Listening to the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald, who would have been 100 today. Her pure voice was so beautiful, and remains one of my all time favorites. Happy Centennial, Queen. 👑🎶 #ellafitzgerald#centennial#jazz
Our photos that were projected onto the windows of the International Center of Photography museum made it into the New York Times! Reporter Jane Levere did a wonderful piece on the growing trend of art institutions displaying art on the outside of their buildings... I'm quite honored to have had our work included amongst so many powerful images at global institutions.
The Angela Davis tribute in our series was shot by my dear friend, @kaystefanko of Kayleigh Stefanko Photography.
Lola Lorelle Jones is officially 6 years old! I am so fortunate and grateful to get to call this beautiful, intelligent, talented, thoughtful, empathetic and imaginative child my daughter. I can't wait to see what this sweet girl accomplishes. (For her 6 year portraits, we were all sick, so we didn't get any professional photos, but she did have some fun baking with a bit of an I Love Lucy twist. They came out super pixelated on IG, so I apologize for the quality.)
Billie Holiday, also called Lady Day, was one of the premier jazz vocalists of all time, with a career that spanned decades.
Eleanora Fagan was born in Philadelphia, in 1915. Eleanora had a very troubled childhood and young adulthood, suffering abuses and having multiple brushes with the law by the age of 14. While living in Harlem as a young teen, she began calling herself Billie Holiday, and began singing in nightclubs.
Billie had no musical training, and in fact never read sheet music. She had a limited range, but her phrasing and ability to improvise were unique, and while not technically perfect, her voice could captivate an audience, and she could emote with every phrase she sang. She quickly began making a name for herself, and at the age of 18, made her debut recording with Benny Goodman. She helped to revolutionize jazz music, and was soon working with greats like Count Basie, and Artie Shaw, which made her one of the first black women to work with and tour with a white orchestra. In 1939, she recorded "Strange Fruit," a haunting song about lynching in the South, and her popularity increased. Her song "God Bless the Child" sold over a million records at the time. She became a bona fide star, and often performed with her signature flowers, (often gardenias) in her hair.
Billie dealt with abusive relationships and drug and alcohol addiction, which deteriorated her health. In her later career, she was swindled out of much of her money, so when she died at the age of 44, from complications of cirrhosis of the liver, she had little to show for her illustrious career.
Billie's legacy lived on, however, and in 1972, Diana Ross paid tribute to her in the award winning film Lady Sings the Blues. She was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, holds a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and received 4 Grammys, and many other awards, posthumously. She is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; her recording of Strange Fruit was added to the Library of Congress; she was on a US Postage Stamp; amongst many other honors.
Lady Day's life was often tragic, but her legacy and works have inspired countless people, and will live on.
Another in honor of #WomensHistoryMonth
Cathay Williams was the first African-American woman to enlist in the Army, serving as a Buffalo Soldier by posing as a man, in order to support herself.
Cathay was born into slavery in the 1840's, in Missouri. She worked as a house slave on a plantation when, in 1861, the Civil War began, and Union troops occupied Jefferson City. Because slaves were considered contraband, captured slaves were often pressured into servitude supporting the military. And so it was, at the age of 17, that Cathay found herself forced into becoming a cook and laundress for the Army.
Cathay traveled with an infantry regiment through many states throughout the next several years. In 1866, with the Civil War over, the U.S. Government created the first all-black peacetime regiments in the Army, known as the "Buffalo Soldiers." Wanting financial independence, by means of the steady income that military service offered, Cathay disguised herself as a man, and enlisted as William Cathay. She was 5'9" and described as being black of hair, black of eyes, and black of skin, and because a physical exam was not required to enlist at that time, she was assigned to Company A of the 38th Infantry. Her cousin and a friend, who were in the same regiment, were the only ones who knew her secret.
Cathay came down with smallpox shortly after enlisting, and despite several hospitalizations, her secret was not revealed until nearly 2 years into her service, when she was discovered to be a woman by a surgeon, who informed her commanding officer. She was honorably discharged.
After her military service, Cathay married, but it ended when her husband stole money and horses from her, and she had him arrested. She worked as a cook before settling in Trinidad, Colorado, earning her living as a seamstress. She continued to have health problems, and petitioned to receive disability pension for her military service, but was denied. When she died, and her exact burial place are unknown.
In 2016, a bronze bust of Cathay with information about her, sitting in a small rose garden, was unveiled in Leavenworth, Kansas.
What a whirlwind week this was!
Yesterday started off on the road, with Dr. Mae Jemison tweeting her approval of our photos!
Then we made it back home, and got ready to attend An Evening with Misty Copeland- a reception and lecture at UW that we were honored to be invited to. We got to meet Misty and take a photo with her, then we listened to the lecture portion. Misty was well spoken, so humble, and brought out both tears and laughter in the audience. She is incredible. After the lecture, Lola and 2 other young ladies got to go onstage and present flowers to Misty. Lola brought her copy of Firebird, Misty's children's book, but she insisted we buy Misty's newest book, Ballerina Body, as well, and Misty signed both. It was a wonderful experience, and I can't thank the University of Washington enough for allowing us to be part of the evening! (Also, I wasn't aware that Lola's Misty photo was shared onstage, but I am so glad someone was able to get a photo, and it was shared with me!) These are memories Lola will cherish for years to come!
Visited the Madam Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis. It was beautiful and rich in history, with intricate wood carving with African tribal and Egyptian detailing along with the classic 1920's style. A tribute to her, we also visited the Heritage Center, with memorabilia from Madam CJ Walker's life and legacy. An awesome experience, to be sure!
We are currently in NYC, and this video is in front of the International Center of Photography on Bowery in Manhattan. The people at ICP have been so incredible to us, and for this week, Monday through Sunday, they are projecting our photos onto the windows of the museum, after hours, for the city to see. We got to go to their school, on 6th Ave, today for a family photo shoot and to meet some of the wonderful people associated with ICP. Tomorrow we will visit the museum, and have a toast/cupcake party with the curators and everyone there. NYC has been incredible. More photos of our adventure will come later!
Stay tuned... We are featuring a few more women this month, in honor of Women's History Month.
Bessie Stringfield was a pioneering motorcyclist.
Bessie, known as BB amongst friends, was born in Jamaica in 1911, and brought to Boston as a child. Orphaned at the age of 5, BB was raised by an Irish woman. When she was 16, she wanted a motorcycle, and even though, according to BB, "good girls didn't ride motorcycles," her guardian obliged, and she taught herself to ride her 1928 Indian Scout. She was a natural.
By 1930, BB began riding across the United States. She'd flip a penny onto a map and ride to wherever it landed, eventually covering the 48 contiguous states. She also began doing stunts and tricks in carnival shows. She was the first black woman ever to ride solo across the US, which she did 8 times, and she even rode across Europe, Haiti, and Brazil.
During WWII, Bessie served for 4 years as a civilian despatch rider. She was the only woman in her unit, and underwent rigorous training. On her own blue Harley-Davidson, she carried documents between domestic bases.
Throughout her life, BB encountered racism and sexism. While traveling, she'd often be denied accommodation because of her race, many times sleeping on her motorcycle overnight. She was once knocked off her bike by a white man in a pickup truck who ran her off the road. After settling in Miami in the 1950's, she was often pulled over and harassed by police who thought women of color had no business riding. She settled this with the police chief directly, proving her riding skills to him in a nearby park. She was also denied prizes she'd won in flat track races, because she was a woman.
While in Miami, Bessie became a License Practical Nurse, and also founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club. She continued to ride until her death in 1993, at the age of 82.
Bessie owned 27 Harleys in her life, and in 1990, the American Motorcycling Association paid tribute to her in their Heroes of Harley-Davidson exhibit. In 2000, they created an award for women motorcyclists in her name. In 2002, she was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. #womenshistorymonth#bessiestringfield
We were so incredibly honored to receive this package from Ms. A'Lelia Bundles, the great-great-granddaughter of Madam CJ Walker. We will treasure these always.
If anyone is interested in reading a biography about Madam CJ, this one was written by her great-great-granddaughter herself. And, honoring her legacy, there is now the Madam CJ Walker Beauty Culture line of hair products available exclusively at Sephora.
I want to share the girl behind the photos. Miss Lola Lorelle.
She's shy, sometimes serious, often goofy and funny, loves to perform. She loves to dance and loves music. She also loves to read, write, and loves everything science related. She now says she wants be an actress when she grows up, but sometimes she wants to be a scientist, or doctor, or acrobat. She is kind and nurturing, and her perception seems to be beyond her years. She is a good student, the sweetest big sister, and a joy to those who know her. I hope she grows to accomplish great things.
Thank you, @kaystefanko for these beautiful portraits.
Day 28. Scroll sideways to see photos.
Michelle Obama is a lawyer, writer, and was the first black First Lady of the United States.
Born in 1964, in Chicago, Michelle Robinson was always a good student. She was attended Chicago's first magnet high school, where she was on the honor roll every year, took AP classes, was in the National Honor Society, and served as student council treasurer.
Michelle went on to attend Princeton University, majoring in sociology and minoring in African American Studies, graduating summa cum laude with a B.A. She then received her Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. She would meet Barack Obama while mentoring him for at the law firm she was an associate at. They married, and eventually had 2 daughters, Malia and Sasha, as we all know.
Prior to Barack's presidency, Michelle worked as an assistant to the Mayor of Chicago; Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, where she set public fundraising records; Associate Dean of Human Services at the University of Chicago, also working for the University's Hospitals. She was also a board member for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Early on in her role as First Lady, Michelle volunteered at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. During their 8 years in the White House, she focused on such issues as poverty, healthy living and education.
Lessons I would like my daughters to learn from Michelle Obama are the importance of hard work and dedication in their education, and maintaining the importance of family in their lives.