Moving Backwards: Nicki, Malcolm and Dismissal Of Black History

malcolmxThe artwork for Nicki Minaj’s latest single is floating around the internet, and I am not happy about it. What you see is Brother Malcolm Little Shabazz peering out of a window while holding a rifle in sepia filter. Above his head is the title of the song, “Lookin Ass N*gga, in which Nicki calls out folks who have bitten her style or perpetrated a fictitious lifestyle. The lyrics have absolutely no historical value or context to be linked to such a photo. Plain and simple, it’s catchy bullshit.

In a time of Photoshop-palooza where anyone with a laptop can take a photo and spin it for comedic value, we’ve become accustomed to taking historic photos and figures and putting our pop culture stamp on it. Especially this month, you’ll find pictures of trailblazing African-Americans with captions that read, “YOLO” or “The first black person to yell, ‘Turn up!’” And now, this.

This kind of thing makes me lose faith in us. Culturally, we’ve been a people who use comedy and light-heartedness to get through the tough times. We joke, we laugh, but at what expense? This whole thing reminds me Dave Chappelle’s exodus from the limelight after a bought with instant fame. He tackled racism and sexism in such an in your face way, but he realized laughter has a duality that can affirm and dismantle us. He said in an interview, “So then when I’m on the set, and we’re finally taping the sketch, somebody on the set [who] was white laughed in such a way—I know the difference of people laughing with me and people laughing at me.” Word, Dave.

When you pair history with pop culture, we often get the bad deal morally. We don’t know our history, nor do we know where we want to go beyond notoriety or the number of zeros behind the decimal. Should you know every piece of our rich history? It’s impossible, but you should know the basics, and Malcolm X is apart of that. 

If anyone on her creative team knew the weight of our history, they’d know that photo, though the origin isn’t known, is symbolic of many of Malcolm’s principles and teachings. It’s often associated with his famous quote about the demand for justice, “by any means necessary.” He was a strong proponent of self-defense against the oppressor whomever he may be, hence the rifle in his hand. Maybe he was looking out of the window for the Ku Klux Klansmen who set his home afire or maybe those who sought to assassinate him. Perhaps, he was looking for the white men who kept him down with discriminating laws, mental abuse and violence, and yes, they called him and us “niggers.”

Again, I don’t know what Nicki was thinking. She’s not the first though.

KRS-1’s cover for By All Means Necessary was a depiction, instead he was holding a handgun dressed in a leather bomber jacket. Yo Gotti, my fellow Memphian’s latest album, I Am, depicts the sanitation strike in Memphis where strikers wore signs that read “I AM A MAN.” That strike brought Dr. King where he was assassinated in cold blood on the Lorraine Motel balcony.

Is nothing sacred anymore? We are more concerned in creating a buzz for a dollar while selling out our own history in the process. Have you ever seen a non-black person negatively depict or use a photo from the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor bombing or even 9/11 in such a public way? I’m willing to bet that they’re few, far and in between. They protect their history, pass it down by oral history, conserve it in museums or in old memory books. Their families know about prominent and unsung heroes . They talk about their journeys. In their homes, in their circles, they talk about it.

We don’t talk about our history enough. Either it’s too painful for some of our elders to rehash or white folks are telling us tumultuous events were figments of our imaginations, and if they weren’t, they didn’t matter much anyway. When we do discuss our history with laser focus, it’s during Black History Month. With every year, if you base its value on media exposure and general knowledge, it’s diminishing. Forget the fact that it’s not taught in schools. We have to fill in the blanks because ultimately, we’re responsibility for ourselves.

So thinking your fluffy, purposeless “art” has the right to be paired with events and images that represent the struggle is insulting to those who did the treacherous work from which you  now reap the benefits.

The old saying goes, “When you know better, you do better.” Maybe it’s time for us to stop and learn before we begin to do without thought. Our history and our respect is at stake.

The College Dropout: A Love Note

college dropoutToday marks the 10th anniversary of Kanye’s debut and some would say, his best album, The College Dropout.

For fans who can no longer stomach his behavior or his “New God Flow,” today is a day to bask in this album because it symbolizes the grind, the hunger and creativity that made us fall in love with him in the first place.

During his explosion as Jay’s new producer, I’d heard guys on my college campus debate which of his beats on The Blueprint was the best, but I was formally introduced to Ye while randomly looking at MTV one day. The opening scenes of “Through the Wire” made me sit in front of my TV and wonder, “Who is this guy?” The photos of his puffy cheeks after his near-death car accident made me pay close attention to his lyrics. “I must’ve had an angel cuz look how death missed his ass/Unbreakable. What you know? They call me Mr. Glass.”

It wasn’t until my first year of graduate school that I really fell for Mr. West. During a midnight run to McDonald’s, a friend popped in a bootlegged copy (don’t judge) of College Dropout, and skipped to track #10: “Kanye’s Workout Plan.” The soul clap and synthesizer a la Roger Troutman pulled me in, and I vowed that when it was really released, I would purchase it.

I bought the album today 10 years ago, and it immediately became the soundtrack of my life. With that album, he’d made an announcement to world that defiance can be healthy if you’re willing to work.  “I’m about to break all the rules. Don’t tell anybody. I got something better than school. Don’t tell anybody. My mama would kill me. I’m just not everybody.”

It was ironic that I could relate to a guy whose story was centered around abandoning formal education to pursue his dreams when I was obtaining an advanced degree to pursue mine. My favorite track, “Spaceship,” was my reality. Instead of The Gap, I worked at SuperTarget, ringing up purchases for folk who like to eat their items before they buy them and throw empty wrappers my way, who try to get over on returns and exchanges and trash dressing rooms. I too, was locked in (literally) until midnight and sometimes later when all I wanted to do was party with my friends (mostly still in undergrad) after a long week of studying, reading academic essays and fighting through boring lectures.

Even though graduate school was a means to an end, I couldn’t see the end. Working two jobs, going to school full-time in a new environment had taken an emotional toll on me. I’m not easily overwhelmed, so every morning on the way to my 7 a.m. class, I pressed play on The College Dropout. It provided a sense of normalcy in what was a brand new world to me. The interludes like “I’ll Fly Away” reminded me of hymns we’d sing at my home church.  The house music samples were reminiscent of weekend radio mixes when I was in high school. “Slow Jams” made me proud that I grew up on real love songs by Luther and Anita. I internalized his lyrics about Jesus never leaving him, “I know He hears me when my feet get weary.” How did this dude know my life? Everything about the album was so new, yet so familiar.

Looking back, I was a bit entitled during my transition into adulthood, but then, my struggle was real, and you couldn’t tell me differently.

Because he made  “like, five beats a day for like, three straight summers,” his music would eventually make believers out of everyone. Doubtful music critics couldn’t wait to see what the rapper wannabe could really do with a mic. No one imagined that he’d tell rappers, drug dealers and strippers that Jesus walks with them, too. That you could veer off of the path people told you was the only way and find your own.

His lyrics were fun and real. From songs for loved ones we’d lost to the plight of young women lost in a culture of materialism and fake fame or being the token black dude at his fancy retail job, he gave us what we’d all seen or experienced. For us, it was a mirror on record.

The College Dropout was about proving the naysayers wrong, and it is proof that in a world of Louie and Maybachs, we can still take note of and appreciate music straight from the heart. But mostly, the album is about Kanye’s individuality, something he still prides himself on today. As he danced across the stage of The Grammy’s in a fit of praise during one of his most groundbreaking songs, I screamed at the television in happiness because he was officially a star. But he was already a star to me, and to us. The young, pink Polo-wearing, arrogant producer had finally made it, and he let us in on the journey and celebration.

Today, we thank him for the ride.

Fear of Reality: Mary Jane, Flaws and All

Being-Mary-JaneBeing Mary Jane is back. The season premiere just aired, and like the movie, it didn’t disappoint. There’ll be no “unpacking” of the episode. Instead, let’s talk about satisfying consumers. My initial plan was to watch the premiere alone, meaning without texting my friends during commercial breaks or engaging on #BlackTwitter. I failed at both attempts towards the end.

As usual, Mary Jane is living her life, dealing with family, drama and moral dilemmas at work and her crazy dating life. The ending scene which consisted of a gym shower, married man and shower cap got a lot of Tweeps’ panties in a bunch. “Is she the next Olivia Pope?” Is she the next “smart” black woman who will open her legs willingly for a married man and even another? So desperate for unrequited love that she can’t stand strong against lust (or in her case, maybe love) for a beautiful man?

Yes, I, too screamed “Nooooooo!!!” at the television during that climatic scene. I wanted Mary Jane to know that could be stronger than she was. That that one act could set her back majorly in her decision to move forward without him. I also didn’t want her to get her weave wet, but no such luck.

More comments: We don’t need another black woman on the small screen degrading herself. She’s a side piece to not just one, but two men! Commercials for Oraquick, home HIV tests, aired during the show, so why is Mary Jane engaging in risky sexual behavior?

Le sigh.

We, as consumers, can be so self-righteous, especially when the characters are African-American. Mary Jane is a character. She’s not a real person, but as an effective storyteller, she has to have a life that resonates with viewers. Bottom line: This shit goes on DAILY, no matter how dirty, grimy or immoral it may be. Why are we so afraid to air our dirty laundry on television even in a fiction?

One truth about writing is a good character—one who grabs you and speaks to you, one you will remember—is flawed. Like we are. We’re all flawed in real life, so why do we get so upset when characters, mainly those who look like us aren’t perfect? That’s unfair.

It’s actually possible to have every area of your life in perfect harmony, except your personal life. You could have the picture perfect marriage and children, but be catastrophic in your financial or spiritual life. That’s what life is! At even given time, you won’t be “smart” or right in every area of your life. The pendulums always swing . Hopefully, we give Mary Jane time to grow as complex characters should and see where she needs to do the work. It’s only the first episode.

So while you may not sleeping with a man who took vows with someone else, there might be something else going on in your life that needs adjusting. It’s not your reality, but pieces of it are someone’s reality for sure. Maybe this show can help black women take inventory of our lives. Don’t let the fear of reality ruin a good story for you and chance for introspection. Oh, that goes for women and men. I see you.  .

2013: The Rundown

I missed the mark on a lot of tangible things this year, but learned a lot.

It’s true that you will go through the same situations and/or obstacles until you learn the lesson you were meant to learn. Didn’t catch the lesson? You’ll find yourself in a similar thing eventually. I’m hearing some of the exact same feedback in my current job that I did in my very first job out of college 10 years ago. All along I’d thought it was the industry I was in, the people I worked with or the environment. And it was…but those weren’t the only factors. I forgot about the biggest one: me.

I want to write. Let’s just put that out there. That’s about the only thing –for now that gets me going. In my wildest dreams I’ll make a living writing and travel abroad and maybe do television interviews about my work even though I hate seeing myself on tv. I see myself slowing moving towards something like that, but I see that I’m the one in my way. Honestly, even writing this post was a push. Self-starting and following through are my goals for 2014 and beyond.

The next thing is working on this work-balance thing. I’m a worker for myself or someone else or several someone elses at even given time. Somewhere along the way, my life disappeared. I’ve gotta unplug sometimes to change that.

TI said it best and terribly when he asked in a song, “Is you happy?” A recent segment on Melissa Harris-Perry Show about happiness stuck with me. Experts, including Gretchen Rubin who wrote The Happiness Project, suggested your relationships with others (familial, romantic, friendships, organizations, etc.) dictate happiness. Then I read A Formula for Happiness in the New York Times, which says what you do for a living (doesn’t have to be your job, by the way), not those relationships, define our happiness. To add, Myliek Teele, founder of Curlbox, posted this graph on her Instagram page last week.

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Food for thought. I imagine it’s a mix though that needs constant fine-tuning.

While I’m on that subject, less social media and more people. No mistake, social media has provided me with some of the best laughs (until I cried), inspiration for writing and intriguing conversations ever, but half of the time, it’s just noise and ignorance. I don’t need someone else’s thoughts clouding my mind constantly.

I’m not as idealistic or naïve as I used to be. I can look at things and people with a more compartmentalized perspective and be reasonable. I won’t wake up and slide down a rainbow and throw star-dust every day. Things won’t go my way all of the time. I will have to do things I don’t want to do. Or maybe I can’t do things I want to do. T’is life.

It’s okay to ask for what you want. That’s the hardest thing for many to do for fear of rejection. You’d be surprised how your requests are granted or how that block will bless you.

It’s okay to look out for you. It’s not selfish and it’s not something to feel guilty about. Worry about you because everyone else is too busy taking care of themselves, too.

I’m dealing with change better, but it’s not easy. I’ve never liked MAJOR change. People who were in your life go away. They perish. Magazines you loved fold. Your favorite television show is canceled. They discontinue your favorite perfume or lipstick. The point is it happens and you have to push through and adjust.

I won’t be satisfied with my life every day, but I will be thankful. And that’s what’s gotten me this far. Still have a ways to go.

All that said, here’s a snapshot of my year.

  • The job. Navigating a still new job and bigger responsibilities.
  • The increase. I needed it, but it was especially dear to me because it showed me the faithfulness of God.
  • Becoming a published author of sorts thanks to friend and Cosmopolitan Cook, Ragan Oglesby.
  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed–beautiful writing and a life changing book
  • Finding the Next Issue app and becoming slightly obsessed with cooking (with limited skills)
  • Interviewing It Girls like Marsha Ambrosius, Demetria Lucas and Teedra Moses.
  • Making two trips to DC for my Sorority’s centennial and President Obama’s second inauguration
  • Seeing Queen Bey in concert and seeing my intellectual crush, Melissa Harris-Perry live in New Orleans
  • Bey’s surprise album. I’m addicted.
  • Finding Myliek Teele’s podcasts and Instagram. Inspiration for days.

May God bless you in 2014.

My Obligatory Post About Beyonce’s ‘Thriller’

beyonce-explains-her-new-visual-album-read-her-quotes-nowNope, this isn’t another think piece about Beyonce’s self-titled album because honestly, I don’t have time for all that, and I keep telling y’all I’m not that deep (most of the time). I’m too busy body rolling and doing the dance to “I woke up like dis.”

Just a few thoughts though.

I guess the saying, “They sleep, we grind” really is true. I can’t even slumber at a decent hour (well, fall asleep on the couch after high blood pressure due to the Scandal finale) in peace without this woman releasing a FULL album WITH VIDEOS. Who does that??

Bey done walked up to the House of Grown Women and kicked the door down. Honestly, the lyrics are no different from what you’d hear from Rihanna, who’s worn the “I don’t give a F** bad girl” crown for years. It just looks and sounds so much better coming from Mrs. Carter on this album, in particular. There’s a maturity there that we’ve been waiting on for years. Everyone’s looking at her, saying, “’Bout time, girl! Welcome to the party.”

Where in the world do they come up with these video concepts? “Partition” and my favorite, “Mine”? I hope they weren’t “taken” from old movies and videos no one knows. I’m trying to leave the past in the past.

Still wondering when she’s gonna bottle the kind of love she and Jay have up and sell it. It’ll go faster than the albums.

Stay under the radar and keep working. Since her tour for 4, stans have been bitching about her “scrapping” her album and going back to drawing board. How long does she need to drop a single? I guess she showed us. I imagine her as some cooky mad scientist spouting out the most evil laugh and crispy hand rub. She’s never not working, and we shouldn’t be either if greatness is our goal.

Do what you do, and keep moving. It’s great to celebrate your victories, but while you’re going overboard with the celebration, you could be working towards another goal. The procrastinator in me hates this, but it’s true. When her album dropped, she was wrapping up her 100th show…and eating those infamous Vegan cupcakes. After you’ve ticked off another to-do on your list, do you sit back and bask in it, or do you move to the next?

Pharrell is everything. Why? Not only because he sleeps and bathes in a fountain of youth, but because he wrote “Superpower.” That’s it.

Is Beyoncé actually a real feminist?

I don’t care one way or the other but seeing others’ thirst for an answer is fascinating. There’s always been a very loose idea that she’s a feminist, writing women empowerment anthems, but until now there’s been no concrete proof. Then she sampled Nigerian feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDTalk.

And the feminist crowd went wild.

Then there’s another piece of “proof” dissected in Slate, which suggests that “Partition” sample is the French translation of a line in The Big Lebowski about the misconception that feminists hate sex. So, you already know what “Partition” is about, right?

Then things got sticky.

She tells us ladies that we’re flawless (we woke up like that), but not before she screams “Bow down, bitches” atleast 10 times to haters, women and men alike.

“I took some time to live my life, but don’t think I’m just his little wife. Don’t get it twisted, this my shit. Bow down, bitches.” WELL…

Then the claws came out. Feminist scholars, some things you’ll just never figure out. So don’t.

I agree with the notion that if you are a woman, you should be a feminist automatically, but that’s just not the case. Many women don’t kick up dust over lower pay, sexual degradation or whether we think they should or not. Women, especially women of color, deserve every right that men do, but I don’t label myself as one for these reasons.

When educated and accomplished women quarrel online for the world to see over the rights to feminism, how it looks, who should be involved and why, it’s totally counterproductive to the movement. Do better.

I don’t know Yonce’s life (though now I wish I did!), but she’s probably not scouring Twitter to see what’s the buzz is (and feminism is definitely it) but she has her TEAM, sister included, in the mix. She has her fingertips on the pulse and knows what buttons to push, how and when–even when we think she’s lying dormant.

I wrote this in a blog two years ago when 4 was released.

“As far as her allegiance to women’s issues, she co-wrote “Independent Women” (throw your hands up at me) and gives us ladies the best divalicious and men-bashing anthems ever. Maybe she is a feminist, but so what? Above all things and issues you may think she stands for, what Beyoncé is a marketing genius. She and her team know just what to do to keep the stans continuously uterus-riding.”

Today, much hasn’t changed. I still want to dance and sing loud in my car and living room to Beyoncé songs, instead of breaking my brain over her, but I think this album has made me one of the riders. LOL

You can’t put women in a box. You can work…hard as hell. You can love. You can have babies (or not). You can feel good about yourself. You can be insecure your relationships and strong. You can be provocative, sexy, bitchy and even naughty. You can be complex. That’s being a woman. Right now, Beyoncé encompasses all of that, and maybe the fact that we can’t put our finger on a clear-cut theme is what makes it’s so great.

Just relax and enjoy the ride.

Black Beauty and Required Learning

photoIt’s been a rough few days for black hair. Either the way it grows out of our heads or how we wear it.

Please, don’t take my wrap, I prayed silently as I watched Rihanna walk on the American Music Awards stage to accept her first award.

Her hair was tightly wrapped in a doobie (for you Northerners and Dominicans) complete with the extra long bobby pins. She was stunning, and while I won’t comment on whether it was in order or not, I knew at that moment, just maybe, my wrap was stolen. I could see it. Women of all colors and cultures being photographed in mainstream magazines like Ok! Magazine sauntering down the streets of NYC and L.A. with their hair wrapped sans hair scarves. It would become the next big trend to be drained, along with bling, butt and twerking. I cringed at the thought.

That belongs to women of color. And it’s especially serious for black women.

I know it’s petty. It’s not even a real hairstyle (Did you hear that, people? You’re not really supposed to be in the public with a wrap). Why am I holding on to it, you ask?

I got my first wrap sometime around 1992 as a newly relaxed 12-year-old, and I never looked back. I, a creature of habit, have had pretty much the same hairstyle for 20 years, and they all have required me wrapping my hair every night and securing it with a scarf or a bonnet. It’s a ritual for black women with relaxed or natural hair. Our mothers know it. Our boyfriends and husbands know it. We (usually) don’t take a wrap down for any ol’ thing. It has to be something serious to remove that scarf and grab the comb. I guess that speaks volumes about the value of the AMAs to RiRi.

That’s why when she returned to the stage with studded pins, proving that she meant to keep her doobie up, and I knew that moment had come. They’d either snatch it up as a trend or overlook it because they’re not sure what it is exactly.

Glamour.com referred to the wrap/doobie as a “faux pixie crop.” Some social media commenters asked if a doobie was a joint. Talk about clueless. Le sigh.

Then there’s Vanessa VanDyke.

This young girl had been given a choice to either cut her natural hair or be expelled from her school Christian Faith School in Orlando, and thankfully, she will choose the latter. She’s reported saying, “I’m depressed about leaving my friends and people that I’ve known for a while, but I’d rather have that than the principals and administrators picking on me and saying that I should change my hair.”

We’re still doing this? A young child who has a head full of unaltered beautiful hair is a problem, a distraction even? What a way to make a child feel loved and accepted.

White folks don’t know much about us, do they? I won’t raise hell over it, but there’s an annoyance there because minorities are forced to learn about whites, from school curriculum to what we see in the media for even entertainment purposes (a plethora of reality shows aside). Let’s go back a bit.

In elementary school until about sixth grade, my friends and I were obsessed with Teen Magazine even though we weren’t quite there yet in age. We’d scour our school library every month, going straight for the tear-out booklets that were included in every issue. Though we ripped through every page, even then I felt excluded in a way because I didn’t see or read anything that pertained to my friends and me. There were complete sections about how to tan properly, get sun-kissed, beach-blond hair, the perfect chignon or shave your legs with Nair.

There were no stories on how to take care of your hair at night because we didn’t (atleast then) have the luxury of washing our hair daily for a fresh look or how to achieve the perfect wrap, which was now my go-to regimen because I’d gotten a relaxer at age 12. Teen Magazine couldn’t help me on that front, but thank God for Mama and hairstylists.

My point is, at an early age I knew those things about white women without having grown up in a predominately white environment. They might not have known as many things about black folks outside what they heard on the radio or news. Honestly, why would they? When you set the agenda, you also set and control the standard of beauty and what is acceptable. You don’t dare bother to find out what others are doing because eventually, they will fall in line because they’re beat over their heads with constant imagery.  Or so you hope.

Generally, cultures do their own way of doing things and those outside of the culture are oblivious because we may not have or may not want access to others. Perhaps, it’s not so much racism or exclusion as it is human nature. Oprah once aired a show that exposed women of various races and cultures’ beauty secrets. Who knew that the white woman’s sole goal is achieve the perfect  shade of blond?? Or that some Asian women would give their right arms to have a crease in their eyes? Indian women, too, have colorism issues?

We pitched fits when Chris Rock unmasked our hair secrets for the world to see in his film, Good Hair. It seems as if one part of us wants to keep what’s ours close before it’s shelled out to mainstream America for mass production. We’re protective of our customs and what we do, but we also wonder why whites don’t know much about us—our daily lives, how we groom ourselves or connect with one another. Can you be that clueless? Maybe it’s not that we want our “stuff” to be given a thumbs up, or in some cases, taken. Atleast try to be aware of it, and know that it’s sometimes different, but beautiful and normal—not a novelty or distraction.

Best Man Holiday, Hateration and Holleration

bmhAfter reading the various box office number reviews for Best Man Holiday, the mantra for the African American moviegoer this weekend should be: Can I live?

We were all excited and eager to see one of our favorite casts reunite after 14 years. Our anticipation was sparked by the film’s smart media promotion, and we showed up in grand numbers, laughed, cried, screamed and rode with the emotional rollercoaster with Harper, Lance, Jordan and the rest of them. We came out a little drained, but refreshed and feeling good like we’d caught up with old friends. Judging by the early sellouts (I had to purchase tickets at another theater after the remaining evening shows were sold out by 7 p.m.), we knew the box office numbers would soar, and we were right. The film is currently at $30.6 million, but official numbers will post tomorrow.

We support, and yes, we do enjoy cinema of all kinds. This isn’t still a secret, is it?

News outlets have really been sensational in reporting Best Man’s Holiday’s success. The headlines and stories are written in shock, snubbing Malcolm D. Lee and the experienced actors who have graced sets, silver and small screens and stages with other stellar black and white counterparts. Makes me wanna holler!

Time.com titles its report, “The Best Man Holiday Gives Thor a Run for Its Millions: Surprise success of this low-budget rom-com-dram proves that black is the warmest color.”

*slow blink*

USA Today is in hot water for a snarky headline, “Holiday Nearly Beat Thor as Race-Themed Films Soar.” In just a few hours, it’s been changed to a simple “Best Man Holiday Nearly Beats Mighty ‘Thor’” is a race-themed compared to a predominately white casted film because they are the standard.

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Sanaa Lathan serving face for the box office haters

Again, can we live?

Hey folks, we came out for a few reasons: (1) We STILL want to see ourselves. Hello? The movie industry still doesn’t understand this concept? We look at YOU all day, every day, and it’s cool. We want to see US, and that’s perfectly okay. I supported the movie because, yes, the cast IS all-black, and even 14 years ago, I loved seeing young professionals dealing with the ups and down of life, relationships and spirituality (I was freshman in college…le sigh), but there’s more.

(2) African-American audiences create relationships with characters like everyone else. What draws you in to any art form is the ability to connect or identify with it on some level. You identify with a song lyric, a storyline, book, sitcom or movie character. You see yourself or a friend, a family member, an ex them. Newsflash: Best Man is a must-have in most of our movie collections, just like any other “American Movie Classic” would be like Pretty Woman, The Godfather trilogy or Sex and the City (the first one). Has it occurred to you that we missed those characters from 1999? We wanted to know what happened in their lives, who was married, had children, divorced or on the brink of the next big thing, so we showed up.

(3) More than seeing black folks, we showed up because the stories were so great, we had to know what was next.  That’s what quality writing and storytelling will do.

So don’t be shocked when we knock it out of the park on opening weekend. Best Man Holiday will be another added to the movie collection, and the success is well-deserved. In fact, try checking it or some other movies that have casts that don’t look like you, not because you want to see what “we” like or are like, but because you want to see experience a good story. We do it all the time, you know, and it’s not so bad.

The Myth of the All-Knowing Age

Bevy Smith recently turned 47, and she celebrated by dropping a few gems on her Twitter followers this weekend.  The New York media socialite, lifestyle mentor and host of “Fashion Queens” often talks about the freedom that creating your own life affords (she also hosts dinner parties for the best and brightest stars). She’s a vet in the game, so I was surprised to read her tweets saying it wasn’t until after age 35 that she really began to have a concrete vision for her life beyond just wanting to live well. I continued to scroll and saw this:

bevy2bevy

Oh, so it’s not just me?

I, along with many other women sighed with relief because finally she’d said what no one else dared to say: Age doesn’t imply that you’ll have it all figured out.

After college, I read The Quarterlife Crisis and became enthralled with the concept because I could definitely relate (I even named my first blog after it ). If you were having a Quarterlife Crisis, you were likely a recent college graduate just trying to figure out  life and quickly because the world expected you to.

Then somewhere around 27 or so, I pitched ESSENCE to cover what it means for  young black women to turn the big 3-0 because I was so excited about this new feeling of self-assurance and “I’m on my shit-ness” that every woman post-29 talked about. Ultimately, it was rejected because no one cared about what I thought was such a monumental moment. Looking back, I see why. Those women knew 30 year-olds have a lot more life to live. Now, I chuckle to myself when I hear younger women talk about the total transformation that turning 30 will bring. Yes, I had a bit more awareness, and I took time to reflect on changes I needed and wanted to make, but I do that every year. I gave myself a hard look in the mirror and practiced saying I was anything other than 20-something (took atleast four months for me to master that), but honestly, within the next month or so, I took the “I’m 30, B****” tiara off and went back to the old me.

Every part of our lives, for women especially, has to be considered an era or a phase. We’re told that your 20s is reserved for falling in love, indulging in risky behavior, poor decisions that you can hopefully rebound from and taking impromptu adventures. It’s expected and celebrated even. But when the clock strikes 12 on our 30th birthday, we should automatically know what our life’s purpose is, how and where we want to live our lives and love and act on that. No bad decisions allowed. I’ve also heard women swear that ages 40 and 50 are THE ages where you “just know *insert whatever you need to know.*” Who made this stuff up?

No one tells you that some days you wake up, you can’t tell if you’re 34, 24 or 44, and that sets up an unfulfilled expectation. We forget that LIFE in its entirety if God blesses us to live long enough, is an evolution. You will hit walls that rattle or knock you down. You may desire a career or relationship change, a new environment for yourself and/or your family. There will be times when you won’t know what to do or what to say, how to move forward. Those things will happen no matter if you’re 20 or 65. And that’s okay.

So I was especially glad to read Bevy’s candid tweets. I wish more women would be honest with younger women and share their experiences (insecurities and failures included), instead of giving the impression that all is well all of the time. Maybe the real idea that should be pushed is, you hopefully get wiser and learn something NEW with every year. Those growing pains she talked about don’t stop at a certain age, but hopefully, we’ll know how to navigate through them with better vision until the next one comes along.