Viva Las Vegas

Last week, I went to Las Vegas and met up with friends who were there for the National Friendship Movement, Inc.’s 35th Annual Reunion.  The National Friendship Movement (NFM) is an organization that provides a national platform for professional and retired African-American lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons to network both professionally and socially.

While in Vegas, I saw Rock of Ages and did some sightseeing. I IMG_2011also had the pleasure of attending one of the events sponsored by the NFM – The Vegas White Party.  That event included dinner and featured Tony Terry, an American soul/new jack swing singer from Washington, D.C, as the entertainment.  I was thoroughly impressed with the professionalism exhibited by the members of NFM.  I was greeted with zeal, and my sexual preference was insignificant.

Unfortunately, we live in a society with many biases which includes preconceptions against people who are LGBT. Some assume that everyone in the LGBT community are the same.  You hear statements like “those people” as if referencing iniquities or dismissive comments referring to LGBT people as sick or crazy.  It’s ignorance that allows prejudices to persist.

Some say I don’t discriminate against anyone based on their sexual preference and then recite the names of their LGBT “friends” as justification for their open mindedness. To me, the test is how you would react if one of your children were different.  The quickest response for people that do not have children or those whose kids are already grown and straight is – I would still love them just the same.  However, I have heard stories of parents trying to pray the “gay” out of their children because they don’t want them to go to hell.  I have also witnessed the other extreme, complete denial.  The truth is that you don’t know how you would react until you are confronted with that situation.

Many reference the Bible and talk about how God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of the homosexual activity. From that same chapter in Genesis 19, it states that Lot offered his two daughters up to the men of Sodom to be “gang-raped” and that both of Lot’s daughters had intercourse with their father and bare their father’s sons (incest).  Yet, I have never heard any negative references about either.  When people start quoting the Bible, it can be very tricky.  You often realize that people choose or interpret verses to support their premeditated conclusions.

I personally cannot imagine the courage that it must take for someone to come out and claim their freedom; knowing a likelihood exist that they will be judged, ridiculed or even disowned. We live in a world with people from all different cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs.  We also live in a world where people sacrifice their lives for their beliefs.  I cannot pass judgement on what’s right and what’s wrong.  However, whatever your beliefs may be, acknowledging differences and treating people with respect are common courtesies.

Peace and Love,

Lee

 

 

Real Friends

I read an article called the “12 Qualities the Person You Call Your Best Friend Should Have” by Laura Argintar.  The 12 qualities named were:  No judgment, Genuine, Acceptance, Trustworthy, Respect, Forgiveness, Support, Dependable, Thoughtful, Listener, Shares your humor, and Loves you for you.

I agree, but I also think that those qualities should apply to anyone that you consider to be a friend.  For many people including myself, my siblings were my first friends.  Certain morals and values that were instilled in us during our upbringing prepared us for this undertaking.  Unbeknownst to us we were acquiring behaviors that would maintain our devotion to one another for life.

There have been many studies to indicate the differences in ways that men and women conduct their same-sex friendships. Most concluded that men and women connect differently.  Men tend to bond through commonality and doing physical activities together.  Also when most men talk to each other, studies indicate that it’s side by side communication, perhaps even skimming over personal subject matters without fully going into the nitty-gritty details.

Women on the other hand, bond through sharing and communication. When interacting with each other we engage in intimate communication about our personal lives and entrust that person with information close to our hearts.  Studies indicate that women typically communicate face to face for direct contact.

As my life evolved, so have my friends. When I was a teenager, I had several “best” friends.  Best friends from the neighborhood, church and school.  We confided personal information to each other and was the keeper of each other’s “life-changing” secrets – the ones you keep from your parents.  We thought we would be friends forever.

In my late teens and 20s, my priorities changed and so did my friends. While my teenage besties were still the keepers of my secrets and vice versa, we were experiencing life as grownups.  Our individual lives and careers placed demands on our time and distance between our face to face interactions.  We found ourselves spending more time building our careers than with each other, which consequently led to the start of new friends – at work.

In my 30s, I experienced other life occurrences like marriage and children that came with more responsibilities and unlimited demands on my time. While joining parenting groups, I met other new parents.  Not long afterwards, new friends emerged.  Although my old friends were always in my heart, any spare time was mostly spent with my new friends from the parenting groups resulting in play dates and the origination of new friends for our children.

I remember a passage from the book “Communion: The Female Search for Love” by Bell Hooks, one of my favorite authors.  In this passage, she states “Deep, abiding friendships are the place where many women know lasting love.  Women who are steadfastly heterosexual may live a lifetime without feeling true love between themselves and a heterosexual partner.”

That is such a powerful statement. It highlights the depth and significance of true friendships between women.  Another observation from Bell Hooks’ book was that in new relationships, women tend to become engrossed in their partners’ lives and discard their own friends – expecting that new partner to be everything love. Not realizing the impact of the losses until the existence of problems or the end of that relationship.  Regrettably, I can admit that some of my life choices have caused me to lose good friends along the way.  Now, I realize that life is always about the inclusion of the people who are primary in my life –who I turn to and who turn to me for never-ending consideration.

I’ve learned that being a good friend to others begets good friends for you. Sadly, I’ve also learned that everybody does not possess the integrities to be a good friend or even a friend.

So, the next time you introduce someone as your friend – Are they, really? 

Greek Party

Last weekend, I attended an Omega Psi Phi Fraternity event at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt, Maryland. [1]Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is the first international fraternal organization founded on the campus of a historically black college, Howard University in 1911.

I am not affiliated with a Greek sorority and know very little about Greek life so forgive me if I mess up the terminology. However, my friend who attended the event with me is Greek. She is in a graduate chapter of [2]Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA), the first Negro Greek-letter sorority, founded in 1908 also at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

The theme was Mardi Gras also known as Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras is usually celebrated with parades displaying endless feathers, costumes, wild makeup, masks, and beads. Since this was my first Mardi Gras event, I did not know what to expect. However, I imagined people would dress in costumes since two $500 prizes for the Best Costumes were offered.

My friend and I met at the venue so that we could walk in together. We also parked IMG_1915next to each other.  When we arrived at the event, we were offered the traditional beads.  There is significance to the original Mardi Gras colors.  [3]Purple stands for justice, gold for power and green for faith. I was given purple and gold beads, also the Omega Psi Phi fraternity colors.

We had assigned tables for the buffet style dinner. There was also a cash bar.  Although we did not dress in costumes, my friend had a lovely, pink mask that came from New Orleans.  Several people were dressed in costumes to participate in a traditional parade. The event was very nice.  It was moving to watch the mutual respect and admiration amongst the members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

The band was very good and so was the DJ. With many single people in attendance, one thing puzzled me.  From my observation, the men, although very willing participants, had to be asked to dance.  I could not understand the perspective behind their apprehensiveness.

After repeatedly watching single women take the lead role of initiators for dancing, I decided to ask one of the men at my table the following question. Why are all of these men sitting in their seats or standing amongst themselves bobbing and swaying to the music instead of asking one of these women to dance with them?  I mean, it was clear to me that they wanted to dance.  He indicated that it could be a number of reasons but he was sure that some were probably afraid of rejection.  Suddenly, a light went off – That was an hmmm moment for me.  I thought to myself -Men have some of the same insecurities as women.  I then amusingly asked men to dance and danced throughout the night.

I met several people that night. Did I like the fact that if I wanted to dance I had to initiate it? No, I did not.  I am an old fashioned woman at heart, and it’s still flattering to be asked.  While social media has provided a great platform for exposure, I think it also provides people with a false sense of opportunities, as well as, a sense that there is always something better. Therefore, you subconsciously forego living in the moment and interacting and enjoying the people amongst you.

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[1] http://www.oppf.org/about_omega.asp

[2] http://aka1908.com/about/history

[3] http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/history-faqs.html#fifteen

New York, New York

Last weekend, I went to New York to visit my daughters, who attend college there, and to see Beth Hart in concert. Beth Hart is an American singer and songwriter from LA.  She was scheduled to perform at the Town Hall in Times Square, downtown New York.  The concert ticket was a thoughtful gesture from one of my daughters.  Very touching because as a teen, she was repeatedly forced to listen to the piercing sound of Beth Hart’s music penetrating throughout the car.

Our favorite Beth Hart CD is “Screamin for My Supper.”  I think the three of us know the words to every song on that CD.  I listened to that CD when I was happy, sad, or depressed because Beth’s music soothed me.  Much of her music is about her life experiences and very relatable.  Plus, I just love her voice!  When my daughters were in high school, they borrowed that same CD and somehow, forgot to return it.

After my school visit, we decided to head out for an early dinner at the Hard Rock Café and then walk around in Times Square. That night, New York was bitter cold and windy.  The weather was unforgiving so we decided to head over a bit early to Town Hall.  Upon our arrival was a line awaiting entry into the venue.  We squeezed through the crowd to wait indoors at Will Call for warmth.

After about 15 minutes, they opened the doors for the concert. It appeared to be a sold out show.  Not surprising since I think Beth Hart is one of the most talented performers in the industry.  That night, everything about her performance was captivating.  Watching her perform live, sharing her vulnerabilities, and interacting with the audience made that large place feel like an intimate setting.

I later read a review by Howard B. Leibowitz in the Elmore Magazine in which he stated “Among the highlights were the heartfelt “St. Teresa” and tear inducing “Take It Easy On Me,” songs that put her own life experiences on full display. From the reaction in the venue, Ms. Hart and her talented band mates more than exceeded expectations.” It’s true, she really did exceed our expectations.  I have loved Beth Hart’s music for a long time and obviously, so have my girls.  I’m so grateful that we were able to share the Beth experience together.

I also want to share a piece Beth Hart with my readers. Unfortunately, people continuously walked back and forth in front of my camera until it became painfully frustrating.  In any case, here’s a glimpse of Beth, but I encourage you to invest in her music to fully understand the magnetism of the amazing talent that is Beth Hart.

 

DC Fashion Week

Last week, I attended a DC Fashion Week Industry Networking party and fashion show. It was held at the DC Manor, a restaurant/lounge/nightclub on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC.  I was curious because I had seen tabloid pictures of celebrities attending New York Fashion Week.  With no perception of what to expect, I had hoped to experience a taste of fashion week. I thought an added bonus would be to observe the fashionable people IMG_1788of DC.

In my attempt to avoid standing for the entire evening, I arrived 20 minutes before the doors were supposed to open. In spite of my efforts, there was already a line awaiting entry.  After about 45 minutes, they opened the doors to let the people come inside.  Upon entry, the greeters provided name tags, i.e., model, blogger, actor, press, etc., to enhance your network opportunities. Although the diverse crowd encompassed all ages, the venue overflowed with 20 and 30 year olds.

 I had a great standing spot for viewing the fashion show.  I ordered a drink and waited for the show to begin. Although it was no New York Fashion Week, that event provided an opportunity for new designers to present their various fashion accessories, which mostly included jewelry.   The event also acknowledged students studying design and fashion and allowed them to showcase their fashion designs.

The host inquired about talents in the audience and this one woman, wearing a model tag, approached him.  After discussing her modeling career, he invited her to walk the runway.  She is the lady in the pink dress and pink sparkling shoes in the attached video.

The music was great, the crowd was energetic, and it was entertaining.  I appreciated the experience.  When I left, there was a line of approximately one half block long awaiting entry to the DC Fashion Week Industry Networking Party.  Aww the anticipation of the unforeseen….

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