Berbere Spiced Tempeh with Mushroom Couscous

On Birthday Eve, I made a nice simple meal for the end of this age. It hasn’t been the best year, but hopefully tomorrow is a significant start of something new and fulfilling– as fulfilling as delicious berbere spiced tempeh and mushroom couscous.

Berbere Spiced Tempeh with Mushroom Couscous Ingredients and Preparation

1 box Near East Mushrooms and Herb Couscous
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms
1/2 8oz tempeh
1 teaspoon berbere spice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of parsley

While preparing couscous to package directions, caramelize onions in olive oil for five to seven minutes. Add mushrooms.
Rub tempeh with berbere spice, salt, and black pepper on both sides and pan sear alongside onions and mushrooms.
Serve with couscous and sprinkle dry pasrsley atop.

New Products : Miyoko’s Kitchen Butter, Chuao Sea Salt Surf Chocolate Bar, Parmela’s Creamery Black Pepper Nutcheese, and So Delicious Toasted Coconut Key Lime Ice Cream

Vegan companies are pulling out glorious stops to bring incredible products to the kitchen table.
This summer was no exception.
I continue embarking on purchasing chocolate off the Food Empowerment Chocolate List and buying foods that do not contain palm oil. It has been a rough road with the sudden deletion of certain things. I am still dismayed over the Blue Diamond Almond Milk recall– what a heartbreak. At the same time, life feels more pleasant, more natural these days. I hope these companies continue delivering their best to consumers and besting the dairy/meat industry one great product at a time.
Run don’t walk for this yummy So Delicious Toasted Coconut Key Lime Ice Cream. I found this last pint at Whole Foods Market, during a summer sale. This coconut milk based ice cream is light and airy with citrus key lime swirled into creamy vanilla and coconut flavor. Definitely a new favorite and the best summer vibes dessert hands down.

Harmful Veganism/Vegetarianism Perceptions on Black Television

“Cheers to meat!” Hollywood exclaims, bumping a chicken nugget to the chicken nugget of Blue.

Last week’s Queen Sugar episode, “A Little Lower Than Angels,” wasn’t the easiest grain to swallow. Several subtle anti-vegan/vegetarian distasteful jokes came out of the woodwork. I watch television for entertainment, for mild escapism. However, this blatant disregard shared problematic limits of black lives matter movement, the problems associated from its lack of intersection when showcasing speciesism. Hollywood, an adult character, reinforces to Blue, a child character, that the cycle remains repeated, concluding that masculinity and meat go hand in hand. Furthermore, earlier, the child elicited joy at visiting the aquarium. Thus, in this single episode, a child is taught that some animals are for our viewing pleasure and others are for consumption.

For starters, I am a huge Queen Sugar fan. I love its compelling depth of characters, bravery in raising controversial past/contemporary issues, especially in the Southern setting (heart of oppressive black pain and struggle), and the all women directing initiative led by creator Ava DuVernay. I also applaud the range of brown and dark brown actors and actresses making up the cast, a less colorist diaspora than most television shows. In regards to this episode, it is evidenced more than ever the importance of black vegan characters on a fictional realm. We are at the age of Black Vegans Rock, at a time where black urban farmers are rising, and black vegan restaurants are coming up. On a show that is about redemption, purpose, and honor, you would think one person cared about animal welfare.

None of Queen Sugar‘s characters are self certified vegans. Originally, this wasn’t an issue. Again, I was impressed with the stories, the acting, the cinematography. However, this was the first episode, from three seasons, that made several anti-vegan/anti-vegetarian statements.

Now Vi is an excellent cook. Am I supposed to believe that she can’t prepare an epic seitan? Well, maybe she is too new to experimenting with it. Maybe she will create something better in the next episode. Still, Aunt Vi is a valiant taste tester. She would know if she was serving bad food.

“It takes one whole gallon of water to grow one almond,” says Ant, one of the pro black teen activists that Micah befriends, after asking Charley where is the “regular” milk. “California is the largest grower of almonds on the account of the drought though. Just food for thought.”

Somehow, Ant or no one else wants to discuss the unadulterated violence of slaughterhouses, of young calves being taken from their mothers for said “regular” milk, and the environmental harm caused by the ruthless meat and dairy industries.

In closing, Hollywood tells Violet that he respects her for eating better, but he needs his meat. He brings her a bowl of cauliflower rice. She believes it’s delicious. Yet the implication is that animal products are an ingredient– because low and behold veganism/vegetarianism is not tasty, flavorful food.

Sighs.

Queen Sugar also reminded me of an old Living Single rerun.

Then, decades ago, “Am I My Sister’s Keeper,” episode seven of season two aired. During a talk show segment on the dangers of consuming meat, Regine decides to become vegetarian. Yet, when Regine discards the meat of her roommates, Khadijah and Sinclair, out of revenge, they get even, filling the refrigerator and freezer with nothing but meat. Along with neighbors, Overton and Kyle, they plan a “meat only” barbecue. Both sides went too far with disposing each other’s foods, food being one of the most costly parts of living. However, Khadijah, Sinclair, and Max took it farther by waving their choices in Regine’s face– literally.

Hence, Living Single mirrored real life situations– family and friends who invite vegetarians and vegans over with intentions on conversion therapy. Some people believe that maybe ,while growing up, you didn’t have your meat prepared correctly. Maybe this is a phase initiated by white media– despite that historically Africans were naturally prone to diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and starches before American enslavement forced the eating of scraps from their slave masters. Nowadays, if you’re not eating ribs, hamburgers, and bacon, everyone seems ready to vilify and revoke your “black” card.

Still, Regine stuck by her lifestyle change.

Countless others and I also stand by veganism and will not be thwarted.

At least Girlfriends set up a solid positive example with Lynn Searcy, a biracial vegan. Her veganism is part of her– unique, distinctive, elemental. From the time of her introduction and remainder of eight seasons, she was a constant champion of animal rights.

I wish there were more black vegan/vegetarian characters. It would be an amazing, contemporary justice. Queen Sugar–which unlike other examples is currently on air– centers itself on political, social, economic, emotional, physical, and mental struggle of black lives. They have introduced LGBTQ characters. They have included a main character involved with police altercation. With Vi’s lupus diagnosis, comes a step closer to informing the public about the great benefits of plant based eating.

Moreover, I just want to be the viewer without feeling attacked or ridiculed. Veganism/vegetarianism shouldn’t remain tied up in these old, rehashed stereotypes, the butt of jokes. It doesn’t help anyone to find dishonest slander on a television show promoted for black people on a black owned television network. And yes, these characters eat animals almost every week (cringeworthy), but when it comes to plant based substitutes, they immediately rise to the occasion to speak against it.

Like earth loving Nova, a Queen Sugar character giving voice to those without one, I am passionately outspoken for the animals, for those sentient beings abhorrently bred in captivity. When it come to entertainment, however, we deserve seeing reflections of ourselves in a fictional capacity, someone who too cares about black lives matter and animal rights. Every single being deserves liberation. It doesn’t make sense for such glaring issues to be separate, to not be closely intertwined. The links are obvious and painful.

“The food we eat masks so much cruelty. The fact that we can sit down and eat a piece of chicken without thinking about the horrendous conditions under which chickens are industrially bred in this country is a sign of the dangers of capitalism, how capitalism has colonized our minds. The fact that we look no further than the commodity itself, the fact that we refuse to understand the relationships that underly the commodities that we use on a daily basis. And so food is like that.” – Angela Davis

Unfortunately, many use television and film including young children as a source of both education and guilty pleasure. There are not a lot of mainstream vegan/vegetarian programming, much less featured fictional vegan/vegetarian characters. Black vegan/vegetarian programming is nonexistent unless searching on the web. Thus, we must reframe the narratives to be inclusive and responsible. Otherwise, people would truly believe that veganism/vegetarianism is water wasteful, flavorless, and difficult.

Plus, a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, one of the largest forms of activism, goes beyond food digestion.

In My Neighborhood: Women Owned Places to Be In Philadelphia

With the horrible news about the black real estate brokers arrested for waiting at a local Starbucks without purchasing still being unloaded in news and management not properly being held accountable for a disgusting display of racism, it’s important now more than ever to protect ourselves, to commune in spaces operating for us. We need to support communal havens by us for us, that provide safe environments to create, have conversations, and eat/drink.
On the few warm days, I explored the Kensington neighborhood, in this area that I recently moved into, enjoying pleasant shops in the area, most especially three owned by women of color: Art Dept Philly, Franny Lou’s Porch, and Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse. They each offer unique forms of entertainment and carefree liberation, forms of activism while also serving specific needs. Art Dept Philly is a secondhand boutique that also sells art supplies, handmade cards, and accessories and at the same time hosts Writer Wednesdays, an afterschool arts program led by artist Carmel Brown (owner of Colored Vintage, the shop), and craft workshops on knitting, sewing, and more.

I just fell in love with Franny Lou’s Porch. Named after two important Libra figures: abolitionist/suffragist poet, Francis E. W. Harper (who published the first African American short story) and activist/community organizer Fannie Lou Hamer (cofounder of the National Women’s Political Caucus), I visited on this rainy Sunday morning before work, desiring a cup of something sweet and wonderful. The interior is vibrant and inviting, homages to Africa, African American, and other people of color in a victorious celebratory spirit. The aesthetic is all natural, rustic, and friendly, classic R&B music swirling in the background, feeling like a charming second home.

At the awesome Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse (the first and only black woman owned comic book/coffeeshop in the U.S.), is the land of comic book nerd joy. Books, t-shirts, pins, and more are swarmed in the enticing bright lights alongside my favorites Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Black Panther, Jem and the Holograms, The Walking Dead, and others. Like Art Dept Philly, Amalgam participates in First Fridays and hosts all sort of incredible events for geeks like game and movie nights, book launches, after hour entertainment, quizznos, and more. Just a few weeks ago, the great Erika Alexander (from Living Single to co-writing a one-shot Giles Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic) hosted a book signing (of course I didn’t know about it until Instagram but alas can’t make it all).

En Route To Grenada And Other Fair Trade Chocolate News

Remember back in October when I introduced work in progress of my fair trade chocolate bar paintings interacting with the short-lived Still Star Crossed characters here?
The passion is deepening. I have started researching projects for my Fulbright application (scary long process). Women in Africa own chocolate companies. They’re proving that marginalized bodies are not picking cacao pods out of dangerous territories and exporting to Europe and North America. These women are processing their country’s primary resources and selling their efforts in their homelands, giving to their people in the most nurturing ways. Selassie Atadika sells Midunu Chocolates in Ghana (will email her about vegan options) as well as sisters Kimberly and Priscilla Addison of 57 Chocolates (named after the year of Ghana’s independence and they have four vegan flavors). Plus Jaki Kweba of Tanzania co-founded the first and only indigenous company of fine chocolate, Chocolate Mama’s Gourmet.
Thus, I am looking at Ghana and Tanzania for host countries and researching possible projects.

When a co-worker told me about the Grenada Chocolate Festival, I was pleased to hear such an event existed. An actual days long festival dedicated to chocolate? It sounded incredible. While events such as chocolate yoga, chocolate as beauty ingredient, chocolate tastings, chocolate festival, and chocolate extravaganza serenaded a chocolaty siren’s song it was the “Farmer for a Day” that excited me most of all. To trek through terrain where cacao pods grow, to crack open a pod and see the seeds up close, to meet farmers on plantations… I have always imagined being the brown woman version of Charlie Buckett, scoring the golden ticket to the lay of the chocolate land, a land that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory hadn’t acknowledged, a land of brown farmers and colorful cacao pods, the origins of great wealth and fascination.
Maybe perhaps, I could have scored an invitation somehow. I filled out the comment form and prayed to hear back. No response. I looked up artist/writing travel grants (some of course were expired and others dispersing funds way after the festival).
I created a GoFundMe in hopes of attaining the remaining funds for the Grenada Chocolate Festival ticket, accommodation, and other arriving expenses. This experience will further strengthen my Fulbright application– finally seeing and being around the cacao pod environment. Any amount would be helpful and greatly appreciated.

The Migration: Cosmo Whyte’s Travels Across Mediums to Occupy Physical, Mental, and Historical Spaces

Multidisciplinary artist Cosmo Whyte presented informative research that articulated interweaving roles migration and colonialism play into the raw poignancy and visceral complexity of his narrative work. Hailing from St. Andrew, Jamaica and working primarily in Atlanta, Georgia, Whyte’s trials and tribulations of United States naturalization filter through creative processes of sculptural installations/objects, drawing, performance, and photography with influences ranging from historical context to popular culture.

Whyte, a Hudgens Prize Finalist as well as grant recipient of Artadia and CUE Foundation, has conducted extensive field research, traveling to Ghana, London, and back home to Jamaica (with fresh eyes), collecting valid principles that inform his intriguing concepts. Using generational occupancy of space as metaphor, he focuses on how things easily and quickly slip into other spaces, ideas of transcendence, having diasphoric moments in negative space, meditative, trans space, referencing “ubiquitous” objects such as doilies marking value and worth.

In Promis(ed) Land (Version #3), a Jamaican travel drum explores a connection to “home” and ties to Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line, a short lived shipping corporation. In Whyte’s creation, a “kitschy tarp with neon signs,” has a musical component that sounds similar to church hymn hums or melodic rhythm of slave shack escapism. The music is actually a part of The Jeffersons theme song (DuBois’s Movin’ On Up), distorting the lyrics “finally got a piece of the pie.”

His drawings also frame varied influences. Carnival in Atlanta, a summer jump off event that has been in existence since 1988, celebrates Caribbean culture and heritage with parades, costumes, music, food, etc. Specific messages that were once lost are retained in small communities, performative rituals disclosed in drawings. Simultaneously, violence comes crashing, with continuous acquitted verdicts of murdered black lives, unfiltered and unjust, slithering around an artist’s vulnerable state of mind. While seeing a Chris Ofili retrospective, Whyte found a connection to tie into his work, sorting emotional turmoil through drawings of Carnival, contorting bodies like gymnastics filtered through colonialism diagrams that overlap, create growing pains.

The Harder They Come, a 1972 crime/drama film exploring Jamaican folklore set in Kingston, Jamaica, enters Whyte’s works as well.

Most importantly, Whyte integrates autobiographical narrative and inherited generational tragedies. In Nkisi, one of several documented C-print photographs of a performance piece, after the death of his father, he wears his father’s ties as a sculptural armature over a suit and communes with a clear, abyssal body of water as a tribunal act, a reference to African traditions of communicating with ancestors via heirlooms.

Furthermore, in Headboy and Cold Sweat, Whyte reacts to Jamaica declaring independence and at the same time, keeping the English schoolboy uniform intact. He dons the red Royal British waistcoat and trousers, sits in a hot classroom for hours, sweating, reenacting moment of hyper awareness. After walking downtown, perspiring in these clothes, he dove in Montego Bay, saturating sweaty uniform fully under water, submerging and floating with composition intending to capture colors of Pan African Flag. Heartbreakingly, is that historically in that water, ancestors had traveled in tight, inhumane vessels, some drowning intentionally, others murdered, their bones, bodies, and spirits way below Whyte’s reach. Yet the connection is clear. He swam in an opened grave. And there are not enough tombstones in the world to commemorate countless unnamed deaths.

In closing, Whyte has captured significant, past moments, laying groundwork for monumental shifts to occur in a diverse practice that promises further emergence, utilizing encounter as a way of thinking about race relations in the United States versus predominantly black spaces in the world.

Amy Sherald Expresses Innermost Turmoils and Breakthroughs In Her Committed Painting Practice

Last Friday, PAFA’s Historic Landmark Building contained a full house on deck for its Visiting Artist Program lecture, rescheduled from weeks ago. Amy Sherald spoke on her personal painting history, providing a thoughtful, humbling backstory for the many young, hungry artists present in the room. It was a treat to watch this incredibly gifted artist discuss the journey, a hard, long, prosperous journey, that eventually brought an attentive, rapt audience vital inspiration.

Colorism contributed harsh experiences growing up in the problematic South for Sherald. Born and raised in Columbia, Georgia, with her fair skin and auburn hair, few with the exception of her family believed her to be black, especially horrid smaller children believed this perception. She recounted a story of a child who used the “n” word around her. And this was the late seventies, early eighties.
She then addresses being uncomfortable with being called “redbone,” a term formerly described dogs with a red coat. “Redbone,” a popular Donald Glover song, is said as an endearment. Meanwhile, it is a destructive adjective that her beauty, her attractiveness is privileged to having white inherited attributes, dismissing her blackness.

Sherald entered painting later than most, having been declared pre-med in college (failing biology wasn’t helping), changing her major to painting a few years before graduating. She wasn’t sure exactly the path to undergo and hadn’t received adequate “training” or having the artist vocabulary, but knew that figuration was a keen interest. Without the skills and resources of fellow classmates, she considered herself self taught, relying solely on instincts and research sessions from frequent library visits. It was also a challenge ascribing to racial and gender politics, disappointed through limited lenses her fellow peers and instructors had expected, which became “performative identity.”

After college, she took a break from painting for four years.
The shocking confession brought apart startling insight, especially seeing as now post-graduate years are depicted as a crucial time to be in that eager need to network and find supportive benefactors.
All the while, Sherald also admits to frequently visiting New York City openings to talk to gallerists in hopes of attaining a show in the past, a hoop some young artists still believe would ring true to them.
In the end, as she continued reading books, going to the movies, and seeing gallery shows, she developed relationships with collectors and advocates.

Her influences were a wide range of scientific fascination and sideshow fantasies, finding exciting, colorful pieces at Panama circuses, at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, and in Tim Burton’s dreamy tale Big Fish. However, the missing component was identity, the lack of blackness, of black people in experiences that mattered to her awakening imagination. Among her reading, she uncovered W.E.B. DuBois’s compiled photographs for the 1900 Paris Exposition entitled, American Negroes. Sherald fell in love with his Georgia Negroes series, letting the “aha” moment sink. In that, she saw black dandyism– black men and black women in suits and hats, appearing gorgeously confident and stylish at a time denying them existence, creativity. That was what she wanted to paint.
Inspired by photography, where she found images of herself leafing through her family’s historic archives, formulated ideas around her penetration, curving away American perception of black pain, the effervescent knowledge that black photographers could create and own positive portrayals. In the process, her paintings became “meditations on photography,” and realists such as Bo Bartlett, Kerry James Marshall, and Barkley Hendricks began to effectively shape her painting vocabulary.
The more Sherald painted, the more advanced her skills became, growing more so than what graduate school had offered her. She took a wondrous opportunity to study with great painter Odd Nerdrum in the Netherlands and continued on her trips to Panama.

Amy Sherald gave a kind, humbling, relatable lecture for an artist who has gone on to win prestigious honors such as the Pollack-Krasner Grant, Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant, and the Bethesda Painting Award. She has shown at Studio Museum in Harlem in New York City, New York, Spelman College of the Arts in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Embassy of the United States in Dakar, Senegal. She is in collections at the Columbus Museum in her hometown, Columbus, Georgia, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery all in Washington D.C, and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
She closes with a Kerry James Marshall quote, something along the lines of “nothing has never been able to transform the world.”
Yet with Sherald’s work, his L.A. Times discussion on the history of representational painting is most appropriate as well:

“When you visit an art museum, you’re less likely to encounter the work of a black person. When it comes to ideas about art and about beauty, the black figure is absent.”

Alongside Marshall and a slew of other phenomenal black artists dismantling contemporary art field, Sherald is changing the way viewers look at painting, inserting blackness whilst examining its absence with utilizing greyscale as her figures’ flesh tone. By learning preemptive steps she took to make it this far, she is certainly an artist to root for and champion, paving ways and breaking barriers to those who never believed they ever could.

The Philadelphia Flower Show: Please Go Chasing Waterfalls Edition

It was a real treat to experience Philadelphia Flower Show -an eight-day event held every spring since 1829- for the first time ever.

Headed by the Philadelphia Horticulturist Society, with theme “Wonders of Water,” the downtown Pennsylvania Convention Center had been transformed into an eye opening floral decadence. Sporadic corners of enchanted glory brought out the inner horticulturist gardener growing wondrously inside. From lush tropical rainforest designs to soothing serene splashes of tranquil waters flowing in various artfully crafted arrangements, the whole place sparked engaging interest and provided much needed TLC.

Although crowded at times, the Flower Show featured great highlights: flowers hanging from ceilings, ribbon prize winning plants, cacti, orchids, hyacinths, roses, topiaries, demos, garden teas, and various vendors selling soiled pots, seeds, fountains, and so much more.
Next year’s theme is “Flower Power,” a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock– sounds like that’ll be funky outrageous fun! It would be wild to see a Jimi Hendrix piece sculpted from flowers….
For the “Wonders of Water,” I took many pictures and these are my curated favorites:

Books and Intersectional Feminism: ‘Aphro-ism’ and ‘Sistah Vegan’

International Women’s Day came and left. Women’s History Month remains.
My paternal grandmother would have turned eighty-five-years old today. She was one of the first women to encourage me to follow my dreams, to pursue creative avenues that I had yearned setting up for myself. Although I have yet reached cusp of those familiar desires, they are close and attainable, not some distant fictional realm. For now, I continue writing on this six-year-old blog discussing food and art– the things that matter.
Thus, I haven’t branched into personal reading. First of all, there are two imperative books that should be alongside everyone’s library among usual suspects of Oh She GlowsTerry Bryant, and other vegan staple reads. Vegans should peruse other challenging roads this topic can steer, especially when these curved, seemingly uncomfortable roads pertain to matters of feminism, black identity, animal compassion, and pop culture.

I appreciate the work of Aph and Syl Ko immensely. They are smart, outspoken, and brave.
Their amazing jointly authored Aphro-ism came out last year. It is a container of thoughtful, intelligently crafted essays that pertain to life’s many intersections. From the way we eat, how we exist and grow in respective environments, the explosive racism that undeniably reveals itself in different components of veganism’s “public face,” and seeds implanted in the entertainment industry often told in voices that are not our own, are these detrimental conversation points that Aph and Syl dissect. With concise language and profound insight in their personal writings, they offer eye opening tools that work the wheels behind our ways of thinking about layers of our daily interactions, our accessibilities. Most importantly, the sisters ask, “how does a black woman vegan see herself in the stratosphere that slowly, very slowly offers granules of inclusivity?”

Sistah Vegan’s Dr. A. Breeze Harper’s curated Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society, a classic among black women vegan literary circles, is an incredible body of various voices that entail each woman’s path to discovering veganism whether through love, family, interest, health, etc. Each story is unique, a spoon full of plant based delicious goodness meant to provide the ravenous soul of sweet medicinal healing satisfaction that simply cannot come from murdered animal flesh. This compilation of wise words, moving poetry, guttural heartache, harrowing manifestos, and sincere compassion soothes my frustration on roughest days, those days that are filled with bacon “jokes,” “what about protein,” Bible stuff, and other annoying meat eater interferences. Before finding this book’s existence, I felt alone, isolated in the world. I rarely saw myself in the vegan brochures or on peta or on the very products purchased at Whole Foods. I also didn’t see black vegans on television or black vegans voted as Most Beautiful Celebrity. Yet when I found, acquired, and began reading Sistah Vegan, I was reading from companions located in various parts of the globe, entailing their own isolations and turmoil, finding solace and comfort in their words and recipes.
So yes, vegans need to read black women vegan’s prose and writings on our struggles and triumphs of this travel we’ve all decided to embark upon together. Read the Ko sisters and Dr. Breeze’s tremendous efforts. With beautiful, valiant dignity and precious grace, they offer strength and courage necessary to carry forth our message of attaining freedom for all nature’s sentient beings.

Hyperpigmentation, Big Pores, And Other “Flaws” To Accept This Year

In high school, a school comprised of mostly black students, I was constantly picked apart, savagely crucified as if my very existence were a running gamut for the cruelest jokes. If it wasn’t the gap between my teeth, it was my facial structure, my broad nose, giant lips, and ugly glasses. Plus, I admit my style was downright horrible.

Growing up, one of my biggest problems was hyperpigmentation– the reason I couldn’t wear open toed sandals or dresses that exposed elbows and knee caps. I wasn’t one brown color. My skin ranges from medium brown to Ebony. I often wore hip hugging pants that slid downward, exposing the darker flesh of my back and mapped out stretch mark coordinates. Menacing peers would be quick to tell me, “hey! Pull that up! Nobody wants to see that!” Meanwhile, the girl ahead of me is exposing the same amount of flesh– save for the flaws. She was smooth and even toned, no blemishes.

During this rough time, my depression continued gradually climbing. I experimented with over-the-counter bleaching creams to lighten up “my problems,” not knowing what these harmful chemicals were creating within my cellular structure (likely damaging my whole teen life inside as well as out). I cannot be positive on my eventual realization that other people’s problems with my body had nothing to do with me.

It happened along a painful, many years passing road.
Months ago, I was especially pleased to discover that an Afropunk highlighted artist featured “imperfect” models. Their hyperpigmentation, freckles, and stretch marks were documented as quite beautiful captures that we rarely see put on pedestals. I wish I could find out that artist, having not saved the information, but those photographs reenergized my self love.

Isn’t it also funny that a person can Google search “big pore love” and a thousand articles for “How to Minimize Your Large Pores” come up?
I was never a huge fan of foundation. Sure, I played around with it in those dreadful teenage days whilst paying close attention to application instructions from Seventeen and Teen Vogue. I had better luck with a few free makeovers at the mall. Still, it was bad enough finding my shade for the shade that I started growing fond of. I began asking myself, “what exactly am I trying to cover up?” I like the shade. I no longer cared about callous people saying, “you’re too dark for this” or “you’re too dark for that.” I had the defining Penelope moment, loving my face as it is. I wear eye shadow every now and then. Blush sometimes. I love lip glosses and lip sticks. But by gosh, I love washing my face, blotting on moisturizer, and coconut oil, leaving the home just like that– giant pores, pimples, hyperpigmentation, and all.