Artist Date Recap: Black Suburbia at the Schomburg

Artist Date Recap: Black Suburbia at the Schomburg
A quote from the "Black Suburbia: From Levitttown to Ferguson" exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Black Culture.  A black man was denied the opportunity to purchase a home in Long Island, New York.

A quote from the “Black Suburbia: From Levitttown to Ferguson” exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Black Culture. A black man was denied the opportunity to purchase a home in Long Island, New York.


For this past week’s Artist Date, I took myself to the “Black Suburbia: From Levittown to Ferguson” exhibition at one of my favorite cultural institutions, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. I’m at the Schomburg at least twice a month because they have great programming (I’ve attended discussions there that involved everyone from George Clinton to Chimamanda Adichie to Ruby Dee), fascinating exhibitions and a glorious, world renowned archive of books, letters and other materials related to the African diaspora.

This particular exhibit highlighted the quantitative and qualitative experiences of black suburban life. There were videos, books, charts and pictures to peruse. As a former urban planner, I was interested to see how this exhibition would be put together and I am probably a harsh critic of such efforts given my background.  One part that I feel could have been much better was the presentation of demographic data. For most people, maps and statistics are not the sexiest things in the world. Knowing that, great care should be given when presenting such information so that it is visually engaging without losing the value of the data. There were a few boring maps and data sets on display that looked like they belonged in a dissertation.

Nonetheless, the exhibition was informative and there were other more engaging bits of the exhibition such as the old footage of white residents being asked about their thoughts on their new black neighbors. I also appreciated that the curators included other cultural aspects of integrated and segregated life such as music. There was a nice multi-media display about Compton and the rap group NWA.

All in all, it was a good Artist Date and I’m glad I went. If you’re ever in Harlem, you should visit the Schomburg!

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Posted by on January 4, 2016 in Creativity, Writerly Things


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For the Love of Writing

For the Love of Writing
I started coloring this page from "Coloring on the Go: Floral Designs for Fun and Relaxation."

I started coloring this page from “Coloring on the Go: Floral Designs for Fun and Relaxation.”

I’m a writer, but sometimes I find it very hard to get out a single solitary word on a page. It’s frustrating and downright painful, especially when there’s a deadline looming. In those moments when I can’t seem get my brain whirling at a good enough pace to spit out letters at the damn blinking cursor, I know I have to take other measures.

Traditional “brainstorming” doesn’t work for me and meditation doesn’t work for me (not for an immediate-ish cure writer’s block anyway). I need physical action. Something about actually DOING something helps get my brain going again. Here are a few of my tried and true go-to activities for getting my pen moving:

1. Scrubbing Grout
Sexy, right? I think it’s the repetitive motion that makes my mind open up and hum on the right frequency to pick up some good creative energy. If you hit me up and I tell you I have writer’s block, you should invite me to your crib and hand me a grout brush. I’ll have your kitchen and bathroom sparkling. Mmmhmmm. Yup.

2. Walking
This is by far my favorite. Meandering around the neighborhood or a park is the perfect anecdote to a brain that has been too focused on trying to get “it” on paper/screen. The air, the sun, the people-watching, taking in the sights, the act of putting one foot in front of the other. It helps get different parts of my mind going and makes me more likely to have that “aha” moment.

3. Twisting My Hair
I love my hair. I do, I do. It’s big and a labor of love. Twisting it or putting it in bantu knots (which means detangling and moisturizing beforehand) is a nice feeling. Self-care. Creating future cuteness. Like the grout thing, the repetitive motions are soothing.

4. Coloring
This is a new one for me. I bought Coloring on the Go: Floral Designs for Fun and Relaxation and so far, so good. I like making pretty stuff and keeping my hands busy. Usually I listen to some music while I color too.

Those are my current ways to dissolve writer’s block. What do you do to get your creative juices pumping when you’re in a slump?

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Posted by on December 14, 2015 in Creativity


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I Miss You

I Miss You

So many things have happened in the months since my last post on here. I won’t even attempt to summarize all of that. Just letting you know that I’m coming back, y’all. I haven’t nailed down exactly how I will use this space, but I miss it and I want to utilize my own dang ol’ platform again. Sometimes I have stuff to say that I can’t or won’t get published in the publications on my client roster. So, I’m gonna come back all shiny and new soon. My to-do list for this week includes figuring out exactly what I want to do with this space and creating a feasible editorial calendar.

Stay tuned…


Posted by on November 10, 2015 in Creativity, Writerly Things


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I Write Because…

I Write Because…
Phillip Lopate and Kiese Laymon at Columbia University.

Phillip Lopate and Kiese Laymon at Columbia University.

The other night, I attended an event at Columbia University called “Phillip Lopate and Kiese Laymon In Conversation: Notes of a Native Son.” It was part of the “Year of James Baldwin” series. It was an evening full of interesting (and opposing) viewpoints, passionate audience response and lots of questions to ponder. There was so much there to unpack about white male privilege, especially as it pertains to academia, but that’s for a whole other post/essay/rumination. Like, for real. Lopate reminded me of my asshat poetry professor in undergrad. So. Much. Asshattery. No chill. No respect.


But, one question that lingered with me as a result of the evening is “Why do you write?” For me there are a few answers to that question, but the first and foremost is self care. I write because I have to write. I have to do this. If I were a dog catcher or an accountant or a graphic designer or any profession that wouldn’t necessitate daily, error-free writing, I would still write everyday. It’s my way of staying sane. There are words in my brain that MUST make it onto a page or screen, even if I am the only audience. My Morning Pages (Hey there, Artist’s Way!) are lifesavers and I don’t know what I would do without my trusty Moleskine for everyday meanderings about this here New York life.

I have to understand my voice before I share it. I share my voice with journalistic endeavors all the time. I have numerous bylines in several publications about pop-culture, art, politics and the like. My fiction is where I am a bit more gun shy on the submit button. But you know what? Fiction by Demetria soon come. Be on the lookout, homie.

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Posted by on April 24, 2015 in Uncategorized



Artist Date: The Andrew Freedman Home


Gosh, it’s been ages. I’m still doing Artist Dates though and I’ve decided to share my weekly creative adventures here. I’ll be sharing other stuff too. So, for last week’s Artist Date, I was really getting two things done at once. A friend decided to read at another friend’s event and it was the first friend’s very first time reading in public. She did a phenomenal job and I’m so looking forward to her debut novel hitting the shelves. So, one part of that was supporting two friends. The other part was (duh) getting in my Artist Date.

The venue, the Andrew Freedman Home was a place I had never been to and in fact I had never heard of this particular Bronx destination. Intrigued by this, I Googled it beforehand to get a sense of the space and be able to spot it once I emerged from the subway.

Turns out, the Andrew Freedman Home is pretty fascinating. It’s a humungous, ornate, limestone building that takes up an entire city block. Andrew Freedman was this really rich guy who was one of the first investors in the New York City subway.  He also owned New York Giants at one time.

When he was a child, his parents lost nearly everything through a series of bad financial decisions and the story goes that young Andrew vowed to never allow rich people suffer the indignity of being poor. As such, when he died in 1915, his will left his considerable fortune for the establishment of the Andrew Freedman Home. The ornate, stately palace was built specifically as a retirement home for former millionaires who had fallen on hard times and had no more money.

Residents of the home did not pay a dime for food or housing, but they lived like the kings and queens they once were. A delightful 1924 article  published in the Evening Tribune soon after the home opened, describes the immaculate space in great detail.

Inside, the building is equipped with every comfort which a modern millionaire would put in his own house. Telephones, radio, phonograph, soft-voiced servants, tiled private baths, billiard rooms, card rooms, a library, and a living room so luxurious that even a modern millionaire could find no lack in it.

When it opened in the 1920s, it was pretty much right on time for the soon-to-be poor millionaires who lost their fortunes during the Great Depression. But just like its residents, the home ran out of money in the 1960s and could no longer operate as it had. It re-opened in the 80s as a “regular” retirement home for any person who could pay the fee to stay there. The space was reinvented again in the 21st century, operating as an event space and daycare, which it remains today. It also offers 10 guest bedrooms that are attended to by locals who are being trained in hospitality and culinary arts.

I find it most interesting that this wealthy man’s dying wish was to use his fortune to help other (formerly) wealthy people. I think most everyone is deserving of help, but to use one’s immense resources to help other people with long money? Hmmmmm. Seems a tad insensitive and by “a tad” I mean very. Especially considering that in Freedman’s lifetime, New York was an extreme example of the haves and have-nots. The New York City Zoning Resolution did not come to pass until 1916 (a year after Freedman’s death), which means that there were deplorable living conditions for poor people that included a lack of basic amenities like light, air and disease-free water. With all of that going on, he chose to leave his money to people who he felt would feel poverty more harshly than those who had lived a lifetime of it. How noble. Not.

But all is well. The Andrew Freedman Home today does indeed tend to a multitude of demographics and specifically the poor and disenfranchised of the South Bronx. So there, Mr. Freedman. I shall visit there again soon.

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Posted by on March 24, 2015 in Creativity, Writerly Things


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Artist’s Way 3: Week 8

Artist’s Way 3: Week 8


The chapter for Week 8 is titled “Recovering a Sense of Strength.”  Julia Cameron stays whispering to my soul. She really has a gift when it comes to breaking down the creative process and talking in practical terms about the barriers that sometimes arise.

Check out this excerpt where Cameron is talking about the important of “filling the form.” She’s talking about the importance of taking those small steps towards the big goal instead of trying to do everything at once.

As a rule of thumb, it is best to just admit that there is always one action you can take for your creativity daily.

Mmmmhmmmm. Yop. Say that! No excuses. I was just talking to a writer friend about finding the time to work on personal writing projects. We all love to put in big talk about screenplays, novels, anthologies and the like, but none of that gets done unless we create a plan and start making those incremental steps towards the larger idea.

What have you done today towards your creative goals?

For the week’s Artist Date, I hit up the Blacknuss sidewalk shop in Harlem that was put on by author Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts. She had vintage, rare and hard-to-find books as well as albums, magazines, bean pies and all types of goodies that celebrate the African diaspora. Eventually, she’ll be taking Blacknuss into a brick and mortar shop and I’m all for it.

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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Creativity


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