Afro Kawaii Iconic Ivy City Honey’s Birth of Cool + Kawaii

Hi かわいい + creatives! It’s time for another thoughtful afro kawaii journey post. And I thought it’d be great to take you to my hood – Ivy City, Washington DC ^.^

Imani K Brown, Coming of Age, Kawaii Tattoo Artist

One of my favorite people still calls me Ivy City’s finest. And I won’t even front that I will always claim to be an Ivy City Honey til the day I die. Cuz those streets help raise me.

So let’s not waste any time and pull up in …

About Ivy City

Afro Kawaii, Imani K Brown, Ivy City, Romanba gyaru
I’m a Norf Eas baby

Ivy City is a small neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1831, the triangular strip of land is bounded by New York Avenue to the northwest, West Virginia Avenue to the east, and Mt. Olivet Road to the south. (I’ve walked, and still walk, all these streets ^.^)

Some significant landmarks would be Gallaudet University(across Mt. Olivet Rd.), Mount Olivet Cemetery (across West Virginia Ave.), and Amtrak‘s Ivy City yard (across New York Avenue).  And since it was outside the original plans for DC proper it was actually considered the suburbs of DC …

Even though it’s IN DC haha

Thing is, it’s just now being pegged a cool neighborhood in the city. But thas cuz of gentrification. Truth is the sh!t’s always been cool. YOU just had to be cool enough to see it *kanye shrug*

So what was my view like?

1712 West Virginia Avenue

Grab your copy of Shoppe Gal Mag for the FULL manga-zine story

I’ve always been a norf eas baby, having spent my early years not too far from here on I Street. We moved here when I was about 6 years old.

It was my mom’s first apartment for she and I and it was tiny, but huge all at the same time ~

Afro Kawaii, Imani K Brown, Ivy City, Romanba gyaru
I had a lot of good times here

1712 was a one-bedroom garden style apartment. My favorite part was the closed in back porch because I could raise my hamsters there.

The building was small, only four units. But for the intimacy, it was like living with family except we all had our space.

Upstairs, right above us was Marilyn. She was a psychofrinic who often ended up on the roof, naked and yelling during her episodes. My mom would call her mom to let her know what was happening and then head upstairs to try to easing her back in, calmly.

Afro Kawaii, Imani K Brown, Ivy City, DC to Japan
oh hey porch!

Across the hall lived Ms. Sizemore. She became my unofficial caretaker almost from the time we moved in ~

I was a latchkey kid (they say free range parenting now like kids are chickens or something 🤷🏾‍♀️) but that just meant I was responsible for myself after school.

I’d come straight home –

I wasn’t allowed to hit the corner stores then but I did cuz I had a lil’ art hustle to make some change huhuhu

When I checked in with Ms. Sizemore she would call my mom to tell her I made it home safe. After popping some biscuits in the oven, I’d pull up on the porch or near the porch window to do my homework.

House rule was that I wasn’t allowed to play with my friends until homework was DID and Ms. Sizemore had to check it then call my mom.

My choice to sit on the porch so I could be close to my friends got me pegged as bougie. And girls stayed wanting to fight. Sometimes cuz their boyfriends just wanted to see a good scrap. So I did …

My logic was, I can’t beat my mama. But I can male time to scrap wit you right quick if you got beef ~

Don’t much trip though, cuz that mindset kept me on the A-list all through school. By the time I got to middle school and had to fight through the Cordas. Well, needless to say, I was ready.

All cuz I’d train –

go home, do my homework, defend doing what was right for me, eat some biscuits and do it all over again the next day.

It was ji light work. Already ~

An Alley Kid

Afro Kawaii, Imani K Brown, Ivy City, DC to Japan
DC’s got some DOPE AF alleys. I’ve always loved them and got dreams of making Ivy City alleys into art ways

My tribe was like the sandlot kids, but the hood version.

In fact, in the picture above, that apartment all the way to the back on the right was the met-up spot. Underneath the building there was space so it was like our little club house.

♡ Shou out: Toya, Mike, Boobie, Kevin, Tweety & Renee! ♡

Right across from that house is where my best friend, Kevin Hunt stayed. Can you believe it?! We’re STILL besties AND art buddies to this day ^.^

Kevin was one of the kids I cussed out immediately when they tried to help me fix my pink Huffy. The chain used to ALWAYS come off. New to the hood, I rolled around the corner into the alley and it’d popped. Kevin and Bobbie, I think … jumped into action to help fix it. They were strangers at that time and I started reading them for filth telling them to “get your fucking hands off my shit BITCH!”

To my surprise – that was the sign they needed to know I wasn’t here to play. But I was here to play, you dig?!

Cheers to that alley and lifelong friendships.

How To Blend In AND Stand Out

Afro Kawaii, Imani K Brown, Ivy City, DC to Japan
Why blend in, when you can stand out?

Funny how we misjudge what we don’t understand. The hood is filled with brilliance and good times! It’S got a pressure just right to make diamonds shine. It’s all about perspective and understanding.

For me, Ivy City taught me the essence of cool kawaii – to be able to blend in AND stand out.

Individually, I am my OWNself with autonomy over my thoughts, actions, appearance and all that jazz. I can create myself to be someone special, meaningful and seemingly important.

However, I am also a part of a collective. In Ivy City I was a part of THAT hood often kicking it with those kids. If MY individuality meant trouble for all of us, I tucked it. No worries there. Cuz when it was appropriate to let my individuality shine, best believe I was going ALL IN!

Afro Kawaii, Imani K Brown, Ivy City, DC to Japan

Those things I didn’t do just for me though.

Somehow, sensually I understood how we were viewed coming up in neighborhoods like Ivy City. And that’s not the worst for DC. On the flip side though I knew that if I could get you to view me different and in a special light, I’d get you to let me bring my cool AF friends along too.

Blending in to stand out was just fancy practice for a life reminder that I represent so much more than myself.

Coming up in Ivy City, I represented the hood kids who went to the neighborhood school while I went to school in another ward. Or when I went to art school even.

Standing out on my own meant that I represented something and someone far greater than me. And if you gave me ONE chance the size of a mustard seed … I’d get you change your perspective on what truly comes out of places like Ivy City.

Places like that, often overlooked, are the birth places of COOL

And in my case KAWAII ^.^

 More 1Blu Vision Shots and Moods

Afro Kawaii, Imani K Brown, Ivy City, Romanba gyaru
“Come thru wind!” ~Zea

I hope you’re enjoying these shots cuz they are a MOOD set special by Zea, better known as 1BluVision.

And while we’re on this kawaii creative J-fashion exploration adventure of DC most of the goodies are captured by her! I say most cuz I do love a good selfie for appreciating my own dayum self ^.^

Afro Kawaii, Imani K Brown, Ivy City, Romanba gyaru

yes gyaru vibes in Ivy City’s Union Market


kawaii style

Where else would you like to visit in DC?

Let me know in the comments so Zea and I can make it so!

til then I’m gone dreamin’

Gambare, minna

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