FIVE WAYS TO PREVENT OTHERS FROM MISTELLING OUR STORIES

FIVE WAYS TO PREVENT OTHERS FROM MISTELLING OUR STORIES:

PRESERVING BLACK HISTORY IN NEW ORLEANS

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Like many others in the New Orleans and Black community, I was very disappointed by the news reports featuring the two New Orleans rappers and the WWLTV reporter. It wasn’t because it was an embarrassment for the Black New Orleans community. I see it for what it is, the symptoms of white supremacy at work on the oppressed descendants of the original people. My disappointment, however, came more from the fact that we allowed someone else to come into our community and tell our story in a manner that surely wasn’t genuine to our communities best interests.

I’ll admit, when I watched the first video and the fight broke out, I caught myself thinking that the guy who walked up interrupting the interview sort of asked for what he got. But as the camera kept rolling, and the guy who passed the first lick removed the other guys gun from his waist, there were two things I noticed. One, the disruptor never attempted to pull his gun out, even though that gun very well may have given him the courage to even interrupt the interview in the first place. Two, I noticed the anger seemed to be directed towards one of the rappers in particular but without knowing the whole story, I can’t fairly say the guy was wrong for interrupting the interview.

The first news report immediately went viral and landed a spot on World Star Hip Hop. All it takes to get on World Star is a video of Black people fighting or being violent with one another and then you are famous. Some parties may have even been pleased with the negative press, however, the Peace Keepers, a community group of conflict mediators and community servants, took initiative and requested that the video be removed from World Star to assist in resolving the conflict before anything further transpired.

The Peace Keepers, organized in 2009 by Mosque No. 46 of the Nation of Islam, work together with the Black New Orleans communities to reduce violence and incarceration that too often plague our communities. Brother Walter currently leads community walks that help the Black community to obtain jobs, GEDs, drivers licenses, and even get criminal records expunged. In addition, the community walks also help to build a good relationship between the community, the Peace Keepers, and the Squash The Beef Hotline (504.500.1706) that provides confidential and no police involved, conflict mediations.

Conflict mediations, which are lead by Brother Willie Muhammad, were added to the Peace Keepers work in 2011. So far, the Peace Keepers have helped to successfully squash 34 beefs. 34 might not seem like a big number to some but just image the numbers that could have multiplied times 34 if these weren’t resolved. This is perhaps one reason the WWLTV reporter reached out to Brother Willie of the Peace Keepers for an interview with one of the rappers to discuss the first video. Graciously, the Peace Keepers took the initiative to work with the community to get in contact with the brothers from the video in the effort of resolving the conflict.

The second WWLTV report followed less than a week after the initial interview. And though I’m a firm believer of taking care of family business minus the extra guests, I was happy that the Peace Keepers got to talk about their work and share the Squash The Beef Hotline number with the larger New Orleans community.

Through the support of the Peace Keepers and their trusted relationships in the community, they were able to successful reach the brother who interrupted the initial interview and found that he was very cooperative, apologetic, and willing to squash the beef. In addition, so were the other parties involved in the conflict! Great news, right! SHOUT OUT TO THE PEACE KEEPERS AND THE YOUNG MEN INVOLVED!

Many times incidences like this can be avoided when done in genuine care and their media is not the most careful tool for solving our problems. Much of our problems come from being misinformed of the power we possess ourselves due to the on going cycles of our history being taken away from us. Sadly, we sometimes believe that we need outsiders to help us to solve our problems and when it comes to those who benefit from our struggles the most, this is never true.

There is so much that we can do to aid in working together to solve our own problems and preserve our history. I put together a list of five ways that may be helpful to consider next time we think its a good idea for someone else to be our storytellers.

5 WAYS TO PREVENT OTHERS FROM MISTELLING OUR STORIES

#1. Do proper meditation and cleansing before doing any work that involves addressing the violence and mental illness that has taunted Black lives since our enslavement.

I’m not a religious person but I am spiritual and I do believe in opening up spaces intentionally and respectfully. However that may look for you is totally up to you but here are a few suggestions.

  1. Go to a quiet peaceful place, (by some water, on the lake, bayou, in the tub or shower, etc) and just listen (to yourself, to God, to Nature, etc). Breathe in peace and positivity and breathe out anything that is meant to leave your body in order to do the work successfully.
  2. Be true to yourself, our people, and make sure your intentions are more than just good. Make sure they are considerate, compassion, and in the best interests of Black people.
  3. If you are meeting at a particular location to do your work, allow time to visit the space first and feel the energy of the space.
  4. While there, cleanse yourself and the space. Even set up an altar if you feel necessary. Some supplies I love to use when spiritually cleansing are frankincense and myrrh resin, charcoal and holder, sage, lighter and water. Some places that carry these items are King & Queen Emporium at 2500 Bayou Rd. and Jah Ghetto Beginnings II at 913 N. Claiborne Ave.
  5. When returning to the site or when others involved arrive, keep the charcoal with the frankincense and myrrh burning, as well as the sage. Everyone needs a cleansing whether directly or indirectly. The objective is to keep any negative energy repelled and all positive vibes abundant.

#2. Create and support our own media by hiring us to tell our own stories. *Don’t invite them to tell it for us!

As an active advocate for the Black New Orleans community, I stand firm in my belief that we have the power we need to create the change we want to see in New Orleans and beyond. Sure it is great to get local and national media exposure when you are doing great things and want to inform the larger community. But we must never forget that their media is the same media that will, without hesitation, sell us out for a story of Black on Black crime while intentionally omitting and contributing to its root causes.

There is always enough air time to show the guns, drugs, violence, incarceration, and poverty in the Black communities but when it comes to the unity, peace, love, and solutions, this gets a very small percentage of air time. Through their toxic airwaves, these negative images and stories of our community perpetuate the negative outcomes and add to the misconstrued lens upon which we even view ourselves.

This is why we must create and support our own media to tell our own stories. Hold off on the outside invitations. Every time we allow outsiders to tell our story for us, we risk such catastrophes as that of the Billboard awards having Prince’s “best friend” Madonna to do the (un)official tribute. Or even worst just look at our failing school systems and the miseducation of our people and youth. Many of our youth don’t even know that Egypt is in Africa or that the Black woman is the mother of civilization.

Their lies of the 1400s still haunt our children in 2016 with Columbus Day holidays off from school. The trickery of the 1865 Emancipation Proclamation and Abraham Lincoln claims of abolished slavery allow us to believe that the 13th amendment doesn’t read prison equals slavery. Yet we live in the principle slave port of America and the prison capital of the world that has just signed into law, a Blue Lives Matter bill as another means of keeping slavery alive.

Yes all of this is even more serious cause for the urgency of us taking control of our own power and stories through uniting and supporting one another. We are far past the time that has already run out where we operated in a capitalist American business model. We are not each other’s competition. We are each other’s strength. Our competition is with the majority of our 1.1 trillion dollar annual spending power, leaving our community, empowering another and depriving ours.

Furthermore, here is a short list of some New Orleans Black publications, blogs, radio, and media sources that we can use. We know there are plenty more out there so feel free to comment with any additions. However, don’t hesitate to create, support, hire, or even contribute to these businesses in order to help them to grew and expand their exposure.

BLACK RADIO, PUBLISHERS, NEWSPAPERS, PRESS/MEDIA IN NEW ORLEANS

  1. WBOK 1230AM www.wbok1230am.com
  2. Brassy Brown www.brassybrown.com
  3. Vitamin Q www.thevitaminq.com
  4. Data News Weekly www.ladatanews.com
  5. Tribune www.theneworleanstribune.com
  6. Louisiana Weekly www.louisianaweekly.com
  7. Nola Tv & The Boulevard Magazine www.nola.tv
  8. Break Thru Media Magazine www.breakthrumediamagazine.com
  9. Cognition Magazine www.cognitionmagazine.com
  10. And any local public figure with a good following including yourself (this is 2016 and anything can go viral if we put our collective power behind it)

In addition, WCWM: Who’s Coming With Me partnered with Cfreedom Photography are at your service as well, which brings me to a short list of camera teams and companies that you can hire. Again, we know there are many more out there, but here are some in case you didn’t know and feel free to add some additions to the comments.

BLACK CAMERA COMPANIES IN NEW ORLEANS

  1. Cinemadona www.vimeo.com/cinemadona
  2. 2K Photo Nola and 2-cent TV www.2kphotonola.com
  3. Temple of Zen www.templeofzen.com
  4. Patrick Melon www.melon.photos
  5. Street Cam www.thestreetcam.net
  6. Baham Multimedia www.bahammultimedia.com
  7. Edward Buckles www.youtube.com/ebucklesvision
  8. Gason Ayisyin www.gasonayisyin.com
  9. Wonderland Production Studios www.wonderlandpsno.com
  10. Or anyone with a smart phone, including yourself (Again, this is 2016 and anything can go viral if we put our collective power behind it.)

Also when the outsiders come to tell our stories, (cuz they will), direct them to whom they can contact to get our already told story. Sure they will send their own media so they can attempt to re-tell (retail) it from their narrow viewpoint but we must not give them the right to our story without us having the right to it first. I suggest adding a media liason, publicist, writer, or PR person to your crew. We have a few recommendations for you here as well. Feel free to add any additions to the comments.

BLACK PR, PUBLICISTS, AND WRITERS IN NEW ORLEANS

  1. PR Diva
  2. St. Julien PR
  3. Tanzie Jones PR
  4. Kalaro Media
  5. UTR Communications
  6. Quincy Williams
  7. Stylist B
  8. Kristina Robinson
  9. Kelly DeBerry
  10. Any local public figure with a good follower, good writing skills, including yourself (This is 2016 and social media posts can go viral if we put our collective power behind it.)

Remember all publicity is not good publicity and the objective is to have good publicity that is good for the Black community or none at all.

#3. If they tell our story, make sure the truth is being told. Don’t allow anyone to sugar coat our stories with the sugar cane they forced our ancestors to grow and chop.

If we choose to let others tell our story, ask ourselves these questions first:

  1. “What is the purpose of the story that I desire to tell?”
  2. “Who is my target audience?”
  3. “Who else, other then an outsider, can I have to tell this story?”
  4. If no one is available, “Will allowing an outsider’s lens to tell the story fulfill the true purpose of the story?”
  5. “Is having an outsider tell the story worth the risk of our possible exploitation?”

After asking yourself these questions, of course answer yourself truthfully. It only makes your crazy if you answer with a lie.

Now make sure each step following is intentionally rooted in truth and Black love. So many times we go into situations with self-fish intentions and can be inconsiderate of the impact these actions have on others in our communities.

True community work speaks for itself and most times mainstream media is the least interested in covering the good in the Black communities. That is even more reason why we must not fall victim to their wicked ways of glorifying negativity and perpetuated our downfall. It is our duty to fight against that by spotlighting our greatness through our own lenses and supporting each other and each other’s work.

So when the outsiders come and try to sugar coat what it means to be Black in America or what it means to be white in America for that matter, we must not allow them to do that. We must speak up for the truth even when it’s bitter or spicy. When they try to add sugar to our grits, please stop them and modestly add (notice I didn’t say throw) the salt that belongs there. Add pepper as needed. But not too much cause we are fighting against high blood pressure and diabetes too often in our families. And trust me when I say they don’t belong in our family business.

#4. Though the 1st Amendment does give them the freedom of press, we should always know our rights and where this line is drawn. Whenever we do an interview with them however, read all contracts, releases, etc and request approval of the final product before release. If this option isn’t available, then weight out the other options. Do you need them to tell your story or do they need your story to be told to them? Then negotiate. But always keep a lawyer handy.

I am no lawyer but as I previously stated, I am an advocate for our people and when it comes to the perpetual wrong doings inflicted upon our people, it doesn’t require being a Mardi Gras Indian to not bow down. Defamation of character and defecation of the lies of white supremacy is what we face everyday from their blood sucking media sources as well as every institution that this “never was great” country re(lies) upon for its corrupt existence. Though violations as such are hard to prove in a court of law, especially because the court is yet another institution built to uphold white supremacy, we must not believe the lies told about us.

For these reasons and more, it is essential that we document, share, and preserve our stories for the generations to come. In continuing to share and preserve our stories, our truths will put the lies to an everlasting rest. In addition, we must exercise our rights of reading, learning, and knowing our rights, as well as teaching others. And that isn’t always enough, so that’s why it’s great to have an even greater attorney at your side for guidance and protection from injustice.

Here is a short list of Black attorneys in New Orleans. We have so many more. I’m just hoping that we are working together to be an answer to some of the overall problems we face as Black people living in the prison capital of the world. Also we need to be intentional about passing on our knowledge and resources the youth. WCWM: Who’s Coming With Me is very much interested in starting or supporting such initiatives. If you are a Black lawyer in New Orleans or know of some who may be interested in doing this work, then please send us a link to make this happen.

BLACK ATTORNEYS IN NEW ORLEANS

  1. S. Mandisa Moore-O’neal
  2. John Fuller
  3. Nandi Campbell
  4. Maurice Ruffins
  5. Moe Reed Jr.
  6. Nia Weeks
  7. Brian Woods
  8. Brady Skinner III
  9. Mari Bartholomew
  10. Heather Ford

#5. Be sure to demand that proper credit is given to all parties included. Put some #Respek on it!

As a photographer, filmmaker, writer, and activist, it is even more common respect to credit our work, as it is to tip the waiter. In some cases it’s about great business practice but in others it’s about helping to spotlight and expose the great works being done by us within our own community. And even more importantly, we must properly document history.

Outsiders love to take the credit for the work we do. They have been doing this since the beginning of their time. They even created the U.S. Patent office just so they can “legally” own our ideas and inventions. While they have been stealing our credit from us for so long, it is important that we don’t fall victim to their wicked ways. We have got to put some #Respek on each other’s name and not allow outsiders to take credit for our work. Even more so we shouldn’t give it to them.

Politicians are infamous for stealing credit and improperly documenting history. The current mayor of New Orleans has a long history of credit jacking, which, if you think about it, is quite similar to identity thief. Lets take the confederate monuments for example. Not one time will you hear the Mayor crediting BYP100 Nola, a group of young Black activists, in organizing the petitions and rallies for their removal in late 2014 leading up to his statements for their removal. However, he jumped on the bandwagon and hi-jacked it, adding make up and contour to his legacy. He is working hard to sharpen his image as New Orleans approaches its 300th birthday in 2018. If only he truly cared about the quality of life for the Black people who have been the majority in New Orleans ever since our enslavement.

In addition, the Mayor’s Nola For Life program is another photo shop edit of his image and less about the longevity of Black men and boys lives in New Orleans. If it was designed for Black life then why not call it Nola For Black Life? Put some #respek on Black life Mr. Mayor! I’m not sure what the program has done other than late night basketball games. I guess that’s because I’m too busy fighting against the causes of Black men in New Orleans having a 53% unemployment rate and the school to prison pipeline pumping youth through them faster than a burger is wrapped at a fast food joint.

Mr. Mayor, if Nola is for (Black) life, how about you demand that Mr. Governor veto this Blue Lives Matter bill? We already live in the prison capital of the world. If Nola is for (Black) life, then where is our Black Lives Matter bill? Or how about you put some #respek on some of the local grassroots organizations in our own communities who really do the work of Nola being for Black life? Luckily for us, I don’t wait for the Mayor to do anything in order for me to do something or to support those that are doing things for our people.

Don’t mistake this as a letter to the Mayor but these are just some points for those of you who may be in cahoots with the Mayor. Maybe you can challenge him, his motives, and his habitual credit jacking. Maybe you can challenge yourself to use your cahoots for the good of the Black community.

Which brings me back to the WWLTV interviews that prompted this piece. So the reporter and the rappers, as well as the guy who interrupted the original interview all came together with their families at the Mayor’s office to do a sort of #SquashTheBeef follow-up piece. But they did not have Bro. Willie Muhammad or any of the Peace Keepers at this interview. Where they do dat at? Oh right, the Mayor’s office. But how Sway? Well it seems to me that we somehow allowed this to happen. We fell for the okie doke of lights, cameras, and fancy offices and were blind to the fact that we must intentionally shine our own lights on our own works and intentionally prevent others from continuing to benefit from Black struggle.

The credit of the squashed beef appears to be going to the WWLTV reporter and the Mayor. And though I am happy the brothers have resolved their differences, this has nothing to do with the reporter or the Mayor and I am still having a hard time understanding why they are even a part of this. Since when have we really needed a news reporter and the mayor to help us to heal and grew as the Black community? Since never! When it comes to us, we need us to heal and grow. And when it comes to them, we have always had to demand, fight, and take what was rightfully ours.

This piece is to particularly inform us, in case we didn’t know, that the Mayor and the reporter did not squash this beef, nor have they worked towards squashing the beef that the Black community consciously or unconscious has with white supremacy. They are too busy benefiting from it. The Peace Keepers, however, initiated the mediation and along with cooperation of the involved young men, they resolved the conflict. It was us the whole time, as yes we are even more powerful without the assistance of outsiders. And though the Peace Keepers weren’t invited to the Mayor’s office, I’m not sure if they would have wanted to go anyway. However without an invitation, I guess we will never know.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a few questions and maybe one of you can help to answer them.

  1. What’s the Mayor and his office got to do with this anyway?
  2. Why wasn’t Brother Willie Muhammad and the Peace Keepers invited to the Mayor’s office?
  3. Was it because the Peace Keepers didn’t allow the reporter and camera crew to sit at their mediation table or bring their cameras to exploit it?
  4. Don’t they know that the Peace Keepers operate confidentially and with no police involvement for the overall benefit of the Black community?
  5. How powerful would it have been to see all three brothers in the last interview shouting out Brother Willie and the Peace Keepers, and even themselves, more than they gave all that credit to the Mayor?

I’ll leave it at that for now. Still and all shout out to the Peace Keepers, the young men for working together to resolve this beef and thank you for your support in making New Orleans be a place FOR and not against Black life.

Please continue to share the work of the #PEACEKEEPERS, use and share the Squash The Beef Hotline whenever wherever necessary. 504.500.1706. Support Black artists, businesses, and youth in New Orleans!

Leave some comments below. This is not for publicity, but for unity. This is not to put anyone down, but to connect us. This is to put #Respek on all those beautiful Black people who do great work in New Orleans. We salute you!

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UNDERGROUND NEW ORLEANS BI-WEEKLY FRIDAYS 7PM STARTING JUNE 3RD

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Season One of Underground has ended and we need to talk about it. But first lets watch it again together and let others who haven’t seen it, catch up. We are going from episode one to episode ten, bi-weekly Friday evenings starting in June. Each episode will be screened at a different Black business in New Orleans. Following each episode, we will have special guests join us from the Underground cast and crew, local activists, historians, organizations etc. We will open up each episode paying homage to our ancestors of course but also with a performance from a featured singer or poet for each episode. This is a way for the New Orleans community to support Black businesses, and artists so come with your dinner dollars, shopping money, donations, tips, tithes and offerings or whatever you call it, but more importantly bring yourself, some good company and an open mind ready to get Free or unite trying. #UndergroundNewOrleans

EPISODE 1

JUNE 3, 2016 FRIDAY 7PM

BLACK STAR 800 Belleville St.

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FRIDAY JUNE 3 AT 7pm SHARP | Mark your calendars. Spread the word! Episode 1 of 10 kicking off at @blackstarnola featuring the amazing @mcintyremonica who is also featured on this episode. Also featuring the legendary Karen-Kaia Livers, Black Star owner and operator, Baakir, Black Wall Street New Orleans, and Major Tracey Riley of The Rouge House. We got a lot to talk about and even more to be about. So let’s be about this unity and watch the show, heal, and build together. ‪#‎WCWM‬ ‪#‎UndergroundNewOrleans‬ ‪#‎NewOrleans‬ ‪#‎CfreedomPhotography‬ ‪#‎BlackStar‬

THIS SATURDAY MAY 7, 2016 8PM-10PM AT COMMUNITY BOOK CENTER

THIS SATURDAY MAY 7, 2016 8PM-10PM JOIN US AT COMMUNITY BOOK CENTER 2523 BAYOU RD. FOR THE WCWM LAUNCH PARTY! FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC! WE WILL BE CELEBRATING AND SPOTLIGHTING BLACK BUSINESSES, ARTISTS, AND YOUTH IN NEW ORLEANS! ROLLIN FATTIES, THE #1 FOOD TRUCK IN THE CITY, WILL BE ROLLED UP AND READY TO SERVE. OUR OTHER FOOD SPONSORS ARE HEARD DAT KITCHEN, FIVE STAR CREOLE DISHES, FROOT ORLEANS, AND YIMALADE. IN ADDITION, BLACK STAR BOOKS & CAFFE, CAMP 8 RECORDS, TRUE LOVE MOVEMENT, CFREEDOM PHOTOGRAPHY, AND COMMUNITY BOOK CENTER ARE SPONSORS OF THIS GREAT EVENT AS WELL. SPECIAL PERFORMANCES BY LOCAL ARTISTS. SPECIAL PERKS FOR WCWM MEMBERS. BECOME A WCWM MEMBER TODAY! VISIT www.whoscomingwithme.org OR IG: @wcwm504 FOR MORE INFO. ALL I WANNA KNOW IS…WHO’S COMING WITH ME?! ‪#‎WCWM‬

4 New Orleans Women: Their Businesses and Value to the Black Community

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WHO WE ARE.

Welcome to New Orleans, a place where the most valuable natural resource is the Black woman. This is true for the human race since Black women are the birth-givers of humanity. Black women aka the Mothers of Civilization + New Orleans aka the Most African City in America = #BlackGirlMagic x Queen. It isn’t Voodoo that has you falling in love with the way we make you feel. It is the fact that we are your Mamas.

As New Orleans women, we have held fast to many African traditions more organically than most women have in other parts of the country. What you may call “Southern hospitality”, we call “African spirituality”. Ironically, many of our people traveled from the South to the North, similarly to the way we evacuating for Hurricane Katrina, in search of protection, freedom, and better living conditions for our families. We went looking for the promised land, unknowingly, in exchange for our land, culture, history, and identities. It’s easy to forget where you came from, the further you run away from it. That’s why New Orleans women take pride in reminding our people of who we are and where we come from. We understand it is our spiritual compass, strength, and healing.

New Orleans women are nurturers, child bearers, breast feeders, educators, and healers. In addition, we are your protest leaders, cheer leaders, business owners, and more. We carry on the traditions from our Motherland to our wombs, babies, breast milk, children and communities. Without Black women, all that we know would not exist, and without Black New Orleans women, all that we are would be forgotten. Naturally, this makes the value of Black New Orleans women immeasurable in the sense that, after all of these years of enslavement and oppression, we have been able to continuously and increasingly give birth to the memories and dreams of our ancestors.

Despite New Orleans being a principle slave trade port of America and located in the prison capital of the world, we continue the fight to keep our ancestors and African traditions alive. While in America, Black people are labeled minorities, in New Orleans, we have been the majority for over 200 years. Without Black New Orleans women giving birth, building communities with healing and education, this would not be possible.

It’s an everyday struggle to protect and preserve the African culture and traditions in New Orleans, especially as gentrification is a growing concern within our hi-jacked city. Our city is flooded with closing and failing schools turned private and charter. Our children are being stripped and broken similar to the ways they stood our people on auction blocks. The school to prison pipelines have a higher economic flow, from the privately owned schools to the privately owned prisons, then the income has to the cost of living. Still we stand strong as communities of Black people uniting and fighting for the rights to heal, build and carry on traditions.

New Orleans is the home of historic Congo Square, one of the oldest gathering places for African people in America. Since slavery and still today, Black people come together in Congo Square on Sundays for dance, drum, and spiritual healing. New Orleans women are a huge part of these congregations and their preservation.

Another African tradition that New Orleans women practice is sisterhood. Historically, African women have worked together in various ways building families and communities. I am honored to know some New Orleans women who still practice many of these wonderful African traditions.

Check out these 4 New Orleans women, their businesses and value to the Black community. These sisters are creating new lanes and solutions to many of the problems we face in New Orleans and as a Black race. Let’s show them the love and support they deserve and raise awareness of their value in the Black community.

WHAT WE DO.

1. Ayanna Molina of True Love Movement @truelovemovement

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Photo by Peter Nakhid

Ayanna Molina is more than just a mother, artist, teacher, and healer who is doing the M.A.T.H., as her song “M.A.T.H.” so creatively expresses. Her investments and contribution to the Black community are so thorough; she is officially doing the M.A.T.H.E.M.A.T.I.C.S.  S.C.I.E.N.C.E.  H.E.A.L.I.N.G. and more. There is no shortage of words to form acronyms about the many things this woman does.

As a mother, Ayanna aka Mama Fiyah has five amazingly intelligent and artistic children. An artist of many disciplines, she is an MC, singer, poet, and writer, who even paints, crochets and sews occasionally. Its no surprise that her children are as talented as they are. Her son Xavier Molina, for example, graduated Summa Cum Lade of his high school, and is a musical genius that plays with several local New Orleans bands. He can also get down in a variety of artistic genres, as he is a singer, trumpet player, pianist, drummer, recording artist and the list goes on.

Mama Fiyah’s natural passion for nurturing and aiding others on their paths to greatness played a particular role in her becoming an educator. As a teacher, the lessons didn’t stop with her own children. During her Pre-Hurricane Katrina days, she invested years into homeschooling in New Orleans. Post-Katrina, she worked in public and private schools in Montgomery, Alabama, where she settled for about 6 years after she evacuated from New Orleans. After six long years away from home, she finally returned to New Orleans, with a desire to support the emotional needs of a trauma-laden, post-Katrina New Orleans.

Ayanna has invested in her own education quite a bit as she received her Bachelors degree in Psychology and English at University of New Orleans, pre-Katrina. She chose English because as a poet and author, writing was a huge inspiration to her and Psychology because she was intrigued by the brain and took a particular interest in learning about its functions. It wasn’t until her own life started unraveling and she had her first real experience with receiving counseling, that she found healing as well as her purpose in counseling.

It was fate that Hurricane Katrina planted her in Montgomery, Alabama where she coincidentally found herself living within walking distance of Auburn University, a school specializing in counseling. Despite the obstacles of having two small babies, one still nursing, Ayanna decided to go back to school and received her Masters degree in Community Counseling at Auburn University. After much hard work and dedication, Ayanna is now a Nationally Certified Counselor and a Licensed Professional Counselor. This huge achievement only adds to the list of many accomplishments that she has made throughout her years.

Ayanna is the founder and co-director of True Love Movement, LLC. After being conceptualized by Ayanna 12 years prior, on April 7, 2011, the four-year anniversary of her father’s transition, True Love Movement became an official business. True Love Movement’s mission is to empower Black people to achieve optimal health and wellness through education, community activism and the production of creative arts and media all of which promote self-awareness and self-LOVE. Part of Ayanna’s mission as a healer and counselor is to teach our people to value mental health and wellness, as well as value counseling.

“People think that community activism has to be free. I do offer so much for free. I see sistahs who need the support and need it right now and I provide support for them even when they don’t have the money. I often see children for free and all of my consultations are free. I am trained and trained well, and in order to take care of my family I have to work. It just happens that my life’s work is community driven. From years of working with adults and youth, I have designed complete healing curriculum specifically for our community. Part of the community activism of True Love Movement is teaching that we have to prioritize our mental health. Just like you would pay someone to do your hair to look good, we should value the professionally trained healers who help us work on the stuff inside to help us feel good.” says Ayanna.

True Love Movement started out servicing only woman and girls, but due to the high-demand for social/emotional/behavioral support of boys in the school system, it extended itself to that need. This made it clear to Ayanna that in working to develop her business and meeting the needs of the community, she would need to expand by partnering with a male counterpart to work directly with the men and boys. Soon after moving back home from Montgomery, she found this partnership with Brotha Shack, who is the Director of Men and Boys Programs for True Love Movement.

True Love Movement provides services through several different programs including summer and after school. “Self-Esteem Saturday School”, a proven success for several participating young girls, is a program designed for Black girls between the ages of 10-21 who are considered “high-risk”.   Ayanna expressed, “As a young woman, I experienced very low self-esteem that presented itself as high-risk behavior.  I know what it takes to overcome pressures of society and I know what it takes to turn your life around.  It takes self-awareness and a healthy self-esteem.”

Another program is “Black Men & Boys, Relevant and Useful”, an annual event, orchestrated by Brotha Shack, paying homage to men and boys in the community by providing a spotlight on their value to our community. Womanifestis a community event of performances and vendors that celebrates sistahs and younger sistahs with vision and purpose through their artistic and entrepreneurial works. The seventh Womanifest is scheduled for Black August this year. Details will be coming soon for Womanifest 7: Warrior Season.

As an artist, Ayanna is the author of Run Away Girl, an autobiography written in prose and poetry. She is a recording artist of two musical projects; an album titled Uplift Yo’ Self and InteGritty: The Mixtape. Committed to making art for much more than art sake, she uses her art forms very intentionally as tools of activism and inspiration to Black people, and specifically for Black women and girls. From the book, album and t-shirt sales to the many programs and services provided, they all contribute to sustaining the many great works of True Love Movement and its contribution to the New Orleans community.

True Love Movement also has a radio show called “The True Love Movement Hour”. You can join the True Love Movement Hour on Tuesdays for True Love Movement Tuesdays on 24.7 The Word: Reality Radio (www.247theword.com), live every Saturday at 5pm on WBOK 1230 AM (www.wbok1230am.com ) and every Sunday a new show is added to SoundCloud for #SoundCloudSundays (www.soundcloud.com/the-true-love-movement-hr). The True Love Movement Hour is a radio show Black people can be proud of.

In most recent great True Love Movement news, after some time of renting out private spaces to meet with clients, True Love Movement has finally moved into their own office, located at 2517 S. Derbigny St. New Orleans, Louisiana 70125. It was particularly important to Ayanna to have her offices where the people who most need the services could easily access them. “Our vision is a world where Black people can be a positive, powerful, self-sustained, healthy, unified people in this world. For the future of Black people everywhere, we have to be.

To support True Love Movement, please visit www.truelovemovement.com and share info on social media by following @truelovemovement. Also stay tuned into the True Love Movement Hour and join them Saturday, April 23, 2016 2-4PM at 2517 S. Derbigny St. for their Grand Opening celebration called “Healing Space”.

 

 

 

2. Nana Anoa Nantambu of Wholely Living Simply Living

 

NANA

Photo by Cfreedom Photography

Nana Anoa Nantambu is a New Orleans woman, self-proclaimed Earth Mother and citizen of the planet/universe. Though she has spent most of her time in her hometown, New Orleans, she is an international traveler who has visited different parts of the world, including Nigeria in the Motherland. She resided there for nearly four years.

After being away for a few years post-Katrina, Nana Anoa returned home to contribute her spiritual and healing works to her city, which was in much need of healing after the Hurricane Katrina devastation. In addition, spending quality time with her family and growing number of grandchildren were calling her as well.

A mother of two lyrical and creative sons and grandmother of six grandchildren, Nana Anoa is a dedicated healer, spiritual guide and educator. Though she isn’t currently a formal educator, she is a community educator full of wisdom and experience that she openly shares with others. In 1992, she created and ran a community-based mathematics center called Neighborhood Math Place, where she taught children and adults for four and a half years. Some of her students are presently very successful and influential New Orleans women artists.

I am blessed to have had my own spiritually life-changing connection with Nana Anoa, as I documented and participated in an all day sistah retreat, Calling All My Sistahs, she held in March of 2012. Many doors opened within my career path after the experience. I am thankful for the spiritual work provided for myself and the many other women at the retreat.

Some time after the retreat, I remember hearing, one of my New Orleans woman inspirations, Sunni Patterson speaking very highly of Nana Anoa and the inspiration she has been in her life. Sunni was one of Nana Anoa’s students at the math center. If you don’t know Sunni Patterson already than I suggest you take some time to look her up. In addition, get to know and introduce yourself to Nana Anoa as well; she is a Black woman that surely other Black New Orleans women should know.

Coincidentally, I attended two different schools with one of her sons, who was a close friend of my brothers before the hurricane. It wasn’t until post-Katrina that I had the opportunity to meet Nana Anoa. Ever since, it has been like magic the way she appears on my paths providing me with that extra push to my next step. If you have shared space with this New Orleans woman, then you should know what I mean.

Nana Anoa is the business owner of Wholely Living Simply Living, a non-profit she started in 2008. The mission of Wholely Living Simply Living is to foster the well being of African American women in the U.S. and African women in general. Wholely Living Simply Living calls upon us as Black people to strengthen ourselves, our families and communities to strengthen the world.

Nana Anoa’s mantra has been “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” She encourages Black women in particular to recognize that we are the Mothers of all humanity and must take our rightful places as that. “We must take charge of our own lives and self-care. Some of the most essential parts are the way we eat, our mental, physical, financial, and educational well-being. Meditation is essential to it all,” says Nana Anoa. “I have learned that meditation has to be incorporated in all that we do. With the many the things that the city does to us and all the killing that happens in our city, I could easily get angered (and just stay angry), but that is when I remind myself to just breathe. I go to the water and meditate (for answers).”

The experience of being a Black woman and Black Mama has been Nana Anoa’s biggest inspirations in the healing works. Observing situations of those close to her also gave her an understanding of the many ways we don’t live in our power like we should. She saw the power of her parents who came up in even rougher situations than she did; and still they were emotionally healthy people. This inspired her to be strong and healthy.

In addition, growing up under racism and white supremacy was a huge motivation for self-healing and to help in the healing of Black people.“It was the stories of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King that inspired me. And people who we don’t hear about too often, like Martin R. Delany and Henry Highland Garnett. The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson was a huge inspiration too. We share the same birthdate, December 19th,” Nana proudly stated.

Nana Anoa currently facilitates a women’s wellness group through Common Ground Health Clinic on the Westbank every Tuesday, and a mindfulness meditation group on Wednesday night at the New Orleans Healing Center. In addition, she will begin working with the Star Institute at the Youth Study Center in the near future. There, she will work with the youth to develop skills for self-care and making life-affirming choices. Topics that allow for ‘deep talk’ will include mindfulness, trust, personal power and forgiveness, to name a few.

Two ways you can support Wholely Living Simply Living are by engaging the services of Nana Anoa as a facilitator with your organization or group to help bring out its best and by making financial donations. Expressing some of the difficulties of getting people to contribute financial support, Nana says, “We tend to not support programs or businesses that provide healing work. Much of it is because people need to see something or have something tangible for their money. But if you believe in self-determination for Black people, then part of that is to make financial investments in businesses that do this work.

For more information, you can also contact Nana Anoa at nana_joy@yahoo.com.

 

3. Nicole Adams of Amaru Come-Unity Homeschool

 

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Photo by Gus Bennett

Nicole Adams is a woman of a variety of names. Many people know her as Nola Darling, Coley Conscious or Goddess Love, but her lastest name, Mwalimu, has been given to her by her home school students. Mwalimu means teacher in Swahili.

Nicole aka Mwalimu is the founder and director of Amaru Come-Unity Home School, a home school created out of the critical need for educational justice and combating the school to prison pipeline. While only in its first year, it has already proven to be a solution to many of the problems New Orleans children face within the public and charter school systems.

My son, for instance, is a 6th grader at Amaru and his grades and self-esteem have increased unimaginably. We went from having a 5th grade Math teacher tell us that he was not ready for the 6th grade because of his failing grades to her passing him to the 6th grade the next month. Now at Amaru he has worked hard to maintain an A or B in Math all year long. I accredit this progress to Nicole’s hard-work and dedication in rebuilding my son’s self-esteem and accountability to becoming more hard-working and dedicated. He now looks forward to maintaining his good grades and furthering his education.

Amaru is one of many home schools within the New Orleans Educative Collective, a group of home schools, home schooling families and home schoolers. Often times, they unite on field trips, hiring a Black owned school bus company, as they visit and support Black businesses and their events. Home schooling has its own unique history and important value within the Black New Orleans community. It’s a blessing to see so many people in the city waking up to this call to action in the crucial times of closing and failing schools.

It didn’t take much for Nicole to step up to being an advocate for children. She has always had a love for teaching and working with them. She was introduced to entrepreneurship as a child and started her first business at the age of 12 years old. The name of her business was “In Coley’s Care”. It provided child care services for her neighborhood.

She continued this love of working with children at nurseries and at church throughout her high school days. During her college days, she became a certified applied behavioral analyst and began working with autistic children from the ages of 4-12 on a one on one basis.

After graduating from Southern University of New Orleans with a degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice, Nicole continued working with autistic and special education children but this time inside of the charter school system. This is where Nicole realized that charter schools lacked the nurturing that working with individual students on a one-on-one basis provided. She realized this lack caused a huge disconnect between the students, the teachers, and the education.

Amaru Come-Unity Home School currently has only four students and one full time teacher. However, Nicole occasionally works with various partners and parents in the community. She strongly believes the student to teacher ratio in Charter schools are unreasonable and in many cases failing us all. As Amaru continues to grow, she plans to stick to more of a student to teacher ratio of 5 to 1. Nicole expressed, “I think that in order to cater to the child’s individual personality and learning style you would need to have low student to teacher ratio. A learning environment must be nurturing in order for children to be self-determined.”

There is a growing number of parents interested in taking their children out of the failing schools and home schooling them on their own or signing them up for a home school. Nicole receives several calls from concerned parents throughout the school year. Many times she provides them with some information, and consultation but most times Nicole redirects them to one of the other schools that they are able to enroll in.

Next year, Nicole hopes to have at least five teachers providing education and nurturing to about 25 students. Currently, Amaru Come-Unity Homeschool is learning through an online educational program in addition to resources and materials from Kamali Academy, an African-centered online curriculum provider and former New Orleans home school. She is also working on a K-12 curriculum in collaboration with a team of educators.

Unlike charter and public schools, home schools are tuition based. For this reason, many people choose to send their children to the oppressor because financially they are uninformed about the tremendous value in investing in their childrens future. It would seem great to receive something for “free” verses “paying”. However, just as buying cheaper or faster food to fulfill the hunger, you will pay with poor health in the future. Such is true in many cases with sending children to these privately owned schools.

“During the years I worked in charter schools, the environment was very toxic for the children and even the teachers. The focus was more on getting the grades up for the teachers and schools, instead of really teaching children and celebrating what they were truly accomplishing and learning.”

While the work of home schooling is very important and necessary, it is a foundation to supporting the community. In addition, it needs support in return.To support Amaru Come-Unity Homeschool, feel free to make a donation or volunteer by contacting Nicole at amaru.comeunity@gmail.com.

 

4. Nicole Deggins of Sista Midwife Productions

SISTA MIDWIFE

Photo by Cfreedom Photography

Nicole Deggins, owner of Sista Midwife Productions, didn’t always want to be a midwife. She didn’t particularly want to be a nurse either, even though her own mother is a nurse practitioner. She did, however, know that she wanted a career in the medical field.

Originally she planned to be an orthopedic surgeon, and later, acquired interest in becoming an obstetrician. Fate had it that she ended up going to nursing school. The motivation behind her attending nursing school stemmed from a nursing program that guaranteed her admission into medical school. Nicole jumped on this opportunity to begin her medical career.

Working at University Hospital during the time crack cocaine infiltrated the Black communities, Nicole saw many of the direct effects drugs had on the people’s health. She also noticed the harsh treatment women and child bearers experienced within the medical institutions. Even though she enjoyed being a nurse, Nicole realized that she wanted to do more.

There was a woman who worked at St. Thomas and St. Bernard clinic who occasionally came to University Hospital with some of her patients. Nicole noticed how this woman provided extra care and support for her various clients throughout their pregnancy and postpartum. The woman was a midwife. This was the fulfillment Nicole was in search of and the moment she knew that a midwife was what she needed to be.

Nicole started her professional career with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Georgetown University in 1994. This is where she first heard about midwifery as a freshmen. Georgetown actually had a midwife school. Another time she heard about it was sophomore year, upon missing clinical one day. Making up for the absence, she attended clinical on another day and ended up shadowing a mid-wife. Though that experience wasn’t too appeasing due to the woman being mean or having a bad day, it still added incite to this growing interest in a new career field Nicole was destined to enter.

In undergrad, Nicole received a scholarship from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which really helped to propel Nicole into her new career as a midwife. She advanced her career by completing a dual degree program at Emory University in 1999 where she fulfilled the requirements for the Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in Midwifery and the Master of Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy and Management.

In December 2011, Nicole founded her business, Sista Midwife Productions, LLC. Sista Midwife Productions provides education and training through teleconferences, webinars, keynotes and live workshops. They work with pregnant women, doulas, families, birth workers, communities, advocates, and allies. They also provide education with a unique insider’s view that helps you navigate the medical obstetrical system.

Women, the most important participant in the process of pregnancy and childbirth, are often misguided, mistreated, and ill-informed. I have heard countless stories from women who say to me… “If only I had known… my birthing experience could have/would have been different… better in some way.” While these stories always remind me that I have work to do, I am continuously inspired by the many women who have taken control of their birth experiences. I have been blessed to witness a couple of thousands of births, and each birth inspires me in a new and different way,” says Nicole.

Nicole expressed that one of the biggest obstacles within her career is to explain who she is, what she does and what services she provides as a midwife. Much of it is because she is not acting in some of the traditional midwife roles due to some of the obstacles and restrictions in Louisiana around midwifery. For instance, Nicole was trained as a hospital midwife. Those she does not perform home births because of some of the licensing obstacles in Louisiana, she does, however, have the skills and training in home birth consultations, which allows her to help families to understand their various birthing options.

She also mentioned people don’t really understand the different between the midwives and doulas. Some of the differences are the duties performed as well as the amount of training and education needed. For instance, some of the duties of a doula are providing information, emotional and physical support for the families. The training for a doula can be as little as 2-6 days.

Training to be a midwife can take 2-6 years. Some of the duties include medical surveillance, cutting the umbilical cord, home birthing, and more. Nicole used the difference between an elementary school teacher and a college professor as an example. “Sure a college professor can teach elementary school, however their training goes far beyond that, just as a midwifes does in comparison to a doulas.”

Nicole is a “doula trainer” who does not like the word doula. The origin of the word doula is Greek for “female slave”. Nicole still uses the word but only because of its commercial value. However she would like to see the word change all together. The work doulas contribute surely should be held to a higher regard then a female slave.

Interestingly enough, in early 1900s in New Orleans, some of the French words used for midwives are “la sage femme” which means wise woman, “la vielle femme” meaning old woman, “chasse femme” meaning to expel and “accoucheuse” meaning one who delivers. Still none of these words refer to midwives as anything as derogatory as a female slave. All of the meanings for midwife seem to translate to a well-respected woman. Maybe one day doula will be replaced with a word that honors the work.

Sista Midwife Productions has provided doula training for over 60 people, majority Black women. They are currently providing trainings with the goal of getting this information out to all who support and love women and children, not limiting it to just midwives and doulas. “We are looking to train women who train as birth sisters regardless of their profession so that women across the state can have this information. If we shift the way we conceive, we birth, and treat women in post partum, we can truly shift our entire community. There is so much cellular love and high vibration that we can spread throughout our community. We must understand that making love is making a baby.”

One monumental accomplishment of Sista Midwife Productions is their Black Midwife/Doula Directory, which hosts information on over 150 midwives/doulas across the country. This is a ground-breaking approach to raising awareness of midwives, doulas, where they are located and how to connect with them. This is also a great movement toward building unity with this growing community of Black birth workers. Despite some of the obstacles around midwifery in Louisiana, historically New Orleans has had a strong tradition of midwifery, having as many as many as 140 listed in a city directory and about 15 listing in the Yellow Pages.

Sista Midwife Productions has already exceeded these numbers and aspires to continue growing the knowledge and resources toward healthy births in the Black communities. This is one of the reasons Nicole knew a part of her work needs to be focused on getting more birthing information to the Black communities. “Black babies die at 2 times the rates of white babies in this country. Black mamas suffer more, have worst outcomes and die at 2-4X the rate of white women,” says Nicole. “My goal is a social entreprenuer model. So my workshops, trainings, events, products are for a fee so i can do community workshops, outreach, and support.”

In addition to providing doula trainings, Sista Midwife Productions produces birthing plays and events as a form of edutainment. They have trained 20 women through Healthy Start and provide an internship program for Public Health students. They also have their own t-shirt line, and are building a marketplace of products and resources that assist mothers and their babies, created by women and mothers.

Sista Midwife Productions hosts workshops at Community Commitment on Thursdays and providing parenting tools and tip such as breast feeding, transitioning babies from milk to solid foods, healthy start trainings, webinars, etc. After several requests they are in the process of creating a fatherhood program which will be co-facilitate with a male counterpart. They are also starting a new volunteer doula program and about to take the trainings on the road more. Some places they will training in are Oklahama City and Jacksonville, FL. You can also organize a training to happen in your city or even country.

Nicole Deggins, is a writer, an educator, a coach and an advocate. She is a daughter, a sister, a student, and a teacher. She is a traveler, a dancer, and a true free spirit. She is talker and a listener, a friend and a confidant, who has recently add another title to her life’s calling. She is a mother of her beautiful spirited and intelligent one year old daughter. She now knows the meaning of #BirthSomethingBeautiful in an entirely new way.

One of the greatest rewards as a trainer is seeing women have the light bulb moment,” Nicole says. She has had quite a few light bulb moments when she receives information that makes the importance of the work even more pertinent.

Working directly with mothers is another great reward to midwifery. There is nothing being so blessed to be a part of the ushering in of new life; and the witnessing of the ancestor return. Through this work we are Gods assistants. Words can’t express how blessed I feel to be chosen to do this work; the joy of seeing a mother having a baby, supporting her and providing love and care to her, holding her hand through her pregnancy and there after.”

Some of the ways you can support Sista Midwife Productions are by encouraging women in your communities who are interesting in natural birth and breast feeding. You can also direct them to the www.sistamidwifeproductions.com where they can find more information and support on birthing in addition to the Black Midwife/Doula Directory. Donations are always important to sustaining this work. The t-shirts, productions, workshops and trainings are other forms of business you can do with Sista Midwife Productions. Look out for the upcoming doula trainings happening this year in August and late October. More information can be found at www.sistamidwifeproductions.com. And don’t forget to use the hashtags #birthsomethingbeautiful and the newest one #birthistherevolution.

THANKS FOR SUPPORTING THE BLACK COMMUNITY

Shout out to you for taking time to learn about these 4 New Orleans women, their businesses and value to the Black New Orleans community. We hope you found them valuable too. We are also counting on you to be doing work on behalf of the community as well. If you are then, we salute you! And if you are ready to start, we are right here ready to assist you. Please leave us a comment rooted in Black love.

Black Love,
Cfreedom