Listen below, and find the most recent episodes at raceforward.org/media.
When I received Adjua Styles new book The Ethereal Hike in the mail, I cracked it open with a mix of excitement and a tiny bit of apprehension. I knew the book would be about her life, family ties, and trying to come out on the other side of all things that can challenge you in life, especially — loss. And as a child of two west indian families, I’ve been working through all of the challenges of having a parent die in the midst of some challenging family dynamics that made everything even harder to take.
I was nervous about what feelings the book might bring up for me. But I plunged in. Well. I got less than 2 chapters in before I abruptly closed the book, placed it on my shelf and walked away from it. It felt like one of those sequences in cartoons where you’re the only one nude, giving a speech in front of a bunch of clothed people. It felt like I was reading something all too familiar, and I felt kinda seen, and kinda naked.
The next day I made some tea and cracked the book again. This time I took deep breaths whenever a chapter felt familiar or heavy. I laughed at the humorous moments. I made it through the book in one evening!
I felt like it was a lot to take in, but a very important read about the life and times of a caribbean, woman, growing up in new york city, making her way with less guidance than she would have liked and less of the motherly connection than she would have wanted with her own parent.
Later she was experiencing the joy of parenthood, the challenges of how to be the parent you want to be, while learning who your children might need you to be, and who you are to yourself–even as life requires your small parts of your identity to grow and change over time.
I think this book is a great read for EVERYONE but also: If you are like me and have Jamaican, Panamanian, Antiguan (or other Caribbean / island roots), OR you grew up in NYC during the 80 Blocks From Tiffanys / Bronx is Burning period in the city’s history, or you have experienced difficult familial relationships, strained parental relationships, challenges in Co-Parenting, challenges over people exhibiting antiblackness against you, mental + physical health challenges, grief, self esteem issues, or even if you just happen to learn well from mistakes of others — get this book.
The next day I went to the nail salon — which is part of me trying to focus on self care & Joy As Resistance. I didn’t have a plan for my nail design so I sat down and chatted with the two Latina women who were going to do them. I said how about pre-valentines nails? Give me the colors of those godawful candyhearts we used to eat.
As we collaborated to create a fun look, I thought about the music I played on #tidal that day asked them to make these nails a love letter to black women’s pop musical joy. I asked for names like: Rihanna (a caribbean struggle-to-joy story in it’s own right), Meg the Stallion (a tall girl’s delight with all the wily lyricism & sexual agency that goes with it), Lizzo (who reminds me of a gorgeous cousin of mine in all her bold confidence), and Normani (who faced down antiblack racism in her group, and has come back with a bang as a solo artist).
Finally the nails were finished. I wriggled my fingers looking at them, and thought about the book I read the night before. And how, like the pop stars on my nails, (& like so many of us women), the author of that book #AdjuaStyles, had gone through a LOT as a black woman, and still kept her head high. From the antiblackness I’ve seen ppl throw at her, to the remaking of her self with different career talents. to surviving loss.
She may not be a pop star, but she was just as much on my mind in that moment. I mentioned the book to the #nailtechs. Do you think I should add her name or is that weird. “Omg how inspiring. ADD HER NAME,” they said. And I’ve been enjoying these pre- Vday, #blackgirlmagic nails for days now. ❤️
TO PURCHASE Adjua’s book visit barnes and noble here or http://www.adjuastyles.com.
So proud to finally announce that TTK has created three exclusive designs for Urban Outfitters! The designs are bound to make you smile. Especially the one in which TTK’s turns his manager into his muse. If you know TTK, you probably know that people in his life pop up in his artwork, whether we’re ready for it or not 😂
Shop the collection at Urban Outfitters. But hurry. When they’re gone – they’re gone!
Thank you in advance to all the avid Art by TTK collectors. This one’s a piece of history. Snag yours here.
In celebration of the Unbelievable B.I.G., who repped BK to the fullest: Little Giants teamed up with art director TTK and got a few special bangers for y’all!! Available now, in store and online. Limited in quantity, infinite in sauce. These are must haves for any fan of the Notorious One. Shop T-Shirts & Onesies at WeAreLittleGiants.com.
I recommitted my time to helping young girls, and I’m so glad I did. In the past, I’ve guided young women and girls in my family. But I felt like the universe was giving me signs and telling me to add more mentoring to my plate.
There was the day two suburban mothers engaged me at length on an Amtrak train. They asked for my views and tips on connecting with teen girls without judging or alienating them. “You really should be a mentor,” one said emphatically at the conclusion of our conversation. “I wish you lived near me and my daughter,” the other said laughing. There was the day I was on the phone with a friend, who said any girl–including his own daughter–would be lucky to have me as a confidant. I even received an out of the blue text from a friend who looked at my IG and felt compelled to tell me that she thinks I’d make a great mentor. The universe kept showing me signs, then sent me an opportunity to volunteer at Career Day events in both Westchester and Brownsville. I was invited by my friend’s Sam and Richardine.
After participating in Career Days, I knew I wanted to do some more mentoring. So I applied with an organization. Now, I’m pleased to share that I have been quietly mentoring for the past six months via an organization that pairs us with immigrant and first generation girls. The goal is to help them navigate the challenges of life in the U.S. – and the added challenges of their home country’s culture (which can sometimes include out-of-date family mindsets about what girls can achieve). The experience has been fulfilling.
Recently during an online session, I realized my mentee was struggling to understand the suite of Google software. I suggested she ask her parent for permission to have me stop by on the weekend to train her.
“I don’t have a computer at home,” she said. “And the computers in the lab here at school aren’t great, and are almost always occupied.”
I was silent for a moment. I’d naively assumed she’d have regular computer access in school for a screenshare. My mind raced like those calculating memes, trying to think of what to do next.
I thought back to the time I was collecting supplies for a college-bound girl and how Dutchie Flair, Allison Veronica and others encouraged me to start a gofundme for her. I was able to collect donations, supplies—one of my followers donated a Mac laptop. I refocused, remembering she was waiting on me to respond. This girl, fresh from Guyana, living in New York, without proper access to a computer in 2018. “Ok. We’ll figure something out,” I said hurriedly. In the end, my mentee and I met up in Brooklyn. Using local business WiFi and my computer, I taught her how to use multiple Google tools. Her eyes lit up with each new discovery. By the end of the afternoon, she was able to explain the value of everything she’d learned that day. I was happy we made the special session work. The most surprising thing I learned this particular day was how much my mentee likes green smoothies—which she’d never tasted before—as well as how excited she was to know that the businesses we’d visited (and borrowed WIFi from) were African American or West Indian owned. So thank you Juices 4 Life, Jordan heads and everyone else who runs storefront, community-minded business like these. You constantly inspire me, and you’re helping me inspire young people.
Mentoring takes dedication. Sometimes I can’t step out because I have to prepare for a session. Sometimes I have to move meetings and personal appointments around. But I know it is all worth it. Because without the various people who took (and still take) time to provide a kind ear and guidance, I myself don’t know where I’d be. What a blessing to be able to give back.
Are you interested in learning about opportunities to mentor young people? Hit me up via my contact page and let’s see if I can help connect you to an opportunity to get started. Mentoring orgs always need people like you.
The new Complex documentary ‘Horse Power’ highlights how Hip-Hop took Polo Ralph Lauren and made it their own. So proud to say that TTK (@goTTKgo’s) art direction was commissioned for the opening sequence of the film! Sign up for TTK’s mailing list to keep up with more announcements like this.
To watch the film, click here. And remember to leave a positive comment about TTK’s art direction in the comments on youtube, under this instagram post, this tweet, and under this FB post.
If you haven’t snagged one of TTK’s Limited Edition shirts yet, I strongly suggest you grab the last few before they’re gone. Shop now at ArtByTTK.com. Thank you all for your support, always.
To our newest supporters, please remember to Follow TTK (@GOTTKO) on IG to keep up with his artistic endeavors. Watch the full film below!
Grandmaster Melle Mel doesn’t bill himself as a comedic personality, but when he’s paired up with fellow Bronx legend Lord Finesse, he sure lights up like one. Humorous, heartfelt, humanizing. Those words accurately describe Lord Finesse and Melle Mel’s responses to Miss Info’s questions at the Sonos “Tales from the Bronx” in-store Q&A.
Read below for a few of the questions, responses and quotes that stuck with me.
Describe the parties you attended before DJ Kool Herc began throwing his own jams?
Before Herc, most of our parties would be all guys in the party . No girls was there ! You could go to Herc’s parties like ” Damn!” He was the first one in Hip- Hop with the total package in the party. – Mel
What’s one of the most special things about the Bronx?
One of the most special things about the Bronx is all the original Doo-Wop and Salsa groups came from the same area of the Bronx that me and Lord Finesse are from – Morrisania. A lot of talent came from the Bronx. ((“Must be something in the water,” Miss info responded.)) Yes, but these days there’s too many people that want ‘more,’ but don’t appreciate what they got! – Mel
Talk about growing up in the Bronx, and what Hip-Hop meant to you then.
[People ask] why do I dress like this. I dress like this because when I was in the Hood we ate CHICKEN FEET AND CHICKEN BACKS. Hip-Hop was my one opportunity to be somebody and I took it. I may not have made it to the money spot but Hip-Hop is all around the world now. We won. These days there are many people who want ‘more,’ but don’t appreciate what they have.
Back then, how did you feel about the song The Message?
Ed Fletcher wrote the main part of the song. I’ll be honest, I didn’t wanna do The Message at first because we was rapping about partying! We didn’t believe in the song. Only Sylvia Robinson believed in the song, and at the end of the day, you gonna cave to what a woman says. (Laughter)
One night we were at a huge party. This was around the time the song Planet Rock was hot. Sylvia was gonna play The Message. I was nervous so I stood in a corner off to the side! They was playing Planet Rock, when suddenly they took it off and threw on The Message. Everyone in the dance froze at first, then the reaction was instant. It worked!
She made the right record at the right time. Like Cardi B. – It may not be the best record but it’s the right record at the right time. The song changed Hip-Hop, and changed my whole career. It was the first record that actually said something. – Mel
Finesse on DITC forming as a group
It wasn’t like we were aiming to put a group together. It was just organic. We was all solo artist s trying to form a group. So putting DITC together… was difficult.
How’d you meet Big L.?
At a music conference.. someone came up to me and said this guy wanna rap for you and says he’s so good that he’ll only rap for you once. And if you hate it – he’ll never bother you again. I thought, well shit… I gotta hear this guy.
Do you remember any names from the music conference where you met Big L?
Oh man… The host was Serch… the DJ was Biz Mark. Um, you had RSO with young Benzino…
What should be the driving force when artists hit the studio to make music?
I think with hip hop, to make it fun it gotta be organic. Anytime you look at something and say I gotta do the same thing as the other guy–you’re saying you’re happy with being number two. Because the original is already out there.
On artists complaining about their position
You just a copy so don’t be doing that [imitating whatever is hot], then complain that you’re not hailed as one of the greatest—you were #2 from jump!
Describe what lyricism meant to you at that time?
What people don’t understand is we went from Cold Crush to Melle Mel to Rakim. The progressive bar was set so high I was like… I gotta be good! These dudes pushed me!
MISS INFO: “Alexa, play Lord Finesse, Funky technician.”
ALEXA: “Now Playing funky technician by Lord Finesse and Mike Smooth “
And with that , Craig G’s immortalized voice blared through the speakers on the hook.
As I watched the crowd of listeners applaud these two cultural architects, I thought about how much it means to me, a woman with some BX roots, to see people from the Bronx speaking honestly about the challenges they endured, the foundation they built, and strides they have made in this imperfect but beautiful thing called Hip-Hop and in this one life we have to live.
Mmm, mmm, mmm. Ain’t that somethin’.
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