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She Got it From Her Mama: 3 of the Greatest Celebrity Mother-Daughter Relationships

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(Photographs by Max Abadian, Emily Kitching for AB+DM, and Tim Hunter)

You know them, you love them, but did you know that these famous American actresses all have Caribbean mothers? These women gave birth to America’s biggest superstars of primetime television and the big screen. From Jamaican scandal star, Kerry Washington’s “fierce lioness” to Jada Pinkett Smith’s rocky relationship turned eternal bond, read on to learn a little more about the most inspiring celebrity mother-daughter relationships in the industry.

Kerry Washington’s love for Jamaican mom

Celebrity mother-daughter relationships
Image courtesy of People Magazine

You know her as Olivia Pope on Scandal, but mother Valerie Washington knows Kerry Washington as her only child and personal pride and joy. Although a lifelong resident of the Bronx, Valerie’s parents were born in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica but moved to New Yord long before her arrival. Valerie Washington and her husband raised their daughter Kerry in a comfortable middle class home in Bronx, New York, but they eventually sent her to a private all girls school on the Upper East Side.

Growing up, Valarie had dreamed of her daughter going off to law school and passing the bar, however she mainly wanted Kerry to succeed and choose a career she was passionate about, something not offered to Valarie in the 50s who was encouraged to become a teacher despite earning a degree in science. Although proud of her daughter, Valarie originally was scared of the thought of Kerry becoming an actress. These two might be one of the closest celebrity mother-daughter relationships that we have profiled. They are very close now, with Kerry describing her mother as the “fiercest lioness in my pride.”

Jada Pinkett Smith’s difficult road with mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris

Celebrity mother-daughter relationships
Image courtesy of Essence

As far as celebrity mother-daughter relationships go, Jada Pinkett Smith’s mother and fellow “Red Table Talk” host, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, have had one of the most complex. Banfield-Norris was born in Baltimore in 1953 and grew up as “black middle class” with Jamiacan roots on her mother’s side. Banfield-Norris had Jada in high school at the young age of 17, having had a short lived marriage to Robsol Pinkett Jr., Jada’s father. For most of Pinkett Smith’s early life, her mother struggled with addiction issues and was at the peak of a heroin addiction when she graduated from nursing school at Coppin State University.

The two have since mended their relationship though, becoming co-hosts of now famous talk show “Red Table Talk ” with Pinkett Smith’s own daughter, Willow Smith. “Red Table Talk” addresses multigenerational topics about sex, racism, and drugs, covering hard conversations and showing vulnerability and realness. Banfield-Norris has been in recovery for 29 years and opened up about her addiction with a powerful, tearful conversation with her daughter on the show during a 2018 episode that further emphasized how much their relationship has grown.

Zoe Saldana and “hero” Asalia Nazario

Best known for her work in the 2009 Sci/Fi blockbuster hit, Avatar, and popular Marvel movies including Guardians of the Galaxy, Zoe Saldana’s career speaks for itself. Born in New Jersey to Caribbean parents of Dominican and Puerto Rican origins, her mother, Asalia Nazario, moved her three daughters to the Dominican Republic to live with their grandparents in a safer environment after her father died in a vehicle crash. After spending her early years in the DR, her family moved back to the states, residing in New York with Nazario, who supported all of her children’s dreams.

In 2014 Saldana started a web series titled, “My Hero,” which featured stars opening up about the personal heroes in their lives. Possibly the most wholesome of our celebrity mother-daughter relationships is Saldana’s; the pilot episode was dedicated to her own mother in which she recalled childhood memories of cooking alongside her mother, and a tearful thank you for the way Nazario protected and nurtured her family despite facing adversity. Saldana and her two sisters are still extremely close to Nazario and love to treat her to spa days whenever they can.

An Exclusive Look at Chef Thia’s New Line of Signature Haitian Spices

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Chef Thia's New signature Haitian Spices
Chef Thia's New signature Haitian Spices | Photo by Maybeline Despagne (Pix City Studio)

An accomplished culinary expert and social media influencer known for Haitian-fusion cuisine and a larger-than-life personality, Cynthia Verna is adding a few new elements to her impressive curriculum vitae, including an exciting new venture into her own signature Haitian spices. 

Hundreds of thousands of fans have tuned in to “Chef Thia” on her Facebook live broadcasts — from her impassioned prayers and family dinner preps to backstage award show peeks. She seems to have done it all. She’s been a restaurant owner, a host of TV show Taste the Islands, a best-selling biographical author and a women’s advocate. 

Adding to her accomplishments, Verna has recently debuted a new hardcover cookbook and her own line of signature Haitian spices. The collection, branded Chef Thia’s Spice, features four dry seasoning blends for seafood, steak, poultry, meat and even rice. 

“It’s been a dream of mine to just have something created from the heart,” said Verna. 

An Exclusive Look at Chef Thia's New Line of Signature Haitian Spices
Chef Thia’s Spices

A Fresh Take on Haitian Spices

Haitians are familiar with the term “epis,” a popular blend of oil, herbs and spices used in creole cooking as a base for nearly any savory dish. To get around the need for refrigeration, Verna developed the dry spice line to offer similar flavor with a much longer shelf life. And the packaging is as vibrant as she is. 

Her Signature Spice Mix is a simple, all-purpose blend. Verna’s Peppercorn Spice Mix includes pink, green, black and white peppercorns and is ideal for red meats and vegetables. Her Torched Bird Spice Mix should be paired with poultry and other white meat. And her seafood seasoning, coming soon, contains “a little bit of wine, dry butter and all the goodies,” she said. 

The new cookbook, “Taste the Islands: Culinary Adventures in a Caribbean Kitchen,” was developed with the team from the TV show and the University Press of Florida. It was also a labor of love for Verna. It took around two and a half years to perfect, with the recipes being thoroughly tested and tasted before the final product was presented to the public. One of her favorite recipes from the book is an elevated take on soup joumou, Haiti’s famous Independence Day fare. 

Signature Haitian Spices
Photography: Maybeline Despagne

“When you come from the Caribbean,” she said, “You walk inside a Barnes and Noble and your book is right there with all the top chefs, it’s beautiful and powerful to see.” 

When she’s not crafting delicious signature Haitian spices, seasonngs, and recipes, you can find Verna traveling the world as a private chef. She recently returned from catering an intimate, exclusive event in Dubai. “I focus more on bringing my country, my culture, my roots around the world. You want to eat Haitian food. You contact Chef Thia. I bring Haiti, my heart, to you.” 

An Exclusive Look at Chef Thia's New Line of Signature Haitian Spices
Photography: Richard Lecoin

An avid artist and serial entrepreneur, she’s got lots more in the pipeline. Through her newly developed mobile app, her legions of fans — existing and future — can connect fully with her brand. They can purchase her signature Haitian spices or subscribe to get them delivered monthly. They can also purchase any of the three books she’s authored, explore other product offerings such as Chef Thia-designed clothing and home accessories, and, in the near future, contact her for curated cooking advice or one-on-one help in the kitchen.

Download the Chef Thia app, visit chefthia.com, follow her on social media and buy her books on Amazon.

Why Some Caribbean Americans Have Frightening Vaccine Hesitancy

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Caribbean and Black Americans hesitate to take the COVID-19 vaccine
Caribbean and Black Americans are hesitant about taking the COVID-19 vaccine

After a year of dealing with a deadly pandemic which has disproportionately affected Black people, you would think we’d embrace something that promises to return us to normalcy. But that’s not the case. Even as COVID-19 vaccines become more available, Black Americans continue to have vaccine hesitancy and Caribbean folks are still disproportionately skeptical about getting the shot.

In late February, a nationwide poll by the Pew Research Center found that 69% of U.S. adults had already been vaccinated or said they wanted to be. The rate was a lower 61% among non-Hispanic Blacks, although that is up dramatically from 42% in November just before the first vaccines were authorized in the United States.

I confess that initially, I myself had vaccine hesitancy. I thought perhaps it was best for me to see how it worked on others before taking it myself. My knowledge of the vaccines was sketchy at best, and posts on social media that questioned their safety and efficacy made me even more uncertain. Many of the friends I polled on Facebook shared my worries. Some have since changed their minds. 

“I do not know what is true anymore,” said Karen, of Trinidad. Her trust grew weaker as rumors and questionable information proliferated online. But she also is in a high-risk category and fears COVID-19. “So I have decided, if I have an opportunity to take the vaccine, I will get it. Growing up in Trinidad, all the vaccines were mandatory. I turned out fine.”

Aisha, who is of Jamaican, Panamanian and Senagalese ancestry, was nervous about how quickly the vaccine was created and also did not trust that adequate testing had been done. But when her mother’s care facility called to ask if she wanted her to be vaccinated, she immediately said, “Yes.” 

Caribbean and Black Americans have vaccine hesitancy
Aisha and her mom

“That made me pause and ask myself, if it is okay for her, why is it not okay for me? So I am getting it now.”

I started researching this article to answer my own questions as well as those raised by friends and family. 

Now, I have a much better understanding of how the COVID-19 vaccines work and which companies were authorized to create them here in America. I learned the majority of scary social media posts I had seen were either false or did not include critical context. There are, of course, reasons to be concerned about medical racism today, but Black doctors are among those who developed the vaccines and are advocating for their use.

A Timeline of Events

In short, here’s how the vaccines were ready to go — safely — in less than a year:

  1. Nearly two decades of research. COVID-19 comes from a family of viruses that have been well studied. Scientists got a headstart on COVID-19 from their work on vaccines for the 2002 SARS coronavirus and the 2012 MERS coronavirus. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were created based on the work of a team that includes viral immunologist Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett, a Black woman. Their work included developing the mRNA technology used in two COVID-19 vaccines. Corbett also was a hands-on leader in the creation of the Moderna shot.’ 
  2. Quick response. Infectious disease experts and vaccine researchers had long predicted a global pandemic involving a respiratory virus. When COVID-19 appeared in China and started to spread globally, key researchers immediately began developing a new vaccine. In January 2020, the first vaccine had already been drafted by the National Institutes of Health team that included Corbett. Early studies showed promising results and the first human trials started in March, just as many states issued their first lockdown orders.
  3. Worldwide economic impact. Because COVID-19 brought the world economy to a halt, billions of dollars were donated from private and government entities to fund the research and development of the vaccine, significantly decreasing the financial and bureaucratic barriers usually associated with medical research.
  4. Global collaboration. Researchers worldwide collaborated to produce the vaccine quickly and safely. Volunteers lined up in the tens of thousands for the trials. Blacks were still underrepresented, but the gap was smaller than often seen in such studies: Blacks accounted for about 10% of people in the clinical trials but are 12% of the U.S. population. The group was large enough to soundly conclude vaccine safety and effectiveness was similar across racial and ethnic groups.

How the Vaccines Work

So far, two types of vaccines have been developed. To trigger the body’s defense system, one uses a fake, inactive virus, the other uses mRNA proteins. 

Historically, vaccines used an inactivated virus cell to trigger an immune response. That is the strategy the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine employs. A modified version of a different, harmless virus teaches our cells how to fight COVID-19. The coronavirus spike protein is effectively no longer able to attach to our cells. 

“mRNA” stands for Messenger RNA, a string of proteins that the body uses to communicate with our DNA. The dual-dose Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are the first mRNA vaccines to be approved, although the strategy has been in development for about 15 years. In short, the mRNA vaccine teaches the body’s immune system to develop antibodies that fight the coronavirus should the real thing appear. (Note: The vaccine does not alter your DNA, it just instructs it.)

Both kinds of vaccine can cause temporary side effects such as a fever, fatigue, rash and body aches, among others. These symptoms typically last less than two days. They are signs that your body has recognized the vaccine and is learning how to fight to protect you. 

Allergic reactions have been rare, but speak with your doctor if you have had problems with a previous vaccine. Serious adverse reactions have been incredibly rare — only a handful — after more than 80 million people in the United States have received at least one dose. 

Cuban American Olga was initially going to take the vaccine but now has concerns that it could impact her fertility (a claim that has repeatedly been debunked). Since she is younger, she also believes she would handle COVID-19 well enough should she get it. 

My Jamaican nurse friend, Ana, also worried about the potential side effects, but decided to seek vaccination after doing her own research. 

“The worst result of COVID is death and the worst result of the vaccines are adverse effects (which we know are rare),” she said. 

On reflection, Ana recognized how vaccines, such as the BCG vaccine to prevent tuberculosis, have historically improved the lives of Caribbean people. That was first developed in 1921. Knowing that some Black Americans have vaccine hesitancy, she offered this advice, “Look how far we have come — so many significant medical developments. I feel like I should trust now more than then.”

While the new vaccines don’t promise to prevent COVID-19, clinical studies show that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 95% effective at preventing symptomatic illness, hospitalization and death. It is not yet clear if people who are vaccinated and become infected can still spread the virus if they do not have symptoms. That is why authorities ask people to continue wearing masks and taking other precautions even after vaccination.

Vaccine Hesitancy and How to Fix It

Black people are four times more likely to be hospitalized and three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people in the United States. Nearly 80% of Black Americans know someone who has been hospitalized by or died from COVID-19. Yet, white Americans are getting immunized at a rate three times higher than Black people in America who still have vaccine hesitancy. 

Some of it has to do with barriers to access, like age limits and lists of “essential” jobs that disproportionately excluded Black people. But some of the gap also is because Black Americans have vaccine hesitancy due to uncertainty about the vaccines and mistrust of the healthcare system. 

Medical atrocities against Black people in the United States, like the government-sponsored Tuskegee Experiment, and everyday health care disparities contribute to the distrust of the medical community.

Black adults who do not want to be vaccinated told the Pew Research Center that their major reasons were:

  • Side effects (84%)
  • Fear about the speed of vaccine development (74%)
  • Uncertainty about how the vaccines work (71%)
  • Prior bad experiences with medical system mistakes (about 50%)

The list included some of the concerns I had, or had heard from others, before I started research for this article. I talked to Dr. Sidney Coupet, a Haitian American, about why vaccine hesitancy runs so deep in Black communities. 

“Healthcare has never treated us well,” Coupet said. “In fact, it has abused us, caused us harm, used us for their benefit.”

Coupet, who also has a master’s degree in public health, dedicated his career to addressing healthcare disparities in our community. He said America needs to take a three-pronged approach to gain the trust of the Black community and limit vaccine hesitancy: Apologize, listen and co-create.

After apologizing for past harms, Coupet believes health professionals need strategies for active, ongoing listening to the Black community about their experiences and concerns. And then they need to collaborate with us to resolve barriers to equitable care.

The Black Coalition Against COVID-19 (BCAC), which is working to provide accurate information and resources, has found that many people, like myself, have adopted what they call the “wait and see” approach. And while BCAC understands that vaccine hesitancy is understandable, the group notes that delayed vaccination jeopardizes our health. 

Dr. Vanessa Cumming, who works in a sickle cell clinic in Jamaica, has seen the divide first-hand. Her patients who are immunocompromised have been anxiously waiting for their chance to be vaccinated. The general population, however, is less trusting. 

“We know that for some semblance of ‘normalcy’ to return, we will need to vaccinate a high percentage of our population,” she said.

If enough people are immunized, we collectively achieve herd immunity. For the world to put this horrendous episode behind us, there are no other options. I hope others can find their way from vaccine hesitancy to optimism, the way I ultimately have on this journey. 

What Black America Needs to Know About COVID-19 and Vaccines

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Government, community, and faith-based leaders join forces to champion the fight against COVID-19

The new year has brought with it more daunting challenges in the African American community’s fight against COVID-19. More transmissible variants of the coronavirus have emerged and are swiftly sweeping their way across the United States. This latest trend in the year-long pandemic is especially troubling for Black people, who are 4 times more likely to be hospitalized and 3 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people. Despite these stark numbers, COVID vaccination rates for African Americans are among the lowest of all ethnicities. In fact, February data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that only 5.4% of Black people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine compared to 60% of white people. 

As of March 22, all Florida residents over the age of 50 are eligible to receive the vaccine, and Governor DeSantis has approved eligibility for all individuals 18+ to receive the vaccine starting April 5. However, according to a January poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 43% of African Americans are still reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine; taking a “wait and see” approach to find out how well the vaccine works for other people. 

African American communities are still brimming with mistrust following historical and contemporary experiences of medical discrimination, including the decades-long Tuskegee experiments and the Henrietta Lacks saga. These are just two of many scars that still resonate today and are at the forefront of the Black community’s view of the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout through a skeptical lens. 

To share accurate information about COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout with African Americans, the Black Doctors Against COVID-19 (BCAC) hosted a recent Facebook Live event, “Making it Plain: What Black America Needs To Know About COVID-19 and Vaccines,” an episode in an important and informative series which features the nation’s top Black medical experts as well as faith-based and social organization leaders who are keeping Black Americans informed about what we need to know about COVID-19 and vaccines. Here we will be sharing some important insights from that conference. 

Good News Ahead

For the moment, the worst wave of the current coronavirus infections seems to be behind us. According to a recent March report from the CDC, the average number of new COVID cases have declined by almost a whopping 79% compared with the highest peak on January 11. 

Even more good news on the horizon, we now have three vaccines which the FDA has approved for emergency use and which are reported to be safe and very effective(Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson which is a one-shot dose vaccine). 

As America mass vaccinates the population in hopes of continuing to lower infection rates and death totals, Dr. Nunez-Smith, one of the event’s guest speakers and director of the White House’s Health Equity Task Force, said that’s why the Biden Administration is taking the imperative steps to lessen the impact of social determinants which affect Black communities. 

“We have to make sure that vaccinations are free,” Dr. Nunez-Smith said. “That is an important consideration. But vaccination alone is not sufficient. Specific to COVID-19, we have to make sure everyone has equal access to things like testing for COVID.” 

What Black America Needs to Know About COVID-19 and Vaccines

Racial Equality in Vaccine Roll-Out

Also at the center of the issue of equity in the dissemination of COVID vaccines to African Americans is Dr. Helene Gayle, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust. She’s also co-director of the prestigious National Academies of Medicine committee which was commissioned last fall by the CDC to submit recommendations for a framework which will help to determine how the COVID-19 vaccines can be distributed equitably. 

Dr. Gayle noted the framework recognizes that communities of color have been the hardest hit and are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. This concern also relates to the impact of racism. Dr. Gayle said this has made the project a landmark undertaking. “It’s the first time that equity has been front and center in title and design of a vaccine rollout,” she said.

However, here are concerns in the Black community that the process of distributing the COVID-19 vaccines needs to be improved. Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, has echoed this uneasiness about the dissemination of the COVID-19 vaccines for African Americans. He says the vaccine distribution strategy relies too heavily on hospitals and chain pharmacies, making it insufficient to get the job done. 

Morial is strongly urging the Biden Administration to make fast and radical changes to the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan across the United States. He said a broader approach of having nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants administer the vaccine in community-based sites, schools and libraries would be a more effective and “common sense” solution to getting shots of the COVID-19 vaccines into African American’s arms. 

Fostering Trusting Relationships

Another dilemma regarding COVID-19 is the misinformation, a lack of information and deep-seated mistrust in the Black community regarding the vaccines and the process used to develop them. Morial said this has led to the concern, for some African Americans, that the vaccine development was rushed or that the process is attached to ghosts of the Tuskegee experiments. To confront these concerns, Morial suggests that government, states, counties and cities foster broad engagement, public relations and advertising campaigns to provide Black communities with accurate information, helping to create transparency relating to the vaccines. 

Morial has also noted that it’s key to have the right messengers amplify medical advice and messages about COVID-19 to our communities. “The right messengers are African American physicians, doctors and scientists,” he said. “Those medical professionals who we respect in the Black community, from the Black medical schools, from the Black professional associations, have examined, looked at, reviewed the process and have green lit it.”

As some states continue to struggle with closing the racial gap in the number of COVID-19 vaccinations for African Americans, Black pastors and other faith-based leaders are taking the reins as the respected messengers about the virus in the Black community. 

One of those respected messengers is Reverend Calvin Butts, pastor of the nationally renowned Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York. He is also co-chair of the Choose Healthy Life Black Clergy Action Plan which addresses COVID-19 and other health disparities in Black communities. 

“Our community has been the one that’s been the least informed, often left out and of course manipulated,” Reverend Butts said. “We’re trying to save lives.”

In late-January, Reverend Butts rolled up his left sleeve to get his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, along with his wife Patricia at their historic church, which was New York city’s first church to administer the vaccine. He is continuing to be a champion for the cause. He’s spreading the gospel, encouraging his congregation and other faith-based communities to rise above reluctancy, trust the COVID-19 vaccines and take the “leap of faith” to get vaccinated. This really gives us our best “shot” to stay healthy, combat COVID-19 and the more contagious virus variants and win the war that’s being waged against the virus. 

Darryl Sellers is the Public Relations Director for Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee and a partner of the BCAC.

For more information about COVID-19, health, wellness and upcoming BCAC Facebook Live events: Black Coalition Against COVID-19, a key health resource for African Americans 

Black Doctor.org, the world’s largest and most comprehensive online health resource specifically targeted to African Americans

Helpful Tips When Shopping for Home Décor

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There’s a special kind of feeling that comes from designing your space. Whether picking out some new drapes or an exotic-looking area rug, home décor is ideal for your living space. There are a few helpful tips when shopping for home décor that I’d like to share with you today, and hopefully, they will help you brighten up your own space.

Account for Your Space

A significant problem that many people run into is failing to account for the amount of space they have. When decorating, it’s a good idea to allow your room to feel open and inviting. One of the fastest ways to diminish that is having an excess of items that leave the room feeling cramped.

Home decoration is less about filling your space and more about finding the best way to utilize that space.

Consider Your Theming

Having a theme in mind is one of the most helpful tips when shopping for home décor. Sometimes, having an eclectic take is fun, but themes allow you to use your items to bring the room together. If you aim for more tropical vibes, warm colors and plants fit much better than antique Victorian furniture.

Helpful Tips When Shopping for Home Décor

If you follow a motif when decorating a room, it helps prevent you from buying pieces that you don’t need. Sticking with colors and design choices that fit what you have in mind narrows things down and removes a lot of pressure from you.

Take Advantage of Online Pre-Shopping

Before you drive down to the store to be overwhelmed and tempted by everything on offer, it helps to check out the online site. Not only do most store websites have a large variety of items not sold in the physical location, but you can also usually examine the item description to get measurements to see if it fits you. Take time to create a shopping cart that allows you to account for your budget and area without leaving the comfort of your home.

The Best Reasons To Live on a Caribbean Island

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The Best Reasons To Live on a Caribbean Island

You might think that moving to the Caribbean is a stretch, but it could be exactly what you need to break away from your hectic lifestyle. You’ve probably heard that leaving your hometown is an excellent way to build character. Moreover, stepping out of your comfort zone and moving outside of your home country is the best way to gain wisdom and become more cultured. Dive into the best reasons to live on a Caribbean island and decide if it might be a suitable adventure for you.

White Sand Beaches

The Caribbean is widely known for its beaches, and for good reason. The weather is almost always perfect, and the white sand and crystal-clear water make the region an absolute paradise for beach-lovers. Whether you want to lounge in the sand or learn how to surf, the beautiful beaches are highlights of the Caribbean experience.

Incredible Cuisine and Culture

The Caribbean is the place to be for unique cuisine. The popular dishes draw influence from Spanish, African, European, and other cultures, and each of the islands has a unique entrée you must try. For example, conch fritters—deep-fried conch meat—are an iconic dish from the Bahamas. However, you’ll be eating cou-cou and flying fish if you choose Barbados. Although the food is a significant part of the Bajan lifestyle, Barbados’s traditions and culture are the foundation of life on the island.

Friendly Faces

Although many cultures and ethnicities are represented in the Caribbean, everyone is incredibly friendly and welcoming. Even if they don’t know you, anyone and everyone on the island will greet you in passing. You’ll feel nothing but love and positivity no matter where you go.

A Lifestyle With a Slower Pace

If you’re looking for a change, a lifestyle with a slower pace is one of the best reasons to live on a Caribbean island. You might be used to the hustle and bustle of your daily life, but you’ll have no choice but to slow down here.

Uprooting your whole life isn’t always the best option, but sometimes finding yourself again is necessary. You don’t have to stay forever, but moving to a new place will offer you a fresh start. You might experience some culture shock when you first move to the Caribbean, but it’ll be an enjoyable experience you’ll never forget.

What To Know Before Moving to an Area With Hurricanes

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What To Know Before Moving to an Area With Hurricanes

For countless generations, hurricanes have been a part of life in the Caribbean. Our ancestors learned how to detect their arrival and marked their time by the coming of hurricane season. However, it’s easy to lose touch with the nature of these storms, especially for those who don’t live near the ocean.

That’s why re-educating yourself is essential if you’re planning on moving back to the islands or to other tropical areas. Here’s what to know before moving to an area with hurricanes.

Hurricane Terminology

There is a lot of jargon associated with hurricanes, and knowing the terms will help you understand weather forecasts. Here are a few essential things to know before moving to hurricane-prone areas as far as terminology goes:

  • Eye: The center of a storm system where winds are comparatively lighter.
  • Eyewall: The area surrounding the eye where the weather is most severe
  • High wind warning: When winds are expected to be 40mph or more for over an hour.
  • Storm surge: A sudden rise in ocean levels during a storm
  • Watch: It means storm conditions are likely (Usually in the context of “tropical storm watch” or “hurricane watch”.)

Safety Risks of Hurricanes

It is difficult to imagine just how destructive a hurricane can be if you haven’t experienced it before. There are safety risks associated with it that aren’t always obvious to an outside observer. Being aware of these risks can help you take evasive action in the event of a hurricane. A few key risks include:

What To Know Before Moving to an Area With Hurricanes
Photo by NASA on Unsplash
  • Inland and coastal flooding
  • Damaged buildings from winds and fallen trees
  • Debris being carried by high winds
  • Inland tornados
  • Contaminated water and air
  • Rip currents

Power outages are also common during hurricanes which can disrupt communication and impact medical facilities. Power surges, which are different from power outages, are also common and can be dangerous.

Pro Tip: Have a Hurricane Kit

Because of widespread damage and the potential need to evacuate, your family should have a survival kit that they can grab at a moment’s notice. This kit should include non-perishable food, water, flashlights, a first aid kit, and backup batteries.

Necessary Insurance

With the increased risk of property damage, insurance is necessary. However, it’s important you make sure your insurance offers the coverage you need. For instance, homeowner’s insurance doesn’t always cover flood damage, so you may need to purchase additional flood insurance to protect your home.

Hurricanes are powerful forces of nature, but that doesn’t mean we have to retreat from the sea. Just like our ancestors, we can learn to recognize hurricanes and take the action we need to protect ourselves and our homes.

What Are the Benefits of Visiting Natural Places

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What Are the Benefits of Visiting Natural Places

Nature is one of the most valuable things in the world, with nothing else coming even close. That’s why natural places are so important for people and hold many benefits for those who appreciate them. So, if you are planning on a trip, you should first find out what are the benefits of visiting natural places.

A Break From Busy Life

The most obvious of these benefits is the break from your normal life. Being in nature separates you from the normal places you’re accustomed to. It also helps you break away from the things that bog you down every day, like work and other issues.

Stress Reduction

Nature has a unique effect on people, as it not only separates us from our busy lives but calms us down as well. People who go on nature trips often report that they reduce their stress at the same time. Something about nature can put your problems in their proper place and make big issues much smaller, at least for a little while.

Physical Health

Going out into nature isn’t just about your mental stress and a break from the regular, but it also boosts your physical health. Getting out and moving around can help you exercise, especially if you make your outings a regular occurrence.

Discovery

Nature is a whole new world for your exploration and is a place you can see some true wonders. For anyone who’s adventurous and wants to explore, nature is the best place to accomplish that. Here are some of the must-see places in the USA that everyone should try checking out at least once in their lifetime.

For those who still wonder what the benefits of visiting natural places are,this is your answer. Nature holds many benefits for people and is worth exploring. For your mental health and your desire to see the world, there are few things better than a trip through nature. Plus, the physical benefits are well worth the effort of going out and walking about.

5 Ways To Make Your Patio More Inviting and Beautiful

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5 Ways To Make Your Patio More Inviting and Beautiful

You’ve seen gorgeous outdoor living areas on TV. But your dream patio doesn’t have to stay a dream. Whether you want to start big or small, you can build a space you love.

Create your backyard oasis and enjoy it this year. Consider these five ways to make your patio more inviting and beautiful.

1. Arrange Comfortable Furniture

Invite your guests to sit back and relax on comfortable furniture. Think about your entertainment needs and choose furniture that doesn’t crowd the area.

If you prioritize outdoor dining, opt for a dining set. If you enjoy lounging, choose an outdoor sofa and loveseat with a coffee table. No matter your preference, get comfortable furniture with weather-resistant fabric that can withstand the elements and look great.

2. Layer Multiple Types of Lighting

Having multiple sources and types of lighting adds depth to your space. Having several lighting options means you can customize your patio’s look based on the occasion or season. Whether you’re entertaining on your patio during a balmy summer or enjoying your outdoor living space during a cold season, lighting makes people feel welcomed and comfortable.

Place different types of lights around your patio. For example, you can decorate your patio with warm string lights or light an edge of your patio with solar-powered lights staked into the ground. For cozy gatherings, nothing beats flickering candlelight. Place candles throughout the space to spread cheer.

3. Add Some Greenery

Plants add color and vibrancy to your patio. You can use plants to fill bare areas or make your space more dynamic. With potted plants, you can bring natural color to your patio wherever you live.

For example, you can hang baskets of flowers for vertical charm. If you have the floor space, consider filling large planters with clusters of different plants for eye-popping flora. Or decorate a wall with a trellis of growing plants or a mini herb garden. Whatever you choose, greenery will make your patio more inviting and beautiful.

4. Consider Throw Pillows and a Rug

Adding throw pillows can help your guests get more comfortable. They’re also easy to swap out for different patterns or colors if you want to refresh your decor. These small and affordable additions are great ways to make your patio more inviting and beautiful.

An outdoor rug provides style and comfort. A rug can also make your patio feel more finished, coordinating different areas. And if you want your patio to have a theme, such as a beach theme, a rug is an easy way to anchor the look.

5. Keep It Clean and Bright

One of the best ways to make your patio more inviting is to keep it clean. Sweep or hose the patio off regularly. You can use a lightweight power washer on the gentlest setting to blast away caked-on dirt.

Wipe down surfaces such as tabletops and chairs. Generally, you can gently blot stains with a cloth and warm, soapy water, but clean your furniture’s fabric as specified by the manufacturer.

If you have a covered patio, be sure to remove dust and cobwebs from the ceiling regularly. All of these steps will keep your patio in the best condition for relaxing and entertaining.

The Slap Seen Around the World is a Teachable Moment about Black Men and Mental Health

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Photo by Alex Robinson on Unsplash

Being a Black man in America often means being your brother’s keeper. Yet, when it comes to mental health, many Black men still struggle to tackle this important issue.

Today, this topic is being discussed more openly since actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock at the Academy Awards. Just moments later, Smith received his first-ever Oscar win, a milestone overshadowed by his earlier confrontation with Rock. Viewers watched Smith experience a rollercoaster of emotions, including happiness, anger and remorse, within the span of one award show.

Dr. Rahn Bailey, a psychiatrist with the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute and Department Head of Psychiatry at LSU’s School of Medicine, believes this moment highlights the mental health struggles many Black men are grappling with in America. 

“Part of the issue is that Black men are not respected and valued at the same level as some other human beings in our society,” Dr. Bailey said. “I don’t think that would have happened if the comedian was not a Black male. Had he been a woman, I don’t think that would have happened. And perhaps had he been a white male, that may not have happened either. It could certainly be those roles are valued more.”

Depression remains one of the most common, yet underrecognized and undertreated mental illnesses among Black men, according to the National Institute of Health. Their mental health is more complex than statistics or clinical diagnoses indicate, as they are forced to balance many unspoken pressures, unrealistic expectations and unfair stereotypes. “But violence, in any form, does more harm than good 99% of the time — other than self-defense,” Dr. Bailey said.  “And we should be very cautious, initially, when we quickly run to the defense of violence.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic has only made matters worse. People are facing new and challenging realities: working from home, unemployment, virtual schooling, lack of in-person interactions. Mental health, especially for Black men, is more important today than ever before. “As far as COVID, I think the misinformation our society is exposed to now in the healthcare domain is frightening,” Dr. Bailey said. “We have to keep our eye on the ball.”

Worrying about COVID-19, coupled with the devastating loss of loved ones, continues to be a mental health stressor. Whether Black men are on stage, in the board room or on the block, their emotions and state of mind need to be taken seriously. Their mental health matters.


About Dr. Rahn Bailey

Dr. Rahn Bailey is board certified in Psychiatry and Forensic Psychiatry. He is a nationally recognized expert on gun violence, intimate partner violence, health disparities in minority populations and forensic psychiatry. Dr. Bailey has authored and co-authored over 50 peer-reviewed publications, and he has written books about healthcare reform and gun violence. He is excited about returning to LSU School of Medicine, where he began his faculty career. 

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit vaccines.gov. For more information about the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ COVID-19 public education campaign, visit We Can Do This.

Paula Penebaker is a member of the Public Relations Team for CMRignite, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee and a partner of the Cobb Institute.

Social Justice and Pride Issues Explored in Groundbreaking Caribbean Museum Program Series

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G. Wright Muir, Jamaican-American co-founder of Black LGBTQ Liberation Inc| | Photo courtesy of G. Wright Muir

Caribbean LGBTQ+ activists and advocates recognized in two-month exhibit.

In a groundbreaking move, the United States’ first and only Caribbean heritage museum, Island SPACE Caribbean Museum, will host an exhibition exploring advancements made by members of the LGBTQ+ community. On Tuesday, May 10, a special opening event will launch the first in the museum’s lineup of social justice issues programming. “Queer Caribbeans: Resilience, Resistance and Reimagining,” will present a multimedia, historical retrospective showcase of the racial and cultural achievements of Caribbean LGBTQ+ rights activists. The project will focus on leaders who set the foundation for victories within the Caribbean LGBTQ+ diasporic community and their contributions to broader LGBTQ+ liberation movements in the United States.

Island SPACE has partnered with nonprofits Black LGBTQ+ Liberation, Inc. and Caribbean Equality Project to curate the project. The “Queer Caribbeans” exhibition will document the intersection of Caribbeanness and LGBTQ+ rights activism with an extensive repository of photographs, news footage, oral histories and videos featuring well-respected Caribbean LGBTQ+ rights advocates. Visitors will enjoy the works and words of personalities including beloved Trinidadian-American activist Colin Robinson, Guyanese-American founder of Caribbean Equality Project Mohamed Q. Amin, Jamaican-American co-founder of Black LGBTQ+ Liberation G. Wright, Tobagonian-American actress Dominique Jackson, and Jamaican-American writer and spoken word artist Staceyann Chin. 

The public is invited to join special guests and enjoy live entertainment at the opening reception on Tuesday, May 10 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. A virtual panel will explore issues and progress within this community in the Caribbean region on Wednesday, June 15 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m, during Pride Month. An in-person panel will discuss advancements made among the Caribbean LGBTQ+ diaspora on Wednesday, June 29 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

From May to October 2022, Island SPACE Caribbean Museum, with funding from the Community Foundation of Broward, will present an exhibition and event series highlighting social justice issues affecting Caribbean and Caribbean-American communities. The first in the six-month series addresses issues affecting LGBTQ+ people. Subsequent themes will include Emancipation and the region’s complex history with the concept of freedom, and colorism and gender roles among Latin-Americans. To learn more about “Queer Caribbeans” and the Island SPACE social justice issues series, visit islandspacefl.org/social justice.


Support for Island SPACE and the social justice series has been provided by Broward Mall, Florida Power & Light Company, Grace Foods, the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, the National Endowment for the Arts and the following Funds at the Community Foundation of Broward: Mary N. Porter Community Impact Fund, Jack Belt Memorial Fund, Ginny and Tom Miller Fund, Stearns Weaver Miller Fund for the Arts, Harold D. Franks Fund.

Island SPACE (Island Society for the Promotion of Artistic and Cultural Education) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development and advancement of arts, culture, history, and educational initiatives that represent the Caribbean region in South Florida and the broader diaspora community. The organization produces events, and supports independent artists, organizations and groups who deliver high-level presentations, in various art forms. Its flagship project is Island SPACE Caribbean Museum, the first and only Caribbean heritage museum in the United States. Find more information at islandspacefl.org.

Black LGBTQ+ Liberation, Inc. (BLL) is a nonprofit global organization focused on achieving positive outcomes for BIPOC lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Their mission is to provide programming and services to eradicate homophobia, transphobia and achieve positive outcomes in the lives of marginalized LGBTQ+ people. They focus on the arts, social justice, health and wellness. Find more information at thouartwoman.com

The Caribbean Equality Project is a community-based organization that empowers, advocates for, and represents, Black and Brown, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming and queer Caribbean immigrants in New York City. Through public education, community organizing, civic engagement, storytelling and cultural and social programming, the organization’s work focuses on advocacy for LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights, gender equity, racial justice, immigration and mental health services, and ending hate violence in the Caribbean diaspora. Find more information at caribbeanequalityproject.org

Unique Ways To Add a Touch of Glamour to Your Home

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Unique Ways To Add a Touch of Glamour to Your Home

Décor is a great way to display things that give you pride. You can show off items that honor your Caribbean heritage, hang up art from your favorite trip, and include decorative pieces that share your personality with visitors. For those who have glamorous personalities and want to show it off, here are some unique ways to add a touch of glamour to your home.

Metallic Finishes

Metallic finishes such as gold and chrome automatically make people think of glamour. This is a glamorous update you can make yourself with spray paint, or you can buy pieces in a metallic finish. Add gold or chrome hardware to your kitchen and bathrooms for slight touches of glam in often-used spaces. For a bigger statement, consider large pieces such as a metallic bookshelf or bar cart.

Dramatic Lighting

Light fixtures are necessary for every home, so glamorous people should use them as an opportunity to display their style. You can choose something romantic such as a crystal chandelier, which will delicately scatter light, or go bold with a large black pendent light. If you don’t feel like replacing light fixtures, choose table and floor lamps with crystal or metallic finishes.

Custom Rugs

There are several things to consider when buying a custom rug, such as your budget, the material’s durability, and the room’s design. Once you know what you can afford, what material you want, and how to fit a custom rug in a specific room, you can add this impressive touch. There’s nothing more glamorous than receiving a compliment on a piece and being able to say it’s custom.

Luxurious Textures

Another unique way to add a touch of glamour to your home is through luxurious textures. Velvet is a glamorous material often used for furniture in luxury homes, so consider a velvet couch, chair, or at least velvet pillows. Faux fur is another luxurious texture found in glamorous homes. You can use this material for furniture such as ottomans and benches, or for a snuggly throw blanket.

Metallic finishes, dramatic lighting, custom rugs, and luxurious textures are all unique ways to add a touch of glamour to your home. These touches can be styled to beautifully compliment your existing furniture and décor, so give them a try and add a bit of luxury to your life.

Ideas for Remodeling or Renovating Your Garage

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Ideas for Remodeling or Renovating Your Garage

If you have a garage, you are likely not utilizing the space to its maximum capacity. Even if your automobile takes a spot, you can still do so much to elevate the space. No matter what you want to do with your garage, everyone should consider some of these basic ideas for remodeling or renovating your garage.

Lighting

One of the simplest ideas for remodeling or renovating your garage is adjusting the lighting. Often, garages tend to be dreary and bleak because they have little natural light exposure. A small lamp likely lights most of your space. Consider installing recessed, high bay, or flush-mount LED lights to counteract the drab lighting.

You may want to consider purchasing garage doors with windows; this will let in some much-appreciated natural light.

Diamond Plates

There are several reasons to install diamond plates. They are a fun way to elevate the look of your garage. They add a look of professionalism, elegance, and simplicity to the space. Many choose to go with the popular gunmetal gray as it helps reflect their lighting, allowing the space to appear brighter. You can also create a specific energy or feel to your area since diamond plates come in different colors. They usually come in gray, black, red, and sometimes white.

Painting

When you think about your garage, you might automatically associate it with the color gray. There is certainly nothing wrong with the color. But you should consider painting the walls if you want to customize and spruce up your look. A sleek off-white or vibrant cream paint usually works best in garages as they help brighten up the space. Keep in mind that nothing is off limits with a garage. You can paint the walls and the floors!

Garage floors are smooth surfaces perfect for a nice coat of paint. There are also so many unique ways to customize the floor as well. For example, applying an uneven coat of different but complementary paint colors and finishing it off with a resin application creates a wonderous marble gloss texture.

How To Keep Your Air Conditioner Running Efficiently

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How To Keep Your Air Conditioner Running Efficiently

Your air conditioner is the silent hero of your household. It keeps the heat out and the cold in, which many people appreciate in climates that are always hot. Therefore, your HVAC is likely always running. While it can do so, it’s subject to normal wear and tear over time. The good thing is you can help it run its best; here’s how to keep your air conditioner running efficiently.

Replace Filter

One of the best ways to keep your air conditioner running efficiently is to maintain your filter properly. Your filter helps trap any debris and dust that might otherwise float around your home, becoming part of your air supply and irritating sensitive noses and lungs. Due to this, it’s essential to change your system’s filter every 90 days. Keep in mind that you may need to replace the filter more periodically if you have any furry friends in your household.

Drain Line

Your air conditioner drain line will be a white tube that connects to your HVAC and your house. However, it will look different depending on whether your system is inside or outside. The drain line is responsible for keeping humidity out of your home and can be prone to clogging. As you may surmise, a clogged drain will have your home feeling more and more like a sauna. Make sure to flush your drain line out with some vinegar and hot water to avoid that.

How To Keep Your Air Conditioner Running Efficiently
Photo by Max Smith on Unsplash

Tighten Belt

Finally, the last helpful trick is to check the belt of your air conditioner. The serpentine belt keeps every accessory running efficiently. However, your belt might become too loose, jeopardizing your airflow. If you notice this, tightening these belts should fix any problems you have.

Try these valuable fixes to keep your air conditioner running smoothly. However, if you have tried these tricks and still find your system isn’t running as efficiently, you may need to replace your HVAC.

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