Browse Tag: spectra

[VIDEO] Africans for Africa Update: A Day at The Ibhabhathane Community Centre

This post is part of my Africans for Africa project updates: I’m traveling through Southern Africa for 6-months offering free social media, online fundraising, and organizational development strategy workshops to African women, LGBTI, and youth grassroots groups. I publish stories, reflections, lessons learned, and interviews from along the way.

Never Doubt a Small Group of Dedicated Women…

I recently visited the Ibhabhathane Community Centre, the only pre-school available in Rieebeck East, a small farm village with a population of about 700 people. Needless to say, providing good quality education (much less early childhood development) is a challenge. But a small group of dedicated women are making a difference.

An elderly black South African woman (she’s serving food in an apron in the video) reached out to Yolande, a white afrikaans woman, then a new resident to the small town, asking for her assistance in setting up a small center to care for toddlers; many of the young children were left idle / unattended, without sufficient social stimulation, and were growing up with developmental challenges, further impeding their success at the local primary school.

Yolande, a teacher by training, worked with the local community to open the first creche (pre-school) in an abandoned wooden shack. A few local women volunteer to teach and play with the children every day in their native language, Xhosa. And, over time, they remodeled the shack into a warmer, more colorful space. The roof needs to be fixed, and the floor needs to be re-tiled, so fundraising is top priority for them as they hope to grow and implement higher quality programming (in a more conducive environment) for their children.

A few of their goals include building a comprehensive library of children’s books, acquiring funding for more teachers, and a bigger space so they can take in more children, who, without the centre, would remain idle in the village, as the unemployment (and alcoholism) rate is very high.

Rieebeck East, My New Favorite Getaway

During my visit, I stayed with Yolande, the project leader, and her husband, Marc (a talented visual artist and photographer) in their charming Bohemian style mud house, located just outside the township. The interior was painted aqua blue, and they had beautiful art they’d collected from over the years hanging on the walls. Yolande, who comes from a family of mosaicists, has tiled the counter tops, floors, and walls in a simple, yet accentuating masonry of pastel yellow, silver, grey, and black tiles and pebble stones.

On the night I arrived, they happened to be entertaining friends from  out of town, so we all built a fire for a brai (South African barbequeue), and spent the rest of the evening drinking wine and conversing passionately about the arts, apartheid, and the media’s spin on the murder of 36 protesting mine workers. Nothing like spending an evening outdoors, by a fire among fellow artivists; it was the most fun I’d had in several weeks.

My remaining two days there were a lot quieter, a much-needed oasis of nature, peace, and serenity, especially after spending nearly three weeks in the cold city of Cape Town. I woke up each morning to the sound of their fives dogs, three cats, and a whole lot of chickens, then watched the sun ascend from the horizon (which one can see for miles and miles around), as I sipped Rooibos tea. The landscape was breathtaking, and the warmth with which I was tended to, moving. It reminded me that as a traveler, there’s only one way to find home away from home; don’t search for it whole; find snippets, bits & pieces wrapped in small acts of kindness.

When I left, I felt refreshed, rejuvenated, and with two new friends whom I can’t wait to visit again. Maybe next year.

A Bit of Kindness, Returned

Ibhabhathane Community Centre is currently trying to raise about R8000 (~$1000) to get high speed internet installed. Currently, there is no connection in the very small town, and Yolande needs to drive about 45K up a dirt road to the nearest university to use the internet (her mobile data modem is much too slow for anything more than checking email). Getting the infrastructure installed will make it easier for her to improve communications with potential donors (and the outside world in general), and also, increase Ibhabhathane’s social media engagement, which they’d like to use for fundraising.

I made this video for them because I was moved by how much they’ve accomplished with so little, and also, how kind everyone was to me, a total stranger, just passing through. I’ve visited about 20 NGOs since I arrived in South Africa in July, and this is the one with the idea — and the people — that have touched me the most.

So, here’s the short video I made — a snapshot of “A Day at the Ibhabhathane Community Centre”. I hope you enjoy it, and consider supporting them as well. You can donate to their project here.


BEEcome BUZZworthy: My Social Media 101 Training Workshop for Passionate People

Here is a sample of a social media 101 workshop I’m offering to Artists, Activists, and Non-Profits (aka “Passionate People”).

Are you a passionate person who is interested in learning how to use social media more effectively, to share your ideas, market your services, advocate for an issue you care about? Are you already sold on the power of social media but struggle with the time-drain of managing multiple profiles?

BEEcome BUZZworthy(TM) is a workshop geared towards activists, artists, change makers, and/or anyone who is interestd in learning how to use social media to impact social change, as well as gain access to resources beyond their immediate networks. My own personal passion stems from my work in the philanthropy, media, and art sectors. However, this workshop will be helpful to anyone who wishes to increase their influence online in order to increase their influence offline; whether you’re looking to better advocate for an issue you care about, run a fundraising campaign, market a valuable service, or build a network around a shared interest, social media is for you.



Social Media 101 for Artists, Activists, and Non-Profits 

Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, Oh My! There’s so much BUZZ about social media these days and it seems everyone’s catching on. But perhaps there’s too much buzz coming from too few BEES. How to make sense of all that noise coming from the HIVE? Who can tell us where to find the HONEY?

Did that make sense to you? Probably not. It was a silly analogy. But it got your attention, didn’t it? :)

Hi, I’m Spectra. And I’m here to tell you how you can use of social media to… well, make sense to other queen bees (including to yourself) when “buzzing” in the virtual world that has fast become an intrinsic part of our lives.

My approach is simple: social media is socializing, in a very big room.

If you’ve ever attended a networking event, made a new friend, hosted a party, or applied for a job, trust me, you already know how to introduce yourself, build relationships, maintain them, and subtly boast about how interesting, talented, and all-round awesome you are without appearing to be doing that at all. (It’s okay, we all do it, there’s nothing to be ashamed about). In the real world, we build relationships, then tap into their value, all the time. 

So here’s the secret to doing it online: it’s no different.

Yup. The same rules apply. So, if you’re personable in real life, chances are using social media to build relationships online will come naturally to you. Whether you’re an independent artist who’s trying to get people to support their work, a small business owner who could use some more visibility, a new social impact organization interested in spreading their message to potential supporters/members, social media is for you. Moreoever, whether you access the web through your school library, internet cafe, laptop, or your mobile phone, social media offers free, do-it-yourself tools to connect with people who should be connected to you.

But in a room full of BUZZING BEES (oh! there goes that analogy again), it can be difficult to hear yourself, or anyone else for that matter. However, it’s absolutely crucial that we find a way. 

Think of it this way: You have really important ideas to share, products and services that people actually really need. But what good can you really do in the world if no one knows who you are or what you’re about? The world needs you. Yes, it’s true, you and your own unique brand of honey could make the world a better place. No doubt about it. 

Yet, it is also true that social media can be time-consuming, and so many of you are already so busy. So many of you may think, “I get it. I know social media is important. But how do I find the time?”, or “Why would anyone listen to me? I’m just a ___”, or my personal favorite, “Does any of this really make a difference?” But don’t worry, you’re not alone! This is where I come in! (See, I finally landed on my point). 

Attend this workshop, and I’ll show you how to BECOME THE BEE THAT OWNS THE HONEY.

It’s my job to make sure that you’re both seen and heard by the people that matter to you, by the people that need you. This hands-on workshop is structured such that each person maps out their own strategy over the course of the session, and has time to address their own specific needs.

What You Will Learn

  • Why social media should be an integral part of your awareness-building strategy
  • How to build your brand/identity/vision into your social media strategy
  • Tips and tricks for online engagement (e.g. “How to Boast without Sounding Boastful)
  • Tools and resources for efficient automation and time-management (e.g. scheduling content ahead of time, “bucketing” ideas for future use, etc) 

I’m Sold! Show Me the Honey! 

If you’re interested in joining the swarm of regular every day people who are using social media to make a positive impact in their workplace, communities, the world, don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss booking a 4-hr workshop for your organization, group of colleagues or friends, or arrange one-on-one consultation services (1-hr calls, once a week, for a month). Rates are negotiable. 

Please note: Basic internet savvy is required of all attendees. Projector screen and PC laptop hook up for interactive presentation required. U-shape conference seating arrangement is ideal, but classroom, lecture, or informal lounge seating can also work. At least one wired internet connection is required, but a venue with high-speed wi-fi is preferred. Minimum of 6 attendees required to schedule a group workshop.

Click here to schedule a workshop!

Decisions, Decisions: Group Workshop vs. Individual Consulting Sessions

If you’re already familiar with social media and are seeking support for a specific project (e.g. fun a fixed period online fundraising campaign, increasing Facebook Page engagement, etc), then I recommend the one-on-one consulting sessions. I would also recommend the one-on-one sessions for busy professionals/activists who already have a platform (i.e. executive directors of non-profits, activists who blog etc) and would like to promote their thought leadership more strategically. Again, we would treat these goals as specific projects in order to jumpstart their progress. Additional sessions may be purchased as-needed. 

Conversely, group workshops are ideal for people who have familiarity with social media but are not yet sure how they can use it to their advantage. As I’d like to say, they haven’t yet identified their “honey” or what makes them unique and buzzworthy. The workshop is intended to help people identify (and articulate) their value within their niche or community, and map out a strategy for garnering support, improving their engagement, and increasing their influence. To that end, learning about social media in a group format — in addition to drawing from the experiences of multiple people — provides an instant support network via which you can continue practicing.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to BEEcome BUZZworthy? If so, I encourage you to schedule a workshop or consulting session with me. I look forward to hearing from you.


As I’m constantly creating new workshops and training modules to better support every day people whose voices should be reflected in the media, your stories (of successes and challenges) are an essential part of learning how we — as passionate people — can better make ourselves heard. So, please share your experiences with social media in the comments below.

Are you a passionate person who is interested in learning how to use social media more effectively, to share your ideas, market your services, advocate for an issue you care about? What areas of using social media do you struggle with? What has been helpful to you? What has been the most challenging?

A Love Poem to Say Goodbye: Things I Didn’t Know I Loved

A Parting Love Poem from My Beautiful Partner

She read the poem below at my goodbye party last weekend, and wanted me to share it with all of you. I am so blessed to have found someone whose Love is big enough, strong enough, brave enough, to Love me even from the farthest parts of the world, and to push me to share it with others, always. I wish for the same for all of you.

As she has dedicated this to me, I dedicate this to everyone who loves an activist, who gives them sustenance when they are running on empty, the push they need to keep going, even when they think they can’t, and of course, so much unconditional love. The world is so much better because of you. Thank You.

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved

Banana peels left on book shelves
An open jar of jam
Repeated bursts of flash
as she waits for the shot that will
show me exactly what she sees
when she looks at me.

I didn’t know I loved singing.
Especially at the top of my lungs.
Most especially under a bridge.

I didn’t know I could memorize
every variation of a smile
And daydream of ways
to coax each one to light

I knew I would love her storytelling
….and our dancing
all that was unspoken
yet understood
in our movement

But, looking back at the tentative safety
of bluelight raindrops,
I could never have known
our water-deficient souls
would feel so safe
in this ocean,
this deluge of emotions
and dreams overflowing

I will miss you
Miss “I love you’s” whispered nightly in reverence
– a rosary of promises
placed in the dip of your collarbone
for safekeeping.

I will miss your hands,
your bigger than life laugh,
stolen glances across a crowded room

Corazon, I will miss your spirit
your open, loving, too-big-for-one-city spirit
filling our home.

Amor, I stand here and celebrate you.
I celebrate your courage,
the way you’ve learned to follow your heart
wherever it may lead

Know that I am always with you,
that the rays of your sun
will warm you in the farthest corners of the globe

Mi Reina…

Always know that I love you.


a poem by Idalia (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter)

Copyright Spectra Speaks 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Neither the whole or part of this work should be duplicated and/or republished without permission.

Keeping the Faith: Religion, Sexuality, and My Best Friend’s Pool Party

A faithful friend is a strong defence: and he that hath found him, hath found a treasure. — Ecclesiasticus 6:14

My best friend from college; she’s the woman who taught me how to laugh, how to REALLY laugh… and then, when I came out, we stopped laughing together. We lost each other’s smiles for nearly four years as we both searched for self in different directions; I as an out queer activist, she as a deeply spitual Christian.

It was painful. But Love, wherever it touches, always wins.

My best friend found me again after reading a guest post written by my sister about being an ally; she left three heartfelt comments back to back; I’m sorry, I miss you, I still love you. I was so happy to have my friend back. It was as though no time had passed at all. We were back to laughing, so hard, at everything. And, like my siblings, our friendship proved that relationships are far more powerful than rhetoric when it comes to tolerance; Love always wins.

She recently threw a fundraiser for me in Texas for my #africansforafrica project. Four missed flights and connections, and a desperate additional one-way ticket to TX later just to make the party, it rained, and still we laughed. When the sun came out right when we had set up the DJ indoors, we laughed some more. And when we tallied the donations raised against the cost of planning the party, we laughed then, too.

Amidst all that laughter, I cherished you, and wouldn’t have asked for anything more; I was with my friend, laughing once more before setting off on my way, filled with Love.

So when I received notification of the donation she’d made, I lost all composure. $1000. For me, to go with to Africa where I hoped to heal women like me who’d lost their friends, lost their laughter, and needed to rediscover Love. “Chi Chi, why?” I cried. “‘Cause you’re my friend and I love you and I’m so proud of you.”

There was no laughter then, but for a good reason this time. That crazy woman in the pool. That smile of hers… let it assure you, your friends will come back to you, too. How I love her so.

Join our army of love.

My Straight African Brother’s Reflections on a Very Queer Christmas: “Two Couples and a Sibling”

My Dear Readers!

Sibling love forever...

This post — written from my straight, Christian brother — is what I got for Christmas, and I am so thrilled to share it with all of you! My brother spent the holidays with me, my partner, and our two very good friends and, it seems, felt so moved by how much of a great time he had that he announced he would be writing about it. We didn’t believe he would — maybe he’d been caught up in the moment (after several glasses of wine, and so much turkey!) — but then this afternoon, I received his post in my inbox.

I’m in tears as I write this; both my siblings have now contributed to my queer afrofeminist blog. It’s surreal — first my sister in Confessions of a Straight Girl: How to Be an Ally, and now my brother.

I can’t say this any plainer: I never would have imagined this possible. But look at this… look what happens when you stay holding on to hope.

For any of you feeling hopeless about your families coming around, I want you to read this post and see this as your future, see this as where your own family members can arrive after going through their own journeys of self-reflection. They will get there. You will get there. We will all find happiness.


“Two Couples and a Sibling” (guest post by Spectra’s Brother)

For quite some time now my sister has been wanting me to either read at least one of her blog posts (I know, it’s shameful that I haven’t been as engaged), or write something for her that she could put on her blog. I can’t say why I haven’t been paying closer attention to her writing up until this point but at least I’m finally doing it. I think for whatever reason I always felt that she was writing for the masses and not for me; that I wouldn’t learn that much from her writing as I would from the many conversations we have, one on one. I know … crazy, especially from someone who prides himself on how much he learns from reading books! But anyway, let’s move on.

A few days before Christmas, my sister (spectra) woke me up at 7am to ask me a huge favor: she wanted us to spend Christmas with a couple — we’ll call them Sukky and Shana — that she and her partner were very good friends with. She explained that they were both still struggling to find acceptance within their respective families, and would appreciate being among friends. I had met these particular friends briefly at a birthday celebration and they seemed nice enough, so I figured why not. The visit seemed very important to my sister or she (not being the warmest fuzziest person in the world) wouldn’t have given me a puppy dog face as well and a huge hug after realizing that I’d actually be up for an 8-hr roundtrip drive to New York. So on Christmas morning, we set off early, really excited at the idea of spending time with what Spectra described as “intentional family.”

The ride down to the city was great! I’m a speed demon so leaving early on Christmas day meant no cops. Saweet! (If any cops are reading this post I apologize for doing an average of 95mph which is why we got to Brooklyn in just under three hours — hey, wasn’t like I was the only one).

On reaching the couple’s apartment we were immediately greeted with a shriek from one of the girls (Shana) because her partner (Sukky) had kept it a secret we were coming. It’s a very nice feeling to be able to surprise good friends especially on a day like Christmas. And you must understand this too, any friends of my sisters are automatically friends of mine so I was equally as thrilled with the response. The entire day was spent cooking, laughing, cracking jokes, playing cards, taking naps, and for me specifically watching five basketball games back to back … ! Absolute heaven. Plus, I also had a few double Blacks on ice to take the edge off.

I don’t know if I’ve had such a good time quite like I did with these four girls. But in reality it had nothing to do with any of the things we did but everything to do with the people that were in that apartment. And I guess here is the message I wanted to communicate to whoever may be reading this: I’m a straight guy, a straight black guy, a straight black conservative guy, a straight black conservative guy from Nigeria, a straight black conservative guy from Nigeria who happens to have a queer black sister, who is in love with a queer Latina from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic! My world got turned upside down when my sister came out to me a number of years ago, but I can’t say I was surprised.

I’m the middle child, and only boy. I never had a brother who I could borrow or steal stuff from. I never had any hand-me-downs either. My dad is 5’5 and I’m a little over 6 feet tall so that definitely wasn’t happening. But for as long as I can remember my younger sister was always stealing stuff from my older sister (Spectra), and Spectra in turn was always stealing stuff from me! I remember out of all the items of clothing she had she was always more excited about the more masculine items: the jerseys, the large T-shirts, the boots, etc. All this never quite made sense until she came out to me.

But, please don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here. Just because I had a feeling I knew what she was going to tell me doesn’t mean that when she finally told me it didn’t put my life on pause. My personality didn’t allow me to act alarmed. In fact, my reaction was the total opposite. I was extremely calm and told her that I’d known for a while, which was true. What I didn’t know was how I really felt about it.

It has taken me years of getting to know my sister again, years of getting to know her new community of friends, years of challenging my own beliefs (pay attention to this people), not for some “greater good”, or because it’s “politically correct”, but for the sake of having a real relationship with my sister. I went through years of self-reflection, years of pushing myself towards personal growth, and of course years of asking the question, “Why?” And here’s what I have concluded:

When you really love someone, when your sister or brother or whomever tells you they’re queer or gay or whatever (I’m still learning there are many different ways gay people describe themselves), it simply shouldn’t matter.

I’m so glad I had enough wisdom to realize that love isn’t love if it’s conditional. If you’re ashamed to affiliate yourself with someone because of how you think other people are going to perceive YOU … I feel very sorry for you and you need to go into whatever wound you have that is keeping you from experiencing life to the fullest. If there are two things I know for a fact it’s this: the quality of your life will be directly related to the quality of the relationships in it, and you will be miserable until you get over worrying about what other people think about you.

This Christmas was the most amazing Christmas I’ve EVER had. I was a single straight guy with two queer couples, and I had a blast. Why? Not because I spent time learning about an “issue”, but because I was with real people, who were really in love; who had real problems and real challenges, real arguments and real fears about the future, real hopes and dreams, and, quite frankly, that’s way more important to me than the fact that they identified as “queer.”

After this experience, I find myself hoping even more that people are braver; that they find the courage to engage themselves in learning more about how to love, and less about how to control. Because any question of “why” that comes from your own small sphere of beliefs — which by definition is egocentric — is absolutely a question of control. For me, slowing down my beliefs and just simply getting to know Spectra’s friends led to a bittersweet realization: I had way more in common with them than I do with a lot of people I have known for years.

For instance (and don’t laugh), the highlight of my visit was bonding with Sukky (a tomboy like my sister) over the film 300 about the Spartan army that stood up to the Persian empire in ancient Greece! I was pleasantly surprised to find that she shared my passion for the raw, over-the-top masculinity of the men portrayed in the movie. It was such an eye-opening moment for me because I always felt that the movie in itself could only be really appreciated in that way if you happened to be a straight guy! But, once again, my belief-system was challenged and I am all the better for it.

I urge you this coming year if you have been closed-minded about anything in your life, dare to think and dare to love. If the human race did more of those two things there’s no doubt in my mind the world will be a better place for our children, their children, and generations to come.

... and ever :)

I titled this entry, “Two Couples and a Sibling,” simply because that is exactly what was most important about our time together, the memories I created with Spectra, her partner, Sukky, and Shana. This Christmas, for me, wasn’t about “two interracial gay couples and a straight black guy.” None of those things are as important. Two couples and a sibling — two families coming together to celebrate life and the future together; that’s important.

I hope other guys get this message. It’s really not that complicated. 

Happy Holidays!

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