The Magic of Authenticity

Do you have a hero? If so, what is it about them that has earned your admiration?

Like most kids, my heroes were big and flashy. They wore capes, they could sing, they could act, and they had the love of millions of fans. I never questioned why I seemed to only look at celebrities and superheroes as the best of us, because their fame spoke for itself. If you’re popular, then you must be perfect. But is that true?

As I began to take better care of myself, a key piece of the journey was coming to terms with my identity, with who I wanted  to be. I had a long list of heroes I wanted to emulate, however as celebrities with carefully crafted images, superheroes, and film characters, they represented a type of unattainable perfection that made me feel stuck. So, I began to look at things another way: rather than trying to become a copy of someone with status, power, and control, I decided to explore who I am already, in order to discover my authentic self.

By definition, “authentic” means “of undisputed origin;genuine”.

Distilled down for a regular person like myself, I believe authenticity means existing as you are without regard for the molds others want you to fit in. For example: I’m a survivor. I’m a Black woman, a Kansan, a right-handed singer with allergies. These are all facts, but in between those societal molds are the details and experiences that make me LaKase. I might not be exactly like Brandy (one of my earliest heroes), nor do I have the power she wields, but my authentic self is important and good in its own right.

Nowadays, my admiration is rooted in more abstract concepts: kindness, bravery, and authenticity. There are many ways to define each, whether it be through a cultural lens, a personal preference, or how I might be feeling in the moment.  But what remains constant is the work we have to put in to live our lives well. I broadcast who I am to others in the way I dress, how I speak, and in what I value in this world.

When I think about the people I admire now, it rarely has anything to do with the number of friends they have, how much money they make, or how beautiful they are but what they put into the world. The folks who continue to inspire me, and unwittingly push me to better myself, have been decidedly, radically themselves. Being yourself can be difficult, even dangerous depending on where you live or what you look like, but living your truth gives others permission to be who they are as well. That’s the magic of it all.

The videos below feature two women who make me so happy and encouraged about walking my path on my own terms. I hope you enjoy their words as much as I do.

 

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Unknown

Self-love and Building Bonds Through Hair in The Black Community

I have yet to meet a black person – woman or man – who doesn’t have strong feelings about getting their hair done. If you mention a barber, you might see one of us shudder, or you might get a bright smile if you ask who did such and such’s braids. Hair is an event in my community, sacred for it’s ability to elevate or destroy, an elixir for the worst of downs and best of ups,  while bringing strangers together for a few hours.

Personally, most of my favorite memories involve acting “grown” in the salon with my mother and the stylist, while Judge Judy or Oprah played in the background. Despite being knee high to a pig’s eye, I felt like an equal in those hours spent getting pulled, burned, and reshaped. I watched my mother become someone she didn’t get to be at work or at home, and got to exercise being someone I wasn’t comfortable expressing in my all-White-but-me classrooms. Sisterhood, I learned back then, was something to be fostered. Those bonds were a powerful weapon in the world.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also learned a great deal about the power of appearances; a simple tweak of your locks could signal a slew of life changes. Hell, they could even lead to life changes if you looked good enough. Most importantly, I learned how to take care of myself in a way that is unique to my culture and rooted in history. To this day, my favorite way to show affection to others and myself is through hair.

The web of my life is punctuated by different hairstyles: an unfortunate jherri curl in elementary school, then braids that seemed to get shorter and more manicured as I navigated puberty, a relaxer when I was trying desperately to look like a grown up, then locs when I decided to be different in a way that was true to me. When I look at pictures, I can identify the period, the feeling, and the desires lurking below the surface by the way my hair was styled. It’s magic in a form the world can scarce reckon with.

Learning the history of Black hair is a great way to learn about ourselves, and for others to learn why we take it so seriously. For some it’s just hair, but for us it has meant rebellion, freedom, and home. Below are two of my favorite explorations of what Black hair means to us and why it seems to be the way we come together in pursuit of peace. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

 

Friday Media Prep: You MUST Read These 5 Books By Black Women

Every Friday I will feature the inspiring books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art you have to check out.  Please share your suggestions below!

Who would we be without books? I often think about the times in my life when a book brought be back from the darkness, and the ways reading made my life seem worthwhile again. On the other side of that coin are all the times an author pushed me to the brink, forcing my spirit to see things I hadn’t previously perceived. There is magic in the written word and being able to wield worlds in the space between covers.

Black women who write have been my salvation. In this life, in this body, I have felt the most magically undone at the hands of their words.  That is why I’ve chosen to feature five books by five authors who came into my life at exactly the right time. Each book has coaxed a pinch of growth from my soul whether I was prepared for it or not, which is precisely what a good book is supposed to do. I truly hope you will give one or all of these books a go after reading why I have loved them. Enjoy!

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison 

I owe an eternal debt to Oprah’s Book Club for selecting this book, which led to my mother buying the book, leaving it laying around, and catching my eye (no pun intended). The young black girl on the cover – a representation of the heroine, Pecola – felt familiar in a way no book had before. The contents were more familiar than I’d dare imagine.

Set in Ohio, the short novel follows two black sisters and their relationship with the young Pecola, a little girl who is considered ugly, because of her dark skin, short hair, and poverty. Pecola wishes for blue eyes so that she may be as beautiful as the dolls in the shops, and the novel tracks her quest to capture them. To call this book heartbreaking would be an understatement, but reading it made me feel less alone and seen in unforseen ways. It’s a brilliant  exploration of generational trauma, colorism, self-loathing, racism and the effects of poverty. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

I don’t think there’s a more  pertinent book for any of us to read in these times. Set in the very near future, Octavia E. Butler’s book (the first of two) is set in a time of climate-related disaster, broken governments and wealth inequality. The heroine, Lauren, possesses “hyperempathy”, or the ability to feel the pain and emotions of others as she witnesses it.  Lauren develops a religion called Earthseed in order to prepare those who follow her for a life beyond Earth.

Octavia E. Butler’s books changed my mind about what kinds of books Black women are allowed to write. For years I thought only White men could craft science fiction adventures, as that was all I had available in my library. Stumbling upon Ms. Butler’s books in Barnes and Noble one day changed all that, thankfully. Her vision is unmatched, in my humble opinion, and her capacity for hope has kept me from losing my own.

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Dancing on the Edge of the Roof by Sheila Williams

Black women in love gives me my greatest joy. Plain old, regular degular love, folks. I have inherited a soft heart from my mother, one that craves romance and tales of starting over to discover what lies beneath our fears and dreams. This lovely book by Sheila Williams was one of my first romance novels, and I have returned to it time and time again. It is delightfully effervescent, the kind of story that I didn’t want to end when it finally had to.

The story follows middle-aged mother and new grandmother, Juanita, on her journey to California to start her life again. She gets broken down in a small Montana town along the way and finds more than she bargained for – home.

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith

This book i just damn good. I mean, hopefully you know about the powerhouse talent that is Zadie Smith, but if not you should get acquainted with her via this one. I can scarce sum it up without going on for days, so just suffice to say that you have to give her a go. White Teeth has it all: War, love, science, 90s-era nostalgia, race, and transcendence. Dear reader, you would be remiss to skip it.

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Passing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen tackled a topic that I believe is still very taboo in the Black community. The concept of “passing”, i.e. being of a light enough complexion to cross the color barrier and claim a White identity, was and is something few of us talk about. Nella Larsen herself played with race in her own life, living alternately as a Black woman in the Harlem Renaissance, then attempting to disappear into White society to escape the persecution.

This book explores the lives of two friends who can pass for White and the paths they chose, one as a White woman married to a White man, and the other as a Black woman married to a Black man. It left me with sinking feeling, but it was a necessary exercise if I want to truly be considered a “book person”. This book is going to be made into a film, which I look forward to watching.

That’s all for today, my friends! Thank you, as always for coming along on the journey with me. Enjoy your weekends, whether you be snowed in, or free to roam the streets. Maybe give one of these titles a once-over?

 

Friday Media Prep: As Above, So Below

Every Friday we will feature the inspiring books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art you have to check out. Please share your suggestions below!

This was one hell of a week (*smirk*), but, thankfully, I had access to tons of media that got my mind off everything going on in my life and in my noggin’. This week’s FMP is all about the great “beyond”. When I say this I don’t mean solely the afterlife, but what becomes of us when we move beyond comfort, ease, and what you can envision. Everything below had me thinking about the wonder “ifs” in my life and whether or not I can go for them. Spoilers: I will.

The full list follows below. Enjoy!

 Read

“How Anna Brones Works Half a Dozen (Cool) Jobs” by Brendan Leonard for Outside Magazine

Anna cooking
Anna Brones, Outside Magazine

Anna Brones is a Renaissance woman if ever there was one. She’s a writer, filmmaker, cyclist, and all-around badass woman. Outisde Magazine interviewed her to get the skinny on how she manages to live her life so fully, which really got me thinking about throwing caution to the wind and chasing the dream.

You can read the full interview {here}

“How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think” by Vinson Cunningham for The New Yorker

Illustration of people in chains
Illustration by Cleon Peterson for The New Yorker

This article isn’t what you’re thinking it is: rather than being a theological shakedown of our wayward lives, Vinson Cunningham is questioning how our obsession with fire and brimstone has led to a whole lot of sorrow and even more apathy. It’s a long read, but I sure loved it.

You can read more {here}

Watch

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Sky

A Discovery of Witches  by Deborah Harkness was a book my mom could not put down a few years ago. Revolving around a scholarly witch and a dashing vampire who team up and begin to fall for each other. It’s not your typical Twilight-era fare – instead, Harkness, who is a professor of medieval history and sciences, serves up a smart and enthralling watch.

Now, it’s a series airing on Sky (part of the BBC) and it is such an exciting watch. Season one is complete, but they’ve already signed on for season two and three. You can catch up with the first season of the show  on Sundance Now or Shudder streaming services.

Listen

Moderat “Out of Sight”

I have been listening to this song on a serious repeat. I know you’re supposed to be chill when you meditate, but I really like to sway to songs that allow me to lose myself a little bit. Moderat’s music does just that. This German tech group is my jam. Let me know in the comments if they become yours, too!

That’s all for this week!

 

 

Friday Media Prep: It’s All About The Details

Every Friday we will feature the inspiring books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art you have to check out. Please share your suggestions below!

Good morrow and happy Friday! Today I wanted to share a trio of articles that have me feeling all kinds of things. Aliens? Possibly. Gender-defying historical shocks? For sure. Love and relationships? You betcha. Today’s list is all of the things, and I loved diving into each topic. I hope you do, too. The list is below.

Read

“Scientists Identify a Medieval Artist by the Blue Gemstone in Her Teeth” by Becky Ferreira for Motherboard

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Magnified view of ultramarine in dental calculus. Image: Monica Tromp

As a history buff with a taste for the medieval this article tickled my fancy right away! For background: illuminated manuscripts and bibles were incredibly popular in the Middle Ages. Scribes working in monasteries produced texts that mystify viewers to this day. It’s long been believed that only men, or monks, were allowed to undertake this task. However, this new discovery has scholars rethinking just who the artists were and how they had access to such rare goods. It’s quite the find! I love how long-held beliefs can be changed in an instant by the simplest of realizations.

You can read the full article {here}

“Repeated Radio Signals Coming From Galaxy 1.5 Billion Light Years Away, Scientists Announce” by Andrew Griffin for the Independent

A second mysterious repeating fast radio burst has been detected in space

Depending on how you feel about space, this is rather exciting! Scientists believe the radio signals could be transmitting from an alien source, which could be cool, or they could be the result of the death of a star. Either way, the phenomenon certainly deserves our acknowledgement.

You can read the full article {here}

“Serena: The Power of Unapologetic Greatness” by  Ashley C. Ford for Allure

Allure February 2019 Cover Shoot - Serena Williams
Allure Magazine

In this profile by Ashley C. Ford, Serena opens up about her marriage, modeling strength of character and body to her daughter, and finding the path to greatness that most aligns with her beliefs. I really love anything to do with Serena, so I just had to share it here. Her vulnerability and candor are so refreshing.

You can read the full article {here}

That’s it for this week! See ya with the next one.