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Gordon Parks

Be Inspired

Sankofa Explained

Romeo Meets Cinderella Analysis

An Ethiopian Dream

Love is such an amazing feeling! Either it is love of self, your children, life...there is nothing like the feeling! That great feeling of affection or passion for something is like no other! It is this great emotion, in which people will do what they have do in order to make it happen; that is the essence of love. Having a love of something, you will go the distance for it! Through the pages of IMPACT, my prayer is that you feel the love behind each page! Understand that what we present through these pages are well thought out for YOU!! Each page was constructed so that you will receive an experience with each word! With each experience, you know that we have constructed this love of thought expressed through words and pictures for you. In this issue, we bring you such passion through some wonderful individuals throughout these pages! Our contributors brought the jewels for you! Mecca Muhammad breaks down the concept of Sankofa! Do you know what Sankofa means? Glorious Asiatic gives his take on when Romeo meets Cinderella! In the article, „An Ethiopian Dreamâ€&#x;, Soyini Wilson brings to life the love she discovered while she was touring Ethiopia. Soyini discovered the culture and the investment opportunities we here in America should be taking an interest in. Wendy Dean, plus some other young women in Trenton, NJ, came together to figure out a way to bring a community together through the power of touch! In our, Be Inspired section, we highlight Marion Ingram! Marion is a renaissance man who loves culture and art. Last but not least, we highlight the phenomenal, Syleena Johnson!!! Syleena has been coined the most underrated vocalist out there! With a #1 television show and new album out, she displays how her passion for music has kept her in the game! Through these pages, our desire is for you to feel the love throughout each word in each page. Each individual throughout this magazine has given you something of themselves. You will feel the love through these pages; either through history, an analysis, new eyes on a journey, through a poetic prose, or a community coming together. Love is the key component throughout it all!

Tunisha C. Brown Editor-In Chief

The concept of SANKOFA is derived from the Akan people of West Afrika. The Akan also have a system of visual symbols called Adinkra that represent concepts, thoughts or principles. Adinkra cloths were traditionally only worn by royalty and spiritual leaders for funerals and other special occasions. Today the symbols have grown in popularity and are used to decorate much more than clothes, including pottery, textiles, metal casting, woodcarving, furniture and architecture. They have become popular in use and are also upheld as a means of conveying ancient traditional wisdom. Every Adinkra symbol has a meaning which reflects the philosophy, religious beliefs, social values and political history of the Akan people.

Amongst the most popular of the Adinkra symbols is the Sankofa. Sankofa is an Akan term that literally means “go back and get it”. One of the Adinkra symbols for sankofa depicts a mythical bird flying forward with its head turned backward. The egg in its mouth represents the "gems" or knowledge of the past upon which wisdom is based; it also signifies the generation to come that would benefit from that wisdom. This symbol often is associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi”, which translates to, “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten”. The Akan believe that the past illuminates the present and that the search for knowledge is a life-long process.

The pictograph illustrates the quest for knowledge, while the proverb suggests the rightness of such a quest as long as it is based on knowledge of the past. Visually "Sankofa" may also be expressed by a stylized heart shape. "Sankofa" teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone or been stripped of, can be reclaimed, revived, preserved and perpetuated. This concept can and should be directly applied to the study of our ancestral history as well as to things that occur in our personal lives that we view as pain, trauma or trial. There is a lesson in all things. Rather than lingering, dwelling or relinquishing our power to them, go back, touch/feel/study them for the lesson within it for you and use the lesson as the fuel to move forward. It is wise to look back but only for the purpose of learning/healing/understanding. Black History is not a concept to be revisited strictly in February. In order to truly revere our ancestors and their collective sacrifices we must stay attuned to our roots and reject the notion that there is a designated period during which we reflect. We reflect daily, carefully studying, reviving, maintaining and preserving the best part.

I have an analysis called Romeo meets Cinderella. Bare with me for a minute. It is my humble opinion that women are love embodied in the flesh. They are also more prone to unconditional love. This is the love that let's them carry a life inside them for 9 months, be uncomfortable doing so, and still find time to cook, clean, and love their mate. Men have conditional love that requires rules and certain standards. Men are generally physically stronger so they can enforce law. This is shown in relationships as machismo, ego, etc. Sometimes this is misunderstood. It's not that men don't care...they just show it differently.

The "Romeo" succeeds with women because he caters to the whims and fantasies of the women he encounters. He has learned what to say and how to say it. He has taken the honest musings and observations of a woman's beauty and attraction and created a checklist of what works to get her attention. He can be at her beck and call because he is not anchored to anything or anyone. He understands the tendency of women to have emotional needs that fluctuate so he becomes attentive in that area. He is a master of detail and a scientist on the behavior of women.

Psychologically, a woman feels that his attention is solely on her because he always finds time or says that he sincerely wishes he had the time. Romeos make great lovers but bad husbands and fathers. A good man wants his queen to be anchored in reality. A Romeo




require- fact, fantasy is his preference. But there would be no Romeo if there were no sisters with Cinderella concepts of love. The knight in shining armor. The tall, handsome stranger. The man who is understanding, funny, smart, and attentive. Sensitive and strong. This story is sold to many young women before they can talk. It is then reinforced by all forms of social media. This leaves couples in a tailspin trying to reaffirm romantic values that don't mirror their heritage. We have to begin to understand that the black love dynamic is intrinsically different from the one taught to us by the world at large. That we were once dedicated to each other on a universal level. Once we do this, we can attain love and courtship that is holistically healthy and fulfilling to man, woman, and child. Peace

Imagine this: youâ€&#x;re a Grammy-nominated singer, considered one of the best vocalists of your generation, who has scored major R&B hits and been invited to collaborate with the likes of Kanye West and R. Kelly, yet some folks consider you “underrated.â€?

Syleena Johnson standing strong as a stone wall! 2013 is her year to break forth! With a second season of R&B Divas on TV One airing in the Spring and new acclaimed album, there is no stopping her!

This has been the plight of Syleena Johnson, acclaimed as one of the finest R&B voices to have emerged during the past decade. Having fought the major label system to allow her true identity to shine forth, Syleena now steps forward with her most personal statement to date, her boundary-stretching fifth album, entitled, appropriately enough, Chapter V: Underrated, Easily her best all-around album since her second best-selling album, Underrated shows the full range of Syleena‟s talent as it moves from the powerful soul-balladry of songs like “Little Things” to full-on club bangers like the first single, “A Boss.” The result is a rarity in the R&B world these days - a true album that flows through a diverse and satisfying complete listening experience. Every song but one was written or co-written by Syleena.

Indeed, the album opens with the defiant title track that segues immediately into “A Boss,” the assertive and dance-friendly anthem for confident, capable women who want a mate who is a true equal; the video clip for this track features NFL star Chad Ochocinco. But the range of the album quickly becomes apparent with “Angry Girl,” a lyricallyprovocative acoustic guitar-driven duet with likewise underrated singer Tweet. “The message in “Angry Girl” is the woman‟s voice trying to plead with other women who take their issues out on men,” Syleena explains.

“Its goal is to explain that she is ruining men for the good women. It highlights the faults of women in relationships; we point out womanizers but there are women who break hearts as well. I picked Tweet because her voice is perfect for this type of song; she is soulful and her voice compliments acoustic guitar extremely well. I also feel she is a positive role model for women.”

Elsewhere on Underrated Syleena deals with inspirational themes on “Stone Wall,” female sexual prowess on “A Champ” and “Bad Person,” and the ins-and-outs of relationships on “Like Thorns.” Tracks such as “Little Things” and “My Shoes” deliver the powerful “old school” soul balladry that won her early fans, as only can come from a classicallytrained singer who happens also to be well-schooled in the deep traditions of soul music and blues, thanks to her father, the legendary Syl Johnson, who as a label-mate of Al Green, scored the definitive original recording of “Take Me To The River.” “Being a trained vocalist is very important to my career,” Syleena notes. “It helps me understand the preservation of my voice and how important it is to warm up and rest. It also complements my writing and melodies. I think the state of R&B could be better and I hope to re-ignite true soul singing and music merged with a new flavor.” Syleena Johnson grew up outside Chicago in Illinois. Though she got involved with music during her high school years, initially she was discouraged from getting into the music business by her father, who had many disappointing experiences in the industry.

Meanwhile her mother become the nation‟s first black female police commissioner. Nevertheless, she contributed as a singer and songwriter to her father’s 1994 album, Back In The Game, also undergoing formal vocal training and studying music at Drake University, where she was active in classical and gospel choirs as well as jazz ensembles. She released an independent album, Love Hangover, in 1999. In 1997, her demo tape was heard by a Jive Records executive who immediately offered her a recording contract. The dissolution of a relationship with an abusive boyfriend provided raw material for her debut major label album, Chapter 1: Love, Pain & Forgiveness, in 2002, which yielded the hit “I Am Your Woman,” penned by R. Kelly, and led to critical acclaim as an exceptional new voice on the R&B scene. Her follow-up, Chapter 2: The Voice, which featured guests such as Busta Rhymes, yielded the hit “Guess What” and was hailed as one of the best R&B albums of the year.

Meanwhile, Kanye West tapped Syleena to handle the vocals on the Top Ten worldwide hit “All Falls Down,” which also garnered her and West a Grammy nomination and four VMA nominations for the video. With momentum building, Syleena released Chapter 3: The Flesh, which featured such guests as R. Kelly, Anthony Hamilton, Jermaine Dupri, Common and Twista - a mark of respect from her peers as well as the hit “Another Relationship.” Subsequently she also scored a hit with Cam‟ron and Kanye West with “Down & Out” and appeared on albums by DMX and Shawnna. But the album did not generate sufficient success for Jive Records and Syleena parted ways with the label, releasing her next album in 2008, Chapter 4: Labor Pains on her own Aneelys Records. The album opened with sounds from the birth of her and her husband‟s first child, a son. In 2011 she gave birth to their second son and the demands of new motherhood kept her off the scene for a bit. The release of Chapter V: Underrated marks not only the reemergence of Syleena Johnson but also the presentation of the full range of her artistry. Though she was only 22 years old at the time of her first hit, she was often marketed to older audiences because of her classic soul style but naturally, as a child of the hip-hop generation, she had much more to offer and explore. “I see growth for me in the future both artistically and personally,” Syleena says. “I am working on learning the guitar and learning to love music all over again. I lost my love for it for a minute because it broke my heart at one point…but I am glad to say that we are back together and learning to love each other again. We have always been married, we just separated for awhile. I know that we will never divorce or even part ever again!”

Marion D. Ingram is a Renaissance man who is interested in the art and cultural grounds of America, Europe and Africa. He is a well-traveled author and poet. Since 1999, he has produced numerous literary related special events and has wowed audiences with his cutting-edge brand of poetry at coffeehouses, theaters, and universities across the country and abroad. He hosts “Uncensored Thoughts� through local sponsorship to create an atmosphere for poets to grow through creative writing and works with a nonprofit youth organization (Do The Write Thing of DC) to encourage youth to write and publish collections of poetry. He has also lived abroad in Paris, France where he immersed himself in its culture and held several book signings where he thrilled audiences with his electric readings and performances.

Recently I traveled to Ethiopia for personal reasons. It was my first trip to the country and in fact my first trip to the continent of Africa. Prior to my departure from the United States my Ethiopian sister friend told me that she wanted to prepare me for what to expect in a developing country. I told her no, that I wanted to experience it without prejudice.

ARRIVAL As the plane was preparing to land in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia‟s capital city, I looked out the window and saw parts of the city that were very well lit but also huge pockets of darkness; though I couldn‟t make it out clearly in the dark I thought that I saw hilly/mountainous terrain. The airport was a little outdated, however I would later find out that, unlike the airport in Istanbul, Ethiopia‟s Bole Airport had WiFi access. As I exited the airport I was somewhat unnerved by the armed security guards stationed near the doors.

Since I arrived in the early AM hours it was dark and cool and I couldn‟t really see much due to a lack of street lights being lit; I noticed there weren‟t many traffic signals. The home that I stayed in was, like every home I saw there, situated within a compound--high stone walls with barbed wires and steel gates. When I awoke the next morning I was greeted by warmth and sunshine. During my first day I dined at a place with a golf course. There was a woman there with children ranging in age from toddler to teenagers. They were just a family out for a weekend outing. I visited some churches; what struck me most was how functional they were in the communities they served. For example, although there wasn‟t a specific church function going on people were on the church grounds, outside sitting and socializing. I saw men and women engaged in meditation or in conversation with one another. It brought to mind a conversation that I‟d had previously had with an Ethiopian friend who told me that in her country the elderly have churches to go to for socialization and therefore they are less likely to be lonely and isolated like many of America‟s senior citizens. Next, we went to the National Museum where we ran into two of Melat‟s friends one of whom was in Ethiopia from Mauritius and who talked about a meet up for a group of women on how to care for natural hair. I was beginning to feel right at home.

local scene Addis is filled with bars, lounges, spas coffee houses, etc. In terms of leisure, there wasn‟t anything that I missed that I had access to in the United States. During my first weekend, we went to Hotel Taitu where I had my usual vodka and tonic while listening to a live band with an amazing female vocalist. I also visited shopping malls with movie theaters and clothing stores and I had my requisite Sunday brunch with girlfriends. I also had my first caramel macchiato from Kaldis which is very Starbucksesque coffee chain; I am now a forever fan (of Kaldis, never Starbucks). The food was amazing and most of it is locally grown. This means that you don‟t get humongous versions of bananas; rather you get them closer to what nature intended them to look like and they‟re much sweeter. There are many local butcher shops and you commonly see sheep, goats, etc. being herded for slaughter. They aren‟t shot up with hormones so when you‟re eating meat, you aren‟t ingesting a bunch of chemicals that end up being harmful. You can see the direct impact on the people because they were mostly lean.


One of the first things I noticed about Ethiopian people is that they were all beautiful. Everywhere I looked, I saw varying shades of brown, good looking people. I am convinced that Ethiopia has an unfair share of pretty people. The women‟s fashion spanned the spectrum from conservative (head scarves, covered legs) to skinny jeans, skirts, etc. Early on I felt a “peculiarity” about the culture. I couldn‟t exactly put my finger on it but it seemed much insulated in some ways. A little history: Ethiopia is said to be the birthplace of humans because the first evidence of Homo sapiens (humans) were found there. It is also the only African country that was never colonized (of course Liberia was never colonized but its history is uniquely different from other African countries). They have their own calendar and time and one of the world‟s oldest civilizations. All of these facts, and then some, are definitely ingrained into the culture and so when I say that it seemed insulated I guess, as a Black American, it just felt different to what I was accustomed to. More specifically, Ethiopians have an assuredness about themselves.

“They don’t know what it’s like to live in a culture where they are fighting for identity or living in a double consciousness. It’s a very “for us, by us” type of existence.” Ethiopia is also a very class conscious society. There are people who live in slums without basic necessities (indoor plumbing) and people who live very comfortable lives and who are wealthy, even according to American standards. I can‟t say that I was shocked by the poverty. I grew up in an inner city raised mostly by single women and I am familiar with what it is like to live in poverty, albeit American poverty. The difference is that in Ethiopia the poverty is very visible; instead of having poor women and their children hid away in housing projects, they are right on the streets, begging for money. I didn‟t feel unsafe at any time. The crime rate, including murder, is much lower than American cities comparable in size/population. While I was en route; the Sandy Hook school shooting occurred and was widely covered on the BBC news network. I simply couldn‟t imagine something like that happening there. My biggest take away about the culture was how misinformed we, Americans, are about African culture. I was amazed at the local scene not because I didn‟t see people running around in grass skirts chucking spears and living in huts. Rather I was amazed about all of the development that I saw going on. I felt like I had just uncovered a big secret that everyone else--the rest of the world--was in on but somehow we Americans had not been privy to.

Ethiopian Art

my two cents

As I approach 40 years of age, I find myself thinking about my economic future and security. In America, the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen. The American dream of owning a home and having a comfortable retirement is a dream that I, and many other Americans, may never experience. I live in Brooklyn, NY and it should be a crime the way rents have increased in a mere two years; so much so that people are now looking to rent in Manhattan which is traditionally the most expensive borough.

What I saw taking place in Ethiopia in terms of development is not a fluke. Rather it is indicative of the growth taking place all over the continent. Since my return to the United States I have been hungry for information on Africaâ€&#x;s growing economies. I read that the continent overall experienced growth while the rest of the globe was in a recession. According to the World Bank, Ethiopiaâ€&#x;s economy grew 10.6%; double that of other sub-Saharan African nations. I am not a savvy investor; I have no experience in private equity ventures. My reality is that I am a (somewhat) young Black American woman who, by many accounts, has beaten some pretty dismal odds. I do not come from a family that has generational wealth, my parents are not college educated and, during times in my childhood, I lived in poverty. But I had opportunities that I pounced on; opportunities that came to me because of the society that I was born into. I was very aware of my American privilege when I was in Ethiopia. For one thing, the US dollar is about 18 times that of the Ethiopian Birr. For perspective, I converted $300 when I first arrived and got back about 6000 in birr; which pretty much lasted me my entire 12 days in the country.

I think a lot of Americans, and especially Black Americans, are in the same position as me. Except that we, Black Americans, are always the group getting left behind many times because we fall to our own vices but in large part because of our history in this country. Because of that history, it is always an uphill battle when it comes to education, employment, etc. While it‟s true that America overall offers tremendous advantages, when you come from a history of disenfranchisement the playing field is never equal.

I am not advocating that we all pick up and go “back to Africa”. America is my home, I have as much claim to it as any other person born and raised here. But I do think that we need to begin reimagining what our American dreams look like. Personally, my plan is to put my money where my mouth is. I‟ll be checking back in periodically to update you on my ventures which I hope will inspire at the very least, curiosity.

Africa has needs right now that Black Americans should see as opportunities to build long term wealth. Whether you want to invest as a small business owner or pool your resources with others, there is something for everyone. The needs range from improving education and transportation systems to presenting innovative ideas and solutions to combat the lack of technology and poverty. I truly believe that because the USD is so strong throughout the continent, if you‟ve managed to save a small fortune here in the United States, your investment would thrive for you there.

Soyini having a day of leisure on a Sunday afternoon drinking tej (wine)

On December 29, 2012, parents, children and concerned citizens from all walks of life throughout the City of Trenton, braved the cold weather and a blanket of snow to join hands and bridge the gap between the city‟s residents. The event, dubbed “Hands Across Trenton,” was in response to the senseless murders that have taken place in Trenton, New Jersey over the years but more specifically in 2012. The mastermind behind the event, Alison Jackson, simply stated, “Sis, too many babies are dying…something has got to give…I don‟t want to march or rally, I just want us to hold hands to show these babies we care, just a big human chain of support around the whole city!”

Using the model from Hands Across America which took place in 1986, she decided to create a Facebook page highlighting the event in hopes to garner support from those directly and indirectly affected by violence of any kind: domestic violence; gun violence; physical, emotional, financial and verbal abuse; child abuse and neglect and bullying. She encouraged friends of her Facebook page to relay the message to friends of their page and used Instagram and Twitter to get the word out. Any and every one was asked to spread the word by any means necessary. Some people created flyers to distribute, others extended verbal invitations to their family and friends and still others changed their Facebook profile pictures to display the “Hands Across Trenton” logo.

Participants were encouraged to grab the hand of a child, neighbor, friend, relative and even complete stranger and lead them to Trenton‟s Mill Hill Park to form a human chain. Once there, participants gathered at the bridge and sang their own, unrehearsed rendition of Whitney Houston‟s Greatest Love of All. Since, a small committee of diverse women: Alison Jackson, Sylvia Stout, Racha Barlow, Wendy Dean, Jessica Desmond, Belinda Presha and Nakia Griffin have united and vowed to give a little of themselves to encourage unity in the community.

February Issue w/Syleena Johnson  
February Issue w/Syleena Johnson  

Journey with IMPACT Magazine as we venture through the power of love!