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Many of my post may be filled with typos, ignorant statements, untruths, bad English, & anything else that may make me appear to be uneducated. Please note: all of these things combined make my Blog the perfect one, because you know I have issues & I am not ashamed. With this said; enjoy, fuck mistakes & read between the lines!

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Archive for the 'Empowerment' Category

So…It’s Been A Long Time Since

Author: Tafari, Tuesday, April 10th, 2018 at 9:20 PM
Not sure if this is a comeback but here I am. Who’s still here? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone??? It's been YEARS since I last posted here and I miss it. WAIT... It’s been 3 years… So many reasons why I stopped writing and all centered around depression, drama still circling from my divorce/child custody battle and a general unhappiness with life, which led to the erosion of my creative spirit. Today, I am well both mentally & emotionally. All the divorce and child custody drama is OVER! AND… There are so many new things in my life that give me joy, happiness, & satisfaction. THE SKINNY:
My Ex: She died 2 years ago.. I found out on Facebook through a friend that I hadn’t talked to in ages. Although she was dead to me years before she actually left her body in a very tragic death, my daughters Olivia and Amelia are still hurting over their loss but WE ARE HEALING together and that has been beautiful. After $75K spent fighting my ex... fighting to love and support my children... there are so many layers to this story and over the course of a few posts, I will be sharing my experience to hopefully help any man who is out there struggling through a divorce, child custody issues, and just needs a map to well-rounded mental and emotional help. My Kids: Although unfortunate for my children, the death of my ex was a turnaround moment for me and my kids as a barrier to love was removed. I HATE looking it like this but I know things would be much different if this life event would not have occurred. I take no joy in her death but I certainly LOVE where me and the kids are. Olivia 2017 Olivia is approaching 20 this year, in her 2nd year of college, just purchased her 1st car, ready for a successful summer of internships and music festivals. She’s doing so much and I love it! Amelai 2017 Amelia is approaching 13 and is such a little self-determined spitfire. She’s doing great in school, has a true sense of humor that can light up any room, and is a creative entrepreneurial thinker full of hustle. Also... Sade is ALMOST 21!!! OMG! Really? Yes! She’s attending the University of Alabama, working really hard & is super focused! She’s survived some crazy odds and situations and continues to be a fighter. She makes me proud. My Job-Job: Most people know, many don’t… but I usually have a day job. Actually, my last day job was with Michigan Medicine/University of Michigan Health System. I was employed there for the last 15 years and decided to call it quits back in December 2017. I had a few roles in my time there but the last role was that I shaped and shifted in for 12 years. Why did I leave??? Bad management. Stress. Hostile work environment. All things that I am not having in my life anymore. The decision came after I suffered a tremendous breakdown at work and was carted off in an ambulance. Days later, I found myself on the couch of a therapist. A woman that helped me pull my life back together over a period of several months; six months to be exact. She helped me search for happiness within myself, helped me with strategies to control my anxiety, coached me through my fight with depression. She essentially helped me to evolve & focus on the things in this world that truly matter and while employment matters, my Black life, mind, & body cannot be governed by a pay check, especially when faced with a dangerous manager/director/boss…. On December 18th, I was so damn happy to submit my resignation. Handing that woman my letter was so freeing… so sobering, it gave me life as they say. watch her read it with her quivering lips warmed my cold heart. “December 18, 2017 Dear Laurel Barnes, After just over fifteen years of employment with Michigan Medicine, with twelve of those years in Learning Management, I enthusiastically tender my resignation effective 12/29/2017. Over the past several months, I have had time to reflect, and determined that it is in my best interest to no longer work in this damaging environment. After submitting complaints to the compliance office and getting no follow up from human resources, specifically Sarah Diebold after multiple attempts, it is clear that Learning Management under your leadership is not a safe nor positive space. It appeared that your intent was to tear apart rather than team build based on several incidents: 1) You told me that I lacked analytical skills without even knowing what I did within the department specifically, 2) You accused me of instigating workplace turmoil between XXXX & XXXX , 3) You suggested that XXXX and I had deep seated issues that interfere with work. After sharing untruths in regards to my behavior with XXXX & XXXX , who were shocked and confused by your statements and accounting, your bullyish behavior was further exposed. Under your leadership, the office is a very dangerous toxic environment ran on fear, bullying, intimidation, & deceit. The emotional intelligence and technical aptitude to effectively manage a diverse team positively was clearly absent and I suffered tremendously as a result. I will not be taking your three offers of a reference letter as you can’t effectively speak to my work, skills, abilities, work ethic or anything related. Reclaiming my time, Tafari K. Stevenson-Howard” Since I reclaimed my life and time, my purpose is clear. My satisfaction with my actions is clear. My zest for life is renewed and sustainable… The crazy thing is, before I quit, one of my good friends quit. Just quit! No job, no nothing because the environment was so ridiculously bad. After I left, four more of my team members left for the same reasons. We all worked together for 12 years or so. The cool thing is, we are all in better places but unfortunately, I had to suffer a mental breakdown… Life continues! With that said, I am now in a new job-job situation and it’s great! A positive work space doing something that feels meaningful. Working with a team that’s agile, fun, and diverse. My Passion: My photography is still a thing & has been really fun, especially since I have a renewed energy pushing my creatively, which was missing for so long.

Bygbaby.com Mindspill

So that I don’t bombard this post with too much, you can read about my latest work & project at these links below. City of Detroit: How a Detroit native's 'total fluke' couch purchase turned into a legendary photo series Michigan Chronicle: Couch: Beautiful – An Exploration of Beautiful Black Women To Debut Feb. 10th The Root: How Detroit Photographer Tafari Stevenson-Howard’s Couch Became a Work of Art Shondaland: Stunning Photo Series Showcases the Beauty of Detroit's Black Women
I’m committing to getting my thoughts out of my head. All the things that I have been wanting to release here in my journal are coming. This is part of my healing and I now feel ready. And damn, it’s time to refresh my blog look… I’m ready for the new new!

Working With A Sheroe: Alice Walker

Author: Tafari, Thursday, November 6th, 2014 at 7:20 PM

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Last week, I was contacted to photograph one of my favorite artists… ALICE WALKER. Needless to say, I was very excited & totally looking forward to the opportunity. Fast forward to the day of the event… I woke up feeling very bad, horrible, like death was upon me. It was strange because it just hit me out of nowhere. How could this be happening on such a big day…. It took a while to pull myself together and I rushed to get out of the door with all kinds of bags in tow only feeling slightly better…. Now..., I’m on the job setting up my camera and guess what… I left all of my memory cards at home. BUMMER… What was I going to do at the last minute other than panic. Then I noticed that I had another camera in my bag, which hadn’t been used in at least 2 years and it had a memory card ready to go for… A much needed surprise!!!! After all of this Ms. Walker entered the room and I was awestruck but composed… I introduced myself & sucked in as much as I could from her. Bygbaby.com Mindspill I’ll cherish this exchange forever: Me: Ms. Walker, give me a little more leg. Ms. Walker: Just one moment. (Positions leg and lifts skirt a little) In response to her creative process... "I don't allow anything into my mental and spiritual space that I don't want." In response to what she thinks the Black community needs... “The Black community needs more imagination.” “Turn off your TV and the images that tell you who you are and what you should be.” “Hang on to your books. All of your books.” Interesting Alice Walker Fact: The first thing Alice Walker saw on television was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested. Yesterday was everything I needed as a person & as an artist! And I got my book signed. Ha! The little things in life.

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2012: My Retrospective

Author: Tafari, Monday, December 31st, 2012 at 2:02 PM

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2012 was a bitch & my boo at the same damn time! Here are my top 10 highlights:
  • Hearing my sweet baby Amelia tell me that she missed & loved me after not seeing each other for 8 months.
  • Finalization of my divorce & My EPIC "The Ring Didn't Mean a Thing" divorce party.
  • College graduation & party. The party & the morning after was some of the sexiest shit ever.
  • My trip to Los Angeles: Having Lunch with my boo, Los Angelista at the La Brea Tar Pits: Having lunch with my boo, Ayanna at the Getty, Brunching with my boo, Thembi at Taste, Riding around & getting it with my niggas, Marcel & Asia, ya bish & of course the LA Sip & See at Lola's with all of my west coast family...
  • Traipsing around Brooklyn with Cousin Dee & landing in Hotel Delano.
  • Listening to Kendrick Lamar's "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City" album for the 1st time.
  • Making the New York Times Style section.
  • My parrot, Tongi laying 4 eggs.
  • Being surrounded by love & support from my great friends and family.
  • Re-connecting with my big cousin Danny.
Hit up my favorite portraits from the year..... [gallery columns="3" ids="5679,5680,5681,5682,5683,5678,5684,5687,5685,5686" orderby="rand"]

Tafari: On Living Free

Author: Tafari, Thursday, July 12th, 2012 at 6:44 PM

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"In our possessive coupling So much could not be expressed So now I'm returning to myself These things that you and I suppressed..."
Hejira by Joni Mitchell ~ 1976 ---------------------------------------------------------------- These days, I'm living life on my own terms; freely, in peace, loved, free of poison, and of course as a style icon. I'm almost single, dammit!

African Men: Hollywood Stereotypes

Author: Tafari, Friday, April 27th, 2012 at 10:30 AM
This video is AWESOME!!!

Activism. Leadership. History.

Author: Tafari, Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 at 12:58 AM

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This morning, I had the opportunity to witness Michele Norris of NPR’s "All Things Considered" give a keynote presentation at the University of Michigan’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. I do not know Michele, did not know what she looked like until about 6 years ago but I have loved her for the last 12+ years.  It is that voice… The magic of radio. Her interesting since of humor. How she processes and conveys information to her audience. I love it all. When I learned that she was taking a break from "All Things Considered" during this election cycle, I was bummed…. Like really. So when I saw that she was going to be in my area, I KNEW that I would be there…. As usual, I was running late & got to the address just as it was starting. When Michele hit the stage, I actually closed my eyes for a while. It was like some kind of large live NPR episode. Kinda nerdy of me but you know how I do. Her talk centered around activism, leadership & history. She told several family stories about her father and grandmother that were penetrating. She shared with us how her grandmother used to dress as Aunt Jemima and travel throughout the Midwest doing pancake demonstrations. She told us how in 1946 her father was attacked and shot by the police before being jailed in Birmingham after coming back from war. And much more! The jarring thing about the stories is that she did not learn of much of her family history until her father and grandmother had passed. She linked this to “ The Grace of Silence.” Why be silent? Can silence breed a form of activism? Does this change the dynamic of family secrets? Forbidden information??? Additionally, throughout her talk, she dropped tons of historic knowledge tied to the civil rights era & before. She mentioned Isaac Woodard, Timothy Hood, The Boswell Amendment, Smith v. Allwright, Martin Luther King Jr.’s last meal of catfish & hush puppies... After the presentation, the audience was presented with "race cards" where we were encouraged to discuss race in six words or less. I was pretty excited about having some race cards that I could play at will. Michele’s presentation overall was a great way to kickoff my day. I mean, it was a very good day. Spent time with friends, had a good dinner & got a new graphic design project. This MLK Day, I stayed winning.

One Man One Photo Everyday

Author: Tafari, Thursday, January 12th, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Many of my photographer friends have done or attempted to do a 365 project. Oh, a 365 project is where you do a photo a day. Sometimes, the project may entail a self-portrait once a day. I could never take this on because; I’m just too lazy & can't commit to anything long term. I just can’t! When I learned about Jeff Harris’ photo a day project that has been up & running since 1999 I said WOW… When I saw the photos, I was intrigued. Actually fascinated. Have a look yourself to see what I’m talking about. Be warned, there are a few shocking images in the slideshow from his bout with cancer (neurofibrosarcoma). On a related note, some of the backstory on Jeff;'s cancer battle can be read about here...

70’s Inspiration

Author: Tafari, Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 at 10:51 PM
If this song doesn't make you happy, dance, or do a disco spin then you have some issues in your head!

Talking With No Voice

Author: Tafari, Monday, October 10th, 2011 at 12:46 AM

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Yesterday, I had a senior portrait session downtown Detroit.  Days leading up to the session, I was dreading the worse because I was not sick but something was up with my throat leaving me unable to talk off & on. My voice sounded horrible but I felt no pain. Seems like since I got that flu shot, I've been having all kinds of body drama. I'm just saying. Saturday, I met with friends and at the end of the night, my voice was GONE.  I woke up Sunday & the voice was still GONE but  I was not going to cancel my session because I could not talk! I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through but I was going to make it happen. At the beginning of the session, I let the clients know that I was going to be doing a lot of whispering. It was actually kind of funny. I made it through the session with nothing vocally to spare. I joked on Facebook that I whispered through my photo session like it was a Ying Yang twins video. Yeah, I got jokes! On the way home, I was at a stoplight telling myself that I was not going to talk for the next few days to let my throat rest. Also, while at the light, I noticed this uniquely Detroit liquor store sign. The sign actually made me smile for some unknown reason. Maybe it was the colors. Maybe because the sign was lit but it was in a vacant lot. Anyway, I still cannot talk. Dammit!

Purple Afropunk Beauty

Author: Tafari, Saturday, August 27th, 2011 at 1:30 PM

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So, I'm posting this from NYC in the wake of hurricane Irene. Im hoping that Im able to get home by Tuesday night. I really am.... Stay tuned! --------------------- Last weekend, I had an idea to photograph Black women with natural hairstyles in Detroit for a mini interview project. I set out with all of the best intentions of getting 10 interviews done in one day but my plans fell apart before my very eyes. I start too many things, juggle them well for a while and then run out of steam (not to say that I'm a great starter & non-finisher) So... I'm mentally sidelining this project for now because I, well... Ummmm.... I'm way to busy now. 2 weddings coming up, 2 portrait sessions, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week & the new school semester starts next Wednesday. Whoa!!!! In the meantime, I'd like to introduce you to Natural Di'saster, who visited Detroit from Bowling Green, OH last weekend. It was hard not to notice this Afropunk chick rocking a perfectly purple shaved Mohawk. Natural runs an organization named "urban nu-sense" which was founded in 2007 to provide an opportunity for the creation and celebration of urban art forms in and around the Bowling Green, Ohio. urban nu-sense works to incorporate social awareness and revolutionary movement in the mix, encouraging people to THINK while observing, creating and celebrating urban art forms such as spoken word, poetry, film, hip hop, street and ethnic dance and world music. I asked her what defined her beauty and she said "absolutely nothing or no one." I really felt that!

See, What Had Happened Was: I Know My Worth!

Author: Tafari, Friday, May 6th, 2011 at 5:14 PM

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This ceviche was prepared by me. I shopped for the fresh ingredients. I sliced that avocado to perfection. I styled the plate. I took the photograph. I ate the ceviche. I processed the photo. I posted to photo to Flickr so that I could share my recipe and image with friends and admirers. This all took time, energy & most of all, $30 for a piece of red snapper. OK…. ----------------------------------------------------- Today, my pissedoffness with Air Canada Vacations has ended after having a discussion with their marketing director; Manon LeBlanc. I actually left a voicemail for a call back this morning & was happy to get a response this afternoon.  Evidently, my web campaign to spread this hot mess was successful because this story was circulated by Air Canada’s PR department and beyond. Since yesterday the post has nearly 300 hits. Yeah, I put it on blast here, my FB pages, Air Canada’s FB page, Flickr & Twitter. I’m happy that the post spread because I think it’s important for photographers who grind like I do in this craft to know that our work has value & we need to claim that! Anyway, here is the rub… Manon apologized for Nick’s unprofessional attitude and response. She also informed me that he is a 17 year old college intern working an unpaid 2 week assignment.  Until Nick encountered me, he was used to getting the photos that he inquired about. I guess you could say that he was really feeling himself before he ran into me. I’m cool with the apology & can somewhat process Nick’s behavior. On the photographer piece, Manon mentioned that Air Canada Vacations has been successful in procuring images from Flickr users in the past at no cost while providing credit.  They have also encountered Flickr members such as myself who know the value of their work is worth more than a byline.  In these fuck you, pay me instances, Air Canada Vacations isn't a position to pay for a photograph because they don't have a photography budget. In fact, they have and will change the focus of their story(s) if imagery cannot be obtained for .free99. I’m tripping on the fact that they are able to fill a 300 page publication with free images. I mean, it takes a real marketing pimp to snake charm a photographer with photo credit only as the company gets paid by clients/passengers booking trips in addition to advertising dollars that they get through the publication. Seems like the sky is falling or some crazy mess because more often than not that companies, groups & individuals need imagery but have no budget. During the conversation I stated that it MUST be known that just because a photo is posted on Flickr does not mean that it is some random snap shot. In fact many of the photographers on Flickr are professions, semi professions and highly skilled photo enthusiast. I refuse to play a part in that game. The gas is too damn high! Lessons learned:
  • Sometimes you have to cuss a bitch out
  • Standing your ground keeps you from being taken advantage of
  • Social media is a wonderful platform to spread information rapidly
  • I love telling people to “Google my name & do my resume.”
  • I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit
Lastly, I am thankful for Air Canada Vacations reaching back out to me to smooth this out & I hope that Nick uses this interaction as a workplace learning example on how not to wild out. And no, they did not buy the photo, offer me a free trip, but they did Google my name.

Fuck You, Pay Me

Author: Tafari, Thursday, May 5th, 2011 at 5:38 PM
I’m contacted often from companies who are interested in purchasing work of mine that was spotted on Flickr.  I have been lucky to have to make some sales independently, some sales were done via Getty Images, and other times the potential sale fell through the cracks because the would be client wants the imagery for free with the promise of giving me credit. I have been past the “I’ll give to credit” shit for years. And of course you should give me credit because I’m giving my work to you. Are you crazy? Air Canada has contacted me twice before to get photos with the promise of credit & I declined. Most recently, I decided to flip the script when I got a message from an Air Canada marketing rep who was interested in this red snapper ceviche photo for an upcoming spread. I’ll stop here & let the email conversation take over. And yes, I’m still laughing!!!!!

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