Growing up with Maya

by Jackie

Maya Reading

Thank you, Dr. Maya Angelou. Rest in peace. April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher gave me a copy of Dr. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to keep me from being bored in class. The only way to keep my nine-year-old self from doodling and distracting my classmates who were finishing the work I rushed through, was to give me a book. This book, however, was different. It had more pages than the others I’d read and it wasn’t make-believe. I found a friend in those pages; someone to talk to about not looking like everyone else, someone who trusted me with her deepest, darkest secrets, and most importantly, someone who showed me that writing heals. I read the book, over and over, learning something new about my friend each time and never tiring of her stories.

Two years later, my friend had written me again. This time, she wanted me to know that I was beautiful, not in spite of, but because of all the things that made me different. My big hair and my dark skin were things I should be proud of, and no one could tell me any different. Years after, whenever I doubted myself, I’d pull out ‘Phenomenal Woman’ and listen to Maya tell me how magical we were.

When I was looking for inspiration for my eighth grade valedictory speech, I turned to Maya. She reminded me that nothing that my classmates and I would go on to accomplish would have been possible without the sacrifice of those who came before us. She let me quote ‘Still I Rise’ to honor our ancestors and inspire our own greatness.

As I got older, I would visit my friend often through her prose, sometimes reading her poems out loud just for her and me. I would journal, and sometimes share my own poetry, because she gave me the courage to speak my truth. While she may no longer walk this earth, her friendship endures because words never die.



Pop-Up at the South Street Seaport NYC

by Sherria 

I spent Memorial Day at the South Street Seaport in New York City. After the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, most of the destroyed stores have yet to return. However, the city has done a great job of keeping the area thriving with pop-up shops, food trucks/festivals and outdoor movie screenings. I stopped by a pop-up shop featuring clothing from Mary Meyer and handcrafted jewelry by Lila Rice. Check out a few snapshots of the shop below:


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About Mary Meyer

Mary Meyer was born in Northern CA, grew up in Venice, and graduated from the California College of the Arts with a degree in painting, funded in part by a Yozo Hamaguchi grant. While in school, Mary studied printmaking, weaving, dyeing, welding and woodworking. She also discovered her penchant and talent for clothing design. Starting production out of her living room, she began to make custom shirts and dresses for her friends and peers. In 2005, she founded her company, Mary Meyer Clothing.

Mary is known for her casual and sexy designs, made distinctive by her custom prints. Her art is inspired by a wide range of sources, including African textiles, Japanese dye techniques, quilts, pop art, the beach, wheat pasted punk flyers, 90’s goth culture, and 80’s graphic tees.

In addition to her clothing company, Mary also runs the Mary Meyer Art House, throwing parties that showcase artists and bands that are not always seen in the mainstream. She also co-founded Step Right Up, a non-profit afterschool program that provides free arts workshops in New York City’s public schools.

About Lila Rice 

Lila’s work is inspired by both the natural environment and the human realm of engineering, hardware, and mechanism, and she strives to create pieces that embody the beauty of both when they intersect. The collection’s aesthetic embodies opposing elements: the masculine and the feminine, the organic and the industrial, the antiquated relic and the modern classic. In her metalwork you will often find, for example, that Lila chooses to fabricate a piece with both yellow gold and roughly-hammered, antiqued brass, or that she makes the story of simple stud earrings more complex by adding snake-print texture and mixed metals. Evident in the collection is the influence of both ancient art and design and of the local scrap yard. And then, of course, there is the wildness and energy of the modern metropolis, which is the heartbeat of the line.

Think Outside the Cubicle: From ‘What Now?’ to ‘Why Not?’

by Jackie

“Old enough to be cool, young enough to act a fool” is how my friends and I describe(d) our late 20s. The corny phrase was the best we could do to make sense of the amorphous period between the legal drinking age and the stamp of adulthood: 30. What are you doing after graduation? Is this guy serious? Can I afford to follow my dreams? Watching Shayla Racquel’s web series, “Quarter Century,” reminds us that we’ve all been there.

The budding filmmaker tells our stories through her series, so it was a privilege to have her share her own story with A*cute.


Filmmaker Shayla Racquel says everyone isn’t going to like what you’re doing, but follow your dreams for YOU.


What inspires you?

When I was born, I was diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disease. Having continuous sickle cell crisis, a stroke at 12 years old, and constant blood transfusions, I could have easily felt sorry for myself and written off my future of excelling and being on my own. Instead, filmmaking became my outlet and I allowed my illness to motivate me to give 110% to anything that I set my mind on.

God, my family, and my friends are also my true motivators, which helps me in turn motivate myself. my family and friends have supported everything I’ve done. Being a very spiritual person, I know that there is no limit to how far you can go with God on your side, and he has continued to bless me throughout this entire venture.

Nevertheless, it is not hard to be motivated and inspired by something that you have a passion for and that is truly in your heart.

When did you first become interested in film?

When I was 12 years old, I had a stroke due to my Sickle Cell disease. Film became my outlet from that particular aspect of my life. As a present to my grandparents during the holidays, I started making videos featuring all the grandchildren in my family. This became a tradition that we still hold today. From there, I made videos throughout high school and college.  Florida A&M University gave me plenty of opportunities to explore and hone my craft. That’s when I decided that I would like to make my filmmaking hobby into a career.

Did anyone ever try to dissuade you from following your passion? 

I had been making videos since I was little, so no one (especially not my family) has ever tried to dissuade me from being a filmmaker. However, when I first came up with the idea of Quarter Century, I pitched it to a number of friends. Most of them loved the idea, but I had a few who didn’t like it at all. When I asked why, I was never given a clear response. Of course it hurts, but that’s life. Everyone isn’t going to like what you are doing. Follow your dreams for YOU. YOU have to be the main reason why you want to do whatever it is you want to do.

If you’re doing it for the money, fame, or because someone else wants you to do it, you are going to get trampled by critiques, dislikes, and downright haters. It’s hard to dust yourself off from that; but, when you are doing it for yourself and not the gratification of others, no matter how much people dislike it, it won’t phase you. As you accomplish your goals you will feel even more complete.


“Quarter Century” follows a relatable cast of characters who are caught in the awkward stage of determining what it means to be “grown.”

How do you balance your day job with filming your web series? Continue reading