Sunday, October 28, 2012

Grown and Sexy? Redefining being Grown...

Much of today's discussion about adulthood has been centered around the notion of being "grown and sexy". The reality though, if you'll think about the awesome days of childhood, is that there's not much about being grown that's "sexy". Remember back in the day? endless days of play, visits to relatives, schoolyard fun and being relatively carefree? Adulthood, for most of us is just the opposite.

Of course, here at LJL we work to make sure our adulthoods contain those elements that made us happiest as kids; music, art, love, friendship and community. 

Which brings me to my point. Isn't it time we redefined what being "grown" really is. Surely there's more to adulthood than being "sexy".

The grownups I talk to, respect and admire often emphasize the friendships they share with their loved one or significant other as the highlight of their adult relationships, not the sex. The reality is, in a world where being grown came relatively easy to our parents generation, (graduate from school, secure "good" job with benefits, and begin a family) those same markers are often elusive to Generation X and Millennials. The current economic climate has sent many of us right back to our parents' basements, and because of the relaxed climate around marriage and expanding structure/definition of family, the stability and security our parents generation experienced just is not a guarantee.

My thinking around being "grown,"  although my current life closely resembles traditionalism, although through a VERY non-traditional path,  has been altered as I think about the significance of adulthood.

For me, adulthood is less about establishing my own autonomy, and more about being of use to my community. So, while I do work to move forward in my own career, accomplish personal goals and  build and invest in my family, part of my work as an adult is to take advantage of the opportunity it gives me to be of use to more than just myself.

As an educator, my paid work is closely tied to community support. I do way more work than I am paid for, and my hours off the clock never really mean I am off. It doesn't end in the classroom and with more technology comes more access, and more opportunities to teach. My subject matter often means that I not only serve as an academic, but also engage in the work of guiding the personal and emotional maturing of my students.

As a parent, of course I see myself as wholly responsible for the success of my sons, even though they are surrounded by wonderfully supportive extended family, educators, child care workers, neighbors and friends.
But I'm also incredibly concerned about their social circle, and of course the young ladies they attend school with. I'm  concerned about their educational institutions and community activities that are available to all kids.

Lately, I've been engaged in a significant amount of volunteer work and have found a great deal of satisfaction in doing work that supports my community in multiple ways. In this work, I've found the true meaning of being "grown". Its not simply growth, or maturity, but becoming an individual that is useful to the community in a variety of ways.

How do YOU do "grown" LJL family???

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sophisticated Lady Swag: Conjure Woman

So, Zenzile has given you an overview on waistbeads & their purpose.  Now, it's my turn to fill you in on my jigeda. I have three sets of waistbeads so far, with the goal of owning seven sets to fully establish my brand of divine femininity.  As you can see from the photo, I have one set that's red/black with stones & a solid red set.  The red beads from those two sets signify passion, sensuality, and love, while the black in one of the sets represents power.  The solid white set emphasizes purity in intentions or sincerity & symbolizes the light of the moon, a celestial body that fascinates me to no end. The remaining four sets will vary in design depending on my moods & their specific uses, however, I do know that some of the colors in those sets will include, but are not limited to, purple, turquoise, orange, yellow, solid black, & green. 

A woman can choose to adorn one set of waistbeads or several at a time, depending on her preference. Whatever her choice, she's dispensing feminine power, something that I'll loosely call magic-- and that is why she should be careful when wearing them.  As for me, whenever I wear my beads, I'm usually rocking all three sets, but I'm also highly selective about when they are worn.  For example, I do not wear my beads to the corporate slum (my job). It is not my intention to give off sensual energy in so sterile of an environment among menfolk who I have no desire to entice. It's not a good idea to wear waistbeads in other formal environments, such as church. I mean, really, praising the Lord has nothing to do with your sex appeal.    

So, are waistbeads just that serious?  The answer is yes. Given the current trends of sistas rocking stilettos before 9pm and the normality of skin-tight clothing and flesh displays, it's critical to stress, to women, that men actually like a bit of mystery in a woman. Waistbeads, when worn under clothing, can offer that mysterious effect as a woman uses her eyes & body language to suggest to her lover that she's got a sexy little secret waiting just for him.

For the most part, it's not much for a woman to step out in skimpy clothing, advertising the money parts (tits & ass) of her body, while men gawk unintentionally because they are biologically wired as visual creatures. But, once she's snagged the man of her liking, will she be able to keep his attention beyond the peep show?  It was said that Cleopatra (who was a Black woman, by the way) had the ability to seduce a man from twenty paces without revealing a hint of flesh. She was able to do this because she understood the allure of a sensual & confident woman. These two qualities are not dependent on men's validation, but rather, from a woman tapping into those aspects for herself.

Waistbeads can help because, when wearing them, she will become more comfortable with herself.  This can trigger emotional healing for all women, but especially sistas, since we are bombarded at every turn by media-induced images of beauty that starkly contrasts with what most of us see in the mirror. Activities such as adoring yourself in waistbeads and taking the time to engage in your own set of sacred pampering principles will bless you with one of the greatest gifts of all: self-acceptance.  At the same time, waistbeads can charge a woman's sexuality. If she has tapped into her feminine essence & exudes confidence, she is able to present a level of intimacy and love that will secure a man's heart as well as have a seductive effect on him that's better than Viagara. It's a lot like casting a spell, a love spell, if you will & that's what being a Conjure Woman is all about. 

Zenzile and I are making a special effort to add to the growing number of sistas out here who are reconnecting with our cultural roots. We're focused on presenting another version of Black womanhood that's not wrapped in layers of white supremacy, conservatism/traditionalism, or outright rebellion and lasciviousness.  At the same time, we want to reaffirm the spiritual components of Black womanhood & reconstruct our community without the overt influence of Westernized societal models because they don't work for  'Us'.

Waistbeads may not seem as though they can make such a statement, but on the contrary.  During our research for these posts, we have found several articles online, mostly from African websites, that are hashing it out about the traditional uses of waistbeads as well as their place in modern African societies.  Bead work & bead wear has been in existence in Africa for thousands of years so it should be quite obvious how waistbeads are a highly politicized issue.  In the U.S., there's an enclave of sistas who have taken up the craft of making & selling waistbeads (we will provide links in another post). Most of us are well aware of their allure & use them as a tool to celebrate our unique womanness.   As we continue to observe, we are noticing that many sistas are straying away from our distinctiveness (perhaps because many of them are unaware), which is why we're here revealing this -- the LoveJonesLifestyle.   

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sophisticated Lady Swag...

Continuing our Sophisticated Ladies series, we bring you post number 4, Sophisticated Lady Swag. Just a play on words, as sophisticated ladies are obviously not into what is currently known as "swag" in the colloquial sense, but we do want to discuss what swag means for the sophisticated lady. After all our definition of a sophisticated lady is a woman who is originally created, authentically developed, and all about being organic. And swag, well, that's a woman's own essence, her self defined representation and presentation.

The sophisticated lady, in the world of the LoveJonesLifestyle, is one who finds her own sense of appropriateness...from behavior, to dress, to vocation and representation, she is organically formed. She studies design to see what fits her body best, instead of fashion to maintain a trend. She develops her own code of ethics based on her own understanding, reasoning, argument and experience, as opposed to seeking acceptance and behaving like the status quo. She draws on the divine feminine to organically create an identity that suits her gifts, talents and lifestyle. She draws on her culture and ancestral history to ground her own identity which serves to protect her from the distractions, confusion and mixed messages of the outside world.

Following the vein of the divine feminine, Chandra Kamaria and I would like to share some of our #TeamOrganic swag, if you will.

One of my favorite pastimes is adornment. It helps me to relax and feel my best. Spending Saturdays washing and conditioning my locs, exfoliating, deep cleaning and decorating my face with makeup, indulging my skin in oil based salt and sugar scrubs, and slathering on scented oils and body creams have always been a few of my favorite rituals to prepare me for the stressful week ahead as a parent, student, employee, creative person, partner, community member and human being. Last week as we painted our nails, Chandra and I  laughed as we simultaneously shared that we had recently pulled one of our favorite guiding texts, Debrena Jackson Gandy's Sacred Pampering Principles, out for a refresher read.

Once all the physical care is done, we get to our favorite part, the adornment. While most look at summer adornment as all about "summer hair" swimsuits and sundresses, we go a bit deeper. For me especially, summer is all about three of my favorite pieces. The toe ring, anklet, and waist beads. I loved toe rings as soon as I got old enough to learn how to complete my own pedicures, and anklets were always mixed with seduction and repression for me.  I would see the thin gold bands under the stockinged legs of ladies in church, and wonder infinitely about this hidden/visible piece of "grown up" jewelry. As soon as I had my own money, I hurried to Claire's Boutique at the mall to buy my own. (Talk about being 'grown'!!) Now I wear a chain of bells around my ankle, taking what my dear sister-friend Reanae calls "the rhythm of life" with me everywhere I go.

I first became interested in waist bead years ago but my own insecurities prevented me from ever taking my interest any further. I learned, much to my pleasure, that waist beads were a significant part of  feminine power in West African (the area from which most African American's descent groups originate) culture. But I also thought, like many women do, that waist beads were for women with perfect waists...which I didn't have as a young woman, and certainly didn't have after giving birth to two nine pound baby boys! It was only when I decided to embrace what I DID have, that I was able to consider bringing the beads into my regular adornment style.

Sewra sums up the history and purpose of waist beads as I learned it from beaders, jewelry-makers and  other students of the divine feminine:
Traditionally worn under clothes by African women, waist beads have several different meanings. Ranging from rites of passage, to enticing your husband to healing and rejuvenation. The art of adorning ones self has been practiced since the beginning of time. In Egypt, waist beads were called “girdles”. All the women wore them and it was a uniform for pre-pubescent girls with out any sexual connotation. But usually servants or dancers wore them and are shown in wall relief’s wearing them and nothing else!
In West Africa, waist beads have several names.; Jel-Jelli, Jigeda, Giri-Giri, Djalay Djalay or Yomba. They’re always worn under clothes. In Ghana women knew that waist beads helped form their body into a particular shape and adult women wear beads to sexually stimulate the male. In other parts of West Africa, women would wear waist beads with bells on them, and when they walked it would make a jingling noise. Dipping them in oil scented the beads.
When you add stones, waist beads take on healing qualities. Depending on ailment or what needs to be enhanced (i.e. love, physic powers, balancing), various semi-precious stones can be included in the design of your waist beads. (Sewra of
 My first set of waist-beads (shown below) were hand made, originally scheduled to be a bridal project and bonding activity for me and my friends while we were all still single. I ended up being gifted with them by a sister-friend and was overwhelmed with joy as I knew they were a  labor of love.

They consist of cotton thread and yellow silk ribbons, fire agate for confidence, jade for wisdom/balance and peace, and copper (increase/magnification of other stones) tie tips. Of course, waist beads are as diverse as the women who wear them. Some women wear several strands of tiny beads, others mix beads and healing stones, still others may wear a single strand of larger beads or a single strand of small beads.

My beads have become, above all other adornment, the ultimate in femininity. I love to wear them, to know that my most beautiful jewels are actually hidden, much like the true beauty of a woman. I love knowing that they lie in wait for discovery by my lover...and I love the effect they have when I am grabbed at the waist. The look that says "whats that?" followed by a passionate need to have the secret revealed.

The beads are powerful. Because of their ancient nature, the have brought memories and myths to my sacred intimate space. They bring all of the energies of their physical property while magnifying the most natural human desire and drive for sexual healing.

 I'm already planning on making a second set, this time a casual, truly Southern set I call Pure Leather and Wood, which will consist of a tan leather band, round white (moon energy, purity, spiritual clarity ) wood beads, ebony (protection) square wood beads as accents and cream glass bead tie tips.

For me, being able to create my own expression of beauty, that has a function and is extremely expressive of self love, my personal history and the divine feminine is the ULTIMATE Sophisticated Lady swag!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Letter to My Former Lovers...part deux

Letter to My Former Lovers…

When Chandra Kamaria suggested we share our experiences of love as a part of the “Sophisticated Ladies” Series, I immediately said yes. I literally jumped at the suggestion, and began making some notes in my head.

There was no acrimony or bitterness, but an eagerness instead. Although there is a particular lover I’d love to “tell off,” when I look at the situation with my highest self, that of a fully developed, wholly empowered, well educated, family centered, Goddess infused matriarch in training, I understand fully, that that one particular lover was in pain, severely damaged, and acting out in the best result driven ways contained in his personal arsenal.

Therefore, I’m able to say to him, despite his bad behavior, I understand. Because as I understand the source of his pain, I hope on some subliminal level that he also understood my passion. My drive to be coupled, to know him, and to join him on a journey of healing, something so valuable, was not something that could be forced. So, in knowing him, I also came face to face with my own impatience, stubbornness, and aggressive nature. All virtues in my professional struggles, but incredibly out of place in the loved filled space of a relationship. To this lover, I say thank you for being brave enough to stand on your no, when I was screaming yes. Your turning away, helped the true direction I needed to face. I am forever grateful for pointing out to me that my community holds all that I need.

To the lover that worked to be my everything despite my resistance, know that your work was not done in vain…we met at the best and worst of times. When I needed a friend, which you were, but not a lover, which you became. Your presences and absences were always felt intensely. I missed your childlike rambunctiousness when you traveled, yet it was this same personality that disrupted my naturally introverted peace seeking nature when you were present. I thank you for being man enough to share with me what I taught you, and for allowing me to grow up enough to tell you what I learned from you. I am so grateful that we were able to go our separate ways, yet maintain what is still one of the strongest and most valuable friendships in my life.

To the lover that should have been a summer romance, a fun and light affair, but unfortunately turned into a long drawn out and quite ugly and destructive union. I can only say that I am sorry. I hate that I didn’t trust myself enough to make the best decisions for the both of us. I’m disappointed that it was with you that I saw the ugliest parts of myself. The dissolution of our union forced me into a serious deep depression.  A stripping down of myself and the questioning of everything I “thought” I knew. The scars were deep, and no doubt others had to pay for my experiences with you. The only regret I harbor is that our children, to this day, suffer the consequences of our past irresponsibility, vindictiveness and lack of communication. I've made my peace with the past, but it is tempered with the knowledge that some things can not be undone, and certain consequences are permanent.

Finally…to the one who started it all. My high school sweetheart. My friend. You were there for me, supported me and loved me through all of my growing pains. When I needed a friend, you listened. When there were adventures to be had, you were at my side. You treated me like a lady, and acted like a gentleman. We exchanged our first kisses, and many other firsts, good and bad. I remember feeling grief over your deepest pains, and only disappointment at your lowest points, no matter how they affected me, I could never get angry with you. I am thankful for the shelter of our relationship throughout our child and young adult-hoods and thank you for releasing me when it was no longer safe to hold on.

Now that we are adults,  I am most thankful for your survival, your living and thriving. I am most impressed with the man you have become; holding on to your sanity, living your life as an artist and seeing opportunity at every turn. I have learned, after twenty years that you are still my friend. You are still the one who I would go anywhere with, my favorite companion for adventures. You are the shoulder on which I can always rest. You are my life partner, the one that I am eternally grateful to wake to and hear “Good Morning, my friend”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

An Open Letter to My Ex-Lovers

Note: In the power of being a grown woman, a sophisticated lady as my sister Zenzile dubs it, I believe it necessary to make universal statements. These revelations spoken, or in this case written, out loud are for the express purpose of cleaning out my emotional closet so that I can welcome feelings for a new lover. I strongly encourage all of our readers to embrace your unexpressed feelings & to write an open letter to your ex-lovers so you can be wide open to experience the joy & beauty of loving again -- loving again without reservations, hesitations, or pent up frustrations. Here's my open letter as an example for you to follow. ---

May 2, 2012

Dear Ex-Lovers:

This is not a letter to bash or to speak ill will into your lives. I do not have a desire to avenge any hurt nor do I harbor anger for any of you beautiful brothas. Instead, this is a letter thanking you for your presence in my life. Without knowing you & loving you, I wouldn't know me or understand how I love. I realize that each one of you taught me something about who I am & for that, I will be forever grateful. Even though I hated it at the time, I appreciate those occasions when you called me out on my mess. I was wrong a lot and two of you didn't hesitate to tell me, even though you knew you'd be met with a few choice words for doing so.

Over the years, I came to realize that it wasn't about me being too small to own up to my mistakes. No, it was something much deeper than that.  I didn't want to be wrong in your eyes.  I wanted you to see me as close to perfect as possible. Silly, I know. But that is my truth. You knew me better than I was willing to admit at the time.  I didn't want to be that transparent.  I felt you would have taken advantage of that so, deliberately, I tried to be evasive but neither one of you fell for that, thank God.

One of you used to make me cry but you didn't know it. My pride wouldn't allow me to display such 'weakness' before you.  That's why I preferred to keep a straight face & let my big mouth & cuss words do it all for me.  It was a smoke screen.  You were so fine to me and all I wanted to do was keep you, but somehow, when I tried to express that, the words would get stalled in my throat. That's why you couldn't grasp what I was saying. I wasn't telling you the whole truth. You went on with your life, doing what you wanted to do & I held a grudge against you for it. For some reason, I actually thought that you could read my mind & know that I wanted us to be together. Some years later, I was able to confess a lot to you and how I felt things went down between us. You confessed your wrongdoings & that was enough for me, but you took it a step further and healed me with your apology. Thank you.

Yes, I remember you all well.  From high school, you, my first love, wouldn't let me get off the phone in the late hours of the night until I told you that I loved you.  It still puzzles me to this day why your life went in the direction that it did.  When I was in undergrad, receiving your letters from prison, I couldn't respond because telling you how disappointed I was with you wasn't going to help your situation at all. However, I am thankful to God that your life is so much better now. You have a wife and a beautiful crop of children. You're doing well and that's a true blessing. To the scrawny cutie that would sneak out of his mama's house to come over just because I told him to, we are all grown up now & life is different for the both of us. I hope our recent argument won't sour our 20+ year friendship for good.

To the preacher's kid, your letters brought big smiles to my face and made me feel so special knowing that a Navy man was somewhere with his mind on me.  On Valentine's Day 1991, I cried on the way home from school because everyone was getting their gifts & you were in Afghanistan as part of Operation Desert Storm. But my heart leaped for joy when I opened that package left on my doorstep; a dozen red roses along with a card and a letter sent me into orbit. Please forgive me for breaking up with you once I got to college. It was for the best because I knew I wasn't going to be faithful.

To the one who laid beside me as I received a late night phone call with bad news about a family member, I thank you for consoling me that night. On another note, you have the goofiest laugh but I enjoyed hearing it, especially when I was acting silly! Even though we couldn't ever get our thing together, I still had a great time hanging out with you shooting pool & cooking for you.

There were so many good times; lots of laughter, intimate moments, painful moments, and frustration with all of you.  I cherish each of those moments, not because I desire to rekindle our affairs, but because they were all stepping stones to me becoming a mature woman, capable of loving without any fear and knowing how to deal with the issues that arise when a man & a woman are in love. Even though I had you for a certain time in my life, I thank you for preparing me for him -- the one I'm ready to love as soon as time & space allows. I pray sincerely that God blesses each of you abundantly & that you are blessed with much love because each of you deserve it.

Love Always,

Monday, April 23, 2012

"It" Girl or Sophisticated Lady...pondering modern maturity

‘It’ Girl or Sophisticated Lady?

      Hello Lovelies!!! We hope your love life has been as active, interesting or as full of misadventure as ours…as we always say, the LoveJonesLifestyle is not for the faint of heart!

      Chandra Kamaria and I consider ourselves trendsetters…we often read about things we’ve talked about on LJL or in our personal lives months or in one case, years later, and because we know the power and importance of setting trends, especially when it comes to the image, lives and voice of Big Girls in the City, we regularly ponder and recommit to maintaining our space and voice in cyberspace. We explore the net relentlessly; reading news, online magazines, checkin’ out new tweeters and even examining the latest technology and social trends. Lately we’ve been discussing one of our favorite social networking sites, Twitter.

     While our lives have been enriched by the community space, connection to fellow artists and art connoisseurs and basic awareness and information exchange that Twitter offers, we’ve also become incredibly concerned about the representation we’ve seen of our sisters in tweeting. Obviously twitter is a social networking space, but it is also a space that provides real community if we allow it. And this, the social space of community, is what fuels our concern. Chandra brought it to my attention that there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of young black women (or who represent themselves as such) who have embraced the “‘it’ girl” persona. You’ve seen the Facebook meme about “things _____ girls do on Facebook” no doubt, and if you’re in a certain demographic, you’ve also seen the hoards of young girls who describe themselves as “models” or “model-type” but are shown posing in their bathroom mirrors, not on a runway. I’ve got to give it to the sisters for their creativity; I often see really cute outfits, makeup and hairstyles. But, come on, who are we kidding? These young ladies are not models and often have no plans, careers or any other aspect of their real lives that would put them on track to model…anything!

      So we ask, what propels these women to represent themselves as such? Is the obsession with the Hollywood manufactured and determined “it” girl so pervasive that regular women around the way have forgotten the allure of the around the way girl!? Have they neglected natural Black beauty in exchange for a fantasy of fame (or infamy), facades and well, fakeness?

       Now, far be it from us to pass judgment on any other sister and how she chooses to represent herself, but we, as intellectual and artistic women have to pose the question, WHY is the “it” girl the representation that so many young sisters are choosing? What is the attraction to expressing oneself with an attitude that causes you to answer the Location question with the response “everywhere you’re not”? I mean, come on, we all know the “I’m just doing me, love me or hate me” blurb is a childish way to say “I don’t have to behave because ‘I’m grown’ and I don’t want to be called out on my bad behavior”, right?

      As women who desire the experience of love (and we ALL need to be loved) and support others in getting the healthy love they need and want, Chandra Kamaria and I have an obligation to not only promote getting said love, but also highlighting ways we block love from our lives, so that we can remove those blocks and get to the good part!
    So it is in the spirit of love that WE offer the beautiful songs, artistic expressions and models of womanhood that helped us get to be the sophisticated ladies we are today…because an it girl is just that, an ‘it’…dehumanized, an object of admiration until the public tires of her…a ‘girl’, a not yet fully actualized woman…and none of our sisters deserves to be dehumanized and disposed of, we all need space to grow, to self actualize, and receive the love we all want need and deserve.
      Stay tuned for the "Sophisticated Lady, photos and maybe even some special treats...and in the meantime tell us what you are doing to get to a healthy love. What models of womanhood showed you how to mature and value YOU? How are you living your LoveJonesLifestyle???

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Truth about LJL

The's something Chandra Kamaria and I have been grappling with in our love lives, as well as artistic endeavors. What we know, is that there are multiple truths, never just one, and life, at it's fullest consists of navigating those truths, honoring our true selves and walking our divinely appointed paths.

While we've both contributed to LJL, often our lives and lifestyles are not conducive to our consistent contribution. We are artists, we love art, we love creation and we love love. We entered 2012 with a huge jolt back into reality, defined by pushing our dreams forward and seeing the deepest desires of our hearts come into fruition. Harkin's House Productions completed it's official launch into 2012 with a weekend long open house and film showcase. Red Heart Films and Zenzile's Way began filming it's first documentary film Curvaceous. Amid our professional success, we've also begun to explore the options for love.

We've entered into several discussions of what love means and looks like IN the midst of a Love Jones Lifestyle. Our current contemplation is open relationships and polyamory. As artists and creators, our work is on a constant tightrope, as we attempt to balance our creative selves, the demands of family, day jobs and our very real needs as youthful, attractive, socially active women. While we work to sustain ourselves, our need to create and our desire to love and be loved, we've considered the reality of what fits in our lives, and how. We've engaged in a continually evolving discussion of what love looks like, our specific needs, and what we can actually contribute. A discussion of polyamory presents the options that could very well fit our lives and lifestyles. It's not something we'd embark on on a whim, and definitely not a lifestyle for the faint of heart, but nothing about the Love Jones Lifestyle is.

So far, we've only concluded that there is more work to do. While we've agreed to follow what life has presented us with, to be honest with ourselves, and to remain devoted to our art, we can only deal with the truths of our lives. Truth 1. we want love Truth 2. we will remain open. We will keep you posted on our progress, our learnings, our discussions and our challenges...who knows, maybe there's a podcast in our future!

In the meantime, tell us how YOU live YOUR Love Jones Lifestyle. How do you balance love and life in the creative class?