By JR Valrey, The Minister of Information
The fundamental aspect of building a strong family is having a strong relationship between the woman and the man, the seed of the family. Ever since divorce and government assistance excluding the presence of a man, has become a common occurrence, Black families have been struggling, and children by mass majority have grown up in single-parent households since at least the 70’s.
No real study by independent forces in the Black community has ever been put into how to remedy this very serious situation, but if it is ever to improve, it will be because we took an effective plan of action. It will take every-day people to say that tomorrow has to be better than what it is today. Kanisha Elder and Nikki Maryland have an event called “The Tea”, where they have spirited discussions between the sexes about relationship issues to give men and women a better understanding of what each other is thinking. The next one is in Oakland on Friday, January 28th. Check out Kanisha Elder and Nikki Maryland as they talk about their forum, “The Tea”.
JR Valrey: How did your event “The Tea” start? Why did you two choose to work together?
Kanisha Elder: The Tea started in my living room in 2013, as a ladies night, with a panel of three guys. One single, one in a relationship, and one married. I did this with my cousin Nadia Bari first. We decided one day that it would be cool to have men answer the questions that we women ask each other, all of the time. It just made sense because let’s be honest, we can’t give an accurate opinion of a man. They just think differently. So she would find the guys, and would host it. I would make sure that the women showed up, food and drinks were together, and the vibe was on point.
Now the women had no clue men would be present when they were invited. I got them to put questions anonymously in a jar, and told them we were about to play a game. I always had family and friends over for drinks so this was nothing new, until the men walked in. The ladies were so shocked and didn’t know whether to be excited or feel set up. It was funny, and we did this same thing over and over. We even hosted it in other ladies’ living rooms. Each time the reactions were great. It wasn’t until I started bartending that I decided to make it in a public event. I had access to a couple of nightclubs, and took advantage of that. I started a non – profit organization called Crown Up Productions in 2018 that was started as an idea for a teenage program and events.
But like I said I had access to clubs so I jumped right on The Tea. With the help of my brother Kerby Garcia aka “Kosh”, I was able to plan and execute. My first public event was a success. The name “The Tea” came from a cousin of mine, Andrea Harris. I was jotting down names, and told her I wanted something simple.
When she said “The Tea” I couldn’t even think of anything else. That was it; that was the name, and I wasn’t changing it. So when I met Nikki, I was glad that she loved the name, and didn’t want to come up with something new, now that we decided to collaborate. After she learned that I organized the same type of events that she did, she suggested that we do it together. Now I have always talked about people in the Black community doing the same thing, being in competition with each other, and not coming together. So this was my opportunity to practice what I preach, so to speak; and not to mention I was thinking about how much I needed a business partner that has the same vision as I do. It’s very important to be on the same page, and although we are still learning each other, I believe in us, and I’m looking forward to this new-found partnership.
Nikki Maryland: Kanisha and I recently met, which prompted our engagement to “The Tea”. Prior to “The Tea”, I was hosting Symposium Nights: “Battle of The Sexes”, which was similar to “The Tea”. I began hosting Symposium Nights, because I had just gone through a divorce, and I felt like I failed at communicating what I truly wanted and needed to make my marriage work. So one day, my homegirl who had also been going through a breakup calls and says, “Hey I’m having a ‘What A Man Wants To Know Party’, and I need you there.” The party started in her home, and it went down. It was such a success, she asked me to partner with her, and I took the vision to a totally different platform and named it Symposium Nights. We held a total of 15 events, and there were 3 marriages and a host of relationships while hosting the Symposiums, unfortunately, I was not one of those lucky people. Lol
JR Valrey: Why did y’all make it about male and female relationships?
Nikki Maryland: Why not? Relationships (friend or mate) consist of a male and a female, so being able to include both parties at “The Tea” is needed. Our goal is to get people thinking outside of the box, and to be open minded when it comes to someone else’s thoughts. Open and honest communication is key, for any relationship to grow and work. No one is going to process anything the same, sometimes you might need someone else to explain the situation, or give the same answer but in a different way.
Kanisha Elder: Well I made it about male and female relationships because since I can remember, communication between the two has always been off, at least with the examples in my life growing up. The women would talk to each other about the men, and I’m sure the men were doing the same. It’s not always girl talk, we all know men talk too, but how does this help our relationships if we are opening up to family and friends, but not the person we sleep with every night.
I’ve never seen anyone in my family have a civil conversation, it was always a heated argument or a damn fight, between men and women going blow for blow, using weapons, tearing up cars, calling the police, getting family members involved. It is just dysfunctional because no one was taught how to communicate. Then there’s always the one who thinks that walking out is the answer. Anyone who knows me, knows that I like to get to the bottom of things. I have to know the real issue, then go from there, and we may not even have the answer but at least you know what needs to be tackled. We have too many failed relationships and marriages in the Black community, and I think part of the problem is communication and a lack of faith. And what I mean when I say “faith” is that we’re not confident enough in these relationships, we don’t believe in them enough. We are so quick to give up or settle on some “it is what it is” bullshit,when really it’s what you make it and it takes hard work from both partners.
Now I’m no expert, but I do believe that no relationship is perfect, everyone has flaws. You will have disagreements, but when the good outweighs the bad, and you can find happiness, make it work. We have discussions about combined families, raising our partner’s children, in-laws, roles of friends in relationships, threesomes, pologamy, being separated and dating, why we cheat, what we attract, self love, how your upbringing and environment affects your attitude. I mean the topics are endless.
JR Valrey: What is your goal with The Tea?
Kanisha Elder: My goal is to reach as many people as I can, especially in the Black community to prove that communication works. And if we just take the time to listen to each other and see things from different perspectives, we can have a more clear understanding and be successful with our relationships and marriages. Our children and young adults need better examples from us. Guests thank me after coming to “The Tea” for many different reasons, and I think that’s a part of the goal as well; just reaching out to people and being able to support them in their situations. It’s sometimes deeper than just having fun for some of our guests; this is just a fun and unique way of doing it. Again we’re not professionals or anything, but I can say that it’s a form of therapy because some folks leave learning something about themselves, and apply some of the information to their lives. And I know this because a lot of my supporters are family and friends who share these things with me. And even if it’s just one or two people that get enlightened at an event created out of Oakland by two Black women wanting to promote healthy relationships, it is powerful and we will continue to do so.
Nikki Maryland: It’s important to get people to understand that it’s ok, to think or feel differently than your partner or friend. Let’s be open to hearing and possibly agreeing, or agreeing to disagree with something that we may feel strongly about. Let’s allow the panelists to express themselves openly, while being respected and challenged to their opinions.
JR Valrey: How have the people responded to “The Tea”?
Nikki Maryland: Responses that we have received have been positive thus far. This is something people have been waiting for; to be able to actually interact with a live audience/panel, ask questions, and then be able to receive answers and also have a rebuttal. So many are relieved that we have created a platform for men and women to be able to truly express themselves with their truths.
Kanisha Elder: It’s been pretty much the same on my end, and I’d like to add that although our audience consists of a majority of women, when the men get on the mic, they really speak up. I feel like their opinions are always necessary and very relevant. The audience wants to hear more from the guys, and we’ve been fortunate enough to find men who are comfortable telling it like it is. People come to hear real answers, and sometimes they don’t like it but the truth can be an eye opener, so we will continue to challenge folks to reflect on themselves and see others for exactly who they are.
JR Valrey: When is the next event? Are they monthly?
Nikki Maryland: Friday, January 28th in Oakland, then Saturday February 26th in Dallas, Texas. Yes we hope to host them every month, however the locations are to be determined, because our vision is to expand “The Tea” to a location near you, you, and you. (LOL)
Kanisha Elder: We are also planning for Atlanta the first week of May, 2022. This will be a turn up for real, because you know it’s our birthday month. Taurus Gang!
Nikki Maryland: Yup Atlanta we are coming for you! Kandi, where are you at? Lol, It would be a dream come true to work with her. Seriously though, anything is possible.
JR Valrey: How exactly is the event set up? Is it open to the public?
Nikki Maryland: As for the setup, Kanisha and I decided to continue to select a few individuals to be a part of our panel (men and women). There are about 4-6 panelists, with a live audience. We will also allow the audience a chance to give opinions to the answers that are given by the panelists. Prior to the discussion, there are a host of local vendors, delicious food, music to vibe to, and of course, the bar will have all of your favorite cocktails. During intermission, our guests have the opportunity to win prizes through a free raffle.
“The Tea” is public and is open to GROWN FOLKS ONLY!!
Kanisha Elder: Might I add the importance of having 2 hosts, it’s critical to have a host with the panel, and a host in the audience. This setup has worked smoothly every time. I try to switch up with the host, but for the most part I have my loyal people, and they are always there when I need them. The 2 hosts that the audience has seen the most are Ferrari Miller and Iasha Robinson, they have been riding with me since I decided to take it public. I also want to quickly shout out Noelle Samuels, Tilaeh Pitts, Nadia Bari, Jerae Russell, and DJ Big Rich. Also I can’t forget Richard Ali who owns Level 13 and allowed me to use this space before the pandemic. I appreciate them all.
JR Valrey: How has the pandemic affected “The Tea”? Has it prevented y’all from doing anything?
Nikki Maryland: I stopped all engagements with Symposium Nights, a year before the Pandemic. So no, it did not prevent me from doing anything.
Kanisha Elder: As for me, the pandemic has affected “The Tea” by not being able to host in an actual space. I believe interactions are better when they are in person. Being able to shake a hand and meet a friend, in a dope environment with great vibes, just feels good. It gives folks an opportunity to have a good time and network with people in the community. People take the opportunity to promote themselves all the time at my events, and end up building relationships outside of “The Tea”. I hosted a few of them on Zoom, due to the shut down, and the energy was definitely different. It’s like people aren’t so present online. Some folks aren’t paying attention, they’re doing other things, the socializing is to a minimum, and we lose the vendor aspect. But now that we’re back outside, we ask people to mask up, and it’s on and poppin.
JR Valrey: In the next few years, how will you be transforming the show?
Kanisha Elder: It sounds funny being called a show, but in a sense I guess that’s what it is, saying a forum or discussion sounds boring lol. The focus is on expanding and growing our audience, so when we accomplish that within the next couple of years, then we can transform this event into what we see fits. We constantly receive feedback from our followers, and are big on taking their comments and suggestions into consideration. We try our best to give the people what they want, so you best believe they will have some say on what is to come.
Nikki Maryland: Ummmm Yea, what she said… lol. But for real Kanisha could not have said it better for the both of us! So with that,“The Tea” is taking “The Tea” on the road, God willing.
JR Valrey: How could people keep up with y’all?
Kanisha Elder: Follow us…
FACEBOOK: Personal – Queen Prettyblack Elder
Business – Crown Up
INSTAGRAM: Personal – @queenprettyblack
Business – @crownup36
- TWITTER: Business – @upcrown
- EMAIL: Crownup36@gmail.com
FACEBOOK: Personal – Takeylia Nikki Maryland
INSTAGRAM: Personal – @sweet_chocolate_face