Sundance Film Festival recap and reflections

One of the most satisfying things in life is to dream of doing something and actually getting to do it. I am still on a high from such an experience, since I just came back from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. When I was 16 years old I decided that I wanted to go to the Sundance Film Festival, and a little over a decade later I made it as credentialed media. The experience was enchanted and the setting of picturesque, ice sickle covered buildings nestled in the snow-capped Rocky Mountains didn’t hurt. Here’s a day-by-day play-by-play.

Day 1: We landed in Salt Lake City am checked into the hotel. Then, we headed up to Park City for dinner in Deer Valley at the Royal Street Cafe. The grilled ciabatta bread was tasty. After dinner, I went to a screening of a new documentary called Whose Streets, which follows the conflict in St. Louis and Ferguson after the shooting of Mike Brown. The cinematographer was incredibly brave and never put the camera down, even as grenades flew and tear gas covered the crowds.

Day 2: The day started with a visit to the festival headquarters to pick up my media credentials and then a shuttle ride into Main Street. After exploring Main Street, we ate lunch at The Eating Establishment (the BLT with garlic aioli was delicious). Then, we stopped by the AT&T lounge and took photos of an Acura model made from ice before heading to a Diversity Reception at The Blackhouse Foundation. We ended the night at the Waldorf-Astoria at a party hosted by BET and sponsored by Patron. The hot chocolate and brownie pops were divine.

Day 3: On Saturday morning, we headed to Midway, Utah to the Homestead Resort to experience the ice castles. They are giant formations made from ice sickles, complete with a slide made from ice. An unexpected treat was the sight of white horses galloping in the snow. Then, we had lunch at Bandits Grill & Bar before checking out the ASCAP Cafe and attending a talk with the cast of Underground hosted by The Blackhouse Foundation. The day didn’t stop there. We continued on to a screening of a docuseries called Rise about modern day injustices against Native American communities in the United States, including the recent Dakota Access Pipeline. This was by far my favorite screening and the men and women who are fighting for Native American rights are truly admirable.

Day 4: For the final day of the festival, we did some souvenir shopping and explored Salt Lake City. What an awesome city! It is easily navigable, with sidewalks, bike lanes, and public transit. I also loved that there are so many locally-owned boutiques and restaurants, and not a ton of chains.

More than the parties, celebrity sightings, and movies, I walked away rejuvenated and with a renewed commitment to my creativity. I met so many kind and generous people and had enriching conversations with them. Seeing so many up-and-coming actors and budding filmmakers made me commit to stepping up my game and living bigger. Forget shoes and clothes– I’m investing all of my resources into becoming the woman and author that has always inside of me to be. I ordered new business cards, re-did my website, and locked in some new stories all within 24 hours of coming back to town. I once heard life coach Lisa Nichols say “Energy grows where energy goes,” and she was definitely right. At the top of the mountains I started to believe that I too could reach my peak.

Ten quotes to inspire your 2017

In no particular order of importance, I hope this list inspires someone to be the person that they were born to be.

  1. Do not confuse readiness with accomplishment. – A Course in Miracles
  2. You can’t Instagram comment on a soul. – Pastor Carl Lentz
  3. Challenges should activate latent potential. – Michael Bernard Beckwith
  4. Your conviction and your convenience don’t live on the same block. -Lisa Nichols
  5. It’s not about being brave all the time. It’s about finding quiet moments of courage and taking risks in service of your something bigger. You have to be willing to take a deep breath and do the brave thing. And then, after a while, you have to be willing to do it again. -Tiffany Han
  6. Charity is seeing someone on a higher level than what they have accomplished. – A Course in Miracles
  7. Do the right thing when you know it’s right and not when it’s convenient and you can wrap your head around it. – Tony Robbins
  8. Your gifts are resilient and patient. They don’t dim with time. – Lauretta Hanon
  9. As I laid at fear’s foot stool mercy lifted me up and placed me on grace’s shoulders. What had been would never be again and what will be is more than my imagination can grasp, so what is now is all that I need.
  10. The joy of my choices has made other people’s life better. – Beth Hermes
  11. BONUS: What’s gone may be gone, but I won’t go on playing dead. It’s time to start living the life I’ve never led! – Sister Act the Musical

For every holiday

When the clock strikes 12, my new year’s wish for you is peace and prosperity.

On Valentine’s Day I hope that the love you feel for that 24 hours lasts throughout the year.

May your soul experience an Easter, where everything physical has rolled away and all that is left is redemption and freedom.

I pray that the spirit of Thanksgiving fills your heart, and most importantly your mind, everyday and that you never see yourself as lacking anything.

And, just as Joseph and Mary walked boldly by faith to bring joy to the world, my prayer is that you give yourself the opportunity to experience new life.

For every holiday on the calendar I hope that there is a celebration in your heart.

10 blessings of 2016

As I look back on this year I have to be grateful for all of the wonderful experiences that have come along. I’ve seen great art, formed new friendships, grown closer to my family, and perhaps most importantly, learned the true meaning of the scripture “In all thy getting, get understanding.” As I get closer to 30 years old I have let go of resolutions and I simply just pray that the new year will be better than the last one, and so far life has not let me down. So, in no particular order, here are 10 moments that rocked my 2016:

  1. I got a new job making more money in a nurturing work environment.
  2. A steady stream of freelance opportunities have continued to come my way and I met some really wonderful artists when I wrote an article about southern women playwrights.
  3. I was accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association.
  4. I got to visit three new cities this year: Detroit, Asheville, and Houston.
  5. I took a creative writing class that has become a wonderfully supportive writing community for me and I am working on a book.
  6. I have not had to worry about food, shelter, clothing , and transportation– it may seem common, but it matters .
  7. My friends rocked this year! We celebrated, laughed, showed up, and encouraged each other .
  8. The universe showed me the ways my bad habits keep me from living my best life. What a blessing to be able to know and change in my 20’s!
  9. I volunteered for the National Poetry Slam and got to see this inspirational event live.
  10. I have had the opportunity to mentor and train college students which has been very rewarding. The future is scary, but we’ll be fine.
  11. BONUS 1: Blue Apron made me a better cook and now I know the proper amount of time it really takes to boil pasta and pan sear chicken.
  12. BONUS 2: I started meditating and I sleep better because of it.

I have been reading “A Course in Miracles” and I love this quote

Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. They are performed by those who temporarily have more for those who temporarily have less.

Some miracles may seem to be of greater magnitude than others. But remember the first principle of the course; there is no order of difficulty in miracles. In reality you are perfectly unaffected by all expressions of lack of love. These can be from yourself and others, from yourself to others, or from others to you. Peace is an attribute in you. You cannot find it outside.

My thoughts on the documentary “Light Girls”

On Sunday, January 18, just before MLK Day, OWN aired the documentary Light Girls. The film is a follow-up to the documentary Dark Girls, which toured the indie film circuit a couple of years ago. I attended a special luncheon in 2012 where I had the opportunity to interview D. Channsin Berry, one of the directors/producers of Dark Girls, and during that interview he mentioned that he and producer Bill Duke had started interviewing women for what would become Light Girls. At the time, they were considering calling the documentary The Yellow Brick Road or something to that effect.

My thoughts and feelings about Light Girls are much more brief than my response to Dark Girls. I should start by mentioning that I did not realize I was light-skinned until I was 7 or 8 years old. Kids at school told me I was different. Before then, I honestly thought that brown is just brown. What I appreciated most about Light Girls, is that it allowed lighter skinned women to voice the hurt that we are often afraid to voice. I have been in plenty of conversations where darker-skinned black people have made snide comments about light-skinned people, and have felt guilted into just staying silent, because I was afraid to be labeled a stereotypical light-skinned girl. I didn’t want to be called stuck up, told that I thought I was better than everyone else, and accused of acting like a white girl. I would be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time I have been called all of those things by unenlightened, self-hating people who don’t know that their words have weight because of their own oppression.

This is not to discount that there are privileges that come with having light skin, such as being more readily accepted by white people (but not as accepted as white girls, Asians, or Latinas) or having men find me attractive (but not as attractive as white girls, Asians, or Latinas).

However, in the African American community it is presumed that it can’t be difficult to be a light-skinned woman, because the rappers prefer us and the cosmetics companies put us in their ads. But, there is a price that comes with being fetishized, which is very different from being desired. There was a young woman in a documentary who spoke about having a bottle thrown at her by men cat-calling her. That has happened to me! And then a more painful revelation from a woman who spoke about being sexually abused by grown men because of her light skin.

The documentary also examined the act of passing for white. Let me just say that passing was not a privilege. What kind of privilege forces you to deny your family? It’s kind of like the house ni**** versus field ni**** argument. It’s still slavery. 

I am uninterested in comparing suffering. I find it useless. Our struggles may be different, but not greater than or less than. This is not a proper measure. I don’t think that any system that gives one group privilege for oppressing another can give anyone a leg up or an advantage. Especially when neither of those groups of people are a part of the alpha group. Anything that inflicts psychological, emotional, physical, long term pain on an entire race of people is terrible, and our resources would be better spent uniting to lift each other up than compare degrees of suffering. I empathize and sympathize with my darker skinned brothers and sisters for their struggle, but I am not interested in comparing who suffered more because we have all suffered.