Habari gani!?! Imani

Today is Day 7 of Kwanzaa when we focus on the principle of Imani or Faith!

Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday held annually from December 26 to January 1. The word “Kwanzaa” itself comes from the Kiswahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits [of the harvest].” At its core, Kwanzaa celebrates family, culture, community, and the harvest.

Kwanzaa highlights seven principles, known as the Nguzo Saba, represented by each day of the seven-day celebration. These principles are unity(umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility(ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani).

Kwanzaa was created and developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, making it a new holiday despite being steeped in rich African history and customs. Since Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, many people celebrate it along with Christmas, Hanukkah or other religious holidays. It is celebrated primarily in North America and the Caribbean.

The principles of Kwanzaa are designed to educate and empower individual development and community awareness. During Kwanzaa, people greet one another with the expression, “Habari gani” or “What’s the news!?!” The response is the expression associated with that Day of Kwanza. It is based on the principle for Day 7 that is the foundation for my 2021!

Each year, I choose a ‘word of the year’ that will define my devotions, words and actions. This year, I choose Imani. It is such a beautiful word and the basis for everything that I plan. I will act, speak and walk in faith, by faith and with faith – today and everyday!

“I believe with all my heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, (our collective community) and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.” Everything that I am and do in 2021 is based on and guided by this principle!

Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year💋

Remembering Arthur Mitchell: A Monumental Legacy

NEW YORK (AP) — Arthur Mitchell, who broke barriers for African-Americans in the 1950s as a ballet dancer with the New York City Ballet and who would go on to become a driving force in the creation of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, has died. He was 84.


Our Story:  My daughter auditioned and was selected to attend the world-renown Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) Summer Intensive program.  DTH has helped her improve her dance acumen, hone her technique, and learn more about the history of dance, dancers and “pretty brown dancers.”  This summer, her friends from Studio A Academy and Sudbrook Magnet Middle School attended with her, and it is a treasured memory that she will cherish for a lifetime.

Oliva_DTH (2)I am so grateful to Arthur Mitchell for not moving to Europe 50 years ago.  They say that everything happens for a reason.  Well, Arthur Mitchell was leaving New York ballet to start a dance school in Brazil when he learned of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  He decided that he did not have to start a school in Brazil for dancers who look like him when there were dancers right here in America, in his hometown of Harlem.  Mr. Mitchell, along with Karol Shook, founded Dance Theatre of Harlem “to give the children of Harlem the same opportunities Mitchell had as a teenager.”  There were very few opportunities for classically trained dancers of color at that time.  Arthur Mitchell paved the way.  He did what no one else had done, and it still lives today!

My daugher, her friends and lots of young ladies and men are better dancers, better people today because of the vision and work of Arthur Mitchell.  I salute you Mr. Mitchell.  I salute the wonderful company dancers, administrators, teachers and mentors of Dance Theatre of Harlem for your hard work and dedication to developing dancers and leaders in our community.  Thank you!

To learn more about Dance Theatre of Harlem, please visit their website at Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Going to school in America where shootings are the “new norm”.

img_4435These are my girls at school!  Happy-go-lucky and free to be a teen and pre-teen!  They are students, learning, growing, making friends and having fun! img_3188

To my friends, colleagues, and followers: have school shootings in America become the new normal, commonplace?  There have been 288 school shootings in America since 2009.  There have been 433 shooting incidents in America since the Santa Fe, TX shooting on Friday – that just three days ago.  In 2018, there have been 22,190 total shooting incidents in America and 16 school shootings in American in 2018.  Why?

Twenty-three (23) families have changed: 8 students and 2 teachers are dead; 13 others were injured.  One student who was a Pakistani exchange student who came here to study with American students and interact with American families.  Her family will never see her again.  Why is this the “new norm”?

As I sent my daughters to school today, it was like nothing happened on Friday.  It happened and life has gone on.  The same students that I see every school day were at the bus stop.  The country is not having a moment of silence; it is contained to the state of Texas.  If the reports are correct, more students have died in school shootings this year than soldiers in the two (2) wars that America is currently engaged.  So I wondered, is this the norm in other countries.

Based on what I learned, it is NOT!  Again, since 2009, here are the number of school shootings for other countries.  Mexico – 8; South Africa – 6, India – 5, Canada and France – 2, China, Germany, Greece and Russia – 1, all other countries listed including the UK are zero (0).  Let me put it another way, America is 36 times more likely to have a school shooting than any other country in the world!  So this is just the norm in America!

I agree with Arne Duncan, former Secretary of Education 2008-2015, that it is our responsibility as parents to ensure our children’s safety.  The question becomes, how do we do that?  Is it something that we need to do collectively?  Is it even a problem for my community?  We need to have the conversation.  We need to talk about if and how gun violence affects our children, our families, our communities.  We need to discuss options to make a difference, to make our children, our students, our teachers, our communities, our seniors, our colleagues – Americans safe!

Are you willing to have the discussion with me?  Or, are we going to continue to live our lives as if this only happens to other people, until it happens to us?  What are the steps that we can take as parents?  Should we work individually or collectively or both?  What role do the politicans that we elect play?  What is the political responsibility to affect change in this area?  Is there one?  Are the parents of the student who committed this heinous act responsible for providing access to these guns and other weapons of mass destruction?  Let’s discuss, and then take action.


Put God First

10695039_10204683380864339_793525817_n-e1518187998456.jpgWednesday, February 8, 2018, I attended my first Paparazzi Regional event called EmpowerMe Pink in Phildelphia, PA.  There was a lot going on in Philly that day: there was a MASSIVE parade for the Eagles who won Super Bowl LII.  People were everywhere.  The city shut down 5 miles of streets and people were required to take public transportation just to get into the city.  There were no cars, trucks or SUVs on the street of Phildelphia that day!  Just hundreds of thousands of people celebrating a long awaited victory for a team that they never gave up on.

The Eagles were not the only champions in town that day.  Thousands of Paparazzi Independent Consultants traveled to Philly by car, bus, train and plane to hear from the champions, like Trent Kirby, Chani and Ryan Reeves,who started our company and share with each other stories of success and hope!  For me, it was AMAZING.  I was reminded of the power of hope, the importance of consistency and the hard work of discipline.  Most of all, the meeting confirmed my goals, my heart’s desire, is waiting for me to attain it.  Nothing and no one is holding me back but me.  That stops now!

Everything I am, all that I have, all that I’ve accomplished, all that my children accomplish is by the Grace of God.  I was reminded of a commencement address that Denzel Washington gave at an HBCU recently.  I went back and listened to it this morning (following one of the tips that Trent taught us to start each day listening to motivational videos).  Now I’m sharing it with you.

Denzel Washington – Put God First

Be blessed and make today GREAT!!

He Who Must Not Be Named

It was the best of times… Many of us are feeling so sort of way. Between the election results, today’s social, political and economic climate, Super Bowl LI, and the list could go on, we just find it hard some days, some moments to deal with “It”; however you define It.

A friend shared Bernice King’s (the daughter of MLK Jr.) advice on how to deal with It:

“1. Don’t use his name; EVER it’s like acknowledging the class clown (45, he who will not be named, Him upstairs, Mista, etc will do)

Briggsy Note: it’s like “he who must not be named” in the Harry Potter series! If it works for Michelle Obama, Dumbledore and Bernice King, it works for me. 

2. Remember this is a REGIME and he’s NOT acting alone;

Briggsy note: what is happening is very strategic. While certain world leaders may be using 45, so is the GOP.

3. Do not argue with those who support him – it doesn’t work;

Briggsy note: this speaks for itself! Anything else I could add would only solicit negative reactions and feedback. 

4. Focus on his policies, not his orange-ness and mental state;

Briggsy note: these are distractions from what is really important, which includes Hitler-like rhetoric, business interests, taxes, relationship with his children, where his wife lives, etc. 

5. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies will grow;

6. No more helpless/hopeless talk;

Briggsy note: Focus on what’s important in your life. I’ve started spending less time on social media because I found it affected my mood. Focus on those things that you can control, keep your thoughts positive, your words, deeds and disposition will follow. It’s contagious! 

7. Support artists and the arts;

Briggsy note: Go to the theater, symphony or a play. Follow @randallstownmom for local news on the arts and artists. The page is being updated weekly. 

8. Be careful not to spread FAKE news. Check it, check it twice;

Briggsy note: get your news from reputable organizations and news programs. There is a lot of fake news being spread. Be vigilant. 

9. Take care of yourselves; and

Briggsy note: learn to say ‘No’ sometimes. Be true to yourself first. You can’t help others when you don’t take care of you. I’m the first person that needs to take this advice. 

10. Resist!

Keep demonstrations peaceful. In the words of John Lennon, “When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight! Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.”

When you post or talk about him, don’t assign his actions to him, assign them to “The Republican Administration,” or “The Republicans.” 

Briggsy note: only post about he who must not be named if you must and only if you must. He does not deserve that much attention from you. Plus it’s so much bigger than one man. Don’t let the GOP play you. 

Reassigning his actions will have several effects: Republican legislators will either have to take responsibility for their association with him or stand up for what some of them don’t like; he will not get the focus of attention he craves; Republican representatives will become very concerned about their re-elections.

Briggsy final note for this post: It’s time to change our focus, be purposeful in our actions and know that our future is bright. Stay sexy in a great pair of shades!

Christmas 2016

It was the best of times! It was the worst of times. We did an awesome job with the Nativity play at church Sunday morning. It’s been years but I was asked to direct the production for Christmas morning. We were crazy busy and only rehearse that morning before service but it was well received and resounding success. Pictures and videos to come. 
We visited our parents’ homes and decided on IHOP for dinner. Then they announced that George Michael died.

Closing Doors and Cutting Losses: My Struggle in My Interracial Relationship

This is a repost from blackgirlnerds.com and it speaks such truth that I had t share it!

When I previously wrote about my marriage, I talked a bit about the white people who were suddenly in my personal space and how this caused an influx of microaggressions and coded language in my downtime that I hadn’t dealt with since college. I had white friends, but we didn’t talk about racism. I was brought up to be aware of white feelings however — to read them, understand them, and learn when shit was getting dangerous so that I could leave and live another day.
I was raised by parents who had children before the Civil Rights Act was passed. To be black and have children in this country was an act of ultimate hope then, a hope I do not share. Yet, my parents did it and they raised us to understand that we were here under white sufferance. We were taught to be still, be silent, and be the best. We were taught no matter how great we were, white people wouldn’t see us as such. Regardless of our accomplishments, they would always be “black achievements” valued less than white failure.
We were told that if we worked hard and got great grades, we’d access to education and jobs the people before them didn’t. What they really meant was that we’d have access to education and jobs valued by white people, because black people were doctors and had schools, education, and language that weren’t sanctioned by white people. During that time, unapproved meant worthless. My parents learned when black people built their own systems and tried to operate outside of whiteness, white people would come and destroy everything that like spoiled, angry children. To survive meant pretending to be less than what you are because white people had a history of destroying all competition.
And that’s what we did. We assimilated, adapted, and blended. And now, I look at all the black people I know, myself included, who have attained white-approved education and employment. The black people who learned how to put on a white-approved public face and played the game of “Keep White People Happy.” We slowly adopted and refined our own anti-blackness until it was “respectable” just like we needed to be. And now, I watch us struggle to come to terms with the reality that there is no level of respectability that will result in white approval. We learn the white friends we’ve known for decades quietly thought their black counterparts deserved being oppressed because they brought it on themselves. I watched friendships shatter into unrecognizable fragments and it breaks my heart every time.
My awakening was much of the same. Lying down next to a man who worshipped my mind, body, and the wholeness of me only to realize he didn’t believe my wholeness included my blackness. I fought the knowledge, covered myself in layers of denial, continued the relationship as it made incremental cuts along my self-worth until the bleeding and scarring pain became overwhelming. I called myself pushing back; I made us have conversations that addressed my humanity and confronted his prejudices. I told myself I was being patient. Loving. Open-minded. Until I understood I became a masochist.
My significant other’s (S.O.’s) friends are problematic. I suffered them for much longer than I wanted. There were multiple discussions revealing their questionable morality. At the time, the Occupy Wall Street movement was happening and there was trash talk about the movement. There was talk about drug testing welfare recipients. There was talk about defrauding people who didn’t realize the worth of their items. There was smugness, arrogance, and a level of self-importance and selfishness that was anathema to me. I was always the only brown person in the room and even the areas where we met up were devoid of POCs. Everything about it was unpleasant, yet I endured.
His family are mostly mild-mannered people who accept me as long as I never challenge them. The first time I met them, his mother could not remember my name and repeatedly called me one so dissimilar, I didn’t realize she was speaking to me at all. His father referred to my friends as a “gang” and could not connect the dots on how fucked up that was despite me repeatedly saying, “I don’t have a gang. Do you mean my friends?” He then responded, “No, your gang.” My S.O.’s embarrassment was enough for me to put it aside.

Over time, they became more comfortable with me and their questions became more intrusive, while the comments were more direct: “What plantations would be good to tour on?” or “Your child would be beautiful, ‘cause of the skin.”
Every time I confronted it, they would become confused by my response, explain they didn’t mean anything by it and immediately end the conversation. There were no teachable moments because the talks ended so quickly, I had no time to respond. Eventually I told my S.O. he needed to handle this with his family because if I did it, there wasn’t going to be a relationship anymore. And still I stayed. And I loved. And I hated. And I hurt.
The termination of my relationship with his parents came this year, approximately one week ago.
This part of the story isn’t unique. After recovering from the shock of having my mother-in-law support someone’s claims regarding the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile saying we needed to know more information and remain patient for evidence in the murder of two unarmed black men, I lost it. I fucking lost my shit. That this woman would have the audacity to support this, to devalue these men’s lives at the hands of government thugs was so disgusting. I was done. I wouldn’t pretend his parents’ racism didn’t exist and it didn’t affect me. He couldn’t protect me from them so I decided to protect myself. The fallout hasn’t truly happened yet and I’m fairly positive they will pretend everything’s ok, but it’s not. Something is truly wrong with them, and I don’t have room in my personal life for that type of foulness anymore.
I don’t know what this means for my S.O. and I. He knows I meant what I said about them not being welcome in my home anymore; I won’t go to their home either. Holidays will be interesting as I will not ask him to choose between us. They are his parents and as such, occupy a unique place in his life. It’s just a place I will not try to occupy with him.
And still I stay. And still I love. And still I hate. And still I hurt. But now, I heal.
Racism has always been a part of my life. Learning to numb myself to its little indignities has been the status quo. Speaking out against it, pushing back, is met with swift and severe punishment. But now when that punishment happens, we have opportunities to share our narrative, to get our stories out there. We aren’t relying on the complicity and approval of white people to move forward – not like before. Your aid, while appreciated, is not required. We are here and you see us – with that visibility comes a difficulty to exploit us.
As horrible as all of this is, this is part of the future my parents pushed me towards. Like a sleeper agent, I shake off the programming which allowed me to blend in and now I am fighting to be who I was meant to be. I am an agent of influence. Agent of chaos. Agent of change.
Change is here. The old regime is slowly crumbling, making way for new powers, new voices, new systems. We are in transition and it will get bloody, but change is here.
Which side of history will you be on?

About the Writwr of this article: TaLynn Kel is a writer, advocate, womanist, cosplay artist, creator, communicator, and public health geek. You can find her writing on her website at http://www.talynnkel.com, and she also occasionally writes for The Establishment and Anime Complexium.