Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Hippest Trip in America & Oakland

"Soul Train represents our proudest examples of the partnership's consistent pursuit of our common goal of creating extraordinary exposure opportunities for minority and other recording artists on national television.” –Don Cornelius

The Hippest Trip in America

When I mention the hippest trip in America, there are few people in America who don't know of the phrase and it's pop culture roots. Of course, I'm talking about none other than Soul Train. Soul Train was an American variety musical show that showcased the best and brightest in R&B, soul, and hip hop. The show was created, written, and produced by its host Don Cornelius and aired in syndication from 1971-2006. Soul Train is credited with glamorizing soul music and featured a myriad of artists from Aretha Franklin to Alicia Keys. It encouraged audience members to take note of performers, pop culture, and politics. And,was  also on the cutting edge of trend setting in dance and fashion. Soul Train has the honor of being the longest running first run nationally syndicated program in television history with over 1,100 shows produced from the shows debut through it's 2005-2006 season. 

Don Cornelius

The path to ' Love, Peace, and Soul" was not an easy one. Before its inception, Don Cornelius took what he considered to be a gamble by enrolling in a broadcasting school in Chicago. He enrolled in the Spring of 1966. In spite of being advised that he and the majority of those enrolled in the course might never get jobs in broadcasting, Cornelius decided to give the course his best shot. Being a radio announcer had always been his dream. Later, after completing the course, Cornelius was hired as a part time news reader and radio disc jockey at WVON in Chicago. (Lesson here? Follow your dreams. Don't listen to the peanut gallery.)

Around the same time that Cornelius began officially working in radio, WCIU-TV, a new television station in Chicago began airing two youth oriented dance programs: Kiddie-a-Go-Go- and Red Hot Blues. These programs--specifically the latter, which featured a predominately African American group of in studio dancers would set the stage for what was to come to the station a few year later. Don Cornelius was hired by WCIU in 1967 as a news and sports reporter. At the time, Cornelius was also promoting and emceeing a touring series of concerts featuring local talents ( sometimes called record hops) at Chicago area high schools. He called his traveling caravan of shows "The Soul Train". WCIU-TV took notice of Cornelius' outside work and in 1970 allowed him the opportunity to bring his road show to television. The station provided a small studio space and Cornelius  produced the original pilot at his own expense. Soul Train became an instant hit across Chicago television audiences , which attracted the attention of George Johnson, founder and President of Johnson Products Company ( Ultra Sheen/ Afro Sheen hair care products). Johnson proposed an advertising partnership that would involve taking Soul Train in a direction toward national syndication. Cornelius began commuting to Hollywood in search of better production facilities, and in the summer of 1971, he secured a facility and an experienced production crew. The syndication went on the air on  October 2, 1971 and it was an instant success with audiences. The first episode of the program featured Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Honeycomb, Bobby Hutton, and Eddie Kendricks. You can see Don Cornelius DJ roots in this clip from the very first episode: 

The Soul Train Line

On the fifth national episode of Soul Train that aired on October 30, 1971, a segment was introduced that became a mainstay of the show and has become a staple  of parties throughout the world.  That segment was the legendary Soul Train Line. Soul Train host and creator Don Cornelius said that the Soul Train Line was popular at the parties that he attended in Chicago, so when the program debuted locally in Chicago, Cornelius presented the line dance on his show. Cornelius had no idea what he started when he began showcasing the Soul Train Line when it aired. The show aired nationally in seven markets in the US and ultimately reached over twenty-five markets by the end of 1972. The first Soul Train Line song played on the national broadcast of the program was the popular Staple Singers hit " Respect Yourself". As the beat of the song kicked in,couples grooved enthusiastically  down the Soul Train line, wearing the latest in brightly colored suits, platforms, bell bottoms, and mini skirts while sporting perfectly coiffed large and small Afros, French Braids and Afro Puffs. 

Here is the clip of the first Soul Train Line! 


So, you may ask, what does Oakland, CA have to do with the Soul Train Legacy. Well, I'm glad you did!  We already know that Oakland, CA has an abundance of Soul. On Saturday, June 20, 2015, we proved it in a big way!  Three hundred and thirty seven dancers ( including yours truly) showed up to at DeFremery Park to beat the Longest Soul Train Line  record of 298 dancers. Philadelphia has held the title since 2012. The number was short of the 500 people the event's organizers had hoped to attract, but  it was certified by Guinness World Records Ltd. on Saturday afternoon that Oakland's affinity for the "Soul Train" television show's classic dance platform is record-breaking. Here are some photos from the record breaking day!

Hip Couple at the Soul Train Line!

Another dancer in the Spirit!

Feeling that Seventies Soul Train Vibe!

The Green Team was the last team to go down the line to break the record!
Team Green Celebrating the win!

More Team Green Celebrating!

 Beating the record for the longest "Soul Train"-style line was the brainchild of the Friends of DeFremery Center, whose mission is to provide activities at the park for low-income people who use its services. The event, dubbed Oak Train, was a fundraiser for kids to go to a five-week camp that usually costs about $500 per child, and keep other activities free. Each dancer got a T-shirt -- orange, purple, pink, yellow and blue -- so the record keepers could keep track of their numbers.

DeFremery Center offers Summer Camp for Oakland Youth!

DeFremery Center also offers Free Meals!

 Once the dancing started, some of the first down the line were former "Soul Train'' dancers Jeffrey McCrimon, of Brentwood, and Sally Achenbach and Nellie Gonzales, both of Los Angeles. During their run on the show, from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the dances of the day were the robocop, running man, Roger Rabbit, the tilt and the sledgehammer. But, there were folks there doing the bump, the four corners, the cha cha, the dougie, and the wop! In other words, varied age ranges were represented and to quote Hedda Hopper, ' A good time was had by all".  If you would like to learn more about the Friends of DeFremery Center, donate money or attend other events, more information can be found here! Your Ms. Brown will certainly be making an attempt to get over their way a bit more. One thing is for sure, when you attend one of the Friends of DeFremery Center events, you can bet your last money, it's gonna be a stone gas honey!' In parting, I wish you...

 Love, Peace, and Soul!
Ms. Brown

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

There's an App for that...hood style...

So, my mother called me Friday morning really excited. What was the good news? Apparently, my cousin La-A ( pronounced La Dasha) and her baby daddy Ray Ray ( real name La Raymond) were getting married ( about time, the "baby" is twenty-two). Here's where I came in. They wanted to have a pre-wedding luncheon  for La-A and the wedding party before they went down to City Hall to tie the knot. And, my dear mother had volunteered ME to plan it! As if that wasn't enough, next came a laundry list of requirements. There had to be food, the ability to Skype at the venue, so the rest of the family could share in the event and finally,  everyone in attendance, in person or by Skype needed a memento of the event.( Geez..would you like me to walk on water and negotiate world peace too?)  All of this needed to be done in four hours before Ray Ray changed his mind.

  I was in a real conundrum. I mean, I already had a lot of things on my plate. I had planned to use the day to go apartment hunting, I was expecting an important package and I needed to ship back a vase that I'd ordered that wasn't the correct color. Plus, little Coffy Brown Jr. had a violin lesson that day ( she's a child prodigy ) , and our dog coffybean  needed to go to the Vet. How on earth was I going to get all of this done! I didn't panic. Here's what I did:

Liquid Space

I took out my trusty smart phone and hit the app for Liquid Space. LiquidSpace is the leading real-time marketplace for flexible workspace. You can instantly find and book a great place to meet or work. Thousands of work spaces  are available to rent by the hour, day or longer - across 600+ cities in the U.S., Canada and Australia. I found a nice  meeting room  fully equipped for any type of presentation including Skype at a local upscale hotel. I rented the room for three hours, ordered food through the app, paid and sent out an email to all attendees with the address! 

Rad Pad

  1.  Next, I hit the Rad Pad app on my Smart phone. RadPad is a photo-based mobile application where renters can find a new apartment, condo, or home easily via a transparent process with property owners. Renters can pay rent through the app on a major debit or credit card. I scrolled through and found a place in the area that I wanted to live in, sent the owner an email, got a phone call back and went to view the place. I liked it. So , I hit a button and paid the deposit and fees all through my Rad Pad app. 

  1. As I said earlier, I was expecting an important package that would probably be arriving at the start time for the luncheon. But, I remembered that I had used my doorman app to have it delivered. Doorman has re-imagined package delivery for e-commerce by perfecting the most important moment of shopping: when you actually get your stuff.  You can schedule home delivery of your online purchases until midnight, 7 days a week, same day or weeks away. They give customers a new shipping address to use whenever they shop online, and once your packages arrive at their depot, you simply use the Doorman app to schedule delivery to your front door up until midnight, in convenient 1-hour windows, 7 days a week. The price is $3.99 per package or you can pay a monthly fee of $19 for unlimited deliveries with a two hour window, or $29 for unlimited deliveries with a one hour window and unlimited returns. I hit that app and rescheduled the delivery for 11:30 pm that night. Got that covered.


You will recall that I also needed to ship a vase back to Pottery Barn.For that I used my SHYP mobile app. What is SHYP?  SHYP is the easiest way to ship your stuff. The mobile app provides an easy on demand shipping experience.  You take a photo of the item and make a request thorough the app. A SHYP representative comes to you ( they call them heroes), collects your item, takes them away to be professionally packed and shipped to your destination. The cost for this service is a five dollar flat fee plus the cost of shipping. Now, let's get to shipping costs, SHYP has a  Low Price Promise: they price compare across all major shipping carriers to give you the lowest rate possible. Shipping cost is determined by weight, dimensions, destination and your selected shipping option. Slight variations among these factors can significantly change shipping costs. Shyp considers all factors and selects the service that meets their reliability standards, while ensuring the package is delivered in accordance with your selected shipping option.Someone arrived within an hour to pick  up  and ship my vase. Done.


So, with all of that handled, I just needed to find a way to get Coffy Brown Jr. to her violin lesson. I then remembered that I had already scheduled the ride yesterday  with Shuddle.  Shuddle is the only transportation service designed for busy families. It's a new Uber-like service that arranges car rides for busy families. Shuddle, which does not yet offer on-demand ride hailing like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and the like, allows parents to arrange scheduled pickups for kids. Rides from home to school or school to soccer practice are Shuddle’s bread-and-butter. In its first metropolitan area of San Francisco, prices are $9 per month, plus regular per-ride fees. Most rides run in the $20 range depending upon distance. Once I scheduled the ride, I received a bio and photo of the person who would be coming to pick up my child. Shuddle only hires people who can provide good references in a child care related field. ( teacher, nanny etc) Each person is given a face to face interview, a criminal background check, a motor vehicles records check, vehicle inspection, and an in person training. Once the passenger reaches the final destination, a message is sent to you and Shuddle HQ to confirm that the ride has ended safely. You can track the ride in real-time via GPS. You say you're still not comfortable allowing your child to ride with a stranger? You actually know more about the Shuddle driver than you do about the carpool, school bus, or city bus driver that your child rides with every day. 

Vet Pronto,

So next, I need to get the dog to the Vet. Well, as the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat. I just hit my Vet Pronto app and scheduled an appointment. A Vet arrived within an hour. Vet Pronto offers on-demand house call veterinary services for dogs and cats, allowing customers to skip a visit to the clinic or just see a vet at a more convenient time – like on evenings and weekends, for example.A house call is $150 dollars , this includes the visit, comprehensive exam, unlimited questions and answers, and any consultations or prescriptions required. They also offer a full range of other veterinary services at an additional cost. However, veterinarians receive a flat rate of $100 per house call, so there is no incentive to sell you additional items that your pet doesn't need. For now, the service is only offered in San Francisco, but as the idea catches on, I'm sure that will change.

So, with all of that handled, I was ready to get dressed and go to the event. When I arrived, everything was set up exactly as I had arranged. The food was delicious but, then I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten the dessert and the party gift. No worries. Here's what I did:


I went in to my browser and found the doughbies website. Doughbies delivers freshly baked goods on demand- in twenty minutes or less. You can send a gift, or have something delicious delivered for yourself ( or in my case, some demanding folks at an impromptu luncheon.) Everything is handmade by their team of local bakers with a focus on the utmost care and quality.They deliver fresh baked goods in twenty minutes. The dessert arrived right on time, and no one knew that I had forgotten! Next, I had to deal with a memento for each guest! 

 For that, I used my Social Print Studios mobile app .  Social Print is an app that allows you can print photos from your social media accounts and turn them into masterpieces. They make a variety of items, posters, stickers, magnets, tshirts, framed prints,gift cards, greeting cards,you name it! I ordered each guest a mini keepsake booklet for $12.00 a piece featuring photos that I had taken during the event. I ordered the bride and groom a large photo book which was $25.00.  Later,  to the delight of everyone present, I kindly informed each guest that their  keepsake mementos would arrive at their homes in four to six weeks. 

So, as it stands, few family events can go off without a little drama. Ray Ray's other baby mama Caprice showed up insisting that their baby was in the car sick and that he needed to leave immediately with her to take the baby to the doctor. ( just FYI, this baby is also twenty-two. They call those "ghetto twins"). I told Caprice to bring the "baby " in to sit a moment and while she was having her drama queen fits, I hit my Heal app. Heal is an on demand house call family doctor and pediatrician service.I hit the request a doctor link, paid $99 and a highly qualified doctor was there to see the "baby" within an hour. Caprice was livid. Honestly, it was the best $99 bucks that I've ever spent. 

After that, La-A and Ray Ray went off to the courthouse and got hitched.I was exhausted and just went home. But, once I arrived, I was still a nervous wreck. I pulled out my phone and hit my Zeel app. What is Zeel? Zeel delivers a top quality massage to your home,hotel, workplace or event in as little as an hour. They offer a variety or techniques and options including couples massages and back to back massages. Meaning that you can have a couple of girlfriends over and do your own little in home spa day.Zeel massage therapists are the best in the industry. They are licensed, screened,background checked, and fully vetted by the Zeel Team.Their therapists are chosen for their excellence and further trained by Zeel to reach the highest levels of customer service and experience.(Ahem, clearing throat) All that being said, professional massages are the ONLY fee for service option that Zeel offers. no funny business.The price starts at $99 dollars . Prices can vary depending upon length of massage and other options.But, payment is made online and includes the tip. So, you don't need to have any cash on hand.

In all honesty, I don't really have a cousin named La-A and,if anyone volunteered me to set up a wedding luncheon in four hours, the answer would be "hell to the no"! But, the reality is that we live in an increasingly demanding world and being able to order and receive goods and services on demand is not only the wave of the future, but it relieves a lot of stress. Besides, the fact is, having a doctor, or a vet, or a cookie delivery at home is certainly not a new practice. Once upon a time, doctors made house calls and there was a milk man who collected empty milk bottle and brought fresh milk. Now, I know that you're going to say that everything that I ordered in my imaginary scenario cost money, but the fact is, the most valuable commodity that you have is not your money, it's your time. In closing, if you find yourself in need of some of these on demand services one day, you now know that they're available. I'd like to thank the folks at Tech in Motion for hosting the event where I was able to learn about all of these fabulous services. And, I'd also like to thank the folks at Geekdom for providing the venue.  Until next time...

Keep it hot and sweet,

Ms Brown


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ankara Fabric, African Prints, and The African Textile Fashion Trend


African print, popularly known as Ankara, has gained popularity in the global fashion scene since 2010. The fabric is primarily associated with Africa because of the tribal-like patterns and motifs. However, the acclaimed fabric is not actually of African origin; it was manufactured by the  Dutch people of the Netherlands for the Indonesian textile market, but as with new trends, West Africa was the first to catch the Ankara fever, after the Turks made a cheaper version of the fabric and changed the name from ‘Dutch wax print’ to what is now their country’s capital, Ankara.
Of course, the textile had to mirror the lives of its consumers, hence the cultural and artistic designs of the print. Initially, Ankara was primarily used  for special occasions like traditional ceremonies as it was thought to be far too colorful  and vibrant for everyday wear.But, eventually, in the post-colonial era of  many West African countries, it began making appearances in workplaces and business districts and on every day occasions.The independent African countries began building their own textile factories to forge designs that would more fully embrace their culture. In fact, many Ankara fabrics have meanings within African culture in the same way that tartan may denote lineage in Scottish  culture.  Tourists, eager to get a souvenir of their visit to Africa quickly purchased the beautiful and inexpensive fabric. By the year 2000, African fashion designers were becoming more prominent and started using it to create exclusive designs. Soon Ankara blouses and shirts were worn over jean trousers and Fashion designers began to promote the fabric through their work to international acclaim. Around 2010 many celebrities like Beyonce, Rihanna and Alicia Keys were already rocking the material. Solange Knowles has been renowned for her apt blending of Ankara fabric patterns in her outfits. It has entered men’s wardrobe too, a drastic change from the 90’s when wearing Ankara everyday was a ‘woman’s thing’.  It has become an African identity. 
Stella Jean
As I mentioned earlier, many celebrities have been seen wearing ensembles made of Ankara or other African prints and textiles. The prices run the range from extremely expensive to much more reasonably priced. One designer that I would like to call your attention to is Stella Jean. Jean has established her signature aesthetic as the merging of the exoticism of her Haitian creole heritage and the craftsmanship of her Italian roots. The result is classic feminine tailoring-cinched-in waists and dirndl skirts infused with bold tribal prints and color. Pictured below are Rihanna and Beyonce both wearing Stella Jean.


Stella Jean won Vogue Italia’s Who Is On Next talent contest in 2011 and her dresses swiftly sold out when they landed at Matches Fashion for the last two seasons. But her story is no overnight success.The self-taught Italian-Haitian designer twice failed to qualify for the talent competition, part of the Alta Roma schedule, but it was third-time luck when she finally qualified, and won. She has since garnered the support of fashion icons Beyonce and Rihanna who have both been seen in her garments on numerous occasions. Her most recent line is fabulous and the prices of her garments range from $65 for a bracelet to $750 per item.  She also carries swim wear and a line for men and children.  Some of her garments are pictured below:

Jean, who uses her mother’s maiden name for the brand, rather than her given surname Novarino, often seeks inspiration from her cultural identity, and uses sustainably sourced fabrics, aimed at helping trade workers in developing communities.

Ruben Ruel

So, let's say that you're not able to pay $750.00 for a single clothing item but still want to indulge in the latest African Textile trend. Let me tell you about Rueben Ruel and Demestiks New York. Ruben Ruel is a Brooklyn based designer who has created the brand Demesticks. Primarily sold on Etsy, his women's wear line is based on Dutch Wax Prints and other classic African Patterns.  Both Beyonce and Ledisi have been seen in his designs. Ruel began making garments for the women he met at church in his hometown of Virginia Beach. He would take their orders on Sunday after church and create one of a kind garments based on what each client needed. As word of mouth spread, he developed a loyal following of locals. In 2009, he moved to New York to launch his own brand. With his bold use of color and feminine aesthetic, his work has a vintage girly quality to it. It draws on the bolder elements that came out of the seventies and eighties.- peplums, dolman sleeves, and oversize bows. He is an equally beautiful and less expensive option  to Stella Jean. His signature mantra is to make clothing that is comfortable for women of all sizes that aren't items that you will see every day and he has no plans to place his clothing in stores. He wants to be a global vendor and feels that selling his items online is an easier way to make his clothing accessible to women all over the world.    Also, since Virginia, where he got his start didn't have a lot of toothpicks walking around, he designed his clothes to look good on women ranging from size XS to 4X. He still does. Some of his designs are pictured below:

Ledisi in Demestiks New York

Beyonce in Demestiks New York

Indeed, each and every one of the garments pictured above can best be described as wearable works of art. And, each garment can be paired with items already in your wardrobe to create your own unique fashion statement. After all, fashion can be bought, but style one must possess. And style, is your way of telling the universe who you are without ever having to speak. So, if you want to tell the world that you are a vibrant, bold, fabulous global citizen, I would say that Ankara and other African textiles and prints are definitely for you! Remember, the most important part of a dress is the always the woman who's wearing it! Until next time...

Keep it hot and sweet,
Ms. Brown