Tag Archives: Community

[Traveling Tales] An Inspiring Stroll Through Arkansas’ Crystal Bridges Museum

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A week in the South 💜✨

I think at one point or another, we’re all either turned off from – or turned on to – different types of art; I’ve been enamored with the musical process since I was a little kid, but in first grade -after viewing ‘color by numbers’ as more of a competition to finish first than an exercise in observing the intricate nature of shapes and sizes – art (painting, drawing, sculpting and the like) simply just lost me.

A week in the South 💜✨Throw on some old Mozart and we can talk, or let’s discuss the sociocultural importance of ‘Pope Marcellus Mass‘ – but the second you’d bring a Rembrandt or a Monet anywhere in my general vicinity and my boredom would be palpable. Living in Los Angeles, there are so many different venues to enjoy the arts – and so many different forms and iterations of the artistic process, that you nearly have to go out of your way not to enjoy them.  Which, I did, for my first few years living here but I’ve learned that you’ll keep disliking the things you don’t like if you keep avoiding them, and the more I’ve jumped feet first into the deep end of the artistic process and finally, art has been making a splash everywhere I’ve looked.

A week in the South 💜✨

The Crystal Bridges Museum caused quite a stir when it was built, receiving outcries from more populous cities and snarky artsier-than-thou personalities from San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago: why were historic contemporary pieces from the likes of Herring, Rockwell and Warhol being sent to the rural, deep South? Why couldn’t it be where a larger population, a more “educated” and “artistically inclined” population lives? But to me, the real question is this: why shouldn’t it be?  Why shouldn’t everyone be able to enjoy art, especially when art is for everyone!  Crystal Bridges is absolutely free to the public, proving that once and for all – no one, no matter where they live, should be deprived of art, of this beautiful process that is usually borne out of strife, out of the human need to connect and understand our emotional nature.

A week in the South 💜✨

But even between the LACMA, Getty Museum and Getty Villa, Broad Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum – I didn’t really get it until I went to Arkansas almost half a decade years ago. Because the art there did just what I know it will do for everyone in the town, bind them to our collective unconscious that we all tap into and remind them that someone, somewhere sees the world in the same technicolor vision that they do.

A week in the South 💜✨

Crystal Bridges is the reason I first fell in love with art, with the unexpected twists and turns of sculpted work and the obscure nature of three dimensional pieces; between the contrasting complexities of color patterns and shifts between shades of color; and it’s the reason I’m still falling in love with new artists, painters, sculptures and styles.  The brainchild of architectural mastermind Moshe Safdie, best known for his Habitat 67,  the grounds also offer a look into a Frank Lloyd Wright spectacle known as Bachman-Wilson House that had migrated from the Millstone River all the way up in New Jersey. The terrain of Crystal Bridges boasts gorgeous grounds and wonderful, winding trails that take you through the lush landscape and next to the babbling river that runs through the property.  Last, but certainly not least – if you’re hungry or in need of something tasty to sip on, get your fix at their incredible restaurant Eleven.  From signature drinks named after their collection of fantastic fine arts to the Pig Ear Nachos, I think it’s necessary to give it all a whirl -because you’re in Arkansas and you might as well enjoy yourself, damnit.  Next time I come out for work, I’m planning my trip around making it to a weekend Brunch at Crystal Bridges so I can finally see everything the grounds have to offer, strolling leisurely through the museum, soaking up beauty around each and every corner.

For more on the Crystal Bridges Museum, or as I prefer to call it – the one not-directly-Wal Mart related reason to visit Bentonville – head to their website and socials.

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For more on my trip to Arkansas, including the glorious Southern food and beautiful scenery – head to my album here!

A week in the South 💜✨

A week in the South 💜✨

A week in the South 💜✨

A week in the South 💜✨ A week in the South 💜✨

A week in the South 💜✨

 

[I Can’t Breathe] A Mixed Message

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Confusion rains down in waves, stemming from an ocean of emotions that well up in your bright eyes and rush through your veins, your tangled hair mirrors the modern tangled state of affairs we live in while the complexities of modern society beg your outlying community to define you and defile you, place you in a neat little box for the comfort of those that surround you.  

We exist in a country founded by our lightest of skinned forefathers, yet America was never meant for us – we’ve built this country on our hands and knees, with our blood, sweat and tears; yet, America was never meant for us.  It’s an ideal that was struck into rock and yelled from the mountain tops as true and sacred – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness –  but that was never meant for us; constitutional amendments granting us security, sanctity and safety protect our white brothers and sisters, but that wasn’t meant for us, either.  Us – the others, the colored, the separate; us – the multicultural and different, the dichotomized and the disenfranchised; us – the stolen nationalities and original tribes of this land.

In my 31 years on this planet, I’ve always understood that to be intrinsically different from the people who founded and funded this country would never be easy – but we’re currently living at a time that could rival what was started in the 70s.  For the millions that can be shoved into a box on a standardized test asking if we’re “White”, “Black” or “Asian” – there are millions for which world isn’t black and white in the way we’re treated; nuances exist for us on a sliding scale of grey that ranges from biracial, multicultural to polyethnic.  We’re different, and we know it.  We’ve existed in a continuum of absolutes which we refuse to abide by – not “cultured” enough, yet not “white” enough, curious why Sun-In turns our hair orange and our freckles multiply in the sun; we’re on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out, trying to make sense of an upside down world that we didn’t ask for, and that our children will have to ascribe to. One of the few, if only, truths about being of mixed background is that your children will be too, as are their children, and our children after that; one of the only other truths, is that the world will treat you apart from its whole. 

We live in a world where people are more comfortable with the differences of others if they can label them or put them in a societal ‘box’. Mixed children have always raised an inquisitive eye by society but the good news is in the last few generations, America has become an incredible mixing pot for multitudes of races, ethnicities and cultures, opening eyes, hearts and arms to a kaleidoscope of colors. As someone that’s lived through it, the best thing you can do is have an open dialogue with your kids when they get to an age where they can really understand their heritage and how beautiful it is – because truth be told, it will always be a conversation piece of dialogue. Especially now that a new Civil Rights Movement has emerged.  It’s been lurking behind us for years, if not decades, while remnants of the original movement swept under the rug during the age of the Vietnam War have slowly resurfaced. The rights we fought so hard to attain, the equality that we worked so very hard for – they still have never really been our own.

And now, halfway through 2016, we’re bitterly basking in an awkward afterglow of our cumulative mess. Just half a year has gone by, yet our American cops have killed upwards of 590 civilians – the same people that are entrusted with helping and saving our lives, the same people we are told to implicitly trust with the rules and regulations of our society.

Waking up this morning, I was overcome with a range of emotions, from determined to hopeful, to downright terrified. I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful because adversity has never stopped us, and it won’t now.  I’m hopeful because change has needed to come for a long, long time and I believe we have it within our reach to actualize it.  I’m hopeful because I have another day to make a difference in the world and fight for what I believe in. But I’m also scared. I’m scared because the rate of racial intolerance is exponential, because there are so many that quite obviously are not living freely, because my brothers and sisters of minority races all over this country are fighting to be treated as equals and fighting so the second amendment actually applies to them instead of only to our lighter skinned peers, I’m scared that a family member might be the next victim, and I’m scared because the same police that are supposed to protect and serve are the ones taking lives of those they’re supposed to be protecting and serving. I’m scared because it’s not a minority versus police issue, it’s an everybody versus the police issue that the media has swept under the rug – that the media is building into a race war and I’m scared because the American population is letting it.

There’s a line that’s been drawn in the sand, and I’m scared because I don’t know where we go from here. Being bi-cultural and black has amplified my feelings even more, especially when the shootings and lynchings are reminiscent of a time that I thought we already made it through and now it’s clear that the civil rights movement was only silenced, not won.

Am I white enough to pass? Or am I black enough to get shot? Questions I never thought I’d have to ask but here I am, wondering what my life’s worth on paper.

Hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that; fear does not drive out fear, only love can do that. But the hateful and afraid are the ones ruling our country and acting out, and they will until we can bond together, forget our skin colors, ethnicities and creeds and love each other;  we need to raise each other up, instead of holding each other back – and we – we the darker skinned, we the less fortunate, we the impoverished…. – we need our friends, peers, brothers and sisters of all origins to realize that for us to survive as an American society or an American community, we cannot hold our equals down and we cannot ask them to take less than what they deserve.

We need to use our voices and our intellect to educate the uninformed and ignorant, we need to rise up as a people and say “this is not working; fix it.” We need to systemically fix our judicial system and change the tactics used by the police. The police need demilitarized weapons, and they need training in multicultural awareness, racial tolerance and empathy. As a community, we need to vote for and elect our policemen the same way we do for politicians – and we need to hold them just as, if not more, accountable.

We collectively need to right the hundreds of wrongs done by our forefathers and theirs before them, but we have to do it together because we’re all we have and this world is all we’ve got.


[I Can’t Breathe] Race Relations in 21st Century America

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Growing up, I was always cognizant on some basic level that my life was different than my peers; I felt psychologically befuddled by my social experiences and more or less like an emotional and physical outcast.  Sure, there was the fact I towered over my friends at 6′ by the time I was leaving elementary school – or that my penchant for math problems superseded those around me. Dressing up for Halloween, I was teased for my Pipi Longstocking and Belle costumes, and over the moon when Jasmine and Mulan became Disney princesses. In middle school, I tried using sun-in, my hair turned bronze; my mom and I frequented an African American hair salon in Palo Alto – Mixed Media, if you want to be specific – and one Summer, we tried relaxing my hair; instead of being easier to straighten, it got brittle, crimped and was more or less destroyed. My skin didn’t burn, instead it evened out into a shade of nutmeg, spotted with dark freckles around my nose.  There’s thinking you’re different, but for me – it was more than that; I knew I was different.

My parents got together in the Bay Area during the 70s; in a time of free love, open minds and radical change.  A goofy, gangley Jewish man from Oregon and a formidable genius from Compton, they met matching wits at Stanford and to this day, haven’t stopped. At the time, the two sides of the family had starkly different responses; my mom’s sister lamented ‘But, you couldn’t find a nice Black one?’ while my dad’s father, founder of the Corvallis chapter of the NAACP, couldn’t be more excited about my mom being part of the family.  Their reactions were opposite, but equal – each painfully aware of the state of race relations in America.

A nation divided by external and negligible traits like socio-ecoonmic status, levels of education and the color of our skin, those with power are busy tearing neighborhoods apart with closed fists and closed minds instead of building our brothers and sisters up with open arms.  Over-militarized and by in large, uneducated, police forces roam city streets in militia formation, filling tension filled streets with former war weapons and palpable, cultural fear.

As a society overglamorized by the news and undereducated by what’s important on a human, spiritual level, we’re so busy putting our community – friends, family, peers, celebrities and strangers alike – into boxes, confirming and or denying formidable existence and their overall importance that some can forget – we’re all members of the human race. As a law of differences and similarities, I might not be much like my Asian sisters and Australian brothers on the other side of Earth – but we’re certainly, undeniably more similar than I am to my cat, or to a rug, or a piece of grass.

I’m a human, an multicultral member of society;
I’m an American and I can’t breathe.

We’re a multicultural melting pot drowning under the repressive regimes of the powerfully ignorant;
and we can’t breathe. 

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Culturally, the compounding of our spotted, racially fueled past has slowly but surely led us here. It’s not that what’s happened recently is new news; African Americans historically have been disproportionately targeted, arrested and gunned down in the name of ignorant police work for decades. And now, within the span of less than two weeks, not just one – but two – police officers have gotten off on non-indictments in Federal Court cases for killing unarmed African American civilians. It’s become increasingly clear where those in power stand, people of a darker skin color, lower economic or academic rank are demonized while policemen, with their overrightous sense of power and what now appears as contempt for their human brothers, are held to outrageously different standards.

Much like the aftermath of the Fergason protests, last night 223 protesters were arrested in New York City for demanding equality, fairness and the essential staples this country was built upon.  The gentleman who captured the video of Eric Garner was charged with a crime.  But, the policeman who killed him with unnecessary and lethal force – he wasn’t even indicted on a crime, in the same manner that Michael Brown’s killer was set free, sans charge.  What it sends is an unfortunate message, historically echoed throughout minority communities: our lives matter less than others; we matter less than others. The way our justice system works it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, albeit an unfortunate one: instead of maintaining a system of checks and balances, with prosecutors and policemen working side by side in the same office, there’s only one system, and it’s busy keeping itself in check.

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Newton’s third law of motion is that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction – and right now, there are citizens in each and every corner of the nation that are finally inspired, through outrage, frustration and passionate persistence, to exact change on their external world. Peaceful protest, Non Violent Actions, Rallies – they’re not the end all; but they’re most certainly the means to an end – and people are listening.

On Monday, President Obama announced an executive order consisting of 50,000 body cameras for the nations 630,000 strong police force. After the outcome of the Garner case, it’s easy to argue that video cameras don’t do enough – but without this camera evidence, do you honestly believe that our streets would be full of protests and our cities would come to a standstill? In a recent news conference, Mayor De Blasio of New York City has demanded that the 20,000 member  police force undergo mandated retraining on the use of lethal force as well as community awareness.  As it turns out, most police officers across the country work in a different county than they live in – meaning that they most definitely don’t serve ‘the community.’ But when body cameras can be turned off, and the police can return to work after their mandated seminars – where does that really leave our nation? We need immense reform from both the top down and the bottom up.  California’s set the tone by passing Prop 47, decriminalizing non violent offenses and lessening the bulging prison population, and an assorted number of states have legalized marijuana – decreasing the amount of nonviolent crimes and offenders.  On top of that, there’s the issue of for profit prisons, some of which need a 90-100% retention rate to stay in business.

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We’re stopping traffic to beg for equality, we’re staging protests, wielding signs and standing strong as a community because we refuse to be silenced any longer. So go, find your voice, wage your peaceful protests and non violent wars, because until we’re heard – as a nation, as part of the human race – we can’t breathe.

[The Audiofiles] Lightning In A Bottle Is Cruising to Central Cali

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Of all the magical experiences that 2013 had to offer, hands down – my weekend away at Lightning in a Bottle was hands down the best five days of the year.  From the creatively costumed concert go-ers to dance and yoga workshops, right on down to the live musical acts, live art and live entertainment – Lightning in a Bottle expertly tantalizes each and every one of the senses and left me both searching and yearning for more out of myself, my life and the community I surround myself with.

Between last year’s fiasco with the outlying community of Riverside County and a desire to please their loyal fans up and down the coast of California, The Do Lab knew that they had to switch something up about the location.  When the festival was still in it’s early years, it was held in the Santa Barbara mountains and over the last four years has been bouncing between locations around Southern California.  The weekend deserved a location as unique as the culture it emanates, and with it’s new location in the Central Coast – that’s exactly what it’s getting.  This year, Lightning in a Bottle is migrating up to the San Antonio Recreation Area in Monterey County and I couldn’t be more excited.  Not only is it equidistant from the amazing music communities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but the new venue boasts more space than at the Live Oak Campground in Santa Barbara and the Lake Skinner Recreation Area in Temecula.  To boot, rain permitting we’ll be able to frolic in the lakes of the recreation area in the sweet heat of Memorial Day weekend; a stark contrast from last year when my friends and I got to tell folks to ‘Nama-stay off the lake!’ while trying to stay out of the immense Summer sun.

During the day, your mind is opened in so many directions with the plethora of enigmatic speakers and workshops.  They’re on everything from urban foraging, sustainability, sexuality, your infinite potential, inter-species communication and much, much more.  last year, speakers for the weekend included visionaries like Alex and Allison Grey, John Perkins and the author of one of my favorite books ‘Breaking Open The Head’ Daniel Pinchbeck;  workshops ranged from ritual movement, hooping, sacred dance and slacklining.  Scattered throughout the festival grounds are amazing, living works of art that evolve with the weekend with phenomenal artists from across the country and some of the most fun I had was routinely stopping by my favorites to see how they’re coming along.

As the sun starts going down, the beats begin to pick up and the community truly comes alive – spinning fire, gathering to admire live art and dancing to the infectious, underground sounds that are throbbing through the epic sound systems of the three main stages (the Woogie, Bamboo and Lightning) or one of two smaller stages at the Lumi Lounge and the Temple.  Each stage boasted a different assortment of acts, community and culture – at the Bamboo stage, you could get your grime on with gLAdiator, Griz, Kastle, Andreniline and the mud people (like, really though), the Lightning stage held the more theatrical productions like Emancipator and Nicolas Jaar and last but certainly not least, the Woogie got you to boogie with deep house DJs like Lee Burridge, Pumpkin and Marques Wyatt.

I went to Lightning in a Bottle with an open mind and no expectations; what I left with was an enhanced world view, self confidence and an amazing support system of friends new and old.

With a little something for everyone, this is an experience that I truly want all of my friends to be part of.  Tickets for this amazing five day experience go on 24 hour discounted sale on 2/18, and on 2/19 they’ll go on sale for full value.  Make sure to get yours quickly, this is one weekend not to be missed!

‘Tis the Season for Giving Back

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Holidays in America always seem to rub me the wrong way; the decadence and delight of celebrating and spending time with close friends and family is grossly overshadowed by corporate greed, consumerism and the want for material objects.  Not to say that I don’t love me a stellar present or two (who doesn’t love getting gifted?!) but to me the holidays are about presence – not presents.

Over the last 28 years, I’ve been given a lot of amazing gifts but the ones that stick with me are heartfelt and have nothing to do with physical, tangible things like the richness of having family time in a distant city and the comfort of their unconditional love. Unfortunately for myself – and my kitties – I rarely get to spend the holidays with them.  And of every one I deal with on a day to day basis, they give the most.  They’re around when I’ve had the best day ever and they comfort me when I’m sad; they talk to me when I’m stir crazy and working from home and cuddle me when I’m having a movie marathon.  More or less, they’re what keeps me sane and sweet day in and day out – so, this year I’ve decided to pay the love forward.  I found a great cause that I love and I cannot wait to bring some cheer to others.

“Adopt me, right meow!”

There’s a crazy statistic right now that the 8,000 or so feral cats in Los Angeles could grow to 60,000 within the next 18 months if we don’t do something about it.  The Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats is an amazing organization devoted to educating the community about the risks of feral cats, developing a stellar TrapNeuterRelease program and –my favorite– socializing feral cats to the point that they’re adoptable.

Before I left for Thanksgiving break, I had orientation with a group of fellow feline fanciers. A the beginning of the orientation there was a roundtable discussion on why we wanted to join the Bungalow and I’ll forever stick by my statement: Raising my cats has been a thrilling experience and I’m so lucky to have two loving, cuddlebugs by my side on the daily – Kitty Bungalow gives me the chance to take that love and pay it forward. And let’s get real for a second, from one crazy cat lady to her followers it’s so effing awesome being around other cat people!  Shawn, the lovely headmistress, showed us the ropes of the Bungalow and introduced us to some of the most adorable kittens I have ever seen and to boot there was one that was only 10 days old (and, as a side note, I’m pretty sure it’s going to take all my will power to not adopt more cats.)

Nothing makes me feel quite as good about receiving a present than when I’m giving back and  I think its a wonderful way to enter the holiday season. If you’re looking to get in on the volunteer action and don’t know where to start, give Volunteer Match a go – you can search metros, zip codes and keywords; perfect if you don’t know where to start!  Or, if you’d like to contribute to the kitties, the wonderful people over at GOOD are having a challenge to improve the lives of animals; our suggestion is for an animal transport and outreach vehicle, help us climb to the top of the voting charts here!