This week, we are featuring poet and author, Navi Johnson! Check out our exclusive interview here and read her poem, You Is We, below…
Being Black in America is hard as hell. Being a Black woman in America is indescribable. Somehow we manage everyday to wake up, care for our families, men, co-workers, pets, neighbors, neighborhoods and ourselves all the while working, cooking, cleaning, birthing, achieving, building, growing, praying and maintaining. We do all of this with confidence, beauty, compassion and control. The essence of a Black woman is so effervescent, unique and marvelous that we truly have no choice but to deem ourselves magical.
Indeed, we are magic. We pull off the impossible in the face of the unbelievable everyday. But, that does not mean that we don’t still need to be reminded of the beauty that we hold on the inside and out. This effortless, breezy, carefree appeal does not come without work, tears, strength, unlike any other.
Black womanhood is fascinating and celebratory but our everyday lives detract from this. We live in a world that is marked with negativity, injustice, deterioration. This is not to say that the silver linings do not exist, just that sometimes, we have to search harder for them. Like a needle in a haystack, or whatever other cliche you might like, it can be burdensome finding the positivity and upliftment we need to continue on. In a time where simply existing can feel exhausting, the short film, Dear Black Girl, is a dose of truth and feel-good that we need.
Created by Nikia Phoenix, Dear Black Girl is a “short film celebrating the beauty of black womanhood.” The 2 minute film gives us visuals of four beautiful black women – Nikia Phoenix, Eromomen, Jana Hatcher and Myra Hasson – doing what Black girls do best: being beautiful. In the background Nikia recites a celebratory love poem that reminds us all that we are created from love, to be loved and are beautiful.
Black women, we are enough. We are beautiful. We are loved.
We’re only halfway through this year and y’all, melanin has been running everything in a way that you wouldn’t believe! If you thought February, 2016 was one to remember, it was only prepping us for the most blackity black I’m blacker than black year of life…
Deshauna Barber is goals on so many levels. The 26 year old from Washington D.C. represented women in the military with a grace an poise that was indescribable. Throughout the contest, the commentators noted time and time again how Barber’s military training gave her a sense of discipline that none of the other girls had. It showed in the way she walked with her head held high each time she had her chance to sashay on the runway. Her interview answers about the military proved that she was not only a beautiful face, but she also had a wise depth of understanding about issues affecting our service men and women. She is currently an IT Analyst for the U.S. Department of Commerce. She hopes to bring more awareness to veteran health issues. This crowned beauty is everything and I’m here to see what else she will do.
Renowned director Ava Duvernay is having the blackest year ever. Hot off of the success of “Selma” in 2015, Ava has been getting recognition from everyone! She has been slated to direct the classic book “A Wrinkle in Time” and she was even honored with her own Barbie® from Mattel! The Ava Duvernay Barbie® has been flying off of the shelves. Little black girls are able to have a doll that represents such a positive role model in our community. Rock on sister!
Representation matters, and this year comic fans of color have been able to see reflections of them like never before. Not only have black actors been given the opportunity to portray characters that would typically have been cast with white actors, such as Michael B. (Bae) Jordan as Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four; black characters have been getting more recognition in their own right. Black Panther is a superhero that Marvel created back in 1966. As the first mainstream black superhero, he exudes the strength of an African King. This year, Marvel has given the amazing opportunity of writing new comics for Black Panther to renowned author Ta-Nehisi Coates. The third edition has been released and they’ve been getting rave reviews. Black Panther has also shown up in the latest Captain American movie portrayed by heartthrob Chadwick Boseman. He will also be getting his own feature film set to be released in 2018 directed by the incomparable Ryan Coogler. The cast is already setting up to be blacker than black (my boo Michael Bae has just signed on). Marvel’s black representation has not stopped there. They are set to release their Netflix series centered around Luke Cage at the end of the year, Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur has been doing really well, and so has Nighthawk which recently just shouted out one of my favorite black podcasts “The Read”. Oh yea, it’s SUPER LIT.
I don’t know if it was motherhood that did it or just feeling comfortable in her position as a mainstream artist but Beyonce has decided that in 2016 she was gonna let y’all know that she is “not here to play with you hoes”. I for one am here for it. In the past, Beyonce has been criticized for her blonde European weaves and seemingly white washed in L’oreal ads. But if you had any doubts about about how in tune and in love with her blackness Beyonce truly was; she laid all them bad boys to rest with the release of her hit single and video “Formation”. Set in New Orleans, “Formation” was full of vivid images of blackness. We all stood back in amazement as we watched her lay on a police car drowning in a lake and gasped as a little boy danced in front of a row of police officers with their hands up. Of course, whites lost their damn minds. It’s as if before this, they did not realize that she was in fact actually black as depicted by this skit from SNL . Who knew? But Beyonce’s peak blackness did not just stop with the release of “Formation”. She actually performed the song at the Super Bowl dressed in all black reminiscent of the Black Panther Party (again, they were mad). Then she announced, that same night, that she’s going on a world tour, the Formation tour began in April and dates are selling out like crazy in the U.S. and abroad. THEN, she released the visual album “Lemonade”. Just like “Formation”, the rest of “Lemonade” was chock full of images that were just so black at ultimate levels. There were so many cameos from beautiful black celebrity women – from Selena Williams twerking to cameos from the mothers to Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner – for us to take in. The sisterhood exuded still has all of us standing in formation until the Queen says otherwise. Hold up… THEN Bey announced her athleisure clothing line Ivy Park… chile!!! #BeyTooLit
Editors Note: I could’ve made this entire article about Beyonce but, you know, other things happened in 2016 (so they say)
*Sigh* Can we all just pause for a moment and reflect on the fact that we are in the final days of his presidency? Okay. POTUS has had quite a few extremely black moments over his stint in the Oval Office, but this year it’s really sinking in that he’s done and he’s just run out of the fucks to give. The best instance of this came from his speech at this 2016 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Flexing his natural comedic skills with quotes such as this one about Kendall Jenner, “We had the chance to meet her backstage and she seems like a very nice woman. I’m not sure what she does but I’m told my Twitter mentions are about to go through the roof.” He also quipped about being on CPT, or “jokes that white people should not make” and that he was going to work at Goldman Sachs to, “earn me some serious Tubmans”. He ended his speech in the blackest way imaginable; “Obama Out” as he dropped the mic! Yaaaaas for blackness at peak levels. Also of note, Larry Wilmore, black comedian and political commentator from “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” hosted the event. He had one of the most memorable quotes of the evening, not only for its blackness, but also for the controversy that was sparked by him saying two simple words: “my nigga”. We all understood the exchange as showing endearment, respect, and friendship. But racists were up in arms over the use of the word that they’re so enraged they’re not allowed to use. WE DON’T CARE, STAY MAD! Anyway, you can watch the entire video here.
We made it to February before we lost one of our legends. Maurice White, founder of Earth, Wind, and Fire went on to glory on February 3, 2016 at the age of 74.
Denise Matthews or as we knew her, Vanity, passed on February 15, 2016. She was only 57 and her death was felt too soon. We came to know her as one of Prince’s many proteges and little did we know that he would soon be joining her.
The role of Apollo Creed’s trainer was how most of us grew to know Tony Burton. He portrayed the gritty loudmouthed trainer that pushed Creed in the ring. He left us February 25, 2016, exactly 3 months after the release of the movie Creed at the age of 78.
Malik Izaak Taylor, better known to the world as Phife Dawg passed at the young age of 45 on March 22, 2016. He, along with Q-Tip founded A Tribe Called Quest in 1985. A Tribe Called Quest became one of the legends in the Hip Hop world.
The Buckeye Nation wept on April 9, 2016 as senseless violence stole away from us the New Orleans Saints and former The Ohio State University Buckeyes defensive end. No one could’ve expected that this bright star’s light would be dimmed by a thoughtless act following an auto collision. He was only 34 years old.
57 does not seem like a long time, but Prince Rogers Nelson in his 57 years of life accomplished more in the world of music than any other artist. There is no genre that he has not left his impression on. He played and mastered more instruments than you could count, changed the sounds that we were used to, danced, and sang all while wearing better clothes than your auntie. His legacy is alive through so many artists that have been influenced by his presence. It rained in purple on April 21, 2016.
This one is fresh and hurts so much. We’ve lost the G.O.A.T. Muhammad Ali. He was more than an elite athlete, he was defiantly black and Muslim in a time where being those two were almost criminal. He was confident in a world that felt he should be demure. There will never be another like him. After an long 32 year battle with Parkinson’s Disease, Ali passed on June 3, 2016 at the age of 74.
Like every other year, 2016 has had its supreme ups and downs, but this year seems to be one rife with triumph in spite of the trials. This first six months holds so much promise, can’t wait to see what else twenny sixteen has in store.
As an educator, it is important to me to highlight those who are champions for education. Here’s a list of celebrities of color that are doing their part to impact the lives of our future.
When it comes to philanthropy goals, Shakira is it. Giving of her time as well as her purse, Shakira is the ambassador for not one, but 3 organizations that are centered around improving education for Hispanic children worldwide. At the young age of 18, she founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation in Colombia. The sole purpose of Pies Descalzos Foundation is to improve the quality of education, health, and nutrition of children. She’s also on the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, ALAS Foundation, and UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador. She’s definitely leading by example to impact change for children.
Bollywood actress and Miss World 2000 has stepped up as a feminist and philanthropist. She has created the Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education which benefits underprivileged girls across the country. The foundation pays for health and medical expenses for children in India.
Though she may be young, Selena Gomez is definitely making her mark in the educational philanthropy world. She’s broken a record by becoming UNICEF’s youngest ever Goodwill Ambassador. In addition to her works with UNICEF, Selena contributes to a number of charities that focus on education. The Malala Fund, 10×10, and Rosie’s Theater Kids name just a few of the organizations that have benefited from Selena’s generosity.
If you’ve watched an awards show, at some point you’ve seen Pitbull dressed up in his his signature Miami style suits. What you may not have known about Pitbull is that he’s invested in the education of the children in his hometown Miami, FL. He has opened a public charter school named Sports Leadership and Management Academy. His connection to charter schools is one that hits home, his children attend charter schools.
Jalen Rose has been a staunch supporter of educator since early on in his basketball career. He founded the Jalen Rose Foundation/Charitable fund in order to support the development of programs that help under-served youth as well as distribute grants to non-profit organizations and college scholarships. He has created the University of Michigan Endowed Scholarship which helps a student who either lives in an inner city in Michigan or is a minority. Students that receive this scholarship can renew it provided they continue to meet the requirements.
Rapper Ludacris has been a champion for education for 15 years now. The Ludacris Foundation has 3 branches that work towards making life better for youth in every aspect. He has been awarded multiple philanthropy awards and plays a very involved part in all of the foundation’s actions.
Tennis phenom Serena not only dominates the tennis court, she also is making a name in the realm of philanthropy. Like others mentioned in this list; she is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Her Beyond the Burroughs National Scholarship fund helps students that are still in need of funds to attend college after other financial aid has been awarded. She also champions for education outside of America with Build Africa Schools.