The Crown Wakanda Black Panther Screening: From Pride & Fashion to Social Advocacy


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Long live the #WakandaForever pomp and circumstance surrounding Marvel Comic’s Black Panther! Excitement about the cinematic masterpiece has been simmering for over a year with memes predicting the types of African-inspired attire that moviegoers would rock during opening weekend. However, with images from New York, Los Angeles and, literally, around the globe to the continent of Africa itself, #WakandaCameToSlay proves that the glorious Motherland-approved fashions worn to movie theaters worldwide were no laughing matter!

Black Panther meme

I happened to attend The CrownWakanda: Black Panther Advanced Screening Gala, hosted by The FanBrosShow, Brooklyn NAACP, Universal Fan Con, and Black Girl Nerds. Taking place at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on Thursday, February 15th, I purchased my ticket in mid-January, completely underestimating how epic this event would be. This was, afterall, the first time I’d purchased a movie ticket one month in advance of the release date. And given that I’ve never personally been into cosplay, I didn’t give what I’d be wearing to the premier a lot thought.BP chad gif Like most of us who attended Howard University with Black Panther lead actor, Chad Boseman, I was just ecstatic to be attending a screening with some of my HU fam.  But the message behind the event began to sink in. “Crown Wakanda is a movement created to inspire and embrace the uniqueness, complexities, and beauty of the African diaspora; through the shared cultural experience of an early screening of Marvel’s Black Panther (2018)… People of all cultures have traditions of wrapping themselves in their finest regalia for festivities with family, important life events, and various special occasions. The Black Panther film is a similar life experience and is already making history–so why not celebrate it accordingly?”

Fast forward to the weekend before the gala, and there I was, going through every closet in my apartment pulling out possible ensembles and accessories that I might wear to represent Wakanda couture! Attendees were encouraged to be “as high concept, shiny, fashion forward, traditional, culturally-specific, Afrofuturistic or over the top” as they wanted. wakanda shoe options That’s when I realized that while this would be cosplay for a lot of people, most of the clothes that I wear are in some way connected to the African diaspora.  It really wasn’t necessary for me to go shopping, but I did end up buying a large pair of black wooden Africa-shaped earrings from Nicholas Brooklyn on Fulton Avenue in Bed Stuy. By Tuesday, I had three fabulous outfits to choose from and mulled over a pair of fierce never-before worn platform shoes, all of which I ran through the apartment in modeling for my older brother! His response, “Welp, you’re just gonna have to go see Black Panther at the movies three times!” I ultimately settled on a classy Wakanda ensemble creating a cape with material I’d bought years ago when I lived a couple of emirates over from Dubai. (More about my House Hunters International episode here!) On the way to the Alamo Drafthouse, my date and I joked that we felt like we were heading to a black tie event in Johannesburg. The night already felt regal and magical!

Upon arriving, we were amazed by the royal purple carpet and the paparazzi-like photographers leading into the event. After sharing hugs with the event hosts, HU fam DJ BenHameen (forever Wakanda’s Favorite DJ) and Tatiana King Jones of the FanBrosShow who were equally Wakanda fashion forward, I couldn’t stop beaming over the relentless African swag throughout the the lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse! I hoped that this cultural moment would translate into more tourism and travel to African countries for everyone who was repping Wakanda to the fullest extent. In addition to screening the film, the event included the #OMDigital cinematic booth, drumming and dancing from Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance, and a video tribute to renowned hip hop attorney-turned-podcaster Reggie Combat Jack Ossé creating an overall premium cultural experience. Not to mention Alamo’s programming surrounding the movie that included clips and scenes from vintage Black Panther cartoon episodes and other Black superhero film clips in lieu of showing the customary string of coming attractions that usually precede a movie. As the clips played Cumbe dancers performed below the screen, giving ticket holders time to order from the delicious theater menu that included gourmet cuisine and cocktails with Black Panther inspired specials.

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Before the movie ultimately began, DJ BenHameen, Tatiana King Jones, and L. Joy Williams, president of the Brooklyn NAACP, thanked the crowd for supporting the sold out gala. In addition to Thursday’s screening, the Crown Wakanda Initiative included a day of activities on Friday for youth in Brooklyn featuring a visit to the historic cultural center Weeksville Heritage Center, one of the first free Black communities in America still located in the neighborhood of Crown Heights. Per the Crown Wakanda Curriculum GoFundMe page, the goal is for Brooklyn youth to enroll in the “‘Build Your Own Wakanda’ event series, where participants will work with civic engineers, city planners, and architects to learn the key activities and tasks that go into city building.” The kids were gifted a free screening of Black Panther Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.32.36 PM“that featured cosplayers, free popcorn and drink, as well as educational messaging to help tie in the movie to easy to understand STEM concepts.” Their overall mission is to fund Black Panther screenings and assist the Brooklyn NAACP to expand this series throughout spring 2018. The global component of the Crown Wakanda Initiative includes partnering with the Long Live The King’ efforts in St. Kitts & Nevis. “LLTK … is comprised of several small community groups that mentor primary school kids from the underprivileged area in the capital of Basseterre, St. Kitts. As members of the overall Crown Wakanda initiative, their mission is to provide Black Panther movie tickets for all kids in their program, as well as provide educational support.”

The magnitude of this historic Black Panther opening weekend is finally settling in. The only time I can recall there being such an intersection of cultural pride, pop culture relevance, and social justice accountability was during the release of Spike Lee’s X in 1992. I remember attending a free screening at the Baldwin Hills Movie Theater as an eighth grader. This was part of a community-driven initiative led by an organization called Young Black Scholars that shaped and prepared Los Angeles youth for college. (They also happened to take a group of us to see Prince in concert at his legendary Glam Slam nightclub in downtown L.A.!) Dora Milaje pic I can’t get enough of reading about the countless Black celebrities who are buying out entire theaters so that Black and Brown kids can see this relevant Black Panther film. The social advocacy that is being galvanized in support of empowering our youth is powerful and life-enhancing. Witnessing the overwhelming display of African fashion and Wakandan costumes go viral makes me want to shave my head like the Dora Milaje and gear up! It really is clear that we’ve been ready for a BLACK PANTHER revolution!

UberliciousNYC: The Carey Gabay Way



Reposted from my blog: UberliciousNYC: The Carey Gabay Way:

2016-05-15 15.09.17Before I got on the road on Sunday to get a couple of hours of Ubering in, I made a point to stop by the corner of Clinton Avenue at Myrtle in Clinton Hill Brooklyn where my friend, Carey Gabay, was being honored. Eight months after his passing, a portion of the street where he once lived has been co-named “Carey Gabay Way.” People around the world, from the Pope to President Obama, are familiar with his story, which is largely seen as a gun violence tragedy of epic proportion. But, with days like Sunday afternoon, his legacy is emerging as the catalyst for the type of change we desperately need in this country regarding gun control laws and reform. In short, while celebrating in the early morning of the annual pre-West Indian Day Parade festivities known as J’Ouvert last year, Carey was caught in the crossfire of rival gangs and struck in the head by a stray bullet. His passing on September 15, 2015 has signified the urgency of creating a clear strategy and viable means of eradicating gun violence in New York City.

2016-05-15 15.31.39At the time of his passing, Carey was an aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo serving as First Deputy General Counsel at the Empire State Development Corp. Touted as the quintessential example of the American Dream, he grew up in public housing in the Bronx, the son of parents who immigrated from Jamaica and instilled in him the type of character and work ethic that would serve him throughout his life. Before becoming a part of the fabric of Harvard University as an undergraduate leader then as a Harvard Law School student, he attended Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx where his interests in law and politics were nurtured as a brilliant young scholar. While he would go on to work in corporate law, his passions for serving his community, and the constituents of New York at large, were surely leading him towards a path as an influential elected official in coming years.  

The narrative of Carey Gabay has largely been cast in light of the horrific details behind his murder. Because of that I wanted to write something that would add additional perspective to what we are discussing when we say the name “Carey Gabay.” By all accounts, his loss is a tragedy from which one never truly recovers. His family and those who knew him most dearly continue to navigate the pain of his passing while finding ways to accept a reality without his physical presence in their lives. Yet in recognizing this grief, I am reminded of the words of the poet, Rumi:

Sorrow prepares you for joy.
It violently sweeps everything out of your house,
so that new joy can find space to enter.
It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh,
green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots,
so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow.
Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart,
far better things will take their place.

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Therein lies my focus: the fresh seedlings of joy that will blossom in Carey’s honor by continuing the work that he represents. As the street co-naming would indicate, we should begin to shed light on “The Carey Gabay Way” of navigating life. While he is irreplaceable and one of a kind, he has left us with a monumental legacy that will require each person to strive towards the standards he’s set. By doing things the Carey Gabay Way we can become more civically engaged so that we are leveraging our political agency around the community to shift the systems that impact us. We can collectively become involved in legislation behind gun laws and policy reform. We can continue to impact the scholastic aptitude of our youth by referencing his life and accomplishments as an inspiration and model for their own achievement and success in chosen fields. We can be kind, warm-hearted neighbors and generous contributors to our community by supporting minority owned businesses and local empowerment initiatives. We can share a smile or laugh that is just as infectious as Carey’s to everyone with whom we come in contact. We can emanate faith, love, compassion and hard work in all that we do. Because in doing so, we are creating a space for new joys associated with his memory, as well as unearthing the roots of transformative action that he worked towards in order to make New York a better, safer place. That, in fact, IS the Carey Gabay Way.

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The co-naming of Clinton Avenue to Carey Gabay Way, an honor that usually occurs three or more years after a person’s passing, took place on May 15, 2016, which would have been his 44th birthday. His name appearing on that street sign, an honor brought about in collaboration with the efforts of his younger brother Aaron McNaughton with the help of New York City Council and the Mayor’s office, is a pledge against gun violence that will undoubtedly be one of many things that lead to the eradication of gun violence in New York City. His brother is also working with the city to create a J’Ouvert task force that will focus on a framework for law enforcement, community members and officials to ensure a safer celebration leading up to the Caribbean Day Parade. Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo announced the Carey Gabay Scholarship Program that will provide full rides to five State University of New York students “who exemplify Carey’s commitment to social justice, leadership, and mentoring, as well as his personal story of succeeding academically despite having an economically disadvantaged background.” The Governor’s Counsel’s office has also created a fellowship in Carey’s name that will be awarded every two years to a mid-career attorney who is committed to public service. The fellow will serve for two years “furthering the Governor’s violence prevention initiatives as well as issues of economic equality and development that Gabay championed throughout his career.” This will enable each fellow to advance the causes and objectives that Carey worked on in Albany, such as helping minority businesses with grants. Finally, the Municipal Fund Scholarship has also been created that will allow graduating high school seniors to complete an internship at a top law firm or investment bank during the summer months. Two out of the 40 students selected for the program will be given scholarships in Carey’s name to attend their respective colleges. These steps towards solidifying Carey’s legacy are just the beginning of preserving his legacy if we all do our part to honor his memory with our own action.

Carey was exemplary in every way. The Carey Gabay Way is Black excellence to the highest degree. He is one of our greatest New Yorkers, who, in my opinion, deserves to be catapulted to legendary status as a public servant. More than a hashtag, a tragic story, and a victim of gun violence (while I have faith that his murderer will be apprehended and convicted), Carey Gabay is a powerful catalyst for the unequivocal shift towards justice, safety and advancement that our city deserves.

That’s why each time I drive down Carey Gabay Way with an Uber passenger, believe that they will get the full story of the street’s renaming from me.

UberliciousNYC: Lady Cab Driver


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Reposted from my other blog: UberliciousNYC: Lady Cab Driver

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.47.21 PMIt always cracks me up when someone is excited by having a lady Uber driver. It happens about twice a week that a person gets in and makes some type of grandiose, hype exclamation that I’m ubering them around the city. I get everything from “Wow… I’ve never had a lady Uber driver!” to “I Uber several times a week, for years now, and you’re only the second woman I’ve gotten!” Then there’s the parent shushing a kid who has one hundred questions about why “SHE” is driving them home. Said parent ultimately chooses to make it into a teachable moment about women being able to do so many things. My favorite stamp of approval came when I picked up a family from the Cherry Blossom Festival at Brooklyn Botanical Garden. After getting the family home to the Upper East Side quicker than their other family members’ Uber driver by using the Brooklyn/Manhattan Tunnel, the kid leans over to her grandmother and says, “Good thing we have a smart driver! I like her!” I get it, though. As of last year, only 14% of Uber drivers in the US were women, so though that number is increasing, it’s still not likely that one would have a woman driver picking them up all that often. When I went to acquire my TLC license (which is needed to drive Uber here in New York City), I was one of two women in the room filled with hundreds of men. I found it hilarious when I went to the counter to hand my documents over to the clerk who responded, “It would take a woman to have all of the documents in order!” He had just sent the three men ahead of me away to get their stuff together.

The number one question I get from passengers has to do with how safe I feel driving Uber. I usually tell them that in the months that I’ve been driving, I’ve never felt that I was a target for being attacked, nor have I been concerned for my safety. I find it quite liberating, to be honest.  There’s a certain bossness that comes from owning the road on your terms. When asked about safety I always laugh that I have a Mace pepper spray readily available at arm’s length, in the event that someone should get crazy, but I never feel the need to reach for it. latifah taxi gif They chuckle back that they understand and wish me safety in the most sincere of ways. I’ve read a handful of reports where women drivers in certain cities around the country have been accosted by drunken passengers or have to assert themselves a bit more forcefully, so I’m always aware of the possibilities and risks. Yesterday evening I ended up in Bushwick when a female passenger got in. “Wow! Yes! A lady cab driver, I love it!” She was young and white, and mentioned that more often than not Uber drivers have come on to her or said inappropriate things in response to her warm chattiness as a friendly rider. Apparently after mentioning to one driver that she had just worked a twelve hour day, his response was “Too bad Uber drivers can’t give massages.” Certainly a creepy response, if nothing else. She said that it made her uncomfortable but she just stopped talking to him and gave him a one-star review. I asked if she reported it to Uber or at least left a complaint along with the one-star. She hadn’t. I urged her to always notify Uber immediately after an incident if anything during a ride seems less than copacetic. Especially at this point where there are increasing reports of women being assaulted by Uber drivers.

A quick Google search of the keywords “Uber” and “sexual assault complaints” will highlight how much of a problem this has become. In March, Buzzfeed exposed from a leaked source thousands of complaints that Uber had received between 2012 and 2015 that contained the keywords “sexual assault” or “rape.” In response, “the company said it could not immediately provide internal statistics for the numbers of rape and sexual assault complaints on its platform,” and that “a 24-hour review by Uber’s legal, safety, and data teams concluded that the rape ticket counts obtained by BuzzFeed News are ‘significantly overstated.’” They also went on to clarify that “of these thousands of tickets returned for the keyword ‘rape,’ five meet Uber’s standard of an actual incident related to a trip.” As the laws pertaining to Uber and other ride-hailing app companies continue to take shape, a federal judge recently ruled that the company may be sued over alleged sexual assault. During one particular hearing, Uber moved to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that drivers are independent contractors, therefore they, as the partner company, were not responsible for the unlawful actions or violations against passengers. The judge, however, rejected dismissing the suit pointing responsibility back to Uber citing the “nature of the employment relationship” between the company and its contracted drivers.

But, aside from safety concerns, which will always be prevalent, I like being one of few women who choose to drive Uber. I love that some female passengers are disarmed by my presence. I like that my male passengers often have engaging conversation during a ride as a result of their intrigue. Because I talk about being a girl following her passion off the beaten path, many passengers are moved to leave generous cash tips. I have another blog called Archaeologist of Love (because I dig love stories), so I’ve talked romance and relationships with passengers, both men and women, and appreciate their insights on matters of the heart. I’ve had a few guy passengers that I’ve found incredibly attractive as well, but never cross the line by asking if they’d like to stay in touch. But, you never know. Every great romance starts with a meet cute for the ages!


My favorite moments as an Uber driver have certainly been influenced by my feminine energy. At least one time I picked up an 8-year-old #BlackGirlsRock princess whose mother sent her from Brooklyn to meet her father at Madison Square Garden. I felt a heightened sense of responsibility for the pretty little girl, feeling that she could have been my niece or god-daughter getting in. I wanted her, and her father with whom she was on the phone for the duration of the trip, to feel especially safe during the ride considering she was with a stranger. Then there was the time that the Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Lakshmi Puri, got in. We talked about her role with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, and she expressed how much she was inspired by what I was choosing to do. She, herself, had only had one other woman driver in all of her travels around the world. Though UN Women had abandoned their partnership with Uber to increase the number of women drivers around the globe to one million in the next five years, she felt that it was an influential decision to make, should a woman decide to drive. She left me with these words: “I wish you much success in your pursuits, and may you ALWAYS be an inspiration to girls and women worldwide.”

winona taxi driver gifThe most outrageously awesome response to being a woman driver came from two ladies I picked up about a month ago who were going from the West Side into Brooklyn. As the millennials got in, the first exclaims, “Oh great! A girl driver! Yes!! I love girl drivers!!” and the other chimes in, “THE FUTURE IS FEMININE!” I was like, “Hell yeah, ladies!!!” and gave them the rock horns hand sign before we were off. But that made me come home and google that phrase: The future is feminine. I’d never heard it before, but she said it like it was a rally cry. Like it was an anthem. Like it had been branded by Serena during a Nike campaign. Turns out, back in 1995, the General Secretary of FIFA declared that the “future is feminine” with welcoming women into the sport of football (soccer). Since then, it seems some feminists have picked it up as a tag line that has come to represent women finding their place in certain male dominated fields. Or better yet, the shift in consciousness to powerful female energy to achieve success, empowerment, prosperity and abundance. So, I can totally dig it! To be a lady Uber driver is TOTALLY Uberlicious! 

If You Hated Chi-Raq, Then This Is For You


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A lot of Black people are mad at Spike Lee for making the movie Chi-Raq and have a range of opinions that make for a debate that could —> never <— be settled. The best thing I’ve heard is that you either LOVE the movie or HATE it. (It’s no secret where I stand!)


Criticisms run the gamut of:

*the film shouldn’t have called Chicago out – even though a main character references a bunch of other cities with high crime rates,
*it doesn’t authentically portray the people of Chicago,
*there’s more than Black on Black crime and gang violence in Chicago,
*there was too much sex,
*a sex strike could never work in real life to end violence – as if Spike is saying to actually do this,
*women were objectified,
*it was a bunch of coonin’ and buffoonery and overacting – even though it’s a SATIRE,
*a satire —> cannot <— be a message film,
*dialogue choices – even though it stays true to the play it is based on, “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes originally performed in ancient Greece in 411 BC,
*white preacher/the Black church – even though it’s based on an actual minister,
*Common/Kanye didn’t play lead,
*and all other criticism.

However, from what I’ve read of the perspectives that really hated the film, it seems that people wanted Spike to make a movie that has *ALREADY* been made four years ago called THE INTERRUPTERS. I saw the documentary in 2013 on YouTube (no longer available on the site but it is available in its entirety at the link HERE) and was blown away that the film had less than 2,000 views at that time.


The night I watched ‪#‎TheInterrupters‬, I sent a message to a group of friends that I am now dedicating to those who hate the movie ‪#‎CHIRAQ‬ but feel that Black on Black Crime – specifically, not in lieu of Blue on Black Crime or white supremacy crimes against people of color – is a problem that we should continually address (in as many ways possible until further notice).

This is the actual email I sent to my friends:

“I just watched what I think is one of the most prolific and important recent documentaries about the gun violence affecting our youth in Chicago and the adults who are actively stopping it, one day at a time, in ways you couldn’t imagine. The film was released in 2011, and chronicles a year in the life of an organization called CeaseFire (now known as Cure Violence) and the work of The Violence Interrupters. I became aware of one of its main characters, Ameena Matthews because she was honored at Black Girls Rock in October 2013, but I had NO IDEA how monumental her/their work is until today. I’m like, people HAVE to see this and become more aware of the Black Americans who have become ACTUAL local leaders and are actively standing in the line of fire in order to literally stop a trigger from being pulled. It’s unreal the way Ameena continues to stand in the middle of fifteen young men on streets where so many have died each year, and holds them to task. She’s not the only one; Tio, Cobe, Eddie, the whole crew of them round out the literal SUPER HERO team in Chicago. I’m preparing to do more research on the organization’s work for an assignment but I had to send this out.

“Even though the subject matter is bleak and depressing, this is really an inspired, touching and inspirational film. I LOVE the retelling of their youth criminal backgrounds and what led them to become peace crusaders as adults, their mentorship, their community action, their decision-making processes, their intellectual analyses of the violence in their Chicago streets, the way they have fun with and engage the youth (both male and female) and the young adult men who they are physically blocking from violence. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this about US… It is Black American culture cast in the most precious light. I wish a million viewers had seen this film, but sadly it appears on YouTube as if less than 2,000 have, though it has aired on PBS as well. Also, sadly their funding has decreased over the last two years, but they continue to do the work. I hope you’ll take a couple of hours out of your day this evening or this weekend and engage the solution seekers known as The Interrupters.”

The Interrupters is also available on iTunes and Amazon Video for $2.99 if you want to pay to watch it. If you hate this film, AND Chi-Raq, then… I don’t know what to tell you. And, if you have an opinion on Chi-Raq and haven’t seen it, or have only seen the trailer…. then you’re talking just for the sake of talking.






Kendrick Lamar & The National Symphony Orchestra @ The Kennedy Center


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In the lobby of The Kennedy Center before the Kendrick Lamar concert with The National Symphony Orchestra.

In the lobby of The Kennedy Center before the Kendrick Lamar concert with The National Symphony Orchestra.

For your average person, driving over 200 miles –one way– and paying over $200 for one ticket to a hip hop concert seems like doing THE MOST. But, walking into the lobby of The Kennedy Center on Tuesday night, October 20th, I couldn’t have been more sure that I’d made the right last-minute decision to attend Kendrick Lamar’s performance at the esteemed concert venue. I can’t lie, though. When I’d heard with the rest of the world the announcement that he would be doing a one-night-only with The National Symphony Orchestra, my spirit was pretty crushed when I realized that the performance had sold out via The Kennedy Center box office within a matter of minutes. I spent the next two weeks checking StubHub and Vivid Seats on a daily basis hoping that a ticket under $100 would become available. It never did. Then, here it was Sunday night before the show and Seat 1 of Box 11, with a face value of $99, was staring me down. In that moment, three instances from my concert-going history came to mind: the two concerts I never quite got over missing (The Fugees/The Roots/Goodie Mob tour in 1995 and Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in 2004), and having actually seen Wyclef with the New York Philharmonic at The Lincoln Center in 2005. THIS was one of those moments where I knew I’d look back and regret not attending. So, rationalizing that I’ve seen at least a couple hundred of free concerts of legendary ilk over the years at Central Park Summerstage, I splurged and bought myself the ticket, filled up my gas tank and hit the I-95 South, bumping the ultimat K-Dot playlist on Tidal the whole way to DC.

I didn’t realize until I’d arrived at The Kennedy Center and received a program that this particular concert with Kendrick Lamar was a part of their 2015 – 2016 Pops Season along with celebrated comedian Steve Martin and R&B crooners Boyz II Men. So, not only would it be my first time seeing Kendrick but also my first time seeing The National Symphony Orchestra and attending their classical pops series. Realizing this increased the value of the experience for me, and made me wonder if there had been other hip hop collaborations with the NSO. I had forgotten that a year and a half prior, Nas was the first hip hop artist invited to perform with the orchestra during Pops Season as a part of The Hip Hop Theater Festival’s One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of his debut album Illmatic, Nas donned a tuxedo, bow tie and dark shades while performing hits from his entire career. Of the collaborations with both Nas and Kendrick Lamar, NSO Pops conductor, Steven Reineke reflected on the unlikely pairings:

“A few years ago I realized there’s one genre of music that’s very important in American culture that we have never worked with … and that is hip-hop. We were able to do that with Nas and now we’re continuing that with Kendrick Lamar … I feel like we have a stewardship to the great American songbook and to me that’s always being written. It’s not just Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. It’s guys of today who are writing and they have something important to say. A guy like Kendrick Lamar, the artistry is really high. This is just done at such an incredibly talented level. The message that Kendrick has, the things he talks about, the modern-day current issues are very valuable.”

Kendrick Lamar program

That Reineke would have the foresight to reference the artistry of Nas or Kendrick Lamar when talking about the great American songbook speaks volumes about the creative vision he has for the NSO. And, honestly, I found it impressive and refreshing enough to consider becoming a member of The Kennedy Center… well, if I lived in Washington, D.C.!  Nevertheless, being one of the 2,500 audience members of the sold out performance was enough to keep me on a musical high for YEARS to come. (This, and the fact that I saw D’Angelo & The Vanguard on the Black Messiah tour twice earlier this year!)

There are already tons of rave reviews of the epic performance that you should check out, from Rolling Stone to the Washington Post to Pitchfork (which happened to include a candid photo of yours truly standing in the lobby!), so I won’t give a play-by-play of the night. But I did want to highlight the moments that I found completely extraordinary. Let’s start with the overture! I don’t know any way to put it other than: the To Pimp A Butterfly Overture that the NSO opened with was literally music to my ears. Corny, I know! But it was absolutely delightful to hear. The instrumental introduction by the orchestra comprised the most recognizable compositions of the album before Kendrick even graced the stage. I kept thinking, “Wow, this is ALREADY soooo amazing…. This overture is OVAH! *snap*” Then there was the electric pulse of Kendrick’s band, The Wesley Theory, which accompanied the ninety-six member orchestra. The sheer gravity of sound from the symphony strings and blaring horns was tremendous as the sold-out audience joined in with Kendrick’s lyrical delivery. Word for word, verse for verse, song after song, it seemed as if one unison voice emerged from Kendrick and his fans during hits like “m.A.A.d city”, “Backseat Freestyle” and “Alright”. It was incredibly interesting and complex seeing such a mainstream and diverse crowd of Kennedy Center members and supporters recite lines referencing Pirus and Crips, police brutality, political corruption and personal hypocrisy, as well as having free will and liberty to sing the word “nigga” without a Black person sitting in the next row giving them the side-eye. Complicated, yet completely authentic to the moment and to hip hop, in general. No matter which words Kendrick Lamar used to get his point across, the integrity of the message remained in tact, and the entire concert hall felt it. Also telling were the moments he would shout out couples in the audience in admiration and respect: #BlackLoveMatters, indeed.

Of the tons of other things there are to be said about the concert performance, what sticks with me is Kendrick’s spirit, grace and charm being a young man of 28 years from Compton, CA standing front and center on the world’s stage. With over one hundred musicians playing his music, you could feel the glow resonating from his smile and the energy that would take over his movement. I felt very proud watching as he thanked the audience for their ongoing support since his first mixtape Section.80 and intercepted their applause during a moment of silence, saying that it was about THEM, not him. I thought of the bonus track “Black Boy Fly” from good kid, m.A.A.d city where he talks about the successes of NBA player Arron Afflalo and The Game by merit of sports and rap music, and the insecurity he felt as a youngster about the likelihood of making it out of Compton:

“My mama didn’t raise me up to be jealous-hearted

Like most of the winners call it

Regardless of where you stay, hold your head and continue marching

That’s what she said but in my head I wanted to be like Jordan

Award touring the country with money from mic recording

The only way out the ghetto, you know the stereotype

Shooting hoops or live on the stereo like top 40

And shortly, I got discouraged

Like every time I walked to the corner had them guns bursting

Nigga, I was rehearsing in repetition the phrase

That only one in a million will ever see better days

Especially when the crime waves was bigger than tsunamis

Break your boogie boards to pieces you just a typical homy

All these niggas facetious and they all standing beside me

They all will buy me a chopper if any one of you try me

What am I to do when every neighborhood is an obstacle

When 2 niggas making it out had never sounded logical

3 niggas making it out, that’s mission impossible

So I never believed the type of performance that I could do

I wasn’t jealous cause of the talents they got

I was terrified they’d be the last black boys to fly…

Out of Compton

Thank God…”

Kendrick Lamar with the NSO. (Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post)

Kendrick Lamar with the NSO. (Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post)

He didn’t include “Black Boy Fly” on the set list that night at the Kennedy Center, but believe me when I say the very essence of the song sums up what I imagine Kendrick Lamar felt throughout the entire performance — where he’s from and where he’s going. And thank God! Black boy, fly.

Holidaying Abroad (No, I mean actually spending the holidays abroad!)

There’s something about experiencing national holidays while outside of the US. Between 2012 and 2014, I’ve now spent a few of these special days abroad, away from family, but very much with good friends (some of whom have become family). 4th of July in HK Whether it has been Thanksgiving, Christmas or the Fourth of July, one thing is pretty standard, while  there’s tons of food and camaraderie to be had, there’s no place like home. But that’s okay! After all, part of the reason for being in a new country in the first place is because you were looking for something out of the ordinary of home life and what is to be expected at Auntie’s annual cookout. In July 2014, I spent the 4th in Hong Kong with a couple of friends who were with me on a two month internship. One was a fellow Californian, and the other was actually Danish! The three of us set out to Central, a hip section on HK Island, to have what was billed as an authentic American Fourth of July Dinner, complete with bar-b-que, corn on the cobb, a baked potato and baked beans, cole slaw and watermelon. We all agreed, unfortunately, that it was nothing to write home about, whether home was the US or Denmark!

Dubai THanksgivingA couple of years before I spent Thanksgiving in the UAE with a group of colleagues from the US. One of our co-workers asked her mom to internationally Fed-Ex some staple ingredients that are usually found across Black American dinner tables on Thanksgiving. I have to admit, that food spread was some kind of wonderful, and it was particularly special to not only break bread with friends from all over the world, but to take part in the tradition of circling up and expressing what we were genuinely thankful for. Though we were easily twelve hours ahead of the actual time of the holiday in the States, it was perfect timing for all of us that made it! I don’t think I’ve had a similar Thanksgiving experience sinceDuba - Thanks giving that one year in Dubai. It certainly made an impression that I’ll never forget.

Then there was Christmas and New Year’s in South Africa! Thanks to a dear friend who I consider family at this point, I was invited to spend about two weeks in SA where I visited Johannesburg, Mafikeng, Stellenbosch, Cape Town and Soweto. The was, in effect, my introduction to life on the Mother Continent, and has every bit to do with why I’m interested in spending some more significant time there. Though I arrived and spent a day or so in Jozie, we left for Mafikeng, the town where my friend was raised, and spent about five days with her parents and family, including Christmas day and their annual day after Christmas party. At first it was a bit strange that Christmas in SA takes place during their summer season, and I made such a big deal about being able to wear a sun dress on Christmas day… until it dawned on me that there have been MANY a Christmas in Southern Cali where I was raised where the temperatures were in the mid-70s or higher!

Mafikeng Merry Christmas

My hands down favorite holiday abroad was New Year’s Eve in Cape Town! A couple of days before, my friends and I had spent the afternoon wine farm hopping in Stellenbosch where the wineries are plentiful. The joie de vivre and camaraderie tripled once December 31st arrived and we put on our all white, feathers and masquerade masks!

South Africa - Cape Town - NYE 2013Starting the evening with dinner at The Grand Daddy Hotel Cape Town and ringing the new year at St. Yves in Camps Bay, we celebrated January 1st surrounded by their beautiful friends at a party sponsored by Ciroc at Cape Royale! This is the AFRICA I want more of!!!!! #FACTS

Jan 1 Cape Royale Ciroc Party

While I’m no longer interested in living abroad full time, at least not at this part of my life, I really could see spending more New Year’s Eve celebrations in South Africa with the homies! They really know how to live it up, and that’s all a global bon vivant can ask for!!!

Food Chronicles: Bangkok’s Bangin’ Green Curry

Thailand  - late dinner 2

Now that I’m back in NYC, the hunt is on to find Chicken Green Curry on the same level as what I had in Bangkok! That food was BANGIN’!!!! I was only there for a few hours, around fourteen to be exact. Leaving Hong Kong on a Friday afternoon, I booked my flight via Thailand then onto Finland before arriving at JFK the following Sunday night in late July. It was quite the adventure to say the least, where I hit up the Patpong Night Market in Si Lom Bangkok, stopped by Smiles Jazz Club for a late night jam session, ventured across the street for an even later session of Thai massage, and then ended up at a little restaurant after 2am across the street from my hotel, The Siam Heritage Boutique Suites.

I wish I remembered the name of the restaurant, but should I ever return to Bangkok, which I have every intention of doing, I will certainly remember its proximity about midway between the night market and The Siam Heritage. My sole reason for needing to remember the location of this hole in the wall restaurant has EVERYTHING to do with the green curry chicken I was served that night!

Thailand - late dinner green curry 3

Firstly, it arrived in a large coconut with the aroma wafting from under the cut out top!

Thailand - late dinner green curry 2

When I ordered, I swear I had NO IDEA what was in store with such fresh and perfectly seasoned ingredients, and even the basmati rice was the best I’ve tasted before and since.

Thailand - late dinner green curry

This first bite was like nothing I’d ever had in the way of American Thai food… It was absolutely the best curry I’d tasted in all of my life! No cliche!

Thailand - late dinner green curry 4

What I was NOT prepared for was the level of HOT PEPPER SPICE that was in the curry sauce… After a few bites, my eyes were watering, my nose was running and, while I loved it, I just wan’t sure I’d be able to finish eating the food in front of me. I mean, I wasn’t going to be able to finish anyway because of the portion, but the spiciness was on a thousand! I tried to get them to take it back to kitchen and water it down, but I eventually just sucked it up and savored the flavor, albeit very carefully and with lots of beer! I should have remembered that when I ordered Thai food in Dubai, I would always tell them that I needed my spiciness on level two!

Thailand  - late dinner

Meanwhile, here it is months later and I’m WISHING I could get something that matched the level of that authentic Thai Chicken Green Curry in a coconut!

A Tale of Two Revolutions: Ferguson & Hong Kong

The Progress

Hands Up Ferguson October

Simultaneously, on opposite ends of the world, protests in Ferguson, Missouri and Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, signify the ground zero of polarized political movement—the demand for democracy upheld by civil and human rights. The movements in Ferguson and Hong Kong are primarily youth-led and organized, a focal point not lost in media and supporters of radical struggle. Their objectives dictate a call to accountability and action. Sparked by the killing of unarmed African American 18-year-old Michael Brown in August, activists in Ferguson have engaged in ongoing protests to counter police bias and violence against Blacks and Latinos. In the wake of a succession of unjust murders at the hands of law enforcement officers, organizations are leading the way to reform in Ferguson including The Organization for Black Struggle, Hands Up United, and Millennial Activists United, among a host of social, political…

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(excerpt) 25 Years after Tianamen: Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protests Unfold

“Power to the People: Persist for a Better Hong Kong”    Photo by Mai Perkins during the July 1st March in Hong Kong.

“Power to the People: Persist for a Better Hong Kong” Photo by Mai Perkins during the July 1st March in Hong Kong.

25 Years after Tianamen: Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protests Unfold (excerpt)

During two months in Hong Kong this summer, I marched in solidarity with demonstrators at two historic protests: the 25th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square on June 4th and the annual July 1st Protest Rally March. Protesters by the thousands gathered in Victoria Park to take part in candlelight vigils, staged performances and peaceful singing en masse.

zIMG_0329Student activists who had died in 1989 advocating for democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square were memorialized. On July 1st, I along with other New School students, in Hong Kong as part of the International Field Program,conducted video interviews with protesters asking, “If you could break the rules, what would you do?” The premise of the exercise, as explained by our faculty adviser, was to get protesters and spectators to reevaluate the nature of rules -in general- and question aspects about the concept of “rules” that are supposed to work in our favor. There was no context nor was there a right or wrong answer to the question we posed. Many of the protesters made mention of the upcoming 2017 Chief Executive election and said that if the promise of democracy is not followed through during that time, they would break the rules in favor of universal suffrage. Now, on the eve of China’s National Day on October 1, the largest mass protest in recent memory is taking place. (To read the FULL ARTICLE, visit The New Context, an online journal for the Milano School of International Affairs, The New School.)

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Something About Airports – Changi Butterflies!

In my travels I’ve come to appreciate the airports where customs/passport checkpoints are reminiscent of the pre-September 11th days of travel. We all remember the ease of stress free airports around the world before terrorism became the name of the game. Now days, there aren’t too many airports that will give you this feeling. Not that I’ve been to all that many, but between the 18 countries I’ve visited, and the countless others where there’s been short layovers, I have to say there’s one airport that sticks out in my mind, even now, months later. That’s Singapore’s Changi Airport! I passed through there on a 12 hour layover on my way to Hong Kong in June, and it has been a long, LONG time since I remember such an EASY entry into an international border. Wayyyyy better than when I got to Gold Coast, Australia earlier this year and forgot that I’d stored an apple in the bottom of my carry-on luggage at Los Angeles International. Let’s just say I was detained for upwards of one hour, threatened with a $1000 penalty and I think my name went on some kind of list! My mistake. But I’ll never travel with fruit again!  But back to Changi…

What really impressed me was that when I stepped off of the Singapore Airlines plane around 7AM (also the best flight of my life!), I don’t know what exactly I expected, but I was completely surprised at how welcoming the airport staff and facilities were. Passing through customs was really as easy as 1-2-3, and that type of morning, it was extraordinary that not one person was in front of me in the line. There was no line! Unheard of!!

Singapore - Butterfly WorldBut what I’ll never forget about the airport is the attraction called Butterfly World. Now, this will sound absurd to most people, but all of my life I’ve had a fear of butterflies! Don’t get me wrong, I think they are lovely, whimsical creatures, full of love and wonder, and I don’t think there’s a chance that they would ever harm me. But that’s never alleviated the anxiety I feel if a butterfly starts flying in my general direction!

Nevertheless, I got the bright idea that I should use this time before my flight to Hong Kong to face my fear of these magical flying beings inside of the butterfly sanctuary.

butterfly 1 Singapore - Butterfly World 2 butterfly 2

Standing at the top of a winding staircase that leads down into the sanctuary, I stared at all of the people just casually chilling among the butterflies. Some actually TRYING to pick them up! It was pretty cool because I could see the various butterflies resting on the intricate floral arrangements, but they weren’t obnoxiously hovering about in my personal space. I walked around slowly and took a look at the different types of butterflies and even attempted to take a couple of selfies while a few of them soared in the vicinity. I literally almost dropped my camera a couple of times while ducking and dodging them though!

Singapore - Butterfly World 3

At the end of the day, I’m glad I took the time to experience something life changing, if only in the most minor of ways! There’s no way I would have gone into a butterfly sanctuary if I was just at home looking for something to do! But, looking for a mini adventure in the middle of my “commute” to the other side of the world, I was willing to open up to the possibilities! If only for a moment…