St. Pablo Tour stops in Grand Rapids

Considering I haven’t been to a concert since, B2K was a thing. Going to the St. Pablo
Tour was another great experience for 2016. I was able to see why people pay the big bucks for the closer seats, although my seats were just as great. The concert took place in the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI., where the streets flooded with people from all over West Michigan to experience Mr. West and his hovering stage.

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Kanye hit the platform at 9:21p.m., and the crowd went crazy. I’ll be honest, I enjoy Kanye as an artist and producer, but I really wasn’t a die hard fan–until now. The energy in that arena was amazing, I enjoyed every bit of it.

He performed several hits like, Jesus Walks, FourFive Seconds, Can’t Tell Me Nothing and several songs from Life of Pablo, obviously. Opening  with Father Stretch My Hands.

As I said before, I hadn’t been to a concert since watching Omarion glide across the stage at Joe Louis Arena, or maybe it was Lloyd…I’m not sure, but it has been a while. Of course, me being “Jill the camera lady” I wanted to capture so many great moments, for this post specifically. I had my phone out the entire time, recording and taking pictures.

I joked about how the set up and lighting made me feel like I was standing in the middle of Zion in the Matrix movie, because that’s exactly how it felt. The yellow lights gave it a real ambient touch. Listening to the crowd sing all the lyrics as if they were on stage performing. Needless-to-say, I had a ball and I need to learn more Yeezy songs new and old.

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 Follow me on Instagram @j.levaeepr and Twitter @jlevaee

Time waits for No One, So use it wisely

Fall is here and the world has never been busier. Students are back to school, Parents are working double time but the days are getting shorter. It’s almost as if we run out of time during the autumn season. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your work days with you as a focus.

Being a student is hard work, whether you are in high school or college, there never seems to be enough time for you no matter how many planners you have. “Students are working an average of 30 hours a week, Georgetown researchers found. However, about 25 percent of working students are simultaneously employed full-time and enrolled in college full-time.” Considering this study was done in 2015, I’m sure that number has increased since then.

If this is you…KEEP READING.

“Having great time management” is something that has been preached to you since about 11th grade. Getting a planner and writing down everything you have to do for that week and sticking to that to-do list. Though this tactic is great, you’re still in shallow waters in the sea of time management. Let’s take this habit a step further. What in your to-do list is major priority?

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These are the task that have to get done ASAP. They usually have a time stamp on them. This can include papers, responding to emails, scheduling appointments etc. Contrary to popular belief, not all task have to get done at that very moment. Find out what is important and needs most of your attention, tackle that first.

Learning how to allocate your free time wisely is the most important skill for managing time. Outside of work and class, what other activities do you have listed that are worth your time? For example, when I was attending Western Michigan University, I purposely scheduled my classes for Tuesday and Thursdays only. That way Monday, Wednesday and Friday were days for work and anything else I wanted to do.  The weekends were days I would do homework and things I personally enjoyed. Moments where I had free time, I made sure I allocated it to something I would be the primary beneficiary.

Most of the time, I took naps but you get the point. Free time shouldn’t be completely spent doing things like studying. Mental health should always be your number one priority.

When do you work best? Are you a rooster or a night owl? Once you find out when you do the best work, you’ll be able to work more effectively and efficiently. Time management is important but never forget to work in a way that’s best for you.

 

 

Monday Motivation: Identify Your Dream…How?

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By: Sydney B.

The Identify Your Dream Foundation is transforming tragedy into strategy as they aid our youth to overcome the loss of a parent.  It is the goal of the organization to empower children to continue dreaming, so that they will find the strength, hope, and power to heal!

“It’s needed! It’s a desperate need for kids to really express themselves in a healthy manner. Being able to process that grief as a kid is important,” says Deleah Samuel-Sharp, Executive Director of IDYD.

The foundation was founded by Deleah Samuel-Sharp, following the tragic loss of her brother, Dean who was violently killed, in 1996 in Pontiac, Michigan. At the time of his death, he was 22-years-old and a soon-to-be father. Deleah watched as her nephew grew up without having his father alive in his life, and developed the understanding that not only was there a void in her life, but in his as well as a fatherless child.

“We need to get to them. Statistics show that an early exposure to violence will create this cycle where the same people that were exposed to violence at an early age may soon become offenders as well.”

Identify Your Dream grants children, who have suffered a loss of their parents to violence, the opportunity to find their healthy outlet. The mentors of this organization work together with the children and their families of these children to ensure them that there are other kids who too have lost their parents as well.

The foundation offers in-home programs such as grief support, mentoring, community initiatives, and peace rallies. Their most widely known event is the Stomp Out Violence March held in Pontiac, MI. The march gives the opportunity for everyone within the community to stand together and march again all acts of violence tearing down their communities.

Looking into the future, the foundation is currently working on opening their very first building, which will serve as a hub for where most of their operations will take place. Foundation representatives are determined to ensure that Identify Your Dream becomes and serves as a beacon of hope for children, while steadily helping to increase mental health awareness.

For more information about Identify Your Dream, click here to visit their website.

As always… Be Honest. Be Humble. Be YOU!

Monday Motivation: Virtue – Girl With A Purpose

virtuelogoVirtue- Girl With A Purpose is changing Princesses into Queens. This non-profit organization has its focus on youth mentoring as it is their mission to encourage young ladies to become leaders of their community by targeting refinement, self-respect, and unity.

The organization makes it their business to help young women within the Metro Detroit area to make decisions to become great community and business leaders.

“We encourage our girls that anything is achievable despite what the media says as long as they are dedicated to fulfilling the goal,” says Lauren Gillon, Founder of Virtue- Girl with a Purpose.

laurenLauren Gillon, senior at Ferris State University, created this organization with the hopes of changing the lives of many young women. The Detroit native is currently studying to become a Medical Director with hopes of changing and creating health care policies. With Lauren’s burning passion for making a difference, the organization values success, etiquette, leadership, and sisterhood.

The organization is known for facilitating events such as community health workshops, conferences, sisterly group outings, soup kitchen and food bank outings, and their well-attended Virtue Summer Camp.

The group’s mentors consist of hand-selected women from some of the top universities and colleges throughout Michigan. All mentee’s are young women ranging between the ages of 10 and 14 years-old.

Within the next five, the organization plans to expand their efforts throughout other cities within Michigan promising to guide, mentor, and further society’s newest young Queen’s.

To become a mentor, all interested applicants will just need to submit an application and undergo an interview. For all interested mentee’s, all applicants must range between the ages of 10 and 14 years-old, be Metro Detroit Residents, and submit an application.

For more information about Virtue-Girls With A Purpose, click here to visit their website.

As always… Be Honest. Be Humble. Be YOU!

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Women of Color Wednesday: Brittany Wright

When I hear the name Brittany Wright, three words instantly come to mind: driven, goal-oriented, motivated, confident, fearless, and bold.ae8923_1505148ae0aa4a0c9d8db23ac62a27c9

Okay, that was way more than three words, but three words just aren’t enough to describe all the Black Girl Magic this girl possesses.

Wright, a native of “the dirty mitten” was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan. Upon graduating from the Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy in 2011, she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Columbia College Chicago in the Spring of 2015. She is currently one semester away from completing her Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communication with a prospected graduation date of December 16, 2016. She won’t stop there. A Ph.D. in African American Studies is on deck!

Not only is Wright an educated Black woman, but she is also multitalented. “I am so many things, and the majority of which I am not paid for monetarily,” she said. Professionally, Wright is a Media Associate at an international public relations agency where she currently services the clients Walmart and Tylenol. Additionally, Wright is a storyteller, aspiring freelance writer, aspiring blogger, and public speaker.

What’s even more impressive is Wright’s ability to be there for others. “I am a shoulder to cry on, someone who gives strategic advice, a voice for the voiceless and above all, my sister’s keeper.”

When asked what her life mission is, Wright said that it is simply to help others “whether that be to help people actualize their full potential, help people take their brands to the next level, or at work where I help our clients strategically reach their target. Another extension of this could be, by publicly living my truth in hopes that another brown girl, from my hometown perhaps, can see that there is more for her, that she, too, can achieve and reach her level of greatness. Or with my latest project, Bbad Bits: The Podcast Series, where I help elevate Black voices and conjure up possible solutions for Black issues. See the essence of it is still the same, it’s all about helping people. I’ve just found many ways to extend/work on that mission.”

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Yes, yes, YES! Selfless, noble, self-effacing. What every human being should be. I’m here for it.

Wright encourages other women of color to not be selfish with their talents. “There is another brown girl somewhere looking at you as the charter of territory in which they only dreamed of uncovering. Find a way to share your story and your talents, your battles and what eventually allowed for you to prevail.”

Exactly. All of us should be able to see ourselves. Visual identity and representation matters. People need to see themselves in all walks of life, not just their stereotypes. Wright is getting into a space that we hardly see: Black women succeeding in corporate America. It’s women like Brittany Wright that people need to be looking up to. Because of them, we can. I see you, Brittany. Because of you, I can!

She continued, “So often in the Black community there are those who find comfort and eliteness in being exclusive or having some knowledge that is exclusive. Now forgive me for being pro-Black, but they walk through life as if their ancestors passed down a book on how to utilize white privilege to its greatest potential. How to run businesses, how to get the most out of college and so on and so forth. There are a few of us who are passing down this information for free to those who are willing to listen, but there needs to be more of us doing that. We can’t reach a level of success and close the door behind us, but instead look back and reach out.”

Truth! That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Ava DuVernay: “If your dreams don’t include others, they’re not big enough. Include others in your dreams.” Why dream alone when you can dream with your community, with people who have similar aspirations, even with the world? Including others not only makes your dreams stronger, but it also makes them limitless.

11064273_10152709038286851_5864064407383275242_nWright also encourages other women of color to “just do!” She is a strong advocate of a small world that has so much power and meaning. “A lot of Black women and people in general count themselves out before even allowing the ‘approver’ to count them out. So what if you fail, so what if people aren’t rocking with it, so what! You will have to hit so many nos until you get to the yeses that will really turn the game around for you. Be proactive, make a plan and be meticulous by not wavering from that plan. Don’t let someone or something stop you from meeting your end goal. There are a many of people who don’t want to see you make it, but instead of taking that energy and turning it into how to prove them wrong, work on proving yourself right, because in that instance you’re all that matters!”

Preach it, sista. Count on your fingers how many times you’ve been told no, denied, try again next time, you almost had it, you’re not good enough… What number did you come up with? Now look where you are and how those nos has shaped you today. Being told no makes you better, makes you stronger. If everything came easy, you wouldn’t appreciate the process. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, the paths you’ve walked and the steps you’ve taken to reach your objective. Personally, I’d rather be strengthened by a struggle than unchanged by an easy breeze.

When asked what her greatest accomplishment is, she explained – like myself and many other people I know – that she struggled with this question quite a bit. “I even had to reach out to some of my girlfriends like, I’m stuck right now. Part of that is because I’m never content with what I have/am doing now, so I’m constantly looking towards what’s next, leaving no time to focus on the ‘successes’ and ‘accomplishments.’”

Raise your hand up high if you’re the type of person that’s never satisfied, always hungry for more, and always aiming to achieve greater! I know I’m never satisfied; I’m always aiming to do more and be more instead of appreciating what I have accomplished and been successful at. That mindset just comes from the fact that when you know that you were cut from a different cloth, you feel like you have to live up to those expectations of being unique and being the best.

She continued, “After some thought (help) though, I would have to say moving to Chicago, for multiple reasons. Before actually moving, everyone was petrified, but me, because only I could see the vision I had for myself. Prior to moving I had a laundry list of things that I wanted to accomplish here in Chicago and to my surprise, three years later I’ve blown past that list and have done things that my 19-year-old self would not have believed.FullSizeRender Also, prior to coming to Chicago is when I gave birth to bbadpr, which has served as a platform for me to inspire and create change. Bbadpr has opened me up to give workshops, speaking engagements, blogs, podcasts, freelance writing, career consulting, and more. I think for me, the biggest accomplishment was being unafraid and fearlessly conquering what I knew was meant for me.”

I can relate to this in so many ways. Sometimes you have to do what’s best for you even if no one else agrees. You have to take control of your life, execute your plan, and seek to make the visions you have for yourself a reality even if no one else can see or believe them.

Through the good days, and the bad, Wright encourages herself to, “Dream into the unknown. Pray. Spend a lot of time alone, and in your thoughts. Understand who you are, what your purpose is and where you want to go. Help people, let people help you, and always remember to help yourself.”

If you’re feeling inspired and want to continue following her journey, check out Brittany Wright’s website, blog, and podcast!

Thank you, Brittany, for all that you do and all that you are. You embody everything that a Black woman should be. I’ve been looking up to you for years now. Thank you for continuing to be an inspiration for Black women like me that want to make a change and motivate others to chase their dreams. Your brilliance, wisdom, and vision for yourself is going to take you so far. I can’t wait to see all of the astounding goals that you will continue to accomplish, and never stop being the voice and the representation that women of color need.

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#FilmMajorFriday: The Merze Tate Explorers Club Is Empowering Girls Through Writing, Photography, and Videography

Last week, I had the opportunity to be the personal videographer and videographer instructor for the Merze Tate Travel Writers Club‘s 2016 Tate-Stone Travel Writers Academy.  IMG_0041The Academy is a program for 4th-12th graders, and is a 6-day residential academy on Kalamazoo College’s campus. The program provides travel opportunities and interaction with women where they work while serving as reporters to capture the adventures through writing, photography, and videography for the annual Girls Can! Magazine. The program was created by Sonya Bernard-Hollins.

I must say, it was one the greatest and most rewarding experiences that I’ve had to date. It was an amazing feeling being around so many girls that were as passionate about traveling and media just as much as I am, and girls who really wanted to advance their skills in writing, photography, and my personal favorite, videography.

IMG_0003Throughout the week, I filmed the events that took place throughout the week. We went to the Whirlpool headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan where the girls had the opportunity to meet and interview the CEO. We participated in Youth Day at Bible Baptist Church as part of the Black Arts and Cultural Center’s 2016 Black Arts Festival.  Later in the week, we traveled to Detroit, Michigan and went to the Motown Museum and ate dinner on the Detroit Princess River Boat. We ended the week by traveling to Niagara Falls, Canada where we were able to take a tour and ride the boat through the Falls!

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My favorite part about the Academy was just simply being a positive influence and that person the girls could look up to not just as a videographer, but a mentor as well.IMG_0110 Representation matters, and when you see someone who looks like you, doing what you want to do, and desire to be like, it gives you all the more reason to chase your dreams. If she can do it, so can I.

I feel so blessed to have been a part of this fantastic week with girls who are inspired and passionate about traveling, writing, and media. I wish I was a part of a program like this growing up. I think that it’s incredible that these girls are gaining these experiences at such a young age. We need more programs like this that give children the opportunity to learn, explore, and see the world. There’s so much out there and if more children were given opportunities like this, I know that it would give them more hope and motivation to work hard, achieve their greatest aspirations, and reach heights higher than they could ever imagine.

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Small Town Summers In Kalamazoo, MI: Fourth Coast Café

I actually discovered this hidden, 24-hour café known as Fourth Coast Café a few weeks IMG_0261ago when I had a meeting here about a job opportunity.

I’ve been going back pretty much every other day since! The café is literally an embodiment of Kalamazoo culture, and I love it.

The excellent choices of coffee shop music, the picturesque feel of the café, and the hipster-type crowd of people that fill the small space makes it a comfortable, homey chill spot. Whether you want to do homework, catch up with friends, or grab a coffee, Fourth Coast Café is the place to go.

And my favorite part – as I mentioned before – is that it’s open 24 hours!

IMG_0241The café has been serving Kalamazoo residents for the past 20 years. They have a diverse selection of coffees, lattes, teas, artisan breads, vegan and organic desserts, and a full selection of baked goods. My personal favorites are the chai tea latte and their blueberry muffins!

Fourth Coast Café is located at 816 S Westnedge Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008. Check it out sometime!

NO GMOs

Mark your calendar, folks! The very talented Alfield Reeves and Keyon Lovett will be having their first art exhibition collaboration at the Black Arts and Cultural Center as a part of Art Hop in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The project is entitled, “NO GMOs.”IMG_4707

“We live in a society that is losing its authenticity, so much that we have to add to ourselves instead of being who we are at the core and who God created us to be. NO GMOs is aimed to highlight that authenticity in its rarest form.”

Reeves, with his gift of photography, will be highlighting his #MelaninatedNaturals series, which focuses on encapsulating chocolate ladies of all shades and their natural hair.FullSizeRender

“My project is entitled #MelaninatedNaturals. It entails individual and group portraits of black women highlighting all their eclectic shades of skin, natural hair styles, and an array fashion senses,” Reeves explained.

Keyon, with his gift of illustration, will be highlighting his #BlackCinema Series, which takes viewers down memory lane by revisiting movies that would be considered staples in the African American community, adding a twist that you — the viewer — will have to point out.

“I just thought it would be cool to recreate some of the iconic scenes from the films. Then I started to make connections to us as black people,” Lovett said.

Authenticity is the core of the two projects. NO GMOs means nothing artificial. The artwork that Reeves and Lovett created identifies the realness of black essence and black culture.

When asked what his favorite part of the project was, Alfield said, “I’ve always been someone that loves the process and seeing the transformation of things. So in saying that, my favorite part is the process of getting the ladies together for each photo session, their interactions with each-other, the positive vibes, and of course going through the portraits sorting and editing, and seeing the transformation while being amazed at the final result.”

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Reeves continued, “I wouldn’t say I have a least favorite part, but probably the most difficult part will be selecting the ones that will be in the exhibit while trying not people please, but instead choosing the ones that are the most excellent and fully portray my idea.”

Similar to Reeves, Lovett explained that his favorite part is always creating, and that his least favorite part “will probably be selecting which pieces make the cut.”

Though the creative process is the most fascinating and exciting part about this collaboration, it can get a bit difficult at times. Reeves mentioned that there was an influxFullSizeRender 4.jpg of ladies interested when he put the project idea out there, so having to plan each group session and making time to select and edit the pictures was a bit tedious.

Similarly, Lovett added, “The process has been exciting. Al and I have had the ability to live with each other and with that we’ve been able to understand how we think creatively. His organization meets my spontaneity.”

For additional information about the event such as dates, times, and social media followings, check out the Eventbrite link!

Oh, and it’s FREE! So if you love art and want to support this amazing collaborative project, be sure to check out the exhibit September 9th!

 

Women of Color Wednesday: BreAna Allen

I met BreAna Allen my freshmen year of high school at the Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy. Ever since I can remember, she’s always had this professional aura about herself. I thought she was a teacher when I first saw her, but she was actually a junior in high school!

Born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan, Saginaw Valley State University senior BreAna Allen is the ultimate role model and a true inspiration. Majoring in Business Management, she is the CEO and founder of Beaute Inc., a growing corporation that specializes in retail, health and beauty, food eateries, and special events. She is also the author of the book, Let Me Show You, and is a business life coach.

Talk about a jack of all trades!

Allen aims to encourage both women and men to exceed all goals, at all ages, with high faith and clarity. Her life mission: “To further God’s kingdom with the witty ideas and inventions I’ve been endowed with.”

She is everything that Black Girl Magic embodies. Allen strives to teach individuals how to reach their highest moments of achievement in life. Allen says, “When God created your skin tone, your purpose, your value, He knew you would be unstoppable. Embrace the quality He has placed on your life and dominate! You were made to win in every single area of your life, no matter how you look. Winning has no favoritism, only willing mindsets.”

Allen’s ultimate accomplishment is when she hosted her first fashion show at SVSU, which had 750 attendees! “I was a brand new transfer student with a LOT of success on my mind. 750 attendees came and watched my ladies strut their stuff on the runway. To date, it was the largest fashion show in Michigan,” Allen says.

That’s absolutely incredible.

Becoming the shining star that Allen is today was not an easy journey. For a long time, she was insecure about her physical appearance and struggled with bulimia nervosa. However, her self-esteem issues is what motivated her to create her first T-Shirt line in December of 2008 called Beaute Marc to inspire women to discover their beauty and worth.

Looking at BreAna Allen, I would have never guessed that she struggled with self-acceptance. However, her diligence and her faith allowed her to overcome these obstacles. There really is “beaute” in the struggle, and Allen is a living testimony of that statement.

What I love most about Allen is her spirituality and her faith in God, and how she runs her business on faith. She stands firm with 1 Peter 4:10. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faith stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

She does exactly that, and more. With her confidence and her drive, I doubtlessly believe that Allen will be a millionaire by the age of 25!

BreAna, I have been following your accomplishments and watching you grow for years now, and I just want you to know that you inspire me more than I could ever describe! Thank you for showing me and everybody around you that with confidence, faith, and ambition, you can reach the highest of heights.

To add, Bre’s Hair Extensions, LLC will be opening its first location in Fashion Square Mall in Saginaw, Michigan – located at 4787 Fashion Square Mall, Saginaw, MI 48604 – on August 20, 2016! Be sure to like the Bre’s Hair Extensions Facebook page, and check out BreAna Allen’s website!

Keep climbing and keep shining, BreAna! You’re amazing, and inspire me and those around you more than you know.

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Small Town Summers in Kalamazoo, MI: Big Moe’s

If you’re ever in Southwest Michigan and craving insanely good barbecue, Big Moe’s BBQ Sauce and Catering is THE spot to satisfy your palate.

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I came across Big Moe’s late last week when I was looking for somewhere new to eat. After eating their food for the first time, I’m so happy that I didn’t settle for pizza!

Big Moe’s is owned by Pritchett Moe, who is also an alumni and former football player of Western Michigan University (Go Broncos!). He majored in Community Education with a minor in Physical Education.

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Pritchett Moe’s down home BBQ sauce is a famous family recipe that was created generations ago in good ol’ Southern Alabama.

Moe says, “I have been pretty successful in my business ventures. I have taken all that I have learned in school and through family and friends and created two steadily growing businesses. I have perfected my grandmother’s sauce and gotten it into all area Sam’s Clubs and Walmart stores. We are very excited to be a local vendor here!”

It’s no question why Big Moe’s famous BBQ sauce has won over 200 awards. It’s so good that I could literally drink it through a straw, and I’m not even over exaggerating.

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Big Moe’s is known for more than their sauce. Their menu is extremely diverse. From ribs, chicken, wraps, hot dogs, and even desserts, Big Moe’s has it all!

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Pritchett Moe is a leader both in and outside of the kitchen. His advice to students: “Toe the line, make good decisions, finish school, and get your work done. It is the most important job you will ever have, and will strengthen your future.”

Unfortunately, the food was SO good and I was SO hungry that I forgot to take a picture of it before I ate it all! Oh well, looks like you’ll just have to see for yourself!

Big Moe’s is located at 1317 Waverly Dr. Kalamazoo, MI 49048. You can also check out their website.

Small Town Summers in Kalamazoo, MI: Caffe Casa

Caffe Casa is a quaint, little café in downtown Kalamazoo that offers an array of gourmet espresso drinks, teas, fresh baked pastries, cookies and bagels. Or if you’re craving something savory, they also have a great selection of hearty homemade soups, sandwiches and wraps, vegetarian offerings, and custom salads with a selection of homegrown seasonal organic greens.

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Sounds delicious, right?!

The café is owned by John and Kathy Beebe, and it’s been in business since 1992. John is known for working the espresso machine and having an impressive collection of plants. Kathy is very talented in the kitchen, and is famous for her delectable baked goods.

This café is one of Kalamazoo’s many gems that I discovered this past weekend, and it’s definitely one of my new favorite places to grab a cup of chai tea, or to just sit and read on a quiet summer afternoon. I love the aesthetic and the rustic vibes of the café from the plants, to the artwork that decorates the walls that are made by local artists.

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Caffe Casa is located at 128 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo MI 49007. Their hours are Mon.-Fri. 7am-6pm and Sat. 8am-6pm.

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#FilmMajorFriday: Why Ava DuVernay is My Greatest Inspiration

Ava DuVernay is everything that Black Girl Magic encompasses. Being a film major, she is my greatest inspiration and really motivates me to pursue a career in film and be on the frontier for bringing more diversity into Hollywood.

DuVernay is a director, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor of independent film. She’s most famous for directing Selma (2014), a chronicle of Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2015.

Based in Los Angeles, she is the founder of ARRAY, a community-based distribution collective dedicated to the amplification of films by people of color and women filmmakers. She is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and is on the board of Film Independent and the Sundance Institute.

What I appreciate most about DuVernay is that she strives to make change for women and people of color in an industry that is dominated by white men. She advocates for the distribution of more films by women and minorities, which is both comforting and inspiring since I’m both a woman and a minority. Not only does ARRAY focus on women and Black filmmakers, but also Latino, Asian, Native American, and Middle Eastern filmmakers and directors.

To me, one of her most notable acts of duty is when she and Ryan Coogler (Director of Fruitvale Station, Creed, and the upcoming Black Panther movie that comes out in 2018!!!), and several others supported a free Oscar-night event in Flint, Michigan to raise money for the Flint Water Crisis while boycotting the Oscars for its lack of diversity in the Academy. The #JUSTICEFORFLINT benefit gave a voice to members of the community who were victims of the choices that people in power made, choices that failed to protect the citizens of Flint. The event raised a total of $100,000.

She has taught me that if my dreams are only for myself, then they’re not big enough, and to include others in my dreams. She has taught me to pay attention to my intention not just in filmmaking, but in all areas of my life. Be grateful, appreciate others, and put others first. Take action in my craft, and that the only thing that matters is my work.

Most importantly, it is imperative that we continue to create spaces like ARRAY that advocate for the distribution of more films by women and minorities. Why? Because all of us should be able to see ourselves. Visual identity and representation matters. It’s important that we allow others to see themselves in all walks of life, beyond the stereotypes that we are subjected to.

Thank you, DuVernay, for all that you do. You are changing lives and inspiring young filmmakers like me more than you are credited for. Keep on climbing, and keep on shining!