Tag Archives: Lola Valentine

06Sep/18

Black Girls Rock Shows-off This Sunday

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.

13Aug/18

Essence CEO Launches Funds for Black Businesses with Queen Latifah

Have you heard? At last month’s Essence Fest, Essence Ventures CEO Richelieu Dennis announced the official launch of the $100 million New Voices Foundation. Dennis, also Founder of the Shea Moisture Brand, had already invested more than $30 million in the 6 months prior to the announcement. “What many of you may not have known all these years is that when you were buying Shea Moisture products you weren’t just investing in that business,” said Dennis during the event’s opening press conference. “We need you to continue buying Shea Moisture so [that] we can continue putting that money back in[to] the community.” The New Voices Fund, dedicated to funding Black Women in business, was originally established in 2017.

Essence

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence

As if that were not enough, the CEO also took the opportunity to announce the new Essence Creators and Makers Fund. Essence Ventures, the parent company of Essence Communications, has already invested $20 million into that fund under the guidance of Dennis. Focused on curating African-American content, production company ‘Flavor Unit Entertainment’ lead by Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere is the first partnership on the bill. Appropriately so, being that during the announcement Dennis gave credit to the duo for developing the idea in the first place. During a later panel discussion on Entrepreneurship, Queen Latifah spoke about the financial obstacles that new ventures often face. “One of the most difficult things is struggling to find the capital to continue your ideas. So by supporting us, you are going to keep this engine running in a way you [can’t] even imagine.” Flavor Unit Entertainment will both create and finance film, television, digital, and documentary-style content that reflects the lives and experiences of Women of Color. The Essence Platform — including print, digital, and live events — will be used to market and promote projects taken under the fund.

Essence

I truly respect Dennis for his direct actions against the disadvantages plaguing Black Economics. So far concerning the Makers and Creators who need to “own our content and not just be work for hire” and the Black Women Entrepreneurs that will receive funding for their businesses, I can’t wait to see what else is in store. “Essence and the vision… speaks to Black Women, but also that creates an economic engine through which… we can reinvest back into our community.” Dennis leads by the example that, with initiative, each of us can take part in the collective growth. I’m convinced that, in finding his purpose, Dennis has our backs for the long haul. That’s almost enough to make me grow back out my hair to support Shea Moisture again. Almost.

Essence

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence

Stayed tuned for surfacing news about The Essence Creators and Makers Fund.

Applications for The New Voices Foundation are not yet open, however, you can initiate a profile on the site here.

The New Voices Fund is a 501( c)(3) Non-Profit Organization. Tax-deductible contributions can be made here.

12Aug/18

Singer Mya Talks New Album + Being Vegan on FuseTV’s ASMR Video

Rnb Bombshell Mya’s recent album, “TKO” (The Knockout), has an absolutely accurate title. As her 8th studio album, it was released just a day shy of the 20 year anniversary of her beloved self-titled debut album, Mya. She was a boss then and not much has changed. The artist executive produced and released the album via her independent label, Planet 9, with teaser singles like ‘Ready for Whatever’ that surfaced in September 2017. With heat like the track “Damage” (my jam already) and “Open,” that features Goldlink, Mya takes us on a sexy, heartfelt journey yet again. Single ‘You Got Me” is just that–HEAT. With writers like Kevin McCall and Marsha Ambrosius, I’m sure that’s exactly what she intended.

In this video with FuseTV, Mya gets to be the first Vegan to make an ASMR video. Honest moment: I had no idea what ASMR was. Once I started watching the interview I instantly remembered having seen a video of another woman whispering and eating a head of lettuce into a podcast mic. I had dismissed it as some fetish trend for people who liked whispering and watching others eat food. I know, irresistibly sexy right? But this is Maya we’re talking about. Sweetheart, darling diva, supremely sexy but sublime. So… what’s up?

For those of you as curious as I was, ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is centered around the practice of listening to a variety of spine-tingle inducing sounds like whispering and crunching. With quite the following, ASMR is generally used for meditation, sleep, and in aiding anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Surprisingly non-sexual. Of the several theories I read surrounding the practice, it seems that whispering both relaxes and stimulates by triggering a reflexive sense of intimacy. Who knew? I’m surprisingly here for it and I’m pleased that Mya was the one to break me in. In the video, we get to watch as Mya speaks (or whispers) about being Vegan, her new Alkaline diet, and shares some veggie tips. I’d tell you why she chews and then spits out Carrots like Tobacco, but that would spoil the video.

Catch it here and of course check out Mya’s new album, TKO, available everywhere.

05Oct/17
Gabrielle Union book

Taji Mag Book Club | We’re Going To Need More Wine with Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union bookNone other than Being Mary Jane herself; the grossly talented and radiant bombshell, Ms. Gabrielle Union’s new book, We’re Going To Need More Wine, has been picking up quite the buzz. Sweetheart of black cinema and star of some of our favorite movies, she is now vying to become one of our favorite authors as well.

“Throughout my life, I’ve often wondered aloud ‘how the hell did I end up here? Why me? Not sure I’ve found the answer to those questions but in this book, I share my journey. The good, the bad, the WTF. You will definitely need more wine for this one.” – writes Union in her Instagram post announcing the upcoming release of the book.

A ‘powerful collection of essays about gender, sexuality, race, beauty, Hollywood, and what it means to be a modern woman’, the book has already garnered praises and accolades galore. En lieu of her book release she has given several interviews and has snatched a few magazine covers. With a matching book tour starting in New York City the day before the book debuts, she has even released an exclusive excerpt of the book. A longtime activist for women’s reproductive health and against sexual violence, in the book Gabrielle opens up about her personal experiences with both. With topics such as her on-going fertility struggles with hubby Dwyane Wade, it seems that her writing will be an expression of what it truly means to be Gabby. A Black Woman and an Artist, now an open book.

To that I say: Bring It On.

We’re Going To Need More Wine releases on October 17th and is available for pre-order.

Click Here for her book tour.

Stay tuned for my review of the book, coming later this month.

 

23Sep/17
hurricane

Disaster in the Diaspora – Helping Hurricane Survivors | We Are The Universe Pretending To Be Individuals

In case you’ve been missing the news, let’s start with numbers. On September 6th Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm, swept the Atlantic whipping sustained winds of up to 185 mph. Within 2 days, those in her path suffered disasters of varying degrees, all widespread and devastating to say the least. Lands affected include Barbuda, Anguilla, Dominica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, and Cuba; the list, however, is continual. The one assumption that can be drawn is that help is needed.

hurricaneOf all of these beautiful places decimated by the storm, Barbuda and Anguilla were the hardest hit. To give you an idea of the destruction, the hurricane was recorded at 348 miles wide – the island of Barbuda is a mere 62 square miles. Declared uninhabitable, evacuation of all residents to its sister island of Antigua was the only option. With 70% of evacuees having been taken into homes of Antiguan citizens, the other 30% remain in emergency evacuation centers such as Antigua’s sports stadium, converted nursing homes, and the like. The people of the island of Anguilla were not so lucky as to have a place and the means to leave. The first delivery of aid from the island’s parent government, The UK, arrived SIX DAYS after the storm passed. There is no running water, barely any electricity; many of the residents are without supplies to repair their damaged homes or even food. With Tourism providing over 60% of the Islands GDP, there is very little chance of it being able to rehabilitate on its own. The Four Seasons resort, which is the Island’s largest private employer, has stated that it will take at least 6 months to reopen. All things considered, these countries need more than the hope that the world will come to their aid; they need the PROOF.

I am currently in Barbados, and the community here is taking efforts, very seriously, into their own hands. The slogan of one of the major radio stations has been “One People, One Caribbean”, and the people have been calling in to pour out support—and funds. Local businesses and foreign businesses based on the island have donated in major ways, with two major banks of the island already giving close to $1M. Individuals are sending care packages and the like, with some tradespeople packing their tools and setting out themselves. The motion has been both beautiful and compelling. What a force to be reckoned with! Imagine if a majority of the aid for these countries came from us, the people?

As Africans of the Diaspora, we SHOULD be caring for our people. We constantly speak of Unity; is there a better time to show it than now? The U.S. government provided a mere $100,000 to relief, which seems to be a slap in the face and is only a drop in the bucket. There are more than 42 million of us in the U.S., (and as much as I’d hate to sound stale but) imagine if each one of us gave just a dollar…  We are one collective, the sooner and more frequently we act like it, the better off we will all be. It is past due time for us to become more responsible for ourselves as a whole because if we all help those in need, no one would be in need for long.

The most immediate need is for food items (particularly non-perishable), baby items, generators, blankets, mosquito tablets, construction materials, school supplies and pet food. No donation or contribution is too small! I’m volunteering here in Barbados and have opened an account to receive donation funds. The Paypal link is www.paypal.me/STCDisasterRelief and the associated email is [email protected] Feel free to email me in regards to volunteering your time and skills as well! Links to other reputable Organizations and Addresses for care packages & supplies will be listed below. As a last resort, by all means, plan your winter vacation this yr to be spent in Antigua, as tourism is the country’s mainstay for sustenance. See you there!

Barbuda/Antigua Donations

Antigua Commercial Bank
Barbuda Relief and Rebuilding Fund: Account No. 100004717.

Caribbean Union Bank
Barbuda Relief & Rebuilding Fund, Account No. 100 013 72.

Official Barbuda Relief Fund
https://www.gofundme.com/officialbarbuda

 

Anguilla Donations

APANY (Founded by the US Anguillan Diaspora Association)
https://www.apa-ny.org [501 ( c ) 3 Tax-Deductible]

Help Anguilla Relief Fund
http://www.helpanguilla.com

Blanchard’s Hurricane Relief
https://blanchardsrestaurant. com/bacf-donation
(264) 497-6100

Supplies
c/o Thomas Kelly
APLO Relief Initiative
110 Wall Street
New York, NY 10005

Pet Supplies
c/o Debbie Tabor
9715 Dahlia Avenue
Palm Beach Garden, Florida 33416

09Dec/15
Messiah Ramkissoon

Messiah Ramkissoon | Poet, Artist, Activist

Messiah RamkissoonThe Twenty-First Century has indeed been full of trying times. Despite tons of intentional division and propaganda imagery, there has also been a banding together and a notion that we, as a people, must foster our own growth and progression. It is said that in the midst of turmoil, the air is ripe for the likes of a prophet; one who can ingest the struggle and obstacles of the time, and in return paint a portrait of a prosperous future. It is no easy task to be able to rise from police brutality, genocide and institutionalized racism, while still being able to see Nirvana and rouse others to do so as well. Insert: Messiah Ramkissoon.

A spoken word artist by way of Trinidad, this young man has accepted elevating the collective as his life calling. He started writing as a young child, and with the support of his family he has honed his skills. Idolizing the likes of Muhammad Ali, he has chosen to also use his skills to improve the world we live in. Thrice a ‘champion’ of Showtime at the Apollo, he contributes his successes to consistency. Much as his name suggests, his efforts truly reflect his desire to enlighten and uplift.

En lieu of enlightenment, he has gifted us with his latest work, a mixtape named ‘The Reminder’. A grail of sorts, Messiah intends for his work to ‘restore awareness’ to where we have been, where we are, and where we need to focus our efforts for the future. He addresses everything from recalling the loss of our civil rights heroes to rallying pride and unity in combat of recurring oppressive forces. In his own words from the mixtape, “As a collective, we are much more effective/ Kill the social contraceptive/ To live and let live is the ultimate incentive.”

When it comes to uplifting the collective, Messiah takes an approach even more personal. He has dedicated much of the past 8 years to prison outreach in Washington, DC, Baltimore and NYC. Coming face to face with our incarcerated males, he chooses to stand in where, often enough, there has been no one. A major part of the process is in fact within his ability to articulate conversation. In giving the young men a platform to express and reflect upon all aspects of self, true progress is made. His worlds often tie together. On ‘The Reminder’ he has dedicated a track to the late 16 year old Kalief Browder, who took his own life following wrongful imprisonment. In another case, a young man by the name of Asad Giles spent two and a half years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Upon his release, Messiah continued to provide support and resources. Asad is now employed and due to start school in 2016. He says of his philanthropy, “My goal is to empower each young brother I encounter… not only making change but taking the… example back to our own to duplicate this process of progress.”

An Artist in his own right, Messiah has not only chosen a life of dedication, but it seems to have chosen him. “I would like to leave a legacy as someone who loved his people, was passionate about his work, exuded excellence with each opportunity and [was] fearless… Fearless enough to accept any challenge which may arise on the road to providing true liberation and a better lifestyle for the babies! That would suffice.” Ashe, Messiah, Ashe.

Show him your support by following Messiah on IG & TW at @AllMessiah and www.facebook.com/messiah.ramkissoon. Visit his website, www.AllMessiah.com, for more on Messiah’s endeavors! Shine on King!

Written by Lola Valentine
Photo by NayMarie Photography

17Jun/15
Radiant Child

Radiant Child by Lola Valentine

Radiant Child

Radiant Child

They take your innards and make you into a tragedy
Hang you on the wall, stuffed, for all to see.
Just so they can reminisce
Speak of how much you touched them
And how there hasn’t been anyone since.
A public condition — they like their heroes dead.

To Jean-Michel Basquiat and every other who delivered their gift and left

You genius child, you born martyr
If the world had known would they have loved you any harder.
You lost soul.
Lost your soul. Still
You gave your whole
Knew you had something inside to give the whole
World.
Must’ve got your beat from the street
And bought your spirit antique.
Cuz we
Hadn’t seen anything like you
You collaboration of culture and breath
Beauty and death
Silence and depth
Rebel against uprights
You hung left
Not worried about going hungry
When you’re so full
Soulful.
So they starved you.
Til you were nothing but brushes and jars
And your smock hung loose
You still refused.
Cope is a 4 letter word
often used
to describe
Whatever is used
Normally depends on what part of you is bruised.
I pray that in your second coming you die a death you choose.