Guest of the Week: Jina Katura (Lyricist and Poet/emcee)

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Jina is a 22-year-old graduating senior at Columbia College Chicago, studying TV Writing/Producing. She is a phenomenal performer, born and raised in Chicago. Jina has been recognized by Kelly Price, Laurieann Gibson and even the comedian, Luenell. Jina aspires to inspire the world with her stories rather it be through poetry, hip-hop or TV/film. She is a lyricist and poet/emcee of the rising duo “ConSoul” where she’s opened up for artists like Atlantic Record’s, Sir The Baptist. Jina also played a spectacular role in my theater production of “Womanifesto.” You can catch Jina performing some of her poems live on February 28th at The Playground Theater. Be on the lookout for ConSoul’s debut E.P. that will be released early June of this year!

 

Candy Crush
I think I have a candy crush
I mean this guy got me twisted like a Twizzler and
Wrapped around his finger like the process of cotton candy being wrapped around a stick
Oh, twix
I aint tryna be his fun dip
Like I have visions of us being strong enough to shift the orbit
Like when our hearts beat together, they make the sound of a whatchamacallit?
A Symphony
His Hershey kissed skin makes the clock not tick-tock, but tic tac for me
So I’m like “break me off a piece of that kit-kat bar” for me
His chuckles make me snicker
So red hot that when I heard Beyonce’s single ladies
I went to get the ring pop
I will follow the dots I spot in the milky way
To you my Mr. Goodbar
No time for baby bottle pops
So let’s stop and wait for the sugar babies
Cuz I been thinking lately like maybe we could see some things
Let’s take 5 months to live like a king and queen
Blow a hundred grand on stuff that we don’t even need
We can throw the money in the air like it’s some jelly beans
So bit-o-honey don’t you get to actin’ funny
You’re Mr. Butterfingers so I know you got some money
Next thing I know the ring with no pop on my finger
I think I have a candy crush for now and late
Follow Jina Katura on:
Instagram @damn_jina
Facebook: Jina Katura

Book Review: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

 

Image from Newsday (Online publication)

Beyond it being a 2018 Oprah Book Club selection, this book for me, got straight to the point, just how I like it!  I enjoyed reading this book and instantly connected with the main characters Celestial, Roy and Andre.  I appreciate books with a few characters in it because it’s keeps me focused on the storyline.  Once you go past five characters in a book, you’ve lost me I’m sure.

In this book, An American Marriage, great title by the way, it immediately gave you the plot and continued to pull you more and more with each chapter from the thoughts of each main character.  I was expecting a typical marriage story about two people living the American dream: two kids, a dog, white picket-fenced house, etc.  But not in this story.  Each main character was influenced either in a negative or positive way by the upbringing of their parents or the absence of them.  Like most of our parents who endured hardships before we were born, try as they may to keep us from creating our own hardships in life, sometimes, our criminal justice system destroys everything we’ve ever been taught.  Roy unfortunately, was raised right by his parents but the state of Louisiana, failed him.

Celestial and Roy are a replica of a modern day African-American couple trying to live their best lives in Atlanta until the state of Louisiana and it’s known prejudices within our judicial system, changed their lives, forever.  Without being a spoiler, which is not an easy task to complete while doing book reviews, this book speaks volumes on more than just the institution of marriage, it also speaks of the institution of incarcerating more black men in our society (especially in the southern states such as Louisiana), healing and finding peace after the storms of life hit you.

I am always a fan of writers who pile so much wisdom in their books and have me purchasing 2-3 highlighters at a time.  This book, dropped a few nuggets of wisdom here and there but the story was just so captivating that the novel itself, challenged you to “stay woke.”  I kept asking myself, “What would I do in this situation?”  What situation you ask?  Imagine your spouse abruptly being taking away from you and locked up for twelve years for a crime he/she didn’t commit?  Through that time apart, you fall in love with your best friend (or the love had been there unbeknownst to you) and boom your spouse is released from prison….EARLY?????

I’m still unsure of what exactly I would do if I ever was in that situation.  Again, I’m NOT a book spoiler so you must read the book to find out more about the fate of this couple.  I would love to read your comments on what you do if you were in this situation?  Love runs deep and this couple definitely have An American Marriage.

Saving $5 Bills

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Image found on Google search for saving

Since January 2018, I’ve been saving every $5 bill that I have in my posession.  It started out with a post that I saw on Facebook from Bobbie Denise (she played the role of Candice, in my debut play, God, Do I Hear Wedding Bells?).  I thought this idea would be a creative way to save money other than putting money away in the bank, which is most definitely beneficial, don’t get me wrong.

I own a black piggy bank with a pink bow on one of the ears and I enjoy putting in the jar, all of my loose change at the end of the week (another cool saving tip) and putting the $5 bills in there.  The goal is to do this for a year and at the end of the year, I’m going to treat myself to something nice.  If you decide to do this savings plan, you can use the money to purchase gifts, put the money saved actually into your savings account or whatsoever you chose to do with the money, you saved it, it’s yours.

Here’s an example of how this saving plan works.  I was at the laundromat and withdrew $40 from the ATM.  I bought a $1 daiquiri  to get some change to put on my pre-paid laundry card to wash my clothes.  The total was $1.11, my change was $18.89, of which $15 dollars was returned to me in the form of 3….$5 bills.  I instantly separated those $5 bills and used the remaining money towards washing my laundry.

Simple saving plan right?  I challenge each of you to do this.  It’s never too late to start saving.  Comment your success or challenges with this saving plan.  Feel free to save other bills as well but it’s so much fun saving the $5 bills.

Reader’s Blog Choice Topic: Living In NOLA

Image from American Affair

Let’s pretend that you and I are sitting down at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA), enjoying a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning.  This may be your first time visiting NOLA so we are just catching up and you asked me the ultimate question, that I get asked often:  How is living in NOLA?  Which then leads to more frequently asked questions.  This week on my Facebook page, I allowed my readers to pick what they wanted me to blog about and here are their choices:

Living in New Orleans (NOLA).… Living here in NOLA since June 18, 2017 has been for the most part, busy except for every other weekend when I’m off.  I work at the juvenile jail which means I work 12 hour shifts so most of my time is spent at work.  I make sure that on my weekends off, I do some writing, reading, relaxing, more writing, getting out and enjoying the city outside of just hanging out on Bourbon Street, which the city is highly known for.

I try to stay away from the cliche things to do here in NOLA so that I won’t easily get bored.  I love going to places that have a live band playing jazz and wine, if the establishment also sell cigars, that’s a winner for me.  Since living here, I’ve fell in love with the cherry flavored Tatiana cigars.  I’ll smoke a cigar on occasion, just to relax and unwind from the stresses of my job, life or writing…..yes, writing is stressful at times.

I live in a shotgun style house which was a must have once I moved here.  I adore the southern dwelling (the house is purple) and everyone in NOLA hangs out on their porches.  Something I had to get used to because in Chicago, I rarely saw my neighbors.  When I first arrived, I even dressed like a southern belle, wearing long floral dresses.  I love the culture and food here.  Every week, I make sure I either cook red beans and rice, or treat myself to some of NOLA’s best foods: po’boys, gumbo, jambalaya, etc.

How to successfully relocate….. I get asked this question A LOT!  I don’t think I have a “Steps 1, 2 and 3” formula on how to successfully relocate.  What I can share is my story.  Back in April of 2017 I began having that burning desire again in my heart to live in NOLA.  I’ve wanted to live here since attending Grambling State University.  The desire would be so strong that I would just sit and cry so many times, when I was alone.  I remember the words of my sister Sharrelle, who said to me years ago, when I cried because of my desires to return back to Grambling State University after years of being absent.  She said, “If Grambling is where you want to be, then go!”…. This time around, I replaced the word Grambling with NOLA and set out on my spiritual journey.

I asked my cousin Ray who lives right outside of NOLA, for the website for government jobs in criminal justice, because I knew I needed major coins living here.  I applied for my current job in April and didn’t hear anything, until….. Until May when I felt God tell me in my spirit, “Put in your resignation letter.”  I was currently at a job in Chicgo working for seven years, so naturally I was comfortable in my job security.  Why would I give that up to venture out into the unknown?  It’s called FAITH.  I knew that if I obeyed the voice of God telling me to resign, He was testing my faith and I did the only thing I knew how to do: I resigned from my job and start packing up my house.

Again, I hadn’t heard back from the job I had just applied for, a month later, I started packing up my house and didn’t have a thought or clue of where I was going.  June came around, I was scheduled to travel to Paris, France for my 36th birthday but got a call from the Human Resource Director from the job I applied for back in April in NOLA.  She asked if I could come for an interview at the juvenile jail that week.  I didn’t have much of any money saved, but I withdrew all of my savings, used my paycheck, a recent theater check from my last production Karma and set out on the road to NOLA for that interview.  I stayed from Tuesday thru Friday in NOLA because I was hired on the spot and had to complete the background check, psychological exams, etc.  Got back home to Chicago on Saturday morning around 2am and guess what?  At 9:30am, I received a call from the HR department asking if I could start work on Monday?  I immediately said YES!!!!

I talked things over with my children about staying with their grandparents while I lived in NOLA so unexpectedly.  There were no objections with them lol, next was delivering this plan to my parents.  My dad was instantly sold on the idea.  Not so much my mom, for logical reasons but when God opens a door of opportunity for you, GO THROUGH IT.  I knew this journey ahead me was about to be a testament of how greatly God will provide for me.  I aspire to be a full-time writer in theater and/or film and needed a place like NOLA to live in solitude, to make that happen.  I was asked on so many occasions about why I didn’t move to Atlanta, New York or L.A. to pursue a career in writing?  For me, this move was about fulfilling both of my passions: working with youth and writing & producing stories.  I can always visit those places to network for writing.  I need a place of stillness and away from everything and sometimes everyone, to write.

Long story short, my house was already packed and I started work on June 19, 2017.  I sold a few big items in my house and gave away other items that people picked up.  I created a Go Fund Me account which helped me get my life started as a writer on my off days and criminal justice professional in NOLA.  I stayed in AirBnB’s the first two weeks until I found my adorable shotgun house.  I would drive around everyday after work and look for “For Rent” signs and scheduled appointments with the homeowners to view the houses.  Meanwhile, my car had everything I bought with me from Chicago still in it, those first two weeks.  I literally lived out my car for two weeks.  I finally found the shotgun house I was mostly impressed with and guess what?  My landlords were AirBnB hosts so I stayed with them for one week until the house was vacant for me to move in on July 1st.  God, works in mysterious ways, the current tenant had to unexpectedly move back home to Texas to care for her sick mother and I needed a furnished house.  I bought mostly everything from her for $300 that she could not take with her and began, living in NOLA. I tell people all the time, take what you can and leave the rest.  You can move anywhere and start afresh.  Don’t worry about clothes and furniture.  Create space for God to provide you with NEW things.

Dating….. I love it!!!!!  I’m happy and since January 1, 2017, I’ve decided to keep my love life more private (unless I’m writing a stage play about it lol).  But I will say this, God definitely orchestrated this move to NOLA and added love with it because I never even considered love finding me here.  I was so focused on my goals and careers that I bumped into love I guess.  He is simply amazing!

How you worked on your goals although all was not planned but yet you pressed through them even with the things you have been through?….. Honestly, I just kept moving forward.  One thing led to another and no matter what was placed in front of me, I knew that God didn’t bring me over 900 miles away from being comfortable with my family and friends, to leave me.  I cried at times, wrote in my journal, revisited my goals listed in my journal, I was frustrated with living out of my car, but I kept pressing forward.  I even took a break from writing (that was totally unplanned) to get more settled in my job.  Now that I’m settled, I’ve picked up my writing again and I must say, it feels great to be doing both things that I love dearly.

If you are considering relocating, what will make it a success for you?  Everyone journey in life is different.  Regardless, set out on your journey to a new beginning.  If you’re a faith-taker like me, allow God to direct EVERY step of the way and success will happen.  If you’re the kind of person that needs to have everything in alignment first before you make a move, start preparing now!  If you’ve relocated, share tips in the comments to help others.

Coming Home

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Image from labelleesplanade.com

Could this be my grave? Was there a second line dance to celebrate my life?  Did a rescue team even find me? Did my parents stand here, and weep over my remains, that will soon turn to dust?  And tourist will walk by, and take pictures of my tombstone because it’s fascinating to see my last marker in life, above ground.  Did my children survive the hurricane? They were downstairs, eating breakfast together at the kitchen table before the storm came through and ripped us apart.  Or did I have to flee to the rooftop of our home and find them later, face down, floating corpses, in filthy water?

Where is F.E.M.A.?  New Orleans, that’s home for me.

What about life, is there life on the other side of death? I could’ve done better with the time I was given here on earth.  Is my spirit in heaven?  Or, did I not complete God’s assignment, here on earth and now, I must live in hell?

New Orleans, that’s home for me.

When the levees broke, that stopped life for me.  I had just turned 25, my life wasn’t in the most stabled place, I was supposed to be on Bourbon Street, listening to all of the blues and jazz bands, the sounds of Wynton Marsalis and Fats Domino.  Walking to the sounds of the street bands and drinking a drink called Hurricane or the finest whiskey, but the waters from Hurricane Katrina, overtopped the levees and killed my dreams.

New Orleans, that’s home for me.

The news reporter said that the levees broke, but word on the streets said that, because of my skin tone, I am no longer welcomed here, by the government.  This is, my home, and whatever the cause was that broke the levees, I am now a refugee in my own home of New Orleans, 11 years later.  There are no longer wood panels, sunrooms, flowers, “Ujamaa” which means family hood in Swahili…..now it’s just stairs with no foundation or bricks that made it a home, or signs of life that someone once lived there.  There’s no more children outside playing, no one laughing.  Now there’s more poverty, crime rates continuously increasing, sex trafficking of young black girls, in 2005 over 12,000 people were living with HIV due largely to illegal drug injections to cope with survival post Katrina, homelessness because they had no home to return to.

Where’s F.E.M.A.? New Orleans, that’s home for me.

Did I have a husband? I wonder if he was Creole, or African descent?  Were we happy living under the hot sun as he opened the door to my soul by saying to me, “My bride, you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes.  Don’t stir up love.  Don’t wake it up until it’s ready” ……….. as we made love on Royal Street, where we thought no one could see us.

I would never be able to taste the good ‘ol New Orleans cuisines, seasoned in spices.  My lips will never touch a catfish Po’ Boy, gumbo, red beans and rice, crawfish etouffee or raise my pinky finger as I sip my coffee at Café De Monde and eat beignets.

New Orleans, is home for me.

The sun shines it’s face on my community.  That’s Mr. Avery, he could’ve been my neighbor his skin is just like mine, but now, I see bicycles because the new millennials live here now and have taken over, and no longer making us feel like this is our community.  We now share the streets of New Orleans with them because they said they were coming here to help us rebuild our city but the more I travel down the streets of New Orleans, I no longer see, neighbors with skin like mine.

New Orleans, I’m coming home.