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Beyoncé in Black is King, 2020

Black is King. A simple three-word phrase that is synonymous with Beyoncé telling us fellow Black humans that we are glorious. In fact, she says “let Black be synonymous with glory.” If we focus on just glorifying blackness at the root, then she did that. But if we think about blackness as a big oak tree rather than a root, then she only scratched the surface. And she scratched that surface beautifully, might I add. With her beautiful rhythm of dance, color in super HD quality, regal hairstyles, and the celebration of black bodies, she did that exceedingly beautifully. However, what missed the mark for me was that the Black is King story focused on Africa. Yes, the Lion King is African and blackness as well as humanity originates in Africa but the Africa she chose to focus on was historical Africa instead of showcasing present-day Africa as well.

This is evident in the focus on historic Egyptian headpieces and traditional hairstyles such as those seen below.

It is also evident in the landscapes chosen as the backdrops chosen for the Black is King film which present Africa as just beautiful Natural Geographic worthy scenes without showcasing the developed cityscapes of Africa. Again, I do think that her point was to show historic Africa rather than present-day Africa so I can understand that vision. However, I am sure Beyoncé does not in the bushes when she visits African countries so why not the 5-star African hotels that she probably frequents. Why not show the Africa that exists today? Why not show landscapes different from what National Geographic shows already? Sure, adding her body and several dancers couples with great costumes does show a different perspective but this vision could have been bigger. Even the movie Black Panther tried to connect Africa with African Americans in the end with the scene shot in Compton. On the same note, I think Beyoncé could have tried to connect more dots in the film Black is King. Black is not just King when it relates to Africa. Black is King in the NBA, in the NFL, in music, in educational excellence, and the list goes on. People might say I am missing the point of the film but please think about the fact that Beyoncé’s last three tours did not include any African countries. So with that record, I can see how people can interpret that Beyoncé doesn’t truly care about Africa and is just using African culture for capitalistic gain. However, I do have to applaud her for her effort in glorifying Blackness. I did feel proud to be black while watching Black is King so if that was her mission then she achieved it. However, if she was trying to make a statement on Africa then she definitely missed that mark. Let me remind you that Africa is a continent made up of 54 countries. Fifty-Four. So maybe we are asking too much from Beyoncé in representing Africa cohesively. Maybe we should not expect that a film that is one hour and 25 minutes long can do so much for us. With that said, maybe we should just appreciate Black is King for what it is: a film with impeccable costumes, storytelling, and rhythm in dance as well as music.

The music is actually my favorite part about Black is King with “Find your way back” as my top song pick. I also appreciate that Beyoncé made an effort to collaborate with African musicians such as Yemi Alade, Shatta Wale, and Wizkid. While the representation of Africa was not cohesive,  I found the music to be well organized. I think great music is what we can truly expect from the multi-Grammy award-winning artists that Beyoncé is and she did that beautifully. So Beyoncé, please don’t go chasing waterfalls the next time you’re in Africa. We’ve seen enough African waterfalls. Show us something different. Please and Thank you.

4 things learned from Charlamagne’s Black Privilege book

I have to say that I mainly read Charlamgne Tha God’s book (Black Privilege) because of the hype. I am not an avid listener of the radio show The Breakfast Club which he co-hosts. I will admit that the few times that I have watched it, he does appear to have a “no bets are off” approach to interviewing people. This is pretty bold considering that he has previously been fired from radio a record number of FOUR times. So this guy has been told “we do not need your services anymore” four times and he still sticks to his radical radio host approach. Now he is even on TV and is one of the most recognizable radio personalities in the U.S.A. Well, he must be doing something right especially considering that at the age of 18 he had already been arrested twice for being involved in drug dealing. Yes, this autobiography is truly that and you’ll come to find out that CThaGod actually has a lot of depth in his thinking and his personality. Here are the four main lessons I learned from the book:
1. Be honest and real to everyone, including yourself. If there is anything that CThaGod is known for is his raw and unfiltered candor towards everybody. This guy calls everybody out from Kanye to Jay Z without a second thought. In an industry filled with YES-men, CThaGod chooses to be the breath of fresh air that gives it to you straight. People will always be apprehensive of criticism but those who are interested in personal growth, usually appreciate it.
2. Connect to your inner God. In his book CthaGod explains that he has been influenced by a Nation of Islam group known as the Five Percenters. This group believes that we are all gods as God lives in all of us. As such, we should all have the ability to tap into our inner strength and wisdom to align ourselves to our true purpose. CthaGod credits this alignment with his inner God to his success and therefore, we must not neglect our spirituality when seeking worldly success.
3. Work for free if you have to in order to get the experience you need for your dream job. CThaGod started as an intern on a radio show in South Carolina and worked his way up to a weekend radio jock. He then got fired from that which eventually led him to work for the Wendy Williams radio show. Since the Wendy radio was just starting out, they were not able to pay CThaGod and he was fine with it due to the invaluable experience he gained from the opportunity. If you haven’t noticed, Wendy also follows the “I am going to ask tough questions” policy as that is ultimately what listeners want to hear. Infact, CThaGod states that Wendy told him that there are two options in radio: a) represent the industry by being nice to artists or b) represent the people (listeners) by digging deep in the questions. Clearly this non-paid experience paid off in the end.
4. Opportunity comes to those who create it. The title of CThaGod’s book is Black Privilege and it is a bit of an over statement (is that a word?). Essentially what he is trying to argue is that everyone has their own privilege which can be as simple as having two legs and two hands. Yes, there might be people with more privilege than you whether due to race, class, gender, etc but you can use your unique privilege to get where you want to in life. In my opinion, CThaGod’s privilege is that he was able to gain fans through his uncanny ability to say what others would shy away from saying. As such, he comes to the table with a loyal fan base that will probably continue to grow over time as long as he stays true to himself.

In my opinion, this book provides hope despite what our current circumstances may be as hard work and opportunity is the classic recipe for success. Thanks for reading 😃❤

The 1st time I realized I was dark-skinned

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NYE 2017

This post was inspired by Gabrielle Union’s book “We’re going to need more wine”. Despite being absolutely gorgeous, she grew up being told she was “pretty for a dark skinned girl” or “pretty for a black girl” in a small suburb in California. This led her to wanting to try to assimilate to her white suburban peers who occasionally used the N-word in front her as they did not perceive her as a “regular black person”. This led her to wanting to be the best black person she can be. Even in Hollywood, she felt that it was her against all the other black actresses. This led her to later admitting during an acceptance speech for an Essence Fierce and Fearless Award that she was in fact a mean girl, far from the uplifting person that the award described.

I could really relate to her story as I went through the same thing in middle and high school where some people didn’t consider me black because I was African. People would speak ill of black Americans in front of me because I wasn’t considered one of them. This led me to feel like I didn’t really belong because I wasn’t black enough for black Americans and I wasn’t Asian or Hispanic or part of any other minority group in my schools. But despite all this, I never realized I was dark skinned until like 10th grade (form 2 for my Kenyans).

I was probably 15 or 16 at the time and I was riding the bus from school when our bus driver had to include another bus route in our trip because the other bus driver called out of work. So this light skinned black American guy sits next to me on the bus and starts to talk to me. He had cut stripes in his eyebrows like a lot of people did when Soulja Boy popularized it (see picture below). I could tell that we went on the same level mentally but talking to him was better than watching trees go by in the window. He seemed obsessed with his looks as he kept asking me if I thought he was cute. He also asked me to tell him if he looked more like Souljah Boy or Chris Brown. I told him I didn’t find Souljah Boy attractive (the gangsta look is not what attracts me to a guy) and that I didn’t like Chris Brown anymore since he beat up Rihanna (mind you I had a huge crush on Chris Brown in 6 and 7th grade before that horrific beat down happened).

soulja boy

Eventually, the guy gets a call from one of his friends on his cell phone ( we weren’t really supposed to be using them on the bus but the bus drivers broke that rule too so no one cared as long you were discreet). So the guy start to describe where is at and what he’s doing. At some point he says “I was talking to this pretty dark skinned girl, I wish you could see her”. Oblivious to me, I didn’t actually think he was talking to me and I started getting mad wondering why he would be talking about another girl while sitting next to me. I didn’t realize that “pretty dark skinned girl” was me until I saw other girls on the bus looking at me while seeming jealous of me. Shortly after, we reached his bus stop and he got off while saying that he hoped to see me again. I said “cool” but deep down I was still in thought about whether I was dark skinned or not.

Now that I think about it, I think the gradient of skin color depends on each individual person’s perspective. For the guy on the bus, he probably saw me as dark skinned since he was light skinned with a yellow skin tone. Growing up in my family, I always knew I was the darkest when compared to my two brothers. My mother is light-skinned while my dad is darker skinned so I think when I grew into looking like my mother, I assumed I was light-skinned like her. I knew to non-black people (especially whites and Asians), I was automatically dark-skinned to them just like most black people but it gets complicated when the person judging your skin color is of the same race. In Kenya, people are split into three groups: yellow, brown, and black. In Kenya, I knew I wasn’t yellow or black; my mom still refers to me as brown.

What has actually helped me understand my skin tone better is make-up. In the world of makeup for people of color, there is one key term called undertone. You can be of the same skin color with someone but have different undertones. Usually the main undertones are red or yellow. I have worn makeup with yellow undertones that make me too light and makeup with red undertones that make me too dark. I recently solved this dilemma thanks to the Fenty Beauty foundation which won an award for “invention of the year” by Time Magazine. I wear the number 410 or 420 in Rihanna’s makeup line and these numbers correlate to a neutral undertone. So there you have it, I am neither light nor dark. I am neutral; somewhere in between my mother and my father. And I hope we may all be neutral in judging people by the color of their skin. And please don’t be one of those people who says “I don’t see color” unless you’re blind. Most of us have been blessed with sight so use it to see someone for who they are rather than to discriminate against them.

Thank you for reading. 🙂  ❤