“Truth is a part of our foundation…even though pain may come from being vulnerable, beauty will surely follow.” –Tatiana Zamir
Tatiana Zamir wants to touch you.
Yes, you read that right.
Not only does Tatiana Zamir want to touch you, she wants you to know that it may be one of the most moving experiences of your life.
The word touch carries a lot of meaning for us humans. Being touched is a basic human need—but because so many of us have been injured or betrayed or abandoned in our quest for intimacy, we have forgotten how uplifting and nurturing it is to allow ourselves to feel the healing and serenity that comes from letting another human authentically meet our need to be touched.
Zamir, who is a graduate of UCLA’s renowned World Arts and Cultures Program (and is also a licensed massage therapist and graduate of the Institute of Pycho-Structural Balancing), believes she is on earth to remind us not to lose our vulnerability.
Talking about truth and touch and vulnerability with this multi-talented healer, dancer, teacher, writer and theater producer reminds me of the opening quote from the Oscar-winning Paul Haggis film Crash a movie which, at its core, was about how we hide our truths and our vulnerabilities in an effort to feel safe:
“In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”
Zamir is on a mission to change that—one human being at a time.
Whether Tatiana is transporting a client to “another realm” via her “Healing Hands” massage therapy practice, or delivering messages of hope and healing to packed audiences through her sold-out theatrical dance production, “Moonlight Reflections,” or teaching her students to “sweat joyfully” via her popular “Afro-Hip Hop Dance Class,” Zamir has made it her life’s work to share her temple and her truths in ways that are healing, inspiring and spiritually uplifting.
“I grew up dancing and I always hated going to dance classes in Los Angeles because they were so competitive and I just wanted to have fun. Then I found this class and I couldn’t be happier. Not only is it dance, but it is a serious, fun workout!
The best thing about the class is, the studio is filled with students from no experience to dancers, so the instructor, Tatiana, creates an incredible workout and choreography that allows you to either just keep up or stylize it to your own skill set. Tatiana is sweet, challenging, fun and super talented.” –Ashley L, Afro-HipHop Dance Workshop student
“This class is the most enjoyable cardio style dance class I’ve taken in my 20 years of taking classes at various studios and gyms in LA. It’s a great workout whether you are a beginning dancer or a professional. Tatiana is a knowledgeable teacher with great energy and she creates such a welcoming environment. Everyone is there to have a good time and a good time is ALWAYS had! I always walk out of this class with a smile on my face.” – Tracy M, Afro-HipHop Dance Workshop student
“Through a diverse range of topics, from the female African American experience, to spirituality, materialism and struggles with family and the pains of growing up, Tatiana Zamir weaves these dramatic vignettes to tell a story of love, creativity, roots, forgiveness and healing that is truly inspirational…I left the theater floating on a higher physical and spiritual vibration!” ~Dustin G.
“[Moonlight Reflections] was AWESOME, I was moved!!! I laughed, cried, danced, etc.!! The entire cast… amazing. Folks NEED to see this work…” ~Leslie G.
“Tatiana truly has a talent of transporting your body and mind to a whole new level of bliss with her intuitive touch. “ – Taylor D, massage client
“I have traveled the world, literally, getting massages and body treatments everywhere I go. I have had just about every type of massage; shia-tzu, swedish, thai, spa pamper. Throughout every experience I always find something to complain about; it’s too hard, not hard enough, not long enough or just not all around complete. Healing Hands by Tatiana is the only time that I get to fully let go, not think and enjoy the love my muscles receive. ” –Yaani King, massage client
If the ultimate Purpose of Life here on earth is tied in any way to how effective we are at using our bodies, our minds, our talents and our time to inspire growth and healing in others, Tatiana Zamir is setting an excellent example of how to get that done—and how to have a great time doing it.
I recently sat down with Tatiana for an in-depth discussion that reveals how and why she is so committed to and effective at touching others, and why she is so good at telling the truth:
KC: Why are you on earth?
TZ: I’m a truth teller. I’ve always been a fan of the truth. It’s always come easy for me to express it, and I hope to inspire others to be closer to the truth–whatever that looks like in their own lives.
Why is truth telling so crucial to you?
In the Baha’i writings it is written that “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtue,” so we can’t really grow or develop spiritually if we cannot be truthful about where we are now. We are essentially spiritual beings and part of what helps us to be spiritually successful is to be truthful.
If Tatiana Zamir were a brand, what would that brand represent?
Vulnerablity. Truth. Healing. Creativity. Inspiration. I’ve been hearing so many people say how inspired they were by Moonlight Reflections. Whether inspired to go create something themselves, or to finally address some situation in their lives that required truth telling and honesty. I think people saw on stage tangible examples of how being vulnerable can be the foundation for real change in our lives and in our relationships.
What does vulnerability mean to you?
There are no walls. Or fewer walls. I have a couple of walls as an artist and as a human, but there really are not many emotional boundaries I won’t cross. I’ve had people tell me that creatively and emotionally I’m really brave and courageous, though I don’t really feel that way because it comes so naturally to me. Sharing is not something that’s hard for me. I think vulnerability is letting your walls down and not being afraid of what people will think and knowing that the truth is part of our foundation and that even though pain may come from being vulnerable, beauty will surely follow.
The ways that you reach for your fellow human beings are very tangible. Why are you so open to sharing your temple in such visible and tactile ways?
What else am I here for? If I can’t fully be myself and fully share myself with the world why do we even exist? Because I’m so attracted to the truth, I always want to get to the core of who people are and I want them to see me right away. I believe it gives people permission to be their true selves when I do that.
What inspired you to want to be a massage therapist?
It’s something I’ve always loved to do and I was always really good at it even before I received formal training. I hadn’t really considered massage as a career, but I have always been attracted to healing, and I know that when I massage a client I’m literally making the world a better place. Healing touch produces so much good in the world.
Your clients really do rave about your technique. What makes you such an awesome masseuse? There are a bazillion massage parlors in L.A., why do your clients come back to you?
I think people come back to me because I’m really in tune with what’s happening with people and I really nurture them while I massage them. That may sound like “duh doesn’t every masseur do that?” But, unfortunately, the answer is no, they don’t. I get massages myself all the time and I’m often disappointed because I feel like people are so disconnected from the touch they are putting on your body and the work they’re doing is not reflective of the frequency your body is at. I’m really good at connecting with people and being present with them. People often say to me “I’ve had massages all over the world and I’ve never experienced that before.” My clients say they go into a zone. They go to another realm. They get their muscles worked on but they’re having an out of body experience as well.
You are a person who lives and breathes dance. What are people missing out on when they have no dance in their lives at all?
I really feel everyone’s life would improve tremendously if they danced every day, and I believe that so strongly because of what it does for me. Dance really takes me to a higher place. No matter what frequency I’m at, when I dance, it takes me to an even higher one. If I’ve had a bad day, after dancing, no stress can touch me. If I’ve had a great day, I’m just that much happier. I don’t know if it’s from releasing endorphins and relieving stress or what, but I feel closer to the Creator. I feel a real spiritual high.
Can I experience that spiritual high vicariously through watching others dance, or do I need to experience it by actually dancing myself?
I think you could have a piece of that high by witnessing it. I think you can feel that and I think you can experience some of what we’re feeling. I think you take it to another level when you do it yourself. You’re feeling things that are unique to you and depending on how your body’s feeling and where you are, you’ll experience it at a uniquely personal level. It’s a different experience when you put yourself out there.
If I attended a session of your Afro-Hip Hop Dance Workout, what would make me want to come back?
I believe my students come back week after week because they get a great workout–they’re drenched at the end–but they’ve had an amazing time doing it. They’ve told me they really love the music. I mix up my playlist with Afro beat, dance hall, salsa and hip hop, and I”ll mix contemporary radio hits with old school artists like Common and the Roots. You would love the intimacy of the class too, and the uniqueness. It feels like family. Everyone is supportive and loving and you don’t always get that in a dance or exercise class. But my class is like a family reunion every time. People say they feel very supported and supportive there.
Your decision to create, choreograph and produce Moonlight Reflections must have been a huge leap of faith. Is this a new direction for you? Will you venture further into dance theater?
In the process of creating that show I felt a happiness I had never experienced before. It felt so right and it was clear that it was where I needed to be. It’s very new for me to even be thinking about this right now. This is a new dream for me. I had a burning desire to bring my ideas to life in a theater and have people witness it. I had no idea it would sell out two weeks in advance and that people would call for me to stage it again. I don’t know yet how this calling will continue to express itself in my life, but I do see myself in the future as a producer of work that heals and hopefully inspires others to heal and inspire others.
What did you learn about yourself in taking that risk?
Being a producer requires bringing a lot of skills to the table that I might not really need to use too often in other areas of life. Hiring and assessing and critiquing the expertise of staff for example. I had endless learning experiences, but the thing that really floored me was that I never anticipated how deeply moved people would be by my work. It’s inspiring and humbling to see how sharing truth can ripple out into other lives in meaningful ways. I am still receiving letters from people who were moved by Moonlight Reflections. And, I mean written letters sent in the mail. In this age of technology, that is so stunning to me. People must have been really moved and inspired for them to sit down and write me letters and share their stories with me. I’ve had so many parents say the show made them think twice about their relationships with their children. They really want to be different and open and truthful and work harder at nurturing their relationships. I also had many young people come up to me after the show to say they felt like I told pieces of their story so truthfully, without me even knowing their actual story.
A significant part of Moonlight Reflections entailed the abusive-turned-estranged-turned-healed relationship with your mother. Through movement, music and spoken word you told many truths about your childhood experiences with her that were not cute or sweet. You really exposed some hurtful things that many mothers would not want exposed. How did your mother feel about that?
Her friends were like “I can’t believe you let her say these things about you.” My mom’s response was, It wouldn’t have been as powerful if she didn’t. What Tati shared is the truth. It’s what happened. The healing part of our story is so powerful because the painful and uncomfortable part was truthfully and fully shared. The show created even more healing and love between us. I had never had so much support in my life from my mother as I did with developing and producing this show.
Our healing occurred because my mother was able to finally tell the truth after she was in denial for so long, and she was able to truly apologize for hurting me all those years. A true apology is when you really mean it, and I knew for the first time in my life that she meant it. In the past I felt her apologies were followed by a million excuses. “I’m sorry but I was a single mom and this and that…”
This apology was different in what way?
It was something I truly felt. It was genuine. It wasn’t an angry apology. It wasn’t an I’m sorry, but…” It was genuine and it was beautiful. And, more importantly, after my mother apologized, she actually changed. She actually became a different mother. She doesn’t yell at me. She doesn’t verbally abuse me anymore. She came to a place where she really wanted something different for us.
So many people were touched in amazing ways by your journey. What do you think we can all learn from your story of injury and healing?
The truth really will set you free, if you allow it to. That saying has a whole new meaning for me now.
Remember that great song by Beyoncé that hit the charts last year and quickly became our favorite girl power anthem?
“Who run the world? Girls? Who run this mutha? Girls…”
Well, Amber recorded a YouTube video calling Mrs. Carter out on this blatant untruth, and I think everyone should definitely watch it before they vote in November. (If you agree after seeing the video, please share this post.)
Not that Amber’s YouTube video is, like, at the intellectual level of a presidential debate or anything (<-best read with sarcasm, thank you) but here is a snippet of the kinds of thought-provoking arguments young Amber makes to counter Bey’s questionable claim.
Beyoncé: “Make your check, come at they neck.”
Amber: “Indeed, make your check, but be aware that your check is going to be significantly smaller than your male counterpart’s.”
Beyoncé: “Some of them men think they freak this like we do, but no, they don’t.
Amber: “I actually agree with you on this one, Beyoncé. Men certainly do not freak this the way our culture demands that women do. Men aren’t objectified in the same way or to the same magnitude as women are–if at all.
Beyoncé: “Disrespect us? No, they won’t.”
Amber: “Yes, they will. And they do. Often. I’d like to defer to a very famous doctor on this subject–Dr. Dre…” (She proceeds to quote Dre, which you really must see for yourself to fully appreciate.)
I don’t know about you, but I would pay big bucks to see Amber debate Mitt Binders-Full-of-Women Romney.
Can we say pay-per-view!?
Note: For those of us who have danced around the kitchen with the kids and cracked our smartphone screens from excessive jubilance while under the influence of said song, Amber has included this disclaimer to accompany her video:
“It’s a song. I get it. It’s just a song…This video is not about Beyoncé. It’s not even really about this song. My point is NOT that she shouldn’t have made this song because of X, Y, and Z. My point IS: Oh, Look! X, Y, and Z exist and this song is a great tie-in to a discussion of feminism. If you’ve watched some of my other videos, you would be able to sense the sarcastic tone. Relax.”‘
If you are a serious aficionado of “conscious” hip hop music, you are no doubt familiar with the name Kumasi Simmons, a.k.a., Kumaserati, a gifted hood-born poet with a unique flow that has attracted souls from as close as Brooklyn and Compton to as far as Paris, Jakarta, Tunisia and Ghana.
Kumasi has collaborated with some of the most creative and prolific artists in popular music, including Kanye West, Adam Levine, Mos Def, Malik Yusef and The Game.
When The Game heard Kumasi’s soul-stirring flow, he welcomed him to the Black Wall Street label as “Kumaserati,” BWS’s sole “conscious” contributor. After recording curse-free, drug-free, woman-respecting songs under the Black Wall Street flag, in May, 2012, Kumasi independently released a 27-track hood gospel project entitled Soul Music.
Soul Music is a majestic offering of uplifting, inspiring and cautionary songs with titles like Same Soul (f. Tara Ellis), Change (f. Mos Def), Highway to Hades, Promised Land (f. Kanye West and Malik Yusef), Be Kind to Your Mother, and, my personal favorite, Amazing Grace.
As if Kumasi wasn’t busy enough in the studio making his Soul Music dream a reality, last year this Compton, Cali native was sponsored by the U. S. State Department to travel the world as a cultural attaché, visiting developing democracies in Indonesia and Africa, where young, mostly Muslim, citizens are both curious and dubious about American culture and freedom of expression.
Kumasi performed with fellow Muslim artists via the group Remarkable Current in an unprecedented cultural exchange program through which they delivered messages of peace and brotherhood across barriers of language and ideology. For more information about this project, visit remarkablecurrent.com .
The video below (f. Kumasi), paying homage to Tunisian revolutionary hero Mohamed Bouazizi, is an example of the incredible creativity and passion hip hop music lends to messages of freedom and calls for progress around the world. Is it just me, or is this track SICK? And by sick, I mean AMAZING.
I recently caught up with this self-described “servant of God,” to find out what motivates him musically, what’s keeping him busy now and where he is headed next.
KC: When you released your first album, Change Gon’ Come, you used your given name, Kumasi. Now you have adopted this new moniker, Kumaserati. What’s the story behind this name change?
Kumaserati is an alias that was created to help young people remember my name. Kumasi is the name of a city in Ghana, and until I can popularize that name as an artist, I want to help people find me and find my music. I want to leave a positive impression on impressionable young people who will respond to that name because it is associated with something they value. A Maserati is a vehicle. Kumasi is a servant. Kumaserati is a servant of God first and foremost. The way that I serve may require different strategies.
Speaking of strategies, I understand you’ve joined a music group called Kaj (www.thekaj.com). What is Kaj and how is it different from the music of Kumaserati?
The Kaj is another strategy for Kumasi to exist in service to God. The word Kaj is a combination of the names of its members, Kumasi, Anas and Joel. We came together to do a project that is soulful and that is inspired by people that inspire soul music–like Curtis Mayfield. Like The Ojays. The Kaj is using the language and diction and the integrity of those times with the sound of today.
It seems to me there’s this gap in music today where some of us feel we really have to look and listen hard to find contemporary music that is still soulful or soul-filled. It sounds like this group is the perfect fit for us.
We weren’t really trying to specifically fill any void. We were just trying to make music that we like and that people like. Our intention is to create music that is about love, and is also correct towards women. Theres’ a song about domestic violence. There’s a song called The Sounds of Making Love.
Is there a percentage of The Kaj’s sound or style that you would call hip hop, or is it a departure from your hip hop roots?
That’s an excellent question. The attempt here is to be intelligent and at the same time be cognizant of using simple yet meaningful words. You won’t hear us saying words like “swag.” You might hear words like “darling” and “delectable.” The word choices are deliberate. Our music is supposed to make you feel happy and make you feel like you want to make love to your woman and retain the respect due to women.
On your new album, Soul Music, you included a track called “99 names of God.” Tell me three of those names that are embodied in your music.
“Sublime. Gracious. Mighty.”
How did an artist so focused on heavenly goals, end up at Black Wall Street with The Game?
He really wanted a conscious artist on his label. My affiliation with Black Wall Street provides an opportunity to broaden my reach as an artist. I will always have love for The Game for opening that door for me.
What is one quality of The Game that would surprise people?
People might be surprised that he has a great sense of humor. People may be surprised that he’s a family man. People may be surprised that he’s a man who is striving to be a better man and a better person. You might be surprised to know that he is in tune with his Creator.
You have collaborated with some heavyweights in the industry. Who would you like to work with that you haven’t yet?
I love Jamie Foxx as a person and Pharrell as well. After meeting and vibing with them, I would love to work with them. Also Will.i.am. I admire his creativity. Cee-lo is really gifted and down to earth–really for the people. I would love to work with him. Of course, Tupac, when he comes back.
Thank you for that awesome segue to my next question. If you died and God sent you back here as a woman. What would your mission be?
To be an example of class. An example of motherhood. We need more examples of strong women who are powerful generals who have command. A powerful woman doesn’t want a man with a nice vehicle with nice rims. She cares for her people. She cares to improve lifestyles besides her own. Some women believe that sex is their power. Their body is their power. But that is not the extent of a woman’s power by any means. If more women could set powerful examples, young women in our culture would create better humans.
Speaking of women and how we are perceived, in hip hop culture certain women are afforded a measure of respect and others are not. You were involved in a controversy in which you came to the defense of Kat Stacks, a self-described “hoe.” What made you think Kat Stacks deserved to be defended when she attracted so much drama and negative attention through her own actions?
When you meet a man in the hospital or grocery store that man is your brother. If that man is white or that man is black that man is your brother. If that man is Chinese that’s your Chinese brother. Whatever mind state a woman is in and whatever decisions she’s making that may be wrong, whether its to use drugs or to sell her body, that woman was born a princess. On earth we are all family members. Once you have that outlook, you can act accordingly. When it comes to a person like Kat Stacks you wish better for her. You don’t have rancor in your heart, you realize that that is a woman who was created by God and you have to respect that. He gave her lungs and eyes and she was not a mistake. She is a creation of God. How does God feel about that which God creates? If we ask ourselves that question we may find ourselves being careful to not dishonor that which God created, even if that creation has not begun to honor themselves.
You recently traveled on behalf of the United States as a cultural ambassador where you addressed thousands of young men and women whose impressions of of this country were deeply and positively impacted. Is this a new direction for Kumasi? How does civil service fit in to your goals?
This was another opportunity to serve God. I’m not into politics. I’m into people. I’m into peace. I was able to be peaceful with the people of Indonesia. I was also able to go to northern Africa. I did a song with El General (Hamada Ben Amor), the young rap artist who got locked up for speaking out against the president of Tunisia. Last year, Time magazine named this young rapper one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.
It’s important to create alliances everywhere you go. In Paris I was able to do this. In Africa. Eventually if your voice becomes big enough you can invite people to hold hands. I’m very grateful for the opportunity.
What can we look forward to next from Kumaserati?
I am currently in the conception stage of a project that will ultimately bear magnificent fruit. I am collaborating with two women whom I deeply respect and admire, not only for their amazing talents, but for their pure intentions to help heal people’s pain and to serve the human family.
Myself, Hope Shorter and Tilly Key, along with producer Christian Shorter, are putting together a project that, in spirit, will be like having Lauryn Hill, Sade and Bob Marley collaborating to serve. I”m not trying to equate us talent-wise, though the talent here is crazy, but spirit-wise the intention is that huge.
The project is called “Child of The World,” and it will be geared toward educating young people about nutrition, healthy lifestyles and philanthropy via a series of non-profit concerts in major urban areas like downtown L.A., Chicago and NYC. We will bring music, message, and meals to the streets with the sole purpose of connecting to and serving our fellow man.
There are some 77,000 members of the United States Chess Federation and fewer than 2 percent of them are excellent enough players to be called “masters.”
Of those masters, just 13 of them are under the age of 14.
Of those 13, three are African American boys from the New York City area — Justus Williams, Joshua Colas and James Black, Jr. — each achieved master status at age 12.
“Masters don’t happen every day, and African American masters who are 12 never happen,” said Maurice Ashley, the only black chess master to earn the top title of grandmaster. “To have three young players do what they have done is something of an amazing curiosity. You normally wouldn’t get something like that in any city of any race.”
Maurice Ashley, World’s First Black Chess Grandmaster
Ashley, now 45, became a master at age 20 and a grandmaster at 34.
The Chess Federation uses a rating system to measure ability based on the results of matches won in officially sanctioned events. A player reaching a rating of 2,200 qualifies for master.
Justus was the first of the three boys to get to 2,200, making him the youngest black player ever to obtain the master rank. Not long after Justus achieved that rare honor, Joshua replaced him in the record books by achieving master ranking while still a few months younger than Justus was. James, now 13, became a master at age 12 in July, 2011.
Although they are competitors, the boys are also friends who recognize that others see them as role models.
“I think of Justus, me and Josh as pioneers for African American kids who want to take up chess,” James said.
All three of the boys have set their sights on becoming grandmasters by the time they graduate from high school, a feat only a few dozen players in the world have achieved.
One of my all time favorite movies is “Searching for Bobby Fisher,” about a young chess wiz. This scene stands as one of my top ten favorite scenes ever. You have to see the whole movie for the “trick or treat” reference to have its full impact, but you gotta love the suspense this director was able to create in a game that could be a boring spectator sport for the uninitiated:
Whether or not you agree with his premise that college loan interest rates should not double, and whatever side of the aisle you view this president from, you gotta admit he is just the epitome of cool.
I wonder who they’ll get to play him in the biopic a decade or so from now.
Researchers at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, have published a study in Psychological Science that shows people who score low on I.Q. tests in childhood are more likely to develop prejudiced beliefs and conservative political views in adulthood.
I.Q., or intelligence quotient, is a score used to describe an individual’s level of intelligence as determined by their performance on a standardized test. The validity of the tests has been hotly debated by psychologists, educators and others who are not convinced of their accuracy.
Dr. Gordon Hodson, a professor of psychology at the university and the study’s lead author, said the finding represented evidence of a vicious cycle: People of low intelligence gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, which stress resistance to change and, in turn, prejudice, he told LiveScience.
Why might less intelligent people be drawn to conservative ideologies? Because such ideologies feature “structure and order” that make it easier to comprehend a complicated world, Dodson said. “Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice,” he added.
Although most of us would concur that racists are dumb, we should also be careful not to paint any group of people (including the mentally challenged) with one broad negative stroke. It does make perfect sense that an inability to use rational thought to sort truth from error may lead an intellectually challenged person to embrace misinformation, stereotyping and exclusionary beliefs, but having a low I.Q. does not automatically make one a hater.
In the words of the famous (and, yes, fictional) Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does.”