The Phoenix Rising Collective

Inspiring Women to be Self-Love in Action


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ARTIST FEATURE: These are a Few of Her Favorite Things – An Interview with Shekinah Shazaam (Video)

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The Phoenix Rising Collective’s Artist Feature, curated by Traci Currie, interviews women artists who use their talents and creativity to fully express self-love, build self-esteem, and nurture their own authenticity while inspiring others. Creative expressions may range from performing to painting to writing to travel and everything in between. Our goal is to share how these empowered women cultivate agency, healing, and happiness through fulfilling their passion.

This Artist Feature is Shekinah Shazaam.

It’s spring, and I have the perfect artist for this blossoming season. Shekinah “Shazaam” Tapplin! Just read the name. Actually, say the name out loud. SHAZAAM! This is a special time for this vibrant, creative being. Not only is she celebrating her 23rd birthday this May, she also graduates from college with a BFA in Graphic Design and a Theatre minor. She is an up-and-coming filmmaker, photographer, actress, graphic designer and writer. Are you exhausted yet?

I decided to approach this feature differently. I wanted to match the colorful in-your-face energy she exudes. I sat down with Shekinah and said, “Let’s play a game.” Her smile told me to ‘Bring it on!’ Our game is called 23 Favorites because she is turning 23 years old. Essentially, I am asking her to share 23 of her favorite things – like the song My Favorite Things from the musical Sound of Music. This is no coincidence. I love the movie for different reasons but the #1 reason related to Shekinah is the vibrancy and joy that resides in the musical’s main character Maria. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Shekinah is energetic and giddy every single minute of the day. I am simply saying there is a bright light in her. She makes me want to reach for the shooting stars at night. If I am lost, all I have to do is look up.

PhotoGrid_1432690531784To set the stage for the game below, I want to share a few tidbits about Shekinah. She is from a small town in Michigan called Clio. When she mentioned this, she gave me the not-quite-exciting-but-this-is-where-I-am-from look, and I told her this is where the famous people are usually from – a place no one has ever heard of. She chose to attend University of Michigan-Flint because it’s a commuter school. Beyond saving money she also chose this university for the wonderful faculty in her major and minor. She explained, “I love it because I can’t NOT do it. This work is engrained in my soul. I love being able to tell the different kinds of stories in visual, oral, written and performance.” Then she left me with a phrase, “I don’t believe the world is black or white. It’s in the middle. There are so many different types of people in the world that there is no one way.” Indeed. She is willing and able to explore the possibilities without question.

So, we begin the game 23 Favorites. Her responses to the questions are her words. At the end there is a short video explaining some of the responses.

  1. Favorite Attire: Layering in Fall
  2. Favorite Season: Fall but Autumn sounds prettier
  3. Favorite Film: Star Wars – It’s scifi. I love the fact that these things can be possible. It would be very ignorant for humans to assume they are the only life forms in this universe.
  4. Favorite TV Show: BBC’s Sherlock
  5. Favorite Music Genre: Anything electronic
  6. Favorite Artist: That’s so hard. I have so many. I will limit it to four: (1) James Blake – He’s British. He has soul! The melodies meld together with his beautiful voice. (2) Active Child – He’s a redhead. I have a thing for redheads (as she smiles at her own red connection). He has range. The deepest deeps and the highest highs. (3) Lindsey Stirling – She is really amazing. She is a violinist who dances while she plays. She mixes in dub step with the violin. She also makes cinematic films that go along with her songs. (4) Lo Fang – He’s a recent new favorite. He has a very pretty voice that balances well with the electronic sounds beneath it.
  7. Favorite Color: Red
  8. Favorite Number: 13
  9. Favorite Actor: Will Smith. Seeing his transformation from Fresh Prince to more serious roles and him embracing his children’s art and acting…I love his support and passion. And he has a laid back attitude.
  10. Favorite Place: My room. Everything I need is right there.
  11. Favorite Part of the Body: Man or Woman? (I say, BOTH) Woman: Women’s hips. Maybe because I don’t have them. Big womanly hips. They look comfortable to sit on and it looks like it would be easy to squeeze a child out. Man: I have two:  (1) Man legs – they intrigue me because no matter the size of the man, the legs are usually small. (2) Man chest – I like when there is a little something there. When you can squeeze their moobs, they make me giggle (i.e. moobs – the male version of boobs).
  12. Favorite Activity as a Hobby: Crafting – Do It Yourself (DIY) projects
  13. Favorite (Ideal) Career: Filmmaking because it combines everything I love
  14. Favorite Month: May because it’s the birthday month and it warms up then; Then September because Autumn enters the picture
  15. Favorite Person: Though he would be surprised, my Daddy. We have similar personalities and sense of humor.
  16. Favorite Jewelry: Rings because they are very versatile. They are chunky and you can layer. You can wear with almost any outfit
  17. Favorite Book: I have two: (1) Trilogy: The Singer/The Song/The Finale – The Singer Trilogy. It’s written in a long poetic form, kind of like an epic. The language communicates with me personally and reads smoothly. (2) The Hush Hush Saga – It’s a fantasy paranormal romance and it features angels, one of my favorite topics to write about.
  18. Favorite Experience: For my 20th birthday me, my parents, and three best girlfriends went to Chicago and I fell in love with the city. We saw so many different cultures living together, great amount of art, and people were friendly. Just AMAZINGNESS!
  19. Favorite Time of Day: Evening to nighttime when the sun is setting. Things are calmer. I do my best thinking later on at night.
  20. Favorite Word: Shazaam – I love this word because (1) it sounds good with my actual name, which is why I use it as my artist name, and (2) I love the fun way that Beyoncé used it in the Austin Powers movie. That’s where I got it.
  21. Favorite Writing You’ve Done: Not completed but my first novel I began writing at age 13. (She couldn’t reveal the details – work in progress)
  22. Favorite Food: Chocolate
  23. AND FINALLY, Favorite Quote: Wishing does nothing, doing does everything. I came up with this a few years ago when I realized people were whining about everything they wanted. Instead of whining about what you want, why don’t you go out and do what you want. Hard work gets you to where you want to go.

 

 

Please support this talented up-and-coming artist; you’ll be glad you did! Check out her website: Shekinah Shazaam

 

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About the Contributing Writer:

traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci Currie is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes The PRC will help young women reach their highest potential.  “This organization is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts.


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Erin

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Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of our Shed Light series collection. We invite women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to  “shed light” on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

This week’s inspiring Phoenix is Erin:

Erin’s journey to better physical health and wellness is definitely inspirational, and we know her transformation will motivate and empower many women!

Two years ago Erin weighed almost 280 pounds and was a type-2 diabetic taking two types of insulin. After losing her job (and facing the possibility of losing her health insurance), she spiraled into depression. “I didn’t like or even begin to understand what it meant to love myself. I felt like I had no control over my life and at the age of 25 that did not give me much hope for my future.”

With a very strong determination to take control of her life and actively work toward more health conscious decisions, Erin prayed to God for purpose, strength, and guidance. “I decided I was tired of paying $200 a month for medicine I did not need to be dependent on. I decided I was tired of fearing being judged on my appearance before going into job interviews or my own self-consciousness holding me back. I decided that if I was unhappy with something, I DID have the control to change it.”

She stopped breaking promises to herself, started counting calories, and began using her gym membership (that previously collected dust). The pounds gradually dropped! Erin found the clarity she yearned for (and more self-confidence too). She recognized that her commitment to positive change led to more experiences she wanted to have, and with each determined step to get healthy, Erin lost more and more weight. In the process she steered her life in a new direction, found a love that she (for the first time) believed she deserved, and pursued a career that landed her the dream job she wanted. That’s not all. Because of her dedication to health and wellness, she was also taken off her diabetic medicine.

Erin passionately continues her health journey with strengthened faith, and today she is 155 lbs (so you do the math). “I was a woman on my knees praying to God for clarity, for reassurance that I was going to get through the storm though in my heart I was doubtful. I am now a woman who still prays for strength to weather my storms but never doubts that I will get through them because my past has shown me that once I do, the future is so much brighter.”

 

How inspirational is this Phoenix? Kudos, Erin! We applaud your courage and we’re so happy you shared your self-love story with us.

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If you’d like to share your self-love story with The Collective contact us here.

Love Yourself First! Friday is a bi-weekly self-love series created by The Phoenix Rising Collective. Diverse women tell stories of triumph, share personal affirmations, and declare love for their lives! The series is meant to inspire and empower women to fiercely demonstrate self-love in action in order to build and sustain healthy, positive self-esteem.  Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.


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ARTIST FEATURE: Owning Who I Am Through The Discomfort – An Interview with Staceyann Chin

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The Phoenix Rising Collective’s Artist Feature, curated by Traci Currie, highlights and focuses on women artists using their talents and creativity to fully express self-love, build self-esteem, and nurture their own authenticity while inspiring others. Creative expressions may range from performing to painting to writing to travel and everything in between. Our goal is to share how these empowered women cultivate agency, healing, and happiness through fulfilling their passion.

This Artist Feature is Staceyann Chin.

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I have learned most recently that some life-changing interviews occur during the silent moments, when no one is speaking. They occur when one person is having internal dialogues with oneself while the other…well, I can’t speak for the other.

I begin this article with the following questions: How do I tell the story of the passing silence between an artist who observes poignantly without hesitation and an artist who discovers an introverted side of herself? Why am I so focused on the airport drive and not the featured artist’s FIRE BALL spoken word performance I witnessed earlier that particular day?

I recall very clearly in fall 2014 when a small group of us talked about bringing Jamaican social activist and performing poet Staceyann Chin to the University of Michigan-Flint. My first thought was “She’s Jamaican. I can finally be in the presence of another fellow Jamaican, although I am not quite that.” But I would claim this name in the same way poet Audre Lorde proudly claims her Caribbean American identity. I have a right, right? My next thought was “Let’s shake things up around the campus and bring Fire and Brim Stone.” After all, Angela Davis had just spoken at the university February 19th. What she shared was in alignment with what I knew about Staceyann Chin, and indeed Chin brought the poetic energy of Davis’ public lecture to the UM-Flint stage.

Let’s backtrack. Through the advice of a mutual friend, I wrote Staceyann an email that she responded to within 24 hours. She agreed to come, and on March 26th she flew into Flint, Michigan in the early afternoon and flew out of Detroit, Michigan that night. Her purpose on paper was to perform on stage for roughly 45 minutes and then have a 15-minute ‘Question-and-Answer’ session. However, given my own spiritual walk and the fact that I believe in starlit cosmos, galaxies-one-grasp-away, flying invisible angels, the blue & red pill, and having in-depth conversations with ancestors using my 6th sense, I believe her purpose in coming to Flint was divine and probably on par with the questions I have been pondering about my life both professionally and personally.

So, if you are wondering if this is about Staceyann Chin, well…I am not sure, but read on.

After the performance I asked her how she thought the event was. She said, “Fine.” But then she turned the question on me and said, “How do you think it went?” Being the stickler I am, who has a tough time seeing anything as perfect if I am the one organizing or performing, I mumbled something that felt inconsequential. Interestingly enough, that moment was quite significant, because I sensed she heard something else in my question. Honestly, when I ask artists their opinion on an event they’ve been apart of, many of them respond with a short declaration and then the conversation is over. However, she asked me what I thought. This example confirms what I learned about her earlier that day – she observes. From the time I picked her up from the airport that afternoon to the moment she exited my vehicle to return to the east coast, her senses were present. For example, when I walked into the airport to meet her (thinking I was early) she had been standing near the exit door. An important note, there were barely any people in the airport. I had walked right by her. However, she seemed to know who I was. She called my name. Mind you, I told her I was short and brown with glasses. But beyond the matching description, there was an assuredness in her voice and in her being. During times I thought she was NOT present (an assumption that came from noticing her on her cell phone often), she was very much so observant. She was cognizant of her surroundings and even my mishap in being confused as to which way to go when leaving the airport, although I have been driving these roads for over a decade. She was alert and mindful, the very thing I attempt to practice in my life. And yes, I was in the moment – moment of confusion; moment of weariness; moment of anxiety and a bit of elation. The next hour, she spent talking with my colleague from Jamaica. I offered a few comments, but I essentially listened to the back-and-forth heated dialogue about raising children and Jamaica’s changing identity.

It was time for her performance, which was at 4pm. I had a tough time navigating her to the theatre because someone cornered her with comments and questions. And in my absentmindedness I abandoned her to talk to a student. I knew I shouldn’t have, but for a moment I lost control of what to do. Oddly, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the people who were clearly there to see Staceyann. How silly of me, right? After all, I wasn’t the one performing – she was! When we entered the theatre, I almost rushed her onto the stage and she said (slightly paraphrased), “Slow down, let’s talk about the order.” I had to take a breath and remember my role. “This is what you do, TC. You organize. Get it together. Focus. Most importantly, take care of your guest.” Heck, for one moment, it felt like she was taking care of me.

The introduction by my colleague was phenomenal. I felt as if it set the stage for everything that occurred – FIRE. Or rather FIYAH! (a little patois for your ears/eyes). It was everything I had hoped, even in my own discomfort. Yes, I am a bold performer, but even I hold back in my own performances. But Staceyann brought FIYAH!

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The event ended and we were on our way to the Detroit airport (1 hour and 15 minutes). During the drive is where I got to know a slightly shy TC who couldn’t come up with much to say because it felt too forced. A matter of fact, I had asked her earlier that day if I could interview her after the performance on the drive to the airport. She said, “Yes.” She pressed the record button while I was driving. A few minutes into the conversation, it just didn’t feel right. The interview felt odd, inauthentic and full of information I had already known. Truth be told, I had reviewed her memoir. I had watched numerous videos and the movie she had featured in. Most of all, I had just seen her perform live. I already had the necessary information for this article, so I thought. I told her to turn the recorder off, and I drove in silence. I was in this weird space. I felt as if I should say something but had nothing in my head besides random thoughts. Then she turned to me and asked me about my life. She wanted to know about me. And it felt odd that she wanted to know about me personally and professionally. I spend my time listening to others – that is my job. My job is to communicate effectively with people across cultures and to listen critically so I can respond to the words not spoken and the body language that seemingly says nothing and everything simultaneously. That’s what I do!

So when she asked me questions I was uncomfortable because it was odd to be the center of attention for a moment. As far as I was concerned, she was supposed to remain the central focus until she left my car (although there really was no focus since I barely spoke). But Staceyann would not allow that to happen. She asked me about my family, my job, my lifestyle, and my travels. Given my disposition and responses, she asked me if I had ever been to therapy. Who wants to admit going to therapy? I know I don’t, at least not to a world that seems to make assumptions about what therapy is and who it is for. But guess what? I did admit it. I admitted quite a few things that led her to say, “Mamacita, you need to break free and address some things.”

My first thought, “I need to break free?!?! You don’t even know me like that!” My second thought, “You’re right. I’m stuck. And I don’t know how to get un-stuck.”

In closing, Staceyann’s interview was about ME. It was about figuring out how to OWN this journey I am on. I learned that there is no finite moment to these life questions. I must take deep breaths; I must use my voice; I must ask the questions I ponder daily; I must break free both privately and then publicly…maybe unapologetically with poetry at the helm.

So, given my words and body language, I suspect Staceyann Chin the storyteller, the poet, the activist, and the observer made me the center of attention for a short moment. And I performed my ‘crossroads’ identity in the car, on the way to the airport. Yes, I am at a crossroads in my life and that’s what this interview revealed. I was reminded to use my tools to break free. Poetry. As my Caribbean American mentor-in-spirit, Audre Lorde says, “Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”

Yes, Staceyann Chin is right. I must break free. So today I claim Poetry.

Read Staceyann Chin’s memoir: The Other Side of Paradise.

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About the Contributing Writer:

traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci Currie is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes The PRC will help young women reach their highest potential.  “This organization is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts.

Staceyann Chin @ UM-Flint – A Short Film created and contributed by Shekinah Shazaam


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The Phoenix Book of the Week: The Happy Wives Club by Fawn Weaver

Corrine_Book_of_the_Week[phoenixrisingcollective]1Our Phoenix Book of the Week Pick comes from Corrine:

Happy Wives Club by Fawn Weaver

I’ve been reading Happy Wives Club by Fawn Weaver. The book outlines Fawn’s journey around the world as she uncovers the secrets to a long lasting happy marriage.

I found out about the book being a member of the Happy Wives Club group on Facebook. Daily messages are sent to members with fun and loving statements encouraging members to boast about their love of marriage and their husbands.

I’m reading the book because I have been married almost two years and I’ve always enjoyed polling family and friends who have been married 10+ years about what is the success to their marriages. I asked my grandparents, and they said pray; another person said communication; yet another said have thick skin.

As a wife and new mother, taking care of my family and being a good example is important to me. Folks are quick to recite statistics that downplay marriage – citing 50% of marriages end in divorce and others. But rarely do you find a whole movement that supports happy marriage. I’m about half way through the book and I am learning a lot. I highly recommend it.

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About The Phoenix Book of the Week:

The Phoenix Book of the Week features recommendations from The Phoenix Rising Collective, as well as the empowered women who support us. We’ll be sharing our thoughts on books that have been powerful resources for sustaining healthy self-esteem, creating emotional and spiritual wellness, and committing to intentional living. We’ll also share our personal stories about how and why the books have inspired personal growth and sparked “light bulb moments” that changed our lives in some way. The book picks may cover a wide range of topics from diverse genres.

Interested in sharing a book with us? Please click here to send your request for more details on submitting a book entry.