All posts by Planet Noun

EPISODE 18—When your name helps pave the pathway to greatness

In this episode of Planet Noun, a chat with an up-and-coming…award-winning jazz musician Jazmin Ghent.

When she learned she won the 2019 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album, Ghent was in the midst of a trip to Australia.

“So I was absolutely shocked, so shocked, and I feel like it changed the dynamic of that whole trip in Australia. I just know it’s no one but God, and I’m beyond thankful, and I don’t take it lightly. You know, I’m representing women, African American women in music, in Jazz music, so I’m beyond thankful and grateful.”

When she’s not belting smooth tunes from her saxophone, she’s in the classroom teaching music to children in Polk County, Florida.

We talk about her pathway to jazz music, the saxophone, and how names and other language used with children can affect the trajectory of their lives.

She also talks about how words from musicians she looks up to helped guide her path.

“I did this Show Your Talent competition. The judges were Marcus Miller, Brian Culbertson and Boney James… It was surreal to be in front of these people I grew up listening to,” Ghent said.

“I was so nervous before I played, and Brian Culbertson came up to me and said ‘you know what, just have fun. And if you have fun, everyone else will have fun, too.’ That was the moment where I was like—maybe I could do this and record, and write and make this a career. That would be a defining moment.”

Ghent says she is on a constant path of self-improvement when it comes to her musical gifts.

“I feel like there’s this unattainable goal that I have for myself that I’m constantly working towards. I just know I had a love for music and it’s what I wanted to pursue. I can’t see myself doing anything else. So that’s what turned it into a career…”

Planet Noun is all about the People, Places, Things and Ideas that teach us, prompt us to make a difference and do more with what life presents. That’s exactly what Ghent is doing with her teaching and her music.

Listen to the entire interview —featuring Jazmin Ghent, winner of the 2019 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album.

Learn more about Ghent’s music on her website.

You can also follow her on social media:

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

SoundCloud

Instagram

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Episode 17: Warming up for the glow up with confidence, featuring Patrick Fenison

WARNING: This episode contains cussing. And it’s not all bleeped out. So govern yourselves accordingly with earbuds and such.

The Glow Up. Been hearing a lot about that lately. First of all—what the F is that? Well, intuitively, I know what it is…but I had to consult a reputable source…

So…the Urban Dictionary tells me the Glow Up is when you go from wack-looking to gorgeous… another definition is to rise to the top from the bottom of whatever aspirational ladder a person is climbing. The Free Dictionary’s idioms section says something similar—Basically, it’s a fantastic transformation—that’s very real.

Who doesn’t want the Glow Up? I mean, who isn’t fascinated by someone’s rise from out of nowhere?

Thing is—I’ve learned—it’s hardly EVER from nowhere. The folks you love and adore today—famous folks or maybe other folks—have likely been working their tails off for YEARS in order to get the results that are now visible to lots of people.

A lot of more time-established shows and podcasts interview folks AFTER their glow has started, and there’s everything RIGHT with that.

But what about the folks who are somewhere in the middle, folks who are not quite at the top or at the bottom, but somewhere in between?

Well, today’s guest took time off of his grind to talk to me.

His name is Patrick Fenison. He’s one of many people committed to meeting their aspirations.

We start our conversation with the time Pat started recognizing his glimmer—when he KNEW he was born to be a performer.

3:45—When Pat knew performing was for him
5:42—Pat ain’t got no sense! His path to becoming a comedian
8:10—I’m going for it!
14:09—Creating a fanbase, then a move upsets hometown momentum
23:43—Everyone’s not going to believe in you; the importance of guarding curating your energy spaces with like-minded people
34:13—A story behind his video “Drop It”
46:30—Where to find Pat on social media

Find Patrick on Facebook and Instagram

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Episode 16: Putting smarts to your money with Jason Thomas

Do you wish your money were more intelligent?

Well, that’s what Jason Thomas specializes in—making money work smarter for his clients to enable them to meet their financial goals.

Thomas is co-founder and president of The PILL Method, a financial counseling company that uses education and technology to show their clients ways to more astutely use their dollars and cents to move toward their financial goals and debt freedom.

“It can begin with simply having a checking and a savings account,” He told Planet Noun. “It does not require you to go get [a] loan, it doesn’t require anything else. What we can basically really show you—how to make your money smarter.”

Thomas joined Planet Noun for a conversation from his home in Jamaica, that’s where he and his wife Carmen and two sons moved recently from the United States.  

The couple also provides financial coaching through Future Family Finance.

Episode 16, featuring Jason Thomas, dives right in with no breaks.

The conversation begins with information about his family and partner-run companies and flows from there.

1:03—More about the PILL Method. What it is, how it got started, and how it works.

2:26—Interest rate vs. interest cost. What’s the difference?

28:17—How Thomas got into financial counseling/what led him to become passionate about helping people get out of debt.

32:16—Why some folks leave his seminars angry

38:05—Thomas conducts free seminars to introduce folks to The PILL Method. So how does he make money?

Connect with Jason and learn more about The PILL Method

Twitter

Facebook

YouTube

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EPISODE 15: Crafting characters that can step from a book’s pages and walk down the street

Any day is a good day to profess affection… so—I admit—I’m in love. With books written by today’s guest! So, there’s this character named Elouise Norton who has captured my heart! Why? Because she’s so human… It’s like I know her.

I’m stoked that I got to interview her creator during a visit to Los Angeles!

Critically acclaimed crime fiction writer Rachel Howzell Hall is the author of several books, including the Lou Norton series, and another title They All Fall Down, which will be released on April 9.

We discuss a range of things from her origins as a writer, how she can explores through her characters, the dualities and unexpected realities of her page people—her characters, and more!

Take a listen to Rachel Howzell Hall on Planet Noun Episode 15!

Part 1—00:00-08:10
Where it all started

Part 1a—08:16-17:07 How a character, Detective Elouise Norton, was a tutor to Howzell Hall

Part 2—17:04-29:02
Characters you don’t expect… dualities and unexpected realities.

Part 3—29:05-36:20
Rachel’s journey toward crime fiction

Part 4—36:28-42:37
Reconciling characters and subject matter with a churchy upbringing

Part 5—42:40-end
Most gratifying moments as an author, and maximizing her time as an author who also has a family and a full time job

Links to stories mentioned in episode:

Torrance bowling alley shooting

Rachel’s social media links:

Instagram

Twitter

Website 

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Episode 14: Repackaging life and a museum—with George O. Davis, CAAM Executive Director

February is Black History Month in the United States…a time to focus on the contributions and achievements of African Americans not only in the past, but to hear stories of those who are still with us, still writing their stories.  George O. Davis is such a person. Part of his work involves helping  to expose museum visitors to the stories of others.

Part 1:

00:43—Davis’s Pathway to CAAM
==========

Part 2:

22:23—Rundown of the museum’s features and a few current exhibits.  By the time this episode drops, a couple of those will be on their last days. Here is a link list that includes information on the artists mentioned in this episode and exhibit dates:

An exhibit on the Los Angeles Freedom Rally. This took place in May of 1963. 

Robert Pruitt—Devotion — This exhibit ends on February 17, 2019.  Here’s what the Los Angeles Times says about his work.

One of the past art exhibits at CAAM featured Nina Chanel Abney.

African American artists Davis mentions who are being featured at other museums in the city. 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art—Charles White: A Retrospective

Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach, Calif. was talked about in this episode.  More on its history along with another area black beachgoers used to frequent in the Santa Monica area called The Inkwell.

Part 3: 

24:56—Davis talks about:

  • The importance of expanding the knowledge of black history among and beyond black folks
  • Museums as a way to increase that knowledge
  • Visiting such Places with an open mind
  • Taking in the Things—the exhibits, information, art, the facts and Ideas they convey
  • Acknowledging the facts of history and reckoning with that information to grow beyond our country’s ills…past and present. 

Other links related to this episode:

History of CAAM

More on George Davis’ s appointment as CAAM executive director

CAAM Social Media:

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach, Calif. was talked about in this episode.  More on its history along with another area black beachgoers used to frequent in the Santa Monica area called The Inkwell.

Other mentions in Episode 14:

The Broad 

Davis also talks about a multi-million dollar painting purchased by Sean Combs (After all these years, I still instinctively call him Puff Daddy. Well, looks like he’s Art Daddy now!)

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Episode 13: Meditation to yoga and lots in between—with Stephanie Gaines-Bryant

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant, owner/operator of Radio Yogi Health and Fitness

Have you ever spoken to someone at work and you knew there was something more intriguing to their story?

That’s what I started finding out after one co-worker and I got to talking and I found out she has a yoga business. After starting this podcast, I asked her to be on the show to talk about the benefits of yoga.

It’s a New Year and, no doubt, you might be reviewing resolutions to be fitter, healthier, and/or vowing for better self care this year.

What better way to do so than to get your yoga on?

I’ve done so sporadically through the years and quickly noticed I was one of a few faces that looked like mine among the student population. I definitely didn’t notice any black instructors.

But now I know one! Yes, only one.  I’m certain there are more out there, but she’s the only one I know of.

Meet Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. She’s a news anchor at a 24-hour radio news station in Washington, D.C. She’s also owner and operator of Radio Yogi Health and Fitness in Bowie, Md.  

Listen up to find out more!

Planet Noun is all about the People, Places, Things and Ideas that teach us, prompt us to make a difference and do more with what life presents. Episode 13 guest is Stephanie Gaines-Bryant–radio news anchor and owner-operator of Radio Yogi Health and Fitness.

Part 1

01:30 — What Radio Yogi is all about
02:38—Stephanie’s journey to meditation; then yoga practice and instruction
16:41—Thoughts about Christians and yoga practice

Part 2
21:10—Stephanie’s advice on starting a new habit this new year—whether it’s yoga or something else.

Part 3
• 39:44—In addition to being on the radio and running her yoga business, Stephanie also runs a non-profit—Sisters for Fitness, and talks about the concerns that led her to start the organization. This segues into a discussion about mental illness in the African American and some Christian church communities. If Jesus can fix it, why can’t that fixin’ be accomplished via a therapist?

Read more about Stephanie at Radio Yogi Health and Fitness website and Sisters 4 Fitness by clicking the links. You’ll also find more on Facebook and Twitter.

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EPISODE 3—Balikbayan Boxes: Care Packages in Reverse with Jason Reblando (Repeat)

Since Christmas is around the corner, here’s a question for you: 

What’s the value of a can of Ensure? Spam? Or a pack of Doritos or other snack you can pick up during a Target run or at the corner store?

Well, if you’re a member of the Filipino diaspora, everyday items, snacks and other treats can have additional meaning attached to them if they’re shipped to the Philippines from abroad in a Balikbayan Box. 

It’s a tradition I had no idea about until a year or so ago.  It was then I realized that—among all the groups of color I grew up around in Los Angeles—there are some folks whose traditions I’m more familiar with than others. I don’t pretend to know everything about anyone, but as an eternal student, learning as much as possible is a constant goal. It dawned on me last year that I knew next to nothing about the Filipino diaspora and Filipino Americans, and wanted to learn more. 

This-here interview was released last year, and was so interesting I wanted to share it again this year!

So if you’ve heard this before—welcome back, and stick around. If you’re hearing this for the first time, let’s dig into this holiday repeat of Planet Noun Episode 3—Balikbayan Boxes: Care Packages in Reverse with Illinois-based artist, photographer and author Jason Reblando.

Happy holidays! Merry Christmas, Happy everything! Take a listen to a holiday repeat of Episode 3, with guest Jason Reblando. He’s an Illinois-based artist, photographer, and author. Jason joined me on Skype.

This has been a holiday repeat of Episode 3 with guest Jason Reblando, an Illinois-based artist, photographer, and author. He was on Skype.

Here’s a link to Jason’s article about Balikbayan Boxes on City Lab.

Learn more about Jason, his book projects and artwork on his website.

Find him on social media:

Twitter: @JasonReblando

Instagram: @jjrebs

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EPISODE 12: Getting all up in the family’s body business on Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is almost here! That means it’s almost time to throw down on all those bounties that’ll grace our holiday tables this week!

Thanksgiving is also Family Health History Day… A time to discuss and learn more…. Diseases or health events that tend to run in your family…

Yeah… I know that  is NOT a sexy discussion to have while passing the lamb, ham, turkey, chicken, greens, potatoes, tomatoes—you name it.

But if you’re family is gathering for this holiday or any other one—could be an opportune time to consider easing in those not so appetizing discussions about your family health portrait…. Just try to time it when Cousin so-and-so is NOT about to fork a piece of sweet-tater pie in their mouth.

My guest today is Doctor LaKeischa McMillan… she hosts the Housecall with Dr. Mac Podcast… In addition to doctoring, she also mothers and wifes (It’s my podcast, I can make up words). The cast is a joint venture with her husband, Wendell.

So Dr. Mac joins us with the skinny… or the fat—depending on how you throw down in the kitchen—on having unsexy conversations about family health during Thanksgiving or any season when family gathers.

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Netflixing and Chilling soltera—when partnerless storybook endings are happiest of all

Violet is bred for perfection from head to toe. Her mom saw to it. Perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect clothes, perfect stride, impeccable toes to slide into perfect shoes. Everything just perfect to the gaze and the ears. She is bred to only utter words that fall pleasingly on others’ ears. Violet colors with excellent strokes and only within socially acceptable lines. Early on, she learned to maneuver through the world by placing outside perceptions ahead of the person she wanted to be.

However, she didn’t even know who that person was and didn’t realize it until her perfect life plan began to hiccup.

Violet’s metamorphosis starts when her boyfriend of two years didn’t slide an engagement ring on her finger—as she expected. Clint surprised her with a cutie-patooty puppy-dog instead.

Vi is pissed, and her birthday surprise takes her on a roller coaster that led her to a place and idea in which all women—yea, all people—should solidly stand at some point in life: That they are enough.

Nappily Ever After whispered to me, and I felt fragments of my life coursing through the script. I’m certain I’m not the only sista-girl who thinks so. From dodging swimming pools because I didn’t want to reverse my straightened hair to its natural Afro state, to summer camp braid-ups to keep it manageable. Of course there was that ever-present sense of anxiety that my ‘nappy’ hair had to be fixed via the hell-heat torture of a pressing comb.

This film helped resurface memories of wash and press days with my mom and sister at home… the ubiquitous “hold your ear” command in countless black-folks’ kitchens and hair salons across the country, and likely around the world where pressing combs have had their reign.

This movie spoke to me because of the familiar concern I used to have about rain and fog—things that could make freshly pressed and curled tresses scramble back to their roots.

It also spoke to me because in addition to those “hold your ear” commands, countless post-salon care instructions included the words “sleep” and “cute” in tandem. And sleeping cute may have looked cute and kept my hair style as close to salon perfection as possible, but it never resulted in sound sleep and never felt cute for my neck, which usually ached the next morning.

Without giving away the entire storyline, it was gratifying to watch Violet transform from a superficial human who outgrows the hair hatred that was passed down from her mother under the guise of always appearing “acceptable” to the gaze of others—even significant others. It was also heart-warming to see this character start gaining true confidence in herself based on who she is as a person and not how she appears to the world—and definitely not based on whether she has a man. The process is jump-started, but is in no way completed by the end of the film—even after five hairstyles and a liberating pool scene.

I’m also gratified that it didn’t have a storybook “girl gets guy” ending, because we all know those shit-perfect endings ain’t always real. This film is up to the times and realizes that the perfect ending doesn’t always involve a significant other or marriage.

Sometimes the perfect ending means finally being happy with yourself. By yourself. And that’s so okay.

Now I have to get the book to see what actually happens.

There’s another Netflix movie that explores a similar theme–only without  pressing combs, perms and flat irons. It’s a Spanish language film that’s titled Soltera Codiciada. The English title—How to Get Over a Breakup. There are several subtitle and audio options. I enjoy films that can involve part-time reading.

In this Flix, Maria Fe’s boyfriend called to dump her. That’s how she spiraled through the seven stages of grief. And drinking. And drunk calling and What’s Apping him as she meandered through each stage.

So what led to this?

Well, what had happened was…

Her novio left Peru to attend graduate school in Madrid, Spain. Then he dumps her, breaks all contact, but she sees him posted with some other chick on Instagram.

Maria Fe drinks, a friend helps her find a roommate and over the months, her life slides back to normal.

Mari-Fe even completes some home-improvement projects in her inherited home, and starts a blog.

Thing is, she always wanted to be a writer, but was occupied by spending her time pleasing her boyfriend for six years to the point where she wasn’t chasing her own dreams.

Homegirl makes strides at work even though her boss is the most horrible person on earth—racist, sexist, homophobic and oblivious to it all.

Fe finds her blog, Soltera Codiciada, getting good traffic traction. She even finds herself on the cusp of a work promotion.

What happens in the nooks and crannies around these key events—well you’ll have to watch the film to find out. But I will say this: Old boy, ex novio, makes a comeback. Whether he stays or goes you’ll find out when you Netflix and chill. But Soltera Codiciada’s ending is spot on in my opinion—just like Nappily Ever After.

Why? Because it also shows a woman can be a fairy godmother, genie, or her own Prince Charming/Principe Azul who respects and rescues her own damn self.

And I love it.

Both Nappily Ever After and Soltera Codiciada/How to Get Over a Breakup earn…

 

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Childhood illness—an idea that pricks emotions, makes eyeballs sweat

Some ideas cause perspiration to spring out of my eyeballs with nowhere to go—but down my cheeks.


(WASHINGTON)—Imagine getting to a scene to report the goings-on at an annual festival dedicated to advancing the cause of pediatric cancer advocacy, and the need for more research funding and updated treatments.

Pretty straightforward, right?

Get sound with folks who say why they’re there, take and Tweet some photos, cut up sound, file audio and web stories, then leave.

You pull out your recording equipment and earbuds while scoping the layout at Freedom Plaza. Who will you talk to? When will you talk to them? You pull up your question list and take note of an announcement that a program is about to start on the main stage.

Cool.

And you position yourself to capture audio. You take a few photos.

Cool.

And someone takes the stage and starts sharing the latest progress from the weekend.  It’s good news.

But your cheeks quiver.

Hummm… That’s odd…

Then your eyes start feeling misty.

Huh? No one’s said anything particularly sad. The lady on the stage just announced more federal funding toward pediatric cancer research.

But the mist  turns to plump tears. But that’s fine. Maybe they’ll evaporate.

Or maybe not.  But  as long as they teeter on the edge of your eyes, you can blink them back.

But nope! They won’t blink back because other drops are waiting to take their place.

Damn.

On scene for five minutes and already crying.

Lordy be, this happened to me last month when covering CureFest 2018.

I usually don’t get in my feelings while covering a story because compartmentalization is my friend.

Didn’t work that afternoon.

Another tear came, and another, and a sister and a brother, but unlike the previous ones, this newer collection didn’t slide down my outer cheek…. they slid right down toward my nose.

I figured no one would want to talk to me if I looked as if I were about to snot.

Where were my tissues?  In the work SUV.  Something told me to bring them, but I left  them behind with the thought “Nah, won’t need those today.”  I was wishing I had listened to my first mind.

At the plaza, there was someone with a camera standing next to me. I assumed she was a fellow reporter. She looked like she was wiping away a tear or two with her hand.  Wasn’t sure if  she saw my disintegrating poker face or not but either way, I needed paper products.

So I went up to a stranger under one of the tents and asked for tissue.

“I’m here for work, and I usually hold it together at work,” I told the kind-faced lady while waving my hands at my cheeks, a failing attempt to fan the tears away. “But for some reason, I can’t hold it together today.”

“It’s okay,” she said, opening her arms over the table and bringing me in for a hug.

I walked in.

She just hugged me while I apologized, closed my eyes and let more tears fall. I apologized again and asked for a tissue. I wanted to cry some more, but I’d soon be facing a deadline.  Pull it together, sis.

The kind-faced lady didn’t have tissue, but she pointed me to the Kid’s Zone. That’s where I met another kind-faced lady named Kat, who didn’t have tissue, but paper towels.

“That’ll work,” I replied, so grateful that I’d have bountiful brawn to sop up my sadness.

“It’s okay,” Kat said. “No one makes it through this weekend without crying at least once.”

So at work we cover lots of stories about grownups behaving badly. Sometimes kids, too. But my hopeful cynicism melts when talking about darling little kids who suffer… kids who should be playing with toys and learning to ride bikes and (if any of them are like I was as a kid) eating dirt clods and pinching butterfly wings and licking their dust to see how it tasted. Don’t judge. I was a semi-curious child.

But it saddens me to my depths that children who are dealing with potentially life-threatening illnesses such as childhood cancers or sickle cell anemia—are learning to pronounce the multisyllabic names of their treatments, going to chemo, getting transfusions… along with learning their favorite hobbies, cartoon and video game characters.

In my deepest heart, I just wish they could be Toys R Us kids, or Game Stop Kids, or skateboard in the park kids, or jungle gym kids, or doll-baby kids or basketball, soccer, football, baseball, hockey kids. Hide-and-go-seek kids, and teens more concerned about passing a driving test than entertaining the idea they could very well pass away.

It took awhile for the emotions I feel when covering stories like this one, and this one to come to a head.

They did that day. And I cried.

According to the song Cry by singer-songwriter Lyfe Jennings, “See, crying is like taking your soul to the laundromat.”

My little soul was twice-washed that day at Cure Fest. But the second time, I was prepared with my stash of paper towel sheets.

And I met my deadlines.


FYI, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and Sickle Cell Awareness month, but those children and families who are grappling with these illnesses have to do so year round.

There are many organizations out there that advocate for more funding, research, and awareness. Take a peek at the following websites to learn more and find out what you can do to advocate for kids with cancer and sickle cell anemia. This list is just a start, there are so many more organizations that do great work at raising awareness.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand

St. Jude’s Research Hospital

Sickle Cell Disease Association of America

Cleverly Changing

 

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