codfish fritter, which I learned too late is "les accras de morue" in French.

My last full day in Martinique I took the ferry to Anse Mitan in Les Trois-Ilets. I hit the beach for an hour and then walked over to the beachside restaurant Le Barracuda for lunch. Luckily, the restaurant had staff that spoke English and a bilingual French/English menu (thank goodness!!!). Without hesitation, I ordered the codfish fritters, stuffed crab, french fries, and a rum punch. Honestly, I was not a fan of their codfish fritters. It tasted more like oil and batter than codfish. But, the stuffed crab, french fries, and rum punch were so delicious. Highly recommend those three items if you find yourself at Le Barracuda.

The Beaches

The main reason I love the Caribbean is because I love the beach.  I am beach baby. A water sign. A summer baby. I was meant to be near water.

Day one, I headed across the waterway on the ferry to Pointe du Bout beach. I really like this beach. It is located a short walk from the ferry dock. Pointe du Bout beach is a large beach separated into three distinct areas, one part is next to a hotel resort, a middle part that has a small pool feeling, and a third part that faces toward Fort-de-France. I spent the majority of my time lounging in the middle part. The water is very calm and a nice cool temperature that warms up quickly. This beach is not ideal for sun-worshipers/bathers because the sand is a hard and rough and the area is small. But for someone like me who just wants to relax in calm, shallow water, this beach is a great place to spend a day.

Day two, I took the ferry from Fort-de-France to Anse Mitan. The ferry to this beach is bit longer than the one to Pointe du Bout because it stops at Anse a L 'Ane before it reaches Anse Mitan. This beach is significantly different than Pointe du Bointe. The ferry drops you off right at the beach, which is covered in soft sand. The beach is long and features different water activities, including jet skis, water trampolines, and dolphin watch tours. The water is clear and perfectly cool. I stayed in the water for a complete hour, relaxing and observing the scene. I highly recommend this beach. Wish I could have stayed longer. 

Overall, I had a great mini-vacation in Martinique. If you want to know more about this French island or travel experience, comment below. 

Black Art Spotlight: A Ballerina's Tale (The Incredible Rise of Misty Copeland)

Tonight to end my #29DaysofBlackness blog series, I decided to relax in bed with a glass of wine and  watch a recent addition to the Netflix streaming catalog, "A Ballerina's Tale" (2015). If you have not heard of this documentary, it tells the story of the rise of ballet dancer, Misty Copeland. Before watching this film, I knew a few things about Misty and her ballet career but I did not know the full story of her triumphs and struggles rising through the ballet world as a black ballerina. Her story is truly inspiring. Despite starting ballet dancing very late, at age 13 (which is very old for ballet dancers), she was able through hard work, passion, and innate talent to become the first black principal ballerina in the prestigious American Ballet Theater Company. Throughout the documentary, Misty pays homage to the black ballerinas that came before her in effort to motivate herself and educate others on these dance trailblazers.

Whether or not you are a ballet or dance fan, I highly recommend everyone watch this film, especially with young brown girls, to show them that you really can "will what you want."

Film Description

Few dancers make it to the highest levels of classical ballet. Of that already small number only a fraction of them are black women. Misty Copeland, from the small California city of San Pedro, has pulled herself up the ladder at American Ballet Theater (ABT) from the studio company to the corps de ballet to soloist. The only rung in the ladder left to climb is principal dancer aka prima ballerina.

In 2013, after more than a decade at American Ballet Theatre Misty was offered the lead role in Igor Stravinsky's Firebird to be performed at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, a major coup for a soloist.

The nigh

t of her performance Misty danced beautifully. But at the celebration afterwards she revealed she had been performing in great pain. Later Misty found out that she had six fractures in her left shin. Without corrective surgery the shin might one day break. Many doubted she would dance again.

A Ballerina's Tale is then an intimate look at this artist during a crucial period of her life. The bulk of the film is a cinema verité influenced look at Misty's journey, from the triumph of Firebird, the painful road back to dancing and to an unexpected third act where Misty not only returns to the American Ballet Theatre stage but emerges as a pop star in the process.

Misty Copeland's career shines a light on several challenges within the world of classical ballet: the absence of women of color at major companies despite so many gifted black women ready to make the leap; the emphasis on skinny bodies for ballerinas impacts the health of professional dancers and sends a negative message to young fans around the world. Misty, because of her race and her curves, is central to both issues in the classical dance world.

The film climaxes with a landmark performance by Misty in Swan Lake, which is an acknowledgement by American Ballet Theatre that she is back, dancing at the highest level, and the fulfillment of the dream of many to see a true black swan at a mainstream international company. A Ballerina's Tale is the story of how a great talent and a powerful will combined can open doors within a very cloistered world.

Major funding provided by Ford Foundation/JustFilms and Tribeca Film Institute.

For more information contact: aballerinastale@gmail.com

*film description taken from http://www.aballerinastale.com/about/

Each One, Teach One: 8 Black Children's Books You Should Know About

The last few months I have gifted the children of my friends sets of black children's books that I either loved as a kid or recently discovered on amazon.com. I decided to compile a list of some of my favorites. Share this list with your family, your mommy and daddy friends, your kids, your nieces and nephews, and anyone who loves good children's literature featuring beautiful black children.

"Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky"

by Elphinstone Dayrell (author); Blair Lent (illustrator)

Story Details: Sun and his wife, the moon, lived on Earth and built a large house so that the water people could visit. But so many poured in that they were forced to move to the sky.

"Please, Baby, Please"

by Spike Lee and Tonya Lee (authors); Nadir Nelson (illustrator)

Story Details: From moments fussy to fond, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Spike Lee and his wife, producer Tonya Lewis Lee, present a behind-the-scenes look at the chills, spills, and unequivocal thrills of bringing up baby! Vivid illustrations from celebrated artist Kadir Nelson evoke toddlerhood from sandbox to high chair to crib, and families everywhere will delight in sharing these exuberant moments again and again.

"Lola at the Library"

by Anna McQuinn (author); Rosalind Beardshaw (illustrator)

Story Details: Lola has a big smile on her face. Why? Because it's Tuesday--and on Tuesdays, Lola and her mommy go to the library. Join Lola in this cozy celebration of books and the people who love them.

"Big Hair, Don't Care"

by Crystal Swain-Bates (author); Megan Blair (illustrator)

Story Details: Lola has really really REALLY big hair, much bigger than the other kids at her school, but that doesn't stop her from telling anyone who will listen just how much she LOVES her hair! It´s not always easy being a kid. Designed to boost self-esteem and build confidence, this beautifully illustrated picture book is aimed at boys and girls who may need a reminder from time to time that it's okay to look different from the other kids at their school. "Big Hair, Don't Care" is available in English, French, and German.

"Full, Full, Full of Love"

by Trish Cooke (author); Paul Howard (illustrator)

Story Details: For the youngest member of an exuberant extended family, Sunday dinner 

at Grannie’s can be full indeed - full of hugs and kisses, full of tasty dishes, full to the brim with happy faces, and full, full, full of love. With a special focus on the bond between little Jay Jay and his grannie, Trish Cooke introduces us to a gregarious family we are sure to want more, more, more of.

"Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats (author)

Story Details:

 No book has captured the magic and sense of possibility of the first snowfall better than The Snowy Day. Universal in its appeal, the story has become a favorite of millions, as it reveals a child's wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever.

The adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day.

"Every Little Thing"

by Bob Marley and Cedella Marley (authors); Vanessa Brantley-Newton (illustrator)

Story Details: 

Now in board book, Every Little Thing brings Bob Marley's beloved song to life for a new generation. Every family will relate to this universal story of a boy who won't let anything get him down, as long as he has the help of three special little birds. Including all the lyrics of the original song plus new verses, this cheerful book will bring a smile to faces of all ages—because every little thing's gonna be all right.

"Peekaboo Morning"

by Rachel Isadora (author/illustrator)

Story Details: 

A toddler plays a game of peekaboo, and you're invited to play too. First there's Mommy to find, with Daddy not far behind. Then Puppy comes peeking around the corner, and a favorite toy train brings the toddler to Grandma and Grandpa. Isadora's brilliant, joyful pastel illustrations capture the familiar and cozy people, toys and animals that will delight babies.

Join this sweet toddler in the morning fun, sharing words your baby can repeat and pictures your baby will recognize. Then find out what this toddler sees next. It could be you!