Ananda will talk to the amazing MamaLaw bloggers on July 19th episode of BAP Living Radio

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Blogalic

Happy Thursday,

Join me for the sixth episode of BAP Living Radio’s series about Black women in social media on Sunday, July 19 at 7:00 p.m EST.  The show will feature a discussion with attorney mom bloggers Justices Fergie, Jonesie, and Ny about their amazing MamaLaw blog (www.mamalaw.com) and MamaLaw Media Group. We will also discuss their Blogher (www.blogher.com) event that will be held next week in Chicago and Blogalicious (http://www.blogaliciousweekend.com), their first annual conference for women of color bloggers that will be held on October 9 to October 11 in Atlanta, Georgia. Click here to listen to the show: www.talkshoe.com/tc/18598.

About BAP Living Radio

BAP Living Radio affirms the lives of women of African descent who self-identify as Black American Princesses (BAPs) and educated Black women (EBW). BAP Living Radio features programs about self-love, self-care, spirituality, health, finances, social media, politics, technology, beauty, fashion, art, music, culture, community service, creativity, fitness, travel, and more.

BAP Living Radio supports the following BAP Living social media projects:

-BAP Living social networking site – http://baplivingforbapsandebw.ning.com

-BAP Living Facebook Group – http://www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=15124364305

-BAP Living on Twitter – http://twitter.com/bapliving

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I created BAP Living social media projects in response to positive feedback from readers of my debut novel, Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (www.lovestroubadours.com).  Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One tells the story of Karma Francois, a thirtysomething California-born BoHo BAP (Bohemian Black American Princess) with Louisiana roots and urban debutante flair. The book shows how a woman uses therapy, yoga, meditation, art, music, poetry, and support from family and friends to confront the effects of her poor life choices and embrace a spiritual journey of healing and love. It was published by iUniverse, Inc. in August 2007 and is available on Amazon.com.

Phase 2 of Summer Creativity Adventures – Maxwell’s BLACKsummers’ night CD

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Happy Thursday!

Yesterday I began phase two of my 2009 summer creativity adventures with Maxwell’s new CD, BLACKsummers’ night.  Each of the nine tracks has been added to my summer joie de vivre playlist.  So far my favorites are “Pretty WIngs,” “Stop the World,” “Love You,” “Playing Possum,” and “Phoenix Rise.”  

Are you a Maxwell fan?

When did you discover Maxwell?

If yes, what are your favorite Maxwell CDs, songs, and concert moments?

I discovered Maxwell while watching the movie Love Jones (one of my favorite films) in 1997.  All of Maxwell’s CDs are my favorites!  I adore “Til the Cops Come Knockin,” “Sumthin’ Sumthin’: Mellosmoothe,” “This Woman’s Work,” “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder),” and “Whenever, Wherever, Whatever.”  I could listen to them all day and night long.  My favorite Maxwell concert moment was seeing him perform at the 1997 Essence Music Festival Concert held in New Orleans. He was amazing!  Maxwell’s music also kept me company while I wrote my first novel, Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (2007 – www.lovestroubadours.com).   

Enjoy your day!

Peace, Creativity, and Maxwell Music Love,

Ananda

The Ananda Leeke Show launches on June 30@8pm EST.

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Me and my best brothalove friend/book editor extraordinaire Wayne P. Henry

 

Tune into the very first episode of my new creative baby — The Ananda Leeke Show (http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/15820) on June 30 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Wayne P. Henry, my best brothalove friend and book editor extraordinaire, will join me for a discussion about my insights on writing my books, That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery (Summer 2009 – iUniverse, Inc.) and Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (August 2007 – iUniverse, Inc. – www.lovestroubadours.com). Our conversation will explore the hardest and greatest moments in my writing process, 7 lessons I will never forget, and the main reason I choose to write books. Click here to listen to the show:  http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/15820If you miss the live recording, don’t panic.  You can download a recording to your computer or iPod after the show has aired. 

More information about Wayne He is a writer and contributor to the book How We Love – Letters to the Next Generation edited by Karyn Langhorne Folan, Wendy Coakley-Thompson, and Tanara E. Bowie.  How We Love is a collection of letters and lessons published by the Capital Bookfest in 2008.   

Click here to watch a YouTube video (2 minutes, 10 seconds) that features me explaining how I prepare to write: www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1v0nMObacY. The video was filmed during the question and answer session of a book launch party for my novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (www.lovestroubadours.com) on November 18, 2007, at Mocha Hut Cafe in Washington, DC.

Summer Creative Adventures – Museum Visit to see Mami Wata Water Spirit and Yoga Movie Treat – Enlighten Up!

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Mami Wata, circa 1987 by Zoumana Sane (dates unknown, Senegal)
Photo Credit: Don Cole

 

Happy Thursday!

Today I reflected on how I launched my annual summer museum adventures last weekend.  I started with a visit to the National Museum of African Art.  The goal of my trip was to soak up the beauty and splendor of the Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and the African Atlantic World exhibit. http://africa.si.edu/exhibits/mamiwata/intro.html.  It arrived at the Museum on April 1 and leaves on July 26. 

 Mami Wata (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mami_Wata) is a water spirit celebrated throughout most of Africa, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Haiti.  I first learned about Mami Wata in 1991 when I discovered the West African Yoruba goddesses Oshun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oshun) and Yemaya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemanya) who are her sister water spirits.  I immediately embraced her image which is often portrayed as a brown-skinned mermaid.  I love that fact because she reminds me of me.  Her power as a nurturing mother, sensual woman, healer, and provider of riches also appealed to me.  Mami Wata, Oshun, and Yemaya introduced me to Erzulie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erzulie), the Haitian goddess of love.  These water goddesses played a pivotal role in my early artwork and writing.  They still do!  Erzulie is a major force in the artwork and characters featured in my debut novel, Love’s Troubadours – Karma Book One (www.lovestroubadours.com— iUniverse, Inc. – 2007).  Click here to see Erzulie’s veve which appears inside my novel and serves as the logo for the Love’s Troubadours novel series (scroll down to the second photo and look for the black and white drawing of a heart-shaped image): http://www.lovestroubadours.com/id26.html.  It also appears in the painting featured on the back of my novel.  Click here to see a photo (scroll down to the bottom of the page and look for the heart-shaped symbol in the center of painting): http://www.lovestroubadours.com/id7.html.

The Mami Wata exhibit was powerful because it explored the visual culture and histories of Mami Wata and her sister water spirits. It also taught me about several new water spirits such as  Lasirèn from Haiti and Santa Marta la Dominadora from the Dominican Republic.  At the end of the exhibit, I decided to participate in the creative exercise set up by the Museum. I never turn down an invitation to play!  The exercise involved making drawings of Mami Wata-like mermaids, fish, and shells.  Iloved the exhibit so much that I purchased the exhibition book as a keepsake.  I plan to go back later this month to see the Mami Wata exhibit one more time before it closes.  Yes it’s that good! 

So do you have any summer museum adventures planned?  If so, where are you going and what will you see when you get there?

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After the museum, I stopped at Teaism in Penn Quarter for lunch (http://www.teaism.com/Restaurant/PennQuarter7.html).  Teaism is one of my favorite places to drink tea, eat healthy food, meet friends, and write.  I wrote several chapters of Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (www.lovestroubadours.com) and my soon-to-be released poetic memoir, That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discoverywhile sipping tea at Teaism.  I even wrote about my novel’s main character Karma Francois eating a salty oat cookie and drinking tea at Teaism on Dupont Circle!  I treated myself to one of my favorite entrees, the salmon bento box.  As always, it was delicious.  Before I left, I purchased a chocolate salty oat cookie for my afternoon movie snack.

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Enlighten Up! (http://enlightenupthefilm.com) is a new yoga documentary by filmmaker Kate Churchill.  It tells the story of Nick Rosen, a twenty-something journalist from New York City, who explores the world of yoga in search of a practice that meets his needs.  The film was yoga yummy and funny. The yogini/yoga teacher inside of me adored the Enlighten Up! because it gives everyday people an opportunity to witness Rosen’s down-to-earthsearch for a yoga practice with some of the most widely known and not so known yoga teachers in New York City, Los Angeles, Hawaii, and India.  I highly recommend the film.  If you go see Enlighten Up!, tell me what you think about it.

 Do you practice yoga? If so, describe your practice. 

Right now I am practicing yin yoga (www.yinyoga.com and http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/580?print=1) in the early morning before I get out of bed and before I go to sleep at night.  My morning practice includes sun salutations, twists, cat-cows, cobras, and forward folds. 

If you are in DC this weekend, please consider attending my free community yoga class on Sunday, June 14 at 9:00 a.m. in Malcolm X – Meridian Hill Park in Northwest, DC. For more information, visit http://yoga.meetup.com/584.

 Thanks for stopping by!

 Peace, Creativity, and Summer OMs,

 Ananda

Happy June! My Summer Reading Adventures – Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor

Happy June!

Yesterday I read a Los Angeles Times article written by Reed Johnson about Colson Whitehead’s new book, Sag Harbor.  See author photo, book cover photo, and YouTube link with an author video below.  The article made me smile.  Why?  It reminded me how important it is to write novels (Love’s Troubdadours – Karma: Book Onewww.lovestroubadours.com), memoirs (That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery – Summer 2009 – www.anandaleeke.com), and poetry about my experiences as an African American woman who self-identifies as a Boho BAP (just one of my many identities!) and came of age during the 1970s and 1980s (BAP References: What is a BAP? – http://www.lovestroubadours.com/id15.html; BAP Living social networking site – http://baplivingforbapsandebw.ning.com; and BAP Living Radio – www.talkshoe.com/tc/18598) .  It also affirmed how thirsty I am for stories about people with similar experiences.  That’s why I ordered Whitehead’s book from Amazon.com this afternoon and will add it to my summer reading list. 

What are you planning to read this summer and why?

Thanks for stopping by!  Enjoy your day and week!

Peace and Creativity,

Ananda

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Colson Whitehead, author of Sag Harbor

Photo from Reed Johnson’s article in the May 31st issue of the Los Angeles Times 

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YouTube Link to Author’s Video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aILSfknGqFY

Copy of Los Angeles Times Article

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ca-africanamerican31-2009may31,0,7855305.story

 Center stage: middle-class African Americans
As Colson Whitehead’s and Lydia Diamond’s new dramas show, the way black artists represent themselves and are perceived by others is changing.

By Reed Johnson

May 31, 2009

Guess who’s coming to the beach barbecue this summer? Middle-class African Americans, that’s who.

In two new critically esteemed works, Lydia Diamond’s play “Stick Fly” and Colson Whitehead’s just-published semiautobiographical novel “Sag Harbor” (Doubleday), the focus is on middle-class blacks summering on, respectively, Martha’s Vineyard and rural Long Island. While both works address some of the perennial challenges of African American life, they also depict their characters basking in such fair-weather pleasures as hanging out with family, eating waffle cones, playing board games and schlepping across sand dunes.

Diamond’s comic drama, which is running through June 14 at the Matrix Theatre on Melrose Avenue, and Whitehead’s buoyant coming-of-age tale follow on the heels of Jill Nelson’s “Finding Martha’s Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Island.” Published in 2005, her book is a lyrical memoir-history of the author’s half-century love affair with the Oak Bluffs community, a longtime African American enclave off the picturesque Massachusetts coast.

As Americans of all colors reconsider the meanings and milieus of the African American experience in the Obama era, we may be witnessing a gradual sea change in the way that African American artists represent themselves and are perceived by others. In both “Stick Fly” and “Sag Harbor,” the characters intermittently analyze their language, relationships and socio-cultural heritage (or baggage) as African Americans. But what’s also striking about these works is that they present their well-educated, witty characters as matter-of-factly inhabiting a world of leisure and affluence, a very different way than many white Americans may be used to seeing black people portrayed in popular culture.

“Often, people who make decisions about what gets produced have only known black people as a service provider,” Diamond, 40, said in a phone interview last week. That’s partly why an educated, middle-class black family such as the Huxtables, when they first appeared on “The Cosby Show” a quarter-century ago, caught off-guard viewers who hadn’t imagined that such families existed, she suggested.

Like the Huxtables’ comfortably rambunctious Brooklyn home, what the communities of Oak Bluffs and Long Island’s Azurest, Sag Harbor Hills and Ninevah offer is a more neutral, less historically and symbolically loaded backdrop against which to examine their fictional characters. They are depicted as places where middle-class African Americans are in some ways more free to be themselves than they are in the rest of white-dominated American society.

As Nelson writes in her memoir of Oak Bluffs: “There was no need to be the exemplary Negro here, or to show white people that we were as good as or better than they were, to conduct ourselves as ambassadors for integration and racial harmony. For the months of summer the weight of being race representative — and all the political, emotional, and psychic burdens that come with demanding that an individual represent a nonexistent monolith — was lifted. . . . Here, it was enough that you simply be yourself.”

“Sag Harbor,” which is set in the mid-1980s, elucidates not the chronicle of a people’s historic struggle, but simply the minutiae of its teenage protagonist Benji’s daily routines, shrewd reflections, sophomoric gibes and occasionally fumbling but earnest attempts at self-transformation.

“According to the world, we were the definition of a paradox: black boys with beach houses,” Whitehead writes. “A paradox to the outside, but it never occurred to us that there was anything strange about it. It was simply who we were.”

To some, “Stick Fly” and “Sag Harbor” may appear to present a kind of alternative history of the Great American Summer Vacation. But among East Coast middle-class blacks, that history is well established.

“Even in college, I’d say, ‘I’m from Sag Harbor,’ people would be like, ‘I didn’t know black people went out there,’ ” Whitehead, 39, said last week in Los Angeles, where he appeared in the Aloud public conversation series at the downtown Central Library. “Meanwhile, for us it was the opposite. We didn’t know white people went out there. We thought all the white people who lived in East Hampton, Bridgehampton, were townies.”

Not only are the worlds of “Stick Fly” and “Sag Harbor” strikingly different from those usually glimpsed in mainstream movies and television, they’re also quite removed from the environments typically associated with some of the most illustrious African American artists. Viewed from the plush living-room set of “Stick Fly” or the weekender bungalows and fried-clam shacks of “Sag Harbor,” the gritty precincts of Spike Lee’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood or August Wilson’s Hill District(Pittsburgh) in Pittsburgh seem a world away. So do the hardships endured by the struggling characters (including slaves) who populate the fiction of the nation’s most celebrated African American writer, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.

Diamond has said she believes that “America has a real comfort zone with seeing African Americans in certain ways,” usually either as historical figures revisiting past wrongs inflicted by white people, or in a contemporary urban setting where many of the same historic, race-based struggles still occur.

Changing the setting of a play or novel from the Mississippi Delta or Detroit to an idyllic island bluff doesn’t mean those struggles necessarily have ended, the Boston-based playwright maintains, but it can offer a different lens on the nature of those continuing struggles.

In “Stick Fly,” set in the present, the LeVay family’s summer home in Oak Bluffs testifies to the hard-earned progress of a clan as well as an entire ethnic group. Its walls and crannies are covered with African carvings and an original painting by the African American artist and writer Romare Bearden. The bookshelves include the Riverside Shakespeare and “Parting the Waters,” Taylor Branch’s history of the civil rights movement. (John Iacovelli did the Matrix production’s evocative set design.)

In a program note, writer Carrie Hughes traces the African American history of Oak Bluffs to the late 1700s. The community swelled during World War II with African American “doctors, lawyers, dentists, teachers and business people, as well as politicians and artists.”

In that rarefied milieu, “Stick Fly” shapes up less as a play about race per se than about the economic and social distance that separates the LeVay brothers, Kent (Chris Butler) and Flip (Jason Delane), and their successful doctor father ( John Wesley) from Kent’s working-class, hyper-intellectual, hyper-opinionated girlfriend, Taylor (Michole Briana White) and the family’s disgruntled young housekeeper (Tinashe Kajese), all of whom are African American.

“When I wrote the play, I knew I was writing a play about class,” said Diamond, who grew up in what she describes as a single-parent, “solidly lower-middle-class home.”

In fact, several of her play’s plot points turn on matters of class, education and/or gender. Subtly, “Stick Fly” demonstrates that privilege, like discrimination, wears many masks, and is often invisible to those who benefit from it — even, or perhaps especially, if they themselves are the victims of some form of discrimination.

The nature of privilege also figures as a theme of “Sag Harbor.” Benji casually confesses to his youthful ignorance of some of the canonical heroes and cultural idols of African American history, such as W.E.B. DuBois. He’s aware at some level that his own more fortunate lifestyle was made possible by his ancestors’ sacrifices. But he’s also liberated by not being constantly consumed with that historical legacy.

Whitehead, author of the novels “The Intuitionist,” “John Henry Days” and “Apex Hides the Hurt” as well as a book of essays about his hometown, “The Colossus of New York,” said that “the hopes and dreams of my grandparents’ generation,” those African Americans who first started coming out to Sag Harbor, were obviously different from those of him and his childhood friends.

“Definitely they were part of this scene, a really new emergent black middle class. And for them to go out there was something that they were inventing. You know, they wanted it and they went for it, and no one’s going to tell them no.”

His parents, living through the civil rights era, also had their own, different perspectives and motivations, he said. “And then for our generation, [we would] sort of take their struggles for granted, playing with ‘ Star Wars’ figures in the dirt. Not aware of this whole history, just being the beneficiaries, the clueless beneficiaries.”

For Whitehead, Sag Harbor symbolized something of a refuge from his family’s life in New York City, where “I was a target for the police if I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” (Once, as a high school senior, he was taken to a police station in handcuffs after being falsely fingered as a robber.)

Not that Sag Harbor was an idyll. “If we were out of Sag Harbor we were out of our territories,” he said. “And you couldn’t just go strolling around, driving aimlessly around through the streets of East Hampton.”

Yet for Benji, Sag Harbor represents a world of dawning possibilities, in which worries over “keeping it real” and acting “authentic” can be allayed, the stereotype-filled “great narrative of black pathology” can be set aside (at least from Memorial Day to Labor Day) and it’s OK to like Siouxsie and the Banshees as well as Run-DMC.

“I probably would’ve had too much anxiety about being called ‘bourgie’ if I had written this book in the ’90s,” Whitehead acknowledged. “Like I can’t reveal that I actually had a comfortable upbringing.”

Are we in a different place now? “No, I’m in a different place,” he said. “This is the way it went down, and I don’t care if you know that.”