Friday, January 31

India.Arie Pens "Open Letter" On Grammy Awards & Racism

by: April D. Byrd

The 56th Annual Grammy Awards caused a big stir in the entertainment industry as usual. The residual buzz surrounding Beyonce's titillating thong and Kendrick Lamar's surprising snub is just a smidgen of the controversy that has kept the Award's show in the headlines.

Singer and Performing Artist India.Arie is standing out a bit more substantially and making her voice heard. The songstress wrote an open letter about the small amount of honor and support the Grammy's has shown to R&B and Hip Hop artists. India refused to let the awards show off the hook for behavior she refers to as racist.

The singer wrote these words (below) via her personal tumblr:

@Kendricklamar WAS robbed, BUT he was not the only one who was robbed. Personally, I was pleased he was able to perform and they KILLED! IT! One of the FEW moving moments of the night for ME.

Though it’s called “Music industries biggest night” the #Grammys are NOT about the music, it’s a popularity contest. The voting process allows people, to vote on name recognition alone - the music industry politics is a whole NUTHER conversation.  Too much to go into here.

The American Music Awards is a show that awards sales and popularity - the #Grammys are SAID to be about the music. If the hip hop community voted on hip hop -  r&b COMMUNITY the same -  same for each category - we’d see winners that reflect the MUSIC ITSELF. We all know that’s just not the way it goes. 

NOW the BIGGER losers, are ALL of black music. Where was the black music community represented in last nights #Grammy show? Performers and Winners (or not) … Where were the black artists?
And this isn’t the first time the #Grammy’s has had a show all but excluding young black America and black artists in general, although we set the worlds musical trends. Why NOT televise the lifetime achievement awards of the Isley Brothers? SURELY they deserved to be on televised stage LAST NIGHT! While other artists were on stage TWICE?

The truth is in a perfect world diversity would matter, and respect would be rampant, but the TRUTH is, The #Grammys is a television show, and in THAT world ratings reign supreme.  So, in general, bigger names take the stage, and sadly the biggest names often times ARE BIGGER drawn along racial lines from the release of an album. i.e. marketing dollars, and just general support.  It’s unfortunate.

I don’t even get surprised any more, but, it still hits my sense of fairness, because I KNOW many of the artists who are overlooked. I LIVE in that world. We keep showing up and subjecting ourselves to the game, hoping MAYBE we’ll win. I was so HAPPY to see @Kendricklamar take that stage - because it is a FORM of winning, at LEAST, he was SEEN.

Speaking of diversity, congratulations to my PERSONAL favorite albums of the year -  @I_GregoryPorter #LiquidSpirit @Realsnarkypuppy and @lalahhathaway on your win and THANK YOU! @pharrell for acting RIGHT in the presence of the greatness that is @Nilerodgers and #StevieWonder
Love to all #SoulBirdsWorldWide


P.S. No mention of Nelson Mandela at ALL? … and THIS is why we NEED the Image Awards AND the BET awards.

Does India.Arie have a point?  What did you think about the Grammy Awards this year?

Wednesday, January 29

January Birthdays

If you read my blog post last week about my shortcomings as a mother, you may have been left feeling concerned for my children.  Children deserve to grow up with the guidance of someone who actually knows important things and can perform basic tasks like building with Lego.  Well, I am very happy to report that while I know nothing about dinosaurs or fort building, I know a lot about hosting a fabulous slumber party in honour of our Big’s 7th birthday!  I know, why would parents of five decide to care for four children overnight who do not belong to them?  
First, I’m totally trying to win at this parenting thing and I don’t believe all the hype about there not being a big award at the end for the most awesome mom.  Second, it was an excellent opportunity to send the Middles to Nanny’s for a slumber party of their own.  We quickly realized that five, six to seven year olds and a couple of rambunctious two year olds is much easier that our two four year olds.  Ah-hem.  We seem to have isolated the problem(s).  Lucky for them, The Middles and their four year old attitudes are a pretty good problems to have.  Anyway, point is, I’m really good at birthday parties, if I do say so myself!  
But in spite of my feelings of accomplishment post birthday, like every year at the end of January, I am reminded that life is brutiful – simultaneously beautiful and brutal.* Just as the excitement and joy of our wonderful Big’s birthday is starting to wane, we remember the baby we lost who should also be having a birthday at the end of January.  

Z and our baby Isaiah were born four days apart.  As she was coming into the world, too soon, he was going home to his foster family who loved him dearly until he was able to be loved forever by us.  They were born into the same incredibly snowy January in Ontario.  They were born, four days apart, into the arms of mothers who would not watch them grow.  
For seven years I have sat with the uncomfortable feeling that without loss we would have missed out on the joy of raising our big guy.  It’s amazing how we can balance joy and sorrow.  It’s weird how I can feel so blessed to have our Z and so desperate for our Isaiah.  I struggle with the fact that I can’t have them both.  If Isaiah had lived, we wouldn't have our big guy.  I cannot imagine my life without him.
I struggle with our family’s story.  Sometimes I tell people that we lost our first baby and that soon after, we adopted a baby who came home the day before her expected due date.  Sometimes I tell people that we named the baby we lost Isaiah, and the only name we could think of for Z, was also a prophet from the bible.  Sometimes I tell people that the day we named him, the day we found out he would be ours, was also a day in the Jewish calendar when Rabbis read from the book of Isaiah and the book of the prophet after whom Z is named.  Sometimes I show people the picture from the first day we met our boy – the one where he is looking up at me as if to say “You’re my mommy.”  After hearing our story people often say, “It was meant to be.  He was supposed to be your baby all along.  He was sent to you by Isaiah.”  I hate those words.  They suggest to me that Isaiah was never supposed to be here.  Like she was wrong and he is right.  I know that’s not what people think, but that’s how it feels.  I want them both.  They’re both my kids.  I was meant to be a mother to both of them.  I am a mother to them both.

Z knows about his sister Isaiah.  Z knows that we love her and although he has claimed otherwise when he’s extra angry with us, he knows that we love him.  “If Isaiah was here, she’d be my twin (Lord knows all the Silverman-Akande kids, have to have a twin!), he says.  He tells his little sisters about her and speaks about her like she’s part of our family because… she is.  
One evening when we were talking about the loss that he feels sometimes not being raised by his biological mother, he asked about how I feel about losing Isaiah.  When I told him that I feel angry and sad, he looked at me and said, “When people die, God turns them into birds in heaven, then they can visit us here on earth.  God made Isaiah into a bird so that you could see your baby again.”  My kid, who by no means is always compassionate, understands that there is a "universalness" in loss.  We all celebrate those who are near while we long for those who are not.  
When I started writing this post, my intention was to write a neat and tidy piece about love and loss and this brutiful life but I’ve run out of space and there is nothing tidy about this.  Like life and for me, the end of January, this piece is messy and brutal and hopefully beautiful.
Xo Ajike

*A term used to describe underground death metal, but for me, a term coined by writer Glennon Melton. I am not familiar with death metal, but I’m sure it’s brutiful!  

Sunday, January 26

Monday Motivation: Let Go, Go Forward.


Our true character and ambition doesn't develop from the dreams we have as kids, it comes from everything life puts us through on the path to maturity. Our true passion comes from finding ourselves in divine purpose. How are we designated to serve the world with our gift? That is life's most persistent question. Are you willing to answer the call? 

Oprah has an amazing testimony about the power of surrender and letting go! It Really Works! 

Check out the footage in the video below:

Are you living your absolute Best life? There is no time BUT the present! Let Go and Go Forward!

posted by: April D. Byrd

Friday, January 24

Write What Is Sacred (Atlanta Testimonials)

The first "Write Was Is Sacred" workshop by Trey Anthony took place January 19th in Atlanta, Georgia. There was an out pour of excited writers who came out to participate, There were New and Old writers, Male and Female writers. The participants had all good things to say! The workshop was powerful! There was nothing but rave reviews and love for Trey Anthony's first workshop in the series. The "Write What Is Sacred" workshop will also be held in Canada.  To register for Toronto's write what is sacred, Feb 15th, Click Here, only 4 spots left!

"A few of the workshop attendees writing exercises"

Here is what some of  the Workshop attendees had to say:

"we learned from the best today. Trey is an amazing writing coach. Her workshop was instructive, constructive & affirming. She helped us dig deep, yet made it safe for us to do so." ~Kathryn Sharon

"I attended the workshop on Sunday and it was absolutely a great experience. I learned so much and I am inspired to begin writing. I woke up this morning and said "I am a writer." ~Fatima Goodman

"Wow! I was blessed to take part in the "She writes what is sacred" workshop. I was reminded again of the healing power writing has especially when we tell stories from the gut. Thank you beloved Trey Anthony for designing and facilitating this transformative space." ~Helen Yohannes

"Trey Anthony teaching and facilitating in Atlanta."
"Today's workshop truly was about writing what was sacred in every sense of the word. It covered so many aspects of just living, the human experience. I was seriously empowered as a creative being, better yet a FORCE! Character development really helps you to have compassion for other people, even the people who may have hurt you. The writing what is sacred was also in a sense of bringing out your best work, through your best self. The exercises and activities were DEEP! I'm so looking forward to the next one!" ~April D. Byrd

"Trey Anthony thank u for such an in-depth writing workshop today. It reiterated how much I love and miss writing. I look forward to the next one. Healing work through words." ~Arline Leonce

Only 4 spots now left for the Canada Workshop !!!! Registration closing feb 5th. Get Tickets here:

Wednesday, January 22

Mommy's Shortcomings

To my dearest Big, Middles and Littles,

I want to start by telling you that I love you more than anything.  Because I love you and I trust that you love me too, I feel that I can come clean about something. 

I do not possess some of the basic knowledge that may be required to be an adequate parent.  I know this is hard to believe but it’s true.  I thought I was a responsible expectant parent. I did my homework.   I read (the often problematic) Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book, Raising Adopted Children, The Happiest Baby On The Block  and its sequel, you guessed it, The Happiest Toddler on The Block.  I read The No-Cry Sleep Solution, The Anxious Child and my favourite, The Explosive Child.  And when I realized that I actually had some parenting instincts and that there is a parenting book out there to support every single parent’s instincts and beliefs, I gave away the parenting books. 

What I didn’t know, is that what I should have been reading were books about the following:

1.        Characteristics of farm birds and water birds.  I can’t tell them apart.  I really don’t know the difference between a turkey, or a hen or a chicken.  I think there may be a whole male/female thing with farm birds and their names, but I don’t know that either.  And water birds?  I’m stumped. “Look at the ducks, the geese, the sea gulls!”  Are there more?  I don’t know.  If you’ve asked me about farm birds or water birds and I’ve given you some solid sounding answer, I was guessing.  I have no idea what I’m talking about.  I’m sorry. 

2.       Identifying common water creatures.  Please stop asking me about whales, dolphins, manatees, seals and whatever else lives in the water.  I cannot tell them apart.  But, I want you to know stuff and I want you to think I am awesome and the holder of at least some knowledge, so I will lie and throw out any water creature name I can think of in response to your questions.  Please don’t make me lie to you because then I feel guilty.  Please read books featuring these confusing water creatures with another caring adult and put me out of my misery. 

3.       Dinosaurs.  Okay, this one gets to me.  Dinosaurs are not even here anymore, and I’m supposed to take up valuable space in my brain remembering their unreasonably long names and what they like to eat?  I pretty much had to stop teaching kindergarten because my students were jealous of every other kindergarten class that got to do a unit on dinosaurs.  Whatever!  I’m sorry.  Forgive me.  This is  not happening, my sweets.   

4.       Names and uses of trucks.  Seriously?  I thought I was in the clear with this one until wee Mr. Lee came along and developed a deep love for any “Mighty Machine”.  I can’t do it.  I have no idea if it’s a backhoe or a digger or an excavator.   I don’t know and I don’t care.  But I care about you so I’m sorry about my deficits in knowledge.  Forgive me.

5.       Building things – train tracks, Lego anything, forts.  You have to understand, I was the baby of the family.  I had a very attentive big sister who happily built forts and anything else I wanted.  She loves you too.  Auntie Ke lives just a few blocks away.  Anyway, I didn’t obtain these skills as a child and when  you ask me to build these things for you, I feel insecure and less than because I know there are parents everywhere (even that Mama of yours) who can build anything.  I can’t.  But because I love you, and I actually think building is cool, I’ve started doing some research.  Just today I found a website where this over-achieving, show-offy person explained how to build several train track configurations using the Ikea wooden train track starter kit.  According to him there are 32 possible configurations.  He used math kids!  See, apparently good parents use math skills learned in elementary school!  Lesson?  Pay attention in school, you’ll be a better parent. 

There are other things I can’t do but I will leave it at this as I don’t want to blow your minds and shatter your beliefs about your mommy.  I do love you with all my heart but I can’t take time to learn about all the things that you care about.  I will however, teach you to do a Google search so you can find out all this stuff yourself.  And after you’ve taught yourself about farm animals and water creatures and building, you can teach me because teaching really is the best way to retain information. 

One more thing,  when you are confidently discovering the world around you, you can thank me for not always providing answers to your constant questions but rather shrugging my shoulders and allowing you to discover the answers for yourself. 

Much love,
Your underperforming Mommy

Thursday, January 16

Exclusive Writer's Workshop With Trey Anthony

Wanna be a Great Writer? This is year to do it! With an Award Winning,  Recognized World-wide Writer, Producer, and Artist. Trey Anthony is a Four Time NAACP Award-Winning Writer, Huffington Post Contributor, and creator of 'Da Kink In My Hair' Series. She's hosting exclusive Writer's Workshops in the U.S. and Canada.The first workshop of the series "She Writes What Is Sacred: Part 1" kicks off in Atlanta on Sunday January, 19th. The Workshop/ Writer's Boot Camp is for Writers on any level. 

The Producer is offering fellow Writers, Creatives, and aspiring Artists a chance to a chance to see how it all works and opportunities to explore relevant, unanswered truths about the creative writing process. Beyond creative development, Writers will discuss questions such as:

In the group writing workshop, Trey takes writers on a journey of self exploration and how to write their Vision and Truth.  The Event will be held at Sister Love, Inc. on Ralph David Abernathy, Blvd.

For tickets and more info visit:

Wednesday, January 15

Total Eclipse Of The Heart: (Parenting Style)

The other night Wife and I went to a birthday celebration for an old friend (as in long-time, not as in her age).  Anyway, it was a night of Karaoke in one of those awesome private rooms so that you and your friends can totally indulge and don’t have to share the Karaoke spotlight with anyone other than your group.  Brilliant!

So sitting with a friend, who I actually have not seen since she became a mama two years ago, she pointed out that Total Eclipse of the Heart by the much loved Bonnie Tyler, could ostensibly be a song about parenting.  Yes!  Of course.  To prove this, I have recorded my own version of Total Eclipse of the Heart.  Wife, has kindly agreed to make an appearance.  She’s amazing.  We both are.  You’ll be shocked that, despite our musical pasts, we now only sing at home and in private Karaoke rooms.

Are there any other songs out there that could serve as a parenting metaphor?  Share your submissions in the comments. 

Xo Ajike 

Friday, January 10

A Farewell To Writer Amiri Baraka

Poet, Writer, and Activist Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. Baraka who was an ardent figure in the Black Renaissance of Art and Culture in Harlem was noted with the likes of Zora Neale Hurston, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and others as one of the eight figures who have significantly affected the course of African-American literary culture. 

As a Writer and Poet, Baraka was praised for speaking out against oppression and injustice. By the early 1970's Amiri Baraka was recognized as an influential Writer in America, influencing writers such as Nikki Giovanni and Don L. Lee. Arnold Rampersad wrote of Amiri Baraka in the American Book Review that  “More than any other black poet . . . he taught younger black poets of the generation past how to respond poetically to their lived experience, rather than to depend as artists on embalmed reputations and outmoded rhetorical strategies derived from a culture often substantially different from their own.

Baraka wrote and published poems, essays, and works of non-fiction.  He was most famously noted for "Blues People" which was an in-depth history of music from the time of slavery throughout the various incarnations of blues and jazz, with integrated social commentary. Baraka became the second Poet Laureate of New Jersey in 2002 and 2003.

Amiri Baraka contributed greatly, perhaps understanding the sacredness and gift of writing... along with the power of having a voice. We salute his life, works, and contributions with thanks. The craft of writing will continually be developed in excellence. With the upcoming Writer's Workshop, the plan is to give strength to voices and keep the power and progress alive. A Special Farewell and thank you to Mr. Baraka. Rest In Peace.

The first creative writing workshop and boot camp will be held in Atlanta, Georgia. Tickets can be purchased at

Monday, January 6

Monday Motivation: Stop thinking about it. Stop Talking about it. Act on it NOW!

Happy New Year! This Is the First Vlog for the New Year, with Many more exciting things to be announced. Start Now to take action and make 2014 your best year yet! Start acting on your dreams!

The First Workshop will be Held in Atlanta, Ga.

Friday, January 3

A New Film Discusses Gender Roles & Stereotypes

The team behind the film "Miss Representation" will be producing a new documentary "The Mask You Live In" which will be an exploration of American Masculinity. The film shows how boys and men can sometime be pushed into stereotypical or domineering roles. This film definitely looks promising and is a step up in gender and cultural discourse.  Sometimes certain mind-sets seem even more prevalent within the African-American community. Black men may have complexes that it's ok to cheat, the more girls you're with sexually makes you a man, or constantly being told not to cry, show any feelings or emotions because it makes them "weak".

However, it's not just black men given these paradigms, they affect men of all cultures.When men feel they're forced to act a certain type way it can cause confusion, miss-communication, and dissonance in society as a whole. The Representation project is debuting the film this year. What are your thoughts on the upcoming documentary?

Check it out in the video (trailer) below:

Wednesday, January 1

Silverman-Akande 2013 Holiday Card

Let me begin by saying that Wife and I successfully hosted the Akande Christmas celebration!  It was a Christmas miracle!  Find out how this miracle came to pass here

So here we are at the start of a new year.  Welcome 2014!  A New Year always seems like a good time to take stock and look back on the year that was.  Some people do it in a holiday greeting card which often feels like is a not-so-subtle way of people saying “Look how great we are.  Look at all the amazing things we accomplished!”  Huffington Post published a post from a mom blogger titled The Holiday Card Nobody Ever Sends.*  I liked her brutal honesty as she reflected on the year that her family had so I was inspired to write my own version for my family.   

Silverman-Akande 2013 Holiday Card

What a busy year it has been (Have you ever noticed that people always start their Holiday “newsletters” this way?  Like busy is the exception.   Whose life isn’t busy?)!  We started the year off by celebrating Wife and Z’s birthday.  Our big 6 year old lost his first teeth while the littles finally reached the end of the teething phase.  The girls graduated from nursery school and excitedly started JK.  In the summer we took our first family road trip to Ottawa to see Wife’s family where the kids loved being spoiled by Bubbie and Zaidie.  The girls went to the symphony with Nanny for the first time and Z was treated to The Wizard of Oz.  There were dance shows and musical theatre performances and theme birthday parties and themed Halloween costumes and lots of backyard bbqs with friends.  There were daily trips to the park in the summer and baths in the backyard.  There were new friends and new two-wheeled bikes and our first trips to a restaurant as a family. 

There were late night giggles with three big kids in their newly decorated room and nightly concerts for the little ones.  Z started to read chapter books and O and Z started writing their names.  F and L got out of diapers and learned to do almost everything themselves.  We lit candles for Shabbat and hunted for money filled eggs at Easter.  Wife got a leadership position at work and I started writing a blog.  We hosted a kick-ass Christmas dinner! 

All of this is true.  We sound pretty happy and pretty together.  But here are some more truths. 
We were late for school almost every single day.  Before arriving at school late, I yelled at the kids.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I took about 307 trips to a certain big box store that I am ashamed to say I frequent, to purchase many different versions of crap!  We found out that Miss O has high-functioning autism and that nobody believes that diagnosis because look, she’s perfect (except when she’s not).  We sent O and G to two different schools, separating them for the first time ever.  I cried watching that relationship change.  We realized that F is fiercely independent and has a frightening affinity for the middle of the road.  We realized that we had to put her on a leash.   I mean a cute fuzzy owl backpack that has a strap attached for responsible grown-up (or Z who sometimes subs in) to hold onto.

We realized that L has severe anaphylactic allergies and after a scary ambulance ride to the hospital and being pumped full of drugs he bounces back really quickly behaving like even wilder two year old (Think Animal from the Muppets). 

I realized that F and L may never stop nursing even though they complain sometimes that their “milky” (my breasts) aren’t working.  We discovered that my postpartum depression is now full-on depression and that my psychiatrist totally doesn’t get my sense of humour (Can’t a girl be depressed and still crack a joke?).  We discovered that Zeke feels sad sometimes because he doesn’t have a twin and that Wife is better than I am at empathizing with him.  I called my mom every day to declare that I’m done with this stay-at-home mom thing.  People who don’t know me told me I was a super mom.  We were invited fewer places as a family but friends so happily and lovingly brought the party to us.  Our kids were loved by other special people who only have to love them and don’t have to raise them. 

Wife and I ate an embarrassing amount of takeout and drank a questionable amount of wine.   We argued loudly, even in front of the kids but we also made up in front of them as well as privately.  The kids had tantrums.  So did we.  We were loud and silly.  We overreacted and cried.  We danced and sang and laughed.  A lot.  We did things we never thought we’d do, like let the TV babysit our kids (thank you Netflix) and let the kids play in dirt (this was a hard one for me).  We got older.  We figured some things out and struggled with more.  Things got not quite easier, but certainly different.  We had a really great, exhausting, hard year.  For 2014?  May I make different mistakes because I’ve hopefully learned from my mistakes of 2013.  Every day (and year) is fresh with no mistakes in it*.  Yet. That’s all I got. 

Happy New Year!

XO Ajike

* Written by Jen Stringer

*A favourite quote from Anne Of Green Gables.