Page 1

bloom Brought to You by redflowersCARE

Aug. 2018

ISSN: 2638-1419

Art by Raegan Thomas





The Resurgence of Holistic Care as SelfCare

10 Moriah Leigh Living on Purpose. Loving with Purpose. Becoming Whole.

18 Jessica Gomes When Art Transforms from Inside Out

30 Am I Happy? 34 Lexa Porter Thick Girls Do Yoga Too!

Bloom Magazine. Published August 13, 2018 by redflowers.



t 2018

38 Jada Tahiry Grèmillion Loving Myself As Who I Am And Transitioning

46 Zyla Sol Authentically Portraying Myself in The Sounds of My Music

54 Aisha Fukushima On RAPtivism, “We don’t just write verses, We write universes”

62 Leo Forecast 70 Contributors’ Page 74 Editor-in-Chief Letter

Photo by Jessica Innis

LOVE & HEALING By Jessica Innis

Loving oneself is not something that comes easy. It is a journey of recovery, love and immense healing. Sometimes the heaviness of the weights that drag me down have made me lose a sense of self on multiple occassions. But I still cling on with each breath hoping and trying to push myself to love me unconditionally and wholefully. I am in a state of becoming anew and free.


Makeup by Anulika Emerah; Photo by Salena Medina


Photo by Shari Mwanika


With holistic care we are reminded that our ancestors were able to heal during trying times while suffering. I first came across the topic of holistic care in an unlikely place: a college class about witches. Now, I know what you’re thinking. The topic of witches is nothing new. We talk about them ad nauseum, so much that we romanticize them. Another side to the romanticism that surrounds witches or conjurors is the mysticism around their healing practices. Most of their healing methods were holistic in nature, which led to their practices being branded as witchcraft because they deviated from Western notions of what medicine should be. The importance and function of holistic medicine is often passed down generation to generation, but a growing number of people find themselves on a journey towards wellness that does not include the use of Western medicine. It is also becoming more popular to stray from fad diets and quick fixes and instead focus on internal health and balance. The movement surrounding holistic medicine will be an important component to implementing the type of change sought by those open to holistic methods. Unfortunately, there is limited research on the specific types of Black people who choose holistic treatment methods. Several forms of holistic medicine grew and evolved within the African diaspora via slavery and institutional racism. In this essay, I’d like to unpack some of that. First, let’s define holistic medicine. Holistic medicine is the use and promotion of practices


that remain unproven, disproven, impossible to prove with the hope of facilitating healing. There are plenty of researchers, physicians, and others in the scientific community who deem these practices as ineffective. Writing these practices off, and reducing them to be ineffective, can have serious cultural implications. Many of these practices are bundled with cultural practices that have existed for centuries and hold significance to the people who believe in them. Some holistic options include yoga, acupuncture, meditation, prayer, and nutritional eating. Western medical practices frequently overlook the connection between the spiritual/emotional well-being and physical health. The seeking out of holistic treatment options could be likened to a return to certain cultural practices made scarce via large social institutions like colonialism or racism. While the use of holistic alternatives was established long before the institution of slavery, it would be unfair to overlook the effect slavery had on holistic alternatives. African slaves that were removed from their homelands were brought to new lands as property. Their knowledge from their native lands often mixed with the knowledge indigenous to the new lands they occupied. Slaves were viewed as property and were not privy to receive care in an official capacity—unless when dire. Slavery forced a new sense of resourcefulness, which led to the popularization of folk medicine. Teas, salves, incenses, and talismans became an integral part of their daily healing processes. Specifically, asafetida and garlic were often worn around the neck to ward off various diseases. Herbal teas were consumed daily. One very popular substance consumed by slaves, but also by many people today, was castor oil. Castor oil is sometimes used as a laxative and is known to aid in detoxing the body. Cramps were eased by using quinine while more chronic aches or conditions were treated with liquid tonics made from gum turpentine and pine trees. The suspicion surrounding the use of these types of methods frequently forced holistic practitioners to practice in secrecy (Robinson 1998). Much of the information surrounding holistic practices has been lost and forgotten as time progressed. With the explosion of the Self-Care movement, which promotes health and wellness via self-awareness and self-preservation, some of these previously mentioned holistic practices have become more popular. Choosing to utilize holistic health methods gives a certain amount of autonomy and responsibility to patients that sometimes is not available with


Western medicine (Sanders 2003). Western medicine is not inherently bad, in fact, it saves many lives day in and day out. However, Western medicine has yet to be made accessible to everyone, nor does it provide full relief to everyone (Robinson 1998). This is where holistic medicine as a form of self-care becomes integral. According to google, searches for “self-care” are at least 25% higher this year alone. From bath bombs to resurgence in the use of crystals for their healing energy, people are taking the necessary steps to make holistic care a part of their daily lives. The great thing about holistic medicine is that it can mean different things to different people! Everyone has the right and the power to manifest practices that apply to them within their lives. The revitalization of the use of holistic medicine could potentially serve to further reverse previously established colonial standards of medicine and care. These standards were often forced upon people which provided for the erasure of other, non-Western practices. Colonialism, as a system, always gives the colonizer the final say in what methods will be enforced. Several women of color (WoC) have been the main forerunners of reinstating holistic treatment as a viable care option via social media and grassroots organizing. Though self-care has been practiced within medicine since the 1960’s, it was always packaged as something to be overseen by a doctor. The Civil Rights era helped usher forth the belief that self-care could be practiced without consulting physicians (Harris 2017). And thus, reclaiming the right to practice holistic medicine, as a form of self-care, has become a political statement in itself. As we continue to decolonize our minds, our spirits, our practices, and our beliefs, may we stand firm in all that we are and all that we can be. Works Cited 1. Harris, Aisha. “A History of Self-Care.” Slate, Apr. 2017. Slate, http://www. Robinson, Maisah B., et al. (1998). “Slave Medicine.” Mother Earth Living, Accessed 4 Aug. 2018. 2. Sanders, J., et al. (2003)“Holistic Healing / Alternative Practices Help African American Women Take Charge of Their Health.” SFGate, https://www.sfgate. com/health/article/Holistic-healing-Alternative-practices-help-2567284.php.


MORIAH LEIG H By Nybria Acklin

Living on Purpose. Loving with Purpose. Becoming Whole. I had the privilege of interviewing Moriah Leigh, the founder of Rooted Essence Dance and Healing Arts, a community organization based in Springfield, MA on love, healing, and community. She shared that love, healing and community are foundational princples in the organization. We focus on enrichment through dance, culture, education and culturally rele-


vant healing pertaining to the African Diaspora. Love, healing, and community are the center of rooted essence. Tell us a little bit about herself. How do you practice love and healing in your everyday? Moriah described her everyday practice as “living on purpose.” She stated “living on purpose” is truly taking care of herself and serving others.

Photo By Darrius Johnson

Moriah lives on purpose through her lifework in dance. Dance for Moriah brings her joy, happiness, culture, and celebration.

just doing what you have to do to get by, your trying to keep up with false competition on social media, you’re confused and you’re not taking care of yourself. Living on purpose means “…living for survival means that to live for higher needs, you’re payou are living to achieve your basic tient, diligent, you’re invested, you’re needs…you are in a lower state of a student of life looking to learn from thinking, it’s creates a false sense of everything you go through, you’re who you really are and how valuable balanced in what you eat, do and even you are. It puts blinders on your the words you say. You’re living for potential. You lack faith, you don’t be- the future with plans for longevity ! . lieve in yourself, you cut corners and Once someone has their most basic go the easy route to produce, you’re needs met like food, shelter, and


clothing, emotional health, self-love and awareness they can serve their higher state of consciousness and therefore best serve others.”

What inspired you to create Rooted Essence Dance?

Rooted Essence Dance was founded in 2017, but before its creation She also introduced the idea of Moriah was navigating the world of wholeness and becoming whole, corporate America. She described her which she emphasized was about decision to create the platform love and healing. Moriah believes the similar to choosing between confupractice of becoming whole is sion or certainty. In all, Moriah was “living out God’s purpose for you… inspired to cultivate a change in soand making sure that everything you ciety and to create a path of lifelong do in your life aligns with that. The learning. friends you choose should reflect your purpose, the kind of conversaWhat exactly do you want to change tions you have, the shows you watch, about society? the foods you eat, the social environments you choose, everything. In Community order to get out of living for survival, you have to pursue what God put you Moriah described herself as a change on this earth to do, once you’re doing agent and her work as a lifework of what the creator made you to do change. Through her lifework, she there is a self-awareness that brings wants to inspire people to live whole forth an undeniable value, you’re lit- as a foundation of success for whaterally on some “new.” It’s what fulfills ever they pursue in life. and puts everything into perspective. Moriah wants people to learn how to Moriah’s journey of becoming whole thrive and overcome and seek healing encompassed looking at the areas from the broken pieces in our life. She that needed to be change within hopes that through Rooted Essence herself and attacking them one by Dance, folks learn how to express one. From forgiveness in her heart themselves through positive outlets. and renewing her mind, adjusting her She hopes for those to learn to think behaviors, saying no to things that no higher, and learn to express themlonger serve her and yes to the things selves through movement and other that did, moving and downsizing, puri- forms of artistic expression. fication, fasting, praying, and living a holistic lifestyle, were some of things “The motto for Rooted Essence Dance she took upon herself so that she can is to connect, restore, and liberate remain in a state of wholeness through dance...and other forms of artistic expression...Rooted Essence


Dance is holistic; it is about living, all working together to plan events, education, society, and community...” coordinate performances,conduct workshops, classes more! Who are your partners at Rooted Essence Dance? What demographic do you currently serve? Moriah calls her team of folks The Tribe. These are a powerful group of “Rooted Essence serves all people women and have gifts, talents and ages 18 to 35…I teach classes where passion in the arts, education, and ages range from 2 to 65...” Not only women empowerment. They all stand does Moriah serve those that she behind the mission of Rooted Esteaches, but she believes she also sence and are self-driven for success. serves those that she works with. They are pushed to grow in uncovering their purpose as a part of the or- How necessary do you think the work ganization and have a sincere desire of love, healing, and community is for to serve the community, Her tribe Black people and why do you think it fills the roles of dancers, instructors, is necessary? master teachers, gurus, healings, guides, mentors, and tribemates “Yes! The work of healing, commu-

Practice Session, Photo by Darrius Johnson


nity, and love is everything for Black people... we are made of love, we operate on love... love is the essence of who we are... Love is our rooted essence...” The lack of love we have for ourselves and others is what decimated the black community. It’s not easy to love and accept us at time, we are a traumatized and impoverished people, but love is a choice of acceptance and giving positive affection to others no matter what. Moriah believes in the power of love, Rooted Essence Dance is my ministry of love. She believes that love elevates others and dance and healing arts is where that is fully expressed. What is one thing you want to address or expand on?

Is there any advice you have for young people who want to achieve self-healing and self-love? Before Moriah could answer, she wanted to make clear that her advice was for someone who wanted to become whole. “There needs to be a balance with becoming whole…young people want things to come fast... some things need to be waited on...” “Come away, separate yourself, and dwell in quiet... learn about the areas of where you are broken...create a space of reflection… seek revelation... [and] get clear on your purpose.” “Trust the process...your private struggles will become your public testimonies...”

“Going back to the question of how I practice love and healing in my every day, it is the meditations of the Check out what Rooted Essence Dance heart...” is up to on its Instagram @rootedessancedance and Facebook For Moriah, steady your heart. You page. Follow @rootedessancedance have to become in tune with the for all updates and events! heart, “becoming aware of the decision that you make.” Because is one going to choose peace or frustration? is one going to choose love or anger? “It is a constant internal checking in, a constant meditation…healing is lifelong...seeking the everyday...acquiring and checking in on every need to make sure you are balanced...”


FORGOTTEN By Abyssinia P.

We notice you only eulogize Black boys--Black men. We hear you try to unbury their bodies with words. We wait. Attempt to listen to the Black girls --Black women, tucked in the silence between sentences.


Photo by Mimi Mutesa

JESSICA GOMES By Ana Clara Otoni

When Art Transforms from Inside Out: A Story of Hair Transitioning and Finding Your Own Identity Expressing your inner battles and conflicts through art is one of the most genuine ways of overcoming traumas. Sometimes, the result is beautiful pieces of art that connect people. Jessica Victoria Ferreira Gomes is proof of this maximum. She is a talented Afro-Brazilian artist from a small village in the Northeast of Brazil called Barra Grande, in the state of Piaui. She already has many lessons


on self-awareness, resilience, and acceptance to share with the world. Jessica took her time to talk to Bloom about her creative process, her hair transitioning journey, and her beliefs. So, grab a refreshment and read on!

Photo By Ă lina SĂŠrvio

How have your experiences of growing up in Brazil influence your art?

came across the peculiarities of race as I grew older. During my teen years, I really tried to fit in with beauty stanI had a very chill childhood. I grew dards. I remember as it was yesterday up with two older brothers, and my asking my mother to straighten my mother mostly raised us, because my hair. She loved my curly hair. Hers was father used to travel a lot for work. straight. She was jealous of mine! I My Mom and I also had a special lost her to cancer when I was 17 years bond. We were the two girls in the old. She was a very enlightened and a house! Growing up, I remember having spiritual woman. My Mom taught me a feelings about my appearance even lot about kindness, humility, and love. as a little girl. My Dad is black, and After her lost, I started to reflect even my Mom was white, but, honestly, we more about my internal questions of never discussed race in our family. I self-love, self-respect and my value


only in society. Today, I realized that my efforts back then, trying to hide who I was, and my vain attempts to adapt to beauty standards, reflect in the person that I am now. All my experiences somehow were connected to art. My Mom and I would always do manual artwork, mosaic, and fabric painting. We would also make candles and all types of things! We always created art together, and that’s one of her best gifts to me. I think I owe my relationship with art to my Mom.

to deal with a hair that has A LOT of willpower (laughs), but because I saw myself as a Black woman. That was a click to many of my insecurities that before would be unnoticed. I decided to do the transitioning because I was tired of dealing with all the process involved when you don’t use your hair as it is. I remember all the pain, the time wasted, the fear of rain, swimming on the beach, my insecurities when someone would touch my hair.

How do you empower women? When did start to see this as part of your work? What I try to do with my work is to share an idea of love and empathy. I decided to share my experiences in my texts and drawings in a way that others can connect and reflect on it. My dream is to see day by day more and more women sharing their knowledge and experiences of the beauty and magnitude of being a woman. I only started to think about this a few years ago, when I opened my eyes to the different people around me and their experiences as a woman. This might be a tough one, but do you My hair transitioning released me have a favorite drawing? Which one from all of that. It was a key moment and why? for me. I started to see myself as a Black woman. I had a mix of feelings I drew this picture when I was transprouting on my head, literally and figsitioning from relaxed to natural hair uratively. I opened my eyes to a new in January of 2017. In the beginning, universe around me. It was such an I just wanted to try, but it became intense and deep moment of self-revery normal for me to use my hair flection and self-awareness! I like to natural. It was a complex process think at that time as the moment that not only because I had to learn how I woke up to be the woman I am today. 20

Learning how to deal with curly hair taught me that I can’t control everything. Transitioning helped me to understand aspects of my own identity that were confusing to me. Using my natural hair gave me the confidence to be the Black woman I am, and let me experience different styles that bring me closer to my roots and heritage. Hair transitioning brought me closer to my people. It made me accept myself as a Black woman, something that I was trying to camouflage. Hair transitioning might seem like something small, as a hair treatment, but it’s a significant change in the way someone perceives the world.

makes me understand my emotions and express them in an image that often reflects my process of self-discovery. It’s also amazing to see my art touching others and letting them discuss this topic with others. I believe that this connection contributes to my evolution. You are only 22 years-old. What are your professional plans?

The racial situation is problematic in the U.S, how do you observe the role of Black women in Brazil? Even though a big part of the population in Brazil is African-descendants, the race is still a controversial topic over here. I see a lot of racist speeches and comments. Social media has brought to light many of these questions, and finally, some people are awakening to this matter. Comments that were not perceived as racist are now not only quickly identified, but also reported and condemned. How- I was always passionate about any ever, there is still a lot to change that art. Whenever I get a chance, I get needs to be done. involved in different artistic interventions. I started with illustration, Does your identity as a Black woman then evolved to a bigger canvas, intersect in your work? If so, how? e.g. graffiti, murals, and mirrors. Nowadays, I’ve been exploring skin Every day I feel more and more com- painting and tattoo. In general, I hope mitted to talking about my experito learn many other types of arts and ences as a Black woman in my work. techniques. My art is my outlet for my feelings. It 21

What is the role of love and healing in your work? OMG! Love is involved in everything I do. I love to draw, paint, [and] create. Growing older I realized that drawing was my personal and intimate way of healing. Creating art is my meditation, my relaxing time. I can dive inside of myself and express and communicate through art, my deepest feelings. Drawing has also become my hobby. Having a chance to work with something that I love. It’s just living a Where do you see you ten years from now? dream! What is the impact you want to create Well, with my Mom’s passing I realized how life is uncertain. So, in the world? I don’t make specific plans for the future. I just want to be happy with the I want to spread the idea of uncondecisions I make and to keep my faith ditional love and empathy. I want to empower women to unite with [each] and positivity in a better future. other. I think it’s very important to express my own experiences as a fe- You can view Jessica’s work on Instamale because I believe in the power of gram: @jg_atelier empathy. Some people might connect with the things I share, and others might not relate directly to it, but they can at least see the topics I explore with a different perspective. For me, the evolution of the world would only happen if each of us contributes to the process. What is your main goal right now? Honestly, I just want to establish my career living only through my art. I want to experience life with plenitude! I wish for strength and courage to overcome the challenges on the way.


Luna Productions Luna Productions aims to documented and imagine the diasporic and intersectional lives. Luna Productions supports the resistance, by honoring ancient traditions of storytelling, and providing services that help support black artists. Luna Productions wants to make new rituals, new truths, new worlds, while acknowledging various the histories, in order to be able to remember and reimagine the past.

L una P rod u c t i on s Provi d es : • Book Editing and Book Binding • Sirena Journals (handmade and sewn journals, in-stock sales and individual designs made to order)

• • • •

Marketing and Designs Manuscript Interior Design SpanishTranslation Services Artistic Counseling and Development

For More Information: Yolandi Cruz Guerrero

Photo by Shari Mwanika


Full Body Detox Frozen Peaches

Lemon Juice

Apple Cider Vinegar


Rose Tea


Drink 3-4x Week 25

AUTUMN By Steph Dinsae

Let’s say there was a garden An apple And two characters - yes Eve being one of them “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” The other character not being Adam - or even Steve - , but actually Autumn The way the names falling out of the mouth the same With one being way more easy to chew and digest The other? Dying off \ like leaves of the (Autumn) and Eve found each other in the garden Amidst the holiness, they tapped into the God in one another Trying not to step on dead, crunched leaves Entangled together in hushed tones Let’s say that the garden was actually a church bathroom Autumn and Eve - actually a girl my second-grade age and me Seeing each other for the Gods we were In the garden, we made out, lips in lips, mouth in mouth Second-grade sloppily Autumn with her arms wrapped intensely around my neck | sitting on my lap | In the fall, apples are best picked when ripe So how could I have resisted the apple when I knew it would taste so good We found the holy in each other - so how could you have said That our meeting was anything other than sacred Autumn let it slip that I took a bite of the apple And we both got scorned for it Scorned for finding the holy in a girl I was told to never do it again > that it was bad Ungodly But only someone so blasphemous could even believe that How dare anybody speak down on God like that Call our meeting an abomination You think I’m blasphemy But are you even asking me What I think? Do you remember who I am? I am the God you look at with disdain So I demand you refrain From saying anything you might take back


In the next breath I am the God you look at with disgust And if God has a part in each of us Then it’s just A matter of time before you realize That Autumn is not dirt in your eyes She is only the rebirth And if we are the same beings And you only hurt her What can you say for yourself?


Photo by Mimi Mutesa

“AM I HAPPY?” By Jessica Innis

The ongoing question whether the life I’m currently living is the life I want to live. “Am I happy?” I asked myself. I stared at my ceiling as my body lied flat against my bed sheets. I waited in the complete silence for a reply. The only voice I could hear was the one in my head. I could only hear the thoughts rushing back and forth in zig-zag lines desperately trying to overcome each other. No thought had the answer to my question. Body weary and entirely exhausted, I fell asleep. Dream states were usually repetitive nightmares gleaming into my deadly subconscious. I was running. I was falling. Or worst, I was aware that I had been captive of the same nightmare once again. I was driven mad. Reluctantly, I get up in the morning. The first thing I do is burn a candle, a warm, sweet aroma. I have candles for different moods and different times of the day. The scent calms me. I’m allowed to escape the chilled, musk smell of my ordinary bedroom. I can pretend to run away just for a moment. Looking at myself in the mirror, I pay attention to the scars on my face. Those deep circles caused by lack of sleep, the restless brows overcome by stress, and the marks made from former pimples, hives, and dry weather. I deeply look into my eyes, and I ask myself, “Is this what I want?” Tunes, hot showers, and dry


food carry me through the morning. When I wake up, I desperately want to be happy and relaxed. I try feverishly to set the tone for my day. Leaving my house and entering my car, I slide open the mirror above my seat. I ask myself, “Do you feel fulfilled?” This time it sounds like an internal cry. “Or do you want more?” I slide the mirror shut before the thought is embedded too deeply. I constantly survey my emotions. And I find the courage to be honest with myself. “I am not happy.”, “I am not satisfied.”, and “I do deserve better” are just a few of my responses. Reflection relaxes me as much as it makes me more anxious. What are the things that are crushing me? Fear of Losing Control. I cannot control how things pan, and I cannot control my own emotions. Stress. I’m overworked an exhausted constantly because of work and life. And because I come from a low-income family, I constantly worry about money, loans, and other financial things. Loneliness. There’s a part of me that feels like no one really knows me. I had a hard time forming REAL connections until recently. I have blocked many people from my heart, and one day, I’m afraid to be alone. I’m afraid to be drowned in darkness. I’m truly and terribly afraid that one day everyone will realize that I am not worthy of their love. Not Saying How I Feel. I’m afraid to lose people because I’m afraid to be alone. I’m afraid to be alone because I never received the fatherly love I so desperately craved. Everyone was always working and busy when I was growing up. My pet was my only companion, but he also passed away. I’m afraid to lose others. I’m afraid to lose myself. And for that, I’m afraid to voice how I feel. To be bothersome, to be unhelpful, and to be forgotten is what I fear. Societal Expectations. I have struggled a lot with how society wanted me to be whether it was to be lighter in complexion or


lesser in body weight. What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a black woman? What does it mean to be a plus-sized, black woman? Being bullied since pre-school and hearing the words run like a Ferris wheel in my head, I began to believe the words they said. I questioned my existence. I felt hurt. I felt unworthy. I felt disgusted in myself. I’ve come a long way with this one, but I am unmistakably still trying to figure things out. The ongoing question remains. “Am I happy?” And the only answer I have for this current moment is that I don’t know. I am not happy, but I am also not unhappy. But I am trying. I am making attempts. I want to progress further. Because one thing I do know is that I do not wish to continue like this any further. I do not wish to be crushed further by the things I have mentioned. I want to take better care of my physical, emotional, and mental health. I want to take care of the most important being, myself. And thus, here is the Mantra I wrote for myself and others: I am intelligent. I am beautiful. I am kind. I am ambitious. I am worthy of love. I deserve to be happy. I am amazing. I glow. I shine. I am one of a kind. I choose to be carefree. I choose to be hopeful. I choose to take care of the most important person. I choose to love me. The last line means the most to me because people never understand why a person treats themselves like less than or worse off than others. Most of it deals with self-love. I can love you, care for you, and wish the best for you but not wish or do the same for me. And for a long time, I did not love myself. And honestly, it is not hard to harm someone you do not love no matter how much others may say they love you. Sometimes, it only really counts when you love you.


Photo by Mimi Mutesa

“Trying starts the healing process” Creator, Leader and Mother of one are only some of the words to describe yogi, Lexa Porter. Driven by her passion for inspiring self-care and empowering the youth and black families, Lexa Porter’s work oozes love and healing. Born and raised in Niagara Falls, Lexa channels her inspiration from her familial roots and the talented community of Buffalo. Growing up in the 90’s in a all-black family household and being the only girl, Lexa’s musical influence can be seen throughout all her videos. “I’m not a typical Yogi. I had a different lifestyle. You know I’m a little ratchet, I like my trap music. I have two brothers, and they are my best friends, so that all influenced me. Buffalo influenced me too. There is so much talent in Buffalo and I have to represent. If I win everybody wins!”

LEXA PORTER By Nichole Rondon

Thick Girls Do Yoga Too!


Lexa Porter defies all stereotypes as she pushes past the typical “yogi” narrative. Thick women can do yoga. Black women can do yoga. Low-income women can do yoga. “I’m a typical mom, I go to bed early and wake up with a smile at 5am. I work everyday and hang out with my son, that’s when I do my yoga. Being a single mother, it’s hard

working your way around yoga. I want to show women especially low-income women that you can do it. I did it. All you need is a mat,” she said.

comments” she said breaking down in the tears. “The positive comments made it better. People coming to my defense. Some people are so great.”

Originally, the creation of her instagram was never made with the intent to go viral. Lexa made content for herself and the same followers she had acquired since her MySpace days. Her yoga interest was a new year’s resolution that came true. “ I had been interested in yoga for about four years. It was a New Year’s resolution, I became vegan too. It’s a lifestyle change now,” she said.

“So do you have any advice for black women trying to start their yoga journey?” I asked. “We are already strong willed. Strong beings. There is nothing we can’t already do. Whenever you think, maybe this is not for me, just try it! Trying starts the healing process and love will come. Love comes when you nail a move and when you open yourself up to possibilities.”

Lexa had always wanted to get into the habit of flexibility training and was inspired by a mix of instagram influencers in the travel yoga scene like Erin Kelly Art (@erinkellyart). “She was so free-spirited and so genuine.”

Today, Lexa Porter is a force to be reckoned as she attempts to dismantle the engrained ideas around yoga.“ I want to start a project that will change the narrative of yoga and make it mainstream for the youth and black families” she said. Currently, Lexa is in the process of getting her license to be a certified instructor. She hopes to bring her impact to local youth centers and schools in order to encourage family yoga. “ I want to start with the youth first and then get parents involved.” In the future she also hopes to do travel yoga in Costa Rica with her son.

So when she began her plant-based diet and stepped foot on that mat a year and half ago, she never thought she would have amounted all of this fame and made so much progress in her yoga journey. “I do my practice from my heart and for myself. To see so many people inspired and have such a big impact, it’s crazy! It’s truly a humbling feeling” she said. However, where there is good there is also bad. “So, how do you deal with the negative comments?” I asked. “I have always been the chubby girl but at first when I went viral, it saddened me to see people trying to hurt someone who was trying to better themselves. But the positive

You never know how you can inspire change by simply being yourself, was one of the main takeaways from my conversation with Lexa Porter. Trying is the root of all success. It is clear that Lexa Porter is the embodiment of black girl magic. We should all be like Lexa and try because “Trying starts the healing process.” 35

Wellness + Lifestyle

Celebrating individuals who embrace authentic, intentional, revolutionary and well living.


OCCUPATION By Takondwa Priscilla Semphere

Today, I am making like the big boys in Berlin and drawing borders around my bodyThis is an occupation. I am staking a claim to my own tongue, naming my own roads, birthing my own language, becoming my own nation. Today, I am setting fire to all the crops that you’ve been growing in my soil. This is an occupation. I am tilling, and I am ploughing, and I am letting myself lie fallow. I will never be the same terrain again. Today, I am cutting off my streams And I am drying up my wells. This is an occupation. My waters were never meant for you to drink deep and quench your thirst. Today, I am digging up all of the bones underneath the life that you built here, And giving them a proper burial. This is an occupation. I am speaking names you asked me to forget, I am saying prayers you asked me to reject. Today, I am building towering wallsI am barring, I am holding myself in, And I am keeping you out. This is an occupation and, There Is No Entry Beyond This 37


Loving Myself As Who I Am And Transitioning Jada Tahiry Grèmillion, also known as @jadablackbeauty on Instagram, is a New Orleans-raised black transgender woman who has built a social media platform that includes over 30K followers. She is an advocate for the LGBTQ community and an entertainer with her identical twin Branden Miguel at @yourfavoritetwinz on Instagram. When she isn’t on camera, she enjoys


shopping, makeup, and taking private vacations. Tell us a little bit about your background. Where you’re from, what was your neighborhood like, and any family dynamics: I grew up in the streets of New Orleans. I am very proud to say that because New Orleans is a special kind

of city where you are taught at a young age how to go out there and get it on your own. I grew up in Lafitte and the St. Bernard housing developments where everyone was like family. Your friends were your cousins. Your next door neighbor was your auntie and your uncle. So, being who you are and people loving you for exactly who you are, it kind of made everything easier because you weren’t being judged. You were only being yourself.

What do you like to do? What makes you most happy? What are some great things that you’ve learned about yourself? What are some hard things that you’ve learned about yourself? I’ve learned to put God first in everything. I learned to love everyone. I learned to respect myself more than anything because it creates a domino effect for others to respect me. I’m the first transgender person in my family, so when I came out to my family, I


made an example for them to respect and love. That heals them to know that I’m alright and they’re alright, and they don’t have to worry about me as much. I’ve learned always to smile and be happy. Someone may click on my page and see me smiling, and you never know what people are going through. So, I hope that I am able to motivate them, and let them know that it’ll be alright.

into my life, I did forgive them for me but I’m not as close to those kind of people anymore. I’ve kind of maneuver around that. I’m not holding grudges; I just know how to handle you from a distance And this has been a way for Jada to make sure that I am alright before anyone else. How does love play a role in your life?

After 27-years of being single and having a very horrible dating experience, as a transgender woman, I believe I found someone who is just for me. Having a boyfriend now that is very supportive and caring makes love a little easier for me, because now I am learning how not to just love me, but also I’ve learned how to love and support someone else. My advice for men who are attracted to transgender women: I would encourage them to live in their truth and love people for who they are, and if you are ashamed, I’ve learned to stay true to who I am you shouldn’t be doing it. I have had no matter what. I’ve also learned to be horrible experiences in my dating past patient. I’m a lot more patient and I’m but I believe that’s behind me now. It much [more] humble now. The hard has not been easy let’s say that, but things I’ve learned about is that I used my boyfriend makes me realize why to be so forgiving. I am still forgiving none of them worked out anyway. in a sense too, but I’ve learned to I’ll say I’m happy and that ties into forgive and not to put myself in the healing. same experience twice. For example, some have crossed me. A lot of How does healing play a role in your people weren’t team Jada at first, life? and a lot of my friends left my life when I chose to transition. And I was In terms of healing, I’m very careful always that friend that was present in of who I share energy with, who I their lives. It may not have been the communicate with, and who I hang way that they wanted me to be, but I around. Even though I’m a socialite, was always present and I was a good I’ve learned to be to myself. I don’t friend. When they tried to come back think it’s me being selfish, but it’s I always knew that [my brother Branden] was gay and that I was trans. And, I wanted him to be himself. I didn’t want him to have to cover up about who he is. We have a good relationship. We like best friends for life. Growing up, before I transitioned, I was so protective of him because he was very quiet. But, now Branden is very protective of me. We have other brothers and sisters, but we’re present for each other, and down.


me protecting my energy to remain focused. What type of legacy do you want to leave behind? I want people to know ‘Don’t let being transgender stop you from reaching your fullest potential’ that’s the legacy I’m leaving behind as a woman living the transgender experience. I remember when I came out a couple of years ago, I believe I was brainwashed because people were like “you know it’s hard for you to get a job, it’s hard for you to date, it’s hard for you to get a name change,” it’s a hard life not even letting me step into inviting negativity people were saying things to be like that when I was considering it. It turned out to be less intense, and it made me pull away from certain situations. So, often times on my Facebook, I’ll say don’t let being transgender stop you from reaching your fullest potential, because I want you to know it can be done. What goals do you have for yourself in the future? Soon, I want to be an famous actress and I want to own my own business, become a wife eventually and I really wanna be a mom. I want to open up a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth. There are a lot of black LGBTQ folks that live in Altana. I transitioned in Atlanta; I have a special place in my heart for Altana. I am a New Orleanian, don’t get me wrong, but in the same sense I also know I am a Peach Bellini, too. I learned a lot from transi41

tioning in Altana, and I know that a lot Do you have advice for someone tryof other individuals did as well. I can’t ing to find a good support system? see it no where else but Atlanta. Start evaluating everyone. Write down What are some things that you their names along with pros and learned about yourself when you were cons and what kind of energy they in Altana? bring into your life. If they bring more negativity than positivity than those I met a lot of transgender folks when are the people that you do not need to hang around because it’s going to I was in Atlanta. Some of the things wear you down in good time. If the I learned in Altana is that you’re energy ain’t right, they ain’t right. And, not the only woman going through if they ain’t helping you grow, move this. It makes it a lot easier to know around. I learned to do that because a that you’re not the only transgender woman in the world. Meeting genuine lot of people aren’t genuine, just like women that are like you and hearing a lot of people aren’t against you, a lot of people are also not for you. You different experiences makes you have to take people for who they are stronger. and what they’re worth. Stop trying to mold them into something they are Give us a fun fact about yourself. not. I have an olive addiction. I love olives! This interview has been edited for length I have to have olives on my caesar and clarity. salads, at the bar. I just gotta have them. I visit olive bars frequently because I like purchasing different ones from around the world. My friends also send me my favorite store bought brand of olives from New Orleans at least once a month. What do you hope that people take away from your story? I hope that people take away from my story is that [the transgender experience] can be done. I’m not going to say that it’s hard, because that would be inviting negativity into your life, but it can be a bit of a challenge. But, if you want it; it’s yours, period.



total body fitness Upper Body (1-3 sets) 25 pushups 25 tricep dips 25 bicep curls 25 pull-ups 25 shoulder presses

Abdominals (1-3 sets) 25 crunches 25 side crunches (ea. side) 25 crunches, legs 90° 25 cruches, legs crossed 180° (ea. side) 50 russian twists 20 jack knife sit-ups 20 v-ups

Lower Body (1-3 sets) 50 squats 25 lunges (ea. side) 40 calf raises 25 fire hydrants (ea. side) 25 donkey kicks (ea. side)



w Th F

sa su S




e tr

Diamond By Camille Olivierre

I think it’s something about your smile, And the way you grab my waist That makes me want to accept the callus covered fingertips Dancing across the garden of thin, black hairs on my belly I think maybe it’s the way my name glides Across the orange wires of your braces, And suavely steps down the length of your tongue That makes me remember to be present To breathe Not to tremble To be steady I think it’s something about the way you hold me And stare into my eyes that makes me feel safe Makes me feel temporarily grounded during a time I feel so weightless, So airy I think it’s the softness of your lips that reminds me that humans are fragile It’s the way you leave bite marks on my skin that reminds me that skin tears That I can be easily ripped a part It’s the way you ask me how I’m doing that reminds me that it’s okay to not be alright I think it’s the way you ask for permission to kiss me, To tightly hold me from behind To squeeze my right hand To bite my cheek Suck my bottom lip Tickle my feet till I cry out Tell me that you love me, That reminds me that it’s not my fault


There are three distinct encounters with Zyla Sol that I recall. The first time we met was when I had entered her partially dim, technicolor room. The walls had been covered with various posters of music icons, and the smell of incense permeated the air. The second time we met, Zyla had choreographed two hip hop dances for an inexperienced group to be used in a performance. The dances were easy to follow and demonstrated her love for teaching. And the most memorable encounter that I recall was when she had gifted me Drake’s “Take Care” album on vinyl. There were two discs but she had only one at the moment. I didn’t even own a record player, but I could blatantly see that her love for music was heavily embedded in her soul.

ZYLA SOL By Jessica Innis

Authentically Portraying Myself in The Sounds of My Music Photo By Dreana LeMaitre


Growing up in a narcissistic household and spending numerous hours visiting her sister dealing with onset schizophrenia in a mental hospital, when she was in high school, Zyla Sol found her voice in music. Doing musicals and jazz standards, she was able to surround herself with sound which became her place of healing. “I make music as a way to heal myself and heal others who resonate with my voice and vibration,”

Zyla Sol said. Music, at first, was just a side hobby, a creative outlet, in which she could also get paid and support herself.

during her time at Smith College, she received a lot of backlash from her family for dating a woman. The trauma of not being accepted by them triggered her own spiritual, self-love Zyla Sol began to create her journey. Noticing the generational own work after being asked to leave curses placed on her family was as the lead vocalist of Shokazoba, something she wanted to unhinge an Afrobeat, reggae, and funk fusion from. Zyla continued, “Fantasy & band. Before joining, the band had Hypnotize, in which you’ll hear me previously been protested at Hamprescind on that sentiment and my shire College in 2013, after students convulsions with men. At the end, questioned on the Facebook event I’ve just decided that self-love is the page why there weren’t any people of most important and I shouldn’t have color in the group. Disliking how she to sacrifice my well-being to fit into was being mistreated and disrespect- what anyone outside myself wants ed as her contributions were ignored, me to be.” and her personhood being objectified, Zyla Sol found herself disagreeing with the band’s values and reliving her own personal traumas. It had been no surprise that the group had been cycling members for the past 12 years. In regards to the condescension she found in the lyrics, Zyla Sol exclaimed, “There needs to be personal self-reflexivity or else you’re always speaking from your ego lyrically, talking at people from a pedestal.” To this day, the band still has not removed her image from promos and the official website. I asked Zyla Sol to give me a breakdown of Yazyla Solstice, her “Yazyla Solstice came about mixtape. Zyla explained, “The mixtape as a defining moment of independent is separated into three acts. The first creativity and working through my has the most rapping which is an emotions,” Zyla affirmed. Identifying experimental art form for me as a as an indigenous, black, and queer vocalist but there’s no other style of female, her album mainly touches music that exudes such confidence. I upon her relationships with men. Zyla wanted to portray my outer shell, the stated, “There’s a line in the beginning mask, the go. I had the most fun writof Always Late where I say, ‘I swear ing this act. The second act, is where I’m not a dyke no more’.” Zyla said that the mask starts to slip and you see a 47

more emotional side. The final act is a resolution, that self love is paramount and me resolving this clash from how I want to see myself and who I really am.” Listening to the album, sounds and rhythms similar to those of Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Aaliyah, and even SZA dressed my eardrums as I embarked alongside Zyla Sol on her spiritual journey from song to song.

the spirituality involved in such practices as Zyla Sol has explored a multitude of religions and their spiritual connections. The scars of toxic behavior are deep, emotional wounds that slash at the soul, and she felt that these practices were most optimal for healing. For her future plans, Zyla told me, “I would like to become a Feverishly trying to escape professor and also take my music on the narcissistic environment that she tour. I am an academic and an artist. grew up in while dealing with anxiety I currently work at a high school for and depression, Zyla Sol had to learn special ed and the Hip Hop Archive how to love herself unselfishly. For at Harvard University. Opening an her, unlearning toxic ways of loving outdoors art school is a dream of was rooted in fear. The toxic habits mine, particularly for people in the of people pleasing had first crushed inner city. There are many progresher ability to find her own voice. sive, alternative methods of teaching The nature of controlling out of fear available for students from wealthy instead of love displayed the delusion backgrounds and those who are able between the relationship of parent to perform academically despite and child especially when pertaining circumstances, but there needs to be to mental health. “It’s an anomaly equal access to quality education. I because while everyone is self-inattended Beaver Country Day School volved, most of them aren’t unique or in Chestnut Hill on financial aid and being themselves,” Zyla said as she attended the Steppingstone Foundacommented on society’s excessive tion, which has helped me build my consumption of materialism and current success. I would like to go self-obsession. She mentioned that on tour before I get into building a toxic self-involvement is often ignored school. I love to travel. It would be a in the black community. Zyla contin- part of my healing. I want to travel ued, “It can be difficult to navigate at the world. I love different cultures times because there’s such heightand finding things that I like and have ened identity politics right now, so in common with them. When I get many distractions.” enough love, that’s what will happen.” TThrough all of this, Zyla Sol Find “Yazyla Solstice” on all streaming became a huge advocate of afro-cen- platforms; Full album located only on tered and non-traditional methods of Bandcamp. healing such as; acupuncture, reiki, and herbalism. She very much enjoys 49


De-stress When the migraines, anxiety, depression kick in Start with 10

2. Stretch for 10 mins. focusing solely on deepening each stretch. 1. Inhale & exhale for 10 deep breaths.

3. List 10 things you’re grateful for while looking in a mirror.

consistently combat the negative thoughts with the positive ones to train your mind Stress can hit you from any and every corner. You can also be so stressed that you won’t notice it until your body gives out. Try to de-stress 1x day or 4-5x week. 50

Photo by Mimi Mutesa

“Cuz I own my body. It’s not a political playground. It’s not a place for legislation. It’s mine and it’s my future.” ~Samirah


Photo by Shari Mwanika

AISHA FUKUSHIMA By Taré Suriel By Jessica Innis

“We don’t just write verses, We write universes” ~ Aisha Fukushima In 2015 the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper declared that, with her eclectic mix of social justice and hip-hop, “Aisha Fukushima Takes Over the Planet”. Ms. Fukushima’s raptivism movement is not about taking over the planet, it’s about rapping a new one into existence and it’s going worldwide. Back when the 2015 interview of her was reported she had worked in 12 countries, today she has worked in 20 54

countries spanning 4 continents. We talked to her about becoming a cultural activist, creating communities across borders, and art as a means for creating the space for change. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

Photo By Dimitri Moore

Tell me about how you started doing your work. My parents were both booking agents at the time bringing artists the likes of James Brown, Funkadelic, George Clinton, Booths Collins, Aaliyah and many others to Japan. ... I think even that upbringing of going across from U.S. to Japan and zig-zagging around the world, so to speak, allowed me to start to question the boundaries and borders that we often see that are set up between

people, between nations, and between different ideologies. Some of those early experiences really fed into what is now my cultural expression as a vocalist, as an activist, and founder of the global hip hop project, RAPtivism. To go more specifically into the activism element of my cultural work, a lot of that stems from my upbringing. Thinking, not only of the histories of resistance that precede me and my family’s history and our collective history, but also thinking 55

about secondary school and going to media and having conversations a school where I was one of few work- about sexuality, religion, class, gening-class students of color. Many of der, feminism, and racism in our local the students came from more affluent community. This was really geared backgrounds where they might receive towards the young people in my coma Mercedes Benz for their 16th birth- munity [but] to my surprise a lot of day or 100 dollars for every single ‘A’ different people started showing up. that they earned. In that environment, including my teachers, to start having I saw many different kinds of prejudic- conversations about the injustices es and many different kinds of -isms in our community and how we could that would pop up everywhere from change. the classroom to the hallways to the cultural cool among most “popular” I found as a young person students. the arts was a perfect venue to start having those conversations because Which would result in things it allowed people to be connected, like my even math teacher grading it allowed them to become a little my tests differently as one of the few more vulnerable, and it opened up a students of color in her class and new space for folks to interact and pointing me out as a “bad student” reimagine the change they wanted when I asked a question in class. Or to see. Also, it allowed us to share it could even pan out in something stories which I think is really key like the spirit week in my high school, in allowing folks to see and recogwhere as a student government rep- nize one another which I think is resentative I was working alongside a building block when it comes to my peers to decide some themes for making change. To have some sort this annual tradition that we had and of element of recognition between they decided to do a “thug day”. When and among folks, even a recognition I asked them what that meant they of one another’s struggles and one told me that it was a day to dress up another’s triumphs and ways we can like “black people” and black “ghetto” win together can allow us to start to people…. build a more equitable platform for the movements that we are making. It spurred me to want to do something in my community to How does your identity/your personal help change that culture, which I saw experiences play a role into your getting stronger and stronger with work? each year of middle school and high school progressing. ... As a senior Whew! There are lots of in high school, I started community different elements to that question, organizing by bringing together a lots of different layers. ... In some group of community activist artists ways my vantage point being an Afri... all different sorts of art forms and can-American Japanese woman, and 56

multifaceted in a lot of other ways as a global citizen. As well as someone who wants to push more intersectional understandings of feminism, and to encourage that in our liberation practice, all of that plays into how I create and how I collaborate even. [It] affects not just the “product” of the music that comes out but the process of how it’s created. ... The experiences that I’ve had all around the world traveling to different places and having my body, my phenotype, read in different ways has given me a wealth of unique, cross-cultural understandings and it also encourages me to dream very vividly about what is possible for us to manifest in making a more compassionate open world. Seeing that, for example, there are some countries where police officers don’t carry guns. ... Or that my skin color doesn’t come with the same assumptions that it comes with in the United States, the same kind of discrimination that I might expect everywhere from the grocery store to walking down the street. That it [discrimination] won’t necessarily pop up in every single place that I’ve been to allows me to kind of open my mind and imagine something and hopefully paint that picture through my music and through my art as well as through the projects that I co-create with others in order to invite us to reimagine the world we live in and to redesign it. ... I [also] draw a lot of inspiration from the past, the present, and the future. ... I think about my

ancestors and their many sacrifices whether that’s my samurai lineage or it’s looking back at the history of enslaved peoples, not only in the United States, but across the diaspora and thinking about their strength and the sacrifices that they’ve made and how that plays into even the present moment. That gives me a lot of heart and a lot of power that I pour into my music. Also, those future landscapes, looking ahead into what it is it that we want, definitely influence my art. Finally, working on my mindfulness practice allows me to tune into the now and – as Nina Simone put it – fulfill my duty as an artist to reflect the times. How is love and healing involved in the work that you do? Love and healing are at the very foundation of the work that I do.... Like Cornell West says “justice is what love looks like in public” so when I’m speaking up for justice and for freedom, it’s very much in line with a form of love ... I think healing is also connected to that work of liberation, how do we move forward without healing first? And not only healing on an individual level but healing collectively too. We are interconnected beings whose welfare is interdependent, so our healing should be connected too. When I perform I try to get people involved by moving, clapping, singing, and greeting one another so that we can foster a culture that 57

amplifies our connectivity. This space allows us to practice how we can care for, recognize, appreciate, and stand up for one another, especially in these difficult times. Music and the arts are a space where we can start to practice that, where we can put theory and action together. ...

pathways to choose, many of them destructive to their communities, but then they found a creative force in the power of hip hop to speak up. That allowed them to then open up a whole new portal of being not only for themselves but for the many people that they inspire. I’ve helped get funding for an all-women hip hop What kind of impact are you trying to dance crew in Kazakhstan to continue doing their art and worked in solidarachieve with your work? ity with community engaged artists from Kathmandu to Jerusalem who I hope that people who are sometimes seen pariahs in their experience my work feel inspired to communities for being among the reimagine the world that we live in first to rep hip-hop in their locale ... or and to start to dare to create an image for being among the first for example of what a freer world looks like so that women in the communities .... [I]t just build it together. As artists, I believe helps to have another cheerleader, that we don’t just write verses, we another co-conspirator, colleague, write universes and through shaping comrade in that struggle so that we culture we can also shift the framecan continue to amplify the work that works and influence who people see we are doing that’s in fact adding or interact with the world. ... positive richness to our communities. [I] think back to my time in South Africa and I remember music being such a key part of hope and having a hopeful feeling that something can change. As benign as that might sound to some it’s such a powerful force in times of turmoil whether it’s that Bob Marley song or some of the anthems that I’m continuing to co-create for my forthcoming album, “Songs of Freedom”. ... I’ve seen some very close RAPtivist friends feel inspired to pick up the microphone and start using their talents to create change in their local community through their arts. I’ve seen hip hop save many lives of folks who have a lot of different 58

Photo By Thea Franco

We were particularly curious about your experience in South Africa. Particularly working with people from there who were tired of the “savior complex” westerners often exhibit when traveling. This dynamic is particularly interesting because it calls attention to those politics that sometimes underlie these international musical interactions, your raptivism if you will. How do you approach those power structures when traveling across the world doing your work? How has that approach changed over time? Most recently I’ve been inspired by reading Adrienne Maree Brown’s emergent strategy and thinking about how she uses a lot of metaphors in nature to describe how we organize. A lot of the elements she talks about resonate at many for the work that I do globally as well as locally in my own community and nationally across the U.S. One example of that might be collective leadership. Even with my bandmates, when we are collaborating, I put a lot of trust into them expressing their voice, whether that be through the bass guitar or the keys or the drums or what have you to contribute to the music and make it our own collectively. I don’t necessarily give them a box and tell them “hey, you need to play in this box”. I try to make sure everyone can be heard and seen in our collective musical sound garden.

I also make collective leadership essential part of the workshops that I do in bringing in a kind of Paulo Freirian approach, by acknowledging that everyone has something to bring to the table. As such a lot of the pedagogical work that I do involves co-creating a space with folks where they feel empowered to speak up and take action in collectively transforming their communities... In some of the readings that I’ve mentioned, I’ve heard flocks of birds as they are migrating taking turns to lead the pack as they are flying. Then if one is injured, in some cases another bird will go down and sit with them until they’ve either transitioned or gotten better so that they can fly and join the flock of birds later in their migration process. So, I think some of these patterns in nature we can also see reflected in the ways that I continually strive to shape the work that I do both on and off the stage Coming up, Aisha Fukushima hopes to complete an album to “enliven the movement.” She’s also touring across the country and hoping to add more locations near you. Additionally, Aisha hopes to find a medium to showcase the amazing people she meets along her journey and continue to build communities of raptivists. Follow Aisha’s incredible RAPtivism journey on social media, her IG & Twitter @aishafukushima and her FB page @globalaisha and join her on



K.T.S.E Teyana Taylor

I Used To Know Her H.E.R.

Both Okay Kaya

Lost & Found Jorja Smith

Sorry To Bother You

Girls Trip

First Match


Black Panther




Dear White People

Queen Sugar

She’s Gotta Have It

LEO FORECAST By Temar France

When I began writing this, Cancer season was in full swing. It was an emotionally remarkable time, okay, and we looked great and felt terrible. That sexy, Cancerian power mood that only Cancers can truly understand was thick. Heavy even. So yeah, I would say it was a pretty remarkable time, especially for us to be collectively cycling through five planetary retrogrades. Retrograde is like college finals, cruel but not impossible to survive. But I for one freaked out. I’m usually great at retrograde because what Gemini doesn’t like mess. But c’mon, that’s Venus, Mars, Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto playing games with my feelings whilst plummeting to Cancerian extra ass depths to express the point. Cancer season was a lot. Now it’s Leo season. I’m still 62

upset, and I still look good, but I feel a way about all this damn growth. I for one refuse to toil in vain, this ain’t Pisces season, so let’s cut to the tea. This is a fast forward through the sleepy, psychic Cancerian haze we’re all waking from to a wilder bitch of celestial seasons. Let’s take a look at Leo Season. While we’re all sludging through the planetary drudge of God’s plan, one of which Mercury is certainly only one of the planets handing our asses to us, there are several reasons why actually being forced to take a look at where you made your bed, built your home, and placed your bets is a great thing to do. Or forced to do in this case. Sorry girl. Things may feel like they are unraveling at first, and to be honest they are but get over this

quickly. After all, the universe must know what it is doing for all of this chaos to be happening during Leo season. Mercury went retrograde in Leo on July 26th. Our mercurial monster was technically in a retrograde zone by July 7th and will go direct August 19th. I like to think that most of us are accustomed to the cloud of noise that Mercury in retrograde offers. Communication is strained and the worst of our habits are illuminated. Distractions never cease, and nerves are deep fried. Mercury is a jerk. It doesn’t care what you miss because you should have been paying attention, but we are retrograding in five planets, adding more fuel to the fire. This sounds daunting, especially if you tend to trip through retrograding energy. I know I do. But, If we take a look, we will notice how these illuminations, hiccups and delays that are manifesting in our personal lives, can become obstacles that reveal just that much more perspective on what our boundaries are, or for many, what they will now be. Too often we overlook the period of processing and growth that makes the gold sparkle all that much more. On August 11th, there will be a solar eclipse in Leo’s eighth house of joint resources, sex, regeneration, and sacrifice. We are only beginning to notice what remains from July’s two major eclipses. The point is none of us can handle the truth very well if we’re not prepared for it. That’s what eclipses do, show you the truth. Now albeit difficult, at this time, we slow down. Many will feel a difficulty during this eclipse season, particularly those with underdeveloped emotions

and weakened boundaries. Energetic Mars will retrograde in the sign of Capricorn on August 12th through the 27th. This is a time to pace yourself, to play it safe, mind the books, and take care of your vitality. It’s been tangibly unstable the past few weeks since summer took a full turn. And though an eclipse can mean major changes ahead, an eclipse also means powerful new energy is brought forth from former latency. Be certain, this lunar eclipse will be a darkening of the light that will unveil it’s meaning. It will not be until at least thirty days after the eclipse that we will begin to see and feel the inevitable changes taking place in that celestial movement. Changes that will take form up to six months after the event. Mercury going direct on August 18th will signal some ease, particularly as it will then enter the sign of Libra, adding a blissful reprieve from the financial stress we will all feel at the beginning of August this Leo season. This Leo season is time to play hard to get while getting what you need. The difference in power that lasts, and the power that destroys, is power that lasts seeks power over no one. Nothing. It is powerful. It simply is. This is a time to see, accept and work on what is. Get close to your self and all the parts that make you. Your money, projects, and debts... not your fears. Let what is yours arrive and expect to work with what you have. The capricious mood ahead will prove fruitful with Saturn’s energy filtering this Leo season’s sun and asking us to really do the work it takes to settle the score. To be better. Work for it. Fight for it. Fight for the value of what is and therefore yours to attend to. 63

Shine Bright Like a Diamond? By Brianna Barrett

They say that when coal is put under enough pressure It’ll turn into diamonds But what happens when you’re crushed under the pressue Before you can shine? Not the first generation to go to college But the first on both sides of your 1st generation Jamacian 2nd generation Bajan immigrant family To get near the Ivy League. The elders call you ‘star girl’ And you get it because You know that, to them, you represent the fact that By leaving their home and coming to the US Their (grand)daughter Achieved the goal of achieving a better life “The American Dream” And she was able to overcome the American Nightmare of racial oppression They were met with and she still faces in the US Getting into to the same schools and Into the same social circles As the system’s beneficiaries You made their sacrifices worth it You have to keep them proud You can’t let them down Your mother parades you around Showing you off like the trophy daughter you are Though different, each conversation is the same Your Stage Directions Smile, say hello, state your name, ‘nice to meet you’, And my script goes on She gets the easy job An easy script Stage Directions: Smile, Introduce the stranger Smile with a look that says “Look at what a good job I did raising my children” She’s proud


You question if she should be Because You know that you truly ain’t shit But she is proud You make her sacrifices worth it You have to keep her proud You can’t let her down Even though your silences will not protect you They make a nice security blanket for now Every mistake feels like you’ve failed them The mathematical difference between your GPA and a 4.0 feels like The difference between continuing to make them proud and Being the failure you feel like you are You tell yourself it’ll be over soon But you care too much about everyone else So you care-y the pain But deep inside you feel the pressure The weight of previous generations You can’t let anyone down I hope I shine.



healing magic plants to purify the air




crystals to heal the soul




essential oils for good vibes

Thyme 66



Art by Aseeli Coleman

Photo by Shari Mwanika

redflowersCARE Other Products and Services

Personalized CARE Boxes CARE Boxes are gift and event order boxes focused on self-love, self-care, and self-actualization consisting of various card messages, tips, tricks, and self-care items.

Healing Workshops Currently, the “Love Yo Self� workshop is a starter workshop of different activities for various group sizes to begin care and healing and with hopes of leaving with actionable takeaways.

Guided Care Program The Guided Care Program has yet to be released. Similar content as the guided care pages, it is an online , animated week-by-week program providing a care plan with accountability.

For more, visit or email @redflowersco 69

bloom Contributors Aug. 2018

Abyssinia Pla El

Abyssinia is a Black woman from Far Rockaway, Queens and is currently living in upstate New York. Abyssinia loves reading, animals, trying new vegan food, and reality tv. She graduated with her BBA from Baruch College with a minor in English. Here, she rekindled her childhood love for writing. She is working on self-publishing her first poetry book. You can find more of her work on her @abyssinia.p

Ana Clara Otoni

Ana Clara Otoni is a copywriter and founder of Odara Digital, a PR agency focused in female owned business, based in Los Angeles. She also runs an IG (@BecomeOdara) where she uses storytelling to empower girls to find their Odara spirit. After spending 10 years covering technology and sustainability in Brazil, and earning an MBA in Social Media and Digital Communications, she moved to the US to explore other endeav70

ors. She attended an entrepreneurial summer program at Draper University, from which she was ranked in the Top 15 Best Pitches by Venture Capitalists in Silicon Valley. She had recently graduated with honors from her second MBA at Southern States University (SSU), in California. She is a marathoner passionate about sexuality, women empowerment and social justice. She collects mugs and loves taking a bath in the dark while listening to bossa-nova.

Aseeli Coleman

Aseeli Coleman is currently a senior at Rutgers University. She was previously biology major until she decided to follow her passion and major in painting and graphic design. Aseeli hopes to pursue a career in art as a visual development artist for animated films and as a children’s book illustrator. Her goal is to create more representation for young girls of color, specifically black girls, in a growing industry. Aside from painting, Aseeli enjoys doing

yoga, dancing, and reading in her free time.

Brianna Barrett

Brianna Barrett is a senior at Smith College (Class of 2019) who is majoring the Study of Women and Gender with an official minor in Africana Studies and an accidental undeclared minor in History. She was born and raised in the Central Jersey town of Jackson, New Jersey. Brianna is also very passionate about dance and has trained in a wide range of styles including ballet, contemporary, and hip-hop. She is also passionate about Black History, specifically Black Women’s History and Black Feminism. Brianna aspires to both dance for a professional dance company and then eventually get a PhD and become a professor while also doing research. With both of these goals, she hopes to inspire and empower other black, queer women who may be living with mental illness. Instagram: @swafricanadancer

Camille Ollivierre

Camille Ollivierre uses she/her and they/them pronouns. They’re a queer Vincentian American poet from Brooklyn, New York. Camille is a soca/dancehall music enthusiast and is extremely proud of their Vincentian family, their culture and their captivating island, and this is reflected through their poetry. Their work predominantly focuses on their experiences of trauma, the perception the world has of them in comparison to the perception that they have of themselves, and their appreciation of their Vincentian family.

Destiny Wiley-Yancy

Destiny Wiley-Yancy is from Los Angeles, CA and is preparing to study abroad in Durban, South Africa this fall. She is an undergraduate at Smith College where she double-majors in Africana Studies and Government. Here, she sat down with Jada Tahiry for advice about self-care and methods of healing. You can find her on Instagram: @dwileyyancy.

Mimi Mutesa

Mimi Mutesa is a self taught photographer hailing from Uganda but currently residing in Michigan, USA. Her favorite forms of photography are portraiture focusing on the beauty of black men and women, but really she just loves all sorts of faces. She loves to make people feel beautiful. She also loves to experiment with explosive color and floral pallets because in her experience, sensual photography of black women has always been anything but. She also loves discussing afro-diaspora politics over a bottle of wine, buying herself flowers, and sunbathing. She dislikes pseudo philosophical discussions that lead nowhere.

Nichole Rondon

Nichole Rondon was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. A recent graduate from Smith College, she specialized in Psychology and French Studies at Smith College. At Smith, Nichole sought out opportunities to explore minority issues on campus by writing for the school newspaper, The Sophian. Nichole

did similarly during her overseas experiences in Kenya and France, where she promoted the issues of women and immigrants respectively. She is known as a traveler, an activist, a thinker, and an intersectional feminist. She is inspired by the world, its diverse people, and the sudden societal push and embrace of intersectionality. Today, she continues to advocate for immigrant communities and underrepresented groups in the realm of Politics. Ensuring that policies are enacted to establish change in all communities.

Nyri Wells

Nyri Wells is a budding anthropologist straight out of New Jersey. She’s got her sights set on completing her degrees by 2019, and she can’t wait. Though she’s a full time student, she’s dedicated to using her appreciation for anthropology and environmental studies to better our public health outlook, as a country. When she is not in school she enjoys making time for activism... 71

or watching Netflix. She views her voice as her most powerful weapon, and hopes it only becomes stronger here at redflowers.

Priscilla Takondwa

Priscilla Takondwa was born and raised in Malawi, but home is scattered in people and places and memories. Besides Malawi, she’s lived in South Africa, Colorado and Massachusetts in the US. She’s a reader, a writer, a student, a sister, a daughter and friend. She’s a person of faith who loves to have conversations about Africa and storytelling and God +(Social) Justice and colonialism and blackness and the arbitrary nature of borders. She speaks English, Chichewa, and was once told by an Ivorian Uber driver that her French is pretty good. She’s weary of the ways of the world, and is trying to make peace with it without going complacent. Priscilla is currently a Princeton in Africa Fellow at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg 72

South Africa.

Raegan Thomas

Raegan Thomas is a young African American woman from Dallas, Texas majoring in studio art at Smith College. Her chosen mediums are drawing and painting; with a current interest in ink and watercolor. Raegan’s focus is to use her art to portray black women as angelic and ethereal beings to offset the false, stereotypical, and demeaning labels that society imposes. Raegan is currently the Arts and Culture Co-Chair of the Black Students’ Alliance. She intends to use the knowledge and skillset gained from Smith and BSA to land her museums and galleries everywhere.

Shari Mwanika

Pictures are a language she learnt (continue to learn) and fell in love with. Shari Mwanika, born and raised in Kampala, Uganda and is currently majoring in Film & Media Production and Psychology at The University of Cape Town. Shari believes that in some ways she is a carrier of light, she

spots it and then does whatever she can to share it, in the pictures Shari takes, films she makes, stories she tells, and words she writes. You can find out more of what Shari is up to on Instagram: @_asianut and vsco: asianut.

Steph Dinsae

Steph Dinsae is a poet and Black Classicist, splitting her time somewhere along the lines of the Bronx, NY and Northampton, MA where she is a junior at Smith College. She has interned in Italy with the Paideia Institute and has also participated in Black-centered DIFFVelopment, an entrepreneurial summer experience and internship from which she received Best Consulting Report Prize. Her favorite things to do are dance around to music in her room and obsess over astrology. In case you were wondering, Steph’s a Libra Sun, Scorpio Moon, and Sagittarius Rising.

Taré Suriel

Taré Suriel is a New Yorker and, like every other New Yorker, thats the first thing you’ll know about them even though they live in Baltimore. Taré can be best described as that messy love interest at the beginning of a rom com that has to clean up their life as a metaphor for being ready for a relationship. Except that relationship is their career and there is no funny best friend side character to tell them exactly whats wrong with them. As a recent graduate of Smith College, where they majored in Economics and Sociology and minored in Statistics and Data Sciences, they wonder what degree they need next to make politicians pay attention to them. Today they work for political campaigns.

the material culture of black women’s erotic labor in visual culture as well as black female subjectivity in performance, esoteric practices and botanic life. Temar’s archival project and documentary, Analog Erotic, 2018 is a curated visual essay through the history of black women’s erotic performance in print publications from the 1950’s to the present. Temar is the co-host of The Rap Scholars and the Marginalia Podcast where she archives her study of the sexual culture and economies in Hip Hop and the black women’s erotic labor central to its distribution.

Partners: Life of a Single Spoon (or ‘Spoons’) is a digital collective of black millennial women and a gathering place for the content and discussions relevant to us. Special Thanks to DeMya Johnson, our talent recruiter, for working diligently so this issue could really blossom. Fonts used:

‘Elley’, ‘Nilland’ , ‘Coolvetica‘, ‘jabjai’ , ‘Ink Free‘, ‘Roboto’, ‘Roboto Condensed’.

Temar France

Temar France is a mystic digital artist from New York City and 2018 Smith College graduate. Her work in photography, video and the digital humanities explores 73

bloom Editor-in-Chief Letter Aug. 2018 Dear Bloom Magazine readers, This issue was an absolute whirlwind of chaos. If you’ve been with us since the first issue, we’ve become an official magazine now, registered by the International Library of Congress. We added contributions and features telling the stories and displaying the work of black people from around the world. We even worked with other brands to include relevant advertisements. To make all these changes was beyond hectic but very much worth the value it adds not only to us, as Bloom Magazine, but for you, as the reader. I hope that when you found this magazine, you found a home. At Bloom, we are a community striving to depict the shine and strength of our people. There are a multitude of issues we face as black people from the African Diaspora, not solely on how we are perceived by others but also on how we treat eachother and ourselves. Let this not be just a read but a start, or even a reminder, that we are capable of living full, enriched lives loving ourselves, healing ourselves, caring for ourselves, and caring for others. While putting this together, I was being crushed by stress. I am constantly reminded on the importance of self-care, self-love, and 74

self-actualization as many things in life hit me all at once. Such a journey is always easier said then done. You may want something to happen, but the timing may be wrong. I want you to know that even giving yourself that moment to breathe, to inhale and exhale, can do wonders. My only advice is that you continue to breathe and remember it is okay to be strong as it is okay to be vulnerable. It is okay to be human. Bloom was only originally supposed to exist as a single care guide, a resource, for black women and black identiies in regards to lifestyle, health, wellness, and selfcare. Due to multiple requests, we had come to the decision of releasing issues quarterly centered on various topics in relevance to our readers, which is absolutely exciting! The topic of this issue was ‘Love & Healing,’ and it was chosen as a start for more to come. We plan to grow and reach international contributors and audiences for maximum impact. The sky is not the limit, just one of the levels to reaching even further. Sincerely, Jessica Innis Editior-in-Chief of Bloom Magazine

Photo by Jessica Innis

bloom Aug. 2018

Profile for Bloom Magazine

Bloom Magazine - Aug. '18