Uplifting vibes…Soulful music

BlackNotes is a music ensemble based in Washington, DC that offers a uniquely attractive brand of music and cultural art. With its dynamic blend of soulful singing and spoken word with insightful, uplifting and progressive messages rooted in African-American and African heritage, along with rich, full musical instrumentation that includes funky grooves, jazzy horns and spicy African drumming, plus interpretive dance, BlackNotes provides an artistically appealing music-message combination.

BlackNotes’ repertoire includes music of several different genres, including R&B/soul, jazz and afrobeat, but some of its music defies classification in a pre-existing genre, which led the group to coin a new genre label—SWARM (Spoken Word; African Rhythms; Melodies)—to describe some of BlackNotes’ unique, original compositions, such as “Living Rhythm”, a signature tune from their acclaimed CD entitled “Legacy”. Legacy has gotten rave reviews from listeners and has been in steady rotation on WPFW, 89.3 FM, since its release in the Fall of 2010.

BlackNotes has delivered audience-pleasing performances and received standing ovations at most of DC’s premier venues, including Blues Alley, The Lincoln Theatre, The Carter Barron Amphitheater, Howard University’s Crampton Auditorium, and the historic Bohemian Caverns, where they have been appearing on a regular basis since May 2011.

A few testimonials from audience members who experienced the BlackNotes performance at the Carter Barron Amphitheater headlining a 2011 tribute to Gil Scott-Heron are as follows:

  • “Your band is truly awesome, powerful, and spirited. Black music is so healing and nourishing to our spirit when done correctly. I was in the audience at the Carter Barron and I loved every minute of your performance.”
  • “Great performance at the Carter Barron. Such a powerful tribute. So glad to have the privilege to witness your artistry…”
  • “Fantastic and powerful performance at the Carter Barron…”

BlackNotes consists of the following experienced and talented artists: pianist/keyboardist James McKinney, saxophonist Antonio Parker, trombonist Reginald Cyntje; vocalists Michelle Chatman, Nina Harley, Bashea Imana and Kaba Soulsinger; bassist David White; drummers/percussionists Daruba Kenyatte, Mahiri Keita, Kofi Handon; dancer Jessica Smith, and poet/spoken word artist Lasana, who is also the group’s founder and director.

P.S.- http://www.blacknoteszone.com

A new tradition: Ancestors’ Day

So you want to start a new tradition that honours your familial ancestors? One that falls around Oct.31/Nov.1. Sweet! What are you thinking of doing? Here are a few suggestions:

– Have a potluck with a few friends and/or relatives. Include some  of your ancestors’ favourite foods/dishes. Ask your friends to do the same.

– Music. Play some! Haha. Include favourites of your ancestors. Feel free to add Breaths (Sweet Honey in the Rock), Harriet Tubman Dedication Song (Conscious Plat), African Spirit (Nasio), Times Like These (Queen Ifrica), Living Rhythm (BlackNotes).

– Build a small altar for your ancestors.  Photos, flowers, candles, incense. Start with folks you actually knew/remember. Put some of their favourite things on the altar. Ask your guests to bring items to include.

– Tell stories about your deceased relatives.  Simply talk about your memories of them.

– Watch a film about an ancestor.  Not necessarily a familial one.

– Check out mysteries ie. films, books.

Now if you choose to celebrate on Oct.31 don’t hesitate to give out goodies to those who show up at your door.




P.S. – Some of you may want to dress up as your ancestors. If not consider wearing something that speaks to who they were.

Celebrate the Season of the Ancestors

Celebrate the Season of the Ancestors

Nights grow longer, the air grows chill, and trees drop their leaves. It is a time of nature dying back, and it brings our own beloved dead to mind. In Mexico, the day after Halloween is the Day of the Dead, when children eat little sugar skulls, families gather to tend the graves of their departed loved ones, and feasting and celebration abound. What a lovely way to make death less frightening and alienating!

Many cultures throughout the world honor the time from around Oct. 18 through Nov. 2 as the Season of the Ancestors. Luisah Teish, an expert on African-Caribbean folklore and celebration, shares many ways to honor our own ancestors. Share the mystery and beauty of this season, and make better friends with the cycles of life by finding out how to hold a Feast for the Ancestors, do a helpful graveyard cleaning ritual, and more, right here:

The Graveyard Visit
Even if your own loved ones are buried far away, you can visit a nearby cemetery during this time of year to do a little thoughtful grave-tending. Bring two bags with you: One for picking up trash, and one for removing dead flowers or plants to compost. You may also want to bring a small broom for sweeping away cobwebs and debris, and a little offering for the departed: Perhaps a few dried flowers, or a pretty stone or shell.

Choose a grave that looks as if it needs some care and attention and do your best to tidy it up. Notice the name and dates of your chosen grave. When you have cleaned up the grave, leave your offering. Take a moment to send some affectionate thoughts or prayers to the departed one whose grave you have tended, who may have been neglected by their own relations.

Feast for the Ancestors
This is the perfect time of year to give some thought to the foods your own particular ancestors might have enjoyed. What foods do you associate with your grandparents or great-grandparents, or more distant generations? What is your ethnic background? Cait’s son is part Finnish, with many relatives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so pasties–tender little handheld meat pies–might be a food he would think of. Cait has Celtic ancestry, so potatoes and cabbage always spring to her mind.

Consider holding a festive Ancestor Feast, complete with costumes and dishes appropriate to your particular bloodline. This can become a fascinating and educational process for children, who usually get into researching, decorating and dressing up. You can set a place at the table for your own dear departed and tell stories about them, so that the younger generation can share the memories and have a deeper sense of who their people were.

Harvest Altars
At Halloween time, Luisah Teish celebrates her Afro-Caribbean heritage by decorating to reflect the connection between the harvest of Nature and her ancestors. She places an Ancestral Harvest altar on her porch that includes corn, yams, squashes, and gourds, along with Dia de los Meurtos sugar skulls. She also includes four small bowls filled with soil with a differently-colored candle in each one to represent earth, water, fire, and air.

Halloween marks a time when the veil that separates the world of the dead from the world of the living is thought to be thin, allowing for visits from the spirits of our departed ones. As Teish says, “At this time of year, when all the ancestors are roaming the streets, we pay homage to all those who have gone before us, because they truly make us what we are.” In deference to her own ancestors, she sprinkles her Ancestral Harvest altar with wild rice and wine. Think of ways you could honor your own heritage.

NOTE: http://thinkmexican.tumblr.com/post/65868918029/facts-and-misconceptions-about-mexican-dia-de-los-muerto

Halloween: The back story

Get this. Education is a never-ending process so when it comes to the week ahead it’s no different. Over the past year I’ve had the opportunity to connect with three amazing women. It’s been a powerful journey and I’m looking forward to lots more. These sistahs have hipped me to the back story (ourstory if you will) of many of the mainstream Western holidays. Although I was aware of some things there was so much that I didn’t know. Talk about a humbling experience. My gosh! I am grateful and I am still digging. Heehee. Here are some clips of one phenomenal woman. Know that she is by no means a neophyte. She breaks some things down in relation to the significance of Oct.31-Nov.2. Tune in when you have some time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWQe83aAuVw&feature=youtube_gdata_player  She gives the back story

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vA4fnzgbl4M         She explains how her fam celebrates Samhain/Halloween

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSBndgEYEM8      Part 2 of the above

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMCk37NhSd4      Part 3 ” ” “

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O93RxhlUf_8         Part 4 ” ” “

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReC-FzhPib4          Part 5 ” ” “

http://riverofhoney.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/halloween-is-the-devils-birthday/       Another sistah’s take on Halloween. Great stuff!


P.S.- If you’d like to learn more check out this book:   http://www.amazon.com/Jump-Up-Throughout-Seasons-Celebrations/dp/1573245518/ref=la_B001HCY0QK_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382744056&sr=1-3

Our youth: Caribbean literature galore

Ooooh I’m liking http://www.anansesem.com. Although it’s been out since 2010 I’m just getting hip to it.  It’s an ezine for and about Caribbean children. Lovely! So needed!

Heard of http://www.campanitabooks.com? Campanita Books and Little Bell Caribbean are the children’s books imprints of Editorial Campana, an independent publishing company in New York. They are committed to creating quality children’s books that teach, inspire and entertain.  Campanita Books produces mostly bilingual titles (English-Spanish) that reflect ethnic and cultural diversity. Little Bell Caribbean  publishes books by writers and illustrators from the Caribbean region that speak to children in voices and images that they recognize and identify with.

Boy Reading Book in Classroom

Chapter books for our girls

Recently I’ve been  on  a hunt for chapter books for my 7 y.o. niece.  Any suggestions?  Here’s what I’ve found so far.

A variety of books:


A bunch of different titles:


A plethora of books:


Ann Cameron’s books:


Ruby & the Booker Boys:


The Grace series:


Nikki & Deja:


Precious Ramotswe mysteries:


Danitra Brown series:


Amy Hodge Podge:


Anything by Nikki Grimes:


Welcome to the Shanna Show series

Liberty Porter series

Thea Stilton series

Anansi Stories

Aesop’s Fables

book book2


NOTE: Here are some cool reads for younger girls: 



Healthy treats for Halloween

Have you met the Switch Witch? by Catherine Burns

Uh oh, Halloween candy has hit the stores and I just can’t keep the rant in anymore! There are only so many weird ingredients and food dyes a girl can take. By the time I’d made it from one end of Phoenix to the other I was positively sweating. Seeing so much junk being sold as either “treats” or “food” makes my mind boggle.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-treats! My kids absolutely love Halloween and for as long as they would like to take part, I will help them enjoy the whole trick or treat adventure. Of course you could argue that sending kids out in the dark to ask for candy from strangers is a Bad Idea (and goes against everything we usually teach them) but I think most of us parents are able to help our kids do it safely. Of course, from a nutrition perspective, I can’t help trying to make it a bit more healthy.

If you read this column regularly you’ll know that I think sugar is the most dangerous drug on the planet. It’s a bold statement I know, but read back through the archives if you are curious. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t let my kids have sugar, but I do try and provide “better” versions.

In my view there is candy, and then there is candy. There is the sugary stuff made with natural ingredients and then there are brands stuffed full of petrochemicals (food dyes) and other things even I don’t understand. It’s the food dyes I have a major problem with, although — as is often the way — it’s a contentious issue.

The natural healthcare industry is quick to condemn artificial food dyes and chemicals in our food. Unfortunately websites, blog posts, journalism and mass e-mails often “alert” the public to “dangerous” or “cancer causing” ingredients with references to unsubstantial evidence or bad science. This allows the mainstream profession to have a field day, pointing out flaws in the research and using those flaws to discredit the concept.

There are two problems here: firstly, sometimes the science really is there (but it just gets ignored) and secondly, we have to acknowledge the monumental power and influence of the food industry when it comes to Government regulation and funding. The fact is, setting up legitimate scientific trials requires years and a mega budget. So isn’t it possible that the natural healthcare field and food industry is just under funded?

But back to the facts. When it comes to food dyes, the fact is that artificial colours are made from petrochemicals. Many are also linked to hyperactivity in children. We know that the hyperactivity issue is based in solid science because the UK has completely banned six artificial dyes from the shelves for that reason. See the list for details. Food and drinks containing other artificial dyes must have a warning label identifying them. That should be good news … and it is if you live in the UK. The problem is that although Europe has applied mandatory warning labels to items containing these chemicals, the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) in the US has not followed suit. This means that many of the processed foods and drinks we buy here, contain ingredients that are illegal in other countries. How comfortable does that make you feel?

To me, if we strip it back to basics, I think it’s a simple as this. If you can colour candy with a vegetable-based dye, why do we think it’s OK to colour it with a chemical dye instead? Sure it’s cheaper — but just have less, or find other non-food treats. Can we really put a price on health?

I realise that every parent and every household will have their own views and rules. I am by no means saying that my way is the only way. But as a nutritionist and mummy, I handle Halloween with the Switch Witch, and I thought you might like it too.

The Switch Witch is not an original concept, but I wrote this poem to help my kids reduce the volume of candy and also to help them sort the natural from the artificial colours. We started this tradition last year and they absolutely loved it. The idea is that after trick or treating, your kids pick out the things they’d like to keep (you can set a limit on this if you wish) and then they put the rest — especially the more brightly coloured artificial junk — in a bucket for the Switch Witch. They can leave the bucket at the end of their bed (like a Christmas stocking) or downstairs (if they are scared) and in the middle of the night, the Switch Witch comes. The Switch Witch takes away the candy and leaves a little gift in return. It could be a book, a toy, some stickers, a few dollars — whatever your child would be excited by. As for what you do with the candy — that’s up to you, I do suggest you get it out of the house quickly though as god forbid you should be caught!

This idea is just one way to help you make Halloween that little bit more healthy, whilst still taking part in all the fun. I know it’s devious, but no more so than Santa or the Tooth Fairy. My kids listen to the poem wide-eyed and are so excited to separate everything out. But in case that idea is not for you, or if you would just like some extra tips, read on for more ideas on managing the Halloween sugar rush!

1. The protein trick

Curb that sugar rush by filling your kids up with quality protein before they trick or treat. Grilled chicken, healthier nuggets, Applegate sausages, bolognaise or a bean chilli would all work well. Even a whole-grain nut butter sandwich would help. They will be less hungry and the protein will also steady the release of sugar into their bloodstream.

2. Healthier treats

If you are giving out candy yourselves, go for the more natural treats rather than the artificially coloured and flavoured junk. These include mini Smarties (M & Ms contain artificial dyes), the Cadbury’s treat size collections (buttons, Dairy Milk, Crunchie, Twix, etc), Yummy Earth lollipops & gummy bears and Surf Sweets (Down to Earth, Peoples), Organic chocolate Bug Bites (Down to Earth) and Jelly Babies, Dolly Mixture. Whatever you do, try and avoid the six in the list at all costs. If you want to buy online or overseas, check out: www.naturalcandystore.com

3. The healthiest treats

I kid you not, last year we had kids running up our drive asking for the small boxes of Sunmaid Raisins, so consider including these! You can also decorate tangerine oranges as pumpkins with a black marker, which looks super cute too.

4. Toys not treats

Of course you have the option to give out tiny toys in your neighbourhood, instead of candy. Tattoos, bouncy balls, stickers, fun pencils, glow sticks and plastic jewellery all go down really well too.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is the Managing Director of Natural Ltd and a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a Registered Dietitian. For details, please go to www.natural.bm or call 236-7511. Join Catherine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nutrifitandnaturalnutritionbermuda

lollipops   raisins



African Holocaust Day

A Guyanese sistah just sent this my way:

African Holocaust or MAAFA Day is being celebrated on October 12, 2013. This day is usually acknowledged by the mainstream as Columbus Day. For us it, here in Guyana, is the celebration of the millions of Africans who died enroute to the so-called New World.

This year it is very special for me. After 15 years, I will be in Guyana for the day. In Guyana, the commemorations are national and it is the only place in the Caribbean/South America where it is celebrated on such a large scale. There are usually national statements by the President and relevant Ministers. Tomorrow morning, thousands of Guyanese will pilgrimage to the Atlantic Ocean to lay flowers, drum and host other activities to honor our ancestors who were lost at sea. Wherever you are tomorrow, please take a moment or two to reflect on and give honour to our Holocaust.
Tu Ta Shinda ( We will Win!)

holocaustday At the Kingston Seawall  as Afro-Guyanese folks paid homage to the ancestors who were lost in the middle passage. – Photo taken  in 2009