A Collaboration in Black and White

Greetings!  Time to dust off this keyboard and get back to blogging! 31932250_10214712776625722_8651299963738783744_n

So I’m working on a new collaboration with a fellow Scorpio artist. It’s not music, reiki, or meditation, or any of that although it does hold a lot of good energy.
It’s art.
In case you weren’t aware, I draw….I paint…I’m creative. I just don’t always have the time to focus on that outside of my other creative endeavors and sometimes I don’t share these things on social media.

I’m going to tell you this story for two reasons…First, I’m SUPER excited about what she and I are doing together and second, I also think white people need to understand why it’s important to be mindful of how we incorporate black culture into our own creations. The term “cultural appropriation” is thrown around a lot lately but I don’t really think white folks get it.

I get it.  So I feel that it’s my place to speak on it and give examples. (Side note…more white folks need to be the ones speaking up and educating other white folks.)

Let me first explain how we met. A few years ago I was attending Handmade Holiday at the Living Well in Baltimore. It’s one of my favorite events in December with local vendors selling handmade items. This was before I was heavy into wrapping jewelry and making crystal grids. Dana was one of the vendors. She was selling these amazing paintings of women…mostly black women with interesting angles, curvy nudes, half portraits, big afros and headwraps. They just really spoke to me. The colors, the imagery, the power. Her energy was fire as well. A calm Scorpio (we do exist lol) just standing there painting a new piece while the energy from the completed canvases was vibrating all over the place. I’m an intuitive and an energy worker. I know all about you before you even speak. She didn’t need to speak. I knew she was good people. Deep…probably misunderstood sometimes…but genuine and gifted.20190604_123127

I took her card and stalked her art works for a while. LOL We crossed paths again maybe 2 years later when this time I was vending my Reiki Rocks and Crystal Grids at Handmade Holiday. My grids are works of art in a way. Crystal grids on a painted canvas. Her art tells a story. Mine sends an intention. The same…but still different.

Fast forward to this year. I contacted her with an idea I had. What if we put my grids into her paintings? Or what if she creates a piece with the intention of it having a grid in it? How powerful would THAT be? Sacred geometry inside a goddess’s womb? Sri Yantra shapes inside an afro or a Metatron’s Cube in the 3rd eye of a warrior goddess? AMAZING, right???
She shared my enthusiasm and excitement and we started working. This collaboration is unique. I went to her place to see all the pieces she has. We discussed how crystals and grids could be incorporated to add even more intention to the piece. A few weeks later she brought some canvases to my house and we tried out grid shapes and stones.
We aren’t always in the same room together. We communicate via social media a lot, sharing progress photos, and thoughts. She trusts me with her art works and my crystal healing expertise and I trust her experience with how the intention works within her artistic expression from her experience as a black woman.  

So you might be asking what does this have to do with white people and cultural appropriation?
I’m getting there. Listen up.

Understand…this could have played out differently. I could have met her, experienced her artwork, been blown away…and then gone home and started painting similar images of black women to incorporate my grids into. I could have taken her influence and ideas and claimed them as my own. I can surely put a brush to canvas and paint an afro. I already have an established clientele of crystal grid customers who would love this. I could probably make some money. She’s not the only person who paints these images so why can’t I, right? Art is about expression and isn’t about race, right?

Nahhh love. That’s not right. I was directly impacted by HER story on canvas. Black hair isn’t my life experience. Even though I’ve cared for black hair, twisted friends’ locs, helped take out braids, all that. It doesn’t matter that I have black friends. It doesn’t matter that my clients and grid customers quite often don’t share my skin color. It doesn’t matter that my intentions might be good.
What matters is that THIS artwork that I was directly influenced by is HERS. And she is a black woman. It’s her story that she has been telling through images that look like her. Her experiences. Her energy. Her joy and pain. It’s not for me to tell. If I copied her and claimed the amazing images with grids as my own creation that would be cultural appropriation.  That’s not the energy I want associated with any of my work.

I know people get confused because sometimes it’s not always so black and white. (pun intended)
We are all influenced by each other to some extent. My straight haired self has always wanted to just once have a big bouncy afro mane of curls. Too many hours of my life and 10 million dollars worth of spiral perms in the 80s and 90s was surely a waste of time and money. And people with curls sometimes want flowing straight hair. That’s not really what this is about, though. If I copy a style and claim it as my own creation or benefit from it because now with my privilege it is cool and acceptable to the mainstream, that is cultural appropriation.  If black people are discriminated in the workplace for wearing their hair in a natural style but I can roll up to work in some cornrows and everyone thinks it’s so “new and trendy” that is cultural appropriation.  

I know white people ask “Well what can I do?” There is no simple solution but you CAN choose differently, mindfully, and you can make yourself more aware of the issue even if it doesn’t seem to affect you directly.
As a white person you have a privilege that other people don’t have. Use it to bring attention to these issues when you have a platform to do so. On a personal level, support black owned businesses. Support women in business. If the person sells products that you can’t use or offers services that don’t apply to you, then talk about them to other people who can benefit from them.  

Make an effort to be present and attentive when conversations about racism and cultural appropriation come up. Be the only white person in the room sometimes. Stand up with people and for people who are being discriminated against. If you don’t understand, research it. Google it. Talk about it. LISTEN and HEAR what people who don’t look like you are saying. It might make you uncomfortable but you can’t grow without some discomfort.
Also, when doing any of these things…DON’T expect any applause or accolades for doing what is right. Don’t show up with an attitude that anyone owes you anything for being present. Also don’t think you are entitled to ask people about their own life experiences with racism. No one owes you anything.  But you still need to do the right thing. 20190604_122653

So….back to the art! Not sure when we will be done. Not sure if this will be a new offering of hers or something we present together. It’s still in the planning and testing stage. You know we Scorpios are secretive and mysterious about our creations. 😊

She is Rhed Scorpion in the art world and on social media.  And you know where to find me. 

All I know is that this combination of energy from two very different life perspectives is POWERFUL. Stay tuned!

 

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Crystal Healing: The Nitty Gritty Before the Shiny Pretty

I see you. You are new to the world of crystals and you are enchanted by these amazingly beautiful stones. And when you find out they can be powerful tools of manifestation and healing you get even more excited. We’ve all been there. I get it. We’ve all come home with bags of gorgeous pink, purple, and rainbow colored shiny stones, our hearts filled with excitement about how they will draw love, passion, protection, and abundance into our lives and at the same time make our wallets a little emptier. You carry them in your purse, your bra, and surround your home with them. You probably went through crystal websites and books looking for your favorite stones and what they do. It seems so matter of fact. You want love? Rose Quartz. You want protection? Tourmaline. Healing? Amethyst. Sometimes it is that simple…but if you are embarking on a journey of healing, life changes, or a new level of consciousness sometimes you need to stop and cut through the glimmer of those pretty stones to get to the heart of the matter and the core of what is keeping you from having the things that you are now in search of.

Healing and the changes that accompany it while necessary, are often not pleasant experiences. Sometimes they require deep introspection. It requires facing truths about ourselves that we may have spent a lifetime avoiding. We may have to revisit traumatic events or experiences that we had no control over but have left us unable to fully shine the Divine light that we all have inside.  As we take the journey toward being healed we can use holistic methods to help us stay aligned and gain greater peace and insight. Although crystal healers are not doctors who can make a  medical diagnosis or prescribe medications, we sometimes energetically can tell when there is something deeper to look into.

When clients come to me for Reiki and crystal healing I listen to not only what they say but what they don’t say.  I feel energetically what they are unknowingly carrying like a thick blanket. It’s like a heavy, dark vibration and sometimes an invisible armor that they have created to protect themselves. This is familiar territory for me. I’ve been there and I’m surely not alone. Some of the most positive and light filled people you meet have at some time had to look down into the darkest depths in order to transform their lives.

When I bring crystals into the equation I am looking for what will open you up energetically to what you need to facilitate healing. So while you may want pink stones, you might need to do some heart healing or tend to some wounds from past relationships before we create a wall of rose quartz around you. Why do you feel you are lacking love? Is it a lack of self love? Is it a fear of being loved? Maybe a different stone will better deal with these issues.

For example, rhodonite is a heart healer. It brings to the surface the emotional wounds of the past so that you can examine them and make changes. It brings you back to the center during stressful times. It calms emotional shock and panic and provides grounded support during the process of dealing with painful issues. It helps you to forgive and see both sides of a situation. Clients who wear rhodonite for heart healing will sometimes say the stone is too heavy.  That’s because it’s awakening a vibration that they might not be ready to confront. The stone isn’t heavy. The emotional baggage it is releasing is.
This might not be a rosy fun experience for you. But it’s necessary to be able to receive the love you are looking for.

The same goes for crystal grids. Grids amplify your intentions and create a movement and vibration around you to eventually manifest what you want. The hardest custom grid request to fill? Drumroll……….

The Love Grid.

Do you want a love grid because of numerous failed relationships? Are you dealing with a divorce or break up? Are you lonely? Are you repeating the same patterns and getting nowhere? Is there sexual trauma or abuse? Sometimes it’s best to start with a grid that will help you work through what is causing you to be out of alignment in the first place.

If you have low self esteem and feel intimidated or undervalued in your life or relationships, I would recommend a grid that combines red jasper with a solar plexus stone like citrine or sunstone to boost your confidence and open you up to receiving joy and love of self. Red jasper is a courage stone. The warrior stone. It empowers you and grounds you in confidence and encouragement. I might even throw in a soft protection stone like jet. Most people reach for black tourmaline to block negativity. But we aren’t blocking. We are transforming into someone more powerful and jet has the ability to draw out the negative energies that are lingering in your auric fields. Jet can give you physical, emotional, and spiritual guidance that will help you accomplish your goals and achieve balance and harmony. It can reveal how to come out on top during difficult times.
Think of it like this…you can block your ex-partner’s juju with black tourmaline all around you but you are blocking their negative energy now. Jet however, clears your auric field of all the dirty smog they left you with from prior experiences. Kind of like burning sage in your home.

Speaking of blocking bad juju…let’s talk about protection from “toxic” people. I get that request a lot. But again…let’s look deeper before we start packing our bras and pockets with black tourmaline and obsidian. Why do you feel under attack from toxic people? What is toxic? Are they draining you? Are they narcissists? Is your intuition or sense of self out of balance and it’s hard to clearly see who is not in alignment with you? You may need to do some grounding work or work on enhancing your intuition and ability to protect your energy at all times. Maybe high vibrational selenite and third eye loving labradorite would help. Maybe even a combination with amethyst for it’s healing and intuitive properties. You can enhance clarity with sodalite or fluorite. All of these things in combination with the psychic attack blocking abilities of black tourmaline might be what you need.

Crystals definitely carry vibrations with a specific properties that you may desire. But in order to get there you might need to look deeper. Take some time. Breathe. Meditate. Clear your mind and look inward. Step back from situations and examine your feelings…and enlist a certified crystal healer to help you find the combination of stones that will create the vibration that works best for you. This isn’t magic (well it kinda is) but we all possess the ability to change and transform our lives at any moment.

You are more powerful than you could ever imagine!

 

Janice B. is a Usui/Holy Fire II Reiki Master Teacher & Certified Crystal Healer

For more info:Janice B. Reiki Website

Feeling Their Pain, Healing Their Energy

janice b feeling fine still editI was driving on the beltway making my way from my parents’ house to my job in Landover, Maryland like I did most days.   I was about 19 years old.  I was halfway to work when a sudden feeling took over my entire being.  I don’t know how to explain it other than to say it was a feeling of incredible sadness and heartache.  It was physical and heavy.  It overwhelmed me while I was driving and I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way.  Stranger still, at the moment I started feeling this immense sorrow the name of a boy I went to elementary school with came into my mind as clear as a bell.  Tommy Stevens*.  I hadn’t seen, talked to, or thought about Tommy in over a decade.  Although he was a nice kid, we were never close friends and I had no idea where he went after our few years together in elementary school.  The feeling passed as quickly as it came and I didn’t give it much more thought as I arrived at work.  About a half hour into my shift my mother called me and before we hung up she said “Oh by the way, I don’t know if you remember him from elementary school or not but I heard today that Tommy Stevens died.  They found his body in the Anacostia River.”

I’ve always been able to “feel” things from people.  I can sense when something isn’t right, when someone can’t be trusted, or if the person is carrying some unresolved pain or grief.   And  incidents like the one about Tommy Stevens have happened too many times in my life for it to be a coincidence.  Too many times I’ve been taken over by a dark emotion attached to a name or vision of someone, or their home or family only to find out later that someone died or was hurting or going through a significant loss or upheaval.  Someone I would have no reason to “feel” or think about.  I don’t talk about this much.  On the rare occasion that I recount these incidents I am often met with disbelief and doubt.  I understand that response because I myself have doubted if this is really happening.  Is there some logical explanation that could make sense as to why I am feeling something so real and painful from someone I don’t know?  In the case of Tommy’s death I’m not sure whose sadness I was feeling.  Was it his mother’s loss of her son?  Was it the emotions my mother felt upon hearing the news?  I won’t ever know.

Some people would call this intuition. That is the term that is tossed around most often but what I experience is much more intense.  I know my father was very intuitive.  He could keenly sense if someone wasn’t on the “up and up” as he would say.  He never discussed it deeper than that but he was always in tune with what he felt from people and he never doubted his feeling.

Later in life I understood myself to be an empath, a person who can sense/feel and sometimes take on the emotions and pain of others.  The list of empath traits sums me up quite well but I don’t usually hang on to what I am feeling.  I experience it very strongly and clearly and can now recognize when it’s not my own pain I am feeling.  However, looking back at my life it would explain a lot of things I experienced that seemed bizarre at the time.  I would have extreme anxiety over going to places with big crowds of people.  Panic attacks that upset my stomach and tightened my chest.  Empaths aren’t fond of large crowds because they can often feel everyone’s emotions.  I would sometimes feel sad and overwhelmed for no apparent reason.  I thought I was going through a depression or I was just over stressed from work.   Looking back I can guess that perhaps I was feeling someone else’s emotions but I just wasn’t aware of what was happening at the time.

The empath title fit me quite well until this June when I started my journey to become a reiki practitioner.  I explained some of my experiences to my teacher who said that I may be a clairsentient.  This was my first time hearing of this term.  I had of course heard of clairvoyant which is “clear sight”.  Clairsentience is translated as “clear feeling”.  The definitions of empath and clairsentient are very similar and I’m certain that both can apply to me.  Empaths take on the emotions of people around them.  They may feel the need to help or fix that person.  They are often sought out as the person to confide in or unload upon.  They get overwhelmed in large chaotic crowds.

Clairsentients are highly sensitive to their surroundings.  Not just the feelings of the people around them but also the location itself.  They can sense when something bad has happened somewhere and they can think of someone that isn’t around them and inexplicably know how they are feeling.  They can touch an object and feel the person who owned it.  I’m certain that I am a combination of both empath and clairsentient.  TV and movies have made these traits seem otherworldly and even “spooky” but the truth is, everyone has some level of these abilities.  We are all born with gut instincts and intuition.  But as we get older and more distracted we are conditioned to not pay attention to what we intuitively feel.  This is unfortunate because it could definitely assist us in making better decisions and even help keep us safe.

Over the past two years first with the loss of my father in 2014 and the passing of my mother in hospice in my home this April, I seemed to have “opened up” more to this level of consciousness.  I am very aware of their energy around me and this has changed how I view many things in my life now.  As I mentioned before, in June I decided to pursue training to become a Reiki practitioner.  If you aren’t familiar, Reiki is an ancient Japanese laying-on of hands healing technique that uses the life force energy to heal, balancing the subtle energies within our bodies. Reiki addresses physical, emotional, mental and spiritual imbalances.  I felt that this was a natural practice for me.  If I’m going to have these metaphysical abilities I certainly want to use them to help people.  And after years of intuitively feeling the pain and emotional states of other people, I know I can also assist in making them feel better.  This is not a religion or medical practice.  It doesn’t require the client to “believe in” anything however being open and receptive will certainly help the flow of energy.   I also truly believe that many “physical” ailments that we suffer from are often caused by emotional stressors and things we are holding onto in our hearts and spirits.  I’m finding that my intuitive knowledge of a person’s well-being combined with Reiki can help people heal themselves.

After I received my Reiki attunement from my teacher in June, I felt an immediate surge of heat in my head, heart, and hands.  Since then I have found myself more in tune and aware.  People seem louder and more intense.  Best of all my life purpose is finally clear to me.  I’ve been connecting with people through music and song for over a decade now.  This is naturally the next step for me.  My teacher said she feels that I have the ability to be the bridge between dark and light.   That I have a great understanding of the pain and darkness but also the ability to guide people to healing and light.  This is my intention.  The journey begins….

 *names were changed for confidentiality

 

The Yellow Bead

**Note..I wrote this blog a few years ago when my friend April Sims  asked me to do a guest blog for Black History Month.  I recently saw a news article that was giving statistics about what races were more likely to have friends outside of their own race and I felt a little sad that someone actually felt there was a need to research that.  It reminded me of this blog I had written and how adopting trans-racially has made me look at my world quite differently than I did before…even with a circle as colorful as mine was before my son came along. 

The Yellow Bead 

(Alex in his Korean Hanbok *photographer: Thomas Aaron)

Alexhanbok_02

I sat with my paper cup in one hand and a pile of multicolored plastic beads in front of me waiting for the next statement.  The adoption class teacher said, “Most of the people in my church are…..?”.   I struggled with this because my church is very racially mixed.  But reluctantly I picked up a white bead and put it in the cup.  I had to admit that MOST of the people at my church are white.   I looked down in my cup at the white, black, and brown beads all mixed together in fairly equal numbers.  I was pretty happy seeing that I had such a colorful cup.   The key word of course is “MOST”.  I’m white.  So “MOST” of my relatives are white.   Question after question….”most” of my friends are…, coworkers are…, neighbors are…., etc.     But despite how diverse my circle is, there wasn’t one yellow bead in the cup.  The yellow bead would soon be my son.  He will be the only Korean relative, the only Korean neighbor, maybe the only Korean friend in his class.  I won’t see him as anything other than my beautiful child and my love for him transcends the color of our skin.  But I know the rest of the world isn’t always so loving.

This exercise opened my eyes to how my son would feel in my world and how I take my skin color for granted.  And that no matter how open minded I am, no matter how many brown and black beads I have in my cup, I’m still a part of the majority of the beads.   And quite honestly no matter how often I may be the only white person in the room, at the end of the day I can go to my parents’ house, go to my church, flip through a family photo album, and I will be surrounded by people who look like me.  I won’t be the only white bead.  My son will NEVER know what that feels like.

When April asked me to do a guest blog during Black History Month I thought of so many topics I could blog about but every one of them came back to race and how we view each other.   So many conversations I have overheard or unfortunately had to endure simply because the people talking assumed since my skin was the same color as theirs that I also would share or tolerate their ignorance.  Or in contrast since I am “down” with African Americans that the derogatory comments about white folks won’t offend me.  “You’re not really white Janice”.  I’m not?  I’ve heard white and black people speak of each other as if we are of a different breed.  As if we aren’t all humans.  Some of the things I have heard are pretty disturbing.  I don’t need to recount them all.  It’s disappointing.  I recently heard someone say, “Why do THEY need a whole month for Black History?”  I always cringe at the “us” and “them” mindset no matter who it’s coming from.  Sometimes I will speak up and defend the truth but let’s face it, sometimes you are just wasting your breath.  Some folks just got a whole cup full of white beads.  These folks probably don’t want to hear that the truth is until “THEY” have more than just a chapter or a mention in “YOUR” history book then there will always be a need for Black History Month.  I never really understood why history isn’t just history.  I’m not preaching or looking for approval…that’s just the truth.  And here’s a good one….since the human species originates from Africa then we are all related, right?  It’s OUR history, right?  (I’ve learned that some folks with all white beads (and some with all black beads) really hate that little factoid.)  But hate it or not that is a fact.  I shouldn’t even have to explain that.  That should be common knowledge.

I am a child of the 70s.  I remember growing up with the very cocky notion that we might be the ones to make a change in the world when it comes to race relations.  We might be the ones who will look at each other and see how much we are alike and not just how different we look, yet still be able to celebrate who we are.  After all, there we were sitting next to each other learning.  There we were going to dances and proms together, playing sports together on the same team, riding the bus together, graduating together.  We saw adults dividing themselves and we laughed at how narrow minded they were.

But now I’m an adult and we work together, shop together, worship together, create together, LIVE together.  And 30 something years later despite all the black and brown beads in my cup we still have so much to work on.  We still aren’t looking at each other and seeing the similarities.    I’m disappointed in us.  Not “THEM”….”US”.  All of us.  The bottom line is that even after all this time we still haven’t gotten it right.  We are appalled at the idea of the “Whites Only” establishments that wouldn’t allow black people to sit at their lunch counters.  It truthfully wasn’t that long ago.  And there are a lot of people who still draw a very distinct line between themselves and other races.  They are very comfortable in their ignorance.   I know this blog isn’t going to solve that.  I just know that the missing link is the knowledge and acceptance that we are all one in the same and that somehow folks have forgotten that or just never learned it to begin with.  I have to accept that although I was so sure my generation would change things, I really might not live to see that world.  But I have faith that there are a lot of people out there with multicolored beads in their cups.  And I know the love in our circle is powerful and growing.  And I hope that one day it won’t be odd for some people to learn that my son is Korean and his uncle is African America, his auntie is Mexican, and we are all a family.  We all belong to each other.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  ~Mother Teresa

Love and Light,

Janice B.

More about me: http://www.janicebmusic.com

A Gift of Kindness

dad_janetleighJFK1

*photo copyright Phil Stern Gallery

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  ~Leo Buscaglia

With all the darkness and despair that we see on the news every day, it’s easy to forget that there ARE really good people out there doing things that might not be newsworthy, but still touch people and restore our faith in humanity and kindness.

I could write a whole blog about how awesome my dad is.  I could tell you his whole story about how he grew up poor and how his father abandoned the family when my dad was just a boy.  He was a child but was still old enough to feel the pain and the loss.  He was also old enough to help his mother raise his younger brother in the mountains of Western Maryland.  He knows what it feels like to be hungry.  He knows what it feels like to have a world of responsibilities on your shoulders as a child.  To hope that maybe your father will return and to live with the disappointment that he never does.  He struggled in school but still graduated.  Somehow instead of being a victim…instead of repeating the cycle of pain…he found his way out.  He married my mom, his high school sweetheart and joined the military.  He then made his way to law enforcement.  They moved to Anacostia in South East Washington DC and started their family.

My dad was a DC beat cop at the time of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.  Washington DC was buzzing with celebrity parties and galas.  My dad was assigned to handle security at the door for the celebrity inaugural party hosted by Frank Sinatra.  He will tell you amazing stories about how Frank Sinatra was so hospitable to him, offered him dinner, how he had a cocktail with Nat King Cole, etc, etc.  Great stories!  He will tell you that as a “hillbilly country boy” it was quite an experience.  He got Sinatra’s autograph for my mom and was handed a crisp $100 bill at the end of the night when Sinatra shook his hand.  And even now at 84 years of age, he can tell you the story of that entire evening like it just happened.  It was a big night in his life.

Fast forward fifty years.   2011 was the 50 year anniversary of the JFK inauguration.  CNN did a special on it.  My dad was home one afternoon in his chair watching it on TV.  They were interviewing celebrity photographer Phil Stern who was now in his 90s.  While he was talking they were showing the black and white pics of the celebrities that he took that evening.  Suddenly up on the screen was a picture of this handsome, smiling, DC police officer in full uniform being kissed on the cheek by actress Janet Leigh.  (Janet Leigh was the blond actress in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Psycho”….if you don’t know about that movie then please don’t tell me and just Google it!)  It was my dad!  And he almost jumped out of his chair (hard to do when you are in your 80s!).  He told me the story and I went on an internet search to find out more.

I found the Phil Stern gallery and contacted them via email telling them my dad’s story and how if possible I would like to purchase a print of that photo.   I was delighted to receive a response from the curator who was excited to hear the story behind the pic and offered me a discount on the print.  He also attached a price list for reprints.  (cue the record scratch!)  The price of the smallest print was $2000.00!  Whoa…..no way I can afford that.  In my mind I was thinking “hold up…you want to charge ME $2000 for a picture of MY FATHER??”  LOL but I didn’t say that.  I responded and thanked him telling him unfortunately we couldn’t afford that.  I told my dad about it and we just laughed.

That was 2 years ago.  Although I’ve pulled up the internet photo for people to see and my dad still tells the story of that great evening in his life, we had completely given up any hope of ever getting a copy of the picture.

A few weeks ago I came home from work and there was a big yellow padded envelope waiting, addressed to me.  It was hand addressed.  Nothing official or professional, just black sharpie handwriting from “STERN” in California.  I’m thinking, “Howard Stern??  He lives in New York though.”  LOL  Also on the front of the envelope was written “Enjoy!”.  I opened it with apprehension, still not making the connection with the name.  Inside was a large print of my dad in uniform being kissed by Janet Leigh.  It wasn’t the same print that was online.  It was darker, a little off to the side, but it was clearly from the same roll of film.  No note included.  No explanation.  I was delighted though and now had a great Father’s Day surprise.  A week or two later I received an email from Peter Stern, photographer Phil Stern’s son, asking if I received the print.  I responded that I did and thanked him for sending it.

I don’t know the details behind how he knew about my email to the curator of the museum.  I had moved on assuming the museum was run by a staff with no real connection to the family of Phil Stern and that my email was one of many.  But to think that however it occurred, he took the time to find a print from that roll of film, package it personally and send it to me made the gesture even more precious.

I gave the photo to my dad today as one of his father’s day presents.  I told him the story behind it and he was very moved by the kindness and generosity of Peter Stern.  My parents will surely be reaching out via snail mail to thank him.  For me, this story stands as a thank you not only to Mr. Stern, but to everyone who takes a moment to go out of their way to make someone else smile asking for nothing in return.  You are a reminder to all of us that the light of love still shines brightly.

Dad with pic

Happy Father’s Day!!

Love and Light,

Janice B.

Mercy, Mercy Me!!

JB laughing1

Mercy, Mercy Me….

Wow it’s February 2013 and I just realized that I haven’t blogged since July of last year.  Damn is that right??  I’ve meant well y’all…I started a whole lot of blogs about a whole lot of important topics.  But I just didn’t like the way they sounded and never hit that “publish” button.  I would rather not say anything at all than to just keep yapping about the same old stuff everyone else is yapping about.  I know that’s not how “artists” are supposed to do…we are supposed to keep our yapping out there so people will stay interested.  Yawnnn…lol.  But you know I gotta be me and it just wasn’t working for me. 

Seriously though…up through the end of December I was overwhelmed.  My musical endeavors kept me spinning along with my impending day job layoff, sick relatives, and the usual mommy stuff we all have to deal with rendered me blogless.  LOL   But here I am now so let’s go…

I feel it’s important as an artist (and human being in general) to give something back to your community and the world.  While I do frequently give what I can I really wanted to be able to do something with my music as well.  I know there are a lot of important music charities out there but I really wanted something I could be a part of and experience on my own right in my hometown.  I’ve spent quite a long time looking for a LOCAL organization that strives to make a difference while using music as the means to help others.  And as it so happens with all things I’m looking for, the perfect organization crossed my path at just the right time… 

jbrobin

Through the magic that is Facebook I bumped into Robin Fay Massie-Pighee, the director of Musicians of Mercy.  I’m not even sure what the first event was that she posted…maybe Patterson Park or the Jubilee Arts benefit.  But it was an open call for musicians to donate their time/talents for a show to raise money.  Something drew me in.  Maybe it was the fact that once I emailed her to inquire about being a part of the show she responded in all caps and exclamation points!!  “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!”  I would soon learn that this is no act or internet persona…she really is THAT exuberant in real life!  🙂

So Musicians of Mercy, (MOM for short) seemed to be the organization that was a good fit for me.  They don’t give to just one cause, they respond to whatever needs are out there at the moment both local and worldwide.  MOM raises funds for humanitarian causes through the production of benefit concerts. All performers volunteer their time and talents in concerts that are open to the public at little to no cost. MOM showcases a variety of artists…solo performing artists, chamber ensembles, jazz combos, spoken word, and a full orchestra.  It all started when Robin learned of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and wanted to do something to help.  Maybe that’s what I connect with the most.  So many times I’ve wanted to do something but didn’t know where to begin.  She just grabbed her viola and jumped in!!  I admire that!  I know this is a labor of love for Robin and all the musicians involved and quite frequently she has to pay for some of the expenses associated with doing these events herself.    

I’ve performed for a few Musicians of Mercy benefit concerts and I always walk away feeling blessed to be a part of such a great group of artists coming together for a common cause.  Truthfully I always wished I could do more.  And my wish was heard with an opportunity that presented itself in an unlikely situation. 

QueenEarth asked me to accompany her for her set as a part of the World AIDS Day event at Creative Alliance.  After the show we were approached and asked if we would like to have a concert in the spring.  We were told we could have a few acts together and select a charitable organization to donate part of the proceeds to.  After some late night brainstorming at the Double T Diner, meetings over chicken wings and whiskey, and gmail conversations, we had a show and a charity!! 

Have mercy flyer

So with that being said, on Thursday, March 28th  8-10pm at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, instead of Musicians of Mercy having a concert to benefit another charity…WE are having a benefit concert FOR Musicians of Mercy!  Brooks Long and The Mad Dog No Good, QueenEarth, and me, Janice B. together on one stage!  It won’t be 3 feature acts…we are performing together!!  It’s gonna be a blast!  Proceeds from the ticket sales and 20% of CD sales that night will go to Musicians of Mercy to help them continue with their humanitarian efforts. 

I’m really excited and blessed to be able to have this opportunity to perform alongside such amazing artists and great friends while giving something back with our music.  As my circle of love widens, the blessings continue to flow.  I hope you will join us on March 28thPic 3

Check the following link for details:

Facebook event page:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/144271515722657/?fref=ts

For more info on Musicians of Mercy:

http://musiciansofmercy.org/

Love and light,

Janice B.

www.janicebmusic.com

Sticks and Stones

He was a pimp.   Not the first one I had dealt with for sure.  He had a superior attitude, loud, rude, with several women tagging along with him.  The women were strung out, incoherent, dirty, and dressed in provocative clothing.  Obeying his every word. 

This was a million years ago yet I remember it vividly.  I clearly recall the store full of customers on that Saturday night.  I was the manager on duty at a  clothing store in Landover Mall.  People reading this probably won’t know about Landover Mall.  All I can say is it was a colorful shopping mall with all kinds of people passing through…good honest folks and then the folks who were trying to steal a whole display of leather coats all while smiling and talking to you.  Drugs, shoplifting, fights.  Never a dull moment.  You had to be on your game.  So anyway…back to the pimp.  He walked in the store and I was working behind the counter with a long line of customers.  My staff on the floor glanced at me knowing they needed to be alert.  So far so good.  He seemed harmless.  Arrogant.  He was talking loudly ordering his women around.  They picked out some things to try on and went in the fitting room.  I stood behind the elevated counter ringing up customers and keeping my side eye on the pimp. 

He stood in the middle of the sales floor talking loudly to himself and kept glancing at me.  Then he pulled out a cigarette and lit it up.  He looked straight at me while he did this because even though back then you could smoke in the mall, you couldn’t smoke in the stores.  I guess it was a test.  He was waiting to see what I was gonna do.  I excused myself to interrupt the customer I was helping and then I said out loud… “Excuse me Sir.  I’m sorry but you can’t smoke in my store.”  Everyone in line stopped talking.  LOL  I remember that clearly.  Everything stopped except for the music playing.  Of course I remember the song..I’m a scorpio..hello!  It was Doug E. Fresh’s “The Show”.  LOL! 

He looked right at me.  I knew he wasn’t expecting me to say anything to him and he definitely wasn’t happy.  Then very loudly he yelled  “BITCH!  I GOT WHITE BITCHES LIKE YOU WORKING FOR ME!!!”  It sounds silly now.  But that is what he said.  It was like a bad movie.  LOL  There was a collective gasp in the line at the counter.  Everyone looked down or anywhere besides at either of us.  I never flinched.  Me.  The only white “bitch” in the room at the moment I suppose besides a few of his women in the fitting room.  And here I am telling a pimp what he can’t do.  I never changed my expression.  I replied calmly, “Sir I’m sure that is true,  however you still cannot smoke in my store.  Would you like for me to call someone to show you out to where you can smoke?”  Silence.  He looked at me and kept smoking.  He looked at the mall security guard who just happened to walk by to give me a wave and see if we were cool…and then he mumbled something and walked out of the store.  I continued to ring folks up and act like nothing had happened, talking to people in line and keeping it moving.  It was still way too quiet.  The man next in line said, “You handled that REALLY well.  That attitude is gonna serve you well in life.  You are gonna go far.”  I remember that clearly.  That African American man with his kind round face telling me about myself and where this little incident was gonna take me.   At the time I was very young and it really didn’t seem like anything but another crazy Saturday evening.  But now I really understand…

As a songwriter and lyricist I know the power of words.  The hurtful ones thrown at someone effectively can break a spirit, shatter a dream, ostracize, demean, and do a lot of damage to a person’s self esteem.  In turn, one kind word can make a horrible day suddenly become hopeful.  A positive word can encourage, motivate, heal, and sometimes even save a life.  To me, name calling is the last weapon in someone’s arsenal and when they resort to hurling insults I know they have already lost whatever game they are trying to win.  I think this is why political advertisements always turn me off.  If you can’t effectively tell me what you need to say without bashing someone else then what you are saying isn’t worth listening to.  It is childish but some adults do this all of the time.  She/he is fat, a whore, a bitch, ugly, stupid, etc.  And with the internet allowing people to hide behind their profiles with no face to face confrontation it’s even easier to be a bully.  Even though we are hopefully above all of that..hearing a harsh word like that about you can still sting.  Even as a grown woman.    

So fast forward from the pimp incident to present time and the reason I am writing this blog.  I just recently I discovered I have a few “haters” out there in cyberland.  I’m not a fan of the term “hater” but we’ll go with it for now.  I’m not even sure it’s me they hate.  It could be someone in my creative circle.  But let me elaborate…

It started the day my husband was in the hospital for his heart procedure.  I was already stressed out and trying to stay above the chaos when I got a notification on my phone that someone had commented on a page of mine on the internet.  It was someone who had apparently looked through all of my content, photos, video etc.  They said I was old, fat, couldn’t sing, the songs were boring, I must be sleeping with my producer, etc.  Damn.  What the hell??  I’m not gonna lie.  I was shocked and it definitely hurt a little.  Who is this and why all of the sudden?  Then I realized after checking it out that this person had created a fake profile and was going around to all of my pages making comments.  Some of my content on the pages was over 4 years old.  So why was this happenening all of the sudden??  I don’t have anything new going on that would warrant such comments.  While it made me angry I just deleted it and dismissed it. 

It was quiet for a while then a few weeks later there was a sudden onslaught of fake new profiles and awful comments.  Some really bad accusing me of all types of things that I won’t list here.  They said I was fat, looked pregnant, had wrinkles, must be over 50 years old, and an awful singer.  They made comments about my race, my hair, my voice, the songs, my horrible close up shots, my chin, my body, my band members, etc.  Jeez.  Why was this happening?  I couldn’t think of anything that had happened that would cause such nastiness towards me.  I hadn’t had any bad words or hard feelings with anyone that I was aware of.  I try to send a positive message with most things that I do and I seem to be gaining a small but very cool fanbase of awesome people.  But these guys weren’t playing around.  They were clearly on a mission to try to tear me down.  And all of them were new, fake profiles created that day with no other history except for bashing me.  It may have even been the same person since they misspelled some of the same words, etc.  But now they were clearly doing name searches on me.  Pulling up anything that had my name on it and leaving nasty comments.  But why?? 

I probably won’t ever know why.  It’s amazing to me that even today, as a 40 something mom, wife, singer, songwriter, etc…there are still people out there who want to tear me down.  I am not some big popular artist.  I am not competing with anyone.  Geez, half the time I am a mommy trying to make ends meet and do this music thing and find some time to rest when I can.  So to know someone is really going out of their way to hate on me is crazy.    But I know there is a bigger picture here.  This mindset…the people who go out of their way to belittle you and try to make you feel inferior and worthless..these are the “bullies” that we teach our children to ignore.  It’s easy to say “just ignore it”….even “it gets better”.  That’s easy to say when you aren’t the one being constantly ridiculed and belittled.  It wears on you.  It is hurtful.  It is unfair.  I’ve dealt with it before.  Jealous people, bullies, people trying to keep you out of their circle, squash your dreams.  But it’s at these moments that it’s even more important to stand firm in who you KNOW you are.

“It doesn’t matter what name you call me….what matters is the name I answer to.”     

People look at you and they see what they want to see. And you look in the mirror and you see what YOU want to see. Sometimes they don’t match up.  To that pimp that night I was just another white bitch.  Someone he was going to overpower.  But see I KNEW who I was. I didn’t need to act out. I didn’t need to get angry.  This is me. And I have found that when I am confidently standing as me…who I am….there is nothing that can hold me back. There is no one who can break me down.  There is no name you can call me that I haven’t risen above before and I may have even at one time looked in the mirror and believed  some of those things about myself.  But it has never stopped me.  Even when it hurts I press on.     

I know that people who act out like this are hurt.  They have also been bullied and hurt before and have never learned how to rise above it or change it.  (Thank you Raven for that insight)  Or they feel small and need to tear someone else down to feel powerful and a part of something.  It takes a lot of effort to create several fake profiles and spend your time looking up Janice B. only to leave comments that for whatever reason you think will hurt me or stop me from going after my goals.  In a sick way I suppose it’s a compliment.  You have to care a whole lot to put that much passion into hate.  My producer MoRece said once that people only start buzzing when there is something there to buzz about.  I know that is true but like I said in a recent Facebook status, I’ve never claimed to be young, wrinkle free, skinny, or a phenomenal singer.  I’m just doing what I love and being who I am.  I don’t need to hide behind a fake profile and hurt folks to feel powerful.  I stand strong in who I am no matter how imperfect that may be to someone else.  I know it’s probably best to just be silent regarding these incidents but that’s not my style.  I don’t hide.    If these people want to keep hurling sticks and stones at me I will just catch them and add them to this big mountain that I am climbing.  I will reach the top and continue to rise.  So I thank them for the extra lift and pray they find something in their lives worth climbing towards besides trying to pull me down.  I also thank them for the extra attention to my pages.  All of those extra hits are great!  🙂 

As for the pimp that night, he came back in the store still talking loudly I suppose to compensate for the fact that he didn’t shut me up.  He got in line with the women.  We rang him up and he took out a wad of one hundred dollar bills and threw money on the counter towards me.  But he didn’t look at me.  And he didn’t speak to me.  One of the women reached up to take a flyer off of the counter and he smacked her hand and told her to put it back.  I felt kind of sick inside.  As a woman, a mother, and a human being I now wonder what kind of abuse one had to endure to get to that level of despair and self hatred…I wondered that for both her and for him.  I pray I never come to understand that. 

I recently saw a quote in different variations on the internet but I’m not sure who said it or how the real quote is worded (if you know please tell me!).  But I will share it as best I can since it’s really fitting for this situation…..

“Remember that if people are trying to pull you down it’s because you must already be above them.”

Many thanks to the wonderful friends and fans in my world who take the time to send me a positive message, a kind word, and just something to let me know I am moving in the right direction.  For every negative comment I may receive I have so many more messages of love that you all continue to shine on me.  I choose your light as my focus and we are rising together!!

Love and Light,

Janice B.

**photo credit D. Taylor Images