Category Archives: My Journey

I Fell Out of Love With Photography

It was the fall of 1999. I was in my 4th semester in college and unsure of the direction of my career, but knew for sure I DID NOT want to work for a company for the rest of my life. I just couldn’t stand being told what to do.

If there was one thing in particular I knew about myself is that I was innately creative and had the character traits of an entrepreneur since I was a child. When I was young my grandfather used to bring me with him as he went canvasing around our neighborhood in Corona, Queens, NY.

He was selling countertop NASA water filtration systems, the first of it’s kind to be introduced to home owners. Buyers could connect the hose to their kitchen sink and get clean filtered water.

Despite the actions of my neighbors (nice or not so nice) my grandfather kept going. He never allowed a no to stop him. I didn’t know, at the time, that my grandfather was instilling qualities within me of a future business owner.

I just wanted to give you some background. Let’s fast forward to college…

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My first drawing in class ‘Introduction to Drawing’. I drew this handsome young man from a flag in my room titled “Rasta Baby”.

I always loved to draw and doodled often (more like everyday in every class). Taking a drawing class while in college was my release through all the intense studying.

My art professor was so impressed with my art that he suggested I take photography as an art elective. I’m not quite sure how he made the connection but he was convinced I would do really well.

In the fall of 2001 I immersed myself in photography. I enjoyed being behind the camera and capturing what captivated me. I was intrigued by the process of film and print development and amazed at my new found creativity.

I was in love…

While close to graduation I made a nice niche for myself and connected with a few magazines that were interested in hiring me for future editorial shoots and peaked the interest of several media companies that contacted me to inquire about commission work. I actively participated in exhibitions, artist groups and everything revolved around creative networking.

Then reality hit…

I was really good at what I did and heard it often. I often heard, “I love your work”, yet the appreciation of it didn’t lead to many sales. And I quickly learned that although I truly appreciated the compliments, it wasn’t providing me with an income.

At a certain point, the constant compliments, without sales, brought me to a bitter place with my photography. And when I was hired for work, the constraints of what people wanted, really wasn’t something I enjoyed.

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I fell out of love with the love of my life…

But how could I? I thought I was in love?

I took a break for some time, put my camera down, and switched from Government contracting (which I was doing while being a photographer) to contracting with media companies. I tried Photo Editing for a change.

Although I made a great income I quickly realized I DID NOT want to be behind a desk all day. Unfortunately I didn’t want to do commission work that was unfulfilling for me either.

It took a few years, and various business ventures (while working I did Network Marketing and was also in the process of buying a franchise), for me to discover my passion. Through my journey I learned business skills that not only prepared me for my future endeavors but also helped me to redefine my ‘Why‘.

I rediscovered my passion

See, when I fell in love with photography I was free to create what was beautiful and rewarding for ME, without the worries of being dependent on making an income from it.

In order for me to get back to that feeling, I needed my freedom back…

Instead of depending on my art to make me money, I depend on my art to give me freedom. Freedom of expression. Freedom of release. And the freedom to dive into my innate creativity without restriction.

Instead, I choose to use my talent to work on personal works such as Feminine Transitions, I Am More Than My Hair and the countless of other ideas in my head. I am still hired as a photographer (by folks I know personally or by referral). But this time around I’m performing the work that represents my style most. And I still own a construction company 🙂

One thing I have learned…

I love being happy and I love to make money. As women we sometimes have a difficult time saying that. But without it we can’t survive…unfortunately. Reading the the harsh statistics about women and money in a dear Sister’s book, Whatever Works (chapter Money and the Elephant in the Room), not only scared the hell out of me but also bought me to new awareness.

So make your money, enjoy your freedom and do what you love.

I’m in love again…

xoxo
~Alyscia

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Stacy launched, CRUSH Fitness, her first online health and fitness magazine. She’s enjoying her freedom. I enjoyed the shoot 🙂

 

I’m Up To Something

I’ve been busy at work…literally. My Home Improvement business has grown significantly since the start of 2016. Due to the growth I haven’t been able to dedicate as much time on my art and writing as usual. Given that the past few years has been most challenging I won’t complain and most definitely grateful for the blessing.

I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me

I am still working on my project I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me (photo book and documentary. If can know a girl or women who has either lost their hair due to medical conditions or has cut their hair in support of a loved one please let me know. I am still looking for 20 participants.2016-Docs-Fellowship

Thankfully I was awarded the 2016 Docs In Progress Fellowship, which allows me the focus and support in order to produce my first film. I’m so excited about this! Now I only have to catch up with everyone (and everything) but no worries, I’ll get there.On that note, I’m seeking another intern. If you have someone in mind please send me your referral.

Also, this semester I started Screenwriting class and couldn’t be more pleased. Writing is a release and through it I’ve learned that I’m actually pretty good at it (Yes I’m patting myself on the back:). I wrote three scripts and will take a shot at shooting it, unless it picked up by a film studio. That will be later on once I’ve completed my project however.

I just wanted to reach out, say hello and let you know what I was up to since I haven’t written in a while. And if you’re free for any of my upcoming events simply RSVP and I will add you to the list.

Last thing… I found an article about my work on SoulPancake. How cool is that! I love SoulPancake and their message of delivering news that matters.

Until next time…

Alyscia Cunningham

Awarded Young Mother of the Year!

I am honored to have been awarded the 2015 Young Mother of the Year with American Mothers, Inc. Anyone who knows me personally understands that I am very passionate about my role as a mother, as any other dedicated mom. Although my children recognize that they are most important in my life, I’ve recently discovered that taking care of me first helps not only makes me be the best mother I can possibly be but also the best caretaker for myself.

You know how we women have that women’s disease? We tend to everyone else’s needs first then us whatever energy we have left to take care of ourselves. Yeah that disease! I learned to shift my priorities…for me.

This doesn’t mean that I still don’t tend to my families needs (it’s in my genes:). I just had to incorporate changes that gave me self-fulfillment. That sense of joy in doing what makes me happy. And I must admit…making them happy gives me joy as well.

I’m looking forward to meeting other like-minded moms at the convention on April 23-25, 2015 (two weeks from now) and giving my story behind why being a mom is important to me and why I do what I do as an individual, mother, wife, artist, author, activist…and my journey continues.

Want to join me? Register here.
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Friendly Reminder…

My fundraiser for my upcoming project, I Am More Than My Hair, has 42 days left to reach my goal of $15,000. Please make a donation – no amount is too small – and SHARE with family, friends and social media platforms.  Donate HERE!

Thank you!

I Am More Than My Hair: New Project and Crowdfunding Campaign

So I’m finally letting the cat out the bag. In a previous newsletter I mentioned I was working on a new project but didn’t give any specifics.  And I’ve received tons of calls from friends and family inquiring why they haven’t heard much from me lately.

To tell the truth, over the past several months I have been in hiatus. Besides taking some needed time for myself, doing mommy duty and starting amazing entrepreneurship classes with Empowered Women International, I have been focusing on an upcoming photography book project.

Today I am SUPER EXCITED to announce to the world… I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me!
I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me

I Am More Than My Hair is a photography book celebrating the beauty of baldness (bare headed).  It includes participants who have lost their hair due to alopecia, cancer, trichotillomania or any other hair loss condition as well as those who cut their hair in support of a loved one.

On January 12, 2015 (changed date to reflect the criteria of a successful campaign and to give me more time to organize), I will launch a crowdfunding campaign for my upcoming book and I ask for your support in helping to make it a success by spreading the word. $25,000 raised will help me with the production of I Am Not My Hair as well as professional assistance with marketing, design, editing, layout as well as assistance from a publicist and administrative assistant. In other words…through my first book I’ve learned that hiring a professional is a tremendous benefit. And although I remain self-published,  I am making some tweaks this time around.

Serene getting a henna crown by henna artist Deepti Khona, founder of Henna Harmony DC Metro. Serene did not loose her hair but instead shaved it in support of her friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer. That's a true friend.
Serene getting a henna crown by henna artist Deepti Khona, founder of Henna Harmony DC Metro. Serene did not loose her hair but instead shaved it in support of her friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s a true friend.

As with Feminine Transitions, I Am Not My Hair is a social-change project paying tribute to the girls and women who’ve lost their hair involuntarily and to those who cut their hair in solidarity.
I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me

Through this journey I have noticed there is an undeniable radiance in bare headed females. In my opinion, attention isn’t drawn to them due to a lack of hair. Instead their features become more captivating. You truly see raw beauty as hair is not a distraction.

“The best way I can describe my experience is without the focus on hair you truly see the soul.”

Simply beautiful!

I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me

Until then, expect a newsletter about my participation at EWI’s  upcoming Artisan Food & Marketplace as well as other unique holiday gift ideas.

Please also share share this information with any girls and women that may be interested in participating in my project. My contact information can be found on my website www.Alyscia.com.

Peace & blessings,

Alyscia

Aging Gracefully

In September 2012 an email with the subject “Aging Gracefully” was forwarded to me by an artist I met briefly prior to this day.  In the body of her email she wrote, “I saw this and immediately thought about your book.”

It was an article written by Madisyn Taylor titled, “Seasons of Beauty: Aging Gracefully“.  Not only did I love the topic (it is the message of Feminine Transitions) but her writing truly caught my attention as it was also graceful.  Beautifully written.

I reached out to Madisyn, to let her know how much I appreciated her article on DailyOM.com (it was my first time knowing about this site as well).  She responded with gratitude and I joined her email list.  I wanted to read more.

Somehow Madisyn’s articles brought me back…

As a child, I used to often journal, write stories and poetry.  It was my creative escape. I loved writing and English was my favorite subject (as long as I was busy creating my own stories).  After I became a mother I seemed to have put that on the back burner.

It was time for a change. I happened to start-up writing  again two weeks prior when I started a blog.

Around the same time, I was actually searching for a ghostwriter to compose the introduction section of Feminine Transitions.  I honestly thought I couldn’t do it.

I just didn’t connect with the writing samples sent to me.   It didn’t feel as if it were me speaking from my experience. It wasn’t heartfelt.

I decided to reached out to Madisyn and ask for a recommendation. She made it real simple, sharing her outlook. She said I do not connect with the writings because I did not write it.  And advised that I take some time out of the house, with a cup of tea and simply begin to write from the heart.

To make a long story short, I did exactly as she said…at Starbuck’s.

Not only did I create an introduction that I sincerely connected with but I gained my confidence in writing once again.

I say all of this to say…thank you Madisyn. You were a tremendous aide in my writing journey…and it continues.

I look forward to one day writing a narrative.

 

Photo meme from Alyscia Cunningham's image from Feminine Transitions along with a quote from writer Madisyn Taylor

My Trip to California…I’m Still In Love

Photo of tree at La Jolla Cove. Taken in San Diego, CA.
I just liked the texture and shape of this tree in La Jolla Cove. Taken in San Diego, CA.

It was a pleasure to return to California for the second time this year (my second time thus far). Once I arrived, my reasons for falling in love with this place the first time, immediately came back to me.

Photo of a fisherman and pelican on the pier in Oceanside, CA.
A fisherman and pelican on the pier in Oceanside, CA. The fisherman would feed the pelican smaller fish from his catch.

There’s something about the sunshine, beautiful landscape and laid back energy that soothes my soul.  I simply connect with the land innately.

The best way I can explain is to say California connects with my spirit.

Photo of pelican cleaning it's feathers at the pier in Oceanside, CA.
Pelican cleaning it’s feathers at the pier in Oceanside, CA.

Alyscia takes photos on the Oceanside Pier in Oceanside, CA

Photo of an optical binocular on Oceanside Pier.
An optical binocular on Oceanside Pier. I haven’t seen one of these in a while.
Photo of the Oceanside Pier.
Headed out of Oceanside back to Del Mar, CA.

I don’t believe in perfection, so as anything else, it has its ups and downs. One of the biggest downs being the lack of cultural diversity on the south side of Cali (San Diego), which is the area I adore in particular. However, I haven’t visited northern California as yet. That will be my next trip.

My children, being in a classroom where they are not singled out as the only black  is very important to me. All things considered, before making the leap I realized I have some planning to do. That word “planning” is a bit foreign to my spirit. I almost always get up, go and know it will all work out.

At this point, however, I realize that for the sake of my children and sanity (this mama will be at the school everyday if there are issues) planning is our best option.

Regardless, I still breathe spontaneity :).

My reason for visiting this time around was to speak at the Green Festival in Los Angeles. The organization selected me as a presenter and I spoke on the topic “Embrace Your Natural Beauty”. As always, the audience was receptive to my message.

It was eye-opening to hear a man’s perspective of beauty at the end of my presentation.  He asked for the mic to thank me for my appearance then went into a brief personal story about his experience.

He said he struggled for many years with low self-esteem, was over 400 lbs while in his 20’s-30’s and pretty much lost hope. He then mentioned how much of a blessing it was to have met his lovely wife (pointing her out in the audience). The love she showed him gave him hope once again.

She saw past what HE thought was unattractive and loved him for who he was. From then, learning to love himself in his own skin,  and gaining a different perspective, led him to loosing  close to 300 lbs. He also worked through his issues of low self-esteem.

How wonderful was that!

Although I am sure there are other men/boys who have encountered similar struggles, this was the first time that I’ve personally heard a man openly express his experience of self-imagery, challenges and triumph.

I realized that men have trials of self-acceptance as well.  Unfortunately, I believe they do not have the opportunity or platform to express it as they should.

Our society tends to focus on women and girl empowerment. Although it is vital (this is my focus as well), sadly we forget our boys.

The fact is, just as a little girl learns how a man should treat her by the relationship she has with her father, our boys learn from us their mothers.  And in many cases (not all of course – just putting that out there for my sensitive debatable folks) how a man treats his significant other is a direct reflection of the relationship he had with his mother.

My point is, we tend to forget our boys but we can’t afford to. We need to hear more of their stories and aid them through their human experiences.

So maybe it’s time for Masculine Transitions? Something to think about.

Photo of a little boy for Alyscia's upcoming book project 'Masculine Transitions'.
I started shooting ‘Masculine Transitions’ back in 2010. I focused on Feminine Transitions and therefore didn’t continue but I am reconsidering finishing this project. This handsome young man is my nephew.

Back to my story… 

After the Green Festival, I met up with a few of the ladies (and a husband) of Black Female Photographers (BFP). That Saturday, September 14, 2014 was the 3rd Annual National Black Female Photographers Day (#NBFPD). It provides an opportunity for our sisters in photography to reach out to their communities and with them, explore the beauty of their cities through photo tours and to share their love of photography with others.

Picture from 3rd Annual National Black Female Photographers Day at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA.
Picture from 3rd Annual National Black Female Photographers Day at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA.

 

Picture from 3rd Annual National Black Female Photographers Day at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA.
Picture from 3rd Annual National Black Female Photographers Day at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA.

 

Picture from 3rd Annual National Black Female Photographers Day at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA.
Picture from 3rd Annual National Black Female Photographers Day at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA.

Not only was it nice to connect in sisterhood, but was wonderful to associate off of social media (I joined via Facebook over three years ago) and learn about the history of that particular area of LA. Fellow BFP Ysa Adams, was a wonderful host. Much thanks and admiration for Kym Scott, the founder of BFP, for organizing this annual event!

I had to depart from the group earlier than the others since I had to get ready for a meet and greet with WAM!LA (Women, Action & the  Media, Los Angeles).  Before the Ladydinner with WAM! I met up with Angela McCrae, a friend who move to LA from MD. Angela and I went to elementary, Jr high, high school and college together (the 2 months of college I bared at Morgan State University before dropping out and going to Montgomery College – the university scene just wasn’t for me).

I first met Angie in the 6th grade (when I first moved here from NY). After 23 years, she still possess the character traits that I believed connected us from the very beginning. We were always cool. That’s true sincerity. I always say, little people are simply that. LITTLE PEOPLE. Their personalities don’t change, it only develops. With that in mind, make sure your raising good people.

Nonetheless, it was great seeing you Angie!

Alyscia and her friend Angela and I at a restaurant/bar in Santa Monica, CA.
Angela and I at a restaurant/bar in Santa Monica, CA.

Later (yes my day continues) I finally meet up with the ladies of WAM!LA as the special guest for the Ladydinner at Lula Cocina in Santa Monica. I was invited to talk about my book Feminine Transitions.

Photo of myself along with the ladies of WAM!LA (Women, Action and the Media Los Angeles) for the Ladydinner in Santa Monica, CA
At the #Ladydinner with WAM!LA (Women, Action and the Media Los Angeles) in Santa Monica, CA.

First off, I truly believe in the core values of WAM! and feel it is in line with my message of social change that I currently and will continue to promote.

That night, I networked with an amazing group of women, had great conversation and a delicious meal.  Special thanks to Melanie Klein for organizing such a wonderful event! We shall meet the next time around.

Overall, and once again, I had such an exceptional time.

Weeks before leaving for California, I connected with two San Diego Meet Up groups. Black Women of San Diego and Women Hikers of San Diego. I’m sorry I didn’t  capture any pictures of the Meet Ups but the memory will always remain.

One thing I cannot deny is the power and connection we create as women. I am a firm believer in the “village” saying as well as the power of sisterhood. Unbiased, trustworthy, loving, lean on me type of sisterhood love. Despite our situations, status and decisions we make in our lives, when we get together we connect on a level that relieves stress and ignites inner strength.

We create life, calm the beast, kiss a cut, make it feel all better and are the true nurtures of life.

Together as girls and women, WE ROCK THE WORLD. So let’s rock!

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With that in mind, I am learning not to judge as we are imperfectly perfect. At this point in my life, I choose who I allow the privilege to be a part of my life. However, I understand that we are all human and our current circumstances are in most cases an outcome of our past. As long as one is willing to listen and be honest, completely honest, with one another (something I always say…if you don’t want honesty, don’t ask me for my opinion), our experience in this world will be much more rewarding.

I give thanks for the light of the universe for always granting me favor (even if I may not see it at that very moment).

Thanks to my Uncle and Kiva Zip contributors for making my trip to the west coast possible. Thank you my dear Sister Trista Hendren for your dedication in support of my campaign and spreading the word like wildfire. You consistent posting helped to make it a success! I have nothing but love for you.

Click here to learn how you can help businesses grow around the world by lending to 0% interest loans. Making a small loan can change a life.

Wishing everyone healthy family relationships, genuine friendships, and true love and happiness.

Peace & blessings,

Alyscia

My Bee Experience

Lately, more than ever, my animal encounters leave me wondering if the meaning is deeper than the surface. In other words, there must be a message connected to my meeting with these animals and insect.

My realization is in no doubt contributed to the interview and conversation I had with Ann Quasman, founder of Woman Talk Live. Ann brought together myself along with Natalie Forest and Mare Cromwell on her show titled “Listen… The Messages Are There for You

The show was simply about the power of messages.

“A nudge.
 The cardinal that shows up on your patio every morning.
 
The person who calls you just as you are thinking of them.
 The hand you feel on your shoulder when no one is there. 
The energy you feel from a certain place.
 The meeting someone for the first time and feeling you’ve known them for years.
 Hearing just what you need to hear at the perfect time. 
The song on the radio that answers your question.”

These are all signs. Or as I would say, direct messages.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been connected with Spirit. They have in some way or form communicated with me for one of two reasons; To give me a message in order to guide me on the right path (stay focused) or to pass a message on to someone else. This may sound strange to some but for me it’s the norm.

A recent experience literally left me speechless.

I was in my back room enjoying the warmth of the sun while staring out the window (this room has huge windows from corner to corner – the sun room). I happened to look down and noticed a bee on the floor, about a foot in distance from where I was standing. The fuzzy yellow and black texture looked discolored and the little bee looked as if it were dead (looked very dry).

I kneeled down to get a closer look (not sure why but I did). The bee was leaned over to the left side of it’s body facing away from me (about 60 degrees). Within a few seconds this little one stood up then turned abruptly and faced me. Startled in the moment, I jumped back and stood up, thinking to myself “WTH”!

It just stood there, staring at me.

Tempted to flee the scene, as a bee sting was the first thing that came to mind, I made myself calm down. I kneeled down again (at a further distance this time) and stared back at the bee.

As strange as it may sound I got the sense (a message?) that the bee was dieing and wanted to go outside. So, I picked up the cutlass (the closest thing to me that had some length to it) and gently placed it about one inch in front of the bee. To my surprise the bee slowly made it’s way towards the cutlass, walked on it and settled there.

I open the door and placed the bee right next to the ladder beside my door. It walked off the cutlass and climbed onto the ladder but somehow lost strength and fell on top the soil below.

At that point I honestly didn’t know if the bee got up and flew away but by looking at it’s condition, I believe it died transitioned there. Our encounter was just that, but I wondered if there was a meaning to it.

After that experience, I decided to do some research on a possible meaning of my bee experience (I often search on a Native American animal totems site). According to the site my experience with the bee is noteworthy to my life-path.

Bee’s wisdom includes:

  • Connection to the Goddess Diana
  • Understanding female warrior energy
  • Reincarnation
  • Communication with the dead
  • Helping earth-bound spirits move on to their proper place
  • Concentration
  • Prosperity
Close up of yellow flowers.
No bee here but I love the flowers.

I’m not sure who is the Goddess Diana but everything else makes complete sense. With it in mind, I was able to relate with my bee connection. In turn, I am very thankful that the bee and I were able to assist one another during our encounter.

I say all that to say, sometimes the signs are right in front of us. In many cases, very direct. I can go on and on about other encounters, particularly my hawk dreams that eventually turned into real hawks following, circling above me and even flying beside me as I was driving.

Now, I pay more attention as I know the messages are more than meets the eye. That very conversation I had with the wonderful ladies on Woman Talk Live, was a message for me to understand it all. I am truly thankful.