Grace Kisa: Sculptured Life


Multi-media artist Grace Kisa, a native of Nairobi, Kenya, graduated from York University in Toronto, Canada with a major in Art and a minor in Psychology. She also holds an Associate Degree in Art from the Art Institute of Atlanta.

In Kisa’s work, art embodies the serenity, struggle, and beauty of life, and the art world has taken note of her creative authenticity.

Why should people have sculpture in their home?                                                              

Sculpture adds another layer to how they experience art; a third dimension if you will.

You have used found objects, to explore what?                                                              

The found object allows me an improvisational quality that I use as a guide to reinterpret the figure.

You have used found objects, to explore what?                                                              

The found object allows me an improvisational quality that I use as a guide to reinterpret the figure.

 Who are the people you have made?                                                                              

As of yet, they have no name. They are astral in origin with a modern primal feel.

Where would you find the people?                                                                                    

Within and beyond time and space.

Why are hands such a big part of what you do?                                                             

Usually hands are the vehicle by which our emotions are conveyed, such as protection, defense, supplication, and love.

The Cigar Culture: Big Smoke in Chicago's "Little Italy"

By The Cigar Sugar

There’s something really special occurring in the heart of Little Italy. One would think the residents and patrons of this quaint Italian village would be running for AC and a vat of Italian Ice but what I discovered was far more invigorating and equally fascinating.

As I walked through the door of Ralph’s, a charming brick and mortar cigar shop on Taylor Street, the sweet seducing bouquet of cognac-dipped cigars with hints of cedar and peppery spice greeted me. Soft swirls of smoke gently wafted through the air like perfect summer cumulus clouds. “Would you like a Mocha mini Corona?” asked Zarinah Ali, cigar specialist and lovely 23 year-old UIC theater performance grad whose demeanor was as warm and hospitable as that of a Southern Belle.

I imagined it challenging for a beautiful, young African-American woman to be taken seriously in an industry known for being male-dominated, moreover underrepresented by the fairer sex.

“In the beginning it was very difficult. I didn’t smoke cigars so it was very difficult to remember a Corojo from a Connecticut wrapper… but after while I started realizing what I liked and what I loved and found my way from there,” Ali state

She credits a former shop associate and Ralph himself for her in-depth knowledge of the leaf. “A young pretty woman isn’t expected to smoke,” she says, regarding the reaction from some men who initially see her with a cigar.

“Sometimes they see me and still ask for Ralph,” she says. But to the regulars she’s family, and nothing deters her spirit. “My passion is the service aspect. I love helping people find what they need. The culture’s become a part of my life.”

Realize Theater Group is Ali’s non-profit theater company on Chicago’s North side and plans to offer patrons “stogies” with their glass of wine and other intermission concessions.

Amongst the whirl of chatter from curious male patrons and friendly onlookers it’s quite apparent that Ralph is the king of Taylor St. and father to all who enter his 15-year establishment, engaging his patrons more like brothers than customers.

“It wasn't intentional,” he says, when asked what sets him apart from other cigar shop owners. “My thing was, when I’d go into a shop, I’d be ignored. When asked they didn’t know about their product or what they were selling. I vowed then if I ever owned my own shop, I’d make sure the customer felt welcome.”

He’s more than exceeded his goal. There’s a very genuine authenticity to Ralph and his employees. “They are my family, my daughters. I love them and treat them all like my children,” says the patriarchal figure and owner of Ralph’s cigars.

The wide glass enclosed case of Ecuadorian Fedoras served as the perfect backdrop to his cozy shop, a place that feels more like home than a business. Clearly a giant in the cigar community, Ralph’s celebrity is reluctant and unassuming. Hailing as a Latin pioneer in the cigar industry, Ralph was the first Latin American to open and own his own cigar shop in Illinois, a major feat that he graciously shares with humility.

“When I first started out in this business and Diana Silvius (owner) of UpDown Cigars called to give me her blessing I knew something great was happening.”

Most famous for his cognac-infused “Gorilla Finger” and “King Kong,” premium cigars, Ralph is quick to inform me that his process remains a secret till this day. “It was an accident” he says, when speaking of how he stumbled across his concept of infusion. While relaxing one evening and attempting to “tip” a cigar ash, Ralph “dipped” his cigar in cognac by accident. Realizing a unique flavor, it took three years to perfect his unique process.

Ralph graciously credits his wife of over 18 years for giving him the idea to start the business. “Someone did this before me and I’ve got to give them their shout. I wasn’t the first to do this, but once I perfected my own process they began to fly off the shelves.” He’s reluctant to accept the fact that he has a cult following for the Gorilla fingers.

He also refuses to compromise quality for quantity.

“I’ve been pretty lucky” he says as he reflects on life in the cigar business. He seems happy and content with his decisions. Much like a Don imparting wisdom to the next generation, he leans and decrees, “Have the business, BE the business.”

Words well stated that could certainly be applied to nearly every aspect of life.

And that's sweet as sugar.


 The Cigar Sugar is a cigar enthusiast, blogger and columnist focusing on the human interest aspects of the cigar culture and lifestyle.
Real Cigars. Real Experiences. Real People. Hey Sugar, that's sweet.  Follow her on Twitter: @TheCigarSugar

The Black Architect of Bel Air: Paul Revere Williams

Paul Revere Williams

Today Bel Air, Brentwood and Beverly Hills are homes to the fine work of African American architect Paul Revere Williams. 

Williams was born in Los Angeles on February 18, 1894 to Lila Wright Williams and Chester Stanley Williams who had recently moved from Memphis with their young son, Chester, Jr.

By the age of 4, Williams and his siblings had lost both parents and were each placed in separate foster homes. Thankfully, Lila Williams instilled the importance of education in her children and led Paul Revere to develop his artistic talent.

The only Black child in high school, Paul Revere Williams teacher told him to avoid architecture because Whites would not hire him and blacks could not provide him work.

Williams ignored the advice and simultaneously pursued architectural education and professional experience with Los Angeles’ leading firms to great fanfare.

In 1922, Paul Revere Williams opened his own firm servicing the California elite and one year later he became the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects.

In a stellar career that spanned 50 years, Williams designed approximately 3,000 buildings, served on many municipal, state and federal commissions, was active in political and social organizations and in 1957, he was the first African American elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

He is still known as the “Architect to the Hollywood Stars.”

He died in 1980 at the age 85.

Anguilla Beaches: Romantic Wedding Destination

Anguilla beaches are some of the world's most renowned for island destinations because they have everything weddings are made of: romance, intrigue, intimacy, and, of course, love.

Dreams and lovers come together on these beaches.

As you take the time to place your toes into perfect sand, wedding bells will sound in your heart.

As you hold hands and walk the beaches in Anguilla, white, puffy, clouds are so supreme that they lower themselves and tease you with their intangibility.

Wedding couples can feel the special Angels of love present from the warm kisses of sunshine. During the ceremony of consummated love, Anguilla’s landscape creates vivid, breathtaking memories that give strength to your love.

Anguilla Beaches are perfect for weddings.

There is no need to leave for a honeymoon. An extended stay will allow for island hopping around some of the other most beautiful Caribbean islands. There is every type of extra special attention to couples who choose to be married. The restaurants on the island are prepared to accommodate wedding parties and all special events with the world's best food.

Anguilla Beaches are perfect for weddings.


Weddings are special when they are done in romantic destinations, and Anguilla will not disappoint.

Anguilla Beaches are perfect for weddings.

Don't wait a minute longer to ask love to be present on the beach; your footprints in the sand will capture the dreams that are remade every time you say “I love you.”

--Munson Steed  

Review--How Great Women Lead: A Mother-Daughter Adventure into the Lives of Women Shaping the World

How Great Women Lead: A Mother-Daughter Adventure into the Lives of Women Shaping the World, by Bonnie St. John and Darcy Deane.

Reading a book about leadership can sometimes be a bit daunting but How Great Women Lead, a book by mother and daughter team Bonnie St. John and Darcy Deane, turns reader intimidation into inspiration.

This collection of powerful words from some of today’s leading women in the areas of business, community and government, gives readers those encouraging nuggets of knowledge to help them chart their own course on becoming a leader.

The authors present profiles of powerful women such as Dr. Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and actress Geena Davis sharing their pearls of wisdom on how they rose to the pinnacle of leadership within their arenas. These profiles present the creativity, sharp thinking and fortitude that helped to shape these women into who they are and what inspires them to continue on their path while motivating others.

Great Women Lead: A Mother-Daughter Adventure Into the Lives of Women Shaping the World . Hardcover: 352 pages. Publisher: Center Street; 1 edition. Language: English ISBN-10: 0446579270 ISBN-13: 978-0446579278.

Bonnie St. John is also an inspiring woman - despite having her right leg amputated at age five, she went on to become the first African-American to win Olympic medals in ski racing-silver and two bronze medals in downhill events at the 1984 Paralympics. Her background includes being appointed by President Clinton to the White House National Economic Council and now she continues to be a sought after speaker on television and at leadership events.

For stirring the leader inside of each of us, this book delivers a much needed perspective and underscores what we all know: Women Rock!

--by Christina Steed

African American Bloggers Make Cultural Exchange in Paris

Josephine Baker paved the way for several of today's Black bloggers who have migrated to Paris.

Josephine Baker opened the pathway to France for several African American bloggers.

Baker, (1906–1975), a talented performer and civil rights activist who adopted children of various races, was born in St. Louis, Mo., but spent her adult life performing in Paris, where blacks excelled. She married twice, and became a full French citizen.

Today, bloggers have illustrated that they can hardly resist the romance, riches, fine arts, seductive language and, of course, the fashion that Paris offers. Check them out.

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