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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Books I Recently Read…

Books I Recently Read…


As many of you know, I’m a voracious reader. If you see me in these streets carrying a medium-sized bag or bigger, rest assured there’s a book in there. Reading is a big part of my life, so I figure that once in a while I’ll post on my blog about the books I’ve read. Cool? Cool. So below are some of the books I read over the past few months.

The Roving Tree by Elsie Augustave
This is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. This debut novel from Elsie Augustave is beautiful and full of delicious sentences. Set in Haiti, the US and Zaire, the rich storyline is engaging and believable. Augustave really hits her stride when she describes different religious and spiritual encounters. The main character Iris is aHaitian woman who was adopted into a white family at a young age. The story follows her journey of self-discovery. If you like Edwidge Danticat, you’ll probably like this too. I’m looking forward to Augustave’s future novels. Good stuff.

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
I don’t normally pick up crime thrillers (except maybe for vacation reading), but the good folks over at Klout sent me this and so of course I had to check it out. I liked it! The opening scene definitely pulls in the reader and I found myself wanting to stay up and read “just a few more pages” before bed. The story revolves around a man who works for a super secret government agency (think Scandal‘s B6-13) and a crazy case he’s on that takes him all over the world.There are some nice twists and turns in there. Hayes doesn’t insult the reader with Scooby Doo-like storylines and he also doesn’t make the story overly complicated. He also does a great job with fleshing out the characters and making them real people instead of just villains and heroes.

Misconceptions by Blu Daniels
This is one of those fun books that you read when you’re on the brink of burn out at work or when you’re on the beach sipping on rum punch. It’s an over-the-top story that’s meant to make you laugh. The main character Alexandria is a fashionable, career driven New Yorker who winds up pregnant with quadruplets living like a virtual prisoner in Atlanta with her emotionally unavailable ex-boyfriend/father of her unborn children. That might not necessarily sound like a bucket of laughs, but the way Daniels writes it, there’s plenty of comic relief.

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
I so loved Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, so I was very much looking forward to digging into this book. Like, Let the Great World Spin, TransAtlantic follows a diverse set of characters in seemingly separate tales, but the storylines all manage to entangle one way or another. McCann is nice with words. A few descriptive phrases in this book made me go back and re-read them just to enjoy them again. The selection of characters in this book include Frederick Douglass (yep, the one and only), early 20th century airplane pilots,  midwestern ice farmers, a pioneering woman journalist and a modern day politician. All of their stories have significant ties to Ireland. McCann is his usual brilliant self with most of the characters except for Douglass. His Frederick Douglass falls flat for me, which is strange because McCann has written very believable characters of various demographics that differ from his own. (He’s a white dude, by the way). His Douglass needs more soul, more believable layers.

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad by Adam Gnade
A friend posted about this book on Instagram and I was intrigued by the title. Said friend then posted a couple excerpts from the book and I knew I had to buy it. This tiny little booklet is 59 pages of awesomeness. As the title suggests, it’s a self-help book that isn’t of the Chicken Soup for the Soul variety. Gnade gives super practical and simple advice for getting through the tough times in life that all of us endure. He drops little gems like “Everyone good is necessary” and “No mercy for the dreamkillers.” I highly recommend this book(let) to everyone.

What have you read recently?

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Posted by on October 5, 2014 in Reading


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Artist’s Way 3: Week 7

Artist’s Way 3: Week 7
From my awesome "new" book about art in the Louvre.

From my awesome “new” book about art in the Louvre.

Week 7 is called “Recovering a  Sense of Connection.” It’s basically about feeling connected  to your creativity. There’s lots of good stuff in there about not falling victim to “perfectionism” (aka surefire ways to never finish a project), turning professional jealousy into productivity and things of that nature.

The interesting thing for me about this week was that before I was even deep into the reading, I had already kind of re-established some things for myself, mostly dealing with my home and making it look more like me and making it more conducive to creative work. They were relatively small things, but things that made a difference for me. I finally framed and put up the pictures I’d been meaning to add to the bathroom walls. I got some new pretty flowers for the front room and I did a deep clean/purge of the whole apartment. Like I said, the little tweeks I made were minor, but they meant a lot in terms of having a cozy, comfortable, clutter-free space. That is the optimal space for me to flex my creative muscles.

I went on at least three Artist Dates this week, but the one I’ll share is about going to one of my favorite haunts, the Housing Works Thrift Shop. When you buy stuff there, the proceeds go towards helping homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. Pretty noble cause, eh? I have a number of home accessories and furniture pieces from them (including my lovely Queen Anne desk). I went there for my Artist Date and picked up a coffee table book from 1951 that is all about art in the Louvre. There’s background on the art and the institution itself as well as fabulous color pictures. Good stuff!


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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Creativity, Writerly Things


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Artist’s Way 3: Week 6

Artist’s Way 3: Week 6
Just me and a trail on Governor's Island for my Artist Date.

Just me and a trail on Governor’s Island for my Artist Date.

Like I neva left…

Week 6 of the Artist’s Way is called “Recovering a Sense of Abundance.” Maaaaaan. Le sigh. So, those of you who really follow my blog like that, know that it’s been mooooonths since I’ve updated my latest Artist’s Way progress. This weekend, I finally decided to really get back in it and get back to posting about it.

This morning, I made my morning meditation about abundance and then I went on Instagram and a friend had posted about abundance. Then when I got back on task with AW, the topic was abundance. Message much? Ha!

Julia Cameron spoke to me in this chapter when she said “Making art begins with making hay while the sun shines. It begins with getting into the now and enjoying your day. It begins with giving yourself some small treats and breaks. ‘This is extravagant but so is God” is a good attitude to take when treating your artist to small bribes and beauties.”

This past weekend, I bought myself a bouquet of flowers for my dining room table (as usual) and I spent Sunday afternoon on my Artist Date at Governor’s Island. They have a whole section full of hammocks for people to use. HAMMOCKS!! So friggin’ awesome. There’s also tons of historical stuff to explore, the beautiful views (Hello, Lower Manhattan) and there happened to be an art fair going on this weekend too. Good stuff!

Abundance indeed.

Good week.




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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Creativity, Writerly Things


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Grandma’s Wisdom

Grandma’s Wisdom

A note from Grandma about boys. Smart lady. Funny too.

A note from Grandma about boys. Smart lady. Funny too.


Today is Grandparents Day. Yeah, I know. I didn’t know that was a thing either. I was just put on to this a few days ago when I got an assignment to cover a Grandparents Day concert. (It was an amazing night, by the way, and I’ll post links to the piece once it’s up.)

But, once I became aware of this awesome day to recognize the grand parental units, I got a case of the sads. My beloved grandma passed away this past August. She was a hoot and I really miss her laugh. I now have no living biological grandparents. I do still have a step-grandfather though. Like my blood relatives, he’s also a great storyteller. I’m pretty sure my grandmother just snorted at that last sentence. 

Besides countless memories and fabulous taste, my grandmother also bestowed upon me a ton of handwritten letters and cards over the years. I have a nice little stack here. So, as an exercise in doing something productive and positive with grief and to show you how awesome Ms. Geraldine Gray was and as a bit of encouragement for you to go call/hug/write your grandparents– below I have compiled a few choice quotes from Grandma’s letters to me. Enjoy.


On Boys

Demetria, do not do the “nasty” while you are in Atlanta with that ole boy. Love, Grandma.

I was a student at the University of Michigan at the time and I had a long distance boyfriend at Morehouse. I was headed down to the ATL to spend my spring break with him and that was her advice to me.


On Marching to the Beat of My Own Drum

How does that drum beat sound that you march to? I know it’s not “uh one and uh tow and uh three, etc.” I think yours is “uh five and uh 13 and a 48, etc.” Right? (smile) Seriously though, I’m so in awe of you and very proud of how you live and seem to enjoy your life. Have fun!!

She had just found out that I was going on another international trip. What a way with words, right?


Subtle Shade

Thanks for the sweet Mother’s Day card. I wish you had come over, but I’ll see you soon. Love Ya, Grandma

My grandmother was really, REALLY good at throwing subtle (and not so subtle) shade.


On Postal Safety

I have $20 for you. Your mother advised me not to put it in a card anymore. So I have it whenever you come over. Ok?

Grandma was thee best at sending birthday cards. Unless your birthday fell on a Sunday, you could be assured that a card from her was in your mailbox on your birthday. She did this not just for her kids and grandkids, but other relatives and friends as well. She must have sent out cards just about everyday. Literally. Oh and she totally kept putting cash in cards too. I guess she just listened to my mother that one time.


She Knew She Was Loved

I am truly speechless. I want to be gracious about the wonderful gift you sent me and though I am very appreciative of it, the words on the card were really gifts as well. I was especially happy to learn that you have kept the letters and cards I’ve sent you over the years. Those words made my heart swell.

I had sent her a birthday gift with a card attached. She liked it. :)

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Posted by on September 7, 2014 in Love


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Create for Dr. Angelou

Create for Dr. Angelou

Maya Angelou maya (1)

I am not saddened by the death of the incomparable Dr. Maya Angelou. She lived a long and glorious life. Her passions led her to careers in singing, dancing, acting, writing and education. St. Louis, Cairo, Accra, New York, Winston-Salem and Stamps, Arkansas are all cities she called home at one time or another.

This is a woman who knew Malcolm X personally, who counted James Baldwin as a close friend, who reminded Tupac of how important he was, who spit a few words on a Common track, who chopped it up with Dave Chappelle in an epic interview and who was bestowed one of the country’s highest honors by the first black president of the United States of America.

This is not a person for whom tears are appropriate, unless you have tears of joy for experiencing the creativity with which she graced the world. Dr. Angelou left us with so much to love and ponder. There are approximately 1, 898, 347 brilliant quotes from Dr. Angelou floating around online and in books on a variety of subjects.  But at the core of her work, she often came back to themes of love, self-care and community support. She was a beacon of encouragement and inspiration to millions of people

Dr. Angelou will not and can not be replaced.

Thankfully, due to the welcoming and dazzling light of her spirit, she has touched numerous current and future world changers. I claim today as a day to celebrate the life and contributions of Dr. Maya Angelou and to utilize and hone my own skills and talents for the betterment of myself and the world I occupy.



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Posted by on May 28, 2014 in Love


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