Category Archives: Blog

My Trip To California

Alyscia Cunningham's lecture at Saint Mary's College of CaliforniaI returned from the Bay Area after a visit to and lecture at Saint Mary’s College of California (in Moraga). Typically, when I travel for speaking engagements I stay at a nearby hotel. This time around, I was offered the opportunity to stay at the visitor’s residence on campus. I couldn’t have asked for a better communal experience.

Not only had staying on campus given me the option for convenience but it also provided me the time to connect with the students and staff of Saint Mary’s, beyond what may have been possible if I stayed at a local hotel.

Alyscia Cunningham's lecture at Saint Mary's College of CaliforniaTwo weeks have passed since my visit and the positive energy and heartfelt moments continue to replay in my memories and bring a warm feeling to my soul. I have to say it was my most monumental lecture thus far. And I’ve had quite a few.

Alyscia Cunningham's lecture at Saint Mary's College of California

I was surrounded around a beautiful campus on California’s gorgeous landscape and good hearted people. It was a intimate group and setting with genuine discussion, feedback and consideration for one another. For me, that’s the best ingredients for a successful event. Also, have I ever mentioned I LOVE California?

Alyscia Cunningham's lecture at Saint Mary's College of California

Over two years ago, Sharon Sobotta, Director of the Center for Women & Gender Equity, and I connected about the possibility of a speaking engagement at the Center. Although it took some time, Sharon made sure this event came to life.

Alyscia Cunningham and Sharon Sobotta
Alyscia Cunningham and Sharon Sobotta at the Center for Women & Gender Equity at Saint Mary’s College of California.

Directly after my talk, Sihin Tsegay, Gender Justice Leader at the Center for Women and Gender Justice, organized a meet & greet with the Black Student Union at the Center for Women & Gender Equity. We had a deeper discussion about personal and professional experiences and challenges faced as someone of color. I couldn’t have ended the day on a more profound note.

Alyscia Cunningham's lecture at Saint Mary's College of California
Meet & Greet with BSU, Gender Justice Leaders, and allies in the CWGE.

I am truly appreciative for this experience and connection with like mindedness. That for me is priceless.

Have you heard of Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park, MD?

Alyscia Cunningham at Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park, MD

Two days after my returning (I’m noticing a recurrence with the number 2), Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park, MD hosted a book signing for I Am More Than My Hair. If you’re in the area and looking for a local winery with a cool vibe, visit Great Shoals. It used to be located at Heyser Farm in Silver Spring, MD (the farm where I often purchase eggs). Although I enjoyed wine tasting at the farm as chickens roamed around (I’m a city girl but I love the country), it’s nice to have space dedicated to wine… and cheese.

If you’re buying wine, don’t forget to look for local options.

Alyscia Cunningham at Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park, MD
Thanks to Habibah, fellow GirlTrekker, my brother, and neighbors, for stopping by and supporting.
Alyscia Cunningham at Great Shoals Winery in Takoma Park, MD
Inside Great Shoals Takoma Park.

 

I Have A Rough-Cut!

Well, I thought I had a rough-cut before, but I had to go back to the drawing board. To make a long story short, my previous rough-cut wasn’t received very well SO… I am grateful to connect with another Film Editor… A WOMAN! A female Motion Graphics Editor is also on my team. Talk about excited!!!

That’s exactly what I originally envisioned! If not an all female film crew, at the least, I wanted to collaborate with other women.

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Thanks to my small but amazingly mighty team, Editor Daniela Ettrich and Motion Graphics Artist Tiffany Lewis.

Last Saturday, February 23rd, I held a private screening of the rough-cut version of my documentary I Am More Than My Hair. I invited other filmmakers with the request that they provide me with feedback for my fine-cut (the final version of my film). Thanks to the support of filmmakers from Creative Edge Collaborative, Brown Girls Doc Mafia and Women In Film and Video DC (WIFV), the feedback received was a tremendous help.

Much thanks to Melissa J. Houghton, Executive Director of WIFV, for taking the time to advise me on the hows and where to hold a screening, during my desperate attempt to figure it out. My local public library worked out just fine. Who would have known?

My next cut will be the fine-cut. Wooohooo! That’s after the next few edited cuts. It’s a process but we’re headed in the right direction.

“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” ~Oprah Winfrey

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I am forever grateful for these talented filmmakers!

If you’d like to support the next stage of my film, feel free to make a tax-deductible donation via my Fiscal Sponsor, Docs In Progress. I appreciate your support!

Tax-deductible donation - I Am More Than My Hair

 

Appreciate the Journey

You know what I’ve grown to appreciate? My trials and tribulations have not only given me the ability to vigorously pace through life, but it has also built me to be undeniably resilient.

Please know that…

When I share the challenges I face on my journey, I am not looking for sympathy.

Instead, I am opening myself and being transparent about the ups and downs that comes with life. Professionally and personally.

People sometimes assume that rewards and accomplishments come easy. Thanks to social media, people can conveniently post about their achievements yet omit the adversities faced in order to get to that level of attainment.

It takes hard work, time, dedication and positive thinking to make things happen.

Furthermore, as a woman of color, married to man of color, with children who look like us and have unfortunately faced hardships related to race, I have no choice but to stand strong. Not only for myself, but also for my family.

With that…

I am undoubtedly able to handle what may crumble the World of someone unlike me.

Would I like for the people of the world to be different? Without doubt. But I am truly grateful that my hardships have strengthen me.

Regardless, anything worth bringing into existence doesn’t come easy, but it’s definitely worth the feeling of success and fulfillment once you stick to it. And in the process, you have the opportunity to know WHO IS and WHO ISN’T for you. Shedding layers and people is a good thing.

On your journey…

You may be redirected, take some time off to breath and reevaluate your steps, or may completely switch paths, but always pick yourself up and keep going.

And remember…

Don’t be afraid to share your quest. It is uniquely yours to hold and carry. It is my hope that sharing the transparency of my journey can be beneficial to someone else on the path to accomplishing a dream or goal.

My gift to you…

Rather than adding to the piles of Holiday emails you’ll receive next week, I send my greetings to you now. I wish you all that you wish for yourself… PLUS all that you need at this moment to appreciate your journey.

Enjoy the Holidays!

PS…

If you’re in the spirit of giving, please consider making a tax-deductible donation, via my Fiscal Sponsor Docs In Progress, to help me finish my film.  Visit the website for more info and to support. Feel free to also follow my blog tour with Goddess Fish Promos.

Happy Holidays graphic

 

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.

 

I’ve been shot at and was setback… Maybe or maybe not.

I’m sure you’re wondering… Maybe?

Reading the first 4 words in this title is unsettling for me, and although I wish it were different, unfortunately it’s true.

On July 17, in the wee hours of the morning, a group of individuals did a drive-by shooting on my home.

I woke up to the sound of bullets shattering through the walls, the sight of sparks as it ricocheted throughout the room and the smell of gunpowder as the bullets exploded. I swore I was dreaming.

Not in Montgomery County, Maryland… or so I thought.

My husband and I are hard workers, both entrepreneurs, and have never been involved in any form of criminal activity and fought our asses off for the past 12 years to maintain our home (renovating it little by little all by ourselves).

So the question we were left with was…

Why?

And…

Who?

Who in the hell would drive-by and shoot up a family’s home and for what reason?!?

Since then I’ve felt different emotions, anger being most prevalent. Although I’ve been frustrated and had moments of fear, tears and prayers, I’ve had to do my best to shake off the worry and prepare myself spiritually, mentally, emotionally and most definitely physically.

Thankfully, I planned a trip to California months before and was able to clear my head, take in the beautiful sights and get a change of scene for a few days.

Alyscia takes photos of La Jolla Cove in San Diego, CA

During my visit, I had the opportunity to film Mary Marshall, founder of Bald Mannequin Project and International Alopecia Day Facebook group, as well as a drummer, dancer, and diver among so many other wonderful qualities.

We connected two years ago about my project (I Am More Than My Hair) and I told her I would film her during my next visit to San Diego. At that time, I wasn’t sure when it would happen but the time finally came in July 2017.

During the interview with Mary, she mentioned a moment in her life that she literally had to “fake it to make it”. In her example, she was referring to her concerns while facing alopecia (hair loss). She went on and on with so many powerful statements about her experience and how she conquered her emotions.

Mary didn’t know of the shooting incident.

There I was… in Beautiful San Diego… still worried about what happened back home.

I choose not to tell Mary because I didn’t want to spoil the mood. She also didn’t know that her comments during my interview with her, empowered me and gave me strength.

When I returned to my hotel, I reached out to several of my spiritual communities, rehearsed certain Psalms and chanted for peace of mind.

I needed to get my sanity back.

After returning home, I connected with a priestess in an indigenous spiritual community I am a part of , and spoke with her about the incident. She made a comment that helped to put things into perspective. Her response was…

Haven’t you wanted to move for a while now?“… her question gave me goosebumps. I replied, “Yes, but…”. She responded, “So why are you still here?”

She then went into a discussion about how the Universe, although sometimes harsh, forces movement. Especially if we’ve made it known to the Universe that we’re ready for a particular type of movement in our lives.

In that conversation I had an AHA moment…

No matter how difficult the circumstance, there is a reason for everything and there’s always a bright side. 

theres a reason - oprah - alyscia cunningham

I’ve wanted to leave Maryland the first day I step foot here from Queens, New York back in the 90’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned to love and appreciate where I am but always felt there was something more, something better, a place I truly feel connected and can call home for my family and I.

In 2014 I traveled to San Diego for the first time and feel in love. In my soul, I knew that California was the place for me and my family. I just haven’t figured out exactly where (the city). Though San Diego is beautiful, I know it’s not the place for us. The biggest reason being the lack of diversity.

And today, as I type this blog, I open my email and see the subject “The Universe’s Plan for You” by Madisyn Taylor, one of my favorite writers. A section of the article reads…

Nothing happens without a purpose. Whether we attract success or repel it depends on our willingness to stay open to a wide range of possibilities and to embrace concepts like synchronicity.” ~Madisyn Taylor

I must be honest with you and myself and accept the fact that this situation changed my life. At first, knowing that I was just a few feet away from a bullet, left me in fear of my life. Given that my children didn’t sleep sound for a few weeks because of the constant nightmares, broke my heart.

Afterwards, considering those “few feet” saved our lives, I gained a different perspective and felt grateful.

In that moment of gratitude, The Farmer’s Luck came to mind (a wise tale I’ve read to my children since they were all very young). My afterthought was, although situations may sometimes look like bad luck, it could actually be good luck for a future time.

And in that I also learned, time passes and we often find ourselves “busy”. In our “buziness” we may have missed an opportunity to connect with a friend/family who may need our listening ear or support though a rough time or challenge.

I truly appreciated the small handful of people who were genuinely concerned and kept in touch to make sure my family and I were OK.

And to those who who knew my previous hurdles and considered this event to be another setback, my response is… Maybe… Maybe not.  It could be a blessing in disguise.

As for now, I have some serious work to do in figuring out my next move and having faith and trust in the process.

I took a break to gather my thoughts but I won’t allow an obviously unhappy and miserable person to make me unhappy and miserable. That goes for family, friend or foe.

I’m excited to  finish the filming and photo shoots for I Am More Than My Hair and finally now in the post-production phase. I’ll continue to keep you posted. Until then, please continue to support my fundraising efforts by sharing and contributing via my Fiscal Sponsor, Docs In Progress – https://docsinprogress.nationbuilder.com/hair

In the meantime, enjoy this short clip of my interview with Mary during my visit to California. May the solar eclipse bring positive energy to you and our world.

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