Concert Review: Diana Ross

(Loosely edited) Since my grandmother’s stroke, about 6 or 7 years ago, okay, I really don’t know how long it’s been as my family’s new normal has been constantly evolving. Anyhoo, since her stroke, one of the greatest joys has been the biggest smile she gets when I play the music she loves.

I have vivid childhood memories of my grandparents being tipsy and boppin’ at family gatherings. (Boppin’ was the precursor to Chicago’s partnered dance style, Steppin’.) The synchronicity, harmony, smoothness and stylized intricacies of Black love when Chi-town folk “two-step,” is such a beautiful thing. So yeah, my granny was a Boppin’ guru.

Also, I have vivid memories of her dancing to Diana Ross’s, “The Boss.” That song is, and continues to be her jam! Now, as a stroke survivor when I put that song on, she still gets it in. Her chair-dance game is strong. Grams be moving that body and swinging those arms to the point of wearing herself out—even the side where there’s paralysis gets a jig in.

* * *

Every Saturday morning, in our childhood apartment, there was music and cleaning. My mother would wake me up with music blaring, singing and dancing, and the smell of Pine Sol. Oh, and it would be early in tha mawning. No sleeping in. lol lol lol. My mom, like her mother, had her own Diana Ross jam, she loved many songs from the Supremes and Diana’s solo career but, “It’s My House,” was her shizzznit! Dat’s dat grown womon song! I so understand why as a single mama rearing a girl-child that she’d like this particular song. She also liked “Upside Down.” Mama and I would body roll to that one. “Come See About Me,” was sassy, so we liked that one, and “Mirror, Mirror,” was the groove too. Of course we’d listen to the Supremes classics as well.

And, “THE WIZ”…Chile bye….to know me is to my love of musicals and the WIZ is all things amazing. I’ve watched the movie gazillion times and I’ve seen it live several time. As a child I was afraid of the lion, and I think it was at the old Drury Lane where I first saw the staged performance of the Wiz and I cried when the lion came out. He entered through the audience and when he passed me he roared and scared the mess outta me, but I got over it real fast and was in love with “us people” on stage being so vibrant, alive and telling a story that was reinterpreted for us. And, I used to listen to the Wiz soundtrack every morning at my previous job.

Let’s be clear, I didn’t know about “The Wizard of Oz” until I was older, I thought The Wiz was the original…lol lol lol. For the movie, Diana Ross as Dorothy was everything, and Stephanie Mills voice in the Broadway production, honey chile, bye. And Michael Jackson (MJ) as the Scarecrow in the movie, all kinds of yummy.

To know my mama is to know how much she loved Michael Jackson, who she affectionately calls “Mikey.” Back in tha day she saw the Jackson 5 at the Milwaukee Jazz Festival. Folk be sleeping on Milwaukee, but they’ve always had some good music events.

So, back to Ms. Ross, I cannot mention her without thinking about our close family friends whose house we’d often go over for gatherings. They had Diana Ross’s VHS tapes of her concerts. We’d watch her 1983 Central Park concert almost every time we’d go over there for summer cookouts. One thing I love about that concert is the song, “Family.” To my knowledge she never recorded that song, but it was featured on the movie Dreamgirls . In the Central Park concert she asked the crowd to listen to the words of the song and act accordingly.

She said:

I want you to listen to me now
This is being televised again worldwide today
Just calm yourselves, come on, alright, can you feel me?
Yes, this may be the most important moment in my life
There are words in this song that to me are very special, listen

It’s more than you
It’s more than me
No matter what we are
We are a family

This dream is for us
This one can be real
They can’t stop us now
Because of how we feel

It’s more than you
It’s more than me
Whatever dreams we have
They’re for the family

We’re not alone any more then
There are others there
And this dream’s big enough
For all of us to share

So don’t think you’re going
We’re not going anywhere
We’re staying, taking our share
If you get afraid again, I’ll be there

We are a family like a giant tree
Branching out towards the sky
We are a family and so much more
Than just you and I

We are a family like a giant tree
Growing strong, growing wiser
We are, we are a family
I love you

I’m often asked what’s up with my thing for live concerts (and, the arts in general.) It’s framed in my love for “place.” Music instantly places me in my life and my experiences. I experience life through words, lyrics, feelings, sounds and colors. So, to finally see Diana Ross live, I was good guacamole happy. I was just as excited to hear her songs as I was to experience all of her extraness…hair and wardrobe changes. I wanted a SHOW!

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Saturday: July 15, 2017

The Venue at Horseshoe Casino

Hammond, IN

Concert day was a dense day for me; I was at the United State of Women, Galvanize Program all day—no time to even go home and change, I was gone ALL day. Which, I usually like to go the Horseshoe, Venue early to have dinner, and watch the people arrive. I love love love seeing Black folk showing up for us and being us.

For this show though, I got there a song into Rhonda Ross opening up for her mama. Rhonda is definitely her child, she got the Diana-esk thing going on. I’d read about Rhonda’s story awhile ago and it tripped me out, she wasn’t told she was Berry Gordy’s daughter until she was 12-13 y/o. Ms. Ross was married to Tracey Ellis-Ross’s dad at the time.

After Rhonda’s set, I appreciated the quick set change. The crew was on it and Mama Diana’s band got on stage quickly. Let me tell you bout ole skool folk, they know how to do tha damn thing and do it efficiently. Then it was time for Lady Di, cos she is our Lady Di.

Diana Ross “I’m Coming Out”

She comes out in all her glory and greatness, being all the extra I needed her to be. She sashays out with the hair and wearing this big poofy aqua tulle over-cover thingy, and underneath, she had a deeper aqua-colored, more like teal, sequin dress talmbout “I’m Coming Out.” Yaaaasss she was coming out and I was ret for her to bring it. She looked good and she was giving us good juju and in return, the audience was servin’ her some extra special lovin’ in return. She even noted how great the audience was, and she kept having “warm fuzzy” moments. It was crute.

She gave us a few songs and then she’d scurry off stage to change again—3 wardrobe changes, each having an over-cover thingy. Her band/background singers would take good care of us while she was preparing to wow us with her next sequined number. And check-it, you had to pay attention cos if you didn’t, it mighta seemed like each dress was the same, but in different colors, but they weren’t. And for the red ensemble, she had a matching handheld folding fan.

Her band though, they sounded good. One of the best sounding bands I’ve heard in this particular concert space. Her percussionist was giving me life, and the horn playa too. He was getting his salsa on and his musicality was duly noted.

This concert felt good. BUT, it was too short. It wasn’t that she didn’t give us the goods, but it was short. From what I heard from others who’ve seen her this year in other cities, I discovered that she didn’t give us the “jazz set,” which would have added the needed 15-20 mins to the show. Wait, so Auntie D didn’t give us the Lady Sings the Blues set? Pooey on her.

But on the real, I didn’t feel cheated with quality, just with the length of the show.

Her set-list included, and I may be missing somethings:

  • I’m Coming Out
  • More Today than Yesterday
  • Stop In the Name of Love
  • Come See About Me
  • You Can’t Hurry Love
  • Love Child
  • The Boss
  • Upside Down
  • Take Me Higher
  • Ease on Down the Road
  • Mahogany
  • Endless Love
  • Aint No Mountain High Enough
  • I Will Survive (Odd and gangsta that she ended with a song that’s not her own.)

Now, if she’d done anything from “Lady Sings the Blues,” “Everybody Rejoice,” “Reach Out and Touch,” “Love Hangover,” and/or “Mirror Mirror,” I would have totally lost my bird.

About Lady Di, Auntie D, she is sistagirl. She has Diana from Tha D (Detroit) tendencies, fasho. She checked security and told them, “If I ask them to come up on stage with me, don’t stop them, don’t push them away.”

Overall, it was fantastical show, well worth the longggggggggg day and finally, I saw our Lady Di, live and in concert.


nicole jhan’rea

On Turning 43: Museums & Movies

Disclaimer: Cos we’re Black in these america’s, the 4th day of July will never be Independence Day.

Proclamation: July 4th fireworks are in MY honor! lol lol lol

My mama went into labor a lil after 7pm on the 4th; she thought the discomfort she was experiencing was indigestion. All day she’d gone from house-to-house, making her rounds in the neighborhood, eating up everything. And of course, she had her favorites, watermelon and homemade ice cream.

43 years later.

With my cell phone powered off—I was on an electronics and social media hiatus—when the fireworks began, I dusted off my Canon Power Shot and charged the battery while reviewing my plans for my tomorrow, July 5, my born day. Who knew that one of the funniest things would be me mistakenly touching the screen of the camera, forgetting that it was not my touchscreen camera phone.

A few years back I invited a friend to co-curate “She be . Black . Arts . Movement . Summer Series.” This series, for Black womyn, was meant to engage public spaces, be artsy, explore Chicago and most importantly chill out, not veg out. It was adult field trips that took sista-circles out into the world. I really enjoyed curating this series—it also helped me to reconnect artistically and to explore Chicago. This city…full of politricks, over-taxation and segregation is also full of life, beauty, passion, possibility, endurance and hope.

To this end, I’m always down for being a tourist in my own town, yet the hustle and bustle of everyday life doesn’t always permit. But it was my day, my bearthday so I’d planned my own fieldtrip with the theme: “Museums & Movies.” Also, I wanted to “see” and capture messages from the Universe.

July 5, 2017

1st stop: Wishbone.

To succeed in life you need 3 Things: Wishbone, Backbone & Funny Bone

It was too early for a specially made hot fudge, birthday ice cream sandwich, but I appreciate the happy birthday serenade and tha other diners chiming in.


2nd stop: AIC, Art Institute of Chicago.

I digress: The Uber ride to AIC was blackity-black. Elder Uber-driver rolls up with tha blues bumping, windows down, top open and air conditioning blasting. His steering wheel spinner knobs and bedazzled decal, a pink heart with angel wings, on the dashboard caught my attention. He gets out and opens the door for us and makes sure we’re in.

And then, the performance…the concert begins.

Pops gets to snapping his fingers, shaking his shoulders and singing along, asking us, “What you know ‘bout the blues?”

Just a little spoon of your precious love

Satisfy my soul

“Spoonful” lyrics

Clearly, he didn’t know who he was talkin’ to. Of course I knew Howlin’ Wolf.

Pop says, “If you don’t like tha blues, you will after this ride.” He sings some more and sinks further into the driver’s seat. He drives. We chill. And the elder announces, “We must love ourselves.” He professes that he often takes himself out on dates.

He pushes next on his playlist, skipping to, Bobbly Blue Bland and sharing: “Yah’ll my last pickup cos after listening to this here good music, I’m going to the beach and do me.”

The beat drops for the next song and the driver gives out an affirming shout while belting out Buddy Guy’s “You damn right, I’ve got the blues.” He acted out the “from my head down to my shoes,” part. Before that song ended he skipped to BB King’s,“Don’t Answer The Door.”

Pops kept dropping gems between embodying heartfelt lyrics. Right before we reached the museum he declared, “Uber musta been a great big pimp, cos this Uber thing is some pimp shit. I’m my own boss.”

I absolutely loved this dude, so full of life. So full of soul.

At AIC we enter and I sit on the bench to pull out my cheat sheet having already mapped out our visit. Cheat sheet out, a Latina sista approaches me all smiles, “I know you…”

She doesn’t let me respond and she continues: “I was just looking at you in the magazine.”


“Aren’t you Priscilla (Polly) Marinho?” She pulls up a picture of Priscilla on her phone.

Our cheeks match. Yes, Polly and I favor.

Even once we establish it’s not me, sis is still excited.

2nd floor to Regenstein Hall to see special exhibit, Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist.

“With the no formal training, he learned from his contemporaries, but he also questioned the uniformity of their style and the limitations imposed by their narrow definition of “fine art,” which did not include craft objects such as furniture. He was a radically creative outsider.” Exhibition Description/Artist Statement

An artist after my heart, a rebel he was. He called his sculptures “monstrosities” because of their “unrefined aesthetics.” He was also a traveler, he traveled throughout the French colonies and when he got to Tahiti he was irked that colonization had robbed natives of their culture. He complained that he couldn’t get a real feel of the people pre-colonization, so he painted what he imagined the culture to be prior to French invasion.

Um kay Gauguin, that’s how this colonization thing works, imposition.

This is the contention I have with wanting to enjoy such artist but I can’t unknow history, because at the end of the day, he was still painting with his intended audience, privileged Parisians. Nonetheless, the appreciation of his artistry is coupled with reading in-between the lines.

For instance the painting of Tehamana, Gaughin’s alleged Tahitian “lover…” *pause* “Lover…” I guess the curator was using the word very loosely. My assumption is that likely she had no choice in the matter.

That’s like saying that enslaved African womyn were massas “lovers.” Fuq outta here with this revisionist history and coded language. As Britni Danielle’s said in her piece referring to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, “Language like that [mistress] elides the true nature of their relationship, which is believed to have begun when Hemings, then 14 years old, accompanied Jefferson’s daughter to live with Jefferson, then 44, in Paris. She wasn’t Jefferson’s mistress; she was his property. And he raped her.”

Of course, I was drawn to his work with melinated people: Panama, Martinique and Tahiti. As an artist, he was focused on capturing the details of his subjects “inner life.”

Enough of Gauguin, it was time to make our way to the soul. On the way to Gallery 124, at the front end of the building, we stopped by contemporary new art and went to the lower level to see photography and the miniatures. Finally, tucked away on the other side of selected drawing by Saul Steinberg, there it was, sistagirl Cauleen Smith’s, Human_3.0 Reading List. I had to stop, take a breath and slowly proceed to take in each of the 57 drawings—on 8½ × 12- inch graph paper in watercolor over graphite, occasionally elaborated with acrylic.

In this series, Smith drew book covers. Not just any book covers, but covers of books I’ve read and reread, or need to read. Science fiction. Black Diaspora. Feminism. Gender. A reimagining of the world. From the margins to the center.

It was like being in my personal library because I own many of the books. This exhibit is a combo of some of my creative loves: reading, writing and visual art. Walking from drawing to drawing I thought about the content of the book represented in each cover. Books that have informed my thinking, challenged it…some material I agree with, other material I do not. My imagination kicked in and I was suddenly in a room full of people and I’m sashaying around a room selling books and pages are raining upon us and I’m saying to my guests in my greatest thespian voice, “Read. Read. Read.” I tickled myself because my voice became that of Dave Chappelle in a Rick James parody, “Read bishes…Read.” Lol lol lol.

Context: “An artist whose primary discipline is film, Smith has incorporated various influences and references in this visual booklist. Newspapers, magazines, and websites frequently offer lists: the 10 best new restaurants, the 50 top places to see in the world, the 100 best movies of all time. Cauleen Smith has created another kind of list, a new canon of humanistic literacy presented as a series of drawings. She engages with the idea of a collective consciousness through manually drawn renderings of book covers. Harriet Tubman, C. L. R. James, and bell hooks find their place alongside Starfish, Sea Urchins, and Their Kin by Nelson Herwig. Together the drawings ask challenging questions: Have you read these books? Will you read these books? What will they mean to you? What do they mean to us now? Which titles might be missing?” Exhibition Description.

I spent time with each drawing and I liked that on some there was a Black thumb or finger. This appearance was to make it clear that we are cultural workers, not merely the keeper of the culture. Black folks read. Black folks write. The personal is political. Black and literate. Yaaaaas!

“Grounded in a sober assessment of race relations and institutional power structures, Human_3.0 Reading List calls its viewers to prepare for social change through self-empowered education. In the final words of the manifesto accompanying the series, Smith exhorts her audience: Love. Resist. Read on. Right on.” Exhibition Description.


3rd stop: Echt Gallery.

I have a love affair with glass art. I was introduced to Dale Chihuly’s glass work some years ago when I was at Philly’s National Liberty Museum, and at one of my other favorite spots in Chicago, Garfield Park Conservatory, “Chihuly in the Park: A Garden of Glass.” Since then I’ve been hooked on exploring glass art.

I found this gallery online. “Echt Gallery is dedicated to providing leadership in the education of studio glass…” We get up to the door and it’s a sign, awwwww man! They were closed. I was disappointed but appreciated the guy who came to the door and invited us to return next week, when they’ll be completely moved in, two doors down. I just smiled for this pause in my day. I was receptive. Right across from Echt was a small restaurant, Brett’s Kitchen, a hallway restaurant as I call it, long and slender. A bite to eat and cold drink.


4th stop: DePaul Art Museum.

I think this museum gets slept on, but it always features really cool artists and exhibits. I was looking forward to both featured exhibits, Girl Power.

So, you ever walk in a gallery and it feels like home—like all the pieces need to be in your living room for you to spend time with everyday while sipping tea?  Also, ever want white walls and gallery lighting? I was sold on Firelei Báez’s, Vessels of Genealogies.

Hair hair hair. I loved the pieces with the fullness of hair. Báez, a Dominican artist of the African Diaspora. When she was on residency in NOLA she created a series around the Tignon Law of 1786—this law required women of African descent to cover their hair. Some of those pieces are featured in this DePaul exhibit. Báez created large-scaled portraits with African-featured faces that come out of patterns, colors, symbols and objects of resistance ie. hair picks, snakes and broken chains.

I was captured by the vibrancy of her work and the subjects African features, the beauty of their eyes/nose/lips.

There was another piece where she addressed colorism and the brown paper bag test. I sat with that one for a minute.

Hương Ngô: To Name It is to See was the other featured exhibit. This is an interdisciplinary exhibit of resistance and performance.

“Hương Ngô engages with the French government’s surveillance archives of Vietnamese anticolonial organizer Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai (1910-1941).”

5th stop: Starbucks

Now for a movie. Since we spent a little longer at each museum than expected, we were only going to see 1 movie. Off to Landmark Century we went. Early for the movie I wanted to get my complimentary bearthday drink from The Bucky’s aka Starbucks. Shoutout to Bucky’s for having coconut milk.


6th stop: Landmark Century Theatre

Movie popcorn, aint nothing like it.

Movie: The Big Sick. If I had to sum it up in one short phrase I’d say, “Love wins.” Since I was planning on seeing two movies, I was torn in choosing one, but I went with the romantic comedy. I’ll go see Beatriz at Dinner before it leaves.

The Big Sick wasn’t heavy, but it wasn’t without depth either. Kumail, a Pakistani American aspiring comedian who drives for Uber, is torn between cultural/religious traditions and a white girl he’s fallen in love with. The white girl gets deathly ill and suddenly he has to deal with her parents, Holly Hunter and Ray Romona. Great casting and they were believable.

Moral: We can love our family, but not necessarily align with our family’s cultural or religious traditions. Also, the importance of communication in relationships—lying by omission can be a slippery slope. In the end however, love wins!


7th stop: El Nuevo

Walking to the restaurant, flowers caught my attention. #Grow.

My bearthday, dinner at El Nuevo.

Guacamole always wins!!!!

This Mexican restaurant has, out front, indoor and back patio seating. I chose this spot not only because it’s close to the movie theatre, but it also has vegan/

vegetarian dishes. Yummy yummy Chiles Relleno Vegano, minus the fake cheese, with quinoa and a spring salad. Good stuff. The poblano peppers were perfectly stuffed wit dat good-good—all very fresh and plated beautifully. Also, the wait staff was personable, and the virgin mango Daiquiri was quite tasty.



8th stop: Home & Queen Sugar

I thought I was going to pass out when I got home, such a long and rewarding day, but I really wanted to end my day with the warm fuzzies of Queen Sugar and glass of tea in my birthday cup.

The writing, directing and music on Queen Sugar are so validating. Good TV. It humanizes us, Black folk, our rituals, language and sensibilities in such an authentic and affirming way. How the show is shot, the angles, and how beautifully our melanin is featured and captured often take my breath away.

Black folk, community and family loving on each other. One of my favorite series was the Soul Food series, and Queen Sugar is 10x better than that and I loved me some Soul Food. The pacing of the show is also what draws me in. It’s not rushed.


Lights out…

If I had one word, okay two words for the day it would be…okay 3 words. Fuq it.

July 5…

I felt cradled by Chicago. I felt embraced by the arts and the people.

I was inspired to create and to honor my sacredness.

I was reminded to never be apologetic for centering myself and those who look like me.

I was inspired to breathe freely and to always find myself in all that I do.

I was inspired to continue to take space, make space. 



nicole jhan’rea


42: Goldenly Blessed…

The bearthday cards are starting to roll in. I’ve gotten 3 or 4 thus far.

I am a lover of cards. So much so, I want expand a line that I started a few years ago.

This particular card, the featured image of this post, is special cos it’s from my mama, and because it’s from my girl’s Jill Scott’s, Mahogany line. I love the Mahogany tagline: “soulful. true. you.”

Though I love Jilly from Philly’s music, I was never a big fan of her song Golden. However, last year I wrote a review after seeing her at a show that was cut short due to a power outage. [Check out my Golden post from last year.]

It was at this concert, two months after my 42nd bearthday, that the lyrics resonated with me. I incorporate music into my therapy groups with my students, and Golden was on heavy rotation.  Year 42, the plan was to live it like it was Golden. It didn’t hit me until right this second that though my 42nd year around the sun was a beast, I spent it “holding onto my freedom.” It wasn’t always pretty and often me holding onto my freedom meant that I had to be vocal even when I wanted to be in the cut.  This bearthday card, though, was a reminder of who and what I am, “goldenly blessed.”

About 42.

[This post elaborates on my Summer Joy ’17 post]

42 ain’t been no punk. I have wanted to punch this year in it’s THOKE! A big juicy karate chop and adult tantrums. I’ve been stretchhhhhhhhhhed and bent in ways I ain’t neva been before, both personally and professionally.

Professionally this is the HARDEST and “WORSEST” YEAR I HAVE EVERRRRRRRRRR HAD, but I grew as a clinician, art therapist, mental health counselor, and a youth development practitioner…and, I grew in the added responsibilities of being a post-secondary coach, and a personal project supervisor to several of my students.

Mind you, I am a school-based counselor/therapist, and I was teaching youth how to write complete sentences, navigate research projects, and how to prepare “personal brand” statements. I didn’t sign up for all of this, in some ways it was a “trick,”lol lol lol lol… and in some ways it happened because of the poor decisions of others, but once it was happening I couldn’t let down my students. Because I’m not the “damsel in distress “chick or eye sweating “crocodile tears” that when I say “this is too much,” I’m not heard until I speak loud words like, “I AM NOT A WORKHORSE NOR AM I A MULE.”

Bloomers, please please please advocate for yourself.

In addition, I did some consulting, and I finally completed the youth development certificate program that I officially started like 6+ years ago. The latter wasn’t planned, but the program was sunsetting so I didn’t have a choice but to complete it. I’ve also presented at several conferences and sat on several panels, some of which ion’t even remember. Lol lol lol.

Oh, and then there’s this thing called health. Ohhhh the stories I have about this. I found myself in urgent care wayyyyyy toooo manyyyyy times this year. Big G and I had plenta conversations that were like diatribes, but my truth is that God’s GRACE, never left me. She has been consistent with her answers.

Let me tell you something, God aint told me “no” and “wait” as much as she has this year in my entire life. “Obedience” has been a recurring word.

She (God) even went so far as to tell me in one situation, “They aren’t using you, I am. This is what I’m telling you to do.”

Tha fugde, seriously God, that’s what we doing now? But on the flip, she was tender and patient with giving and my reception of her discernment. She also reminded me that there were things I’d asked for and she was merely giving them to me. Like really though, all at the same time?

Right now, I’m on deadline for several things and I’m working to finish by the end of the day tomorrow. The level of detachment I’m bout to be on starting day’s end tomorrow until the following week bout to be epic.

Though this is the midpoint of 2017, my calendar year of expanding of manifesting. It is the beginning of my birth year, which runs July to July.

43 will be a much smoother year, because I’m much smoother. I’m walking into this mug in sweet surrender. I’m chilling with God like, “Homie, I surrender.” Which, I’m also a little nervous cos I don’t wanna mess it up. I will have to slowwwwwww it downnnnnn. Which, fear and faith cannot occupy the same space. So I readily choose faith.



nicole jhan’rea






July 1: Bearth (birth) month = written reflections and acknowledgments…

(loosely edited) as i welcome July, my bearth (birth) month into my psyche/soul, written reflections are always in order. in this spirit, i wanna give a shout-out to Nezabelle for starting the group, “Boss Chicks Blog.” Nez was also featured here as a guest bloomer, back in january, on how she protects her Black girl magic. check out her response if you missed it, or if you want to revisit it.

from questions she’s posted in the Boss Chicks Blog group, to the challenges/activities she presented to us, i’ve tweaked a few things on this blog. moreover, i’ve become more intentional with something i’m already very intentional about, arting, writing, and this blog. these things also reflect the work i do as a mental health counselor:art therapist with a focus on Black girls and womyn’s mental health. blogging for me is about creating space and unapologetically filling space with Womonness/Blackness.

from one of her group challenges, a very simple, but huge thing i revisited: What kind of blog is She Blooms Black?

the “i don’t fit in boxes” part of me, was adamant when i started this blog not to limit what it is. also, i had the luxury of doing what i wanted and not following “the rules,” b/c my point of entry into blogging, was not to monetize it. it’s always been about me writing and sharing, first and foremost. look, i’m so not into being put into “boxes” that i even went to an arts school & counseling psychology program that prides itself on being interdisciplinary, no boxes.

so yeah, i don’t do boxes, at all…lol lol lol. anyhoo, one of Nez’s challenges/prompts made me revisit this notion of being specific with what kinda blog She Blooms Black is. no worries, no boxes, but i still needed to pen the ambiguity of what my blog is.

it pushed me to be even more creative with how i describe the blog to others and i came up with: “She Blooms Black: A blog for Black womyn & our mattering! Part personal blog, part lifestyle—fully sistagirl.” i have a longer description, but this is what i added to the top of this blog.

i trust, this description will evolve as i evolve, b/c more and more, this blog has become a place where i weave my personal narratives of she’ness & black’ness into my love of movies, music, concerts etc. through reviews, which, are really reflection pieces. i believe in mastering my craft and i believe in critical analysis and context and i’m a sucka for a good background story, while also being innovative and creative, and that’s what i aim for with this blog, with such intentionality. which, is really me spilling my very broad and massive and complex and messy thoughts on the page and then on the computer screen for you all to read.

anyhoo…my long-winded point is. lol lol lol lol. brava ms. inez for your vision and creating the container, “boss chicks blog.”

nicole jhan’rea

Music Review: India.Arie SongVersation (She say…)

I know all attention is on decoding Jay Z’s 4:44—I’ll get to Mr. Beyonce in the next few days—but right now, my focus is on the intentionality of words and meaning by India.Arie.

“SongVersation: Medicine,” dropped today and I’m here for the healing energy she’s bringing. I receive the songs on this EP as both prayer and meditation. It’s a sipped cup of matcha tea, sitting on a meditation pillow, and cradling a beautiful journal with a pen (or colored pencil) moving across the page in words or doodle.

*This isn’t a review so much, but a reflection after the first coupla listens.*

I was on a panel a few years ago and I was asked the difference between prayer and meditation. My response was simple, prayer is the asking, the question and meditation is the answer. Meditation connects us to our breath and allows us to hear. SongVersation, is both prayer and meditation.

This, the last day of June. Tomorrow is the first day of my bearth (birth) month. Already in cancer season so I’ve been having all the feels and been reflecting on my last 12 months as a whole, and on the last 6 months of 2017. Recurring themes:

  • Expand and manifest
  • Improve my quality of life
  • Stay in the question
  • Writers write…artists art…I am
  • Bloom where I am planted
  • My gifts are making room for me
  • Disrupt/dismantle oppressive spaces
  • Make space & take up space with care and intentionality, do not hoard space
  • Declutter

I was excited upon first listen that Arie’s new cd aligns perfectly with what I’m on.

She used almost the same album cover as SongVersation, letting us know that Medicine is the continuation, the same frequency and energy, vibe of “pink.” Pink is the color of the heart chakra, no coincidence that my rose quartz has been sitting in the sun “charging”—I’ll start wearing it today.

But look again, she added to the cover. The circle, sphere…cipher, with her being at the center. Yaaaaaaas India. I get the symbolism. No hierarchy. We are the circle of life. Okay okay, Lion King, Hakuna Matata. Life ain’t happening to us, we are life itself. Working the metaphor…working the metaphor.


Track 1: I Am Light

We already know this song from the first SongVersation. It’s the “do you know who you are, who you really are moment…” It’s the put yo listening cap on and get the gook out yo 3rd eye, come on in, it’s time to take this conversation to the next level.

I Am Light is not only a reminder of who we are, it’s like the “Adhan,” call to worship in Islam or in the faith tradition I was raised in, the pastor emeritus would say, “I was glad when they said unto me, come let us go into the house of the Lord. There, I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my Lord than to dwell in the tent of wickedness….” Whatever your faith tradition or spiritual journey, I Am Light is the acknowledgment of the sacred time. It’s, the time is here…the time is now… 



Track 2: Soulbird Rise

This is also a callback from SongVersation, it’s a lifeline, a call to arms for sistas to elevate. This song gives us even more permission to fly and reminder of our endurance.

We are all things Black Girl Magic.

Real talk though, my tippy-top thought was, this is the cd to listen to right before Solange (checkout my review of A Seat at the Table) and Tanks and the Bangas, and directly before Lauryn Hill’s MTV UnPlugged, and E. Badu’s Mama’s Gun

She say, “Didn’t cha know/Time to save the world/Where in the world is all the time/So many things I still don’t know/So many times I’ve changed my mind/Guess I was born to make mistakes/But I ain’t scared to take the weight/So when I stumble off the path/I know my heart will guide me back”

And gotta have some of N’dambi in that mix. What N’Dambi say on Ode to Nina?  She say, “I’m not complaining/I’m just tired/Of your comings, your goings, your leavings, your stayings/Yesiree/ Wouldn’t you agree?” That is my shit.

Just like Cherisse Scott say in Sometimes “At night sometimes, I wanna cry. Sometimes I smile instead, just wanna rest my head.”

Come thru sanging sistas. #BuildingThatSummerPlaylist



Track 3: Light of the Holy Spirit

Consecration. The time before the ritual, the ceremony…the sacred, when you just be.

This song is that.

I’ve had a saying for some years now, “repetition is not for the weary.” The repetition in this song is a reminder that even in the midst of discord. The out-of-sortness going on in the world, going on in my city, Chicago, we are still connected to that which is greater than us.

Wait, and there’s Prince’s take on repetition…lol lol lol. “Holding someone is truly believing there’s joy in repetition, there’s joy in repetition…Joy, come on and love me baby, joy in repetition,” Joy in Repetition 

India’s, Light of the Holy Spirit is the salve. And I appreciate the lightness and fluidity of her playing the flute on this track. This song is air meets water.



Track 4: Give Thanks

This track moves us more deeper into the here and now. The present. I ask: Who you be right now, in this very moment? It is from this place/space we must elevate higher.

The signet of this song is selah, às̩e̩, namaste…hallelujah. Soon as I heard selah I was reminded of Lauryn Hill’s song “Selah,” on the “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Soundtrack”

On “Selah,” she say:

Nothing can be done against the truth/No matter how we remain in denial, yeah/Wasting time, replacing time with each empty excuse/But that’ll only work a little while

And the refrain is:

And then He came/Selah, oh and it means/Praise and meditation, and then He came/Selah, oh and it means/Did you think about that, and then He came/Selah, oh and it means/Praise and meditation, and then He came/Selah, oh and it means/That it is seen



Track 5: Just Let it Go

By the time we get to the 5th song on SongVersation: Medicine we are ready to do our “self-work.” She’d been gentle with us up til now, and now she comes with Just Let it Go.

This song is Part 2 of “Get it Together,” from Voyage to India. India is like, let that ish go so you can be free and live yo life.

I have another saying about not living by default, don’t just let ish happen, showUp everyday for yourself and your life. Which, we don’t showUp in the same way everyday, sometimes it’s as simple as having the wherewithal to get out of bed and brush our teeth. I get it. Point is, big or small, showUp for you. India tells us, “your healing is in your hands…” And the closing confirmation is her last line, “Set yourself free.” Get free yahll, get free!



Track 6: Breathe

This song puts us into the current “climate.” This is the: we still going thru Black people, we still being killed, we still out in these streets fighting for our lives and our humanity, BUT the salve and the reminder is the power of our breath. BREATHE.

She performed this song with E. Badu on the 2016 Soul Train Awards. I’d downloaded it and even used it in my therapy groups with my students, but it really didn’t really get in my crevices and resonate until today when I heard it in the context of the rest of the album.

I’m feeling it.

This song reminds me of a lil diddy I wrote for my last stage production, “Stand’n tha Gap,” I wrote, “We are breathin’, we are breathin’ calling out the violence against Black womyn, healing our people and not being silent…” Which, this song, takes us back to the other tracks on the cd, we must breathe through everything. Our breath is our life source. Most importantly, we must breathe without apology cos, like Audre Lorde said in A Litany For Survival,

“It is better to speak


we were never meant to survive”

Our breath is connected to our voice (albeit your voice is verbal, the hands you use to sign visual gestures, your pen, a camera, your body…whateva), we must speak!

This song was for Eric Garner and for all Black lives mattering. I appreciate the song because it doesn’t decenter Black womyn, but broadens the conversation to acknowledge brothas and our connectedness.



Track 7: Chicken Soup in a Song

A play on Chicken Soup for the Soul…in general, chicken soup being medicinal. I was receptive to this song as an offering, a gift of comfort…a reminder of harmony. Finding harmony between self-work, communal work and rest.

Sat yo arse down somewhere and be still.

She say, “not enough hours in a day…we will never get it all done…so I wrote you this chicken soup in a song, may you be cozy and warm wherever you are.”

The sap in me was swelling with eye sweat, but the song ended before a tear fell. Uptempo time.



Track 8: Life is Good

This song is between a praise and worship song and a country song. It reminded me of Carrie Underwood’s, Something in the Water, but Celeste Betton’s cover. Celeste put that stank on it, gave it sistagirl soulfulness.

Life is good is the same the declaration, not question, Can We Live!!!!

India.Arie ended SongVersation: Medicine with a 2:54 injection right to the psyche. A soul-filled dose of Positive Psychology—with everything, and in spite of everything LIFE IS GOOD! This was her drop the mic moment….


In bloom,

nicole jhan’rea

#SheBloomsBlack #IndiaArie  #SongVersationMedicine

Concert Review: Common’s Ravinia Debut

On the Metra from Ravinia to downtown Chicago, I wrote this in the notes section of my phone. It is mos definitely, loosely edited.


Didn’t spend much time on taking pics and the ones I clicked were crappy, I was busy being present and just vibin’ and being familiar with an artist who I feel I’ve grown and evolved alongside.


The Windy City, well Highland Park….lol lol lol…close enough to Chicago, welcomed Common home. His first time at Ravinia and he repped hard! Check it, Common been making albums for 25 years, which his first album dropped my first semester of college. Damn, how time flies.


So let’s get into it. Two opening acts. Also from Tha Chi, DJ Twilite Tone kicked it off on the 1s and 2s. He was tryna get me to shake a shimmy by spinning another hometown dude, Kenny Burke from the south side, Chatham neighborhood (Tone also gave us a music history lesson.) I was hopeful with him bumpin’ “Keep Rising to the Top.”


But then, I got confused because he wasn’t blending songs and he was playing whole-entire songs like we were in the living room chilling with our own record playa, like dude, it’s 2017 and you been doing this since ever. Tone a cool dude but yeah, it was weird. Anyhoo, he tells us, “You can dance—don’t wait til the stars come on the stage, you’re a star too.” Yaaaaaasss, I’m a star! He also shared that he’s producing Cody Chestnut’s new joint. I just found out that Cody recorded his new project in a barn. Cody be on dat though. His first cd he recorded it in his bedroom and it was raw like it hadn’t been mixed down or anything, but I could dig it. Oh yeah, Twilite played a house mix of Solange’s, Cranes in the Sky, that was dope.


Tone’s set ended and the next DJ comes on. He got us ready to receive Taylor Bennett (Chance the Rapper’s, little brother). I think the young man can spit (rap), but he wasn’t cognizant of his audience. Not sure if Ravinia was ready for fuc#$%^ and pu#$@% and hoe rhymes. Oh little brother.


Quick set change and it was time for Common to make his Ravinia debut.


I was excited cos his band was present. I’ont know if this iteration of his band is still called Black Girl Named Becky nonetheless, he had a DJ, keys, drums, horn and a sista background singer. Sis’s voice was giving me Tamia. She added to his show. I thought Com said her name was Yusef or did he say she’s working with Malik Yusef? Not sure.


I think Common looked thinner than usual, but not Hollywood thin. He was full of energy hopping around and commanding the stage.


As Common went through his catalog I got to reminiscing on the past 25 years. I feel like I’ve lived several lives in 25 years. Anyhoo back to Common, I’ve seen him in concert many-o-times. I have his albums. It hit me how long it’s been since I’ve been rocking with this dude’s rhymes. I felt my age and it felt good.


He brought a girl on stage for “Come Closer,” and another song. Sis just moved to Chicago from Ohio. I liked that moment cos she was “regular” with some kicks on and a “chill tha fuq out” outdoor concert outfit.


I liked the arrangement of “Testify.” The band was smooth with its transition into a Prince tribute. Darling Nikki.


Anddddd Common housed it up on “Go.” He soooooo Chicago!


He brought his close friend’s parents on stage, the Dudley’s, celebrating 50 years marriage, that was also cool cos it was soooo regular.


Other of my favs included: “I Used to Love Her,” “The Corner,” “The Light,” “The People,” “Resurrection”…and always good to hear him include tracks from Can I Borrow a Dollar.


He ended the show with “Glory.” “Lil Tamia sang her face off on John Legend’s part.


The show was nowhere near sold out. I could tell by the number of people on the lawn and the Pavilion was far from capacity, but it was a full of good energy and the crowd was hyped. Now, I need Ravinia to bring Kendrick Lamar. I know, fat chance but I think he’d rock that venue, fa’sho!


It’s an interesting line “woke” artist walk. Wanting to center Blackness but not wanting to isolate their white “fans.” I’m always listening for the messages in between the songs/raps. Com referred to his people as ALL people, bruh, we don’t need this universality cos then you talmbout little ghetto boys and girls.


Com gave a shoutout to his cast members from the show he’s currently filming, The Chi. Which, it’s interesting that I was at a conference recently with Lena Waithe and she also talked about this new series. Anyhoo, some of the cast members were sitting in front of me. A sista came up to one of the womyn in the cast and I’m like, she looks familiar. I realize she’s sis from the movie Slam with Saul Williams. Sonja Sohn, the Afri-Asian sista who taught at the jail. I ask one of the sistas she’s with if that was her, but she didn’t kno her work on Slam so she said: “No, she’s from The Wire.” Sonja hears us and turns around and asks, “you remember me from Slam,” she was impressed because I guess most folk refer to her being on The Wire. She was pleasant and gracious extending her hand for me to shake.


All in all, I really enjoyed Common’s Ravinia debut. Lately, I’ve seen several concerts of musicians I love, but from other generations, so it was extra special to see hiphop on Ravinia’s stage, and my generation doing this music thing, still! And yes, Lauryn Hill was there last year and she is hiphop as well!


nicole jhan’rea

Movie Review: All Eyez On Me…

I didn’t know what to expect with this movie. I’ve read the mixed reviews. I knew John Singleton walked away from the project cos the folks were being shady. I’d read Jada saying that certain things didn’t happen. I’d read they sued his mom for the rights to do the movie. Does the family get proceeds from this? I’ve read that Mama Afeni made sure Pac’s estate/trust was protected before she transitioned.




After seeing the movie, I don’t have much to say actually other than I hope John Singleton makes a Tupac movie.


It’s not that it was terrible, it’s just that it fell short, and at times it felt too preachy, like a PSA and heavy-handed on proving a point vs moving the story along. At times, it felt like a Lifetime movie. Sometimes, dude felt like Pac, and sometimes, he missed the mark. Weird thing was that the casting, as far as looks, was great, but the acting wasn’t always there.


It was good to see that Tia Mowry’s husband, Cory Hardrict, landed a gig.


The Oscar goes to Danai Gurira for her role as Pac’s mom, Afeni Shakur. She put her whole foot in that role. Yaaaassssss, character actress! She was giving me a mixture of Lupita Nyong’o and Viola Davis, which is interesting because Lupita was amazing in Gurira’s Broadway play, Eclipsed. Gurira as Mama Afeni kept me engaged and wanting to see more of her interaction with her son. That relationship is what I wanted to see more of and more of his relationship with his sister, Sekyiwa.


One of the most blackity black lines was “You just gon’ lay the luscious on me in front of Mama,” and Afeni responds, “She got a white mama.” H I L A R I O U S.


Two other poignant lines were:

They’ll give you, all the tools to destroy yourself…

Our family crest is cotton.


I don’t know how I felt about Shakespeare being a thru-line. Huh. Interesting. Meh.


Oh and, the part with Snoop on the plane and them not “addressing,” him was out of character for how Pac and even Suge Knight had been portrayed in the movie.


Kidada Jones had too much of a role in the movie.


In general, I realized that I’m over seeing movies about Black folks getting screwed by the music industry, making uninformed decisions or making decisions under distress is heartwrenching. If it’s true that Pac had everything, including his home, was tied up in Death Row, that sucks! OVAH IT!

Lastly, as a whole the script wasn’t good. The writing and storyline had loopholes. All over the place, trying to do too much in a short period of time but with no depth, no authentic deep dive.


nicole jhan’rea