All posts by Alyscia

Alyscia Cunningham is a filmmaker and professional photographer based in Silver Spring, MD. She comes from a family full of multi-talented artists. Raised in Queens, New York and Montgomery County, MD, she earned degrees in photography and web design. Alyscia has contributed to National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, America Online, and the Smithsonian Institution. Additionally, her work has been published in several books and magazines, including The Best of Photography, Beauty Around Us, Endless Journeys, and Homes of Color Magazine. To learn more about Alyscia and her work, visit Alyscia.com.

Media Attention… it’s Bitter Sweet

Seriously?

Since the launch of  my crowdfunding campaign, I’ve been contacted by several major media outlets with hopes to write an article on my project. I followed up to the emails requesting the status of the requested interview articles.

Fortunately, one media contact provided me with honest feedback. She said…

Your campaign is great and we really love what you’re doing, but you haven’t raised enough funds for us to make it “newsworthy”

I was so excited to receive the attention I feel I Am More Than My Hair deserves but I must admit…that moment was bitter sweet. I couldn’t help but think…

Isn’t that what media attention is all about? Raising awareness on news and social media platforms so others can become aware and support?

This is the unfortunate reality of being a “not-so-known” artist.

Regardless, I’m moving forward. Somehow or another I’m going to give birth to this baby because my heart and soul tells me this project (along with past and future projects) is something I was born to give birth to.

For this reason I’m still asking for your support.  PLEASE DONATE, SHARE ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES AND ENCOURAGE FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO SO THE SAME! If only 50 people help raise $500 (among their connections), I will reach my goal.

Help me continue to raise awareness of one of our many transitions that the media choose not to discuss.

My project is simply redefines the beauty of female baldness. Here’s the link – https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair

Thanks in advance for your support!

Alyscia

Mental illness – The Elephant in the Room

Last month I sent an email newsletter titled “I’m done shooting”. The thought that I accomplished something new and different than I’ve ever experienced was exciting to me. Filming is the easy part (in my opinion). Production, distribution, the legalities and everything else that goes with filmmaking is the challenging part.

I was well on my way in the right direction!

The very next day, I received a call from a voice, unfamiliar to me. She sound distraught and left a message asking that I return the call ASAP. I returned the call immediately.

She began to tell me that a participant in my documentary “wasn’t honest” and in fact “doesn’t have cancer”, “never lost her hair” and was “never diagnosed with MS” (Multiple Sclerosis). Her voice was sad and regretful, telling me she apologizes that I spent my time filming and photographing “her” (the participant) not knowing that she wasn’t being honest.

She continued stating that “she” (the participant) suffered from mental illness and anorexia, and created a make-believe story. Fooling not just me, but also all of her family members and friends. NO ONE knew.

I could have been upset, frustrated and full of resentment, but those thoughts never crossed my mind. She apologized for “her” behavior but I sympathized for “her”.

What the caller didn’t know, is that I’ve been directly affected by mental illness and understand the seriousness of it. Including that fact that most people cannot fathom the severity of the experience. I admit I don’t completely comprehend it, because I am not mentally ill, but the experiences with my loved ones has influenced my thoughts.

Almost 5 years have passed since my Sis committed suicide. I remember having conversations with family members trying to convince them that a lot of her behavior didn’t seem normal. And mentioned that getting upset with her wasn’t going to help her situation because I felt that she couldn’t help her thoughts and at times, her actions.

In turn, she decided she no longer wanted to suffer and took her life.

Several of my close family members, who’ve experienced trauma in their childhood, have also been affected by mental illness. Some have been diagnosed while others are in denial. As a child I had a gut feeling that certain actions were’t normal. Especially when it came to communication.

Going back, the phone call I received a few weeks ago didn’t get me upset, as one may think it should.

I must admit, I would have thought differently a few years ago, but my experience with mental illness has taught me otherwise. Instead of being in a frenzied, I’ve learned to be patient, not take things as personal and move on.

In the end, I deeply sympathized with this young lady and her family.

Unfortunately, I do have to spend more time to find another participant (with a hair story as unique as hers) as well as invest more time and money to re-film, re-shoot and edit. Not an easy task but it is something that I will get done.

“1 in 5 adults are affected by mental illness”.

Regrettably there is still much shame and guilt attached to it when brought up. It’s one of those topics that is still “the elephant in the room”.

Discuss it. Try to understand it. Be sympathetic but aware. Give your loved ones the love and support when they need it. Sometimes it can’t heal so you must also be prepared to let go when necessary.

Be well,

~Alyscia

I’m Done Shooting!

After 2+ years, I am happy to announce that I’ve completed the filming and photoshoots for I Am More Than My Hair and I’m excited for what’s ahead!

It’s been a wonderful journey meeting so many different ladies from all walks of life and very different yet similar circumstances. I can’t thank these women enough for taking the time to participate in my project, which would not have been possible without them.

At this point, I’m focusing on fundraising efforts to cover production costs for the film and coffee table book. My next steps are:

  • Launching my crowdfunding campaign on March 15th (just 2 days before my birthday:)
  • Seeking funding through foundations via Docs In Progress (my Fiscal Sponsor)
  • Researching sponsorship opportunities via corporate donors
  • Hosting a private fundraising party during the period of my crowdfunding campaign

Prior to my crowdfunding launch date, I’ll send more details, including my platform of choice and next steps. All I ask is that you please help by making a contribution and share on your social media platforms. (if you’re not a participant). If you participated in my project I ask that you please help by spreading the word.

Thank you for your continued support and I’ll keep you posted!

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Nia’s story
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Courtney’s story
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Jameelah’s story

Isolated Society – Interrupting the Pattern for the New Year

Do you know your neighbors? Do your children hangout with the neighborhood kids, grandparents, aunties/uncles, cousins and other family members as we did “back in the day”? What about saying a simple hello as you cross paths with a stranger?

If you think about it…

“Back in the day” wasn’t so long ago.

Reflecting 20 years back, I remember it was the norm to play outside with friends and neighbors, spend ample time with family, converse more often in-person and meet someone new with effortless dialogue. Starting as simple as…

What your name? or Where are you from?

These are the times I cherish most. Reminiscing on those days, I can’t help but to appreciate the feeling of togetherness.

Now 25 years later, I can’t say the same.

It’s hard not to notice that people sit side-by-side and are so occupied with their phones, or other tech devices, that they don’t seem to notice one another.20160402_110041.jpg

On April 2, 2016, I attended the Creative Innovation Conference at Light City Baltimore. One thing that really struck me was Debbie Millman’s presentation on the damaging effects of “modern society” on humanity. Millman broke down the high percentage of suicide and depression due to social media and pointed out that technology has only caused us to become more detached.

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Although I constantly hear talk about the need for positive change and socialization, I am still seeing signs of excessive stress.

Work hours continue to increase, just as our children’s homework load. Dating sites have now become the most effective method for potential couples to meet because there’s not enough time. We’re spending an excessive amount of energy on hand held devices and not enough in-person encounters. Consequently, suicide rates have increased dramatically, particularly among our youth. At my son’s high school alone there has been 3 suicides since September 2016.

There’s no way this should be considered normal.

We are constantly going like machines, thinking that faster and more is somehow better. And most importantly we are NOT communicating effectively. We’ve forgotten basic means of living with one another and in turn we have become an isolated society.

Don’t get me wrong… online platforms are convenient, but it should never completely replace the need for human connection through face-to-face interaction and conversations.

What will it take for us to once again become a community and decrease our stress levels?

Though I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, I thought it’s the perfect time to share thoughts on ways reconnect. Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Have a no tech rule at dinner time – whether you’re single, married or a parent, taking the time to eat without watching a screen not only opens up time for conversation but also gives you some time to think.
  • Even better spend one day a week without any technology – try not using technology at home for a week. You’ll be surprised how revived you feel.
  • Rekindle a relationship – sometimes we loose touch with loved ones because of a disagreement or misunderstanding. Most times it’s not as serious as we think. Try reaching out and take the time to meet up and chat about it. Hashing out out a differences can go a long way for much needed healing.
  • Take a lunch break – taking a break is vital. You can even schedule a lunch date with a co-worker or friend you haven’t seen in a while. If you’re a parent, and your child’s school is close by, have lunch with your little one.
  • Introduce yourself to your neighbors – don’t know your neighbors? An easy introduction is to go door-to-door and introduce yourself. You can say mention that you’re doing this in order to get to know your neighbors and vice-versa and to look out for one another.
  • Join or launch your neighborhood committee – taking part in your neighborhood committee or launching one if there isn’t one in your neighborhood is a great way to get to know your neighbors. As a community you’ll also have the opportunity to address the issues in your neighborhood.
  • Throw a block party – everyone loves a party! There’s no better way to meet many of your neighbors than at a block party.
  • Organize a family reunion – the younger generation will have the opportunity to connect with their family members. They may become accustomed to the gathering and continue the tradition. Everyone can contribute with food and drink. You can reserve a picnic area at your local park for free.
  • Volunteer at your local school – did you know you don’t have to be a parent to volunteer in a PTA? Our schools can definitely use your help. If you are a parent, you can organize a parent get together from time to time. This may even lessen bullying. If my daughter knows that I speak with her classmate’s mom, she may think twice before doing something naughty.

Happy New Year to you! Let’s reconnect.

ACT WITHOUT EXPECTATION

We live in a society where the cultural norm is to give with the expectation of receiving.

I call it the “what’s in it for me?” syndrome.

Although this doesn’t change my mind about moving there, as much as I love California, that attitude was one that I noticed to be most prominent of many during my visits. I know that it’s not just Cali but worldwide. Especially in America, unfortunately.

In these situations I  can’t help but to wonder what happen to “giving to give”? Whether it be information, referrals, advice or monetary support.

I often meet people that respond to my candidness of sharing information as unbelievable and even questioning my “expertise”, as if to think there’s no way I can have knowledge in so many different areas (thankfully I live outside the box). Going deeper, when I volunteer my time to help children and those less fortunate that I, I’m simply helping just to help. I can care less about what looks good on my resume, or capturing images of me volunteering… I just want to make a difference in the lives of others.

When I launched a campaign for Keep a Child Alive, I did just that. Despite the fact that my initial introduction to the organization was a result of my research for Alicia Keys contact information in order to interview her about her “No-Makeup Movement“, I saw the significance and wanted to be involved.

I said all that to say, please consider giving to my campaign without the expectation of getting something in return. Knowing that you’re helping to make a difference in the lives of children and families affected by HIV is life transforming for those on the receiving end.

So I ask that, for a moment, we maneuver out of our bubbles and give to those in need. I hope that you will join me in successfully funding my campaign for Keep a Child Alive and other organizations you feel most passionate about. Please show your support (with a little as $5) here. My campaign ends approximately at 11:59pm on World AIDS Day, Thursday December 1, 2016.

Thank you,
Alyscia Cunningham

MISSED THE MOST RECENT VIDEOS? CLICK BELOW TO VIEW

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In Youth We Learn, In Age We Understand

As an adult, and mom, I can’t help but to notice the unquestionable character traits about children that I truly admire.

Children are honest and care free.

Their personalities are actually very similar to that of our elders. In other words, you don’t have to guess how they feel if asked (most times you don’t even have to ask, they’ll tell you), because they won’t hesitate to explain or give you their opinion.

But then again, I’m straight forward, I value authenticity and prefer direct communication. This way you avoid anyone having to second guess your intentions.

For my campaign, I captured video footage of children sharing their message of encouragement for the youth of Keep a Child Alive. The only direction I gave was to “What message would you tell a child, your age, to make her/him feel be happy?”

They didn’t prepare, or think twice…they simply answered to what they felt.

Here’s their response…

Throughout filming for my campaign for Keep a Child Alive I’ve noticed that although the messages come from various individuals, they are interconnected with one another.

Victoria speaks on “Flight”

Nyuma speaks on our “Power”

On World AIDS day, Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 11:59PM, my campaign for Keep a Child Alive ends. It is my hope that you will join me in the support for the youth, and give without expectation by making a monetary contribution towards my campaign. http://support.keepachildalive.org/goto/Alyscia

Thank you for your support!