Queen and Slim: A Film About Black Love OR Black Trauma?

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** Spoilers **

As soon as I heard the shot, saw the bullet pierce Queen’s chest, and watched her body hit the ground, hot tears instantly filled my eyes.

Like many Americans, I saw the movie Queen and Slim by writer/actress/producer genius, Lena Waithe over the Thanksgiving holiday break. I anticipated nothing but great visuals and story lines from the first time I saw the trailer for the movie. Two dark skinned Black leading characters was what sold me from the start. It was an opportunity to see myself on screen. It was the Black love story we rarely see. Most of the Black love stories we see on TV and film star a dark skinned Black woman with a white man or a dark skinned Black man with a light skinned Black woman. It’s rare that you see the two intertwine. But this was IT.

This movie gave us a perspective about love that we often don’t think about. It’s hard to imagine falling in love with someone in the span of six days after meeting on Tinder. Outside of them deciding to run for their lives, the idea of staying alive and protecting each other turned into an opportunity to have a deeper connection. I saw two people that had no other choice but to bond despite their differences. When they met, Queen was a successful lawyer, and Slim was a guy who worked in retail. If the unfortunate traffic stop never happened, would it have been likely that Queen and Slim would have continued to date? Maybe not. Queen didn’t seem interested in him at all until they decided to run. From my perspective, she looked at him as if he was beneath her…or not her equal. This is a common thing I’ve noticed in my time on the dating scene. It’s hard to find a man that is on the same career path as you or your “equal”, especially now. However, I do believe that if true love is there, both people in the relationship should figure out how to make it work no matter who makes more money or who has the most “ideal” career. The two never got a chance to explore that and because of their situation, their jobs didn’t matter. All that mattered was protecting each other at all costs.

I felt their connection grow as the movie progressed. Despite my undying love for the two, I heard some rumbles from folks about their opposition for seeing the movie. Their reasoning was the visuals of Black trauma continued to be played out on screen. What is “Black Trauma”? My definition of it is when violence against Blacks is constantly portrayed on screen for profit. We continue to see the same type of movies: Blacks being killed by the police, slavery, etc. where we are victims. One person I talked to said they would rather have seen a movie about Black perseverance (like Black Panther or Harriet *even though there was controversy about Harriet*) where we win. He decided against seeing Queen and Slim because he figured they would either die at the hands of the police at the end or they would end up in jail. And of course if you’ve seen the movie, they died. I mean, I felt their deaths in my soul. As soon as I heard the shot, saw the bullet pierce Queen’s chest, and watched her body hit the ground, hot tears instantly filled my eyes.

Now, I personally love Lena Waithe’s work. I don’t think she was trying to exploit Black trauma because she is always about Black folks no matter what. But it doesn’t hurt to ask the question, are the majority of the movies and television shows about Blackness centered around their trauma? For example, I just began watching the show All American about a Black kid growing up in Crenshaw in Los Angeles and the gang violence in his neighborhood. We know that in real life, things like this happen, but I wonder if there was a different story line, if the show would even be successful.

I will admit, it was hard watching the interaction of Queen and Slim with the white police officer. We see this so much in our society in how the police treat us and in my opinion, we are beginning to become numb to it. Was there another way we could have engaged with Black love without the police brutality and Queen and Slim’s deaths at the end? I’m sure there was but this is how Waithe decided to connect their love. 

I do hope that we as Black folks know that our love can exist without the violence and the emotional trauma we often face.

❤ Queen T

 

 

Crab or Token?

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Written By Mesha G., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

When do you know if its crabs in a bucket syndrome or glorified tokenism? A while back I read Gabrielle Union’s memoir, “We’re Going to Need More Wine” and she explained how as she was getting older and when another star came on the scene, she felt threatened. The realization of feelings occurred to her when she understood that she could be replaced.  Just like her character, Mary Jane Paul in Being Mary Jane was intimidated by the star anchor, Rhonda. On screen, Mary Jane and Rhonda had it out for each other and it even spilled over through camera time. Just like the script, this is something that Gabrielle Union felt in real life with the new and upcoming star, but this time she was the Rhonda. And often, in the black community we feel like there can only be one…or possibly no one at all.

We see it all the time, we see people start small businesses and complain that they get more support from strangers than family and friends. We can agree that we’ve seen someone saying this on Facebook or IG. And the same goes for those who are going back to school, move to a different city, or have finally decided to begin a fitness journey… it’s haters all around, B!   And it’s sad to say that I truly believe that some of it is unconscious and we’ve been socialized that as this is the way of life.

The crabs in a bucket mentality is a metaphor to describe human behavior and screams the ideal, that if I can’t have it (whatever it is) then neither can you.  It’s such a hurtful place to live in life, trying to bring others down because you can’t either find your way out or are too jealous to lift and climb at the same time.  Crabs in a bucket mentality also attest to people shutting you down because they never seen some bomb ass shit happened before; sometimes, other folks talk you down because they don’t have the confidence to do it themselves. Which brings me to my side point for a later post: have friends around you, who truly support you! 

Tokenism is a topic all of its own that I can talk about for hours.  When I reflect on my experience in my office, I am the only black woman — and the tokenism feels more like exploitation than praise.  And not to discredit anyone that may be multi-racial or non-black people of color, it’s just not the same. The history that stands with black people wanting validation from whites or the basic demand of just wanting to be treated like a human lies deep and has shaped some people to be proud of being the only one. Still today, some black people find value in whiteness, emerging themselves in spaces where they are the only one and is congratulated for not being like the rest of black people has really been a point of praise. 

Many of us in our workplaces scream about underrepresentation, when the goal was never to be proportionally represented in the first place.  Having a few people of diverse backgrounds a part of the larger groups gives the appearance of equality but doesn’t truly stands for it. Considering how the system is set up, is underrepresentation perpetuating whiteness all by itself or is the system really set up to be that complex?

It makes me want to ask the question, if there’s more than one black woman (or person) who shares opportunity, why is this a threat?

Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Importance of Sisterhood

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Written By Victoria B., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

There are friends, there is family, and then there are friends that become family. -Unknown

As an only child, I have always longed for at least one sister. Growing up I would see the incredible bond siblings would share and wished to have the same thing. It wasn’t until recently did I realize that I do have that bond, not just with one person, but with several. For my 21st birthday, I was with five of my closest friends. Most of them I have known for five or more years. It was when I was editing one of the photos we took that I realized I have such a special and unique connection with every single one of them. There are some that I talk to and hangout out with every day and others that I speak to once in a while (but it feels like no time has passed). These are the friendships that are cultivated to stand the test of time. We all laugh together, cry together, rejoice in one another’s successes. This, for me, is the true meaning of sisterhood. Being able to go through life with people that evolve and grow with you, not relish in your mistakes or misfortunes. 

This realization made me understand the beauty of being an only child. One is being able to create their family with people they feel that will uplift them and vice versa. This is something that I value and am grateful for as I have the ability to meticulously develop a larger support system that benefits all parties involved. My mom always used to say (and still does to this day), “Surround yourself with people that lift you up, not tear you down.” This ideology seems pretty straight forward but is quite difficult in practice. It took me years to grasp the notion that not everyone is genuine even if they seem like it. Take, for example, my Freshman year of college. I made “friends” with almost everyone I met which served to my disadvantage. I was focused more on quantity rather than quality. 

Growing up emphasis is put on warning us against having people close to you that do drugs and were a negative influence but the idea of manipulative friends in other forms rarely made the conversation. I gave so much of myself to people that never gave me anything in return. These are the parasitic exchanges that inevitably suck all the joy and life out of a person. I pride myself on analyzing those I considered friends and making the decision to end those that were toxic. It took me a minute but I finally realized that it’s okay to not entertain people that serve as a deficit to your growth. I choose to give thanks to those negative experiences because they make positive ones so much more special. By refining the circle of people I consider my friends, I was able to focus my energy on building up true friendships.

 Sisterhood comes in many different forms. Whether it’s from actual blood sisters to sorority sisters, to best friends or mentors. Each relationship is crucial to the success of one another. It’s the idea of building your own personal community that empowers all those apart of it. It is created through shared experiences, whether they are positive or negative. To end this blog post, I’d like to share a powerful quote.

 

“Sisterhood provides a safe space for your truest self to emerge. It is a place where your tears are caught, not judged; where you are held, not ridiculed; and where it’s okay not be okay.” – Makeda Pennycooke

 Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich: Saving America from What Exactly?

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Written By Aspen S., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

On August 12th, the internet was sweeping with positive reviews of the Popeye’s chicken sandwich.  The sandwich was better than Chik-fil-A and people would wait, sometimes over an hour just to get the delectable piece of chicken on a bun. Popeye’s did not even have to do much advertisement because of the sheer personal hype that people were sharing about their experience eating the sandwich. One article in The New Yorker even went so far as to say that “The Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich is Here to Save America”.

In the weeks following, Twitter was swarming with videos of customers fighting in lines and even more notably, Popeye’s employees being berated, assaulted, and robbed for failure to provide this sandwich to impatient customers. In short, it became clear that the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich was here to shine a spotlight on some of the worst behavior in America. Around this same time, Popeye’s issued messages that they were sold out of the sandwich on account of the fact that they no longer had buns. This still did not stop Americans as customers were willing to bring their own bun, thus allowing the poor treatment of Popeye’s employees to maintain the norm. Soon after, Popeye’s issued a statement that they would no longer be selling the infamous sandwich at its locations. That is until the end of October when Popeye’s tweeted that they would be re-releasing the sandwich at all of its locations starting November 3rd. America was ready and I’ll personally never forget how Twitter users were some of the first to comment on this grand news, sharing in the joy by jokingly posting their re-release party outfits with the world.  

 It is at this point that I think it’s fair to say that I have yet to try the sandwich. As I’ve shared with you all before, I rarely eat chicken so I will not go out of my way to wait in long lines to try it (although if it ended up in front of me due to happenstance I wouldn’t be opposed to a bite – just to see if it’s worth the hype!). But I think my belief in the sandwich really grew when my mother called me in the afternoon of November 3rd to inform me that she had indeed arrived to Popeye’s prior to opening and waited in line for 23 minutes to get the sandwich. And she reported that it was gooooooood, damn near moaning as she reflected upon her eating experience. Furthermore, she told me that the only reason she knew about the re-release was because my brother (who was visiting from college for the weekend) awoke from his slumber early in the morning and ran in every room to tell people they had to arrive to Popeye’s by 10 AM to get the sandwich. That man hardly ever wakes up before noon so I know the sandwich is fuego (-fuego=fire).  

My family’s positive experience made my quite happy and more than anything I believed that this time around Americans would not act a fool. But the only clown here was me and the headlines were almost instantly back showing off yet again that Americans have lost all sense of virtue when it comes to this damn sandwich. People were fighting in lines and more than anyone it was the employees were were suffering. At this point, I personally believed it was time to shut it down but I knew Popeye’s was making far too much money for that to happen. But soon the Popeye’s Chicken sandwich experience started to hit a little bit closer to home and I really got to thinking…

On November 4th (yes, one day after the launch of the re-release smh), articles were reporting that a man was fatally stabbed for cutting in line at a Popeye’s in Oxon Hill, MD about 30 minutes from where I live/work. I was of course very upset about the situation but like the millennial I am I avoided unpacking the situation and instead sat on Twitter retweeting memes about the situation created by other Marylanders. It wasn’t until two days later when a friend of mine expressed how upset she was about the situation. One of my students and I had been bantering back and forth with her in a joking manner about the situation because the area that the situation occurred in is often labelled as “the hood”. But she came to me and asked me why I felt comfortable promoting the anti-Black narrative that the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich is promoting. At first I took offense at the thought her putting me and anti-Black in the same sentence but I am rarely one to pop off without reflection so I took some time to think about what she said.

Very soon I came to the conclusion that she was actually right. In thinking of the media coverage and the way that negative experiences were reported and videos released, they were almost always creating a narrative that Black people love fried chicken so much that they’d kill for it. This was then co-signed by Ja Rule (whose statements have kind of been a bit questionable since the Fyre Festival situation but who is still a well-known figure in the Black community) who said he was disappointed by his people and that people are “idiots” and “acting like niggas” when ranting about the sandwich epidemic. The funny thing about all of this is that there is never any other information about other people….non-Black people…enjoying the sandwich – and I know they’re out there eating it too!

Ironically, it was determined that man in Oxon Hill was not stabbed for cutting in line but rather for previous beef between the two men and the altercation just conveniently went down at a Popeye’s in the midst of the sandwich fanfare. But this new information was never reported despite traction by Marylanders to get the truth reported via Twitter after it was made clear by someone who had a personal connection to the assailant. I had people reaching out to me about the situation asking if I’m ok and as the prideful Marylander I am I was quite quick to spread the truth and nothing but it. For many people, the way this was reported served as a breaking point for many like myself who were fed up about the way the Popeye’s experience was shared in a way that negatively impacts Black people. Many went out of their way to find and promote footage of White people also acting up at Popeye’s. But the sad part about this was that many of these videos were because a White person called the employees or another customer the N-word. And more often than not, these headlines would start with “White Women Attacked at Popeye’s” so the narrative was once again skewed this time in favor of White people. And in reading some of these articles, employees of color seemed to be the people who still suffered in situations like this as they are investigated for situations like this even though they were clearly provoked by grossly racist customers.

Much similar to Black Friday, Americans of all backgrounds don’t know how to act when the demand is high and the supply low. But just like Black Friday, it’s more than just Black people that behave in these harmful ways. So, although the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich may be saving America’s stomachs and palette, it had done little to save us from the disgusting and false narratives that Black people as a whole are fried-chicken loving criminals. Now, I’m not saying that we need to give up on the sandwich (bless your stomachs, y’all and Popeyes, get your coins, girl!) but I’m just thinking about how it never hurts to keep a critical eye out for the narratives that these cultural sensations can perpetuate. Yes, fried chicken is certainly something that brings many Black people together (my family included!) but the honest truth is that it is something that has brought many types of folks from all walks of life together and into Popeye’s so we need to paint that entire picture. Maybe instead of talking about these isolated instances of black on black crime that may or may not even be related to chicken, let’s talk about getting some paid time off for these employees who are at this point putting their life on the line to make American stomachs happy!

 Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

So, I’m 30…

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Approximately 2 weeks ago, I turned 30-years-old. As I inched closer to the big three-oh, I heard from other 30-year-olds how great 30 was and how your life really begins to happen in your 30s. Well, I’ve been here 2 ½ weeks and I hate it here lol. Let me explain. 

I made many poor choices in my 20s, be it with friendships, men, money, student loans. I had a good glow up but all while I was still very discombobulated in the aspects of the things that were going to affect me into my 30s and beyond. So, here I am, looking around trying to figure out how to sweep up the debris caused by the mini catastrophes I created being careless. 

I’ve been open on this blog about my uphill battle with my mental health, anxiety, and depression. Two weeks before I turned 30, I got into a car accident that was allegedly my fault. I suppressed how I felt about the accident until probably this past Sunday when I sat and reflected on my life over the last 30 years. Since my birthday, my depression revved up to an all-time high and when I finally admitted that the accident affected me, I broke. 

A few panic attacks later, I got my shit in order and took the advice of my dad and friend. They told me to write down some goals for myself. One of the goals is to stop holding in how I feel. I have to acknowledge when I’m not happy or when I am happy because those feelings are real. Keeping them in won’t make them any better. I recognize that the longer I hold on to it the bigger the explosion. To lessen the blow, let it go. I started with 11 short term goals that I think are obtainable. I had to be realistic with the timeline because some will take longer than others. One thing I did not do was write down how I was going to accomplish some of the goals…I only outlined a few. There are some goals I will not share on this platform but I will share the ones that I believe will help others. These are in no particular order.

  1. Validate my emotions: Whatever I feel, I have to acknowledge that those feelings exist. When I have multiple ones at once, write them down to not harbor them all. (This is an on-going goal).
  2. Pay off one credit card at a time: It’s unrealistic to take all of your credit cards at once. Continue to make the minimum payments on all of them but pay more than the minimum on your lowest card as much as you can. Then, once the lowest card is paid off, do not use it again and take the payments you were putting on that card onto the next lowest card. So, essentially, you’ll pay the minimum payment for the first card, the minimum payment on the second card, plus extra on the second card. Continue to follow that pattern. (This is an on-going goal).
  3. Look for the next opportunity: In grad school, one of my professors would always tell us that when we landed a job to ensure that we did the following: a.) never lose your keys, b.) don’t burn down the building, and c.) always be looking for your next job. His advice has always stuck with me. In order to meet your financial goals, never stop checking out what other job opportunities are out there while you are employed. That will motivate you to get all of your professional development experience in your current job so that you will be ready to move into the next role. I’ve been doing this but while I wait, I paid for my own LLC so I can start getting booked for workshops and presentations on the side to supplement my income. I do plan on applying for jobs with higher salary as well. (I hope to meet this goal by June 2020).
  4. Get booked: I want to get my first speaking opportunity to grow my business. I am trying to figure out ways to get my name out there and who to speak with. (Goal to have first paid speaking engagement: April 2020)
    1. To make this work, I have to stop being afraid to ask for help.
  5. Let go of toxic people: Now, this is something I’ve been doing since I was about 18. I have a great set of core friends who are truly genuine. I’ve stopped communicating with a couple of the guys I was entertaining recently. I finally recognized that me carrying on with them was doing nothing to enhance my life. (This goal is on-going)
    1. Toxic people include members of my family. I’m still working on what that looks like. Unlike people who aren’t blood related, family is a touchy thing. When I say let go, I don’t mean that I want them out of my life. I mean that I need to find a way to tell them how their toxic actions have impacted me. I need to find a way to say it without them taking it personal and thinking that I don’t love them.
  6. Finish this damn Ph.D: This goes without saying. I’m ready to be DONE!!!! (Graduation goal is December 2020).
  7. Reconnect with God/Spirituality: I realized that part of my inner turmoil is that I need to stay close with God. I’ve been praying more. I don’t feel comfortable in the church anymore but not because I don’t believe in God. At some point, I started feeling isolated in the church and now every time I walk in there, I feel condemned. It’s the wildest feeling. I decided in order to recenter myself, that I need to do the work on my own with the help of my dad, the Bible, and friends. Learn to be thankful for where I am now and what I do have. **Shout out to Mesha for putting me on Sara Jakes Roberts’ Podcast ** (This goal is on-going).

Seeing my goals written out has helped me see my 30s more clear. I’m ready to tackle this next decade and I know I have nothing to fear now. Whatever is going to happen was designed to happen and I will be successful.

❤ Queen T

The New Normal

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Written By Mesha G., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I’ve been doing a great job of exclaiming to everyone that I recently started going to therapy.  This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while doing but something just sparked and I was ready to dive in and do it.  It’s probably one of the best decisions that I’ve made for myself. I’m taking the initiative and doing this for me to unpack much that I’ve suppressed for an incredibly long time.  Also working on a Ph.D with a research topic that is embedded in who I am can cause the need for therapy alone. 

Seeing that I have more than enough reasons to start, I want to focus on what took so long to begin.  I understand why black people believe that therapy is only for white people. This myth is one that guides so many to believe that speaking to an objective person is a bad idea. Again, all a myth. But we as black people are used to living in distrustful worlds where we don’t tell folks our business…or better yet, hear “what goes on in this house, stays in this house.” For very good reasons, black people have tried to protect their families from the cruelities of the world we’ve experienced as a group of people for generations.

Therapy has allowed me to be in a space to heal on a level that gives me autonomy for my life.  Considering that black people have always been controlled at some level of capacity in America, allowing us to go to therapy in masses, would set an insurmountable amount of discourse for power structures.  Allowing me to heal from traumas I’ve experienced AND my foremothers? MAN! And before anyone says that slavery is over and black people control shit, we can barely be in our own homes without getting shot.  

The most disheartening part of beginning the process was actually beginning.  I say this because for a while I’ve lightly researched; I’d go on a website here and there or inquire with my insurance to know what was available.  I wanted a black woman as a therapist and I wasn’t settling for anything else. However, considering a few things: 1. I have insurance 2. I’m aware of what’s available and have the resources to navigate all that shit 3. I’m proactively choosing this to one day not really be ready to cut a bitch like I say I am all.thee.time. So, I came in knowing, ready, and all the way prepared. But there weren’t any and I mean any black female therapist that accepted insurance.  And supposedly I got pretty good insurance but my ass pays out of pocket for all this. 

I want to call this out because THIS is why black people don’t go to therapy, at least in places like the great state of Wisconsin.  Newer generations have been trying to break generational curses in all kinds of ways so I don’t necessarily buy completely the black myth of why we believe black people don’t go.  I do know that finances will definitely be a reason to not go, even when you have the money. I definitely didn’t want to pay for this but I knew that my self-care journey needs more depth than getting my nails done. 

Imagine if there was a world that existed where misguided anger and frustration has a place to be worked out.  A place where insecurities could be discussed. For self discovery to happen. Rather than over diagnosed ADHD prescriptions, being called the angry black person or excessive criminal punishment… hell even death. This particular post of mine this month is more of a call to action rather than just sharing a story time of what’s going on in my life.  It’s time to normalize therapy.

 Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

 

 

 

The Gift of Cultural Experience

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Written By Victoria B., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

One of my favorite courses that I’m taking this semester is Global Leadership. It forces us (the students) to analyze our life through a cultural lens. Being a multicultural girl has helped shape me into the person I am today. As some of you may already know from my previous blogs, my entire family and I were born in a different country, migrating to the United States around 19 years ago. I was raised in a culturally diverse environment that has led me to develop a deep appreciation and respect for everyone, every religion, and every opinion that differs from mine. 

 I have an Afro-Latina mother, and an Austrian grandmother,  I went to a Turkish middle school and have visited several countries in my 20 years. My upbringing certainly was not conventional by any means but it has helped shape me into the person I am today.

The cultural experiences one has also allows them to build rapport wherever they go. A situation I am reminded of occurred just a few months ago. I was helping out with an International Fest and one of the girls I volunteered with was also Colombian. We hit it off straight away and became instant friends all through sharing the same country of origin. Another instance would be at the same Festival when a Turkish woman came to the food line. Through my time in middle school and Turkey itself, I was able to greet her in Arabic. We formed this instantaneous bond just by exchanging a few short words. I have always known the power of cultural rapport but to experience it firsthand is eye-opening as it puts in perspective how significant these encounters can be. 

Not only does being culturally competent make you a better global citizen, but it also increases your chances of success as the word is becoming more “flat”. Meaning, we are able to connect with people from across the globe within seconds thanks to the internet. In today’s society, especially, one has to be hyper-aware of the different cultures and customs that coexist in the world. This heightened cultural intelligence is due in part by the social media platform and the era of accountability this decade has seen.

Another benefit that cultural intelligence can have is the ability to facilitate an environment of positivity and respect. I understand that this is an important attribute to have as the ambiance that a business has can make or break the outcome of success. If the work environment is one rife with insensitivity and lack of willingness to learn, it would serve as a major deficit especially when working (or vacationing) internationally. This means that the more culturally intelligence one has, the better chance they have at thriving in today’s professional world. 

A question that often forms in my mind while completing work for this course is ‘Will I ever be fully culturally competent?’ I have ultimately answered that for myself and came to realize that no, no one can ever be completely culturally competent. For some reason, I find solace in that answer as there is always another adventure or experience to be had. This allows for the intelligence and information gained through different experiences to expand the mind and enhance our knowledge pool. What fun can one have if they know absolutely everything?

If it weren’t for the cultural exchanges I have had, I would not have the experience of something different, new, and exciting. Being able to travel, or even connecting with someone from a different culture can expand your outlook on life. This world is home to many people with many different stories, cultures, customs, languages, foods, etc. If we don’t push ourselves to have these interactions we will lose out on potentially life-changing experiences. I encourage all of you to travel, whether it is to Korea or Korea town, you never know who you might meet and the stories you will gain!

 Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Fandoms: A One-Sided Love Affair?

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Written By Aspen S., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Day in and day out, the students that I work with absolutely love to call me a nerd. In my youth, I’d be quick to fight anyone (with my slick words) who dared called me a nerd. I associated the word with someone who was easily picked on, who lacked social skills, and had virtually zero friends. And while I was at times made fun of for knowing weird facts or being enthralled in fictional worlds (I will forever be a Twi-hard), the fact of the matter is that there is nothing wrong with being a nerd. Especially if you own it.

Since I’ve gotten older, you will never hear me deny that I’m a nerd. It’s who I am and I’m fine with that. My proximity to the nerd world mostly comes through with my fandom obsessions: The Twilight Saga, Harry Potter, comic book multiverses, etc. I love it all and these fandoms consumed much of my formative high school years and have stuck with me throughout adulthood. 

Now, my fandom allegiance doesn’t make me any different than the next person, but as a black woman deeply enthralled in these universes I think that a part of me has always been trying to bind together two worlds: My reality and the fantasy worlds that I temporarily escape my own reality to visit, especially when the real world gets too tough (you’ll always find me watching Twilight when I’m emotionally or socially drained). 

 When I say bind two distinct cultures, I think about how most of these narratives lack people of color so rarely have I seen characters who physically look like myself, but at the same time I relate so well to the quirky personalities of so many of the characters. Sometimes when reading I even imagine a character who may look more like me than the person who is then cast to play them in a movie. I think about how excited I was when I saw that The Flash cast Candace Patton as Iris West Allen, a historically White character. But then I see some of the negative commentary that she receives and start to question whether her sacrificing her own mental health as a result of playing this role is worth it. But then I think about all of the residual good that she is doing and the role modeling that she is doing for young black girls, even if that isn’t always communicated through social media. 

In a similar vein, I think about one of the relatively newer comic book shows introduced to the CW, Black Lightning. Almost all of the show’s main characters are Black, it has fairly good character development, and the Black family dynamic that it portrays is super important. And despite all of this, it has taken me quite some time to get invested. With the season 3 premiere just being released earlier this week I took a minute to think about why I was not caught up on the show. The marketing. Now here is where I get a little nerdy so bear with me: All of the other primetime comic book series on the network belong to one universe: The Arrowverse, the phrase coined to the world that exists amongst the characters of now 5 shows that have previously appeared on Arrow at some point in its seven season run. When Black Lightning was released it was made very clear that it would not be joining the The Arrowverse and that it would exist in its own parallel yet very separate universe. I did not think too much into this at first but in doing some of my research I soon learned that the Black Lightning character was also a part of the Justice League, which is the link between many of these other characters. So why was the show not included? Why was it not given the same opportunities as say Supergirl, which takes place essentially in a different dimension. 

From the start, the show was never given the same platform as the other shows, which almost seems as though the network was not willing to invest as much into it. However, three seasons later, the show has only gotten better and better and it now airs full seasons. Conveniently enough, the CW recently announced that Black Lightning will participate in this year’s annual crossover with the Arrowverse.   

As a self-identifying nerd and Black woman I realize that the stories that consume me are not necessarily for me. I have found some comfort in online networks of others who share my passions but are also equally willing to engage in conversations around this and I am elated to see the increased casting of people of color in these literary universes. I think of the shear impact that movies like Black Panther and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse had, especially for people of color. Times are changing and with that people of color are being added to these narratives, creating a new generation of superheroes and villains and a more prominent space for Black nerds like myself.

 

 Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Stop Telling Me to Smile

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Last week, while at a live music event, I went to the restroom. As soon as I stepped out of the restroom, I was face-to-face with a man who was about to walk into the men’s restroom. Before I could even say a word he said to me “Smile! Why you look so angry? It’s Friday!” Who deemed it a qualification to smile as soon as you leave the bathroom?

This is just one of the many instances that I encounter at least twice a week. Naturally, my resting face is not a smile. To be honest, I only know two people who smile all day everyday. But this is besides the point. I don’t think it’s appropriate to stop what you’re doing to tell a woman to smile if she’s not doing it at the moment you feel she should be smiling. But it’s more annoying for me as Black woman.

Historically, Black women have been labeled as the “angry Black woman”. A narrative that has been told of us since the beginning of time. This concept transfers over to our everyday lives. We aren’t allowed to have relaxed faces in many settings. We don’t get to have relaxed faces at work without supervisors and colleagues thinking we’re upset. Our girls get in trouble at school because teachers think they have an attitude just by their facial expressions.

I remember a time where I was waiting on my drink at the bar in a restaurant. I usually find time to take myself on solo dates and this was one of the times. Anyway, I’m minding my business and this man came and stood next to me. As he was waving down the bartender he looked at me and said, 

“You’re pretty, you should smile more, though. It makes people’s day.” 

My brain quickly shuffled through the many smart ass responses I have stored for moments like that one.

 I responded.

“A person’s facial expressions don’t always equate to their mood. Plus, I’m pretty sure you would never walk up to a man who was a stranger and request that he smiled.”

He was shocked and then responded, “Well, no, I wouldn’t”.

After another minute of me telling him that he shouldn’t tell women what they can and can’t do with their faces, I walked away and found another table to sit at. 

That interaction went more smoothly than others I’ve had in the past. Guys have gotten defensive and told me I was disrespectful for correcting them for telling me how to control my face. Others have tried to silence me but literally telling me to “shush” as I’m correcting them because apparently, I should not have an opinion about myself. 

Imagine smiling all day. Smiling while you’re reading emails, doing chores, driving. Just holding a smile on your face all day long. I’m pretty sure your face would hurt. But outside of that, why is there still an expectation for us to smile all the time? What if something was really wrong with me that day? If I’m not smiling because something triggered me, am I not allowed to feel upset, according to your ideas of how I should look?

We don’t get to own our feelings about anything. People feel as if they can still tell us how we should look or react to normal emotional stimuli. I’m tired of it.

 

❤ Queen T

My Natural Hair Journey

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Written By Mesha G., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

More recently, I’ve found myself wearing natural hairstyles.  This summer, I went to Cabo and wore my favorite wig with 22 inches of Brazilian beautiful-ness and ruined it…I don’t know who I thought I was acting like I grew all that from my dome, I was jumping into the ocean and stuff (sidebar, wig was secured at no moment was she not attached to my head).  After my summer fun, it was hard and incredibly stiff; I bought special shampoo to revive it and all that but she died on the scene. I spent a lot of money on that wig too, so I was low key devastated how it bad got. Then my devastation turned into protest, I told myself to not buy any more wigs.

I honestly thought it would be similar to one of those moments you swear you’re done drinking but go out still later that night kind of experience.  But it hasn’t been. For a while, I did the good old wash and blow dry (and flat iron) that many of us are used to. The summer and natural hair that you’re trying to straighten also don’t match that well either, so while talking to one of my friends, she offered to do a flat twist for me.  

Now at that time, I admired but knew nothing about true natural hairstyling.  As I was watching YouTube learning how people DIY’d this themselves, I came across the LoC method — it felt like black girls learned the Krabby patty sauce recipe. A whole new world of information was unfolding right before me.  I was amazed but immediately I felt some kind of way. 

One of the reasons this experience brought me into my feelings is based off the strength that for so long, black women only had one standard of beauty that didn’t reflect our image.  At a very young age, many black girls around my age and older has had an experience with Just for Me relaxer kits and we were so excited as children to chemically change our hair to be straight.  That shit burned like something crazy but as children we thought that the temporary pain we endured relaxing our hair was worth it. 

I’m pretty late on the natural bandwagon. It’s been years since I’ve had a relaxer, but many of my hairstyles were wigs, weaves, and my own hair just straighten so who would have ever known. And I wasn’t proud of my hair that I was born with… I always thought things like, a few more inches in length or as soon as my dry time decrease, I’ll do something different…literally making up excuses to myself about my natural crown of glory.  

Learning about natural hair also served as a catalyst for the nerd in me to truly learn from multiple perspectives about black women and their hair and the struggle it has been here in America. Sometime soon, I’ll have to share all I learned, giving you all another reason to know how black women are amazing. Versatility isn’t even the best part of black women and their hair. Also, on the note of versatility, don’t be alarmed of a wig fall back in my good graces — it does not take away any of the admiration I’ve gained over the summer. 

My final thought (for now) flat twist > two strand twist.

 

 Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series