Sometimes… it’s hard to be thankful

Amongst all the messages of Thanksgiving and hopeful wishes, I can’t seem to shake off the rejection I’ve recently received. The past few weeks has challenged my thinking and created me to reconsider the direction of my profession as an artist.

Don’t get me wrong…

I am ALWAYS very grateful (my family and I are healthy-what more could I ask for? — well…I could) and have an innate tendency to see the positive side of my experiences. I’m always very determined to accomplish my goals (personal and professionally) and find myself often encouraging others to push past their challenges (I may have missed my calling as a coach?).

But every now and then, the “no’s” get to me.

The 4 big grants I spent much of my time completing was rejected (I just knew I would be awarded at least one). The exhibit I hoped to participate in at the Smithsonian… rejected (still puzzled by that). An Editor at L’Oreal interviewed me to feature a story about my work… cancelled. Vroman’s Bookstore in California, shipped my books back (due to no sales), and others are coming up soon.

And…

I haven’t been able to finish my film, not just due to lack of funding ($30,000 to be exact) but also due to the lack of b-roll. Scheduling additional filming dates hasn’t gone so well due to everyone’s schedule.

On my challenging days, I seek quotes that resonate with me and what I’m going through (I love quotes). In this particular situation, I thought about Oprah’s words on the finale of her show, which I’m sure I’ve shared before).

I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?

In truth, my response is a feeling of unappreciation, which truly boils down to feeling a lack of validation. I’m fully aware that I will receive more rejection than acceptance in anything, but at times it’s hard… and exhausting.

And I honestly needed the time to simply slow down a bit, vent about what I’m feeling and give myself the time to grief (Is that an appropriate word? It’s as close to a word as I can come up with at the moment) and rest.

Ipray4u-laugh.jpgSo on this day of Thanksgiving, I must admit, sometimes being completely thankful is hard but even in the moments of disappointment, there’s so much to be thankful about. Not only am I in the best of health but I’m grateful to come home to an amazing family every day. As always I get up, adjust myself and keep going.

What are your challenges and what are you thankful for?

Enjoy the Holiday!

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Transparency

This past Sunday, I attended Fresh Talk: MakeHer Summit, a panel discussion about Women in the Creative Economy, at the National Museum of Women In the Arts. The four creative entrepreneurs on the panel, Rakia Reynolds, Dionna Dorsey, Virginia Arrisueno and Grace Bonney, spoke candidly about entrepreneurship, the beauty and challenges that come with it and the importance of…

Transparency. 

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People often assume your success was an easy road if you never shared your challenges. I’m not sure if it’s the Pisces in me, but being up front about my feelings and experiences is a release. Whether it’s in a conversation, blog or article…

It feels good to let it go.

I’ve always been upfront about my ups and downs as a woman of color, an artist and entrepreneur. My struggles with funding to complete projects and good news of successes that come my way. It’s not easy, but I work very hard.

Here are 3 points that stuck with me:

  1. Being an entrepreneur isn’t sexy. You don’t wake up this way. The struggle IS real, and you need to make that real to the world, including social media.
  2. Sometimes success and financial freedom means undoing the narrative you’ve been telling yourself about what success looks like.
  3. Transparency and fearlessness can be powerful and protective. “You don’t owe anyone anything” on social media. Protect yourself + be real. You can do both..

On that note, I must admit…

The one area of my life that I choose not to be transparent with, is my family. It’s a rare occasion to post photos of my husband, children, grandparents (unless I’m referencing old photos), parents, siblings, nieces and nephews…

I’m sure you get the picture.

But I enjoy keeping that part of my life off of social media. And although my mom often shares posts about our mother/daughter connection on Facebook (as many times as I ask her not to), my relationship with her and our daily conversation is so much important to me than engaging on her post :).

Some areas I’m just not willing to compromise.

Although my life, both business and personal, has been full of trials and tribulations, overcoming the challenges has played a vital role in my determination to succeed. Success does not come overnight (whatever success may mean to you) but the thing that always shows and proves is that….

Persistence seals the deal. 

I used to think it was cliche to hear celebrities give speeches and consistently say the same quote when wrapping up on their thanks and appreciation to the audience…

You can create anything you set your mind to.

Well, it’s not as easy as making the statement and expecting what you’ve had in mind to suddenly become a reality. But I know for a fact that setting the intention for your idea will be the beginning of a process that will connect you to those that will lead the way for open doors. It’s the powerful beauty of the Universe.

Honesty and transparency make your vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. ~Mother Teresa

You never know who’s watching and learning from your journey.

My book launch was amazing!

To celebrate the journey (joys and challenges) we celebrated of the release of I Am More Than My Hair, on Sunday September 9th, at the Hyattsville Busboys and Poets.

Rather than the typical author talk, I decided to set the tone for a panel discussion. I gave a brief background on how I came up with the idea for I Am More Than My Hair. Several participants (Janice, Martina, Nicole, Doretha, Jameelah, Shae and Holly) introduced themselves and spoke about their #HAIRstory. Dermatologist Dr. Sharleen St. Surin-Lord clarified the meaning of alopecia and the importance of identifying the root cause.

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Jeff Woytovich, Founder of Children’s Alopecia Project (CAP), was gracious enough to travel here (MD) from Pennsylvania and share his organization’s mission and available programs for children.

I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the release of I Am More Than My Hair . It was so much bigger than a book release. It was a gathering in celebration of the beauty and diversity of girls and women. See The Umbrella Syndicate’s photos on Facebook.

Keep Smiling: Bald Edition Book

 

Ken Rochon, Founder and CEO of The Umbrella Syndicate and creator of the Keep Smiling movement, has captured beautiful images at the Bald, Beautiful and Bold Fashion Show as well as this past Sunday at my book launch. If you missed the opportunity to be included in the Keep Smiling: Bald Edition Book, Ken would love to take your photo at his studio for the book. This is open to women, men and children. If he took your photo and you’re interested in purchasing copies (once finalized and available), please contact Ken at (202) 701-0911.

New Retailer!

Bluestockings Bookstore now carries my book. If you’re in the New York City area please help me maintain a retailer/author relationship by purchasing a copy during your next visit. Bluestockings is located at 172 Allen Street, New York, NY 10002.

You can also purchase a copy of I Am More Than My Hair on Amazon or any of these retailers near you:
BookWoman (Austin, TX), Politics and Prose (Washington, DC), Sandy Spring Museum (Ashton, MD), Vroman’s Bookstores (Pasadena, CA), Women’s Museum of California (San Diego, CA).
*10% of sale proceeds will be donated to Children’s Alopecia Project.

Have a bookstore suggestion? Contact me.

Film Fund

If you would like to support and help me finish my film, please consider making a tax-deductible donation via Docs In Progress.

Tax-deductible donation - I Am More Than My Hair

I was interviewed on Fox5 Morning News Good Day DC!Alyscia-Cunningham-Fox5

Thanks for your support!MTMH-launch-sponsors

About Alyscia: Personally, Alyscia is a mom, wife, artist, advocate, writer, Pisces, dreamer, truth seeker, positive thinker, adventurer, traveler, and hiker. Professionally, she’s an entrepreneur, author, speaker, filmmaker and photographer who has contributed  to National Geographic, Discovery Channel, AOL and Smithsonian Institution. She’s also the CEO of a Maryland Home Improvement company, Uprising Builders, LLC, and AC Media, a production and publishing company. To find out more about Alyscia, visit www.Alyscia.com.

Grants for artist of color, about the black experience? I AM the black experience.

It’s no doubt that the grant process is frustrating, especially when most recipients look nothing like me… a woman of color. On the other hand, grants focused on supporting artist of color make it very clear that the “artist” work should encompass the “black experience”.

But I am the black experience.

I am the black experience when I step out into the world and I am judged FIRST based on the color of my skin and not my talents. I am the black experience when I’m constantly in the position of having to fight for my children to be treated equally in a public school institution. I am the black experience when I am in fear and question if my husband will safely return home after a “routine traffic stop”. I am the black experience when I live in a system created against people who look like me.

And my list goes on…

Although I wish the grant process… well life in general, wasn’t biased, it is my unfortunate reality. When I apply, though I do my best and hope for a great outcome, I know that most likely the “look” of the grantees won’t change.

Then on the other end of the spectrum, some of the organizations that fund projects by artist of color has a specific criteria. The topic of focus should include slavery, racial injustice, police brutality, immigration, etc. Is that all the black experience encompasses?

In this case, my work is too black for one… not black enough for the other… and a box I simply can’t fit in.

Does this mean I change the direction of my work? Absolutely not. Although this isn’t the case for all organizations, it is evident that I have to continue working 3 times as hard. But not to worry. I get what I set my mind to. Nonetheless, I do look forward to the day when more opportunities live outside the box. Who knows? I may just start something new… in due time.

You can help me finish my documentary film, I Am More Than My Hair.

Tax-deductible donation - I Am More Than My Hair

 

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Join me as I present my research behind my project, meet the women who participated and take part in a Q&A. Book signing to follow.

Sunday, September 9, 2018
5-7PM

Busboys and Poets
5311 Baltimore Avenue
Hyattsville, MD 20781

There will be an open menu for food and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Tickets are $10. Proceeds from tickets sales will go towards the finishing funds for my film.

To learn more and get get tickets, visit Busboys and Poets or Eventbrite.

 

The Books Have Arrived!

THE SEED HAS FINALLY SOWN

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It’s been 4 years in the making of research, planning, production, and post-production… and I Am More Than My Hair books are finally here. Thank you to everyone who believed in my project, supported my fundraisers, and gave words of encouragement or resources to help me more forward.

This is not the end, but only the beginning of an entirely new direction. I have to hit the road with books signings, exhibitions, speaking engagements… and of course… I must sell these books.

You can now purchase on Amazon for $39.95. Remember, 10% of sales proceeds will be donated to Children’s Alopecia Project (CAP). I LOVE their mission: “Help change the emphasis from growing hair to building confidence.”

So feel free to order a copy… or 2… or 3.  Purchase your copy on Amazon.

UPDATE ON THE FILM

I am still in the post-production phase with I Am More Than My Hair documentary film. I’ll have a narrative rough-cut by the end of new week. However, I’m still raising funds to finish because after receiving the rough-cut, there are other steps needed to complete, such as color and sound correction, original score (music) and footage/music licensing (I’ve been working really hard to get permission for India Arie’s song, I Am Not My Hair.

So far I’ve been given access to footage from OWN TV (Harpo Inc.) and I’m very grateful for the permission granted. Your support to help me finish my film will be greatly appreciated… and it’s tax-deductible. Please share.

UPCOMING EVENTS

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Book Launch – September 9 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Busboys and Poets
5331 Baltimore Avenue
Hyattsville, MD 20781

Join me in celebration of the launch of my book, I Am More Than My HairPurchase your ticket »

 

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Book Signing – August 4 @ 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Sandy Spring Museum
17901 Bentley Road
Sandy Spring, MD 20860

This is my first book signing. I will be on hand to sell and sign copies of I Am More Than My HairReserve your spot »

Film Finishing Funds

A few weeks ago, I was excited to share my idea to launch a crowdfunding campaign with iFundWomen. It is a great platform, but after serious consideration of the time involved to manage that campaign, I decided it’s best that I stick with raising funds through my fiscal sponsor, Docs In Progress.

At first, the thought of crowdfunding, made me think of just asking friends and relatives for donations. But, it’s actually an invitation for others, for YOU, to join together to support me in the making of my film.

Over the next few months, I will send reminders and updates about my fundraiser to help bring my film into completion. In other words, Finishing Funds. If you’re interested in supporting me, please make a tax-deductible donation via the Docs In Progress project page for I Am More Than My Hair. And don’t forget to share! Sharing is caring.


Feminine TransitionsIn honor of her birthday month & my coming “out” last year, Wendy Simon, has launched a fundraiser for I Am More Than My Hair on Facebook. Wendy has not only participated in my project (both the film and book) but she has also been extremely supportive in consistently providing me with resources and ideas to help complete my project.

If you’re on Facebook, please join Wendy’s page, say hello and let her know how awesome she is for showing her support. She could have supported another non-profit in honor of her birthday, but she decided to contribute to the continuation of my work. Thank you Wendy!

Visit Wendy’s Facebook event page.


The date is set! Please join me in celebration of I Am More Than My Hair book release. It takes place on Sunday, September 9, 2018 from 5-7PM at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, MDPurchase tickets for $10. The book cost $39.95.

If you’re interested in volunteering at the event, you’ll receive a complimentary ticket. Please contact me and let me know.

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The proof is here!

20180509_132238.jpgI received a proof copy of I Am More Than My Hair book. How exciting!

After review, Robin Benson, my Designer, made a minor change then I gave the OK for printing. All copies are expected to arrive by or around July 23, 2018.

In the meantime, I’m working on plans for distribution, marketing, speaking/book tour and of course… grant applications.

This time around, I’m applying finishing fund grants. And in a few weeks I’ll launch…

iFundWomen crowdfunding campaign

I discovered iFundWomen last month while attending Light City Baltimore. How cool is it to have a crowfunding platform dedicated to women only. Amazing!

After speaking with one of the coaches I decided to launch a crowfunding campaign to help cover the finishing cost of I Am More Than My Hair film. I’m almost there. I just need one more push to complete it.

At this point, I will edit the film on my own (rough-cut) and will hire an Editor to complete the fine-cut. As much as I tried to avoid it, I’m guessing the Universe wants me to edit this film. 🙂 I’ll keep you posted.

Pre-order your copy

If you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy of I Am More Than My Hair book, you can do so via PayPal. It will also be available on Amazon but won’t go live until I receive the shipment of books. Pre-order your copy here.

 

HuffPost covered the Fashion Show!

HuffPost Editor, Jamie Feldman, covered the Bald, Beautiful, & Bold Fashion Show. If you missed it, read more here.
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Author, Entrepreneur, Filmmaker, Photographer