Groovy x Black Steel

My motto when it comes to modeling is, “I work to create.”

What I mean is, whenever I book a job – and get to work for the amazing clients I’ve been able to work with- afterwards I’m looking into ways to create my own content. If you take a look at my portfolio Wilhelmina Portfolio, a majority of it features shoots I paid for myself, fueled by inspirations I came across. I love working , but I’m usually under the directives of a creative director. I can create with them, but only in a vacuum.

With this post, I’m going to give you a peek into my inspirations and thoughts for my latest shoot.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been really into Stevie Wonder’s album, “Hotter Than July”. Even though it came out 36 years ago, it’s brand new to me. Rocket Love and Lately, along with Master Jammin’ are my favorites. What struck me the most was the album cover.

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But the mood of the whole album, led me on a journey to find my groove. It led me in the direction of other artist like Teddy Pendergrass, and Prince. Listening to their music and researching their style during the period of the songs I was listening to weighed on me heavily going into this shoot.

With this shoot, I really wanted to find my lighting. Some models have such prominent features that lighting is not a problem for them, but for me, I found that some lighting makes me look they way I see myself in the mirror, and some is not so flattering, and others can over exaggerate. I wanted to really focus on that with this project. I looked up other models with my skin tone, and size, and I looked through as many pictures of them I could find and see how different lighting worked on them. I was inspired by supermodels, Orraine Barrett, Adonis Bosu, Armando Cabral, and Claudio Montiero.

 

As I looked over my book (which I do several times a week), I started to question, do I look expensive? Am I worth a $15k or $20k campaign? In my opinion, not from the pictures. So again, I did my research and figured who does book those campaigns, and whats the difference in their portfolio. (Now, before I go further, I don’t dictate my creations on the hopes it’ll land me a massive campaign. I’m realizing that comes through opportunities and mostly digitals. With that being said, campaigns do give me inspirations i.e. styling, lighting, props, etc.) I came across Lono Brazil’s book. His pictures just look expensive. Styling, locations, grooming, everything just looks awesome. He was a heavy influence on how I wanted to move and present myself with this shoot.

Finally, for styling, I wanted to keep it in-line with feeling expensive. Simple styling. Clean. Not a lot of colors, nothing contemporary. Classic pieces, that a five year old and a 55 year old could wear, and they would both look handsome. I was inspired by J. Crew, GAP and Todd Snyder’s respective campaigns. I love the styling from J. Crew. Head stylist, Gayle Spannaus does a great job for them. Then, I recently discovered, Todd Snyder. I love his simple pieces and the way he presents them in his latest campaign.

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After weeks of digesting, researching, reading, and listening to music, I was able to set up a shoot with Miami based photographers, Erick & Elliott. This is my third time collaborating with them, but only the first time on my own with own ideas (the first two times were test shoot through my agency, which I still paid for, but had very little creative control *rolls eyes*) I had the help of another person I’ve worked with before, Waina Chancy, as my stylist. We came together and created my latest creation, Groovy Black Steel.

 

9.15.16 7:53AM

Such disdain for

Nights with no rain

No pain to put on display

No one can tell the difference

Its interference talking about your pain

Such disdain for your pain

I’m avoiding the rain but it hasn’t

Rained in 30 days

My umbrella is on a vendetta

Such disdain for

Sunny days with no greys

Put your smiley face away

That’s how they tell the difference

Save yourself from the rain and the greys

Save your disdain

Tuck away your pain

Its interference talking about your pain

Keep a straight face and a rain coat

Casual Conversations with Jamie Bruce

Earlier this year, I hooked up with photographer, Jamie Bruce. This is our second collaboration. We decided to just turn my living room into a set, and my jeans, a tank top, and a jean shirt our wardrobe. All we did was discuss (the recent passing of) Prince, and talk about me coming to visit him in his hometown, of Nassau, Bahamas.

Push The Rock

I did this video three and half years ago. Things have change on the surface, but it’s still a grind. The struggle continues. However, to struggle isn’t a bad thing. To give up, is a bad thing. But to struggle, to press on in spite of your conditions, is an amazing thing. #anchordown

 

Assata Shakur’s Opening Statement ’75

I’m currently reading, Assata: An Autobiogrpahy by Assata Shakur. In one chapter she is recalling her 1975 trial, when she was tried for kidnapping a drug dealer (she was acquitted). Her opening statement touched me because its very relevant to whats still happening, to do this day.

 

Opening Statement of Assata Shakur’s 1975 Trial for Kidnapping

JUDGE THOMPSON, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, MEN AND WOMEN OF THE JURY:

I have decided to act as co-counsel, and to make this opening statement, not because i have any illusions about my legal abilities, but rather because there are things that i must say to you. I have spent-many-days and nights behind bars thinking about this trial, this outrage. And in my own mind only someone who has been so intimately a victim of this madness as i have, can do justice to what i have to say. And if you think that i am nervous, your senses do not deceive you. It is only because i know that this moment can never be lived again, and that so much depends on it. I have to read this opening statement to you, because i am afraid that if i don’t, I will forget half of what I have to say. Please try to bear with me.

This will not be a conventional opening statement. First of all, because i am not a lawyer, and what has happened to me, and what has happened to Ronald Myers does not exist in a vacuum. There are a long series of events and attitudes that led up to us being here.

When we were sitting in this courtroom, during the jury selection process, i listened to Judge Thompson tell yoj about the amerikan system of justice. He talked about presumption of innocence; he talked about equality and justice. His words were like a beautiful dream in a beautiful world. But i have been
awaiting trial for two and one half years. And justice, in my eyesight, has not been the amerikan dream; it has been the amerikan nightmare. There was a time when i wanted to believe that there was justice in this country. But reality crashed through and shattered all my daydreams. While awaiting trial i have earned a PhD in justice, or rather, the lack of it.

I sat next to a pregnant woman who was doing 90 days for taking a box of pampers, and watched on T.V. the pardoning of a president who had stolen millions of dollars, and who had been responsible for the deaths of thousands of human beings. For what? For peace with honor? Nixon was pardoned without ever being formally accused of a crime. He was pardoned without ever standing trial or being found guilty of a crime or spending one day in jail. Who else could commit some of the most horrendous destructive crimes in history and get paid 200.00 tax dollars a year? Is there really such a thing as equality under the law? Ford stated that he pardoned Nixon because Nixon’s family had suffered enough. Well, what about thousands of families whose sons gave their lives in Viet Nam? What about the families who have sons and daughters in prison, who cannot afford bail or even lawyers for their children. And what about the millions of people who have been sentenced at birth to poverty, to live like animals and work like dogs. Where is the justice for them?
What kind of justice is this?

Where the poor go to prison and the rich go free.
Where witnesses are rented, bought or bribed.
Where evidence is made and manufactured.
Where people are tried, not because of any criminal
actions but because of their political beliefs.
Where was the justice for the man at Attica?
Where was the justice for Medgar Evers, Fred Hampton, Clifford Glover?

Where was the justice for the Rosenbergs?
And where is the justice for the native Americans who we so presumptuously call Indians?

I am not on trial here because i am a criminal, or because i have committed a crime. I have never been convicted of a crime in my life. Ronald Myers is not on trial because he is a criminal or because he has committed a crime. He was 19 years old when he turned himself in, after seeing his picture in the newspaper. He thought that the police would immediately see their mistake. I met Ronald Myers for the first time about 8 months ago in the lawyers conference room. It was a stiff and strange meeting, something i hope i’ll never have to go through again. I was shocked to see how young he was. And no matter
what the outcome of this trial is, i will always feel a bitterness about what has happened to Ronald Myers and what has happened to me.

I do not think that its just an accident that we are on trial here. This case is just another example of what has been going on in this country. Throughout amerika’s history people have been imprisoned because of their political beliefs and charged’ with criminal acts in order to justify that imprisonment. Those who dared to speak out against the injustices in this country, both Black and White, have paid dearly for their courage, sometimes with their lives. Marcus Garvey, Stokeley Carmichael, Angela Davis, the Rosenbergs and Lolita Lebron were all charged with crimes because of their poUtical beliefs. Martin Luther King went to jail countless times for leading non-violent demonstrations. Why, you are probably asking yourselves, would this government want to put me or Ronald Myers in jail? In my mind the answer to that is very simple. For the same reason that his government has put everyone else in jail who spoke up for freedom: who said give me liberty or give me death.

During the voir dire process we asked you about the word ‘militant’. There was a reason for that. In the late sixties and the early 70’s this country was in an upheaval. There was a strong people’s movement against the war, against racism, in the colleges, on the streets and in the Black and Puerto Rican communities. This government, local police agencies, the F.B.I. and the C.I. A. launched an all out war against people they considered militants. We are only finding out now, because of investigations into the F.B.I, and the C.I. A., how extensive and how criminal their methods were and still are. In the same way that witches were burned in Salem, this government went on a witchhunt, for people they considered ‘militant’. Countless numbers of people were either killed or imprisoned. The Berrigans, the Chicago 7, the Panther 21, Bobby Seale and thousands of anti-war demonstrators were all victims of this witch hunt justice. Maybe some of you are saying to yourselves, no government would do that. Well, all you have to do is check out for yourself the history of this country and to look around and see what is going on today. All you have to do is ask yourselves, who controls the government, and who are the victims of that control.

Since you have been in this courtroom you have heard the name Black Liberation Army mentioned over and over. Those of you in the jury have been questioned as to what you have read or seen on television and what your opinions were about the B.L.A. Most of you have stated that you thought that the Black Liberation Army was a militant organization. You have said that what you have read or heard has come from the establishmentarian media. The major TV and radio networks, the times, the post and the daily news. I have read the same articles that you have read. I have seen the same news programs that you have seen. When it comes to the media, i have learned to believe none of what i hear and half of what i see. But i can tell you, if i were just Jane Doe citizen, if i did not know better, i would’ve read those articles, and come to the conclusion that JoAnne Chesimard, Ronald Myers and all other people called militants were a bunch of white hating, cop hating, gun toting, crazed, fanatical maniacs, fighting for some abstract, misguided cause.

But One percent of the people in this country control 70% of the wealth. And it is that One percent, the heads of large corporations, who control the policies of the news media. And determines what you and i hear on the radio, read in the newspapers, see on television. It is more important for us to think about where the media gets it information. From the police department or from the prosecutor. No major newspaper or television station has ever asked my lawyers or myself one question concerning anything. People are tried and convicted in the papers and on television before they ever see a courtroom. A person who is accused of stealing a car becomes an international car theft ring. A man is accused of participating in a drunken brawl and the headlines read, “crazed maniac goes berserk”.

During the 70’s, the media created a front page headline, guaranteed to sell newspapers: the Black Liberation Army. According to them, the B.L.A. was everywhere. Almost every other thing that happened was attributed to the Black Liberation Army. Headlines that are sensational sell newspapers. The media shapes public opinion and the results of that are often tragic.

Before you were sworn as jurors you were asked about your knowledge of the B.L.A. Most of you stated that you had no knowledge of what the Black Liberation Army was or what it stands for. However, most of you did say that you believed that the Black Liberation Army was a ‘militant’ organization. I would like to talk about that for a moment. The Black Liberation Army is not an organization: it goes beyond that. It is a concept, a people’s movement, an idea. Many different people have said and done many different things in the name of the Black Liberation Army.

The idea of a Black Liberation Army emerged from conditions in Black communities. Conditions of poverty, indecent housing, massive unemployment, poor medical care and inferior education. The idea came about because Black People are not free or equal in this country. Because 90% of the men and women in this country’s prisons are Black and Third World. Because 10 year old children are shot down in our streets. Because dope has saturated our communities preying on the disillusionment and frustration of our children. The concept of the B.L.A. arose because of the political, social and economic oppression of Black people in this country. And where there is oppression there will be resistance. The B.L.A. is a part of that resistance movement. The Black Liberation Army stands for freedom and justice for all people.

While big corporations make huge tax-free profits, taxes for the everyday working person skyrocket. While politicians take free trips around the world, those same politicians cut back food stamps for the poor. While politicians increase their salaries, millions of people are being laid off. This city is on the brink of bankruptcy and yet hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on this trial. I do not understand a government so willing to spend millions of dollars on arms to explore outer space, even the planet Jupiter, and at the same time close down day care centers and fire stations.

I have read the Declaration of Independance and i have great admiration for this statement:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights. Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the
consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it and to institute New Government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and Happiness.”

These words are especially meaningful in the year of this country’s bicentennial. I would like to help make this a better world for my daughter and for all the children of this world: for all the men and women of this world.

But you understand that the B.L.A. is not on trial here. I am on trial here. Ronald Myers is on trial here. And the charge is kidnapping and armed robbery, where the so-called victim is a drug pusher, a seller of heroin, a man called James Freeman.

We live in New York, and it is impossible not to see the horror, the degradation and the pain associated with heroin addiction. Most of you have seen the staggering numbers of young lives sucked into oblivion, into walking deaths by the use of drugs. Many of you have seen helpless mothers watch their children turn into nodding skeletons, whom they can no longer trust. And seen the dreams, the potential of a whole generation of youngsters drain away, down into the bottomless pit of a needle. And these victims also have their victim. The countless number of people who have been mugged, burglarized and robbed, by drug made vampires, who can care about nothing else but their poison.

We will show you that James Freeman is a liar. We will show you that the other prosecution witnesses are all friends, relatives, lovers or employees of James Freeman, and that they are liars. You will see for yourself that they have conspired and that they have been coached.

Men and women of the jury, human lives are serious matters. I have already told you that i have no faith in this system of justice and believe me i don’t. I have seen too much. If there was such a thing as justice i wouldn’t be here talking to you now. You have been chosen to be the representatives of justice. You and you alone. You have said that you have no prejudices or preconceptions. You have said that you could try this case on the basis of the evidence. What i am saying now is not evidence. What the prosecutor says is not evidence. You may or you may not agree with my political beliefs. They are not on trial here. I have only brought them up to help you understand the political and emotional context in which this case comes before you.

Although the court considers us peers, many of you have had different backgrounds and different learning and life experiences. It is important to me that you understand some of those differences. I only ask of you that you listen carefully. I only ask that you listen not only to what these witnesses say but to how they say it.

Our lives are no more precious or no less precious than yours. We ask only that you be as open and as fair as you would want us to be, were we sitting in the jury box determining your guilt or innocence. Our lives and the lives that surround us depend on your fairness.

Thank you.

Not My Timeline

Lately, my thinking has caused conflict in my life- allowing my thoughts to lead to other thoughts, and, continuously, thinking about what I’m thinking about. Its caused me to question it all, and has me reevaluating everything. As soon as I figure “it” out, I then figure out I still haven’t figured it out.

In a typical -American- upbringing, you will live with your parents for the first 17 years of your life. By 18, you’re considered an adult, and expected to either contribute to society or continue your schooling. A few years later, you’re expected to be married or in the midst of a serious relationship. Between, 25-35 you should be settled down – married, with children, solid job, home, etc. This is the quintessential American coming of age timeline. I have no problem with this archetype. Except, in a democratic society, in a country where free speech is law, under the “theory” that we were made in the image of the CREATOR, we are usually ridiculed for just about any deviation from this archetypal life.

For the first 18 years of your life, you are being taught how to think, how to feel, how to speak, who to worship, what to eat, who to like, and what to aspire to be; you are told whats good for you, and whats bad for you. There are periods of pure thought, in my opinion, from birth til you start school and then those “smelling yourself” teenage years. Maybe you don’t want to go to church, maybe you don’t want to go to college, maybe you’re a guy who likes braiding hair and not sports, or a girl who enjoys the opposite. Under this archetypal upbringing, thoughts, creativity,  gets thwarted. So you assimilate to avoid friction, and or punishment for not following the “rules”. But what happens when you finally are let free on society, when you are finally asked, “what do YOU think?”.

By the time you’re 18, what do you really know about yourself? You know your age, weight, full name, birthday, and a few other things about yourself that are factual, but what thoughts have you originated thus far? You may believe Christ is the light and your salvation, your favorite football team is the Washington Redskins, and McDonald’s has the best chicken nuggets. But is this what YOU think? Do you believe in christianity, or have your parents just been forcing you to go every Sunday? You might like Redskins, until you’re decked out in the team’s gear, only to have your Native American Economics professor give you a lecture on why that is one of the most offensive terms in American history. Your parents never took you to a Japenese restaurant because they don’t like sushi, but you done found a Benihana’s, and they don’t sell California Rolls at Mickey D’s.  After a few years, on campus or in the workplace, you’re whole world is flipped upside down. By the age off 22, you’ve only had about four to five years to think for yourself, but by the age of 25, you’re expected to know what you want for the rest of your life. You’re expected to know who you’d want to spend the next 50 or so years with, what kind of work you’d like to do until you retire, all the while, you just figured out your favorite color isn’t royal blue anymore.

“There is no labor from which most people shrink as they do from that of sustained and consecutive thought. It is the hardest work in the world.” said Wallace D. Wattles. Our society is a strange place. It has been created by the unrealistic and the “stupid ideas”, but somehow we still call those who think different than the norm “unrealistic” with their “stupid ideas”. We have to continue to challenge it all. Every notion, every rule, every theory can not go unchecked. Notice, I didn’t say change it all, but check it out. Some of the framework in our country hasn’t been questioned in decades, and its antiquated. We have to think for ourselves, and continuously challenge the “Well, thats what they say…”, when we can rarely point to who THEY are.

How can we possibly know who we are going to be for the rest of lives by the time we’ve only experienced about a quarter of it? Growth, learning, evolving, it never stops. We are living creatures. Just like a tree we shall continue to bear. Whether its fruits, or leaves, we will continue to grow until we are turned into notebook paper. So don’t feel bad for not falling in love by the time your 25, finishing college til your 30, or trying sushi for the first time in your 40’s (I love sushi, can’t you tell). It’s all growth, and we all don’t grow on the same timeline.

 

 

Black as Night, Hard as Steel

Recently, I collaborated with the amazing Miss Robin (@missrobinv) for a quick photoshoot. We just went in and shot. No inspirations. Just a camera and a duffel bag of clothes. Throw in some trespassing on people’s property, and we were able to create some beautiful images.