Thelma Rimber – I Use My Talent To Lift Someone Else Up

“It was worth all the rejection, tears and sleepless nights. I used my talent to lift someone else up.” –  Thelma Rimber.

Imagine that you are a child, living in destitute poverty in a slum with absolutely no opportunities to do anything.  Then imagine that there is a woman who comes into you life, helps you to develop your innate gifts and talents and inspires you to do more and to be more.  And, she shows you how. 

This woman is Thelma Rimber.  A woman who is so talented that she can have her own successful solo career as an artist and entertainer, but, she chooses to stay and help young people.   We are so honored to have her share her journey and her mission with us here. 



You teach piano, voice and acting. We would like to know about the piano first. When did you start to learn how to play and why?

I would always watch pianists on the keys doing their thing and I’d get fascinated, but somehow it never occurred to me that I could ever play. About four years ago I started a youth choir at church and I would get so frustrated at the lack of our very own keyboard player. We were constantly let down or they would turn up with an arrogant attitude because they knew we needed them. Eventually I felt enough was enough and decided to learn how to play. I didn’t have an instrument though. What’s more, I didn’t have money to get one. On my birthday that year, by some miracle my family surprised me with the first instrument I have ever owned and I was thrilled! A Yamaha keyboard. Another miracle happened and the choir director at my church decided to sponsor my lessons at the one music school I really wanted to get piano lessons from. It’s now my third year as a piano student and I’m still falling deeper and deeper in love with those enchanting black and white keys. Am currently doing Grade 4 & 5 concurrently.


Incidentally my youth choir drifted apart because everyone seemed to be relocating or moving in different directions but am glad it was the push I needed to learn how to play piano.


You are a naturally skilled singer. In order to each others, did you take additional training or learn other methods or do you just teach what you know?


teerimberPeople usually laugh when I tell them I started out as a terrible singer. I would break into a sweat and tremble or even not be able to breathe properly on stage. The result, as any singer can imagine, was a terrible performance. Yet, people would come up to me and say they love my voice. I couldn’t understand why! However, I loved singing too much to do it as awfully as I was at the time so I began to pray for a miracle. I just told God I couldn’t stand being that bad a singer. One day, a friend at church asked me if I would like to download a set of vocal training programs he had on his computer. I did and they had an amazing effect on my voice. My own family couldn’t recognise my singing. I started to share those lessons with children in a choir I taught at the time and then gradually found myself in vocal coaching. I still would love to get expert one-on-one training from a seasoned teacher but so far I teach what I have learned and know. I think starting out as a bad singer helps one know what not to do if you’re to sing well. I also love to read off the net what I can of singing and proper techniques and share these with students.



And acting — was acting natural for you also, or did you take additional courses?

I marvel at how the one thing I do not at all struggle with, of all my talents and skills, is acting. I did take at as a course at school but it was more out of a passion than a need to learn how to do it. It helps me direct from my heart when I’m instructing my students but then again, I do read about it just to grab theoretical aspects that present interesting debates.



Africa is the land of music. Even the languages that people speak on the continent are very melodic. Did you grow up listening to music and if so, what kind of music was prevalent around you and where was it, in the home or in the community?


My paternal family is musical. My dad’s brother is an incredible concert pianist, or was, because he’s retired now. My father has always had a guitar somewhere to whip out whenever we were bored and we would sing along as he played. In Kenya, we have the coastal tribes which mostly speak Swahili. Swahili originated from the African Bantu tribes and the Arab traders mingling with each other along the East African coast. I come from one of these coastal tribes called the Giriama. During weddings and celebrations, we have a genre of music called Bango (pronounced Bang-go) and this is what my ear was tuned into from childhood. Bango is the most beautiful mix of Caribbean sounding Swahili music, sang with saxophones, large drums, guitar and keyboard or marimba (xylophone) accompaniments. This music was always playing at home or in my dad’s car because they’d remind him of his home back in the Coast of Kenya (we live in the capital city, Nairobi, which is a six hour drive away).


My father also loves Jazz and this sank into my system from childhood. He seemed to own endless Jazz music and so, to this day, it is my first love when it comes to choice of genre.


Kenya has an amazing mix of music because it seems almost every tribe has its own interpretation of music. We have 42 tribes in a not so large country yet all these blends fit and express themselves culturally. When we want to reach all Kenyans we sing in Swahili because that’s the national language. More commonly, many youthful musicians sing or rap in Sheng’ which is our local slang (a blend of English and Swahili). So all these, plus music from our neighboring countries were around me as I grew up.



Who were some of your favorite singers when you were growing up?

I think the among the first singers I grew up wanting to emulate were the Maranatha Singers and Ron Kenoly because my mother would play their music while dropping me to school almost every morning. As I gained understanding and more exposure, I fell in love with Ella Fitzgerald’s voice, as well as Nat King Cole because of dad and his jazz. But as I became more aware of my own tastes in music the late Whitney Houston, the late Tabu Lei, Yvonne Chakachaka, the late Lucky Dube, Chaka Demus, Toni Braxton and Tevin Campbell were all favorites that defined music for me as I grew up in the 90s.



What were some of your favorite bands?

When it came to bands, those that played Bango music locally were among my top favorites-we had the Pressmen Band that were a top hit back in the 90s. I also loved another Kenyan group called Safari. Spice Girls too I must say were a favorite as I entered my teens, and the ever lovable Morgan Heritage.


When you were 16, you performed Miriam Makeba’s song, “Malaika” and left the audience in awe and received a standing ovation. What did that experience leave you with?


When I was 17 my dad sent me to South Africa to finish high school and for the first time I was in a school offering drama as a subject, that was heaven to me. For the final exams we were to prepare a monologue to present. I included the song Malaika in mine. In East Africa we know it to be Fadhili Williams’ original composition so I had his version in mind as I sang. I didn’t think of myself as a singer so I was pleasantly surprised when the school principal invited me to sing it at the school’s end of year award ceremony. The audience looked humongous with just over 500 people. It changed my life, hearing the applause and seeing the moved emotions throughout the hall. That was the beginning of me discovering my singing talent.


Even with this confirmation of your natural talent, you did not pursue additional performance opportunities. Why not?


After that, I enrolled into a university in South Africa, Rhodes University, to do a Bachelor of Arts majoring in performing arts. Sadly, I problematically completed only one semester before dropping out and going back home to Kenya. The major reasons were that I was feeling pressure from my family to enroll into law school instead, because it seemed to them that a career in performing arts just did not present a promising future. It became too painful to think of acting or singing while in law school so I shut my mind and heart to it completely.


So, your parents encouraged to you do business studies while you were in college. In conflict with your heart, you studied law instead of the arts. After completing school, you gave yourself permission to go into the arts anyway. What happened within you that allowed you to give yourself permission to do that?


By the time I reached 4th year of law school, I knew I could not live without the arts. I started praying like there was no tomorrow for a way out of law as a career. The chance to pursue a Master of Arts in theatre in Perth, Australia came up and I applied just as I was graduating from law school. I think my father realised he had pushed me into a career I had not wanted for myself and he graciously agreed to sponsor my studies in Australia. Once there, I rolled up my sleeves and got into learning everything I could about script writing and producing for theatre and screen. I however found myself getting thoroughly depressed with the unfamiliar culture and atmosphere that after completing one year, I opted to come back home to Kenya to start off a career in the arts.


How did your parents feel about it?

When I got home, my parents had mixed feelings about me looking for jobs in film and theatre instead of applying for a ‘serious’ job as a lawyer. The journey was heartbreaking for me because one, they never knew what to tell family or friends about what I do because they didn’t understand it and two, they just didn’t seem proud of what I thought were great accomplishments. One day a cousin sarcastically asked me ‘You left law for this?’ I had to grow some thick skin against all the criticism flying about me from family over my career choice. What’s worse is I was still financially dependent on them even after all their investment in my education. I was an embarrassment and it was obvious.


You said it was difficult to “penetrate the [media and film] industry…without any qualifications.” What kind of qualifications were those people looking for and do you think, given your outstanding talent, that they were being realistic or discriminatory? The break the question down a little further, do you think you had the ability to perform to the level that was needed or do you think you had more to learn?


When I came home from Australia, I asked my theatre lecturer to write me referral which I intended to include in my acting portfolio. This prestigious man blew my mind when he said in his recommendation that I was one of the best performers he had seen in 20 years. When I began auditioning locally, one of the directors also seemed stunned by my talent, so did many actors. However, I just have never been successful at local auditions. In the most recent rejection I got, someone on the inside who had been part of the casting team admitted to me what I have always suspected is the reason behind it: bias. He told me he tried to fight for me to get the role but the director had already made up his mind on who should get the role, even though we had not been given an opportunity to audition. I think I have what it takes to take acting in my continent to a new level, but I also think the local casting directors I have come across just might not be ready for that change. I do believe that with God’s time I will meet the right match of directors to work with.



This dream that you had to open a performing arts academy in Kenya. Where do the roots of this dream stem from?


When it became obvious to me that I was being turned away time after time, I realised that I might die old with my dream to become the best performer I can be unfulfilled. I was facing a very dry period with no jobs coming up and no money, when I just got on my knees and asked God to show me what to do. I remembered the biblical figure Moses and I believe I heard God ask me in that moment the same thing He asked Moses, ‘what do you have in your hand?’ My answer was ‘I can act, You can use that, God.’ Then I believe I heard the voice resonate so deeply within ‘Go and lift someone up with what I have given you. I will use that.’


 And this is where Rimthel Creative Arts Company came from?

Yes. The picture then came so clearly to just teach those who are talented but less privileged than I am in the performing arts. I don’t know how I got the courage to do it but I went to the slum called Kibera, and I walked around looking for young talented actors. My life was threatened in the process by a Mafia leader there. Apparently if I was not going to pay him anything to walk freely in the slum, I couldn’t walk around at all or rent premises there to teach from. It got so bad he arranged a mob one morning to accost my assistant and I as we came to teach. The area chief took his side when I took the matter to him and so, I looked for another option. The students agreed to come to a venue half an hour’s drive from the slum every Saturday morning. At first I could afford to hire a van to bring all 20 of them but once things got dry for me financially, they started to walk to my venue and back to the slum. I was teaching them at no cost but a friend in the UK heard about my work and would send me little money by Western Union to keep the workshops going.


What kind of help could you use from others?

Today, I feel pained that I could not go on with my children in the slum because it just got too difficult financially. With financial support, I would be able to pick at least two talented slum dwellers and take them through intensive training to help them build their own platforms to earn a living through performing arts. Without career prospects, they become criminals, prostitutes, contract STIs or get pregnant. These are youth who cannot afford high school so imagine a 14 year old who will never again enter a classroom struggling to survive in a slum for the rest of their lives. Those I worked with even won a trophy in a contest in the slum conducted by an NGO. They had self-esteem and a sense of belonging and I would really hope to restore that. Anyone who would be willing to walk that dream with me can send whatever amount of money is possible for them, or drama resources or anything practical to assist. I have built a small stage in my garage for them to act from during our workshops and I am making monthly payments for an upright piano I took last year to teach music from. With help, I can do so much more.


How does training in the arts help children?

Currently I am doing a Master of Arts in Education Leadership and for my thesis, I have been doing research on the benefits of music for preschoolers. For children, research shows that music raises the IQ, helping with the development of literacy, numeracy and spatial skills. Basically, a young child taking voice lessons develops their aural, oral and reading skills much faster than a child who is not. Reading music and interpretation of note values from the written symbols greatly helps build a child’s mathematical skills. Looking at drama lessons, they really aid in children’s development of self-confidence and creativity. The eye-hand coordination in a child also grows as they learn to play an instrument; this is good for their reflexes. Adults are not left out since studies show that a musician’s brain works differ due to playing an instrument enhancing certain functions. Because of developing their listening patterns, musicians are likely to remember details in every day life more than a non-musician. The processes of reading music and quickly interpreting it as one plays enhances brain functions which makes researchers believe that the brain of a musician possibly acquires a different shape from that of a non-musician. Incidentally, the benefits are more evident in children whose brains are still developing so that their IQ is raised due to participating in musical activities.



When all is said and done, and an 80 or 90 year old Thelma Rimber is looking back on her life, tell us what she sees.


First I want to give credit where it is due. Despite the long route I have taken to finding myself in performing arts, I would want it to be known that I believe my parents did what they thought was best out of love for me and concern for my future success. Today, because of much prayer and dialogue, we remain very close and I am glad to say they are my biggest fans. They graciously continue to support my musical journey and because of that am able to afford my piano training.


I always pray that I will die empty, having given everything God created me to give to this world. I see the massive and international Rimthel Performing Arts Academy with open doors for the talented, whether rich or poor, to come and refine their gifts and skills in acting, music and movement. I see them graduate and have access to fair opportunities to perform worldwide. I see Rimthel working with the Kenyan legal system to enforce the rights of performers against unfair pay packages, discrimination and piracy among other forms of injustice. Whether or not by the time I am 80 I have won an award or too myself, I see my students accepting Oscars and Grammy Awards as I humbly watch on and nod my grey head saying ‘Ah yes, it was worth it. It was worth all the rejection, tears and sleepless nights. I used my talent to lift someone else up.’


It is never just about us; with performers, it’s about sharing our hearts and souls with a world that may or may not recognise us, but is changed because we passed through it long enough to plant a seed.


Tee R.

Piano, Voice & Acting Coach

Rimthel Creative Arts Company

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Shanta LE – Artist, Photographer, Dancer

Mirror_-Liz-LaVorgna-core-photo.com_Life unfolds before us taking us where we need to go to become who we are.  Shanta’s journey has been an inspiring one, seemingly absent fear.  She is an excellent demonstration of how to tap into your heart of hearts, follow the messages and go forth!



You talk about how you “stole” your parents’ camera and took it with you when you left for college.  But, your interest in art and photography began well before then.  What are you initial recollections about your interest in photography?


Any vibrant images either in photographs in a National Geographic or various things I would see presented on the travel or discovery channel.  There were always moments that felt like another world that I want to travel to and somehow capture.  I guess you could say that the camera (along with my writing) has offered me a bridge into some of those worlds.


What kinds of things did you do as a child and a young person to nurture or express that interest?


That is a really good question.  I honestly did not do much around images as a young person or child to nurture my photography.  I took a basic (what I would refer to as a non-fancy) digital camera to Africa in 2007.  I was in my 20’s and it was my first time leaving the country.  I took a ton of pictures but years passed before I was drawn to actually purchasing a camera for my passion for another adventure out of the country.  More specifically, in regards to images for inspiration (planting seeds for photography), I became drawn to various pieces of art.  In my first office when I was 21-22 fresh out of college, I had to get a photograph print of the Taj Mahal.  At that point, I did not know much about it, did not venture to research the exact location, but the view of it was majestic and inspiring on an unspeakable level. Looking in the rear view mirror of life seems to always be the clearest right?  So of course, a part of me sees my attraction to this image (of the Taj Mahal in my office) as a part of the birthing story of my photography and eventual travel.


As a child/young person my writing was the first artistic medium that I really nurtured by keeping a journal.


You also write poetry.  Tell us about your beginnings with your poetic writings.  How did you start?


I originally started writing in a journal when I was about 13-14 years old and in between this time, I wrote poetry.  My journal provided a voice during a time when I felt that I did not really have one. So it was essential for me to have a way of expressing my feelings and to chronicle things that were happening in my life at the time.  As for the poetry, I went through several phases.  I destroyed most of my earlier work (from my pre-adolescent days) during a time when I was introduced to the novel idea of workshopping my poems influenced by my short time at the Academy of Performing Arts during my senior year of high school.

Again, my writing started based on the ways that images and my feelings/interpretations of them collected in my head. Anything from the way naked tree branches appeared through the glass windows in the middle of the night to how adults just seemed bigger than life from my vantage point as a child all provided material for writing (both then and now!).



How did you know that you wanted to pursue those things?  Was there a drive to always take pictures and to write?  What was it that would happen inside of you?

Head Shot 

I was always drawn to images and I guess you could say just being drawn to imagery eventually encouraged me to want to create or inspire that feeling in others. As a little girl, many images either through film or pictures provided a bridge into another time or place, even old family photos (whenever I would stumble upon them).

Story seems to be the constant thread for all of my art that I create and I seek to share stories through pictures, dance and writing.  Expressing myself in these ways allows me to give back by perhaps creating this bridge (either to a story or into a world) for someone else.


What drew you to Uganda? 


Actually, I did not choose as a personal trip Uganda but there is sort of a cool story with this.  In 2006, I was working as the Public Affairs Manager for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (Formerly known as Planned Parenthood of CT).  Our department and agency started talking about participating as a Global Partner which involved choosing a country and doing an exchange in which a few of our key staff members would go to Uganda (and some of their staff members from a family planning association would visit the US).  I was a part of a small working committee who discussed the details of the trip and other logistics regarding the global partnership.  During this time I kept thinking to myself, “Gosh, it would be so cool to be a part of that, to be one of the staff members chosen.”

At some point in August 2006, I went to New Hampshire with my husband at the time and returned, my supervisor at the time contacted me and wanted to schedule time for me to meet with her and the CEO.  I was so nervous and I automatically thought I did something wrong.  My heart was beating a million miles a minute the day I walked in to meet with them.  As I sat there they explained that three people were chosen from the agency to go to Uganda; I was one of them so I had to start making plans for my shots and other things I had to get ready for travel.  I felt so lucky and felt like my wish/desire for wanting to be a part of this project was heard.
What was the most striking thing that you learned about life there?


Things will never be as you expect to be, but always better even if they are not as you envisioned.  It is always easy to just believe what you see through what media shows you.  Specifically, as it relates to visiting the country of Uganda, I was somewhere between carrying old images of the stereotypes of Africa and not really knowing what to expect.  You see, this was the first time I left the country at the age of 29.  As I walked around the market, smelled the various flavors in the air, encountered different people, and experienced my first safari, I vowed that travel had to become of my life especially because it is so integral to expanding my perception and world view.



What was the most striking thing that you learned about yourself during that trip? 


That I was just as guilty of carrying around and at times maintaining stereotypes of what one might expect from the continent of Africa.  In other words, I was an offender but seeing Uganda with my own eyes and experiencing it expanded and challenged my thinking.



And India?  What brought you to India?


Ah, now India was not work related.  In May 2011, my two-year contract ended in New Haven (and that same day my car died on the highway).  I was able to land a summer consulting gig while looking for work.  At the time, I was engaged, and both my fiance and I were jobless.  I don’t recall when we made the decision, but we decided to take a break from job searching and use the time to travel and chose India while we planned our wedding.


I got married in August 2011, then by early October of 2011, I was on a plane to India.  To say that it was surreal was an understatement.  My husband at the time was someone who wanted to go to India for years and he’d even purchased travel books about it.  For me specifically, my path to India was a bit more, well, off of the beaten path.  I mentioned that picture of the Taj Mahal that I was drawn to, there was also a high school friend I had who would travel between the US and India often (we would maintain contact in between her travels).  There were also other things that drew me to India over time–the myths, a historical fiction piece that shed significant light on the Mughal Empire (and included a little back story about the Taj Mahal).  I believe that things never just come about but are stitched together by small bits and pieces……India was indeed a work of pieces of this and pieces of that all coming together in a certain way.

Neither my ex-husband nor I knew anyone in India yet we lied to everyone telling them we’d made some connections that we were going to visit.  We did not want our family members nor loved ones to worry.    I knew I was headed towards the right adventure because mostly everyone thought we were out of our minds for taking such a chance!



How does life in India compare to life in the U.S.?  What are the similarities and what are the differences from your point of view?


It felt like India was more real in terms of not hiding the poverty and often blatant inequity whereas here in the U.S., one can take a different route home or into a city without coming in much contact with various disparities.  I also felt like death was not treated as a disease or a problem to be tucked away or hidden.  When I was in Varanasi (one of the sites for cremation) I noticed that children played, people did their laundry in the river, the cows roamed, and just a few feet away from living, there was the cremation pyre.


As far as similarities, the more I thought about it, I noticed that in the U.S. we also have many living “3rd world” (and by the way, I don’t care for that term) realities in our own back yard.  Just go into any area that is economically depressed, rampant food insecurity, and/or where education or job opportunities are not available.  Or just take note of how many people are living without proper access to health and wellness.  In other words, we have our very own gaps that are covered up by the perception of wealth we may illustrate to other countries.



What was the most amazing moment that you captured on camera or through poetry during your trip there?


This is difficult to answer.    At the risk of sounding cliche, I have to say it is one of my very first photos there.  It was of a man who was standing at the Chai stand.  It was the first day of my arrival and I did the very first thing that one is not supposed to do….go to a street cart, but how could I help it?  It was Chai after all!

First Face of India _new

When the cab came to a stop just before asking if we wanted Chai, we hopped out and dashed across the highway.  We were still very much in Delhi and hours away from Rishikesh.  As we waited for the cab driver to talk to the guy at the Chai stand, we waited.  I had my camera around my neck and noticed all of these individuals start to approach.  There was a family in the car, and other individuals that seemed to come closer, all wide-eyed with curiosity.  I was nervous because all of my life, I was chastised for staring and told it was rude.  I had to adjust my thinking to what was happening in that moment.




What kind of work do you do to support yourself?


Honestly I only do what feeds my soul so ‘support’ also means feeding myself beyond just a paycheck.  I am: a Director of Development, I organize the Slow Living Summit, and I have Media and PR clients (authors, artists, and some businesses).

And of course, I am an active artist though I have not started to sell my work yet.  There is a common thread here and it is the fact that I have a fondness for storytelling and integrate it into my life.  Thus, anything I can do to create a bridge or a connection through story that will inspire change or a positive outcome as a grant writer, through organizing and helping to bring people together for the Slow Living Summit, providing visibility for my clients through my media work, and/or through my art nurtures me deeply and my need to be of service.



How does dancing come into play in your life?


I have always been inclined toward movement though I always joke that I was not in dance at a young age.  I set a goal in my 20’s that I wanted to learn different forms of dance.  I was drawn to bellydance. This dance and art form connects me to something that I felt I was lacking as I became a woman–a bridge to the sacred feminine.  It is hard to quite put it into words, but as I have done more reflection in my life, I realized that I was never taught how to be a woman.  It also does not help that we don’t really have a right of passage in this culture.  My bellydancing and the most recent Cameroonian dance that I have learned put me in touch with what it means to be feminine and tap into my inner Goddess.


You are an artist.  You dance, write, do photography, call yourself “The Woman Who Dreamed” – and along with all of this artistic stuff, you also have a Masters in Business and an undergraduate degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality.  How does your education tie into your artistry, or does it?


Yes in a number of ways.  A couple of years ago, when I came back from India and did not have any paid work at the time, I used the opportunity to position myself for opportunities that were a match for what I had to offer.  In business, there is something known as a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threats/Challenges (SWOT) analysis that is used to help identify gaps that need to be addressed while highlighting what is working well.  I applied this to my own life, when things did not feel so fulfilling (like finding myself unemployed when my contract ended in 2011), I asked myself “What are the opportunities here?  What are my challenges?”  When I came back, I applied this analysis to creating some opportunities for myself.

My professional and education experience also taught me the art of building/maintaining relationships and strengthened my entrepreneurial spirit.  As an artist, I noticed how my business and work experience has provided me with a strong foundation for thinking strategically about my approach to projects and creating key relationships.

There is a joke that sometimes artists don’t know how to market or self-promote or that they are so into their art, they let others handle that piece for them.  While that is not true of all artists, I have certainly recognized where my degrees and past careers lend themselves to my artistic endeavors.  And of course, even as I answer these questions about my art, I am thinking from a business perspective “What is my next step?  How do I need to brand myself?  What are my goals?”



Shanta L.Evans-Crowley, MBA

Multifaceted Professional/Photographer/Writer/Dancer

My LinkedIn:  Shanta on LinkedIn
My Photography Site: Stories We Tell Photography

Check Out Perfect Imperfection: A collaborative photography exhibit and project by photographers Liz LaVorgna  & Shanta L.E.

About the Project
The Beauty of Imperfection

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My Blog where I share thoughts and ponderings about everything from life to thinking inspired by conversation photography site:

Ponder This (Radio):  Every week on Green Mountain mornings, I share thoughts and ponderings via radio, this piece is about Conscious Starvation (in the Emotional sense), it starts about 6:30 into this piece:

Not Just Pictures, But Works of Art


When you have special occasions, you want them commemorated beautifully and artistically.  Everyone brings their cameras or their cell phones and takes pictures and video. But remember, they’re just taking pictures; they are not creating works of art.  You want those rare and special moments in time captured by someone with an artistic eye.  You want lasting images that make you pause and pull you directly into that space and that time.  You want to drink it in and step into that reality, even if just for a moment.  We’ve included some images from Azul Photography to show you what we’re talking about.  These are truly wonderful images that invite your soul in those moments and make you say “oooo, ahhhh.”



Catherine Cazes-Wiley & Tinaliah

A conversation with Catherine Cazes-Wiley, her hats and homeless people.  She’s having an interesting journey in life.  We won’t tell you about it, we’ll let her tell you.


talking heads


When I started this social enterprise I had no idea that a common thread was already running among job creation, social justice and the fashion industry. What seemed so far apart is now looking plain. Let me explain. Most quality homeless shelters in the US have some sort of job program and most job program revolve around computer skills, sometimes AC and heat tech., trucking and security guard licensing. Not everybody qualifies. Are we omitting manual skills and becoming too brainy?

I think so. Overseas we do farming, we sew, we craft and we create micro enterprises. Do you see what I see? America is becoming a third world, small jobs are resurfacing. Folks are readier to rethink their environment and are creating new methods for survival, but a lot do not have the skills. In Thailand, Cambodia and North Carolina rescued young women from the sex trade have no skills either but agencies are already in place and the young ladies are learning how to sew, creating clothing, bags even jewelry. There are more opportunities for men than there are for women in the U.S. and most of the time the small alterations businesses, which I do on the side, are held by foreigners like myself. Learning how to sew can lead to that and much more.



Hats from the catwalk to weddings, diner and more...What is your passion with creating beautiful hats? Where does that come from?
Thank you for the compliment. This passion came from my heart where Jesus resides. I am inspired by flowers, by my childhood in the New Hebrides Islands, also by the fine craftsmanship of fashion houses in Paris, by fashion from the 40ths among other things.


Where does the name Tinaliah come from and why did you choose this as the name for your mission or business?

Tinaliah “the one who perseveres” is a tribute to myself for all I’ve had to overcome along my life’s journey. I was raised in Cameroon, France and the South Pacific and arrived to the U.S. as an exchange student. I found myself destitute on more than one occasion, but these unique circumstances opened my eyes to the reason for the U.S. homeless population, especially its women.


Are you a nonprofit organization, or are you just operating from your heart?
How did you know, I am working on becoming a nonprofit right now, for my heart is bleeding!


How is your marketing working? Are you getting enough people to come through and purchase products from you and all of the people that you are helping by selling their products?

I do shows, business expos, hat parties and I am expanding into bridal wear. People can find me on Etsy, It is fun and exhausting at the same time but it is far from being enough, this is why I am looking forward to becoming a nonprofit or a benefit corporation to look for grants.

Crafting with homeless women is helping to forget and refocus.


You worked in shelters as a craft instructor. Was that something that you proposed and organized or did they have such a program already established?
It was something that I was in my heart to create but when I arrived in New Haven such programs already existed. As I was looking for an apartment to rent I found laying on the rental agency counter a flyer advertising the very program I was imagining! I contacted them right away, the director asked me for a demonstration and I was hired that quickly.


How many different crafters are you working with right now?
There are the crafters and the artists. The crafters are part of a sewing group of seven women operating in a New Haven sewing studio. They produce shawls, scarves, wraps and aprons. I am now able to contract with them for my bridal veils. The artists draw and I coach them to produce saleable art such as hand painted caps, Tee-shirts and cards when we will have added capital.


You were homeless for about five years. How did you come to be homeless and what got you back “on your feet,” so to speak?
I was a missionary willing to experience the “open field”; I had some home bases where I would return after being sent to different locations and states. It came upon me as a surprise for I did not know it would last that long.


Homelessness is usually seen only as a curse but I now see my time as a homeless person as serendipity. Even though I was never in the streets, five years was a long time. And while it was extremely hard at times, I now see this period as a gift, just as someone who recovers from a major illness values their new found life. During that time I became more aware of who I was becoming and what I did not want to become “a cliché-women” modeled after societal stereotypes.

As Carl G Jung puts it in his memoir: Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “people can be unhappy because their life does not have sufficient content. People seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they are seeking. If they are unable to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis (the unhappiness) generally disappears.”

2014 Bridgeport Biz Expo. New bridal line whose edges are finishing by wome in recovery.
During those five years I was forced to rethink a lot of things. For example, being disabled, I am never going to be willing to be put on the shelf. Another twist to my call was the ongoing challenge of fitting the high end of fashion design while dealing with the heart in a social enterprise. It is still a thought mix.  Thank God my faith kept me afloat. It just happened that when I was finished learning what I was to learn, it was time for me to get a job and to create Tinaliah and its caring Co-op.


Is this how you became interested in helping other homeless people, because you could relate to them and wanted to help?

Yes, I already had a good education but was in need of the actual experience. After my roaming period, I felt like I finally had both parts of the puzzle and Tinaliah “the one who perseveres” was born.  I continue to build the environment, in which I move today, that attracts others like you since you invited me for this lovely chat.


It is true what you said about the lack of people developing craft skills in the U.S. Why do you think it’s like that – teenagers and adults alike don’t learn how to make things?

catherine2It is not the custom any longer. Society undervalues manual skills. The US marts galore sell cheap everyday objects which end up as trash somewhere. It is easier to buy, replace and not rethink consumerism meanwhile we stay poor, enslaved and ignorant. My teaching, coaching might just be a drop in the bucket, but I know many would find joy in learning how to make things. We might just create a revolution!


You see this as something that is coming back in this country. How so?
I really cannot answer that as bad habits are hard to change. What I can tell you is only what we personally are doing to help change that as value with education is added to the process. Value because when you make a hat with your own hands or an object or still, when you put your heart into writing a good article you feel good about yourself. The education will come through discussions like this one, with time and with the help of other crafter teachers I am networking with to broaden Tinaliah product line.

Unisex 2013 fall beret with Eiffel Tower


What do you do for a living now? How do you support yourself?

I also work as a French interpreter in the Court, plus I have an amazing husband.


What would you like to see happen with Tinaliah and how can others help with that vision?

I am thinking about a store near New York, possibly in the Bronx, with a warehouse to host classes for the community.  I am looking for grant avenues that would benefit such venture, creating employment with the homeless and strengthening the ones in recovery. Feel free to contact me at if you want to help, have questions or suggestions.   God bless, thank you.


Brooklyn Farm Girl


Did you ever think about farming on a Brooklyn rooftop? Or any rooftop?  That’s what Pamela Reed and her husband do.  They feed themselves with their own crops from their rooftop “farm.”  There’s a lot to this artistic woman and her equally artistic husband, Matthew, including their successful visual arts company Reed & Rader.    When you visit, you’ll find wonderful recipes, gardening info, art and fashion and great cat stories!




How does a girl from a mining town in Pennsylvania end up in New York City?  And, why Brooklyn as opposed to Manhattan, Bronx, Greenwich Village…?
I went to art school in Pittsburgh where I met my creative partner and husband, Matthew.  We are artists creating digital imagery in fashion and advertising ( so NYC was the most relevant move in the United States.  When we moved to NYC, Brooklyn was the first choice due to cost and size of a space, but nowadays Brooklyn is where all the artists are moving to just because it’s a great location with energy and creativity.  I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in NYC but Brooklyn, I love it.


How does your family feel about you being in the big city?
They like to visit so it works out.


What is blue hair all about?bluehair

Blue hair is just about fun.   In our work we play with characters often so this is just a way to express perhaps a future augmented self.   I used to do all colors but nowadays I tend to stick with my blue.


You and your husband have this really cool garden on the roof of the building that you live in.  What was the initial inspiration for that and how did you get started?

We are both from small towns where we both grew vegetables alongside our families as kids, so living in a concrete jungle, we got the itch to create a space where we could get our hands dirty again in some soil.  In NYC there is so much empty space on rooftops so we felt like it would be the perfect spot to grow our own urban farm.


What do you do with the abundance of food that you grow?

We enjoy it mostly between the two of us, as I freeze and can everything to last us months.  Even though tomato season mind end in September, we can still enjoy fresh tomato sauce in May which is pretty cool.  I also share with our friends and neighbors.


Do you face any obstacles with your rooftop farm?

Being on a roof we have to deal with strong winds and a very reflective rooftop.  We have to get creative with ways to protect it.


If someone else wanted to get started with a similar project, what you would you recommend they do first?

Start small and don’t get discouraged.  Figure out what works and try new methods.  Our containers we started with in the first year of the garden are not the containers we use now, but they were the first step to get us there.  Also, not all plants are going to work out  but just live and learn.  Trust me, I’ve cried more than once.


Do you need a written plan of some sort to start gardening?  Do certain vegetables need to be started at a certain time in order to be in the proper growing season?

I have a seed calendar on my blog:  It’s more specific to the Northeast.

Given all the recipes that you introduce regularly on your website, you have a passion for cooking.  Where did that come from?

I don’t really know.  My mom cooked as a kid but she was more a out of the box macaroni and cheese mom.  I think I just get the passion from wanting to learn and wanting to make something from nothing.  With growing all our vegetables it’s made me really search for new ways to enjoy and preserve them.

Any suggestions for someone who does not cook well (some people have tried everything) to get better?

The internet is your Oyster.  There’s a how to video on anything!


farmgirl-catLet’s talk about your family – your beautiful cats.  Is introducing a new cat to the family easy, or were there challenges with each new introduction?

We live in a open loft space so introduction to new cats is pretty quick, we can’t exactly quarantine for days or weeks.  With that said, all our cats get used to each other quickly and like all cats, they’ll bond over food. J


Your website is so very interesting.  You speak on a variety of different subjects.  How or when did you decide to live such an open and vocal life? 

I consider my blog my own personal blog.  It’s not a gardening blog, not a cooking blog, not a beauty blog, but it’s just my life.   I work as an artist, but I garden often and I cook dinner every night.  I’m  obsessed with cats.  I like pretty clothes and nails.  Sometimes I think this can be confusing to my readers as perhaps most of them are into one of those things, but I try to have the same voice across all categories and bring them all together.  Besides, who doesn’t love cats?


showcase-flowersHow did you and your husband create such a successful art company? 

We just worked really hard and continue to do so today.  We both come from blue collar families so artist was never an occupation we heard growing up.  It still confuses our families on how we make a living.


You seem to be so full of happiness and optimism.  What gives?  How do you do that?

I’m just like everyone else, I get happy and I get sad.  I think there’s many blogs out there that try to put on this “always happy, my world looks like a perfect pinterest board” but I think that’s really discouraging to readers and has to be emotionally draining on the blogger.  I just try to be me and share things that I think might cause other people happiness.


 For more information (and those great recipes we mentioned):


Memphis Minnie & the Blues

When you think about the origin of the blues, do you think about an older Black gentleman from the south?  Most people do.  Women were also heavily involved with the blues.

Memphis Minnie was noted by Big Bill Broonzy as being “the best woman blues guitarist he has ever heard.”  She earned the respect of record buying fans and the praise of all the blues artists that she worked with throughout her four decade long career.

Memphis Minnie was born Elizabeth Douglas on June 3, 1897, in Algiers Louisiana and was the oldest of 13 brothers and sisters. Like most things in that era, music was also homemade. In 1907 a blues musician would play in all kinds of places like house parties, barrel houses, work camps, and traveling shows. Influenced by the local string players that performed at these parties, Minnie obtained her first guitar at the age of 11.

In those days women were limited to household service and farm work – exhausting labor.  Memphis Minnie was never interested in this lifestyle. She re-located to Memphis in the early 1920’s and married her first husband Casey Bill Weldon, who played guitar with the popular Memphis Jug Band. Together they both played guitar and sang on Beale Street and surrounding towns in Memphis.

Minnie could hold her own against any of the blues artists of her time. She has inspired many of today’s aspiring guitarists.

In order to be heard above the crowds, Minnie was quick to embrace the latest technologies. She was one of the first blues players to use a National Guitar. In later years guitarists had amplification to help them be heard, but in those days the National guitar was three to five times as loud as any made of wood. This was because the guitar was made of metal, which is what makes it instantly recognizable.

Starting in 1929, Minnie’s recordings exemplify her life, as she moved from the rural South to metropolitan Chicago. After the stock market crash, record companies began to seek out rural guitar based music. Regardless of what was either more cost-effective or what they were promoting at the time, Memphis Minnie made her professional recording debut in 1929.

Minnie and her second husband Joe based themselves in Chicago throughout the early thirties; recording both together and separately. Their marriage and melodic affiliation eventually ended in the mid-thirties. Minnie became more accepted as a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter.

In 1939 she married Ernest “Little Son Joe” Lawlars. In the mid fifties music was changing with the fabrication of rock and roll. Major record labels were beginning to pull out of the blues market.

Memphis Minnie’s voice is of an artist who never put up with exploitation, and managed to find happiness while living through tough times. In 1957 Minnie returned to Memphis and retired from the music business. She moved into a nursing home where she lived until her death on August 6th, 1973 at the age of 76.

About the contributor:

Andrea Gibson is a blueswoman, hails from Memphis and uses her gibson les paul standard traditional at guitar center for all of her “blues work.”  She studies all of the historical blues artists and wants to make sure that they are not forgotten and wants people to know where the blues came from.



Beth Pite – Making Her Community More Vibrant & Caring


Art is something that human beings cannot live without.  Whether it’s visual or musical, it creates a sensation and a vibration within us.  If you meet her, you will find that Beth Pite is a very bright spirit with a radiant smile.

“My art is about color, energy and capturing the essence of something rather than an exact likeness. Using loose, gestural strokes of vibrant color, I want to show how it felt to be there, instead of just copying what my camera records. My paintings often suggest a vignette, a human story in intriguing settings like cityscapes, festivals or the shoreline. By favoring color, form and movement over exact representations of the subjects, I create an enhanced reality which prompts a more emotional viewer response.”

We thank her for finding time to talk with us at Women Move the Soul.



Tell us about how the art began with you.  When you were a child, who/what inspired or motivated you to begin down that road?

No one thing I can remember – it seems I was always drawn to color, took photographs, drew, painted, and covered notebooks in doodles when bored in class.  My mother is a late blooming artist and her sculptures were around the house when I was a teen, so the talent undoubtedly came from her, but I don’t remember specific encouragement.  If anything, quite the opposite, as my father was – and remains – adamant about my doing art only as a hobby while studying something that would help me get a “real job.”


beth-easternpointIs art vital to your being?

Oh yes.


Does something happen if you don’t paint or create for an extended period of time? 

I get cranky, stressed and go into overdrive with my “other” work.  Sometimes another creative outlet helps – gardening, decorating, going to a play or concert, making a photo book – but eventually I have to paint again.


Does your art overall serve a purpose? 

It gets me in the zone – which, fortunately, can happen with my “other work,” too – that place where you lose track of time and are completely focused on what you are doing.  Making art helps me really see and appreciate the beauty and energy around me, from a city street to an ocean sunset.  It helps me share with others what I found so amazing about a particular place or time, and helps me relive it so that I get inspired all over again.


Most artists have two lives so to speak.  They have their “art life,” then they have another life in which they work or do what they have to do to live and survive.  Do you have two lives like that or does your art support your life?

Yes, I have two lives like that and yes, art does support my life anyhow.  I’m fortunate in that more and more the two parts intersect.  Using my creative talent takes many forms: translating easily between my consulting clients and graphic designers; helping friends buy clothes or decorate homes; working with architects and contractors on a remodeling project; serving on the boards of nonprofit arts organizations.  In all ways, my artistic interests help support the rest of my life.

Life is a journey.  Life with art is journey.  Tell us about the journey that your life has been on through the development of your art.  Where has it taken you?

Many places!  From California and New York to Europe and South America.  From being a split personality in a dark suit all day and bright colors on weekends to being a fully integrated person.


What have you learned and experienced? 

Early in my career I started finding ways that my corporate job could include working with advertising agencies and graphic designers.  For years as a corporate exec I stayed connected to artists by buying clothes, jewelry and furniture in galleries and at craft shows, and serving on multiple arts-related boards of directors.  Eventually I started making my own art again, which I hadn’t done since college, but only as a sideline to my “real” work.  I experimented with multiple art forms, from jewelry making, to faux finished objects, to photography, until falling in love with pastel painting – just me and pure color.  That helped me grow more confident about showing my work and expressing my experiences through my paintings.  I began to let the two parts of my life overlap, realizing that my consulting clients actually like knowing I am creative.  These days I consult mostly in the nonprofit cultural/heritage/community development arena, and have no qualms about letting clients see the real me.  I still support artists by buying their work, donating to arts organizations and volunteering on boards, but also by using my business skills and experience to strengthen the creative sector.


bethpite-tulipsYou mention that you take photos when you travel and then paint using the photos as a reference.  Are there times when you do not work from a photo? 

I move around a lot when I travel, walking for hours and soaking up the place, and do not want to stand still or miss anything.  Painting an outdoor scene in plein air, the holy grail of many painters, doesn’t appeal to me – I don’t like standing still, bugs, lack of bathrooms, or sunburn!  Once in a while I’ll work from life, not a photo.  Maybe it’s to force myself to stretch in a plein air landscape workshop, or in a life painting session with a live model. Sometimes I do it as a quick exercise when some particularly colorful fruit or veggies inspire me to paint.  Mostly, though, I’m a studio painter who wants to focus on nothing but the painting when I actually have time to paint.


Your work is exhibited often.  Do you look for something in people if you are there when they are viewing your work?  Do you mentally measure their responses? 

Absolutely.  I hope they’ll be energized, intrigued, upbeat – and perhaps even feel like they were there in that scene, or want to be.  I love having people ask about my paintings – the place, the back story, the technique.  It’s great when a painting speaks to them so much that they start telling me where in their home or office they want to put it, and why.


We always like to ask a reflective question.  When Beth Pite is 80, what will she have accomplished?  What will be remembered of you? 

Beth makes her community more vibrant, caring and connected through her creativity, energy, intelligence and enthusiasm.



Art by Beth Pite
expressive colorscapes


Karen Gibson Roc – I Refuse to Die Unfinished



Karen Gibson Roc is a full-time artist. Emotions, feelings and colors flow from her lips as she does her spoken word and poetry. Her motto is not to die “unfinished,” a slogan all of us should have. We thank her for taking time from her busy schedule to share her life and her vibe with us.



You are a “poetist,” not a rapper. For those who don’t know the difference, would you please explain? And tell us why you do poetry verus rap.


I use poetry and sometimes the rhythm of spoken word performance art to express my art!! A Poetist! Like myself –doesn’t always follow a pattern or tempo like a rapper. We bend the rules a Karen+Gibson+Roclittle.


How did you get started with writing poetry and then what led you to recording your work?

I started writing poetry as a way to express my uncomfortable awareness of what life had become for me as a late teen, I didn’t start recording until I had been living in NY for the better part of ten years and after I honed my skills as a spoken word artist at many different open mic venues throughout the city.


Who does your music? Does it come from a variety of sources, or do you have a steady group that works with you?

My music comes from a variety of sources/producers from overseas i.e., Germany, Denmark, Japan, Paris and also from a few producers here in the US.


You use the name “Karen Gibson Roc.” What does the “Roc” mean?

It is my married name.


Because you are an artist, we’re certain that you are going to tell us that your inspiration comes from everywhere – but, could you speak on it a bit please?

My inspiration comes from the spiritual side of life and mostly it stems from the reason I am here in this body and at this time as a soul.


Is there someone that you are emulating as an poetist, artist, vocalist? Where does your vibe come from?


I don’t think there is any one artist that I feel I am emulating albeit I am inspired by a plethora of different characters. My vibe comes from that deep well of creativity that begs to be released…from my heart place.


You’ve done a good deal of work and gained some a lot of publicity. How is it that people find you and your work so interesting? Can you explain it or tell us some of the steps that you’ve taken to accomplish that.

I believe that people find my work interesting for the simple reason of them not being able to nail it down to a genre…I believe people really want something interesting and thought provoking to listen to…something to make them feel!! The steps I’ve taken to get to this point in my career have been challenging at times but I feel I’ve always been up to it as it is very rewarding. I started with small steps like producing my own first project and embracing THE ART OF COMPLETION. After being able to conquer my own fears and insecurities, then put my work out into the world, everything after that flowed after that!


We’d like to talk about sales of music and merchandising. A lot of artists are suffering from lack of music sales because technology allows people to just email mp3s everywhere. We’ve learned that you don’t really make a lot of money from music, but from merchandising and live performances. You’ve created your own products for merchandise: TheRocSacStore, Poetictees.

I make money as an artist from a variety of sources. But as far as music I make a good bulk of it because my music is placed on many, many compilations around the world and I owe that to my Label Lemongrassmusic.


What is your home life like? Do you have children, a significant other? How do they react or flow with the fact that you are an artist and do gigs and tour?

I am married and have been for almost 12 years, my husband has been an amazing source of support through this whole endeavor. I also have a beautiful and amazing little 7 year old daughter that is truly the reason I am here in this life. She brings me joy beyond measure. I haven’t been touring as much since she was born but, look forward to a future of plenty tour dates where she can travel with me. She comes to all of my local shows and to the studio and loves every bit of it or so she tells me.


Take us through a typical day of Karen Gibson. Do you work full-time and then focus on your art? Are you a full-time artist? What is your day like?

I am a full time artist and my days go like this: I get up with my daughter and get her ready for school. Most of the time when her dad is able he takes her to school so I can have my morning quiet moment to drink my coffee. After a walk on the beach I make my fresh veggie juice and sit to begin my day which might entail a lot of email correspondence regarding music stuff…I might work on some new music or write a new poem for a book I am working on….I might start sewing or shopping for fabric and before you know it I am off to pick up my girl from school…we get home and do homework, later we have dinner get ready for bed and start all over again the next day! Summer vacation is different…there is absolutely no schedule. :)


What do you want listeners to take away from listening to your work?

I want listeners to walk away with a full heart when they listen to my music…


Any advice to other people (young and old) who would like to follow your example and start recording their own work?

My advice to anyone wanting to record would be to simply do it !! Talk to people, ask for help, visit a studio and listen to your own heart.



One of your mottos on your shirt is “I refuse to die unfinished.” What does that mean to you? Will there come a time when you are “finished” and what is your ultimate goal?


I love that you included that in this interview because those words really represent what kind of artist I am… When I say “I REFUSE TO DIE UNFINISHED” I mean that I refuse to leave this life without having made an effort to live the life I see for myself…

The only time I will be finished as an artist is when they lay me to rest and I have shed this body! My ultimate goal is to continue this creative revolution I started!!!!


Visit Karen @



Kaye Ree – Music is the Door to Our Soul

Kaye Ree said that “music is the door to our soul.” This is true, and all we need is a beautiful spirit to introduce us to that music, elevate us and to help us vibe – not just with that sound – but, with the essence of the universe which is all of us.

Kaye Ree is an independent artist who has recently taken charge of her own music career, is flourishing and constantly seeking new opportunities.  As women, we have to take charge of ourselves, our bodies, our minds and our careers….



You’ve worked very hard in your industry and it seems to be paying off. Do you do music full time, or do you have other means of supporting yourself in addition to the music?

I have studied marketing and communication and been working for an airline for a long time but I am now focusing on the label I recently started, as well as our management, licensing, songwriting and shows etc.

Photos by Isaworks
Photos by Isaworks


It seems you have a good, solid team in terms of the musicians who work with you and your management. Was it easy for you to find good people or did you have to go through a lot of other people to get to your current team?

I believe that everything is happening the way it is meant to be. Therefore the musicians that I work with were surely heaven-sent and I love working with them. It is essential to work with people that you love in order to do good work, specially when it comes to music, I believe. The production team/label has changed because I did not feel enough support from their side, so I decided to do it all myself. I still learned a lot from the time working with them, since I had to do a lot of things on my own and that´s what made me start my own label….so everything is everything. The new producer we chose was actually somebody who is usually not really working with artists but is specialized for sound design for major companies like Mercedes-Benz, etc. That is how we met 4 years ago, doing a production together for a huge marketing campaign for Mercedes-Benz. We loved the way of working with him so much that we asked him if he would be willing to produce our new album with us.

What is your process like for deciding who you will work with?

Nowadays I chose to work with people that I feel have a positive energy and the same type of passion for the music as we, my musicians and I. So, when I meet new people in the industry, I have to first trust my intuition, to feel if I could feel comfortable working with them, check their personality, their business background and have a very honest and direct conversation with them. How I meet these people? I meet them at international music fairs, concerts, online, through friends or unexpected places. They are being sent to me…


You’re really garnering notariety in Europe. Are you looking to get over to the US for performances also?

Oh yes!!! We were performing in ATL a couple of times in the past years, as well as in Miami, New York, Philly and West Palm Beach. Since I write all of my songs in English, the American crowd is way more receptive and appreciate my poetry in my songs than the German crowd for example! Our new album “New Air” recently got released in Europe on my own label “Reelement Records” and I´m currently looking for labels outside of Germany to work with and license the album to. So far, we got Italy and Japan in the boat!!! ;)

U.S. artists are looking for ways to obtain performance opportunities over there. European artists are seeking ways to get to the US. What is the strategy for getting you overseas to the US and what are the target areas?

Nowadays, all we have to do is reach out to people online and show your professional skills as far as delivering quality material that can represent you well enough for people to see you as worthy to invite you over. You need to know what the needed budget would be for you to travel, have a place to sleep, eat and drink and eventually make some money on top if you´re not a complete newcomer and only need exposure. We have done quite a few “investment-trips” as well in order to introduce us to a market that didn’t know us yet. That is how you test the waters. Nowadays people invite us and we go wherever they are professional enough to take care of us the way artists should be taken care of.

Kaye Ree, since you were a small child, you sang, you danced and you’ve continued that throughout your life into adulthood. Why? It may seem like a simple question, but it’s nice to give non-artists and “music appreciators” more of an understanding why artists do what they do.

As a little child I seemed to have such a great passion for singing and dancing already that my parents saw it and supported me by allowing me to have ballet lessons and sing in a choir.

One of the reasons for continuing though and for making it all bigger than just a hobby, was the inspiration of artists like Michael Jackson, who took their mission of being a positive influence in so many peoples lives very serious. His way of performing, singing, spreading a positive message, even in his movies, touched me deeper than anybody else has and it encouraged me to also use my position on stage to do create something positive, healing and inspiring for people, including myself.


Do you play any instruments?

I recently started learning the bass…but it´s really only the beginning!!! I dream of really being on stage with it one day to jam with my musicians. If I prove to have enough discipline and talent for it, you´ll find out in a couple of years, I guess ;)

If not, why not and what would you play if you did?

I’d love to play the drums, guitar, piano, cello, trumpet, hang, tabla, conga…every instrument! I admire every musician who has the patience and discipline to learn an instrument!

Photo by Isaworks
Photo by Isaworks

When you write songs, how do you create your melodies? What is your process like?

I hear melodies in my head…or better yet, I feel them…sometimes even dream whole arrangements of an orchestra. The only way for me to remember it is to record it. Therefore I really need to learn an instrument, so I don’t have to sing the piano lines, etc. Most of the times my melodies and lyrics are inspired by Felix Justen’s guitar composition. Whatever he plays puts me in a certain mood to write a song to it. Then we record it and I have to learn the lyrics in order to perform it on stage. The songs finally develop on stage to the versions you get to hear on the album.


Let’s say you get to tour everywhere, will you feel totally satisfied as far as that goes or will you have greater expectations?


I love performing! There’s nothing I’d rather do than being on tour with my musicians. The only “other” thing I will do with my voice, is to work with kids, use music as a therapy and help people…since I believe that music is the door to our soul.

Is there an end to your goals? Will you get to the point where you’ve fulfilled yourself completely – when you’re satisfied?

I try to live in the here and now, since that is the only thing that is real. It helps to be satisfied with life in general. My main goal is to spread our music and its message worldwide, work with many different artists, sing in different languages, help people with my music to enjoy life. One day soon, I would like to use the profit of my music to start schools/homes for kids one day. Also, I would like to be a role model for other young people, be an inspiration to do good, just like Michael Jackson did it for me once. I believe that this is a life-long mission that I’m
fulfilling every day step by step.


Tomaca’s Bagging It!

Written by Tomaca Govan

This nice bag was made with Walmart bags.
This nice, chic-looking bag was made with Walmart bags.  (Not sure how many – maybe 30?)

I’m the person at the office who is always advocating recycling  plastic bags.  I set up a deposit location in the office and personally take responsibility for bringing the bags to the grocery store for recycling.  It’s one of my pet peeves because it’s so very wasteful to use plastic bags for shopping.   Of course, I don’t.

One day I was doing some research on the recycling process and came across website after website that showed what people were making from plastic bags by crocheting and weaving.  I was so happy to see that people were using their own, basic ingenuity (and artistic talents) to turn plastic bags into things that are reusable and long lasting.

The bug bit me and I started making my own crafts.  The first thing I made was this really nice bag from Walmart bags.  They were easy to come by because I went into Walmart and asked for their recycled plastic bags.  I walked out of their with dozens of bags!

After I made my first bag, I went and showed it to the ladies at Walmart at the customer service desk and they were so impressed, they gave me more bags.  Now, all I have to do is show up and they start digging out the bags.  One woman even offered to set them aside for me everyday.

plastic-hat-bagThis was the first time I ever made a hat of any kind.  I started it, watched it form and tried to make sure I was putting in enough stitches and reducing the right amount of stitches to make it shape properly.  I had to pull the stitches out and restart at least three times before I got it right – but, I got it right and the hat is really chic looking.  I added a white ribbon and it’s good to go now.   Together, they look very classy, and the finished products are very, very sturdy.  You would NEVER know these used to be plastic Walmart bags!

This would be a nice business for someone who wanted to make these and sell them on the internet or at craft fairs.  There are a variety of colors available with plastic bags, so the color combinations can be quite diverse.

Okay ladies – get out your crochet hooks and start gathering plastic bags, making your “plarn” and get busy.  Make sure you teach your children, your friends and others how to do this.  Then share your creations with us.  We would love to inspire others.

–  Tomaca


Here’s a how-to for making what’s called “plarn” (plastic yarn):


Here are some other very creative ideas that involve crocheting and plastic:



The more reusing we do, the less this happens:




plastic-in-oceanplastic-stuck  plastic-in-bird

Plastic is causing a growing dilemma on our planet.  If you do a google search, you can see the kind of harm it is causing in our oceans and on our lands.  There is an actual “plastic island” floating around the world:

Animals don’t know the difference between plastic and the food they think they are eating.  They are dying by the hundreds.  Fish that ingest plastic end up on our dinner tables when they are captured by fishing companies.

Please do some research and share it with your children, your neighbors, your facebook friends and anyone else you can think of.  Then discuss AND implement things that we can do differently to prevent further harm and to reduce the damage that has been done.

For starters, DO NOT use plastic bags any more.  They should be banned at this point given what we know about the harm they cause.  Reusable bags make sense on every level.

Human beings are very creative creatures.  We can come up with ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.  What are some of your suggestions?


Pomes By Jones





Geri Jones is a Wordsmith – gifted in the art of words and rhyme.  She has just published her first book of poetry and tell us about it, herself and her craft.


pomesbyjonesGeri, first off, your new book is an absolute visual delight.  Wonderful work with tying the into the poetry and the color selection for each page.  Did you do the layout and select the and colors yourself?


Pretty much yes.  A dear friend of mine painted the cover picture.  She is a great artist and has such great energy and she came up with the perfect picture for the book.   I picked out the photos from various photos I had taken myself – mostly limited by needing photos with a big enough resolution to make them quality pictures at that size.  There are also six photos which are from a photographer friend of mine who offered that I choose any pictures from her albums.  After that, I asked the book designers for colorful pages which blended in with the photos.  What you see in the book is the result – I was thrilled with the colors and the contrasting side borders they created.  I also asked that the color from the front be blended around to the back of the book.   I wrote the whole part about myself on the back of the book too – I just answered the questions and this is what flowed out!


Who is your audience for this publication?


Pretty much anyone who would like to have their spirits lifted and also ultimately to be inspired to help humanity to return to who we really are, and that is loving, giving, co-operative souls who love our home, Planet Earth.  Anyone can understand these messages – from youngsters to the elderly.  There are no cryptic messages, it is all plain to see the message.


Why did you create this book?  What was the purpose behind it?


The purpose is to get my message out.  As I mentioned above, humanity really is a loving, giving, co-operative race who love our home, Planet Earth.   I believe that we really do not need to fight amongst ourselves and that there is a peaceful way around every issue.   I also believe that we are currently going through a vibrational change and that once everyone awakens, we can start to live the dreamed for Heaven on Earth life.


We expect this is your first of many publications to come, is it not?heavenonearth


Yes indeed – I have so much more in me to put out as messages of love and light!


Were you the student who got all A’s in English and poetry classes?


Errrrr . . . . . . .  no!  In fact, I failed English Language and English Literature the first time around!!  (And only barely passed the second time!!!)


Not everyone can rhyme artistically – make rhymes that make sense, etc. – why are you so good at it?


It’s interesting – it feels like it is something easy and that surely everyone could do it. But I guess they cannot!  It seems to just happen naturally – I suppose it is something that is known as a gift.  As well as having the ability to shuffle words around to make the last ones in each line rhyme, I have some sort of sense of rhythm which makes the timing work in the rhythm.


Where are you from originally? 


I was born in Bath, England which is in the south west corner of the British Isles.


Did where you grew up and the things around you at that time have anything to do with developing your skills as a poet?


Bath is a very beautiful city with a lot of historic beauty what with the architecture.  The area is beautiful and there are some famed writers from Bath, Jane Austin for one.  However, for the years I lived there, I believed I had no gifts or talents whatsoever.  I left Bath at age 19 and haven’t lived there other than for visits, since.  I am now 52.  My gift didn’t appear until I was into my forties, so I don’t really think where I came from had anything much to do with developing my skills!!


You offer services to write “pomes” for people for special occasions.  How much information does someone need to give you in order to write such a pome? 


I ask people to write a paragraph or two saying exactly what they want to say to the person that the pome is for.   I say, write it from your heart, what do you want to say.  I then take it and twirl the words around (adding a few to make it rhyme) and the pome appears.   I have an example on my website showing the paragraph someone wrote of she would like to say to her sister, and you can then see the result.  It is on the ‘order’ page.


What is your approach like?  How do you write such a thing?


I read through the paragraph(s) from the requesting person and pick out the key points. and then a combination of my brain and my spiritual or Higher Self, create the rest of it!!   I’m not really sure how I do it, it just happens once I put out the intention.


Is your approach different when you write a company slogan than when writing pomes?


Yes, somewhat I think.  When there isn’t so much human emotion involved (not to say there is none for a company slogan), I guess I use more of my intellect to create the slogan, but still I get help from my higher self.  Often, this sort of work takes longer.  I tend to need more information for this sort of project.


Where does your inspiration come from?  Some people need to go to a quiet place, some don’t.  Just curious about how you do what you do.  Are the words just there for you or do you have to search for them in order to manifest the phrases in your mind?  If you can, describe your creative process.


I do have to be in a very quiet area.  My home is such a place, but I also can go to a cabin or resort in the mountains or countryside somewhere to write.  When I am writing a Pome, such as the ones in the book, I decide on a title or a subject matter and put out the intention to The Universe.  Many times, without a whole lot of thought, the Pome is suddenly there in front of me.  I always use pencil and write in my creation book.  I have always written best using a pencil – and sharpener!!  Nothing new and fangled in the way of technology here!!   Many times, I barely need to change a word once it is written. Often times, a four verse Pome can be written in as little as 20 – 30 minutes!!  Occasionally less!!  As mentioned above, the ones for people’s birthdays and weddings etc, take a little thought to know the important points, etc. before getting started whereas these healing/spiritual/inspirational ones, come right from my Higher Self.


What’s in the future?  Are there more books, will there be pomes to music, greeting cards…?  What do we have to look forward to next?


Haha – I have some ideas alright.  I think another book in time.  Definitely Pomes to music are on the cards.  A musician friend of mine keeps saying we must do some to music – when the time is right, it will happen.  I also have been creating a few posters – pictures with Pomes written over them and in simple frames – short encouraging/inspirational Pomes which could be hung on any wall.   I also recently wrote a couple of short ones for a Wedding and an Anniversary – not personalized – so it can be sold in a gift shop to someone who wants a unique gift for friends.   Greeting cards are also a possibility.  I was talking to an artist at a networking meeting a short while ago and we thought maybe we could collaborate in making some beautiful cards as gifts.   The possibilities are unlimited really!!


geri-and-gizHow did you  meet Gizmo the Wonderdoglet?  What made you write a pome especially for him?

That’s another funny story!  I met Jen – Gizmo’s assistant/driver/carer/dogsbody; Jen, because of our cars!!  We both drive MINI Coopers and we met originally on a MINI forum, then connected on Facebook.  Soon, we realized that we lived less than 2 hours apart (many of our MINI friends live in far away places such as Florida, California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Virginia, Georgia, etc., etc. and we don’t often get to meet up).  Once we realized that it was possible to drive to meet up, we made a plan to meet up on 4th July 2010.   The rest is history – we became firm friends fast and when Jen and Gizmo came to visit me at the farm where I live, and where I take care of horses, Giz met my favorite horse Chippee and THEY became firm friends!!  Such a wonderful friendship we all have!!!!

Here is a POME I wrote about a wonderful doglet who goes visiting people to brighten up their days! (WMTS Note: Gizmo is a therapy dog who happens to have over 11,000 fans on facebook!)

Gizmo, Wonder Doglet
Gizmo is a doglet with such epic depth.
Small in stature, but high in strong strength
Of character and will power, and love and joy,
He really is one extraordinary boy!

Those who meet him can’t help but say,
“Oh my goodness, you just made my day!”
One heck of a giving spirit indeed,
What more could a person ever want or need?

As “Wonder Doglet” he is sometimes known,
And so many friends, they now have grown,
To understand what it is to give.
Gizzy’s example is to give, love and live!

Gizzy, Gizmo, Wonder Doglet,
In my life, I simply have not met,
Any other such creature so wise, yet so small,
You are the mightiest fellow of all!


For more, and to order the book, visit

Stevie’s Soul is More Than Photography

We give you Stevie. Stevie is a woman who followed her passion all of her life and allowed it to lead her into a world of photography, video, film and independent music management and promotions. She’s got a very full artistic plate. We’d like to touch on the things that she does and find out how she got there.

It is interesting how you combined your love of photography with music. What came first, the interest in music or photography?


Photography…I didn’t fall in love with music until I was a pre-teen and started changing the station on the radio to the soul station. As a kid watching National Geographic on TV, it inspired my desire to be a photographer. I envisioned myself on safari in Africa taking pictures. Haven’t been to Africa yet but, that’s coming… My first photo was published was in 1992 of Kris Kross n Speech n Wendy Moten….. My first magazine cover was “Right On!” in 1994.

As a teen I discovered Chaka Khan and fell in love with her music… I wanted to meet her… the only way I figured I’d meet her was by working in music… it worked. I met her in the first time 92′.


What do you prefer more, photographing musicians live or doing studio shots and why?

I love shooting concerts… capturing the moment…the emotion…I’ve become pretty good at that. Music is emotional.

Some of Stevie’s photography work


How did you get started with photography?

I kind of fell into being an entertainment photographer. In the late 80’s I was working with Toni Braxton. I went to a music conference down in Atlanta called “Jack the Rapper” to network and to promote her. I used my camera as an ice breaker… I used to be shy…believe it or not.


Artist management and promotions. What led you into that field?

I got into promotions right out of high school. Answered an ad in the paper. I helped this company promote a comedy show. Promotions come natural for me. If I dig something, I tend to tell the world.
Artist management – I was working with these guys with a production company…I put up all the money to get it incorporated and signed Toni Braxton. We became disillusioned with their work ethic, so we split from them and she started calling me her manager and we continued our hustle, until La Face picked her up.

How many artists do you manage?

La Veda

Right now, One…La Veda and I’m looking at a couple others, but La Veda is keeping me quite busy.


You are what you called an “Indie Artist Advocate.” What does an Indie Artist Advocate do?

Promote Indie Soul artists out of the love in my heart for them. I take their photos, blog about them, tell people about them, support their performances, shoot live videos and post on my youtube page in social networks and play their music on my podcast/radio show called “Stevie’s Soul Love 101”.


How did you get into that field?

Well it started with meeting DJ Frances Jaye @ Morgan State University homecoming concert featuring Amel Larrieux and her telling me about her station This was at the end of 2005… All this beautiful soul music that she played and commercial radio didn’t …I was hooked, told everyone I knew about it. Then in 2007 I was at the B stage of Balto’s African American Heritage Festival and this amazing

Sy Smith

performer by the name of Sy Smith ( blew me away. We became quick friends…A light bulb came on… It dawned on me that she couldn’t be the only one; I soon discovered many more. I realized every one of her songs that I’d been hearing on DJ Frances station I loved.

I told everyone I knew about Sy, brought all her music and I started taking vacation days from work and traveling everywhere she was performing, taking photos and video of her, spreading the word.

Everyone that know me knows I love me some Sy Smith…she’s is so very talented!!! not to mention she is one of the coolest people on this earth.

Your artist La Veda has had some recent successes internationally. Tell us how you created opportunities for her.

La Veda

If I tell you my tricks of the trade who’s gonna hire me…lol… I’m a promoter and I network my butt off. I know quite a few industry folks and DJs all over the world and am always open to meet more.

It also helps greatly that she records HOT songs… She’s an amazing artist on so many levels. Very focused, level headed, great range, she’s just a STAR. Everyone falls in love with her.

I’m losing count on the number of DJs and producers wanting to work with her from all different countries…It’s quite exciting.

We have a release coming from the UK with Italian DJ/ producer Phat Frank and South Africa, her producer Cafrodeep…and after the ink has dried on a few other projects I’ll share.


A lot of female artists have challenges working with men, especially because the music industry is a little more male-dominated. As a female manager and promoter, do you find opposition from men?

Nope… I get respect… they love me. They see and respect my hustle. They have been my biggest supporters.


Photography and video seem to go hand-in-hand. Do you find that to be true? Could you elaborate on how you make the transition between the two seamlessly?

Depends on who’s holding the camera. Vision is different for everyone…that’s why I love photographers. I kind of shoot video the way I take pictures, to capture the moments. So it’s not really a transition but more like my vision. And often I do both at the same time. This photographer in DC took a picture of me doing that. I use both my hands.


What kind of video work do you do for others?

I’ve done event videos, a couple of music videos, and promo videos.


Tell us about “Hip Hop for the Homeless.”

In 2010 a young Baltimore rapper by the name of Lano (Bomb1st) saw a homeless advocate’s son on the news talking about how folks didn’t seem to give as much since his mom, Bea Gaddy, died. Lano decided to get some of his fellow rappers to hit the streets and perform and collect canned goods. That’s how it began.
Phone calls were made to get local media support and people at Radio One got involved. That’s where I met everyone for the first time, I was with the video crew taping drops for promo commercials.
I sat down at the big conference room table and became apart of the team. Everyone just got in where they fitted. I wound up being the photographer for the movement. I’m now one of the administrators.
Now twice a year, summer and winter, we gather hip hops artist from all over the city to perform on the east and west sides of town outside at Rim Source & Wheel Deal. We sit out boxes and collect food and clothing for our homeless brothers and sisters.
We also go to a place called “bum city” (terrible name I know) and we take clothing and hot meals and break bread with our less fortunate brothers and sisters. We talk with them and let them know we care.
I did a mini documentary about it complete with my photos:


How do you find the artists that you manage? What does an artist need to have in order for you to consider managing them?

Actually they find me. I don’t go looking for them. It’s a lot of work. People tell me it takes a special person to be an artist manager and I’ve come to learn exactly why they say that. It ain’t easy!

La Veda is my ideal artist. She’s got international appeal. She writes great songs, sings, arranges, records herself and she’s loyal. She has an understanding of the industry that I find a lot of artists don’t. She’s patient and works at reaching her dream. She’s beautiful; she models and is an actress too. Her resume is pretty cool. She’s the Greatest!

Mmm, to consider managing someone else they’d pretty much have to be like La Veda…she’s ideal. I do however consult with artists and help them out when I can.


You are officially published writer. Is there more of that coming?

Yes most definitely. I’ve always loved to write. I recently pulled out notebooks and notebooks of short stories, poetry, songs and this novel I wrote. I’m interviewing a couple of artists to do blog postings on their stories as well.

I love to read; it’s one of my favorite things ever. I have quite a few favorite authors: J. California Cooper, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, E Jerome Dickey, Octavia Butler, Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, etc.


You are now getting into the engineer’s booth in the studio. Tell us what you are doing and why you’re getting behind the board.

I don’t know…like I need something else to do… What happened was I had booked a date for La Veda in my friend’s studio and my engineer couldn’t make it at the last minute. So I just jumped in and worked the pro-tools. My photoshop knowledge helped me and I made a lot of phone calls. We recorded for about 5 days straight. We got a lot done – once I got the hang of it.


Congratulations on your independent radio show is being syndicated. What is the focus of your show and why do you think people find it so interesting?

Thank You! I play indie soul music and sometimes hip hop and soulful house and lounge … its been called eclectic. I basically play what I like listening to. I just play good music. I have pretty good taste in music.

We’re missing good old R&B love songs on mainstream radio. We never stopped making our music, the radio just stopped playing it. We as a people always communicated through our music. Love songs are what I play. Love makes the world go round. Love is good.


Stevie, everyone dreams of being self supporting by doing what they love. You’ve gotten to that point now. Was it an easy journey? Is there anything that you would have done differently and any advice you have to offer to other women who would like to get there?

I’m still on my journey. I do what I love and I love what I do. Nothing worth having is easy. Just meet the challenges along the way and have faith. You are here for a reason. It’s Divine order. Live your purpose and always give back. Love, support and respect each other. I’m a part of a strong team. We’re all leaders!

Spread love.

Oh, by the way, the team is also shooting a movie called “Hood Dreamz” which is a screenplay by Anita D. Foster (one of my business partners, we met around the conference table at the first Hip Hop 4 the Homeless)… we’ve been shooting since Feb… I play a cop.


Photo Credit: La Veda ~ Darrin K. Bastfield (2nd photo)
Photos of Stevie: Shedrivin Photography
All other photos: Stevie

Stevie’s Soul LLC


Shanice Manderville and Brick City Ent. – Making Music Industry Waves


Following our passion is what it’s all about. Here is a woman who pursued her interest in being in the music industry by creating and developing her own independent record label.   To venture into the music industry, to stay there and to be able to support yourself in it takes more than talent.  It takes guts, determination and skill.  Shanice Manderville has all of those things and is making her own waves in the hip hop music industry.

What made you decide to create your own record label?

My love and passion for always wanting to be apart of the music industry weather it was from an artist stand point, or working behind the scenes.


You obtained a music production certificate from Berkley.  How did you find out about the program and what made you pursue it?

Well, after I actually start my label, I also wanted to know how to physically do the work myself, that I was hiring others to do such as a recording engineer.  So I decided to enroll into an studio production course with Berklee College of Music.

One problem many people have with some rap and some hip hop is that the lyrics and videos are degrading to women.  You mentioned that as a female music industry executive, your goal is to have a positive influence on the music that comes out of your label. Please tell us how so and what your plans are.

Basically I feel like hip hop lacks feminine presence. Although there are women in hop hop and behind the scenes, I feel as though we need more females involved in the industry and being hands on in order to get that balance. Because right now, the industry is predominately male, which is why we get a “one sided voice” on what is hot today. Hip hop needs positive females in power within the industry that can stand up and say “hey it’s more to hip hop than this” which will also help lead our youth in the right direction as well. That’s the message that I hope to send today.


You are also a singer.  What are your plans for yourself musically?  Do you have any, or do you choose at this point to be administrative from now on?

Right now my focus is helping and working with other artists to get their music out. Although, I still keep myself acquainted with writing some lyrics for artists.


What kind of services does the label provide to its signed artists?

Any artist signed on my label, I take them from A to Z with any project we work on. I get the artist in the studio, record the project, get the video done, promote and market their brand. I get them booked for shows and radio interviews, sell albums independently. I’m doing just about everything a major label would do with their artists, just on a smaller scale.


How do you determine whether or not someone will be signed to your label?  What do you look for?

Pure Talent. I love talent, if I like your work, you’re signed. Just that simple. I’m not the type to sign an artist because their doing what’s “hot” for the moment. I love versatility in artists and I also don’t have a specific type of genre that I am into. I like whatever sounds good, point blank.


Beyond the services offered to artists, your company also offers other services.  What are they?

Yes the same services that I provide to my artists, I also extend to other artists that do not necessarily have to be signed to my company. The services I offer are studio time, cd duplication services, video shooting and editing, and online promotional and marketing services such as e- blast.


How is business going overall?  Is there a high demand for your services?

This is my 3rd year in the business, everything is going as expected. Business is consistent, I am looking to take Brick City Entertainment to the next level opening the 1st quarter of 2013.


How is the marketing going for the artists?  Are they getting the press and recognition that you want them to have?

The marketing has been a blessing, within the 1st year, I was able to land some of the artists I managed on TV in front of over 200,000,000 viewers world wide. So that was a great accomplishment coming out of the gate. Since then, I consistently have artists in rotation on major terrestrial radio stations and online stations as well. The fan base is gaining on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking and music websites as well.


What more do you need to do to develop your company and how do you plan to do to it?

I would say to just continue to keep doing what I’m doing. To succeed in this business it takes time, great talent, and consistency.


What is the ultimate goal of Brick City Entertainment?

The ultimate goal for Brick City Entertainment its change the music industry as we know it. The main objective right now is to be 100% independent, but still be able to compete with major labels. B.C.E. came to change the game in a way we ain’t never seen before. You mark my word.



Shanice Manderville



Judy Lai – An Artist Who Uses Humanity for Art


Submitted by Judy Lai


London-based painter, Judy Lai, has always been inspired by the world – particularly the developing world. Upon graduating in Sydney Australia, Judy set backpacking across the world on a shoe-string budget. What began as a journey to explore the unknown unexpectedly became the root of an ongoing love affair with producing artworks of often nameless and voiceless, yet inspiring women and children from developing countries.

“Having traveled extensively, my most profound memories are not seeing Times Square or climbing the Eiffel Tower, it’s remembering the faces and stories of women and children I have seen or met along my unplanned journeys” states Judy. “Despite their daily struggles, the presence of these women can tell a million stories”.


‘Mother and Child in Africa I’. Part of the ‘Mother Child Painting Collection

“I met a 70 year old woman in Asia who lived in a Hmong village which had no electricity and was so high in the mountains it appeared hidden in the clouds. Despite the language barrier, her presence and the lines beautifully creased across her serene face told stories of a lifetime; her wisdom as a village elder sustaining the traditions of her tribal community; the love for her family; the will to preserve her culture among the younger generation in the wake of urbanization – a real threat literally thousands of meters at the foothills of the mountain. Such simple encounters from one woman can often be the tale of many women. This is what I try to capture in my paintings”.

Unlike other artists who prefer to depict facial expressions, Judy’s artwork takes a different approach. She states: “I want the viewer to look at my artworks and envisage stories behind these figures based on their own interpretations.” Each single woman and child in the paintings represents a community of people, of lives, of different stories.

The variations of the six primary colours used across her painting collection reflect the life, love and dependency between mother and child witnessed across the globe, despite the struggles of their reality.


‘Mother and Child in Africa I’. Part of the ‘Mother Child Painting Collection

The ‘Mother Child Painting’ collection was officially released in October 2012. All her artworks are oil over acrylic on canvas. To view the full collection of paintings go to

Judy Lai is a London-based Australian artist. She continues to backpack the world searching for human encounters that can be translated into art.


Make Your Child A Birthday Book



Submitted by Jenny Franklin
From 1st birthday

I love everything associated with children’s birthdays. I plan parties and blog on my thoughts and ideas, things I have seen, in my spare time. The article I have for you is on making a book for your child that will keep pictures of each birthday in it and also has a page of about 20 questions to write down the answers to. As the years go by, you see how your child has grown and started to become an individual with their own likes and tastes. It really is a fun and very easy project.




From the time our babies are born until they become active adults, they are full of change. So how do you remember all the cute things they would say and the fun things they liked as they get older and ask questions about their younger years. Traditions play a big part in how kids grow up, what they know and what they pass on to their kids. So make it a tradition to start a birthday memory book for your kids and carry it on through your grandkids too.

The point of this book is to have a place where memories and photos are all in one place. It can just be called “The Birthday Book” and each year that you pull it out you will see the excitement grow. There is a place for a photo on one side of the book and then the other page will have a list of questions, these you can modify to fit your family’s needs. Some parents don’t start them until the child is old enough to answer the questions all themselves, but it is more complete and really fun to start it on the first birthday and not the third. You could even put the book on display at each party for the guests to read and know your child even better!

What you need:

  • A scrapbook with plastic protector pages, enough to do 18 years. So 20 pages should do just fine.
  • Decorative scrapbook paper, various colors and sizes
  • Glue and sticky dots
  • Numerical stickers, flat or raised
  • Alphabet stickers, flat or raised
  • Any punches you might want or other embellishments for pages
  • Your print outs of the questions, 18 of them (if you are starting on birthday number one)

Fill the protectors with papers once you decorate them to your desired look. You can print stickers with the child’s name, put “happy birthday”, or just put the number of years they are turning. The other page just needs the questions slid inside. You will be asking the same questions every year to see how their tastes and likes change over their life. You might add something to this effect inside the front cover as a note or message to the child.

In case you are curious about what types of questions to ask, think back to when you were young and the things that you liked so much then that might have changed the older you got. Some examples are: What is your favorite color? What is your favorite toy? What is your favorite fruit? Who is your best friend? What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? What is your favorite holiday? And so on. You can ask as many or as few as you would like, but 20 fills a page rather well.

Setting traditions are important for families and the first birthday party is a giant milestone for kids and for parents. Find a new tradition to start with your own family and mix that with some of the old ones from generations past. And if you are looking for a unique gift, this will be a big hit!

Jenny Franklin loves planning children’s parties and making kids’ dreams come true. When she’s not planning parties, she does some blogging and writes for supplier 1st birthday


E. Diann Cook – Always Make Sure God’s Beauty is Showing

E. Diann Cook is an artist.  She’s also a mom who is so very proud of her son who just graduated from Savannah School of Art.  They are working on a joint project together and creating a new children’s book.  Ms. Cook is a college professor and has been commissioned many times over to create art at a number of prominent locations in Connecticut.



How did you become interested in art?

On the first day of kindergarten, the teacher bribed me to stay by bringing out the finger paints.  Once I got into them, I never noticed my mother had left. I was hooked!



Who inspired you most as a child and why?

The strong women in my family have provided my most vivid memories. My mother and grandmother were always there to support me even when my father could not. They made every event special. My mother always found a way to make mealtime a party, especially when the budget was tight. She could turn hot dogs and beans into a feast. I watched my grandmother strive to maintain her independence even after becoming a double amputee. They showed my siblings and me how to view life’s circumstances as a challenge for success.



You’ve done a lot of work with teens and children.  Is that fulfilling for you?  Would you like to do more of that work in the future?

 I am the oldest of six and I have always had the responsibility of helping with a child’s development. I began working with youth while I was still young. It’s always been a pleasure seeing others reach their goals. Writing children’s books that focus on life lessons is a wonderful way for me to reach a larger youth population.



Tell people why art is so crucial for children.

The Arts help us to see each other’s creativity which is beneficial for understanding some of our similarities and our differences. We all need a firm foundation to help us grow strong, so the perfect time to introduce the skills we need, and to nurture creativity is during childhood. The early years are the ones that usually solidify our development.



What was the biggest obstacle you ever faced in your art life or your life and general and how did you overcome it?

I believe that we all have gifts and talents and your passion for them helps you develop them into productive skills to support you through life. There have been times when others have misused my skills for their own selfish needs. I will always allow my gifts to help others. I will also always be mindful that no good deed goes unpunished as well as, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice….



You’ve worked with a number of nonprofits.  What is that experience like and are they beneficial to the community in terms of setting up art programs?

Every community needs non profits for many reasons; youth development, housing, energy assistance, etc. Since they are mostly supported by government, private donors, and various grants, there is the possibility that the non profits find themselves having to produce quantity over quality. I would rather see 10 lasting successes out of 200 than 150 short term hopefuls. Quality counts.



Felicia Mckiver is a self-taught, professional pianist and singer who manages her own band. Though it’s tough sometimes to be a woman in a field usually dominated by men, she holds her own.  The name of her band is “Felicious”  which is symbolic of her drive and passion for what she does.  This is a woman who knows what she wants, handles her business and gets it done.  Be on the look out for her new CD arriving this summer!

-What are your goals as an artist?

My goals are to continue to perform, write music, further my education in music and make myself more known as a writer and a performer.


-How did growing up in West Virginia impact you musically?

I was born and raised in Connecticut but spent every summer of my childhood in the mountains of Vivian, West Virginia with my grandparents, two sisters and Aunt. We didn’t have any African American radio stations, so all we mainly listened to was country music and church music so it is in my soul. Although I am mainly known as an R&B and Smooth Jazz artist, there is so much more that I have to offer when it comes to my roots.


-You lead your own band, Felicious, where you are in the position of hiring the musicians. Do you find it challenging to be a woman in this position?

It can be very challenging as a female. I had to literally stand my ground as a woman, demanding respect for my hard work. People would try to back door my gigs, get upset because you find no interest in them (personally), artists I used to watch when I was younger I often give them work and some found themselves in an awkward position. Most venues didn’t appreciate that, so they would tell me who would try. It used to shock me. I used to cry and get heartbroken over some of the made up stories from local crabs in the basket, but as a woman I learned how to handle it because the truth always works itself out. Music is so beautiful, yet at times it scares me how devious some artists can be. I have a lot more love than hate and I just keep feeding myself knowledge. I remain a work in progress.


-You’re gigging in the clubs often and play a lot of covers. Do you feel that people would be accepting of original music when you start to slide your original tunes into the repertoire?

I believe that the audience is very accepting of original material and it has a lot to do with the way you present it also. If you present it with confidence and you mean it from the heart and soul, you can’t lose.


-Tell us about the work involved in producing this new cd that you have coming out soon.

I had to work on my CD in spurts. I spent a lot of time helping others, performing and relocating and now I’m totally focused on finishing my project. 90% of the music is done, now it’s all about laying down the vocals! It is more on the R&B side with a jazzy touch to it.

– If or when you release a cd beyond this one, what if anything will you do differently?

I would not rely on someone else’s time, for one. You know the old saying, if you want it done right, do it yourself. I will also spend more time the next time around showing my other roots, the country girl side of me and the jazz side, too.


– What is more appealing to you, writing or performing?

That is rough, but I would have to say performing. Sharing your spirit with another person and feeling the joy they get from it is a natural high and I’m thankful to be able to do it.


– What are your goals as a writer?

My goals as a writer is to get out there and get known as one and write for other artists around the world.


– What is Felicia doing in five years – life-wise and musically?

Musically, I wish to get more educated. I am a self-taught piano player and singer. As a kid, I practiced on a kitchen table, pretending it was a piano as I read from a book. I also have never been married, so who knows, I may get me a husband that can put up with me and let me travel in an out of the country!


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Valerie Capers – Given the Sight for Music

reposted from

Dr. Valerie Capers was born in the Bronx and received her early schooling at the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind. She went on to obtain both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Juilliard School of Music. She served on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, and from 1987 to 1995 was chair of the Department of Music and Art at Bronx Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY), where she is now professor emeritus.

Her outstanding work as an educator has been lauded throughout the country as being both innovative and impressive. Susquehanna University awarded her the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts in 1996, and Doane College (Crete, Nebraska) and Bloomfield (New Jersey) College (along with Wynton Marsalis) both awarded her honorary doctorates in 2004. Recent teaching and workshop venues include Doane College, Stanford University, the Cleveland (Ohio) public school system, St. Thomas (United States Virgin Islands) high schools, Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) and the Mozarteum conservatory, Salzburg, Austria.

Among the awards and commissions she has received are the National Endowment for the Arts, including a special-projects grant to present a jazz series at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Meet the Composer, the CUNY Research Foundation, the Smithsonian, and The Fund for Artists of Arts International.

Three of Dr. Capers’ most noted extended compositions are Sing About Love, the critically acclaimed Christmas cantata produced by George Wein at Carnegie Hall; Sojourner, an operatorio based on the life of Sojourner Truth, performed and staged by the Opera Ebony Company of New York; and Song of the Seasons, a song cycle for voice, piano and cello (which has been recorded several times) was both commissioned by the Smithsonian Institute and premiered in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of the Smithsonian, and recently performed at Weill Recital Hall in New York City.

Dr. Capers has appeared with her trio and ensemble at colleges, universities, jazz festivals, clubs and concert halls throughout the country, including a series at Weill Recital Hall and the 2001 Rendez-vous de l’Erdre in Nantes, France. Her trio’s performances at the International Grande Parade du Jazz Festival in Nice, France, the Martin Luther King Festival in Ottawa, Ontario, and the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague received rave reviews. The group has also participated in the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Mellon Jazz Festival (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), and New York’s Kool, JVC and Downtown jazz festival.

Dr. Capers’ most recent 2007 performances include: a concert at the Salzburg Global Seminar, Salzburg, Austria; the World-Wide Plaza Summer Festival New York City; the opening concert for the Women in Jazz Festival for Jazz at Lincoln Center at Dizzy’s Coca-Cola Club New York City; the Gateway Music Festival Rochester New York; the Holiday Festival, the Empire State Building; and a Jazz at Noon Concert, the Empire State Building. She is also regularly heard in New York City at the Knickerbocker in Greenwich Village and the Lenox Lounge in Harlem. As a classical soloist, she has also performed Mozart’s “Concerto for Piano & Orchestra, No. 23” at the Pepperdine University Center for the Arts in Malibu, California.

Throughout her career, Dr. Capers has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz (1983 and 1998/2006–rebroadcast) and Branford Marsalis’ JazzSet. Adventures of Wagner in Jazz, a special program created by National Public Radio (NPR), and About Music (two separate programs, “Traditions and Personalities in Jazz Piano” and “American Composer and Piano Virtuoso: Louis Moreau Gottschalk”) were all broadcast on KBYU-FM in Provo, Utah, and carried throughout the country on NPR.

She has also performed with a roster of outstanding artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Ray Brown, Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Slide Hampton, Max Roach, James Moody and Paquito D’Rivera, among others.

Valerie Capers was the first recipient of Essence magazine’s “Women of Essence Award for Music,” where she was in the elite company of fellow honorees Oprah Winfrey and Marla Gibbs.

Dr. Capers has recorded five albums: Portrait of Soul (Atlantic, 1966), Affirmation (KMA Arts, 1982), Come On Home (Columbia/Sony, 1995), Wagner Takes the ‘A’ Train (Elysium, 1999), and her most recent, Limited Edition (VALCAP Records, 2001). Her book of intermediate-level piano pieces, Portraits in Jazz, was published by Oxford University Press (OUP) in 2000. OUP has also published an arrangement by Dr. Capers of the English carol, “It Came upon the Midnight Clear” for mixed chorus a cappella.

“Since leaving Bronx Community College, Valerie Capers (Prof. Emeritus), is now directing her time, creative talents and enthusiasm towards her own personal career. In this new-found time and freedom, Ms. Capers has already released two CDs. The first CD is “Wagner Takes the “A”Train”; and the second CD “Limited Edition” which is a compilation of past radio broadcasts, club performances, concerts and festivals.


In the months ahead, Ms. Capers will be working on her next CD. This project will bring Dr. Capers together with several of her friends and musical colleagues such as Sheila Jordan, Maxine Roach, Paquito D’rivera, Hubert Laws and others (to be announced later).


In recent months Valerie Capers has performed in several festivals with her Ensemble. Some of these appearances include­New York World Wide Plaza Summer Festival; Women in Jazz Festival, (Jazz at Lincoln Center); Gateway Music Festival, (Rochester, New York)”





Honoring Sister Nandi

This is what Women Move the Soul is all about –  Honoring a women who has dedicated her life to the education and elevation of people!

December 26, 2011
4:00 P.M. Kwanzaa Tradition Kick-off

We are pleased to honor, Christine Dixon-Smith, better know as, “Sister Nandi,” on her seventieth birthday. For more than three decades, she has relentlessly and fruitfully engaged her energy and efforts to keep alive, and pass-on the African history and culture, through the catalyst of Sankofa Kuumba Cultural Arts Consortium, Inc.  Her work has resulted in the successful performances, education and presentations that have expanded the world view and information available to families, children and communities.In the African Tradition, the celebration of our elders is both a privilege and a blessing. We honor an elder that has given much to enriching the “village,” which reaches from the City of Hartford to the entire State of Connecticut, and beyond.

Kwanzaa Workshops 4:00 to 4:45
Celebrating the Kwanzaa Principals
through visual and performing arts 5:00 to 6:30
Honoring Elder Christine ” Sistah Nandi” Dixon- Smith 6:30 to 7:30

Harambe Sharing gifts, Cake, punch, fruit 7:30 to 8:00

Pura Fé – An Artist of “Pure Faith”

Reposted from

Singer/songwriter/musician, poet, artist, dancer, actor, teacher, and activist:

This “Renaissance woman” is the founding member of the internationally renowned native woman’s a capella trio, ‘Ulali’, and is recognized for creating a new genre, bringing Native contemporary music to the forefront of the “mainstream” music industry.

People you Love — Pura Fe et Éric Bibb


Pura Fé (born: Pura Fé Antonia (“Toni”) Crescioni) is a singer-songwriter, poet, musician, artist and social activist. She created a style and genre that blends traditional Native American music with contemporary musical styles. She currently resides in Durham, North Carolina, and performs internationally with the Pura Fé Trio. She was born in New York City and raised by her mother and family of female singers who are descendants of the Tuscarora Nation that had migrated from North Carolina to New York in the early 1900’s.

Her mother, Nanice Lund, whose parents are mixed-blood Indian, was a classically trained opera singer who toured with Duke Ellington and his Sacred Concert Series. Her father, the late Juan Antonio Crescioni-Collazo was from Puerto Rico, of Taino Indian and Corsican ancestry. He named her Pura Fé which translates from Spanish as “Pure Faith.”

Pura Fe and the Music Maker Blues Revue perform Summertime Live in Germany

As an adolescent, Pura Fé studied and performed with the American Ballet Theatre company, briefly trained at Martha Graham school and performed in several Broadway musicals, including The Me Nobody Knows, Ari, and Via Galactica. She also sang with the Mercer Ellington Orchestra.

She attended a small professional school, Lincoln Square Academy, along with classmates Laurence Fishburne, Ben Stiller, Robbie Benson, Stephanie Mills, Gion Carlo Esposito, Pia Zadora, Scott Jacoby and her childhood friend, Irene Cara. In the late 1970s, she worked as a waitress at the famous club Max’s Kansas City in New York. It was soon after that she began singing in bands and began working as a studio singer. She recorded jingles, commercials, backup vocals and lead on demos and recordings such as, Good Enough written by James McBride, and recorded soon after by Anita Baker.