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Beat + on a budget.

IMG_2387I’ve always been a woman on a budget. My father used to gather his coupons to go to Kroger every other day to find deals. My mom, on the other hand, told me to “TREAT YO’SELF!” within reason, of course. So growing up with these ideas, a girl could feel conflicted. Do I try to save money and treat myself? Yes. The answer is yes.

Loving fashion, beauty, and style has been a passion of mine since I was a third grade diva in Lexington, Kentucky. Watching house of style with Cindy Crawford in the 90’s gave me life on Saturday mornings. So, how could I be just as beautiful and stylish as her? I mean, she was a supermodel. And I, a chubby black teen from the suburbs. Oh, what a paradox!

As I grew older, and moved from KY to NYC, style was a thing here. I worked in Harlem where everyone was bold and unique. I watched and learned and listened to style tips from my people. I needed some help too!  I was rocking polyester wigs for years before truly embracing my afro. True story. I thought everyone bought from high end stores. Then, I realized these cool, stylish glam gods, I loved, were rocking vintage clothes from thrift stores and beauty supply store lipglosses. I knew that was something I could do! I now thrift and beat my face on a budget because this studio on Rego Park isn’t gonna pay for itself, honey!

So, after watching tutorials and doing my research–I’m still working on it, y’all–I’ve come up with a list that helps the stylish teacher, creative, and just anyone on a budget.

How to be Inexpensively Classy, practically posh, and consistently cruelty free.

1. Read labels. 

As a vegan, I read labels as often as I can. Cruelty free and vegan makeup matter to me. And there are a lot of brands, by choice and accident, that are cruelty free.

2. Look for super sales and season change. 

When summer turns into fall, CHA-CHING! Bathing suits, shorts, cute tops all are nearly 75% off by October. Stock up! I also sign up for newsletters so I know when the best times are to buy.

3. Do it yourself.

Listen, I’ve watched so many tutorials and I’m bold enough to admit that GREAT teachers borrow! I go online–usually Pinterest and find my way to the DIY world. I’ll be doing some DIYs on here soon! If I can’t afford it, I can create it.

4. All makeup goes bad. 

I realize this is a statement more so than a guideline but, I say this to myself all the time. I can’t afford $50 foundation powder. I’ve done it. And guess what, it shattered on me and to be totally honest, it wasn’t cruelty free either. That was a sign, y’all! So, my budget ranges from $10-$50 on any given day for a beauty haul. If I can get a lippie for $10 bucks and below, I’m doing awesome! Nothing wrong with a splurge but I’m super mindful of my beat budget.

5. Last, but certainly, not least, do what works for you. 

I’ve been watching hair bloggers for some time now. I tried all these remedies, subscribed to beauty boxes and style bags–and I’ve learned my beauty is different from theirs. My tightly coiled hair gets super shrinky (a made up word) with just using water! I can’t do it. I need some type of hold. So I take samples and try them out and when I’m  ready, make a conscious purchase.

Treat yo’ self on a budget, of course!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WHY YOU’LL NEVER RUN YOUR FINGERS THROUGH MY HAIR! A Natural Hair Tale.

So I dated this guy once, and he had this baby seal type hair–full of super soft tendrils. You know the type—just add some water and a bit of Murray’s grease and those waves were spinning like a washing machine.

Animated GIF
He was annoying. 

My hair on the other hand, my waves were ghost, ok? Hidden underneath the earth. Coarse character. Unruly AF. My hair breaks combs and apparently, seal haired man children. I’m proud of my strong healthy hair and been natural since 2000.

Back to this wavy head dude that I mistakenly dated (he was a lesson and not marrying him was a blessing) and we were chillin’ at the crib and he said,

“When are you gonna do your hair?”

WHET?! What do you mean DO my hair?

He then admitted he wanted a woman whose hair he could run his hands through.

WOW.

Our babies’ hair will be non existent because this womb is closed. 

Later that year, people made comments about if we had kids, they’d have hair like a ram or a wooly mammoth or something.

This was in 2011.

*****

Afro Black Hair GIF

 

Welcome to the world of a nappy headed beauty queen. 

Your face is so beautiful. I mean, wow.

But that hair, though.

I consider myself a confident woman but those comments stung me. Penetrated my soul. And then, I realized, I need to stop being around people who devalue me.

But, I totally get why he’d say such insensitive and sexist comments.

We are conditioned to believe that hair like mine, is unprofessional and to be honest, unattractive. In the natural hair type community, I’m a 4c. A tightly coiled head of hair that needs a lot of care because it’s quite delicate. It looks like a cloud. A puff. And when it’s picked out, it’s actually looks like a wig—that’s how pliable and moldeable my hair is.

And before there was YouTube and vloggers who celebrated their natural hair, I went natural because those relaxers were painful. Scalp pus and head patting. Overprocessed hair. I didn’t know how to do my hair. I didn’t like my texture. And I’d covered my roots for so long, I didn’t know what it even looked like. It took me a while to truly love my hair!

Why is my hair type deemed ugly?

And let’s be real, these natural hair pages aren’t breaking their necks to feature women or use their ad space to highlight kinky hair. Two young sisters couldn’t wear their hair braided to their prom. And in 2017, a judge deemed natural hair (locs) as unprofessional. In South Africa, young girls were protesting because their natural hair was distracting. As recently as last week, in order for a young man to compete in a wrestling match, his locs were physically cut before the game or he’d be disqualified. It’s exhausting because when Kim K or another racially ambiguous person wears styles originated and deemed popular by black women, they’re not escorted from school or deemed unprofessional. I was told to wear a wig to a religious organization because they didn’t want me to come off as militant or a black panther. I’m like…”but, this is how my hair grows out of my head!”

Believe me, I got rid of that wig once my natural hair was accepted but it took a while.

I never really liked my hair texture. I always blew it out then twisted it then let it out. I had so much shrinkage that when I washed it my hair literally looked two inches long! It was so tight. But right around 2013, I rededicated myself to my regimen and my hair began to flourish. I started seeing growth and moisture. I started looking at youtubers and Pinterest and finding styles I could recreate. Then, it was all about my hair! How to grow it, checking for length, and never every cutting it! 😂😂😂austin powers beyonce GIF

Then, right around 2016, I decided to start photographing myself. It was February and my alma mater had a game so I cleared my apartment space in front of my bathroom, propped my iPhone, put on the timer, and posed. Go CATS!

It was subtle at first. A picture here. A pose there. Then lipstick. Then makeup. Then lots and lots of natural hairstyles. I was celebrating my natural hair by taking pictures of different styles and going live with my regimen. I celebrated my skin tone and body type and hair type and just exuded with positive energy surrounding the ideas around my image. I think I am empowered when I choose to wear my natural hair even for special occasions. And three years later, I’m in ads for hair companies and I’m not giving up. I’m proud of myself for not giving in to societal pressure.

I am not a wig basher but I am a natural hair celebrator. Shoo, I love wigs! It’s my thing if you follow me on IG. However, I refuse to believe that because I love a good beat and my naturally kinky hair that there’s no one out there that feels or looks  like me. I see these COMPANY makeup trips or natural hair boat rides and a lot of the IG models looks alike. Straight ombré bobs with parts down the middle, lashes, big boobs, small waists, ass for days, but flat stomach. Shiny skin and edges laid while sleeping. These women don’t claim to be perfect but they sure do have huge platforms that lead us to believe they might be. Society popularizes these ideals.  

My hair kinky hair is shaved on the sides with bright color, my thighs are thick, my boobs are not as perky anymore, I have cellulite and I wear a size 8 or 10 or 6 depending on the season and my salt intake. I have a Fupa. My armpits are struggle pits most of the time. I have hair growing out my chin. I have muscle and tone. I am happy to be nappy. I like to call my style Ms. Frizzle meets Sporty Spice meets Soul Train. I wear things that I like and styles I like and colors I like. And sometimes I like to be androgynous and sometimes I like to be femme. I explore all this and I just want to be authentic and intentional and clear.

All that to say, I’m finally happy with this head of hair. And to some, it’s rebellious. But for me, it’s beyond style. It’s my heritage.

My hair is a celebration. My hair is powerful. My hair is fierce. My hair is GOOD hair.

I hope we can all celebrate all of ourselves in all stages and in all shades.

FOLLOW ME!

http://www.instagram.com/berryberrystylish 

http://www.youtube.com/lacreshaberry 

http://www.instagram.com/berryandco

 

“I didn’t mean anything by it” and other microaggressions when you were born with an afro.

It all started with that hot comb.
Family kept telling me
I had nappy ass hair
Lady once told me
Her fingers burned
And nails broke
messing with your
Bush
So heat and grease
And chemicals released
I was a girl who hid her nappy hair
Because I didn’t want to embarrass
Anybody.
And I wanted to be them
So I read YM
W
Teen magazines
Not the typical black girl
But magic and tragic
Nonetheless.
“Don’t scratch, just pat…”
Mama said.
I did both because
Rebellion.
Scalp burns and scabs
No fun but
Roots laid
Nobody knew my secret
Made jokes through the pain.
October 2000.
After growing my relaxer for
Two months
I cut it.
Mirror dirty
Almost 22
Halo leftovers
Nappy roots
Wow.
I really did it
They said well
How you gonna do you hair?
I said wear it like this
Wig is more suitable
But not more believable
So I wore wigs for three years
Scalp dying of hair
Highly aware
These demands were problematic
But my beliefs were static
Not dynamic
Just stuck
Moms was a sage
She taught me how.
Deep condition
That’ll make your hair soft
You got braiding hair now
I smiled but still hid
Had a man who loved it
But that was long distance
And my resistance
was local
Everyone so vocal
on MY hair
It grew fast
but 18 years ago
There were no prepoos
And leave-ins
And YouTube
So I tried to figure it all
Out
My ex said
When you gonna
do your hair?
Blank stare
Wanted to run his fingers
through straight air
Puhleese.
I tried so hard to hold
On to length
And being so close to
Smooth and silky
And to please the male gaze
Esteem in a daze
Trying appease my dates
Showed them the Afro
Wear it like that bae
But I like my shaved sides
And maybe bald head
Conversations about length
Or straightness you can
Put to bed.
My hair is worthy
Even though you call it 4C
It’s 4 me
It’s thick and unruly
And rebellious
And cool
See I don’t need
Anything but myself
And nothing else.
You gonna get this
Bonnet
And side cut
And pink hair
And fade
And leave in
And oil
And cream
And it was never
a dream
It’s real life
Where if I wear this hair
Copycats will be hailed
While we pay the price.
Betta think twice
Cause no!
You cannot
Touch
My
Hair.

 

Do You Even See Me?: Visibility + Intersection in the Vegan Community.

“You’re big to be a vegan!”

Um, do you mean me?

It was seemingly harmless. A black woman to another black woman. I mean, when you think about a vegan, does a voluptuous and vibrant woman even come to mind? Is it really hard to imagine that a person who doesn’t eat animal products could look so alive and energetic? I say I’m vegan only after people ask me about my skin. And let’s just say, I don’t look my supposed age so people are curious. They always tell me to drop that skincare routine or what scrubs they should use. So, being a vegan comes up. They look me up and down, then look at me incredulously, then the judgement. How could YOU be a vegan? You LOOK like ME. And this is my point.

I’ve been vegan for 11 years. I have a whole origin story and it’s long and you can read it here.

I’ve struggled with my weight since I could remember. And to be honest, I didn’t go vegan to lose weight at all. My body told me I had to. I kept getting sick. I had to make a change. So, I went vegan for my well being not just for myself, but also my community, and for animals. My veganism is intersectional. I’ve spent years researching things for myself. I began watching youtube videos for recipes and studying “vegans don’t eat” lists.  I have lots of recipe books. I made vegan dishes for holiday parties. I’ve read the disgusting accounts of slaughterhouse and I can’t get the mistreatment of pigs and cows and chickens out of mind. I’m an expert by trial and error. I call myself this because it’s no longer a struggle to be a lifestyle vegan. I don’t have any more cravings. I eat and live a vegan lifestyle. The problems and misconceptions I run into often are people assuming I’m vegan for losing weight or that I’m new to veganism because of my thick thighs.

“Well, what do you eat?” She says.

I eat everything. And yes, I don’t eat pizza or bacon or chicken or fish. I eat kale, collards, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, rice, and lots of fruit. I can veganize lots of traditional meat dishes. I can do this in my sleep. What baffles me is the idea that people are still surprised that vegans can come in all sizes and colors. Or that I’m eloquent and well versed in the very thing I practice everyday. I see these vegfests and panels that are often run by white people, who feature men and non black women. And it’s like people are so happy and satisfied to have their powerful space in the community that they don’t raise their voices for human inequities as well. There’s sexism in this space. There’s racism in this space. Let me tell you…I went to Vegandale and had a great time trying out all the vendors and seeing my beautiful friends! But let’s keep it real, it was quite male. Even the group picture at the end, had nothing but men on the stage. It baffled me. And to be honest, racism and non-intersectionality are rampant in the community and it’s quite disgusting, but not surprising to me.

I was in a FB group and I was feeling over whelmed and distraught by the brutal killing of Philando Castile. I wondered why most white vegan friends and colleagues didn’t have the knowledge of his death and didn’t even bring it up in conversations. So, I brought it up and was told it was a human thing and this group is primarily about animals. So, I left that group immediately. I find it odd and off putting that unjust human death isn’t as important as a dog’s or a gorilla’s death. We are treated like animals in this society. I mean, I literally have people in 2018 STILL wanting to touch my hair and face without my consent. To be honest, I feel invisible everywhere. In New York. In the spaces I frequent. In the vlogging space. In the social media world. In the real world, too. And it all comes down to privilege and patriarchy. Privilege will have you blind to everything because it doesn’t pertain to you.

Privilege can choose an animal over black lives matter.

Privilege can offer the perpetrator the benefit of the doubt.

Privilege can assume you’re a participant and not a scholar or educator.

Privilege can make you ignore your racism or sexism or homophobia.

Privilege is when you don’t worry about representation in vegan spaces because you’re the “standard”

Look, this post is a truth tale, not a fable or make believe. All of these things have happened to me, repeatedly. I don’t have hundreds and thousands of followers but I know what I’m doing. I know many of my sisters who cook, write, sing, act, moderate, and host. But we don’t need a cosign–just don’t be surprised when you’re no longer invited to the party or sitting at an empty table.

If you want more information or looking for black and POC vegans to support, check the link below:

http://www.blackvegansrock.com/

“Don’t assume, ask. Be kind. Tell the truth. Don’t say anything you can’t stand behind fully. Have integrity. Tell people how you feel.” 
― Warsan Shire

FOLLOW ME:

http://www.instagram.com/berryandco

http://www.instagram.com/berryberrystylish

http://www.youtube.com/lacreshaberry

 

 

BILL COSBY, WHO?

A married man told me
he wanted to sleep with me.
Tried to and got mad
When I said no and called him out
And another and another
In the underground scene
I was sent an unsolicited dick pic.
Mutiple.
I was slapped on the ass by
the nicest guy in room
and I didn’t touch him
Or ask for it.
Or told him it was ok
And he won’t remember
But say he’s sorry
Multiple married men actually
Who might be reading this status
Who rubbed on their balls talking to me
Who grabbed me and
started grinding on me
Without my permission
Who followed me off the bus
Because we made eye contact
Who said I was pretty for a black girl.
Who tells me he has a thing for black girls.
A landlord who
felt me up on the elevator
Who stuck his tongue
down my throat
In a high school hallway
and my mouth was closed
Who’s ass was slapped
just because it was there
Walking down memorial hall
Who gets my name wrong
and tells me
I’ll call you what I want
And another
And another
Who licks my ear
as my hair gets cut
Who asks for a BJ
on the subway
Whose pelvis was pumping
right in front of mine
On the train several times
Who tells me
I don’t need makeup
Repeatedly
Adamately
Like, unsolicited.
Who are activists but
want you to change
Everything about you
Who are vegans and
want to remind you
That you need to see their face
So eight pictures in a row
It is.
Whose 16 and I’m three.
Who’s 80 and says
I should be his wife
At 19. And has known me
Since baby.
And I’m not famous
Or testifying
But a local just like you.
And I could out you
Who…
Who is not Bill Cosby
Who is not Nas
Who is not Russ
Who is not R Kelly
Who is…you?

#day28
#napomo
#30for30

EMBRACING 39.

IMG_0304At 30, I was traditional.
I wanted the ring
The noble ring
With the kids and the house
But at 32, dude making
Way less told me to chill
And be a woman and do less
While his first basement
apartment was his level best
I guess
I’ll let you lead…?!
When I was already leading
my life
Wife?
After two months in.
Sheeeeit.
I’ll swim
in my own lane.
Even though I was in pain,
I was STILL traditional.
I still wanted to be the wife.
With the kids
And the house
The perfect spouse.
At 33, I began to think
maybe it was me
Too strong
Because wives
are supposed to be
Docile
Too black
Because his new boo
lacked
melanin
Too fierce
Because paying my own bills
Is survival
Too much work
Because following your dreams
equals birthing babies
I mean…
all my exes got me vex
Immediately married
With the quickness
As I kept pushing
the envelope
I can cope
with rejection
Been sleeping with it
For a while now.
At 36, he was gonna cheat
on me anyway.
So what do I do?
I’ll tell you.
Be too black
Too strong
Too fine
Too much
Too loud
Too cute
Too thick
Too vegan
Too shiny
Too beautiful
Too nappy
Too extra
Because I gotta
sweet little doggy
named Minty
Who loves my cottage cheese
And is always happy
When I get home
And licks my face when I cry
And at 38, I’ve rejected all traditional
Ideas of dating and romance
Because I feel sexier
Than ever
And I finally believe in myself
And this platform I parade on
Is my higher self
Following everything
I ever wanted
Since 18
Who knows if I’ll ever be
Together
But I’m better
I’ve got my sisters with me
My mother and me
Be free
And I’m in my own house
In my own life
Facing these near evictions head on
Still challenging patriarchy
Writing songs
Maybe you’ll never hear them or me
And that’s ok
But 39 will be new
And my body says,
“Hey boo, I’ve been waiting
on you too…”

How are you embracing your birthday this year?

Check out the performed version below:

10 beauty lessons I’ve learned this year!

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

-Harriet Tubman

This quote pretty much sums up my 2016. It’s also apropos because I’m working on a show about Ms. Tubman’s life so her words have been inspiration since the summer of 2015. This quote speaks of dreams and for years I’ve had dreams of being a full-time artist. I lived as a full-time teacher for 10 years with comfort and ease. I still was restless. Tossing and turning and not generally content with my life. I definitely was and am grateful but living a double life was too hard for me. So, I quit. Resigned. Left my salary. Left my middle school home of six years where I was THE 8th grade ELA teacher. In 2014, as a 35 year old teacher, I walked away from everything I knew. I fully embodied my role as a creative and educator. My great dream was to be free of anything that was holding me back to create my own engaging content for the world to see. I can say that with confidence now. I didn’t always.

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She’s teaching me for real!

Beauty and style were always there because costume design was the reason I came to NYC. I worked as a seamstress and production assistant at UK’s costume shop from 2000-2003 and NYU costume shop from 2003-2004. I learned makeup techniques and even took classes. I wore a full face of makeup in high school then got immediately bored with in college. College was where I experimented with so many styles! So, this year I reintroduced myself to fashion, beauty, and style. All cruelty free, of course. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others and I want to share these beauty (and really, life) lessons with you.

9brkx8eg13iba
Me: In my college days.

10 BEAUTY LESSONS I’VE LEARNED IN 2016: 

  1. There are no do’s and don’ts in beauty. If you do a do that someone else says do and it turns out to be a don’t for you, it’s cool. Do you, boo! #BARZ
  2. Veganism is a lifestyle and not just about what goes on your plate. Leather, wool, and silk are no-no’s in my house but it’s still a process for me. Being consciously cruelty free in my clothing and makeup has been an eye-opener and a journey. #byebyeMAC
  3. I have nice lips. Seriously. I say this because for years I was a four to five eyeshadow girl. I have a deep-set eye and played around with them so much. This year, lippies were so EXCITING AND FUN! Metallic, neon, glitter, thousands of nudes–YOU NAME IT!
  4. Good skin starts from within. I drink so many berry/avocado/banana smoothies is kind of ridiculous! These fruits aid to your complexion and digestion. #lessonlearned
  5. lippies_styles.JPG
    “styles upon styles upon styles is what I have…” -PHIFE DAWG (RIP)

    Sleep is your friend! Grinding until you die is not swaggy or fashionable. GET YOUR REST!

  6. The beauty advisors at Sephora and ULTA don’t know everything! Don’t get me wrong–they’re MOSTLY knowledgeable but I learn by trial and error lovelies. Tutorials are your friends. @ellarie and @sonjdradeluxe are my faves right now!
  7. People won’t always be down for your transformation. They like the OLD Berry better. But, tbh, I had haters without makeup too so I say, “Get in LINE!” I love my plain face with gloss and my beat face with a bold ass matte lip. #byenow
  8. I’m just like you all. I’m not better OR ELITE, I just practice A LOT! I don’t have kids, I’m single, and my job starts later in the day–BY DESIGN. I might want to have a boo soon but I’m cool for now and my brow game needs no distractions. Or the new boo will learn soon enough–NOT TO RUSH THE BROWS!
  9. MAKEUP APPLICATION is an art form. I’m a painter (watercolors, mostly). So, I see shadows and highlights and colors because I had to do this everyday for nearly three years. 
  10. You can be stylish in all stages of your body’s development. I am 15 pounds heavier than I was in 2013. I still can rock SOME of my old clothes and that’s cool. I worked so hard to get back in them but I don’t necessarily have the same style from three years ago either. So, I ended up selling my clothes I can’t fit anymore to be done with it. I’m better now. Period.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR LESSONS YOU LEARNED THIS YEAR?

Share them with me in the comments section below.

FOLLOW:

IG: @berryandco @berryberrystylish

Facebook: @berryberrystylish

 

 

Why I’m breaking tradition.

2014. Morningside Heights, Harlem:

Family gathered in a cozy railroad style apartment filled with love and nurture. Pictures of baby cousins and family trees and sepia colored memories carefully decorated along the borders of the space with purpose and connection.  I invited my new buddy, Charles, to our annual family thanksgiving dinner because he was new to NYC and needed a place to share the holiday. He brought some vegan red velvet cupcakes that were to die for! I made melt-in-your-mouth sweet potato casserole with gooey vegan marshmallows on top. This was, and still is,  my specialty. It was a beautiful gathering of delicious food, classic card games, and nostalgic photo albums. I knew that this would be a thanksgiving to remember.

Hours later, I got to my studio a bit more tired than usual. I tend to overeat on thanksgiving because it’s tradition. Who doesn’t, right? I’m not thinking of the true meaning of it. But, just what exactly I was going to put on my plate when that day came. I usually have thirds. Sometimes even fourths. My mouth began to feel salty and watery. My stomach bubbling with acids and juices from the smorgasboard of food at my cousin’s place. What came next was a complete disaster! Every single piece of food violently spewed out of my body. I clutched my belly and hovered over the toilet angry with my body and with myself. After teaching my 5th grade students the real meaning of thanksgiving the year prior, I couldn’t believe I allowed myself to do this–to get to this point. And make no mistake, I’d been sick before on thanksgiving. But, 2014 was the last straw.

People will give me advice and say, “Don’t overeat” and that’s a good piece of advice. They are absolutely correct. But, then as I begin to think what this holiday actually meant in America, I decided I needed to break tradition.

My father, grandmother (his mother) and grandfather (my mom’s father) all passed away within a year and a half of each other. My grandmother, Christmas of 2009. My father,  February of 2010. My grandfather, February 2011.  The holidays after 2011, changed for me. Most of the people in my family were physically gone. And before 2011, I visited Kentucky or shared my voice and poetry with ones who couldn’t be with their families at recovery clinics in Brooklyn. I didn’t get sick then. I focused my spirit on positive things and helping people. Eating was the last thing on my mind. Plus, preparing a meal is hard work because I make everything from scratch.

I’m just tired of tradition. It doesn’t feel same for me anymore and with what’s happening in the world right now, I just don’t deem it a dire need to eat collard greens and sweet potato pie on the fourth Thursday of November. Some do and that’s their choice. But, I want to help people and travel the world and gain perspective. I want more people to understand the types of food they are putting in their bodies. I want to always seek truth and understanding and be in balance with myself at all times. I want to be compassionate with my fellow indigenous brothers and sisters and consider how this holiday is offensive to them and their loved ones. I definitely want to give thanks for my life, breath, and health. I’m recovering from my eating ways and getting to the point where my body isn’t the focal point when I look in the mirror. So, today I’m spending time with my mother and her friends while focusing on being better.

As you spend time with your loved ones, be sure keep yourself informed with what’s happening in the world. I’ve attached some links to help you maintain your focus this year.

  1. https://www.democracynow.org/topics/dakota_access
  2. https://www.manataka.org/page269.html

I want to wish you and your families a beautiful and restful time and I hope this perspective reaches and teaches you in the same way that has for me.

 

How to Veganize ALL your Classroom Parties!

Got an A on your vocabulary test? PARTY! Published your first book of poetry? PARTY! Showed up to school without a middle school-hormone infused-say no to everything TANTRUM ? PARTY WITH BALLOONS AND VEGAN CUPCAKES!

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 They’re gonna love my homemade nacho cheeze kale chips!

As a creative in the classroom, I did my absolute best to create a sense of community. A sense of pride. A sense of respect. A sense of empowerment. I taught middle school English for 10 years in NYC charter schools. Basically, I taught students how to read and write for a really long time. I’m not sure how I survived or used the maximum amount of patience required with budding teenagers but, I do feel empowered as an expert in the field of classroom management and engagement. Also, there’s no BIG SECRET–just have the utmost fun! That’s it. I know I was (am) a popular teacher because I had (have) fun! I used music, art, dance, and food to engage my students. For a character project, I designed a character dinner party after reading for six seeks in historical fiction book clubs. My seventh graders had to dress up as their literary character, act as that character at the party, and bring in a dish their character would bring in. I planned for weeks, empowering the students to plan and justify their character choices based on character thoughts and actions in the book. And guess what? They learned about literary elements and had fun! It was overwhelming for sure but definitely memorable and successful. I continued to plan open mics, holiday celebrations, historical reenactments, and pumpkin parties! (seriously had an all pumpkin party after pumpkin picking one year)

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You will eat this VEGAN pumpkin pie, munchkins!

I’d been teaching for three years before I became vegan. Imagine this conversation years ago with a child:

11 year old: Did you know Ms. Berry is a virgin? (A different conversation, friends. c51dd68eb6682bc7f6793db883bc4fb1.jpg )

Principal: A what?!

11 year old: A virgin! She doesn’t eat meat or drink milk.

Principal: (chuckling in the most professional way) Oh, you mean she’s a vegan?

11 year old: EXACTLY!

My principal told me that and I was so proud! Yes, I’m proud she knew I was a vegan. Why? Because in her 5th grade class, I made all of my celebrations mostly vegan. I mean, I had NO control of what the students brought on their own, of course. But, what I coudld control? Vegan!

So it all happened like this: I read tons of books about being vegan (read about my journey here.) and decided that I’d no longer eat animal products. Since classroom celebrations were such an integral part of my classroom culture, I had some problems to solve. I’m an open and honest educator so I let my students know in the most matter of fact way.

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Same. 

I explained that veganism means I no longer partake in anything with meat, eggs, dairy, or anything with a central nervous system. They were amazing about it! They asked lots of questions and one girl said,

“You sure are fat to only eat vegetables..”

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I was so mad at the mean girl who called me fat, I ate her whole lunch. 

My fifth graders planned a thoughtful surprise birthday celebration that included fruits, lays, soda, and oreos. They researched all on their own and their menu was surprisingly vegan. Years later, my 8th graders ordered cheese-less pizza for their surprpise and it was super sweet of them and quite delicious! Throwing hot sauce on it helped, a ton. My students in Queens bought vegan dark chocolate and watched me eat all of as I taught in small groups. I mean, why deny myself? With this being said, you CAN train your students to be more mindful and compassionate as eaters. In Harlem. In the Bronx. In your house. Let me show you how:

HOW TO VEGANIZE YOUR CLASSROOM IN SEVEN EASY WAYS:

  1. Bring in some of your signature vegan dishes for a classroom celebration. I brought in my vegan chili and students licked the bowl. And passed lots of gas.
  2. Instead of gelatin filled candy, try the ALREADY vegan (gelatin, carmine color, and confectioner’s glaze free) commercial ones. Check out this list: http://www.peta.org/living/food/25-vegan-halloween-candies/
  3. Swap out non vegan items with vegan ones. I use almond milk and coconut milk creamer all the time for my hot chocolate parties. No milk was left.
  4. Take a field trip to a local garden or grocery store and show them what they can eat with a kinder perpesctive. I took my students to the local farmer’s market, Harlem Grown ran by Mr. Tony, and Pathmark’s produce department.
  5. Bring in random snacks and have students munch on them as they learn. I’ve tried out hummus and veggies, tofu cream cheese, homemade cupcakes and scones, and chips and salsa. All vegan. All devoured.
  6. Use history to teach how people ate and grew from the land. For example, we made Mayan hot chocolate (no milk involved), civil war pan fried potatoes, and homemade vegan biscuits.
  7. Bring in a guest speaker to educate your students around healthy living and healthy choices; preferably vegan or vegetarian.

There are a lot more ways to engage students in more compassionate practices. I just started two new residencies in the Bronx and I can’t wait to try all of these on them! Access to healthy food is important and conversion to veganism isn’t the goal. Exposing them to it early so they can make informed decisions is all I want to do. I choose to empower them to be conscious eaters. Communities of color deserve healthy choices and organic ingredients just like the youth in affluent neighborhoods and even more so. Why does kombucha have to be associated with a hipster or wealth? I’d rather teach them how to make their own and include the benefits of doing it their way. What if we could foster healthy choices right within our own communities. It’d be pretty amazing, don’t you think?

What are some other ways you’ve veganized your classroom or just exposed your students or little ones to vegan recipes? Write your ways in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you all!

FOLLOW ME:

IG: @berryberrystylish & @berryandco

Facebook: @berryberrystylish

 

 

 

How do you style grief?

“Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing…”
Elizabeth Gilbert

Centuries ago and even up until modern times, societies and cultures handle grief in a myriad of ways. During the Victorian times, the rules were strict. From the dress to the amount of time a person mourned, it was a time to reflect and acknowledge loss. This was the Victorian style. For example, when a husband died, his widow wore black for a whole year to mourn. In many African countries, there are death rituals rooted in their specific belief systems. They want to make sure that the dead are buried properly and respectfully. This is their style. For me, experiencing pain and loss has become a part of my style–a part of who I am as a performer, educator, writer, and just person in the world. As I sit here and figure out the words to say over a tragic and more recent loss, I ask myself, “How do I style my grief? How does it manifest in my body? How do I balance life around this grief while being in the public eye?”

For the past 13 years, I’ve taught hundreds and hundreds of students across the five boroughs in New York City. I began my NYC career as an after-school activity specialist at CAMBA in Flatbush, Brooklyn teaching homework help, choir, and theatre. I didn’t want to starve. I wanted this big move to prove everyone wrong. I worked with sixth graders and it most certainly changed my life. Back then, I was dealing with the separation of being away from home. A loss of identity, if you will. A Kentucky girl sucked into the abyss of the Utica Ave. roti shops,  old fashioned delis, and hectic, overcrowded bus routes. Caribbean music became the soundtrack of my newfound culture. A home away from home. I styled my grief with food. I ate everything in my path because I told myself I was happy and content with my move. Overeating became a part of my grieving style. No one died but I did feel a disconnect and I absolutely mourned for the first two months of my transition.

The one thing that kept my head above water was the babies. They made me laugh, cry, and yell at the top of my lungs but I knew this was my calling. So, naturally, I became attached to my awesome after-school classes. I knew then after this experience, I must become a full-time teacher to make more of an impact in these communities with limited access. I will save them. I will save them. I will save them. So, at this point, I was dealing with the loss of my artist life. I didn’t continue writing songs and plays because teaching now is my new focus. I pushed through and suppressed that pain because my life was all about uplifting and supporting the youth. I, at 25, grew up already and these children needed me more than I needed myself. At least that’s how I styled my grief this time. Fashioned in mind and put it under an emotional hat. Being an artist and teacher couldn’t be possible for me. Over and over again this is what I told myself and others to keep the peace.  I mourned privately, even though my smile was at a million watts.

You can pray to early May, fast for 30 days
Still it won’t let go, oh
Got good book and got all in it, tried a little yoga for a minute
But it won’t let go, oh
Tried to turn the sauna up to hotter, drank a whole jar of holy water
But it won’t let go, oh

Erykah Badu, “I Want You”

So, it happened. I became a full-time fifth grade teacher in Harlem. I did it. Every morning, I greeted my students at breakfast. I walked them up four flights of stairs and we began our morning meeting. Year one was a disaster because no one taught me how to do anything; I just fell in line and I read lots of books at local bookstores. Year two became year one all over again but with lots more of students who I “loved” the most. I shed many tears. I even begged a student to listen to me and pleaded that he make it easier for my life. I ended up looking like a fool, to say the least. Year three was filled with lessons from year two and this was the year I survived and made it. I became vegan and I read more books and I vowed to never scream again. And from this point on, it is super rare to see me raise my voice in anger.

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My very first seventh grade class/advisory in 2008. 

I moved on to middle school in 2008. Middle school broke my spirit in ways you can’t even imagine. Hormones raging in the bodies of babies. I fought everyday to gain their trust. I fought with parents to stop enabling their children. I fought with co-teachers who didn’t know what they were doing. There was one point at work, where my knees buckled and I had a breakdown in the main office. I immediately called a good friend on the phone barely breathing trying to put fatigue into words. I was grieving over my loss and sense of control as a black woman. As a teacher. As someone who was a believer. I began to workout religiously and even twice a day to push through the sadness. Squats were my new savior.

Then, my world came to a screeching halt when my father passed. Six weeks earlier, his mother passed. One year later, my grandfather passed. Grief became my newest piece of clothing. My beauty bag of mourning added bags to my eyes. Those days were dark. And for the first time, I allowed my body to grieve. When the emotions came, I let them. I didn’t fight. I didn’t shadowbox. I received the pain and allowed it to come. This became my grieving style. Talking about my father, talking about my grandfather, creating traditions and rituals with my mother, became the new normal. After all, she lost her dad too. We laughed, we cried, we allowed. His death let me to break free from those unrealistic societal norms. One of them was leaving full time teaching to become an artepreneur. I left a salaried job to create my own work. Browngirl. Bluegrass. came out of my body during this transitional time. The only loss I felt was financial and this time around, I was stronger, older, and more confident than ever before so the money I made now was sufficient. I currently feel, free. At peace. Content. I teach, create, perform without loss or grief. Just being.

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Dad and me; Our last photo together, Christmas 2009. 

On Tuesday, I received a late message that one of my students was stabbed and killed in Harlem. Such a beautiful boy, full of hope and promise. This is the first time I’ve experienced loss as teacher concerning one of my students. A few years ago, that student, messaged me to check in on me. He asked me how I was doing and I messaged him back. I never heard from him again. I could sit here and figure out all the ways on what I could’ve done as a teacher. But, instead, I grieve with his name in my heart. With spirit in my voice when I sing. With his essence in my fingers as I write. His name will be embedded in all my conversations. He will experience the same love he received when I taught his lovely face in the 8th grade. My grieving is overwhelming right now but letting it come out is part of my ritual now. No more holding it in and praying everything will be ok. It might not ever be and that’s ok.

***********************************************************************

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Ashton Niles, 2011, as an 8th grader. 
 
A facebook message in 2012.
Spammed
out of mind
out of sight
But
I keep seeing
your frail body
Bent over
Collapsed
With the globe heavy
Fatigued in your Harlem
collarbone
Clinging
to life
 
“Hey, Ms. Berry…it’s Ashton.”
 
A late night bubble
Filtered
to an unknown folder
Abyss. Abyss. Abyss.
My eyes repeat with tears
…”stabbed twice in the ribs”
You never recovered.
Eyes bright
135th street
sunlit pupils
Telling me you read
on 10th grade level
Right by the fenced in
Playground.
Wanting me to know
You read
You write
You draw
I saw
you bleeding
In my dream.
Tattooed to memory.
 
Now, I go back to that inbox
And it’s a ghost
Haunting me
With facebook user
Suspended in digital air
No name
No message
Just there
Just there
Just there.
 
“Man, 18, found stabbed in Harlem dies with a wound to the stomach.”
 
A BOY
MY boy
In that
eighth grade
ELA
A..
black boy
Ashton Niles
who smiled
in shadows
Fought invisibly
With homelessness
And survival
But his eyes held
Unfinished chapters.
How do you style your grief? Let me know how you grieve in the comments below. Let us heal together. 
@berryandco
To help out Ashton’s family, please check out his mother’s page, here:

where I sit

Wow! What a beautifully written piece and from my hometown. Please read and learn.

Upon a Sunny Day

I am sort of waiting on the moon. Kind of like Linus waiting on the Great Pumpkin. Well, it’s October, so that analogy came to mind. The moon is supposed to be especially great tonight. I caught a glimpse yesterday, and it was bright. It is a Supermoon. Or Hunter’s Moon. You probably already knew that. Or you don’t care.

I think I’m also sort of hiding out on my back porch. I have my colored lights on. They are technically Christmas lights, but it is not Christmas season and I’ve had them up since spring. I like the addition. I was previously more of a front porch sitter. But at some point, earlier this year, that changed. I have a really great front porch for sitting. I just don’t care to be up there so much anymore.

Sirens. People walking by. Someone might want to talk. If I’m up…

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