Independence Day: Tips for Celebrating July 4th in Your Community

The Fourth of July is a time to appreciate our freedom and independence as Americans. Celebrating this occasion with friends and members of your community perpetuates pride and unity. This Independence Day, spend time with people in your community to build a stronger bond and honor to the freedoms we fought and continue to fight for as a nation.

Take into consideration these tips for a Fourth of July  celebration  focused on our shared values of freedom and justice and building community.

Fireworks over the Capitol.

Celebrating the 4th of July in Washington, D.C. Courtesy: ufdc.org

Haley's 4 Ways to Celebrate Independence Day While Fostering Community

  1. Join a Block Party: Many neighborhoods and towns have yearly block parties that are sure to spark the red, white, and blue spirit in you. These gatherings are a time to get to know other families in your community and while honoring our country's history.
  2. Find a Local Program: Downtown firework shows or parades are events that many cities offer to their citizens. Find a rooftop or parking garage, grab a few friends and enjoy the light show in the sky.
  3. Seek out Volunteer Opportunities: The Fourth of July should be a time of celebration but it is also a time to give back to the people who fight to keep our country a free nation. Seek out an organization to volunteer with in your community such as the United Services Organization (USO) or the Wounded Warrior Project to support men and women in the military who selflessly give their time and lives in service to our great country.
  4. Get Your #Sweatlife On :  Sign up for a race for the Fourth of July and grab a few friends to join you. Running in your community supports and promotes a healthy and active America. Some races may even be for a charity or military event.

Fourth of July goodies.

Celebrating the Fourth of July with people in your community not only brings you closer as friends but also as Americans. Find some way to get involved with friends, family, and members of your community as a gesture of patriotism and a time to remember and celebrate the men and women who have dedicated their lives to their country in pursuit of liberty, justice, and democracy.

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently working at the United States House of Representatives, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting “from stress to success in the city.” Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

How do you plan on celebrating the Fourth of July?

Summer Break: Celebrating Your Authentic-Self During LGBT Pride Month

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. For the LGBT community and supporters, this is a time to celebrate how far the gay rights movement has come as well as continue work towards realizing full civil rights in our country. From the covers of major magazines to high school video productions, the conversation on LGBT rights is growing louder than ever before.

Summer_Break_LBGT_Pride-TWLC

I recently had the opportunity to meet Cindy Abel, director of the groundbreaking documentary, "Breaking Through." This film explores the reality of what it is like to be an openly gay elected official in America. Abel shared her thoughts on why telling these authentic stories is so important during Pride Month and throughout the year.

Aundrea's Interview with "Breaking Through" Director Cindy Abel

Interview conducted, condensed, and edited by Aundrea Gregg

TLWC's Aundrea: What led you to start the "Breaking Through" project? 

Cindy Abel: Well, a number of things. The main thing is that about four years ago the media was, for a minute, paying attention to all these young people who were being bullied because they were gay or perceived to be gay. I remember when I was a kid coming out. I felt so alone, and I didn't have any role models. I thought if I could help other young people and older people who are still in the closet by showcasing role models who have lived their dream and overcome all kinds of barriers--including being gay, lesbian, bi, or trans--I wanted to be apart of doing that.

TLWC's Aundrea:  What was one of the most moving stories you heard while making the film? 

Cindy Abel: People surprised me with the vulnerability they showed. These are elected officials--people used to working off of their talking points. One of the really dramatic moments was speaking with the Mayor of Houston. She shared that when she was a teenager she was so depressed and anxious that the only way she could deal with her parents separating her from her first girlfriend was to cut herself. She pulled up her sleeve to show the scars and her communications director about fell off of her chair. She had never talked about this publicly.

TLWC's Aundrea: Though it has long been celebrated, do you think President Obama's recent declaration of June as LGBT Pride Month signifies a cultural advancement for the Gay Rights Movement?

Cindy Abel: I think on the surface yes. For people who have a certain level of accomplishment and privilege, or live in urban areas--yes. We hear the President say that all people should be respected no matter who they love, and that they should have the same rights and responsibilities. It's great to hear that, but if your mom and dad, or the kids at school, or whomever are saying that these are not things that are acceptable, then  it is really still rough.

TLWC's Aundrea: Through the making of the film what do you see as some of the remaining barriers to overcome for the movement?

Cindy Abel: We firstly need to pay attention to the areas where there is still no legal equality. Secondly, we need to pay attention to how laws shape out on the ground. It's one thing to have laws, it's another thing to have the necessary cultural shift to make these laws real for people. We need for not only LGBT people to come out, but also people who are supportive of LGBT equality to come out and be active in the cause.

TLWC's Aundrea: What is the one thing viewers of 'Breaking Through' should take away after watching the film?

Cindy Abel: Listen to your own voice and believe in yourself. Take one step forward towards living your life totally authentically. Whatever it is that we may be hiding or feel shame about, take one more step forward towards being open about whatever that thing is. That’s where the joy is, living authentically.

Summer_Break-LBGT_Pride-TWLC

While I have never experienced discrimination because of my sexual orientation, as a woman of color I identified with Ms. Abel on many points that seem to transcend the Gay Rights Movement. For anyone who starts life in a darker space by virtue of where she was born, accessing strong role models and supportive friends can make all the difference for living with 100% conviction about who you are. Whether you are LGBT yourself or not, June is the perfect time to reflect on what it means to live authentically in your own life and help someone else make that first step towards doing the same.

Aundrea_Gregg-TheWiseLatinaClubAn education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

How do you live authentically?

Summer Break: Festival Planning for the Most Summer Fun

Festivals are a fun way to enjoy nice weather while relaxing with friends and family. The combination of local crafts, good music, and tasty culinary treats often draw cheerful crowds in cities across the country. Navigating the big crowds does take planning. However, with a little flexibility, incorporating festivals into your summer plans will be no hassle at all.

Summer_Break-Festival_Fun-TWLC

Over Memorial Day weekend I kicked-off the start of summer with a day at the Atlanta Jazz Festival. For me, there is nothing better than relaxing to good music. Listening to the smooth tunes of headliners Christian Scott and the renowned Ahmad Jamal, I enjoyed a sophisticated evening picnic with good company.

Festivals are the perfect summer outing because they offer something for participants of all ages. Family time is enhanced as festivals are great cultural learning opportunities for students on summer break. Much like my jazzy picnic, a good festival can make for easy in-town hangouts with friends. Planning a date? Festivals are also a great break from the average dinner and a movie. Whether venturing out to a local crafts show or camping all weekend at a music festival à la Coachella, taking a little time to plan ahead will maximize your experience.

Aundrea’s 4 Tips for a Fun Festival Outing

  1. Check out the festival website: It may seem like a no brainer, however, many people forget to check out the official festival website before attending the event. Online you can find important information such as what you can and cannot bring into venues, parking and transportation options, as well as ticket information and activity itineraries. Paying a quick visit to the festival website will save you time and help avoid headaches.
  2. Don't forget the obvious necessities: Heat exhaustion and  dehydration are constant threats in the warm weather. While preparing for your day at the festival, pack a few bottles of agua and layer on the SPF. Additionally, be sure to bring along blankets and chairs (if allowed at the venue). At a minimum, always where comfy shoes. Ladies, this may mean leaving those sandals you haven't quite broken in at home!
  3. Arrive early: Inevitably, when attending festivals, I can never find parking or miss a long awaited act all because I leave late. Don't be like me. Arrive at your festival with plenty of time to walk around, stake out a good spot, and visit the food stalls before the masses come out.
  4. Go with the flow: In large crowds, be flexible. Keep the cartable items to a minimum and ditch the large bags.

Summer_Break-Festival_Fun-TWLC

When venturing out to enjoy the festivities and have fun, don't forget to take advantage of breaks in the shade, drink lots of water.

With more festivals popping up across the country, your name is likely all over an attraction. I certainly have my fair-share lined up.

Happy summer!

Aundrea_Gregg-TheWiseLatinaClubAn education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

What summer festivals will you be attending?

From Stress to Success in the City: 4 Tips For Achieving Success When Moving

In American culture, most young people idealize the thought of picking up our life and moving to our “dream” destination. This is especially true for those who have recently graduated from college and are ready to start life on their own. Once the initial excitement of moving wears away, navigating life in a new city can be challenging and lonely for those who make this move. Whether moving for a new job, chasing childhood dreams, or acting on a whim:

Be proactive and patient to turn “stress in the city” into “success in the city.”

Photo Courtesy: solucimmoblog.fr

In September 2013 I decided it was time to move to a new city because my year-long internship in North Carolina was ending in December. I was ready to write a new chapter in the story of my life. I picked up my southern roots and planted them in Washington, D.C. The fast-pace environment combined with its rich history convinced me that D.C. is my “dream” destination.

I have been in D.C. for a little over two months. In my short time living in here, I have experienced many ups and downs. I have learned that cities are great for young adults, but moving is no walk in the park or the National Mall. Financial stability, effort, and confidence are all key components to making the most of a new city. As important are social skills I put into this list:

Haley's 4 Social Skills to Turn Stress into Success

  1. Network "Authentically": Be genuine when you are networking so you don't come across as a "user." Follow up with your new contacts the next day because that professional can be the person who gives you your next job. For me, body language is important because of its power to communicate attributes people will want in a co-worker. Instead of slouching or looking down at the ground which screams lack of confidence, smile and make eye contact which says confidence, inviting, and approachable.
  2. Join a Club: As soon as I moved to D.C., I joined a running club which is how I met Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D. and founder of The Wise Latina Club. Book clubs, intramural sports, trivia nights, and alumni groups are great ways to widen your circle of contacts beyond work through a shared interest.
  3. Find a Trustworthy Mentor: Seek out someone seasoned professionally and in life to challenge and give direction. In addition to learning the ropes, she may open doors--crucial for attaining professional, social, and financial success.
  4. Be Patient: Finding friends and feeling comfortable in a city do not happen overnight. Remember we each reach success at our own pace. Keeping in mind that often times it's not the destination but the journey, celebrate the small victories such as making a new friend or joining a new club. As the days, weeks, and months pass, your new city will begin to feel like home sweet home.

Moving to a new city is a time to be challenged and grow. Enjoy it. Walk confidently, knowing that many others have been through the same life transition and succeeded.

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning in the office of Congressman Sanford Bishop, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting "from stress to success in the city." Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

“What have you found helpful when moving to a new city?”

Restaurant Review: ¿Did Someone Say Ham-Infused Tequila?

As I walked through the door into Oyamel restaurant , I left the streets of Washington, D.C. behind and was enveloped in a cultural experience infused with the biodiversity of the Monarch Butterfly and the urban touch of Mexico City street markets. The icy chill left itself at the door as the Spanish trio band and unique cocktails warmed reception attendees weary of a long, bitter winter. This DC Penn Quarter resto owned by celebrity chef and food advocate José Andrés is preparing to transform into a large Mexican market for the seventh annual Tequila and Mezcal Festival. I was invited to preview the featured food and drinks.

Delicioso needs no translation. Miramar tequila cocktail at José Andrés' Oyamel Restaurant. Courtesy: @fulfordhe

The festival will be a chance to escape city life and enjoy eating foods focused around traditional Mexican ingredients--but with a culinary twist.

José Andrés, the mastermind behind the festival, stopped by the preview and delivered an impromptu speech explaining this celebration's vision and grandeur. Always a showman, his joyous personality infused this food and drink preview with life and sabor.

The menu, meant to be paired with tequila and mezcal drinks, kept the crowd coming back for more. The staff served a total of about ten different dishes ranging from handmade guacamole to Hawaiian Ono, a sweet fish named after the Hawaiian word meaning "delicious." It was served raw on a bed of slaw with peanuts, mango, cucumber, onion and lime--sweet and savory ingredients.

The BBQ Pork Tacos were the dish I savored most. I could not get enough of them! The pig from which the tacos are stuffed was the centerpiece of the preview. Perched on a table slightly above the crowd, it seemed to preside over us, later to tantalize our taste buds. 

The food was delicious but the drinks, which are the focus of the festival, were created with the guidance of a sophisticated palate and visual mastermind. Each drink was crafted to pay tribute to the spirits that hail from Mexico. 

From unique geographical regions, each spirit boasts its own distinct taste. If we were to conduct a genetic analysis of tequila and mezcal, tequila would be the recessive gene and mezcal the dominant gene.

Tequila is smooth, light, and refreshing; it is meant to lightly compliment the food with which it is paired on the menu. The festival will introduce ham-infused tequila which is a spin-off of chicken-infused tequila, flavors added to give this spirit depth. Unfortunately, it did not arrive in time for the preview. But José Andrés who requested it assured us it will arrive in time for adventurous festival goers.

I had never tried mezcal before the preview. Smoky and strong, it brings depth to any cocktail. As the "dominant," it is the main show in every featured drink with the other ingredients merely supporting and complimenting its flavor. The Rosa de Oaxaca, infused with raspberry, lemon, and hibiscus, is the mezcal drink to try!

Live far from the nation's capital or have a demanding schedule that won't allow you to make it to the festival? I've got your covered with a cocktail recipe to try at home. The recipe is my favorite drink of the night--the light, refreshing Miramar.

The Wise Latina Club PSA: Remember your ID that proves you're 21 and over when buying your spirits.

Oyamel's Miramar Tequila Cocktail Recipe

Serves 1

Ingredientes

1 cup hot water

1 teaspoon Oaxacan sea salt

2 ounces tequila blanco

½ ounce yellow chartreuse

1 ounce lime juice

1 ounce pineapple juice

¾ ounce simple syrup

2 pineapple leaves, for garnish

Direcciones

Combine the hot water and sea salt. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved. Allow to cool and then place in the refrigerator. Place the salt in a spray bottle for use.

Combine all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake for 35 seconds. Strain the cocktail into a highball glass filled with ice.

Garnish with the salt water mist and pineapple leaves.

¡Salud!

Oyamel is hosting the Tequila and Mezcal Festival from March 10th through Sunday, March 23rd. Paying tribute to Mexico’s thriving street food culture, on Monday, the restaurant kicks off its festival by transforming its traditional setting into a giant marketplace. More festival details on Oyamel’s website.

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClubA food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning in the office of Congressman Sanford Bishop, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting "from stress to success in the city." Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

What are your favorite tequila cocktails?

What Paula Deen and Eva Longoria's Devious Maids Taught Me About DOMA, the Voting Rights Act, and Affirmative Action or What I Said on NPR

Screen-shot-2011-08-12-at-2.47.33-PM-e1372454594294.png