ballet folklorico de colores

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If you've been around this blog enough to see my personal work, you know that being in tune with your heritage and culture is a big part of my life. It is an intangible heirloom of sorts, a legacy, that I learned from my grandparents, Humberto + Sara Flores, parents, and my tías and tíos. While it has morphed into our family's own sort of awesome Mexican American micro-culture centered around Corpus Christi, Texas, I'm always up to experiencing it wherever I can find it.

Early this year, my mom started a traditional Mexican dance group with at-risk Hispanic youth in Goldsboro, Ballet Folklorico De Colores. These awesome kids, aged from preschool to high school, get the opportunity to embrace their heritage like my mom and I did. She passes along the lessons from her parents about being proud of who you are + where you came from, about having confidence about your abilities, and being able to tell the story of your people to others through dance. In Goldsboro, the Hispanic population has boomed, so it's great to see what I know as "everyday life" in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and other parts of South Texas and the Southwest, making its way to North Carolina. De Colores is installing the confidence in these kids and allowing them to realize that they are strong, Hispanic youth with bright futures.

How do you connect with your culture when you're not actively living it?

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keenwood apiary honey harvest

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The honeybee: the ultimate pollinator and creator of the most natural sweetener with the best health benefits.

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Last year,  a local beekeeper, Beverly Keen, contacted me about photographing her bees and the honey harvest. While our schedules didn't match up last summer, we were able to get together this year. Mrs. Beverly was my husband's 7th grade science teacher and he LOVED her. She taught biology and after spending a day with her, it was evident she has a passionate soul for teaching and keeping her bees. This gracious, southern woman welcomed me to her home, clad with adorable bee paraphernalia, to teach me about the honeybees and reiterate their importance to our society. Bees are full of life, and it's truly amazing how they function as a colony and how vital they are to human life. When I asked her why she chose to become a beekeeper, she simply said, "The Lord just fascinated me with why he created bees, so when I retired, I decided it was my time to keep them."

Honeybees are a vital and important part of our agriculture, as they pollinate around 80% of our plants to produce fruits and vegetables. These fascinating, flying critters are not pests, however, they are the movers + shakers of our environment that keep the circle of life circling. If honeybees are healthy, our environment is healthy, which reflects in our overall health. Honeybees are important, y'all! Over the last 8 years, they have seen a significant collapse. In 2006, Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD, became a huge and mysterious killer of honeybees. Since the major collapse, CCD has killed 30% of the honeybee population each year. While many scientists and researchers now believe that it was a cyclical phenomena, possibly tied to certain pesticides, honeybees still aren't as abundant as they used to be, therefore putting our agriculture industry at risk. Could you imagine a life without apples, cherries, broccoli or any type of fresh produce? Or honey for that matter?!

Since then, many boutique apiaries have popped up across the globe. Everyday people raising honeybees to pollinate plants in hopes of improving the environment. Urban beekeeping boomed a few years ago utilizing rooftop space in big cities for bee hives and small gardens as people started to realize how important these relatively peaceful creatures are to securing our food supply. Also, people have realized all the health benefits that come from consuming raw, local honey, which unlike tupelo or clover honey, has a complex and dynamic taste as it comes from the nectar of a myriad of plants. It helps with allergies, is full of vitamins and minerals, and  has natural antibacterial and antiviral qualities. Mrs. Beverly advised us to start sipping a tablespoon of honey everyday before bed because it's best for our health and contains tryptophan which helps us sleep. On top of the many benefits of honeybees and their honey, these buzzing critters and their apiaries are some of the most sustainable beings and "farms" around! Here's the sustainable cycle that Mrs. Beverly experiences at her apiary:

  • The queen bee lays her eggs, or brood, to create drones (males) and worker bees (female),
  • These bees grow up to fertilize the brood or pollinate her garden,
  • Then they take the nectar to the hives in their nectar pockets, which then goes through the cycle of becoming honey,
  • Mrs. Beverly takes the hives apart to harvest the honey,
  • The wax is cut off and honey is extracted,
  • The honey gets bottled up to sell and the wax gets melted down for candles (some people like to make beauty products with it!),
  • The equipment used to extract the honey then gets put outside and the honeybees clean it spick and span as they eat up all the honey as one of their sources of food,
  • And the cycle starts again!
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Look at her just sucking up the sweet honey off of that glove!

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And we found the Queen Bee!

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Look at all the honey dripping down the sides of the extractor!

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The natural creation of something so geometrical like honeycomb just fascinates me.

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Mmmmmm, honey!

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That's a load of beeswax!

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Such an adorable little honeybee scooter for her grandbaby!

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Me and Beverly in her garden, followed of course, by an out of focus selfie!

For more information on the importance of the honeybee, in addition to the fight they are facing, check out some of the articles below:

  • http://www.backyardbeekeepers.com/facts.html
  • http://science.time.com/2014/02/13/can-urban-beekeeping-stop-the-beepocalypse/
  • http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130510-honeybee-bee-science-european-union-pesticides-colony-collapse-epa-science/
  • http://saveourbees.com/plight/
  • http://time.com/559/the-plight-of-the-honeybee/
  • http://www.swansonvitamins.com/blog/guest-authors-on-natural-health/raw-honey-the-complete-story

Hearts for Dance

_blogphotoLast summer, my awesome sister-in-law held her 2nd Hearts for Dance workshop. This dance camp invited disadvantaged hispanic girls from around Wayne County to come and finally learn how to be a ballerina. These girls are the most grateful and excited dancers ever. They sleep in their tutus, they've mastered the perfect ballet bun, and dance truly encompasses their hearts. As Tess and her crew at Dance for Christ live by, let us "praise His name through dance!" (Psalm 149:3). [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/72153079 w=500&h=281]

I took this on as a personal project after graduation. And a year later, due to (thankfully!) getting a job & a crazy first-year of marriage (loved it!), I finally have it finished! Personal projects are something that feeds your soul, and this project definitely brought me back to my photojournalism roots. I've dabbled quite a bit in fine art photography & design this past year, but it's good to know that my lovely professors pounded photojournalism, multimedia, and all the ethics to boot into my noggin! I'm so blessed to have been given a great education & even more blessed to get to use it on a daily basis at my job and as my stress reliever!

Finishing this project has been amazing. I find video to be a challenge, a puzzle, if you must. The tedious editing, the countless command+z's, and the final product are so very rewarding. I suppose it's because it's not as instant as digital photography, despite the fact that it's digital video. It's something you must work for and something you will cherish, more like film photography when you do it all yourself in the darkroom. It has to have an idea that is deeply conceived, than overly brainstormed, then creatively shot, then painstakingly edited & lastly, eagerly awaited to be uploaded to the internet. What a world we live in these days. This project has taught me to breathe. To take time for myself, and to remember my roots. It's something that I'm going to work more towards this year, becoming an all-around healthier person. I'm going to take the time to edit those old photos on my hard drive, I'm going to search for some new story to work on, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it because it's something I love to do! If you have thoughts on personal projects, or would like to continue the personal project conversation, leave me a comment & we'll talk!