LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: YEAR 4

I woke up around 5:50am this morning. I meditated for about 20 minutes, listened to Bob Marley (“Three Little Birds” has been the morning theme song this week), and had a cup of tea with my aunt. We talked about our dreams and synchronicities and what we think it all means. Today is my mother’s birthday, so it’s one of my favorite days of the year… And it’s also the day I launched the DARLA website, 4 years ago (September 22).

As I drove across the Walt Whitman Bridge, with a view of the clouds swaying with the sun rays, I thought a lot about the past year of doing work for projectDARLA and how it’s brought me to where I am today. Just last night, itself could give a lot of insight to my feelings of gratitude for this time. I did a photoshoot with Scott Phillips (@flicksbyscott) for my official author portraits — I just finished my first poetry notebook compilation that’s been written over the journeys of 9 years + Scott is always a fun photographer to work with! Then I headed to the first #HeyWeCollab art show and met Dina Baez + Nikki Moon who I had the opportunity to interview back in February. Just like their purpose for starting #HeyWeCollab, the event put an emphasis on the power of collaboration and paid tribute to various forms of art including painting, music, poetry, culinary, and holistic self-care. The world can seem like a really tough place to be in these days, so it felt really good to share a space with so many people using art as a way to express themselves, raise awareness, and make money at the same time.

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I’ve had some really enlightening conversations with artists and creators during year 3 of being the Editor of projectDARLA.com (originally DARLA Magazine). It started off with an introduction to Women.Weed.Wifi, a Seattle-based collective that aims to heal and teach through cannabis and spiritual practices. Then I got to talk to the CEO of Natur-all Club, Muhga Eltigani, about how she implements a subscription-based business model to deliver fresh-fruit hair care products to all curly hair types. In October, I was sent an informational guide to healing crystals — Crystal Bliss by Devi Brown along with a gifted bag of healing crystals. The book was filled with stories and affirmations that I seriously needed to read at the time, and it has helped me these past months in countless ways.

Adrienne, projectDARLA’s Social Media Manager, launched a new column called the #SelfCareSeries to focus on the importance of understanding self-care and developing a routine that’s right for us individually. She also contributed some amazing interviews with creatives including The Fourtress from Brooklyn, financial advisor + blogger Khadijah Bingham (Money Honey) and Chicago-based rapper, Femdot.

Working with Adrienne on so many different projects and missions is one of the biggest highlights… And it’s also been a blessing to work with other contributors who have submitted personal reflections + interviews to DARLA. Also, my team of friends who support me in attending events and photoshoots… They are all a major part of what keeps me motivated every week, despite any challenges I face.

In November, I met singer-songwriter Ricki and her producer Troy Baker in NYC. She shared stories with me about what it’s like living in Jamaica, how she got into making music, and her passion for painting. I took photos of her on a rooftop in Midtown, and got to hear her deliver some acoustic vocals in preparation for another interview in the city. This particular day meant a lot to me, because it was a moment that really made me happy to be a writer in this position. I believe that art and love is what changes the world for the better, and any time I am able to meet an artist and learn about their love for their craft and fulfilling their purpose feels aligned with my own. Also, this day was the smoothest I was ever able to get in and out of New York City… This current Lyft era is really a wonderful life.

To be honest, I spent all of December in the hospital battling with a health condition. It was a really tough time but I managed to make it through… And I am very very grateful for that. Also even more grateful that when I was finally able to get home, it was to a book from my mother + uncle — Medical Medium by Anthony William. This guide provided me with information on how to heal from the very condition I had been struggling with, and how to do it holistically. I’ve been drinking celery juice, wild blueberry + banana smoothies and meditating ever since.

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In January, I talked to Ali O’Grady from Oakland California — she’s the CEO of Thoughtful Human which is a sustainable greeting card company with an empathetic approach to communicating during challenging life circumstances such as cancer, addiction, grief, and depression.

At the end of this month, my uncle bought me a plane ticket to visit him in Denver where I took a trip to the first black-owned marijuana dispensary, journeyed into vlogging (a short-lived experience), and ate lots of food.

In February THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES WON THE SUPERBOWL FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER?! + DARLA launched the #14DaysofLOVE Project where a group of artists shared how they incorporate love into what they create, and what love means to them.

The following month I connected with photographer Ashley Osborne, to learn about her journey as an LA-based creative. At the time, she was working in social media for the OWN Network, booking campaigns and projects as a freelancer, and preparing to publish her debut photography book called Reclaiming The “Mother Road,” starring two black models traveling along Route 66.

Later on that month, we were invited to Alex Vaughn’s Send-off Party, where she put on her last performance in her home city Washington D.C. before moving to Los Angeles to create new music. She announced that her upcoming project will be titled, The Shift which seems like it will be right on point for what she’ll be expressing through her song writings.

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In April, I interviewed Singer/Actress, Kayla Briana about her budding career and inspirations. Later on, DARLA collaborated with Philly-based sunglass boutique Elephant Eyes on a special feature about keeping our career visions in-tact, in style…. Then we spent 420 with Kush & Cute, a cannabis-infused skincare line. Creator, Iyanna Edouard, introduced us to ways cannabis can help people suffering with a wide range of ailments from PTSD, acne, and menstrual cramping.

In May, we caught up with Italian singer/songwriter, Cristina Lizzul to hear about what she’s been doing during her break from releasing music and the inspiration behind her upcoming project. Over time, she’s given us a lot of insight to her self-care routines, personal experiences juggling a career in music and acting, and her creative process for writing.

I had the chance to meet Priscilla Renea during her Philly show of her first solo tour. She’s an artist I’ve been listening to since I was a teenager (I for sure had her song, “Lovesick” on my MySpace page) and it was really amazing to learn that although she wasn’t putting out music for a long time, she was writing songs for artists like Mariah Carey and Rihanna. At the show at Bourbon & Branch on 2nd street, I was able to get an advanced preview to her project, Coloured, which is her first country studio album.

During the spring and summer, I reviewed a children’s book by author Maria Wills and interviewed her about her career as a writer and empowering podcast host. I also attended the trapXart Philly event with @FlicksbyScott and wrote a piece on how the traveling art exhibition is bringing a creative hustle the nightclub scene.

On one beautiful Friday afternoon, I met up with my friend, Gabe Massalley, to converse about all he’s been doing with his lifestyle brand Status Apparel DC. It was inspiring to hear about how he’s been building his own business while working full-time in the architecture industry. He puts forth a big effort towards making positive contributions in his community, organizing events like charity drives and pop-up shops.

DARLA’s latest published interview features Imanî Scott, who started her own record label and fully dedicated her time to pursuing a career in music upon graduating from college. She told me her motivation for creating uplifting sounds and how she takes care of herself while she’s in project + grind mode.

I may not do this as often as I should… Reflect on the work I’ve been creating… Mainly because I always feel like I could be doing more, that I should be doing more. But this morning… I can truly say “Wow, Tor — you’ve really been doing just the right things.”

It kind of feels like those 11:11 wishes and conversations with the stars are starting to manifest. Not only have I found a way to nurture my love for writing, and journalism, and creating… But I’ve learned more effective ways to nurture my body, which is something I’ve been praying for.

It’s 11:55am now, and I feel like everything is going to be alright as long as I keep pushing, as long as I keep the faith alive and don’t let fear get in the way. This is the same feeling I felt the morning I was inspired to create DARLA, a project named after my late aunt who my family lost to breast cancer in 2004.

These stories I’ve been graced with, from all these unique souls using creativity and their experiences to make a transformative impact on the world, have only inspired me even more…. I’m very much looking forward to Year 4.

Thank you for reading.