Dear Bra-Less Women of Howard University,Thank you. Now at this point, you probably think I’m an old perverted man hiding behind a computer screen. But that’s not true. I am a straight black woman and I want to thank you.Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your self-love. Thank you for letting go of society’s ridiculous constraints on womanhood. What is the purpose of bras, anyway? If you ask Wikipedia, it says to cover, restrain, and reveal our breasts. But why? Why should we interfere with the way our bodies naturally are, the way they naturally hang? Make them defy gravity? A fifteen-year study done in France shows that bras contribute to sagginess and hamper circulation. For younger women with developing breasts, not wearing a bra increased collagen production and elasticity, which improves lift. Not to mention, bras are kind of uncomfortable.So why do women continue to go through the discomfort of wearing a bra if it isn’t even good for us? Because, society.Yes, society. From the beginning of time, society has placed constraints on womanhood. You must be hairless, delicate, and smell like flowers. You must jump when your man says jump and don’t you dare think about sleeping with more than one man. 36-24-36. Menstrual cycles? Oh no, those are taboo. As if we are not human. Society tells us that our nipples must be tucked away, hidden, sexualizing them as if they are not body parts that are on both male and female bodies. When a man’s nipples poke through his shirt, there is no outrage, nor surprise. No one tells him to put them away. No one says they’re a distraction.Society tells us that it’s not okay to breastfeed in public. As if our babies will only be hungry at home. Society tells us that our breasts must be perky, round, and identical. As if that’s a thing. Too many times have I seen caricaturized perfect breasts that are big, round, and sit in a way that defies gravity. Most of the time, they’re drawn by inexperienced people who have only seen the breasts popularized by porn stars and plastic surgery connoisseurs.So why do we shame women for the way our bodies are naturally?I think it’s for the same reason women shave and wear antiperspirants. Now, I do both of these things, but think about the principles behind them. Hair grows on our bodies naturally as a way to keep us warm (we are still mammals), and pubic hair serves as a barrier to prevent friction that can cause skin abrasions and to guard against unwanted pathogens and bacteria. But we shave, because the ideal image of a woman popularized in our society is a hairless one. Antiperspirants clog the sweat glands under our arms. That doesn’t even sound healthy. Again, why interfere with things our body does naturally? Antiperspirants contain aluminum, which has been linked to breast cancer and could possibly be linked to Alzheimer’s. But society tells us we have to be hairless and smell like flowers. As if that’s a real thing. So thank you, bra-less women of Howard University for taking that first step away from society’s beauty norms and restraints on womanhood. Thank you for not letting society constrain you to a general idea of womanhood, having the courage to embrace a part of your body the way it naturally is. Thank you for being carefree enough to free your nipples, and hopefully enough to free your minds.Sincerely,Daja Henry, 20, Howard...
In the spring of 2016, a young multimedia journalist set out to make a video about a black trans person's experience graduating from college. Through countless calls, emails and references, she eventually met her match. X arrested her. They were exceptionally well-spoken. Friendly. Telegenic. Sharp--sharper than the journalist. It was immediately and abundantly clear that X couldn't have been a better subject for the journalist's short film. But.X's story intimidated the journalist. It was more than she had bargained for. How could she do justice to the person living in the shadows of one of America's most notorious college rape cases? How could she depict the marvel of someone who had endured so much pain yet exhibited so much grace? How could she make a film that would make her subject happy? That would make her happy? How could she make this video say that X was beautiful at every stage of their gender transition--even though they feared they might never make it to the other side? The journalist sat with her questions and self-doubt for so long they gathered dust in the recesses of her mind. She decided it was better to finish and fail than to live with the agonizing rumination over how to move forward. And when the journalist watched X and listened to their voice on the tapes again and again, and many more times after that, she realized she couldn't tell X's story for them. The only way to go forward was to let X speak for themselves. This video is the culmination of a year's work to do just that. Today, X says they're more affirmed in their voice after having gone through the process of making this film. Thankfully, the journalist feels that way,...
Valentine's Day has arrived and for some of yall, this day is a great opportunity to celebrate your love. For the rest of us, we are fighting the urge to break up happy apartments and windows. Now I know we've taught you the 11 principles of petty, but for Valentine's Day, you must practice restraint. Even though I am the Head Minister at the Church of Screenshot ministry, I must take a minute to beg the members of my congregation to avoid being petty on this day. We might be without bae, but that doesn't mean we have to rain on their parade on Vday. (Save your petty for Throwback Thursday. That'll teach them.) Here are 7 solid ways to avoid being petty on this day: Before we go there know this: Photo: Giphy1. DO NOT post mystery pics of someone else's new bae. He is no longer yours. Say it with me folks He. Is. No. Longer. Yours. Therefore do not go into your arsenal of "chilling with bae pics" and pull out one that you think no one will catch wind of. You know the kind of photos I'm talking about. A photo from the honeymoon phase when you showed bae off to the world after showing only parts of his or her hand. It's that amazing picture that puts outsiders on notice, this is mine so proceed at your own risk. Even though we can't see their face we know that they ain't yours. You are not the chosen one. Only the new bae can keep the petty mystery going. Take this day to purge your smartphone and soul of all the remnants of that failed relationship. Looking at the past only reminds you of the mistake they made when they walked away. And for those who don't know what I mean by hidden bae pic, i.e.Photo: IamReggieDavis2. Avoid social media for 48 hours.Valentine's Day is a day to show off just how much your bae loves you. Some will have an "every kiss begins with Kay" moment, others will have a "mmmm ok at least he acknowledged you" moment. Either way, people are going to have their moments and be in love and for once we don't have a right to interfere with petty comments. I have a Ph.D. in petty. So I know how easy it is to make a comment under a pic and ruin lives. I do this for a living. Again, I am the head of the screenshot ministry for those who forgot. In order to keep me and you from being thumb thugs, we shall sit this day out and let social media flourish without us. ( Especially stay away from Snaphat!)Photo: self loveTumblr3. If you MUST log on, DO NOT make a new status for 48 hours.There is nothing like scrolling through your Facebook timeline and coming across the status of a newly single person. We all know THAT person. The one who has the lyrics to a song or part of a poem as their status. "Last chances don't always come with warnings", "Be careful who you give your heart to, not everyone is worth it", "The greatest self-love. I need only me." Now I agree with all of the above, BUT if I saw a picture of you and bae less than 45 days ago, I got questions. Like when did yall break up? Who did it? Why? So to keep us from asking questions that add to how butt-hurt you are, just avoid making a status. This way you don't look bitter and we don't become nosey. Photo: Pinterest4. Lemonade is banned until next Monday. This is pretty much self-explanatory. There was fire, a baseball bat, the other woman's skin and Becky. Lemonade will have you going through it. Even if yall broke up months ago, Valentine's Day coupled with Lemonade will create doomsday. It will inspire you to make calls and send several text messages to them from your phone number and Apple ID (if you're blocked. Don't ask me how I know). Beloved, don't do it. Save your energy for someone who knows exactly how valuable you are. Save it for someone who kisses your scars instead of creating new ones. Photo: Giphy5. Wait to exhale.There are quite a few movies to avoid during this time of year. Waiting To Exhale is one. The women in this film went through it! Even though they got it together, in the end, they still had to burn up cars and stop sleeping with other folks husbands to get to the place they were meant to be. That place was single for some, but it lacked bitterness for them all. Many of yall won't get that as a takeaway. Instead, you will remember that your ex-bae is the motherf***ing improper influence and be ready to torch whatever bae left over there. DON'T do it, just place those items and memories in the trash, where they belong.Photo: Giphy 6. Why we always gotta fight at Cheesecake you know we like to go thereAvoid restaurants where families and lovebirds like to go. Tonight is the night to light a few candles, pour yourself a glass a wine and attempt that new recipe. Maybe it's a night for you and the other single members of the crew to have a potluck or cook off. Be with your tribe and not amongst the tribes. Sometimes seeing what others have will cause you to second guess what you don't have. Your moment is coming and when it does hit, it won't be at the Cheesecake Factory or Fridays.Photo: Bravo7. #ThrowbackThursday get back in the gameI urged you not to be petty on Valentine's Day. But I didn't say you can't be petty on Thursday. Valentine's Day is on a Tuesday this year, which means #ThrowbackThursday is still a viable option after our 48-hour hiatus. Not everyone is living right. Some folks are living foul and playing with the feelings of others. Sometimes you have to remind them that you and your heart are not a game. Post an epic pic of you two together and caption it: "#tbt I make everything look good." It can do one of two things, remind them of how good you made them look or cause the new bae to feel some type of way. If you're about that life, tag them. I for one am and with all dignity care not. Photo: YoutubeThis list could go on and on for days about ways to avoid being petty on Valentine's Day. The most important thing about Valentine's Day is knowing that you are enough. If they left or if you decided to leave because that's what was best, it's ok. Not everyone deserves you. So if they want to be with the person using Snapchat filters for edges and calling tacos a homecooked meal, let them have that mediocre at best love. Your love will show up with more dignity, edges, and steaks. Let them flourish without being petty and you one day shall flourish too. Loving Blavity’s content? Sign up for our...
I can remember hearing the bell — fifth period is over. I have five minutes to; run to my locker, put my books away, socialize a bit, dart down the science hall, drink from the ‘good’ water fountain, and then do a combination of a skip, a hop and run down the back staircase. Giving me a little under a minute before my gym class starts.I remember my phone ringing. A text, my sister just gave birth! I was ecstatic, I remember going up to the first person I recognized and sharing the news.I remember my father picking me up from school. He sped down every side street, leading right to where you were. I remember feeling that feeling you get once you inhale that first whiff of hospital smell. I felt sick. I was nervous. For the past nine months, I was aware of your existence, I just wasn’t prepared for your arrival.I remember first holding you. I was tense. I didn’t want to hurt you. You were sleeping — peacefully. As dainty and as sweet as you could be. You didn’t cry, not once. I’ve never seen cheeks so plump, so pink.You glowed and you still do.You’re growing to be a beautiful little girl. Yet, from time to time, I get quick glimpses of that little chipmunk I first met all those years ago.Every day you’re experiencing new things, traveling to places. Places you’ve never seen before. Even if these places are just beyond your street. Your imagination has been crawling up until this point and now it’s ready to stand up on its own and let loose — but I see you are reserved. I watch you on the sidelines. I can see those big brown eyes working to dissect, reassemble and make sense of everything you see.I look into those eyes of yours and I’m haunted by the memories of being your age.You remind me a lot of myself. Like you, I was wide-eyed and curious. I too stood on the sidelines and would just watch. Too afraid to dive in and experience what life had to offer for me. Mainly because not everything I saw was pleasing. Sometimes the things I witnessed were ugly and unfair, and I didn’t want to open myself up to that torture. Standing on the sidelines was ideal to me, or so I thought.I want to share a story with you: When I was about your age there was a little girl in my class who sported colorful neon ribbons on the top of her head. It was hard for anyone not to notice her; you could spot her in any crowd purely based off the ribbons she wore. The little girl had somewhat of a posse, a group of girls who would follow her around and fawn over her hair and those same neon ribbons.There was also a boy in my class who was known for causing trouble. Everyone hated to see him coming. I would watch him pick on this girl almost every day. He would pull her hair, tug on her school dresses, and basically any and everything else that would send her running to the nearest teacher.I could never understand why he terrorized the poor girl so much. From what I saw, she never bothered anyone and was always friendly. One day after we finished our snacks and were preparing to lay down for our nap; the young boy snuck up behind the little girl and with a pair of scissors, cut each and every single ribbon out of her hair. This sent the girl into a frenzy! I watched from my matt as she kicked, flailed and screamed from the top of her lungs. The boy, on the other hand, stood there frazzled. He couldn’t see why she wasn’t seeing the fun in all of this as he did.Soon enough, our teacher came running over, snatching the scissors out of the boy’s hands, demanding an explanation. Quickly the boy scanned the room, realizing he was alone in his actions and obviously embarrassed; he began to cry. He sobbed for several minutes, unable to articulate his thoughts and express how he felt. His forehead wrinkling and his heart increasing in pace by the second. He instantly knew he was wrong.By this point, it wasn’t just me watching. The entire class looked on, waiting to hear the excuse he would come up with. Though the boy continued to cry, the teacher refused to let up. Staggering over him, she still demanded an answer. The classroom fell silent as the boy’s sobs began to cease. I watched as his eyes bounced from the floor to his palms to the ceiling and back to the floor again. Ready to reveal his truth, his mouth began to part and with his eyes fixed on the teacher, he spoke quietly, “because I like them.”“What!?” The teacher leaned in. A little louder, this time, the boy tilted his head back and screeched, “because I like them!”Because I like them? That was his reasoning for terrorizing this poor girl? Pure admiration for her and her ribbons was reason enough for him to pick on her day in and day out?Somehow, to him, this is what his infatuation translated into.I share this story with you because like you I once held the wall up and refused to partake in the moving world around me, out of fear of scrutiny. I once, just like you, held my imagination captive inside of me and refused to let it run free all because I was scared of how others would react. I was afraid to share what was unique about me in fear of standing out and being picked on for it, but I want you to know that people will only pick on you just because they like you.People will see the lack of hesitation when you smile. They will see the glow you have on you. You are unapologetic with your joy and it spreads to others around you. Unfortunately, these same people will pick on you for it. Someone will see your potential for greatness, the charisma you carry, your beautiful Black skin and those big brown eyes and will shame you because of it. Don’t let how people treat you, or how you observe others being treated stop you from diving into the moving world around you.One day you will grow from a girl to a young lady and ultimately into a woman. Know that this is not a curse.You are blessed. Be proud of your quirks and features, all while remembering you stand on the shoulders of leaders, scholars and compassionate givers. All of whom saw what you are seeing and decided to either change it or change how they looked at it.Know that these same people won’t always be presented to you, so you must search for them. Never wait for your truth or history to come to you, instead seek it out on your own. With it, you will carry the knowledge, the fervor and the heart to run on.You already possess everything that you will ever need.I implore you to share that contagious spirit with everyone you meet. Continue to ask questions and stick around for the answers. Remember the world can’t be seen from merely watching The News, and that the places you hear about that lie beyond your street, do in fact exist. Go, touch them and feel the air around them.I know that you’re constantly faced with images and coded messages that cloud your thinking. You turn on the TV or open a book and once again, there they are! Please understand, that in this world someone will constantly be working to define you. They will work endlessly to marginalize you and will even try to assemble the path that you will lead. Don’t stand against the wall and wait for your path to be revealed to you. Instead move forward and explore every nook, every cranny and journey onward to find your own path that will lead you to self-identity, love, and your own truth.Most importantly, I want you to understand that there is nothing you can ever do or say to make me stop loving you. With every breath, you breathe there is a piece of me that passes through you, and with that same breath know that you are strong. Know that you are capable of anything.You. Are. Magic.I look into your eyes and I can see that you see the endless amounts of possibilities that lie before you. It won’t be until you step off of the sidelines will you begin to taste the sweet fruits that life is serving.Dig...
The truth is, the darker someone's skin tone, the more often they experience racism, hatred and bullying. When someone with dark skin posts a photo of themselves — especially one celebrating their body and their race — we live in a world where they may be subjected to intense hate for their skin color alone. Model Khoudia Diop knows this all too well, but she's hoping her presence online and in the modeling world might change that.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Khoudia opened up about the racism she's experienced, and exactly what it means for her future.
"I was teased a lot growing up, because of my skin tone," Khoudia, who was born in Senegal and moved to France, said. "By other kids, and now even online sometimes, people will make comments."
Instead of listening to the haters, Khoudia celebrates her skin tone all the time. Her Instagram handle @melaniin.goddess is a nod to her gorgeous complexion, and she tags all her photos with celebratory sayings like #blackgirlmagic, #blackgirlsrock, #melaninonfleek, and of course #flawless. By being proud about her skin, Khoudia told the Daily Mail she hopes other young girls will use her as a role model.
"Because of my dark, melanin rich complexion and because I want to inspire young girls and let them know that we are all goddesses inside and out," she said. "The message I have for my sisters is that how you look doesn't matter as long as you feel beautiful inside."
This is so important, especially since there are so many messages out there telling young black girls that light skin is more beautiful. From things like makeup brands not making tones for dark skin to more drastic messages like skin bleach advertisements, there are so many things telling black girls that having a lighter skin tone is ideal. That's not true, though, it's just one of so many silly ideas society pushes. What's most beautiful is being and loving yourself as you are. Khoudia is a great example of someone not listening to bullies by staying true to herself.
"Growing up, I faced it by confronting the bullies. As I grew, I learned to love myself more every day, and not pay attention to the negative people, which helped a lot," she said.
That's definitely easier said than done, but take Khoudia as your inspiration.
This post was originally published on Teen...
Black girls are lit! We are out here writing our own stories, taking control of our images and giving new multidimensional perspectives of what it means to be black and a woman in society. As trailblazers like Issa Rae, Jessica Williams and Lena Waithe are blowing up the simplistic depictions that have defined us through society, no longer are we relegated to stereotypical, one-dimensional narratives.
In the spirit of this particular brand of #blackgirlmagic, Lupita Nyong'o continuously annihilates stereotypes and stretching perceptions in real time. We can't seem to take our eyes off of her remarkable beauty and tremendous growth as an entertainer and humanitarian.
Let's take a look at the flawless evolution of the Kenyan-Mexican starlet.
1. The Making of Greatness
Lupita is the second born of six children to Dorothy and Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, a college professor turned politician and former Minister for Medical Services in the Kenyan government. Primed for excellence, it is no surprise that the Yale School of Drama and Hampshire College alumnus, who is fluent in four languages, has achieved so much in her career. She's just warming up.
2. Academy Award Winning Actress
Although Lupita was grinding as an actress, writer, producer and director since 2008, it was her Academy Award Winning role as Patsey in the 2013 film, 12 Years a Slave that catapulted her into superstardom. In 2015, the actress commanded the stage in the Broadway play Eclipsed for which she was nominated for a Tony Award for best actress. Her recent role in the 2016 Disney film, Queen of Katwe is already generating Oscar buzz.
3. Fashion and Beauty Icon
Once the world got a glimpse of her flawless radiance, Lupita quickly became a fashion and beauty icon winning a coveted advertising contract with Lancôme and gracing countless magazine covers including Essence and Vogue.
4. The Princess of Poise
Aside from casually slaying long held beauty standards and effortlessly nailing every red carpet, Lupita consistently exudes an elegance and poise far beyond her years.
5. She Keeps it 100
Given her Hollywood elite pedestal, it would have been easy for Lupita to bask in that flawlessly confident image but instead, she uses her platform to reveal personal struggles to inspire confidence in other girls. At the 7th Annual Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, Lupita addressed the issue of self-hate inflicted upon black girls who don't meet the mainstream standard of beauty, revealing that there was a time in her life when she "prayed for lighter skin."
6. Her Black is Beautiful
Lupita has spoken out on various occasions about the negative impact that the singular European beauty standard has on people of color. Tired though it may be, we all know that the stigma around complexion and colorism continue to persist. Lupita, in all of her radiant glory, changes those conversations, delivering messages of self-love to little black girls and boys all over the world. Lupita loves the kids.
7. Lupita Comes through for the Culture
Dancing with my people. @voguemagazine #OctoberIssue #bts with @mariotestino @tonnegood A video posted by Lupita Nyong'o (@lupitanyongo) on Oct 8, 2016 at 1:50am PDT
As the Hollywood starlet solidifies her space in the industry, she continues to reveal her layers peeling back her squeaky clean image to expose the endearing personality we all knew was lurking behind that flawless smile. Oh, and did I mention, the girl drops bars!
8. Random fits of Unapologetic Fabulousness
And for no reason at all, here's #LupitaNyongo with a hula hoop, in heels, in the Vogue offices. pic.twitter.com/fnbuvCFKLP
— Andrew LaSane (@laptop_lasane) October 24, 2016
Once you unleash the magic, there's no reigning it in.
9. Lip Sync Battle Champ
Ahhh!!!! 🏆 #LipSyncBattle
A video posted by Lupita Nyong'o (@lupitanyongo) on Nov 2, 2016 at 6:33pm PDT
Well damn Lupita. We...we had no idea. On Spike's Lip Sync Battle, Lupita's feminine prowess came full circle. Missed it? Watch it again, and again.
10. Blerd Queen
Doing the #SillySeal with my @QueenOfKatweMovie co-stars. #WerkItWednesday #Queening
A video posted by Lupita Nyong'o (@lupitanyongo) on Oct 26, 2016 at 9:26am PDT
Whipping work in Marvel's upcoming Black Panther film Lupita is winning as a cult film goddess and emerging as the ultimate blerd queen.
11. Lupita is Winning!
One time for Ms. Nyong'o out here living her best life in all these glorious layers of excellence.
We see you Lupita!
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We love diversity, but it's not always represented in our mainstream mediums. “United we stand” is a popular American slogan that we hear quite often, but we don’t always finish the quote… “Divided we fall.”
Here at Blavity, we collaborate with all kinds of content creators from different backgrounds. We believe everyone’s experience is unique and everyone has a story to tell. We are black and do not apologize for it, but we also identify ourselves as American.
We asked the Creative Society to challenge the status quo and share all the reasons why we are America too.
Valerie Robinson (@unapologetic_us)
I am America too because this nation has been built off the backs of my ancestors. Hard work is engrained in our roots and we can rewrite the ending to our own stories. My contributions to society will one day create a legacy that will span generations as I make it a priority to revisit often what gems I wish to leave here on this earth and tackle generational curses. Although we are standing on the shoulders of giants, it is important to do our parts and not waste any of our God-given talents and the opportunities afforded to us. “The time is always right to do what is right.” I don’t take any of that, the paved paths or my unique voice for granted. If nothing else, I strive everyday to leave things BETTER than they were the day before.
“There is no such thing as I can’t, only I won’t… and that is unacceptable” - Anonymous
Rhonna Wade (@rhonnawade)
I am America too because my family came to America looking for the same opportunities others' families did. I know I am more than capable and able to contribute to the bettering of the society as a whole and I cannot not let those who are afraid of change stop me.
“We may not have it all together but together we have it all.” - Anonymous
Thomas C. Knox (@datewhileyouwait)
I am America too based on the Constitution and my freedom of speech. I am able to develop my own American dream, giving me the ability to reconstruct the values it’s built on. I can speak freely and create a journey that allows me to challenge right from wrong, which gives me the opportunity to inspire and encourage future generations to continue the work that those before us have done to build a unified nation.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” - Gandhi
Georgette Pierre (@georgette)
I am America too because my siblings and I were able to live better lives due to the sacrifices my parents made moving to this country. I’m able to do things and live things my parents never imagined possible or knew existed. For that, I am mindful of the mark that I leave on this world by seeking to live my purpose, doing my best to empower and speak up for those that may feel discriminated against. Also acknowledging my ancestors that came before me to make this life possible for myself and others.
“There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.” - Freya Star
Brandon E. Miller (@thatguybmills)
I am America too because my ancestors are firmly rooted in the foundation that supports America. Like vines, my family’s contributions are woven into the history that defines America. And I, like you, continue to plant the seeds that once cultivated, will feed tomorrow’s America. I have faith that the American Dream will be what it used to be; regardless of what we look like, where we come from, how we think or how we live.
“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” – Anonymous
Alicia Davis (@cubiclesandcurls)
I am America too because my parents came to this country for a better life and to give me more opportunities. I've worked hard to get everything I have and then some -- a good education, a job I enjoy and extra satisfaction from side endeavors. My history is American history and my struggle was born and can only be addressed by America.
“Think globally, act locally” - Patrick Geddes
Jon Lowe (@jlowe594)
I am America too because I was born and raised here, but it goes beyond that. Being American is not just about your document papers, but more about how you live your life, how you fight for equal rights, how you contribute to making this country greater, and how you vote to secure our country’s future. I am an American, but I am also an African-American.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” - Mark Twain
I am America too because I was raised in the burbs, went to a high school that was less than 1% black, attended 99% black HBCU Morehouse College, went to Stanford University for grad school, love hip hop, folk music, alternative rock, and R&B, play basketball and acoustic guitar, and often ask what IPA the local bars have on tap. I am unapologetically black, and a complex fusion of cultures and diverse experiences that are uniquely American. I am America because I am diversity and diversity makes America what it is.
Quote: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” - Matthew 6:33
Nic (@niktrition + @thefleektox)
I am America too because I embrace that America is all that is the Western Hemisphere; cognizant that this expands beyond the boundaries of what has been established as the United States of America. Being American is not about boundaries and limitations, but about enlightenment formed through the experience of globalization. The same globalization that warranted its founding and continues to emancipate those shackled by limited opportunity and rights. I am America too.
“Think Globally, Act Locally” - Patrick Geddes
Marqueeda LaStar (@lastargotnext)
I am America too because we are a nation of individuals that love our communities and ride for our chosen tribes. We champion our freedom to live as we choose. To be both bold and darling. To never stop reaching, growing or evolving. We live enriched lives due to these choices, challenges, tireless dedication to self-improvement, building a better tomorrow and the resulting diversity of expression. Our differences compliment our common ground. In Tim Curry fashion, I ask, What is light without darkness? I live to completely realize and help others embrace the untapped power and potential that lies within our differences. I love my weird and yours.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” -Audre Lorde
So... What does America mean to YOU?
Spread the word. Post your own self-portrait on Twitter or Instagram and tell us why YOU are America too. Make sure to tag @Blavity using the hashtag #IAmAmericaToo.
Learn more about the Creative Society.
Talk more about this with us on Thursday, November 3rd at 12pm PT | 3pm ET on Twitter.
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My uncle from Canada called me. The first words out of his mouth were not “How are you doing? What’s going on in your life?” Instead, his start-up conversation question was, “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” As if that was the most pressing and important piece of information that he needed to know in that moment. I rolled my eyes and replied, “It’s nice to hear from you too, uncle!” I can’t tell you how many well-meaning family members call me and ask me that question within the first minute of our conversation. Once they discover that I'm still very single, the disappointment in their voices is palpable. They then begin to offer me unsolicited advice and promise to pray that I meet someone soon.
In the Haitian culture, not being married or having a serious boyfriend by your mid-twenties is often looked upon negatively and people start to seriously worry on your behalf. I often joke and laugh about this situation with my friends and cousins because they can relate — they also have had to suffer through awkward conversations about their singleness.
Last year, I was in a serious relationship that ended suddenly. It took me some time to grieve the relationship and move forward with my life, but it happened. Although it was hard, I finally got to a place where I not only owned my singleness, I actually, dare I say it, enjoyed it.
However, even though I'm in this content place, I'm annoyed that being single carries with it a certain stigma, especially for black women. In fact, whenever black woman singleness is mentioned in the media, it’s deemed as a “crisis” and the “blame” is put on us. However, the 2010 U.S. Census showed that about 49 percent of black men ages fifteen and older were not married in comparison to about 46 percent of black women. As Author of The Sisters Are Alright, Tamara Winfrey Harris noted, “If discussion of the black marriage crisis were driven simply by concern that the black community had access to the societal and economic benefits of matrimony, then surely time devoted to dissecting the problems of unmarried black men would equal talk about unmarried black women.” But it’s not, and it’s black women who are told to fix themselves in order to be deemed more of marriage material.
But being single is not a problem. I repeat, being single is not a problem. It's most certainly not your problem or my problem; it’s their problem. I enjoy the freedom that I have and my newfound confidence. I don’t wait for others to give me permission to do something or to go somewhere, I give myself that permission.
Although I do want to get married one day, I'm not waiting until then to start being my best self and living my best life. That moment is already here — that moment is now.
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Serena Williams is, hands down, one of the greatest athletes of all time — with the most Grand Slam match wins EVER — not to mention one of the most influential people in the world. Yet, haters have still found a way to target her. But in a new interview with The Fader, she's opening up about how she deals with them — and it's one more reason she's the definition of goals.
"I’ve purposely tuned people out since I was 17," Serena tells The Fader. "At the time, it was basically newspapers and maybe a website article. Maybe if the web was up back then. Since the day I won the U.S. Open, my very first Grand Slam, I never read articles about myself. If I saw my name mentioned, I’d look away. I looked at the pictures, but that’s pretty much it. I didn’t want to get too cocky, and at the same time I didn’t want to have that negative energy. I don’t know why I did it, but I did it. Ever since then I’ve been really low-key."
Serena prescribes to the belief that living well begins with loving yourself — and the rest is just noise. "People have been talking about my body for a really long time," she says. "Good things, great things, negative things. People are entitled to have their opinions, but what matters most is how I feel about me, because that’s what’s going to permeate the room I’m sitting in. It’s going to make you feel that I have confidence in myself whether you like me or not, or you like the way I look or not, if I do. That’s the message I try to tell other women and in particular young girls. You have to love you, and if you don’t love you no one else will. And if you do love you, people will see that and they’ll love you too."
Head over to The Fader to read the rest of Serena's cover story.
This isn’t the first time Serena has talked about handling body shamers and loving her body. She recently told SELF that “I love my body, and I would never change anything about it. I’m not asking you to like my body. I’m just asking you to let me be me. Because I’m going to influence a girl who does look like me, and I want her to feel good about herself.”
And then, of course, who could forget her amazing response at a recent press conference to a reporter who said “there will be talk about you going down as one of the greatest female athletes of all time”? Serena’s response was absolutely perfect: "I prefer the words 'one of the greatest athletes of all time.'"
This post was originally published on Teen Vogue.
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Black women and girls sometimes live, work and grow up in areas that welcome neither our blackness nor our womanhood. But At The Well creates an environment for current 10th and 11th grade black girls to find themselves, each other, and a healing space to discuss their collective experiences.
The premise is simple – provide space and learning opportunities for black girls from all over the country to share their collective experience, to grow as leaders, and then send them back to their communities to make a difference using everything from test prep, to using academic papers on feminism in Beyonce’s Lemonade, to heart-to-heart conversations
The academy started in 2011 with a focus on academics after Rev. Jacqueline Glass, Founder, graduated from Princeton’s seminary program. She was inspired after noticing that her own daughter was gifted, but did not perform well on standardized tests. At The Well quickly evolved over the years to also include a focus on leadership, womanhood and culture. About 50 girls attend the program at Princeton University in July for two weeks every year. The program grew this year, and in 2017, At The Well will also operate at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Application requirements are listed on the website. The cost of the program is less than similar Ivy League programs, and scholarship options are available.
Blavity spoke with founder Rev. Jacqueline Glass and intern Melissa Lyken from At the Well to learn more.
Blavity: How did this program come about?
Jacqueline Glass: It was started as a mission to give back. We seek to empower young women to become effective leaders globally. We want them to make a difference in their community. They go back and advocate for themselves and their community.
B: Where are the girls coming from?
JG: They are coming from all different spaces. There were more girls from the upper middle class this past academy and one of the reasons is we lost one of our funders. We weren’t able to give the type of scholarships that we’ve given in the past. A lot of energy is going toward fund development so that we can reach the population we originally intended to reach. But we do get girls from all geographic locations and socio-economic backgrounds.
B: Your focus is to also bring together girls who may be the only, or one of very few, black girls in their school to talk about what it’s like to be in that environment and help build some sense of community there. What do the girls share about microagressions in their schools and how do you help them address it?
JG: Some of the girls expressed they’ve never been in a room with so many girls that look like themselves. We give them space to talk about it, to discuss it, to talk about what it is [microagression]. They may not know how to react to it or how to identify it. They may not know how to address it. We give them space to know they aren’t the only one. There is a commonality in their experience.
B: Melissa – you lead some of the heart-to-heart discussions for the girls. Tell me more about what the girls experience in their schools.
Melissa Lyken: They have so much to share with regards to some of the things that their classmates, their teammates and counselors have said to them. A few girls said their counselors outright called them the n-word. They really love the space to sit there and hold each other. Some of the girls are crying and someone will say something similar like that happened to me on my campus.
It’s really difficult when you’re in school and your very identity is being questioned. Your very personhood. It creates a community and a sisterhood that "I’m not alone." And they discuss what they can do about it when they go back to school...These spaces are definitely healing spaces and organizing spaces. We can talk about self-care and how to combat these issues.
B: What do you hope the legacy of this program will be for young girls?
JG: I hope to gather a sisterhood of dynamic girls that we help them believe in themselves and to think more highly in themselves. They don’t always see the promise in themselves that others see. My expectations that they are able to live the lives they envision for themselves. I came across a conversation at lunch three years ago between two girls. They were talking scientifically about how to reduce those cancer cells and that the cancer can be cured. That’s the type of legacy that I want to leave. That they have the space to be who they are. They need to know they are wonderfully and magnificently made.
I also had a chance to talk with Braxton, a high school student in Georgia and a former participant in the At The Well program. Braxton is heavily involved in school. She’s the current student body president, captain of the varsity track team and a member of other academic clubs in school. Braxton is starting a clothing company for women in male-dominated sports and followed up on her experience in the At The Well program by creating a mentorship group for girls at her school.
B: What do you love most about school?
Braxton: With the positions that I'm in, I have the ability to influence change, equality and fun in my community and my school.
B: What made you apply for this program even though you do attend a mostly black high school?
Braxton: I applied to expand my critical thinking. I wanted to learn more about myself and I wanted the chance to expand my thinking about women of color. In school, we only talk about issues that scrape the surface of black people. I wanted to dig deeper, and I got that at At The Well. Even though our demographics are majority black, we still struggle to make sure that everybody’s voice is heard.
B: What was your favorite aspect of this program?
Braxton: We had floor discussions. I learned a lot about myself and things I never imagined learning. Colorism, cultural appropriation, black hair and black love. I was able to share my experiences and we could talk about how we deal with racism and issues. Through this, I was able to connect with the experiences of other dark skinned women like myself. I also learned about things I never imagined enduring like the girls who are the only black person in their schools.
B: How was the work different than what you experience at school?
Braxton: The work they give you at school doesn’t always pertain to you. Like we had to analyze Lemonade. We didn’t mind that we had to read 20 articles that night because it related to us. One of our papers was a list asking us to identify examples of white supremacy. It’s the subtle things. It was mind blowing to me, because I didn’t think about it. It just seemed like stuff that happened every day. We wrote about different people that are like us...that look like us.
B: How did this program inspire you?
Braxton: Through the topics we discussed and learning different things about my history. I started my freshman and senior mentoring program called Black Girls United. There is a mentoring program at my school but it isn’t for people of color. Not purposefully, but that’s just how it is. I was struggling to figure out what we could talk about and what could connect us. At The Well helped me shape my program.
After completing the program, Braxton continues to use her experience to build up her mentoring program. She even won an award from the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Girls Who Rule the World foundation. Check out Braxton’s small business and mentorship program on Instagram @girls.got.game and @Black.Girls.United
Program like At The Well are essential to our community. If you're interested in supporting this program, applying, or finding out more, please visit At The Well or connect with At The Well on Facebook or Twitter .
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It's called the "safe route" for a reason. There's a system in place, and if you follow the rules, your chances of success — whatever that looks like for you — are all but guaranteed. But what if your dream doesn't fit the norm? What if checking the boxes doesn't work for you? For everyone out here in pursuit of a nonconventional path, one that makes people question your sanity and decision making, where do you draw the line between optimism and delusion? That's not a rhetorical question. I honestly don't know the answer, but I will say, for me at least, I can't be a skeptic. I refuse to allow any negative experience or collection thereof to dictate my outlook on life.
I will dream big, love hard and believe unapologetically — always.
I will not be a victim of apathy. Instead I choose to trust completely and lean not unto my own understanding. Experience has taught me that provision always meets me there as reward for my faith. So I intentionally elevate my expectations beyond my means to achieve them and build my plans strategically with a dependence on the supernatural to accomplish them.
I will risk delight over doubt every time. I will love like I’ve never known heartbreak and trust as if I’ve never been betrayed. I’ll give in spite of the potential for exploitation, a practice not to be mistaken for naivety, but born of the understanding that the recipient’s objective is none of my business. Malicious intent bares the consequence upon itself.
I will rebel against negative mindsets, allowing no manner of disappointment to rob me of optimism. I'll waste no energy on the disdain of the realist or the contempt of the pessimist, because I know that their mocking sarcasm is not without pragmatic justification. It’s just that I understand instinctively that distrust doesn’t protect me from hurt any more than complacency averts disappointment, and the habitual focus on the negative elevates evil above the divine and seems only to manifest the very outcome it seeks to avoid.
So, at the end of the day, I will not be a cynic. I won’t allow any judgment or limiting belief to infiltrate my attitude. Optimistic or delusional? Call it what you want, but I will continue to go hard, dream big and trust completely, cleansing any residue of self-doubt from my mentality.
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The transition into adulthood isn’t an easy one. Navigating relationships, managing workplace politics, hitting those milestones on schedule— don’t be fooled, no one knows what they’re doing. There will be all kinds of fumbles, blunders and awkward missteps along the way. If you’re constantly wondering to yourself, “Am I doing this right?” Welcome. This is just the place for...
Many of us wake up early, get the kids ready for school, then head to work where we spend eight hours being the lesser paid (but equally intelligent) wing woman to a coworker (who is likely white, male or both). During lunch, the bestie calls to catch up on life and vent. After work, we come home to wait hand and foot on bae while making sure the kids are finishing their homework. While preparing dinner, we throw in that last load of laundry. By the time dinner is ready, it’s too late to go to the gym, so we feed ourselves with a laxative tea and sleep with a waist-cincher. After all, we’ve got to keep it right and tight for the viewing pleasure of others.
As black women, we do it all.
We are loving daughters, nurturing mothers, supportive partners, successful businesswomen, determined students and innovative entrepreneurs. But once we get home and the cape comes off, what happens to the burdens that are left for us to bear? Who is there to pick up our pieces when the madness of the world leaves us depleted of energy and hope? Finally, why are we afraid to admit when something just doesn’t feel right?
The stigma of a black woman being typecast as a certain character doesn’t have to be accurate. The truth is, many of the circumstances that cause us to neglect our mental health are because of systems put in place that never intended to assist us in the first place. Although addressing the stereotypes alone certainly will not cure any conditions, it's a necessary first step in figuring out the "why."
The stereotypes behind the stigma
Dating back to U.S. slavery, each plantation had Mammy: The black woman convinced that everyone else’s well-being mattered more than hers. The matriarch who suppresses her dreams to assist in fulfilling those of others around her, Mammy thrives on being the most obedient yet solid rock of a servant as possible. When it comes down to it, she’s clutch and people praise her for it. Behind closed doors however, her spirit is as equally worn out as her hands and feet. A tired life of failing to practice self-care causes her to become numb to her own desires.
Another popular stereotype within the black community is the Jezebel: Someone with an unhealthy appetite for lust and sex. As a child, perhaps, she was badly mistreated and abandoned by the paternal figure in her life. Because of this, she builds a mental wall as protection from any future chance of heartbreak. This complex leads her down an exhausting life path of finding love in all the wrong places. She has adapted to enduring mental — and sometimes physical — abuse from her partners. Over time, her sense of self-worth and purpose completely exit her soul.
Then there’s the modern day Sapphire: A black woman who wears a chip on her shoulder. She has a tendency of spewing hatred and bitterness, especially in relationships. She enjoys using aggression to bully and emasculate. She is deemed the ‘angry black woman’ to society. At home, she hates the person she has become, although she feels she has no control of her emotions.
While Hollywood chooses to tell one side of the story of the black woman, it rarely considers the state of her mental health.
Anxiety, mood, psychotic, eating, impulse control, personality, obsessive-compulsive and post-traumatic stress disorders impact millions of women in the black community. Scientific data wants us to believe that the mental health conversation is an all-encompassing umbrella that shouldn’t be race-specific due to a lack in evidence, when in fact, race might actually be the biggest factor. According to Mental Health America, 6.8 million African Americans have been diagnosed with a mental illness, and the number among black women in the U.S. is probably much greater than reported. The social stigma surrounding our community might turn some away from seeking the proper help. We are so used to displaying unwavering strength to the public that we only further separate ourselves from the idea of wholeness we strive to maintain.
Since childhood, we learn to consistently internalize certain feelings for the sake of those around us. We grew up watching the maternal figures in our family braving any and every potentially meltdown-worthy situation, from finances to illnesses. The cycle has continued and needs to stop. We don’t have to be defined by the stereotypes; it's possible to break through to the other side and achieve total peace of mind. By first acknowledging the stereotypes behind the stigma, we can begin an open dialogue. And from that point, we can choose to overcome our fears of weakness or vulnerability.
Yes, we are black women and we can do it all. But we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when we need it.
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