Over the past two months, I’ve had the pleasure to travel to Miami twice for work. Escaping the Chicago winter for sun and sand is always a good idea however, my trips to Miami provided me with much more than bronzed skin. For over a year, I have been working on putting together a plan for my company to celebrate and connect with those over the age of 50 who are living with HIV. Why this age group? Well, half of people living with HIV will be over the age of 50 in 2015.
My trips to Miami were essentially the culmination of all of that work. In December, I met the lovely ladies behind the incredible Graying of AIDS oral histories project. I joined them as they spent two days photographing and interviewing Miami residents who made the decision to join our campaign and tell their stories. When I returned last weekend, I had a chance to view the exhibit that our entire team worked to bring to life. Against the most gorgeous blue sky, we unveiled the beautiful and powerful Well Beyond HIV photo installation on a beautiful terrace facing the ocean.
For the participants, it was an incredible day. A day filled with triumph, celebration, and reflection for all those who have been living with HIV/AIDS for many years. For me, the day served as a reminder of my purpose and of what can happen when you follow your instinct.
I did a lot of reflection during both trips. I thought about how I could continue to influence my company, even as we undergo a significant transformation. I thought about how I strengthen my legacy with The Red Pump Project and our work around women and girls HIV/AIDS awareness. Most importantly, I just thought about balance. There is so much that I want to accomplish in this life, but I’m only one person. Balance is something that I struggle with (because Libra), so I always feel like my life needs to be recalibrated.
During last weekend’s trip, it was important for me to not only be focused on work, but to also take some time to smell the roses (or taste the mojito). What good is it to be the best and the brightest if you’re stressed and burned out? That’s not how I want my life to play out. I want my efforts to be significant, meaningful, and effective. I don’t need to be the star but I do plan to make big things happen.
Subscription services are apparently the cat’s meow. From shoes to clothing and even dinner ingredients, you can pretty much get anything delivered on your doorstep every month. One of the first companies that I heard of doing this was Birchbox, a beauty-focused box. While intrigued, I never pulled the trigger.
Fast forward to last week.
While scrolling through my Instagram feed, I see that (RED) and Birchbox have teamed up for a limited edition December box in recognition of World AIDS Day. I don’t know if it was the packaging or the fact that I would be doing good, but I have been debating whether or not to sign up for Birchbox now. In full disclosure, I am not a product junkie and my monthly spoils might just end up in my linen closet.
If I subscribe by 11/30, then I can still receive this limited edition box and begin my own little beauty journey. That gives me less than two weeks to decide. So, I would love your opinion. Do you have a Birchbox subscription? Do you love it? Do you think that it is worth it?
Last week, I had the best week EVER. I hopped over to the West Coast for a work meeting with the Greater Than AIDS team, then went straight to Miami for the ColorComm Conference (recap here), returned to Chicago to participate in the 85th Annual Bud Billiken Parade with the Black McDonald’s Operators Association, AND *insert breath* watched the legendary Chaka Khan take the stage in support of my nonprofit organization, The Red Pump Project.
Is your head spinning yet? Mine certainly was by Saturday night. However, it was totally worth it. I mean, Chaka Khan?! She is every bit as fierce and fabulous as you would imagine her to be. Before the show, Luvvie and I had a chance to meet her backstage and thank her for agreeing to support our organization in this significant way. A few snaps are below.
Welcome to the Chicago Theatre!
Red Pump posing with Chaka Khan and the Music is My 1st Love team
Luvvie and I with the woman of the hour.
It was a night that I will definitely remember for many reasons. My favorite memory of the night? Singing “Sweet Thing” with my husband standing next to me. It doesn’t get any mushier than that, right? Don’t laugh.
We are so grateful to the Music is My 1st Love team for selecting us as recipients of their first benefit concert. They are doing incredible things and I’m looking forward to supporting their future shows.
To Ms. Chaka Khan, there are no words! From one Chicago gal to another, you are a powerhouse. Thank you for rocking the red pump with us.
On Wednesday night, I went to go see the Soweto Gospel Choir with one of my favorite gals, DeeDee (The Sassy Peach). I was first introduced to the choir a year ago and since then, I’ve been in awe of their voices, their spirits, and (of course) their awesome performances. As they weaved their way through African spirituals, Black spirituals, and contemporary songs in Symphony Hall, I just felt happy. I felt blessed to be connected to such a beautiful culture.
The performance was beautiful. Even though I didn’t know the words to 90% of the songs, it didn’t matter at all. Everyone in the hall was captivated by each note and each word. It reminded me that music is a true common denominator. It has the power to connect people from different walks of life in an authentic way. A certain commercial previously ruined Sarah McLaughlin’s “Arms of an Angel,” but the choir restored my love of this song. The video is below is them singing the song at a different performance. SO GOOD.
The Soweto Gospel Choir is an amazing group both on and off the stage. While browsing the program booklet, I learned that they launched Nkosi’s Haven Vukani, a foundation to support HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa. As they travel the world with their performances, it is clear that they not only carry a connection to their home country, but also a responsibility to it. There were several tributes to Nelson Mandela, summed up with a touching rendition of South Africa’s national anthem.
As we ended the night clapping and singing “Amen,” it was the perfect end to a great show. I definitely filed it away in my memory bank. I wish them much success on the rest of their North American tour and hope to catch another show in the future!
Good morning from beautiful (and humid) New Orleans! I’m down here for this year’s United States Conference on AIDS and am super geeked for two reasons. First, it is my first work trip. That’s right. I’ve managed to complete the “elusive” task of landing in a job that I’m passionate about. Second, the conference is in New Orleans and I LOVE NEW ORLEANS. The music, the food, the people, the culture… Sigh. I could go on and on. Not only do I plan to get married here but I also wouldn’t mind setting up a part-time residence here later in life.
Enough about my future plans for NOLA. Back to the now. During my time here, I’m looking forward to learning some very useful information that I can apply on the job and with my work with The Red Pump Project. In case you have been living in a bubble, HIV continues to affect people of color at devastating pace so any and all solutions are always needed.
When I’m not at the conference, please know that I will be doing my best to completely pig out on NOLA goodies. I am obsessed with New Orleans cuisine and can always find a Creole/Cajun restaurant no matter what city I’m in.
My first stop when I got in yesterday was Café du Monde for their world-famous beignets. Oh. My. Gawd. They were so so so so good and didn’t last more than seven minutes. All I want to do is stuff my face with them.
As far as my other plans, here’s my NOLA checklist.
Have a cocktail in the courtyard of the W French Quarter. I mean, look at this place.
2. Try a piece of alligator.
3. Complete an early morning jog around the Garden District.
Anything else that I should do while I’m down here? Let me know! I’m taking any and all suggestions. Just leave me a note in the comments or shoot me a quick tweet!
Tonight, MTV will air “I’m Positive,” a documentary that follows the daily lives of three young people who are living with HIV. The hour long special airs at 7p ET/6p CT. Young people between the ages of 13 and 24 make up 24 percent of new HIV infections in the US.
Dance (Red) – Download this high-energy dance album produced by global DJ Tiesto. All proceeds from the sale of the album will be donated to the Global Fund.
Starbucks – For every handcrafted beverage, Starbucks will donate five cents to The Global Fund. (It’s easy to scoff at five cents until you think about how many drinks Starbucks moves on a daily basis.)
MAC Cosmetics – TODAY only, MAC will double the donation of your online Viva Glam purchase. View the collection here.
Identify community organizations in your area that provide HIV services and/or resources and get involved. That can be doing anything from passing out condoms, volunteering at a health fair, or even answering the phones at a clinic.
Today, I’ll be preparing lunch for women attending a support group at the Chicago Women’s AIDS Project before going to support my church’s Community Health Fair. Every action counts.
How will you honor World AIDS Day today and moving forward?
Last night, I had the time of my life at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s 11th Annual “World of Chocolate” event. I’d heard all types of rave reviews from people who practically overdosed on cocoa goodness and KNEW that I was going to be in trouble.
While I felt like a winner, I also felt like a loser. There was so much chocolate in the place that I tapped out… EARLY. I only visited like 35% of the stations and seriously reconsidered my life’s purpose. Why didn’t I try more items? I suppose that there’s always next year.
So, what did I try? The short list is below…
A bacon chocolate martini (YUM!)
Mashed potatoes drizzled with chocolate (An interesting combo that kind of worked.)
A date stuffed with Belgium dark chocolate and wrapped in bacon (I wasn’t ready for this one.)
Chocolate covered pretzels
Chocolate-covered grapes with Riesling (Omg. Delish.)
But, when I tell you that they had all types of chocolate there, I really mean it. There were stations with salads drizzled in chocolate vinaigrette, cocoa chile wild boar sliders, chocolate shrimp and grits, and WAY more. Ah. SUCH a magical place and all for a fantastic cause! Funds raised through World of Chocolate support AFC’s grant-making, policy and public education programs. I will definitely return next year and this time I will be ready. Ready for the fun and ready for some wild cocoa treats.
What’s the craziest chocolate dish that you have ever tried?