The last thing that made you smile
The last thing that made me smile is my new vinyl collection reaching 50 records thus far. I grew up listening to music on vinyl. Whether it was my late mother playing Mighty Clouds of Joy and other gospel music or my older brother playing Whodini and other hip hop, vinyl was always around. Saturday morning chores to gospel or reggae on vinyl is a vivid memory. So much about music has changed in my lifetime. I played with 8-track tapes as a toddler as if they were toy cars. I listened to music on vinyl in my childhood and later made my own mixtapes on cassette tapes by recording the radio, as if I were a disc jockey myself; I even got used to listening to country music on the radio as that is my father’s favorite genre.
I collected over 500 CDs in my adolescence through college years in the 1990s; I still have 200 of them, many of which are exactly 20 years old this year as I graduated high school in 1997 and that was a great year of music. I witnessed the entire world of MP3s come about, with Napster as fire and iTunes as ice, as I was leaving college in 2001. I have weeks worth of music with MP3s, if I played them all in a row. I currently have several subscriptions to music streaming services. Changes in how I access music over time has also reflected changes in my own life; milestones even. Music has always been everything to me. Thus, going back to vinyl feels like a reconnection with my childhood, with my late mom and with music itself, in a new way but in ultimately an old, familiar, and comfortable way.
The most comfortable thing for me to wear at home is actually a sheet. I wrap a fitted sheet around my body with the corners as my feet pockets when sitting. Since I cannot find a comfortable temperature for my home, I would rather keep my home slightly cool and walk around in an old shirt and wrapped in a sheet. It makes me comfortable at my home desk while working and in the living room while watching TV. It is weird perhaps, but a secret that I am not ashamed of.
The last thing you wrote
I recently wrote ‘Beauty 101: Personal Stories’ where I talk about beauty as a personal and political topic. While it includes some daily regimen info that answers common questions I get about the topic, it also includes how being a Black woman in this world and dealing with how “beauty” is defined in rigid ways has affected my life over time. For years on my womanist blog Gradient Lair, I discussed beauty politics and how perceptions of beauty shape experiences for Black women in media and Black women in interpersonal and social spaces. This piece references that work and expands into my own experiences with “beauty” and from childhood through now.
Your favourite city
It is difficult for me to choose just one; both Montréal (2006) and Hong Kong (2007) are among my favorites of places that I have traveled to. Montréal felt like how an overcast day makes me feel, where I am supposed to feel melancholy, perhaps, but all I feel is calm. It was beautiful but not overbearing to me. I enjoyed photographing there and having fun with a couple of friends. Though it has been a decade since I have been there, I never forgot how it looks or how it made me feel. Hong Kong gave me a different feeling as an introvert. I honestly thought I would be a little nervous because the population is really dense and my photographs reflect that busyness and general crowdedness that a major city can have. At the same time, it had an energy about it that made me feel okay. Being surrounded by the mixture of lights, colours and textures felt like being in art but without taking away from the very real people going about their lives, working, shopping, eating, loving, living.
What you’d place in a time capsule
I would place printouts of tweets in a time capsule. The funniest ones. The smartest ones. Tweets about love. About friendship. Not necessarily my own tweets, but those from people who have influenced my life in some way. I know some people would place books, or essays, or newspapers in a time capsule. But to be honest, even with my critiques for Twitter as a platform itself, especially regarding safety, some of what I have read there means as much to me as some of my favorite old poems, essays and books have. I would want the future world to know that even amidst the absolute worst times in life, ordinary people have extraordinary thoughts and contain multitudes of both real pain and true beauty.