Your Ticket To Culturally Centered Self-Care

What is self-care and how do we decided what is most necessary for us to thrive in everyday life? 

Well here are 13 ways to get started.

1.) Make sure that you celebrate yourself in various ways other than birthday’s or special occasions.

2.) If it feels wrong to you, then don’t do it. This is your Inner-G talking to you, so listen up.

3.) Get plenty of good rest. Sleeping in when you can and taking naps are good for restoring your time and energy sequence.

4.) Use your words with integrity. Speak exactly what you mean and be okay with it.

5.) Stop trying to please everyone. Self preservation is the first law in nature. Apply this law to yourself.

6.) Trust your intuition. This is an innate an primal power that we all possess. Learn how to get deeper into the consciousness of listening for your clues unconsciously.

7.) Talking bad about yourself is the worst! Talking bad about others is just as bad. When speaking about yourself, make sure that you are making positive affirmations to the best parts of you. Just as speaking positively about others can manifest good things for you too. Life and death is REALLY in the power of the tongue.

8.) Dream big, far, and wide. Then go after them without ceasing. When you go after what you want in life, it feels good to have an inspired intention. And self-care is ultimately about doing what feels good. 

9.) Saying No, is a good thing. Feel confident that you know what is best for you and that saying no to something right now does not mean you can not revisit the idea at another time.

10.) Saying Yes, is also a good thing. It is actually pretty damn powerful. When you say yes to things, it sends a high vibrational frequency out into the Universe that bounces off of your words and intentions by adding more abundance to your life.

11.) Get InTune to kindness. The best thing you can do is treat yourself. Taking time to perform small acts of kindness for yourself, helps you articulate your ideas of kindness to others in a productive way. 

12.) Let go of being in control. The way this life is set up- It is important to learn how to be in the flow. This is a critical part of our commitment to wellness. The more we stress on being in control, the harder it is to be flexible with the magic of managing expectations of others and ultimately ourselves.

13.) Drama and negativity are the assassin’s of good self-care. There are certain things that happen in our lives that lead us back to #12. One way to repell the drama and negatively is to speak power over the situation. Use words that defuse and empower vulnerable or less favorable times. It works like a magnet. 

And I have a small BONUS point I want to offer you.

Number 14

LOVE. “Love is thee highest law and only true religion”. This is a great quote that came to me some time ago while on a journey to find out what  (religion) was most suitable for me. In doing so, I found that most reliable spiritual sources all led back to LOVE. Henceforth came the way I define self-care… By showing love to myself first and this affects the way I express value of others in my path. 

I hope this post helps those of you who read it. As a tribe of dedicated non-medical spiritual practitioners, we are looking forward to connecting with you on how to move closer towards the empowerment and freedom lifestyle you can and WILL have.

Stay INTUNE!
RaShaunda Lugrand 

Why A Culture Keeper? 

​For the first 5 days of Black History Month I wanted to share with you women who inspired me to be great and passionate about creating a synergistic balance in the culture of birth work and community centered wellness. 
Being a BirthKeeper means you are also a Culture Keeper… This is the steaming pot of social identity and mental health. 
So, over the next 328 days + (1095 days or 3 years to be exact) I will be laser focused on implementation of these legacy systems. It is my goal to make sure that we celebrate the best parts of our culture. It is not enough to begin with overcoming the trauma of the slave generation.   
Our DNA as people of color is riddled with this story 365 days a year. 

It is time to shift the multigenrational social and cultural concentration to one of healing and the necessary deep self-care that it takes to be better. 
Better as a person. Better as a people. Better as a community. Better as a Culture.
Our legacy begins in the cosmos. So how dare we limit ourselves to the point of view shown to us here in America. I am a proud citizen of the United States… Not because American culture is so great… But because I have always been here. My roots do not begin with the innovation of slavery. My heart and mind by way of my ancestors were here before colonization. 
… I will remember Amexam/Northwest Africa. I will remember Turtle Island… And I will not apologize for it. So that my children will know that we are conscious of who we are. And who we have always been… knowing that we are not inferior because, “We are Black History.” ⚫✴♾♛
#BeMagnetic #WeGrowHumans #MaatMind #InTuneMother #CultureKeeper #MELTribe  #TIMMatters #SOILLife #ImBetter

Who Was Francis Cress Welsing? – Day 5 of Black History Month 

 

Dr. Frances Cress Welsing: Looking Back at Her Call to Uproot Racism

Dr. Frances Cress Welsing: Looking Back at Her Call to Uproot Racism

[OP-ED] The controversial psychiatrist’s works unwaveringly challenged White supremacist thought even if it meant making some uncomfortable.

by Gregory Carr, Ph.D, January 5, 2016

For those unfamiliar with the name Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, who passed away at the age of 80 in Washington D.C., she was one our country’s most influential and controversial theoreticians on the subject of race and racism. Her influence did not stem from citations in academic journals, although she gained major recognition after publishing her groundbreaking 1970 essay, “Cress Theory of Color Confrontation (White Supremacy),” which began as a paper presented before members of the American Psychological Association.

Her analysis of the impact of White supremacy was trenchant, hard-hitting and consistent.  But like other scholars and “activists” in the Black community who knew Welsing and studied her work, I saw her as an unswerving champion for African Americans and lover of humanity.

Born in Chicago to a physician and an educator, Welsing was trained in the liberal arts at Antioch College and in medicine at Howard University College of Medicine, where she would eventually serve as faculty. A long-standing private practitioner and pioneer in the fields of child psychiatry and mental health, her longest institutional affiliation was as the Clinical Director and Staff Physician with the Washington D.C. Department of Human Services, where she charted policy and strategies to help emotionally disturbed children at the Hillcrest Children’s Center and the Paul Robeson School for Growth and Development.

Welsing’s work on improving the mental health of African Americans led to a career in the field of race and cultural analysis. The Cress Theory was influenced by the ideas of a Washington, DC acquaintance named Neely Fuller, Jr., and explored the thesis that racism, aggression and hostility stems from White fear of genetic annihilation in an overwhelmingly non-White world.  Fuller and Welsing contended that all of modern global relations were affected by White supremacist ideology and symbology, which they further grouped into nine categories of human activity: economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex and war.

She initiated the development for two generations of popular discourse in Black communities on the concept and reality of White supremacy, a status confirmed by her 1991 book The Isis Papers: Keys to the Colors, which was a collection of essays she had written over the previous two decades. It became a perennial non-fiction best seller in Black communities. Her 1974 debate with the Stanford Nobel Laureate, Dr. William Shockley —a proponent of the idea of Black intellectual inferiority—brought her to national attention. One of two articles she wrote for EBONY that year encouraged Black people to “get very quiet and calm and begin to think critically and analytically in a very broad perspective and cease doing push-button reactions to social events that happen around us and that relate negatively to us.”

In fact, this was Welsing’s consistent call— for Black people to take themselves seriously enough to analyze the system in which they lived and its impact on their lives. She contended that systems, rather than episodic challenges, marked the power of White supremacy over its victims.  She came of age in the shadow of Jim Crow; began her professional life during the Black Power era; saw prominence during the post-Civil Rights ideological debates of the 1970s and 80s, and re-ignited new generations searching for direction during the “golden age” of hip hop and the subsequent fracturing and turn of our “post-soul” era.  In some ways, her life and work traces the struggle over self and group identity that Black Americans have been embroiled in since the end of legal segregation. She often said that her intellectual guide was W.E.B. Du Bois who accurately observed that the problem of the modern era would be the global problem of the color line and the reaction of non-Whites to it.

The life and labor of Frances Cress Welsing is just one barometer of the gulf that remains between White and non-White public spheres in a society willfully blind to its inability to engage in “honest dialogues on race.” She weaponized her theories with an agenda that most people are afraid to discuss openly and honestly in polite company. She proposed that Black people avoid marriage until age 35 or older because we are not mature enough to raise children to survive and thrive in a White supremacist system. She said Black people should educate their own children and combine their resources to support Black institutions as a first order of business.

The dimensions of her work that critique Whiteness and its cultural impact fit comfortably today within the larger range of what are now called “Whiteness studies” and even elements of “Critical Race Theory.”  Even the casual reader of the work of academics and writers like David Roediger, Joe Feagin, Harriet Washington or Peggy McIntosh would find Welsing is not alone in her interrogation of the intersections of race, class, gender, biology and power.

But, unfortunately, I don’t believe she will be remembered along with those names.

Much of the controversy around Welsing’s ideas on the topic of race comes from an ignorance of the full range of her actual words and ideas. Many of her critics never met her or read little to none of her work. Some of the more informed criticisms mistake her focus on the roots of White supremacist as a belief in and/or call for “Black Supremacy.”  That critique forms around her discussion of the biological and social function of melanin, which she consistently said was an object of desire and envy of Whites.  Then there were her ideas on sex, primarily her assertion that the gender politics of White patriarchy had promoted homosexuality in Black communities as an attack on the growth and viability of Black families. For Welsing, race, class and gender issues in Black communities traced their roots to the corrosive systemic impact of White Supremacy, at the core of which was patriarchy.

As the life and legacy of Frances Cress Welsing continues to be celebrated and debated, there is no doubt that in the 21st century racism remains an intractable enemy of humanity. In a modern world shaped in the image of Europe and Europeans, no non-White group wants to be, in the language used by Duke University professor and cultural anthropologist, J. Lorand Matory, PhD in “last place.”  Ending racism has never been a matter of polite discourse or easy solutions. People will not agree and paths of most resistance will involve fighting with one another. It appears then that the systemic work of racial oppression will continue, unimpeded, until all people of good will determine that it can only end with our collective active participation. Wouldn’t that then be a fitting tribute to an intellectual warrior like Dr. Frances Cress Welsing.

Gregory Carr, Ph.D. is Associate Professor and Chair of Howard University’s Department of Afro American Studies

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/news-views/dr-frances-cress-welsing-looking-back-at-her-call-to-uproot-racism-333#ixzz4XruZvfhT 

Who Was Shirley Chisholm? Day 4 of Black History Month

UNBOUGHT & UNBOSSED

12 Facts About Shirley Chisholm, The First African-American to Run For President

Being the first black woman to serve on Congress would be a significant enough accomplishment for a lifetime, but it wasn’t good enough for Shirley Chisholm. Three years after she arrived in Washington, D.C., Chisholm became the first woman to run for president for the Democratic party. When announcing her intention to seek the nomination in 1972, she stated, “I’m a revolutionary at heart now and I’ve got to run, even though it might be the downfall of my career.” Though her campaign was controversial at times, it wasn’t the downfall of her long and noteworthy career. Here are a few things to know about this bold educator-turned-politician.

1. SHE HAD INTERNATIONAL ROOTS

On November 30, 1924, Shirley Anita St. Hill was born in Brooklyn, New York to Ruby Seale and Charles St. Hill. Her mother was a domestic worker who immigrated to the U.S. from Barbados; her father, a factory worker, was originally from Guyana.Being the first black woman to serve on Congress would be a significant enough accomplishment for a lifetime, but it wasn’t good enough for Shirley Chisholm. Three years after she arrived in Washington, D.C., Chisholm became the first woman to run for president for the Democratic party. When announcing her intention to seek the nomination in 1972, she stated, “I’m a revolutionary at heart now and I’ve got to run, even though it might be the downfall of my career.” Though her campaign was controversial at times, it wasn’t the downfall of her long and noteworthy career. Here are a few things to know about this bold educator-turned-politician.

2. SHE WAS BORN IN BROOKLYN, BUT SHE DIDN’T HAVE A NEW YORK ACCENT.

In 1928, Chisholm and her two sisters were sent to live with their grandmother in Barbados, while her parents stayed in New York and worked through the Great Depression. Chisholm attended a one-room schoolhouse on this island in the West Indies. In addition to receiving a British education, she picked up an accent, which remained slight but noticeable throughout her life.

3. EDUCATION HAD A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON HER LIFE …

Chisholm returned to the U.S. in March 1934 at age 9 and resumed with a public-school education. Following high school, she studied sociology at Brooklyn College and earned her BA in 1946. (She was a prize-winning debater in college, a skill that would serve her well throughout her political career.) She continued her education at Columbia University and earned an MA in early childhood education in 1952. While she was still a student at Columbia, she began teaching at a nursery school and married Conrad Chisholm in 1949. They would later divorce in 1977.

4. … SO MUCH SO THAT SHE BEGAN HER PROFESSIONAL CAREER IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION.

Library of Congress

After working at the nursery school, Chisholm worked her way through the teaching ranks and by 1953 was the director of two day care centers, a position she held until 1959. Her expertise and experience led to her role as an educational consultant for New York City’s Division of Day Care from 1959 through 1964.

5. HER POLITICAL CAREER—WHICH STARTED AT THE NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATURE—WAS REVOLUTIONARY FROM THE BEGINNING.

Chisholm was a member of the League of Women Voters and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Political League before she ran for the New York State Assembly in 1964. When she won, Chisholm became the second African-American woman to serve on the state legislature. From 1965 to 1968, Chisholm served as a Democratic member and focused on unemployment benefits for domestic workers and education initiatives.

6. REDISTRICTING INSPIRED HER RUN FOR CONGRESS.

Chisholm set her sights on Congress when redistricting efforts gave Brooklyn a new congressional district. Not one to shy away from the public, Chisholm used to drive through neighborhoods while announcing, “This is fighting Shirley Chisholm coming through.” She defeated three candidates in the primary election, including a state senator, before defeating well-known civil rights activist James Farmer in the general election. This victory made her the first African-American woman elected to Congress, and she would go on to serve seven terms.

Political buttons from the collection of Alix Kates Shulman. Image credit: Polly Shulman.”

 7. SHE HAD A WAY WITH WORDS AND ESTABLISHED HERSELF AS OUTSPOKEN AND READY FOR CHANGE EARLY IN HER FIRST TERM.

She was known for her bold declarations. After her upset victory in the congressional election, she boasted, “Just wait, there may be some fireworks.” And she delivered on that promise. Given her campaign slogan “Unbought and unbossed,” it should come as no surprise that Chisholm quickly made her presence known in Congress. She spoke out against the Vietnam War within the first few months of her arrival and said she would vote against military spending. When she was initially relegated to the House Agricultural Committee, she requested a new assignment, claiming that she didn’t think she could best serve her Brooklyn constituents from that position.

 

After directly addressing House Speaker John McCormack on the matter, she was reassigned to Veterans’ Affairs, and then moved to the Education and Labor Committee in 1971. True to her desire to bring about change, Chisholm hired all women for her office, half of whom were African-American. She was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus as well as the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Chisholm with Rosa Parks (L) between 1960 and 1970. Image Credit: Library of Congress

8. HER PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN WAS UNEXPECTED AND HISTORIC.

Chisholm formally announced her intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in January 1972, making her the first African-American to run for a major party and the first woman to vie for the Democratic nomination. During her speech, which she delivered in her hometown of Brooklyn, Chisholm said, “I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and I am equally proud of that…I am the candidate of the people of America, and my presence before you now symbolizes a new era in American political history.”

Although her campaign wasn’t as well-funded as her competitors’, Chisholm did get her name on the primary ballot in 12 states and won 28 delegates in primary elections. She received about 152 delegates at the Democratic National Convention, coming in fourth place for the party.

9. THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL WAS FULL OF CHALLENGES.

Chisholm likely expected challenges during her campaign, and she certainly encountered a fair amount. She received multiple threats against her life, including assassination attempts, and was granted Secret Service protection to ensure her safety. Chisholm also had to sue to be included in televised debates.

There was even controversy where there could have been encouragement. Her decision to run for the Democratic nomination caught many members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) off-guard, and they weren’t happy that she acted before a formal and unified decision could be made. But Chisholm was done with waiting; when the subject of the CBC came up on the night she announced her campaign, she told the crowd, “While they’re rapping and snapping, I’m mapping.”

10. SHE HAD AN UNLIKELY SUPPORTER IN GEORGE WALLACE.

Chisholm was well aware that her biggest source of support came from women and minorities and often advocated on their behalf, so it shocked many of her supporters and constituents when she visited political rival George Wallace after an assassination attempt sent him to the hospital—and ultimately left him paralyzed—in 1972. Wallace, who was governor of Alabama, was known for his racist comments and segregationist views, but Chisholm checked on him. She said she never wanted what happened to him to happen to anybody else.

Ultimately, their friendship benefited the public when Wallace came through for Chisholm on an important piece of legislation in 1974. She was working on a bill that would give domestic workers the right to a minimum wage. Wallace convinced enough of his fellow Southern congressmen to vote in favor of the bill, moving it through the House.

11. FOLLOWING RETIREMENT, CHISHOLM DIDN’T SLOW DOWN.

Chisholm retired from Congress in 1982, but leaving the political arena didn’t mean she was done making a difference. Although she planned on spending more time with her second husband, Arthur Hardwick Jr., she also returned to teaching at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and continued to speak at colleges across the country.

Chisholm passed away on January 1, 2005 at age 80 in Ormond Beach, Florida. She is buried in Buffalo, New York, and the inscription on the mausoleum vault in which she is buried reads “Unbought and Unbossed.”

12. SHE CONTINUES TO GARNER ACCOLADES FOR HER TRAILBLAZING WORK.

Chisholm was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. In 2014, the U.S. Postal Service debuted the Shirley Chisholm Forever Stamp as part of the Black Heritage Series. A year later, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and there is talk of a movie being made about her life. But Chisholm never doubted what legacy she wanted to leave behind, once saying, “I want history to remember me…not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be herself. I want to be remembered as a catalyst for change in America.”

 

ARTICLE RETRIEVED FROM: m.mentalfloss.com/article

Who Was Nina Simone? – Day 3 of Black History Month 

The High Priestess of Liberation Soul Music

Nina Simone  was one of the most extraordinary artists of the twentieth century, an icon of American music. She was the consummate musical storyteller, a griot as she would come to learn, who used her remarkable talent to create a legacy of liberation, empowerment, passion, and love through a magnificent body of works.

She earned the moniker ‘High Priestess of Soul’ for she could weave a spell so seductive and hypnotic that the listener lost track of time and space as they became absorbed in the moment. She was who the world would come to know as Nina Simone.

When Nina Simone died on April 21, 2003, she left a timeless treasure trove of musical magic spanning over four decades from her first hit, the 1959 Top 10 classic “I Loves You Porgy,” to “A Single Woman,” the title cut from her one and only 1993 Elektra album. While thirty-three years separate those recordings, the element of honest emotion is the glue that binds the two together – it is that approach to every piece of work that became Nina’s uncompromising musical trademark.

By the end of her life, Nina was enjoying an unprecedented degree of recognition. Her music was enjoyed by the masses due to the CD revolution, discovery on the Internet, and exposure through movies and television. Nina had sold over one million CDs in the last decade of her life, making her a global catalog best-seller.

No one website can fully explore the many nuances and flavors that made up the more than 40 original albums in the Nina Simone library. This site and accompanying radio station contain many of Nina’s finest works. However, we might not have had the chance to witness the breathtaking range of material Nina could cover if she hadn’t taken the path she did.

Contribute here to help us keep her legacy alive.

Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21st, 1933, Nina’s prodigious talent as a musician was evident early on when she started playing piano by ear at the age of three. Her mother, a Methodist minister, and her father, a handyman and preacher himself, couldn’t ignore young Eunice’s God-given gift of music. Raised in the church on the straight and narrow, her parents taught her right from wrong, to carry herself with dignity, and to work hard. She played piano – but didn’t sing – in her mother’s church, displaying remarkable talent early in her life. Able to play virtually anything by ear, she was soon studying classical music with an Englishwoman named Muriel Mazzanovich, who had moved to the small southern town. It was from these humble roots that Eunice developed a lifelong love of Johann Sebastian Bach, Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert.

This website captures milestones in a career that has had more than its share of peaks and valleys.After graduating valedictorian of her high school class, the community raised money for a scholarship for Eunice to study at Julliard in New York City before applying to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her family had already moved to the City Of Brotherly Love, but Eunice’s hopes for a career as a pioneering African American classical pianist were dashed when the school denied her admission. To the end, she herself would claim that racism was the reason she did not attend. While her original dream was unfulfilled, Eunice ended up with an incredible worldwide career as Nina Simone – almost by default.

To survive, she began teaching music to local students. One fateful day in 1954, looking to supplement her income, Eunice auditioned to sing at the Midtown Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Word spread about this new singer and pianist who was dipping into the songbooks of Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and the like, transforming popular tunes of the day into a unique synthesis of jazz, blues, and classical music. Her rich, deep velvet vocal tones, combined with her mastery of the keyboard, soon attracted club goers up and down the East Coast. In order to hide the fact that she was singing in bars, Eunice’s mother would refer to the practice as “working in the fires of hell”, overnight Eunice Waymon became Nina Simone by taking the nickname “Nina” meaning “little one” in Spanish and “Simone” after the actress Simone Signoret.

Contribute here to help us keep her legacy alive.

At the age of twenty-four, Nina came to the attention of the record industry. After submitting a demo of songs she had recorded during a performance in New Hope, Pennsylvania, she was signed by Syd Nathan, owner of the Ohio-based King Records (home to James Brown), to his Jazz imprint, Bethlehem Records. The boisterous Nathan had insisted on choosing songs for her debut set, but eventually relented and allowed Nina to delve in the repertoire she had been performing at clubs up and down the eastern seaboard. One of Nina’s stated musical influences was Billie Holiday and her inspired reading of “Porgy” (from “Porgy & Bess”) heralded the arrival of a new talent on the national scene. At the same mammoth 13 hour session in 1957, recorded in New York City, Nina also cut “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” previously recorded by Nate King Cole, Count Basie, and Woody Herman. The song was used by Chanel in a perfume commercial in Europe in the 1980’s and it became a massive hit for Nina, a British chart topper at #5, and thus a staple of her repertoire for the rest of her career.

Nina Simone’s stay with Bethlehem Records was short lived and in 1959, after moving to New York City, she was signed by Joyce Selznik, the eastern talent scout for Colpix Records, a division of Columbia Pictures. Months after the release of her debut LP for the label (1959‘s The Amazing Nina Simone), Nina was performing at her first major New York City venue, the mid-Manhattan-located Town Hall. Sensing that her live performances would capture the essential spontaneity of her artistry, Colpix opted to record her September 12, 1959 show. “You Can Have Him,” a glorious torch song previously cut by Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald, was one of the highlights of the evening. The song opened with a dazzling keyboard arpeggio that would become her signature for decades. So momentous was the Town Hall performance that it inspired some of the same musicians, featuring the vocals of Nina’s only daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, to do a tribute to a sold out audience over forty five years later.

As Nina’s reputation as an engaging live performer grew, it wasn’t long before she was asked to perform at the prestigious Newport Jazz Festival. Accompanied on the June 30th,1960 show by Al Schackman, a guitarist who would go on to become Nina’s longest-running musical colleague, bassist Chris White, and drummer Bobby Hamilton, the dynamic show was recorded by the Colpix. The subsequent release in 1961 of the old blues tune “Trouble In Mind” as a single gave Nina her third charted record.

Her stay with Colpix resulted in some wonderful albums – nine in all – included Nina’s version of Bessie Smith’s blues classic “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.” Issued as a single in 1960, it became Nina’s second charted Pop and R&B hit and one of two Colpix tracks to achieve such a feat during her five year stint with the label. Other stand out tracks from that era were the soulful song “Cotton Eyed Joe,” the torch tune “The Other Women,” and the Norwegian folk rendition of “Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair” – all beautiful examples of Nina Simone at her storytelling best, painting a vivid picture with her skill as a lyrical interpreter. During this time with the label, Nina recorded one civil rights song, Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Brown Baby,” which was included on her fifth album for the label, At The Village Gate.

“Critics started to talk about what sort of music I was playing,” writes Nina in her 1991 autobiography I Put A Spell On You, “and tried to find a neat slot to file it away in. It was difficult for them because I was playing popular songs in a classical style with a classical piano technique influenced by cocktail jazz. On top of that I included spirituals and children’s song in my performances, and those sorts of songs were automatically identified with the folk movement. So, saying what sort of music I played gave the critics problems because there was something from everything in there, but it also meant I was appreciated across the board – by jazz, folk, pop and blues fans as well as admirers of classical music.” Clearly Nina Simone was not an artist who could be easily classified.

Nina’s Colpix recordings cemented her appeal to a nightclub based U.S. audience. Once she moved to Phillips, a division of Dutch owned Mercury Records, she was ready to expand her following globally. Her first LP for the label, 1964’s In Concert, signaled Nina’s undaunting stand for freedom and justice for all, stamping her irrevocably as a pioneer and inspirational leader in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Her own original “Mississippi Goddam” was banned throughout the South but such a response made no difference in Nina’s unyielding commitment to liberty; subsequent groundbreaking recordings for Philips like “Four Women” (recorded September 1965) and “Strange Fruit” continued to keep Nina in the forefront of the few performers willing to use music as a vehicle for social commentary and change. Such risks were seldom taken by artists during that time of such dramatic civil upheaval.

For years, Nina felt there was much about the way that she made her living that was less then appealing. One gets a sense of that in the following passage from I Put A Spell on You where she explains her initial reluctance to perform material that was tied to the Civil Rights Movement.

Contribute here to help us keep her legacy alive.

“Nightclubs were dirty, making records was dirty, popular music was dirty and to mix all that with politics seemed senseless and demeaning. And until songs like ‘Mississippi Goddam’ just burst out of me, I had musical problems as well. How can you take the memory of a man like [Civil Rights activist] Medgar Evers and reduce all that he was to three and a half minutes and a simple tune? That was the musical side of it I shied away from; I didn’t like ‘protest music’ because a lot of it was so simple and unimaginative it stripped the dignity away from the people it was trying to celebrate. But the Alabama church bombing and the murder of Medgar Evers stopped that argument and with ‘Mississippi Goddam,’ I realized there was no turning back.”

Nina was deeply affected by these two events. In 1962, she had befriended noted playwright Lorraine Hansberry and spoke often with her about the Civil Rights Movement. While she was moved by her conversations with Hansberry, it took the killing of Medgar Evers and the four girls in Birmingham to act as catalysts for a transformation of Nina’s career.

There were many sides to Nina Simone. Among her most amazing recordings were the original and so-soulful version “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “I Put A Spell On You” (which had reached to #23 in the U.S. charts), eerily moody, unrestrained, drama to the max; “Ne Me Quitte Pas” tender, poignant, filled with melancholy; and with gospel-like fervor, the hypnotic voodoo of “See-Line Woman.” In her own unrivaled way, Nina also loved to venture into the more earthy side of life. After she signed with RCA Records in 1967 (a deal her then husband/manager Andy Stroud had negotiated), her very first recordings for the label included the saucy “Do I Move You?” and the undeniably sexual “I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl” which were from the concept album entitled Nina Sings The Blues. Backed by a stellar cast of New York CIty session musicians, the album was far and away Nina’s most down-home recording session. By this time, Nina had become central to a circle of African American playwrights, poets, and writers all centered in Harlem along with the previously mentioned Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin and Langston Hughes. The outcome from one of the relationships became a highlight of the LP with the song “Backlash Blues,” a song that’s lyrics originated from the last poem Langston Hughes submitted for publication prior to his death in May, 1967 and gave to Nina.

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Nina’s seven years with RCA produced some remarkable recordings, ranging from two songs featured in the Broadway musical “Hair” (combined into a medley, “Ain’t Got No – I Got Life,” a #2 British hit in 1968) to a Simone-ified version of George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun,” which remained in Nina’s repertoire all the way through to her final performance in 2002. Along the way at RCA, songs penned by Bob Dylan (“Just Like A Woman”), the brothers Gibb (“To Love Somebody”), and Tina Turner (“Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter”) took pride of place alongside Nina’s own anthem of empowerment, the classic “To Be Young, Gifted, & Black,” a song written in memory of Nina’s good friend Lorraine Hansberry. The title of the song coming from a play Hansberry had been working on just prior to her death.

After Nina left RCA, she spent a good deal of the 1970’s and early 1980’s living in Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland and The Netherlands. In 1978, for the first time since she left RCA, Nina was convinced by U.S. jazz veteran Creed Taylor to make an album for his CTI label. This would be her first new studio album in six years and she recorded it in Belgium with strings and background vocals cut in New York City. With the kind of “clean” sound that was a hallmark of CTI recordings, the Nina Simone album that emerged was simply brilliant. Nina herself would later claimed that she ”hated” the record but many fans strongly disagreed. With an eighteen piece string section conducted by David Mathews (known for his arrangements on James Brown’s records), the results were spectacular. The title track, Randy Newman’s evocative “Baltimore,” was an inspired Nina Simone choice. It had a beautifully constructed reggae-like beat and used some of the finest musicians producer Creed Taylor could find including Nina’s guitarist and music director, Al Schackman.

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Aside from 1982’s Fodder On My Wings that Nina recorded for Carrere Records, two albums she made of the independent VPI label in Hollywood (Nina’s Back and Live And Kickin’) in 1985, and a 1987 Live At Vine Street set recorded for Verve, Nina Simone did not make another full length album until Elektra A&R executive Michael Alago persuaded her to record again. After much wining and dining, Nina finally signed on the dotted line. Elektra tapped producer Andre Fischer, noted conductor Jeremy Lubbock, and a trio of respected musicians to provide the suitable environment for this highly personal reading of “A Single Woman,” which became the centerpiece and title track for Nina Simone’s final full length album.

With two marriages behind her in 1993 she settled in Carry-le-Rout, near Aix-en-Provence in Southern France. She would continue to tour through the 1990’s and became very much ‘the single woman’ she sang about on her last label recording. She rarely traveled without an entourage, but if you were fortunate enough to get to know the woman behind the music you could glimpse the solitary soul that understood the pain of being misunderstood. It was one of Nina’s many abilities to comprehend the bittersweet qualities of life and then parlay them into a song that made her such an enduring and fascinating person.

In her autobiography, Nina Simone writes that her function as an artist is “…to make people feel on a deep level. It’s difficult to describe because it’s not something you can analyze; to get near what it’s about you have to play it. And when you’ve caught it, when you’ve got the audience hooked, you always know because it’s like electricity hanging in the air.” It was that very electricity that made her such an important artist to so many and it will be that electricity that continues to turn on new people all over the world for years to come.

Nina Simone died in her sleep at her home in Carry-le-Rout, Bouches-du-Rhone on April 21, 2003. Her funeral service was attended by Miriam Makeba, Patti Labelle, poet Sonia Sanchez, actor Ossie Davis and hundreds of others. Elton John sent a floral tribute with the message, “You were the greatest and I love you”. And the legacy continues…

Contributions by: David Nathan (RCA’s ‘Nina Simone Anthology’, ‘Simone On Simone’), Ed Ward & Richard Seidel (RCA/Legacy ‘To Be Free-The Nina Simone Story’), Rob Bowman (Jazz Icons), Aaron Overfield (L’hommage: Nina Simone), additional editing by Sarah Epler

Read more at: www.ninasimone.com

Who Was Madam C.J. Walker? – Day 2 of Black History Month 

 

Madam Walker, the First Black American Woman to Be a Self-Made Millionaire

 

As an African American curly-headed woman and social entrepreneur I am excited to share this story with you my readers. Not only for the sake of this being Black History Month, yet for the deep sense of inspiration that Madam Walker offers our organization in the establishment of our new salon and community wellness center.  Being a beauty culturist myself for over 18 years, and a native of Indianapolis, Indiana, I grow up with the ability to walk into the historical building where all her magic was manufactured. Now labeled a 

As I explained in my memoir, Colored People, “So many black people still get their hair straightened that it’s a wonder we don’t have a national holiday for Madame C.J. Walker, who invented the process for straightening kinky hair, rather than for Dr. King.” I was joking, of course, but mostly about the holiday; the history and politics of African-American hair have been as charged as any “do” in our culture, and somewhere in the story, Madam C.J. Walker usually makes an appearance.

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Madam C.J. Walker. Photo courtesy A’Lelia Bundles/Madam Walker Family Collection.

Most people who’ve heard of her will tell you one or two things: She was the first black millionairess, and she invented the world’s first hair-straightening formula and/or the hot comb. Only one is factual, sort of, but the amazing story behind it and how Madam Walker used that accomplishment to help others as a job creator and philanthropist might be jarring — and surprisingly empowering — even to the skeptics. I know it was for me in revisiting her life for this column.

Thanks to the work of numerous historians, among them Madam Walker’s prolific great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, as well as Nancy Koehn and my colleagues at Harvard Business School, I no longer see one straight line from “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower” to current menus of extensions, braids and weaves; nor do I see a single line connecting this brilliant, determined person — who struggled doggedly for a life out of poverty, and for black beauty, pride and her own legitimacy (in the face of black male resistance) as a black business woman during the worst of the Jim Crow era — to the most successful black women on the stage today.

 “Up From” Sarah Breedlove

On December 23, 1867, Sarah Breedlove was born to two former slaves on a plantation in Delta, La., just a few months after the second Juneteenth was celebrated one state over in Texas. While the rest of her siblings had been born on the other side of emancipation, Sarah was free. But by 7, she was an orphan toiling in those same cotton fields. To escape her abusive brother-in-law’s household, Sarah married at 14, and together she and Moses McWilliams had one daughter, Lelia (later “A’Lelia Walker”), before Moses mysteriously died.

Now that Reconstruction, too, was dead in the South, Sarah moved north to St. Louis, where a few of her brothers had taken up as barbers, themselves having left the Delta as “exodusters” some years before. Living on $1.50 a day as a laundress and cook, Sarah struggled to send Lelia to school — and did — while joining the A.M.E. church, where she networked with other city dwellers, including those in the fledgling National Association of Colored Women.

In 1894, Sarah tried marrying again, but her second husband, John Davis, was less than reliable, and he was unfaithful. At 35, her life remained anything but certain. “I was at my tubs one morning with a heavy wash before me,” she later told the New York Times. “As I bent over the washboard and looked at my arms buried in soapsuds, I said to myself: ‘What are you going to do when you grow old and your back gets stiff? Who is going to take care of your little girl?’ ”

Adding to Sarah’s woes was the fact that she was losing her hair. As her great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles explains in an essay she posted on America.gov’s Archive: “During the early 1900s, when most Americans lacked indoor plumbing and electricity, bathing was a luxury. As a result, Sarah and many other women were going bald because they washed their hair so infrequently, leaving it vulnerable to environmental hazards such as pollution, bacteria and lice.”

In the lead-up to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Sarah’s personal and professional fortune began to turn when she discovered the “The Great Wonderful Hair Grower” of Annie Turnbo(later Malone), an Illinois native with a background in chemistry who’d relocated her hair-straightening business to St. Louis. It more than worked, and within a year Sarah went from using Turnbo’s products to selling them as a local agent. Perhaps not coincidentally, around the same time, she began dating Charles Joseph (“C.J.”) Walker, a savvy salesman for the St. Louis Clarion.

A little context and review: Along the indelible color line that court cases like Plessy v. Ferguson drew, blacks in turn-of-the-century America were excluded from most trade unions and denied bank capital, resulting in trapped lives as sharecroppers or menial, low-wage earners. One of the only ways out, as my colleague Nancy Koehn and others reveal in their2007 study of Walker, was to start a business in a market segmented by Jim Crow. Hair care and cosmetics fit the bill. The start-up costs were low. Unlike today’s big multinationals, white businesses were slow to respond to blacks’ specific needs. And there was a slew of remedies to improve upon from well before slavery. Turnbo saw this opportunity and, in creating her “Poro” brand, seized it as part of a larger movement that witnessed the launch of some 10,000 to 40,000 black-owned businesses between 1883 and 1913. Now it was Sarah’s turn.

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The Walker System

While still a Turnbo agent, Sarah stepped out of her boss’ shadow in 1905 by relocating to Denver, where her sister-in-law’s family resided (apparently, she’d heard black women’s hair suffered in the Rocky Mountains’ high but dry air). C.J. soon followed, and in 1906 the two made it official — marriage No. 3 and a new business start — with Sarah officially changing her name to “Madam C.J. Walker.”

Around the same time, she awoke from a dream, in which, in her words: “A big black man appeared to me and told me what to mix up for my hair. Some of the remedy was grown in Africa, but I sent for it, put it on my scalp, and in a few weeks my hair was coming in faster than it had ever fallen out.” It was to be called “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.” Her initial investment: $1.25.

Sarah’s industry had its critics, among them the leading black institution-builder of the day, Booker T. Washington, who worried (to his credit) that hair-straighteners (and, worse, skin-bleaching creams) would lead to the internalization of white concepts of beauty. Perhaps she was mindful of this, for she was deft in communicating that her dream was not emulative of whites, but divinely inspired, and, like Turnbo’s “Poro Method,” African in origin.

However, Walker went a step further. You see, the name Poro “came from a West African term for a devotional society, reflecting Turnbo’s concern for the welfare and the roots of the women she served,” according to a 2007 Harvard Business School case study. Whereas Turnbo took her product’s name from an African word, Madame C.J. claimed that the crucial ingredients for her product were African in origin. (And on top of that, she gave it a name uncomfortably close to Turnbo’s “Wonderful Hair Grower.”)

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It wouldn’t be the only permanent sticking point between the two: Some claim it was Turnbo, not Walker, who became the first black woman to reach a million bucks. One thing about her startup was different, however: Walker’s brand, with the “Madam” in front, had the advantage of French cache, while defying many white people’s tendency to refer to black women by their first names, or, worse, as “Auntie.”

Of course, many would-be entrepreneurs start off with a dream. The reason we’re still talking about Walker’s is her prescience, and her success in the span of just a dozen years. In pumping her “Wonderful Hair Grower” door-to-door, at churches and club gatherings, then through a mail-order catalog, Walker proved to be a marketing magician, and she sold her customers more than mere hair products. She offered them a lifestyle, a concept of total hygiene and beauty that in her mind would bolster them with pride for advancement.

To get the word out, Walker also was masterful in leveraging the power of America’s burgeoning independent black newspapers (in some cases, her ads kept them afloat). It was hard to miss Madam Walker whenever reading up on the latest news, and in her placements, she was a pioneer at using black women — actually, herself — as the faces in both her beforeand after shots, when others had typically reserved the latter for white women only (That was the dream, wasn’t it? the photos implied).

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At the same time, Walker had the foresight to incorporate in 1910, and even when she couldn’t attract big-name backers, she invested $10,000 of her own money, making herself sole shareholder of the new Walker Manufacturing Company, headquartered at a state-of-the-art factory and school in Indianapolis, itself a major distribution hub.

Perhaps most important, Madam Walker transformed her customers into evangelical agents, who, for a handsome commission, multiplied her ability to reach new markets while providing them with avenues up out of poverty, much like Turnbo had provided her. In short order, Walker’s company had trained some 40,000 “Walker Agents” at an ever-expanding number of hair-culture colleges she founded or set up through already established black institutions. And there was a whole “Walker System” for them to learn, from vegetable shampoos to cold creams, witch hazel, diets and those controversial hot combs.

Contrary to legend, Madam Walker didn’t invent the hot comb. According to A’Lelia Bundles’ biography of Walker in Black Women in America, a Frenchman, Marcel Grateau, popularized it in Europe in the 1870s, and even Sears and Bloomingdale’s advertised the hair-straightening styling tool in their catalogs in the 1880s. But Walker did improve the hot comb with wider teeth, and as a result of its popularity, sales sizzled.

Careful to position herself as a “hair culturalist,” Walker was building a vast social network of consumer-agents united by their dreams of looking — and thus feeling — different, from the heartland of America to the Caribbean and parts of Central America. Whether it stimulated emulation or empowerment was the debate — and in many ways it still is. One thing, though, was for sure: It was big business. No — huge! “Open your own shop; secure prosperity and freedom,” one of Madam Walker’s brochures announced. Those who enrolled in “Lelia College” even received a diploma.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, Walker had the Mona Lisa of black-beauty brands. Among the most ridiculous knockoffs was the white-owned “Madam Mamie Hightower” company. To keep others at bay, Walker insisted on placing a special seal with her likeness on every package. So successful, so quickly, was Walker in solidifying her presence in the consumer’s mind that when her marriage to C.J. fell apart in 1912, she insisted on keeping his name. After all, she’d already made it more famous.

To keep her agents more loyal, Walker organized them into a national association and offered cash incentives to those who promoted her values. In the same way, she organized the National Negro Cosmetics Manufacturers Association in 1917. “I am not merely satisfied in making money for myself,” Walker said in 1914. “I am endeavoring to provide employment for hundreds of women of my race.” And for her it wasn’t just about pay; Walker wanted to train her fellow black women to be refined. As she explained in her 1915 manual, Hints to Agents, “Open your windows — air it well … Keep your teeth clean in order that [your] breath might be sweet … See that your fingernails are kept clean, as that is a mark of refinement.”

Contribute here to help us keep her legacy alive.

Reading this, I instantly thought of Booker T. Washington, “the wizard of Tuskegee,” who, while troubled by the black beauty industry, shared Walker’s obsession with cleanliness. In fact, Washington made it critical to his school’s curriculum, preaching “the gospel of the toothbrush,” writes Suellen Hoy in her interesting history, Chasing Dirt: The American Pursuit of Cleanliness. “I never see … an unpainted or unwhitewashed house that I do not want to paint or whitewash it,” Washington himself wrote in his memoir, Up From Slavery.

I have no doubt this topic would’ve made for interesting conversation between Washington and Walker (after all, having come from similar places, weren’t they after similar things with not dissimilar risks?). Yet, try as Walker did to curry Washington’s favor, her initial forays only met his grudging acknowledgment, even though many of the wives Washington knew, including his own — the wives of the very ministers denouncing products like Walker’s — were dreaming of the same straight styles.

Read more of this blog post on The Root.

You Deserve A Magnetic Vagina™

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