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A pajama party with purpose

“My sister my sister, tell me what the trouble is

I’ll try to listen good and give the best advice that I can give…”

Monie Love

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Photo by Natasha Vinakor

In a time of grief, I am blessed to enjoy moral support and a sense of community. From my newest dance community to the beautiful women of my samba community, I am surrounded by positive energy. That strengthens me in the face of ignorance and negativity. Though our weekends are busy, I’m grateful I made the time to attend a women’s salon with my dance sisters.

The salon, “Let’s Talk It Out,” allowed for structured conversation about many topics.

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Photo by Natasha Vinakor

While #election2016 weighs heavily on our minds, it did not come up in the conversation, other than one mention at the beginning of the event.  Yes, our lives go on, despite all the emotions dredged up by the state of the nation. But we get to do so on our terms, not because of a shared op-ed article or meme on Facebook(Holding the door open). I digress, though, from the gratitude I feel for last night’s gathering.   While I kept relatively silent during the active discussion last night, I heard each and every voice.  I stood with my sisters in their worries, questions, and fears. Of course, there were light-hearted moments. We shared food, drink, and laughter. It was an experience I hope we continue.

One question I had prior to the event was whether or not to include M.  She’s an impressionable eight-year-old; would a women’s salon that would likely address controversial issues be appropriate?  I decided she would join us. She was so excited to choose a onesie to wear (recommended dress code for the evening.) Already an active member of our dance community, M felt right at home. She played with our hostess’ toddler daughter. She cuddled with a few of my dance sisters.  She sat on my lap and kissed my cheek every so often.  Given all the girl drama she already experiences as an elementary school student, I thought it was important for her to witness genuine, respectful camaraderie between women. These are women she admires and loves.  These are women who love her mother.  It was a win-win.

Nearly five years ago, I committed to mastering a dance style but also to opening my heart to new people and new relationships. As I’ve shared before, my dance community has enriched my life deeply(More than a parade).  As I make an effort to reach out and be included, I will continue to benefit from the blessing of sisterhood.

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Onesie crew

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Two leaders

I have been doing a lot of thinking about power and leadership lately.  Given what I do for a living, it is often encouraged by upper management and professional mentors; given the kinds of people in my personal life, my wonderful ensemble of artists, teachers, life coaches, and parents, it is often inspired by positive influences.  Life is complicated so choosing how to be empowered is equally complex and multi-faceted.  I have previously reflected on the difficulty of being one of the good guys(Not so prodigal) and on my tendency to stay positive in the face of challenges(Kermit mode).  But I have owned the urge to be ruthless (Ivan Drago mode).  It’s been a helluva week/month/year.

Soy rencorosa.  Well I can be. I pray for my enemies, often sincerely.  But a friend who betrays me?  Jesus, be a fence!  An electric fence with barbed wire on top because it’s all bad. Chain-link_and_barbed_wire.jpg

It’s an #icant situation of epic proportions.  In my personal life, it makes great writing material.  In the professional realm, eso si que no. So I got checked.  I know I can pull it together. Recently my horror at Ben Linus’s cold, calculating despicableness has turned into admiration. guest16

Ben knows how to be cool, polished, polite, and articulate while he plots your destruction.  Ben takes a Hannibal the Cannibal approach to leadership.

Pero no te preocupes, I won’t be joining the Dark Side any time soon.487096_v1

I came across another role model several months ago when I read Grace Jones’  I’ll Never Write My Memoirs.  As a child, I saw Ms. Jones (that’s what I call her because I RESPECT her) as otherworldly, manly, even scary. grace-jones-crazy-diva-photos-4_2015-09-24_20-17-31-571x430

But I always admired her. She was powerful in ways my meek little child self longed to be.  In reading Ms. Jones’ story, my admiration for a cultural icon became deep respect for a strong woman.  What better birthday gift to myself than to see her in concert. With my dance sister and confidante at my side, we made our way to the front row of the Greek.

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Ms. Jones did not disappoint. She was a force of nature. She was funny, quirky, sassy, and badass.

And though my little arms weren’t long enough to touch her hand, I definitely got close.  Weeks later,  her songs remind me of the power of love of life and self.

So how I lead will depend on the circumstances. I can be Ms. Jones or I can be Ben or I can be both. I will continue reflecting on how to be my best self when others simply cannot.  I will continue making others laugh, dancing with others, and being good to myself.  I will definitely be asking Jesus to run interference for me.

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Friday with Frida

The postcards came from my college apartment to my house in their cheap Pier 1 Imports frames: a black and white photo of Frida, pretty and feminine, in her bedroom and a reprint of a self-portrait,    Frida with shorn hair, headstrong and masculine. Frida was todamujer and still is. Long before she graced every Mexican restaurant wall and was silkscreened onto hipster tees almost as many times as Che, she was one of my heroes, right up there with Wonder Woman, La Virgen, and Rosie the Riveter. When it came time to buy an art piece for my living room, I settled on a Santana album cover because by the late 90s, art by Frida had become ubiquitous. Still, once I knew I was carrying a little Xicana, I knew Frida would make her way into our lives again. 
M loves Frida. She loves Frida’s face even if she has yet to truly understand the images and symbols in her work. M likes flowers, bright colors, sacred hearts of Jesus, and being Mexican. She sees herself in Frida. So you can imagine how thrilled she was to be able to become Frida, if only for an evening.
I noticed the Maiz Frida 9.5 event on someone’s Facebook feed earlier this summer and knew we had to attend. My daughter deserves to explore Frida’s legacy in a way that doesn’t deserve a Kermit meme like this recent Vogue article does: http://www.vogue.com/13260863/frida-kahlo-art-summer-style-inspiration/

Vogue, I do believe that’s side-eye.
Located in the heart of San Jo, or Mexican Town as M dubbed it as we drove to the Mexican Heritage Plaza, the fundraiser raises money for Maiz San Jose’s work to combat domestic violence against Latinas. Two Ni Una Mas scholarships were given out so that Latinas might be able to pay rent, utilities, or use the funds in other ways to extricate themselves from dangerous situations. What better way to honor mujeres than to celebrate a mujer who truly made her mark on the world?
Altar for Frida
The evening included music, dance, poetry, and costume contests for children and adults.


 For dinner, we enjoyed chicken tacos from a taquiza and some fruta sprinkled with Tajin. Music was provided by DJ Sonido SJ Clash.  The silent auction featured various pieces of local art.
I had admired a bracelet on Facebook but ultimately came home with a handmade pillow. We also purchased raffle tickets and we won two tickets for the Children’s Discovery Museum. 
We were surrounded by families; no hipsters in sight!  We definitely look forward to next year.  Gracias Maiz San Jose!