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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challenges of life in the U.S. – and the added challenges of their home country’s culture (which can sometimes include out-of-date family mindsets about what girls can achieve).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.
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’.
What do you get when you mix champagne, green juice and good people? The Juices For Life Brooklyn Anniversary event. For many years I’ve imagined the perfect celebration. It would involve refreshments that delight plant eaters, alcohol imbibers alike. Sometimes I want to sip veggie juice and a glass of bubbly in the same place. Last night, Adjua, Styles P., Angela Yee and DJ Envy made it happen at their Juices For Life Brooklyn Anniversary event.
For me, some of the highlights of the carefully curated evening included, the bubbly, the building, the positive energy from the crew and guests, the dancing, the selfies, the spicy vegan empanadas, and of course, the green juices. I saw people sharing wellness advice with each other. I even discovered a juicing newbie in the crowd, and got him all hype to make drinkin juices a habit.
I’ve given advice to friends, family and some of our favorite emcees on how to eat well. I know how much our collective saying: “each one teach one” matters. I know how fast good info can spread if we take care to share it with our friends, families and people with influence. Good info can save a life.
Similar to the climate during some of Hip Hop’s golden years, it seems there’s a renaissance happening that aims to rekindle the popularity of the edutainment and community-minded spirit of our beloved culture. From Styles and Adjua’s healthy juice talks and candid interview about their daughter’s sexuality, suicide, emotional health, and more–to Envy and Angela holding court on the breakfast club with finance gurus and mental health advocates–it’s clear that this collective crew wants to broaden the minds, hearts and health of hip hoppers, low income earners and other groups of people who could stand to learn more about how food functions as fuel for the body and mind.
There are many reasons why I’m moved by the celebration of this Juices For Life anniversary. Since a young age, I’ve been on a quest to listen to my body and reconnect with whatever my ancestral DNA tells me my body wants to eat. Plants became one of the staples for me. Being raised to give back, and to “tell a friend,” I make it a point to share info on wellness whether it be Byron Hurt’s Soul Food Junkie film, the Hood Health Handbook, my own juice recipes, or more personal essays, like the hip-hop community health reflection I penned after Sean Price was laid to rest.
I had a juice habit already but the first time Lord Finesse took me to the Bronx Juices For Life location, I knew The Lox were onto something special. They were running their business in a tradition I recognized. A tradition similar to the Rastafarian style of serving healthy food while educating the community and providing a place to convene and talk that multiracial, racial justice, solidarity talk on any given afternoon.
They say real recognize real and love is love. Looks like the Juices For Life owners are trying to show us exactly what real love, and good business sense look like when they are combined.
Visit Juices For Life
View my archive of health posts
In a new experiential endeavor, the Juices For Life team got together with Sacha Jenkins from Mass Appeal for ‘Show And Prove’.
Hosted by Styles P. And Adjua Styles, the event kicked off with a discussion about how the juice bar chain Juices For Life came to be, and what lifestyle the brand is meant to represent.
“I used to have acne, eczema, a bad attitude and a worse temper!” Styles explained. “Now, I give credit to my wife. She into a plant based diet so now… Well, I still have an attitude, but no eczema, no acne and a much better temper!”
The crowd laughed, but leaned in as Styles continued to share the ways in which believes adding more plants to his diet has helped him manage all of the stress that can accumulate in the body. He encouraged people to get in the habit of learning new plant facts more regularly, and to begin taking with eachother about our emotional, mental and physical health–and the ways in which food can affect all three.
When the time came for questions and discussion, one of the first people to pipe up from the crowd was Bun B. Standing near his wife he raised his hand and said, “I want to drink more juice, but I don’t want to stop drinking liquor. If the juice I’ve been drinking with my liquor is messing me up, should I switch to another?”
More laughter from the room led into an appreciation for the truthfulness in Bun’s question. The answer was yes, try another mixer. For example, cranberry juice may be too acidic for some people, but there are other juices that are less so.
One of the most interesting things about this private event was the way in which honesty and camaraderie took over the room. Styles emphasized his wish to open up conversations about all aspects of wellness, especially in black and brown households. “It’s not just about the juice bar,” he said, encouraging people to juice at home or eat more plants wherever they can fit them in.
When a visitor commented on how juicing must be a great way to lose weight, Adjua Styles interjected, “It’s not just about weight. Adding more plants to your diet is about wellness. If anything, weight loss is just a bonus.”
That is one of the truest things I’ve come to learn about adding plants to my own diet as a young adult. There are plants that literally fight to protect cells against cancer. There are plants that work to reduce nausea. Still more, there are plants that help fortify the immune system or even clear a stuffy nose. There are many reasons to add various plants to what we eat, most of which go way beyond simple weight loss.
Another standout feature of the event was the description of the lifestyle Adjua and Styles P are pushing. Styles described it as wanting to get money, but not wanting to put money over health. He encouraged everyone to share the knowledge they learned from the event, and not to let it end there. I raised my glass of juice to that.
Scroll down to view some photos from the event. You can also right-click on any of the photo quotes above to save them to your phone and share them across social media to inspire others.
What happened when I met up with Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs at a black-owned juice bar in Bed Stuy? Lots of laughs, lots of truths about the hardship of growing up homeless with depression, and–a few pleasant surprises! Watch my interview with the champ and follow me on Twitter and both of us on Instagram @Chevonmedia + @Cannon_Briggs! Be sure to check out Shannon’s website, LetsGoChamp.com, where you can get his signature shirts, hats, hoodies and more.
Forbes interviewed me about being the recipient of numerous “can I pick your brain” requests. I share valuable tips on managing those requests with empathy and a firm hand. Read the full story here or by clicking on the image above.
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