Jean Grae Slays… Always

You know how everyone always bitches about there not being enough dope female rappers? Or how people say Hip-Hop is dead? Or how they bitch about the commercial bullshit that’s on the radio? Well allow me to reintroduce you to the dopest rapper you should be listening to.

Jean Grae & I sharing an inside joke in front of a live studio audience.

Jean Grae & I sharing an inside joke in front of a live studio audience.

Ladies, Gentlemen & GenderQueer allow me to reintroduce you to Jean Grae.

You may have recently seen her on CBS’s Two Broke Girls or The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore… or maybe you have drooled over her culinary skill on Instagram or followed one of her recipes on Jezebel. Or if you’re lucky, you had an opportunity to witness the hilarious exchange when I interviewed her in front of a live studio audience in Harlem a few years ago. Perhaps you are an old fan who was confused when she seemingly pulled a Phonte and released an R & B album, or decided to start performing stand-up comedy. Have no fear, Jean is still your favorite Hip-Hop superhero and proves she can slaughter other rappers regardless of gender.

Produced by Quelle Chris and featuring my buddies over at Tanya Morgan, I’ll be listening to this on my commute today and you should too.

My Torrid Affair… with New York City

New York City Skyline by Michael Tompsett

New York City Skyline by Michael Tompsett

This love affair with New York began 17 years ago. My first trip here came with a friend named Sequoia from Long Island. I instantly dug the energy of the city, the way the lights twinkled in the distance and the pulse of the streets. I loved the way the cars and trains moved to beat of music in my headphones as my hips swayed when I walked. The ability to engage life on my own schedule – eat, sleep, drink or dance when I felt it was time, and not when dictated by store closings, traffic and tight liquor laws which closed bars as 2 am. I loved the men who held a 9-5 and a hustle – legit or not, and the quick pace of a people moved by the winter’s cold even when it was 90 degrees out. The stark contrast to the laxadasical, LA lifestyle was a motivator to a 20-Something on the grind. I loved how accessible art and culture were, and how the city created green spaces for momentary escapes from the urban jungle, and how even on the smallest amount of money, you could find something to eat, even if it was just $1 pizza.

When I lived in LA, I traveled back and forth to NY every 4–6 weeks. I moved to NY for 5 years, but even then I flew back and forth between LA and NY, (and other destinations.) For 4 years, I was on the road for 3 weeks out the month. I always found myself exhaling as the New York City skyline approached my view out the window seat of my plane. As the wheels touched down, I would instantaneously begin grinning ear to ear. New York always felt like home. Some might complain about the smell of trash on the streets in the summer – but to me it smells like sweat equity and opportunities.

When I left LA this last time, I was planning to move to Miami. I had visions of bikini days and stiletto nights like in my teens. Once in Brooklyn for the summer before my move, I knew I couldn’t leave. My relationship had fallen apart, and I was Happy, single and in the place which provided me with the most inspiration. Today as I snuggled into my subway seat for my ride home… I grinned ear to ear. While my life is so different than it was in my 20s, or 30s… this Brooklyn living in my 40s, has so much going for it. Do I reminisce of my carefree, reckless 20s? Periodically. However, I wouldn’t trade my joy for anyone else’s.

Necessary Tools for My Own Personal Summer

IMG_20150508_144541Recently, a friend on Facebook responded to a post I made about being peri-menopausal, asking if I was having my own personal summer already. In fact, I am. Last fall, a visit to my gynecologist confirmed my missing period was in fact, pre-menopause. Having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome since the age of 12, having 4 surgeries in 20 year, losing my left ovary and fallopian tube during the last surgery – I always suspected I would start menopause early. It was always just a matter of when.

I’m still ovulating, but my periods have been 6-8 months apart. If it weren’t for my grandson sleeping in between my partner and I, this would be an AWESOME time for maximum snuggles. Because of my history with Ovarian Cancer, traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT,) is not an option for me. Studies show women with a history of reproductive cancers are at a greater risk for breast cancer due to HRT treatment. My doctor and I agreed on an estrogen vaginal cream called Premarin to treat vaginal dryness and atrophy caused by the shift in my hormones. My testosterone levels are very high, my estrogen levels are low… so of course, I’m horny as shit, extremely aggressive, and have ZERO fucks to give about most people and their feelings. I tried the cream for awhile, and definitely saw positive improvement in how my body reacted to it. However, the cost, ($285/ month and not covered by my insurance,) and side effects caused me to stop using it. There were warnings of the estrogen seeping into the male partners system via skin to vaginal contact – and reports of men growing breasts after prolonged sexual contact with their female partner using the cream. I blinked. I like breasts, but I am definitely not interested in my man growing them. I decided to purchase a herbal menopause tonic instead. I put one dropper daily in my water and it works better than the cream for vaginal dryness.

Of course, some of the other side effects of peri-menopause are merely annoying as shit.The worst of them… hot flashes. I don’t have it nearly as bad as stories I’ve heard other women express. At least I’m not drenching my clothes in sweat. The worst I do  is kicking the covers off in the middle of the night while I am sleeping. Like, completely off the entire bed. Then I wake up hours later and have to search for them and put them back on. Poor Jarobi is so patient with me as he knows I can’t control myself. I recall my mother always turning the AC up really high when she was going through, “the change,” and the arguments between she and my dad. Knowing that despite the temperature rising as spring settles into a weird summer heat wave, I know sometimes, it really is just me.

I frequently ask my partner for confirmation as to whether its really hot in the house, or if its just me. Every time, its just me.

Imagine my joy when on my way to brunch in Soho last Sunday, when getting off the train on Canal Street, I found myself staring at a tourist trap full of silk Chinese fans. I walked 5 steps back, then turned around and walked right back.

“How much are they?” I asked the older woman with the fanny pack on.

“Five Dollars,” she replied.

I quickly looked through them, picked out a white one with purple flowers – then remembered Art is at the stage where everything goes directly into his mouth. I looked again, and found a lovely purple one instead. The lady handed it to me, and I promptly opened it up and fanned myself with it. The huge gust of air brought back memories of rollerblading on Venice Beach at 16. I was enthralled. Slipping the fan into my Louis Vuitton, I smiled and pushed the stroller down Grand and on to brunch.

If I absolutely must go through this, its going to be in style.

Every Parent’s Nightmare: The Gap Year

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1309790130gap-year-mediaI never thought I would hear these words come out of my child’s mouth, “I really think I want to take a year off before going to college.” I looked at my youngest child like she was nuts, “What exactly do you plan on doing?” “Where do you plan to do instead of going to school?” “Where do you plan on living?” Her plan was simply, find a job and take the SATs. She missed them once before because she was sick and didn’t register for it the second time. Knowing how difficult it is to find a job, period, I didn’t want her sleeping in late all year when we have sacrificed so much for her to be able to finish school.

But my cradle to college plan for her wasn’t working. I raised her to be independent and self-aware, and yet she was full of self-doubt and uncertainty. She managed to push through her sophomore year, hiding a relationship with an older boy and a pregnancy – all while maintaining a B in Trigonometry. Her postpartum depression, subsequent hospitalization sent her spiraling. She struggled her Junior year, and barely skated through her first semester of her senior year. My usual straight A student had a really rough year, and needed desperately to find herself. My plans and hopes for her future would have to wait.

And after all, I took a Gap Year. We just didn’t call it that back then. And I didn’t take  an entire year, I only took a semester.

I moved out of my parents’ house at 16. Fighting with my mom was incessant. I was growing up and she wanted me to stay a little girl, raising me in the 80s with the same iron fist her father had raised her with in the 60s. Since I wasn’t allowed to have boys calling in middle school, my friends would call and we would get on the party line or three-way calling with our boyfriends. She would drop me off at a movie theater to meet friends and my boyfriend would meet me there. She had no idea I was ditching school to have sex, making out with my boyfriend in theaters or that I once drove from Chicago with my best friend and 2 older guys to see a friend perform as a Prince impersonator. By the time I moved out, I was simply ready for something new. I had spent the summer before my senior year of high school going to nightclubs, dancing, drinking, smoking pot and writing. I shared an apartment with 3 guys and one of their girlfriends, ages 21-24. I worked at a concession stand at the IMA Sports Arena, and paid $65/ week rent for my room. Mind you, this was Flint, Michigan in 1990.

When the school year rolled around, one of the guys, my best friend’s boyfriend Dwight, told me I absolutely had to enroll in my senior year, so I did. I started my year but was so completely bored of my AP classes, my classmates and my coursework – I just… left. I had lived in Los Angeles my sophomore year with my Aunt and Uncle and met a guy, Lawrence. He was my first love and kept asking when I was returning home. One night, I called him and said I would love to return. He told me I could stay with him. I bought a Greyhound ticket, packed my luggage, and left Flint for the West Coast.

I lived with him for a month, grew restless and took off for Venice beach one afternoon. I found a group of hippie kids and started hanging out with them. I did hair wraps on the beach and sold incense during the day to make money for food and a hotel room on the beach, (back then it was only $35/ day for a room on Ocean Ave overlooking the ocean in Santa Monica,) and got a job at an artsy movie theater in the mall. I traveled up and down the coast of California in a VW van with other hippie kids, following reggae concerts and The Grateful Dead, and learned the words  to every Beatles, Steel Pulse and Bob Marley song there was. I had the time of my life.

My Gap Year only lasted a semester. I eventually moved in with my relatives and enrolled in a community college as a High School Senior. My GPA was so high, my teachers back home didn’t dis-enroll me, instead they all gave me D’s despite my not being in school. I only needed 2 classes to graduate with a high school diploma, Economics and a Semester of English, so I took English 101 and Macroeconomics. My college counselor in L.A. arranged for my high school counselor in Flint to receive my transcripts when I completed my coursework. Even after taking a semester off school, I still graduated with a 3.962 Cumulative GPA. While all my friends were preparing for prom and graduation, I was dancing in drum circles on beaches in California. I hung out with homeless kids in beach cities and Hollywood and learned to navigate the “system” – Salvation Army for weekly toiletry kits, Community Centers for showers and clean clothes. I learned to love Aardvark Vintage Attic for cute clothes which fit my bohemian lifestyle.

I gave myself permission to step outside the box I had been in for so long, and find myself.

I was fortunate, taking a semester off from the pressure of senior year was the best thing I could have done. I attended college without taking all the “finding yourself” classes many students take. I started with a solid idea of what I wanted to study, where I had no clue beforehand.

Realizing I too had taken a Gap Year sabbatical, helped me to see the obvious. My daughter really needs some time off. She needs a break from the pressure of school and trying to please everyone else and just… be. She needs to find herself, separate from being my daughter, separate from being her son’s mother. She needs to discover her interests, who she is as a young woman and most importantly, as a human being. My concerns for her taking a year off are completely warranted; she’s fairly lazy & has no idea what she wants to study and has passed up opportunities to apply for paid internships in fields she has expressed interest in. She’s a talented illustrator and writer, with zero hustle. I worry a year off will turn into my supporting her sitting on her ass doing nothing.

So last night after our conversation, I sat up doing some research. The Gap Year is standard in Europe and Australia. Harvard considers the Gap Year to be so important, they strongly encourage admitted students to defer enrollment for a year. Statistics show students who take a Gap Year, usually start school more focused, an have higher GPAs when they do. The Gap Year is beginning to become a “thing” here in the United States. There are companies which serve a Gap Year Counselors, helping to arrange semester or year long programs for students taking time of before starting college.

There are opportunities to spend the year volunteering at National Parks, paid opportunities to teach English in foreign countries to small children and helping Orangutans in Borneo. There are programs for living with host families abroad, or simply backpacking through Europe, Asia, Africa or South America. Language Immersion programs are available in Japan, China and Spain, or volunteering with AmeriCorps domestically or Internationally as well as Habitat for Humanity right here at home.

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It is recommended to take on The Gap Year with a plan of action. Students still have to treat The Gap Year as though they are still going to school – apply for college, then requesting a deferment once they are accepted and have paid their College Tuition Deposit. A quick glance a the CUNY website, students can take deferment for a semester or year for travel, work or special opportunities, this includes community colleges. Parents are encouraged to have their children not only create a plan for their Gap Year, but to have them sign a contract. Laying down the rules for adjusted curfews, and contribution to household expenses during the year off at home are also on the list. Most young people work and fund raise to afford their year abroad. Taking a year off before going to University shouldn’t just be a year vacation, even if its spent traveling. Young people should use this time to not only find themselves, but learn to budget and be self-sufficient, away from their parents. Traditionally something only the rich indulged their children in, the Gap Year is seemingly more accessible for all.

So… she has some work to do if she truly wants to take the year off. Even if she just stays right here in New York City, she can build her skills sets, study her craft, find internships, and volunteer for organizations to give back to those less fortunate. I spoke to my partner about it, and while he shared my concerns, he agrees this may be the right thing for her.

Funny how life works… you can raise your child to be free-thinking, but what do you do when their path takes them someplace you never imagined? You support them to find their own way in the world. After all, isn’t that what parenting is all about?

Springtime, Balance and A Return to Self- Expression

IMG_20150407_105009Hello Old Friends,

I know its been awhile since I’ve written, but life took such an abrupt turn the last thing on my mind was updating my blog. For those who follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you already know I because a grandmother at the end of 2013. My handsome grandson Art has taken main stage in our lives, and forced me to adjust my approach to day to day living. With my youngest child then 16, my partner and I were living the high life. We were free to come and go at will, doing shots on Tuesday evenings just because, going to parties on a Thursday because we could… being self-employed, we had  freedom many people do not have.

At first, becoming grandparents didn’t change that.

Art was born prematurely, with an enlarged ventricle in his brain. His mother suffered from severe postpartum depression after his birth, unable to reassure herself that his condition had nothing to do with her. We later discovered Art also has developmental delays, and taking on the responsibility of not only his day to day care, but taking him for regular visits to see a pediatrician, neurologist, geneticist, later on a surgeon… then GastroIntestinal Specialist and Ear Nose and Throat Specialist, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Special Instruction and Speech and Language Therapy was simply too much for a teenager. We strongly believed then, as we do now, that her priority needed to remain on finishing high school, going on to college and pursuing her art. So, we adopted our grandson to give her a chance at the life she is meant to have.

Becoming the primary caretakers of an infant with special needs when we were still in the honeymoon phase of our relationship presented its own challenges. I was pulled in different direction as I attempted to be a good wife, mother and grandmother – providing everyone with what they needed. It hasn’t been easy, I lost so much of myself in my attempt to be all things to everyone I loved. I often forget, I’m human and need time for self-love. There was a huge emotional strain on both of us, yet we made it through, Together.

The biggest issue for me, has been the loss of my independence as a woman. So often as women, we become enveloped in our role as parent, partner and caretaker to our extended family we lose touch with who we are as individuals. We cease doing the things we love to most. We stop giving ourselves permission to go out with friends, or even enjoy lunch or a book alone. In recent months, my partner expressed that our lives had changed, and the sooner I accepted it, the happier we would be. But I knew better. While our lives had changed, we were still the same people we had been before our grandson came into our lives. We still had the same desire, the same ambitions… we simply didn’t have the same type of time.

We, and our relationship, were out of balance.

I started going to therapy. I requested that my partner take our grandson one night a week to allow me time to go out with friends. I started to read again. I found a good day care, and reached out to friends to baby sit a couple of times a month so I could go out with my partner for a change. I slowly started to organize my thoughts and put them on paper. I’m starting to write again.

Spring is always a time for renewal, and I am taking this time to get back to the basics of who I am.

I bought a new journal, some yoga clothes, and received a Groupon for a 3 month membership to Bikram Yoga as a gift. I hope to return to a daily practice as much as my body will allow as I am still re-cooperating from a neck injury. I have decided to grow some herbs in my windowsill, and joined a community garden. (Unfortunately, I will not be able to grow vegetables, as the soil in Brooklyn is quite tainted with lead.) I am working diligently towards the official, hard launch of Canela’s Kitchen, my gluten-free food blog, with an event this summer.

I am looking forward to refreshing my wardrobe with a few basic items which will be  functional without sacrificing style. And most importantly, I revel in my ability to spend quality time with my partner, without my grandson from time to time.

My blogging will change as well. In the beginning when I first started blogging on MySpace, I blogged about whatever my day entailed. It was an exercise in daily journaling to get my creative juices flowing, eliminate writer’s block, and get into the practice of daily expression. I will return to that as an outlet. My writing may be about life, love and sinn, sex, love and hip hop… (both names of my blogs in the past.) However, this time, I am writing from the perspective of a 41 year old wife and grandmother with roots in a community she loves. I hope, as always, to inspire others with my words. To share bits and pieces of my struggle with others who might benefit from it most.

It is my hope, as I return to that which brings me the most joy, my happiness will be infectious and those around me will experience joy as well.

At times, we have to go back to the basics in order to find ourselves again. For me, its yoga, writing, and love. What basics have you left behind which you need to return to?

love, Sinnamon

Must See Movie: Freaks (1932)

Tremendous movie we discovered while watching a documentary last night called “American Grindhouse.” ABSOLUTELY fantastic film from 1932 about a band of “misfits” and “outcasts” born with a varied degree of medical deformities – working as side show performers in a circus. The movie had many up in arms about the casting of real people with these deformities in the movie, however we saw nothing but empathy from the director. The movie was SO well written, so beautifully captured… it was EVERYTHING I could have desired. Although my children were born without physical abnormalities, having a child with a developmental disability, this movie reached out to me in such a beautiful manner.

-Sinn

Looking for Parisian and British Sex Workers for Interviews!

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This mural reads: “86% of all sex workers are mothers.”

I will be visiting Paris 28 October – 31 October, and London 1 November – 3 November!

I am looking to interview sex workers who are also parents about their experiences raising children and working in the sex industry simultaneously for an upcoming book on sex work and parenting titled, “Madonna and Whore: Real Stories on Sex Work & Parenting slated for a summer 2014 release. Seeking a range of sex workers to interview; men and women who have worked as porn stars, dominatrices, brothel workers, call girls/ rent boys, sex toy store employees, street walkers, models, web cam performers and pornographers. Also, seeking adult children of sex workers who are interested in sharing their stories as well. Allies of sex workers are welcome to share this post and have others contact me.

As a sex worker with 20 years in the sex industry, I want to share the good, bad, beautiful and ugly stories of sex work and parenting to humanize those of us whose labour serve a greater cause, providing for our families. Interested in all sorts of stories including those of balance, co-parenting, having “the talk” about work, discrimination, child custody, education, entering into sex work, pregnancy, 2nd generation sex workers or any number of other topics you think you would like to share are welcome! This will be the first ever anthology of its kind.

PLEASE share this post wherever you deem fit.

all the best,

Sinnamon Love

Sinnamon Love is a retired adult film star, fetish model and dominatrix currently living in Brooklyn, NY. She is a radio host, sex educator and writer who frequently appears on HuffPostLive. Her most recent published works can be found on GuernicaMag.com and in The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure & 50 Writers on 50 Shades of Grey. Contact Love at SinnamonLove.com for more information on her current projects.

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Feel Good Mondays: Legendary Hip Hop Artist Kurtis Blow Performs “The Breaks” at BB Kings’ Salute to Hip Hop

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Kurtis Blow may be 54 years old, but this past Saturday at BB Kings, he showed he still has what it takes to rock the crowd. With the newest incarnation of The Break City Crew as his backup dancers, Blow not only performed his hit single, “The Breaks” from his 1980 debut album, but got down on the floor and did a head spin! You can hear the entire crowd cheering along during this completely feel good moment.

One word of warning, I was standing next to the speaker so the sound is quite loud. ^_^

Enjoy!
Sinn

Feel Good Mondays: National Bar Association Demands Justice for Trayvon Martin Zimmerman Verdict Highlights Continued Injustices in Legal System

NBAlogoAs we all know by now, Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, has already announced the Department of Justice is resuming its investigation of bringing federal charges against George Zimmerman for violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights under limited hate crime statutes. HOWEVER, in a surprising turn of events, the National Bar Association has called for the DOJ to investigate bringing charges that George Zimmerman violated Martin’s civil “right to life,” in general. This is HUGE. I do not ever recall a time when the National Bar Association took sides in a case, no matter how high profile it is.

Please read the press release from the NBA below:

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, DC, July 14, 2013 – We are extremely disappointed by the verdict in the case of State of Florida v. George Zimmerman. As lawyers we respect the rule of law, but in this instance the Zimmerman verdict sadly highlights the continued injustices Black Americans face in the U.S. legal system.

“The verdict,” stated NBA President John E. Page “says an unarmed college-bound Black teen can be profiled, stalked, confronted and killed by an armed neighborhood watchman with hollow tip point bullets. We express our heartfelt condolences to Trayvon Martin’s family on this tragic verdict. We also say ‘Enough is Enough – It is NOT OK to kill our youth’.”

The fact is the jury delivered a not guilty verdict. The TRUTH is justice has not been served. In these most challenging of times, we are called upon to act. We must move from outrage to action. It starts today with the NBA and YOU!
“Injustice anywhere,” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “is a threat to justice everywhere.” We have work to do to achieve justice for Trayvon Martin. As social agitators, the members of the NBA are continuing the struggle for “equal justice under the law” for Trayvon Martin. At the forefront of this struggle are NBA members Daryl Parks (Past NBA President) and Ben Crump, of the Tallahassee, Florida law firm Parks & Crump, LLC, that are representing Trayvon’s family in advocating for “equal justice under the law.” We proudly stand with them.

We urge the Department of Justice to act. The Department can still address the violation of Trayvon’s most fundamental civil right – the right to life. Upon a thorough investigation of the matter, we expect the Department to vigorously pursue all appropriate claims.

We urge all lawyers to act. Join us in Miami, Florida on Saturday, July 27 and Monday, July 29 in a CALL TO ACTION to collectively address the affront to and devaluing of civil rights of all men and women regardless of race who have been unfairly served by the justice system. We must not allow anyone to succumb to violence at the hands of vigilantes who ferment the devaluing of human life. It is now time to stand up.
ABOUT THE NBA: The National Bar Association was founded in 1925 and is the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African American attorneys and judges. It represents approximately 44,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students and has over 80 affiliate chapters throughout the United States and around the world. For additional information about the National Bar Association, visit http://www.nationalbar.org

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