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26 Feb


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February 26, 2011 | By | No Comments

by Paul Carrick Brunson

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New people come and go. You make new friends. You go out on different dates. But the common denominator in all those situations is the individual.

And that’s you.

It’s easy to point to outside factors as being the reason why a relationship failed, like maybe he cheated or she was irrational. But if every guy you date turns out to be an abusive bad boy and every girl you romance is a clingy, possessive crazy woman, maybe it’s you setting yourself up for dating failure.

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26 Feb



February 26, 2011 | By |

– with Mikaila Brown

If you are like me, for a while you were completely obsessed with Carrie Bradshaw. Her commitment to friends, fashion and frivolous fun aligned with some of your values. However, if you are like me, you questioned the complete absence of any extended community or a responsibility to it.

I’m going to tell you a reworked story of “Carrie Bradshaw”. It will be the story of highly ambitious, fashionista who values accountability to her community, as much as her own self-fulfillment. This will be an ongoing story of budding minority entrepreneurship; an experience indivisible from a commitment to not only growing, but giving back. For the next year, I will chronicle the story of my newly formed fashion line, ALIAKIM.

This fashion line has an unconventional history. I, Mikaila Brown the founder, have a doctorate in Anthropology and Education from Columbia University. Most anthropologists work as a researcher, professor or non-profit executive. I took a conventional route, working seven years with domestic and international non-profit organizations. In 2008, after a mildly major burn out, I decided to creatively re-channel my commitment to raising awareness to social issues around the world. I have always had a fanatical passion for fashion, so it became my obvious next step. I quit my cushy non-profit executive job, overlooked the pressure of looming student loans, and embarked on a new course of learning. I attended courses at Fashion Institute of Technology and the London College of Fashion; as well as plunged into a two-year period of hodge-podge jobs with a variety of world-class designers like Reem Acra, Pamela Rolland, and Oscar de la Renta.

The major motivation behind completely reinventing my life was a calling to make clothing and accessories for women like myself: cosmopolitan women who want the opportunity to express their political opinions as sophisticatedly as they express their femininity. For many years, political messages have been relegated to the world of t-shirts and pins. It is my belief, that these same opinions, passions and convictions are shared by women who appreciate high quality, high-end fashion. American’s obsession with celebrity has greatly contributed to the broadening scope of this appreciation. As every aspect of celebrity life is consumed, more and more laywomen begin to personally identify with the celebrity lifestyle. As a result, the average woman feels as entitled as the rich and famous to be glamorous.

This has had a profound effect on fashion. Firstly, high-end fashion has become more appealing, as well as perceived as more accessible to the masses. Secondly, even the most socially conscious, bohemian women are paying attention to quality fabrics, innovative stitching and impeccable draping. I imagine that the revolutionaries of old like Angela Davis and Ella Baker would have worn beautifully crafted clothing like those donned by India.Arie, Erykah Badu and Michelle Obama.  It is no longer necessary to wear Birkenstocks and tattered t-shirts to prove your commitment to social development. Therefore, this is the perfect time to create fashion that empower women to wear clothes and accessories that represent not only how they look, but also what they stand for.

ALIAKIM is a distinctive accessory and clothing line that blends fashion with activism. ALIAKIM’s pieces uniquely meld cultural icons with high-end fashion elements to artistically raise awareness of current world affairs. It is my heart-felt mission to provide women with apparel that reflects their social consciousness as much as their exceptional taste. I also want to empower women to use their style as a means to benefit communities and causes that they care about. I have committed to always donating a percentage of my profits to an established community project. Giving meaning to the term “revolutionary chic”, it is the intention of this line to put the “wear” in “awareness” and, as a result, inspire change.

The inaugural collection is fish inspired jewelry. Though my first love is clothing, this collection of jewelry resulted from my first lesson in starting a business- always be ready to improvise in order to move forward. Manufacturing clothing is very expensive and I quickly realized that I had to start on a smaller scale. I decided to capitalize on this season’s trend of animal inspired costume jewelry. My animal of choice became the fish, because in almost every culture fish are a feminine symbol of transformation and creativity. My strong belief that every woman has the power to reinvent herself and her community for the better became the message behind the first collection. 10% of all profits are donated to the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund.

There are many different aspects of this company’s development that reflect the exposure gained from my doctoral and non-profit experience. An ability to identify problems and creatively share this understanding are the basis of Anthropology. A commitment to contributing to solutions and developing communities is the bastion of non-profit work. I relish using skills gained from these seemingly opposed worlds to create an innovative and influential fashion line. Finally, the social activism approach of this fashion line is directly derived from my life experiences as a minority, woman, and social conscious individual. Many of you reading this piece fall within one or all of these categories. I am excited to take you on this unconventional, yet hopefully relatable, journey with me.


For more information on the line, check us out at:

26 Feb


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February 26, 2011 | By | No Comments

by Brandon Andrews

The author pictured, center in the white shirt, with other MLK Day volunteers.

In 1926 Carter G. Woodson sought to establish the permanency, in the American consciousness, of African American contributions to fueling the American economic fire that roared in the 1920’s. His Negro History Week would become today’s Black History Month. That same year, Langston Hughes articulated a reality branded into the consciousness of American minorities with his now familiar verse: “A Dream Deferred.”

37 years later Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated a dream that began to heal the mental scarring of 400 years of slavery and soothe the pain of the 100 years of racial discrimination that followed. With every protest, every speech, every act of kindness not only did Dr. King’s dream become more real, but also the collective consciousness of African Americans, and yes dreamers across the world, began to come to the realization that their personal dreams could become reality.

Dr. King served the world with his gift, his vision. Accordingly, each year our nation pauses to honor his life and legacy with a day of service. A day for each of us to dedicate to making Dr. King’s overarching dream a reality eventually through making the dreams of others a reality immediately.

However, despite our efforts: the stark reality of incivility, inequity, injustice, poverty, and violence permeate the news cycle and begs Hughes’ still prescient question:

What happens to a dream deferred?

For Dr. King’s dream, the more it is deferred, the more injustice and poverty abound.

Does it dry up

Like a raisin in the sun?

With many historic civil rights organizations now struggling to find an identity and membership base in the 21st century, and the number of available jobs shrinking it would seem that the dream of social justice and economic empowerment are drying up.

Or fester like a sore–

And then run?

The disease of hate still festers in the world the carriers of it still run for cover when exposed.

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over–

like a syrupy sweet?

The stench of incivility still lingers from ugly political debate, personal attacks, and protests turned violent.

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

We all feel a heavy burden of collective responsibility when the dreams of children die, almost before having a chance to grow, due to inequities in education and poverty.

Or does it explode?

I would argue that Hughes’ last statement is his most accurate. On January 17, 2011 Dr. King’s dream exploded in Washington, DC and across the nation as untold thousands dedicated a day to service. I was honored to lead a volunteer team in rehabbing a k-12 educational space at New Community for Children (NCFC) , an after school program in the nation’s capital. The NCFC project was one of literally thousands of volunteer projects that honored Dr. King’s legacy not by painting over the ugly reality with his dream, but by following his example and confronting reality: changing it with direct action.

Yes, incivility, injustice, poverty, and violence still exist. The positive actions of one person often seem small, but our consistent collective efforts are making the dream reality. The explosion on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day was powerful, but one day is not enough. A life committed to the service of others is the real example we must follow. The multiplier effect of time coupled with our talent is incredible and can brighten the darkest realities.

Dr. King said it best:

“I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth…. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted… When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.”

That power lies dormant in each of us, and through consistent service to others, we allow it to flow through us and blur the line between dream and reality.