Monday, November 24, 2014

Mary J. Blige Takes a Chance and Delivers Rich Soul in ‘The London Sessions’

When I think about the soundtrack to my teen years, Mary J.Blige’s voice is on there. The girl from the Yonkers projects can sing about the pains and joys of love better than many of us can put into words.  I was down for Mary when she came on the scene back in 1992 with What’s the 411? Now the Queen of Hip Hop Soul is about to release her 13th studio album The London Sessions.

Mary J. Blige has to do what a lot of artists who debuted during the ‘90s—stay relevant and appealing to music listeners. People like her, Usher, Jay Z, etc. are still young and want to make music. But they need to produce music that fans, young and seasoned, will buy. I thought it was a brilliant idea for her go overseas to the U.K. and work with British producers to make the The London Sessions. With artists like the late Amy Winehouse and Adelle, the Brits have brought some deep soul artists to music.  Mary J. Blige made the smart move of working with producers overseas like Sam Smith, Disclosure and Naughty Boy.

This new album is a different sound for Mary, but it’s still Mary. It’s definitely more mature, with grown-woman lyrics.  The album opens with a classic soulful, bluesy/gospel type of song called “Therapy.” It’s about a woman bothering her ex-lover, has internal conflict and needs to let go.  Which is why she needs therapy. There are a few club beat songs like “My Loving” and “Nobody but You.”  "Right Now" is reminiscent of her signature hip-hop soul sound.  One of my favorite songs is “Doubt." It’s a good rise from the bottom song:

I can't keep doubting myself
Now you're looking at a leader

Now you're staring at a queen

You said I'll never be someone

But now I’m pulling all the strings

The London Sessions is a good album. It’s good soulful music. It’s real music. I applaud her for taking a risk and opening herself up to try something different while still staying Mary. Will mainstream pop music listeners buy the album? I don’t know. I think Mary J. Blige fans will be pleased. I’ve loved her music, style and realness for a long time and I like the album. The reviews on iTunes have been good. If you like real, soulful, grown, R&B music-- get the album.

The London Sessions comes out Dec. 2nd in the U.S. You can pre-order the album on iTunes and Amazon

FTC Disclosure statementI participated in the Mary J. Blige The London Sessions album review program as a member of bLink Marketing Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pinch Me, I Saw Oprah!
A Review of 'Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend'

I still can’t believe I saw Oprah Winfrey on stage. For a long time, I wished I could go to her talk show. But I’m glad I was blessed to see her at this event instead because it was life changing.

I recently wrote about feeling like I lost my self-power. Well, Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend got me charged up! You can read about how in my Huffington Post article.

The Life You Want Weekend is a two-day unforgettable experience where you listen to top-notch speakers who encourage you to pursue your dreams. I was surprised how much the weekend also incorporated spirituality, which I liked.  The speakers lineup featured: Dr. Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Gilbert, Pastor Rob Bell and Iyanla Vanzant.

Oprah made her last tour stop in San Jose, Calif.  It was worth the 45-minute drive each day.  Below is a photo journey of my weekend.

Oprah graces the stage Friday night.
Photo courtesy of Harper Studios Inc./ George Burns

Oprah looked regal in this gorgeous orange dress. It was a perfect color for the fall season. She kicked off the weekend telling her story of growing up a poor black girl from rural Mississippi to becoming the queen of media. I knew much of her story already. What did surprise me was that her parents were never married and they were only intimate once. Oprah said she knew, from that story, she was destined to be here.

My favorite quotes from Oprah that night were:
“Your life is being shaped by your beliefs,” she said. “You become what you believe.”
“When things are not in alignment with your spirit, life tries to move you in a new direction.”
 “Whatever it is you’ve come to do, you’re not supposed to keep it to yourself.”
“Take your glory and run!”

Friday, November 7, 2014

How Do I Get My Power Back?

Photo by Ana Labate

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
--Alice Walker

I finally had enough. As I prayed asking for the burden to be removed from my shoulders, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a very, very long time. I felt powerless. This time around it was more daunting. I felt it in my body that my spiritual and mental battery pack of power had hit red. Empty. I asked God for my power.

In five years I’ve been broke and jobless due to the recession, stood up to verbal attacks, helped care for a relative dying of cancer, attended many funerals and dealt with various health issues related to stress. People I thought who had my back turned their back on me. I’ve had to reconfigure my support network, the people I can rely on. I’ve been harassed on the street and narrowly missed being attack twice. I miss the friends and city I used to live. I’m not living the career dreams I worked hard for in school. And it seems when I try to achieve, I fail. The last straw was the last attempt by someone to harm me. I was angry as hell then wondered, “What happened to my life, what happened to my power?”

You probably can relate. Maybe you’re married to someone and it’s not working anymore, but you feel stuck. Or you’re in a job that you loathe going to every time the alarm clock rings in the morning. You can’t control your children. Or you’re in a financial rut. Someone you loved died unexpectedly and tragically. For the first time in your life, you failed. Through this all you feel powerless. You’re wondering, “What happened to my life, what happened to my power? How do I get it back?!”

I’ve always been successful and for the most part pleased with the direction was my life was going. Now I feel like I’m walking a dark road in the forest.  I must have some light somewhere.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Break Out the Whips!
The Official Fifty Shades of Grey Trailer

 The long awaited Fifty Shades of Grey film is coming out Valentine's Day 2015. That's just in a few months. They released a trailer a few months ago. I HATE the book, but thought the movie would be better. Now I'm not sure. I detest Anastasia Steele, and find it an oxymoron that one of the weakest female characters I've ever read in fiction has a name that implies strength and being nearly indestructible. Just the few seconds I saw the character annoyed me. So I don't know if I'll be able to sit through a movie watching her. Nothing against Dakota Johnson, the actress looks just how I imagined Anastasia to be. And the actor playing Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) is handsome, but I thought he would be finer. However, he may be a bigger turn on once I see him in character. Then I just read on that film will not include frontal male nudity, and not too many explicit sex scenes. What's the point of that? If I were so fortunate to write an erotic novel that turned into a film, and I wrote the script for the film, I would definitely want it hot. There would be equal nudity exposure of both the male and female actors. I hope Dakota Johnson isn't giving her all with the nudity and we'll only get glimpses of Jamie Dornan. What do you think? Are you going to see the film?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ladies, Fight Back!
Why Women Should Learn How to Defend Themselves Against Street Harassment

Found Alive! Carlesha Freeland-Gaither and her alleged abductor.

I am extremely thankful that Carlesha Freeland-Gaither, 22, was found alive.  The nurse’s aide was kidnapped and dragged off the street by an alleged rapist, abuser, etc. You have to read this guy’s rap sheet. He’s sick and sounds like a misogynist. She put a fight when he abducted her. It’s a miracle she was found alive. I’m thanking God she was found because I prayed for her. I wish her mental peace as she heals from the traumatic mental scars. 

Since living back in Oakland, I’ve been nearly attacked twice. The first time was by a crazy, angry woman at a gas station who was mad at me because she wanted my pump. Mind you I was there five minutes before she arrived.  The second time happened recently. A man I met at the community dance hall I sometimes attend, repeatedly asked to walked me to my car. I wasn’t interested in him and told him “no” at least three times.  I left the dancehall. It was dark outside. Just as I as about to get into my car, I turned around. He was standing at the passenger side of my car. I jumped in my car. Then he came around to the driver’s side of my car. I sped off and was extremely shaken. I told him no repeatedly but he didn’t give a damn. I didn’t know if he wanted to rape me, beat me, or what.

A few days later I read about 27-year-old Mary Spears. She was shot and killed at a family event in Detroit after telling a man multiple times she was not interested in him. Then I thought about the New York woman whose throat was slashed by a man she also turned down.

I decided that it was time to protect to myself. I talked to friends who carry weapons. I also enrolled in a women’s self-defense class at Hand to Hand Kajukenbo Self-Defense Center in Oakland
Woman takes self-defense course with Marine officers as instructors.
Source is wikicommons
how there’s been so much talk about street harassment, abductions and rapes on college campuses. She questioned why aren’t we discussing women defending themselves because some of these dangers can be avoided.

What a great question! Why aren’t we talking about women protecting themselves? Is it because we’re looked upon as the weaker sex? Or because society tells us that women shouldn’t fight or carry knives because that’s unlady like. Or as another woman in the class said, if a woman says no or fights back she’s going to be punished. We’re supposed to just sit and take a beating. F*ck that!

Being physically aggressive in the self-defense was slightly odd for me and the other women at first, but I got the hang of it quickly. It felt good to yell, scream, punch and kick. And I could see on some of the women’s faces that pad they kicked was some sick bastard that hurt them.

I highly encourage women to take a self-defense class. I’ve met some women who practice martial arts. Sweet, friendly women who will beat you down if you test them. I have a few sorority sisters with the flyest hair, nails and outfits--they're probation officers. And I know some God-fearing, church-going women who served in the military. I imagine they'd pray for you, before getting their rifle if you crossed them.  I admire their blend of strength, aggression and poise. Ladies, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can be tough and feminine if we choose.

I highly encourage women to keep some kind of protection with them. I have a friend who carries a comb where a knife blade is hidden in the handle. I know many women who carry peeper spray and tasers in their cute purses. I know women, young and seasoned in age, who are packing heat. I remember meeting one sweet old lady, around mid-70s, who was a yogi. I mentioned how peaceful she made me feel. She then told me she’s about peace, but if someone broke into her house she’d bust some caps their ass.

Another great thing about these women is that they don't live their life in fear. They don't have their hand on their pocket all of the time. They're not paranoid. They have researched their weaponry, martial arts, etc. That's another suggestion, before you purchase any kind of weapon, do your homework so you don't end up hurting yourself. 
There are tough women in the world. You can
fight back too. Source: wikicommons

For you young women in college/heading to college, take a self-defense class. Consider carrying pepper spray when you’re walking around campus at night. Or learn martial arts.

Parents, start teaching your girls young how to protect themselves. The stuff I learned in that self-defense class I should’ve learned 30 years ago. There are self-defense classes for children. Search for them in your community. Or see if your daughters would be interested in martial arts.

And also, we often teach our kids that predators are men. There are some sick, evil women in the world too. We don’t associate women with being dangerous, and I bet women predators use that to their advantage when they abuse children. Buty they deserve a beat down just like any male predator who tries to hurt a child.

Carlesha Freeland-Gaither was lucky. Many stories don’t end like hers. Channel your inner Wonder Woman, Xena Warrior Princess, Mulan, Fish Mooney, Sarah Connor, Harriet Tubman, Civil War Union Soldier Francis Clalin, Angela Davis, the women you know in the military and police force, and the strong women throughout history who boldly spoke up and fought back. Be cautious of your surroundings. Try not to put yourself in situations that make you easy prey (i.e. walking down a dark alley at night). Be Careful. Fight back by protecting yourself.

*I am not an expert in weapons, self-defense and martial arts. Talk to experts in these fields before looking into weapons and self-defense. 


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