I see me

If you haven’t watched Black Art: In the Absence of Light please do yourself a favor and watch today. It feels so good to see me and so many of us – enjoy.


Addis Perceptions

It was a Thursday. I woke up to the sounds of neighborhood roosters (my new alarm clock), gathered my things, and proceeded to my morning stroll through our top view neighborhood to catch a ride to work. All the while, ignoring stares at my fire red rain boots and smiling to myself because I couldn’t believe I was really back in Ethiopia.

In a span of thirty minutes my smile disappeared, I had accidentally stepped in a big puddle of chika (mud), and gotten into a “friendly” argument with my taxi driver. He couldn’t understand why I left America for Ethiopia – apparently saying I wanted to serve my country was not a fitting answer. Then, I slipped on the front steps of my office building with everyone around me reaching out and yelling “ayezosh!”

“It was only 9:30 AM. Not the day I was expecting.”

I entered our building’s elevator wet, cold, and frustrated. I walked, or rather ran, straight to my cubicle, opened up notes on my laptop and journaled my frustrations out before my co-workers could catch a whiff of my sour attitude.

As I was typing, I came across a quote I had previously recorded in my personal journal months ago:

“The brother or sister you think is being regressive could be being progressive in a way you can’t yet understand…” – Toure, author of Who’s Afraid of Post Blackness?: What it Means to be Black Now

In that very moment my entire mood had changed. Something clicked. Why? I realized that this is Ethiopia in a nutshell, and if I was going to make it these next couple of months I would need patience and some serious understanding.

My first week here I suppressed trying to understand or question how things operate in Ethiopia, in hopes of blending in and not seeming too foreign. I didn’t want to be the girl asking why this and why that – I wanted to feel as if I was in touch with everything. I subconsciously thought that if I didn’t open my mouth, I could get by without seeming like a privileged American. Instead, doing this led me to my boiling point, aka Thursday morning with Yonas (the taxi driver who was just not buying my answer about why I was in Ethiopia).

That particular day taught me a lesson. I learned it was okay to ask, to examine, to disagree, to feel – because while Ethiopia is mine, it isn’t mine at the same time. The only way I can really get to know this country is to take the time to understand, and broaden my thinking on how my brothers and sisters, who I may assume are regressive, are progressive in a way I can’t understand.

“I learned it was okay to ask, to examine, to disagree, to feel – because while Ethiopia is mine, it isn’t mine at the same time.”

It’s only been two weeks.

Cheers to understanding.

Astu Mengesha




Stay Down Blaze Up teams up with #AMIExperience for Conversation & Cocktails

Stay Down Blaze Up is super excited to be media sponsors for the #AMIExperience Conversation & Cocktails event to take place June 2, 2016! For more information please see below and hope to see you all there.

Press Release

Am I The Experience: Conversations & Cocktails

Digital Storyteller Nadia Marie, Lifestyle Brand Royal Dynamite, and International DJ Collective Tagsoundz brings you an experience of Cultural Dualism

Washington, DC, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  May 18, 2016—On Thursday, June 2nd, 2016 Nadia Marie, Tag Soundz and Royal Dynamite bring you The Am I Experience “Conversations & Cocktails”, a fun filled nostalgic event taking you back to the days of your African and American bi-cultural childhood. The social mixer is an event that comes off of the national film tour and recently Viacom screened documentary  “Am I: [Too African to be American or Too American to be African?],” a film which highlights the complexities of growing up as African & American navigating through both worlds simultaneously.

Official Press Release: FinalAmIExperiencePressrelease5.18.16 (2)


Entrepreneur Events Interview Motivation Mondays

Meet Samara George

“You have to be dedicated to doing it. You can’t just do a face mask once a month and you can’t just drink two glasses of water every four days expecting results…” -S.G.

According to a 2016 Beauty Industry Analysis Report, just last year the beauty industry generated 56 billion dollars in revenue. It is no secret that Americans are obsessed with beauty and quite honestly I have no shame in admitting – I, too, am obsessed and I am here for it!

In honor of my obsession I would like to shout out my two favorite tools in beauty: YouTube and the Instagram community. With these two outlets, you are only one click away from a fierce contour and a couple seconds away from a flawless eyelash application. You might be laughing but I am sure if you check your search history you too have stalked the big names in make-up to learn how to apply BEN NYE banana powder without looking dusty. It is okay, we all have!

But, have you ever noticed that the majority of these make-up artists already have perfect skin? I get so frustrated when I am watching Ms. AaliyahJay lay her foundation on a smooth canvas and I am looking into my magnified mirror at pimples galore. I’m supposed to get those exact results after watching your tutorial? How sway?

But have no fear, esthetician Samara George of SKYNbySamara aka the “skin whisper” is taking beauty to a deeper level.  I linked up with her this past Friday to discuss her skin regimen, her new business, and how she is making her mark in the beauty industry. Below you will find our in depth conversation. Enjoy.

(Side note: If you are not sure what an esthetician is – it is your lord and savior in beauty heaven. They are professionals who specialize in skin and skin care.)

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“Growing up I always liked to play in make-up. I liked making sure my face looked nice…and I can remember times where my parents used to call me vain…just to get me out of the mirror.”

[Q] What is your full name?

[A] My name is Samara George and I am the owner of SKYNbySamara.

[Q] How did you come up with the name SKYNbySamara?

[A] I’m an esthetician, so I am all about skin care, and I wanted people to know of the jump what my brand deals with. I, also, included my name so that people would know the person behind the brand and I spelled skin with a y instead of an I (SKYN) so that I could invite people to ask about it and learn more about what I have to offer.

[Q] How did you get into skin care? Did you have formal education or training in the field?

[A] I got into skin care because both of my parents own a beauty school. It offers cosmetology, nails, and an esthetician program, etc. and I just really took to skin care. I started reading into it, getting to know the ins and outs of it, and I fell in love with it. I just want to be able to help both men and women know how to take care of what is underneath before they put anything else on top of it. As far as my formal education, I attended Morgan State University and graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Television Production. So, I have a background of being in front of and behind the camera as well as a background in PR/marketing which has helped build my brand (through YouTube and Instagram) as I know how to market myself and to get my name out there.

[Q] How has social media impacted your start-up?

[A] Social media has definitely helped get my name out there. I already had a semi-good following on IG but by using hashtags that people can click on daily, I’ve noticed an increase in my followers from different skincare companies to different spas and salons from Arizona to Korea. It’s amazing how one social media outlet can get my name around the world without me having to put money out there or travel anywhere.

[Q] As far as brands, Sephora and MAC are dominating the beauty industry and women and men are spending tons and tons of money on the latest and greatest. Do you have any recommendations for people who are interested in achieving better skin? Are there things people should be looking out for before spending money?

[A] I would recommend getting a consultation with an esthetician or visiting a dermatologist. It is important you know and understand your skin. Everyones’ genetics is built different so, what works for one person will not always work for the next. A lot of products are being endorsed by make-up artists who already have flawless skin and they probably don’t even use the products they endorse or know what is in the products themselves. With that said, I like to stay on the natural side of skin care.

[Q] You mentioned you are a fan of natural products, is that something we should be expecting from SKYNbySamara in the near future?

[A] Yes! I am in the process of creating 100% natural products. Everything from coconut oil, Shea Butter, to other pulled oils…I am actually working with someone right now to make this happen. I want people to know they don’t have to spend 1,000 of dollars to achieve amazing skin and that they literally can use everyday things around your house.

[Interview Break and transition to audio. We apologize about the background noise.]

Want to meet the fabulous Samara George and learn more about SKYNbySamara? 

Instagram: SKYNbySamara | Website: SKYNbySamara  | YouTube: SKYNbySamara

She will be officially launching SKYNbySamara April 30, 2016 at BAR 7 located on 1015 1/2 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001 from 5 to 8.  You won’t want to miss this event and tell her Astu sent ya.


Wondering what to expect, click here to hear: 

Stay Down Blaze Up,

Astu Mengesha


When the Diaspora is Lit (Part 2)

“All jokes aside, to the outsider looking in the Habesha* community is huge but for the average DMV Ethiopian/Eritrean person you are only one cousin away from knowing everyone.”

According to a Migration Policy Institute report on the Ethiopian Diaspora, there are about 251,000+ Ethiopians living in the United States and roughly 35,000 call the DMV home.

Let that sink in. 35,000!

What 35,000 basically means, PEOPLE, is if you work or live in the DMV area you are bound to: know an Ethiopian, have been mistaken for an Ethiopian, and/or have had Doro Wot with that off-white spongy bread we call injera at some point in your life – it’s inevitable.

Now what those numbers, also, translate into for the members of the community is: a strong network, a loyal audience/fan base, and a diaspora that will go hard for you at the drop of a dime. So it makes sense why so many Ethiopians/Eritreans immigrate and permanently reside in the DC metropolitan area – it is damn near the Horn of Africa itself.

Keeping those stats in mind lets get back to the purpose of this article because I bet you’re probably wondering what this has to do with Ras Nebyu’s video shoot from this past weekend…let’s first start with the built in family factor/strong network.

Cue Future’s “I don’t give a f— if they were real sisters…cousins.” *

When interviewing Ras Nebyu’s manager, Beteley Solomon, on his personal involvement with the project and why he supported the emerging artist he said: “Not gonna lie that’s my cousin…I heard his main song “Washington Slizzards” which was like the first hit and I heard “Futuristic Black Man” and “Capital of Hate” and I was like yo he can spit.

He also expounded on how he helped expose the artist to different audiences: ” [Beteley] I was president of a couple orgs at College Park and I started bringing him out to a couple of shows and people liked him and from there I was like why not get involved you know what I’m saying? That’s family.”

That same familial loyalty carried over when I spoke with Loh, the creative director of the “No Love” video, who happens to also be the little cousin of Nebyu and Beteley.

“I helped with the production, writing, and casting/incorporating Gergish into the video and I’m shocked they gave me this opportunity…like they trusted me with this and I am really appreciative of them.”

Not only did she get creative freedom with the project but the guys encouraged her to explore her own music further and to gain some exposure. (Another solid example of how the diaspora supports its’ own.)

As the shoot was winding down, I also had the chance to speak with Ras Nebyu’s manager Jerms Logic and one of Washington Slizzards’ starters and artist Adonay G. These two really highlighted how the diaspora and culture has influenced Nebyu’s music and how our generation is really making a wave in the arts.

Click below to hear Jerms input:

One could argue that this isn’t really the diaspora coming together but rather family taking care of its own but at the end of the day the numbers don’t lie – Nebyu is gaining momentum and it is not just his family supporting him but his extended “cousins” in the diaspora looking out.

One time for Ethiopia/Eritrea – elelelelelelele.

*Habesha: See wiki definition

*Future reference: (Why this phrase is so relevant to our community: the word “cousin” is so diluted in the Habesha diaspora that sometimes you may or may not be related but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter because you are a member of a tight knit network and you might as well embrace it.)

Stay Down Blaze Up,

Astu Mengesha