I’ve been extra clingy lately toward my boyfriend. I message him during the day, text him when I’m on the train (even though I’m on my way to meet him) and, if it wasn’t for work, I’d probably want to spend every waking moment with him. Sounds intense, I’m sure, but you don’t know the fear I feel when he leaves.
He’s an insanely intelligent, courageous and warm-hearted man who is book and street smart. Some of my favorite attributes (about myself) have developed as a result of our relationship. He’s not only my boyfriend, but my best friend. And it’s become a little too much to handle. Only because when he leaves, other girls are the least of my worries. It’s the boys in blue.
As a kid, hearing sirens (to me) meant that someone was going to receive the help they desperately needed. I understood the stigma that existed about police, their treatment of black people and other people of color. And I was under the impression that, for whatever reason, those situations would never happen to me or the people I love.
Well, they hadn’t. Not until I was about 16 and my brother was watering a neighbor’s yard at dusk. As a classical pianist, his hands are his work, so he wears gloves while doing yard work. I often peered through my blinds to check that he made it across the street okay. I’m extremely motherly, can’t really help it. As he bent over to grab the hose, I left the window only to catch the reflection of red, white and blue on my bedroom walls. I ran back over to the window and saw that as he turned to face the lawn, he was greeted by guns drawn.
I screamed for my dad and so did the next-door neighbor of the woman who lived where my brother was watering the yard. Three small flights of stairs became one as my dad sprinted for my brother’s life. Two officers in two separate cars were there to address what a neighbor reported as a break-in. I’ll never forget their body language as they came back into the house. They made it out of the situation alive, nevertheless, with shoulders hunched due to an increasingly heavy burden of being a black man in America.
My parents valued our sense of blackness before we even understood the concept. Attending an elementary school in the heart of Inglewood, owned and supervised by a loving black couple is one of many reasons why I’m proud of who I am. Middle school was the first time I was a part of a multi-ethnic student body and it was amazing. My passion for social justice and culture budded there, and I’ll always be grateful.
Similarly, my high school was fearlessly progressive. People of all backgrounds, heights, learning levels and styles shared a humble lot in Santa Monica, a place I’ll always call home. I’ve had a very fortunate upbringing and educational experience. My thoughts were challenged and my passions were fueled, starting at an early age.
So when events like the Oscar Grant shooting, the task-force attack of Ronald Weekley and the Trayvon Martin murder took place, I was emotionally scarred and physically drained. I couldn’t imagine how men who were just trying to get home could have their lives nearly or actually taken on the principal of a BART scuffle, riding a skateboard on the sidewalk or wearing a hoodie.
According to Huffington Post and The Counted, 194 black people were killed by U.S. police between January and June. Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Keith Lamont Scott, Terence Crutcher and more have followed. Thankfully, my outrage has been matched by the likes of other passionate activists and many well-known figures. Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers demonstrated his frustrations when he first sat during the national anthem. Artists such as Alicia Keys and even Beyoncé, whose Super Bowl performance was inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter and Black Power movements, gathered to convey a video message about the issue.
Despite their actions and those of many communities all over the world, it’s still happening and we’re exhausted. I came across a tweet this week that perfectly summed up how many black people are feeling:
As a lifetime resident of Oakland, my boyfriend has seen his fair share of violence. He’s almost become numb to a lot of the killings, even of those close to him. Although we haven’t really discussed whether he worries about run-ins with the police, I know he does. I can remember him sharing with me when we first started dating that a group of policemen stopped him and his friends and shoved their faces into the ground, all to search the car for a gun that was never there.
He’s a gentle giant who coaches football and analyzes data about how social behavior and tragedy lie hand in hand. He’s never broken the law, he’ll barely even buy a drink, but somehow he and every other man who has been wrongfully targeted are discriminated against on the basis of “law enforcement” or the grandfather of profiling “stop and frisk.”
I imagine that he sometimes gets tired of how often I want to see him. It’s only recently I shared with him I was afraid for him to leave because I wasn’t sure he’d make it back. How I’ll conquer this fear, I’ll never know. But in the meantime, I’ll love him extra and continue to share my feelings in hopes of connecting with others who are passionate about these social injustices and inspiring those who still don’t get it.
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"How grand it is when we unite. How the universe yearns for this." That's one of many powerful statements featured in the promo for the Gifted Project. Created by photographer Jaimie Milner, Gifted is a photo series that "explores the beauty and ingenuity of Black men today."
Milner believes it is important for young boys to see images of black men who are successful in every facet of life. From working in the White House to tackling theater or mastering music. Gifted is an attempt to combat the negative images that oversaturate mainstream media. Black men have more to offer than what is consistently shown.
Gifted is a celebration and a platform that allows black men to have pride in themselves. Most importantly, it allows them to move forward.
Learn more about Gifted by following along on Instagram and Tumblr.
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This feel good story is warming our hearts. Fred Barley, a 19-year-old biology major from Georgia is the true definition of the word perseverance. With goals to pursue a career as a medical doctor, completing his undergraduate education is a top priority and a lofty goal to attain. However, he refused to let adversity with homelessness and unemployment stand in his way. He instead set out on a six-hour ride on his little brother's bike from Conyers to Barnesville, GA, with only two duffel bags and two gallons of water in tow.
Upon his arrival, he set up camp in a tent on his college campus, Gordon State College, to ensure he would be able to prepare for class registration in August. His first few days were spent searching for employment during the day and seeking refuge at night, with nothing more than a box of cereal to carry him over. But Barley's plans took a huge turn for the better when he was startled Saturday evening at the sight of two police officers outside of his tent.
The officers, responding to a call of someone sleeping on campus, immediately sensed that something was awry and began listening to Barley's story. Upon hearing Barley's goals and what he was doing to reach them, the officers were compelled to act. They took Barley to a local motel and paid for his next two nights. Then a wife of one of the officers took the act of kindness a step further by posting Barley's story on a Barnesville Community Facebook page. From there, a GoFundMe was created to help Barley pay for his college expenses and in just a few days it's raised over $67,000.
“The stuff that’s happening with police officers, I am black and he didn’t care what color I was. He just helped me, and that meant a lot,” Barley said to WSB-TV in Atlanta.
Comments and donations poured in from across the country as people were inspired by Barley's tenacity and strength to achieve and conquer higher education. Local pizza shop owner, Debbie Adamson, has given Barley a job and has committed to working around Barley's school schedule to allow him to work and help in any way she can. Donations of clothing, school supplies, medical & dental needs, shoes, a new bike, and possibly a new car are coming into fruition to help Barley succeed even more.
The Facebook page, Success for Fred has been set up full of resources and contacts for Fred to build a community of support around him and see his vision of becoming a medical doctor come into view. The college student has remained humble but overwhelmed by the ongoing support from individuals. He credits God as the key factor in keeping him motivated.
In this video on Facebook, Barley emotionally expressed his gratitude to all that have supported him and have donated to help him reach his goals.
“The Bible says, ‘You can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ so I know I can,” he said. “My legs are working. Millions of people walk and bike to work every day. I definitely think I can bike a couple hours to get to my future.”
In the midst of struggle and tough circumstances, we find the true measure of our ability to hold on and keep going despite whatever obstacles are in our way. Fred's story of doing whatever it takes despite those circumstances is a testament to how important it is to stay committed to our goals and how the goodness of others is never to be forsaken.
Have you ever been blessed to with a random act of kindness similar to Fred's story? Share your story in the comments.
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In the high-stakes era of social media and journalism, a simple misidentification could be the catalyst to altering one's life. Micah David Johnson knows all too well about this harrowing truth. When he awoke the morning of July 8th, in the middle of the crisis in Dallas that left several officers dead, Johnson was greeted by a sea of unread texts, missed phone calls and Facebook notifications. He would soon find out the news that he had been wrongly identified as the Dallas sniper shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson.
A rookie mistake from a freelance journalist led to photos from Micah David Johnson's Facebook profile to be circulated on social media outlets and hurtful messages to pour into his inbox accusing him of the ill-fated crime.
The act of using false information and misidentifying individuals for heinous crimes is becoming a constant error in the field of journalism, leaving a plethora of issues to be resolved in its aftermath. Anyone faced with such a challenging situation could find the overwhelming pressure and backlash too much to bear. Mark Hughes was also mistakenly identified as the Dallas shooter, only he was taken into custody and Johnson was not.
With an army of support around him, Johnson tackled the issue at once and leaned on his faith to carry his good name back into the light. I had the opportunity to speak with Johnson on what happened.
What was your reaction upon finding out that you had been "identified" as the shooter?
Micah: Initially I was in shock because I was just made aware that the shooter shared the same first and last name as me as well as being from the same sub city of Dallas as me. My first reaction to the misidentification was a mix of fear and anger. With it being so early in the morning, I had to wake up really quick and react in a very reasonable way because as someone that knows how media works, I had to ensure that this mix-up didn't become something that hindered me or even put my life and my family's life in jeopardy.
That's true. It's crazy how quickly inaccurate statements or in your case, identities can have an effect on not just a specific person but the people in their lives. Do you think that it's more of a blessing or a curse in times like these, that social media gives anyone access to who you are?
Micah: Initially, it felt like a curse, but as a spiritual man and having so many spiritual people in my circle, it's becoming blessing I feel. As a social justice advocate, it has given me an opportunity and platform to speak with many of my peers about actual topics that matter via phone and in person, which is how we will be able to solve much of this. We do a lot of typing, and sometimes lack the consciousness that comes manifests from face-to-face conversations. I think that it is an issue sometimes that social media world is so wide open, but it also is a network. We just need to have more people spread love, compassion and positivity. In the Bible, it talks about when people come together for good, Satan is still going to present himself amongst the positivity. It's always going to be a battle, but I feel the more we practice positivity, it will continue to prevail. Less generalizations and more community. I like to take everyone on case-by-case basis, because that always gives me an opportunity to appreciate people for who they are as individuals and not what group they supposedly "represent."
What actions or policies do you think could bring about a greater change to ensure what happened to you doesn't happen to someone else?
Micah: As far as actions and policy, I'm not very sure. Since the gentleman that made the mistake of using my photo in conjunction with his post, I think it is important for anyone reporting any type of news especially in situations that are as serious as this to be thorough. If you post something this detrimental and you have 13,000 followers, just because you delete your post after you realize it's a mistake doesn't mean that people aren't already reacting whatever way they choose to.
Absolutely. When you were going through the situation of trying to let people know that you weren't Micah Xavier Johnson, but in fact Micah David Johnson, was it your faith that helped you stay strong in such a traumatic time? Did you have family or friends around to uplift you and keep you in that positive mind frame?
Micah: First and foremost was faith, but it was honestly wavered! I had to be reminded of it by friends, family and even my fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.) brothers. I think knowing that my spiritual family was there for me from the beginning was clutch. I even had to share a few tears when one of my older brothers called me. I was just so overwhelmed, but many reminded me to keep my faith strong. Without faith I wouldn't be able to leave the house and continue to go to work and be me!
Does your employer know what happened with you being mixed up in all this?
Micah: Yes, they are aware. Currently I'm working a part -time job, but i'm currently in [the] job hunting process because I just completed my Masters in College Student Development Administration (Higher Education Administration) and I wonder if this could have negative implications on my job search.
People quickly underestimate how powerful social media is and what it can do to someone's life. Were you receiving death threats and has that since stopped since you have been working to clear your name?
Micah: Yes, I had a couple of negative messages; [I'm] thanking God no death threats. Ever since I've been working to clear things up, [there have] been more messages of people praying for me and just showing love and support as I continue to clean things up. That makes me feel very relieved to be honest, because I'm a family man and I would hate to deal with that and my family having that type of angst.
How do you think this situation will impact you personally, professionally or otherwise, as you begin to move past this experience? What do you want your legacy to be?
Micah: Personally, it showed me that I can keep my composure. Many react with anger, but I wanted to understand first before I made any other moves. I think that is important working with and for the people. Professionally, I think this situation was a form of crisis management, because there was a lot spilled and I had to make sure things were cleaned up and problems were solved. I want my legacy to be one of bringing people together. I have always been one with quite a different background. Moving around as a child and living in 4 different states, I have been able to connect with people from so many different walks of life. I want my legacy to be one centered around God, compassion, being genuine and love. I believe they all connect because God is love, and when you love someone you, are understanding compassionate and genuine along with a plethora of other qualities. I love people, so with all that is going on, it hurts to see people divided and choosing sides. I want to be apart of knocking down those walls, and encouraging others to understand each other and be more united in our communities.
In our interview, Micah told me that the freelance journalist did indeed issue an apology for his tweet. As Micah continues to build a legacy of positivity and love surrounding his consistent platform of social justice, his hope is that love will conquer all things and perpetuate a world in which we can lean on the connections we share to uplift us all.
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After the events this week, how do we engage in conversation and take action against police...
As children, most of our time is spent in a classroom learning the fundamentals before we are ready to go out into the world. Spending so much time with our teachers allowed for bonds to be created and life-changing influence to happen. For many of us, it's because our favorite teacher made college seem possible and our dreams seem attainable.
For me, it was Evelyn Mobley, a tall black woman who was my 7th-grade teacher at Ralph J. Bunche Middle School in Atlanta. Seeing a strong black woman with a voice encouraged me to find my own. She was my role model and the reason why my tuition at Tennessee State University was covered. Unfortunately, not many children will get the same experience I had. It's not because there are no longer any Mrs. Mobleys in the classroom, it's because there aren't enough Mrs. Mobley's in the classroom.
Federal data tells us that 83 percent of teachers in this country are white and 75 percent of teachers are female. So where does that leave the young men who are in need of a male version of my experience? Well, according to that same data, Black male educators are approximately less than 2 percent of the teaching population in public schools. Minority students are the majority inside of classrooms, but they have a hard time finding a teacher that looks like them and can identify with their personal issues. This could be the reason why black students are four times more likely to be suspended and are shortchanged across the board.
There's a great need for more black teachers in the classroom, especially black men. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans fired almost all of its black teachers, a decision that now haunts the struggling charter schools. One of the few black teachers in New Orleans, Raven Foster, recalls what a student told her about having a black teacher:
“I heard a student say, ‘Ms. Foster, I can’t get away with stuff with you because you’re black, but I can with this teacher because she’s white,'" said Foster.
Based on her interactions with students, Foster soon realized that black students wanted a teacher who looked like them, came from where they came from and understood how they lived. Black teachers held black students more accountable and invested in them by caring about things such as their behavior.
There are programs popping up across the country to change the demographics in classrooms. Programs such as 'Call Me Mister' at Clemson University are working to increase the number of minority teachers in the classroom. There are also fellowship programs offered through Kipp that partner with HBCUs to recruit future teachers. As these programs continue the hard task of recruiting and helping to certify black teachers, we have to provide support in any way possible.
Dr. Larry J. Walker explained to Ebony the power of a black teacher:
"Black men who are teachers help to challenge the stereotypes that we are angry, dangerous and not willing to make sacrifices to improve conditions within the Black community. More than half of the Black teachers who work in public schools today earned their degree from an HBCU, and so they play an important role helping Black students graduate with bachelors, masters and graduate degrees in highly coveted areas including science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). While there is a dire need for more Black men in classrooms, Black women have always played a pivotal role teaching, mentoring and collectively shaping the lives of students from diverse backgrounds," Walker said.
Simply put, black teachers are black excellence personified, and when our kids see them in a classroom, they see that anything is possible.
Even if you aren't meant to teach, you can still support the movement of getting more black teachers in the classroom. Until we make our classrooms more diverse, you can still serve as a mentor.
Let's not allow the lack of representation inside the classroom be a determining factor in the future of our black youth. Every black child deserves an Evelyn Mobley, and it's our job to either be that for them or find someone who can.
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In a powerful TED talk, Joseph Ravenell shares the opportunity for health and health equity in barbershops. We know that there is great historical and cultural significance in barbershops for black men, a safe haven of sorts. The discussions that unfold in a black barbershop make lasting memories and help anyone in attendance to form opinions, engage in debates and express themselves in unapologetic and authentic ways. Although he remembers conversations about women, being a black man in America and music, he also remembers the open and honest discussions about health.
Watch the video above to learn how some barbershop employees are also working as activists to bring other community concerns to those who visit in an authentic and relatable way.
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"But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, America, that's shown as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before him."
-Barack Obama, 2004
Something I vaguely remember: Black women spilling “hell no’s” to George Bush’s re-election campaign, reluctantly championing the Democratic party—black momma, black auntie, black grandma. Television on, the electric bill going up, a lanky black man walks onto the stage, crowd cheering, it's summer, there’s political sh*t going on. My folks probably voted for him for Illinois Senate and U.S Senate. And although I didn’t know it, President Barack Obama was about to give what would come to be perhaps one of the most important speeches of the 21st century. This was the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, MA. The grown folks were watching it. My sister and I were just at the crib.
Perhaps Mr. Obama had an inkling that his image would hang in barbershops and beauty salons next to Harold Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. He cited ideas regarding the notion of two Americas. He then went on to make the claim that such an idea was a farce. I was 8 years old in 2004—I’d go to school starry-eyed, ...dreams... wrapped ...in a silken cloth... My teacher would take the class to the library as I’d eye my classmate’s Spider-Man lunch box and grip my state-sponsored brown cardboard one. We’d sit cross-legged at the foot of a utility belt and a firearm and listen to Officer Friendly talk. And as I grew up and ...cut my teeth like the black raccoon— // for instruments of battle, the veil got porous. Anyone could see that there are two Americas—and police seem to be in the position of only protecting the white one. And though I was living in the predominately white suburb of Alsip, IL, I “was not from around here.” I was too far west on 119th street.
Something I definitely don’t remember: Eddie Murphy’s 1984 Saturday Night Live skit, White Like Me. This was in Ronald Reagan’s America—the conservative redux America. Eddie Murphy played a black man that became a white man for the day. Of course, this satire didn’t come out of nowhere—people could find humor in the truth of the piece, that Eddie Murphy had access to many more resources for the one day he became white. He entered into a different America.
Now, I don’t by any means mean to belabor the obvious, or even beat a dead horse and piss off PETA. There are two Americas. Most of us understand this. But what I do want to center on is that Eddie Murphy’s satirical rendition of a black man becoming white for a day is not too far removed from reality. Black police officers exist. And I’d like to offer a socio-philosophical analysis of the condition that is being socio-politically aware and being a police officer. In regards to the aforementioned, perhaps this may be a purely theoretical analysis, but I don't want to be so quick to claim that. Perhaps this analysis can apply to our present reality as Mayor Rahm Emanuel bestows upon the good people of Chicago, Illinois, a black interim superintendent by the name of Eddie Johnson.
In the summer of 2015, just after the first Movement for Black Lives conference in Cleveland, OH, we de-arrested a young black boy. This moment stuck out to me not only because of the radical love of community it took to endure pepper spray repeatedly, but because of one moment I had while recording the happening. In the midst of that chaotic milieu, I happened upon a Black police officer—stone-faced, black shades on. I wonder what was going through his head. He heard us. He heard the “f*ck 12s” and the “black lives matter.” He heard the “it is our duty to fight for our free-” (right before those people were pepper sprayed). Cue the screams. Cue the running to go get milk—the not having much milk. The comrade using her breast milk to soothe the searing eyes of another comrade.
What was this officer thinking? Was he of the “I’m just following orders,” camp? Or was he occupied with keeping an internal tension at bay long enough to collect his paycheck? Was he wrestling with the complete understanding that as a police officer, when he puts on that blue uniform, he participates in maintaining a system that wants to see his body buried and his children hopeless? Could that officer feel his “two-ness?”
Allow me to unpack that a bit. W.E.B DuBois, in his essay, “On Spiritual Strivings” articulates this notion of the double-consciousness—a sort of seeing oneself through the gaze of the other. DuBois writes:
“The Negro is …gifted with second-sight in this American World—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”
To be black in America is to be a problem. DuBois predicates his statement on this – that the problematic black is the ad-hoc consciousness of the Black body for it is the perception of the white hegemony (and those that fit into the construction of whiteness) on the Black Body. For the black person in America, there exists more than one consciousness: The conscious-prima-facie and the ad-hoc—the perception of the other (that other occupying a higher space in the White hegemonic structure) on the subject. DuBois argues that this ad-hoc consciousness is also the notion of value predicated on the subject’s proximity to whiteness (a similar notion articulated by Frantz Fanon in “Black Skin, White Masks’) writing that: “Men call the shadow prejudice, and learnedly explain it as the natural defense of culture against barbarism… the ‘higher’ against the ‘lower’ races. To which the Negro cries amen!”
There exists that “tension” between consciousness-prima-facie and the ad-hoc conglomerate consciousness. One finds themselves prima-facie an autonomous person. Then, one finds oneself ad-hoc occupying the space of a black person in the hegemonic structure. The Black officer might just be in the business of crying “amen!”
What more than of the black officer? Allow me to posit this—when I write the title’s “blue suit,” I am positioning blueness as the state. Blueness is the colonizing force, the empire, the legal structures. Whiteness is the beneficiary of the former. Whiteness is teleologically positioned in our mainstream ethics—our “thou shalts”—our aesthetics. Blueness is the tool of the positioning.
The difference between whiteness and blueness is that white people can choose to dismantle the system that benefits them. The system is blue. White people benefit and often maintain the system. Whereas blue is the system. White people are subjects that fit into the construction of whiteness. Blue solidifies the construction. Blue is the state, is the system, is the prison-industrial complex or the military-industrial complex. Blue is the occupying force. White benefits from the aforementioned. People choose to be Blue. There is a different sort of..culpability.
When an officer puts on that uniform, not only does he benefit from the system (steady pay, health benefits) he is the system—for the black cop, the same system that is made to destroy his communities, his unveiled self and his family.
And when we think about this tension, the “...dogged strength...” and all—perhaps this sort of dualism is more potent.
As a child, I was the subject of a state-sponsored brainwashing. George Bush and all of the inheritors of empire hitherto stepped to my relatively blank canvas and proceeded to overlay it with blue. No matter how “friendly” this badge-clad white man was when off the clock, he was still badge-clad and blue. He was still Officer Friendly. The same for Jerome. Jerome breaks bread—2 p.m., Sunday, on the west-side. Jerome clocks in on Monday morning. How does Jerome feel?
Something I remember well: A Black mother’s proverb. “Don’t reach for anything when the officer stops you.” Momma made no color distinction.
What are your experiences with being black and a police officer? Let us know and share on Facebook!
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Graduation season is upon us, and is no doubt an exciting time for parents and students alike. At one graduation in particular, there was one parent who got to celebrate his son's accomplishment in a major way. At Goshen College's graduation, Eddie Bolden was present to watch his son walk across the stage, something he almost missed because until recently he was in prison. As it turns out, Bolden was wrongfully convicted of murdering two men, and served 22 years in prison for the crime before being exonerated. Thanks to the help of Susan Carlson, a private investigator, who discovered three witnesses who were previously interviewed by Bolden's defense team.
A credible witness was able to testify that Eddie Bolden was at a different location during the time of the murder. Bolden was exonerated earlier this year but only released last week.
He was released just in time to watch 21 year old Dominique Bolden walk across the stage. Eddie told the South Bend Tribune: "I was anxious to see him walk across the stage, I can't stop crying." He went on to explain how hard the 22 years were that he spent proclaiming his innocence, Dominique would visit his father and talk to him frequently on the phone. It was during these visits that Eddie asked Dominique to never give up on him. Dominique kept his promise to his father and learned from it. "Seeing his situation and how he refused to give up and how hard that was, compared to that school is nothing. Why would I give up school when he's fighting his way through that?"
As a newly freed man Eddie is enjoying being able to do what he wants but most importantly he is enjoying being able to be a part of his sons' memorable moments.
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Raven-Symoné has said a lot of ignorant and problematic things. Every ill-conceived statement she has made over the past few years has been met with backlash and commentary and even Mother Oprah's wise words haven't stopped her from doing the most.
But, when she became a champion for discriminatory practices in the hiring process by saying "I'm not about to hire you if your name is Watermelondrea," she couldn't have been prepared for the clapback she would face or the subsequent poignant statement from Watermelondrea herself aka Tré Melvin.
Tré Melvin is one of the youngest and most talented individuals who has used YouTube as a platform to share their talents. Since 2011, Melvin has used his skills as an actor and all around creator to make videos that introduce his over 3 million subscribers to the characters that live inside his world and even offer a glimpse into the mind of the man himself. Here's 11 reasons why you should be following Melvin, if you aren't already.
1. He's unapologetically black as hell as both his videos and Twitter bio proves.
2. He's unabashedly honest and upfront about who he is.
3. He stands alongside women and men in the fight for equality and has no problem with calling f***boys exactly what they are.
4. His collaborations with other YouTube creators not only highlights the work he puts in, but how strategic he is at bringing underrepresented and powerful voices to the forefront of media content.
You guys really aren't prepare for what @TreMelvin and I are working on together video wise. LIKE NOT READY AT ALL! 😱
— HARTBEAT (@iHartbeat) March 24, 2016
5. He's also an artist who has lent his musical abilities to the character Watermelondrea through songs, videos, and an album released last year. He's also been seen on Snapchat recording some of his own personal music projects.
6. He spreads messages that encourage, uplift, educate, and inspire his supporters to levitate and #staywoke.
@TreMelvin the fact that you don't have to educate ignorance but you do anyways is admirable. Thank you for being a voice.
— musictrash (@FashGrace) February 22, 2016
Some day i will be as unapologetic as @TreMelvin
— inspyr (@iinspyr) February 22, 2016
7. He is completely loyal to his following and has even instituted a college scholarship which he has awarded to his fans.
attention all of my high school senior and college student viewers! :)#premiere
Tré L. Melvin Scholarship: Phase 1http://t.co/EP5JwAXgEn
— Tré Melvin (@TreMelvin) October 25, 2013
8. He writes and recites spoken word poetry that shed light on the struggles he experiences and encounters as a black man in America.
9. But, he's also not afraid to make a fool of himself.
10. Also from an aesthetic standpoint, you can't deny that the man is flawless.
— Tré Melvin (@TreMelvin) March 17, 2016
11. Not only is he funny but, he's also just as petty as the rest of us.
bae: baby let's role play
me: okay 😏
bae: *ties me to bed*
bae: now that u can't move, i just think it's funny how.. pic.twitter.com/xjCn85EFoM
— Tré Melvin (@TreMelvin) March 30, 2016
12. He's a business man and recently copped a brand deal with Russell Simmons new series on All Def Digital's "Celsius Now!"
13. At the age of 23, with over 3 million YouTube subscribers and almost 280 million views, he is only getting started.
Tré Melvin is leading the way for the new age of media and entertainment elite who are finding ways to support themselves and do it in a way that aligns with their authentic self. He's definitely the one to watch as young people continue to change the narrative and create stories that redefine what it means to be successful.
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Vinyl recently published "A Statement Against Abusive Behavior in Our Creative Community." More than 50 black writers and artists signed a statement representing themselves as “men or people with male privilege (MMP),” committing to help change the power structures and ideas that contribute to abuse in the black community.
The statement first establishes the signees’ defense of women who have been subject to abuse and silenced as a result. They express their hopes that this public defense of women will “elevate and further critiques of all literary institutions where rampant sexism disempowers women-identified individuals and presents a physical threat to their safety.”
Without making excuses, the statement recognizes that often, the violence against women is a result of an institutional problem in regards to women, power and sexual assault. In this statement, they acknowledge that there are men “in positions of extreme power over the well-being and safety of women,” who abuse this power. However, they suggested the fact that many offenders do not see a problem with their actions is a more pressing issue.
In order to combat this way of thinking, this group examined themselves by asking four essential questions and developed five action steps to get closer to gender equality and "the complete restructuring of institutions that support predatory behavior.” They have also challenged MMP members of the creative community to do the same. This challenge was specifically directed toward individuals involved in literary work.
In a bold action, each MMP member signed their name to the statement that they concluded with the following:
"We’re examining ourselves in this space together with care and in solidarity with others. We recognize that we have flawed ideas, attitudes, and behaviors around gender even as we commit ourselves to a process of self-interrogation and change. We hope that our statement helps to strengthen others and that together we move into a place of respect and love."
It will be interesting to see how many other MMP members of the creative community speak publically against violence against women, and take this pledge. Read the entire statement, and let us know if you’ll be in that number.
Share this statement with your friend on Twitter or Facebook below!
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It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before New Year’s that I publicly stated that I was a former victim of child molestation via Facebook status. It hadn’t hit me until then that this was the first time I said it out loud to a non-familial audience, so when I got a Facebook message from one of my older brothers who lives in southern Africa — asking me what happened, how come he didn’t know, if he could go hurt the person who did it, and if he was asking too many questions — I realized that I have never really talked about it.
Rewind to 24 years ago. My mother, 33 years old, my brother, 8 years old, and myself, four years old, came to the United States in 1991 from Uganda. My father had recently died about three months prior to our arrival in the States. We left behind five of my half-brothers and our entire family. The transition and relocation were very hard, lonely and scary. The kids were mean, the adults were mean and everybody just seemed to hate us. We slept on floors in sleeping bags for quite some time at my mom's older sisters place, sometimes moving back and forth between there and my great-aunts’ apartment. We jumped from place to place in the beginning because our own relatives didn’t want to take in a single mother and two young children. At one point, my mother sent us off to live with distant relatives for a year or so, to save money and get us our own one-bedroom apartment. She worked as a babysitter, nanny and dog-sitter to save that money. My brother was sent to New Jersey and I was sent to Pennsylvania. After being reunited with my mom and brother and getting help from Catholic charities, eventually things got a little better.
Fast-forward to 1997. I was 10 years old and my abuser was (as is usually the case) someone close to my family.
He was my uncle in the same Ugandan community as my brother, mother and myself. We had just moved out of our old apartment. The uncle and his two sons (my older cousins) who we lived with for several years, had moved to another apartment complex. That night, he had come over to get some things he left behind from the move. My older cousin was home too; he had come to our apartment to visit and play catch-up with my mom and brother and was in the living room playing video games at the time. My brother was at track practice and my mother was working nights again. My uncle said he had something for me in my mother’s room. As a child, with a child's innocence, I believed him. I followed him into my mom’s room and there, the sexual abuse began. He forcibly kissed me, touched me, groped me and fondled my vagina and body parts. I was scared out of my mind, shocked, paralyzed and at some point, I suddenly snapped out of the paralysis and began to cry and scream hysterically.
He started panicking and trying to bribe me with toys, money and trips to amusement parks, for me to stop. I ran out of the room, grabbed the cordless phone and locked myself in me and brothers bedroom. I called my mom right away, crying and screaming. I’m not even sure if any words actually came out of my mouth. My cousin ran and started yelling my name, banging on the door, trying to figure out what happened. My mother came home and I could see the look on her face. She was ready to kill. She asked me questions about what happened over and over. To be honest, I actually don’t remember too much after that. It’s as if I went numb, feeling violated and constantly uneasy. All I recall after that moment, about two weeks later, is me being called into a meeting with my mother, another uncle and an aunt. With my brother being angrily sent off to play outside. I was softly interrogated for a couple of hours, my mother emotional and furious. She told them that she was going to press charges and that was final. They begged and pleaded my mother to not go to the police and how it would look in the Ugandan community and for her to also forgive and forget. Thank God they released me and finally let me go play outside with my brother and friends. They stayed in that meeting for several hours later.
Fast-forward to my 29th birthday. That night, after partaking in some of life’s liquescent celebratory pleasures like many millennials my age do, I slid into one or two DMs. Probably shouldn’t have, but I was feeling amazing, on cloud nine and owning my #BlackGirlMagic (not to mention those guys were cute). However, I also started thinking about the last 28 years of my life, specifically my academic and professional accomplishments. I was pretty proud of how far I’d come and excited to explore this next phase in my journey. Still, in the middle of my reflections, the dreaded love life questions kept on popping up. I’ve had my fair share of failed relationships, I’ve been stood up a time or two — I mean fully decked out in my most fabulous of first date outfits ready to go. I’ve been cheated on, lied to, and in situationships that just didn’t make any type of sense. In summation, I’ve had the regular dating life that most women living in the DMV area have unfortunately experienced. I’ve been disrespected by black men and have also been uplifted by them as well, but surely far less uplifting has occurred than I would have liked. But this time thinking of my love life was a bit different.
After the night was done and I came home and finished talking to one of my good friends in Nairobi on Whatsapp, I sat there on my bed and I wanted to know why I had not been in a successful and healthy relationship for so long. I began to question myself; was I too opinionated, too dark, too tall, too “fat” (P.H.A.T. of course), too available, too pro-black, too educated, what was it? One thing I did know was that at some point in my early 20s I emotionally and physically had the inability to become intimate with a man. I didn’t have walls up — I had barricades, rabid pit bulls, electrical fences, snipers and a big brother who would summon goons at a drop of a dime. For a long time, I was comfortable playing the role of the 'homegirl' because she was safe. She was fun. She protected and guarded herself and fell underneath the radar of any male interactions, which could potentially turn violent. She wasn’t deemed as sexy, so not much was required of her. She could dip in and out without having to commit to anything or anyone. Little did I know that my 'homegirl' disguise was one of the many defense mechanisms I used to shield myself and it wasn’t much of a disguise after all. Simply put, I feared black men.
I’ve always known that I wanted to be married to a black man and have African descendent babies to teach the woke philosophies of me and my husband.
I loved black people, the black struggle and essentially the liberation of the black community so much so that all of my degrees thus far have been focused on black and African Diasporan issues. Consequently, much of my academic and professional life has been centered on understanding the historical and intimate interactions between black men and black women. I found myself frequently advocating mainly for black men and making a case for their plight in the world in most conversations surrounding black issues. Since undergrad, I was locked-in and determined to make my black-love fairytale come true while attempting to make sense of my own internal battles. I’ve literally dated men from all over the African Diaspora. But something had never really settled well with me. How could I reconcile fighting the black struggle and advocating for the liberation of black people, and at the same time, hold this little secret I had and have so much resentment and fear toward black men?
This is a question that many black women, having been sexually abused or not, have struggled with and continue to struggle with. The actions of people such as Bill Cosby on the surface speak to the larger discussion of rape culture, patriarchy, power dynamics and the structural discrimination and neglect of the experiences of women. It also further ferments the flawed idea of the black male sexual predator, who regardless of his professional and economic accomplishments, should never be trusted. However, on a deeper level for me, it brings up some things within the black community that are often not talked about — child molestation, rape and sexual abuse amongst black women and girls by black men. At first, I naïvely thought this was exclusively an African problem, until one girls night during undergrad, some of my closest friends, who are African-American, shared their encounters with sexual abuse. I was stunned at what I was hearing. I wasn’t alone. For them, they were not able to discuss what happened and their abuser was also a close family member and they were also asked to keep quiet. Statistically, black women report sexual abuse in drastically lower numbers than white women, but it doesn’t mean it never happens.
The feelings of neglect of black women from black men are ultimately rooted in our historical past. Historically, during slavery, the civil rights movements and the freedom struggles in America and in Africa, the face of liberation, power and the black struggle has been the black man. Aside from the challenges and conditions of the black person to become a viable and free human being in the world, black women have had to burden and weather the storm of the racial injustices, all while taking care of the family and her beloved black male counterpart. Power dynamics and power struggles occurred within the black struggle itself as black women were also fighting a very different battle than that of the white woman. She was fighting to be heard, respected, honored and loved by the world at large. Throughout the middle-passage, African female slaves were repeatedly raped and abused by crewmembers on the slave ships. Throughout slavery, black women continued to be raped by slave masters and plantation owners and there was no legal recourse that protected them from the sexual abuse. The sexual abuse of black female slaves was justified as legal because ultimately, she “deserved” to be raped and she innately had “promiscuous" characteristics about her.
Even during Marcus Garvey’s Back to Africa Movement, Garvey’s own wife, Amy Jacques Garvey, began to outwardly question the actions of her husband and the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA) in relation to the absence of the issues facing black women. In Mozambique, during the independence and freedom struggles of the 1960s, female African Mozambican guerilla fighters were left out of the narrative. Female fighters were expected to perform sexual favors, take care of the soldiers, fight in the bush and were also often times raped within the army camps. After independence was achieved, most female combatants went back to being wives and fulfilling traditional roles and their stories were often never told.
The psychosocial trauma that was incurred during slavery and the colonial era in Africa had a hefty toll on the interactions and engagement between black men and black women. These periods in human history disrupted the cultural and social fabric of not only the black community but more importantly, the black family. For decades, little back girls watched the matriarchs in their family sacrifice, toil and fight to uphold a legacy. Black women have been taught to endure, despite how horrible the circumstances and the inconveniences of life. It is in those moments of enduring that she has also had to forget about taking care of herself and, to her own detriment, keep quiet, all in the name of protecting the black family legacy.
The reality is that both black women and black men are invisible. However, because of the male privilege that men are generally afforded, black women often fall to the wayside of black issues. The sentencing of officer Daniel Holtzclaw, a white cop from Oklahoma who was found guilty of rape charges and specifically targeting black women, is a good example of this. For weeks, the media coverage on this case was very minimal until Black Twitter and especially black women called attention to this matter. Holtzclaw's victims were sex workers, drug addicts and women who were economically marginalized. One of his victims said that she didn’t report him or say anything because she didn’t think anyone would believe her. This case speaks directly to the invisibility of sexual assault and the erasure of black women in society. Holtzclaw not only used his male privilege and the power that his police badge gave him but ultimately he understood that these black women wouldn’t report him and their lives really didn’t matter.
There is fear, shame and guilt attached to sexual abuse. It can be one of the loneliest experiences that anyone can go through. The healing process from my own experience of molestation has been long and challenging at times. It has taken countless years, prayers, meditation and educating myself on sexual abuse and the support from my family and friends to get to this place. I’ve forgiven my abuser, not out of sympathy for him, but so I may be released from the burden of carrying such a heavy weight. I’ve also forgiven myself for allowing that experience to hold me back from fully enjoying life. Despite these revelations, I’ve still had to grapple with many questions. Does my love, protection and advocacy of the black male experience both in America and around the world come from a place of wanting so badly to be loved, appreciated and protected by black men? Even in the midst of the historical dissonance between black men and black women, many black women still hold on to that notion of the black-love fairytale. The question is, do black men feel the same way? And where do they stand on sexual violence and abuses not only against women but, more specifically, against black women?
Loy Loggosse Azalia, MA, is an African/African Diasporan development specialist, and a PhD Student (ABD) in the Department of African Studies & Research at Howard University. She also moonlights as a contemporary African dance phenom, writer and is the creator of Reign.InTheCity, a “blogazine” for African and African Diasporans, who are global game changers, to share their story perspectives and experiences. Follow her on Twitter.
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