Ok, so I don't want to whine and complain any more than I already have. You know from my last blog post, about being from a big city and relocating to a new country, taking on a countryside lifestyle.
But, this featured post simply highlights some of the things I have so proudly been able to take part in.
Above is a clip of myself on 34th Street and 7th Avenue - Penn Station, a 15 story high digital billboard. The point is, I want to give you all a better look into who I am and where I come from.
This billboard was a campaign done by Jordan brand, honoring the well respected New York Yankee's captain Derek Jeter's retirement. It was part of a much larger campaign of many of the most moving sports ad commercials.
This billboard debut was on September 20, 2014.
I'll have more of these featured posts, that will serve sort of as intermissions ... xx
Lancaster…. Ohhh where should I start? Should I start with being a big city girl or the fact that 4/4 of my London friends do not know where Lancaster is? Along with them, many English/British people I’ve come across, have no clue where it is as well. Obviously, Lancaster is a very small town in the North West of England. A fact that I was well aware of eventually being a challenge, but knowing me…. I love a challenge. Lancaster is a very cute and quaint town, has pretty architecture and is… very small (if I haven’t stressed that enough already). I have the luxury of looking out of my window and having a view of the Lancaster Castle which is pretty dope. I have access to great produce and fresh meat which I DO NOT have back in the states and for a very very very low price. The cost of living is so ridiculously low here, it still gets me. Though with all that cute stuff being said, I’m absolutely dying! You can see it however you want to, "New York City girl complaining and crying that she’s out in the hills with the boring sheep." If you know me well enough, you would know I love the outdoors and the countryside…. But in doses. I knew this time would come when the honeymoon stages of moving to a new country would wear off and the bore and the daily annoyances would strike.
England being a very small country, traveling from town to town things change drastically. The architect, the terms used, teams, and the accents. Oh, the accents fascinate me, English people sometimes not understanding other English people in the town over is amazing.
But with all that being said I noticed a shift, a shift that may have been caused by several factors. This shift was the way I felt out and about in town. Few possible reasons why: could just be me being a weird natural human being, seasonal blues (impacting the Lancastrians’ as well as myself), seeing the town of Lancaster's true colors, or the Lancastrians’ just being damn tired of students taking the town over after the end of one whole term. I know if I were a local here I would be annoyed from time to time. When I first arrived, I was on a high, new continent, new country, new town, new culture. Most people were friendly, people would start random conversations, smile and say “Hello love” (a phrase used very often here in the North)…Makes you feel all warm and welcomed, it’s great. As seasons changed, the days got shorter (much shorter than back home, we’re slightly higher up north), and it got colder. I am a big believer in the effects of seasons, I noticed the change in my housemates, and campus wide. The energy of things just naturally shifted like it does every year, and with that, so did the locals. This noticeable shift was confirmed when my friend flew in to visit me from San Fran and the first question she asked as we entered the town center was, “Does everyone here just stare?”I tried to respond in a positive way by telling her there were very few blacks, so it’s a rare occasion. She responded, “Isn’t your school filled with international students?” I had no comment….
Noticing the weird stares, hearing the under breath comments in passing, the unwanted energy, having random strangers approach me on the street and put their hands in my hair, then to have an older man tell my friend and me that, “your race isn’t wanted here”. Was this possibly because the locals were just at their ends dealing with the massive influx of students after 3 long months? The town of Lancaster has a population of approximately 140,000. Lancaster University alone has a student body of 13,320, that does not include, professors, mature students’ families, and all the rest of what else a huge university would bring along. I must include, in addition to Lancaster’s students, there is another campus in town which is much smaller but most definitely increases the total population of students well above 16,000.
Why was this so suddenly becoming my reality? Why hadn’t I noticed it before? Could it be that I was just finally seeing the ugly side of things (there’s an ugly side of everything and everywhere, believe me), or the grunt of BREXIT? An important mark in history (to say the least) that I had been warned could possibly impact my experience abroad. In addition to mine, are other racial occurrences’ that I cannot speak on because they were not my own. Xenophobia is a big problem in Europe and is ever so growing, but my University is a pretty damn good one. If there isn’t already an existing program to better the dynamic of the two worlds to better coexist, I say we start one soon. It could potentially better the relationship between the students and the Lancastrians. BREXIT is current, recent and real. It has real impacts on us all, creating and bettering a bond between the universities and the locals can and will benefit future students to come.
So, Christmas in France, I don't really know how to describe it in words (in a good way). That’s because it wasn’t a vacation, it wasn’t just a regular travel trip, it was an experience; It was spending Christmas in a foreign - foreign country (and I say foreign twice because where I call home right now is already a foreign country for me, obviously). Not only was this an experience like no other, but I was invited into my friend’s family home, what most people would consider, a very special time of year. Throw into the mix of being a natural introvert at heart… that takes a hell of a lot of energy! Some people think I'm insane for spending the holidays away from my family, with the recent death of my oldest brother….which is even more of an impractical thing to do. Call me selfish, but I needed the escape and my Christmas in France healed that for me.
Now to the France business! The food omg, anyone who knows me, knows my love for amazing food. Oh! and let’s not even get started on the wine….. or the wine consumption. Miki’s (my friend/housemate) family was like the best gift, the world could give back to me for the recent months I’d just endured. They had 100x more love and passion for food and wine than I did, it was heaven. My taste palate and Miki’s family…. are best friends. The amount of knowledge on food, wine, and culture that I consumed over those 10 days’ man… I am no longer the same person who left England on December 23, 2016. They were all super chill (works well with my introvert energy), wise, culturally full of knowledge, and loved food and wine; what more could I ask for.
I was introduced to the world of experts on wine. What a dope experience to have dinner with her family’s friends who were wine producers. In a room of the house, there were 4 languages being spoken, and spoken fluently all at once. Those 4 languages were French, Spanish, English, and Wine. Yes, wine is a language. Miki’s mom even runs her own business called Vinglish, that provides a service to translate the language of wine. That’s how real it is. I was asked by the wine producer’s daughter about what my thoughts were on the taste of each wine (one of the wines we were drinking were named after her. Yes, the bottle of wine she asked my opinion on had her name on it) talk about pressure. In that moment, I was speechless, at a loss for words, not because I was in shock or anything but because I didn’t know how to put it into words the tastes my palate were experiencing. That’s because I don’t speak the language of wine. Each wine had a different “something” about it I had no idea how to explain it, some wines have more of this “something” and others have less of this “something”, and some others have a mixture of these “somethings”. She then asked me for my marketing expertise and opinion on the logo and label of the wines, oh how good that felt! The blood, sweat, and tears I’ve put into my Master’s degree in Psychology of Advertising were being acknowledged, complimented, and put to good use.
To be clear, I didn’t just stay in France, but I stayed in the countryside of France… jaw dropping. Vineyards were like peoples’ front lawns, they were everywhere. The vineyards, the hiking, the old stone houses, the wine, the cheese, the bread, the croissants, the coffee, the Foie Gras, the hills, the mountains and my muddy running kicks. We first hiked up Berzé-la-Ville which is around the village of their house in Burgundy, Mácon. Here is where I had my first touristy moment. For them, it was, in translation my version of walking through 5th Ave - Central Park… pretty regular for them, but for me it was breathtaking. Second, we hiked up Solutré-Pouilly, which is also in Burgundy, Macon. This rock is the shape of a slice a cake, literally. It looks like someone sliced a piece of it off, pretty dope. When we reached the top of the rock we could see above the clouds. Picture that. There is some pretty interesting history on the Rock of Solutré about how they used the rock’s sharp cliff for horse hunting done 55,000 years ago…. but I won’t get into that right now. The third rock we hiked up was the Vergisson, it was my favorite hike. The hike up was pretty steep (you know I love cardio), filled with bushes so the only visual you had on the way up was directly in front of you. It was something about the energy of this rock and its village, it was calming. I loved it.
If anyone has any questions about my journey to Mácon or want any recco’s about traveling to France, feel free to ask me! I know the experts. xx
And America we need to step out isshh up in the high-speed train department. France’s TGV (French: Train à Grande Vitesse, "high-speed train") goes 357.2 mph. If we had that we could get from New York to North Carolina in an hour!
Alright, let’s first clear the air. Before I can start any blog about my life and adventures, I will first acknowledge the elephant in the room. The big ARTICLE, reaching over 1500 social media reposts within the first day, written and published by the New York Daily News - Sports reporter Michael O'Keeffe in April 2016. I was told by people around me, "Elicia you'll black-ball yourself," "Elicia this can ruin your career," "Elicia you are strong for doing this" and "Elicia will this impact your future?". I heard it all, I knew the risks of taking a public stance as a young BLACK FEMALE, and the impact it would have on me. Those risks at that time did not seem as important as my feelings and my voice that were being shunned and swept up under the rug. Just so that one successful company could benefit from it. I was suffering and will never be the same person again; purely for the gains of a multi-billion-dollar company. That was my biggest issue… to say the least. I had started to realize that because I was, one – black and two - a female, what was happening to me did not matter to them. These are two major factors that consistently work against members of our society.
September of 2015 was the beginning of an ongoing nightmare I had to live in. On December 5, 2015, I was harassed on my way home, by three drunken men who had just attended a boxing match at the Barclays Center. With the aggravation from stadium goers, to the constant stalking and harassment brought by the new developments construction workers, my childhood neighborhood became a legit scene out of nightmare on Elm Street. It was a hell hole that I felt trapped inside of. Walking outside of my building just to walk into strange men telling me to check my car window for the hearts they had drawn for me… It got pretty damn creepy. I just could not believe this was the same street I would hop and skip down as an 8-year-old with my neighborhood gang, with a double-dutch rope in hand, arguing about whose armpits were smelling that day. Yes, this was my reality, crowds of thousands of drunk fans crowding the residential neighborhood, 20 floor story high cranes and bull dozers, creepy and disrespectful construction workers, sounds of falling metal, construction sites every which way you turned, and OH! I cannot forget the atrocious parking!
Knowing my luck, the same day the article was released I had to go in for a project I'd been working on for the 2015 season at Madison Square Garden, Knicks game... if only you could walk in my shoes that day. I would not wish those feelings I felt on my worst enemy!
From September 2015 until even after the releasing of the article, the time had changed me FOREVER. Having to live day in and day out in a nightmare, and show up to work with a smile on my face like nothing was going on. No one knew, until the article released, and then the other horrifying feelings came along. I was being questioned every second of the day and I would feel the awkwardness of the other persons thought “should I ask her about it?” You know the feeling, when you can tell that the other person knows but is trying to act as if they don’t… yea, what people call the “elephant in the room.” That elephant was in every room I walked into for months long after.
As time went on I would freak out more and more, did I just commit career suicide?! But why? Because I stood up for myself? Do females not have that right? Or do you have to choose career over your voice as a female? It wasn’t until my brother said to me “you know what Elicia, if a company doesn’t want to hire you for such a courageous act, than you don’t want to work for that company.” Literally a week later I received a phone call from a pretty big and well respected organization that was interested in me after seeing my resume, googling me, and finding the ARTICLE… who would’ve thought, my brother was right, it was actually doing some good out of all of that bad.
But the question to be asked is, did I face such treatment because I’m a black female? Black females are known to be the least respected females in this society, we’re hypersexualized, the most discriminated race, and can’t forget the sexist world we live in. It’s a thought that sits uncomfortably in the back of my mind all the time now. The way I was raised race/skin color wasn’t seen as difference in character. Having two older brothers, and working in a male dominated industry, I’d never thought these factors would mean I would have different life experiences as would a white male. That was the naïve me of course.
Guess what? I survived it ALL to tell my story! And don't worry future posts wont be as depressing... but this is what it's like to walk in my shoes, and see life through my lenses xx