Category Archives: African American Women of Diaspora

Carlita Victoria a Rising Star!

I know Carlita Victoria through her mother, Cathey, with whom I met when working at the City of Raleigh. She was involved with Community Services and youth programs. Cathey spoke about her daughter dancing, then spoke about her being on Broadway! I loved dancing and lived in New York. That was an exciting time, now Carlita Victoria has taken that by a storm! She has established her presence as part of the internet baby generation. Though I have not met her. I’ve heard her energetic voice over the phone. Her beginnings may have been in Raleigh, but her world is New York City. Her array of talent is obvious from her carlitavictoria.com website and Facebook page. She is a star though she may not have imagined that when fulfilling her dreams in New York and around the Globe performing in far off places like Ghana, West Africa and Seoul Korea. Her field is based on having and bringing talent forward to audiences. One must project a note, a feeling, an expression that is understood by a variety of audiences. That is very demanding including the logistics of practice, preparation, and performance. Carlita Victoria must love what she does. Her video shows her as a teacher and performer. She is the full package to be a Broadway performer, a member of dance troupes, traveling Broadway plays and performances in local venues.

Carlita Victoria is also a comedian, one of my favorite talents after dancing.  I have yet to see this side and pray our local clubs finds a way to include her in their programming selection. Meanwhile this prolific young artist has recently tackled something that overwhelmed her immense artistic expression, a mental health breakdown. When the body and mind is so fully engaged it may be hard to accept something is wrong and find yourself face to face with a desire to end it all. Unthinkable would be the outside and uninformed impression, yet it can happen to our best and brightest. That is when it is stunning and challenging to reimagine this person and their struggle. As in Carlita’s life she was surrounded by family and friends so that decisive moment was not acted upon. Emerging from this reality inspired a passion to create a play that addressed her experience for others to learn from and seek help knowing they are not alone.

Her most recent work is probably her most original. It may also have cast her in a new role as playwright and producer. The play was introduced at the African American Cultural Festival as ‘Darkness Rising Project‘. This is her story and testimony to the world. Given the African American history with the health industry we have tended to shy away and be dependent on our limited community resources. With a shortage of mental health professionals from our race, there are better trained health resources to support us. The Affordable Care Act offers us access to care options and given that it is a biological illness and very treatable. Many of us suffer while it can turn our lives upside down. African Americans contribute to being 40% of our homeless population. The work that Carlita Victoria has developed is a gift to our awareness and subsequent solutions to mental health challenges.

Before this mental break and afterwards, we have Carlita Victoria, an amazing talent, to enjoy and appreciate for years to come. Now is the time to pay attention to her message and wish her the best. She is a star and our protagonist.

Art and article by Lillian L Thompson of Lillianonline.us

Rissi Palmer, Artist Musician

One evening a friend and I went to the Pour House in downtown Raleigh to listen to music. The brick alley way entry reminded me of clubs in New York and DC. We were pleasantly surprised to hear the level and quality of music from the first act jazz singer and pianist. Then there was a break. We read about the next act being a country singer. Not knowing what to expect and intrigued at the same time, we awaited our introduction to a new singer, a woman who had a voice, style, talent and unique sound, Rissi Palmer. It was a shock that Rissi was a local. She seemed too polished. This may have been about four years ago. Her claiming country music was unique for an African American woman. In that show we learned that Rissi had begun her career with a top ten chart for a country single and later left the Nashville scene to start a family. At the Pour House we learned shows relaunching her career.

Rissi is an instagram sensation. Here is where she successfully weaves her public persona as a musician with her private life. Rissi Palmer’s story is well documented on her website, and online including an interview on an NPR show which was a treat. At five years old under the influence of her mother she was exposed to American singer Patty Kline and R&B Soul. Her passions took her from high school straight into a music career. Her instrument of choice is the guitar which compliments her voice.

After that first performance, I have been tracking Rissi with my friend enjoying her unique style of music. Since then she has continued to reinvent herself as a ‘Southern Music Singer’ which continues to include Country. What I could discern from her first hit anyone could be country in the USA and I agree with that! It is fitting that her music genres at a 2017 Year’s Eve popular spot in downtown Raleigh expanded to include R&B and POP.

It could be difficult to get to know public figures like Rissi, who began her career on the road like Taylor Swift going from town to town to do radio interviews as part of the Country music scene.  Yet she is very open to meeting and connecting with her fans. I was fortunate when she, her husband and daughter visited my first art show in downtown Raleigh. You would think that was the time to take photos but not one, just talking and sharing. It was a fantastic moment. I could sense her openness for people, patience, humility and awareness. Perhaps these personality traits helped drum up her strong opinions on societal wrongs.

I’ve spent time while in New York going to jazz clubs around town. At  ‘Slugs’ in the east village, I heard all time greats like Pharoah Saunders, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, former members of John Coltrane’s band. I saw Carmen McCray in New York’s West Village, and Miles Davis and Arthur Prysock in Harlem. Midtown dinner clubs hosted Joe Williams, and Johnny Hartman. Great singers included a moment at Howard University in DC singing Christmas carols with the amazing voice of Donny Hathaway. Rissi is a special singer on the rise with a unique message. By musician standards she is still very young in her evolution. Her passion and voice extended to youth under the umbrella of her non-profit, WeAreSeeds.net, ‘focused on “raising happy, healthy, socially conscious, intellectual, and spiritually strong children in the ‘Post-Truth’ Resistance Era”’. This site and initiative is a reflective of her worldview!

Rissi Palmer’s new ‘Seed’ Album, inspired by the name of her non-profit, hits the market on October 15, 2018 according to her Instagram post. I also noticed she had been working on a socially conscious video. You may keep up with this unique song bird on Instagram, when lucky sometimes, even live around Raleigh!

Art and article by Lillian L. Thompson of Lillianonline.

Linda Joyce

Linda Joyce with Images from her life Story

I met Linda Joyce at a HBCU event introduced through a friend. She was about my age though younger and immediately struck me as a very stylish and confident woman. We exchanged information leading to a sit-down lunch in Greensboro her present hometown. Linda Joyce a striking energetic and immediately engaging woman quickly pulled in the restaurant staff from the reception desk to our very young home-grown waiter. The night before I had a dream about a friend in yellow, here was Linda Joyce in a bright yellow high styled outfit.

Instead of being intimidating, she wore a great smile with the twinkle of delight in her eyes. I knew little about her as we chatted away on many subjects. Her diligence in selecting her meal, suggested a healthy person. Her short hair style with a barber cut design in the back suggested a bold personality. The outfit was explained to me as an extension of her extroverted outgoing dynamic and very present personality. ‘Why act old, she said.’ She is a woman who would take a dare and turn it into a new frontier. Since having lunch with Linda for the first time and conversations later, I learned she has two obvious talents where she excels. One she loves doing day to day, commercial real estate, and writing. My years of taking classes and seminars on real estate helped me appreciate her depth of knowledge and comfort level. It also showed me her compassion to help others understand the value of having and maintaining their real estate as wealth builders. Her passion for real estate is matched with her determination to educate African Americans.  I can testify to the struggle by insisting we are fifty years behind the times. Linda who sees the ‘glass half full’ pause only briefly before insisting we need to wake up and catch up. Though this is not her in a nut shell, it captures her ‘get it done’ personality.

Linda’s other love is writing, descriptive writing. On a dare after participating for years in a book club, she wrote and self-published her book on the internet. Done. Then one day she received an email about publishing a book whereby she sent in her manuscript. With that publisher, she moved from the dare to a noted and appreciated author. She moved from done to opening up a whole new world that stood before her as another journey. Yes, the book was professionally completed for market consumption. She learned some new things about how to publish, but this did not move the needle that far. Linda had started another manuscript about one of her siblings, whom she said had an interesting life. Linda was receiving ‘five star’ ratings with many comments on her book which was selling on Amazon. Her publisher offered their website for free promotion. She is thinking about it. Yet she signed and handed me a book from the truck of her car saying to me calmly, ‘see how you think of me after you have read this book’. I thought given my initial impression how could that change? It was a curious statement as she gently encouraged my non ‘book reader’ status to finish the book.

I am not a book reviewer. ‘Second Room on the Right’ was provocative, culturally rich, emotionally charged, and descriptive enough to pull you into her reality as she strove against many odds with a stubborn determination. Linda Joyce is a true story teller. I was fortunate to have read the book even better to discuss Linda’s discoveries from conversations with others after they read the book. Her ‘elementary’ school reunion? Never heard of one, yet a 99 year old teacher returned to that event to tell her about her amazing book pinpointing herself in it. She insisted on letting Linda Joyce know about her gift for writing. With that she told Linda the larger story behind the why’s of what happened about her picture not being taken for her graduating class, a major setback described in her book. Each of these stories enriches my appreciation of Linda Joyce’s life adventures.

I am still getting to know this enchanting person. She was contained in youth to protect her survival and denied celebratory events affirming her accomplishments, yet she sparkles with a vision of life that is still glowing with options and opportunities. Linda Joyce has not seen her greatness yet. She speaks of insight on others whom she views as having greater travails than herself. I see her energy and power from solid experiences that tested her bodily, mental, and spiritual muscles beyond what the average person gets tested. This foundation that would have crumpled others only fuels her beautiful personality through many yet unseen doors as I stand and watch with admiration.

Art and Story by Visual Artist Lillian L. Thompson of Lillianonline