Curlfest 2015

Who: Naturalistas

What: Curlfest

Where: Prospect Park

When: Saturday August 29, 2015

Why: Inspiration. Empowerment. Freedom. Beauty. And to show the world that Natural Girls Rock.

To be honest, I wasn’t nervous about going to Curlfest by myself. I knew I would be among pure positivity and maybe going alone would make me more approachable and give me the opportunity to meet new friends. I walked into Prospect Park and saw a girl, who was also alone. She had a head full of beautiful natural hair pulled back by her beats headphones. I tapped her shoulders and asked if she was also looking for Curlfest. Once she said yes, we decided from then on we would be buddies. As we were walking, two gorgeous Latina women with curly hair approached us. They were also looking for Curlfest, so we decided that we could all find it together. #Curlfriends

Curlfest was like a Natural Hair Utopia. There was a sea of beautiful natural women, some with long hair some with short hair, some with braids and some with dreads. Hair, Hair, and more Hair. The first thing we did after getting our goody bag, was shop. There was a bunch of vendors selling everything from vintage clothes to waist beads. There was also a lot of Afrocentric garb and jewelry vendors. Next thing on our list, was the hair vendors. Curlfest had everything from Carols Daughters to Shea Moisture giving out free product samples and hair demos.

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I felt so free. I attended a picnic panel on Protective styling moderated by the owner of Khamit Kinks Salon. I danced to all the latest hip hop songs (and partook in a Soul Train Line), I hula hooped and even got free dating advice specifically catered to natural haired women (which was totally a gimmick but I enjoyed it nonetheless).

I don’t want to get sentimental, but natural hair is such a beautiful thing. For years, I struggled with embracing my natural hair, and that insecurity follows me up until today. But each day that passes by, I love my hair and I love myself even more. Growing up, when you are told that your hair is not beautiful or not accepted it hurts and makes you feel denigrated. However, with events like Curlfest, you are joined by other beautiful, carefree women just like you and you have no choice but to be empowered and inspired. Natural Hair is here to stay and I am thankful for my journey and I am also thankful for the organizers of Curlfest. It’s their second year, but I know this is going to be a huge movement.

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Women In Travel Summit 2015 Part II

Manicures and photobooths!  I managed to arrive in heaven. Well, not really but this was all the pampering a girl needs to be happy. During the break I was torn between attending a bloggers revision workshop or a holistic scheduling break out session. I chose, How to get ish done and still have time to do yoga (The holistic scheduling session). I learned some pretty cool techniques, but most, I was already familiar with. When you have a 9-5 job, and manage two blogs and one website like I do, it’s imperative to hone your time management skills.

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IMG_1503 IMG_1506Cashing in on You was the next talk and it was absolutely empowering.

One of the questions asked was What would you do differently if you knew for sure that the only real currency you have in life is you?

When you start to think like this, you begin to take risks. If the only currency in life I had was me, I would have to do three things better:

  1. Network
  2. Make lasting relationships
  3. Get rid of the fear of rejection and take more risks.

Even though this was a hypothetical question, this is really a great way to put things into perspective. I need to start thinking of myself like currency and know my worth, because I have tons of value. Heck, I am a goldmine. You, who are reading this, whoever you are and wherever you may be should do the same.

Other Takeaways from Miss Catrice:

  1. Know why you do what you do and why you are the best at doing it
  2. Be very clear about your brand
  3. Do not be afraid to stand out

The stand out tip resonated with me most. It’s very important to be the person that stands out. Whether it’s a bright blazer, crazy hair, an amazing broach, always have a conversation piece on hand when a new opportunity presents itself at a conference or maybe even an event.

Follow @catriceology for some more personal and professional branding tips.

IMG_1517 IMG_1521My next break out session was about the boring and monotonous world of SEO. SEO is search optimization, and if a blogger want to find success, their website/blog should come up on Google’s 1st page and not its 22nd.

Three tips I learned was:

  1. Making Google like you is all about creating amazing content that people love and share
  2. Publish up to date and real life content that people care about
  3. Brainstorm the common terms and phrases you think people use to search the broad topics of your blog site

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Shortly after a delicious lunch, my last break out session of WITS15 day one would commence. I was torn between “Press Trip Travel,” which I believe would’ve been totally beneficial to me or “Meeting the Global Challenge of Educating Women Through Media: Soulful Travels with Grannies on Safari” I chose the latter and I am happy I did. Grannies on Safari did something to my soul. They were so cute and they have amazing chemistry. Most of all their session was almost like a call for action for us travelers to do more for others abroad. There are women across the world in Africa and India who can’t go to school because they don’t have sanitary napkins to wear while on their periods. That should never be the case. We have to use our platforms to bring awareness to these issues and help our sisters (and brothers) reach great heights in their lives even if they are miles away.

Grannies On Safari have a show on PBS and you can Click here to visit their website.

IMG_1526With Day One of WITS 15 down, I was feeling overwhelmed. I needed to connect with the many people that I met that day, but I also needed to take more action. I have more than one platform, one is even geared towards the empowerment of women and even though I’ve made progress with all my platforms, this conference made me realize, that my work has just begun. I needed to make more of an impact. Do more, heck, maybe even rebrand. That night, I had a feeling of non-complacency. If I learned anything from this conference it was that change and growth were on my horizons.

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Debunking Myths of The Middle East

Be careful not to get Trafficked. Don’t get kidnapped. The men oppress their women. There’s a lot of sex slaves out there!

One of the most important reasons why I travel is to combat ignorance. How can you really know what a culture is all about unless you’ve experienced it for yourself? A lot of the above statements were from people who have never visited the UAE in their lives, but the propaganda they “heard” about the Middle East and how terrible it is-with ISIS roaming around and kidnappers ready to take American girls as captives, led them to assume this would be my fate.

Now imagine if I allowed their comments to hinder me, I would’ve never been able to sit here and tell you that I felt safe in Dubai. At some points more safe than I do while living in Brooklyn. I traveled to the Middle East and survived. Yes, there are injustices going on in the UAE including: a lack of fair labor laws and poor labor treatment for the individuals working on those beautiful buildings, prostitution, human trafficking and mistreatment of housemaids–but this is the case wherever you go, even in America.

Not all women are oppressed in the Middle East. Middle Eastern women jhave different standards than some American women. Middle Eastern women wouldn’t dare expose their bodies for the entire world to see. They treat their bodies as a temple, only revealing their treasures to their husband. They know their worth and walk with confidence in their long black Abaya’s. They wear the best of the best underneath their garments. Christian Louboutin shoes, Alexander Mcqueen dresses. Almost every one of the women have a designer bag. While shopping with their friends they open their Abaya’s and reveal they are decked out in jeans and the latest shirts from Zara. They are just like us.

I learned the importance of being chaste, while in Dubai. Always being mindful not to offend anyone by exposing my shoulders, or showing too much cleavage like I would in America. Yet, the profound significance of this was that I didn’t feel less sexy, I felt beautiful. One of the most monumental parts of my trip was being able to put on an Abaya for the first time. I felt honored to imitate the essence of a Muslim woman. I felt like they showed me another way. I was able to walk in their shoes for sometime, while in the mosque and it felt empowering. I have such an indescribable respect for them.

Thank You God for bringing me back home safely. Unfortunately we do live in a crazy world and anything could’ve happened to me. I am completely aware of that. However the moral of the story is, you should never let other peoples beliefs of a country hinder you from traveling. You should also never let your own misconceptions hinder you. Go for it. Find out for yourself, and you will be glad you did, because whether good or bad, you still will have a story to tell and an experience to share for the rest of your life.

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