Listen Up: Guest Hosting at WBEZ-FM

Listen Up: Guest Hosting at WBEZ-FM

Talk about being radio active. I got the opportunity to spend nearly a week guest hosting on WBEZ-FM. I had a terrific time talking about a variety of topics from the scariest horror movies of all time to patterns in presidential leadership to in-depth interviews with the two candidates for Illinois Attorney General. I also relished an interview with writer, sociologist, activist and host extraordinaire, Eve Ewing.

If you want to eavesdrop on some of those conversations, here are some handy dandy links to the segments. Thanks to all who tuned in, texted in questions and called in. I had a fantastic time, and my appreciation to the amazing team at WBEZ.

You can check out the rest on WBEZ’s Morning shift page HERE.

  1. BOOK MARK: Eve Ewing’s deeply moving examination of the school closings that shattered Chicago in 2013 is a MUST. READ. It’s called Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side.

    https://www.wbez.org/shows/morning-shift/chicago-sociologist-eve-ewing-talks-ghosts-in-the-schoolyard/d47f7c69-23de-4831-9f25-f6efc0b6bc23

  2. SCARED STRAIGHT: What is the first horror movie you can remember seeing? What is the scariest? Compare notes with me and my guest, Elliott Serrano, Chicago’s King of Geeks who dropped by for a spine-tingling discussion.

    https://www.wbez.org/shows/morning-shift/top-scary-films-perfect-for-a-halloween-fright-night/4c865986-bf3e-4110-93e2-c8702a4a9e7c

  3. FOLLOW THE LEADER: Being a boss or being successful does not make you a leader. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin breaks down what qualities lift you to excellence and allow you to inspire with a case study of four different American presidents. https://www.wbez.org/shows/morning-shift/historian-doris-kearns-goodwin-on-leadership-in-turbulent-times/82dfd1de-feec-4eb8-883a-60698740c920

From TheGrio: Eff You, Pay Us: Why EVERYBODY should back Black Womens Equal Pay Day

From TheGrio: Eff You, Pay Us: Why EVERYBODY should back Black Womens Equal Pay Day

There is no doubt that Black women consistently step up for The Culture and the country.

Think back on the work Black women have done for civil rights including the who-gone-check-me-boo badassery of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks all the way up to Congresswoman “Auntie” Maxine Waters. Each of these women paved the way for Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi, the trio who created and defined the #BlackLivesMatter movement, fighting for equity in the judicial system and against police brutality.

And, as nobody better ever DARE to forget, especially as we advance toward November’s mid-terms elections, it was Black women who went to the polls during a hotly contested election in a blood-red state. We delivered the Alabama Senate seat win to Democrat Doug Jones against Republican Roy Moore, a neo-Confederate POS, full-grown ass man who has been accused of deliberately targeting teen girls for relationships.

READ THE REST OF MY PIECE AT THE GRIO HERE...

TheGrio Trio: My Op Eds On Kanye West, Issa Rae and Cardi B...

TheGrio Trio: My Op Eds On Kanye West, Issa Rae and Cardi B...

Recently, I've been writing a lil' something something for TheGrio.  Like to read 'em?  Here they are!

1. Folks got a little "insecure" about Issa Rae's joking dating advice in a book that was published several years back.  Of course, as a supporter of this talented content creator, I could not let that slide so... THIS HAPPPENED

2.  Kanye West left his body, and the entire realm of reason, and denigrated our enslaved ancestors.  Naw, fam.  This was my OFFICIAL RESPONSE.

3. Cardi B said you couldn't eff with her if you wanted to, but Azealia Banks really wanted to. The controversial Banks kicked off a blood feud with accusations that Cardi B was a "caricature" of a Black woman and leveraging light-skinned privilege to do things Banks or Nicki Minaj could NEVER.  Words were said.  Entire Instagram accounts were deleted, but there is a bigger question this battle raises that you can read about it HERE.  

Cubicle Creepshow: Trilogy of Terror

Cubicle Creepshow: Trilogy of Terror

One of my favorite co-workers of all time is my sister/business partner, Kozi Kyles.  Back around 2010, she came up with an idea to take some of her own workplace angst from early in her career and turn it into a concept called "Human Resources."  Basically, she daydreamed that a company she worked for had not been laying off her colleagues in the cruel and unusual way it actually went down.  Instead, she mused, perhaps these employees had been abducted by aliens looking to shore up their intergalactic workforce.  We put our heads together and came up with a feature, which evolved into a Web series, called "Human Resources," which starred comedic genius Lil Rel and a cast of puppets voiced by some of the best talent in Chicago.  We won awards including LAWEBFEST where we were invited to speak about how we bootstrapped our sci-fi fantasy project.  If you've never seen it, you can catch up here.

 

Fast forward to March 2018 when we debuted the follow-up, also based on our collective experience of workplace horrors from bullying co-workers to irritating e-mail threads and repeated requests to work late for no good reason.   

"HR Season 2: Cubicle Creepshow" is now adding to the over 100,000 views to our YouTube channel and attracting buzz to our social media platforms via @mythlabent.  Check it out if you get a chance and embrace our tagline.  We're using humor (and some horror) to put the work back in "work-life."  

(Credit for the creepy cube in the featured image goes to Kozi.)

Diversify or Die: Watch My Google NYC Presentation

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Google isn't just THE living embodiment of search, it's also a company curious about social solutions.  To that end, some truly awesome executives at Google's NYC headquarters invited me to come and talk at their popular Talks at Google to discuss how the media industry can solve the issue of mirroring the country it purports to cover.  Having worked for and with a variety of news outlets including Tribune, EBONY, JET, Chicago Sun-Times and Vibe.com, I shared my own personal and professional thoughts on the topic.  Look alive.  Many GIFs and a few jokes abound.  Hope you enjoy!

Social Studies: Interview with Kimberly Drew (Video)

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Back in April, I received a wonderful invitation to interview Kimberly Drew, the social media force of nature who helms the account for the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). This highly intelligent, deeply insightful Drew and I engaged in a live discussion during the Chicago Humanities Festival, touching on topics from the impact of social media on art appreciation to the longevity of the faux lives quite a few folks engage in online.  

After some months, the video is finally live!  Want to see it? Here it goes. A foreword:  She is sincerely one of the best interviewees ever and you'll definitely want to hear some of the emerging artists she is checking for in her highly influential role.  

EmpowerHer 17 (Featured Speaker)

 HuffPo's Lilly Workneh and I discuss a wide variety of topics during our session at the EmpowerHer 17 Conference.

HuffPo's Lilly Workneh and I discuss a wide variety of topics during our session at the EmpowerHer 17 Conference.

I only had to follow a line of beautiful Black women to know I'd reached the right place for the EmpowerHer conference hosted by Blavity and its newish beauty/health site 21ninety.com.  Though this two-day conference held at the gorgeous Venue One space in the West Loop centered on uplifting aspiring executives and entrepreneurs bent on living their best lives, it also served as an informal catwalk with some of the most stunning hair, styles and shoes you will ever see at a conference. And the music?  I think Blavity head honcho Morgan DeBaun best release the playlist because in between sessions, they had the people GOING.

But on a serious note, this event was far more than some meeting place to exchange business cards or peer at name tags to see if someone was somebody...if you get my meaning.  Instead, an impressive array of speakers including storytelling phenom and comedic genius Lena Waithe; best-selling novelist and (again) comedic genius Luvvie Ajayi; resilient and super savvy digipreneur Necole Kane of XONecole to name a few.

I was interviewed by the intrepid and awesome Lilly Workneh, Senior Editor at Huffington Post Black Voices, and our conversation traveled from my thoughts on being a brown face in a white space during my mainstream media days to my philosophy on leadership during my past tenure as Editor-in-Chief at EBONY.  We also discussed work-life balance, collaborating with other Black women (which I highly recommend whenever possible) and the future of media with so many take-no-prisoners ladies starting their own media empires.

It truly felt like family and I am grateful that my words helped others, and I'm really glad they captured this little impromptu dance session because, like I said, the music was on point!

Haiti Tech 2017 (Featured Speaker)

On June 7, I got an opportunity to be part of history as a panelist for the first-ever Haiti Tech conference.  Held in the Royal DeCameron Indigo Beach resort about an hour and a half from Port au Prince, I was surrounded by some impressive minds in tech hailing from companies including Google and Facebook.  The two-day event and brainchild of Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree, Christine Souffrant Ntim, welcomed hundreds into a beautiful space (albeit a hot one) in order to present solutions to digital challenges and infrastructural issues facing Haiti as well as provide a platform for storytellers, such as myself and my fellow panelists on the Power of Narrative session.

In my case, I talked about how we live in an age where digital is allowing us to shape media coverage and fight back against the generalization that so often adversely affects minorities.  I drew parallels between negative international news reports about Haiti in contrast to the vibrant, hopeful spirit I encountered among its people as well as the narrative about Chicago (aka "Chi-raq")...neither of which encourage much open-mindedness or solution-finding.  Here's a super quick snippet from our conversation, shot by my business partner and BFF Kozi Kyles.  Please pardon my sundress, but the organizers advised "resort wear" for a reason.  I cannot recall a time, other than a dalliance in Turks and Caicos last year, where the sun beat down on me like THAT.

 

The event, which also involved a lot of networking, enjoyment of the breathtaking grounds of Royal DeCameron, left an indelible impression on me.   Here are a few more images for your enjoyment.  If you get a chance, I encourage you to go to Haiti and experience it for yourself and stay tuned in for news about the 2018 conference.  Trust, if you are interested in technology and innovation, it should definitely be on your calendar.

Chance for President? Editor's Letter

   This Editor's Letter originally ran in the June 2017 #BlackMusicIssue of EBONY magazine.    You can’t blame folks for wanting our cover star to run for public office. C h a n c e the Rapper is single-handedly trying to save the arts in Chicago schools, encourage reading among children through his work with the Chicago Public Library system and, at the same time, ensure his fans are treated fairly by railing against scalpers with tenacity and tech savvy. Unlike the orange-hued and mercurial man-child currently running this country, Chance truly is an outlier who thumbs his nose at the record industry and successfully exists outside the machine. To put it plainly: He’s a boss. This was evident during every moment of our fun-filled cover shoot here in EBONY’s (and his) hometown of Chicago. Flanked by a crew of creative, amiable individuals, the rapper with a voice that walks the line behind Wyclef Jean and Kanye West, weathered the cold on a rooftop here in the aptly named “Windy City.” “The Hawk,” an invisible beast with talons of ice that we Chicagoans know all too well, did not disappoint, swooping down and driving most of us nearly to tears.  That didn’t stop Chance from donning a suit, shunning his trademark “3” baseball cap and standing Scarface-style on top of the world. Well, on top of the West Loop studio where we shot, anyway. But back to my point, Chance is the perfect embodiment of this issue’s theme, music, specifically the Black contribution to this art form. The teddy bearesque talent’s individuality, free spirit, shrewdness and selflessness are what we should admire in artists. His financial and emotional contributions to the youth of Chicago, so maligned in the mainstream media, show them that he cares … that we care. Rappers brag about putting on for their cities. Here’s one who does the actual work. Too often we allow our idols to backslide, sacrifice their voices for mainstream acceptance and all but turn a blind eye to the streets that forged them—that is, unless said streets can give them the “cred” that boosts their bank accounts. (Present-day mumble-mouth “rappers” and hotep hip-hoppers of the ’90s, I am looking squarely at you.) Chance is a fearless reminder of what we can ask from those we shell out hardearned income to see in concert or whose lyrics we litter our time lines with.  This young man—a young father, to be exact—is a role model, as you’ll learn without a doubt in an excellently written piece by EBONY alum Adrienne Samuels Gibbs. Reading it will be music to your eyes. Speaking of music, I cannot end without acknowledging Chuck Berry, who passed away at the age of 90 in March. Berry, with his guitar-god status and perfectly coiffed ’do, is credited as one of the architects of rock ‘n’ roll as we know it. A salute to him, and the late, great Al Jarreau, whom we feature on our “From the EBONY Archives” page in honor of the multiple- Grammy winner’s imprint on jazz, pop and R&B with his smooth, sweet sound. If the afterlife works the way I think it does, there’s a sold-out jam session up there with both their names on the marquee.

This Editor's Letter originally ran in the June 2017 #BlackMusicIssue of EBONY magazine.

You can’t blame folks for wanting our cover star to run for public office. C h a n c e the Rapper is single-handedly trying to save the arts in Chicago schools, encourage reading among children through his work with the Chicago Public Library system and, at the same time, ensure his fans are treated fairly by railing against scalpers with tenacity and tech savvy. Unlike the orange-hued and mercurial man-child currently running this country, Chance truly is an outlier who thumbs his nose at the record industry and successfully exists outside the machine. To put it plainly: He’s a boss. This was evident during every moment of our fun-filled cover shoot here in EBONY’s (and his) hometown of Chicago. Flanked by a crew of creative, amiable individuals, the rapper with a voice that walks the line behind Wyclef Jean and Kanye West, weathered the cold on a rooftop here in the aptly named “Windy City.” “The Hawk,” an invisible beast with talons of ice that we Chicagoans know all too well, did not disappoint, swooping down and driving most of us nearly to tears.

That didn’t stop Chance from donning a suit, shunning his trademark “3” baseball cap and standing Scarface-style on top of the world. Well, on top of the West Loop studio where we shot, anyway. But back to my point, Chance is the perfect embodiment of this issue’s theme, music, specifically the Black contribution to this art form. The teddy bearesque talent’s individuality, free spirit, shrewdness and selflessness are what we should admire in artists. His financial and emotional contributions to the youth of Chicago, so maligned in the mainstream media, show them that he cares … that we care. Rappers brag about putting on for their cities. Here’s one who does the actual work. Too often we allow our idols to backslide, sacrifice their voices for mainstream acceptance and all but turn a blind eye to the streets that forged them—that is, unless said streets can give them the “cred” that boosts their bank accounts. (Present-day mumble-mouth “rappers” and hotep hip-hoppers of the ’90s, I am looking squarely at you.) Chance is a fearless reminder of what we can ask from those we shell out hardearned income to see in concert or whose lyrics we litter our time lines with.

This young man—a young father, to be exact—is a role model, as you’ll learn without a doubt in an excellently written piece by EBONY alum Adrienne Samuels Gibbs. Reading it will be music to your eyes. Speaking of music, I cannot end without acknowledging Chuck Berry, who passed away at the age of 90 in March. Berry, with his guitar-god status and perfectly coiffed ’do, is credited as one of the architects of rock ‘n’ roll as we know it. A salute to him, and the late, great Al Jarreau, whom we feature on our “From the EBONY Archives” page in honor of the multiple- Grammy winner’s imprint on jazz, pop and R&B with his smooth, sweet sound. If the afterlife works the way I think it does, there’s a sold-out jam session up there with both their names on the marquee.

Get Out! An Interview with Jordan Peele, Lil Rel and Daniel Kaluuya

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     If funny is your frame of reference for Jordan Peele, you may find yourself stunned by his directorial debut, Get Out.
     The Comedy Central alum who brought us such memorable Key & Peele characters as the eternally peeved Becky, Meegan or a staid anger translator-aided President Barack Obama mines deeply dark material in this film that could be described as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner gone hideously wrong.                                                                                                               The terror begins when a nervous Chris, played by Black Mirror and Sicario standout Daniel Kaluuya, accompanies his White girlfriend home to meet the family. It isn’t long until he is put off by her parents’ odd race-baiting comments, the unmistakable Stepford Wives-style behavior of fellow Blacks in the community and ominous warnings about missing skinfolk as voiced by his best friend-slash-voice of reason Rob (Lil Rel Howery).
Still, with the collaboration of so many jokesters, including Howery, Peele and Atlanta standout Keith Stanfield, some in the socialsphere are musing about whether it is really a dark comedy as opposed to a horror film.
     Don’t be so sure you’ll be LOLing, Kaluuya warns.
“There are a lot of funny moments, but there are also bits that will scare the shit out of you,” the British transplant insists. “It captures the fear you feel being a Black man in America. It’s this paranoia, and [you] wonder what people are saying and feeling about you.”
Peele underscores his determination to create chills versus chuckles. The director explains that he has long been influenced by terror virtuosos, including Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick.
     “This has always been a dream of mine,” Peele shares. “Horror is my favorite genre, but I had sort of given up on the idea of making a thriller as my comedy career progressed. A few years ago, I began to draw a lot more links between comedy and horror. They are both about taking an absurd notion and grounding it. The difference is, in comedy you’re trying to get laughs, and with horror, you’re trying to get screams.”
Interwoven within these scares is a social message not unlike the eerily Black Lives   Matteresque conclusion of the original Night of the Living Dead (1968).
    Strangely, there haven’t been many more Black horror leads since Duane Jones’ empowering then tragic turn in that classic. Kaluuya is especially proud to be one of the few.
“This is quite cool,” the actor gushes about his role. “It’s exciting; you can feel the responsibility of it.”
     His co-star is more pragmatic.
“In this one, the Black people ain’t dead by the beginning credits,” Howery says with a laugh. “And I think if you see that, you’ll be cheering it on.”Maybe not everyone will be saluting thescreen. Audience reaction might mirror society’s perceptions of race: skewed severely by the skin you’re in.
      “I have White friends who saw the movie, and it’s interesting because they had a different fear,” Howery offers. “That’s what makes this movie unique, and ain’t nobody Black no punk in this movie. Some White people are scared of us. The biggest thing some of those Trump supporters are scared of is us standing up for ourselves. And you see that in this movie.”
Regardless, the film—due in theaters on Feb. 24—will prove to be thought-provoking, cast members tell EBONY. Those who voted to “make America great again” may want to take heed of the hidden message, particularly given our volatile racial climate.
     “It’s a very scary and interesting time,” Peele says, referencing the current presidential administration. “There are a lot of sentiments that have been hidden for a while that are now out there again and have platforms and a sort of confidence behind them. At the end of the day, my philosophy is that art that fosters communication of any kind is the only weapon we have against violence. People are free to not enjoy the movie, but I really hope that it helps spur discussion."

Colorism: There’s An App for That … and It Must Be Deleted

Colorism: There’s An App for That … and It Must Be Deleted

Originally posted on Ebony.com

[Social Skills] Our Editor-in-Chief goes IN on a dating tool that matches folks based on skin shade and hair texture. Have mercy on our melanin.

If ever an app deserved to be deleted from all platforms and banished from Black-kind, it’s a monstrosity known as Smoochr.

Shout out to fellow outlets, including Blavity, and the virtual drop squad known as Black Twitter, for revealing this numbskullery and dragging it into the light to wither and die.

What is so bad about it?

Well, sit down somewhere solid and take a deep breath.  This one requires a trigger warning.  Smoochr is a dating tool for Black people which, in addition to normal matching metrics, takes the divisive, plantation-adjacent step of grouping its members by such variables as skin shade and hair texture.

Lest I be accused of oversimplifying, in its own description, the site tells its would-be users:

“Discover Black Singles by complexion, hair type and more.”

At first, I sincerely thought this was some kind of joke being tossed around by satirical sites like cream.bmp.  At any moment, the creator would rise up against the Twitter dragging it has received and announce that this is a sociological experience to prove the existence of colorism in America.

But naw. This seems to be a sincere and straightforward effort . An effort that makes me want to hide under my desk reading Maya Angelou poems for the remainder of the day.

It’s as if all the ignorant rappers who have been talking about redbones, yellowbones and “long hair, don’t care” all got together in a cave and dictated (via their extra idiotic lyrics) the schematics of this mobile mess.

It’s like all of the misguided Twidiots who post pictures of multi-racial kids as #progenygoals stumbled upon a technology accelerator and used their collective (low) brainpower to launch this initiative.

This app reminds me of some of my Facebook friends who go out of their way to incorporate their skin shade into every status or, if they can beat Mark Zuckerberg’s “real name” rules, make it a nauseating nickname.  News flash: We can all see your profile photo.  We get it.  We just don’t care. And P.S. neither do non-Black folk that will STILL deny you a loan, pull you over for nothing or follow you all up and through a store despite your ability to buy its entire contents with pocket change.

As your resident Social Skills expert, I have to insist that you not only refuse to add this foolishness to your app arsenal, that you jot a note to the creators.  Please advise them that we will not stand for this type of terribleness in the time of #BlackLivesMatter, out-of-control cultural appropriation (despite receipts) and the long overdue end of respectability politics.  It might help if we offer that this compatibility “capability” of theirs essentially sends us back to the era of slave auction blocks.  

In conclusion, suggest gently that everyone involved in this mess needs to log out of everything, stat.

And while they’re offline and hopefully rethinking their life choices, I’d kindly direct these individuals to the following Social Skills independent study: Three consecutive readings of The Bluest Eye, an immediate viewing of Imitation of LifeSchool Daze, the entire first season of Underground and School Daze.  I’d also tack on two hours a day for the next month listening to India Arie go IN on ignorance, specifically via “Brown Skin,” and “I Am Not My Hair.”

 

Lawrence, ‘Insecure’ and the Myth of the Good Guy

Lawrence, ‘Insecure’ and the Myth of the Good Guy

Originally posted on Ebony.com

Who invented the “good guy”?  Is it the same respectability politics trickster who invented the “good girl”?

Oddly, I don’t think so.

Because the “good girl” comes with a host of aspirational attributes: sexually chaste, cooks, cleans, has her own money, doesn’t curse, knows how to fix a plate, and eschews any male attention or compliments to appease her Man.  (The “man” is capitalized here because for a good girl, he is 80% of her world.)   On top of that, she needs to be beautiful.  Oh yeah, and fit.  Don’t forget…eager to attend all family gatherings.

Meanwhile, it seems the male counterpart to that merely needs to keep his own clothes and shoes clean, have some semblance of a job and not physically attack women. Bonus points if he doesn’t cheat. The “good guy” is so easy to attain that he is practically everywhere. How many times have you heard one of your friend-zoned male suitors lament to you that you’re “pookin’ pa nub in all the wrong places” when you have a “good guy” right in front of you?  It doesn’t matter if he shares none of your interests, prefers Cracker Barrel to your foodie fantasies or lives in his grandmother’s basement playing Candy Crush all day.  Because he’s never balled a fist at a woman and knows how to wash a week’s worth of underwear, he is your Prince Charming and you’re a fool for letting him get away.

Fellas, if we’re being honest, do women you are not sexually attracted to EVER hit you with the good girl lament?  I would be happy to be wrong in this case, but I don’t think I am.

This is why I am a little surprised at the absolute caping going on right now for a fictional character on Insecure.  Lawrence, Issa Rae’s romantic interest and live-in boyfriend on the show, has (as of the season finale) left her after she cheated on him with an old flame.  This after the couple had been set adrift in a sea of uncertainty due to his years long unemployment, tendency to sit around their shared apartment in grubby gear and shirk certain jobs because they weren’t good enough for him.  Sure, he seemed sweet and he was a-ight on the eyes, but there was a heck of a lot wrong with his current situation.

Now, before you start telling me how the Black woman needs to learn to stand by her kang (and I do mean it just that way) in times of need, let me be Crystal Pepsi clear: Issa had ZERO business cheating on Lawrence.  If she found him so idle, boring and tedious to deal with, she should have put him out the same episode they threw out that terrible living room couch they shared.  She should have broken it off, gotten a profile on Bumble and double dated with her BFF Molly.

Yes, Issa was wrong for being passive aggressive. She was wrong-er (yes, that’s a word) for seeking refuge with Molly without making it clear to Lawrence she was unhappy.  And she was clearly Biggie Smalls-featuring-Eminem dead wrong for sleeping with a tired high school fantasy fuccboi.

I have no ill will toward Lawrences, real or imagined, who return cuckoldry with rejection. Actually, the fact that he moved out on Issa made me respect him more, though I wish he hadn’t done it in the dead of night while she was on a trip.  Second, his post-move out dalliance with a young woman named Tasha who had clearly been pining over him was only wrong in that he appeared to be using her for revenge sex when she clearly had real, fuzzy I-can-do-you-better-than-she-can feelings for him.  The damage to Issa was zip in my mind. The pair had broken up so…

That said, Lawrence is no prize. Just because he wasn’t cheating during their relationship doesn’t make him worthy of worship.  He seemed, at least on screen, annoying, aimless and unmotivated.  He sat around like a lump for four years allowing a human being that wasn’t his mama to help provide him with material and emotional comfort, meanwhile gestating a business plan so long he could have had four kids in that same span of time.

He is not the hill to die on, gents.

Let’s look at “Lawrence” and men like him for what they are…a lot more trouble than a romantic partner is usually willing to take on. While he and his counterparts don’t deserve to have their hearts ripped from their chests by cheating girlfriends or wives, there is another thing they don’t deserve: participation awards.

Young Law ain’t worth the cotton in your capes.

 

Editor’s Letter: Women’s Work

Editor’s Letter: Women’s Work

Originally posted on Ebony.com

Through talent, bravery or standing for justice, Black women have always shown why they define #Black Excellence. EBONY salutes these sheroes

Her skin is burnished bronze.

Her two-toned locks flow from under a helmet. Her legs are wrapped tightly around the flagpole on the grounds of South Carolina’s Capitol building.

“She” is filmmaker Bree Newsome.

It is June 27, 2015, and the then-30-year-old is a woman with a mission. She has scaled this structure to remove the Confederate flag, a vile symbol of separatism and bigotry … a relic of the Civil War and the South’s fierce fight to keep our people enslaved.

Newsome has decided she isn’t going to look up in the sky and see that symbol billowing in the air, not 12 days after nine Black people were slaughtered by a racist madman in a Charleston, S.C. church. The flag of the Confederacy has flown there too long already, by her estimation, and on this summer day she will not be stopped. Police yell warnings and directives from the ground, but she shimmies downward, dragging her target with her. She responds to their threats of arrest with Psalm 27 and the Lord’s Prayer. It is in this moment that Newsome transcends from protester to pop culture icon.

And it is also in this instant that Newsome—who has no choice but to be a first—joins the rest of Black womanhood. No choice but to be a groundbreaker. No choice but to risk it all so that justice can be done. That’s why she is a fitting symbol to introduce this special EBONY issue dedicated to 100-plus Black women who have made a remarkable difference in the lanes they have chosen. From our gorgeous, intelligent, elegant and eloquent former First Lady Michelle Obama to educator-civil rights juggernaut Dorothy Height to the incomparable actress-activist Ruby Dee to the media mogul known as Oprah to literary giant (late, great) Octavia Butler, we are recognizing the raw power Black women wield in our society.

Each individual has earned her place through community action, excellence in entertainment, musical genius, scientific achievement, sporting prowess and overall cultural excellence.

John H. Johnson, esteemed founder of EBONY and JET magazines, knew this perhaps better than anyone. That is why we could pore through our archives and easily uncover images of and articles about the beautifully melanated mamas, sisters, cousins, aunties, nieces and daughters who have shaped this country for the better.

In fact, because our bench is so deep and so wide, we couldn’t include everyone in this inaugural list of dynamos, but the good news is we plan to make this very necessary celebration and commemoration an annual event.

Like Newsome, all of these women are fearless. Like Newsome, they are fierce.

Nothing was handed to them. They worked for it. They resisted the urges of naysayers and haters who yelled up from the ground and told them they wouldn’t make it and advised them to “get down.”

We owe them our gratitude, our adulation and our respect. We owe them the duty of passing their stories onward and upward. But above all, we owe them a promise to continue their climb, no matter how treacherous or thankless it is guaranteed to be.

 

March Women's Issue Editor's Letter: Fantastic Jurnee

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Pro tip: Don’t trust any woman who proudly tells you her friends are all men because other ladies are just so jealous of her smarts/looks/accomplishments/career. Black women have always needed each other to survive and, more important, thrive. Tell me if this doesn’t ring true for you, too. My BFFs and I often get more dolled up to go out with each other than we do when on dates with our significant (or not so significant) others. We laugh mascara-running hard as if we’re watching season 1 of the original Def Comedy Jam, all the while reviewing and resolving life’s challenges. Our love for each other is palpable. If you walk past us during one of our GNO (girls’ nights out) adventures, you couldn’t help but overhear us complimenting each other with sentiments sweeter than Hallmark greetings.

Heck, I even love interacting with sister strangers. Ladies, tell me your strut doesn’t hit Super Saiyan level when a fellow Black beauty lets you know you’ve got it going on as you walk the streets of your city.

It’s like catcalling with couth. So let me do some right now.

Just as I relish the opportunity to applaud the upstanding Black men who occupy this planet in our Men’s issue (Hello, Kevin Hart!), I am equally enthusiastic about celebrating my beautiful brown, supersmart, together, taking-no-foolery, high-achieving and underappreciated female peers.

We’ve got no shortage of these bad mama jamas out here, and we accounted for many of them cover to cover, starting with a woman who is beautiful inside and out. I unapologetically stand for Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who is incredible as Rosalee on one of my favorite shows, Underground, and recently welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world with her handsome hubby, musician Josiah Bell.

With the acclaimed slavery escape drama returning to the airwaves this month, writer Marissa Charles talked to the star about her ever-evolving role, being a “woke” mommy and the grip colorism still has on Hollywood. I guarantee that you will be riveted. Smollett-Bell is a performer who is as intellectual as she is artistically inclined.

Also in this inspirational issue, you’ll learn more about Apple’s not-so-secret weapon, marketing dynamo Bozoma Saint John; awe-inspiring visual artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle; and our carefully curated list of Black female entrepreneurs who make it their business to give back to their communities through donations and/or job creation. Don’t flip through too fast, because you bet’ not miss 20 boss women on the rise.Wayne’s World moment: We’re not worthy. We’re not worthy.

Elsewhere, we tackle the tough topic of how Black NCAA student-athletes are faring in their quest to be compensated for their efforts because economic empowerment must begin early. Amid a slew of self-help tips, we also offer useful information about how to spring clean your personal relationships.

Speaking of spring things, travel is a biggie this season, so we list several hot spots to try in Atlanta, courtesy of one of the city’s most famous residents, in our new “Starcation” series. If you’re into giving back while logging your frequent flier miles, you’ll enjoy our primer on four ideal volunteer vacations.

Make sure you don’t skip our “Style” section. Not only are we keeping you all the way on point with the illustrious winners of our Beauty Innovation Awards, but we’re also dropping knowledge with the latest in our “Detangling Our Roots” series. Last time, experts explained the meaning of certain braided ’dos. For this entry, we share the secret meanings and significance of headwraps.

As always, my amazing editorial team and I try to give you not just what you want but also what you need, so I’ll fade to black and let you dig on in. Here’s wishing you and yours, particularly the ladies in your life, a productive and prosperous March.

 

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Special Issue: Hail to the Chief

Special Issue: Hail to the Chief

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n Jan. 20, 2009, President Barack Hussein Obama strolled into history. He was flanked by one of the most beautiful, intelligent and beloved first ladies this country has ever seen and trailed by two adorable girls who could have been anyone’s polished play cousins.

Despite pundit Chris Matthews’ excited assertion (intended compliment?) that the president’s persona made him forget he was “Black,” Obama’s café au lait skin, kinky (and still jet black at that point) hair and loose-limbed combination of class and swag flew in the face of that fable. President Obama was all the things his predecessors had been and more, but he was also something extremely important to the readers of this magazine: He was the “first” African-American commander-in-chief.

But some detractors, as we know, never got past the African part.

In fact, a few pathetic souls tried to disqualify him from the highest office of the land because of his Kenyan father, despite the fact he was born to a White Kansan in the decidedly U.S. state of Hawaii. No matter how many terrorists he killed, troops he saved or Americans he insured, those detractors will never be happy with Obama or his policies. They will always focus on what he didn’t do—what Congress wouldn’t let him do, in some cases.

Click here to order your copy of EBONY’s President Obama Commemorative Issue

And some, whom I personally will never forgive, had the temerity to take to Twitter with a snarky hashtag: #ThanksObama. Far from a gesture of gratitude, it was used to insult his steps toward universal health care, his progress on the divisive but much-needed conversation on race relations, his adjustments to bogus sentencing guidelines and his efforts to examine police brutality against Black men and women. They twisted “thanks” in a way that wrang the kindness from it.

Yet, as Maya Angelou might have poetically observed, still he rose. This Nobel Peace Prize winner tried to ensure the poorest among us wouldn’t go without health care. He set up initiatives, such as My Brother’s Keeper, to help some of the most vulnerable members of our American family. And though some hawks on the other side of the aisle are loathe to admit it, he vigorously protected American interests overseas. He not only found the elusive Osama bin Laden, but he also will be forever remembered as the president who executed the mastermind behind 9/11. He tried to cross the aisle, even when his “colleagues” turned their backs on him and made it their business to block him, even (and especially) at their own expense. He turned the other cheek most times; but when he didn’t, it was epic. He lived the philosophy that the first lady made immortal in her discussion of the nastiness of partisan politics: “When they go low, we go high.”

He elevated the Oval Office.

This man, this two-term president, is a success. If you compare his record to those of his predecessors, you will be in awe of the impact Obama had not as a “first” but as an arguable “best.” The Obama effect is so powerful that we could have dedicated an entire year’s worth of magazines to analyzing, assessing and applauding a legacy that should make this entire country extremely proud. That said, the nation’s best and brightest dropped everything to contribute to this singular commemorative issue. The legendary Nikki Giovanni authored a poem specifically for EBONY and captured the very essence of the man we’ve come to know and love like a member of our own families. Alongside Giovanni, superstar scribes such as NPR’s culturally astute Eric Deggans, MSNBC’s incomparable Joy-Ann Reid, the author Touré, comedian and Internet wunderkind Baratunde Thurston and others penned pieces guaranteed to make your heart pulse with pride. Politicians in the throes of a nail-biting election season practically pulled over their campaign buses to send words of farewell and appreciation to fill these pages. EBONY employees past and present toiled, including editorial lead Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, over this, excited to be invited to this going-away party.

It is no surprise that EBONY was granted the very first interview that President-elect Obama conducted after he was elected. It is also no surprise that we would want to bid him the fondest farewell and with the utmost sincerity say these words:

Thanks, President Obama.

Thank you for being great. Thank you for being kind. Thank you and your beautiful family for being examples to little Brown babies everywhere. Thank you for withstanding political barbs that would wither any other human being. And even though we still live in a time when we have to assert that Black Lives Matter, thank you for the hope you bring.

Thanks, Mr. President, for eight years, not just of #BlackExcellence, but excellence, period. You told us once, “Yes we can.” We tell you now: Yes you did.



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