Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Yann the Run Tour: Cuba



So I’ve never been that person who makes a big deal out of his birthday. I loathe big and impersonal birthday dinners and have a fear that I would have a shitty turn out if ever I were to plan a big affair. With the exception of a surprise birthday party I commissioned a few years back (I told them I wanted it and was still somehow completely shocked when it actually happened), my birthday tends to be a low-key affair. I decided that this year I wanted to do something for my birthday. I thought a trip somewhere new would be a great way to renew my sense of self and celebrate another year of life on this earth.

I finally settled on Cuba earlier this year. I initially thought of going to a city and being with people who like me, but I thought it would be far more adventurous to go to a foreign place where I didn’t speak the language. I planned on going there myself, but told one of my best friends, Avalon, that I was going and she said that she was down. Truth be told, I was unsure of the whole idea. It was MY birthday trip and the whole point was to do things on my own. I ultimately decided that it was time that Avalon and I traveled together internationally. We started looking up flights and such and I started to get excited. Then I stopped hearing anything about Cuba. When I finally asked about it, and we looked up flights, they were hella expensive so I decided to scrap the trip. Avalon being Avalon tried to figure out a plan B, but I just wasn’t really trying to settle for a trip to Nashville when I had my sights set on Cuba.

I looked up tickets on my own and found that the price that I was initially quoted was still available for purchase. I told Avalon I was booking my flight that evening and she was on board, so we bought our tickets. IT WAS FINALLY HAPPENING!!! I looked up some places online and found two different places for us to stay: one in Habana Vieja, and the other in a small beach town. I went to my friend’s wedding in Chicago and then was swamped with shit at work leading up to the trip. It’s crazy how it crept on up me and I started getting nervous. I’ve been to Europe, but Cuba was different. Hell, they wanted me to have a Visa AND insurance? Is that even a thing? I had no frame of reference and didn’t have that many sources I could ask for information. On top of that, my best friend and her planning were stressing me the fuck out.

I finally reached a point where I remembered that this was my trip to enjoy. I could be stressed out, or I could let go and let God. Wednesday, I left work and ran to the store to buy last minute snacks, and random shit I felt like I would need. (spoiler alert: most of it stayed in it’s packaging) Avalon arrived late Wednesday evening and we wrapped up packing our luggage. Toilet paper? Check! Hand sanitizer? You betcha! Sunscreen? Hell yes. We tried to sleep the best we could and got up around 5:30 to get to the airport two hours before our 8:30 flight. It was wild getting there so early and having an hour to kill. Everyone should travel with a white friend/someone with better time management. I was sick with sinus issues but was NOT about to let that kill my sexy. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale, had a layover and were on our way to Havana!

Thursday:

Arrive in Havana and walk off the plane into the airport terminal. I was living for The Bodyguard dramatic fashion moment, but was instantly alarmed by the fact that it was 129312312312 degrees and I had on jeans and long sleeves. A man met us at the airport with a sign with my name on it. I felt like Jennifer Fucking Lopez. I don’t know her middle name and I’m too lazy to Google, sorry. The man took us in a taxi to our airBnB. He had a love for Bruno Mars that would end up being a theme for the trip.

I pulled up to the rental and had to put my American away with a quickness. The street was loud, smelly, and filled with run down buildings. Our place, however, was actually clean and cute, so I was able to be at ease. I washed my face and changed into something better suited for being on the surface of the sun.

We set out for dinner and got caught in a horrible storm. We were literally camped out in someone’s doorway for the better part of a half hour. When the rain let up we went to drinks. Dinner was had, but it was basically a ham sandwich so we went on to other places and got balls deep in mojitos.



Como se dice "struggle sandwich"?


Friday:


I needed culture after a night of drinking, so I wanted to go to museum or castle to feel classy. We went a nearby fort. It wasn’t on my list but ended up being a fun stop.

We went to the Museum of the Revolution, which was interesting. I have only learned of Cuba through the American perspective, so it was kind of jarring to hear the complete opposite. Hell, when we walked in, I saw a mural bashing three former US. presidents.

We explored the city some more and went to this old printing factory for dinner. We spotted it next door to the place from the night before with the sandwiches and I am so happy we went back. The food was so good.

After dinner, we went to have a drink in a bar and listen to music. They had a live band, but the real draw was the 90s/00s throwbacks they were playing. At one point I was lip synching for my life and the crowd was loving it. Ok, I was loving it, but that’s all that counts.

Saturday:

I wanted to go to the museum of Orishas so I could get some afro-Cuban culture in. Also, Beyonce channeling Oshun renewed my interest so I thought it’d be a fun stop and possibly a place to pick up lemonading attire.

We took a ride in a classic car to the Hotel Nacional, which was super touristy and cheesy, but really fun. Our driver took our photo and tried to get us to kiss. I guess he didn’t see how tight/short my shorts were. Sad.

At the hotel we met a couple from the DMV area. They were really sweet and actually gave us a restaurant suggestion for our dinner that evening. The hotel also had a really cool bunker/fall out area that I played around in before an impending storm.

Dinner was at this place called Atelier. It was good enough for Michelle Obama, so you know it was perfect for me. I felt classy AF, even though they sat us with a bunch of Americans (ew!)

Walking home we walked down the Malecon, which is basically the hangout spot by the beach. People just blasted music and drank rum and kicked it. It was really cool to see.



I really wish you guys could hear Despacito playing in the background.


Sunday
:

Went on a last minute trip to buy cigars and rum. The tobacconist was closed for fumigation (yikes) so I just bought a shit ton of run for like 15 dollars.

Drove out to our beach house and the whole time I was regretting the decision. The taxi was old AF (But not like those cute ones the tourists take...my window didn’t even roll down) and the town looked like a Cuba’s version of Deliverance. The house was amazing and I was wrong. THe beach was like 5 minutes away and so beautiful.



The trip was great. It was hard for me to leave. On Monday I went to the beach alone to just reflect on everything. It was actually pretty amazing being without a phone or internet. I did things for myself and not the Gram. I was able to be present in every activity that I was doing. I was reminded of how fortunate we are in the US to have all the things we do. Cuba showed me how those things, although nice, aren’t necessary for fun. I met strangers who were so warm and welcoming. It might have been because I apparently come off “very Cuban” or because I “look like Obama” I really don’t care the reason, I just know that it was great to have people so excited to tell me about their land/culture and ensure I had a good time.

After uncovering a new part of the world, I’m still on a high. I feel like I can do most anything. I plan on riding this high out as long as I can as I start my 23rd (*Mariah Giggles*) I err 36th year on earth. I look forward to taking other trips to new places to do my part to shrink the world and break down walls to prove once again that people are people. I'd also like to add that I'm happy that my friend and I were able to pull off this trip together and we both survived it. She watches a LOT of murder shows so I was on edge for much of the trip.



So I know accepting booze from randoms is never a good idea, but he had on American flag trunks. The lady helped translate our conversation and at one point we all started singing We are the World. It was magical.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

BHM Day 28: Rep. Maxine Waters


I have never really fancied myself a politigay. The whole process of politics can be exhausting, confusing, and flat out fucked up. Recently, I’ve had to become an adult and take my head out of the sand and start paying attention to what was going on around me. Shit is real in these here streets, y’all! Today I am shining the BHM spotlight on the woman who inspired me to get up and write for damn near 28 days straight: Representative Maxine Moore Waters.

I didn’t really know about Maxine Waters, until I read an article that was widely circulated called, “Congresswoman Maxine Waters Will Read You Now”. The article wasn’t any literary gem, but it did highlight all of the times when Ms. Waters was fresh out of fucks to give. Immediately, I felt connected to her. I followed her on Twitter and Facebook and my life hasn’t been the same ever since.

Now Rep. Waters has been around for a minute. I’m sure she’s done lot of things politically, but I’m not here to discuss any of that today. Today we talk about her commitments to keeping it all the way 100. Instead of being fake, she’s the type of chick who starts a press conference with a “Can I help you? What do you want??” Mind you she’s not working at Checkers at 12a, she’s AT A FUCKING PRESS CONFERENCE. I’ve spent my whole life trying to pretend to care, but she makes it ok not to. For her, I am thankful.

I guess what I can appreciate is how Maxine Waters is pretty much trolling Trump the way so many Republicans trolled Obama. People are calling for her to play nice with him, but many of those same critics were silent when people did the same thing eight years ago.Feel how you want to feel, but I think it’s important for politicians to speak up (even if I don’t necessarily agree) and take a stand. Holding hands and singing Kumbaya is not always the answer. Furthermore, you gotta love someone who stands in his/her truth and doesn’t back down. At the end of this segment, the host gave Rep. Waters a chance to tone down “scumbags” into something a bit more PC, but she wasn’t having it. Ol’ girl basically hit him with a Nene Leakes “I shaid what I shaid!!”




Thanks for fighting the good fight. Thanks for the shade and best of all, thanks for all the memes. Today on this final day of BHM, we shine the light on Sister Maxine Waters! Let's look at some photos!

I call this "Zero Fucks Given"



I give you "Bish Whet?"



Lastly, I offer up "Your Smug Auntie"

Also, I really wish I could walk out of work like this most days:

BHM Day 25: Luvvie Ajayi



I REALLY need to reach out to my lawyers as I am sick and tired of people taking my ideas and profiting from them! I don’t know how my book idea got out, but it did and Luvvie Ajayi stole it and has a NYT Bestseller on her hands because of it. I mean I was jokingly talking to my friend about how I needed movers for a move to NYC and I logged into Facebook to see an ad for, YOU GUESSED IT, MOVERS IN NYC! The muthafucking hills have eyes and there are snakes on this plane!

Ok,but in all seriousness, Sometime late last year, my friend Alicia told me about this book by Luvvie Ajayi called I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual. It seemed like a fun read but y’all know I get distracted easily. I probably saw something shiny and forgot about it. I was visiting a friend recently and she had the book on her shelf and I picked it up. I am so glad I did, as I’m Judging You was a fun, easy read.

I’d heard of Luvvie, as she has a successful blog and large social media presence. Just on that alone, she’s a great contender for Black excellence, but then she had to go and be a University of Illinois graduate and from Chicago. The girl just went and stole my heart. I love her writing style as it’s very conversational. It’s taken me like two solid sessions to read the book.

The essays can sometimes be light in nature. She discusses different types of friends and even brings up the dreaded “Dinner Scrooge” who orders up heaps of food and tries the “let’s split the bill evenly”. That had me doing a LOT of head nodding like “girl, ain’t that the truth!” She talks about why Black feminists feel excluded from feminist movements. The book has her talking about rape culture and white privilege, but then talking about how not be the absolute worst on social media. She’s so wise and awesome. I’m chalking it up to U of I. (Go Illini!)

Luvvie is making major moves and I just found out that she got a production deal with Shonda Rhimes. SHONDA “I own all you hoes on Thursday night” Rhimes! This has potential to be massive. Let me go ahead and shine the BHM spotlight on her now so I can tell you all “I told you so!” when everyone else discovers her awesomeness.

BHM Day 23: Paris is Burning


I don’t remember who first told me to watch the documentary, Paris is Burning, but I owe them an edible arrangement. I mean, who doesn’t love those things? They’re freaking adorable! Anyway, let’s move on! (but first, if anyone needs my mailing address to send me one, please feel free to reach out) The documentary came out in the early 90’s but I probably only saw it within the past 4 years. The film takes viewers into the ball culture that was such a big movement on one hand, but relatively unknown to so many on the other.

I think movies like this one are important for people of all walks of life. For gays, it’s important to see our history, as we are often overlooked by history books. If they’re barely talking about white gays, can you imagine the coverage Black, Latino and trans people get in history? Don’t think too long, because oftentimes those are the ones forgotten first. For straight people and allies, it helps just seeing a world outside of their own.

I initially didn’t think I’d like the film. I don’t vogue (Although I did almost break my neck attempting a suicide fall/death drop) and I don’t particularly enjoy drag. I’m glad I got over myself, because the film is so much more than that. I learned about the level of community and family present in the ball world. I learned just how unoriginal we all are. I mean, when “Let’s Have a Kiki” was on Glee, I knew it was the beginning of the end. People were excited to learn of this brand new phrase, but the gag is that the phrase was old as hell. The Housewives of Atlanta have done a great job of introducing people from the flat states (No shade, I’m from Illinois so I can say that. ) to the term of shade and reading. But it’s important to acknowledge that it didn’t begin with those women and in fact it began a long time ago by gay Black and Latino men. That’s why sometimes I have to cock my head to the side when I hear people using our slang, but then turning around and saying some homophobic shit. I will dig into this a bit more at a later time, but let’s just keep the attention on this great film.


Classic Moment in 3...2..1:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

BHM Day 22: The New Jim Crow



So I first heard about The New Jim Crow through Matt McGorry’s Twitter. On OITNB he plays the cop with a heart of gold, who impregnates a prisoner. He also appears on How to Get Away with Murder as the douchey guy with a heart of gold. Off screen, Matt is very politically minded and is a big supporter of women and minorities. He went from awkwardly cute, to my down ass sexual white chocolate. It’s a long nickname, so if anyone has a better suggestion, I’m open to any suggestions.

Anyway, so the book… I rented it and read it over a couple weeks. I’m a fast reader, but this book was a slow read for me. I should’ve known that when I saw the references to actual trials AND footnotes, this was going to be intense AF. Michelle Alexander does a great job of showing how the US ended up with this massive issue of mass incarceration on its hands. Alexander likens mass incarceration to a caste like system of oppression. This book was fascinating for me not only because it lacked pictures (kidding) but because so many points from it were relevant to current events.

Many think that just because Blacks can vote and drink at the water fountain of his/her choosing that all is equal. Alexander points to different points in the achievement for Black’s rights and we almost always see a backlash from the establishment ( usually White men of privilege) as they scrambled to maintain some sort of dominance. Slaves were freed, but then laws were created that made it easy for former slaves to be arrested and forced to do what was, essentially slave labour. Blacks could vote (Yay!!) but poll taxes and literacy tests help to suppress Black voters. (boo) According to Alexander, mass incarceration that we are in today is a response to the ending of the Jim Crow laws. Your history teacher wasn’t lying when he/she said that history loves to repeat itself.

This post isn’t meant to be a long ass book report; there’s so much to this book that you just need to experience on your own. I felt 1000x smarter after reading it and refer back to often when debating racist people online. The New Jim Crow should be required reading. If you are Black, it tells you just how skewed the system is. It’s one thing to grow up hearing “the whole system is fucked up” but it’s another so see the hard data and evidence. White people can benefit from the book just by being made more aware of their privilege. It’s not done in a way to shame or be Anti- White, but presents a compelling argument before the readers as if to say “Here are the facts, if this doesn’t sit right with you, do something”

Since this book gave me so many speaking points and made me think so much, I am shining the BHM spotlight on it. Hopefully some of you might read it and maybe we can discuss it. It’d be like Oprah’s book club, but I’m not wealthy and bread is just ok to me…

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

BHM Day 21: Rihanna


I initially thought about giving Rihanna (Robyn if you are a close friend, or aspire to be like I do) some BHM love after I saw her at the Grammy awards. She got shut out, which sucks, as I thought Anti was one of her best projects to date. Then I saw her on the show drinking from her flask and generally not giving a damn and I remembered why I love Rihanna: the woman doesn’t need any of our accolades to let her know just how bad she is.
Rihanna’s fame is still pretty fascinating. She’s not the best singer.



I’m kidding.. she was like fifteen back then. Plus Rihanna has definitely taken the criticism and has clearly been working on her vocals.



I love the youtube comment saying that she had gasoline in that water bottle, because she was spitting fire. That made me chuckle.


Rihanna wasn’t known as the best performer. She was borderline lazy on stage. She’s upped her game on that as well. I won’t post videos as this is becoming a VERY Youtube heavy post. (sidebar: I’m mad she decided to do that without telling me. I ended up missing her ANTI tour and it looked like so much fun) So she’s upped her vocals and her showmanship, but Rihanna has become so much more than just another pop act. The woman is a cultural force NOT to be tried. The fashion world loves her and she’s out here slaying covers left and right with ease. Her collaboration with Puma has been massive and she won shoe of the year. Apparently there’s an award for that? She’s doing movies and TV and just ensuring we see that beautiful Bajan grille of hers everywhere.


So even though yesterday was her birthday, the gift of her breaking yet another record came today. Thanks to her latest single (and my new go to car Karaoke tune), Rihanna now has more top ten singles than Michael Jackson. MICHAEL MUTHAFUCKING JACKSON. Let that sink in. I can wait. Ok, I lied.. I need to wrap this up and watch my stories. The girl who most people didn’t think would make it past her sophomore album is now eight albums in and breaking records that have been around for decades. So maybe she didn’t win a Grammy a couple weeks ago, but who cares about that little ass trophy when she clearly has the world’s hearts and minds in the palm of her tattooed hand. She's at the point where she can do whatever she wants and people don't just deal, they go absolutely mad over it. Rihanna, shine bright like a diamond (see what I did there) in today’s BHM spotlight!

Also, I just really wanted to thank her for all the .GIFS she has bestowed upon us.

Monday, February 20, 2017

BHM Day 20: Winnie Harlow



I have been a fan of America’s Next Top Model from the start. Ok, maybe I missed cycle 1, but I definitely went back and rewatched during a VH1 marathon. Tyra picked aspiring models and molded them in her likeness. She showed them how to smize and other tricks that made Tyra a household name. I can’t really think of any winner from ANTM who actually became a top model, but they got money so they should shut their pretty faces up and keep it pushing, OKAY?!

I remember seeing this girl on a cycle a few years back named Chantelle. She wasn’t warm and fuzzy and took bomb photos, so naturally I adored her. What made her stand out was her skin. She has vitiligo, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to destroy its own melanocytes (the cells responsible for producing pigment in skin), which results in patches of white skin. I actually knew all of that on my own and didn’t have to Google anything. I think people forget that I’m like REALLY smart. Anyway, Tyra was fascinated by the symmetry of her depigmentation and recruited her via Instagram. See, doing the most of the Gram might get you discovered. Well that, or it might make you look like a sad thirst trap, but I’m sure none of my readers fall into that category. Chantelle fell shy of the finals and was given the boot for being icy and standoffish. (she's just like me!)

A couple years later and I see the winner of that cycle doing some random modeling jobs, but I am seeing Chantelle (err, now she’s going by Winnie Harlow) everywhere! She recently just closed out both Coach and Julien Macdonald’s fashion shows. It’s great to have the fashion world love you, but do you know what’s better than that? Having Beyonce say “Hey baby girl, you wanna be in my top secret movie, Lemonade? Ok, meet me in NOLA, it’s going DOWN, sis!” (Ok, I don’t know if that’s how the conversation went down, but I’m going to assume it until proven otherwise.)


Modeling contracts and Beyonce videos are dope and what any model would aspire to achieve. Winnie has helped changed the face of beauty in the sometimes stagnant fashion world. She’s forcing people to see not only her beauty, but the beauty of others. Her impact can be seen in the current GapKids campaign, which features April Star, a young girl with vitiligo. Because of Winnie’s efforts, April has a legitimate chance of being a working model. Winnie has given so many young people who have been told they are ugly hope, and that is a huge impact. WHitney taught us that the children are our future! Today I celebrate her beauty as well as her commitment to changing the face of beauty.