CAAN-LA Black History Panel

7 02 2018

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position
that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he
has overcome while trying to succeed.”
— Booker T. Washington

One of the great privileges of being part of the Columbia College Chicago National Alumni Board is representing the Board at CAAN events. The CAAN-Los Angeles network has been ably built up and guided by Sarah Schroeder, the West Coast Regional Director for Columbia, and her events are always top notch, well represented by our up-and-coming alumni, and well attended.

Yesterday’s Black History Panel featured our Columbia alumni who are also some of the trailblazers and innovators in Black filmmaking and entertainment: Producer-Director-Writer George Tillman, Jr., who has been the creative force behind some of my favorite movies, including the Barbershop films and Men of Honor; Writer-Director-Actor Kenny Young, the genius behind You Can’t Fight Christmas, Chance, and One Week; Producer-Development Executive Crystal Holt, engineer behind Rebel (BET), and The Swap (Disney Channel); Actress Erica Hubbard, who had pivotal roles in Chicago Med, Let’s Stay Together, and Lincoln Heights; Producer Paul Garnes, who gave us Selma, and Queen Sugar; and on-air personality, Grammy-Nominated Music Producer-Songwriter, and co-founder of Da Internz, Marcos “Kosine” Palacios.

The panel was moderated by some really talented and thoughtful Columbia student moderators: Jocelyn Shelton and Marquise Davion.

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Gearing up for our CAAN-LA’s Black History Month Alumni Panel with some fabulous filmmakers and student moderators Marquis Davion and Jocelyn Shelton.

George Tillman, Jr. discussed how he got into film, and how the presence of African-American creators and filmmakers has grown since he first came to Hollywood.

Kosine talked about his journey, encouraged the alumni still pursuing their dreams to simply, “Stay in the game,” and urged that, “Black History Month is a great time for African-Americans to be networking with each other,” and to take advantage of this and motivate each other towards excellence.

As an actress, Erica Hubbard discussed the high bar set by the writing and talent she experienced on the “Lincoln Heights” set, and how it is difficult to accept projects that don’t meet that standard.

If Paul Garnes did nothing else, he helped launch director-producer Ava Duvernay to the world. Paul shared his journey in filmmaking, how he met and got started with Ava, and working on Selma with David Oyelowo, and Oprah, as well as Queen Sugar.

Kenny Young talked affectionately about his mentors and the people who helped steer him in his career. He also talked about making determinations. He said at one point that he didn’t want to work a full-time job ever again, and he hasn’t since then. He has found a way to juggle, struggle, and forge ahead on his drive and talent, while still earning a living in Los Angeles.

Crystal Holt gave, what I felt was the most powerful and practical advice. “Drive is something you cannot teach, and that goes further than talent… You have a goal in mind, and you are working toward that plan for your life. Don’t give up on that.”

She also gave some sage advice on contracts and equal pay: “Trust no one! Be contract literate, and read it from front to back before you sign.”

While this old dog gleaned from their practical wisdom, I also enjoyed hearing about the endeavors and adventures of our young alumni; like the delightful Toy Monique, who works for Will Packer Media in their scripted and unscripted television department. Toy is a recent transplant to L.A., having gone through Columbia’s Semester in L.A. program in 2016. She laid the groundwork back then, and came back to Los Angeles as an employee at the place where she interned! What a smart lady—we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on her, and very happy to stay in contact via Instagram and LinkedIn.

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The Girl writes at Habibi Life for the Month of Love

5 02 2018

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Happy February!

SO honored to be a part of the month of self-love celebration at Habibi Life.

The beautiful Shahada Evans: entrepreneur, fellow Yoga instructor, and creative force,  has a delicious skin care product line and an awesome website to support it and the community that loves them some Habibi (me included).

In this month of February, typically dubbed the LOVE month, Shahada asked me to be one of the people to write for the blog about self love and self care, and I was totally down!

Give it a read, and check out the Habibi line while you’re there: Self Care vs. #selfcare.





The Little Writing Engine that Could…

1 02 2018

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“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” — Neil Gaiman

Words of wisdom from a writer I greatly admire.

Amazingly enough, I’ve been doing just that: putting one word, then another word, then a paragraph, then an entire piece. So my resolution to write has so far been flowing like water.

In case you’re not cognizant of my latest writings, I thought I’d talk about what I’ve been up to…

My latest features at Communities Digital News focus on what I do best: commenting on the union of popular culture and politics. It’s Oscar season, and the movie The Post is up for Best Picture, probably due to the film’s tortured attempt to connect the Republican administration of 1972 to the Republican administration of 2017. Read my review of the film and my take on this comparison at The Post: Katharine Graham’s feminist manifesto fails as propaganda.

The March for Life and The Women’s March occurred during the same weekend. One is a pro-life civil rights event that has spanned 45 years, the other a two-year old progressive-leaning affair that masquerades as a women’s right manifesto, but appears to merely be a rant against the current Republican administration. Seems to be a common theme. I compare and contrast them at The March for Life vs. the Women’s March: Which will stand the test of time?

The best reflection of one’s skill and worth as a writer is when you are invited to write by people you admire. In the short space of 2018, I have had two invitations to do just that! An up and coming millennial entrepreneur asked me to write a press release for a project that involves the marriage of clothing, art, and hip hop music, that was launched the week of the Grammys.

The beautiful CEO of Habibi Bath and Body has asked me to contribute to her LOVE SERIES throughout the month of February. I am working on sharing tips on self-care, and how to truly nourish and appreciate the skin that you are in!

Stay tuned for those links in a future post.





2018: New Year, New Soul

7 01 2018

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“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton is one of my favorite Christian theologians/thinkers. Like C.S. Lewis, he is less highbrow, and more akin to Christianity in work clothes. As intellectual as people say that I am, I relate to hands-on and sweat of the brow as much as I relate to the theoretical. But I digress…

I never share the resolutions that I make, but feel the need to put down them down online. Who knows, it may do wonders to make me more accountable:

  1. Read more books, and actually finish them. Like most of my friends, I have stacks of books waiting to be read. I started three books before 2017 (that is how pathetic I am), but never finished them. I need to complete them and track my completion of books. I used to read a book a week—it would be a good challenge to get back to that. Here are the books I need to complete: 1. Washington Spies by Alexander Rose. 2. Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. 3. The Curse of Conservatism by Coleman G. Luck.
  2. Meditate more. It does wonders, but I need to set a consistent rhythm. Some changes are afoot in my schedule that will help that, so no more excuses.
  3. Up the home and studio practice. It was really abysmal in 2017. No excuses—I feel so much better when I practice at home, and I need to connect with my own studios and other studios in a greater way.
  4.  Write again. This dried up considerably in 2016, and died a slow death in 2017. The question is, how to feebly pick up the pen again? This blog post, and another article on my Communities Digital News page are a feeble beginning. Which leads me to…
  5. Ditch the perfectionism. I think Voltaire said it best: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I can create the perfect project, article, meal, etc. but because I only have the materials to achieve “good”, I ditch the entire thing. Time to stop that; if I am not paralyzed by perfection, it will go a long way to my getting words on the page.
  6. Find ways to increase the voice: musically in particular, vocationally in general. Maybe unburying and dusting off the piano? Right now it is surrounded by boxes (long story for another blog post). Maybe taking another Kahmelson & Kahmelson class? Actually signing up for those songwriting expos I get invited to? The possibilities are endless, but I need to take action on just one.




50 Days to 50 Years, Day 08: A day in downtown Santa Fe and an evening at Geronimo

24 07 2016

“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” — Paul Prudhomme

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Chef Prudhomme is right, I make and eat good food all the time. But I think everyone should have a true silver fork experience every once in awhile—Day 3 of the Santa Fe Foodie Excursion allowed for just that.

We had the morning free, so we walked to the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe and explored some of the free galleries and the neighborhood art. The Grant Corner Galleria had some beautiful and unique pieces that would have been worth it if I was living large. We explored the grounds of the Georgia O’Keeffe museum and the beautiful Cottonwoods that grace the grounds.

It was quite muggy, and the clouds were heavy with rain, so we knew we would get a good downpour sometime during the day. Despite this, we still took our time getting back to the condo, and snapped some pictures of the sculptures that peppered the yards and sidewalks of the neighborhood.

We got back to the condo in time enough to relax before our silver fork dinner at Geronimo, and right before the rain! We sat on the condo porch to listen to the rolling thunder, and watch the rain and lightning. I love the smells, the sounds, and the feeling of the wind and the rain electrifying the atmosphere—such a fabulous treat!

Its been years since I ate at a 5-star restaurant, so I was excited to get dolled up for my silver fork evening.

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The view from the porch as the rain fell and the thunder roared.

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All dressed up and ready to go!

Geronimo Restaurant is housed in an historic building built by Geronimo Lopez in 1756. Called the “Borrego House”, this elegant and noble structure has thick adobe walls, kiva fireplaces and wood beams; a treat for the eyes as well as the palate.  Chef Sllin Cruz specializes in a menu that uses local foods and showcases the indigenous cuisine of New Mexico. So the menu changes seasonally, dependent upon what is available.

Geronimo’s specialty is a Tellicherry Rubbed Elk Tenderloin, so that is what we both ordered; but not without starting out with a Red Belgian Endive Salad, Wagyu Beef Carpaccio appetizer, and a 2013 Malbec that was absolutely incredible in clarity and bouquet. Lynn had himself a beer as well, because why not?

We received palate-cleansing porcelain servers of Raspberry and Lime sorbets, and then we dived into the main course.

The Elk Tenderloin did not disappoint. It was a melt-in-your mouth rare cut for me, and Lynn had his medium well. The beautifully seasoned Mushrooms and Snow Peas were a heavenly addition. Accompanied by the Malbec, the entire meal was akin to a religious experience, and we savored every bite.

Amazingly enough, we saved room for dessert: Lynn had a Vanilla Ice Cream with Marizipan topping and a Cardamon base. I had an Orange Creamsicle Cake, reminiscent of my favorite childhood ice cream bar.

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I considered it a success that I didn’t spill anything down my front and managed to keep my elbows off the table. This #foodieexcursion has been Beyond, and I am sad to see it come to an end. But this silver fork dinner experience was a fitting end.

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 30, Evo and Captain Fantastic with Christy Bell

2 07 2016

“Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends,
never lose a chance to make them.”
— Francesco Guicciardini

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I cannot believe I am already 30 days away from the official Big 5-0. What a delightful time it has been to pursue, as Steely Dan so eloquently put it, “Reelin’ in the Years”.

And what is it with Captains? It seems to be a trend in this 50-year challenge, at least when it comes to movies. From “Captain America” with longtime friend Sarah Beach, to “Captain Fantastic” with new friend Christy Bell. While I didn’t enjoy “Captain Fantastic” as much as “Captain America: Civil War”, the company and the food was just as rich.

I met Christy through a mutual friend Cheryl Leutjen. Cheryl ran a networking Meetup for Work at Homers, and also participated in my Tuesdays with Transitioners Meetup. She knew Christy was in transition, and recommended Christy check out my group. Christy did, and she was a wonderful addition. When she was able to attend, she brought great insight and her wicked smarts to every discussion. Between Cheryl’s Meetups and mine, Christy and I struck up a friendship, and even though both Meetups are now dissolved, we still stay in touch. A couple of years ago Lynn and I spent Christmas Day with her, catching two movies in the theater, and having Dim Sum and Chinese after. It was among one of the best Christmases we have spent.

Christy is erudite and a great conversationalist, but she is also a keen listener. I also love her smile and her laugh, and the glint of mischief in her eyes. I suspect had we met in our 20s or 30s, when we were both less “tempered”, we would have gotten into a good deal of trouble. Heck, we may have a chance to do that in our 50s, given the right timing and circumstance!

So when I invited her to be a part of the 50 Days to 50 Years challenge, she was delighted to carve out the time. Among Christy’s many talents as a writer, chef, and organizational whiz, she is an actress and a member of SAG-Aftra. So free screenings at the DGA are a part of her membership. She also treated me to pizza, either before or after, at a little WeHo bistro called Evo.

Christy is a vegetarian, so we ordered a Artichoke-Spinach-Parmesan pizza on a Whole Grain Crust to share. It was extremely tasty, and the sauce was sublime! Christy had an Amber Ale, which looked great and refreshing, but not really my cup of tea, or, er, alcohol.

Christy paid me a very high compliment: she said that I was really gifted at the career-reinvention stuff and I should find a way to start it up again at my new church. We talked a bit about that, the workshop I recently conducted at Elizabeth House, and what was going on in our current jobs, career searches, and housing situations. Then we stepped across the street to the DGA to bask in the cinematic wonder of Viggo Mortensen. He really is an incredible actor, and made this film about extremes, consequences, and choices watchable.

After the screening, we repaired to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to discuss what we liked and didn’t like about the film, and I capped off our glorious meal with a Salted Pistachio Ice Blended, something I hadn’t partook of in a long time. It was quite refreshing, but not as refreshing as the kindness, generosity, and support of Ms. Christy Bell.

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 31, Tea and Company for Jana’s Birthday

1 07 2016

“Female friendships that work are relationships
in which women help each other to belong to themselves.”
— Louise Bernikow

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Day 31 started off with high tea at the Four Seasons Tea Room in Sierra Madre. Jana Benson invited me and some of her other friends to celebrate her birthday. A few of the women are a part of our Women’s Bible Study small group, and others I knew from the Women’s Coffee—so I was right at home, even if high tea is a foreign concept.

I think I have been to three in my entire 50 years: one for another birthday party eons ago, the two other times were for bridal showers. Girly-girl I am not, and tea parties are the quintessential girly-girl thing to do. As a little girl I brewed coffee in a real percolator and played writer. I know, big surprise….

But it was a delightful afternoon, and Jana is always the consummate hostess. The tea selections were Mandarin Spice, Royal Wedding, and Mayfair Afternoon—each table ordered one of each; our table chose the Mayfair Afternoon, which was a delicious blend of strawberry, mint, and lemon. Sooo good. The sandwich selections were Banana Bread with Cream Cheese; Cucumber and Dill; Tomato, Basil, and Butter: Chicken Salad; and Egg Salad.

But the biggest foodie highlight were the freshly baked—I mean piping hot out of the oven—scones. With Devonshire clotted cream and fresh raspberry jam, they were simply divine. I could have eaten about four more, but that would have required additional ordering. I’ll do that next time.

Of course, what is tea without biscuits? I’m not sure how the Brits coined the term biscuits for cookies, but whatevs; the Dulce de Leche mini slices, Lemon Bars, and Shortbread Cookies lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar were way delish. With several spots of tea, I found myself quite full, so it was probably a good idea I didn’t have any more scones, as I would have had to be rolled out the door.  20160701_123349

And I very well would come back, so perhaps I have more girly-girl in me than I thought. Imagine that…

 








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