Just finished creating the header image for #DoingTheMost (The Official MDMflow Lifestlyle Blog)…

#DoingTheMost is a lifestyle blog written by Flow and Jendella (founder and branding director at MDMflow respectively). It’s a logical extension from the legendary days of the FlowDella house parties and kitchen raves, staying up late flicking through fashion magazines, and planning outlandish photo shoots.

“It was all a dream, we used to read iD magazine…”

Somehow we managed to survive skipping meals to buy vintage clothes and winging our way around Western Europe on a budget of €0, and we’re here to write about all the stuff we love: music, fashion, art, travel, all the dopeness in between, and not forgetting the bossy women we know and adore, who stay #DoingTheMost.

It’s live now so go look and make sure you add it to your blogrolls/feeds!

Lost Kingdoms of Africa – A (Ranty) Review / The Problem With White Travel Writers

A Guide To The English For The Uninitiated by Jendella*

The people of England are generally quite miserable, but it is understandable. The schizophrenic weather, which usually errs on the side of awful, leaves a permanent dampness in the air that permeates the bones, and the dourness of the politicians, the uptightness of the wealthy and the general rudeness of the population is a side-affect of this. While one of the wealthiest nations on earth, you would be forgiven for thinking that the English were ungrateful. Complaining is the second most popular national sport (after football, of course), and is often the common ground upon which connections with strangers are made. The most unfortunate aspect of the English is that after centuries of trampling over the cultural identities of others, they have lost their own; left with the feeble remains of colonial pride, the fiercely ignored sting of white guilt and a country that, due to the bitter hangover after drunken years of pillaging and plundering foreign soils, is changing faster than the average Englishman can grasp hold of. You can almost sympathise with them, understanding why their attitude is a sharp and narrow as their facial features.

*this guide is a facetious ode to the privileged white travel writer everywhere

*** *** ***

I gave it a try, I really did. 

A travel book about Africa written by a white American man, what on earth could be wrong with that?

The Lost Kingdoms of Africa by Jeffrey Taylor was a spontaneous purchase. I saw it languishing on display in a branch of a discount bookshop, and my curiosity was justified by the £1 price tag. This was over two years ago. I wasn’t really rushing to read about Mr Taylor’s “journeying through Muslim Africa” due to the fact that, well, he’s a white American man travelling through “Muslim Africa”. It is an international literary disaster waiting to happen, right?

“Jen, you really shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover!” *haw-haw* “And no bought book should go un-read, think of the trees, it’s a travesty to ignore this lonely book!”

Unfortunately, my gut instinct was correct.

"[Colonial occupation], however, turned out to be the good old days. Since independence, Chad’s history has been a chronicle of chaos and slaughter relieved by famine and drought."

"Northern Chad was what it looked to be: thousands of square miles of barren, useless terrain."

"…the sultan here ruled over desert, stone houses, and poor people, but thanks to legend his office commands respect that the screeching soldiers and pseudo-European pomp of the presidency and government in N’Djamena would never enjoy."

And the sentence that broke the camel’s back:

"I fell asleep thinking that Nigeria was more than the sum of its huts and inhabitants; the grand notions it evoked created, for me, romance and a thrill."

HUTS?………….HUTS?!?!?!

Admittedly, reading this book was a stop-and-start affair. I tossed it aside twice thinking “are you kidding me?!”, but persevered due to the fact that I was interested to find out more about Chad (the first country that Taylor visited), as due to my Western education and the arrogance afforded me by my Yoruba heritage I really knew nothing about it as a country. The unfortunate thing is that due to my lack of knowledge about Chad, I could only take Taylor’s soliloquies about poverty, barrenness and wild-eyed soldiers at face value. I mean, I had my suspicions that Taylor’s observations were patronising and shallow, but I had no other reference points. When he came to Nigeria however…*makes clicking noise in throat and shakes head* 

I was going to throw the book out, or recycle its pages for some kind of creative exploit, but instead I decided to leave it on my shelf as a testament for the need of diverse voices. How can I ever stop writing (or keep my writing to myself out of fear) when other writers and publishers have the audacity to put out such *expletive*

"If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it."

– Zora Neale Hurston

This is why organisations like Media Diversified (or @WritersOfColour on Twitter) are so flippin’ important. The work they are doing is amazing, especially in light of the limited resources they are working with. They are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to expand their work, so check it out and donate, donate, go and bloody donate.

STOP THE WHITEWASH.

Precious / Crystal Palace / April 2014 Precious / Crystal Palace / April 2014

Precious / Crystal Palace / April 2014

Precious / Crystal Palace / April 2014 Precious / Crystal Palace / April 2014

Precious / Crystal Palace / April 2014

Currently Reading…

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What I was reading before I decided to add Americanah and Unlabel to the pile…

Book Haul: April 2014

Totally stole this idea from was inspired by Sherida’s book haul video blog. Subscribe to her channel, check out her blog Coconut + Cream, and she’s also on Tumblr.

Book Haul

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Amazon strikes again! I only logged in to buy Gorilla Glue…

I know, I know, I’m late to the Americanah and Ghana Must Go party. I was waiting for Americanah to come out in paperback because I don’t buy hardback fiction books (unless they are special editions). Why? 1) The extra centimetres taken up by hardback covers is extra shelf space I can squeeze more books into. 2) As a young’un my ma wouldn’t buy me hardback books (not matter how long I had been waiting for that new Tracy Beaker sequel! *pain*) as they were too expensive. She always made me wait until the paperback edition. Obviously it was a psychologically traumatising experience, and every time I am about to hit “BUY NOW!” on a hardback book her voice comes swimming back to me through the mazes of time and space. Thanks Ma!

Hardback or not, Americanah is like a Bible. It is flippin’ massive. I usually get most of my reading time in transit, but it’s too big and too heavy to make on-the-go reading practical. Might have to save it for evenings curled up under my blanket and designate another book for my transit-reading…

I have no excuse for my lateness to Ghana Must Go. I read a review that kinda-almost cooled my hype for it, but still…

I don’t need to justify to myself the purchase of Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out by the legend that is Saint Marc of Ecko, the patron saint of independent excellence! Ecko Unlimited was the streetwear brand growing up, and a dude in an Ecko tracksuit (grey or blue, obvs) was the epitome of perfection as a fifteen year old school girl. Ecko Unlimited was what got me interested in streetwear and, although I didn’t have a name for it at the time, branding in general. I was gonna jump straight in and sit at the feet of Saint Marc first, but a cursory flick-through suggests it’s more of a textbook than general reading. I’m gonna put my geek on a hunnid and work my way through slowly. *runs to WHSmith to buy wide-ruled notebooks, highlighters and a fancy new fountain pen* #AnyExcuse.

I think I’m gonna add Americanah and Unlabel to the epicness that is my currently-reading pile of books. I don’t know why I do this to myself, but aijuswannareadeverythingnow.

Has anyone read any of the books I bought? What did ya think?

An Excerpt.

"At first Deborah could not bear Nigeria. The sweltering heat and humidity of the south west was enough to make her hallucinate, and she hated the way her alien-like entity bristled against this country she was meant to call home. No matter how dense the crowd and how far she shrank into it, someone somewhere could smell the damp winter on her skin and she would be singled out. “London!” was her title, and traders, hawkers and beggars swarmed around her waiting to benefit from her fat British purse. It was now her turn to cling to her mother, or any available “auntie” or “cousin” who could provide a safe buffer between herself and a country she felt, but barely knew."

An excerpt from ‘LEGACY’ by Jendella Benson. (That’s me!)

Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary – A Kind-Of Review + Thoughts On Writing

I was always more into Big’ than ‘Pac, so I admit that my in-depth knowledge of Tupac Amaru Shakur does not venture past common knowledge and conspiracy theories (at fifteen, I was convinced he was still alive, in Cuba, obviously!). So when my friend gave me his mother’s book to read, I thought it would be interesting to approach 2Pac’s history from that of his mother first.

Evolution of a Revolutionary is not about 2Pac though. I mean, it is in as far as it definitely gives some context to his upbringing, and is a portrait of an important figure in his life, but it is about Afeni Shakur first and foremost, and if you want to talk about labels, Afeni has passed under the banner a fair few of them! Disadvantaged child from a broken home, gifted youngster turned playground toughnut, social worker, Black Panther leader, jailbird, drug addict, wife, mother, lover, sister, auntie, friend – she has transcended all of them and stands as just, “Afeni Shakur”. Reading her story, though by no means complete (I still have some questions), I really did get a sense of who she is as a whole, complete person, although I did not like her every stage.

There were parts where I empathised with her, where my heart broke for her, and there were parts where my jaw tightened or eye twitched because I really didn’t like a decision she made or something she had done. But through it all, I felt nothing but respect for her, because after seeing feeling her as an entire person – powerful, flawed, contentious, ultimately victorious – what else was there to feel?.

And it got me thinking about writing, and characters, and fiction:

We need characters who we can respect as people, not just as idealised extensions of ourselves to live vicariously through. While characters need to be relatable, relating to a character isn’t as simple as “like OMG, she’s a girl, and I’m a girl – I, like, totally get her!” We relate to characters who we can feel through the pages, and whose experience is authentic, even if it is not an experience that we can directly draw parallel to in our own lives.

During research I read that one of the easiest ways to humanise characters on film screens is to put them in the context of meaningful relationships, because that is one emotion that we can all empathise with: the need to love and to be loved. While reading is a form of entertainment vastly superior to many others (a needless jab, because I’m feeling quite facetious today), it is also an opportunity to connect with a consciousness other than your own, to listen to a voice that is not merely an echo chamber of your own world and life experience.

While the practicalities of real-life characters in non-fiction are vastly different to fictionalised characters who fit within the logical constraints of a novel, the fact is I’m really not here to read another book that is essentially an action blockbuster in pulp paper form, nodding a little too enthusiastically to the future movie-deal that the ambitious and forward-thinking author is hoping to lasso.

SO! 5 ways to create authentically three-dimensional characters…

I’m joking. I’m not nearly qualified enough to do that. I’m just spitballing; throwing pieces of my own consciousness out into the world, hoping they stick somewhere, somehow.

from the @mdmflow #ss14 shoot. lipstick is ‘mill’s grilla’. styling: @kittycowell, creative direction: @mdmflow & @jendella, photography: @jendella. (((this shoot was so dope, can’t wait to show the rest of the images!!!)))

I JUST NEED A FEW MORE PARTICIPANTS!!!

jendella

The #YoungMotherhood Sneak-Peek-Preview Trailer is finished!

This is only a selection of soundbites from a selection of participants…cannot wait to reveal the final thing!

Learning on my feet, and actually enjoying it. First time doing anything close to a documentary type film and seeing it all come together is…wow… pretty chuffed with myself, but there is still a lot more work to do.

• Still looking for more participants from all over the UK: get in touch jeni@jendella.co.uk!

• Examining funding options to develop the project to the fullest: have any ideas? Same email as above!

The Problem with Natural Hair

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“Why are you not wearing a weave?”

The way he softly pronounced his vowels suggested that he was not originally from the UK, and definitely not from London. While I was in no mood to entertain strangers on a late bus back home, his foreign accent inspired some kind of patience within me, and I had just fallen in love with my fine, porous, type 4C hair and had not tired of talking about it yet. But the conversation got political, as it always does.

As a young Black British woman it feels like most of my choices are in danger of being intentionally or unintentionally political, and none more so than how I choose to wear my hair. The really political thing, though, is how I choose to talk about my hair and the hair of other black women. Language is informed by ideology, and ideology is political by nature, so while I take no issue with how another black woman may choose to wear her hair, I may take issue with how she talks about it. Above all, I despise the back-handed compliments: “well done on going natural, it must be so much work”; “natural hair doesn’t look good on everyone, but it looks good on you”; or the delightfully ambiguous “wow…your hair!” The way that some people talk about hair problematises natural “blackness”, though they may not consciously mean to. Natural, Afro-textured hair is described as an “ordeal”, “hard work”, “trouble”, or “hassle”. It doesn’t “work” for everyone, suggesting that it is an acquired taste, not the norm, which further confirms that straight hair is the generally accepted standard in a society governed by Eurocentric beauty ideals.

Many of us have grown up in wider societies where “blackness” or the “black presence” has been problematised. Black girls are told that they are “too dark” to wear that certain colour lipstick, or dye their hair that colour. Anything other than blind, bland compliance is often seen as being “intimidating”, or “confrontational” when your skin is of a darker hue. You are followed around shops, eyed wearily by fair-skinned strangers, and if you live in certain states in America, you can be shot and killed by a swivel-eyed, trigger-happy fully-grown man who will be excused by society for an apparently reasonably explained act.

Unfortunately, immersed in a culture where such behaviour is the norm, we can so often absorb the language and attitude of problematisation, attempting to legitimise our choices at the expense of someone else’s. I’m tired of hearing reasons why some black women choose not to go natural - I actually don’t care! Wear your hair however you want, just do it with the confidence that comes with a healthy head of hair. There is no war that divides us: I know “naturalistas” who wear straight weaves, and women with relaxed hair and laid edges sitting under their kinky-haired wig – we mix an’ blend, darling! There is no need to imply that those with textured tendencies occupy the higher moral ground, or that relaxed hair or weave is the more obviously practical choice.

“I wear my hair like this because I want to.”

You never asked for their permission, and you certainly don’t have to provide them with an explanation.

I wrote for Magnify Magazine’s blog on the topic of Opportunity!

Read “First Things First” here.

#HAPPYAIRMAXDAY

Some FAQ…

Pretty flattered because people have been enquiring about my writing and stuff recently, nice to know that they care! =) So here’s a FAQ for anyone else who may be interested…

Where’s your new written stuff? / How’s writing going?

I’ve been writing – or more accurately, editing – a lot. I’m preparing the follow-up to Deaths, Dreams and the Dull Inbetweens (we will call it #AOM for now), but it’s taking a sweet while. One, because I’m working on Young Motherhood and MDMflow like ker-azy! Two, because I’m so picky right now.

My pickiness is also why other writing endeavours are taking a while. I’m really excited because I’ve been writing quite a bit of fiction but editing is a looong process because of my pickiness, let me explain:

I’ve always found writing easy-breezy-beautiful. Churning out a couple thousands of words on anything is pretty straight forward, but I got very complacent and wasn’t trying to get better, because I just rested on the that being “talented” = not needing to work hard at it. Last year I read a lot and as a result I started thinking “wait a minute, there are people in life miles better than me, how do I know I’m even good at this anymore?” So I took a grammar course, starting reading even more and now I’m really trying to perfect my skill, not just rest on years of compliments about my ability. And in doing so, I have reawakened the raging perfectionist within. (But I believe 7+ drafts of a piece is pretty normal, right?)

So it’s coming, I’m just tryna make it a million times better than anything else I’ve done before. I’m not gonna put up the ironic nonchalant front that is so on trend right now, like “yeah, pfftt, whatevz”, I’m really, earnestly, trying write stuff that matters.

What about the #FaithAndFeminism video blogs you were doing?

Yeah, I’m not gonna be doing them anymore. =)

Firstly, because I find the whole video blog thing so cringe. Like I really don’t have the charisma on camera, my voice is naturally quite monotone, and I’m trying not to die of embarrassment before my thirties. But I’ve left the first two videos up for reference purposes, until I’ve made written versions of them.

But video blogs are way more digestible for the masses!

I know, I know, but it’s really not by force right?

Also, I honestly got turned off the whole publicly talking about feminism for a whole host of other reasons (may address them in another post). So I was like, “lemme stop talking about my feminism, and actually live it out through my creative work”, because there really is no need for another feminist waffling out there innit? Comrades, let’s get to WERK.

I do think that there are some pressing issues I just have to address somehow, at some point (#ChristianityAndCapitalism anyone?) but I’m waiting until I have the time to properly address it (rather than sporadic ranty tweets) and also I’m addressing some of it in my new poetry pieces (#ChristianityAndColonialism *kissy face*).

How’s #YoungMotherhood going?

Flipping amazing. Only a handful more interviews to go. Then the exhibition, book and film is pending! *one woman Mexican wave*

Tasha / Crystal Palace Park / March 2014 Tasha / Crystal Palace Park / March 2014 Tasha / Crystal Palace Park / March 2014 Tasha / Crystal Palace Park / March 2014 Tasha / Crystal Palace Park / March 2014 Tasha / Crystal Palace Park / March 2014 Tasha / Crystal Palace Park / March 2014 Tasha / Crystal Palace Park / March 2014

Tasha / Crystal Palace Park / March 2014