Tag Archives: film

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.

maryl-video-still-youtube

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Coming to a close.

I can’t believe that the end of my 30 day campaign is almost near. Anyone who has ever launched a crowdfunding campaign, or a fundraiser in general, knows that you don’t get much sleep. You spend much of your time networking, doing outreach, organizing speaking opportunities, following -up, marketing, follow-up, follow-up and still follow-up.

After all, it’s worth it in the end.

Reaching my fundraising goal is my target of course. However, the connections made and awareness raised, about female hairloss, has been a truly rewarding experience.

To help recharge my energy, it definitely helps when I venture out and meet various women for filming and photoshoots. It’s also refreshing that each participant’s meeting place is usually located someplace differently each time.

Spontaneity is a beautiful thing!

Here’s a short video I captured, with my cell phone, during a brunch with Sisters with Alopecia Group (SWAG) at Bus Boys and Poets. Aren’t they gorgeous!

swag-screenshot

Please continue to help spread the word for continued support and contributions. 

I’ll make it easy for you. Feel free to copy and past the post below:

Twitter: Help artist @AlysciaCPhoto produce her documentary #film & #book #IamMoreThanMyHair redefines female baldness- https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair

Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, etc: Let’s support female artist, Alyscia Cunningham, and help raise funding in order to produce her documentary film & coffee table book #IamMoreThanMyHair. Through her project she is capturing the personal stories of girls and women who’ve experienced hairloss and redefines the beauty of female baldness. Donate via Indiegogo – https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair

To everyone who has contributed by making a donation and/or sharing my fundraiser… Thank you!

On another note…

Freelance Journalist Christina Portilla, owner of Roam Free Writes, wrote an article about my project. I wanted to share my interview with you. See it at http://www.roamfreewrites.com/single-post/2017/04/03/Community-Call-Redefining-the-beauty-of-female-baldness

Much thanks to Christian for her interest women’s issues and passion to spread awareness about of female hairloss!

I Give Up

As an artist and entrepreneur, I’ve find myself questioning whether or not to pursue certain endeavors. When I first made the decision to leave corporate America in pursuit of my entrepreneurial path, reality kicked in when I first experienced hard times. When the lifestyle I was living based, pretty much based on a consistent paycheck, dissipated.

In the beginning I often had to remind myself why I left and what was most important. My children.

Although entrepreneurial and life challenges has periods of difficulty, I wouldn’t give up the freedom of peace of mind and time spend with my husband and children for anything.

As I continue my journey as a first time filmmaker, I admit that it hasn’t been easy. Not that I’m expecting it to be but I can’t help but notice and feel the challenge of being a woman of color breaking into a new industry, which has been pointed out to me multiple times on multiple levels.

I’ve tried my best not to let the lack of support for my fundraiser and opportunities that seem to not be a “right fit” (yes I’ve been told that), get to me. At times it’s hard. And during these times I’ve thought to myself…

I GIVE UP!

Then it hit me…

I thought about my mom yesterday. She was 25, married with 3 children (2, 4 & 6) and had an aneurysm on the right side of her brain. The aneurysm caused her to have a stroke and left her paralyzed on the left side of her body. She told me she went through periods of “Why me?”, anger and bitterness about her diagnosis. But all I remember about my mom is that paralysis on the left side of her body was never an excuse for her to NOT do anything.

She drove by herself, cooked for her family, went to and from work on the busy streets of Manhattan, NY, and was so determined to keep going, despite her stroke. My mom set the tone for me when it comes to determination.

If she never made an excuse, how can I?

In no way am I comparing my moms illness to the frustration I feel about my art. Instead I am drawing a comparison to the level of difficulty she experienced and what I feel personally about my art.

I have no excuse and giving up is not an option.

Despite the negative comments I’ve received from various women (yes women) about I Am More Than My Hair, there is an entire community of girls and women involved in my project, that are not only counting on me but sincerely believe in the mission of my work. Of OUR work. And if I give up, we lose.

Today gave a speaking engagement and presented my work to young ladies of Albion College (Albion, MI) Women’s and Gender Studies. The positives responses and questions during the discussion about embracing who are are and learning to love ourselves just as we are, was another confirmation that I am on the right path.

Taken at Albion College (Albion, MI) during my presentation Embracing Your Natural Beauty, for the women of Women’s and Gender Studies. 

In the end, my lesson learned is what will be must be. What is for me shall be. What I am born to create, has no option but to be created. I’m allowing life to takes it’s course. Thank you for taking the time to read.

With just 15 days left for my fundraiser, your support is appreciated. Contribute via Indiegogo – https://igg.me/at/MoreThanMyHair

Thank you,

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

Keeping it Simple: Keep a Child Alive Week #3

I’m moving into week 3 of my campaign to raise funds for Keep a Child Alive (KCA). In order to help keep things simple I’ve pointed out the highlights of my campaign.

1. What is a campaign? Work in an organized and active way toward a particular goal.
2. 100% of the proceeds from my campaign fund the youth-led peer support groups (the support groups simply help build confidence and empower the youth of KCA)
2. I DO NOT make $ from this. I’m volunteering.
3. Your donation will make a huge difference and positive impact for the children of KCA, who are all affected by HIV/AIDS.
4. The videos ARE MY CAMPAIGN. The individuals in the videos volunteer their time to say a message of encouragement for the youth of KCA.
5. Only $5 from multiple individuals is enough to successfully fund my campaign. Please make your $5 donation here.

I hope this helps to simplify my mission and gives you sufficient information to support the youth of Keep a Child Alive. I appreciate you!

My KCA Campaign Launches in 1 Week!

My KCA Campaign Launches in 1 Week!

Next Wednesday October 12, 2016 at I will launch my campaign for Keep a Child Alive (KCA). Here’s a recap of my first newsletter and goal…

$1,000 covers a year’s worth of programming for a youth peer support group. With that in mind, I decided to launch a campaign that focuses on positive message for the youth in the youth-led support groups. My goal is to raise $3,000, which will cover programming for about 3 youth groups.

kca-2015-2-crop

I will film 30-60 second videos of individuals voicing their message of encouragement for the children. Something similar to the recent video I filmed about beauty.

Here’s how you can help make this campaign a success…

  • I need 20 individuals willing to volunteer a short amount of time (literally 5 minutes) to be filmed for the videos. Family members and friends…I really need you here. If anyone else is interested in participating please contact me to schedule a time to film. The children in KCA peer youth support groups will have access to the videos. I have no doubt that your words of wisdom will be appreciated.
  • Donate to the campaign once I launch it. Instead of charging a fee to be filmed and edited, I ask that you please help fund the campaign and make it a success.
  • Share, share, share! The more you can share on your platforms, the most it will gain more attention and go viral (that’s the goal).

It’s that simple!

KCA’s Black Ball will take place on Wednesday October 19, 2016, a week after my campaign launch. If happen to live or plan on visiting the New York City area, please considering purchasing a ticket for KCA’s Black Ball.

My campaign will end on World Aids Day, December 1, 2016 at approximately 11:59pm. No amount is too small and anything you can give is appreciated. Please keep in mind that the children in KCA peer youth support groups will have access to the videos. I know your words of wisdom will be appreciated.

Please be on the lookout for my newsletter about my campaign going live. I sincerely appreciate your support!

I’m Launching a KCA Campaign!

A few weeks ago I received a Google alert about Alicia Keys and her stance on her #NoMakeup movement. In the recent past, a few celebrities spoke out against Photoshop manipulation but for the first time a celebrity has gained a significant amount of attention and admiration for a major lifestyle shift that is typically deemed as unacceptable in the Hollywood world.

Porait of of Alicia Keys
Photo copyright © Zoltán Tombor (for Fault Magazine).

Although our children learn about self-love and acceptance through their close family relationships (and in turn with themselves) public figures have a profound influence in the lives of our youth. This makes it so much more important that celebrities use their voice as positive platforms for much needed change.

Given that my focus as an author, filmmaker and photographer is about natural beauty, it was only natural that I reach out to Alicia Keys for an interview.

In the process of researching her agent and PR company, I found Keep A Child Alive (KCA), an organization, co-founded by Alicia Keys, that partner with grass-roots organizations to combat the physical, social and economic impact of HIV on children and families in Africa and India.

After diving into my research about KCA (I completely forgot about the interview and focused on the mission of the organization) I discovered the organization also encompasses youth empowerment. The youth-led peer support groups are helping young people living with HIV access support and confidence that they need to live healthy lives and build bright futures.

I immediately wanted to get involved. It’s all about empowerment… and that’s my focus.

About $1,000 covers a year’s worth of programming for a youth peer support group. With that in mind, I decided to launch a campaign that focuses on positive message for the youth in the youth-led support groups. My goal is to raise $3,000, which will cover programming for about 3 youth groups.

I will film 30-60 second videos of individuals voicing their message of encouragement for the children. Something similar to the recent video I filmed about beauty.

Here’s how you can help make this campaign a success…

  1. I need 20 individuals willing to volunteer a short amount of time (literally 5 minutes) to be filmed for the videos. Family members and friends… I will be calling you first.
  2. Donate to the campaign once I launch it. Instead of charging a fee to be filmed and edited, I ask that you please help fund the campaign and make it a success.
  3. Share, share, share! The more you can share on your platforms, the most it will gain more attention and go viral (that’s the goal).

It’s that simple!

KCA’s Black Ball will take place on Wednesday October 19, 2016. I will launch my campaign on Wednesday October 12, 2016, a week prior to the Ball. If happen to live or plan on visiting the New York City area, please considering purchasing a ticket for KCA’s Black Ball.

My campaign will end on World Aids Day, December 1, 2016 at approximately 11:59pm. No amount is too small and anything you can give is appreciated. Please be on the lookout for my newsletter about my campaign going live!