Saturday, February 28, 2015

I was gifted an EBONY Magazine from 1985 from my aunt who is a thrift store pirate and always finds all kinds of treasures. EBONY Magazine is one of the oldest publications for African-Americans that focuses on news, culture, entertainment, and various aspects of Black life.
It was the 40th Anniversary edition, having launched in 1945 and making it 30 years old today.

Among the numerous advertisements for Fashion Fair Makeup and distinctly eighties products like a whopping 27 inch Zenith television, a lot of the content is more informative on Black history and events than most school courses. I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the articles and features that peaked my interest to see how things have changed or stayed the same.

The front and inside cover of the magazine featured all previous 39 covers. Just like today, the people chosen for the covers were entertainers, politicians, athletes, and other notable individuals of that time, as well as important current events.  Lena Horne, Mary McLeod Bethune, Joe Louis, John F. Kennedy, The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Cicely Tyson.

Some of the articles included (as they may be hard to make out from the picture): What's Wrong with Negro Baseball by Jackie Robinson; Why I Love Dark Women by Louis Armstrong; The Truth About New Orleans Voodoo; Leading Young Artists; The White Problem in America; Black on Black Crime; The Black Male; The Black Woman of the '80s: Independent, Aggressive, Alluring; Do Black Women Set Their Standards for Marriage Too High?

Colorism, current events,and race were prevalent themes, just like today. It would be interesting to see how these topics were framed in 1985, which parts of the discussion would be the same, and which parts would be different. With the recent documentary "Light Girls," and it's predecessor "Dark Girls," I would love to read the Louis Armstrong article, assuming he was referring to skin color and not moody and melancholy women. Black on Black Crime has been a buzz phrase for as long as I can remember, and the article discusses "causes, consequences, and cures." A lot of the important issues and ideas then are still circulating today. Some of the individuals featured have passed on and some are still with us. Overall, it was intriguing to see who and what were front cover worthy,

An article on Black toys described how Black dolls and ethnically influenced toys were beginning to enter the market. Mothers, aunts, and grandmothers could make dolls for their children if they could sew, but they weren't being mass produced, and how even asking for a such products in 1945 would have "elicited raised eyebrows and even ridicule from salepersons."

The doll's names produced by the different companies were culturally rich: Keith, Keisha, Mahogany, Nzingha, Cleopatra, Makeda, Kwanza, Obatala, Ochun,Yemaya, and Babalu-Aye. They boasted kinky, curly, straight, and braided hair.

The board games were also notable, combining play, purpose, and pride. "Identity"  was a Black heritage game of "mystery, discovery, and learning." The game "Family Fun" helped students learn how to manage their finances. "Rise 'n' Fly was a Black heritage trivia game. "The Underground Railroad" helped players develop an awareness of Black history. "Slang-A-Lang" was similar to Bingo, familiarizing players with phrases coined by Blacks, like 'Soul Brother' and 'Chi Town.'
Wow. I would love get my hands on some of these games and wonder how successful they would be if sold today. Would "The Underground Railroad" be the hot game up against Candy Land or Life?

Sun-Man was an action figure for boys who, with his set of ripped thighs, was "more powerful than Spiderman, more awesome than Superman, and mightier than He-man." He could harness the power of the sun and turn evil into an illusion. He had his own action filled comic book, and apparently was apart of the world's first line of Black action figures.

Though none of the companies mentioned in the article seem to still be in business, or any of the toys still on shelves, this shows how representation matters, even for children. Marginalized and non-dominant groups want to see products and representation in the media that reflect their life and culture. It instills a sense of belonging and pride. If this doesn't happen, these groups will often create their own spaces and products. Much like these toys. Or EBONY Magazine. Or historically Black Colleges and Universities. Movies, newspapers, and literature are also created by Blacks to serve the purpose of representation as well, and to be included in spaces where the tradition is exclusion.

If you ever wondered who the Black Sex Symbols were from 1945 to 1985, look no further. The Black big screen beauties included Billy Dee Williams (48), Diahann Carroll (50), Lena Horne (68), Dorothy Dandridge, Billy Eckstine (71), Harry Belafonte (58), Eartha Kitt (57), Herb Jeffries (71), Calvin Lockhart (51), Richard Roundtree (43), Jayne Kennedy (32), Philip Michael Thomas (36),and Pam Grier (36),   It's interesting to note that the youngest person on the list was 32 at the time, and went considerably up from there. Even though they spanned a considerable length of time, it's a vast different from our very youth dominated culture today. Additionally, the women they chose seem to share a similar aesthetic, with more diversity among the men.

I could have used some of the trivia shared in "Identity" or "Rise 'n' Fly" so I would have been knowledgeable about Mary McLeod Bethune's last will and testament. I know her as a renowned educator and founder of Bethune-Cookman College, but was unaware of this particular part of her legacy. As someone who has an affection for lists and good advice, I loved that they included this in the issue. Today, you can access Bethune's testament in seconds on the Bethune-Cookman University Web site, but in 1985, not so much.

Some of the ideas she leaves behind include love, hope, the challenge of developing confidence in one another, a thirst for education, racial dignity, and faith. I would suggest reading the entire list and the commentary that accompanies each on the Bethune-Cookman site. It's pertinent reading and concepts, both then and now.

There was also an extensive spread composed of Milestones from 1945-1985. It included first achievements, athletic feats, notable deaths, political events, military history, entertainment info and more.

Additionally, an excellent piece titled No Crystal Stair: The Black Woman in History give san excellent historical account of the Black women's place and role in society from before slavery, during slavery and after. It celebrated the achievements of Black women in all facets of life, despite the obstacles and hardships that existed.

In the same vein as the Milestones compilation and No Crystal Stair, Listen to the Blood: The Meaning of Black History was just as comprehensively informative about the ideas and people that have shaped Black hisotry through the years to make it a recognizable entity.

These three articles are more educationally significant that what most students learn about Black history, life and culture in America in grade school. And Black history is American history. These articles are also timeless. Of course in 2015, they can be improved upon as more events have transpired, but they are just as relevant now as they were then.

There was more content in the magazine that could have been analyzed, everything from the letters to the editor to the advertisements, and these are but a few highlights of the 362 page edition. If you can get your hands on a copy, or have your own thrift savvy relative, it's an inspiring collection of Black infotainment and another go to avenue to explore Black history.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

This selection of books may not be on your school's required  reading list, but they still serve to educate. They're authored by fresh voices of Black and Nigerian descent that explore pop culture and universal life situations, as well as humor and inspiration. It's a diverse list for your socially and culturally aware curriculum.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Playlist with a Purpose

As a music lover, I've always been in awe of how enslaved people in American history used coded songs to communicate, especially as it pertained to escaping via the Underground Railroad.  Different words or phrases would represent going north and dangers that may be encountered along the way. What might  sound like a melody to help pass the time for harsh and repetitive work was infinitely more significant.

From then until now, music has always played an important role in Black life. It tells our stories and history. It discusses the current political landscape. It uplifts and inspires. It speaks to our spirituality. It calls us to act. It asks us to hope. It narrates the miraculous and mundane. It provides a soundtrack for occasions and events. And just like the songs of the enslaved people, it liberates and frees.

Considering the above, I created a "Celebrate Black History Month 2015" playlist with songs that have served those purposes for me. Some songs have been performed by various artists, but I chose versions that are my favorites. They ebb and flow among generations, genres, and themes, and are joyful and solemn, not unlike life. Below you'll find a list of the playlist songs, lyric snippets, a personal note on one song, and a few honorable mentions that didn't make the final cut, but are gems in Black music nonetheless. Enjoy!

Celebrate Black History Month 2015 - raynata.reed

Lift Every Voice and Sing – BeBe Winans
♪ Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty, Let our rejoicing rise, high as the list’ning skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea      
Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday
♪ Southern trees bear strange fruit, blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Come, Ye Disconsolate - Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack
♪ Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish, Earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal

Take My Hand, Precious Lord – Mahalia Jackson  / Ledisi
♪ Precious Lord, take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand, I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m lone, Through the storm, Through the night, Lead me on to the light, Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
There been times when I thought I couldn't last for long, But now I think I’m able to carry on, It’s been a long time coming, But I know a change is gonna come

Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud) – James Brown
♪ Some people say we got a lot of malice, Some say it’s a lot of nerve, I say we won’t quit moving, Til we get what we deserve

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
♪ Picket lines and picket signs, Don’t punish me with brutality, Talk to me, so you can see, Oh, What’s going on

Wake Up Everybody – Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
♪ Wake up everybody, no more sleeping in bed, No more backward thinkin’ Time for thinkin’ ahead, The world has changed so very much, From what it used to be, There is so much hatred, War and poverty

Heaven Help Us All - Stevie Wonder
Heaven help the boy who won't reach twenty-one, Heaven help the man who gave that boy a gun. Heaven help the people with their backs against the wall, Lord, Heaven help us all

Someday We’ll All Be Free – Donny Hathaway
♪ Keep on walking tall, Hold your head up high, Lay your dreams right up to the sky, Sing your greatest song, And you’ll keep going, going on, Take it from me, someday we’ll all be free

The Colored Section – Donnie
♪ Welcome to the colored section, Welcome to the Negro league, Sign your name on the black list and know this, It’s American history

Young, Gifted and Black – Donny Hathaway
♪ Oh but my joy of today, Is that we can all be proud to say, To be young, gifted and black, Is where 
it’s at

Tomorrow – Tevin Campbell / John Legend
♪ I hope tomorrow will bring a better you, a better me, I know that we’ll show this world we got more we could be, So you should never give up on your hopes and your dreams, You gotta get up, get out, get into it, get it on to be strong

*No shade to John, but where was Tevin when Quincy Jones decided to do a remake of Tomorrow? I remember owning this cassette single and singing along with Tevin's pre-pubescent vocals. It was a joyful song, and I always wanted to be apart of that children's choir so badly. To know that a remake of the song was made and neither Tevin nor I were invited is egregious. Yo John, Imma let you finish, but Tevin had the best version of Tomorrow of all time, (it just wasn't on Spotify).

Black Butterfly – Deniece Williams
♪ Black Butterfly, sail across the waters, tell your sons and daughters what the struggle brings, Black Butterfly, set the skies on fire, rise up even higher, so the ageless winds of time can catch your wings

I Am Not My Hair – India.Arie
♪ I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations, no, I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within

Cloud 9 – Donnie
♪ Yes I wear the lamb’s wool, the feet of burned brass, And the wool defies gravity like the nature of a gas, And I’m fine under cloud 9

Keep Ya Head Up – Tupac
♪ Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice, I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots, I give a holler to my sisters on welfare, Tupac cares, if don’t nobody else care

Get By – Talib Kweli
♪ Even when the condition is critical, when the living is miserable, Your position is pivotal, I ain’t bulshittin’ you

Lift Every Voice and Sing – Melba Moore, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, The Clark Sisters, Freddie Jackson, Anita Baker, Bobby Brown, Howard Hewett, Take 6, Stephanie Mills, Bebe & Cece Winans and Jeffrey Osborne.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won

* Black History Month Playlist Honorable Mentions *

Mama - Boyz II Men 
Acceptable secular song played in Black churches across the United States for Mother's Day programs and all around appreciation song for Black people in regard to their mothers. May or may not accompany a slide show. 

Sadie - The Spinners
See above explanation

I'll Always Love My Mama - The Intruders
See above explanation

Color Him Father - The Winstons
See above explanation with regard to Fathers

Cooling Water - The Williams Brothers
Because we all love a Men's Sunday standard and the "Cooling Water" refrain is addictive.

Before I Let Go - Frankie Beverly & Maze
A classic that will inevitably be played at barbecues, all white parties, miscellaneous cruises, all black parties, electric slide occurrences, family reunions, house parties, live music clubs, and other various planned gatherings. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

In celebration of Black History Month, Ill be posting articles that highlight black life, culture, history, people, music, and entertainment.

As an avid podcast listener, Im kicking off this series of Black History Month posts with four of my favorite podcasts within the Black podcast community, yet there are so many more that provide a platform for Black voices and views to be heard. 

I will add that these are podcasts for adults with adult content (I would rate them PG-13/R) that unashamedly and without censorship discuss race, societal matters, news, current events, relationships, and life in general. Though they may tackle serious topics, they also do it with humor, varying viewpoints, and podcast production excellence. I believe they all share worthy content and are comprehensively enjoyable shows. 

The Read explodes with energy, wit, and synergy between hosts Kid Fury and Crissle, two New Yorkers by way of Florida and Oklahoma who bring unapologetic authenticity and comedy to the podcast streets. They verbally volley about pop culture, life in New York, and answer listeners questions with insightful humor and heart. Their individual end of show reads are smart and passionate, and youll wonder with anticipation who or what will be the subject of their ire each week.  Show guests have included actress Jennifer Lewis, and singers Estelle and Jazmine Sullivan. Theres plenty of Beyoncé, Blue Ivy, and Blue Bell Ice Cream love here, and if any of those three appeal to you, youll form a quick kinship with these dynamic personalities.   

Veteran podcasters and husband and wife duo Rod and Karen are the hilarious and opinionated pair behind The Black Guy Who Tips. The two share their sharp and in-depth viewpoints on current events, pop culture, black twitter and twitter beefs, sports related shenanigans, and so much more. Listeners are treated to regular segments such as Baller Alert, Sword Ratchetness, and The Walking Dead recaps, as well as show games that include Guess The Race, in which everyone is a contestant and answers from the chat room are not for easily offended.  Guests of TBGWT often include other podcasters, who are just as entertaining as the hosts. Premium listeners are privy to a number of other shows produced by Rod and Karen, making them the "hosts with (some of ) the most" content, and a little something for everybody.

Hosts Rich and WIM (Wisdom is Misery) give honest and unfiltered perspectives on relationships, careers, love, and life in their 30s. Both are accomplished professionals with creative and entrepreneurial spirits, and often offer invaluable personal and professional development advice. Their humorous and genuine conversations are entertaining and informative and provide exclusive access behind the velvet rope of the male mind.

Whiskey, Wine and Moonshine hosts Lady Buddha, Ms. Think Pretty Smart, and Sojourner Verdad bring wit, wisdom, and assorted libations together as they discus relationships, current events, pop culture, politics, education, and more with a “feminine twist.” From water to whiskey, they always share their current beverage of choice to start the show. There’s a down to earth vibe that exists among these three friends who hail from Georgia and DC, and while educated and professional, you’ll also get a healthy jigger of sass and silliness from the ladies. Whether you blame it on the alcohol or not, you’ll enjoy learning and laughing at their thoughtful and lively discussions and friendly jabs at one another.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Petite Bedside Boutique

Treat yourself by curating a collection of pint size pampering products for a personal  bedside boutique.

Search for an assortment of mini and travel sized beauty goods as if you were stocking a specialty shop with exclusive baubles.

It's the hunt that makes this project interesting, as you're searching with the eye of a buyer and not just a consumer. You'll want items that will make "shopping" at your bedside boutique a valuable and convenient experience. Look for products you'll actually use with modern, unique, or reusable packaging that don't require you to leave the bedroom, or furthermore, the bed.

The other task is to find inexpensive gems as well. Create a per item budget and know where to shop for quirky and quality goods. Many discount stores carry popular brands that have great products and packaging for much less than their original prices. Don't  forget to check clearance aisles as well.

Some of my favorite items I found included: C.O. Bigelow's My Favorite Night Balm; Crabtree & Evelyin's Honey & Peach Blossom Multi Purpose Balm;  Neutrogena's Light Sesame Body Oil; Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream, and C.O. Bigelow's Rose Salve. I was drawn to products in metal tins and pots, as they can be reused and refilled. 

I used a ceramic tray to display my findings, but any type of holder that fits your decor or aesthetic would suffice.

Here are some suggestions to get you started on your own petite boutique:
Suggestions for Stock
Body butters
Body oils
Hand creams
Multipurpose balms & salves
Overnight lip treatments
Roll on perfumes
Solid perfumes
Cuticle creams
Linen sprays
Foot creams
Hair products
Where to Shop
TJ Maxx
Home Goods
Tuesday Morning
Bath & Body Works

Brands to Browse
C.O. Bigelow
Burt's Bees
Crabtree & Evelyn
Shea Moisture
Store Brands

What products would you stock in your bedside boutique? What are some stores and brands that carry small sized beauty bargains?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Raspberry Lip Scrub Potion

If you need to work some magic on dry, cracked lips, whip up this simple lip scrub for a more pleasing and perfect pout. I have been daily slathering on balms and moisturizers over my own rough terrain lips with little or no effect, so this project has been long overdue.  After using this scrub, my lips were visibly and physically smoother, and balms stayed on my lips longer. I went from Jagged Edge to Silk in a matter of minutes.

This isn't a precise recipe because I have little patience with measurements and this is a lip scrub, not a quiche, so "eyeball it for the consistency you want" is my lip scrub recipe measurements henceforth and forevermore, Amen.

I used white sugar, red sugar, olive oil, coconut oil, flavor oil, and sprinkles. I would suggest to add the olive oil sparingly at first and then the coconut oil sparingly to the white sugar. Though coconut oil is a solid at room temp, it will liquefy as you mix it with your sugar and oil. I preferred a fluffy, less drippy (=less messy) scrub. If you add too much oil, just add a little more sugar. Eyeballing it is the land of freedom.

I added in some red sugar crystals and raspberry flavored oil, which gave it a nice pink tint and subtle flavor. I added just a bit, but the more you use of each, the color and flavor will be richer.

I topped the scrub with sprinkles because all magical potions should include "kitchen glitter." It just makes the finished product more magical. Facts.

This is a great scrub to gift, and you can fill small pots or jars wrapped with colorful washi tape with a three to four use quantity.  Always add more sprinkles to the top of each individual pot (more magic).

Add a mini wooden spoon for the recipient to scoop out a small portion to use, as opposed to digging their fingers in the scrub like a cave person. A moisturizing lip balm or butter would be great to include as well. Exfoliation + Moisturization = Liberation.

Package all items in a decorative bag and give to needy roughed lipped friends and family for at home pampering. 
The Urban Curio. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.