“We know Tongue is a political erotic series. It’s not porn on the mic, but it’s a stretch for intersectionality. So how do we address that as beings?” Noni Williamston, founder of the production company Newark Women in Film, asked her poetry group as they prepared for their show on Black kink on February 22, titled “Tongue.” “Our theme is, in order to decolonize our minds, we have to decolonize our bodies,” she said. She later explained this meant that sexuality and the role of the body are often not discussed in the conversation about eradicating racism, however, she says it should be.
The women congregated in Williamston’s Newark, NJ home that morning to practice and refine their poems. Williamston adorned her dining room with posters from her internationally recognized film production company. Williamston considers herself an “ethical entrepreneur” as she not only runs her female-centered film company, but also owns a store which sells organic beauty products, and organizes for-profit events for her poetry group. Her film organization produces films coming solely from Newark women while her poetry group venerates the voices of Newark women writers. “The literacy rate in Newark is so low compared to the places around us,” Williamston said and continued, “I hope me and my women can help change that.”
D’or, one Williamston’s oldest friends in the group, rehearsed a poem with a rap embedded within it. She was unbashful as she bellowed out lines about sex and her own body. “It’s all about how you were raised,” D’or said before she began her poem. “I’m extremely comfortable with my body. As soon as I find out there’s a naked room at a club, my friends already know I’m going to be gone for the night.”
“As a writer, I believe words can go anywhere. Today’s word is fluid. Words are fluid, language is fluid,” Williamston said as she prepared the heat press used to create the t-shirts she planned on selling at the show.
At around 6:00 p.m. the women of Tongue migrated to the Mocha Lounge where they’d be reading their array of political erotic pieces and marketing their own merchandise. Williamston displayed her hand-made, organic beauty products which she sells at her store in Newark, The Conscious Room. Williamston explained how there is a myriad of avenues to “decolonizing your body,” one being poetry, another being skin care.
Newark locals began to flock into the confines of Mocha lounge, transforming the coffee shop into a stage for Black kink poetry. “I love the people of Newark,” Williamston said. “I came here from Texas and I noticed right away that it was all Black people here. But there’s Black Caribbean, Black Puerto Rican, Black Mexican—there’s so much diversity within our community.”
Williamston and D’or prepared for the show by checking the mics. D’or had to ensure that everything was in place for her first piece, where she would enter the room strolling down the stairs and fanning herself with a black lace fan while “It’s a Man’s Man’s World” played in the background.
Williamston opened the show by introducing herself by her stage name, Poet on Watch and proclaiming a phrase she repeatedly stated throughout the night, “If your Black revolution does not include Black women, queer people, or people with disabilities, then it is simply white supremacy with a darker face.”
After seven different poets take the stage and fill the room with their thoughts on racial inequality, the politics of sex and what it means to be both black and queer, Williamston finishes the show with her poem, “What I Want in my Bed.” The audience began to snap as she read out the lines, “Turning over to your morning joy with sunshine beaming through my gapped teeth.”
Williamston hoped that her audience would receive the piece with the same excitement she felt while writing it. “Whatever energy we put into our work as creators, that’s the energy people will get out of it,” said Williamston. “I cannot create something that destroys me. What is that going to do for me, my work, or the people consuming it?”
New Yorkers are asked whether they think that the U.S. government is going too easy on gun control or not after another tragedy occurs in the country involving guns.
Unwrap the cup, boil water, pour it into the cup, and wait for the broth and noodles to cool down. That’s the process that most American college kids have been using since the 1970s to make a cheap, tasty meal. In a new twist, New York City students are choosing to slurp up their ramen in the dimly lit, upscale restaurants with $20 ramen as high-end meal on their menus.
With the highest concentration of Japanese Michelin-starred spots outside of Japan, New York—from Flatbush to Flushing – has become a hub for ramen cuisine, a rapidly growing ethnic-food craze becoming the go-to, go-out meal for college students.
Ramen noodles, which were once confined to supermarkets and kitchen pantries have made their way onto many of the menus of the estimated 9000 Japanese restaurants in the United States. New York City now has a large “ramen belt,” as it has been nicknamed by New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells, which stretches from Fort Lee, New Jersey, across Manhattan, to Brooklyn and Queens.
The shift from instant snack to sit-down meal correlates with the success of Japanese foods in general, with sushi also now both a gourmet and take-out food. One reason for the popularity is that both ramen and sushi contain less sugar, less fat, and fewer calories than traditional American foods, according to Japan’s External Trade Organization.
Studies from Eventbrite’s nationwide research of millennials revealed that college-aged people not only highly value experiences, but they are increasingly spending time and money on them. And that’s a key reason for the ramen success, says Kilee Alexander, an NYU journalism student and ramen aficionado who completed high school in Japan. American ramen restaurants have turned the basic recipe – broth, noodles, and meet – into an experience, which draws millennials to join the craze even if it costs more that do-it-yourself. “A lot of people don’t care about how much they spend because it’s so good and so different from any American food.”
The run on ramen also has been stoked by social media. “It’s just a trend that young, NYU people, who also see it as the perfect Instagrammable food, want to jump on board,” Alexander said.
Brian Macduckston, cookbook author and creator of the blog Ramen Adventures, which documents his journey eating at the best ramen restaurants in Japan, eats anywhere between five and ten bowls of ramen per week. During his time traveling and noodle-tasting, he has noticed that some of Japan’s “most prolific ramen eaters” are college students. “So many people I have spoken with remember eating ramen as a child, and as a young adult they can really eat as much as they want due to the price,” he says, which he also thinks parallels with its appeal to American students. “Ramen is still an affordable food, even at restaurants. I think with the rise in popularity of casual gourmet food, ramen is poised as a real contender.” Great source!
The global instant noodles market is projected to reach 126.8 billion packs by 2022, according to a report by Global Industry Analytics, Inc. So, it is unlikely that all college kids will leave the dry noodle packets behind completely; but, as the demand for instant noodles continues to grow, students at city schools like NYU will most likely push the upscale ramen scene to follow the same path of popularity.
“I love that ramen restaurants are so casual, but the food is still delicious,” said Aesetou Hydara, a 19-year-old New York University student from the Bronx, eating the $14 Tan-Tan Men which consists of a soybean paste broth with chopped chicken, sesame powder, bean sprouts, salt flavored egg, scallion, bamboo shoots and noodle. She sits at the small, wooden counter of Ramen Takumi, a popular hub for students in Greenwich Village, steps away from the New York University campus. “I come here all the time and love that I can sit here alone or with lots of friends, and always enjoy the experience of eating up a hot bowl of ramen.”
In a slightly more formal, upscale restaurant, NYU student Meghan Murakami, 19, fights the frigid November weather by eating a warm bowl of her favorite Ramen. She barely speaks with her brothers who sit with her, instead focusing on the broth and noodles in front of her. She spent $13 on her Shio Paitan, which features a salt-based chicken broth, pork chashu, chicken chashu, onions, snow peas and scallions, a dish reminiscent of her favorite foods back home in Hawaii. Headquartered in her native state is Sun Noodles, the leading manufacturer of dry noodles. “I will pay whatever I need to for a good bowl of ramen, especially when it’s cold out,” she says in the dimly-lit ramen restaurant, Mew Men in the West Village. “It reminds me of home, and there’s nothing better than the perfect bowl of ramen to ease homesickness.”
British milliner Julia Knox looks at her to-do list on Sunday, October 15. The hat maker owns and operates East Village Hats on East Seventh and First Avenue, where she handmakes hats for women and men on premises. Customers can pick up a pre-made hat or have one custom made. “About 40 percent of customers will get them custom,” Knox said.
At East Village Hats, headwear from straw hats to fascinators (or headpieces) to felt fedoras line the walls and the shelves. Knox, who was trained in millinery at the Fashion Institute of Technology, makes most of the hats in the store. She prefers to make casual hats, instead of the fancier statement pieces popular in her home country of England.
Knox sews in a ribbon to what will become a felt porkpie hat using a sewing machine from the late 1800s. Felt is Knox’s favorite material to work with due to its versatility and flexibility. “Felt is really easy to work with, it’s really sculptural, it holds its shape, whereas straw is more fragile, you’ve got limits,” Knox said.
Knox takes a blowtorch to a felt fedora in order to create a distressed look that she says is in fashion. The heat creates a light discoloration to the dark blue felt and ribbon, making it look as if the material was bleached.
After working for a few hours, Knox stops at nearby taqueria for a burrito. East Village Hats, which was known as Barbara Feinman Millinery before Knox took over and renamed and relocated the shop just down the street, has been an East Village staple since 1998.
Leaning on a stack of Panama straw hats, Knox talks to a customer about the merits and history of Panamanian straw. Throughout the day, a steady stream of people wander in, attracted to the hats in the window, and wander out without buying anything. But Knox welcomes regulars with open arms as well, offering up hats she thinks they’d like and chatting easily.
In the entertainment industry body image is an issue that many actresses are hyper aware of. The woman in this film explain the body image issues and eating disorders obstacles while working in a field that is constantly pitting them against one another.
In a secluded corner of Prospect Park, Tzvi Levine, a 22-year-old resident of Kensington, Brooklyn, ground some weed, made a joint, took a puff, and began strumming his guitar while improvising a song. The sinking-sun shone golden on his clean-shaven face, the trees cast long shadows, and Levine’s Nike sneakers tapped to a beat. He looks like an average Brooklynite: jeans, a white t-shirt, Buddy Holly-glasses frames. He sat on a fallen tree trunk crossed diagonally over poison ivy and rotting foliage. A plastic shopping bag beside him contained a cucumber and iceberg lettuce. Levine often brings raw foods with him to enjoy their “pureness”, and occasionally, he’d take a bite. Perched next to him, Yoni Krakauer, Levine’s friend of only a year, removed his kippah before reaching for a smoke. The two meet here to unwind. There are no rules to follow, and they can speak freely. Levine notes that it’s a place where he can feel in-touch with nature.
During the day, Levine spends time with his nine siblings in his parents’ Jewish Orthodox home: he sings on the couch, plays games, or reads books when they return from school. He currently has no day job, and is largely supported by his parents by means of food and housing.
At night, Levine is a hip-hop performer, attending open mics in Brooklyn, making connections, and hoping to gain popularity as a white artist in a predominantly black community that created hip hop as a reaction to oppression from white people.
Levine was raised Orthodox, but decided to forgo his religion after being expelled from his mesivta, or Jewish high school, at the end of 12th grade for poor attendance. “I didn’t like authority there,” said Levine. “I hated the way that the rabbis had power and I hated the way that they knew more than you. There were ten-hour school days and at one point we slept in dorms.”
As Levine grew up, he encountered a disconnect between the strict laws of Orthodoxy and his own interests. Levine had grown up in a musical family, and had taken interest in non-Jewish music that he heard away from school and his home. “When I was in 9th or 10th grade, I felt repressed from the school and the class I was in because they forbid us to listen to non-Jewish music, even if it was “clean,’” Levine said. During this time, Levine discovered hip hop music. “A friend of mine put Not Afraid, an Eminem song, on my iPod Nano,” said Levine. “He found some way to not make it show up unless you searched for it.”
Not Afraid was the catalyst to Levine’s interest in hip hop. He became interested in the technicalities of rhyming to rhythms and spent time trying to compose his own similar work. As his interest in the non-Jewish world increased, Levine spent less time attending classes, and thinking more about life outside Judaism.
After leaving school and choosing not to continue the path to yeshiva, Levine’s parents became increasingly unhappy, ultimately banning him from their home. Levine was sent to live with his grandparents in the neighborhood, picking up a telemarketing job after being encouraged by his grandfather. Levine has no current intention to attend college. He has held a series of part-time jobs since leaving school, but is currently unemployed.
Living in the basement of his grandparents’ house gave Levine the freedom he lacked in his own home. “That’s when I was able to do whatever I wanted,” said Levine. “I really got into hip hop then because I was free to listen to non-Jewish music. I also started watching porn and smoking weed.” Growing up in an Orthodox community, Levine sheltered from the outside world. “I grew up without a TV or movies, and no non-Jewish music whatsoever,” said Levine. “All of these rules would have stayed with me forever, but I just stopped following them.”
Levine would sneak out the back door at night, unknown to his grandparents, but made sure to be home for Shabbos each week, putting on a kippah before entering his home.
Levine’s telemarketing job allowed him to save money to buy recording equipment. After being allowed to move home over a year later, Levine took over the empty garage in his backyard. He began to create his own music inspired by the hip hop he had listened to. “I made a song, and it was like a white-boy knockoff of Eminem,” he said. “It was about being different.” Songwriting and performing was easy for Levine. “I grew up singing, and I taught myself to play guitar,” he said.
After posting the song to an online hip hop forum, Levine was contacted to attend an open mic. He continued to write songs inspired by artists like Kendrick Lamar and MF Doom, often with explicit lyrics that contrasted the tenets of his upbringing.
Levine chose to tell his father about his interest in hip hop, but not to his siblings. “I told my dad that I could write rap really well,” said Levine. “But he just asked what my back up plan was going to be.” After showing his father the music he had written, he started to take his son more seriously.
Levine’s father, who recently graduated from NYU’s Silver School of Social Work, has been supportive of his music and non-Jewish interests. “I think my dad is sort of proud of me as a hip hop artist in certain ways: he’d show non-Jewish people what I’m doing,” Levine said. “He even brought me into his class once to lecture about weed.”
Levine’s mother takes a more hands-off approach to her son’s diversion from Orthodoxy. “My mom doesn’t say much about what she thinks of me because she’d rather not learn about what I’m up to,” Levine said. “She’s going to get hurt by what I say or what I do with my life because she’s afraid.”
After establishing himself back at home, Levine started to attend open mics in Bedford Stuyvesant or East New York. He became enamored with the community. “I was able to meet a lot of people who encouraged me and gave me connections,” Levine said. But even as he tries to be an optimist about his experience, he’s also had trouble fitting in. At a hip hop party in East New York, a woman took the stage to criticize Levine for being white. “She singled me out and started talking about me saying that I was coming there to take their culture,” Levine said.
“Most people who don’t like me aren’t interested in seeing me as a person, but then they realize I’m respectful, and that I grew up in Brooklyn just like them,” Levine said. “I’ve had a lot of bad experiences, but the good ones outweigh them.”
Levine has found an expanding group of people who accept him and hope to help him gain recognition within Brooklyn’s hip hop community, but when he returns home to Kensington, he is happy to blend into the crowd. “Kensington and Borough Park are like Manhattan,” said Levine. “It’s so diverse there, and nobody cares who you are. Sometimes if I want a favor, I’ll make it known that I’m Jewish by saying something in Yiddish. Otherwise, everyone minds their own business.” Even Levine’s siblings have become used to him. “My baby sister just thinks that I sleep all day,” he said. “When I’m not at home spending time with my family, they don’t question where I am.”
Living a double-life between hip hop and family life has helped Levine evolve his musical style. “My music doesn’t usually discuss being Jewish, but the sincerity in which I sing is reflective of my upbringing,” said Levine. Levine realized that hip hop could include more than rap: he heard performers sing at open mics and soon adapted that style to fit his own voice.
At a Bedford Stuyvesant open mic that Levine hadn’t attended before, he approached the crowd with a song that predominantly relied on vocals and chorus, rather than rap. At the end of his song, Levine was accompanied by a loud ovation.
Moments like these encourage Levine to continue writing and performing. “It’s a life direction, not a money-making career,” said Levine. “I don’t see it taking me anywhere, but if it does, I’d love to get enough recognition to allow me to work with Kendrick Lamar or Anderson Paak. I enjoy collaboration because I want other people’s influences. It’s about community.”
At Prospect Park the following day, Levine brought a cucumber to enjoy alongside music and weed. Krakauer, who has known Levine for only a year sat beside him. Krakauer isn’t a fan of hip hop, but still supports Levine. “He has beautiful melodies and chord progressions, so I wonder why Tzvi even raps at all,” Krakauer said, suggesting that Levine’s talents lie in the “jam-sessions” he and Krakauer engage in. Levine plays guitar, and the two of them sing together.
“It’s very difficult for me to figure out how hip hop and Judaism mix because I don’t see it very clearly,” Levine said. So, Levine uses this time to find contentment and reason in a segmented life. Despite no longer being a practicing Jew, Levine remains spiritual on his own terms. “My spirituality is happiness, and from playing guitar,” Levine said. “It’s contentment from being grateful for everything you have.” For Levine, happiness comes from enjoying the things around him in their most natural state: nature, raw food, air. “I don’t connect to a specific god anymore,” he said. “The world is perfectly made for us to live in.”
When Levine returns home, he sleeps on the bottom bunk of a room shared by three of his siblings. He drapes a blanket from the rim of the top bunk, creating a closed-off space for him to relax. “This is the only private space I have in my home,” said Levine. He has no plans to move out of his parents’ house, and has no intention of quitting hip hop anytime soon. “I’m a very simple person,” said Levine. “I sleep and eat at home, so I don’t need much money.”
JK Kim has been practicing tattoos for years, but only in the last six months has she considered herself a real artist. See what tattooing and her clients mean to her as she finished one of her last tattoos of the year – JK was 8 months pregnant at the time!
(Baby Hunter was born on January 3rd, 2018, but JK tattooed all the way up until December)
By Sabrina Franza