Black Styles

 By Nicosia Smith

For me, there is something exhilarating, about being natural without apologies. And for that matter, the confidence to share that creative experience with your community and the world.

There is something wonderful when we can be unique – and there is a joy when I see the celebration of black styles. Living in Brooklyn, you see a lot of creativity, reflecting what is happening in our society.

Recently, I have seen somewhat of a resurgence of natural black hairstyles, be it, plaits or braids, cornrows or afros.
Hair weaving and styling natural hair, practiced for centuries across continents, is widely known and practice among black families. I always take second looks, when I see afro-centric dressing and styles. Because it is different and those often wearing it, to me, stand out.
And I love to see it.
Tennis Superstar Serena Williams recently sported a cornrow braids hairstyle at the May 19 wedding of the royal highnesses of Duke and Duchess of Sussex Prince Harry and American Actress Meghan Markle, at St. George’s Chapel Windsor Castle, near London.
It was quite refreshing to see Williams in her cornrow braids at this very high fashion wedding; and Markle, being the first bi-racial woman to marry into the British royal family. She stood out in a crowd that was so much unlike her, in her very long plaited braids.
I began to think back to the 1960s and 1970s, when there was a push for more black styles. And indeed a welcomed embrace from black society of that particular style. Notably, communities blending in, black designs and culture into their everyday lives. Of course there was a strong political tone to that era, with the ‘Black Power’ movement quite on its way at the time.
Last month at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture there was a reflection of that time with a large collection of periodicals, newsletters, pictures and pamphlets about the black struggle and style of the ‘60s and ‘70s. What I particularly like with the exhibit was the pride shown by those wearing ‘black’ themed styles and its use, at the time, to create economic vitality within the community.
It was also used to push for the creation of jobs from within the community, through its unique creativity. It is a nod to a period that explored a style that was unique and stood out. At the time this was quite radical, because it was shifting the very foundation of what beautiful is and promoting ‘love’ for that beauty.
So here is to black styles, dashiki and all.
While today, there are radical black designs, I must say it is on a much smaller level. In my opinion, we have moved, it seems, back from that black collective cultural push from the 1960’s and 1970’s to a more personalized approach.


T&T Student Math Phenom

For a large number of us the subject of Mathematics, does not hold a favorite spot in our educational memories .
It often brings to mind, anxiety, stress and one would even say painful thoughts of not being at our best.
The mortal I am, knows the feeling all so well. It is a subject that those that love it, seem not to understand, how the rest of us can’t seem to get it.
Well we just can’t it seem.
So when I had the privilege of meeting young Math genius Adolphus Daniel Jr, it was like wow. And wow again.
At the tender age of 10-years-old Adolphus got a perfect 800 score at the U.S College Board SAT Math Level 2 Subject test last year. Now this is a selective math exam used to determine the best of the best math students in the world. And yes, he became the youngest to ace it. His father Adolphus Daniel Sr told me a week ago that he wanted him to write it at 9-years-old but the SAT administration would not allow him because of his age. And according to him, the SAT administration said the restriction was to protect children from overzealous parents like him. But the restriction was removed after the family launched a campaign called The Dolphy Project to gather support for him to write the exam.
Before the SAT, he also aced the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) mathematics exam in 2015. And although he does not have his career path nail-down yet, he knows it with will be in the math and sciences. This eloquent and soft spoken Trinidad and Tobago student one can say is well on his way to making more history.

Grace Jones, Shabba Ranks,Chaka Khan


Eccentric, groundbreaking, triumphant and tumultuous may all be words to describe Grace Jones, Shabba Ranks or Chaka Khan , at some point in their illustrious careers.

All have had long career breaks, but their enduring personalities remain a pull, and of recent all three are on the comeback.

When I saw Jones at JFK Airport this month, I did not immediately recognize her. She was dressed in all black, in an outfit resembling aviation pioneer Ameila Earhart – hat included.

It was true Jones. Whatever your views of her are, she knows how to make an entrance.  Immediately I thought of her movies ‘Conan the Destroyer’ and ‘Boomerang’. Of course I began to detail her movies to her and she was quite indulgent, repeating signature phrases from Boomerang. She told me to look out for her new documentary and to buy ‘I’ll Never Write My Memoirs’ her recent book and departed with a hand-shake.

And sometimes you have to pay your way to that celebrity access.

I could not pass up an opportunity to hear my feel-good song, ‘Through the Fire’ by Khan. So I paid the $60, after discount, for the May 13 fundraiser at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts. Khan is currently working on a series of mixed media visual works and a new CD for release this year, says the Center.

Well, I did not get to hear ‘Through the Fire’, but ‘Everlasting Love’, ‘Naughty’, ‘Tell me Something Good’, ‘Sweet Thing’, ‘Ain’t Nobody’, and the powerful ‘I’m Every Woman’ made up for it. I cannot say if the two unexpected restroom breaks prevented me from hearing my feel-good song. Or her heavy emphasis on her 70s songs. But my friend and her mother who were enjoying a pre-mother’s day outing enjoyed the experience. And being serenaded by the legendary 10 time Grammy winner who can complain.

And in April on his way to Trinidad and Tobago I met Jamaican Artist Rexton Rawlston Fernando Gordon aka ‘Mr Loverman’ also at JFK.  It was a fleeting contact that I made the best of. “I love your music,” I said, as he passed with his wife Michelle. ‘There is more coming,’ he said. I remember 90s hits like ‘Ting-A-Ling’ and ‘Twice my Age’ hits that define dancehall at the time. Of course he had hits like ‘Bedroom Bully’ and ‘Mr Loverman’, the question now is what lyrics can we expect. The legendary Ranks was the first to win a Grammy for his genre.

And so we wait!

Hi Misty


By Nicosia Smith

Her glorious stresses spilling over her shoulder, did not hide that signature smile.

Prima, Ballerina.

Misty Copeland.

Standing behind a packed seating area on the Fourth Floor at the Barnes and Nobel Event, I listen.

American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) first black principal dancer, was enthralling all with her eloquence. It is an astronomical achievement for Copeland, who accomplished what many before her did not. And even she admitted, during conversation with Damaris Lewis, her struggles. ‘It’s hard to accept that people can judge you base on something you have no control over’, Copeland said, speaking on her skin color.

Nevertheless she stressed, ‘I think it is important for me to represent’.

One cannot deny that ballet companies are very white. It took 75 years for ABT, one of three major companies in America, to make that ‘principal move.

It was a joy to see the numerous kids and parents in the audience. Their smiles and giggles of excitement could not be hid. As they held ‘Firebird’ dolls and books. Neither did they shy away from the microphone, asking a barrage of questions.

One wanted to know when she will take the stage again. Copeland in her signature “Hi,” before every response explain, ‘It’s so hard…I needed a year off’. Next month, she is set to perform ‘Giselle’, in Mascat, Oman. And the follow up, how does she remain motivated to continue dancing?

“I love what I do, I love going on stage and performing.”

Debbie Allen Dance Academy dancer enquired when she met the iconic Allen. At around 14-years-old, Copeland recall, she worked with Allen in the Chocolate Nutcracker playing Clare, while Allen played Oz. That was in her second year as a classical dancer. Allen is a pioneer in the field of contemporary dance.

On March 20, I attended the Tiger Woods signing, and Copeland’s the next day. At the first, scalpers were trying to buy books, wired security guards blocked the Fourth Floor entrance, suits milled around with strict wrist band enforcement.

No such thing at Copeland’s signing, even at 7p.m. – opening time, I could still  purchase a book and get a wrist band. What a difference a day makes.

And then it was time.

  • “Hi Misty,” I said, and there was that signature smile saying with a raspy slightly hoarse voice, “Hi.”

Signed “Ballerina Body,” by Misty Copeland in hand, I walked off the stage with a satisfied feeling.



Copy Editing at The New Yorker with Mary Norris

Ask the Agent

mary norris new small (1 of 1)Mary Norris started working at The New Yorker  thirty-one years ago, in the editorial library, moving on to the collating department and the copy desk. Since 1993, she has been a page O.K.’er, or query proofreader.  She has written for The Talk of the Town and contributes to the New Yorker books blog.  She is working on a memoir about having a transsexual sibling, the legendary Baby Dee.  You can read Mary’s fabulously entertaining blog: “The Alternate Side Parking Reader.”

 By the way, if you want to learn more about copy editing from those who are the best in the business,  check out: The New Yorker Festival (October 16-18). This year  there is  a master class in copy editing, on Sunday, October 18th, at 2 P.M., with Ann Goldstein, the head of the copy department; Elizabeth Pearson-Griffiths; and Mary Norris. A program guide to the festival is…

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Annie Lawrence Weddings

So your big day will soon arrive. Venue, catering and honeymoon set. But wait, something is missing.

In the past choosing a minister for your wedding may have been clear-cut.

Now there is a twist, weddings are now a mixture of Las Vegas, religion, spirituality and self.

Weddings off the beaten tract, have become the new mainstream and ministers are vying for your business.

And they are going as far as you would go.

“So far I have not been in a situation where there is a ritual I wouldn’t do,” says Interfaith Minister Rev Annie Lawrence. Notwithstanding, the exchange of vows and rings remain a constant emblem in her weddings.

Lawrence has incorporated everything from Smashing Pumpkins lyrics in vows – to rituals that included blessings around a fire.  And you may have already guessed it – she prefers contemporary weddings.

It was five years ago that the minister took her side job of doing weddings to a full-fledged business, conducting 175 weddings last year.

The first wedding she did was for a friend, dressing in an earth-mother like gold kaftan. “I did it because I knew that I could and I haven’t looked back.”

With some seminary graduates offering these services for free, ministers like Lawrence face stiff competition. She charges a $500 minimum per wedding, but weekend rates are higher depending on the time. “I am making a living, I do not know if I am making a profit. I am working on that.” Since graduating 2002 from The New Seminary, in New York, as an ordained minister, this Allentown, Pennsylvania, native has performed weddings.

For Lawrence, no wedding is just a wedding and her prepping is detail driven.

I don’t want to say something that doesn’t represent their beliefs, she says.

Although she does believe that: “Certainly the more I know about a couple I think the warmer and fabulous the wedding is.”

Also a writer and educator – her own broken heart at watching her parents’ marriage disintegrated at age 10 energizes her to get it right

She normally would ask, “What would you like me to know about the two of you and what can I tell you about wedding ceremonies?” Where a traditional wedding may include some sort of spiritual counseling, Lawrence prefers to stay away from that.  She firmly declares that, “I wouldn’t necessarily be the best person for the job…I am a very sensitive person.”

So who are her clients? They include couples that describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, same-sex couples and couples on their third trip down the aisle. She describes her ministry as, “service from the heart,” catering to all. And this is an example of what she means by that: “I was doing same-sex unions before they were legal.” She estimated doing half a dozen such weddings before it was legalized in New York. They are now a third or fourth of all the couples she marries.

“Some people think I marry them, and my perspective is you marry each other.”

Some of the greatest weddings I have done were for people in their 60’s and 70’s, she says, maybe in their second or third marriage. If you are wondering why, her sultry voice at almost a whisper said: “They get it. They get it. And the little things don’t matter.”

That is, the little personality stuff do not matter, they are so open, grateful and delighted to have a companion in their life, she says. And there are those weddings where she goes, “God Bless yah,” adding, “When I first started marrying people I would be afraid to send them anniversary cards because I wasn’t sure if they were still married.”

Nevertheless, she says confidently, “so far I think I have a very high success rate.”

Oscar nods for Caribbean producers and directors?

Photo Courtesy Google (Sugar Cane Alley the 1983 film by Euzhan Palcy set in 1930s Martinique)

Caribbean actors have done it, so it is not impossible.

So I will like to see Caricom member states and other Caribbean film makers receive Oscar nods.

There is so much artistic talent in this region.

So instead of continuing to be a strong consumer of film content, why not begin to be a strong distributor.

In the Oscar short film and documentary categories, I believe there is room to compete.

Just imagine the body of history and culture we can share with the world.

It is also a way to document the region, for future generations.

This year foreign film Oscar Winner was Amour. This Austrian film depicted the life of an elderly couple, one sick and the other aging. This film is one for the achieves of social scientist.

A record 71 countries submitted entries in the Best Foreign Language Film Category. The coverage of topics were indeed wide. For example, War Witch (Canada), Kon-Tiki (Norway), No (Chile) and A Royal Affair (Denmark).

So Caribbean film makers and producers, what do you say?

Let us double up our efforts and make it an Oscar carnival.

what a story to follow

looking beyond borders

China surpassed the U.S. to become the world’s biggest trading nation last year as measured by the sum of exports and imports of goods, a milestone in the Asian nation’s challenge to the U.S. dominance in global commerce that emerged after the end of World War II.

U.S. exports and imports of goods last year totaled $3.82 trillion, the U.S. Commerce Department said last week. China’s customs administration reported last month that the country’s total trade in goods in 2012 amounted to $3.87 trillion.

Read Here – Bloomberg

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Reggae Marathon Jams

Photos Courtesy of Reggae Marathon Ltd

Reggae Marathon Ltd, it is as the name suggests – a jamming long distance run, in Jamaica.

I met members of the organization on their way to Kingston, after attending the cancelled New York City Marathon. In the US, First Lady Michelle Obama, Let’s Move Campaign, is facing an uphill task getting children to exercise and eat healthy. The first lady may want to consider having a yearly running competition as an additional motivator.

I had not heard of Reggae Marathon before, but the whole idea of organizing a yearly marathon around reggae appeal to me. So I asked Diane C. Ellis, the sponsorship director, to answer a few questions for hopbrooklyn:

Q: Base upon your experiences, when you first introduce this organization to people, what are some of their reactions?

A: Mostly amazement as Jamaica is known as the “sprint factory” so a successful long distance event is somewhat of a surprise to most

Q: Describe for me what Reggae Marathon is all about?

A: Reggae Marathon is Jamaica’s premier international marathon event in Jamaica attracting visitors from over 30 different countries, the event is in it’s twelfth year and has been included four times in the world’s top ten marathon events. This year the organizers and event won the JHTA’s Abe Issa Award for excellence:

Q: Explain what makes the December 1 marathon a special event for runners?

A: The Reggae Marathon event is a fun event characterized by good vibes and lots of sweet reggae music

Q: Athletics is very big in Jamaica and your athletes have gain international fame, do you foresee such an accomplishment for marathons as well? And how do you plan to achieve this?

A: The mandate of the organizers of the Reggae Marathon event, the Jamdammers Running Club of Kingston is to develop long distance running in Jamaica. Reggae Marathon is committed to developing long distance running in Jamaica and promoting a healthy lifestyle through running. We are already seeing the success of our road race series with some of the athletes participating in the Reggae Marathon series being victorious at events such as the Carifta Games in the longer distances.

Q: Inspiration comes in different ways, what inspires your institution?

A: The natural talent of our Jamaican runners, the creativity and sweet rhythms of Reggae Music and the natural beauty of Jamaica.

Q: After preparing for an event like the New York City Marathon and it is cancelled, what are some of the losses, financial or loss time, means to an organization as yours?

A: We have not calculated the loss, we calculate the benefits of being able to lure potential runners to Jamaica. The loss and dislocation of New Yorkers is far greater than any financial or time loss we have experienced

Q: You often participate in international events, what sets you apart from the other marathon bodies at these events and why?

A: The lively vibe of the promotion, the joy of the music and sport combined

Q: How many international meets do you attend per year and in which countries? Also how large are your contingents at these events?

A: Our promotions are mostly focused on the east coast of the USA, we have other representatives who promote for Reggae Marathon in Canada & Europe, the delegations are usually not larger than 4- 6 people

Q: There are achievements and moments that rank higher than others, describe some of the organization’s proudest moments to date and say why?

A: On four occasions, we received the news that the event has been included in the world’s top ten marathon events and receiving this year’s Abe Issa Award for excellence. Also seeing athletes who have participated in the event and road race series over the years, gain victory in local and international long distance events.

Q: What misconceptions would you like to change most, about marathons, in Jamaica or in general?

A: Only that Jamaican runners are not able to successfully compete in the longer distances.