New finds

Did a walk through last weekend checking out this year’s Harlem Book Fair. Bought a couple of books, but also this t-shirt and earrings from a clothing vendor, 2 Lite Creations I bought one of their “Rock What You Were Born With” t-shirts at a trunk show a couple years ago and just happened to be wearing it when I ran into her stall that day. It’s one of my favorites to wear during the summer, just had to buy another one.

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Dark Girls Documentary: Review

Several months ago I blogged about the upcoming documentary Dark Girls that was on tour screening at various locations around the country. Last week they held a screening at the Apollo theater in Harlem which I had a chance to see.

Sidebar: It’s been a while since I’d been inside of the Apollo and knowing it’s an old theater, I forgot how tight the seats are. Anyone who is tall or plus size would be well advised to sit in an aisle seat if you attend any events there.

Like many darker skinned women, I can recount instances where I experienced bias and feelings of not measuring up to what was considered the standard in mainstream society; that of the coveted light skinned, long hair, neither of which describes me. I don’t recall my earliest memory of bias, but I think what is most poignant in this movie is showing how early in life those messages are imprinted in a child’s psyche. Whether it comes from family, friends, media.

The documentary was a mix of interviews of scholars, ordinary folks, and featured actress Viola Davis, who recently starred in the movie The Help. Each gave an account on how their experiences of prejudice affected their self-esteem. Also shown was that well known scene of the young black girl interviewed by a child psychologist who when asked who is the prettiest when shown pictures of children with varying skin tones, points to the white child. Then when asked which child is the ugliest, points to the darkest skinned child. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I shake my head.

If you’re well versed on the issue of colorism within the black community, the information provided will be nothing new, but it was still entertaining and the major point of the film is that regardless of how many years have passed and how much progress the community has made, this issue of skin color preference still persists. There were funny moments as well as some that caused tears to be shed. Whatever your experiences may be as a darker skinned person in the US, there was something for everyone to relate to.

Afterwards was a brief question & answer session with the directors, Bill Duke, and D. Channsin Berry. Most of the audience response was positive with folks recounting their own experiences with skin color bias. However, there was one woman who for reasons unclear, seemed to be preoccupied with wanting to know why the directors chose to make a film about dark skinned girls first as opposed to light skinned women. Then became miffed when audience members expressed displeasure. The directors finally responded a film about light skinned women was already in the works, followed by a film about men.

The only drawback was that tickets were expensive. But the screening also served as a fundraiser to help with promotion & distribution. Some of the subject matter will be a little hard for young children to understand, but teenage girls would do well to see the film. Do try and check it out if it comes to your city.

Dark Girls Website

Slave Braiders

It’s been a while…….

A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks, but that’s for the next post. The one I was supposed to be working on, but then I came across this video someone posted on facebook.

I’ve had my hair braided many times in the past, mostly at the local hair braiding “factories” in Harlem. Places where dozens of African teenagers and young women work in rented storefronts braiding hair of mostly African American women. There are so many places and the competition so fierce the braiders often solicit business from passersby on the street or while shopping in a beauty supply store. Some carried their own business cards with their cell numbers for their regular customers. Most of the girls are very talented, can duplicate almost any style with a photo as reference, often for much cheaper than having it done at a conventional salon.

I’ve heard of human trafficking for the sex trade, and some reports of immigrants brought to the US by sponsors who were later exploited as house slaves, and of course, the middle passage of the African slave trade. But not once did it ever occur to me while having my hair braided in one of those salons that any of the girls who did my hair could’ve been trafficked and kept as slaves. But thinking back on the times and places I’ve had my hair done, often in crowded spaces that many times felt like a sweatshop with dozens of other women in sometimes not so sanitary conditions, it all makes sense. The two women in this video from CNN were brought to the US from West Africa under the premise of being provided with a better education. Instead they were forced to work as hair braiders at salons in Newark, NJ for up to 14 hours daily, seven days a week. The family that held them captive made $4 million in profits.

I no longer have the patience to sit for hours to have individual braids and since I have locs it’s not an option anymore. Though occasionally I do get solicited on the street from braiders with requests to twist my locs. What’s your experience? Do you still patronize braiding salons?

A taste of Thai

I’m excited to discover a new thai restaurant opened up in the neighborhood. I found it by accident one day while riding home from work. I happened to glance and see the sign. I was a little surprised given this area is known for mainly chinese takeout, fast food and jamaican take out joints.

tri THAI cuisine

Just as it looks from all the signage on the outside, Tri Thai Cuisine located inside the front of a laundromat. When you walk in, the take out counter is carved out space at the front of the building. To someone not used to hole in the wall style take out spots, the location is a bit off putting but when you consider the only local dining options in this area of harlem is mostly chinese take out, fast food, fried fish & jamaican take out, a thai restaurant is a refreshing alternative.

tri thai cuisine take out counter

laundromat behind the takeout counter

I don’t know why I haven’t heard of it earlier, but according to various sources, it’s been open since late last year. It’s a neat take out counter despite the laundromat in the back. If the sounds of washing machines & dryers in the background don’t bother you, then you’re in for a culinary treat. The menu is limited but features most of the popular thai dishes like curries, pad thai & fried rice. My first trip there I ordered the chicken green curry which was just the right amount of spicy along with chicken shu mai which I had assumed were packaged dumplings but discovered upon taste they were homemade & flavorful. Their curry puffs stuffed with chicken & potatoes were light & full of flavor, reminding me a little bit of indian samosas.

Chicken pad thai from Tri Thai Cuisine

The chicken pad thai had noodles that were lighter than I expected but had just the right amount of flavor and not greasy at all. Along with it I had some vegetable dumplings which while they tasted good, were pretty unremarkable.

I hope they add more items to the menu. At this rate this restaurant is gonna make me forget about chinese takeout. If you’re in the Harlem area, try it out & let me know what you think.

Tri Thai Cuisine
754 St. Nicholas Ave at 148th St.
(212) 234-4711

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