I see God in you, Queen


You were made in the image of me, so I see God in you, Queen. You are beautiful, and I’m stuck like a deer in headlights. What does your soul taste like?

Treat yourself as the person you want to be, and you will become that. I want to be free. Pictures courtesy of Bella Kinks.

Music and a book.


Dear God make me a bird, so I can fly far, far far away

Call your phone on a late night
I recall your soul and it taste like
Gardens, flowers, Warm Winds
Quit clipping on your feet
Quit clipping on your wings
Sometimes we hate to leave somebody
Whats happening to we?
Warm winds on a space ride
Sometimes, I call your name out loud
Just to make sure it’s you
Sometimes, I crack my veins so bad
Just to see if it’s blue
You clean me up

Sometimes I bite my lips and close my eyes                                                                     Just to pretend it’s you

Long live, lonely thoughts on Thursday nights

That’s when I think of you

We were all thirteen once
Long live tramp stamps and Pepper Ann
You will never judge me for that
You will always love me for that
Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present

Thank you for being here with me. Chase your soul through the gardens, flowers, and warm winds. “Sometimes I bite my lips and close my eyes, thinking of you.”  Remember good things. Let’s not hide from the truth. Say what you want. Do what you please. And when it is necessary, leave. It’s all good. -Shila Iris

“People are uncomfortable with sexuality that is not meant for male consumption.”


In the spirit of evolution…

Why I Love Erykah Badu

… I am getting to know who the fu*#@ I am! It’s not really that I don’t know what I’m about, it’s about enduring the beautiful struggle and allowing myself to deal with the things that make me uncomfortable. The good and the bad count. Sexuality is one of those great things that I am discovering is not what we thought it was (there are so many things that aren’t what they seem). It has nothing to do with other people. It’s all about how you love yourself. Are we mistakenly relying on other people to confirm our sexual identity? It seems this way. That’s why there are one night stands and so many acts of low self-esteem enveloping women and girls everywhere. Men too. You have to know that all these constructs that we follow are ridiculous. Be exactly what you are. Be honest:

I am a woman. of African descent. living in America. i am taught to hate myself. but I do not. i am taught to be conservative. but I am not. i am uplifted mostly when I am in the nude. but I cover myself. i am thought to be exotic. but i do not allow these silly interpretations to pollute my identity. i am separated from my king. but our greatness cannot be denied. they live in fear of me, so they tear me down. they have stolen many things from my family. but they cannot take what is inside of me. they need money and material possessions to survive. i need something different. i am queen. you can be too. if only you did not operate from hate. i am the only image that i will imitate.

-Shila aka Kush

**** I love that Badu is becoming more and more fearless. Believe it or not, the image above, is not meant for male consumption. You’d better recognize! There is a story to be told and artists will tell it because like the world says, art imitates life. Good stories never die. Much love and respect to queens.

What I’m reading:

The Complete Book of Numerology

P.S. I hope that you will find this book valuable. I do. Become shameless. Become fearless.

peace and love.


The Up Close and Personal Diaries


Kush Queendom Diaries

Welcome. I want to introduce to you my new series of articles and interviews titled: Up Close and Personal. They feature yours truly, but the goal is to speak with other women and men that I find to be significant. I will link them in the menu bar to replace the “Stories” tab. This is the first. Check it out. It’s just about me! Testing the waters to find harmony. Smile.


What is your real name? My name is Shila, but I have some aliases. It’s fun to use different names when writing, performing, or painting. Oh yes, those are some of the things that I do. Ok, so let’s talk about what you do. Honestly, I have a lot of talents and have not yet settled into one. I think as a society, or generation, we are a bit beyond the days where we worked 30 years and retired from the same company. The stability of this lifestyle can be comforting, but I am not that. I need rapid change. However, I need to maintain a steady cash flow to survive. Been shifting a lot lately to secure this level of my life. I live in America. Although I think the concept of money is full of shit, I still gotta pay bills. So how are you maintaining financially? It’s a combination of things. I have a gig and then I do freelance performance art, business writing, graphic designing, I’ve sold paintings. I wish to do better with selling my talents. My entrepreneurial side helps. Do you have children? No. How old are you? 29. Are you going to have children? What! Not sure. I really love my nieces and nephews and find comfort in them when I need to satisfy that instinct. However, I may in another life. What is your average day like? It is not a 9 to 5 type of day. It changes. I have worked very late into the night and very early. This way is better for me. My day is not all about work. I have time for reflection, exercise, connecting with people, some eating, spending time with nature like staring into the sky, walking by Lake Erie, smelling the flowers. It all matters. Hmm. Is this balance a challenge? Yes. I am learning that everything has to be in moderation. Too much or too little doesn’t work. Balance the scales to reduce stress. Have fun, but not before you give it your all. That’s nice. Is this actually working for you? Yes, but it does not exist in the element of perfection. I’m working it out. How are you maintaining your health? Herbs and holistic methods work best for me. I’ve eliminated bread as much as possible because of my sensitivity to gluten. Not much dairy, definitely not milk. Sweets on occasion, if at all. Today I wanted a Krispy Kreme donut, but I resisted. I like broccoli, brussel sprouts, green beans, potatoes, romaine salads with a vinaigrette. I cook veggies in as much garlic and capers as I can stand without becoming offensive to others… the smell! I eat corn chips with hummus weekly. If I am over a friends, I will eat a chip, but I stopped buying them. A few months ago I was adjusting to having gained 10 lbs. I was telling everyone. They were probably cursing me out in their minds because I was going on and on. I should have kept quiet. I was just surprised that one morning I got up and was much heavier than I’d ever been. I couldn’t fit my pants. I was irritated. People actually noticed that I had gained weight! Now recently, I lost 15 lbs without even being aware that I was losing weight. This happened in a month. It teaches me that I should not speak of the unimportant. I should just try to balance it all out. Make it count in a different way. My weight is not a problem. Just eat to live. No complaints. If I gain a little weight tone it up. If I lose it, do the same. I also love wine both dark and light. I am careful with the alcohol. It’s full of calories. But I like it too. Smile. That’s cool! Have you been published? Well, yes I have worked with a local magazine for a few years- articles, photos and photo manipulation, poetry, and this blog is a publication. I want to go farther with this, though. I want to do some serious editorial publishing. I want to conquer the challenges of reading. and get people to read what I write. I want to delve into the element of persuasion with the pen. What is your style of music? Oh my, it’s so much. Right now I am listening to N.E.R.D. and Kelis. In my music library you can find Badu, L. Hill, Sade, Sweetback, Gregory Isaacs, The Jackson 5, Common, Telepopmusik, The Roots, De La Soul, Tribe, Tupac, early Alicia Keys music, Esthero, Lucy Pearl, Aerosmith, Bjork and Portishead, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Amy Winehouse, Anita Baker, The Art of Noise, Asa, Nneka, Ambrose Akinmusire, Bilal, Maxwell, D’Angelo, Alanis Morisette, SWV, Brandy, Xscape, Janet Jackson, TLC, 702, 112, Donell Jones, Carl Thomas, Tweet, Enigma, Madonna, Etana, Eurythmics, Eric Roberson, Gaelle, Carlos Santana, Goodie Mob, Fisk University Jubilee Singers, Floetry, Watts Prophets, The Verve, Black Starr, Skye aka Morcheeba, Miles Davis, Musiq… and the list goes so far and wide. Lots of people have good things to say lyrically. You get excited about music? Most definitely. I love to hear a lot of the old and some new like LiAnn La Havas, Esperanza Spalding, Quadron, Janelle Monae… shit! I hesitate when talking about new music. I really have to search my brain when trying to think of newer artists that resonate. The world is evolving and there are still those out there with major talent. You have an interesting style. What inspires your dress code? It’s all me. I don’t mimic anyone or anything. When I’ve tried to be sexy or cute, it didn’t work out spiritually and it attracts an attention that I do not need. So I keep it queen-like. I’m Shila. That’s all. But, there are some artists out there whose styles I like. Les Nubians. Whoa! Beautiful. Erykah can do no wrong when it comes to dress! Nneka has this rugged look that I adore. Solange is OK because she isn’t mainstream with her dress code. I definitely dig her hair. Jill Scott has a nice look. Boy does she wear that smile! That’s pretty much it. I don’t model myself after anyone, though, especially not entertainers. Why did you name your blog African Essence? I was trying to represent what’s inside of me- the style, the story, the real deal. I feel close to my ancestors. I do not want to ever repress my true roots. I feel it in my soul. I love the culture within. I project it. I actually am at the point where I want to change the name. I’ve evolved into something else. That’s coming. I’ve noticed that you read a lot. Yes. Honestly, it has been so hard to maintain a regular reading schedule, but sometimes I have to just stop, put it all down and read…  and I don’t want to read online or using an eReader. I need the book to be in my hand. I want to feel the spine, the pages.Yes! Even with magazines and newspapers, CD inserts! I like the smell. I like the physical. Any favorites? For some reason Lerone Bennett Jr’s Before the Mayflower is a book that I cherish. I have 4 editions of it. My favorite mag is WaxPoetics. Whatchu know about it!? I discovered this magazine in ATL at a record store in Little Five Points. Been in love ever since. I read mostly non-fiction African-American Lit/Black Studies. I also read a lot of books based in Buddhist philosophies, art and science rituals, things like that. What is the up close series about? I tend to open up like a flower when I am around the right people. They love that I am not afraid to tell the truth. I love that they appreciate a good story and listen so well. I say some interesting things. I am more interested in the things that others have to say, so here I am. As an aspiring writer, it is important that I take this challenge- get people to open up just like me! It’s so much better when we tell the truth… with humility. Tell us something interesting, Shila. About you. Oh wow! I suppose this is the point of it all! Ok, so you really want to know? Here it is! I do not believe in religion or marriage as practiced in doctrine. I believe in a higher connection with the Creator, Universe, and with people! It gets better than what’s on paper and in a book. Don’t hate me! Smile. Peace.

Interview conducted by the spirit of Gil Scott-Heron – haha

Gotta, gotta read. Trying to finish the Questlove book and I am looking forward to reading The Hip Hop Generation by Bakari Kitwana.

16131189       The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture

Finding harmony,



Embrace Your African Essence


Embrace  Your AEBe creatively righteous in displaying your Goddess beauty. You can be fashionable and righteous in your style of dress.

Peace, Power & Love

I am the Kush Queen (not marijuana, lol).

Reading: Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology by Barbara Smith


5 Star Rating… that means it’s a really good book!



Lovin Oprah These Days… She Can Rock an Afro!


This is Oprah on the cover of the September 2013 issue of The Oprah Magazine. I am really digging her boldness these days. She is fun, open, and risky! That is a great way for a woman of her age to be- ageless at heart! The point of it all: Tressed to Impress, all about the hair.  I really just think that she is visually showing what it feels like to experiment with and to explore hair. I love the textured fro. Beyonce’s stylist allowed her to borrow it and it weighs in at 3.5 lbs. Wow! It is reminiscent of Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, and Ms. Badu:

Oprah says that she wish this wig were her own hair. I love it! She talks about hair because she wants to know why it has such a hold on women. I agree. Oddly, I asked my friend yesterday what he thought about my hair over the phone. I dyed my hair and the roots had begun to show and I wanted to know what he thought about that. He said to me: you are focusing too much on it! You have good taste and it’s beautiful any way you wear it. I believed him. He isn’t shallow at all (but he cannot stand weave!). I could come out any way that I pleased and he would not care. Gotta love a good friend! This is the biggest my hair has been. I only wore it like this for a photo shoot. I couldn’t handle it the next day day. The Afro pics were of me in Vegas at an NBA party! It was so much fun!

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Well, I believe that the hair/head is a crown and it should be cared for with love, but, if it becomes consuming then think about a cut! For me, hair is most beautiful in its natural texture. Not chemically processed or dyed. What you were born with is what you must love. Everything else is just temporary decoration. Colors and weaves should not define a woman. We must show our own hair and love it. I love my bush. Do you?

The Kush Queen aka Queen Duafe aka Shila Iris aka ishilai aka The Fifth Element for African Essence Blog

Queendom- Understanding When it is Time to Take the Throne



I woke up this morning from a dream that was disturbing, yet liberating! Different people in my life that had once held me back, were drowning in a gigantic cesspool of chaos. I had the ability to save them, but I let them drown. I am excited about this message because I don’t often understand my dreams and I end up ignoring them. However, this dream said to me that it is time to save myself. I have been trying to save others, meantime losing sight of my own purpose. I am here for me right now and I am not afraid to find the space that I need to survive.

This past summer, I got a lot of complaints from my family and some friends about my presence in their lives. After hearing these complaints, I spent a lot of time trying to work out what they needed from me in my mind. I could not stand that they were crying about my absence, never stopping to ask me if I was doing OK! Instead they selfishly complained and tried to place the blame in my lap, saying and actually believing that I must have a problem with them. That was such BS. For years I was the person in my family and in my friends lives that would pick up and travel to see them. That is the only way that we saw each other. Not once did I complain about them not coming to see me. I gladly went to meet them where they were rather it be Atlanta, Baltimore or the other side of the city, I was the one “showing up!” Now that I need space to clarify my life, all of sudden I am a villain. Please!

The gist of the disagreements was that I don’t come around anymore. My response: deal with it! I am going through some things and that does not mean that you should not call or keep me in the loop. It just means that I am not going to be the initiator all the time! If you want me somewhere, put in that same effort that I put in when I was coming to see you. Damn! Get off my back! Understand that I used to be a princess, but now I am a Queen and you must let me take the throne in the only way I know how. Let me grow at my own pace.

Peace and love,

The Kush Queen for African Essence

P.S. “You are a first lady worthy of a king” they say. Well let me make my life better, let me find what it is I need to survive. I am not in a place where I have a lot of time & $ to play. However, when you want to hang out, just call. I have to plant the seeds if I want to harvest the fruit. All I want is peace.

The Story Must Be Told- Lee Daniels, Oprah Winfrey & Forest Whitaker

THE BUTLER movie in theaters August 16

I wish I didn’t feel it, but I do. I wish I didn’t see it, but I see. I wish I wasn’t a victim of racism, but I am! You have no idea how many tears have fallen from my eyes. I am human. -Queen

I am in great anticipation of the new film from Director Lee Daniels, The Butler. It has quite a few great actors and actresses, among them, Oprah and Forest Whitaker. I read the recent article in Parade magazine which features commentary from the director and star characters. They discuss what the movie means to them and why the story needs to be told.


I love this pic of the two of them! photo by Michael Edwards.

In the interview, Oprah had so many hard-hitting points on racism and history and I commend her for using such powerful words. We need to hear people speak up because somehow, we are hiding from the past and allowing it to fade away. Meantime, we still experience racism every single day. In America, it is deeply embedded into our laws and codes of conduct, education system, entertainment and athletic industry, and I see and feel it all the time. No, it’s not paranoia. I experience it from looks, to blatant disrespect from people who refuse to accept African Americans no matter what. They scream diversity and multiculturalism, all the while referring to brown people in a derogatory manner and thinking very stereotypical and hateful thoughts about them as well.

We are told to “get over it” and to “move on”, all the while, being denied decency because America has yet to get over it! We are belittled and accused of pulling the “race card” whenever we choose to speak up about unfair treatment. If there was no card, we would not have one to pull. Whose deck are we playing with? Yes, racist America’s. So just as soon as America stops dealing these race cards, the sooner we’ll stop pulling them! We are told how we should feel by people who do not have our best interests in mind. We suffer from mis-education and from poverty which makes it hard for even the “educated” to survive.

We are encouraged to hate ourselves by giving in to lightened images that depict someone other than us. We are manipulated into spiritual, physical, and financial debt from thousands of years of scars from America’s antagonism of what we really are. Brown people have been bamboozled and we remain weak because every time that we have been strong enough to rise, we have been murdered- lynched, shot, and stabbed. Communities burned down, bombed, and torn apart. We are told not to blame anyone but ourselves for our transgressions. However,I have played the game by their standards, and by my own, and have received the same treatment. It is hard being what I am. I am statistically defined before I come out of the starter block, but yet like Maya, I still rise!

The good thing is, I still have love to give and freedom to fight for. I get stronger.

*** I really love how Oprah comes so hard and real in this interview! First of all, Oprah said she received the offer to do the movie while standing on “her” mountain in Maui. I thought this was a play on words, but she actually has a mountain! I don’t often keep up with the material possessions of Hollywood, but that is pretty deep. Alrighty then!

She talks about the use of the word NIGGA which I absolutely loved. Her words:

“You cannot be my friend and use that word around me. It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it.”

Personally, I don’t get why people are so adamant in using this stupid word! I have had many a debate about it and it ends ridiculously. Some of my favorite artists use the word and it makes me skip the track on days when I just can’t handle it. It is not a friendly word for me. Oprah goes on to say:

“I am a student of history. I grew up knowing where I’ve come from. When you fully get that, it’s hard to be loose-lipped with that word.”

Forest Whitaker:

“I don’t use the word, never did.”

Oprah has challenged Jay-Z on the use of the word and she proudly defends her stance. Yes! I get it.

Director Lee Daniels shared the film with his family in July and his 30-year-old nephew said to him:

“Did some of this stuff really happen?” Daniels admitted that he was very upset. Oprah says that young people today don’t know diddly-squat about the civil rights movement (history). I agree. I work around young people every day who KNOW NOTHING! I find that amazing. A 30-year-old not knowing… that’s horrible! I will be turning 30 soon and I know all about history from the obvious to the hidden. Hmmm. I grew up in Cleveland if that helps? I went to Fisk...? As far back as I can remember existed inside of me a yearning to want to know the truth about who and what I am. However, his nephew does not surprise me. So many people my age know nothing about THEMSELVES. We have become this “other man” who is complacent with the lies we are taught. Honestly, I am not political, pushy, or disrespectful- just proud of my heritage. However, I have noticed that because of the way I speak, with confidence and knowledge, some dubb me negatively. I only try to share what I know as the truth in the most constructive manner possible, and if there is no desire to know from the other party, I walk. I walk a lot. People are comfortable in the Matrix.

Whitaker shares his experiences:

“I’ve had many incidents in my life of racism. I’ve been thrown on the ground. I’ve been frisked. I’ve been arrested so many times I couldn’t tell you. I have no need to talk about it… The movie deals with valuation of life, too. Like whose life is valuable? Is it ok to take life?”

He is speaking about people like Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin. He goes on to make an excellent point:

“If you can’t accept that these things are going on, you’re living an illusion. So the question at this point is more of, how can we move the needle forward? Can we speak up? I think this film helps that in some way… and it’s not just the Black culture; we have to look at ourselves as global citizens and what’s happening to people all over the world.”


“Are more people judged by the content of their character than by the color of their skin? Yes. Is everybody judged by the content of their character? Absolutely not.”

I was very pleased with the article by Katherine Heintzelman. Sometimes I feel completely exhausted with having to fight fight fight. I feel like fighting for my rights has taken time away from many other things in life that I could have been successful with. I wish I had time and expenses to travel and speak many languages and be connected with nature without having to live in such a toxic world. I wish I did not have to spend so much time mentally preparing so that when I am around certain people and groups I don’t have to get angry or lose it when they make bottomless racist remarks! Oh how I wish I had the freedom to just be me and to never have to worry about how people are going to look at me. I wish I hadn’t had to cry all those nights because a man or woman from a different race disrespected me or looked at me a certain way often times with hate and jealousy.  I wish I didn’t feel it, but I do. I wish I didn’t see it, but I see. I wish I wasn’t a victim of racism, but I am! You have no idea how many tears have fallen from my eyes, wind knocked right out of me with ill remarks. All the while, all I can think is: I am a human creation of God. Why?

Queen Duafe for African Essence

P.S. I cried right when I finished this. But like always, I have to pick myself up. I am going to listen to Gaelle’s Fade Away because I can relate. Make sure you listen to the lyrics. Then I’ll probably listen to E. Badu’s Drama and Lauryn Hill’s I Get Out because I stay grounded in this music. Father, free from this bondage, knowing my condition, is the reason I must change!