An Extended Weekend in Biloxi

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The New Orleans airport has always been a bit hectic during 4th of July weekend because of Essence Fest, and I wanted to avoid it. Instead of flying somewhere for the holiday, I decided to take a spontaneous road trip with a friend. We decided at the last minute to take the scenic route to Biloxi, Mississippi.

Now, I hadn’t been there since the summer before 7th grade. I only remember because I had just gotten my braces, and I have a picture of my brace face with my parents at a pizza place in Biloxi. The last time my friend had been there was immediately after Katrina destroyed it. Needless to say, things had changed a lot. Poor Mississippi suffered through Katrina and the BP oil spill and it took a gargantuan hit on the economy.

I honestly never held a positive opinion of Mississippi. That state is always competing with Louisiana to take the crown on the “worst states” list, and usually wins. I know that it isn’t a bunch of racist hillbillies stuck in the antebellum, but I just never felt that it had anything to offer me. I’ve met a lot of men from Jackson. Apparently, the dating scene there is horrendous and there are lots of black gays with and abnormally high rate of HIV.

We stopped at a couple of markets on the side of the road in Louisiana as we made our way to Mississippi. Can I just mention how much Louisiana makes me smile sometimes? Where else can one see a sign on the side of the road that says “FRESH GATOR JERKY?” How can one not stop on the side of the road and buy some? It was good, too. We bought gator jerky, cracklins, liquor, and chocolate covered strawberries.

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Mickalene Thomas: Waiting on a Prime-Time Star

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Waiting on a Prime-Time Star

Somewhere in Washington D.C. earlier this year, I saw an artist rendering that grabbed me. It was of a woman, and it looked like a random collage of magazine clippings. The woman was dark and lovely, and she was propped up elegantly and sassily on a sofa as if she was waiting for her lover to serve her a chilled glass of champagne. I glanced at the description of the piece for the name of the artist, but I didn’t keep it in my memory. Certainly now, I know it was the work of Mickalene Thomas on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Portrait of Mnonja stayed with me for a while.

A while later, I came across an article about an exhibit at the Newcomb Art Museum on the campus of Tulane University in New Orleans. It featured the works of a woman named Mickalene Thomas. The name didn’t sound familiar at the time, but the preview of her work was familiar. It was similar to that of the Portrait of Mnonja that had stayed with me. This past weekend, I visited the Newcomb Art Museum to view the temporary exhibit Mickalene Thomas: Waiting on a Prime-Time Star.The exhibit featured several of her pieces in all of its rhinestone, acrylic, and enamel glory. It also showcased photos that Thomas took of women in preparation for her work. Some of those photos didn’t need to be transformed into art pieces because the women themselves were so captivating.

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Day Trip Across Louisiana

Whitney Plantation

My office closes for two weeks every Christmas and New Year’s holiday, and I hate it. I can’t travel anywhere because flights are expensive during the season, and I can’t hang with my friends because they still have to work. I waste the days away by watching Netflix, cleaning my closet, shampooing my carpet, trying not to go stir crazy, and trying not to spend too much money online shopping.

This holiday, I wanted to be alone. A relationship imploded right before my eyes on my first day off, and I was an emotional wreck. Being couped up at home and dwelling on the “whys” and “what ifs” did nothing for my mental health, so it was necessary for me to do something – to get out of the house and live. I picked myself up off the floor on a Wednesday morning and decided to take a road trip. Yes, highway driving would give me a chance to clear my head and organize my thoughts. It would allow me to grieve, but not in the pitiful manner of wrapping myself up in bed all day.

I headed down to Wallace, Louisiana – a place I had never been, but where I had been trying to convince any and every person in my life to experience with me. No one shared my interests, so it was the perfect time to visit solo.

What is in Wallace, Louisiana? Whitney Plantation. The Whitney is the only plantation dedicated to telling the story of slaves, while others tend to focus on the beauty of the plantation – the architecture, interior design, and sprawling acres of trees. Oftentimes, they sell the story of ghosts, and choose not to acknowledge the fact that people that looked like me were tortured for the owner’s self-interests and profits. The Whitney, which was one of the most dangerous sugar plantations at its height, had a different idea in mind.

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Road Trips with Mayonaka: Back to Back Weekends in Houston

Last month, I was in Houston for Beyonce’s Formation World Tour. I was also in the city the weekend prior (right after I left the Broccoli City Festival in DC) to watch Lauryn Hill present her gifts on stage. I’ve seen both of them perform before, the former at the Mrs. Carter and On The Run tours, and the latter at a life-changing set over a year ago in Austin.

So I attended Lauryn Hill’s show in Houston a week before Lategate happened again. There’s a lot to be said about Lauryn Hill. A fan is pretty much taking a risk when he buys a ticket to her show, but I was under the impression that she had gotten her shit together and was showing up on time and in a healthy mental capacity. I guess she’s still having problems “aligning her energy with the time.” Let’s just throw it out there. Would she even be touring if she didn’t have those debts to pay?

Lauryn’s show was at the Revention Music Center, an venue I had never visited, so I got there late because of traffic, parking, and general confusion. There’s much to be said about Lauryn, but she can still sell some tickets. The line was to the next corner. When I finally got inside, local talent Kristal Cherelle was at the end of her set. DJ Rampage followed with his set that included a Prince tribute and some afrobeats. He wasn’t as entertaining as the first time I saw him do a set. He walked off the stage a couple of times and let a whole song play, so I guess there were some backstage issues happening.

At around 10:20, Lauryn took the stage. Using my concert math, I expected her set to begin at 10:00, so that wasn’t all that bad.

Road Trips with Mayonaka: A Weekend in Austin

There’s something about the gorgeous scenery, eccentric culture, and lack of pretentiousness from the residents of Austin, Texas that I simply adore. It’s one of my favorite cities, and I’d consider relocating there if it wasn’t for one issue: the lack of black people. The percentage of black residents within the city is around 5%. I don’t think I’d survive long-term, but visiting is always a good time. I went this past weekend ahead of the SXSW crowds that are about to flock the city. The reason: Gary Clark, Jr. The Austin-based guitarist is on tour and was scheduled to make a stop in his hometown, and I was able to score tickets. This would be my fourth time seeing him perform, and I thank the presale ticket gods because the show sold out with quickness!

Mayonaka and I woke up early Friday morning and made the 5-hour drive (which actually took eight hours because I made several stops along the way) to the city with an itinerary filled with food, music, and a little shopping! The first stop I made in the city was to Torchy’s Tacos. I was so hungry that  I forgot to take a pic, but yeah. A green chile pork and a trashy trailer park taco is all I need in this life of sin.

Since I was in the area and the weather was so unbelievably beautiful (just the right amount of warmth without being too hot), I decided to stroll around SoCo. It was then that I noticed something was different about the city. Not a bad different, but different nonetheless. It seemed to have changed drastically since the last time I visited a year ago, and I found myself wondering if a retail space or restaurant had been in a certain location when I was last there, or if it was new.

People watching is the greatest thing ever, and I enjoyed every moment of it that day. I saw a boy during recess at the playground looking as if he was trying to plan his escape, and I saw lots of horrible fashion. WHAT ARE THOOOSSSEEEEE?!?!

I strolled by walking path near the Colorado River, and caught glimpses of people kayaking, canoeing, waterboarding, and etc. There’s just so many great ways to burn calories in this city.

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Road Trips with Mayonaka: National WWII Museum

The Road to Tokyo

While I was checking out Amnesty International’s Art For Rights event in Nola this weekend, I decided to stroll on over to the National World War II Museum on the opening day of its new exhibit called Road to Tokyo​, I’m not a history buff and I hate the idea of ware, but since I was in the city and had time, I figured I might as well. I only had 2 hours to devote to the museum because I was being cheap and didn’t want to pay $12 to park in a lot, so I parked on the street for 2 hours for $3. The museum itself was $24, which is a decent price point for a museum with such rich history.

WWII MuseumFYI, if you ever decide to visit the museum, you need wayyy more time than 2 hours. There are thousands of artifacts and a large collection of memoirs and oral histories. This was my first visit, and I didn’t realize the amount of information this museum holds. The Road to Tokyo was just one of several exhibits located in three buildings, and I JUST realized I missed one of the buildings. I basically did a fast forward stroll through the museum while only viewing a small percentage of the information available, and I missed A LOT of necessities, There are guides at the ticket counter, and I’d recommend getting one. I didn’t pick up a guide, so I ended up more or less wandering around.

With a ticket into the museum, I got this card that represents a dog tag, and was instructed to start my journey at the train car a few steps away from the ticket counter. Inside the train car, I took a seat and used my dog tag to activate the interactive screen. I was introduced to my special “tour guide,” who was an actual soldier during the war. Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr. was my guide for the day, and I learned that he was the pilot who dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima. The museum holds his official flight log of the day he dropped the bomb as if it was just another day. There were about six different areas to use the dog tag to get more information about Col. Tibbets, but there were too many people in the museum for me to get a chance to use them all.

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Road Trips with Mayonaka: #Art4Rights

Art for Rights

This weekend I had the opportunity to check out Amnesty International’s very first Art for Rights event in New Orleans. The event sought to bring awareness about human injustice across the world by presenting 12 murals by 12 artists from around the world. The end goal for Amnesty International was to inspire attendants to write letters to appropriate officials and take action. I don’t even remember how I found out about it. Surely it was via social media, so Mayonaka and I started up early Saturday morning and rolled through.

The event took place over on the corner of Royal and Press St. – near the location where Homer Plessy was arrested in events that lead to the Plessy v Ferguson case that challenged segregation laws. In the words of Lil Wayne in “Sky is the Limit,” “ain’t got sh*t to do with this, but I just thought that I should mention!”

Anyway, it was open from 10am – 6pm. Usher (ya know, Usher Raymond, AKA Ursher) was expected to attend later in the evening to speak on the need for reform in the justice system. I figured there would be a huge crowd at that time, so I went early to avoid the madness. My 14-year old self would have jumped at the opportunity just to breathe the same air as Usher, but I’m older, wiser, and way less starstruck. There were a lot of people when I got there some time before 11 am, but it seemed like many of those were volunteers and security.

Incarceration Stats

Artwork by Brandan Odoms

Here are some of my favorite pieces from the event.

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