Next Event: Baltimore African American Book Festival – October 11, 2014

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Okay artists, writers, poets/spoken words artists, and book lovers: If you didn’t know, the Baltimore African American Book Festival (BAABF) is this Saturday, October 11, 2014 from 10AM-5PM at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Presented by the National Literary Network Organization and the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the BAABF will feature Trice Hickman (Best-Selling Author), Sheri Booker (NAACP Image Award Winning Author), Troy Johnson (AALBC.com Founder), Nikki Woods (Tom Joyner Morning Show Producer, Nikki Woods Media Founder, and Author), and Ella Curry (EDC Creations Founder). Other events include panels/workshops, kids activities, and live spoken word. The event is free and open to public.

I’ll have a table (#10) selling copies of Prevail and Exotic Shifter and will perform during the Spoken Word Hour from 1PM-2PM. My blogger buddy Marc Polite (Author, Blogger, and Founder and Editor in Chief of Polite On Society) and will be one of several authors appearing at the event as well.

So if you’re looking for a FREE event full of great edutainment, come check out the BAABF this Saturday in Baltimore, MD!

Peace, Love, and Many Blessings!

~ BuddahDesmond

Wise Words from Craig Stokes

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Image courtesy of Craig Stokes’ Facebook page.

I was recently introduced to Craig Stokes through his #ImABrand webinar, sponsored by iBlack, the leading lifestyle portal for Black professionals in the DC area. Stokes is a phenomenal, multi-talented TV host/personality (“Style Minute” and “Craig Stokes Presents: The Show”), lifestylist, and motivational speaker. Throughout his presentation, Stokes shared several bits of motivational wisdom in the form of #StokesNotes. After doing some additional research, I came across several #StokesNotes that left a great impression on me (especially the one shown above).

When we talk about our self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence, the focus is often on the external factors (such as family, friends, our community, our environment, our culture, and the media) that have negatively influenced how we feel about ourselves. Too little focus, I believe, is given to the part we play in these beliefs.

As humans, we have the tendency to get in our own way. We thwart our own progress by not looking within…by not first believing in ourselves. How can we expect to achieve our dreams if we don’t think we’re worthy of them? It’s time to take back our power. Our dreams have value. They matter. We have value. We matter.

For more #StokesNotes, go to Craig Stokes’ Instagram and Facebook pages.

The Blogger Week Unconference 2014: An Engaging, Informative, Highly Valuable Event

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I had the pleasure of attending the Blogger Week Unconference in May, and I must say that it was one of the best professional events I’ve attended in some time. Hosted by Black Bloggers Connect, the Unconference was part of Blogger Week 2014, a multicultural festival of bloggers, journalists, and social media mavens. Blogger Week 2014 featured both digital and in-person events such as Google Hangouts, Twitter parties, panels, workshops, and networking events.

The Unconference featured 13 engaging discussion panels and breakout sessions led by industry notables. Topics included: digital monetizing, social media strategies, the business of beauty blogging, personal and executive branding, PR, blogging in the Pan African world, using your blog to affect politics and cause change, and the power of blogger collaboration (to name a few). There truly was something of great value for bloggers, journalists, and social media mavens at all levels at the Unconference.

After blogging for 9 years and being on social media for at least 5 years, I’m far from an expert. I’m always looking for ways to learn more, improve, streamline, and enhance. So I welcome and am grateful for events like these. I honestly believe I got more value out of this one-day, $25 (early bird) event than I would have if I’d gone to one of the high-priced multi-day events.

One of the other elements that made this event so commendable were the people. There was a warm, inclusive, welcoming community vibe at the Unconference. Almost immediately, I felt comfortable and at home. It was like I was with my best friends and family. I connected with some really cool, intelligent, and talented people doing wonderful things. I would be remiss if I didn’t give some shout outs: Taiye Oladipo,MPH, Marc Polite, L. Laura Burge, Marquita Goodluck, Ananda Leeke, Caribbean Soultrekkers, Ni’cola Mitchell, and Vino Noire.

The Blogger Week Unconference is highly recommended! Thank you Jessica Ann Mitchell and Black Bloggers Connect for organizing such a FAB event. I look forward to attending many other Black Bloggers Connect events in the future.

Blogger Week Unconference Takeaways:

  1. Quantity is not important. It’s about the connection or relationship you have with your followers.
  2. Be authentic. Use your personality. Your voice is key. If you have passion, brands will come to you.
  3. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing this, as it will keep you focused, motivated, and moving forward.
  4. Make yourself your brand. Know your key differentiators (what makes your brand unique) and use them to your advantage.
  5. Try to keep your brand consistent across platforms. Make contact information present. Be accessible. Responsive.
  6. Honor your word/commitments. If you can’t do it, be honest about it.
  7. Don’t be afraid of your potential. Own it. It’s going to take work.
  8. Be your own hustleman. Create a social calendar for yourself and get yourself out there.
  9. Make sure your message is simple but encompasses all aspects of yourself/your brand.
  10. Give the people what they want.
  11. Partnerships (meaningful, long-lasting, mutually beneficial) can help you solidify your brand. But be sure you’re partnering with organizations that represent your brand.
  12. Don’t pitch people your problems, pitch them your solutions.

Takeaways from the 2014 Conversations and Connections Conference

This past weekend, I had the chance to attend the Conversations and Connections Conference in Washington, DC.  Organized by Barrelhouse magazine and sponsored by the Johns Hopkins University Master of Arts in Writing program, this was not the typical conference. Conversations and Connections is designed to help writers better their craft by providing practical advice on writing and publishing in “a comfortable, congenial environment where you can meet other writers, editors and publishers” (Conversations and Connections).

Panel sessions were varied in topics that were universal and genre-specific. Panelists/presenters typically had an informal and candid style which was most engaging. The keynote speaker was award-winning and New York Times best-selling author Marisa de los Santos (Love Walked In, Belong to Me, and Falling Together), whose charismatic, humorous, and insightful talk was a major hit with attendees.

One of the other highlights of the conference was the Speed Dating with Editors session.  During this session, writers had the chance to get feedback on their work, find out about valuable writing resources, and learn about where they should consider sending their work.

For $70, the Conversations and Connections conference is a great value for any writer committed to enhancing their craft, getting published, and connecting with other writers, editors, and publishers.

Here are some takeaways from the sessions I attended:

Get Off Your Ass and Write: Stop Making Excuses and Start Being Productive (Rosalia Scalia)

  1. Always have a notebook and pen handy, as inspiration can hit at any moment.
  2. Discipline is about practicing good habits. It’s not about forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do.
  3. Make time to write each day.
  4. Know your craft. Study it. Research it. Practice it.
  5. Read widely and without prejudice. This is what feeds the well.
  6. Characters drive the plot. You need to know your characters well. Know what choices they will make to move the story along.
  7. Taking a different point of view may help you tackle problems you encounter with your writing.
  8. Learn how to use the tools to become the writer you want to be.
  9. Create a relationship with yourself. Make a commitment to your work in order to achieve your goals.
  10. The ultimate goal with writing is raising it to the universal level.

The chemistry of the poetic line: Line Breaks and Poetry (Jim Warner)

  1. Line breaks affect how you read/hear poetry.
  2. Originally, the form of a poem was determined by line lengths.
  3. There are typically two ways to interpret line length: the way the head sees the line and the way the line is spoken.
  4. The goal of poetry: to channel the original energy of the source of inspiration for the poem.
  5. Make a break that is not obvious. Go against the breath.
  6. The chemistry of the line comes in revision.
  7. Know why (and be able to explain) the choices you make in your writing.

Keynote Speaker: Marisa de los Santos

  1. Poetry foregrounds the quality [of music] in language.
  2. Listen to your characters (this is your primary job).
  3. Set out a time to write that works well with your schedule.
  4. Be present in whatever you’re doing (be in the moment).
  5. Everything feeds everything else.
  6. Every book makes its own rules.
  7. If you’re having trouble with a story, you may be having trouble with the characters.
  8. You walk with faith that your story is going to lead the way.
  9. Find your way and do it.
  10. There’s no one right way to write.

Is Fiction Dead?: The Rise of Creative Nonfiction (Cathy Alter, Jenny Sullivan, and Tim Wendel)

Scenes

  1. Good scenes get readers involved immediately.
  2. To write a good scene, think of how you would put it in an email to a dear friend or family member.
  3. You can never go wrong with descriptions. Descriptions put the reader there with you.
  4. Create a sense of space that people can relate to.
  5. Interview others about events/experiences that you’re writing about to make them come to life, to make them real.
  6. Precise details can make a scene pop.
  7. Use attribution.
  8. Research.

Character

  1. Well drawn characters are three-dimensional.
  2. First person narration, if it’s necessary, lends credibility to what you’re writing. It creates authenticity.
  3. The goal: to tell the story without the need to be in it.
  4. Be flexible.
  5. Think about writing in third person. It’s more interesting to write from someone else’s point of view.
  6. Action = character. What they do on the page creates who they are.
  7. If the action is not building, the story won’t go anywhere.

Dialogue

  1. Dialogue builds characters beyond what descriptions can do.
  2. Can tell you a lot.
  3. Let the character’s voice come through so you don’t pass judgment.

Revision

  1. Be ruthless with your work and think about what is truly useful to your story. If it makes it harder for the reader to follow along, take it out.
  2. Read your work aloud.
  3. Scrub, scrub, scrub. If it sounds like (or is) a cliché, take it out.
  4. Take a break away from your work. You’ll see things you did not see before that you can improve upon.
  5. Don’t wear your writer and editor hats at the same time. It can damage your voice.

brenda.trinidad@gmail.com

Janet Mock and The Power of Defining Ourselves For Ourselves

janet-mock-amos-mac-opmagImage courtesy of Amos Mac of OP Magazine and janetmock.com.

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive. ~ Audre Lorde

There is freedom in knowing ourselves and defining ourselves for ourselves. There is freedom in living in our light and telling our stories–oft stories that need to be told. When we allow ourselves to be defined by others, our lives are muted, shortchanged, and disregarded. There is no power like that of naming yourself and claiming your truth. This is what Janet Mock has done and continues to do as a fierce writer, advocate, and creator of #GirlsLikeUs, a movement which encourages trans women to live their lives openly and visibly.

In late February, I had the opportunity to attend an intimate talk by Janet Mock at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC. This event was part of a book tour in support of Mock’s New York Times bestselling book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More. The ever-engaging Helena Andrews, journalist, pop culture critic, and author of Bitch Is The New Black, facilitated the talk.

In 2011, Mock came out as a trans woman in the misgendered Marie Claire article, “I Was Born A Boy.” At a very early age, Mock knew what her identity was and that it did not match the sex she was assigned at birth. She always knew she was a girl, even though the world tried to refute, devalue, and silence her true identity through gender policing, heteronormativity, and transphobia. It was a struggle, but Mock was adamant about who she was and was determined to live her life authentically. In no truer words, Michaela Angela Davis told Mock, “You got your girl. You saw who you were and you got her.” And that she did!

Aside from an affirming family, Mock credits community as being pivotal in her path to womanhood. In seventh grade she met her best friend, Wendy, who was also a young trans woman. Mock says Wendy connected her with a community of older trans women who she bonded with. Through them she had examples of what trans womanhood was, which further shaped her identity and what she wanted her womanhood to be.

It was in this community that Mock says other trans women began calling her “Baby Janet” because of an uncanny resemblance to Janet Jackson. During this time, Mock admits being completely enamored with Jackson’s critically acclaimed album The Velvet Rope. The Velvet Rope is a collection of deeply introspective songs, many of which unveiling pain that Jackson held inside for many years. The album touched on depression, self-love, self-worth, sexuality and social issues like homophobia and domestic violence. Mock saw many parallels between Janet’s heartfelt music and her own life. So how fitting is it that she, too, would ultimately name herself Janet.

During the talk, Mock also discussed the notion of privilege and “passing.” In this society, we often place too much emphasis on beauty and attractiveness. Often times, beauty can overshadow a person’s skills, gifts, talents, and experiences. Mock acknowledges privilege in being attractive, but she does not let that define who she is. She says, “I do the work. I will not let people reduce me to a pretty face.” Mock also scoffs at the notion of passing, for she is a woman who is simply being herself.

When it comes to telling your story, Mock says you have to do it first and foremost for yourself. Tell yourself the truth about your experiences. She recommends finding someone you trust to share your story with. When you feel ready, share the story publicly. For young trans women, she says “Shut out all the noise. Tap into your own truth. Find your advocates.” For many of us, it’s crucial that we find our families in the spaces we’re in.

As her journey continues, Mock hopes that her work speaks for itself and that her story is one that opens minds, shifts language, and inspires others to be their authentic selves. When asked by Marc Lamont Hill on HuffPost Live about the message she hopes people take away from Redefining Realness, Mock said, “I think my biggest thing would be to empower girls who grew up like I did. To give them language and access to explain and understand their experiences. For so long, I…blamed myself for a lot of the hardships that I went through and I would like to free them from that. And I hope that the book frees a lot of people to understand these issues more.”

And what can we expect from Mock in the future? More writing, of course. She’s planning to write a book which addresses the beauty myth from the perspective of a black trans woman. She’s also looking into TV as another platform for storytelling.

Janet Mock, thank you for doing the work. Thank you for being the beautiful spirit that you are and for sharing your powerful story with us. Trailblazer, keeping shining!

I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you. ~ Janet Mock

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I’ll Be Reading at the DC Metro Scholastic Writing Awards – 3/11/2014

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It’s with great happiness that I announce I’ve been selected to read a few works by this year’s American Voice Nominees at the 2014 DC Metro Scholastic Writing Awards!  Performing, giving back, and highlighting some of the Greater Washington Area’s up-and-coming writers—does it get any better than that?

Each year, students in grades 7-12 are encouraged to participate in the The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.  Almost 200,000 students enter their art and writing “for review by panels of art and writing professionals, and compete for recognition, scholarships, and publication opportunities” (Writopia Lab | Scholastic Writing Awards).  2.5 million students have been awarded over $25 million in cash awards and scholarships since 1923.  Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards Alumni include Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Robert Redford, Joyce Carol Oates, and Zac Posen.

Writopia Lab was selected by the Alliance of Young Artists and Writers to serve as the Scholastic Writing Awards Regional Affiliate in the Greater Washington Area.  The Scholastic Writing Awards serve as not only a celebration, but also a platform for students to creatively express themselves with their budding talents.

The Scholastic Writing Awards will be held: March 11, 2014 | 6:30PM to 8:30PM | Artisphere’s Spectrum Theater | 1611 N. Kent Street Arlington, VA 22209.  The event is open to the public.  If you’re in the area, please come celebrate the brilliant talents of some of the DC-Area’s most promising teen writers.

Congrats to all of the nominees and winners!

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Many Blessings, BuddahDesmond

Thank You, Langston Hughes!

hughes1Image courtesy of Travalanche.

Today is not only the first day of Black History Month, but it’s also the birthday of poet, novelist, playwright, and activist Langston Hughes (1902-1967).  Hughes is one of the reasons why I write poetry today.

Growing up, I spent countless hours in the library losing myself in Hughes’ masterful poetry.  His poetry was jazz.  It was blues.  It was filled with so much spirit and life.  He captured the richness of our culture and history so eloquently.

Even given the social ills of the day, his work was evidence of his hope for a world where unity and equality trumped racism, inequality, and injustice.  Though the times may be (somewhat) different, the relevance of his writing remains strong.  The same can be said for the influence and inspiration of his artistry.

Thank you Langston Hughes for not dimming your light.  We honor you for your greatness and the blessings of your many contributions.  Here’s to you!

I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes

I, too sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Our Love Continues to Grow for Swing Out Sister

Image courtesy of Quest Music.

I appreciate my family for instilling such a deep love and respect for music.  Our taste in music is os a wide-ranging and eclectic.  We listen to everything.  One group that my family has loved for nearly 30 years is Swing Out Sister

It was 1987 when we found ourselves transfixed with Swing Out Sister’s first two singles “Breakout” and “Twilight World,” from their debut album It’s Better To Travel.  I was 5 at the time.  We became diehards overnight.  We played It’s Better To Travel so much the CD started to skip incessantly (much to our chagrin).  If it wasn’t for the CD cleaner, that album would not have made it into the 90s and beyond.

In July, we had the chance to see Swing Out Sister play to a sold-out audience at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA.  It was a night that we will cherish forever.  Here in the U.S., fans have been waiting for a Swing Out Sister tour for quite some time.  The North American dates for their 2010 tour were canceled due to the eruption of an Icelandic volcano.  As a result, which flights were grounded for several weeks throughout Europe.  Luckily, nothing could keep Swing Out Sister away from their fans any longer.

 Image courtesy of Band On The Wall.

Swing Out Sister is the kind of musical ensemble that sound superb in the studio, but even more live.  The presentation, energy, and musicianship is astounding.  Their musical arrangements are some of the best you’ll here anywhere.  Because they continually reinterpret their hits, their music has a refreshing, ingenious quality.  Within these reinterpretations you hear many of Swing Out Sister’s influencesthe sounds of Motown, Burt Bacharach, Phil Spector, Donny Hathaway, Donald Byrd, The 5th Dimension, and The Delfonics (amongst others).  Sometimes they’ll weave the melodies of some of their influences’ songs into their own tunes.  The result is a sweet, lush melding of Pop, R&B/Soul, Jazz, Latin, and Funk.  Some might call it Sophisticated Pop.  It’s familiar yet very unique.  

Corinne Drewery, the lead singer/songwriter, looked and sounded flawless.  Her voice is like velvet, warm and seductive.  She remains one of the most stylish women in the industry.  Andy Connell, pianist/keyboardist/songwriter and the Swing Out Sister band played to the hilt.  They played selections from just about every album in their catalog, with hits and fan favorites such as: “Incomplete Without You,” “Notgonnachange,” “You On My Mind,” “La La Means I Love You,” “Stone Soul Picnic,” “Am I The Same Girl,” “Everyday Crime,” “Breakout” and “Twilight World.”  

Image courtesy of NY Daily News.

Swing Out Sister took us to a musical wonderland, somewhere deep in the night.  And we didn’t want the night to end.  Much like their song “Love Won’t Let You Down,” Swing Out Sister won’t let you down either. 

Happy Birthday Maysa!

Maysa has been a musical fixture in my family since the early 90s.  Growing up I remember many weekends waking to the sounds of Incognito and Maysa’s solo music.  Nothing beats waking up to music, especially when it nurtures your soul.  Songs like “Deep Water,” “Still A Friend Of Mine,” “What About Our Love,” “Sexy,” “All My Life,” “Got To Be Strong,” “Center Of The Sun,” “J.F.S,” and “Shade Of Blue” have a special place in heart because they represent a time when music became such a strong force in my life.  Come to think of it, Maysa’s music has been nurturing my soul for 20 years now.  There’s something about it that just enraptures you immediately.  And her voice, instantly recognizable, takes you away. 

Maysa’s most recent release, “Blue Velvet Soul” is her tenth solo album and is a perfect description of her music.  Her music is smooth yet powerful, soulful, lush, hypnotic, ethereal, and eclectic.  There’s a warmth and intensity to it that keeps you in sync, yearning for more.  Maysa’s voice, a beautiful, distinctive instrument, is much the same.  She’s a singer’s singer and one of the best in the industry today.  She, like Nancy Wilson, Angela Bofill, and Phyllis Hyman, is a uniquely gifted song stylist and interpreter.  She’s able to use music to connect with her audience on a much deeper level.  There’s an endless love of her art that flows through her music.  You cannot help but be touched by it, especially when you experience her live.

Maysa realizes the power of music and the role she plays as a singer-songwriter-producer.  She says, “I am a storyteller, a counselor and a friend that helps others through the good times and bad through my music. It’s important for me to connect with the audience because it’s my God given job.”  And she does it, effortlessly, with each album and every performance.  Every ounce of her heart and soul goes into her music.  There’s nothing phony or contrived about it.  It’s honest, authentic music.  And it’s a testament to her 20+ years in the industry and the love and loyalty of her fans and peers.  

Happy Birthday Maysa!  May there be many more years of life, love, prosperity, and enchanting music!  We thank you for blessing us for so many years with your amazing gifts.  Here’s to you! 

Happy 20th Anniversary to ‘janet.’

Like a moth to a flame/Burned by the fire/My love is blind/Can’t you see my desire?/That’s the way love goes. ~ Janet Jackson, “That’s The Way Love Goes,” janet. (1993)

May 18, 2013 marked 20 years since the release of Janet Jackson’s fifth studio album, janet.  janet. was a departure in sound and style when compared to Control (1986) and Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989).  The album unveiled a different side of Jackson—her sensual side.  Songs from her aforementioned efforts like “Funny How Times Flies (When You’re Having Fun)” and “Someday Is Tonight” provided mere glimpses of what would later be uncovered with janet.  

janet. stands as a declaration of Jackson taking even greater control of the direction of her music and career, composing and co-producing (with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis) the majority of the music on the album.  If it wasn’t clear before, janet. proved Jackson to be a distinctive, innovative, and monumental force that had come out quite far from the shadow of her family’s fame.  With the removal of her last name, she (continued) to command respect on her own merits.  At the time of the album’s release, Jackson was well on her way to carving her own niche—one that continues to inspire and influence fans and artists alike to this very day.

Jackson’s albums are musical snapshots of specific periods in her life.  janet. represents Jackson’s exploration of her softer, sensual side and the confidence which comes from embracing all facets of ourselves and honoring who we truly are (inside and out).  It’s genuine.  It’s real.  It doesn’t comes off as contrived or pretentious.  You feel Ms. Jackson opening up in ways never heard before (“Anytime, Anyplace,” “The Body That Loves You,” “If,” “You Want This,” and “Throb”).  Aside from sensuality and intimacy, janet. delved deeply into relationships, the ups and downs of love (“Because Of Love,” “Where Are You Now,” “Again,” and “This Time” featuring Kathleen Battle), and the impact of racism and sexism (“New Agenda” featuring Chuck D of Public Enemy).  

Vocally, Jackson delivered some of her most confident, sweet, sexy, and soulful vocals yet.  The songs, expertly paced, run the gamut from R&B/Soul, Funk, Pop, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Opera, and Rock.  janet. is an album that you can play straight through, uninterrupted.  Even at 75+ minutes, it never gets tiring or boring.  After 20 years, it’s safe to say janet. has aged quite well.   

Jackson, Jam, and Lewis easily produced one of the best and most eclectic albums of the 90s (or ever in my book).  janet. has sold over 7 millions copies in the States and over 20 million copies worldwide.  It remains one of her best-selling albums and one of the best selling R&B albums of the SoundScan era.  The album produced 6 Top Ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles charts, “That’s The Way Love Goes” (#1 Pop/#1 R&B), “If” (#4 Pop/#3 R&B), “Again” (#1 Pop/#7 R&B), “Because Of Love” (#10 Pop/#9 R&B), “Anytime, Anyplace” (#2 Pop/#1 R&B), and “You Want This” (#8 Pop/#9 R&B).  

Musically, thematically, and visually, janet. took Jackson to even greater creative heights and laid the blueprint that many artists would follow soon after.  (Jackson would blow critics, fans, and artists minds alike again in 1997 with the release of The Velvet Rope).
  
Happy 20th anniversary to janet.  We thank you (again), Ms. Jackson, for this masterpiece.

Related Posts:
80’s Albums That Changed My Life
Day 48: Black Music Month – Janet Jackson 
All 4 Janet.