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

 

Watch Me Fly ~Then & Now

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When I first realized that I had the ability to transform my life, my emotions, and my perspective into songs, I was filled to the brim with joy.  I remember how free I felt.  Free and vulnerable.  Exposed.  It was like everything inside of my soul had finally found a way out and there was nothing weighing me down.

I wanted everyone to feel this joy I was feeling.  I had created lyrics and melody to some instrumental tracks a co-worker at the time had shared with me.  Taking what I had written into the studio and recording it took this joy to a new level.  Like a child showing you their artwork so full of pride and assurance that you will love it, I played these tracks I had recorded for everyone who would listen.  Most people had positive feedback, some were less enthusiastic than I was but still I felt encouraged to continue.  However there was one critique that stuck with me.  When I heard the following two sentences regarding my music everything shut down for a moment:

“Who are you going to market this music to?  White folks won’t get it and black folks will never accept you.”

Wow.  It caught me completely off guard.  I had never put a race or color to what was spilling out onto the paper.  It had never crossed my mind that what I was recording would be disregarded because it wasn’t “white enough” or “black enough”.  Marketing my emotions to a specific audience was foreign to me.   I was confused.  I was hurt.  And then I was mad and motivated to get above it.  So I did what I had learned would set this free and allow me to take back my power.  I put it on paper.  I sat down on my deck and wrote from start to finish, the piece that would eventually become “Watch Me Fly”.

That was the summer of 2003.

It stayed in my journal for several years.  It stayed there through my 5 years in the band Intuition which I co-founded.  It was still there when the band ended in 2008.  It didn’t come to life until after I started working with Maurice Carroll of Stinkiface Music that same year.  Even then I wasn’t sure I wanted to record it, but toward the end of a session with Maurice he asked me what song was next.  Reluctantly I sang my idea for the song to him.  I told him how it was supposed to feel and the emotion behind it.  He immediately started putting keys down, lengthening the original hook and adding sitar and a marching drum.  It fit.  It was dreamy and strange.  It was late and I was raspy when I recorded it but I remember it all clearly.

But now, Watch Me Fly was finally a real song and I was free from the sting of the words that inspired it years prior.  I took those words, let them hurt me, released that hurt on paper, and then set it free in the music.  It was mine now and instead of pain, I transformed it into something that would again bring me immense joy.

The song was released in the summer of 2009 as a single and then in September of that same year it was the title track of my EP when I signed as the first singer/songwriter with Stinkiface Music.

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Over the last 5 years this song has become my “title track”.  It’s my personal mantra and applies to many situations I encounter in life.  More importantly it has connected me with so many people who have reached out to me via email, social media, and in person to let me know that this is their song too…that they listen to it every day, it tells their story, it helped them rise above, and that I have written what they couldn’t express on their own.

Eleven years after being told that no one would get my music and I wouldn’t be accepted I received the best compliment of all.  Someone told me, “I listen to your music and I know that I’m not alone.”

This year I wanted to take “Watch Me Fly” to another level and possibly reach a new audience.

I handed this idea over to Baltimore house music producer/DJ N’Dinga Gaba.  After we had some success in the house music world with our song “Feeling Fine” in 2013, I knew he would be able to give it new life.  N’Dinga suggested we do a “Watch Me Fly” EP.

My connections to South Africa had grown immensely with the word of “Feeling Fine” getting around and my collaboration with N’Dinga who is originally from Central African Republic.  There is a distinct sound and style that is coming out of this part of the world.

Over a year ago, my Facebook friends from AudioArque Records, Troy & Trevor in South Africa had already remixed the song with a unique tribal approach in their “Jungle Soul Remix”.  They had truthfully remixed this for me “just because” and we weren’t sure how it would be released.  But once an EP was decided upon I knew this would be a part of the package and I had held on to their version until the time was right.

Deep Sentiments, also from South Africa, came along a little later when I had started talking on Facebook with Tshiamo from the group of producers.  They put a broken, laid back, sexy spin on their remix, “Deep Sentiments OPZ Vocal View Remix”.

Both the AudioArque and Deep Sentiments versions have the original vocal from the 2009 song.

I went back in the studio with my “Watch Me Fly” co-creator Maurice aka MoRece to put down a different vocal for his new version, a haunting remix with a different hook adding Iris Craig’s gorgeous voice on the harmonies.  Yet another vocal track was recorded for N’Dinga’s remix and he also brought in UK DJ/Producer D-Malice for his version of the song.

So here we are!!

Today, December 15, 2014,  N’Dinga’s newly launched label Global Diplomacy Productions is releasing my very first house EP “Janice B. Watch Me Fly ~ The Remixes” with contributions from N’Dinga and UK’s D-Malice, South Africa’s AudioArque Records and Deep Sentiments, and the original producer of the song, Maurice Carroll.  Check it out on Traxsource!

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No matter what version you prefer my wish is that the the song will continue to send a message of hope and empowerment to everyone it reaches.  No matter how well it does on the house music charts I can tell you that the amazing love and positive feedback I have received because of this song keeps my spirit at the top of the charts.  Every time I hear it in any version I am reminded that I can transcend anything that life throws my way.   With a song I have the power to keep rising.

Watch me…..

Janice B.

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)

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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

Standing Up for the Queen

Greetings!Janice B. and QueenEarth

Let me start by saying this wasn’t the blog I planned to post today.  But as usual, something happens that irks me and I need to vent.  So here I am.  Several of us have been chatting about this topic on Facebook but let me explain what happened. 

In short a fellow female musician was discriminated against. 

My friend Missy Smith aka QueenEarth has been performing at local farmers markets as a part of her spring/summer performance schedule.  She recently spoke to the woman in charge of the Briggs Chaney Farmers Market about being considered for a performance slot there.  For those who don’t know, Briggs Chaney is a very diverse area of Silver Spring, Maryland.  The website for their farmers market shows pictures of people from all walks of life, all colors, races, and cultures.  It even states that they are sponsored by a group that is working to strengthen the community and celebrate the diversity of the area. 

I’m telling you this because apparently the female manager of the farmers market  has no idea about their mission to celebrate diversity.  Missy sent her the usual letter with samples of her music.  The woman responded and told her that the one song, video clip actually, was inappropriate.  She actually said, “I love your music and your voice but the content is inappropriate for a family venue.”  Missy had to ask her what song she was referring to since she couldn’t imagine what song would be offensive to families.  She was referring to the song “Supermodel” in which Missy is talking about courting another female.  Now I know the song and I’m actually learning the background parts so I can accompany her when we perform together and even I couldn’t imagine what was so offensive. 

Here’s the actual clip for your review:

http://youtu.be/dNmDJst_Tb8

Missy explained to her that she often tweaks her song sets to accomodate the crowd.  We have all removed profanity or suggestive lines from our songs when children are present for example.  The woman said that they didn’t want to “shake people up” or “change anyone’s minds” as if hearing a lesbian sing will make all of us heterosexuals uneasy and have us switching up our sexuality.  Ridiculous.  Does it make gay people uneasy when I sing about a man?  Missy pressed her for more of an explanation and asked, “so you are saying that if I was singing this song to a man it would be okay?” and the woman said “yes”.  Missy politely withdrew her application to perform. 

When Missy told me about this last night I was amazed that someone could be so arrogantly discriminatory.  Amazed and pissed.  What really got to me was not so much that this woman was a homophobe or racist or whatever she was.  She could have easily replied to Missy that there were no performance openings available or not even responded at all.  But she actually chastised her for sending the video clip of the song.  She said that she was “surprised that she sent that clip to promote herself” as if Missy was wrong for representing herself and her work honestly.  That perhaps had Missy hidden the fact that she was openly gay, she would  have been accepted as a performer.  Look it’s no secret that Missy is gay.  I know her girlfriend and they are both open and honest about who they are.  But neither one of us has ever gotten up on the mic and said “Hi I’m gay” or “Hi I’m not gay”.  It’s simply not an issue in what we do and how we perform.  And I would venture to guess that our friends and fans don’t give a crap either.   And are people at farmers markets really hanging on a singers lyrics like that when they are buying organic tomatoes??  Really?  It’s gonna “shake them up”?  C’mon….it’s 2012 right?  Aren’t we past this bullshit? 

So I slept on this mess.  It even woke me up once.  I know you are probably asking why.  I’m not gay.  I wasn’t the one rejected.  It’s not about me.  But to me this type of casual discrimination is dangerous.  “Hi we don’t allow gays, blacks, whites, women, etc to perform here.”  If you speak that from your mouth then you practice it in your life.  And if you practice it in your life you are also practicing in in MY community.  MY life.  It is most certainly about me.  It could easily be someone saying we don’t hire female perfomers.  As a matter of fact that happens quite frequently here in Baltimore bars.  And it’s wrong.  And I can’t sleep on it. 

So I decided to write a letter.  Look I know that people with a mindset like this woman’s probably won’t even care about what I have to say.  But being silent wouldn’t be right to me.  I’m not a political person.  I don’t picket and protest.  But wrong is wrong.  And as a fellow artist and musician (and fiesty scorpio) I just couldn’t let it go.  I had no intention of posting this.  I’m certainly not looking for any kudos.  I just think that the only way to combat this discrimination is to call it out when we see it.  To say we will not tolerate this in our community.  It might not change peoples minds but it will let them know that they are not the majority.  It’s not okay. 

I’m posting this letter at the recommendation of fellow artist and musician Teporah who also composed her own letter to the manager of the farmers market.  She said I should post it for others to read.  So here it is:     

Hi Gigi,

I am a singer and songwriter here in Maryland.  Like most local independent artists I work very hard at getting exposure and new gig opportunities.  It’s not easy and we often do this all on our own.  I was excited to learn that some of my friends and fellow musicians were now performing at some of the local farmers markets.  What a great idea to encourage the performing arts at an event where there are often socially conscious, open minded folks shopping to support organic farmers, community artisans, local vendors etc.  I have friends living in Briggs Chaney and I know what a diverse community it is.  I can see from the pictures on your farmers market website that the customers and vendors represent many cultures, races, and age groups.  It’s a great place for an artist to perform.  

However knowing this only deepens my disappointment to learn that you would not accept my good friend and fellow musician QueenEarth (Missy Smith) as one of your musical acts.  It is my understanding that it was because of one song she sent you in which she sings about another woman and that you felt it would be inappropriate for the farmers market crowd.  I believe you said it could “shake things up”.  I truly cannot understand such a decision and quite frankly as an artist it frightens me.  

I suppose it’s not necessary for me to go on and on explaining what an amazing artist you are missing out on or to list all of the songs she performs that touch so many people that have nothing to do with anyone’s sexual orientation.  And besides that she is also a supporter of local businesses, farmers markets, a teacher and mentor to many, and an amazing person.  I can’t imagine anything coming out her soul being deemed inappropriate.  We quite often perform together. 

I respect that you are in charge and it is your right to determine who is a “fit” for the audience.  But I also wonder if your diverse market, vendors, and community share your views.  I’m quite sure you have some gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender folks there in the community.  What’s really sad is that they have no idea what they are being denied access to.  They didn’t get a choice.  They don’t get to experience QueenEarth.  And I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I sang Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” or Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” in the material I send out for gig consideration.  Would I be deemed a lesbian and inappropriate?  How many gigs have I been denied because someone placed judgement on me and didn’t think I was right for the crowd?  And even more upsetting, as a listener and a consumer, how many great acts have I missed out on because someone didn’t think I would find it appropriate?  I’m also confused since your website states that you are sponsored by IMPACT Silver Spring.  Their mission statement on their website speaks of strengthening the community and celebrating the diversity in the area.  

While I accept that this email will probably not make a difference or change your views, I felt compelled to speak up.  You might feel it has nothing to do with me.  I am not gay.  I wasn’t rejected as a performer for your event.  But I am a part of a huge circle of local musicians and artists who are affected by these decisions.  On a personal level being deemed inappropriate is hurtful.  As an artist it goes against everything we do.  Music is healing and all inclusive.  We reach many people.  We unite many races, cultures, and sexual orientations.  We also often use the internet and social networks to reach our fans.  Missy and I have over 3000 friends and fans combined on social networks and music websites.  Many of those people are local.  And those friends/fans in turn can decide if a farmers market that would exclude a performer based on sexual orientation or the wording of one song is a farmers market that they will support.  Like you they are free to choose.         

Love and Light,

Janice B.

So yeah….I sent it.  Of course she hasn’t responded.  That’s okay.  I just wanted her to know that her little dismissal of one artist affects a lot of people.  Guess I can get some sleep tonight!

Here’s a clip of me performing “I Remember” with QueenEarth on guitar: http://youtu.be/3l3fgUR18RA

“To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.” ~Confucius

Until next time….love and light…

Janice B.

Aiming the Gun, Taking a Life (My thoughts on the Trayvon Martin case)

I used to keep a gun in my house.  A revolver. 

I knew how to use it even though I hoped I would never have to.   Even if someone was breaking the door down I would hopefully be able to escape without having to shoot someone.  But the fact of the matter is when you own a gun you have to also own the fact that you might be responsible for taking someone’s life.  Some people think that sounds easy given the right circumstances.  But most people who think it is easy, people who think that they could easily shoot someone who was trying to harm them or their child, for example, have most likely never even held a gun.   They have no idea what the decision to point a gun and shoot someone brings with it.  It should never be easy.  

I am familiar with and have respect for guns because I grew up with them.  My father was a DC police officer and later homicide detective.  He also used to hunt for food.   We had guns in the house.  I knew where they were.  I knew how to use them.   My father instilled in me that guns are dangerous weapons and that thankfully he had never had to take someone’s life as a police officer.  He said that a good police officer should go their entire career praying they never have to take someone’s life.  And that it was a burden that no one should ever have to carry.   But he also said that you never ever pick up a gun and aim it at someone, human or animal, unless you are ready to accept that burden.  If the possible harm to you is greater than the burden of taking that life then you will have to live with that choice even if you feel justified in making it. 

I’m talking about guns because I wonder what was going through the mind of George Zimmerman the night he chose to aim his gun and shoot Trayvon Martin.  Like pretty much everyone I know, this case is weighing heavily on my heart these days.   It seems the details of that evening keep changing as more witnesses emerge, so even as I type this there may be new developments.   But going from what I know now I’m curious about the mental state of a grown man out in his car, carrying a gun, looking for “suspicious” people.   I’m curious as to why a 17 year old child of any color walking down the street in his neighborhood would appear suspect.  And like everyone else I wonder what in Zimmerman’s soul made him believe that he could go out that night with a gun, cruise the neighborhood, stalk this boy, antagonize him, and take his life?  Who gave him that right?  Did he understand the weight of that choice? 

I know we are all outraged about the actions of the Sanford police department that night.  Even if Zimmerman was being attacked and beaten when he decided to shoot that gun he should have still been detained for questioning until the facts emerged.  “Stand your ground” law or not….basic common sense procedures were ignored.  And given the fact that they KNEW he was following the boy.  They KNEW he was going after Trayvon.  It was clearly premeditated.  If he had stayed in his car and reported the “suspect” this would have never happened.  A child would not have been shot and killed.  Black, white, asian, whatever.  The police failed us.  I know people are pointing to the racial aspects of this injustice making it a black vs. white issue.  I don’t know if the police were racist and I’m not even sure that Zimmerman is white.  But quite honestly I’m saddened that this is becoming a race issue.   Because even though there could be a racist motive here, WE as human beings need to be united in this.  

This is about humanity.  This is about valuing another’s life like you value your own.  The truth is, Trayvon is my son.  He’s my brother, my child, my friend, my coworker, my neighbor.   How many times have I gone out in the rain or cold to get the mail wearing my husband’s hoodie pulled tightly around my face?  You can’t tell my race or my gender.  You can’t tell if I’m “on drugs” or planning to commit a crime.  And what if my neighbor is not mentally stable and decides to shoot me because I appear suspicious?  What if it’s my son as a teenager walking home from school?  What if it was my producer MoRece who walked down Calvert Street in the rain wearing a hoodie just to come to my show at the Baltimore Book Fair to support me?   Truth is it could be any of us.  Yes Trayvon is OUR family.  

But here’s the difficult part.  Zimmerman is our family too.  He’s someone’s child.  We may be sickened by his actions and feel hatred in our hearts for what he did, but he is still a human being.   Since his actions were handled improperly and he wasn’t detained by the police we don’t know yet what his story is.  We don’t know if he is sick or what his state of mind is.  But whether we like it or not he is one of us.   He’s that person who clutches their purse closer when a group of young black men walk by.  He’s those people who hate the Korean ladies in the nail shop because they just know they are talking about them.  He’s just like that uncle who doesn’t trust white people or that cousin who says “there goes the neighborhood” when a black family moves in.  He’s just like those of us who judge by the exterior or by the prejudice we have formed in our hearts instead of looking at each person as a unique individual.  He’s those of us who still don’t see that we are all in this life together.  There is no black or white or asian to that.  We were created by the same force.  We were put here for a reason.   This is who we have become.  And only WE can change it.  I know this blog won’t change much.  But this is so heavy on my heart that I felt the need to say something.  I continue to see the racial division on social networks over the Trayvon case and others like it.  I continue to see the black vs. white and “us vs. them” mindset and it makes me sad.  For whatever it’s worth, I pray we can rise out of this together.     

I no longer own a gun.  Before we adopted my son in 2009 I removed it from my house and gave it back to my father.  I know that while I AM able to shoot someone to protect myself or my family, I also know that as a mother I am NOT able to carry the burden of taking the life of another mother’s child.  I’m a different person now.  I know I don’t want to ever have to make that decision.  I live with peace in my life and in my heart.  My father taught me well.  

As for my father, the retired police officer and former hunter…..he now feeds the deer from his back deck.  He is 83 now.  He has names for them and saves up old bread so that he and my son can feed them when we visit.  He no longer hunts.  He told me he doesn’t think he has it in him anymore.  He has changed.  

Me too Daddy.  Me too. 

Love and light….

Janice B.