The 26th Annual Houston Native American Championship Pow-Wow

Gorgeous Jingle Dance competitors at the conclusion of their event.
A man with intricate adornments and tattoos.
During Thanksgiving time, many of us ironically forget about the native people of the United States. We won't recognize their culture or the pain the aforementioned upcoming holiday will trigger for those whose ancestors were marginalized and nearly made extinct in their own land. 

The Native American people are not simply Indians. They are a rightfully proud people with a rich culture. They have a variety of traditions, awesome stories to tell, gorgeous regalia, and intriguing dances. 

The pow-wow, the Narragansett word for "spiritual leader", is a meeting of Native American people which typically involves dancing. Within the pow-wow Circle, men, women, and children move their bodies in an impressive, rhythmic manner to the beat of drums and singing, the physical representation of stories passed down over hundreds of years. 
Couples taking part in the "two-step" dance where two lines are formed
behind lead dancers of each gender.
Luckily, I had the opportunity to attend the first day of the two-day 26th Annual Houston Native American Championship Pow-Wow last week. It was a gorgeous, clear day for a pow-wow with cool weather and generous sunshine. Native American dancers from several tribes exhibited many traditional dances for the crowd as well as for competition. There was also plenty of opportunity for attendees to dance and make monetary donations to the tribes. 


The Hair Gods are Calling

I came across an article about the spiritual nature of hair in the Native American culture. As many black women move from the "creamy crack" to the "juices and berries" (get it? haha) method I wondered about the significance of hair in other cultures, specifically a culture that has always been known to have long, thick, hair. If you saw a black girl with long, black, straight hair it was assumed she had "some Indian" in he...yeah ok. The article refers to human hair as a "biological necessity". It suggests that our hair, when left to grow on its own without any manipulation, can increase vitality, tranquility, and intuition. It addresses something I never realized about Asian hair and the infamous bangs you see them sporting. Since being in Korea, I've heard from Korean women that they wear bangs to hide their flat foreheads. Umm...ok then. Even some of my students would say, "Teacher I want a round forehead like you". 

Interestingly, the article states that:"The bones in the forehead are porous and function to transmit light to the pineal gland, which affects brain activity, as well as thyroid and sexual hormones. Cutting bangs which cover the forehead impedes this process. When Genghis Khan conquered China, he considered the Chinese to be a very wise, intelligent people who would not allow themselves to be subjugated. He therefore required all women in the country to cut their hair and wear bangs, because he knew this would serve to keep them timid and more easily controlled." So then I thought, say what now? Aren't Asian women stereotypically considered the most timid, passive, and submissive women? 

Anyway, Native Americans believe that your hair is your connection to God and mother Earth; your connection to God's thoughts and powers. Cutting the hair is the cutting off of thought from God. Braids symbolize oneness and unity. Each strand woven together physically demonstrates "one mind, one heart, one soul". 

In the article that I read, there is a claim that during the Vietnam War Native American reservations were combed through for young men with outstanding, almost supernatural, tracking abilities. The men chosen were known as the best warriors and good at tracking and survival. Once they joined the ranks and received the standard military haircut, their abilities disappeared and they were deemed failures..."-the older recruits replied consistently that when they received their required military haircuts, they could no longer 'sense' the enemy, they could no longer access a 'sixth sense', their 'intuition' no longer was reliable, they couldn't 'read' subtle signs as well or access subtle extrasensory information." SAY WHAAAATTT! A test was conducted to see if this was actually true. So, Native Americans..some if them, were exempted from military regulated haircuts.

Now, I ain't no fool, so I did more research about this Native Americans in the Vietnam War story and I found that many consider this story a myth. Many believe that the correlation between long hair and heightened carnal functions is utter bullshit. But it does make you think. The links to the articles are below. What do you think? Below are links to the articles and other information on the topic. Peace and Light Good People. 


Interview with Jewelry Marker and English Teacher Breann White

Jewelry maker and English teacher Breann White.
(Cross-posted on my blog).

Becoming a professional artist takes determination, dedication, an indefinite ride on the daily grind train. Additionally, more times than not, to pay the bills an artist must hold down a solid job, which may or may not fall in the realm of their interests. 

This isn't the case for Breann White. She loves arts and crafts and is able to use her talents as a preschool teacher in at an international school in Tokyo. "[B]eing a preschool teacher fits my personality," she says.

While working during the week, she is growing her jewelry business, Rozen Stones. She makes her wares at her apartment work desk.

"My dad really got me into music and I loved writing and drawing...I dabbled in crochet, sewing, painting, and I love them all...I love making things so...I decided to start making fashion jewelry...I wish I could do it all day."

Although working with children is quite a vocal job, growing up White was on the quieter side.

"I was...[a] shy girl. I loved to...read all the time. My first 'job' was volunteering at a library...I kept getting in trouble for reading and not shelving [the books]."

Nevertheless, she never felt isolated as an only child.

White's workstation.
"I never felt lonely, my parents were always very loving and I had my friends who were like sisters to me. I was pretty active in school activities as well."

White's reason for relocating to Japan three years ago after obtaining a degree in English was, like many, motivated by her interest in the culture. Aside from her love for the anime Sailor Moon, White's contact with an exchange student from Tokyo at her high school was a major impetus for her choice to see Japan for herself.

"She taught me all about Japan and the culture, and I knew I had to visit one day...after high school we stayed in contact and I decided my Sophomore year [of college] to study abroad in Tokyo. I got a chance to reunite with her again when I was studying, and I just fell in love with the city."


Interview with Extreme Weight Loss Star Dan "Panda" Smith

Dan "Panda" Smith at his Extreme Weight Loss finale show.
"I wanted a 'superhero' body, with big rippling biceps, pecs, and six pack abs and [to] look like...an Asian Spartan warrior from the movie 300."

For most people, such a goal would sound a bit lofty, but Dan "Panda" Smith essentially achieved this dream during Extreme Weight Loss Season 5. Starting at a dangerously heavy 313 pounds (nearly 142 kgs), Smith was put through his paces by trainers Chris and Heidi Powell through daily exercise sessions and a complete diet change. Although Chris expressed his skepticism concerning Smith's success, Panda was able to reach his goal weight in three months, an EWL first. Furthermore, by the end of his EWL year, Smith's body fat percentage was less than Chris Powell's!

Nevertheless, as many know, obesity is rarely due to a person's unhealthy lust for food. Oftentimes, unhealthy eating habits and weight gain is a symptom of unseen issues and emotional struggles. 

Adopted from Korea and raised in rural America. Abuse from an older brother. Coming out as a teen. These were the invisible struggles that contributed to Smith's weight gain. 

Raised in small-town Michigan, Smith found it difficult to learn about his Korean background, and was often the only Asian kid around. Nonetheless, his tattoo is a proud representation of his identity. Along with the Korean flag, it represents the results of his Toljabee, a Korean ceremony which predicts a child's path in life performed when the child is a year old.

Panda before and after his weight loss journey.
"I was born [in the] year of the rabbit, and he's a scholar because [during] the Korean first birthday celebration I picked up pencils from a table of various items, which forecasted that I would be a good scholar...it kind of is true because I was the first in my family to graduate college."

Compounded with a degree of social isolation in his community, finding comfort at home was also difficult for Smith. His older brother terrorized him constantly, taking advantage of the fact that their factory worker parents were often away. Verbal abuse, wielding a shotgun, and locking Smith in an ice chest were just a few of the abusive tactics Smith's brother used to create an environment of fear.

The mental scars from the abuse were naturally still present after Smith shifted the majority of his weight. In order to heal the mental wounds that led him to obesity, Chris Powell encouraged Smith to confront his brother. He took up the challenge. Although he didn't receive the answers he wanted, Smith was able to obtain a degree of closure which would allow him to move on with his life. While he still does not speak to his brother on a regular basis, Smith is thankful for his apology.


Sense8 (2015)

Howdy! Been a while. Just wanted to tell you guys about a show a friend introduced to me on Netflix. Its called Sense8. Now, it took me a couple of episodes to get into it, but when I did I couldn't stop. I don't want to give too much away, but the cast is diverse and extremely talented. The plot literally revolves around eight strangers from different parts of the world: Kenya, India, Germany, Mexico, England, USA (2), and Korea who suddenly become mentally and emotionally tied together. One of my favorite connections is that of the Kenyan and Korean woman. Although it is science fiction sit touches on many issues including politics, identity, sexuality, gender, and religion. It will give you a rush. I have never, ever, ever in my life been into science fiction. This is probably because I was never introduced to anything good, until now. It has been renewed for a second season, but the actual date has not been released so here's your chance to get on the bandwagon. If you've seen it, what'd you think?


Interview with Voice Actress "Reina"

Voice Actress "Reina"
(Cross-posted on my blog).

Determination. Perseverance. Ambition.

Those were the qualities anime character Naruto Uzumaki needed in order to progress from genin or basic ninja level to Hokage or leader of his town, Konoha. Although there were many battles, deaths, and long, arduous journeys between his time as a naive novice and his advancement to the position as one of the strongest ninjas of all time, Naruto always found a way to fight on and progress toward his dream. Oh, and he had to contend with and tame Kurama or Kyuubi, the nine-tailed beast sealed within him at birth for the safety of the populace.

For Reina, Naruto's story has always been a major point of inspiration.

"[Naruto] was a character I identified with the most...[he] had a crazy dream, I had a crazy dream. He was shunned by his society at first [and] I was trying to make my way in Japan[.] [P]eople doubted him, people doubted me. Anytime I was down, when my [J]apanese didn't go well in school, [or] when I was scolded by my teachers, I'd just watch an episode of Naruto, be encouraged by...[the characters'] fight to overcome adversity, and then be able to get back on my feet the next day."

Luckily Reina, a Japanese/English seiyuu or voice actress (VA), never had to fight an inner beast or in a war against evil like Naruto; however, like her fictional counterpart, she had to muster up enough determination to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a English/Japanese VA in Japan a rarity—possibly a first—for a Black woman in Japan.

Naruto pictured with his inner nine-tails.
"The dream was initially for myself. Race never came into it to be honest. I'm not bound by many stereotypes at all, not even in [L]ondon...I realise though I really want [and] need to succeed." 

Reina's resolute and studious nature was present since she was little. As a child of Ghanaian immigrants, Reina's parents stressed the importance of education as a way to progress in the UK.

"I seemed to naturally do very well in school...it was strongly enforced to study, study, study."

Aside from studying, Reina subliminally immersed herself in Japanese pop culture through cartoons and video games while growing up in the 90s. She discovered Sega games at 11 and encountered the now classic Fist of the North Star anime series at 16. She wondered why the show was rated 18+, yet quickly discovered the reason.

"I checked it out and major, major culture shock. Heads exploding, blood everywhere...I checked the back of the video and saw 'Made in Japan'...and then [I] was like 'I want more!' So I became a shounen [anime made for boys] fangirl after that and kept on renting anime videos."


The Expat Diaries, Volume II: Riyadh

*crossposted on Musings in the Dark and Black Girl Nerds*

I arrived in Riyadh a month ago to start the next phase in my expat adventures. Of course a lot has happened, but let me see if I can summarize it in a series of points.

1. A large percentage of Saudi men are fine as hell. I mean, gyatdamb!!!  The hottie quotient is as high as the temperature. We’re not supposed to look, but I wear my sunglasses all the time so I can stare a honey down at will. I can’t help it. I’m a healthy hetero woman and the eye-candy is real in these dry, dusty-ass streets.  Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 2.14.24 PMThese men have million-dollar smiles (even the non-millionaires), smooth caramel skin, full lips and facial hair snatched to the gods. When I came through Customs, there were a bunch of smiling, happy clerks greeting me with a hearty “Welcome to Saudi” and laying those spectacular grins on poor little old exhausted me. Four of them surrounded me while I was assisted by one of the grinning clerks and asked me a bunch of questions, which I could barely answer because I’d been traveling for 18+ hours. It was all I could do to return the smiles, but that trip through Customs was the easiest ever. If that’s how they’re greeting women when they come into the country, then LAWD! Other countries should take note.  They're not big on taking pics or having pics taken of them, but I snagged this one off my bank's website.  Trust and believe it is accurate.  Below is another example, but it comes from someone's Pinterest page...yet not a single lie is told.  Imagine seeing this every day and being unable to swoon on cue.  The struggle is REAL.  Saudi is hiding all the sexy.

Now Entering the Comfort Zone.... (@ComfortFedoke)

One gripe I do have with the modern hip hop scene is the persistent Negrasure erasure of Black women.  It's like everyone's allowed to participate and be lauded for their work except Black women.  In fact, good luck to us in even finding work in the industry most of the time, because the Powers that Be would like us to believe that sistas don't really rap, dance, or beatbox anymore, and if more than Black woman in the business does push forward and be scene and heard, she gets the Azealia Banks/Telisha Shaw treatment.  Apparently there's a very tiny Negress quota to fill, while for our lighter-hued sisters, the sky's the limit.


Interview with Lawyer Sheena Claire Gibson

Attorney S. Claire Gibson
(Cross-posted on my blog).

If you can't catch Claire in Okinawa where her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband is a United States Marine stationed on island, you can find her in Tokyo consulting on Intellectual Property law filing projects, or in New York City, her stateside base of operations. 

Traveling between Okinawa, Tokyo, and NYC might appear to be a headache for some, but Claire has lived a modern-day semi-nomadic lifestyle since she was a child as she lived between Barbados from where her family hails and New York City where she was born. Gibson enjoyed a wholesome upbringing on the island nation and spent 3-5 months a year in NYC.

"In Barbados...we lived on a 4 acre orchard. My dad was a customs official, my mother was a teacher...I went to a nice elementary school where my mother taught, did well on my high school entrance exams and moved onto one of the best high schools on the island. My free time was spent on the beach or under a coconut tree stuffing my face with fruit."

However, her opportunities to bask under the Barbados sun decreased after Gibson's parents divorced when she was a teenager and Gibson and her mother moved to NYC permanently after the split. Although she believes the move was beneficial, it wasn't what Gibson initially desired.


Interview with Artist Pearl Y. (aka Fumi Chun)

Pearl Y. (aka Fumi Chun)
(Cross-posted on my blog).

“It wasn't so much me not knowing I wasn't [B]lack[,] but me loving who I was enough to draw inspiration from my blackness.”

As a Blasian woman of Chinese and Jamaican decent, storyboard artist Pearl Y. developed a stronger recognition of her blackness with the start of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.

Recognizing and embracing blackness is one of the many topics under the umbrella of the current #BlackLivesMatter movement. What does it mean to be Black? How should blackness be represented? Who is Black? The last question is an especially touchy subject, especially for those in the Black community with a mixed race background. Some even debate the lexicon related to the mixed race community. Is a person “half black” or should the “one-drop” rule continue to define those with one non-Black parent?

Additionally, after the death of Sandra Bland, #BlackWomensLivesMatter has become a trending hashtag and discussions of misogynoir are more prevalent. These conversations place mixed-race Black women in an interesting position, especially those like Pearl who were raised by their non-Black side.