Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Thank You & Goodbye

I’m going to keep this short and sweet, because I know I could go on forever…

For the past 5 years this space has been the best (and sometimes the worst) of me. This space has provided a place for me to write about everything that caught my attention and sparked a reaction. This blog was the essence of who I was....

You may be asking yourself, “Why is she referring to this blog in the past tense?” Well that’s because today, on the fifth anniversary, this is my last post.

For the last five years this blog has been everything to me. It has changed and grown with me. But recently, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have outgrown this space. Knowing when it’s time to move on is important, and today is the day for me to do just that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Guess Who's Turning 5?

The Essence of Me is turning 5 next week! 

To celebrate this milestone I'm doing something a little different this year.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Why Me?

Self-doubt can creep up on us anywhere, at any time. On Tuesday I posted the story of how my job situation changed in a matter of hours and all that it entailed. But one thing that stayed on my mind was, why me?

I was hired on the spot for a position that I’d just received my certification for a week prior, and at the time I only had about 3 months of experience. So again I asked myself, why me? Why would they want someone who has such little experience?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What A Difference A Few Hours Makes

Changes usually happen gradually for me. Meaning, I set a goal and then work to complete it in different stages. And because gradual has been the norm, setting mini goals to achieve major goals is something I now do in every aspects of my life.

And this was exactly the case when my ESL teaching certification course started to come to an end. As I got close to finishing the course I sat down and planned out the route I would take to find a new job.

I wrote out a to-do List, which included revising my resume and creating a cover letter. I researched what job sites posted the best positions and spoke to people who currently work in the field about how much I can expect to get paid. I then planned the days I would apply to jobs and even set an end day (a day that I better have a new job). 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Random Musings of My Mind..

This is kind of random and a little all over the place. But bear with me, it’s what I’m currently feeling…

I want to have an impact simply by being true to who I am. I want to have a positive impact on people without having to involve any drama. For years I’ve looked at popular people whose stories get attention and realize they made it due to the crazy life they’ve lived.

But I am a regular person. I simply live life and continue to push myself to achieve the goals I set. And I like being that person. I do what I have to do, when I need to, and I get things done.

I feel like it’s in my DNA to spark change. And in the last couple of years I’ve seen this desire grow in various ways. But in order to spark change and have an impact I need certain qualities of mine to be stronger.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Aja Monet: Poet, Songwriter, Singer

The Poet, the performer, the singer, the songwriter, the educator, the human rights advocate. Aja Monet is truly a multi-talented woman. Harry Belafonte once referred to her as, “The true definition of an artist.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, this Jamaican/Cuban’s interest in singing, songwriting, and poetry fused together and became real to her at an early age. “I loved songs because of their words and I wanted to wield words the ways some of my favorite emcees and singers did.”
At age 14, Aja began writing poetry and at age 19 she went on to become the youngest winner of the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam. Aja has performed her captivating words in various countries, on various stages, for various people. And plans to release a full length collection of her poetry early next year.
In the interview below, Aja talks about inspiration, writing about hurtful relationships, and the purpose of her Miami-based studio, Smoke Signals.

In what ways did Brooklyn, NY inspire your creativity?

I see Brooklyn as an approach and perspective that informs what I create. I learned to read people in Brooklyn and it prepared me for the world.
Read More: Here

Monday, April 4, 2016

Happiness is Cool, But Joy Is Better

“Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope.”

Joy is something I never, ever considered. My focus was always on happiness. But joy is something bigger. It is not just a smile or a laugh, as those, along with happiness, are temporary. Joy is something deeper. It’s deep inside of us; it doesn’t come easy and doesn’t leave quickly.

The other night I was lying in bed and felt a calmness. I wasn’t worried or concerned about anything. I was simply at peace. That feeling was Joy. And in that moment I knew it came from nowhere else but from God himself. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Melanie Martinez: Blogger, Mental Health Advocate, & Graphic Designer

What do you get when you mix Melanie Martinez + style and fashion + a lil’ ice cream on top? You get the lifestyle blog MEL À LA MODE.

By day, Mel is a Marketing Coordinator. But after 5pm, she switches things up by delving further into her interests of blogging, graphic design, and brand consulting. 

MEL À LA MODE is the platform where all of those interests intersect. It’s where Mel gets to be all versions of herself and it’s where she connects with the world, one story at a time.
This NYC born Cuban/Dominican has always had a desire to connect with people; and she’s been doing that since the age of 18. That’s when Mel first started sharing her personal emotions and thoughts via her first blog.
“I wanted to create a platform where I could share odes to the things, culture, and ideas that move me.”
Since then, and various blogs later, Mel started professionally blogging in 2013. A year later, she was nominated for “Top NYC Blogger” at the Latino Trendsetter Awards by LatinTRENDS Magazine.
In the interview below, Mel talks about her love of music, the importance of having a vision, her interest in mental health, and so much more.

Where did your interest in mental health come from?

My interest in mental health activism came about while on a personal journey to rebuild myself. Having suffered from depression and generalized anxiety for most of my life, I decided to break my silence last spring in a Weekly Wisdom blog post. At that point, I had been writing candidly for a few years, but that instance was the first time I really bared my soul. After experiencing waves of gratitude for my honesty on a topic that is so taboo, especially in the Latino community, I realized my voice is a conduit through which awareness could flow.
Read More: Here

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Struggle With Perfection

“Perfect: a seven letter word that shouldn’t exist, because it’s not real.”

The idea of being perfect is something I grew up with. Covering up imperfections was taught to me at a young age and has become the norm. I talked about that here in regards to covering up my imperfect, stretch marked covered calves.

But with age comes comfort and acceptance. As I’m comfortable with the skin I am in –at least I try to be– this ever present battle with acne reminds me that I am not perfect. But if I’m okay with that, why do these pimples still bother me? Why was I offended and brought to tears when the male cashier at the place where I get my eyebrows done suggested I come back for an acne facial. He claimed it would be “beneficial.”

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Afro-Panamanian & Proud!

1. Do you remember when you first began using the term Afro-Latina?
I’d never heard of the term Afro-Latina until 2011. My dad sent me an email from one of his friends about a documentary featuring Afro-Latinos discussing being underrepresented in the media. After watching it, I went on to research the term and watch additional videos of the same topic on YouTube. After grasping the concept and realizing the term described me I started referring to myself as such.

2. Why are you proud of being an Afro-Latina?
I am proud of the woman I am and all that encompasses who I am. And being an Afro-Latina is a huge part of that. My Afro-Latina identity has shaped me in so many ways that there is no way I couldn’t be proud. The beauty, complexities, confidence, and strength of my African, West Indian, and Panamanian cultural mixture is what makes me proud.

3. What type of experiences did you have growing up Panamanian in the United States?

While growing up, my parents always did their part to make sure my brother and I knew about our Panamanian culture. Specifically, twice a month my mom and aunts gathered me, my brother, and all my cousins together to learn to dance Típico and learn various things about Panamá. After months of practicing we learned full dance routines and started performing at cultural events. This included wearing traditional Panamanian clothing: Polleras for the girls, Montunos for the boys.

4. What is a special memory from your visits to Panama?

I have so many special memories, but my favorite is from 2004 when we had a family reunion in Panamá. This was the only time that 90% of my mom’s side of the family was all together (even some of my dad’s family attended). This reunion stands out because we got to do so many activities which took us to different parts of Panamá, and also included a boat ride through the Panamá Canal.

Read More: Here

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sometimes I Wish...

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have this drive in me.

Sometimes I wish I could just relax without reviewing my to-do list in my mind.

Sometimes I wish I could be content with working a regular 9-5 job.

Sometimes I wish I could be a party girl.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t care about living up to my full potential.

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t responsible.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t care.

Monday, February 22, 2016

God's Protection

NYC is of course an interesting place to live, but it’s also kind of scary. A few weeks ago a crane fell over and one person was hit and killed by it. Since the beginning of this year there have been over 20 people slashed in the face while either walking on city streets or on subways.

These incidents, in addition to the many others that take place daily, are a reminder of how I need to make sure I cover myself before leaving my home for the day. God’s protection is really important to me and is something I never leave home without doing. 

And I am always thankful for the subtle reminders God sends to remind me that He is protecting me, as was the case with a dream I had last fall. Whenever I see news coverage of a slashing I get a little nervous. However, one time in particular I was instantly reminded of something that happened to me last summer. 

It was a warm night, well actually it was a warm morning. It was exactly 4:15am on Saturday morning when I got off the bus. I was on my way home from a house party in the Bronx. As I walked up the three blocks from the bus stop with Big Sean blasting in my earbuds, I remember thinking to myself, “Maybe I should take these things out of my ear and be more attentive as I walk home.” But I didn’t. For some reason I felt completely safe walking home in the dark at that time of the morning. Especially because there were a bunch of other people out and about too (it’s NYC, no one ever sleeps).

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I Don't Hate Mondays

It never fails… every Monday my Instagram is filled with posts/quotes about how much Mondays suck! When I saw these posts last Monday, I was reminded of when I use to feel the same exact way.

When I worked a traditional 9-5, in an office setting, I hated anything that had to do with Monday. I hated the weekly department meetings, the boring conference calls, and the supervisorial paperwork I had to fill out. When Fridays came around I was happy and relieved for the two days off. But those happy feelings would come to a halt at the same precise time every Sunday night.

7:00PM is when I would always start to feel sick; physically and mentally sick because that’s when I would realize Monday was right around the corner. And it didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing, once 7:00PM hit, my body had the same reaction: my head would pound, I would cry uncontrollably, and I got an attitude with whomever was around me.

The worst of this would be after I spent the weekend away or at my parent’s house. On Sunday night, while driving back to my apartment, that “Monday is coming” feeling always hit me when I passed a certain exit on the freeway. I would lose it and start crying every time. 

This particular freeway exit became such a fixture in my life that Last year when I was visiting Cali, I took a trip to visit some friends and drove on that same freeway. When I drove passed that exit all those old feelings came back. I had to stop and remind myself that I no longer have that job and don’t even live in this state anymore.

Read More: Here

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Amberly Ellis: Filmmaker

Last year Creative Director Amberly Ellis launched Film For The People Productions with one objective in mind: “…to capture life through film in ways that force audiences to think about something in a way that they did not think about before, and to do this in a manner that is as true as possible.” 
With a razor sharp focus and a commitment to her purpose, this Baltimore, MD native has set out on a path to bring awareness to the social issues that plague various people. In doing so, Amberly has traveled to many countries to capture these stories first-hand. Amberly’s way of bringing different people’s stories to life was celebrated when she told the story of “A young man’s journey through recovery and personal loss after a traumatic gunshot wound.”
 Bullets Without Names went on to be selected for Best Documentary Short at the 2014 American Visions Awards. After being awarded a grant that same year, Amberly set her sights on Cuba and the great women Filmmakers that the country has produced. 
Currently on location in Cuba, Amberly took time away from her busy shooting schedule to talk about Nuestra Cuba, the challenges she faces as a Filmmaker, and her passion for telling untold stories.

Did you always know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

I actually always thought that I was going to be a writer. At a very young age, I started journaling. I have kept a journal for every year of my life since the age of eight! It was really my father who helped me discover filmmaking. He is also a documentarian and photographer. Growing up, I always saw him with a camera, but as a girl, you don’t often see women behind the camera lens, and I always associated filmmaking with men. When my dad bought me my first professional camera for Christmas one year, that all changed for me. My dad always supported me as a woman behind the camera lens, and his support taught me that my gender didn’t matter. It gave me confidence to venture into an industry that in many areas is still very male dominated.

Why did you start Film For The People Productions?

I find that now, more than ever, so many stories are being told around the world through documentary films. Often the subjects of these films don’t have a more active part in doing the storytelling. In most cases, when it comes to marginalized communities, the images and experiences are misrepresented. I wanted to create a film production company that tries to change this narrative about documentary filmmaking. For these reasons, I created Film For The People Productions.

What is Nuestra Cuba? Where did this idea come from?

Nuestra Cuba is a two part documentary series that follows the stories of Afro-Cuban women filmmakers at the Institute of Cuban Cinema (ICAIC) in Havana. The idea for this film came from my discovery of the work of Sara Gomez. Gomez was the first woman to direct films in the Caribbean. I will never forget when I first went to ICAIC and I saw her photograph among a sea of male faces. Something about her photograph spoke to me. I connected to her spirit. I knew then that I had to tell her story. When I began research for the film, I quickly realized how little was known about her life. Many people in Havana were unfamiliar with her work and her legacy in cinema. When I later discovered that over thirty years would pass before ICAIC would produce another film director that was both woman and Afro-Cuban, I was even more convinced that there was a story here that needed to be told. Gloria Rolando is currently the only working Afro-Cuban woman film director at ICIAC.
I decided to call the documentary Nuestra Cuba or Our Cuba as a way to invite the audience to see Cuba through the perspective of Afro-Cuban women. The work of both of these women focuses on little known histories in Cuba, and I believe the world should know about their contributions to Cuban cinema.
Read More: Here

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Stop and Smell The Roses

I’m currently taking a certification class to teach ESL in the US or in other countries (that’s why there hasn’t been much activity on here lately). After my class the other night, I was chatting with one of my practice students about our best and worst experiences while living in NYC.

She told me her best experience happened while walking to her train and hearing someone play, “the most beautiful sounds a piano could ever make.” She said she followed the music and was led to a man playing his keyboard in the middle of the busyness that is Penn Station. She listened to the man play for a while and then struck up a conversation with him. They ended up going for coffee that same evening and she has continued to visit the piano player at least once a week. She said they have developed a great friendship and she looks forward to the great conversation he provides.

My heart was warmed as I listened to my student. I was in awe of her story for several reasons. The main reason being because my student is fairly new to NYC; she came directly from Ecuador. And for her to have such a regard for the piano player that she would make it a point to talk to him really stood out to me. I remember when I first visited NYC in 2010, I too was in awe of some of the talents that were displayed on subway platforms and on subways. But since living here, I have become like all other New Yorkers, and past those people straight, without even looking at them or listening to the talent they are sharing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Darian Symoné Harvin: Journalist & News Curator

An ambitious attitude. That was my first impression of Darian Symoné Harvin when I connected with her on Twitter. And the fact that she picked up and moved to NYC a month after graduating from college lets me know my impression was correct.

With a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism from Emerson College, Darian has mixed her acquired skills with her passion and secured some pretty exciting positions. Positions that include: News Curator, Editor on the Yahoo News Digest app team, and Managing Producer of HRDCVR.
Of all the many hats Darian wears, this Buffalo, NY native has not lost sight of her goal and purpose. “I’m a journalist who wants to create new ways to present information and news to people,” Darian says.

In an insightful interview below, Darian thoroughly talks about HRDCVR, her podcast and forthcoming website, the women who influence her, and so much more.
Read More: HERE

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Some of us have them in one area of our body, while others have them all over. Regardless of where those pesky red, pink, black, brown, or sometimes white lines appear, the general consensus is that all of us women hate them.

I’m talking about stretch marks. Which I unaffectionately referred to as “those.”

I was in seventh grade when “those” appeared on my calves; it was as if they came out of nowhere. One day nothing, and the next, a mess. I didn’t know what to do or how to get rid of them. I just knew those stretch marks were ugly, horrible, and made me stand out. The thought of those lines on my calves made me feel marked and altered like I’d done something wrong to my body. I couldn’t understand why I got them when most of the other girls in my seventh grade class didn’t have any…that I knew of. The only thing I did know was that I didn’t want to get made fun of for being different.
And the fact that I was at the age when girls were starting to shave their legs (my mom wouldn’t let me), I knew I couldn’t let anyone at my school see my hairy, stretch mark tarnished legs. So I chose to wear pants every day. It was the only way to keep myself out of the line of fire while at school.
Love Your Lines 11
Photo Credit: #LoveYourLines, Instagram
From seventh grade on, I never wore shorts– only in the privacy of my own home. Even when I got to high school and was issued shorts for P.E., I still didn’t put them on. Thankfully, we had the option to wear sweat pants instead of our gym shorts. If not, I’m sure I would have ditched P.E. as often as possible.
I continued to keep my legs and “those” covered well into high school. While other girls would wear shorts without thinking twice about it, I was secretly wishing I could do the same. This would lead to internal battles with myself about whether or not I could handle the ridicule that would come at exposing myself. But I never allowed myself to give in. “Pants for life” was my motto.

Growing up in Southern California, with excellent-sometimes hot weather, the one thing I was trying to avoid happened. While I was trying to avoid being an outcast and teased for having “those,” I was being talked about for always being covered up–even on hot days. In eleventh grade, I remember hearing an acquaintance say, “Tamika always dresses like it’s winter.” I thought to myself, if their commenting about me always wearing pants, their sure to comment on my stretch marks.”

Read More: HERE