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Beyoncé in Black is King, 2020

Black is King. A simple three-word phrase that is synonymous with Beyoncé telling us fellow Black humans that we are glorious. In fact, she says “let Black be synonymous with glory.” If we focus on just glorifying blackness at the root, then she did that. But if we think about blackness as a big oak tree rather than a root, then she only scratched the surface. And she scratched that surface beautifully, might I add. With her beautiful rhythm of dance, color in super HD quality, regal hairstyles, and the celebration of black bodies, she did that exceedingly beautifully. However, what missed the mark for me was that the Black is King story focused on Africa. Yes, the Lion King is African and blackness as well as humanity originates in Africa but the Africa she chose to focus on was historical Africa instead of showcasing present-day Africa as well.

This is evident in the focus on historic Egyptian headpieces and traditional hairstyles such as those seen below.

It is also evident in the landscapes chosen as the backdrops chosen for the Black is King film which present Africa as just beautiful Natural Geographic worthy scenes without showcasing the developed cityscapes of Africa. Again, I do think that her point was to show historic Africa rather than present-day Africa so I can understand that vision. However, I am sure Beyoncé does not in the bushes when she visits African countries so why not the 5-star African hotels that she probably frequents. Why not show the Africa that exists today? Why not show landscapes different from what National Geographic shows already? Sure, adding her body and several dancers couples with great costumes does show a different perspective but this vision could have been bigger. Even the movie Black Panther tried to connect Africa with African Americans in the end with the scene shot in Compton. On the same note, I think Beyoncé could have tried to connect more dots in the film Black is King. Black is not just King when it relates to Africa. Black is King in the NBA, in the NFL, in music, in educational excellence, and the list goes on. People might say I am missing the point of the film but please think about the fact that Beyoncé’s last three tours did not include any African countries. So with that record, I can see how people can interpret that Beyoncé doesn’t truly care about Africa and is just using African culture for capitalistic gain. However, I do have to applaud her for her effort in glorifying Blackness. I did feel proud to be black while watching Black is King so if that was her mission then she achieved it. However, if she was trying to make a statement on Africa then she definitely missed that mark. Let me remind you that Africa is a continent made up of 54 countries. Fifty-Four. So maybe we are asking too much from Beyoncé in representing Africa cohesively. Maybe we should not expect that a film that is one hour and 25 minutes long can do so much for us. With that said, maybe we should just appreciate Black is King for what it is: a film with impeccable costumes, storytelling, and rhythm in dance as well as music.

The music is actually my favorite part about Black is King with “Find your way back” as my top song pick. I also appreciate that Beyoncé made an effort to collaborate with African musicians such as Yemi Alade, Shatta Wale, and Wizkid. While the representation of Africa was not cohesive,  I found the music to be well organized. I think great music is what we can truly expect from the multi-Grammy award-winning artists that Beyoncé is and she did that beautifully. So Beyoncé, please don’t go chasing waterfalls the next time you’re in Africa. We’ve seen enough African waterfalls. Show us something different. Please and Thank you.

Life in the time of coronavirus

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Tampa, Florida March 2020

The past few weeks amid this coronavirus crisis have reminded me one thing: how to not overcomplicate life. We all have so many desires, expectations, and goals that we sometimes forget to live for today, for now. I am writing this after learning that one of my family friends has passed away in a tragic manner. At this time, we are so focused on not being infected with coronavirus that we forget that people are still dying in other ways. Someone probably died from a heart attack today, another probably from drowning, and others from several freak accidents that happen every day. However, we forget this and continue to live life in our bubble. We take our life for granted and focus on myriad issues like petty work drama. 

I hope that this coronavirus downtime teaches us to focus on what really matters: our heart, mind, and spirit. Do more of what makes you happy. Since some of us may be stuck indoors during this time, try a new hobby like meditation, drawing, or writing music. I would suggest cooking but I wouldn’t want you to end up eating all of your quarantine groceries. I have started listening to podcasts on the way home from work since we healthcare workers still have to report to duty. The last podcast I listened to was Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations, specifically the one where she interviews a self-help author Harville Hendrix about how we look for partners based on our childhood relationships with our parents. I will like to dive deeper into this topic in a future post but in the meantime, please listen to the podcast when you get a chance. I’ll post the link to the website where you can listen to it for free below.  I wish you peace, love, and happiness during this time as always 🙂 ❤

https://omny.fm/shows/oprah-s-supersoul-conversations/07-190-make-love-last-022520-w-alt-header

The blueprint for love: self-love

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Houston wedding, December 2019

From the moment you become responsible for your life choices (let’s say adulthood), you become married despite your relationship status. Why? Because self-love is marriage. Self-love is a life-long commitment to one-self to make decisions that serve to protect and flourish oneself. Therefore, I believe that we enter a polygamous relationship when we get married to another person. How? Because your love for one-self should not dissolve once you say “I do” to another person. Love has to be divided between love for yourself and for the other person. Or if you and your partner are truly in sync, then theoretically loving the other person is like loving yourself. Either way, self-love should not be compromised in order to love another person: that would be the definition of a toxic relationship.

I am not a married person myself so my perspective may be a bit extreme but from what I have heard from people like Will and Jada Smith is that a relationship cannot complete you. You complete yourself through self-love. This is why understanding yourself and dating yourself first, before and during marriage is so important. Another person can only complement who you are. So I guess the “he/she is my other half” statement is a bit misleading. We are all our own people. A better statement that is now becoming popular is “I choose to love my husband/wife each and every day.” I agree with this statement more as it highlights that love is a choice. It’s not a feeling; lust is a feeling. Love is a choice and you have to mentally decide to love your partner through sickness and in health till do death you part.

Some people wonder about unconditional love. However, I think it is rare to find unconditional love between romantic love. I think unconditional love is usually for parents and children. Most people have a mental list of actions that would make them walk away from their partner: infidelity, dishonesty, addiction, and the list goes on. But I do recognize that most people continue to love the people who they walked away from or who walked away from them. However, that love decreases in intensity and is not as compelling for them to want to be with that other person. Therefore, I am of the theory that love does have conditions.

To tie the concept of unconditional love and self-love, I believe that we learn our requirements or conditions of love by loving ourselves. When you don’t tolerate negative self-talk, you will not accept someone talking to you in any kind of way. When you follow through on your goals and commitments to yourself, you won’t allow someone to tell you that you are too high maintenance or that your conditions are unreasonable. Therefore, how you love yourself provides the blueprint of how someone else is to love you. I wish you all success in love to yourself and to or from others.  🙂 ❤

Meghan and Harry: the future of royalty?

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Unless you have been living under a rock, I am sure you have heard that the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry will be leaving the United Kingdom and will not be active members of the British Royal Family. If someone made me a pseudo-princess and told me to just look pretty, I might love the job of being a Duchess. But let us not forget that Meghan has been subject to unfair invasion of privacy and scrutiny by the British tabloids. Let us also not forget that she was a working woman before Prince Harry and had already made millions on her own- while looking very pretty, I might add. Now let’s talk about Prince Harry.

Prince Harry was, of course, brought up in the British Royal Family since birth but has always been a rebel. For example, he joined the British army in 2006 and rose up the ranks to captain.  He served a total of 10 years which included some time in Afghanistan. The man, excuse- Prince, clearly loves his country enough to put his life at risk for it. So why does such a man decide to opt-out of the cozy life in the Royal Family? Maybe because he knows what happened to his mother. Princess Diana was constantly attacked by the media especially when she divorced Prince Harry’s father, Prince Charles. Divorce in the Royal Family was virtually unheard of unless you count the annulments of King Henry VIII from his multiple wives. However, Princess Diana had every right to do so as Prince Charles was cheating on her and in love with his mistress Camilla, who is now his wife and the Duchess of Cornwall.  Unfortunately, her decision to divorce led her to be critiqued for every little thing such as her clothing to who she dated after the divorce. The only time the criticism from the media stopped is when she died in a fatal car crash in 1997. Side note: I think I would consider naming my child Diana because my mom was obsessed with her as a young lady.

So when you mix the independent woman Meghan and the rebel Harry, what do you get? Class, the answer is a revolution. If Meghan and Harry do in-fact become financially independent of the crown, then this could be a major precedent for all royal families. That’s right, they should put that silver spoon down and go learn how to make their own money. And if all royal families can be independent of taxes and royalties, then I think that money can go to better things like the war on poverty. Also, can the royal family please give back Africa its jewels and artifacts.

In other words, I am impressed by what Meghan and Harry have done. Their child is truly blessed to have parents who are humble and independent thinkers. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Meghan and Harry who I will now call the Markle-David family because Harry’s full name is actually Henry Charles Albert David. I think he wins the record for having the most number of first names. I guess Prince Charles could not decide whether to honor himself or his father in Harry’s middle names. On the other hand, I am glad that Harry has decided to honor his wife, himself, and his child in deciding to leave the United Kingdom for life in North America. Who doesn’t love a man who stands up for his wife? I am sure this is going to be a movie one day and I hope to God, it will be an Oscar-worthy film and not a cheesy lifetime movie like the last one. May God bless Meghan and Harry 🙂 ❤

You vs I

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Houston, 2019

The picture to the left was taken at my best friend’s Vietnamese wedding/tea ceremony. It was a beautiful display of love and tradition.  It was an honor being there for her big day. According to my dad, love is taking care. As her maid of honor, I have observed how both she and her now-husband care for each other ❤

Flowers were a major theme of both her Vietnamese and American weddings. Today, I found this poem I had started writing a while back and it reminded me of how understanding how to love a person can be as difficult as learning how to keep a flower or any plant alive. The poem is kind of somber but I hope you enjoy it ❤

You want to possess me
but you don’t nourish me.
You forget that even a rose withers
when it’s not watered.
You tend to my petals
but you forget my thorns.
You seek to explore my beauty
but don't seek to understand my flaws.
You look at me with lust in your eyes
yet you do not see me.
You touch my skin
but you don’t feel what’s inside.
I am more than this shell.
I am more than how my name is spelled.
I am more than the cards life has dealt.
I am more complex than the ocean’s depth.

Thank you for reading 🙂 ❤

“Happiest place on earth” – Disney World Review

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Orlando, FL. October 2019

 

I would like to start by saying thank you to my best friend for doing the most in planning her bachelorette week celebration in Orlando, Florida. My family and I went to Universal Studios and Sea World when I was a kid so I was mostly excited about Disney World. As the blog title suggests, Disney World is known as “the happiest place on earth”. It should also be known as one of the most expensive places on earth as a bottle of water is like $5 U.S. dollars but anyway it was worth it. The place is truly and utterly beautiful, especially the magic kingdom where the picture to the left is taken. On the first day, I dressed up in “Princess Jasmine” inspired attired with a matching crop top and pant set from Fashion Nova (I bought this last year so it may no longer be on their website). My second favorite place was Epcot which features several recreations of different cities around the world and world cuisine including Tusker from Kenya. Disclaimer: Epcot food can never live up to the original world cuisine but most of the curated items are tasty (see pic below).

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peri peri skewered shrimp with rice on plate 1. curried beef on plate 2. Tusker Kenyan Beer in the lone cup.

The Magic Kingdom: A major part of what makes the magic kingdom so magical is the cinderella castle which is so captivating and which lights up at night. In addition, there is a fireworks show surrounding the castle at 9pm every night. And this is a fireworks show that you can actually write home about (case in point, this blog). I also loved pretending that I was Princess Jasmine when we found a bazaar that resembled those in the movie. (See pics below).

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Finally, let’s not forget the main event which was my best friend’s bachelorette celebration. I had a really fun time being around her and the other bridesmaids. Disney has a lot to offer although their rides are not really scary. I can’t wait to continue the celebration at the wedding in less than 30 days. Woohoo! Cheers to the soon to be newlyweds! 🙂 ❤

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Epcot, Disney World, October 2019

Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving! ❤

 

Lion King Movie Review ft East African Music

 

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July 2019

I know most of us have already watched the original lion king so there will be no spoilers from this review. The story from the first movie released in 1994 is pretty much the same in the 2019 release. Thankfully James Earl Jones is still alive to do the voice of Mufasa yet again because I cannot imagine anyone else doing it. Above all, the visuals were ridiculously amazing as they used images of real animals instead of cartoons. Beyoncé as Nala’s voice has been a source of frenzy among her wide fan base including me. She has even blessed us with a musical Lion King themed album entitled The Gift. However, there has been a bit of backlash from East Africans who felt that the album that Beyoncé released only featured West African artists while there are many solid East African artists who could have contributed to the album. This is especially controversial considering that Swahili, the second language used in the film, is an East African language. For example, mufasa means king while simba means lion in Swahili. And yes, “No worries” is actually “Hakuna Matata” in Swahili. As such, I will highlight 5 East African musicians who could have been featured on the album.

  1. Sauti Sol. 

Sauti Sol is a Kenyan band made up of four guys who have amazing vocal chords. This video is of an acapella performance that they did for the song “Kuliko Jana” which means “than yesterday”, as to say that today is better than yesterday. I think this song could have actually been a good background song for the movie especially in the beautiful ending of the Lion King story.

    2. Eddy Kenzo. 

Eddy Kenzo popularized the so called “ghetto dancing kids” from Uganda who were even featured in French Montana’s music video for the song “Unforgettable” with Swae Lee. I have seen him perform live in Dallas at a Kenyan event and he was amazing with so much energy.

    3. Selamawit Yohannes. 

I actually discovered Selamawit from a quick youtube search of top Ethiopian music which goes to show that there’s no excuse to being ignorant in this age of the internet. I have always loved Ethiopian music but somehow I forgot the names of the musicians so I need to work on that. Nevertheless, I love Ethiopian traditional dance and how they play the flute. Without a doubt, their music is very unique and would be a great addition to the Lion King movie soundtrack.

   4. Diamond Platnumz. 

Diamond is undeniably the most successful artist in East Africa right now so I do not know why he was left off the soundtrack. Diamond is such a diversified musician as he can make soulful r&b and club music easily. Basically, every song he touches turns to gold. If there will be another Lion King movie, he should not be forgotten especially since he sings in Swahili and English.

  5. Vanessa Mdee. 

Vanessa was at Essence Fest in New Orleans this year which goes to show that she is gaining popularity outside of Tanzania. I  would venture to say that she is Tanzania’s Beyoncé as she can sing, dance, and act (triple threat baby). I think her future is bright and she should be considered for Hollywood movies and soundtracks in the future.

Despite the lack of diversity in soundtrack, I do believe that the new Lion King is a worthwhile watch. Again, the visuals are absolutely beautiful and so surreal (the hyenas are a bit scary looking though so be ready if animals are a trigger for you). I really hope that we get a second film which has a more continent inclusive sound track. Also, I would really love a good backstory on Scar because understanding the psychology of a villain kind of excites me (Criminal Minds anyone?). I also just really love looking at images of lions so I think I could sit through hours of that haha. If you happen to watch the movie, feel free to comment with your thoughts 🙂 ❤

Love: is there a formula?

10258Before I start this post, let me give a shout out to my best friend who did this digital sketch of a selfie that I took in 2014. From what I remember, it was during summer classes in June and I had a daily ritual of a mid-day nap so this was either before or after the nap (probably after, because my lips tend to dilate while I sleep).

This post is about love and I think the feeling of love is only seconded by the feeling of a really good nap (in my opinion, both induce rose colored glasses and necessary to life). From talking to several different people (including my parents and married family friends) this past weekend, I started to wonder if there is a formula to love. Well, my friends, I have reached the conclusion that the answer is both yes and no. No because typically in a formula you have an independent (x) and dependent variable (y). So if y=love, then x would have to equal something that we all determine to result in love if there was a direct relationship between x and y. Okay, that is enough math for today but my point is, we have not scientifically determined any one thing that results in love all the time. However, we do know certain factors that may be assist in the process of love. My small interview based research with my parents and family friends yielded common results. Almost everyone will tell you honesty, trust, and patience are important in love. So we can assume that those are probably part of the formula especially in terms of long-lasting love. So in my opinion, the answer is yes and no. For the final math/science reference, if honesty, trust, and patience are part of the formula then they would be referred to as constants since they would be unchanging.  Therefore, maybe we should focus on the constants of love and somewhere we will find the (x- male or female in this case) that makes it work (thereby, turning y to equal love).

Some of the conversations I engaged in also produced some quotes that I would like to share below.

  1. “If your partner/lover/whatever-you-want-to-call-them lies to you about small stuff, run the other way because they will definitely lie to you about bigger stuff.”
  2. “Go with the flow.” When my mom and dad met they both were not trying to force the relationship to work. According to my mother, they both kept talking about breaking up until they both realized that they actually deeply cared about each other. None of them took the relationship that seriously until it actually became serious. Supposedly, there is less chance of heart break this way but keep in mind that there is no true formula to love.
  3. “Do what makes you happy.” Of course, you have to consider long term vs short term happiness but in most cases, you will never regret what made you happy. I recently shared with one of my friends that I do not get scared about a relationship turning bad anymore because if it made me happy for x amount of months or years then it was not a waste of time. I have also been watching a TV show called Billions (thanks to my male best friend that put me on to this really cool show ) which is mainly based on stock investment firms and how they manage their investments. To me love can be an investment because you expect the love to grow/appreciate over the years. Love is more of a long term stock. However, there is an investment strategy known as shorting or short-selling where you borrow a stock at a certain price and quickly return it when the price goes down. So imagine your potential mate is a stock, if their perceived value to you (emotionally and mentally most importantly) goes down then you can feel free to return them to the universe.

I feel like this turned into an extensive thought piece (probably because I am writing this at 1am which is when my mind really peaks haha). I apologize if you have a deep fear of math and this post triggered you. 🙂 ❤

What I’ve learned from celebrity relationships

meghan-markle-prince-harry-parenthood-1024x781.jpgIf celebrity relationships weren’t interesting, then most magazines would cease to exist because that is one of the prime reasons people buy them.  Shout out to our previous house owner who was subscribed to PEOPLE magazine so I get updated on Meghan Markle and Harry’s marriage every week (even though, paper mail gives me anxiety because of a) bills and b) tree deforestation for the purpose of paper). The main thing I learned from Meghan and Harry’s relationship is that if a man wants you, he will break all the rules to have you (i.e. marrying a divorced older woman). So with that, never accept an excuse from a man as to why he cannot be with you because a man will try to move heaven and earth if he really wants to be with you. With this post, I am doing the sandwich method where you present the good first, the bad second, and then finish with good. Therefore, the next two cases are not so romantic.

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Beyoncé & Jay Z. My main take away from their marriage is that Jay Z is likely to have cheated on one of the most beautiful women on this earth. Like that thought still crosses my mind in a while and I am just dumbfounded that this is even possible. But if he did, then she clearly has forgiven him and it is inspiring to know that level of forgiveness exists because clearly, I don’t have that much mercy on people. Especially for a woman who is independently successful to stay with a man that she doesn’t necessarily need, that is on another level for me. But maybe the possible beat down on Jay Z that happened on the elevator by Beyoncé’s sister, Solange, was enough to even the score.

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Khloe Kardashian& anyone. She has married a cocaine addict (Lamar Odom) and has recently been in the news for being cheated on by professional basketball player and maybe professional adulterer Tristan Thompson. In this recent debacle, she blamed the girl, Jordyn Woods, that Tristan supposedly kissed instead of making her man accountable for his actions. Lesson learned here is do not be so desperate that you accept whatever behavior a man throws at you. It is better to be alone than to be a doormat that just says WELCOME to anyone and everyone.

kim-kanye.jpgKim Kardashian & Kanye West. Unlike her sister Khloe, Kim has actually managed to have a seemingly beautiful relationship with Kanye. When the sex tape of Kim came out in 2003, I am pretty sure nobody thought that she would be happily married and with a family of four kids in 2019. But yet here we are and I think that is because Kim has really high self-esteem to the point that she did not let that oops moment define her (If anything, she capitalized on it and made money off it as many people are still Keeping up with the Kardashians). So the lesson here is to not let your last relationship be a setback; keep it moving and focus on your hustle as the rest will follow.

priya and nickPriyanka Chopra & Nick Jonas. What can I say? As someone who has been obsessed with Priyanka Chopra even before she crossed over to America with the show Quantico, I never thought she would end up with a man 10 years her junior. But to be honest, we do not usually find a problem with men dating younger women so I don’t think we should shame women for it either. To me, Priyanka and Nick both seem happy and that is what really matters. I am sure at age 36 and gorgeous, she has been courted by many men and knew what she wanted enough not to just settle for Nick. The main lesson I learned from this experience is not to rush love and jump into a relationship for the sake of it. As they say, good things come to those who wait.

will-smith-jada-pinkett-smith-01.jpgJada Pinkett-Smith & Will Smith. I do not believe in making anyone my role model because like Tupac said: “a role is something people play, a model is something people make, and both of those things are fake”. However, I will say that I admire Jada and Will’s relationship because they both seem like deeply introspective people who seek to understand themselves and each other in order to make their marriage really work. I know there are rumors at there that they have an open relationship but they have not come out to confirm that so I will dismiss that conversation. My favorite statement from Will Smith is from a recent YouTube video stating that he does not hold his wife responsible for his happiness. Happiness is a choice and only you can choose to make yourself happy. A relationship is not a hobby. Whatever made you happy when you were single should not be neglected just because you have a sidekick now. In essence, do not set unrealistic expectations on your partner. He or she cannot be your sun or your moon no matter how hard he or she tries.

I hope you all achieve and maintain happiness within you, with or without a relationship. 🙂 ❤

 

How to ENRICH your LIFE: La Joie de Vivre

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In summer of 2012, I interned at the Institute of Primate Research in Nairobi, Kenya where they conduct very groundbreaking research especially on tropical diseases (and before you ask, yes they conduct ethically sound research that follows World of Health Animal Research Protocols). My favorite part of the internship was the enrichment project where select staff, such as myself, played with the monkeys, chimps, and other primates for at least an hour a day. This enrichment project was created under the reason that the primates should still have a life with some daily fun even though they were being used for research. I was reflecting upon this experience recently and I realized that even humans are primates so we have to remember to always create some joy in our lives. The word enrichment is befitting because it enhances the value and quality of our lives. Another phrase that I love is “la joie de vivre” which is French for “joy of life”.

I personally find my joie de vivre in three things: art, food, and music. I just recently had a quick vacation to Houston that encompassed those three things so let me highlight them below in picture format.

ART (all pictures taken at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX)

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FOOD

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The Savoy Restaurant is definitely a must-visit spot for Indo-Pakistani food. At the bottom left of the photo, you can see green specks in the naan which are cilantro and Jalapeno peppers. As such, this naan is called “the bullet” naan. This was my first time having it and now I am obsessed. Also, tried goat brain masala which was better than one could expect. My favorite, of course, was the goat biryani.

MUSIC

The main person that inspired my recent trip to Houston is Lauryn Hill as she had a concert lined up on Thursday, May the 9th. Despite bad weather and flash flood warning, we showed up and luckily, she did too. Her performance was amazing and she delivered considering 20 plus years have passed since the release of her album, The MisEducation of Lauryn Hill. Her guitarists and backup singers were on point too. Please watch the clip below for a morsel of her performance.

 

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you take time to reflect on how you can or will continue to ENRICH your LIFE. Thanks for reading 🙂 ❤