If there is one thing I have learned in all of my experiences up until now, it is that there is a lot to be thankful in this life. Whether it is new friendships, opportunities to give back to the community, or a new recipe that pairs perfectly with a newly discovered red wine, we can find enjoyment in all things, whether great or small. Every month, I will feature a few of my favorite things in this column. Although they are numbered from one to 10, the sequential order does not necessarily indicate relative priority. It just depends on the day. Read on to learn more about my 10 Joys in life!


1. Family

Me, with my daughters, Danielle Michael and Nicole Yvonne at our home in front of a painting by Frank Bowling, a British artist of African descent.

2. Food

Food from the African diaspora brings together some of the most interesting and flavorful food from around the world. The fried snapper and ginger beer at Freda’s Caribbean & Soul Cuisine is authentic Jamaican food on the Upper West Side that brings together African and Chinese flavors, among others. I love discovering the little undiscovered treasures in unexpected places in New York City.

3. Philanthropy

I love the joy in this photo of me with my longtime friend, Curb Gardner and his friend, Gabrielle at “Brazil!” a colorful benefit for the Charles Wright Museum of African-American art in Detroit, Michigan. Curb is a gifted architect, event planner and so much more than an interior designer. I like to call him a “space transformation artist.” The joy on my face in this picture reflects how happy I was to reunite with my friend after years of not being in touch with one another. A good gentleman is hard to find.

4. Sports

I did not grow up in a home where sports were always a topic. My parents divorced when I was 8, and my mother was more of a homemaker than an athlete. So although I mastered the kitchen arts and learned how to sew, I did not grow up with a favorite sports team and was not exactly a stellar athlete. I did become a decent competitor in high school track and field. Yet my oldest daughter, Danielle has exceptional talent and passion for sports. She started as a dancer and gymnast, but has transitioned into being an above-average competitive soccer and lacrosse player. I love this picture of her in perfect form, bringing together all of her training over the years.

5. Photography and Visual Arts

Me, with my daughters, Danielle Michael and Nicole Yvonne at our home in front of a painting by Frank Bowling, a British artist of African descent.

6. White Wine

People are usually in one of two or three camps when it comes to white wine: They either like it buttery and toasty, floral and fruity, or fresh, crisp and bracing. I like my white wines somewhere in between the latter two categories, depending on the season and what I’m eating with them. One of my favorite wines to drink in the summer is Sauvignon Blanc. It doesn’t really matter where it’s from, although the Loire Valley of France, South Africa and Northern Italy make some of my favorites.

7. Sparkling Wine

In the summer, we sometimes want something fizzy and refreshing to drink with a little more oomph than carbonated beverages, but something less serious and more economical than French Champagne. America makes some good affordable sparkling wines that are easier on the budget than French Champagne. Gruet from New Mexico is one example of a domestic sparkling wine for under $100. I also like Roederer Estate and Mirabelle from California. Chandon is also a solid sparkling wine from California for entertaining large groups. New York State also makes some reasonable sparkling wines – Chateau Frank and Wolffer Estate are two of my favorites.

8. Red Wine

Grenache, Garnacha or Cotes du Rhone, (what it’s called, depends on where it’s from), is a versatile summer red wine, and it can be very affordable. It is typically characterized by juicy red fruit, a slight peppery bite and a hint of smoke. Great with ribs, and highly-seasoned grilled foods.

9. Fashion and Decor

Beautiful Senegalese fabrics I found at Yara African Fabrics in Harlem. The design is a mask from Ghana. I used them to design a wine gift basket, but they could be used for so many things.

10. Cocktails

There are cocktails and there are cocktails. Some places take the art of bartending more seriously than others. Many even go so far as to call their bartenders mixologists. One of the best places to go for cocktails in New York City is 67 Orange in Harlem where Mr. Karl Franz is at the helm. Here he and Cocktail Colin are teaching me how to make a new cocktail at the Iconoclast Dinner benefiting Spelman College.