Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Maybe Hip-Hop IS Dead After All?

The other day, I was listening to one of the newer hip-hop "artists"  - and I use that term only for lack of a better one...and I was more than mildly disturbed at his "lyrics." Not because of the profanity or any of the other criticisms many have of hip-hop, but because of the lack of clarity, originality or plain old sense of the "lyrics". As someone who grew up during the dawn of hip-hop in the late 70s/early 80s, I am offended by many who call themselves rappers. Offended because they have failed to honor the origins of hip-hop. I advise the youngins to at least read some kind of history to help understand that hip-hop is not just about the bling, the limelight and other perks, but it is about the music and art form called hip-hop ( might be a nice easy place to start).

I love listening to lyrics of KRS-One, Jay-Z, Run DMC, LL Cool J and others who paved the way for these new guys and gals who are desecrating the sacred ground of hip-hop. I dare any one of the newbies to battle them...oh wait, do the youngins even "battle" anymore? Used to be a time where the true test of an MC's mettle was in the lost art of "freestyling" - where rhymes were spit on the spot, off the cuff, with a back and forth battle between MCs. Now true, every old school artist couldn't necessarily freestyle, but most of them could. Don't get me wrong, there are a few mainstream artists out now who are okaaay. Drake probably has some skills, if he could peel himself away from Weezy and get rid of the Auto-tune. Oops, did I say that out loud? No disrespect...I actually like Drake.

In fairness to the new jacks, I invited a few young people to tell me what they and their peers thought of some of today's emerging artists. Interestingly enough, they admitted that their younger peers loved the newbies, but the older teens didn't seem to care much for most of the mainstream artists. "Their lyrics don't make sense, and these kids are singing the words without knowing the true meaning behind them," offered one of my young friends. I felt comfort that errybody is not falling for the new hip-hop okie doke.

So is hip-hop dead? I don't know...the hip-hop I knew and loved is in the past, and much of what is taking its place is not fulfilling the original mission of the genre. Or maybe the new jacks are taking it to another level that I just don't understand. Maybe I'm just an oldhead! Feel free to disagree if you like. But I will leave you with the words of one of the original hip-hop philosophers, KRS-One [Step Into a World (Rapture's Delight)]:

Step into a world where there's no one left
But the very best
No MC can test

Step into a world, where hip-hop is me
Where MC's and DJ's
Build up their skills as they play every day
For the rapture

...and in the words of Rakim...PEACE!

(...and by the way...shouts out to Afrika Bambaataa, Kool DJ Herc, and the Sugarhill Gang - and all the other REAL OGs!)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hats Off!

Most of us find ourselves wearing many hats, men and women alike. God knows I do. Let's see, there's Mrs. Branch (the wife), Mommy (self-explanatory!), Calandra Branch (the workplace budget diva!), Sis. Branch (Rev. Branch's wife/the First Lady), and there's even "user name/password" (my social media presence). But the most important hat that makes all the other hats fit properly is that hat I was born with - Calandra. It is the one that has been molded, shaped and reinvented, sometimes crushed and bruised, but never broken. Sadly, it is the hat that is sometimes most neglected.

Back in October, I found myself amidst a wonderful group of people from my high school. Some of them I knew all those years ago, some I knew only by face, and some I never knew at all. But at the end of the day, I walked away with new friends. Perhaps it was the fact that our school connection began when I was just Calandra, but connecting/reconnecting with them reminded me that above all the identities I share, I can never lose sight of my core being. What was most interesting was I found myself reconnecting not just with others I had met years ago, but in a way, I was reconnecting with Calandra, who sometimes gets lost in the daily routines of my other identities. It was quite cathartic, actually. Ironically enough, I started writing this post shortly thereafter, but yet again, I got sidetracked and my other hats took over. Yet as we finish 2010, I am committed to rediscovering Calandra and not allowing her to get swallowed up by all those hats.

Now before you begin to wonder about the state of my well-being (!), under all these hats I wear, I am the same person - what changes may be nothing more than my mannerisms. I mean after all, the "workplace budget diva" wouldn't speak to her colleagues the same way "Mommy" speaks to her children. It's still Calandra, just fitted for the situation and each hat I have to wear.

The moral of the story is this...never get so caught up in what you do that if  someone took that particular hat away from you, you would feel useless or less than a person. As long as you hold tight to the hat you were born with...let NO ONE take from your can survive another day and make it to the next hat you're given. Every once and a while, take those hats off and give yourself a chance to BE yourself and just breathe...WHOOSAAAAAHHHHH!

P.S. - This is dedicated to my BxSci alumni - I love y'all madly!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Embraceable You

Good morning! NO MORE APOLOGIES for lagging in my blog posts! I've embraced the fact that I will only say something when I really have something to say. If that means a month or two in between, then so be it. This morning, I was feeling quite empowered - for no particular reason. I kept thinking of adding these things to my Facebook status, but realizing I had too many things to add, the light bulb flickered and I remembered my blogspot. So on that note...

Ladies - embrace yourself today. Last week I unashamedly celebrated my 41st birthday.  As long as I feel I've grown to be better and wiser than the year before, I will always embrace my age. I am thankful for wisdom, and continue to strive to gain more. I feel especially strong today...and I want you to feel strong as well - in mind, body and spirit!

When I was a VERY little girl, I had this strange misconception that it was much harder to be a "boy" than a "girl". I thought that only boys went to jail, could join the army and had to do "hard" labor. I thought these were horrible things and so I was thankful to have been born a girl. Of course, I quickly learned this just wasn't true. However, I am still thankful to have been born a "girl", just for different reasons. This is no disrespect to the fellas out there - neither gender is better or worse, just different. And different is good, as long as we understand the differences...but that's for another blog on another day! I LOVE being a woman. I love knowing that I have "woman's intuition", and a nurturing instinct. I love the fact that I have been blessed to give birth to two beautiful, miraculous children. I often think of Lauryn Hill's beautiful lyrics in To Zion:

And I thank you for choosing me
To come through unto life to be
A beautiful reflection of His grace
See I know that a gift so great
Is only one God could create
And I'm reminded every time I see your face

I embrace my ability to love - and I love inner intelligence...and yes, I even embrace my CURVES! 

Dr. Angelou said I am PHENOMENAL. The Bee Gees said I'm MORE THAN A WOMAN. WAY before Whitney said it, Chaka said I'm EVERY WOMAN. The Psalmist said I am FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY MADE! The Commodores said I'm a BRICK...HOUSE (OWWW)! India.Arie said I have STRENGTH, COURAGE and WISDOM. And back in the day, even Helen (Reddy) said...I am STRONG. I am INVINCIBLE. I am WOMAN!

Be it girl...then EMBRACE IT! Peace.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'm Back...Again!

Thanks to all my followers for hanging in there with me! Finally checking back in, and I'll probably be starting my next post with an apology...again! Blogging is still hard for me, but I'm committed to press on. A few things on my mind...

Mother's Day
I Hope everyone had a nice Mother's Day and a Happy Belated Mother's Day to all the Moms out there. I was thankful to be sharing it with my Mom, visiting from Florida, and my Mother-in-Law aka "Second Mom."  I am blessed to have these two incredible women in my family. I was reflecting on their amazing strength, as I watched both of them care for ailing loved ones over a long period of time. Mommy took care of my Dad in his final days and although she is a nurse by profession, it makes looking after a loved one no easier. The strength I saw in her in those difficult days, as well as those after his passing, has and continues to be inspiring to me. And then I simultaneously watched Mom (my MIL) traveling from work to the Nursing Home, to all her other obligations and back again every day to care for her ailing mother, staying by her side until she drew her last breath. I remember praying that I would always be as dedicated to my mother as she was to hers. I pray that soon, the wisdom imparted from my "mothers" and grandmothers will finally "kick in" and I can feel that same kind of wisdom flowing through me to our children. Motherhood ain't easy, but it's worth every minute of it, and I wouldn't trade it for the world! Keep loving and honoring your mothers.

"I'm a hustler, baby..." (a la Jay-Z)
Well I'm selling Avon...slowly...but I'm sticking with it. And I'm also a Cookie Lee Jewelry Consultant. I LOVE their jewelry!! I'm so excited about having my jewelry business, and I'm doing quite well, if I may say so. Please check out my website - you can view the catalog online. It's just a side gig, but it's turning out to be quite rewarding. Aside from my initial enthusiasm over sales, what's amazing to me is that several of my customers are already promising to come back for more orders - practically setting aside budget money for next month's purchase. I love it! This jewelry is amazing! Did I say that already? Well, it is. I am so NOT a salesperson, but the product - excuse the coming cheesy line - really DOES sell itself! I'm including a few pieces in each of my YouTube videos, so I'm learning how to work the hustle! Never knew I had it in me! Who knows what the future holds... Check me out at and

My Baby Can Read
OK, I know I'm just rambling at this point and there is no continuity in this blog, but's called "'This and That' with Calandra" for a reason! Anyway...I'm not one to brag about my children (smirk), but The Boy (I always loved when Homer called Bart "the boy") is now 3 1/2 and already reading! I want to make a Public Service Announcement...Please do not spend money on the "My Baby Can Read" DVD. First of all, how good can an educational product be that just costs $20? Shucks, "Hooked on Phonics" was like $200 when it first came out and that was a sound investment. Phonics are the way to go!!! When The Boy was a baby, someone from church gave him a toy called "Alphabet Pal" - a big catepillar who taught letters and phonetics. This was the best toy he had, and now The Girl is learning from it as well. I firmly believe that because The Boy learned phonics, he is reading now...give him any word and he can sound it out. The joy of phonics. Sight reading, the premise behind MBCR, just teaches memorization of words, so children only recognize words they have memorized or seen before. What value is that? Just something for the parents of a 6 month old who can "read" to brag about at dinner parties and family reunions. Sight reading vs. phonics  is like the difference between giving a man a fish vs. teaching him how to fish. The Boy will be reading like a champ in no time. Just in time to give us some good bragging material at the next dinner party or family reunion! LOL - just kidding.

Until next time folks...Love Y'all!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quick Update

Hey y'all! Two posts in the same week?? Kinda frightening, eh?

Anyway...just a quick note to say thanks to all of you read my posts and to those who have dared to follow me! Please check out my YouTube channel - - I just posted two new videos, one of which is a contest/giveaway. But I'm not gonna tell you what it's about - you'll have to head over to my YouTube channel and find out! ;-)

I'm entering two new ventures, hoping to earn a little gas money, which these days is actually a lot! I'm now a Cookie Lee Jewelry Consultant (shout out to my Sistafriend Melanie from BxSci for hooking a sista up!), and an Avon Representative (shout out to the lady at my local Starbucks who kept harassing just joking, she didn't harass me, she was 'mildly persistent'). So please check out and place an order, and to check out the jewelry. Give me a shout out if you're interesting in hosting a jewelry party - there's some cool stuff for you if you become a hostess!

Until later...peace and blessings y'all!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

To Breastfeed or Not to Breastfeed?

I's been more than a minute since I've blogged, and my re-entry into the blog world is about breastfeeding? What's up with that? Well, remember we talk about a little bit of anything and everything here, and parenting issues are near and dear to my heart. This is probably the most widely discussed parenting topic out there, right next to "cloth vs. disposable" (diapers, that is).

This afternoon, I was reading this blog/article on (, written by a woman who actually DID breastfeed her children, but was also a supporter of formula. I thought I'd add my two cents for all those moms-to-be out there. Be careful, I also feel a rant coming on! It's been 3 1/2 years since I first had to contemplate the breastfeeding choice and that's exactly what it was...a choice. I am so very sick of mothers (and fathers for that matter - contrary to popular belief, men need to be able to at least voice their opinion about anything that concerns their children. And no, I will not duck when you all throw the tomatoes at me for that statement. I'm not afraid to stand up for the Dads out there) being chastised for the decisions they make concerning their children. The bottom line is, any parent worth his/her salt is a "real parent" not because they conceived and bore a child, or not because they chose one form of something over another, but because they have made a commitment to put the welfare of their children before their own. And that they have committed to being the best they can be for their children. Now that's a pretty tall order - we are selfish by nature, so even though they're real cute and cuddly, it is sometimes difficult to put their needs before our own.

But as usual, I digress...I was talking about breastfeeding, right? Actually, no. This blog is more about choices and the consequences of the choices we make for our children. Well...I guess I'd better stick to the breastfeeding issue and I'll come back to choices later. (Note to self: Start a series of blogs on parental choice - public vs. private school, to spank or not spank, hmm...)

OK - I'm focusing, I'm focusing...Breastfeeding, right? It saddens me that a woman's motherhood is tested by her decision to breastfeed. To me, breastfeeding is not the end all. Yes, there are health and nutritional benefits, and bonding opportunities, and all that other good stuff. But when we put that kind of pressure on mothers, especially when there is a perfectly legitimate alternative, it makes non-breastfeeding mothers crazy! When I was pregnant with my son, I actually read the benefits of breastfeeding, and I decided to give it a try, but had also decided what formula we would be using, just in case. I chose to breastfeed because of the health benefits, and the bonding opportunities, but did not think formula was the devil. I did not think that breastfeeding would make me feel like more of a mom. I knew my baby would love me whether I gave him breastmilk or formula - as long as he got fed!

The irony is that we still put pressure on ourselves. I had difficulties breastfeeding. When I came home from the hospital, I was so obsessive about getting Izzy (our son) on a schedule, I didn't like the arbitrary-ness (yeah, I know that's not a word) of the breastfeeding schedule. If I couldn't measure it, I didn't know if he had had enough, and I was just a hot mess. After a month, I decided to stick to formula and after a few days of grieving my decision, I got over it and moved on. I was disappointed because I felt I had betrayed my commitment to breastfeed. I wasn't worried about losing any health benefits - there are perfectly healthy formula-fed children out there. So by the time our daughter was born 2 years later, there was no choice. I didn't want to go through the emotional struggle again. We were going straight to the formula. Enfamil had served us well.

So to breastfeed or not to breastfeed? The purpose of this blog is not to provide you the answer. There is no correct answer. My only answer is to do your homework and make a wise decision. But also realize that sometimes biology is not in line with our decision, and you may have to go another route. Just know that if you make parenting decisions with love and due diligence, then don't let anyone get on your case about them.

Let me get off my soapbox, before someone knocks me off! Love y'all!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Blogging is Hard!

So here I am again. I've come to the following conclusion: Blogging is HARD! As much as I can talk, and as many things as I have an opinion on, you would think I'd post blogs all day, every day! Some days it's easier to make a video and sit in front of the camera and talk. Some days, it's easier to write down my thoughts. Today was one of those writing days. I figured, why not write about the hard time I'm having writing! :-)

Well one thing I'm glad about is that I have 24 YouTube subscribers...looking for lucky #25! Please check out and subscribe to my channel: Yes, that was a not-so-subtle plug! Hey, at least I'm honest! Last night, I subscribed to a makeup tutorial channel (one of the many I subscribe to) and found out I was her 600th subscriber, so she's sending me a gift! How awesome. When I sent her my info, I found out we both joined YouTube on the exact same day a few years ago, and she also lived in Queens, NY at some point. I know...eerie, right?

I'm really enjoying this vlogging and blogging, even though I don't post as often as I should. I'll probably be talking about some articles I've read lately, but haven't been uber-inspired just yet. And by the way, I'm officially Tweeting - you can follow me at Please don't give up on me...I'm still working on posting things that are of substance, fun and interesting, both in terms of blogs and vlogs on the YT. And public notice to my personal friends...y'all really need to follow my blog and subscribe to my YT channel - I know you're reading and watching, but ya ain't subscribin' and followin'!! LOL. That's ok...I'm just happy that you're stopping by.

Love you all and I'll be back soon for more "This and That."