My bounty from Afrolatinofest NYC

AfrolatinofestNYC, which this year paid tribute to women in the diaspora, with symposiums, film screenings, performances and more in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, was a lovely event.

The performances by a bevy of powHERful AfroLatinx artists were beautiful and it was something to see so many happy little AfroLatino children there, looking up at stage, seeing amazing artists do their thing.

I had a very “take all my money” moment on Saturday at BedStuy’s Restoration Plaza, as I felt the vendors the organizers brought in were FANTASTIC. Simply unique & beautiful goods were on display, and all seemed very reasonably priced, too.

I wanted to give them a boost here, as sharing is caring!

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Just some of the items I purchased from vendors at NYC’s AfroLatinoFest.

Ile La Serrana, run by NYC’s Natalia Serrano, sells stationary and other goodies “for magical folks.” More info on her Facebook page.

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Notebooks by Ile La Serrana

Brooklyn Brujeria, run by Brooklyn’s Chelsea Smith (aka Chiquita Brujita), sells power prayer candles for the modern bruja!

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Candles by Chiquita Brujita

Las Ofrendas, out of San Antonio/Austin, Texas, by tk tunchez, sells “unique, organic based artisan pieces to adorn your mind, body and soul.”

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Floral crowns by Las Ofrendas.

Purple Swan by Leticia Duran of Puerto Rico, is where I got those adorable earrings featuring La Lupe. This shop aims to “challenge the normal patterns and standards of fashion designs, while guaranteeing uniqueness in design and product quality at an affordable price.”

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Wallets by Puerto Rico’s Purple Swan.

Afrolunatika, also from Puerto Rico, sells jewelry that is so empowering for women, with phrases like “Amazona,” “Guerrera,” and “Bendicida.” Their website will be ready for online orders at the end of July 2017.

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Earrings by Afrolunatika

2 X 10 are a pair who make everything by hand, hence the 10 for the number of fingers. I got a pair of beautiful tropical-colored earrings at this outfit.

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2 x 10 is still setting up their ETSY shop but check them out on IG for now!

 

A beautiful moment at a Brooklyn club…

I’m sure there are some folks who have never been to New York City who imagine that, on any given night, one can find a nightclub to hit where one can hear all kinds of global music and an inclusive environment for anyone—gay or straight, dancing along to it. But that’s not really true.

This is precisely why I became a huge fan of a monthly party called Que Bajo?! a number of years ago (2011) and attended it as much as possible. It was the one party where I could hear music from Colombia, Africa, Puerto Rico, hell, even funky beats coming out of Austin, Texas. Purely danceable stuff with guest DJs from across the United States, Europe or Latin America making a pretty diverse crowd dance all night long.

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Geko Jones and Uproot Andy, founders of Que Bajo?!

That party is now defunct but, luckily for us, its DJs are still out there working at a variety of parties. (Que Bajo?! co-founder Uproot Andy is back from touring in Brazil and will be playing in Brooklyn on Friday, July 7!)

The other founding DJ, Geko Jones, is now throwing a party called Ministerio de la Parranda. Thankfully, this party is continuing the work of providing a cool space for a diverse crowd to hear a “sancocho” of flavors from Latin America and beyond.

Here’s just 29 seconds of video from the party on June 24. In it, you’ll hear the BEAUTIFUL chords of an African guitar so often heard in Congolese soukous and Colombian champeta music. I had to stop dancing and hit record because, again, this music isn’t easily found in New York City, and I needed to share the moment, which came on New York City’s Pride weekend.

It was a beautiful moment and although I’m very sad to see Que Bajo?! go, I’m happy there are other spaces where one can enjoy such an atmosphere.

(Read my story about the new party in Sounds and Colours.)

 

‘To be happy is not to have a sky without a storm…’

The following has been attributed to Pope Francis, but as reported in La Stampa, it was not said by him at all. I’m researching the web, trying to figure out where this great advice comes from. I’ll update here if I find it. Pope Francis DID issue ten commandments for happiness, however. Here they are via Irish Central

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Pope Francis wants you to be happy, but he didn’t issue the statement below.

“You can have flaws, be anxious, and ever angry, but do not forget that your life is the
greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust. Many appreciate you, admire you and love you.

Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without
accidents, work without fatigue, and relationships without disappointments.

To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, and security in the stage of fear, love in discord. It is not only to enjoy the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness. It is not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures. It is not only to feel happy with the applause, but to be happy in anonymity.

Being happy is not a fatality of destiny, but an achievement for those who can travel within themselves.

To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become your destiny’s author. It is to cross deserts, yet to be able to find an oasis in the depths of our soul. It is to thank God for every morning, for the miracle of life.

Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings. It’s to be able to talk about you. It is having the courage to hear a “No”. It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified. It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends, even when they hurt us.

To be happy is to let live the creature that lives in each of us, free, joyful and simple. It is to have maturity to be able to say: “I made mistakes”. It is to have the courage to say “I am sorry”. It is to have the sensitivity to say, “I need you”. It is to have the ability to say “I love you”.

May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness. That in spring, may it be a lover of joy. In winter, a lover of wisdom.

And when you make a mistake, start all over again. For only then will you be in love with life.

You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life. But use the tears to irrigate tolerance.

Use your losses to train patience. Use your mistakes to sculpt serenity. Use pain to plaster pleasure. Use obstacles to open windows of intelligence.

Never give up. Never give up on people who love you. Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show.”

-NOT by Pope Francis

Walking that walk in the inner city – Guazabera Insights

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Febo speaking to inmates at Hudson County Correctional Facility. (image via YouTube)

In light of the daily debates taking place on social media and beyond about crime, drug use/abuse, and protests about police in inner cities, it’s nice when you see someone actually walking the walk behind the talk.

Dennis Febo of Guazabera Insights, LLC, is one of those people.

I’ve known Febo (though, virtually, not in person!) since 2013 through my college sorority network. (My sorority, Mu Sigma Upsilon has a brother fraternity (Lambda Sigma Upsilon), which Febo is part of.)

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 11.54.52 AMHe founded Guazabera Insights in 2010 as a health and educational services provider whose mission is to raise social consciousness and uplift communities. They do this through the dissemination of cultural and social consciousness education in communities of need, while addressing the social issues that affect communities through organizing and action.

Most of the work is done in Jersey City, a large and diverse city right outside of Manhattan in which 52% of its population speak another language other than English in the home, and, in some wards, citizens still struggles with crime. The organization also provides employment and internship opportunities in Jersey City and Paterson, N.J.

Each weekend, Febo and others from Guazabera Insights hit the streets to educate the public on healthier lifestyles. He explains why in this video, which was shot recently while engaging with the public in Jersey City’s Journal Square.

But the work doesn’t stop on the streets. How about helping the incarcerated at Hudson County Correctional Center, which many wrongly assume are beyond change, with a reintegration program?  Febo, a fantastic public speaker, does that, too, as illustrated in the video below.

You can watch a more comprehensive video of Guazabera Insights’ work at the Hudson County Correctional Center here.

A Brooklyn native, Febo graduated from the University at Buffalo with a master’s degree in Humanities Interdisciplinary: Caribbean Cultural Studies, studied in Havana, Cuba and Bahia, Brazil. His master’s thesis, “Sazón Batería y Soberanía: Puerto Rico in the Dance for Self-Determination,” is a documentary regarding Puerto Rican Sovereignty. He also attained a bachelor’s degree in Latino Studies, concentrating in history and politics.

Learn more about Guazabera Insights here.

Idris Elba in ‘The Apostle of Ireland’

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By Peter Stults

Peter Stults, creator of the “What If?” movie poster series that drop classic actors into modern blockbusters, tried his hand at a movie poster for a movie that doesn’t exist.

Enter: Idris Elba in “The Apostle of Ireland: The Saint Patrick Story”

I love the concept. Of course, I’d love Idris Elba to star in everything.

See more of Stults’ work here.

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By Peter Stults

 

Start-up culture:A Q&A w Milk Sugar’s Sam Dwyer

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 11.43.32 AM.pngI love milk and dairy products (cereal o’clock is one of my favorite late night habits), so I would be so upset if I were ever to become lactose intolerant. You can learn all about lactose intolerance, which basically forces some people to have to forgo most dairy here.

My mom suffers from this affliction and she has to spend close to $7 per gallon of Lactaid milk for her coffee. Well, now there’s a new product that claims to make your lactose intolerance a thing of the past.

Milk Sugar was invented by Brooklyn-based inventor Sam Dwyer. I talked to him about the product and what’s it’s like to invent a supplement! (You can buy Milk Sugar here.)
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Sam Dwyer
1) Why did you start Milk Sugar? 
Lactose intolerance is something that for many people develops in early adulthood, after you’ve spent your whole life eating dairy. I am a young guy living in New York City — I love pizza! It was so frustrating to give up my favorite foods!

I eventually discovered that I could take Lactaid pills with dairy, but they never made me feel good, and my beloved jerk room mate would make fun of me for being “lactarded.” I wanted to understand more about my body, so I started researching what lactose intolerance is — and I learned that while 10% of people with Northern European ancestry have problems with dairy, as much as 60% of our diverse US population at large has problems. But all Americans love eating cheese; on average we eat 34 pounds of the stuff every year.

What I realized was that Lactaid medicalizes, and stigmatizes, a common condition. If you’re lactose intolerant, there’s actually nothing “wrong” with you: it’s normal. So with Milksugar I set out to do two things: create a normal lactase enzyme supplement pill for normal people, and then also to… let nature in.

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What I mean by letting nature in, is that the psychology surrounding consumer products is tremendously important, because it effects how you understand yourself. The coolest thing, I think, about Milksugar is that the active lactase enzymes are derived from a cool Japanese fungus, koji, which in latin is called aspergillus oryzae. Koji is beloved in Japan, because it’s the secret ingredient for making sake and miso — it creates tons of enzymes, including the ones that break apart the dairy sugar, lactose, that gives us lactose intolerant people so much trouble!

I think that big corporations believe Americans are too wimpy to knowingly eat cool Japanese mushroom pills that help them digest dairy. I have a more optimistic view of my countrypeople: I think they will like to know! Because nature is really, really cool!!

2) What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

Well, I can sleep in and stuff. Also I can entertain myself with notions of earthly riches. I’m more inclined to think of myself as an entrepreneur than as a boss. It’s a distinction that makes a difference. I’m terribly impulsive; I don’t command myself, so much as I am drawn forward by curiosity and vision. In that way, I am a servant.

And that’s the best part — the freedom to pursue the dream!

3) What’s one of the hardest things?

Well, I’m not a rich kid, or in possession of vast savings, so there’s been some financially tight moments. How terrible — I have had to live off rice, and sometimes recycle my better-remunerated room mates cans for beer money. Oh, woe is me (I’m joking, although having money to go out is fun). It’s more seriously stressful to be late with the rent. Obviously, as a start up business with not too much sales volume yet I should worry about failure. But the truth is that I don’t.

In the back of my mind I have been preparing to do a project like this for awhile. I am very fortunate to have some truly amazing and inspiring friends, teachers, and investors who have walked similar paths. I wouldn’t be doing this without them.

The hardest task for me has been setting the correct expectations for myself, and remaining mindful. I can be very impatient, but changing the way an entire culture thinks about lactose intolerance won’t happen overnight.

That said, I think we can win.

Bike messengers