self care

Open?

Open?

How open are you to life’s possibilities? I mean really, truly open.

As I write this, I realize I haven’t been. I thought I was earlier this year. A few months ago, I finally convinced myself that it would be in my best interest to accept my circumstances. (Currently, things aren’t quite as they should be…Or is it, as I think they ought to be?) Meanwhile, I realize that deep down I haven’t been willing to let go.

These days I’m trying to cultivate my ability to both accept what is and remain hopeful about the future. And even then, beyond my desires, I know that there is more. There is that which I can’t see–what God has in store for me.

For instance, to this day I think that my ultimate work/life destination is Toronto. Then I saw this in Lilly Singh’s Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

Being a well-rounded individual is admirable. It means you have many skills, adapt well to situations & your shape resembles a pizza. What’s not to love? But it’s naive to think that you are a well-rounded person if you’ve only ever experienced the world from your house, with your family and in your city. What you know is very little compared to all that is actually out there in different places, occupied by different people, who are submersed in a completely different culture. I believe that wisdom is a passport full of stamps. Every single time I’ve traveled, I’ve been both astonished and embarrassed by my own ignorance, but I’ve also realized it’s not completely my fault! I’ve been taught certain things throughout my life that I’ve labeled as “normal” and so have you. Traveling is the best way to discover that “normal” is subjective and everything you think is the standard, is actually just an opinion. For example, did you know it’s illegal to sell gum in Singapore? Did you know in the Rastafarian religion, make up on girls is considered unattractive? Yeah. Imagine never having to wing your liner because THAT is the hot thing to do. Sign me up. Twice. The world is a classroom and you should make every effort to attend as many classes as possible. I highly encourage you to save up a little every month and put that money towards travelling to new places and learning new things. Let the globe burst your bubble, disrupt your sense of reality & put your learned thought-process to the test. Personally, travelling has helped me be less judgemental, open to new ideas & a really great story teller because who doesn’t want to hear about how awesome the Pad Thai is in Thailand?! No one. The answer is no one. If people don’t want to hear about food, they’re bad friends…and probably robots. Having said that, I’ve decided to travel as much as possible before the manuscript for my book is due. I’ll be writing the rest of my book in Italy, Toronto, Brazil, Kenya and Singapore (while chewing NO gum). You can pre-order my debut book “How To Be a Bawse” right now at LillySinghBook.com or by clicking the link in my bio. Tag 3 friends you want to travel with! #BawseBook

A post shared by Lilly Singh (@lilly) on

Her words reminded me of how narrow our vision can become. That’s when I thought

Why Toronto? Why not the world?

A long-lost cousin of mine recently asked me,”Do you travel?”

Those words sparked my imagination. The truth is that I haven’t travelled. Or at least, not as much as I think I should have.

But this is not a post about my adventures. It’s about tasting and seeing what life has to offer.

Possibilities are everywhere, and they’re endless.

Understanding this can be tricky. While I enjoy being specific in my desires, I realize that sometimes in doing so, I risk limiting myself. I need to be ready to embrace what comes, regardless of where it’s from, or where it leads.

What about you?

 

Photo by Finn Hackshaw

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Caribbean Culture, diversity, Film, Profiles

Coming Soon!: CaribbeanTales International Film Festival

Caribana may have finished, but in Toronto, the celebration of Caribbean culture isn’t over. The city is home to CaribbeanTales, an organization devoted to sharing stories from people of the Caribbean diaspora. The CaribbeanTales International Film Festival begins in September, and runs from the 7th to the 17th of the month.

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A few days ago I spoke with its founder, Frances-Anne Solomon. Ms. Solomon is an award-winning filmmaker of Caribbean heritage. A writer, producer and director in film, TV, Radio and New Media, her career includes a 13-year tenure in England with the BBC as a Television Drama Producer and Executive Producer. In 2000, she returned to Toronto where she continued to create her own projects, and in 2001 she successfully launch the first CaribbeanTales project.

Today, CaribbeanTales has grown into the CaribbeanTales Media Group — companies that produce, market and sell Caribbean-themed audio-visual content across the globe.

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Frances-Anne Solomon and John Reid of Flow, CaribbeanTales’ leading partner.

Frances-Anne Solomon’s passion for telling Caribbean people’s stories is palpable. Listen to her speech from the launch of this year’s Festival.

 

Ms. Solomon’s words left me feeling energized, and eager to preserve my cultural roots.

Our chat began with her revealing what sparked her interest in film, as well as the story of CaribbeanTales.

When I was growing up in Trinidad there were no stories about me anywhere. We learned about the kings and queens of England and history, and we learned about Shakespeare and Jane Eyre…I had to become an adult before I learned about slavery. It was only much later that I realized that we resisted slavery—that we had this incredible journey as Caribbean people coming from all over the world, and it really transformed my life.

I remember learning this from a therapist: If you see yourself as a victim or you don’t have a sense of the beginning of the story, then that determines the ending. Whether there’s a happy ending or a tragic ending has a lot to do with how the narrative is perceived.

I became passionately interested in storytelling and I was drawn to film. Then I worked at the BBC for many years. I got to see how the developed world could have an organization that created, produced, marketed, and sold to a rapt audience its own stories about themselves. I saw how that created national pride and individual pride—a concept of empire and power. I really felt that we in the Caribbean needed to have those sort of narratives, and mechanisms for the transmission of those narratives folded into our culture.

In 2001 after I left the BBC I started CaribbeanTales with that goal of creating an organization that would create, produce, market, and sell Caribbean stories, of Caribbean people—Caribbean narratives of all kind.

Originally we were making programs, and in 2006 we started the festival because programs we were making were not getting seen.

In 2010 we started CaribbeanTales Worldwide Distribution. I realized it wasn’t enough to make films and show films, it was also necessary to be able to sell them, so that we as filmmakers and storytellers could have sustainable careers.

Then in 2013, we started our online platform: CaribbeanTales TV. We also have an incubator program which is a hub of development and production.

Now the whole project has is beginning to take off, and that’s very exciting.

 

Twenty-sixteen marks the festival’s 11th year. How has your vision for CaribbeanTales evolved?

My journey has been very much one of an individual—from being a story-teller, and a filmmaker to being someone who is interested in creating and changing the world—to provide a kind of essential service for people in our region, so that our stories would have a way to be made, distributed, seen, exchanged, and monetized, in a sustainable way. That has been an evolution for me from being an artist—somebody who has a passion to tell and see stories that touch me.

I think being part of a global movement, our stories matter. And that is not just personal—it’s political, it’s economic, it’s logistic. And it’s ultimately transformational.

 

What’s on its horizon for Caribbean tales?

More.

I think the global climate has changed, with the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s very inspiring to see young people taking up the torch that our ancestors in the Black Power movement from the 60s and 70s and the Civil Rights movement have carried—picking that up and kind of saying “Enough now, we need equal rights. This is a human rights issue…”

That has changed the narrative.

Also, #OscarsSoWhite has really thrown a light on the lack of representation of women and people of colour in the global landscape. That has a resonance in terms of us telling stories in the third world so that the narrative is different. There are opportunities now that I feel are ripe for the picking; we’re very excited for the future.

 

I understand that this year’s theme is Caribbean Love. Could you please share some of your thoughts on the subject and the ways it’s explored throughout the CaribbeanTales Festival?

This year, we felt that a lot of our history as Caribbean people and people of colour internationally, has been one of brutality, violence, and exploitation. It’s really important for us to acknowledge that at the end of the day it is love that has allowed us to survive and continue to connect with each other. Love, in a way, is the answer. We need to remind each other constantly that through love it is possible to heal, grow, and build.

Under the CaribbeanLove banner, our opening night gala, Diary of a Badman, focuses on women of colour creators.

We always do a focus on Trinidad and Tobago; I come from Trinidad and there’s a lot of amazing work coming out of there now. This year’s evening is called Trinibego to the Bone, about Carnival and different cultural events.

In Migrant Tales, we look at diasporic stories of Caribbean people—those of us who come from the Caribbean and live abroad permanently. A lot of people people call it “immigration” and “migration”, but I like to use the word, “expat”. We do come from somewhere, and that identity is important.

Then we have Love Thy Neighbour, which is a night when we look at a lot of dark history: we look at drug trafficking, abusive behaviour, different mental disorders, even possession—a lot of darker themes. The overall theme of this night is, “How do we look past this? What is the way to show sympathy to the darker elements of society?”

Then we have LGBT Love. It’s been our commitment every year for the past 5 years to throw a light on voices from the LGBT community across the Caribbean. For us, queer rights are human rights.

And then, Revolutionary Love showcases five short films about Black Canadian activists.

We have a strand called #BlackLoveMatters, which is a twist on #BlackLivesMatter, focusing on the power of love to heal Black people. Its focus is on Black love within families, specifically fathers and sons, mothers and children—those love relationships and what they mean to our community.

Animated Love is our animation night. We have a whole feature which is about struggles for emancipation.

Our closing night is Walk Good, which is focusing on a number of Jamaican films and celebrating Jamaican culture—both music and religion.

 

CineFAM, a word from Haitian creole meaning “films by women”, is an initiative designed to support women of colour creators.

In addition to the material from your opening night, you’ve also launched CineFAM. Could you share some of your thoughts on the importance of women as creators within the Black community?

As a woman of colour creator myself, that’s the area that has been the most difficult to get support and build a career because women’s work is invisible, and women, due to sexism are excluded from being creative leaders. We’re not allowed to do that. We can be supportive. We can be the power behind the man, but we cannot stand up and say “I am a woman creator.”

I think fundamentally it has to do with sexism. We don’t get support as creators—women of colour. And it’s that point, where racism and sexism meet, that has totally destroyed our ability to be seen as the incredible creators that we are. Meanwhile, quite often if you look at the work that women are doing in terms of creating community and creating business and creating the world, it’s unbelievable. Women are powerful.

We have some great examples in our community of women who are able to break through, like Ava DuVernay and Amma Asante. There are also women in other areas as well. Incredible role models for us.

I wanted to, first, create awareness of the power of women creators—the extraordinary talent of women of colour creators, and also create a network for women of colour creators. I feel this area is the one place where we don’t get support.

 

If someone could only see one film at the CaribbeanTales festival, what would it be, and why?

I think I’d say 50 years of Black Activism, because it features 5 incredible stories of people in the Canadian landscape who have really made a difference. They’re completely unknown to the wider community, but they’re amazing people. Each one of these films is written and directed by a Black woman, and the executive producer is a Black woman, and the originator of the project—Akua Benjamin, who is an incredible leader—is also a Black woman.

Just on its own, that project stands as a testimony to the power of women as creators, leaders—powerhouses in documenting, in acknowledging, in creating, in producing, in breaking ground, and changing the narrative.

 

How would you like your audience to feel after their experience at the festival?

Inspired, powerful, and connected: Our life, our love, our festival.

 

For further information on the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival, including its scheduled screenings, be sure to visit their web site

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I'm just sayin'., self-care/self-aware, wisdom

Solid Saturday: Speak UP!!

Here’s a little something from way back when.

There’s nothing like hearing your old sense of ambition falling from your lips to remind you of who you are.

For the time being I’ve put my podcast aside. (NOTE: No matter what anyone else says, there’s no such thing as FREE podcast hosting. I mean…sure. Some sites offer “free” plans. But they don’t come without limits.) Meanwhile, somehow I still feel compelled to craft content. This notion really got to me this week. That’s when I got curious…

But, Claire,” I said to myself,”where can I get my stuff hosted for free?”

And almost immediately, the answer came:

Looks like I’ll have to start making videos!!”

Oy vey. Cue the anxiety and excuses.

I took a few test shots yesterday. The lighting was almost as hideous as it was in the video above. I kept struggling with where to put my eyes.

Then, earlier this afternoon I took a look at Jam Gamble’s Facebook page. Jam and I know each other a bit through social media, and she’s an amazing woman. Her pinned post on public speaking really struck a chord with me.

If you feel inspired to do something for your own growth or good, pursue it! Fear exists only to get in the way of your greatness.

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wisdom

You know what to do.

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You have a dream for your life that’s been with you since childhood. The thing is, though, fear always has you asking for permission instead of stepping forward.

I figure someone out there might need to hear what I’ve been grappling with. It’s a daily struggle–being willing to get out of my own way and do my work. But it’s gotta happen. There are signs everywhere. I have the feeling that only good things can happen.

Photo by Jordan Whitfield
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PodPost, Profiles

Episode 7.0 – Ways We Work

Tomorrow I’m off to record my next podcast episode. Meanwhile, I realized that I forgot to post something–my last show! I shared it on Twitter, but forgot to post it on my blog. Last month I had a lovely chat with Amandah Wood and Matt Quinn of Ways We Work. I apologize for not sharing this with you sooner!

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diversity, Television

#ThronesYall

In this episode,  Jamie of Black Girl Nerds offers her listeners brilliant commentary on the idea of hashtag ownership. I’m about halfway through, and I have nothing to add.

…Except for a little something about online behaviour.

When I follow people on social media, it’s because their content interests me, or I like them, or both. Either way, I’m not connected to them by accident. Most importantly, if an individual is rude to someone that I follow, I notice.

Be careful of how you treat others online. Your behaviour may cause your brand more harm than good.

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Television

The “Other” Woman

 

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Cuties.

 

This post is useful, not only for Sleepy Hollow, but other shows. I’m talking about Abbie specifically. But what I have to offer is also a commentary on love, and the depiction of marginalized characters.

A writer of color who used to work on Sleepy Hollow once insisted that contrary to what fans thought, the people behind the show weren’t opposed to interracial relationships. To support his argument, he pointed to the fact that they gave us Joenny (Joe + Jenny).

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In Google, Joenny gifs are hard to come by. Meanwhile Ichabbie…? *sigh*

 

So when it comes to Crane and Abbie, what gives?

On Twitter, Roberto Orci mentioned a decision to be “chaste” in an attempt to avoid disrespectful tropes relating to Black women in relationships. This is a bit of a response.


I appreciate the producers’ concerns. However, I would like to urge them not to be so preoccupied with doing a character justice, that they forget she’s human.

As a Black woman, it’s true: I exist in a space where racism and sexism collide. However, that doesn’t mean that this space should be removed from the fullness of human experience.

In some ways, the Mills sisters have been written like normal women. Take the scenes with them at the local bar enjoying a beer. In those moments I’ve nearly squealed, “That’s something I would do!” (Maybe I need to watch more TV. I’m just not used to seeing Black women on my screen in a blue-collar setting, with a drink.)

There are other things that have felt realistic to me–costuming, dialogue, the ability to kick ass...

Those examples are a part of why I’m confused. If Sleepy Hollow is able to get certain things right about Abbie, how could their portrayal of her in a relationship be so tone deaf?

I used to believe the writers were a bunch of immature dorks who thought Abbie had cooties–or worse. Now, I realize they avoided giving her a relationship with Crane because they were afraid to get “it” wrong. Nevertheless. The “chasteness” that producers have employed isn’t respectful. It’s been insulting.

When approaching the writing of Black women in love, I need the show’s writers to think: How would you write a relationship for the average woman with Abbie’s characteristics? (I’m referring to her personality and lifestyle.) Why should her being Black make any difference? (There are factors worth considering when writing a Black woman or an interracial relationship–like having to deal with bigotry. I’m not referring to those. I’m thinking of the general picture.)

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*double sigh*

 

Promising and refusing to deliver on love for Abbie with Crane has done nothing more than mock the show’s audience. There are times when a television romance seems forced. There are also times when a relationship is a natural next step in a couple’s evolution.

Consider Sleepy Hollow’s timeline, and the characters’ rapport. Given those, I think a show about a couple who shared the same race would have had them dating by now. Hence, hesitating to follow up on romantic innuendo out of concern about offense when depicting a Black woman isn’t wise. It looks like a cop-out, whether intended that way or not.

Normally, I’d advocate this for simpler reasons, but under these circumstances, let me make a recommendation: If someone’s feeling insecure about writing relationships for characters of color, then hire writers of color. Or for God’s sake, talk to us!

I remember an old interview where one of Sleepy Hollow’s producers was asked about the program’s (first season) diversity. His reply suggested that it came naturally to him–it reflected his reality. If that’s the case, why don’t the producers ask friends and colleagues what they think of Black people in love on TV? I’m sure they’d get an earful.

(I know some of the show’s creatives are reaching out to fans, and I appreciate it. But they would have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they’d listened to us sooner.)

Lastly, I’d noticed someone on Team Sleepy Hollow mentioned that he’d been taking in our ideas, including those about “romance”. And no, that wasn’t a typo. “Romance” was mentioned. I’d wanted to shoot him one of these:

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That type of talk suggests Sleepy Hollow’s people may have a plan that depends on whether or not Nicole Beharie (Abbie) returns. If that takes place, and intimacy is, finally, pursued, I hope we’ll finally get to see Abbie and Crane not only battling bad guys, but juggling the ups and downs of a relationship. Again, I don’t know every show out there. Yet I think their romance would be a one-of-a-kind.

I’m not asking for an apocalyptic, less-cheesy Hart to Hart…But then again, maybe I am.

Lord knows. The way things have been, Abbie Mills really does deserve better.


Want more of my thoughts on Ichabbie, and Abbie as a love interest?

No chance for romance? A word about Ichabbie.

Crane’s Angels?

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