South By Southwest (Interactive)

I was blessed to attend my third SXSW this year and it has been a couple of years since I attended. I recalled last year hearing the news of the fatalities while I was overseas. I definitely felt the difference in this year’s conference. There were many more policemen. Nevertheless, it was a great conference as usual.


One of the hottest spots was the new JW Marriott. There was never a dull moment in the hotel. I could tell the restaurant staff were overwhelmed as there was no break from sunsrise to sunset. The JW Marriott Austin is the largest (and newest) in North America and the 2nd largest in the world. It was a beautiful hotel, but still very new. All kinks were worked out during this event. I even passed Mark Cuban there and wished I thought of something to pitch.

A couple of places kept me taken care of on a food perspective. Gigya had lunch and dinner on 6th street. They even threw in some live entertainment. There was also a restaurant near the convention center rented out by the Washington, DC economic development council. They fed as well but promoted a very convincing program to live in DC free for 3 months (the application was due March 22nd @ The start-up company will be selected on April 3rd.

WE DC House

A strong theme at Interactive was 3-D printing. I attended several sessions learning about 3-D printing and how it will impact industries such as healthcare, fashion and manufacturing. In addition, my favorite session was about blogging and branding. It was hosted by Indiana Adams and Bethany Joy Clark. I was there early and still was standing for most of the session. At the very end, I was able to grab a seat as people were leaving early. Lucky me, that seat allowed me to win a new Toms Handbag (more like a backpack). There were only 15 of us that won. I LOVE my new bag.

Toms Handbag I won. I love yellow!
3D Pen from a company in Singapore
Dr. Talithia Williams on Mining your Personal Data
JW Marriott Pool

This year there seemed to be many sessions that were very full and if you were not early, you were not able to get in. There were also many secret parties. I was able to get in on a “secret” Facebook and Uber party…but still am salty about not being able to see D’Angelo. Another surprise and highlight was a Houston meet up sponsored by the Houston Business Journal and The Greater Houston Partnership. I was so happy to connect with Houstonians. We filled up our poolside room quickly.

SXSW has always propelled me into a sneak peak of what’s to come. If you have not checked out Meerkat, that is supposed to be the next hot thing (though there are others that beg to differ). Though, I was sad to leave before SXSW Music started, I definitely did not leave without a headful of knowledge. I look forward to the next time I can attend and fellowship.

Robot at CMU Happy Hour
Awesome panel including Franchesca Ramsey

Audra McDonald

Growing up, I considered myself a Broadway baby. Though I was in South Florida at one of the best art schools in the country, I still believe I grew up in southern New York. There were always New Yorkers around me and I sang a song from a musical daily.

I heard Bernadette Peters name often and it was as if she floated on clouds. I never got to see her as many of my classmates did so I added it to my bucket list. When I saw she was an option at theater open day, I committed to purchasing a ticket even though it was about 5 months prior to the show. I enjoyed her show immensely.

On Saturday, as I rushed to the Wortham to pick up tickets from will call, I saw an ad that almost made me hyperventilate. It said Audra McDonald was performing on March 10th. As in three days from Saturday. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it happen, but I had to think of something. How in the world did it slip past me that she would be in town.

Let’s take a step back to summer of 2012. It was a very humid and sticky day in New York City. My friend and I finally committed to go see Porgy and Bess. To be transparent, I was most excited about seeing my college classmate perform in the show with a runner up excitement to see Audra.

I left Porgy feeling conflicted. On one hand I was overwhelmed with joy to experience such an amazing performance which Audra and the cast gave me chills. Yet, I was angry that no one ever talked about Audra in my circles.

I decided I could not allow an opportunity to go by without seeing her again. Audra is a legend. I purchased my ticket the night before and I am so happy I was able to be a part of such a special night.

Audra’s voice is perfect. At first, I was thinking no wonder I chose engineering over Broadway. I can carry a tune, but I am no Audra. Then in a break Audra mentioned how much her daughter hates her voice. She told her as a toddler “it makes my ears cry.” Then I became inspired. Maybe my family was wrong about my singing ability. Maybe I still have a chance on Broadway.

That’s what happens when you witness a diva. She makes you believe you too can make your dreams come true. She even sang about it. To put icing on the top, she talked about her work with the covenant House. An organization to help teens stricken with homelessness. A woman after my own heart, pulling up others with you as you climb.

I am speechless with how wonderful the performance was. Though I have renewed my faith in my dreams through the arts, I knew better than to sing along when Audra commanded the audience to sing. There were talented people all around me. There is nothing like a true singer giving you the eye when you sing out of key.

I am so grateful for Audra and the authenticity she brings to the stage. Houston keeps surprising me with amazing shows!


Cabo Verde (Cape Verde)

I have always wanted to go to the Motherland and am very overdue. I think it is the last continent on the list for me to visit (not counting Antarctica). My friend of Avontade Tours is planning a trip in October leaving from Rhode Island.

Joli is a Cape Verdean-American that has relocated to Cape Verde. I love her stories about being an expat (I overstand) and how she finds joys in simple things there. In addition to bringing people to the island through her photography and tours, Joli also has a non-profit to tutor young boys on the island. She is moving, shaking but not stirred.

I really would love to go on this trip and invite you to consider going. Slots are closing fast and this is a great opportunity to bond with women from all over the US.


Trip info:

Cabo Verde

Oct 23-30, 2015

1, week, 2 islands, all the relaxation and fun you’ve been craving!

Recuperate from your busy life… Reconnect with nature and yourself…

Reunite with your inner child and your inner diva… Revive your joyous and sensual self!


Price includes: Flights (Providence/Praia, CV; Santiago/Sal Islands, CV), 5 nights hotel in Praia and 2 nights all

inclusive resort in Sal (double occupancy; an additional $450 for private rooms), airport transfers and ground

transportation in Cabo Verde, welcome reception with food and open bar, activities including tours, inclusive

yacht ride, spa activity, sunrise/set yoga and other sessions, CV souvenir goodie bag.

$400 non-refundable deposit must be made by March 15 to reserve your spot.

Additional payments: Apr 15 $400* | May 15 $550* | July 15 $550 | Sept 1 $549 *non-refundable

W W W . A V O N T A D E – T O U R S . C O M | 8 6 0 . 8 4 1 . 1 3 2 2

Fisk Jubilee Singers Visit Houston

Tradition (queue music from Fiddler on The Roof), is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the Fisk Jubilee singers. They visited Houston this week. I forgot to RSVP for tickets at the Wortham and was very happy Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church hosted them. The performance was amazing and was a great way to end Black History Month.

Merlex Picks Jubilee
Fisk Jubilee Singers at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church

Fisk was founded in 1866, six months after the Civil War.   In 1871, the singers went on a fundraising tour in Europe resulting in $50,000 which was used to build Jubilee Hall.  The singers even sang before the Queen of England which is where their picture was taken below.


The last time I saw a choir perform, I was overseas. It was interesting how connected I was being disconnected from the US. I remember a strong roll of tears coming down my face as we sang the Black National Anthem. Now that I am back home, my feelings are not as strong, but my analysis of the performance had a new angle.

As old negro spirtuals were sung by the choir,  I couldn’t help but think how brilliant we are as a people. We were restricted by so many rules of what we could not do during slavery. We turned the one thing we were allowed to do, sing, to be the foundation of how we could break out of slavery. As the students sang, all I could help was decode the meaning. “Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus….I ain’t got long to stay here.”

We may not have much to show for our traditions due to the dismantling of our culture, I am forever grateful for oral history that has kept things apart. I am very happy I was able to take part in this tradition and share with generations to come.

Amy Lin: Dreamscape

As usual, I attended an artist talk without research.  I attended a private viewing of Amy Lin’s work and was pleasantly surprised. When I met her, it took me a second to realize she was the artist. Her down to earth personality was shining through the entire talk.

Each drawing is inspired by a dream she had. She recorded dreams as soon as she woke and admitted that sometimes her mind attempted to interpret the dreams while she recorded (potentially adding more than really happened). All of the work is done in colored pencil with no predefined plan. That’s what makes the work even more special.

It was interesting to see a person’s dream interpreted visually.    Many of Amy’s dreams where very different than any of the dreams I’ve had. My favorite dream was her flying a house like a kite where the strings were like cooked spaghetti noodles.  I thought I had strange dreams but Amy’s go much further, hence inspiring the beautiful art we witnessed.


The plot thickened as I learned Amy is an artist disguised as a chemical engineer. I recall my first ChE course stressed that many chemical engineers eventually practice in another field. I recall options like medicine, law, and business. I don’t recall art (or theater).


Amy inspired many things through her work. She talked about turning nightmares into positive art. Perseverance and sacrifice to complete her work even while working full time as an engineer. Her life is an inspiration that you are never too old to live your dreams. Without professional art training and networks, Amy has earned a seat at the artistic table. There were many nuggets of inspiration that I took from the exhibit.


I highly recommend checking out Amy Lin’s work.

Nicole Longnecker Gallery, 2625 Colquitt St., Houston TX
Opening Reception: Saturday, February 21 (5 – 8pm)
Artist Talk: Saturday, February 28 (2pm)

Jason Moran

Jason Moran, Robert Pruitt, and Sarah Rothenberg at the Menil


I recall the first time I saw or heard Jason Moran was on Myspace. I remember being intrigued to see a young African-American jazz pianist. It was probably about 2006 when I saw his Myspace page and I do not recall going further than a brief investigation. Fast forward to today and I am extremely proud of Jason Moran and what he represents.

Being a Houston native (Third Ward to be specific) he automatically had my support. I kept hearing his name on Facebook through mutual friends, especially after the recent score of Selma. I decided that it was necessary that I learn more about him. I kept toying with whether I would attend his concert (world premier). I made a definitive decision to attend…then I decided to attend the panel event at the Menil and swap the show for my friend’s birthday dinner.

The Menil event was not what I expected. I somehow missed that Robert Pruitt was going to be on the panel with Jason. I suddenly started feeling like this was a historic moment….similar to those times my grandparents recalled when a legend came to town…and they sat this close to them. I remembered seeing my first Robert Pruitt exhibit a couple of years ago in Upper Kirby and was pleasantly surprised to learn he is collaborating with Jason.

It was refreshing to hear Jason reflect on how it is to be a Houstonian living in Harlem. Yet, in contrast, he comes home and doesn’t quite feel like an adult here. He mentioned when he comes home, it feels like being a big kid. Going to see family, grandparents, an instant reminiscence. I agreed. I especially understood how it took leaving to completely appreciate how special Houston is. From our idiosyncrasies of the paddle claps of Fiesta for the product of the day (he told a story about being mesmerized and I could relate) to the great diversity intertwined with southern hospitality. I understood what it felt like to know Houston in the 80s to what it has grown to today. Like Jason, I am still amazed that Houston is the same city I was uncomfortable visiting downtown thirty years ago.

Jason played for us and gave us some teasers of what the show would be like. Instead of leaving the Menil like my Moran fix was satisfied, he created a yearning for me to see more. I immediately went home to purchase tickets and really am excited to see the show tonight. I am not quite sure how I am going to get through the logistics of the birthday dinner and the show, but I am pretty sure Uber will be involved.

I am so happy to be a part of history and look forward to Jason’s world premier.

Jason Moran: Holed Up

Saturday, February 07, 2015, 8:00 PM
Cullen Theater, Wortham Theater Center

My Life As A Doll Review

Houston Museum of African American Culture held an installation opening on Friday, January 30th and I was delighted to attend. I am also a member of their young professional group, Culture Cabal, and enjoyed a small VIP reception and a chance to meet the artist. I did not have a chance to research the installation much and was pleasantly surprised how much I loved it.


The artist, Tara Conley, was very humble and talked about how she came up with the concept for the work. Over years, she kept a journal of phrases that came to mind. After about 450 phrases, she and her friend separately came up with their favorite phrase: My life as a doll. That is where the theme for the exhibit was created.

My life as a doll explores frameworks of thoughts placed on women based on gender role definitions. It was the cutest doll house I have ever seen. I felt very comfortable yet was able to look deeper at the phrases and think about what they meant to me. Each room at the house had a different theme. I was very impressed that Tara dyed ever textile in the installation by hand (washing machine). I walked away delighted and perplexed and left to think about how I personally feed into some of the stereotypes women take on to be the “perfect doll.”


Kendrick Scott

Houston’s own, Kendrick Scott, will be performing in Houston on March 7, 2015 at the Wortham Center. He is a jazz drummer that you don’t want to miss.  I have never seen him perform, but I am all about supporting local artists. There are discount tickets on goldstar which are a great deal. I have a couple of $10 off coupons the goldstar price so contact me and I will email you the code. Limited coupons so act fast.


Phoenicia Speciality Grocery and MKT Restaurant

I have heard about Phoenicia Specialty Grocery store for years but never experienced it. Yesterday, we were invited for lunch before we hung out at Discovery Green Park. I walked into the store overwhelmed. I was upset that after 6 years of living in Houston, I am just visiting. The combination of grocery, quick bites, restaurant and a performance activated all of my senses.

I ended up with a falafel plate that was just ok compared to Fadi’s. Nevertheless, I loved the ambiance, music and decor. I look forward to trying out the MKT restaurant and upcoming shows. It is definitely a must stop when you are in downtown Houston.