Anguilla
VIBE/ Stacy-Ann Ellis

Take Us Back: Going To Anguilla For Moonsplash Festival Will Have You Coming Back For More

An inaugural trip to Anguilla for Bankie Banx Moonsplash Festival caused a deep longing for a return trip ASAP.

"You musta think I dumb, diddy diddy dumb dumb/You can run around and then when ya wan’ done/Just give me a call expecting to run come.” The sweet, lilted words breezed past my balcony at CuisinArt Resort, where the day’s balminess and dwindling bits of sunshine traded places with crisp air brought on by the full moon and Rendezvous Bay waves. The refrain continued, this time with the oohs and aahs of background singers filling in the honeyed undertones of "Dumb," Anguillian artist Natty AXA's single, one of the first songs Moonsplash Festival attendees would hear over the three-day period. Sound check, aka a free concert, was almost over and the beginning of the sprinkle of gems Anguilla had to offer was just beginning.

I came to the British territory—a 35-mile landmass sharing nautical space with cruise stop Saint-Martin and celeb getaway St. Baarth’s—to take in the sounds of Bankie Banx Moonsplash, a two and a half day celebration of the more relaxed offerings of Caribbean music. But I left with not only a Serene piece of mind, full belly, a golden glow and a new roster of artists to put in my SoundCloud rotation, but a yearning to come back before I even stepped foot on the plane back to New York.

Moonsplash was unlike any other fest I've been to before. Hosted at Anguillian legend Bankie Banx’s Dune Preserve property, it's the farthest thing from extravagant in the best way possible. For 26 years, Banx & Co. have been curating lineups of Caribbean artists both native and from just across the clear cerulean waters. This year brought out the likes of Iba Mahr, Tony Rebel, Queen Ifrica, British Dependency, Natty AXA, Mighty Mystic, Connis, Charlie B, True Intentions and Banks' own offspring Omari and Tahirah Banks. In addition to himself, that is. Banx is the primary headliner, but only by so much.

Last year, Justin Bieber happened to be staying close to the Dune and popped up on stage for a jam session. A few years before that, John Mayer blessed the mic in the same spontaneous, easygoing fashion. At Moonsplash, when the artists finished their sets, each of which would include anywhere from 5-10 full songs (lengthy for non-headliners by U.S. festival standards), they'd grab a drink, spliff or snack and roam around the crowd, chilling. No fan swarms followed. Just communal exchanges, hugs and a few cell phone snapshots.

This easygoing atmosphere is applicable to nearly all the goings on of Anguilla. Noel Mignott, President of Portfolio Marketing Group and Anguilla frequenter, said it best: “Anguilla is not for the tourist. It is for the traveler.” The seasoned traveler at that. There aren't any all-inclusive hotels or evidence of mass-marketing tourism. This is not where you come for noise and street curb belligerence or for jet skis, parasailing and other obnoxious water sports. You do not come here clutching purses and looking over your shoulders or expecting get your hair braided on the beach. This is not the place for anything remotely close to fast food or other signifiers of constantly living in a hurry (Subway sandwiches was the only American chain restaurant on the island, and according to a notable chef on the island, it won't be there too long). Here, tucked at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea, is where luxury, comfort and culture meet.

The island's residents and those curious to escape their own lives to slip away into the Anguillian scenery mix in a refreshing way when it comes to upscale getaway spots. Resorts are like CuisinArt Resort and Spa and The Viceroy are top notch with immaculate grounds, but the people manning the grounds feel more like family than employees. Beggars and hustlers are as uncommon as any sort of attitudes or sass from those offering the hospitality. The same places outsiders go to get away from it all—Sandy Island and Little Bay are absolute must-sees—are the same places everybody else on the island frequent. Natives aren't shut out; visitors don't stay boxed in.

For my five days traipsing from Sandy Ground to The Valley to Scilly Cay, everything felt like a dream. Although I’m grateful for all that I have back in the States, I can’t say that I’m accustomed to “the finer things in life.” Anguilla gave me just the taste I needed. Here’s a breakdown of all the things that made the country demand a second trip out of me.

 

Moonsplash provided a new knowledge and prompted a deeper appreciation for local Caribbean artists.

It's not always about snatching up the biggest names you can get for a festival; it's about getting the best ones for the appropriate vibe. As a Caribbean-American, I can't say that I was too familiar with Natty AXA, Mighty Mystic, Omari Banks or even Bankie Banx prior to Moonsplash, but when I saw them all hit the stage, the groove I fell into was instant. The energy was palpable. The people swaying their bodies around Bankie Banx's Dune Preserve—high off life and tree, alike—genuinely feel connected to these artists, not stanning out and screaming like attendees at American fests do.

Whether Omari Banks was performing singles like "Me & You" and "No Point to Prove," or paying tribute to the newly fallen Prince via his iconic "Purple Rain," the front of the stage was always occupied by attendees with outstretched arms, bobbing heads and full spirits. Jamaica-born Mystic literally braved a downpour like a rockstar, keeping people from retreating with "Cali Green" and "Revolution." Anguillan duo British Dependancy's reggae/rock fusion gave the crowd a taste of something different, while Queen Ifrica kept the dedicated dancing in the dark all night long.

 

Anguillian food is something to brag far and wide about.

On the day I arrived to Sandy Ground on the west end of the island, I was on day 21 of a self-assigned 30 day vegan challenge (doing quite well at that). That all came to a halt the second I sat down for my first real meal. Sure, 10 percent of that was due to slim vegan pickings on menus, but really it was because the food was entirely too good to stare at while others indulged across the dinner table. Anguillan food is the stuff of pure delight.

I decided to respect my stomach and stick with mostly seafood, which just so happens to be the isle's specialty. From Veya's sautéed red snapper and Blanchards' delectable Mahi-Mahi to a roll out of family-style dishes at Tasty's and grilled lobster on Sandy Island, Anguillian chefs truly have a gift when it comes to their culinary offerings. Even the lobster rolls and cassava chips paired with bottomless mimosas on-board Tradition Sailing's boat was top-notch.

 

The water's so good you have to explore it up close and personal, not just admire it from the beach.

You can't go to an island and not properly explore the waters that surround it on all sides. In Anguilla, the soft white sand beaches are as heavenly as one could imagine, but it's imperative that you step away from the beach towel and out further into the sea. One of the most magnificent experiences was my venture to Sandy Island, a small offshore cay right off the coast of  Sandy Ground. After a quick 10 minute catamaran ride—there's no "dock," so you must slip off your shoes and hop into shallow waters to make your way onto the island from the boat—pristine azure waters, strong rum-punches, beach beds and delicious seafood are yours for the afternoon.

If you'd like to venture out a little further and up your adventure meter, Tradition Sailing is the way to go. Leaving from the same dock as the boat to Sandy Island, passengers are transferred to an authentic sailboat, where the captains man the vessel and give guests a view of Anguilla from out the water.

The next stop is Little Bay—a small, secluded beach accessed only by boat or by climbing down a rope—where the boat anchors and all who wish to can get off and snorkel around the area. If not, the unlimited mimosas and other beverages (both non- and alcoholic) will continue to flow before returning back to Sandy Ground.

 

The shops from local artisans are worth more than a passing glance.

The souvenir shopping experience gets a major upgrade when moseying around some of the local craft shops. At Devonish Art Gallery, the work of Courtney Devonish lines The Valley locale from wall-to-wall and counter-to-counter. From wooden hearts and mahogany sculptures, to antique maps to paintings, there are plenty originals to take back as decor for your home. The man behind the craft is always on-hand to chat up about his goods and about the place he calls home.

Directly across the street, Cheddie Richardson's Carving Studio is another treasure trove of talent. Richardson turns jagged driftwood into remarkable works of art, fusing them with paints, patience and precision. The self-taught artist keeps his originals, but makes replicas in bronze for admirers to take home.

 

On off days from sand and sea, Anguilla's Heritage Trail offers schooling on the island's history.

There's something for everyone in Anguilla, including the history buffs. Enter the Heritage Trail snaking from tip to tip of the island via George Hill Road. After driving from the Sandy Ground Outlook to the discontinued salt ponds in East End, a remarkable sight to see along the way is St. Gerard's Roman Catholic Church. It's Anguilla's only Roman Catholic church and one of the oldest on the island. The photograph below is of the new St. Gerard's building actually used to hold service, directly beside the much smaller original.

Wallblake House is said to be the oldest structure on the island and is rooted in history. The rustic building, which dates back to 1787, was the site of an old plantation run by sugar planter Valentin Blake. Walking through the old quarters elicits immediate nostalgia (maybe not in the best way) and visitors get an opportunity to peer deep into cooling chambers for the sugar.

 

Above all else, Anguilla's biggest charm is it's people.

No matter where I visited on the island and in whatever setting, I never felt less than extended family. Over at The Sunshine Shack, the owner and resident bartender, Garvey,  juggled mixed drinks and hearty conversation. He never seemed overwhelmed by the multitasking because the overall vibe of the afternoon was easygoing.

As Garvey and his assistant manned the libation station, Mighty Mystic, who took the Moonsplash Stage the night before, entertained the crowd with the chill sounds of his catalogue.

The people you meet at events like this or in passing don't feel like strangers. On the ride back to shore from Sandy Island, I met Mitchelle Lake and some of his mentees over at the Anguilla Tennis Academy. The non-profit organization is dedicated to furthering knowledge of the sport and providing academic opportunities to youth in Anguilla and surrounding Caribbean countries. You could see not only his passion, but the love he had for his former students and friends sitting on either side of him.

That very moment—enhanced by the gleeful bumps and splashes of the catamaran—encapsulated to spirit of Anguilla. The familial mixed with the cultural, luxury mixed with the local. Every bit of a reason for me to come right back.

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Artist Hebru Brantley Collabs With Bombay Sapphire To Support Black Lives Matter Chicago

The front lines of various movements can be filled with not only the physical presence of people but also the creative spaces that support the way. Visual artist Hebru Brantley is adding to the Black Lives Matter Chicago organization with the help of spirits brand Bombay Sapphire. Brantley, a Chicago native, is world-renowned for his artistry. His images and symbolism of blackness gives colorful scenes of spirited aviation and flash worthy stylishness with his young Fly Boy and Lil Mama characters.

For his link up with the Gin brand, Brantley drew on more universal themes as stated in the press release for the union, it's "an extension of Stir Creativity, the global platform from Bombay Sapphire, the Hebru Brantley Limited Edition embodies the brand’s mission to inspire and awaken the creative potential within everyone." The 750 ML bottle went on sale on July 1st and retails for $26.99. A portion of the proceeds will help BLM Chicago in their efforts against racism.

Brantley spoke to VIBE on the collaboration, raising Black children and his place of inspiration. To purchase the collab bottle click here at Reserve Bar.

VIBE: How did this Bombay collaboration come about? 

Hebru Brantley: It all started with me being a part of the Artisan Series back in the day. I had a very successful Miami Art Week experience as a result, which was a turning point in my career. Since then, the brand has been a big supporter of my various creative ventures, like sponsoring the opening night of Nevermore Park, immersive art experience, and one of my most ambitious projects to date. Meanwhile, Bombay Sapphire approached me about doing a very special project, which was designing their first-ever artist-designed limited-edition bottle. I want it to inspire hope for a better future and shine a light on the courage and resilience of Black people in America. It felt only right that Bombay Sapphire and I were able to do this together to benefit Black Lives Matter Chicago, to support the critical work they do in fighting for racial justice in my hometown.

Despite COVID-19 and the country confronting systemic racial injustices, where you are drawing your inspiration from these days?

I've always drawn inspiration from film, TV, comic books, my culture, and history, so not much has changed there. What feels different is my motivation to get out what I create, there is an even greater sense of urgency for me now then there was before. I am grateful for the opportunity to uplift and inspire and I feel that my message really resonates with people now more than ever.

Speaking of racial injustice, we saw your Harper’s Bazaar editorial and as a father raising Black children, what are some conversations you're having with them that you didn't have growing up?

A lot of the conversations are the same or similar to the ones I had with my parents growing up. The only difference is that I was taught to be aware of racism and certain incidents felt historic. For my kids they're living in a racial justice movement, we are living part of history. The conversations and relevance to those conversations are true and current. They're on TV, on social media for my kids to see and experience firsthand.

Besides Bombay, what other projects are you working on?

I'm working towards a few exhibitions in 2021, brand collaborations, etc. We have some exciting things coming up, so stay tuned.

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DJ Snoopadelic, aka Snoop Dogg, performs at the Rookie of the Year Party during Pepsi Zero Sugar presents Neon Beach at Clevelander at the Clevelander South Beach on January 30, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Pepsi

Snoop Dogg Is Dropping His Very Own Wine Bottle

Snoop Dogg will soon release his very own wine blend, thanks to his multi-year deal with Australian winery 19 Crimes owned by Treasury Wine Estates. The name of his first bottle? Snoop Cali Red.

"I've been a fan of this wine, and I'm excited to unveil my Snoop Cali Red this summer and share the experience with all my fans," said Snoopzilla in a press release. "It's one of the most successful brands in the market, so I'm more than eager to bring this collaboration to the world!"

TWE marketing vice president John Wardley added: "Snoop embodies the spirit of 19 Crimes – rule-breaking, culture creating and overcoming adversity. We are truly excited to partner with Snoop and welcome him to the 19 Crimes family. Snoop Dogg, an entertainment and California icon, is the perfect partner for 19 Crimes Snoop Cali Red."

The actual bottle's label is set to feature a photo of a hooded Snoop while the actual blend consists of 65% Petite Syrah, 30% Zinfandel, and 5% Merlot. As for how much a bottle will cost? $12 USD. "Snoop Cali Red" hits shelves in Summer 2020 at select wine stores. For more information or to locate a store near you, visit 19crimes.com.

Bonus: Earlier this month, a comedic rendition of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" made rounds on social media platforms. Watch it below.

 

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A'Lelia Bundles On Netflix's 'Self Made,' Black Hair, And Self-Expression

Netflix looks to answer the Oscars debacle from earlier this year with an exciting new four-part limited series, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker. Starring Octavia Spencer in the title role, Self Made utilizes the research of Madam Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, who wrote a New York Times bestseller about her family’s legacy in Black hair care. A’Lelia, a former network television news executive and award-winning producer for 30 years at NBC and ABC News, authored On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker to inform a new generation about the importance of America’s first successful Black entrepreneur.

Madam Walker was the daughter of slaves, and a widow at the age of 20. Seeing a need for healthy hair alternatives that catered to the Black woman, Madam C.J. Walker and her family built a business empire that focused on cosmetic and hair care products for women of color. Many of her company’s employees were women, including Marjorie Joyner (co-founder of the National Council of Negro Women) and Alice Kelly (the first forewoman and manager of the Walker factory). Through hard work and effort, Madam Walker turned her wealth into philanthropy and made friends with “talented tenth” MVPs: W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.

A’Lelia Bundles is also the president of the Madam Walker/A’Lelia Walker Family Archives, making her the oracle behind her famous ancestors’ speeches, publications, documents, photographs and past public initiatives. VIBE was fortunate enough to get the engaging public speaker and lover of history to talk about her great-great-grandmother’s impact on the Black entrepreneurial spirit, discovering her own revolutionary acts through her Black hair growth, and shares why she celebrates today’s stars for championing Black self-expression.

VIBE: Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker hits Netflix on March 20, during Women’s History Month. With those events in mind, I wanted to ask you about your involvement with the series and what message do you hope the show can convey to Black audiences?

A’Lelia Bundles: My book, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker was optioned a few years ago by Mark Holder of Wonder Street [Productions]. Mark then approached Warner Bros. and then Netflix about turning it into a series. Once that went through, Octavia Spencer came on board, and we went through the process from then on. I’m considered a consulting producer, which means that I had some script review, but I really hope that what comes from this is that more people will know Madam C.J. Walker’s name, and that their curiosity will be pricked a bit so they’ll want to learn even more about her.

Obviously, with the show being a limited series, you can only scratch the surface of her legacy and impact. Add to that that I’ve done almost 50 years’ worth of research on Madam Walker and her life, and so I am renaming my book into Self Made with Octavia Spencer’s picture on the cover, as well as an audiobook that I just recorded a few weeks ago.

Congratulations.

Thank you!

It is an interesting time in the world of content creation where people of color are able to inform others through the visual medium. Earlier this year, we had Who Killed Malcolm X, and When They See Us in 2019 had a new generation learning about the Central Park Five. You say  Self Made only scratches the surface, but what do you hope people take away from this show when it compares to the rise of the Black haircare industry?

There is a core of people who know and love Madam C.J. Walker, but there’s a much larger audience who don’t really know about her. I think Self Made will give people a window into her life. Octavia Spencer is the right person to play this role. She has an understanding of the obstacles that Black women face and, in her own personal life, she has certainly overcome obstacles and dealt successfully with challenges.

The message I hope people get from this series is that a Black woman in the early 20th century not only started a business, but empowered other women, and went on to become the first self-made Black millionaire. By helping those women become economically independent, she created jobs and generational wealth for thousands within the Black community.

 Switching braids a bit, I wanted to ask you about your own hair care journey. When did you learn that Black hair could be politicized?

I learned that my hair could be politicized when I was a senior in high school. Both my parents worked at the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, with my dad eventually being hired by another company called Summit Laboratories that made chemical hair straighteners.

At that time, I’d see Angela Davis and Cicely Tyson with the big afro, plus the Black Power Movement was in full swing. People were getting rid of their processed and straightened hair, which awakened my political consciousness. I knew to have an afro was a sign of rebellion, much like how the white kids were growing their hair long, Black kids like me were using our hair to make a statement against the issues of the time.

 To relate that to what’s going on with today’s youth, I wanted to get your thoughts on the struggles that kids like Deandre Arnold and others experience when trying to express themselves…

Companies like Sundial Brands and people like Matthew Cherry are making a statement by supporting young people while saying to the rest of the world that you will not shame our babies. It’s very hard to be a kid, especially in a predominantly white school or white town where other people want to police your body and hair. It is angering to me that anybody can be expelled from school because of the hair that grows out of their head. Our hair is beautiful the way it grows and the judgments that other people make need to evolve.

 Speaking of evolution, I must ask what your own favorite hairstyles of today are that you’d rock if you could?

I love people who have really long locs. I love how they can go in different directions or pile it up into a big crown on the head. I love just really full hairstyles that have structure. My hair is pretty limp [laughs] and I’m not able to do that, but if I could, I would. At this stage of my life, though, it would take so much work and product and maintenance that I am really all about that easy life.

 How do you feel about media places like Huffington Post’s Black Hair Defined project spotlighting stories about Black hair and the Black hair care industry?

It is really important that places like this make statements that our hair is beautiful and that there’s nothing wrong with our hair. People like Richelieu Dennis, founding CEO of Sundial Brands and now owns Essence Magazine, has created a $100 million VC fund called the New Voices Fund for women entrepreneurs of color. Support from companies and media places like these are uplifting Black hair, hair care, and cosmetic companies that make it plain that we’re not going backward and only are going to continue to express ourselves.

 Last question, Ms. A’Lelia: What is the continuing impact Madam C.J. Walker’s legacy has on Black entrepreneurs?

Her impact is that of a great American rags-to-riches story. I hope that by the time people have finished watching the series, and doing some additional research, that they really see Madam C.J. Walker as a multidimensional woman. She was the first child in her family to be born after slavery, who was a millionaire by the time of her death in 1919 and made a difference in her community as a patron of the Arts and a helper of other women to become economically independent. I think this, her being an impactful inspiration to many, gives hope to others to follow in her footsteps.

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