Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Creative Little Scientist: Why Aren't More Black Women Pursuing Careers in STEM?

Looking at the insides of a bean with a magnifying glass 
and then planting it in a Dixie cup of dirt. Because this was the first station, it   
meant transporting that dirt through the entire science fair - fun for Mommy!

Science and math are swirling around me these days. I took my kindergarten age daughter to her first school science fair last night and we had a blast learning how plants grow, experimenting with the power of light, and even making ice cream. When I was a kid, I wasn't particularly enamored with science, but I was quite good in math - until about the fourth or fifth grade. Words and the love of reading and writing just surpassed my interest in developing my mathematics abilities. And it appears I am not alone losing interest in science and math around the middle school age. 

 Checking out the effects of a black light shone for one minute on a key on paper. 
Submerged in water for another minute and voila! We've got a cool experiment. 
Added counting bonus: We counted to 100 for each one of the minutes needed 
to wait for a development stage at this station.

Middle school is when girls start to lose confidence in their science and math abilities, according an article about robotics in the November 2011 issue of Inside Spelman, the digital publication I edit at Spelman College. The lack of interest in science and math beginning as early as primary school  was also mentioned in a recent article I read by AP's Jesse Washington on the declining numbers of African Americans in the fields of STEM - science, technology, engineering and math. Washington's piece cited only two percent - 176 - of Ph.D.s awarded in biological and biomedical sciences that went to Black women in 2009. Why is that? 

Loved the illuminating effects of looking at the different colors of light 
reflected at the end of prisms made by holding different shaped pieces of glass 
up to lights of various strengths in the dark.

The thought of my daughter being interested in science and math is only a bit foreboding because I still have to give myself that quick pep talk before trying to understand what may seem like complex theories or problems that I occasionally encounter in my work at Spelman. And of course I'd love for her to choose a career in a creative field. But having been exposed to the amazing STEM accomplishments of Spelman students - from creating iPhone apps to being leaders in the field of robotics - I'm realizing that if my baby chooses a life of exploration and problem-solving in STEM, creativity will most certainly be involved. 

 For an extra special treat, there were even two very big rodents 
showcased by visitors from the Atlanta Zoo. This particular species is found 
on every continent. Glad we just caught the end of this session.
 I have to admit, I did get the willies looking at those long tails....

And last but not least: homemade ice cream 
we made by shaking it up in a bag of ice and salt.

 Four minutes of vigorous shaking required a joint effort. 
I had to get into the act. 

And the reward was sweet! 
Homemade chocolate ice cream - Yummy!

Why aren't more young Black women pursuing careers in STEM fields? I'll be hosting an Inside Spelman tweet chat exploring Black women and STEM - TODAY - Wednesday, November 16 from noon to 1 pm if you'd like to share your thoughts. Even if you miss the chat, the conversation will keep going. Follow Spelman College on Twitter and use #InsideSpelman to join the dialogue. 

And keep Enjoyceinglife!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Heavy D & MJ: Gone Too Soon

This morning I was totally caught by surprise when I heard Heavy D's voice on Micheal Jackson's "Jam," while writing a magazine review of the new soundtrack to Cirque Du Soleil's "Immortal," their MJ-inspired show. I forgot Heavy was on that track. For some reason I'm having quite an emotional reaction to hearing their collaboration. I guess with the news filled with Conrad Murray's conviction and Heavy's passing, I'm just sensitive. I'm enamored with creative souls. And these are two talents who are just, in the words of MJ, "Gone Too Soon."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Join Me Now @SpelmanCollege Tweet Chat - From Civil Rights to Occupy Wall Street

Join the Conversation at Noon & Win! - Please Join Me at Noon on Twitter: From Civil Rights to Occupy Wall Street: @SpelmanCollege Tweet Chat, TODAY, Wed, 11/9, 12-1 pm.

In the November issue of Inside Spelman, Dr. Gwendolyn Middlebrooks, C'61, Spelman associate professor emeritus and an original member of the Atlanta Student Sit-In Movement, explores the Civil Rights and Occupy Wall Street movements. Have you been involved in any movements? What are your thoughts on how these and other activist movements have evolved to affect change? We'd like to know your story. 
Please follow @SpelmanCollege on Twitter and share with us during this tweet chat.  Be sure to use the hashtag: #insidespelman. The best tweet wins!

Monday, November 7, 2011

King of the Evening

There is something really touching about Glynn Turman's performance in the little known film, Kings of the Evening. While Tyson Beckford's acting left a lot to be desired, I was quite moved by the complex relationship between Lynn Whitfield's character and Glynn Turman's. He was able to give his character depth, the layers of which he deftly revealed as the story unfolded. The talent of Turman, Whitfield and even the newcomer Linara Washington made you understand how hard it must have been in the 1930s Depression era for black people just trying to make their way. While a little rough around the edges, I find this film to be a gem - one I hope many will get a chance to see. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Hula-Hooping Puppy's Quest for "Important Things"

7:32 a.m. October 26, 2011...walking to school:

"Mommy, what do you know?" She's munching on red grapes.

"About what?" I'm trying to trick my racing brain to refrain from rearranging my mile-long To Do list.

"Just what do you know?" Her brows are furrowed as she scans the ground for pavement breaks not to step on.

"I know that I love you. I know that the sky is blue." Oh, I'm so clever...and I'm rhyming!

"But don't you know any important things?" my precocious kindergartener presses. I'm pleasantly surprised and a bit amused at her clarification.

"Well, like what? What do you think is important?" Turnabout is fair play I think, employing a tactic I learned from a friend.

"Like doing work on the computer...and on the iPad." I'm momentarily proud, then instantly concerned: My child understands technology. My child sees me using technology too often.

"Well yes, I know how to do those things. What else do you think is important?" Now I'm praying the tactic will work better the second time around.

"Well, we read to each other! Yes, we read to each other." Her voices fades as she races ahead.

"Oh yes Amber, that is very important."

She's out of earshot. And I am beaming.....


Hope you're Enjoyceinglife...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shel Silverstein Has a New Book Out!!!!


Why I fell in love with Shel Silverstein....

Why I still loved Shel Silverstein at age 25....

If you and your child like weird, whimsy, and witty writing, check out this great NPR piece about the incredible children's poet and illustrator. And make sure to visit Shel Silverstein's website, which has wonderful animation accompanied by the author reading his prose.
His imagination is matched by few.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Healing Work: Spelman 9/11 Video Reflections

If I hadn't overslept on the morning of September 11, 2001, I probably would have been on the A train riding directly under the World Trade Center as the buildings were being attacked. Instead I found myself being rousted by an early morning phone call from my father alerting me to the first plane crashing into the North Tower.

I was watching the news and ironing - still thinking I was going to my job editing at Honey magazine - when I got a call from my boss at the time, Ebony magazine's current editor, Amy Dubois Barnett. Together we watched the second plane hit, and realized that we weren't going into the office that day.

Some memories of that morning and the next few days are foggy. Like I don't remember if I talked to anyone else on the phone that day - or for several days - because all the lines were jammed with people all over the world trying to reach their loved ones in the New York area. I think I remember sending and receiving emails some kind of way (dial up?), communicating to my family and friends that I was safe and staying put.

By the end of that week, I did have to go into work, as we were closing an issue of Honey that was scheduled to be printed in a few days. I do recall getting off the train at 33rd and Park Avenue and being accosted by the smell of the towers burning - a stench I'll never forget. By the time I walked half a block to my office, my clothes and hair were peppered with debris from the decimated World Trade Center that was still falling from the sky like snowflakes.

Getting off the elevator, my face was streaked with tears from seeing every available space - bus stops, business fronts, light posts, building walls - plastered with "Have You Seen?" signs, desperate posted pleas from those looking for their missing loved ones. I was overwhelmed by the thought that several days before thousands of people tragically lost their lives halfway between my office and my apartment.

As we worked to put the issue to bed, rumors of bomb threats in many of the skyscrapers and massive train stations kept the mood uneasy. We talked of buying sneakers in case we had to walk miles and traverse bridges on foot to get home, as places like the Empire State Building and Penn Station were continuously being evacuated.

My heart was so heavy that I felt like I was trudging along in a daze the last two and a half months I spent as a resident in New York City. You see, I had already been planning my escape.

Even though I swore I'd never come back home to Georgia (God forbid, where my parents lived!!), by the time the planes hit the towers on September 11th, my sensible self had nearly secured a position as the senior editor at Upscale magazine in Atlanta. I'd turned 30 years old earlier in the year and with that milestone came a crack in rebellious runaway attitude I'd let impact my decisions for the last 15 years. I missed home - and September 11th just sped up a transition that was already in the works.

Oddly enough, I don't think it was until these last few days, that I felt the full impact of what my parents must have been feeling a decade ago - their only daughter, their oldest child, operating in the center of the worst terrorist attack the United States had ever experienced.

Interviewing members of the Spelman College community - students, faculty, and staff - for a series of September 11th anniversary videos really brought it all back to me. Their poignant and emotional remembrances and the perspective I've gained about valuing the important things in life has made me realize that the decade since I left the traumatized capital of the world was a seminal growth period for me.

One Spelman staffer who worked across the street from the World Trade Center and lost 10 people they knew when the towers fell could not bring their self to participate in the video project. The person described their feeling about September 11th a decade later as still being "too raw."

I realized, too, a lot later that I was traumatized by my experience on that fateful day. And being a parent now makes the memory even more acute. I am grateful I had the opportunity to shoot my first pseudo-professional videos for the 10-year anniversary of September 11th. The subject matter of this project is historic. The process was therapeutic. And the work allowed me to revisit one of the most terrifying times in my life through the incredible stories of others brave enough to share their reflections.

Continue Enjoyceinglife...

Ninety-one. & a half...

Hattie Mae Reid Lee, born in Greensboro, Alabama, February 2, 1920

When I was growing up, my grandmother said the Lord's Prayer - and a Bible verse - over every meal, even if it was just a banana. She never let me get a scratch on myself when my brother and I spent every summer with her and my grandfather in Tuskegee, Alabama. Whether they drove us cross-country to California, across several counties to swim at Gulf Shores, or down the road to fish in the Tuskegee Lake, she started saving for the next summer excursion as soon as we returned. She made the best peach cobbler and salmon croquettes - ever. And she taught me that when seated, young ladies keep their dress down and their legs closed. Even though she's blind, not always clear, and in a nursing facility now, she's still got lessons to share. And I'm still paying close attention....

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fighting the Devil: Procrastation Eased by Library Love (#Write)

Okay so you know the most important thing you have to do before writing is cleaning your keyboard, right?!?! It seems the forces of evil are always against me when I'm on serious deadline.

Everything in my personal life just explodes, my computer crashes, and I've certainly gotten no more than 3 hours of restless sleep the night before - so I'm hyped UP on coffee and anxiety in the midst of creativity-suppressing exhaustion.....

So who the heck knows how or why I even do this writing thing!?!?!

And this week not only do I have to write a few articles, but I also have to edit a digital mag - and edit a video that I shot (yea for diversifying my skills! Booooooo for adding to my stress level).


On a lighter note, to kick off my crazy deadline-driven work week, I started volunteering in the library of my daughter's elementary school. Nerd that I am, when the librarian gave me the 5 minute tour and mentioned the Dewey Decimal System, I went all gushy - happily catapulting myself back to card catalogs and curled up evenings with books I adored.

As I re-shelved and checked in dozens of books - many that I remember cherishing and being enthralled by more than 30 years ago - I was encouraged about my chosen profession.

Helping out in the library didn't really reduce my stress, but it certainly let me know that I could never have survived an existence that wasn't spent as a lifelong learner through reading and writing.

So...Procrastinators, let me know what you do when the word "discipline" is like Kryptonite and you just. can't. get. it. together.

Alright, enough....

I'm putting some words on a blank document - even if they don't make any sense.

Writer's write - alright? alright......

Friday, August 12, 2011

Feelin' It Friday: Skills Jones....

Back when I was in my 20s and flirted - for about 12 seconds - with putting some rhymes on a tape and trying to get it in the hands of a music exec, I would have LOVED to have some dope tracks like this to flow over.

I mean I lived around the corner from Nkiru Books in Brooklyn, frequented by Talib Kweli and Mos Def (pre-Black Star). I rolled up on ciphers pretty regularly back then - and I was just beginning to get my real music journalism career going, brushing shoulders with the digging-in-the crates crowd. Plus, I had the fly Bahamadia afro working. It could have happened.

Anyway...Novi Nicest - a self described designer, music composer, producer and writer - hit me up on Google+ and I checked his intro compilation on SoundCloud....listen and love....

And I hope this counts for my daily 30 minutes of writing....cause this is all I'm getting in today....

Writers write...

Allow Me To Introduce Myself by nicest

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dance Like You Used To....

I was listening to this fabulous Stevie Wonder podcast and teared up as "As" started playing.

I remember dancing to the song like tomorrow wasn't coming with my favorite "big sister," Pam, when I was probably no more than 8 years old.

She was a shapely, cappuccino-colored sister with thick lips and hair and a curl-shaped mole on her cheek. Probably seven years my senior, Pam was the best dancer in the world to me. We were part of this multi-ethnic dance troupe that rehearsed in an old church in Atlanta.
Our dance teacher, Miss Annette, choreographed a specific solo in "As" just for Pam. And when her arms, legs and hips swirled from the floor to the sky in dramatic leaps and giving thrusts, I was enthralled.
She was the embodiment of a beautifully talented Black woman. And I loved her. Every chance I got, I was up on her. And when I got the opportunity to dance with her, I never wanted our duet to end.

Back then my crafty momma had me in so many activities that I was changing from my leotard to my softball uniform in the car, munching an apple and reciting my times tables.
I did a lot, but dancing was my love. I feel like I took every kind there was, even mime!

And I never got tired - ever. The energy I had then, I only see glimpses of now at age 40. And for some reason that just makes me plain old sad.

Nobody tells you that you'll wish you could dance like you used to.

And I miss it.
Sure I get on the dance floor a few times a year and work it out until I'm about to pass out.

Or I twirl around a few times at a music festival in the park, Zumba for a couple of hours a week in class, and two step at a several concerts.

But dancing - modern, jazz, ballet - like I did from age 4 until about 14, or even club dancing - college through twenties - just disappears...

Only showing up in classes or infrequent old school parties and unexpected opportunities when this body - often worn out from life's responsibilities (parenting!?!?) - can only do so much.
Dancing disappearing?

Who knew?

And whoever knew, why the hell didn't you tell me?

I guess I'm gonna have to dance as much as I can now.....and dance like I used to - in my head...

And that's all right...cause I have a vibrant and vivid imagination....

And my memories of Pam are clear and strong...

Get it girl.....

Keep on James Dean clearly is in this dance class taught by the incomparable Eartha rules!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

3 Shots, 2 Ears Pierced & 1 Cool Book!

My big brave 4 year old had quite a day at the doctor.

But after all the tears were wiped away, she'd been immunized against serious diseases and she had beautifully pierced ears.

And to top it off her wonderful pediatrician gave her a super-cool book, Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship. Gotta love doctors who care for the body and the mind.

Hope you're Enjoyceinglife because we certainly are!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What You Don't Know About Vanessa Bell Calloway...

Who doesn't remember the beautiful Vanessa Bell Calloway comically barking and hopping on one leg as the intended of the Prince of Zamunda in the hilarious Eddie Murphy flick, Coming to America (video)?

Well Ms. Calloway is so much more. The classically-trained dancer shared three little known facts about herself to me in an interview I did with her for Heart & Soul. Like who knew that she can burn in the kitchen (video) and started acting on "All My Children" and "Days of Our Lives?" Or that she and actress KiKi Shepard - an Apollo staple - are good friends who auditioned together in New York in the eighties? Check out my piece and enter to win a DVD of Vanessa starring as Nurse Gail Strummer in the Jada Pinkett-Smith vehicle, "Hawthorne."

My favorite role of Vanessa's is in the film Stompin' at the Savoy (video). She was nuanced and sensitive in her heart-breaking portrayal of a Harlem Renaissance era domestic worker who gets involved in an interracial relationship.

Stay humble and keep enjoyceinglife!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Daughter: The Actress!

I had no idea when I posted this lovely image of my daughter on Facebook that it would lead to her first acting gig.

And here's her first poster! She plays Reisha, the daughter of a woman in a troubled relationship, in the web series, Only God Can Judge Me, produced by Baz Brothers Production.

I am too excited and proud that not only is she smart, but she'll have the opportunity to explore her creative side through acting. Being on set was cool, even if she got a little antsy at times from the understandable number of takes and the wait time it took for her scenes to be shot.

She auditioned by telling the story of Rapunzel, which she'd learned in school and seen in the movie Tangled. And even though she was nervous, she also did a little Michael Jackson-inspired dance to showcase her versatility.

From taking cast photos to filming scenes, her involvement in this family friendly, Christian-based web series has been a wonderful learning experience for us both. Education is where it's at in my house. We stay focused on reading, writing and arithmetic, with a healthy dose of culture thrown in plays, festivals, crafts, art exhibits and library visits. And she's taken classes in everything from swimming and soccer to gymnastics and dance.

Yes, she's a busy girl. And even though she had one modeling job (above) last year, I must admit I have been a little wary about entertainment driven extra-curricular activities. But if she wants to do more acting and opportunities present themselves, I'll support her as long as she remains grounded in the important values her father and I work hard to instill in her character.

Off the soapbox and back to the excitement: I'd like to give a big old juicy proud mama shout out my super talented, super beautiful daughter, Amber Loyd, who can be anything in this world she wants to be, including an entertainer!

The episode she'll appear in will debut in July. So stay tuned, folks. She's blasting off!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Too Blessed to Blog

Mother's Day: My mom, my niece and my big girl!

Friends and fam, my life is on SUPER 10. So many great things are happening that I should definitely be blogging about. But I just don't have time!

My mom and I at Spelman College's 124th Commencement, featuring powerful speaker First Lady Michelle Obama. Check out my recounting of the day in the piece I wrote about the experience in Black Enterprise.

If I had a super power it would be to multiply myself by 100 - like right now! Thanks for the blessings God. I'll have to communicate about them later y'all.

Amber on the set of her first filmed acting gig!

Got. to. stay. focused. Keeping it moving...

Fab friends Vanessa and Cecilia at a cute swap in my culture-filled house.

Doin' it well and Enjoyceinglife!

Friday, April 29, 2011

With a Heart for Impacting Art - Carrie Mae Weems

I just got off the phone with Carrie Mae Weems, an incredible artist who I first met at least a decade ago with my girl Karen at the Zora Neale Hurston Festival in Hurston's hometown of Eatonville, Fla.

This morning, I was interviewing Weems for an article I'm writing for Inside Spelman about the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, the only museum in the nation that emphasizes works by and about women of the African Diaspora.

Her comments were insightful, impacting, opinionated and passionate - just like her work. If you've never experienced her art, please check out her website (the homepage time line is so engaging) and be blown away.

"A platinum series" - Weems on "The Kitchen Table Series"

Filmed in her Syracuse studio, Weems discusses the impetus for her work "The Kitchen Table Series" (1990), a photographic investigation of a single domestic space in which the artist staged scenes of "the battle around the family" between women and men, friends and lovers, parents and children.

Video: Carrie Mae Weems: "The Kitchen Table Series"

"I was trying to look at the history of photography and the way in which African Americans had been particularly depicted and inscribed through and in American photography....When we're looking at the images we are looking at the ways in which Anglo America, white America saw itself in relationship to the black subject. I wanted to intervene in that by giving a voice to a subject that historically has had no voice."
- Weems on "From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried, 1995" (Audio)

Stay inspired y'all. And keep Enjoyceinglife!

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