Today is my father’s birthday and for weeks I have been trying to figure out what to get him. I finally realized that I was thinking entirely to0 hard about what to get when all along I knew the perfect gift…comic books! I grew up in awe of my dad’s comic book collection and was even more in awe when I realized that there were Black SuperHeroes.

This got me to thinking about reading and books, really and truly the books that I grew up with, the importance my parents placed on reading in our household and how those books really played a crucial role in who I am today.

I realize that in the 21st century most folk are caught up on being politically correct, tolerant…race issues/concerns are supposedly a thing of the past. These are not my exact sentiments, but ones that I notice and hear daily, while at the same time seeing actions and interactions that are the exact opposite.  But my worry is that in the quest for equality some folks are also losing their sense of culture, heritage, and background.

While I was raised to be accepting of all and to embrace many, my parents still made and effort to make sure that I had a sense of identity and that I was proud of who I am and where I come from.

One of the ways they did this is that they made sure that the books we read and the toys that we played with were a reflection of the little girls they were raising. They made sure to let us know that our hopes and dreams were just as valid as the hopes and dreams of anyone. That we defined who we were and not outside thoughts that might have you to believe something else. No, I didn’t grow up with all Black everything… ok maybe I did! But in truth it was really about balance a teaching us that before you can love anyone or anything else you have to love self first.

So this post is a post of love. A reveal of some of my favorite books that I still have and read today.  Being a year out of graduate school I can’t lie and say that my reading habits have been stellar, because after six months of research research research, thesis writing and committee craziness, my reading has been pretty light. But reading (even when light) will always be my first love. It taught me that Black Girls can be super heroes, super witty, super sassy, imaginative beyond belief, brave, courageous, ridiculously cool and that was just the beginning.

I am a superhero/sci fi/comic book junkie so to speak and I have my dad to thank for that.

I happen to have one of the best comic book stores Ive seen in a while all of like 5 minutes from where I live. Alliance Comics one of the few full fledged comic book stores actually left. They have an awesome selection of books, comics (back issues too), figurines and all kind of other comic swag. So Dad will be getting the comic book above (I thumbed through it gently) and this awesome Justice League of America Tin Sign, they had all kinds and they were only $10 might go back and get one for the house.  I hope he likes! Happy Birthday to the Best Father Ever! R.E.C I Love You!!!

Buck Wild and Lysistrata Jones

BulletProof- Check the Asymetrical Fade

 Before I ever knew about Disney’s Princess’s all of my fairytales were full of characters who looked like me.

Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp

By Mercer Mayer the same writer who did all of the Little Critters books (which I love too) I am pretty sure this book might steal #1 on my list.  Its the story of a sassy little black girl who rocks her afro proud as she journeys across the Yeller Belly Swamp to take her grandma some sweet potatoes!

Rapunzel as retold and illustrated by Fred Crump, Jr. I’d say these books are are close #1 t00.   I can remember growing up in Denver and sitting in the Hue-Man Bookstore  now located in New York City and reading these books over and over again. My sister and I have most of his books, and there have been some new ones released since these but the ones below were some of my favs. It’s sad that a lot of his older books are now out of print, I keep hoping and wishing someone will produce a cartoon series or movie from his books.

I would often thumb through my parents books collection and there were always a certain set of books that seemed so strange and intriguing to me. The covers always had and etherial looking black woman with strange symbols and even stranger titles to my young eyes. and eventually instead of just fingering the cover with its raised gold font I opened one.

Octavia E. Butler is hands down one of the best authors of all time. Yeah yeah Star Wars and Star Trek are cool but they ain’t got nothin on Butler.  Her books are loved by a dedicated group of followers and when I found out she had passed away I was devastated, but here books have never failed me. I have read many of them over and over again and each time I am sad when I come to the end, so I start one over. This is Science Fiction/AfroFuturism on another level. The attention to detail, the vividness of the story, I become the characters and I am lost her world.  FYI if you haven’t heard of her she is nowhere close to being a lightweight in the fiction world. She’s won the Hugo and Nebula award and she was the 1st Sci Fi writer ever (black or otherwise) to receive The MacArthur Foundation Genus Grant.

This is the first book that I read in a class full of students where I was in the minority and I was angry. I can remember reading this book in 3rd grade or so and not wanting to put it down but at the same time being confused at the emotions that I felt as I turned each page. This book is a part of a 5 book series and I still haven’t read all of them. I also loved The Gold Cadillac.

A bit of a random post I realize but they are all books that helped me form my identity as I grew older, these books helped me to be comfortable in my skin, to embrace my culture, and to recognize the rich history that I come from and that continues to be created.

What are some books that changed your life, empowered you, helped to define who you are, or that you simply just love?

It is hard lately to keep work and personal time separate . Due to the nature of planning a festival any outings, shopping trips etc become a hunt for products and vendors that I might have at my event.  Speaking of which thanks to Alex of  TheGoodHairBlog for posting my call to DMV area Natural Hair Bloggers and BusinessFolk  for SunFest 2011. Be sure to head over to her blog and check out the call.  I will re-post the call as well at the end of this post.

One of the spots the I love to frequent in the warmer months is Eastern Market  it is probably one of the most well known markets in DC and I wouldn’t necessarily say its the best but they do have a few vendors that I absolutely love!

It was only in my plans to by a few small food items for home I ended up making a splurge purchase, but one that wasn’t filled with too much guilt as  it was my way of  supporting my community.

With the recent Respect DC Campaign that was created as news of 4 Wal-Mart’s that are all set to open in DC in 2012.  I am reminded of how important it is to try and make an effort to not always buy from major chains simply out of convenience.

Wal-Mart is a beast in the south but when I moved to California for graduate school finding a Wal-Mart was like the ultimate hunt and when you did it was only the standard kind, most of the time poorly stocked and poorly kept up.

After 6 months or so of realizing that Wal-Mart was more on an inconvenience than a convenience,  I was forced to explore my neighborhood and find different grocery stores, and specialty shops.  I came to love the relationships I began to build with these shops. They took pride in being the best at doing a few things and not trying to conquer it all by succeeding at some but failing at most.

DC is similar to Southern Cali in that there are a lot of niche specialty shops here that have grown out of the diverse communities you find in the DC  area. I have a running list and haven’t even scratched the surface. Every time I venture into a new area or discover a new street there is a whole set of amazing unique shops that comes right along with it!

Back to Eastern Market… I love Dutch Wax Prints and had been eying a wrap skirt at one of the vendor booths on the flea market side of the market. I first I passed it by didn’t go in to look at it but as I came back by later that day I couldn’t resist. I fingered the fabric and asked the price of the skirt. The Genevieve the lovely Guyanese woman running the booth told me in her caribbean sweet  accent$65.

My thrifty side screeched a bit steep and not in the budget but I realized if that had been me on the other end and this were my business I would hope someone would see the art in my craft and support my business and realize that.  So my boyfriend helped me scrounge up enough cash and this might be one of my fav purchases all year!

Maxi WrapSkirt by Genevieve of JayBee Fashions

Cropped by Me H&M Lime Yellow Tank

Cropped Blue Jean Jacket The Gap

Jewelry F21, Miscellaneous, Old Navy

I also discovered a new Shea Butter Vendor Savannah Essentials Shea Butter Store .  I  purchased the New Eupohoria Shea Butter which is scented with Mango, Ylang Ylang, Myrhh and Orange Oils.  It smells delightful I purchased a jar for $15 which I’ve been using on my hair and skin daily. They also carry lotions, oils and, shampoo bars (this is next on my list to try) and are a MD based business.

There is also one other booth that I wish I had in my back yard.  In a Pickle is hands down the best pickle I have everrrrrr had in my life. This is one of the booths I would love to have for SunFest.

If you don’t like pickles then I can forgive you for that, I don’t why, but I get it … really I don’t.  Either way they have hot & spicy pickles, and super sour, horseradish, and ol’ bay along with olive and other antipasti items.  So if you are at Eastern Market make sure you stop by.

Be sure and check out my call to DMV area Natural Hair Bloggers & Vendors  for SunFest 2011 on the post that went up over on The Good Hair Blog  and is posted below!

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