I 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.
Two 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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
I’m only 5 contributors away from my loan going public on Kiva Zip. This means, my campaign will go live on the site for the public to see once I reach my goal of 5 more contributors. I’d really appreciate it if you could contribute as little as $5 to my loan!
This loan is important because it will allow me to expand my message of social change to an audience of over 30,000 at the Green Festival in Los Angeles, CA. I am also connecting with several Women’s Studies Programs to inquire about being a guest speaker their classrooms. In case you lost the link, here it is again: https://zip.kiva.org/loans/5380/i/u0hr
This is a loan, not a donation, so your money will be returned as I pay back my loan. Your support means a lot to me! Hope that you can help with a loan of $5 (or more) and share this with your network!
If you prefer sponsorship opportunities, visit my Speaker Sponsor profile here.
Besides being of a West Indian upbringing, I am a West Coast baby. I was born in Tacoma, Washington on March 17, 1979, but moved to Germany after a year.
My father was in the army so my family and I moved around for he next four years. Afterwards my parents, brothers and myself spent our childhood years in the neighborhood of Corona Queens, NY. At the age of 12 we moved to Maryland and this is where I’ve live for the past 23 years of my life.
I honestly didn’t like MD (not even a little bit) from the first day I arrived. It was April 1991 and I stepped into a new 5th grade class at Chillum Elementary School in Hyattsville, MD. I appreciated the greenery but the majority of the people…I didn’t and still do not relate with to this day. That doesn’t go for all of course. I’ve met wonderful folks here. The funny thing is, in most cases, they are not from this area.
It’s simply a different mentality.
Although I’ve settled here after having my son followed by two daughters, 12.5 years ago, my spirit still isn’t at rest in this area. In other words, I don’t feel like I belong . I can hear the words of Aloe Blacc’s song in my head, ‘Wake Me Up’.
Last year, March 2013, I submitted a proposal after receiving an email that the American Society on Aging is seeking presenters for their 2014 annual Aging In America (#AIA14) conference.
First of all, I’ve never heard of ASA but after doing research I truly appreciated the mission and knew my book, Feminine Transitions, fit perfectly into the category of aging. Even better, the conference takes place in San Diego, California, where I’ve wanted to visit for years. I wrote about it in my previous blog, ‘Feminine Transitions Goes to California‘.
To my pleasant surprise, I received an acceptance and congratulations letter in August 2013 and happily accepted.
I flew into San Diego Airport for the conference on March 10, 2014. I arrived late at night and therefore did not see much except for the city (where I stayed). Given that, I wasn’t immediately impressed, but the energy felt so right. This is a feeling I truly cannot explain.
My poster presentation, on March 12 with #AIA14, was received very well. Throughout my presentation I had large crowds viewing, commenting and even crying (with joy) about my topic ‘Embracing Our Natural Beauty As We Age’. The feedback was positive and the attendees appreciated the fact that I’m promoting self-love and acceptance in a world full of ads doing the exact opposite.
The energy was just the same at my other events, each unique in it’s own way. Starla Lewis, the Co-Curator of “Beautiful, Brillant and Bold: A Celebration of Black Women” exhibit at the Women’s Museum of California, volunteered to come out and help me that day. What a huge help it was. Author Anthony Browder suggested I connect with her before going to San Diego. Connections, connections, connections. I love it!
It wasn’t until Thursday, March 13, when I drove my mom to Barona Casino, did I finally get the chance to experience a real view of San Diego outside of the city.
For the first time in my life I feel in love with my environment and was enticed with all five senses.
The sight of the mountains moved me. The smell of the fresh ocean air grooved me. The sound of tranquility soothed me. The breeze caressed my hair and skin smoothly. I got a taste of San Diego and fell in love truly.
Later that day Kristy Salazar interviewed me at the Women’s Resource Center. After our discussion she spoke about reading that same previous blog I mentioned earlier, ‘Feminine Transitions Goes to California‘, and how much she related to it.
She then surprised me with a beautiful birthday cake dedicated to my achievement. As excited and appreciative as I felt in that moment, I was also overwhelmed with joy. I felt so appreciated. Thank you ladies!
After commenting on the fact that I am a new hiker, Lee – in the audience at the Women’s Resource Center, offered to take both my mom and I, hiking and on a tour of San Diego. I was so grateful for the opportunity. Not to mention, how wonderful it felt meeting a stranger and becoming a friend.
The hospitality and support was undeniable and I wondered why people left here and moved to DC (I met quite a few Californians within the past year who happened to move to the DMV area). Of course everyone has a different environmental need. My desire was to remain where I was at that moment. All I needed was for my husband and children to pack their bags and meet me there. 🙂
My only option now is to overcome the fear of failure realistically. I’m human and have no issue admitting that I sometimes question my decisions.
How am I going to move when money is tight? What about my home in Maryland? Are the schools good for my children (who are all very creative)? Will my photography, publishing and construction businesses thrive? What if I’m not successful?
So many unanswered questions.
One thing that resonated with me while in Cali was the large number of homeless people on the streets. The reality of the strict mortgage laws California withholds is obviously a serious matter. There was no statistic. They were all ages and races. I thought to myself, anyone can become homeless. If I wasn’t adamant about keeping my home seven years ago, that could have been me.
Think about FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real. We all experience it at some point of our life. The beauty is letting go and going into the directions of our dreams…fearlessly.
I’ve put it out there and prayed for guidance as always. All I can do now is see where the wind takes me. I planted the seeds just to make sure.
We all have our own journeys to travel. The blessing in it is discovering our passions and growing wholistically through it all. I turned 35 years old last week. I am a strong, determined, talented and confident women and truly appreciate the changes that come as I grow older. As difficult as my path has been, particularly in the past seven years, I’ve realized the blessing in being who I am as Alyscia.
I have much traveling to do. San Diego, know that I will return to you.
I offer an immense thank you to everyone who contributed to my fundraiser. All of you made my trip possible.
Dad, Mom, Grandmother, Grandfather, Anita Kamienski, Aunty Janet Fortune, Ebony J., Erica Tyson, Evelyn McKenly, Jeff Brooks Photography, Juanita Smart, Tamara Lumpkin, Trista Hendren, Karima Amin, Lane Cobb, Necilia Jones, Uncle Lyndon Brown and 4 Anonymous contributors…THANK YOU!
I am truly excited to be given the opportunity to travel to San Diego, California and engage in discussion about my book, Feminine Transitions. Not only am I in a position to spark necessary conversation about social change but I am passionate about creating positive images that facilitate self acceptance. Wait until you hear about my upcoming project. I am so looking forward to the new journey.
For those of you that may not know me personally, for the past five years I’ve wanted to go to California for two reasons, other than simply visiting this beauty. First, Cali was the first state (I seriously prayed about it) I planned on holding a book signing/discussion before Feminine Transitions was a physical book. Second, I wanted to celebrate my birthday and have arranged it over the years (hotel and everything) but had no choice but to cancel due to financial hardships.
There is no doubt that my prayers have not been answered and I take this moment as a blessing.