Well it’s that time of year when we are so tired of Winter we can’t wait for Spring to arrive!
Some trends that I like seem to be continuing this year that were in style last year, namely dark background florals. Right now, Academy Award nominee Ruth Negga is about my biggest “style icon” with her recent spread for “Vogue” pushing all the right “buttons” with me.
In addition to bright sensational prints on black and dark color background evoking “Gypsy” and “Flamenco” vibes, we have some African and other ethic influences in clothing and jewelry. Another style revival we have is from the 80’s when there were gemstone accents everywhere-on T-Shirts with Crucifixes, on “Military Style Jackets.” This look also went well with motifs and accents like “lions head” belts and earrings. Some other popular vibes that are back can best be called “Cubist”-or how about “Rubik’s Cubist!” Geometric and Modern Art prints are in. (I will never forget a silk shirt that I wore until it was in shreds almost. It had a really funky bright collage including the image of a yellow “Checker Cab” and other wild images, the faces of women, a man smoking a pipe. The colors in it were all “primary colors”-bold and innovative looking. This was my most favorite shirt I ever had. I called it my “Dadaist” shirt!)
So, checking into the company “StyleWe” to see what is up I’m really not surprised to see a great selection of unique things on trend as well as for the “individualist” in you.
Be sure to check out their great website and amazing array of designers. When ordering be sure to check the size charts for each item as it differs in Europe and Asia and also sometimes from manufacturer to manufacturer. Be sure to check out their goods at: “Online Shopping Platform”
Esma Redzepova is Gone!:
By Aziza Al-Tawil
I’m very sad to report that “The Queen of the Gypsies,” Esma Redzepova has passed away at age 73. She was born in Skopje, Macedonia, when it was part of Bulgaria, started singing at ten years old and went on to represent her people and their songs to the world including command performances for various world leaders. She and her husband, bandleader and manager Stevo Teodosievski, fostered 47 children.
A wonderful CD called ” Gypsy Carpet” is available at Amazon (Click title for details). I was listening to this and am particularly fond of the song “Bistergan Man” (“You Forgot About Me”). I made a “YouTube” video when I heard the news, remembered another favorite song of mine she performed “Sastalise Tsigane”- a song which I heard many renditions of growing up in the Greek Tavernas which were truly an international scene.
On YouTube: Aziza Al-Tawil Remembers Esma Redzepova
Love my Gypsy Passions in Fashion:
Letter from the Editor:
After an exhausting election season with the “DAPL” tragedies playing out in the background it is hard to fathom we are coming upon a season of great peace and hope, yet we are, and I for one am ready for a few moments “Peace.” This month’s issue recalls some interesting people I met just a couple of weeks ago and attempts to reveal at least a little about their spiritual movement based on the teachings and practices of ancient Egyptians. As a small child in the 1970’s I recall the first post “Civil Rights” era “Back to Africa” movement and to think of that sort of spirit returning to the African diaspora again was quite compelling to me.
As a dancer, singer, and actress, I find great comfort in “making a joyful noise.” With that in mind, I wish our Jewish friends a “Happy Chanukah” and share some images of “Miriam” from the art world. A story about “Miriam” might have been better suited to “Passover” but I felt like putting her dancing shoes on anyway!
Some shopping segments include “Egyptian Glass” Christmas ornaments, African fashions, and gift baskets for friends overseas and domestically.
I also want to wish everyone a Happy Kwanzaa and a Happy New Year. May 2017 be more peaceful for all of us.
“It Takes a Village to Raise a Child”- A Visit to the Earth Center Proves the Adage
By Aziza Al-Tawil
One day last Summer, while picking up a pizza, I was very intrigued by a brochure and a newspaper I picked up touting the Charleston, WV branch of the “The Earth Center: For Promoting and Preserving the Kem Culture.” Seeing how the theme of the materials were based on Ancient Egypt I was immediately fascinated even though I had never heard of this group before. Charleston, WV has always been a unique city and really, despite alternating periods of “boom and stagnation” it’s always seemed to retain some level of the “eclectic.” So, in some ways, I was not shocked that something like “The Earth Center” was here. I said to myself, “I’ve got to meet these people and do a story on them!” Well, even though it took me several months to get around to it, I finally got the chance and attended a lecture on Ancient Egyptian Spirituality. The lecture was to be presented by Kasabez Maakmaah, a healer and teacher who came here from the Chicago location.
Upon arriving at the center we were greeted with great “old world” hospitality by Khefisah Nejeser, a recent graduate, and by Zaqhau, the very first person to graduate from the Charleston, WV location which has been here five years. Zaqhau, the true embodiment of a village elder and wise man told us to remove our shoes and politely hung up our coats with a warm yet serene smile. He wore a long white caftan and as more of the participants showed up all the more lovely African outfits were to be seen. As far as the center, coming here brought me back a little to the times I used to go to the Hare Krishna temple in Boston for Sunday chanting and vegetarian dinner. Even though most of my life I have considered myself an “Orthodox Christian,” I have always been interested in what other people believe and what shapes their spiritual lives.
Essentially, The Earth Center organization consists of three parts, “M’Tam” which are the “schools,” “Firefly Publications,” and “Ankhasta Herbs.” After a fun and witty opening about how everyone one was feeling after the recent “election,” Kasabez began his lecture with some sobering remarks about how mankind has really always had to deal with varying degrees of unpleasantness. It was explained to us that the spiritual path that is learned and followed through The Earth Center was Ancient Egyptian religion that was taken with people to other parts of Africa and survived, namely West Africa and Burkina Faso. The Dogon Civilization took the ancient Egyptian spirituality and way of life with them to West Africa around the time of Persian conquest around 400 BC. As the old ways died out in Egypt, they took on a new life in another part of Africa.
The calendar still used in the culture is the “Sidereal” calendar and weeks are seen as “Decans”-I pointed out that it was the same in “Astrology.” In fact it was pointed out that these ancient Egyptians used “Astrology” for finding favorable times for planting, getting married, etc. November is Scorpio and indeed is presided over by the ancient Egyptian Goddess of Scorpions “Sekhet.” “The Earth Center” was first founded in Burkina Faso by Master Naba Lamoussa Morodenibig and was part of a renaissance of African culture during the time of their fight for independence (At that time the country was known as “Upper Volta”). Of course the religion is “polytheistic” in nature and has elements of ancestor worship or “respect” like “Shinto” does. The movement came to the United States in 1996.
I asked a few of the people there what first drew them to the movement. For Zaqhau, a professor of English and Philosophy speaking six languages, who came to Charleston 30 years ago, it was because he missed the “Traditions” of his native Cameroon. For Khefisah: ” Zaqhau was my favorite professor at State. One day he showed up on my FaceBook and invited me to an event at the Earth Center. I had always been interested in Kemetic culture (of course then it was just Egyptian to me) so when I came I knew immediately I was where I belonged!” Another, D’Oud Herman, found that after 30 years of being a Muslim he was not entirely comfortable with race relations in the religion and began to seek out something else. He found what he was looking for spiritually in The Earth Center. Menzeba Hasati loves to cook traditional African foods and is their resident expert now.
I enjoyed the afternoon with these very hospitable folks and anyone interested in learning more about them and their community projects around the world can visit their site here at http://theearthcenter.org/
“Make a Joyful Noise!”
by Aziza Al-Tawil
In celebration of Hannukah we highlight a woman from Judaism that celebrated a great triumph by making a “joyful noise” unto the Lord-Miriam and friends with their “timbrals” and tambourines: “So Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbral in her hand: and all the women went forth after her with timbrals and with dances.” Even though this story has more to do with “Passover” I couldn’t resist a story of women dancing!
Egyptian Christmas Ornaments: Display Your Passion
By Aziza Al-Tawil
Some wonderful Egyptian glass ornaments are available through Amazon. Why not share your passion for the “eclectic” during this wonderful season. Photos will link you to their deals on items shown.
African Fashions for the Whole Family
By Aziza Al-Tawil
Click on photos for clothing details and prices at Amazon.
Gypsy Christmas: Some Vintage Images
By Aziza Al-Tawil
Friends Overseas? How About Gift Baskets to Spread Some Holiday Cheer?
By Aziza Al-Tawil
If you are like many belly dancers who are into taking seminars with name dancers and musicians then you may be one who has made a ton of friends on your travels around the world. Thanking friends or people who have taught or inspired you may prove challenging at such distances-so why not a “gift basket” to say you are thinking of them long after the show is over?
Congratulate them with Champagne! Or even send a “Lego Toy” with a gift to the delight of a child or “the young at heart.” Even a lovely Poinsettia! “Gift Baskets Overseas” ships to over 140 countries worldwide.
Also available for our friends that celebrate “Chanukah” there are themed gifts including “Kosher.” All this and so much more (Like Holiday Specials!) at “Gift Baskets Overseas.”
Stumped about gift giving for the men in your life? If it is to be shipped domestically then “The Bro Basket” may be exactly what the doctor ordered. Just how many of us gals could put together “The Golfer’s Delight” basket without a little help?
Info on how to donate or advertise to keep “Egyptian Chick Magazine” afloat please contact the “Editor in Chief” Aziza Al-Tawil at firstname.lastname@example.org for further info.
Well, the holidays are upon us and what better time to check into “StyleWe” for that perfect dress.
From the iconic Diane Von Furstenberg in my lifetime to Claire McCardell and Elsa Schiaparelli before her, the “wrap dress” in some form or other has captivated women.
Visit https://www.stylewe.com/category/wrap-dresses-59_231 to check out their stock of this classic style.
Letter From the Editor
Was terribly disappointed to hear that politicians in Egypt are trying to keep their clock set back to “the Dark Ages” by pushing this whole “Virginity” test of women thing. Amazing that the humiliation and torture of women still seems to be the main agenda in so many countries in the Middle East. Apparently, no one cares about rape, or other issues that actually matter. We must uplift our sisters who are continually beat down by these societies and stand vigilant for their fair treatment. “Egyptian Chick Magazine” only promotes and condones the humane treatment of our fellow men, women, children, and animals. We are “Progressive” not “Regressive.”
In the Mid-Atlantic of the United States we are entering into the “Fall” season and the changing of the leaves will be the “big show” here soon. For those who enjoy the “Halloween” holiday and it’s “dress-up” and “fantasy aspects,” they will shortly be able to express themselves in full measure.
All of the ladies featured in our magazine this month are very creative indeed and also enjoy the fun at “Halloween.” They made interesting subjects indeed for the October issue. Just wish all women could have the kind of freedom we have.
Right now, “Egyptian Chick Magazine” is taking donations so we can upgrade the site to be more “monetized” and have higher quality visuals and editing tools. Expansion and a broader budget (we have virtually no budget now) will allow us more freedom in planning fashion shoots, location shoots and interviews, and give us more SEO planning tools. If you have enjoyed the magazine and you would like to help, the link is here:
Treska (Made in America!)Exotic Jewelry and Accessories:
“Girl of a Thousand Faces”
by Aziza Al-Tawil
15 Year old Elizabeth Tweel always knew she loved art, but then she saw a face painter during “Career Day” in the 5th Grade and she was hooked on “Stage and Special Effects” make-up. The Charleston, WV area teenager performs with her school’s theatre class and show choir and plans to go to an arts oriented college afterwards so she can one day turn her talent and hobby for make-up into something for the professional stage and screen.
Her father Brian shares her love of the “macabre” and often joins in the fun during seasons like “Halloween.” In fact, West Virginia has been known to be somewhat of a hub of paranormal activity. One event the Tweels enjoy is the “Mothman Festival” in Point Pleasant where visitors can join a host of informative activities relating to the famous “Mothman Prophecies” incident that foretold of the “Silver Bridge Collapse” in 1967. Other famous monsters in WV include the “Flatwoods Monster,” the “Grafton Monster,” “Bat Boy,” and good old “Sasquatch.” West Virginia is also no stranger to ghost tales and UFO sightings.
Elizabeth in natural make-up. This young lady is going places!
The Tawil and Tweel families honor the memory of their late cousin Danny Thomas, comedian, actor, humanitarian and founder of “Saint Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital” in Memphis. Please donate today.
“A Dancer’s Passions”: Desideria Masheed
by Aziza Al-Tawil
Desideria Masheed is known as “The Jessica Rabbit of Belly Dance,” but who really is this red headed, passionate, and talented lady? No less than a very highly trained dancer well versed in the technique of ballet, Flamenco, Latin, and of course Belly Dancing. Growing up in a show business family in NYC seemed to literally set the stage for her childhood entry into the world of dance. Her father was a famous magician and her mother was a dancer.
By her teens, Desideria was a performing artist herself, working as a dancer, percussionist, snake charmer, “Pin-Up Model” and costume designer. Her beauty, versatility, and fire got her work with many top bands from “Latin” to “Rock” including Carmen Carrasco, Raquel Lima, “The Afro Andes,” “Jon Astor Band,” and even punk legend “Joey Ramone and Cheetah Chrome.” These were exciting times that found her hanging out with the likes of Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and La India and performing for celebrities like Bruce Willis and Demi Moore and Al B. Sure around the New York and New Jersey area.
Desideria has been a “diligent” dancer trained in ballet since age 3,and in Jazz, Afro Cuban, Samba, Flamenco, and then Arabic/ Oriental and Indian dance starting in the 90’s. Her first Middle Eastern Dance instructor was legendary Serena.
She says, “I am very into the cultural-but a rocker at heart. I also sing since my teens with bands. I am a second soprano singer and have sung all forms of jazz , blues and rock have been working on songs for my next music project.” She can also balance just about anything on her head.
To those that know her Desideria is also known for her tender heart. Living in Jersey City on “9/11” she volunteered for five days and rode one of the boats across the water to help other workers. In fact, she almost lost her brother-in-law in the incident but he escaped from the second building. Desideria wanted to help all she could but remembers “It was horrific.” She said “it was a very bad time for people volunteering” because they were so “distraught” and in “shock.” So much so, most coming back from the city were “unable to eat.” Desideria and other people from her building in Jersey City lost “co-workers, associates, and friends.” Desideria is haunted by the painful memories of that day but those who her know also know what a “resilient” lady she is.
An interest in ethnic culture is evident in Desideria-she speaks four languages, and is a European, Middle Eastern, and Indian gourmet cook having studied culinary arts for years. She is the first person to tell you that learning new things is one of the greatest things someone can do because it feeds the soul. In her career she has been fortunate to be able to perform in foreign countries including Morocco, Venezuela, and Copenhagen, Denmark with their answer to “David Bowie,” Ras Bolding. Her own ethnic background is very multi-cultural including, Italian, Russian, Gypsy, Spanish with a sprinkling of Kashmiri.
During this “Halloween” season I asked Desideria to reminisce about any black cats that have “tip toed” into her life over the years. She told me that she even had a family of five black cats in Connecticut for 8 years. After moving to Puerto Rico she worked for local rescue organization “Save a Gato” beginning in 2013. She says “All cats are joyful, loving, smart, and loyal creatures. Black cats are special indeed. Like mini panthers-so playfully observant and smart.”
She loves the beauty of Puerto Rico but Desideria is planning to return to the United States because the economy of the island took quite a hit when rumors of the “Zika Virus” began to deter some of the usual tourist trade.
Desideria performs traditional “Egyptian/Moroccan Belly Dance” as well as “Dark Theatrical Cabaret” where she performs her own creation “Raks Shocki” to “Goth” and “Metal” music. She has performed for weddings, festivals, fundraisers, and even hosted her own monthly belly dance show at Mehanata’s Bulgarian restaurant in NYC. She was also featured on the South American TV Show “Blanco TV.”
Desideria is also someone who knows the importance of “spirituality” for personal progress as well as healing. She is a natural health consultant, herbalist, and “Reiki” practitioner 1, 2 & 3 and as of 2010 she has been certified in the “Dolphina Method of Goddess Workout.” On Facebook she runs a boutique gift shop called “Dark Decadence Emporium.” Her first book of poetry was released in 2007. All the years I’ve known her she has been drawn to the “Magical” and “Mystical” of our universe, and with “All Hallows Eve” approaching I can think of no better cover girl for the October edition of our magazine.
Dark Beauty: How About some Basic Black for Fall?
By Aziza Al-Tawil
Egyptian Armenian Hungarian American model Josie Homonai wears the smoky eyes and pale frosted peachy lip look here with a black sweater and scarves.
African Black Soap:
by Aziza Al-Tawil
I remember so dearly the days where kids did not return to school until after “Labor Day” in September. Now it just seems crazy that kids are expected to return when the weather is still hot in August. The only thing that might really brighten up this prospect is to get some fun backpacks so I looked at some high quality designer ones from “StyleWe” that are functional as well as stylish.
Another thing I was known for was wearing dresses when everyone else was wearing jeans!
StyleWe has a blog and is on “Pinterest.”
Letter from the Editor :
Since we saw you last, our staff rested up from joining and covering the Bernie Sanders campaign in West Virginia, springtime pollen and the rainy season has dissipated, and we are on to new subjects to intrigue you for this June’s issue. (Don’t be surprised if by August there will be more about Mr. Sanders and what went down in July with his heroic struggle against the establishment to be the nominee). The 17 year cicadas are out in the region marking some new beginnings, there has been no news of Nefertiti’s chamber exploration yet, but we have heard that a dagger belonging to “King Tut” is made of iron from a “meteorite.” (Remember when there were rumors that the Ancient Egyptians were really from “outer space!”).
Sadly, after informing the public on the latest “Female Genital Mutilation” statistics in our April issue, the death of a girl in Egypt from that banned procedure done in a hospital has made worldwide news and shows us we need to keep vigilant in this subject.
This month’s highlight on art is an up close look at 19th century French “Orientalist” vases by Peccatte. There are also some shopping links and vintage dance images to inspire you. I’m the cover model for this month.
Thank you for reading, Aziza Al-Tawil “Editor in Chief”
“Nymph Stage” : Memories of the Cicadas of 1982
By Aziza Al-Tawil
I will never forget that Spring in 1982, when my grandmother was still living, and my mother and I moved to Charleston, WV to be near her. I was a young woman going through “puberty” who was leaving the life of a child performer in NYC to try and make a transition to regular kid for a while. The NYC school board had hounded us mercilessly over “home schooling” in a time that going to school was becoming more and more dangerous in the “Big Apple,” then my mother got sick with “Narcolepsy” from all the pressure, and finally we saw the proverbial “Handwriting on the wall.” We arrived on the “Amtrak” and my life would never be the same.
My dreams of Broadway stardom were dashed at this time but having the spirit of one who never says “die” I entered school and “The National Forensics and Drama League” at “Stonewall Jackson High School” with every intent of blossoming as an actress and a human being.
Grudgingly, I was going through several life passages and upheavals at once. I also wanted to once and for all kiss a boy the way they did in the “old movies.” I wanted our lips to engage tenderly, softly, moistly, for hours on end until, drunk on each other’s “nectar,” we lay collapsed in each other’s arms in the dark. (Alas, this fantasy would not come to be until I was sixteen!)
All of my longings were still churning within me and at this point had reached fever pitch. Therefore, it was interesting at this time for the whole world to become cacophonous with the sounds of a bug. A bug once told in a Greek folk tale to hop on the neck of a “Cithara” and take the place of a broken string thereby helping “Eunomos” (Mr. Goodtune) the player of the instrument to win a competition.
Socrates believed these bugs to actually have once been men. Men who were so mesmerized by the “Muses” and their “Music” they forgot to eat or drink and then withered away only to return free from the earth in a “resurrection” 17 years later. The Greeks also tended to think that the moist looking creature that first emerges and basically lives on the “dew” or “sap” represented man becoming free through an ability to “love.” The tearing up of our eyes when we see the object of our affection, our other juices flowing when feeling this kind of passion when we behold our beloved. Through this kind of physical experience we gain immortality.
The Ancient Chinese also had a fascination with cicadas – to them they represented such broad themes as “resurrection,” “fertility,” “longevity and eternal youth,” and they used the bugs in Chinese medicine formulas. The bugs were also popular and prominent in jewelry including renderings in jade, not as much as the “Scarab” in Ancient Egypt but quite a bit “widespread” nonetheless. Carved cicadas have been used as part of clothing “toggle closures” in Chinese clothing.
There are 2500 or so species of Cicadas (“Homoptera”). It is interesting to note that many times these bugs are confused with “locusts”- the difference being that locusts are “Grasshoppers” and “Cicadas” are more like a type of “fly.” Ironically, that February of 1982, what would become a bit of a “cult classic” horror film was released and “The Beast Within” was indeed a “17 year Cicada.” Why exactly a virtually harmless creature like a “cicada” was chosen to be “The Bad Guy” is somewhat puzzling. It calls to mind the confusion once more between “Cicada” and the more ravenous, potentially destructive “Locust.” The movie has a host of fine actors like Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, and Don Gordon. It is rumored that some of the plot points were lost to the “cutting room floor.” Perhaps, therein, lies an explanation of the “Cicada” metamorphosis of the teenage boy-if not there than in the book which it is based on which I have not read.
In 1999, I was not near an “emergence” of the cicadas. So now that I am back in Charleston, WV for a while I find myself wanting to take note of this event and reminisce about 1982. This week, right before the magazine “went to press,” I went out to take a few pictures of our strange visitors.
As for me, if I have the good fortune to be alive in another 17 years, who knows where my “Gypsy” (not “Gypsy Moth!”) self will be. So for now, I will treat this year as something special which may not come again. In fact, living each day to the fullest is not a bad idea during any time or season of life.
Orientalist Art by V. Peccatte
by Aziza Al-Tawil
Two stunning vases by 19th Century French artist Peccatte. About 15 years ago, two larger vases with similar artwork of the the two women were auctioned off for sixty thousand dollars at “Christie’s.”
in “Egyptian Chick Magazine”:
Aristotle Onassis – an untold story.
Information on Aziza Al-Tawil’s new belly dance instructional video series subscription.
“Tayoun’s Mahrajan” – Photo Essay and Memories of 1966.
This magazine is funded by affiliate marketing through “Amazon” and other such companies. If you purchase something through a link within a timely fashion we will receive a small commission. We post the “Saint Jude’s” children’s hospital link as a service to the world community and will receive no remuneration for your charitable gift. To donate to “Saint Judes” Click here….
Egyptian Chick Magazine Staff:
Aziza Al-Tawil, founder, writer, and “Editor in Chief”
Billy Jack Watkins, writer, and field co-coordinator
Letter from the Editor:
Just when you think the latest dirty word might be “Millennials” – you know – the name for the generation after “X” – the ones so wrapped up in their cell phones you’re not sure they know you’re alive sometimes – something actually happens to bring out and indeed “underscore” their humanity.
As a member of the so-called “Generation X” that came after the “baby boomers” and has pre-dated the “Millennials” (Think Molly Ringwald, Winona Ryder, Leonardo Di Caprio etc.) I relished a chance to witness a major “demonstration” of “Millennials” in action. The Bernie Sanders rally in Huntington, WV in April was indeed that “chance.”
It was indeed an experience to watch a college generation and younger group shed “apathy” and rise up with “idealism” and “hope” once more. Bernie Sanders campaign is straight out of the 1960’s-the era that gives him his greatness. For if anyone lacks an apathetic bone in their body it is indeed Bernie Sanders. After years of rising tuition costs and student loan debt that could even cripple “Atlas,” the “Millennials” have been “re-charged” by Bernie, a man who speaks to their needs and indeed to the needs of all generations right now. This month’s issue will take you on the life changing journey I took replete with photos that will move you. This goes to press the night before the Indiana primary. “Egyptian Chick Magazine” plans to follow many of the upcoming results closely and is planning a fundraiser to go to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in July. (You can support the magazine by shopping our affiliate links at the end of our issue or make a direct PayPal donation to the following address: email@example.com).
In another article we will meet a 14 year old artist, wise beyond her years, whose depth and talent will move you and show you yet another “Millennial” in action. People like Josephine Homonai also give us hope for the arts since we’ve become a society that gives less and less support to those with these sorts of talents.
Besides some other changes that are afoot, perhaps people like Josephine can bring attention back to nurturing art and music in our schools once more. Read on! Thanks.
Aziza Al-Tawil, Editor in Chief
Brought to you in part by:
Budding Young Artist About to Bloom: The Enchanting World of Josephine Homonai
If you think it’s inspiring to come from an artistic background, or it might even end up in your “DNA,” you might be right. Especially, in the case of the young lady you are about to meet.
This young and talented Egyptian American woman is another in a long line of a very branched out tree that includes a grandfather, Samir Al-Tawil who wrote an international hit song called “Linda Linda,” a mother , Mary, who is a “hip hop” dancer and poet, a grandmother, Rawiya who was a famous Egyptian belly dancer, an Aunt, Azza Sherif who was also a famous Egyptian belly dancer and movie star, an Aunt, Aziza Al-Tawil who is a famous American belly dancer, singer, actress and artist, and yet another aunt, Vergine Al-Tawil who is a visual artist. And her uncle Garo sings!
In addition to Egyptian and Armenian heritage, 14 year old artist Josie Homonai has a touch of the “Magyar” in her, through Dad Scott who is no less than proud of his little girl’s accomplishments at a young age.
As a child, Josie was aware of art, and developed a love for it, but never dreamed she would be creating the way she does now. At one point, besides the “Abstract Expressionism and French Impressionism” of her Aunt Vergine Al-Tawil’s work, Josie found inspiration in Van Gogh. She discovered him on her own as she was not taught about him in school.
After doing some modeling and acting, about a year ago Josie Homonai “took the plunge” and decided to be an artist herself. Her friends were amazed at how quickly she could render a portrait of a friend and how well it turned out. With their encouragement she decided to continue down this path and now some of her work takes anywhere from fifty minutes to a couple of weeks to complete. She is also a regular fixture, along with Jeff Nicholas “The Amazing Jeffrey the Cartoonist,” on the “Wadsworth Channel” in suburban Cleveland (Josie was born in Las Vegas but moved to Ohio at age five). For Josie, art is a more “spiritual” venture though that literally takes her to “another world.”
While Josie enjoys showing her completed works on TV and dreams of having “a name” in the business, her goals and intentions are much loftier. She wants people to feel that through art there is “hope.” She has tutored other kids in literature and art in after school programs and also taught first and second graders art through a Salvation Army program. Josie says she knows how cruel the world can be at times, but despite a few instances of “bullying” towards her she has mostly managed to keep going. Her loving and supportive family have seen to it.
Josie was shown a little bit of belly dancing by her mother, and Josie says she might like to learn more one day. Being an artist is something she definitely plans to continue through college along with becoming a nurse. In fact, Josie has already started bringing her own brand of cheer to a local nursing home. Some of her works now grace the walls of various homes and she has started a Facebook page to sell her art. She is also writing a book called “Still Here.” Josie also loves animals.
I’m sure this is not the last we will hear about this fascinating young lady. For more information on her art and/or how to purchase pieces go to her art page on Facebook: Josephine_HomonaiArt
“Woman of Tears” by Josephine Homonai
Brought to you in part by:
“Volunteers of America”: Bernie Sanders Calls to Mind “Jefferson Airplane” in West Virginia
By Aziza Al-Tawil
After taking a wrong turn on the way to our insurance man’s office one day, I circled the block and saw it on the corner: The headquarters for the Bernie Sanders campaign. After becoming a devotee’ of his message months and months before this – now was the time to actually do something about it. So Billy Jack Watkins and I went in and joined in the “Grand Opening” of the Charleston, WV office. Whitney Roberts, a Catawba Indian American from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina greeted people with gleaming eyes and a lipstick red dress. The other office manager, Connor Ruby, was from Stowe, MA making the team an interesting cross-section of America. After breaking bread with these folks (or I should say pizza!) we officially became “Volunteers.”
By that weekend the news hit. Bernie Sanders was actually coming to West Virginia and would be in Huntington on Tuesday. I was already planning to write an article for the magazine, but this exceeded anything I could have dreamed of under such short notice. I told everyone it just seemed like some sort of “Providence.”
When I was a young girl, too young to vote but old enough to have strong feelings about the world, I attended the rally in Charleston, WV for Jimmy Carter’s former Vice President Walter Mondale, who was now running for President himself. The year was 1984 and my mother, a single parent, had been struggling for several years.
Not too long before this, some cockamamie “Reaganomics” law had given kickbacks to companies that “over hired” for jobs that didn’t exist. You could be hired and then have hours cut a few weeks later. The unemployment rate would look better for a while but you would be tortured into quitting so you couldn’t file for unemployment. This horrendous torture was inflicted on my mother and one story is a testament to her strength. Her hours kept getting cut like the others they were trying to get rid of before the next “hiring round” would start up again. They cut her hours. My mother showed up. They cut her hours again. She showed up. They cut her hours again. She showed up for work again. Finally, they cut her down to one single, solitary hour. My mother rode a bus to work to get in that one hour. The management was floored. They asked why she even showed up. She said, “I have a daughter.” They said something to the effect of, “OK. We can’t break you. We’re laying you off.”
“You can’t break me” is a phrase that has almost run through my psyche like an anthem. Besides a courageous mother, having a progressive, and tough Cherokee grandmother did not hurt me either. She wanted Jesse Jackson to be president and was a firm believer in “The Rainbow Coalition” until her death from a brain tumor.
That miserable rainy day, in 1984, three generations of strong women watched hopes for a Democratic presidency go down the drain, literally, for when we stepped out of the indoor rally into the street I spotted one of Mondale’s posters riding the waves of water down the gutter and into a sewer opening. I felt desolate. It was prophetic indeed. Within a couple of years I joined the musicians union and left town for Boston. There I played guitar, wrote songs, belly danced, and ran around in the Winter bundled up in a big coat with the theme of “Dr. Zhivago” running through my head. I joined the peace movement through a local synagogue. Ate Indian “take-out” with a young lover. I also entered the labor force in Boston as I was now old enough. Without getting too far off topic here let me just say that Bernie Sanders is the living embodiment of the term “You Can’t Break Me.” In other words if your Mama never had to ride the bus for one hour of work or be damned you may never fully understand what a guy like Bernie Sanders is about.
When our carpool arrived in Huntington we were dispatched to do our jobs. Along with our carpool hostess Malyka Knapp-Smith, we helped the Secret Service and “Big Sandy Superstore Arena” security with crowd control. The crowd was much larger than anticipated and room was made by opening up extra seating sections. (Bernie had already drawn crowds in the upwards of forty thousand. Why they did not expect to fill over 5,000 seats here is beyond me). The final estimate was 6,500 people.
Peter Marshall, the host of “Hollywood Squares” and a native of Huntington, WV once said “Stand on any street corner in West Virginia and the most beautiful women will walk by.”
What he said years ago has certainly not changed for the minute I got out there with my camera I saw “stars.”
One young woman I will call “The Blonde,” was as mesmerizing as Charlize Theron or any other Hollywood bombshell. She had the “Marilyn” factor “in spades!” A series of shots of her culminating in one from indoors when she was watching Bernie Sanders speak – it just spoke volumes of the love people have for this man. She is probably no more than about 20 years old but was looking at him with the adoration that a man of any age dreams of. Be reminded that while television pundits dismiss his charm as being like “Grandpa,” in reality and in person this is a man who should not be stripped of his youthful virility. In other words, Bernie may be an elderly man but he is not “frail.”
After everyone from the outside was seated inside, a lady in charge of the event screamed at us “VIP SECTION NOW!” (Malyka was pivotal in keeping our group together during the chaos and demanding that Bill and I not get lost in the shuffle. She saw to it that we made it to the VIP section with her as members of the press, etc.) In “VIP” we were joined by representatives of the dynamic and burgeoning “Progressive” wing of West Virginia’s Democratic Party including 19 year veteran of the West Virginia Senate and candidate for governor Jeff Kessler, and first term House of Delegates Michael Pushkin.
Kessler, an affable and likeable gentleman, is concerned about a litany of issues including drug addiction treatment for youth after the experience of going through it with his own son and he has also been brave enough to let the coal industry know that West Virginia has to branch out into some other areas, that coal is not “King” any more.
As for Pushkin, the charismatic President of Local 136 of the American Federation of Musicians, a descendent of Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe, and first term House of Delegates member, he is already shaping up to be a politician with a future. Also, a taxi driver by night, his campaigns feature intriguing signs with the unmistakable yellow and black checkerboard design.
Another passionate defender of people’s rights and “the little guy,” Michael Pushkin goes up against distasteful bills with the passion of David against Goliath. His recent speech on the West Virginia House floor about a religious freedom bill that was merely a thinly disguised attempt to legalize discrimination – case in point: a baker having to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding reception. Pushkin described how we already have laws that defend all our rights in our federal and state constitution. As for “HB 4012” he pointed out that many things in life that conflict with religion are mere “inconveniences” not necessarily “persecution.” At the end of his speech he said it all: “Baking a cake is not ‘persecution.’ Getting baked in an oven – is ‘persecuted!’.”
So there we were, the Democratic Party Delegation from Charleston, awaiting the speech of one of the most sensational politicians that have ever drawn a breath. What did it feel like? Take a guess, folks.
We were all breathless when we saw them let in a crew of photographers to take positions near his podium. We knew he would make his entrance soon.
Then the magic happened. Bernie had entered the room.
Bernie Sanders delivered a speech to West Virginia that resonated. He touched on all the issues that concern. At one point he brought tears to my eyes. It’s one thing to see something on “TV” and yet another to experience something “live.”
Amazingly, even though this was indeed a diverse crowd, the most thunderous response came to Bernie’s mention of seeking “racial equality.” While I don’t know the exact ratio of “White to Black” in the audience- it seemed like there were more “whites.” That’s why the almost “apocalyptic” sounding noise of approval from the audience really warmed your heart. It was touching to know that how we treat our fellow man as “equals” was an issue given more importance than our own personal economic woes – the love of our neighbor being worth more than gold. I was proud to be home in my mother’s home state of West Virginia and be experiencing this kind of spiritual journey.
As Bernie was leaving the stage the “Secret Service” accompanied him around the perimeter of the barriers so he could greet the public. When Bernie got to me he saw the big camera in my hands. I reached out and patted him on the side and said, “I’m from New York too. I just love you…” He smiled warmly and his bright blue eyes gleamed. He made his way past and smiled back at me once before continuing.
Bernie Sanders deserves to be our most high “public servant.” He will return us to the “New Deal” of FDR’s presidency. For those with short memories or no knowledge, we did not become “Communists” under FDR, we were actually “saved” from “becoming” Communists. Our country as a “Democracy” was allowed to continue and endure.