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The only way to have a sustainable future is to create it . . .

Ubaka Hill

Ubaka Hill

Imagine. Women around the world gathering together for a global celebration.

Teacher and performer, Ubaka Hill, Founder of the Million Women Drummers Gathering, did just that. At the drumming event held on Oct. 13, 2013 in New Paltz, NY, Ubaka began by addressing the audience:

“This is a vision and it’s an intiative . . . This is our time. This is our turn. This is our legacy.” Drummers were encouraged to be mindful of the origins of drums and other musical instruments and respect the trees which were used to make them.

Although everyone was invited, the fact that the event focused on women’s power made it all the more unique. Led by several female vocalists, participants welcomed the four directions, turning to the East, South, West and finally, the North. While looking northward, we were encouraged to express our gratitude to the Mother, the divine feminine which has given us so much, including our very lives.

There was such incredible power coming from the voices of the the women who were leading us that it seemed as if they were breaking the sound barrier. The experience highlighted the potency of the human voice, out in the open and unhindered, calling out to the earth and sky. There was so much energy released that there can be no doubt of the vital spiritual tide that was created.

During the gathering, “Letters to the Future” were read, expressing the need to nourish and sustain the earth and to not take the trees or any part of our environment for granted.

IMAG0287Drumming together in the wide open field of the Ulster Fairgrounds, we were bonded in our commitment to be stewards of the earth, a necessary and formidable task in our current world climate. We were all given a ribbon to tie to nearby trees, creating a deeper connection to the life around us. Personal responsibility was one of the major goals stressed, as well as collectively uniting to protect our environment and to plant more trees to ensure that we replenish what has been taken.

Donna Coane, lead drummer of Spirit of Thunderheart, told us of a great prophecy.

When the tops of our maple trees die, the women will take back the drum.”

It appears that this time has come. Women are gathering throughout the world, keeping rhythm with the heart of the earth. Loving our world, giving back to nature, and respecting the feminine — the mother — which has sustained us in more ways than we can possibly imagine, is not only our duty but will be our legacy.

Spirit of Thunderheart

Spirit of Thunderheart


********

All Photos by Angelina Perri Birney

Cyrus Cylinder

IN THE SIXTH CENTURY BC, CYRUS THE GREAT OF PERSIA conquered the Middle East and a large part of Asia. Upon his entry into Babylon, he freed the many captive peoples found there. His magnanimous gesture liberated the Jewish nation and entitled her people to return to Jerusalem with their Temple treasures and begin rebuilding Solomon’s Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The Prophet Isaiah referred to Cyrus as “anointed by the Lord.”

Cyrus’ legacy as a humanitarian monarch continues to this day. Xenophon, a student of Socrates, wrote The Cyropaedia, a biography of Cyrus which extolled his virtues. Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar carried copies with them. America was directly founded under the benevolent monarch model offered by Cyrus’ example. Thomas Jefferson read the Cyropaedia frequently.

Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Cyropaedia

Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Cyropaedia

In 1879 a clay record of Cyrus’ decree was unearthed in the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq. Known today as the Cyrus Cylinder this priceless account has been referred to as “the first Bill of Rights.” Our very concept of religious tolerance and personal freedom dates to the mind of the Great Persian King. To liberate slaves of a conquered nation and restore their birthright was an extraordinary concept.

Cyrus’ empire, which we now call the Middle East, was a far-reaching ménage of different cultures and faiths. The Cyrus Cylinder decreed a paradigm for coexistence — a blueprint which established an enlightened order.

Now, in a historic tour sponsored by IHF America, the original Cyrus Cylinder is on loan to the United States from the British Museum. Beginning at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the Cylinder will be on display in Houston, New York, and San Francisco, concluding its visit in Los Angeles in early December 2013. This historic effort is the culmination of almost twenty years of work by the Iran Heritage Foundation.

In addition to the influence of the Cyropaedia on the US founding fathers, its core principles resonate with those of the United Nations. The high-minded concepts fathered by Cyrus in Persia thousands of years ago have found expression in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Brought to life by John Peters Humphrey and the UN Commission on Human Rights chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the Declaration was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

eleanor roosevelt - UDHR 2Disregard and contempt for Human Rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people… All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. - UDHR

In the aftermath of WWII, the United Nations created a Partition Plan for Palestine which called for an International Trusteeship for the city of Jerusalem. This plan was never given the chance to be implemented. In essence, the blueprint to create two states, with Jerusalem under UN auspices as a religious center for all faiths, was thwarted before it could be realized. Unfortunately for both Arabs and Jews, as well as the world at large, we have all lived with the tragic result.

Originally opposed to the creation of Israel, Eleanor Roosevelt reversed her position when faced with the sad realization that the world community was refusing to allow immigration for the victims of Hitler’s nightmare. The United States itself refused sanctuary after the war just as it had before the conflict. Eleanor supported the Partition Plan and was appalled when the Arab states refused to accept the two state solution.

As the clock ticked down toward the expiration of the British Mandate in Palestine in May of 1948, and under pressure to finalize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor reached a tipping point when George C. Marshall’s State Department reversed its policy at the final moment and chose to appease the oil-producing states and oppose partition of Palestine. Eleanor then decided to resign from the US delegation to the UN. She famously stated in her letter to President Truman, “I cannot believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.” Truman did not accept her resignation. But Eleanor realized, ahead of her time, that the United States’ refusal to back the Partition, which included international status for Jerusalem, would critically weaken the credibility of the UN and place the region itself in an untenable situation with regard to long-term stability.

The current Middle East fiasco should defer us once once again to Cyrus the Great for a history lesson. Cyrus’ vision of leadership was a forerunner to the UN 1947 resolution for the future of Palestine. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum stated, “Cyrus set up a model of how you run a great multinational, multifaith, multicultural society . . . It left a dream of the Middle East as a unit, and a unit where people of different faiths could live together.”

Today we must revive that dream or, as history has already chronicled, face disastrous results. Just as a strain of music creates a distinct melody through repetition, we now hear clearly — yet again — the strains of war in the Middle East. It is time for a new refrain, in vision and deed.

Building upon Cyrus’ model, creating a social order which allows the expression of individual cultures and faiths is the avenue to peaceful co-existence and governance. Our present-day Middle East drama calls for us to recognize that we already have the seed for fostering that co-existence. Creating an international peace zone within the Old City of Jerusalem is the key. Those in the United Nations who originally conceived this idea were expressing the wisdom of governance by recognizing that a leap was necessary to actualize peace in the region. They were well aware that the area was of monumental importance to three world religions and that stabilizing Jerusalem was essential to maintaining peace.

               Jerusalem, sacred to the three great monotheistic religions, stands for something higher and more sublime than nationalism. It stands for the ideal which lies behind the very creation of the United Nations itself. Any attempt to oppose by force the internationalization of Jerusalem would be an affront to civilized men everywhere.” — From a letter sent by Reverend Charles T. Bridgeman, former Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, to the President of the UN Trusteeship Council in January 1950

In his book, The Temple at Jerusalem: a Revelation, John Michell recognized the Old City of Jerusalem itself as the Temple. He saw it as the convergence point for all peoples of all cultures and faiths — Jewish, Muslim, Christian, as well as other spiritual traditions — to unite in peace, a United Nations for all religions.

Pure Vision covThat very concept, expounded by political and religious leaders throughout the world as well as by writers such as John Michell, has found expression through the arts. PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation is a novel based on a return to this noble ideal. With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the creation of an international peace zone within Jerusalem as foundational elements, Pure Vision sparks a transformative dialogue. The aim is simple. Once openly discussed, powerful ideas reshape reality.

As Neil MacGregor, Director of the British museum asks, “What story of the Middle East, what story of the world, do you want to see reflecting what is said, what is expressed in this cylinder?”

That question resounds with a fundamental answer — human rights for all. The dramatic tale of the Middle East can change radically, as it has in the past. A region of trauma can once again be transformed into a land where religious freedom and individual dignity is honored. Then Jerusalem can finally become what it is meant to be: The City of Peace.

*****

Article written by Angelina Perri Birney and Lawrence Birney

               ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME – onebillionrising.org

One Billion Rising -logo-webOn February 14, 2013, V-Day celebrates its 15th Anniversary. Valentine’s day and V-Day — it makes sense. What better day for hearts to rise in unison as one global voice, refusing to accept violence against women and girls. This revolutionary movement is a much needed wake-up call for those who have complacently accepted the atrocities.

Imagine one billion women and those who support them rising together in a global strike, dancing together in the streets in an act of solidarity. Sounds crazy? Well, may it is. You don’t gain attention by being dainty or by conforming to the status quo. A wild dance party, a planetary flash dance, will definitely strike a chord. Want to join in and support the cause? Then get the One Billion Rising toolkit.

As Eve Ensler, V-Day founder, stated in a 2012 Huffington Post article: Today 1 out of 3 women in the world — more than 1 billion women — will be raped or beaten. As economies collapse and the 99 percent struggles with less and less, as global warming increases, and fires, floods, drought abound, the violence against women and girls increases. They become targets. They become commodities, sold in many places for less than a cell phone.

The thought that women’s and girls’ lives have such little value in so many areas around the world is one that should knock us off our duffs. In an age of internet, blogs, and videos we still need to take serious objectives to the streets. Eve is simply in tune with what’s already happening on a planetary scale. Women are coming to the fore because they need to. It’s a wave that’s been building — a powerful force that we need to ride. So let’s get visible. Let’s be heard. Let’s start . . . dancing!

One Billion Rising video

One Billion Rising video

Break the Chain
Lyrics by Tena Clark
Music by Tena Clark/Tim Heintz

Intro-
I raise my arms to the sky
On my knees I pray
I’m not afraid anymore
I will walk through that door
Walk, dance, rise
Walk, dance, rise

I can see a world where we all live
Safe and free from all oppression
No more rape or incest, or abuse
Women are not a possession

You’ve never owned me, don’t even know me I’m not invisible, I’m simply wonderful I feel my heart for the first time racing I feel alive, I feel so amazing

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain
Dance, rise
Dance, rise

In the middle of this madness, we will stand I know there is a better world Take your sisters & your brothers by the hand Reach out to every woman & girl

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
It’s time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Dance Break Inst.

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise x4

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise x4

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

(Repeat chorus)

******

front cover.inddJust as music is a powerful tool to create change so are films and books. Imagine one billion women rising to create an international peace zone. That’s exactly what happens in the novel, PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation by Perri Birney.

“Birney infuses this epic novel with feminine echoes of The Da Vinci Code and The Red Tent, with her eyes on the prize of world peace.” - Chronogram

PURE VISION is available in print and as an eBook on Amazon U.S, Amazon UK, Amazon CANADA, Amazon GERMANY, Amazon ITALY, Amazon FRANCE, Amazon SPAIN, Amazon JAPAN, Amazon INDIA, Amazon BRAZIL, Amazon MEXICO, Amazon AUSTRALIA, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple.

Angelina Perri Birney:

My interview with Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK Women for Peace, has been published in the McGraw-Hill Anthology, WOMEN: Images & Realities. I am truly honored and happy to be part of such a wonderful publication which includes writers such as Betty Friedan, Bell Hooks, Naomi Wolf, and a host of others who I greatly admire. — Angelina Perri Birney

Originally posted on Pure Vision:

       Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That’s their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood.  — Gloria Steinem

Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK

A radical, a crazed lunatic, unpatriotic, a communist. . . perhaps even a sorceress.  

Strong women speaking truth to power have always received some form of derogatory press. By the time either the media or more conservative, political zealots are through, an outspoken intelligent woman can be portrayed as the next Medusa.  

Medea Benjamin is no exception to the rule. Brushing past the slurs, an intelligent observer quickly concludes that Medea is no ordinary woman. With a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University and another in economics from the The New School, Medea has worked as an economist and nutritionist in Latin…

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Angelina Perri Birney:

The empowerment of women and girls is essential for a more just and balanced world. Let’s create real change — a new paradigm where girls are valued and given a fair chance to flourish.

Originally posted on Girls' Globe:

Author of this post is Elisabeth Jessop, the U.S: Delegate at the G(irks) 20 Summit. 

I’m number 4,541. What’s your number?

There are 3.5 billion women and girls in the world…and therefore, 3.5 billion ways to change the world.

And I will be the change. I will be an advocate and an inspiration to girls and women around the world.

In about three weeks, the G20 summit will take place in Mexico where the world’s most influential leaders will make important decisions regarding economic investment and policy that affects women and girls.

The G(irls)20 Summit brings together one girl, aged 18 to 20, from each G20 country and one girl from the African Union, to discuss the economic impact women and girls have on the global economy. On the agenda this year, the summit focused on food security and violence against women in terms of opportunity gained and lost.

All delegates of…

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                  The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power. -- Toni Morrison

Angelina Perri Birney

With women’s movements around the world on the rise, one must ask a fundamental question: What’s missing from our political, economic, social and educational systems that needs fixing? As the author of this blog, Powerful Women Changing the World, I have interviewed many women, prominent in their fields — Marie C. Wilson of The White House Project, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau of eTalk, Almas Jiwani of UN Women Canada, and Madeline Di Nonno of the Geena Davis Institute, among them — who have all expressed the obvious. The lack of women in leadership roles means a waste of talent, skill, and insight.

I would like to deepen this perspective a bit further. Feminine power has been disregarded and that negligence has led to the imbalance we’re collectively experiencing. We see it everywhere — in religious institutions, government policies, business sectors and peace initiatives. Somewhere along the line we have gotten confused, believing that a masculine approach is stronger and will guarantee the attainment of our goals. But experience informs us otherwise. Many so-called “victories” have been short-lived and we find ourselves in fruitless cycles, using some form of aggression or dominance to resolve our difficulties. Without properly regarding the feminine we ultimately lose, no matter how often or how hard we fight. It’s only when the masculine and the feminine work together that we can reach any sane or lasting solutions. That’s why it’s so important for men, as well as women, to accept, respect and confirm that which is feminine in themselves so the issue of feminine power doesn’t become a women vs. men type of thing, but rather a blending that is beneficial to both. With that perspective, the uplifting of women around the globe is not a threatening issue, but one that is empowering to all.

In my novel, PURE VISION, feminine power is revealed as the driving force necessary to change the world and balance out the more masculine energies we’ve been predominantly working with. The book has a unique storyline, weaving myth, history, and political intrigue. It also introduces a strong and powerful female character, Maggie Seline, who is persecuted for of her beliefs. My husband, Lawrence, and I began writing the book ten years ago, and it metamorphosized dramatically along the way. There’s plenty of unexpected twists to the plot, so it’s entertaining, and yet at the same time, it really inspires you to think and envision something greater. PURE VISION sets you on an adventure — women from all over the world march toward creating an international peace zone — so plenty of action against a backdrop of current and historical events.

I’ve also been asked what inspired me to write this particular story. So much of the conflict we’re seeing around the world makes you stop and think about how we can all make a difference. When I hear about and see people hurt by the ravages of war, there’s a part of me that knows I can’t just bury my head in the sand. In my own case, I know I can communicate a story in an entertaining way and be able to reach a wide audience. So that’s how it started. I felt the need to express powerful ideals in a way that gave everyone room to think. When I actually began writing, I was inspired by the stories of great leaders — men and women such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi, and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia — who stood against all odds because they had a vision of peace and decency.

There’s also a real need in the world for strong women characters, both in everyday life and in fiction. I believe PURE VISION fulfills that need by providing an intelligent, resourceful, larger-than-life female protagonist who is a force to be reckoned with. On a grander scale, I believe the novel recognizes that feminine energy must to be embraced — whether we’re male or female — in order to create a more balanced world. The story also creates a space where we can look at our problems in a new light. Instead of using old, worn-out methods like political divides and military force to attain resolution, we need to include spiritual or higher-minded means in our efforts.

Art is such a powerful tool and artists are always using it to create change. My hope is that PURE VISION makes its mark and transforms readers, inspiring them to support an ideal beyond division and blame — a vision of peace.

PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation

If you thrive on unraveling mysteries and discovering threatening secrets like those found in Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code, then Pure Vision is a must read. The novel’s additional ingredient of social conscience and an ending that stimulates readers to create a new paradigm makes it all the more powerful and explosive — a contemporary statement meant to move you out of your mind and onto the street.

Available from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple iTunes

Author’s Website: perribirney.com

Genre:  Fiction, Action/Adventure, Thriller

Reviews:

“A thrill ride in the vein of The Da Vinci Code but with a much larger vision for all of us. The alchemy is part historic fiction, part spiritual adventure, and a variety of interfaith metaphysics that metamorphosize into a golden vision of world peace . . . a page turner.” – Paul Hertel, Whole Living

Presents a fascinating story full of intrigue and history. Birney’s fiction seamlessly blends science and religion into a tale worthy of Indiana Jones . . . The book left this reader confident that idealism is not dead and that, sometimes, it can be the road map by which we might save ourselves. – Cynthia Warren, Daily Freeman

Birney infuses this epic novel with feminine echoes of The Da Vinci Code and The Red Tent, with her eyes on the prize of world peace. Reporter Maggie Seline courts controversy by championing an international Jerusalem . . . when she disappears women around the globe march for peace . . . powerful men vie for two ancient artifacts.” – Chronogram

******

With a Master’s degree in English Education from NYU and a B.A. in Writing and Communications, Angelina Perri Birney has also been trained in the Tibetan Buddhist lama tradition and completed a three-year retreat. While traveling extensively throughout Tibet, Nepal and India, she experienced the rich cultures and spiritual traditions practiced in these lands. She received teachings on the various myths explored within Pure Vision, in particular that of Shambhala, from several eminent teachers including the Dalai Lama. Angelina is also an alumna of the White House Project, an organization which promotes women’s advancement and leadership. In addition to her blog, Powerful Women Changing the World, Angelina’s work has also been published in the McGraw-Hill anthology, Women: Images and Realities (2011).

     Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that. Aretha Franklin

Belinda Brady

Belinda Brady knows the power of voice. A two time Juno Nominee for her hit singles “Flex” and “Gifted Man” she has also won the Canadian Urban Music Award for “Too Late” (1999) for best R&B single. The singer-songwriter has proven to be a woman who has designed her own course. Presently, the world’s the stage as far as Belinda is concerned, and she is ready and able to deliver her music onto a global platform.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, her artistry was influenced right from the start by parents who were deeply involved in the music business.

“My father, Carl Brady, was one of the founding members of a very famous calypso soca band by the name of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires,” Belinda states. “So I grew up being around the band and around the music. My mom was actually a dancer and traveled across the Caribbean and all across the world with them. Her name was Madame Wasp. My parents inspired me tremendously in terms of wanting to be a recording artist and wanting to be involved in the music business. I just loved the excitement and loved going up on stage seeing my mom and dad. I was always in awe when I saw my dad performing.”

Belinda eventually joined the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company where she was able to hone her craft as a singer, dancer and as an actress.

“I learned a lot from the theatre, but my first professional gig was with soca queen Denyse Plummer from Trinidad,” Belinda recalls. “I think I was seventeen years old at the time, and she asked me to come and sing and dance with her. That was really fascinating. The first show I did was one of the biggest festivals in Jamaica called Reggae Sunsplash. They’re no longer around, but it was one of the most prestigious festivals, and I had the opportunity to perform there.”

Her career beginning to blossom, Belinda graduated from Hillel Academy, an international school in Jamaica. “That was another great experience. At school we had a lot of foreign students, and it was a very diverse environment. We were interacting with people from all over the world, so that alone was setting up the stage for my launch outside of Jamaica.”

As Belinda explains, her mother also made a pivotal decision at that time — a choice that catapulted Belinda into a new world. “I’m the youngest out of eight. So wherever my mom went, I thought ‘I’ve gotta go.’ She decided to move to Canada to start a new life, and after I graduated from Hillel I decided to go there.” Belinda remarks how she wanted to get her OEC as well as attend York University. “I had it all planned out.”

But life, Belinda muses, doesn’t always go exactly as intended. To her surprise, new doors began to open. “You have to just go with the flow or with the path that has chosen you as opposed to the path that you’ve chosen. I was offered an opportunity to work with a very famous recording artist by the name of Shaggy. I traveled the world with him — to Asia, to the UK, and we did promotional shows in the States.”

Belinda remembers her travels with Shaggy vividly. “I’d be dancing on the stage in front of 10,000 people, telling them to wave their hands left to right. It was such a powerful, inspiring and enlightening experience. And I never forgot how that was an Aha moment in my life — about the power that one has in front of all those people and what you can do with that power, good or bad.”

Along with the ecstatic moments, Belinda has faced her own struggles as a musician. Like many female artists, she’s encountered difficulties in an industry that is still male-oriented and tends to package female singers by sexualizing them. Belinda clearly recognized the pitfalls and relates how she had to make some life-changing decisions in order to steer clear of the “sex object” trap.

“I must say that in the beginning, I had no clue. I was so naïve, and everything was being handed to me on a silver platter until the point that I decided to leave the Shaggy core to become a solo artist.” With a strong desire to strike out on her own, Belinda envisioned herself making it to the top, performing in Spain and Paris and many of the places she had previously visited with Shaggy. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t the reality. I had a lot of challenges as a female with wanting producers to take me seriously. I’m not saying with all of them, but with many. In Jamaica, unfortunately, the music industry is very male-dominated.”

Some producers Belinda encountered didn’t toe the professional line, but instead wanted to pursue a relationship. “It became like you work with me, but we also have to get involved intimately, and that wasn’t the direction I wanted to take. My parents showed me a life where I didn’t need to make that choice, so I walked away. I walked away from many opportunities.”

Belinda also notes she confronted similar issues even in Canada — producers and other music business professionals who did not want to speak to the artist directly, and in the case of female musicians, who wanted to strike up a more intimate relationship with them while working. “That was always the issue. There was no longevity in terms of doing a project from start to finish.”

What Belinda describes is quite a common experience for female artists. Many still deal with outdated concepts about which instruments are acceptable for them to play. They still confront not being taken as seriously as their male counterparts. And, big surprise, they’re still portrayed as sex objects.

So the next step, as Belinda describes, was to take matters into her own hands. “At this point in my career, I decided I’m not going to knock on a producer’s or a manager’s door and ask him to work with me. As an independent artist, I’m going to fund my own projects.” Belinda conveys a strong stance. “You have to take control of your situation as opposed to allowing other people to take it for you or to bring you to the finishing line, because if you do, you’ll be waiting forever.”

Belinda also gives credit to her former manager, Canadian Idol judge Farley Flex, for ushering her to the next plateau in her career. “Although he’s no longer my manager, he took me to a level where I developed the strength within to say, ‘You know, I’ve done some great work.’ He gave me the platform to be myself, which is a diverse artist.”

Independent and steering her own path, Belinda found investing in herself key to her professional development. “That’s one thing I’d like to put out there for any artist. This is a business, and you’ve got to invest in your craft. And yes, you will lose but you will also win. There’s fulfillment within it if you plan it right. So now here I am as an independent artist, and as a woman, feeling very fulfilled with the choices that I’ve made and the team that I’ve created around me.”

Belinda’s unique vision also includes being true to herself with regard to her musical style. She flows easily between the genres — Rock, Pop, R&B, Folk and Reggae — influenced by artists such as Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin, India Arie and Alanis Morissette. Her musical canvas is broad, and Belinda likes it that way. As she notes, being eclectic provides her the freedom to connect to a wide audience.

“I think I write for everybody,” Belinda states, “and it’s from the heart. Coming from Jamaica, people think, ‘Oh she’s just reggae, just reggae.’ But no, the first song that I wrote was a folk song. I was in England . . . and I wrote a folk song! I didn’t even know how to write reggae, and I had to be trained how to do that. I  loved heavy metal, and I also loved Salt-N-Pepa.”

A versatile artist, Belinda’s music doesn’t lend itself to being neatly categorized. “The album I had done with Farley Flex was very diverse. I had reggae on it. I had rock and folk, and I had R&B. Unfortunately, the music industry had no idea what to do with it,” she reflects. “It’s about the marketing and the target market, and they don’t believe that certain markets can cross over. But I think they’re absolutely wrong because there are artists out there that have done it. What I think they’re saying is that you have to be established in the beginning and grow a fan base and then you can cross over like, for example, Shania Twain or Whitney Houston. So I was always the artist that was developing and they were always saying Stay here, no stay here.”

But Belinda was not about to stay here for too long. She enjoys diversity. It’s who she is. “I think I was ahead of myself, so they say,” Belinda reflects, “at least in theory.”

But perhaps she’s no longer ahead of her time, but right on game. What the music industry could not wrap its collective head around in the past may be what will change it for the better today. A little renovation is due. It may be time to alter the music scene, change the playing field if you will, so musicians, women as well as men, can express their art without being bound by the same old rules. Could adding more women leaders to the music industry make a difference?

“I think we need more role models — women who are successful in the music business — to inspire the younger generation, to help them understand that there are different ways other than getting intimate with a producer or selling your body to do this. You can use your mind and educate yourself. That’s why role models are important. We can go out and we can educate the younger generation to feel inspired, to know that as a recording artist you can be respected, and as a business professional in the music industry you can be successful. We can also let them know there are other avenues within the industry where you can actually make a good income as well.”

As Belinda moves forward, performing at forums such as Amazing Woman’s Day and more recently on International Women’s Day as well as at the UN Women Canada event at CBC, Progress of the World’s Women, she highlights her commitment to humanitarian issues, including women’s empowerment.

“Well, I have to tell you that my life changed when I performed at Amazing Woman’s Day when I saw three hundred women standing up, crying and clapping and feeling so inspired. I thought, ‘This is the reason why my God wants me to do this. I need to be here on this earth to inspire people, and not just women. I am a vehicle, and as a vehicle I’m going to spread a positive message. I’m going to touch the soul.’ And I touched souls that day. I realized that is my path, that is my purpose, and that is my journey. So when I was invited by UN Women Canada to sing, I said ‘Absolutely, yes. I would love to be a part of your forum.’ I would love to serve my purpose — as a woman, as a messenger, and as a vehicle through song.”

And there’s no doubt that Belinda is definitely inspiring women to feel their own sense of power.

“I really feel that when I perform, I’m helping women feel empowered and know that they can do whatever they want to do. When it comes to the message I bring and the words I sing, I really want them to feel it. I want them to hear it. I want them to know that they can live it,” Belinda asserts. “I want to hit home for people and help them feel empowered and enlightened and know that they have the strength within to accomplish whatever dream they may have — whether that’s to be happy, whether it’s to find the right career, or whether it’s to live this life with contentment. My goal is to touch them so they can feel the light within.”

Yet, as many of us know, being in touch with that light is only part of the journey. Belinda offers some words of encouragement about pursuing your dreams and being yourself, no matter what.

“I think it all starts with self and I had to learn that,” she relates. “I went to self-development courses. I read A New Earth and The Power of Now (by Eckhart Tolle) and also Tony Robbins’ work. I hadn’t the confidence in myself to know that I could have this internal strength, that I could see the light and be enlightened as to what my purpose was on this earth. So it all starts in the core with finding the truth of who you are, accepting that truth, feeling joy, and moving on from the joy to executing what you truly want in this life.”

Listening to Belinda, one can’t help but feel her enthusiasm. She not only talks the talk but is determined to go the distance, expressing excitement about the new album she’s currently developing. “FACTOR (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings) is an agency that allows Canadian artists to pursue their dreams and they funded me. My project manager, Aisha Wickham Thomas, wrote a grant proposal, and we received a grant to do the album as well as to execute a marketing plan. So because of the funding assistance from this organization, I’m in the position to go into the studio to do a pop-electro album. It’s going to be really exciting because of all the positive things that are going to come out of it. I can’t wait to share it with the world. I really can’t.”

And just what are the themes that are moving Belinda’s music these days?

“I’m in a place where I don’t want to write about negativity,” Belinda states matter-of-factly. “I think this album’s direction should be about enlightenment and empowerment. It doesn’t matter through what type of music – it could be reggae, it could be folk – I’ve chosen pop-electro for this one. The message will be parallel in every song. It’s going to be positive and it’s going to be powerful. How do you feel within? It’s going to drive that light from inside. I’m so excited just talking about it. I’m going to be writing a lot this year, and that will be the common thread — positive music, positive lyrics.”

Belinda mentions a particular song she wrote, You’re So Amazing, that highlights her own state of mind as well as connects to the sense of inner power she wishes to evoke in her audience. “I was inspired by my mother who is my hero. To see how she’s gone through her challenges and her triumphs in life just inspired me to write this song. Here’s a few lines I wanted to share that a lot of women can relate to:

She’s a mother, a teacher, a healer too.

She’s not perfect, but she’s always true.

She’s a hero I see in you.

The higher she climbs, the further she soars . . .

“You see,” Belinda mentions, “the higher she climbs, the further she soars. That is the life of my mother. And a lot of women can absolutely relate to that. The higher you climb, the further you soar. Just don’t give up.”

Traveling her own path as a singer and songwriter, Belinda has chosen not to take the easy road to success, and giving up was never an option. Along the way, she’s recognized that to be truly clear about your purpose, a woman has to discover her authentic self.

“Go back to the core and really work on that,” Belinda emphasizes. “If it’s through inspirational books or inspirational tapes, if it’s by praying and giving total gratitude to a higher power, whoever your higher power is, you’ll find the answer. I promise you that. When we continually give gratitude for even the little opportunities in life, it will erase the fear. It will open the door to the light for us to understand our true self.”

And, as Belinda affirms,”We can then plan an enlightened life, an empowered life. That is the message.”

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Find out more about the artist and her music at BelindaBrady.com
All photos used by permission.

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