#BlackHistoryMonth Celebration of HBCUs & Black Sororities and Fraternities in My Novel Love’s Troubadours


Have you seen the documentary film, “Tell Them We Are Rising” that explores how historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have shaped American history, culture, and national identity? It was created by filmmaker Stanley Nelson and covers almost 170 years of history. You can watch it online on the PBS website until March 22.

“Tell Them We Are Rising” reminded me why I chose to attend Morgan State University and Howard University School of Law. As a proud HBCU alumna, I made sure the characters in my Lorraine Hansberry-inspired novel Love’s Troubadours are HBCU alumni. Love’s Troubadours main character Karma Francois is a graduate of Morgan State University just like me. Her twin sister Violet is a graduate of my alma mater, Howard University School of Law. Her mother is an alumna of Xavier University. Her cousins attended Spelman College and Morehouse College.

The documentary film also discussed the importance of Black sororities and fraternities. In my family, we have members of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. I celebrate these organizations and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity in Love’s Troubadours.

Spoiler Alert: My main character Karma pledged the Beta Tau Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority at Morgan State University like yours truly. Her mother is also a Sigma (like my mom, great-grandmother, and great-aunt). Her cousins are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (like my great aunt) and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Her best friend is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity (like my grandfather, great-uncle, and cousin). Her uncle is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Her aunt is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.


#BlackHistoryMonth Treat: How Playwright Lorraine Hansberry Inspired My Novel, Love’s Troubadours


My debut novel, Love’s Troubadours was inspired by a speech given by activist and playwright Lorraine Hansberry in February 1964. She spoke to a Harlem-based group of aspiring young, gifted, and African American writers about the power to love in America. In her remarks, Hansberry stated,

“O, the things that we have learned in this unkind house that we have to tell the world about! Despair? Did someone say despair was a question in the world? Well then, listen to the sons of those who have known little else. If you wish to know the resiliency of this thing you would so quickly resign to mythhood, this thing called the human spirit … Life? Ask those who have tasted of it in pieces rationed out by enemies. Love? Ah, ask the troubadours who have come from those who have loved when all reason pointed to the uselessness and foolhardiness of love. Perhaps we shall be the teachers when it is done. Out of the depths of pain we have thought to be our sole heritage in this world-O, we know about love!”

She referred to African Americans as troubadours, the descendents of people who used the power of love to live through and overcome despair and insurmountable odds. She went on to urge the audience to seek wisdom from African Americans because of their capacity to love.

I first read about Hansberry’s speech in Salvation by bell hooks in 2001. Salvation discusses how African Americans have used the power of love to transform their lives and communities. hooks’ writings caused me to question how I could use my gifts as an artist and writer to promote love as a healing tool in the lives of individuals and communities in America. I answered that question by writing Love’s Troubadours, a novel that tells the story of Karma Francois, a 30-something museum curator and yoga teacher who loses her job, discovers family secrets after a loved one dies, and begins a healing journey as she relocates from New York City to Washington, DC. Learn more about her in the video below.

Karma learns many life lessons as she comes face-to-face with the choices she has made in her life and relationships. Watch the video below and learn about some of them.

Throughout her journey, she uses journaling, meditation, mindfulness, poetry, spirituality, therapy, and yoga to heal and love herself. Hansberry’s wisdom on mindful living inspired the way I wrote about Karma’s healing journey:

 “I wish to live because life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful, and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them to be reason enough and–I wish to live. Moreover, because this is so, I wish others to live for generations and generations and generations and generations.”

Watch the video below and learn how Karma’s healing journey transformed her idea of love in her life.

After reading Hansberry’s book, To Be Young, Gifted and Black, I made a conscious decision to use my novel’s characters to celebrate the beauty and diversity of people of African descent. Watch the video below and learn about the diverse characters.


Listen to a chapter excerpt from Love’s Troubadours that illustrates the diversity of African Americans when Karma walks into Mocha Hut, a coffee and tea café in her U Street neighborhood, and eavesdrops on a conversation.


#FierceLiving Friday: My Dream of Becoming A Designer Happened Today!

Happy #FierceLiving Friday!

Guess what happened today? I officially realized my #FierceLivingat50 dream of becoming a designer when I wore my “Karma: One of Love’s Troubadours” scarf for the first time during my client meeting at Love ‘n’ Faith Cafe on 14th Street, NW, in DC.


In May, I partnered with VIDA to create a collection of four scarves that use artwork from my three books.


The “Karma” scarf I am wearing in the photos above incorporates my painting that appears on the cover of my yoga-inspired novel, Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (available on Amazon.com). It celebrates a woman’s self-discovery journey and represents the main character in my novel.


Click here to learn more about my VIDA Voices scarf collection ($40 for each scarf).

Happy #CreativityThursday: Becoming a VIDA Voices Designer

Photo Credit: ShopVida.com
Photo Credit: ShopVida.com

Happy #CreativityThursday! Guess what my vision board book has? An image and affirmation about being a designer of a product line. They manifested in real time on Saturday afternoon when I accepted an email invitation to become a designer with VIDA, a San Francisco-based socially-responsible e-commerce platform that collaborates with artists  around the world to create original and inspiring apparel and accessories. Artists participate in the platform at no cost, then receive a 10% revenue share on products sold.

VIDA team member Connie Kim and CEO Umaimah Mendhro,  Photo Credit: ShopVida.com
VIDA team member Connie Kim and CEO Umaimah Mendhro,
Photo Credit: ShopVida.com

VIDA CEO Umaimah Mendhro, a native of Pakistan, launched the e-commerce platform in November 2014. As a child, Mendhro wanted to become an artist, but knew it would be difficult to pursue her career dream. While she was attending Harvard Business School, she tapped into her childhood dream and knowledge that textiles are a major contributor to Pakistan’s GNP to build VIDA’s business model that pays its producers a liveable wage and offers a literacy program to factory workers. As a result, factory workers are able to build a better life for themselves and their families. Isn’t that a great business model? It’s one of the reasons I became a VIDA designer!

This week, I searched my collages, graphic designs, and paintings to find several pieces that invite people to welcome art into their lives as a gateway for self-discovery and healing. After I selected the images that decorate the covers of my three books, I worked with VIDA to transform them into my VIDA Voices collection . vidadesignpage Drum roll please. Today, I’m proud to introduce my VIDA VOICES collection of scarves that bring ART TO LIFE! My scarf collection helps people do three things:

  • Create an affordable Signature Style ($40 for each scarf).
  • Express Social Responsibility (portion of proceeds funds literacy program for factory workers who make scarves in Pakistan).
  • Tell Stories that celebrate the power of creativity, self-discovery, self-love, and women in social media and technology (the designs were created from artwork that decorates the covers of my books which discuss these themes).

It features four designs you can choose from. Each scarf measures 80 inches by 26 inches and is made of 100% MicroModal, a soft, luxurious fabric that will add a bold, modern statement to any wardrobe. See a description of each scarf below. FYI: VIDA will produce and ship my scarf designs within 60 days if there are 3 or more pre-orders. Here’s how you can help me succeed at being a VIDA designer in the next 14 days.

  • Pre-order a scarf ($40) for yourself and someone special in your life, and use the 20% discount code VIDAVOICES.
  • Share this blog post with folks in your network via social media and email, and encourage them to buy a scarf and share the news with their network.
  • Take a photo of yourself wearing the scarf and post it on your blog or social media with the hashtags #ShopVIDA and #ShopVIDAwithAL. Send it in an email to your network. Be sure to send the email to me too: ananda@anandaleeke.com. I will post your photos on my blog and social media.
Digital Sisterhood scarf -- Photo Credit: ShopVida.com
Digital Sisterhood scarf — Photo Credit: ShopVida.com

dsbookcover-826139781491706398_COVER_FQA.indd The Digital Sisterhood scarf ($40) celebrates the power of women in social media and technology. It is the perfect multipurpose accessory for women who are attending blogging, social media, and technology conferences because it celebrates their inner geek with style and keeps their warm and cozy during sessions held in chilly rooms. Its bold colors also make it a lovely summer scarf. The design theme of sisterhood gives women permission to rock it all year long! Click here to purchase it. Here’s one more thing you should know.The design is based on a logo featured on my book, Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online (available on Amazon).

Photo Credit: ShopVida.com
Photo Credit: ShopVida.com
“Kreative Grooviness” painting by Ananda Leeke

twambook The Kreative Grooviness scarf ($40) celebrates the positive energy that awakens individuals when they embrace and express their creativity. Spring is a great time to wear this scarf to spark new creative beginnings. It can also be worn all year as a stylish reminder to honor your creative spirit. Click here to purchase it. Oh yeah, I’ve got one last thing to share about this design. It is based on my Kreative Grooviness painting that decorates the cover of my book, That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetical Memoir of Self-Discovery (available on Amazon).

Photo Credit: ShopVida.com
Photo Credit: ShopVida.com
Karma: One of Love's Troubadours painting by Ananda Leeke
Karma: One of Love’s Troubadours painting by Ananda Leeke

ltnovel1 The Karma scarf ($40) celebrates a woman’s self-discovery process which I believe is a lifelong path and commitment to Fierce Living. It can be worn as a sacred style touchstone that helps one begin to explore, deepen, understand, and honor the beauty that lies within. The striking colors make it a great autumn accessory. This scarf also represents Karma, a woman on a journey of self-discovery and the main character in my novel, Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One. Click here to purchase it. Guess what? The design is based on my painting, Karma: One of Love’s Troubadours that is featured on the cover of Love’s Troubadours (available on Amazon)

Photo Creidt; ShopVida.com
Photo Creidt; ShopVida.com
Karma: Aham Prema painting by Ananda Leeke
Karma: Aham Prema painting by Ananda Leeke

ltnovel1 The Karma: Aham Prema scarf ($40) celebrates a woman’s self-love journey which I believe is a daily Fierce Living practice and process. That means it can be worn 24/7 every single day of the week, month, year, and decade. Let’s just call it what it is. A lifetime signature style piece! How cool is that? What’s more, its colors evoke a sense of royalty that is perfect to flaunt during the winter months and holiday celebrations. Here’s what also makes it even more special. It represents Karma, a woman on a journey of healing and the main character in my novel, Love’s Troubadaours. Click here to purchase it. The design is based on my painting, Karma: Aham Prema (I am love) that is featured on the cover of Love’s Troubadours (available on Amazon).

Heart of Haiti Artwork – Songbird Frame


009, originally uploaded by anandaleeke.

As a Heart of Haiti ambassador, I received the Songbird Frame, a beautiful hand-cut and hammered recycled steel frame created by Haitian artisans for the Heart of Haiti collection sold at Macy’s. The card that accompanied the frame stated that when the songbirds sing, they create a celestial language that attracts the presence of angels.  Click here to listen to my audio blog reflections about the Songbird Frame which now sits on my art studio desk: . My drawing of Erzulie’s veve from my novel Love’s Troubadours is placed in the frame. Erzulie is the Haitian goddess of love and healing. You can purchase it on Amazon.com.