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We. Are. Supernatural.

It has been said that we all have angels assigned to us or all around us.

If that is true, mine sent me to the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa last weekend.

I was chosen, along with 14 other women across the country to participate in a three-day workshop called The Storyteller Project: Digital Storytelling for Women of Color facilitated by Dr. Robin Boylorn and Veralyn Williams with a special lunch and learn with Dr. Rachel Raimist.

When I was selected, I remember feeling so much excitement that I paced the room. I didn’t even think about what it would be or what I would be in that space until I got the additional information we needed to prepare before coming–“Bring an excerpt written by/about a woman of color that inspires or resonates with you (one paragraph or less). Personal story ideas or topics (Consider what part of your story do you want to tell, and why?)”

That part of the preparation made it real.  I was going to come and fellowship, yes. But I was going to have to do the work. Ask myself serious questions. It demanded that one of my truths be spoken.

As time passed and the workshop was rescheduled from August to October, I had time to let a few doubts seep in about whether or not my story would be compelling or impactful enough but I never let it take up residence in my mind, the only place that matters.

Within seconds of  arriving in The Hub at the University of Alabama, any fears I had were allayed. I was met with such warmth by the other women, Dr. Robin Boylorn and her graduate assistant, Lola I was instantly at ease. I no longer doubted the validity or the strength of my story. There was no reason to wonder why I had been chosen.

There was no time for my “stuff.”

I was there not only to be a participant and a storyteller but to bear witness.

I witnessed Black women being daughters, Black women being mothers and Black women being sisters.

Black women giving ourselves permission to fall apart recognizing there was someone there to provide a soft place, lap and heart.

I witnessed women give birth to their stories.

It was painstaking at times but it was healing.

There were women aching to release their screams, aching for the women who raised them, aching to claim their sexuality, aching for healing, aching to tell stories of other silenced and forgotten Black men and women, aching to be seen and aching for a way to grieve.

There were moments where my heart was so full “overflow” will never be the word, is not enough of a word.

On Day 1, we were asked to work in groups to talk about Black women, our stories and address the themes of the passages we brought.

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By Day 3, it was evident they weren’t just words in marker on paper taped to a wall. We gave those words life. We breathed life into those words. We embodied those themes and stories in our work.

I was in a room full of survivors.

 

 

On Day 2, Dr. Rachel Raimist joined the party via Zoom in Los Angeles. She imparted valuable advice on how to break down our audio to prepare them for Day 3. During the session, she used a photo of her own grandmother and mother to propose a story. I loved how she used something as simple as the frame (or lack thereof) to give us ideas on the many ways to approach a narrative.

Veralyn Williams (NPR producer with the patience of an angel) came from New York to start co-facilitating with Robin and help us produce our audio/audio-visual stories. In addition to sharing her digital storytelling expertise, she challenged me. I had never used the IMovie application before and I was frustrated trying to navigate it. After helping me with some of the more difficult parts of the editing process, she let me know in no uncertain times she was not going to complete it for me.

Even though I didn’t ask her to, she knew if I sat back and let her continue to work on the visuals, I would have. It became glaringly obvious how uncomfortable I am with people recognizing my fear of not being able to do something well.

I psyched myself up to finish, remembering we were all in this together and as Robin lovingly pointed out, this was technically a first draft.

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Dr. Rachel Raimist joining us during our Lunch and Learn session on Day 2 from LA.

After dinner and pictures we all sat together (including Robin’s beautiful mother) to screen our stories and enjoy cake.

 

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I know I can only speak for myself but what I experienced during and especially after the screening was no less than supernatural.

When a group of Black  women who don’t hold shame and celebrate the skin they’re in congregate and create with love, there is a sense of power, a collective power in the room.

We. Are. Supernatural.

Fallible, awkward, soft, strong, honorable, brash, intelligent, sexy, artistic, quiet, curious, unapologetically ambitious, feminine, nerdy, funny as hell but supernatural nonetheless.

Right before coming, I was in the middle of a serious healing journey with my husband and I considered not coming.

I made the right choice.

I chose my voice and I chose to welcome new ones into my life.

Thank you Robin (and your dear mother), Veralyn, Rachel, Lola, Andrea, Salaam, Jameka, Allison, Tiffany, Cassandra, Bernadette, Jilisa, Nadia, Tracy, Delilah and Lakeesha.

 

 

 

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Be…

I was at work when I saw these words. It got me to thinking.

Be original. I believe, even though God created each and every one of us to be just that, we often forget. I forget. When I let myself get distracted and start to drown in the murky waters of depression, I forget it’s my purpose. Being the original person Kristina was made to be is the truth I should be walking in and not running away from.

Be natural. This can take on so many meanings. For me, natural has meant how I love, how I wear my hair (and my emotions on my sleeves), how I write and how I aspire to eat. I won’t get it right every single time but I will shoot for coming and staying close. When I am not honest about what I am feeling or pollute my temple with foods that don’t honor my mission, it doesn’t serve who I am. In the last month or so, I chose to slow down the frequency of my posting. The break has been much needed but I don’t want to lose sight of what I feel I have been called to do with this platform. I don’t want to lose sight of what comes to me naturally.

Be good. At one point during the day, whether or not I believe it to be true, I declare out loud: Today is going to be a good day. Today is going to be a great day. So even when I have been insulted or heard medical news that makes me want to sob uncontrollably or indulged in a moment of fear, I still say those words. I believe in the good. In people. In spirit. In God. The good that comes from deep, intimate connection. The good that comes from kisses, tight hugs and a reassuring voice on the phone.

The good in a good cry. The good in plants. The good in a story that makes me want to write my own. The good in gratitude.

The good that is Love.

Be original.

Be natural.

Be good.

 

 

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The Next 30 Days

I recently decided that I will spend from September 3rd-October 3rd eating raw foods and journaling everyday. On the 4th of October, I leave for the Digital Storytelling Workshop in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. By that time, I want to feel mentally, spiritually and physically prepared as possible for the experience ahead of me.

Today, I was listening to a man who has been water fasting for over 40 days now speak about how he feels that we take on the characteristics of the things we eat. His statement was reminiscent of the age old saying “You are what you eat.” What struck me was the calmness in his tone as he recounted how he was reacting (or not reacting) to others in typically stressful situations. He feels like water–going with the flow without rising to anger or panic.

Even though I was raw throughout the month of July, I didn’t document how I was feeling each day. I want the next 30 days to stand out in my memory and the best way for me has always been to write it down.

I also want it as a record for all I have to be grateful for…the physical and the mental results.

 

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Meatless Mondays: Mushroom Pulled “Pork”

Hubby and I spent the weekend in Baltimore. We had the pleasure of attending Vegan SoulFest 2018 and visiting with friends. Yesterday, they took us to a lively farmer’s market in the city where we purchased (among many other things), oyster mushrooms. I have had them in restaurants but never cooked them myself.

We ended up using a recipe from liveeatlearn com and I can’t wait to try it again.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4 king oyster mushrooms*
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 30 mL, divided
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup BBQ sauce
  1. Shred mushrooms.Preheat oven to 400 degrees (204 C). Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Using two forks, shred the stems and caps roughly into pieces. Set on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

  2. Bake: Drizzle with 1 Tbsp of the oil, paprika, salt, cayenne, and garlic. Toss around to evenly coat the mushrooms, then bake for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are a bit crispy and brown on the edges.

  3. Sauté: Heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a large saute pan over medium high. Transfer cooked mushrooms to pan and add BBQ sauce. Stir and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until mixture is thick and fragrant. Serve warm on sandwiches, nachos, salads, tacos…or whenever you eat pulled pork!

    We chose to serve it on a wheat bun with my husband’s version of deviled potaties. Definitely looking forward to eating this dish again.

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Meatless Mondays: I Made My Own Raw Dressing!

For the next 5 days, I have decided to return to eating raw vegan. Let’s just say I went off the rails during vacation with my vegan cooked foods and kept it up for a few days afterwards.

I usually like to make huge salads for dinner while raw and seek a recipe from the internet or something store bought for the dressing but tonight, with inspiration from recipes I’ve seen online, I decided to go ahead and make my own.

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Ingredients I blended for my homemade dressing!

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of raw cashews
  • 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon of juice from olives (you can even throw in a couple if you choose).
  • 1 tablespoon of spicy brown mustard

Blend together and enjoy this creamy dressing with your veggies!

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Tap Tap and the Unknown

For the past few days, Hubby and I were in Florida to celebrate our anniversary and to visit family. Our schedule was jam-packed but we did make time to stay spend a morning at Ft. Lauderdale beach and go to South Beach. I fell in love with the water, as in kicked off my sandals, hiked up my dress and waded straight into the warm clear blue. After a long walk, we made it to be to Tap Tap, a famous (and delicious) Haitian restaurant in South Beach Miami. We indulged in Diri Kole, plantains and legim (vegetables). I forgot to ask if there was a meat-based broth they cooked anything in but it was wonderful. I especially loved the decor. There were murals everywhere, a lovely and vibrant tribute to the people, music, rituals and food of Haiti.

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South Beach
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At Tap Tap
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Hubby and I with my grandparents

I also found out that I have the opportunity to go to two events over the same weekend in different parts of the country the night we left. One event is a known. I know (and am excited about) the type of people attending and the speakers. My second choice is full of unknowns and whether or not I deem the experience a success, I have no doubt I will be pushed to grow as a creator and a writer.

I have been told and have told others if you have the choice between two choices like that, you go with the unknown.

I understand part of life is about stretching yourself in order to know who you are and what your limits are.

I hope what I choose allows me to find out more about who I am and what those limits are for me.

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Transformation

On June 3rd, I wrote FACE

It was about accepting how far I have come in my health journey with psoriasis. Even though I wasn’t thrilled about what happened to my face since being diagnosed, I had come to a point where I was happy with the progress I had already made.

And then I challenged myself to be a raw vegan for the month of July and with the exception of a few bites of hummus here and there, I succeeded.

Then something else happened. My skin started changing rapidly. The picture above is the transformation from June 3rd to August 3rd. The pink scales started to clear and my real skin appeared. My real brown started to emerge again. I walked out of the house several times without a stitch of makeup except for lip gloss. It has been years since I felt comfortable doing that.

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Out and about feeling like a real psoriasis warrior!

Even though I indulged in cooked food a few times over last weekend, I know how key this is to my healing and I know I’ve written it many times now, but I am not letting it go. When I first looked at those pictures side by side, I was bowled over by the change. There is an answer for me that doesn’t look or sound like injections or pills or steroids.

How blessed am I for having access to fresh fruits and vegetables? How blessed am I that I have access to information about how they heal and how my body wants to heal itself? I am grateful that I was open to it.

I was open to my healing.

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Meatless Mondays: NuVegan Cafe

This past Saturday was our 6th anniversary! One of the ways we celebrated was trying Nu Vegan Cafe. It did not disappoint. I hadn’t indulged in any cooked food since June 30th and this meal was well worth the wait.

I had “chicken drummies” with macaroni and cheese and broccoli and hubby had General Tso’s with rice, string beans and some of the most delicious cabbage I had ever tasted. I am so happy to report they knew how to season their food!

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Hubby’s meal. The cabbage was our favorite!
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Me standing in front of NuVegan Cafe.

We even tried some of the vegan cornbread which is not to be missed! I had to slow down as my body was not used to eating cooked foods again. So while we did go back to try their brunch on Sunday (french toast was everything!) we will have to slow down as I am back on mostly raw foods. Make no mistake, we will be back. I still have so much more left to try!

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Priceless

This past week has had its ups and downs but I had an experience that made me realize I don’t have to run to food every time something goes wrong.

And I very well could have. July 31st has come and gone. My raw food challenge is over and I have remained raw. On June 30th, I would have told you come August 1st, I will be first in line at the new vegan soul food stuffing my face with as much as Mac and cheese that could possibly fit.

Instead, in the past week I attended the National Day of Dance and participated in the Afro-Caribbean class, walked and jogged a couple of times, enjoyed a combination of raw meals and smoothies. It wasn’t about the number (2.8lb loss this week). It was about how good I feel and want to continue to feel.

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Having a good time at Afro-Caribbean dance class

It is about how awful I felt dealing with a personal issue and my first reaction was to put the focus anywhere but how I can binge away my feelings, my panic and my anxiety.

That kind of growth is priceless for someone like me.

If I have the healing that eating all of those raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds brought to thank for it, then I thank what God gave us again and again.