In a world full of twerk videos and K2, where sweat pants are acceptable 'fashion' attire and jeggings are an actual thing, it can be difficult not to wish you had been born just a decade or two earlier. Our adoration for '90s music and television and its generational predecessors, though partially due simply to nostalgia, is also directly linked to the fact that we did not heavily scrutinize it nor were we equipped to do so publicly and at lightning speed. We were not nearly as critical of our stars and their motives, messages and how they chose to present themselves professionally or in real life as we are now. Even when we did disagree, the public shaming of black folks was never so prevalent, despite the fact that the stakes have always been insanely high and black lives have never stopped being undervalued and overlooked unless there was a profit to be made or a stereotype to point out in the midst of their commodification.
There is an ever growing carefree black girl movement and a wave of natural hair love and Afrocentricity sweeping the globe as black folks across the diaspora develop and become vocal about their identity and politics in terms of their blackness.
But it's important to remember that there have always been carefree black girls. There have always been unapologetic men and women of color in every sphere from politics to entertainment to that sista down the street, and I must say, it was probably a lot easier to function unapologetically and as a whole human being when every word uttered and every move made was not being picked apart by an entire community.
That's not to say black folk should not be checked when their language and attitudes scream anti-blackness, especially those of us with the privilege (and burden) of having a platform. But I am a firm believer that balance is essential in all things. We can't call out the negative without uplifting the positive and we shouldn't constantly shame black folk for individual sound bites without taking a look at the bigger picture and how that person lives their daily life.
A perfect example of the hyper scrutiny of the black community not nearly as widespread or popular in previous decades would be the backlash that Michael B(ae) Jordan received last year when he told GQ magazine that he doesn't want to play stereotypical black roles and just wants to be seen as an actor. A lot of people took to the web to express their frustration that he would make such a statement, but I feel like anyone who's even half woke should have understood what he meant. What he meant was that Halle Berry should have received an Oscar for her role in Losing Isaiah, not Monster's Ball. But the 'esteemed' academy is only trying to give women who remind me of my aunties awards for playing slaves and maids and screwing old white dudes. That's the reality of Hollywood for black folks.
Even in that observation things get tricky, because I believe Lupita N'yongo absolutely deserved her award for best supporting actress as Patsy in 12 Years a Slave. Occasionally, they get it right. And I distinctly remember being disgusted with the black community as I watched it shame this brilliant actress all over social media for being a 'bed wench,' instead of lifting her up and celebrating her achievement. For the record, it was not worth celebrating because a bunch of old white folks deemed her worthy of celebrating. It was worth celebrating because this woman who defies every Eurocentric beauty standard known to man outside of her dress size was being acknowledged for her talent and beauty across the world. To them, she might have been the flavor of the week, but to me she was and is monumental, so I took personal pride in her recognition.
There are specific roles for which actors of the diaspora receive accolades even when their body of work is full to the brim with award-worthy performances. What's worse, there are roles the majority of Hollywood would never think to cast a black actor for because of a widely-held but consistently disproven notion that audiences 'don't want to see a Black person' do this or that or it won't be believable or marketable to a global audience. In light of those hard truths, I think Michael B. Jordan's sentiments echoed those of Golden Globe winner (and my pretend godmother) Viola Davis when she said "the only difference between black actresses and everyone else is opportunity." Any artist wants to be known for their craft, and not with respect to their race, plain and simple.
Taking that one quote from Michael's interview and running with it despite the fact that this is the same actor who played Oscar Grant in a harrowing performance depicting the last days of a 22-year-old black man who was fatally shot in the back by transit police as he lay cuffed on a train platform in 2009 and is extremely vocal about social justice issues is simply ridiculous to me. This is the same actor whose most iconic role before Fruitvale Station was playing Wallace on The Wire—a gritty crime drama in which he gets all too familiar some of the ills plaguing our community, which is probably part of the reason he's looking to diversify his resume. How can we attack him so easily, most of us not even bothering to check the entire interview/quote for ourselves but quickly sharing it so all our friends, relatives, and online acquaintances would know that we don't f*ck with him anymore?
On the flip side, you have folks like Raven Symone-ay (I have to type it like it's spelled because she had the AUDACITY to try to tell somebody about their 'ghetto name') constantly spewing anti-black (and anti-LGBTQ) rhetoric after a long and successful career through which we lifted her up. From The Cosby Show to That's So Raven and the Cheetah Girls all the way up until her recent stint on Empire right before she lost her damn mind and it earned her a spot as the new talk show panelist we love to hate, we supported Raven to the fullest. I hit a full stop on that when she started talking out the side of her mouth about her ethnicity among other things and a large portion of the black community did the same, even petitioning ABC network to remove her from 'The View' where she is currently a talk show personality. That I understood. She reeks of self-hate and needs to know it. But my man Michael? Not so much. And I don't think we care to figure out the difference anymore because we're too busy spreading the word that so-and-so did or said this or that, without making sure they deserve to be completely written off.
Millennials applaud women like Aaliyah for keeping their clothes on and Lisa Bonet for being natural beauties because 20 and 30 somethings deem them old-school. What we forget is that they got to be carefree before it had a name and an apparent formula. They got to exist in an era when these were not common phrases and popular movements among women of color, and so they were just appreciated for their individuality. The truth is that now, in our effort to promote positive, authentic portrayals of our people, we are segregating ourselves from one another in an effort to weed out the folks who make us look bad, and many genuinely incredible people are getting caught in the crosshairs of respectability politics, the old days and the gift and curse that is social media.
What are your experiences being a carefree black girl in this day and age? Let us know in the comments below!
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Do you have a hard time saying no to friends, family or colleagues? Saying yes too often can leave you feeling stressed, overworked, overbooked and frustrated. You might be flattered by someone asking for your help and pleased that you were invited to that gala – but it's still okay to say no if you just can't fit it all in. Learning to say no is a lesson we all need at some point.
Self-care is not just about what you do for yourself – it’s also about all the things you don’t do.
Saying no to others is a way of saying yes to yourself. It frees your time and energy to focus on your own goals instead of being co-opted constantly by others’ agendas.
Advocating for your needs by saying no might feel strange at first, especially if you're saying it to a loved one or someone you genuinely want to help. But there are many ways to say it without being rude or unhelpful. Try one of the five methods below:
1. Be firm
Remember that assertiveness is not rude. Speak in a clear, moderate tone and maintain eye contact. Know that you can say no without feeling guilty because you are entitled to your own feelings and needs. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, but if you choose to give one, keep it short and non-apologetic.
“No.” “No, thank you.” "I will not be joining you because I have a prior commitment.” “No, I do not offer free services, even for family or friends.”
2. Say thanks
We really did learn everything we needed to know in kindergarten. Saying thank you can soften the blow of rejection when you decline a person’s invitations or requests for assistance.
“Thank you for thinking of me during such a special time; unfortunately, I won’t be able to come to the baby shower.”
“I won’t be able to collaborate on this particular initiative – thanks for keeping me on your radar!”
3. Propose an alternative
This is useful when you do want to help the person, but you’re too busy or unwilling to do what they’re asking. You can propose something less time-consuming or less expensive.
“I won’t be able to help with you manuscript revisions. However, I’m happy to lend you my writing guides and my notes from a helpful editing workshop I attended.”
It might help the other person understand your decision if you provide an explanation for why you’re saying no. Use this one sparingly. You can spend your time and money as you wish and everyone you meet does not have the right to demand a justification for your decisions. However, you might choose to explain in certain circumstances, such as to show care and respect to a loved one.
“Babe, I’m sorry that I can’t attend your next spoken word performance because I have a work conference that I can’t miss. I’ve cleared my schedule for the next three, though, and I’ll be in the front row.”
5. Say “yes-no-yes” instead
The “yes-no-yes” approach combines our two previous methods. First, tell them you’ve said yes to something else, give the person a firm no, and then offer an alternative (the final yes).
“I reserve my Saturday mornings for personal time so I won’t be joining the softball league. You’re welcome to join me for Sunday brunch if you’re free!”
No matter how you choose to say no, there are a few tempting behaviors you should avoid:
1. Don’t be fake
Save options 2-5 for when you really mean it. A simple no is fine in most situations, so don’t feel obligated to offer a reason or helpful alternative unless you genuinely want to do so.
2. Don’t apologize
Saying no isn’t wrong, so there’s no need to apologize.
3. Don’t lie
It’s bad for you, and it’ll make you feel guilty.
4. Don’t be vague
Being polite doesn’t require you to give vague answers or avoid difficult topics. Be clear and make sure the other person comprehends your no.
5. Don’t give in
Some people don’t take no for an answer and are great at pestering and guilt-tripping others into submission. Don’t give in! If you know that you truly can’t or don’t want to commit, then no is your final answer.
Do you have any tips to add about saying no? Share them in the comments below!
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As black women, we wear society's wants, prejudices and fears on our beautiful skin. Since caricatures of black and brown women are so widely exported, many people feel as though they already "know" and "understand" the black female experience. People are quick to tell us who we are, what we like and what we are capable of becoming. Many times our personal narrative gets interrupted by static, sweeping generalizations and trite stereotypes. Sometimes it's hard to hear our own voice over all the noise: "Black girls don't X," "Brown women always X," "You can't be a black girl and X." There is a new generation of WOC rising from a rich history and an ever-changing present. Here are some suggestions to help shed the weight of the past and transform yourself into a carefree black girl!
You have nothing to be sorry for. Stop taking the responsibility for other people's miscalculated projections of who they think you should be. That's on them, not you. You don't have to be sorry, you have to be yourself. That's your only responsibility. One thing that you absolutely can't control is other people's expectations. You don't owe them anything. You're not in this world to make people feel comfortable, safe or entertained. In the words of poet Big Sean: "F your two cents if they ain't goin' towards the bills." Let them clutch their pearls, scratch their heads and wonder, but stop apologizing.
“The key to being a carefree black girl is accepting yourself as you are in this moment and acknowledging that it is within your right to change.”
Eliminate words like 'should' and 'used to' from your vocabulary. These words and expressions act like chains holding us back from growing and moving forward. You're under no obligation to be the same person you were as a teenager, last year or last month. What you're used to doing wasn't getting you the results you wanted or deserved. So make a change. Again, you're under no obligation to stay still. Stagnancy is slow and boring. Stigmas, stereotypes and judging from afar is safe, warm and reassuring because there's no risk involved. The key to being a carefree black girl is accepting yourself as you are in this moment and acknowledging that it is within your right to change. Don't be a statue. You're a living, breathing work of art.
Check your tribe
Who do you spend your time with? Look around you and ask yourself, truthfully: "Are the people in my immediate circle positive, empowering, encouraging and supportive? Are they simply fixtures that take up space on a shelf??
That space is prime real estate and you deserve a squad that elevates. Also, that whole tearing one another down for no reason is old. Ladies, we're stronger together. There are enough people in the world whose only goal to to break us down. Let's not do their job for them. Who inspires you? Janelle Monáe? Solange? Amandla Stenberg? Willow Smith? Your Mom? Be inspired and be encouraged no matter who you're with. You don't have to carry the world on your shoulders alone.
Know when to say 'that's enough'
Not every battle is yours. Not every comment, look or side-eye requires a response. It's okay to not fight all the time. It's okay to be tired of the pressure and expectations the world places on our strong, but human shoulders. Black women are not born hard or cold. We smile and laugh, and damn it, sometimes we like cupcakes and septum piercings, mermaid-colored hair and John Mayer! There's no one way to be black or brown or a woman. Let's unfurrow our brows, stop thinking so hard and just be. Be authentic. Be notorious.
It's human nature to try and put things into neat boxes so that our brain can organize the millions of thoughts and functions it has to perform on a day-to-day basis. Sorry, brain — this generation of carefree black girls refuses to be stifled. We can be everything and nothing all at the same time.
The rules are changing. There are no more rules.
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something Chicago native currently residing in Madrid, Spain. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.
Reach her on: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
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Every once in a while, you have to take it back to 2008 on 'em. Sometimes there's only one way to quench the craving for vintage kick drum snare with a dab of pop art and effortless Motown-era harmony atop a virtual homage to black history – enter Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams.
...because sometimes you just got to let them know. For the carefree black girls.
Y'all gonna learn bout dem children of Celestine & Mathew, lol.
Slay sis, slay✊🏾
And Slay niece, slay 👼🏾
— solange knowles (@solangeknowles) February 6, 2016
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Because every other day it seems as if someone new is coming to attack little black girls, here's a list of what they need to hear more often.
You’re beautiful. You’re smart. You’re loved.
You can be anything you want to be. Not even the sky is your limit.
Always try new things, this is how you will learn what your talents are.
If you don’t see anyone who looks like you doing something you want to do, don’t be afraid to be the first one to give it a try!
Your natural hair defies gravity — you’re magical.
Because your hair defies gravity people will want to touch it. And you’re allowed to say no if it’s uncomfortable for you.
Your melanin-filled skin is perfect.
Being “too black,” or “not being black enough” aren't real things. All shades of black are beautiful.
Your history didn’t start with slavery. You have a rich history and descend from the continent in which human life began.
Sometimes you will be the only black girl in the room, but that doesn’t make you an outcast. It makes you unique!
Don’t be afraid to tell your story and your truth.
The only body part you need to use to get ahead in life is your brain.
There will be times in your life when you will be met with disappointment. Hold your head up, even in your toughest moments. This builds character.
You are not responsible for any mistakes your parents might have made. Do not carry that burden with you for life.
There’s no such thing as “bad” hair. There’s no such thing as “bad” hair. There’s no such thing as “bad” hair. There’s no such thing as “bad” hair. And anyone who tells you differently is lying.
You are responsible for your own happiness. Not your mother's or anyone else's.
'No' is a powerful word. Don't be afraid to use it.
Books are your best friend — and the best way to get educated outside of the classroom.
Enjoy your childhood. These are the years when you can truly be a #carefreeblackgirl.
*The cover image in this piece was found on Tumblr, but was originally taken by Creative Soul Photography based out of Atlanta. Creative Soul Photography is run by couple Reg and Kahran, a couple that specializes in children's and lifestyle photography.
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