Black people read science fiction too.

I just found out that the author of my favorite book series has passed. It actually hurt my heart to hear this news. I felt like I knew her personally. L.A Banks wrote the twelve book series “Vampire Huntress.” She wrote in various genres, including African-American literature, romance, women’s fiction, crime suspense, dark fantasy/horror and non-fiction. Sadly she passed August 2, 2011 from late stage adrenal cancer. She was only 51.

I have always been open to reading any genre of books. I enjoy reading sci-fi, paranormal books. Yes, not many black people read sci-fi but I am a fan. So when I was introduced to this series by a friend I fell in love. I read these books like a hungry child devouring every word. I actually started reading the series twice and after each fix I was steadily hooked. I bought each one like it was crack and Barnes & Nobles was my supplier.

The series focuses on a young woman named Damali Richards. She is a spoken word artist but she is also The Neteru, a human who is born every thousand years to fight the Dark Realms. Plus she adorns a crown of locs on her head (maybe why I like it even more). She is gifted with powers that enable her to destroy the supernatural creatures and fight against all forces of evil but vampires are her biggest threat and enemy. L.A Banks once said “To me, the vampire represents a lot of what we see in society. They’re scarier because of that; because the vampire can be anybody. He just blends in and looks perfectly normal. Like your serial killers often look like normal people.”

Thus one of the main reasons that I love this series is because Banks made it relatable to modern life. It’s not just a typical book about killing vampires. She writes on the never-ending struggle between good and evil and how important love is. I found the series engaging and evolving. I will admit that the first book was a little slow but she got better with each book. The characters being described, as young, hip-hop, people-of-color, with culture and proud heritage were believable. They were a mix of musicians, veterans; Ivy League educated and drug dealers. I was glad to read a sci-fi book that had characters of different ethnicities African-American, Native American, Mexican, Laotians.

One theme throughout the story was always “Stay in the Light.” Stay in the light by staying positive, opening your third eye, acknowledging and using your talents and gifts for the betterment of yourself and others. L.A Banks writes of respecting and learning from your ancestors, using their wisdom in our lives. Her story line weaves a mix of conscious thought, holistic medicine and battle strategy. Characters practiced natural healing and laying on of hands while still using holy water grenades and glock nine millimeter, with hallowed earth-packed artillery. Like I said it is not a typical book about vampires.

This series is more than just sci-fi. It is romance, history, religious, spiritual, action packed. It is about a person’s internal struggle and of redemption. There is a passionate bond between Damali and Carlos Rivera, her lover and partner, that creates conflict and purpose in the story. Despite all their pain and faults, they truly believed in each other. That hope served as a beacon in uncertain times. By the end of the series I saw myself as Damali in love with my Carlos. I became a part of the book.

There are some other interesting observations from the book and the view that she writes from but I will reserve those opinions for myself and choose only to speak on the positive that I took away from the series but…

I know a lot of people can’t get into fiction much less science-fiction but reading different genres of creativity inspires my own. My imagination is not one dimensional and sci-fi opens up another side to that imagination. I encourage you to branch out and read outside of your normal genres. Try some sci-fi. Try fiction. Read between the lines you will be surprised at how it may relate to you and your life. Allow your imagination to wander and live out in another world.

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MLK Memorial postponed… until September or October.

As I got ready to go to sleep I think about how my weekend could have turned out.  Then I had a moment where I gave thanks for the little and big things that make me smile.  I am so glad to have life and health.

Yesterday the official dedication ceremony for the King memorial was scheduled to occur.  However, the potential damage and flights that could have been effected by hurricane Irene were reason enough to postpone the events.  On Sunday morning, I would have stopped my alarm clock around 6 a.m. to get ready to go to the mall in Washington, D.C.   My father and I planned to attend the ceremony together.  We would have arrived there no later that 8 am and I would have had my parasol, hand fan and camera. READY!  I just knew I was going to make it and witness an awesome service.  On Friday,  I was notified that my flights were cancelled.  I was a bit disappointed but decided I would change my departure and arrivals.  Then my aunt who lives in Washington, D.C. sent a text stating that the service was cancelled.  But I didn’t believe it because I was too excited to go.  So I prepared myself to start packing.  Shortly after, my father called about the weather alerts and his concerns about me traveling.  I started to look up articles and as soon as I saw “postponed” my heart dropped.  I was devastated. Only because I worked myself up for months about going to D.C. to witness the dedication.  This project had been in the works for the last 15 years I was told and it was ready for the world to see.  President Barack Obama and Aretha Franklin were going to be there.  How could the official dedication be postponed? I took a moment to digest the new information.

I got over the disappointment and am happy I stayed away from the north.  Had I gone I probably would have been stuck there for a few days or had a miserable time with the power outages and fast winds.  I know that this happened the way it was supposed to and now that the monument is open to the public I can go visit whenever I choose.  I can’t wait to make that trip.

Martin Luther King Jr., monument in Washington D.C.

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.  Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation.  The foundation of such a method is love. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964 (Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech)

Yesterday the memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was opened to the public on the mall in Washington, D.C.

WOW!!! I can’t believe it!  I knew for some months that the event would come but it is finally here.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend today but I will be there Sunday along with the anticipated 300,000 people.  I’m just so excited!! Dr. King is the only African American and non president to be honored in this way.  Furthermore, there is no more space on the mall for any other monuments of this stature to my knowledge.  I will give you all an update when I return.  There will be musical tributes before and after along with a speech from President Barack Obama.  If you are in the area and can attend here is a link with some pertinent information and FAQ’s regarding the dedication service which will be held on Sunday, August 28th. http://www.dedicatethedream.org/site/c.4nJHJQPoEiKWE/b.7629861/k.8321/Dedication_FAQs.htm

“Hey Baby”

Street harassment is the unwelcomed words and actions of strangers that can be everything from sexually explicit comments and groping to public masturbation and assault.

The other night there was this interesting dialogue about street harassment and pedophilia that young women have to deal with. It’s a normal occurrence to walk down the street and have a car drive by screaming out “hey baby” and honk. As if I would run over and reply sweetly “yes daddy?” but I don’t want to be the “baby” of any man who couldn’t approach me in a respectful manner. I don’t respond to catcalls and obscenity as a way to get my attention.

I remember going to south beach one year for memorial weekend in Miami and hating to walk down the sidewalks. It’s known that if you’re going to walk the strip you are going to get harassed and it doesn’t even matter what you have on or how you look. The men were brutal. My friends and I paused as we came up on a group of men standing on both sides of the sidewalk. Other than walking in the middle of the street, we had to walk through them to reach our destination. Walking through the crowd of men someone touched me and my instant reflex kicked in. I swung my hand back to defend myself. I looked back to realize I hit the wrong person and as the group of men started getting loud and closer my friends and I literally and quickly ran down the street. That was just too much unnecessary excitement for me. And for the rest of our time on the strip we had to deal with men grabbing us and shouting out names to get our attention. “Hey, lil yummy.” “Come here brown skin.” I saw women get approached and after turning the man down he curses her out and calls her all types of vulgar names. I even saw some women get things thrown at them for not wanting to give a man their number. It was a prime example of the male ego and feeling the need to put a woman in her place. Needless to say that was our last time on south beach for memorial weekend.

Too many friends and relatives shared the same kinds of stories. And sadly enough it all seemed so normal. The street harassment happens often and comes from young and old men. Whether it was the teenage boy who said I wasn’t shit because I said no to him or the man old enough to be my father that told me that he wanted to marry me and whispered dirty things in my ear, this mentality tells us that boys will be boys and have no self-control. More often its women who  say we just need to accept it as a part of life. Men and women alike need to challenge the sexism and patriarchy that allows for men to act this way and for women to accept it. 

There needs to be the mentoring of men and of boys who will eventually become men. They need to know the respectful and right way to compliment and talk to women. Men also need to relate and become allies in stopping street harassment. Men, show some respect when you see this being done to women, please tell your friends to stop it.

There is a simple rule: do unto others as you would want them to do to you. So simply: if you don’t want it said to your mother or daughters don’t say it to someone else’s daughter. Street harassment that women go thru by men can be compared to the harassment men go thru by the police. Seriously think about it. No one wants to walk down the street in fear of being hassled and violated.

Please remember 15-year-old Sakia Gunn. She was killed after being stabbed her in the chest in Newark, NJ after stating she was a lesbian and turning down the advances of two men.

Women have a right to walk through their communities and feel safe without being objectified. Street harassment is a real issue.  Hollaback- http://www.ihollaback.org/ – encourages the movement dedicated to ending street harassment.

Have you ever been hesitant or afraid to walk down the street because there were a group of men you would have to pass? Have you ever experienced street harassment?

Have you ever told someone to stop the harassment of another person? Why or why not?

Mid Week Inspiration- Passionate Living

Alarm goes off. Time for work. Dragging to get ready and make it on time. Physically there but mentally somewhere else. There is always some point in our lives when we have a job that we are grateful to have but don’t love. We get stuck in having a good job that supports our financial needs but does not satisfy our passion. It may seem hard but your passion and talents can work for you. Dont allow a job to steal your purpose from you. A job is work but a career is worthwhile. Love your position but plan your promotion.

Follow the signs that are placed in your life. It doesn’t matter how old you are, your education or financial situation. Passion is limitless and free. If you could do anything, that wouldn’t feel like work, regardless of how much it paid what would it be? What are you most passionate about? Think about your talents, the things you love to do, or the people you want to impact. I personally struggle between my passion and what’s practical. But I have realized that being practical and safe isn’t always whats best. Living passionately can be done by merging the hearts desires with the minds practicality.

Discover your passion and embrace it. Take baby steps. Volunteer, start a part-time home business, continue your education, travel, take every opportunity. Do what makes you happy and satisfied. Do not settle for mediocrity. Learn to fly.

Police Brutality Strikes Again… So does the bystander effect.

I was listening to WRFG 89.3 around 5 pm when I heard a father, Ron Thomas,  speak about his son, Kelly Thomas who was a known homeless man in the community.  The interview was brief but powerful.  Ron Thomas, a retired Deputy Sheriff,  told the story about his son who was beaten into a coma then died shortly after.  There was a total of 6 Fullerton police officers who beat and tazed Kelly while he cried out for help.  Officers stated that Kelly resisted but bystanders disagreed.  A few locals described Kelly as a kind man.  The City offered Ron Thomas $900,000 to settle any claims but he rejected the offer.  Kelly’s last words were “Dad, Dad, Dad.”  Hearing this story was tough.  The injustice system is so corrupt.  It’s not like I’ve never had this feeling before.  But when will it stop.

After listening to the radio interview I looked up an article and a few YouTube videos.  Then I had flashbacks of conversations held with friends regarding the bystander effect/Genovese Syndrome.  The videos showed a group people who stood around, shared their opinions and filmed  as Kelly was beat excessively by the 6 officers.   To my recollection, the bystander effect/syndrome usually occurs when people watch others being hurt by someone and are more times than not helpless.  People may stand around and watch a horrific event almost in a daze.  Somehow the expect another person to do something.  It’s a interesting topic to read up on especially when you get into the difference between individuals and groups.  When one is alone and the risk is low people are more likely to offer assistance to those in need.  Groups of people tend to stand back and wait for someone or something to help.  I’d like to charge all of our blog readers to think about this situation the next time you see someone being hurt.  I wouldn’t ask you to put yourself in danger.  I’m only asking that we become more conscious. Collectively.   Re post it on your social networks to remind other people that is it okay to help someone out or speak up about injustice.  If I was being mistreated by police or some stranger I certainly hope someone would help me.

*Check out this article about Kelly Thomas.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/03/kelly-thomas-fullerton-ho_n_917713.html

Blessings to the World

Rebel Artistry is sending condolences and blessings to the family and friends of the victims of the Norway shooting and bombing. Please take some time out of your day to say a prayer or speak positive words of peace for the lives lost.

We are also sending prayers and support for the crisis in the horn of Africa. This famine currently affects 4.5 million people in Ethiopia, 3.6 million people in Kenya, 80,000 in Djibouti, and almost 3 million in Somalia. Somalia is suffering its worst drought in 50 years. Running from conflict, and sick with hunger and thirst, people are fleeing to the borders or the aid camps in Kenya, and many children are dying on the way or too weak to survive once they get there. Please do not turn a blind eye just because it does not directly affect your life.

UNICEF is asking for $31.8 million for relief efforts. This money will help give treatment for women and children with severe malnutrition, access to clean drinking water and vaccinations to prevent deadly diseases like measles and polio.  To help UNICEF’s efforts, text “FOOD” to 864233 to donate $10 from the United States or visit the website.

Governments and the international community must address the issues that make people vulnerable in the first place. The food crisis in East Africa, like in many other parts of the world, is the result of recurring long-term problems.Sign a petition asking congress fight poverty and not to cut programs that fight the root causes of world hunger and keep families healthy for the long-term.   ONE Petition

 While there are still tragedies that occur miracles happen every day. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Accepting that life is hard comes with accepting that you have the responsibility to make it better. Along side words of hope and encouragement your positive actions are needed to change the world.

Mid-Week Inspiration: Live Your Legacy

I was recently reminded about one of my college experiences where I asked numerous people “how do you want to be remembered?”  There were many different responses and it really showed the character of that person. Some people wanted to be remembered as fun or kind or loyal. But in order to be remembered as something that’s how you should live your life. It’s about living your legacy. Your legacy doesn’t have to start when you die, you can create and live that legacy now. People never remember what you said to them, they remember how you made them feel. How you make people feel is a part of your legacy. How you feel is a part of that legacy too. If you feel good about yourself then it will show. No need for makeup or fancy clothes. Wear a joyful heart, a confident smile and a loving spirit. I truly believe that everyone has greatness within them. You can be great! Greatness should not be defined as being a celebrity, professional athlete or popularity. Greatness is being the best at who you are! Take the time to think about who you are and what you represent. Regardless of our personal, financial or professional situations how we act and think should be aligned with our legacy. Everything that we do causes a ripple effect in someone else’s life and your greatness could be as simple as helping someone in need. Dont underestimate the power of you. Be great today! Be accepting. Be humble. Be brave. Be encouraging. Be focused. Let your life be your message.

School’s In for Summer

As the month of July comes to a close most children in the traditional school settings will be returning to their classrooms within the next 2 to 5 weeks.  Some have been reading or going to different camps and others have probably spent a large portion of their summer in front of a Wii or Facebook.  Summer is a great time for parents and other mentor like adults to make the biggest impact on students.  My parents made sure I was well prepared for the world and the classroom before the next school year rolled around by enhancing our informal education and setting high standards.

Each summer my mother would take us out of school approximately two weeks before the year started or two weeks before the year ended.  Most parents wouldn’t dare trying this especially since we would be home all day for the summer and “needed” to spend every moment in the classroom.  Well my mother didn’t agree with that philosophy at all.  She preferred to nurture our minds with experiences outside of the classroom.  No TV in the bedrooms, limited TV if at all during the school week, lots and lots of reading, went fishing with my dad, camped in the back yard, played all kinds of instruments, and often museum visits.   We played a lot with each other and even made our own home music videos.  Each summer my family would use those extra weeks towards our annual trips up and down the East coast with anywhere from 6 to 9 of my siblings in one vehicle.  One summer we even drove from South Florida to Canada.  These trips were most exciting and continued from the time I was in elementary school until my junior year in college.  We would stop along the way and learn about the states we were passing through, the history of our culture in each place and visit family.  My most memorable stops were always Savannah, GA, Washington, DC and Philadelphia, PA.  Reading was simply a requirement.  The books we read were mainly about our culture and successful people around the world.  I think that was when I began to develop an interest in non fiction, especially biographies.  I cherish those summer trips and learning experiences I shared with my family.  I know these trips along with some very special teachers are what sparked my interest in education.  The American school systems miss the mark in almost every subject across the board, so my summer trips helped to pick up the slack.

Now I spend my summers traveling, studying other schools systems and getting ready give my students a richer education each year.  I do this because I see each child as a new opportunity to make a positive difference in the world.  Tests, evaluations, salaries nor achievement gaps deter me from giving my best to any child.  We must continue to take our childrens’ education seriously, as early as two years old.  It’s not just about teaching them the test or making the deans list every semester.  Children must know that someone cares about their educational success and they have to be groomed to compete on a global level.  I plant seeds of success, faith, dignity, integrity and a love of service to the community in every child I teach.  By imparting quality information and a positive attitude I feel like I am paying it forward.  They know within the first lesson that I have high expectations because I know that they can ” be the change they want to see in the world” M. Ghandi.

This is a short list of films every teacher, mentor and parent should see.  Try a movie night with friends or other parents.  Netflix has #1 and #2.

Top 3  Films

1. The Lottery

2. Waiting for Superman

3. The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System