Attention all accessorizing and glamorizing sistas!! The sistas who love a beautiful statement piece. The sistas who love good, quality accessories. Adele Dejak is the brand for you. Eponymously named after its Nigerian creator Adele Dejak in 2008, the brand creates the most beautiful afro-futuristic jewelry ranging from rings to chokers and they also carry an array of rustic calfskin clutches.
Although I am not an avid accessorizer, the ÁMI I & II collections of chokers are truly a masterclass of metalwork and craftsmanship. The pendants are either hammered brass or aluminum and are paired with a smooth black leather cord or are attached to a large brass ring. I would not be a reliable fashion contributor if I did not tell you how wonderfully brass and gold hues compliment melanated skin.
Aside from being wonderfully and carefully crafted by African artisans, Adele Dejak has been endorsed by the Queen Bee herself!! Flaunting the Afrika Comb in the Black Is King film and, on another occasion, wearing the Margret Aluminum Statement Bracelet in tandem with the Dhamani Kanini bracelet in the music video for My Power from the soundtrack of the 2019 remake of the Lion King.
AD is also big on sustainability, according to their website, only using recycled and upcycled brass and aluminum for their jewelry. They also have a partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Australia to train people in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps to produce goods using upcycled materials to sell to provide for their families.
The pieces may be a little pricey for some (150$+), but the cost of supporting a black business is priceless. Besides, who doesn’t want to step into their next board meeting looking like they stepped off the first flight back from Wakanda? Go check out Adele Dejak and tell them I sent you ♥!
This is the second piece in a 5 part series about my favorite Black Luxury Brands, check out the first part here!
Let me start off by saying that La Vie by CK blew me away. I knew our people were talented but La Vie by CK is on another level! They instantly blow away anything you can get in your Ann Taylor’s or your H&M’s. The women’s bathing suit selection has some of the most gorgeous pieces I’ve ever seen.
The Greece bathing suit (understandably sold out), will absolutely have all eyes on you as you lounge poolside at any resort from Miami to, well, Greece! The white fabric of the sleeves is light and airy, giving you the look of a goddess come to earth, and the ankara print trim around the white bodice will beautifully complement melanated skin, from the lightest oak to the richest ebony. Most of the selections are named after African nations and are created from bold and colorful Ankara prints.
Their current selection is a masterclass in garment construction, Claude Kameni’s eye for design and an appreciation for the black body is something that you can only get from brands run by people who look like us.
La Vie by CK also offers couture gowns which, if the ready-to-wear pieces are any indication of quality, will absolutely be worth every dollar spent – from the consultation all the way up to the design and finishing of the final product. A quick run-through of the brand’s Instagram can give you a good look at the kind of quality couture gowns and outfits Kameni is capable of.
The brand is featured on Beyonce’s website and was even brought on to design a wedding dress for the indelible, forever iconic Jennifer Lewis for the Golden Globe and NAACP Image award-winning show, Black-ish. The outfit, like many of her pieces, features a bold red Ankara print, a long flowing train, billowing sleeves over a simple but stated pant.
I could go on and on about the thought that goes into the construction of each garment and how they look on melanated bodies, but then this would be a book. Instead, go check out La Vie by CK for yourself and tell them I sent you!
“If our education is not about gaining real power, we are being miseducated and mislead and we will die ‘educated’ and misled.” – Amos Wilson, 1993.
You may remember from grade school that hyperbole is an exaggerated statement or claim that is not to be taken literally. A couple of examples are “this bag weighs a ton” or “her smile was a mile wide”. These exaggerations are sometimes used in educational spheres in this country where we talk about the ‘achievement gap’ and say things like “children of color are able to excel”, and “there is no reason these children [Black children] can’t do exactly what their white counterparts can”. These statements insinuate that Black children are striving to reach a status or level that white children hold. It is oxymoronic to insinuate that it is the goal of Black children to reach a status of white children because Black Excellence is not hyperbole; it is fact.
If Black Excellence is not hyperbole, why doesn’t society acknowledge our children being as excellent as they are?
Blake Barrett drumming at his Graduation from Little Sun People | Photo by NayMarie
The Gesell Early Screener (GES) is a test which measures the typical development cycles of children from birth/infancy through their childhood. It shows if a child is at risk for learning or developmental delays. These tests overwhelmingly show that children of the African Diaspora are far more advanced than their European counterparts. Studies found that in early development, Black children were sitting up, making eye contact with speakers, crawling, and attempting to engage with their surroundings earlier than their white counterparts. The developmental cycle of an infant is very quick, which is why we know the things that an infant should be able to do by a certain number of months until they reach about two and a half years old. When speaking on his book, Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children, Dr. Amos Wilson states, “forgetting our history is like a child forgetting they learned how to walk or talk.” We must teach our children their history, the true history, so that they know how to walk and talk as the African children – the natural geniuses, the Exceptional Light Beings – that they are!
If Black Excellence is not hyperbole, why do we find that many of our Melanated boys are outperformed in schools in contrast to their white counterparts?
Last year, The New Teacher Project (TNTP) released a 68 page study, entitled The Opportunity Myth, that claimed to explain in detail with statistics to prove “what students can show us about how school is letting them down – and how to fix it”. But in 1997, Michael Porter was already speaking about The Opportunity Myth in his book, Kill Them Before They Grow: Misdiagnosis of African American Boys in American Classrooms. His book details the overdiagnosis of Black Boys with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) which, under the guise of supporting the child, is actually a crippling agent in the development of the child’s ability to think critically. Brother Michael reminds us in his text that “Oppressed people become equal with their oppressors when they are no longer oppressed” and reminds us that in order to overcome our oppression we will have to develop a definition for education that meets “our reality and our real needs.’’
If Black Excellence is not hyperbole, how do we shift the low expectations that are held for Black children in and out of the classroom?
Photo by NayMarie for Little Sun People
Black Excellence is lifelong, as we are students of life. In this country, most of us begin our formal pursuit of knowledge in public American classrooms. Our great Baba, Ancestor Asa Hilliard, reminds us in SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind, “Study is a requirement for our redemption”. We must study with ourselves and with our children outside of the classroom. Yes, we know that the African diasporic infants are able to naturally develop faster than their white counterparts. But this is Babylon, a degenerative government, a backward education. There are many evidences of society that are as backward and anti-African as they come. So we must diligently study and show ourselves improved. Baba Hilliard goes on to tell us in his text that “Africans have a long history of educational excellence” and gives a historical perspective that will shift how we view ourselves today. We must study, teach our children practical habits of study, study alone, study in groups, find joy in study, find solutions in study. We are excellent in all that we do, so we must study excellently so that we can grow in our African selves.
A crowd of people sat in silence and awe at a dance performance that was beautiful, captivating and fluid to the accompaniment of music provided by the talented musician, Yo-Yo Ma. Though there weren’t many if any, people of color in the crowd as this was in Beijing, China, what mattered was the headliner was a young Black man from Memphis, Tennessee named Lil’ Buck.
It was a thing of beauty – a man doing what he loves and performing art for the world to see. His performance was something that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud of, a young man being seen for his talent and not just his color. In a world where Black men are vilified, subjected to toxic masculinity and seen on the wrong side of police brutality, it was refreshing to see a glimpse into a world that could exist without racism or discrimination.
When asked about his performance, Lil’ Buck stated, “I never really thought about my performance in that way. For me it wasn’t about performing for the audience, I’m trying to make them feel a certain way. I think that’s why a lot of people gravitate towards me because they don’t see anything else because I don’t. When I’m performing, I am doing my best to become music. It’s a real thing for me. Especially to music that has a story already in it, like the Swan. You can hear the story within it. For me, I can visually see the journey in that song. I don’t come up with anything to impress people, I just feel the music and bring people into my imagination.”
Lil’ Buck performing during the documentary Lil’Buck: Real Swan. (Photo provided by Tribeca Film Festival)
The video is a snippet from the documentary “Lil’ Buck: Real Swan” that world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival; it was also the part that stuck out the most to me. To be honest, it made me misty-eyed because it’s what every person wants, or at least what every human being should want — to be able to live in peace and love freely. About the documentary, Andrea Passafiume wrote, “In this exuberant documentary, director Louis Wallecan takes an in-depth look at this extraordinary artist whose passion, drive, discipline, and talent have blazed a unique new path in the world of dance that has included performing all over the world, touring with Madonna, mentoring young dance students, and becoming a passionate advocate for arts education.”
Lil’ Buck: A Young Man From Memphis
Growing up in the Memphis skating scene, particularly at Crystal Palace Roller Rink, was the big thing for youth to keep them entertained and off the streets. Once the skates were taken off and the rink was open for dancing, that’s when the main fun began and people were able to show off their new jookin moves. Jookin is a popular dance style in Memphis for all ages that stems from breakdancing and the gangsta walk. This is how the film, Lil’ Buck: Real Swan, starts to chronicle the life of Lil’ Buck.
“I was born in Chicago and my family moved to Memphis when I was eight. Even back in Chicago, I can remember seeing footwork in indigenous street dancing.” – Lil Buck explained about his roots in dancing and upbringing.
Charles “Lil’ Buck” Riley developed a passion for jookin and dance at the young age of 12. From there he had the desire to become the best dancer he could be. He became so impressed with the length of time that ballerinas could stay on their toes that he decided to take up ballet.
“Growing up I always thought these dancers in videos were making all this money, we literally thought they were rich. All these dancers are next to celebrities like Lil’ Wayne, Madonna, and all these people. Some were not as good as my friends and I, so we would be like, “How the f*ck are they on TV?” We would ask this question every day and tell ourselves that’s where we needed to be.” – Lil’ Buck
Lil’ Buck said that in the beginning, he just wanted to be in videos and put jookin on the map. To be able to reach where he is now. Thinking about how small his dreams were, it just inspires him to dream larger and tell others to do the same. He further explained to not be afraid to dream big and to go after it! It’s not enough just to dream, its the work you put into it. He remembers when he experienced bloody toes and toenails falling off, trying to stand on his toes in his sneakers. Lil’ Buck reminisced, “Imagine walking around all day in school on your toes because you want to build that strength and to be on the level where you surpass ballerinas. It was painful but worth it!”
With some dancers, their goal is to tour with a different artist but not too many dancers see themselves as the artist that has the same strength and power as a singer or actor. They can make a good living for themselves and their family, creating generational wealth. Dancers like Lil’Buck, don’t always have that platform but their art is just as captivating. A lot of kids today are gravitating towards this instant success instead of really investing in themselves and really building themselves, enjoying that journey towards their goal. Lil’ Buck hopes to be a good example of enduring and enjoying the journey.
Lil’ Buck being interviewed by Felipe Patterson (aka Dapper Dr Feel) of Taji Mag at the Roxy hotel during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. (Video by William Baldon)
Lil’Buck discussed that his inspirations are Earl “Snake Hips” Tucker, the Nicholas Brothers, Little Buck, Buck and Bubbles, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Michael Jackson. He explained the way they combined film and dance was inspiring to him. The way they combined storytelling and dance was amazing to him. He remembers that Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, always called his music videos short films.
“Those that inspire me are my peers, Daniel Price, G-Nerd, Jah Quincey, Caviar Taylor (On My Toes), BoBo and all the rappers like 3×6 Mafia, DJ Squeaky, they created what I’m into.” – Lil Buck talking about others that inspire him.
Bruce Lee was one of his biggest inspirations because of his philosophy on life. Not isolating yourself mentally to learning only one thing. He was open to learning and putting together different forms of martial arts. He’s always into strengthening himself and thinking outside the box.
The doc starts off with smooth jookin moves, that impressed me and reminded me of the great dancing films like Breakin’. I wasn’t sure what the aim of the film was but this direction definitely kept me engaged. It didn’t feel corny or fake like the multiple Step Up films that lack the originality of dancers in this film. Every one of them passionate about their craft and every move.
The film was amazing and well done down the other performers describing their love of jookin and their performance that followed to the storytelling of a young Buck’s evolution of aspiring background dancer to a headlining performer. The ending of the film is creative as it has a dancing Lil’ Buck transitioning from background to foreground and left of the screen to the opposite side, representing the journey the project has taken you on.
It’s a film that everyone should see, especially the little boys of color, to show them that they should follow their heart and that they can truly be what they want to be in life.
Thank you Lil’ Buck and Lois Wallecan for the great film about such an inspiring young black man!
If Beale Street Street Could Talk, directed by Barry Jenkins, is a film that explores the dynamics of Black love. The foundation of love in the film is women who are shown supporting their male counterparts which prompts the question, how can Black men show more love and support to Black women? Taji Mag spoke with the cast at the film premiere in DC about some successful ways they can go about it.
Ki Ki Layne discussed the importance of Black men being more vulnerable stating, “I think it starts with really allowing themselves to give and receive love. I think with Black men there is a cutoff, the need to do so much on their own and to have everything together to take care of the household. I think the support will come when Black men make more room to give love and to be loved by Black women.”
Award-winning actress, Regina King, expressed the importance of supporting Black women saying “First of all, start with the love you feel with your mother. That energy and love you feel for your mother, some of that should be present. Obviously, you love your mother differently than you love your woman, but that is where the genesis exist.”
When asked what Black men could do to better show support she explained, “I would suggest they see this film If Beale Street Could Talk if they don’t have a clue. And tell Black women they are beautiful and really mean it.” When asked if Regina raised her 22-year-old son with those values she explained, “My son is taking off his hat, opening doors, and calls his mom every day and tells me he loves me every day.”
The leading actor of the film, Stephan James (Race), also expressed the importance of his mother and the support of Black women, explaining, “My mother has had a great impact on my life. The best woman in my life, that’s a no-brainer because she raised my two brothers and me. She was definitely a great influence on us.”
Black women have been the backbone for many families, especially in a world of male dominance in the workplace, unequal pay, etc. We as Black men have to continue to step up and show our support. If you need help figuring out how to do so, follow the advice of Regina King and go see If Beale Street Could Talk in theaters everywhere November 30th.
DC-based Music Collective Crank LuKongo has gotten the ball rolling in a major way. Their new album Born Again is the jam session and history lesson you’ve been missing in your life. As your head nods and sways to the beat of each song, years of experience effortlessly pour into you. With both the group and the album produced and composed by D.C. Native, Matt ‘Swamp Guinee’ Miller, very few stones are left unturned. Master Drummer, Vocalist, Percussionist, Songwriter, Historian, and Renegade Realist, Swamp calls on his fellow artists within Crank LuKongo to create as a sacred art.
Briefly, the group itself includes vocals and drums by Swamp Guinee, the likes of Junior Marvin of ‘Bob Marley and The Wailers’ on electric guitar, plus vocals and acoustic guitar by songwriter David Blackwell of ‘Charles Road’. In actuality, the list of greatness of members and featured artists on the album goes on. The group consists of several hyper-talented individuals who each bring a unique and irreplaceable component to the overall sound. And boy, does it mesh. Spearheading their own genre, Swamp Guinee has distinctly named their sound ‘Afro-GoGo-Roots’. Make no mistake about the fact that each compositional influence holds equal weight in the recipe of the band. Afro for the unmistakable Jazz, Soul and Rock’n’Roll undertones throughout the entire project. GoGo for the don’t-leave-home-without-it attitude of their crankin’ native D.C. sound. Roots speaking to the revolutionary nature of their cause and the messages within their music, delivered in a way that you can’t help but jam or rock. Therein lies the perfect makeup for music that remains in the body and mind but aims for the heart.
Crank LuKongo’s sound stands as a testament to how our very existence relies on the existence of all that has come before us and also has the potential to shape what will follow. First single and video, ‘Ghosts of Anacostia‘, speaks directly to the extent of that history, especially regarding the guarantee of it repeating itself under the guise of willful ignorance. ‘After the Revolution’ touches on the future, asking of us what part we will play in the shaping of the world for ourselves– come hell or high water. Reaching back to the present, the album also touches greatly on Washingtonian pride, which is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. ‘The Legend of Petey’ is a sonnet of Funk dedicated to beloved Shock-Jock Petey Greene, while ‘Mayor 4 Life’, featuring D.C. rap artist, Head Roc, expresses the town’s widespread and undying allegiance to the late Mayor Marion Barry. The range of sound and subject on this project makes for a truly artistic journey.
Aware that we live a multi-dimensional existence, Crank LuKongo’s album “Born Again” stands as the perfect embodiment of just that. From pre-colonial history to current issues intertwined with songs about life and love, the project is undeniably a classic. Grown from the fertile soils of Chocolate City, Crank LuKongo is a clear benchmark for musical excellence and possesses a special brand of Soul that is unique unto itself. The album serves to give you a chef’s table sampling of a richness you may have not been lucky enough to experience yet. Be sure to hear it for yourself.
Requests regarding booking information for Crank LuKongo, Swamp Guinee, along with album purchases, can be found here.
Subscribe to my blog for upcoming profiles on members of Crank LuKongo.
Fate allowed me to attend the taping of the 2018 Black Girls Rock awards show, which took place at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark this past Sunday. This year, awards are given to Dancer & Choreographer Judith Jamison, Queen Mother Janet Jackson, Writer Lena Waithe, and Queen of R&B Mary J. Blige, to name a few. Believe you me, the stars presenting the awards are of the same fan-moment inspiring caliber as the honorees. The likes of the incomparable Phylicia Rashad, Ava DuVernay, Ciara, and Misty Copeland are far more superior than anything else likely to grace your screen. Yes, ever.
Photo Credits: FashionSizzle.com
I refuse to ruin anything for you dear reader, especially regarding the opening, but I definitely suggest that you prop yourself up before the show begins. I pretty much keeled over in my seat watching it live. You have been warned. With the door having been immediately blown off its hinges, you will soon realize that it was just to make way. Behold, the mogul MC and Black royalty, Host Queen Latifah. Black Girls Rock and we get to rock with the Queen for the entire evening. Stunning and attention demanding, suited in an almost tangible coolness, the Queen commands the stage just as you would expect.
With praiseworthy performances (plural, yes) from Yolanda Adams, a goose-bump raising ballad full of swagger soul by H.E.R., and the dipped-in-honey vocals of none other than Tamia, the announced performers will give you the show you are expecting. The soul-stirring performances will leave you with more to say than ‘Great gowns– beautiful gowns’. Okurrr? But what you’re NOT expecting though? The sheer force of the performances that WEREN’T announced. While there are no spoilers here, the good news is that you don’t have to wait long in order to experience it for yourself. ‘ Black Girls Rock ‘ premieres on BET this Sunday, September 9th, at 8pm ET/PT. Check your local listings.
If Wakanda were real, Akosua Akoto (@akosua_asa) would no doubt lead the Dora Milage. Her peak physique, intelligence, and passion make her one of the talented leaders of the exercise world. Her motivation is not money or fame but to improve the quality of health for her clients. With Asa!, she is able to do just that, providing services that are beneficial to the health and well being of our community. The low impact workout that is a hybrid of fitness endurance and energetic dance movements allow participants to get fit, attack all body parts, and have fun in the process.
Akosua ’s love for fitness started at the age of 3 when she began to learn about dance. Her gift in dance granted her opportunities to perform in many of the highly praised programs around the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Akosua showed her ability to not only excel as a great student but also as a great teacher leading dance classes by the age of 15. She would continue her growth as a dancer through the choreography of different dance companies and events.
As her dance career continued to grow, so did her interest in health and fitness. Akosua’s interest led her to attend Howard University, where she completed her Bachelor’s in Sports Medicine followed by her Master’s in Human Performance & Injury Rehabilitation at the California University of Pennsylvania. Her intention was to use her degree to train and educate clients about health working for an organization, but life had better plans for her gifts, leading her into the extraordinary fitness entrepreneur that she is today.
Akosua in one her designed costume’s from the FUZE collection.
Not only is she a boss in the fitness and dance worlds, she is also the boss of her own businesses including Asa! and FUZE, where she serves as co-founder and designer. FUZE is not only a great company influenced by African and Antiguan culture, it is also a movement that is meant to encourage wellness, homemade body products, and dazzling costumes that can be worn for festival activities. In addition to Akosua running her many companies, she also finds time to train clients on-one-one. With her education and background, she is able to set up goals with her clients for them to achieve. Her training methods are effective because her focus is less based on the aesthetics. Akosua’s goal in fitness training is based on improving health through proper body mechanics and nutrition.
Although Akosua has the moves and looks to lure audiences, she prefers to be behind the scenes developing choreography but is often asked to be in front of the camera to perform. Her latest work was in the video “Boomerang” by Jidenna where she and a long-time friend artfully dance through the whole video. She has also performed on many huge platforms like the BET awards pre-show.
Although Akosua isn’t a protector of the King of Wakanda or can provide her clients the with heart-shaped herb from Black Panther, she can protect her clients from unhealthy habits, informative health/exercise education, and supportive nutrition advice. Her passion that she pours into her work will only lead her to greater success and improve any that are a part of her journey.
Be on the lookout for Asa and FUZE events near you!
Presenting artists from different disciplines, each is introduced within the pages of the book as a placeholder for a corresponding letter of the alphabet. Depicted in the bright color and simplicity typical of a children’s book, the illustrations done by Howell Edwards Creative are anything but typical. See for yourself. Available in hardcover and paperback from Amazon (and paperback on her website), the book is described as ‘An artistic tour of the alphabet featuring notable artists from all around the world’. No stranger to accolades, author Dr. Pizzoli is best known for her critically acclaimed previous book, ‘The Ghanaian Goldilocks’, which received several awards. Recently released, her new book is already receiving praises, including a nod from the likes of Afropunk, which is known for lauding black excellence.
This book is definitely going to be in quite a few of my holiday gifts this year. (Insert Oprah GIF here) You get a book. YOU get a book! EVERYBODY GETS A BOOOOOK!!!! Here’s why.
As essential as it is to teach our children the fundamentals of learning, such as the ABC’s, it is also our responsibility to inspire them. Dr. Pizzoli has dedicated herself to enriching the lives of children for years as a teacher and, now, also as an author. It is said that creativity fosters creativity and I believe this applies to life, not just art. The system in charge of educating our children outlines an overwhelmingly narrow path to success that often does not foster individuality nor artistic gifts as a mainstay. So efforts that successfully bring these elements together are worth noting. Talk about #Winning. This book puts into form the notion that we should be encouraging our children to take stock of their abilities and use them to create a life that is rich in texture and depth. It is never too early to show a young mind that it can dream in its own color.
Actually, all of her books encourage kids to live out loud. As an artist and someone who also works with children, I am so here for this! Using what we know to capture their bright-eyed attention, we can begin to mold together their emerging sense of self with their imagination. Not to mention the bonding that comes with reading to a child (cuddles. am I right?) and the fulfillment we get from knowing we are giving them wonderful tools for life. Honestly, I’ll be buying one for myself as well, just as much for myself as to share with the children I care for. You’re never too young, or too old, to be captivated and inspired by Art. Besides, you never know: you might just find out you’ve got a Baby Basquiat on your hands. You’re welcome.
Check out this book and 8 other titles from the Author here.
Crysta Wicks is a Chicago native and the CEO of The Boss Wife Enterprises Inc., a multifaceted company consisting of real estate acquisitions, self-development, apparel, and social networking events. Her current publication, “Everybody Is Not Made For This”, was written as a self-help book to empower women in every aspect of juggling life. She was inspired to put together a collaboration of her own personal experiences, trials, and life mastery. She created a book that was more than words but a tool that could be used to compose the best version of oneself in an easy to relate to guide. In writing her book, she became the change and value that she wanted to see in the world.
Crysta’s Wise Advice: Decide on who you want to be and do what it takes to become her!
Crysta currently has written three self-help books, one of which is self-published. Her current audience is full of women that share some of the same titles as her – wife, mother, current and aspiring entrepreneur. In most cases, women wear many modified hats which makes it easy to attract and maintain an audience of women.
As she developed her passion and expertise, Crysta fell in love with self-development books. She believes that no matter what level in life people are at, they should always be teachable. One of her favorite quotes is: “When the student is ready the teacher appears.” When I am ready to take things to the next level, I seek out the self-development genre and the teacher appears.
Her future goal is to, with exceeding faith and hard work, turn her masterpiece writing into an unforgettable box office movie hit that her audience will remember with great admiration and appreciation for her skills, talent, and multi-faceted gifts.
Support this amazing woman on her website as well as www.thebosswife.com and on social media! Facebook and Instagram: @authorcrystawicks @thebosswife; Twitter @iamthebosswife.