All of the significant details that framed Tupac’s life are so glossed over. The movie delivers in a very, “this happened, then this happened, and oh…lets not forget about this-real-quick” type of fashion. Two and a half hours is PLENTY of time to effectively illustrate the high’s, low’s and in-between’s that made Tupac the lyrical and prophetic force he became. The film never even makes mention of his mainstream role in “Poetic Justice”. Leila Steinberg, the woman who was basically Tupac’s mentor and central introduction to performance art appears for literally ONE scene. Tupac lived with Leila and her husband for YEARS. Her role in his life was pivotal to his segue into being on stage in front of mainstream audiences. How was her presence reduced to a forty-five second appearance? There’s also no mention whatsoever of the woman Keisha who Tupac married while he was in jail.
The entire production is just so singular. We never get into the mind of Tupac Shakur or delve between the layers of his fears, his internal struggles or the seeds of his unique artistry. “All Eyez On Me” is nothing more than an expensive snapshot of the headlines that most of us 30 and over are already aware of. The ONLY “detail” or tidbit of information that the movie introduced me to is the fact that Tupac was involved in a long term relationship with Quincy Jones’ daughter, Kidada. I had no idea that she was the main woman in his life up until his death.
The film is just so horribly directed by Benny Boom. It’s very difficult to believe that he graduated from Temple Universities film program. There’s absolutely no visual illustration. The narrative isn’t painted on screen. The entire script and overall production spoon feeds the audience – as if we are pure idiots. We jump back and forth CONSTANTLY between scenes of Hill Harper interviewing Tupac in jail circa 1995 and then the actual events unfolding before us as Hill & Tupac verbally discuss them. It’s juvenile filmmaking and a trite cinematic tactic.
The ONLY real standout acting performance stems from Danai Gurira who stars as Afeni Shakur. Her facial and verbal delivery is superb in comparison to the other pedestrian players. I’m not taking anything away from Demetrius Shipp who stars as Tupac, but he seemed to merely be going through the motions during half of his screen time. If it were not for him physically resembling Tupac to the core, I would not have been convinced of the passion, the power and intensity that evoked the spirit of Tupac. “All Eyez On Me” just is not a good film overall and I would much rather see a seasoned director take on such masterful work in another box office or 6-8 part, television series release.
People are jumping on John Singleton for wanting to include a jail rape scene in his version of the Tupac story, as well as Tupac talking to a severed head, but the common, everyday individual has no idea what real life information Singleton was privy to. Tupac may have really been raped in jail, but of course, his image and hyper masculine presence forced him and the public alike to deny such claims. John Singleton’s inclusion of the severed head and having Tupac talking to this image of himself illustrated Tupac’s love of Shakespeare and the battle of man vs. himself. I would have preferred that type of visual storytelling, as opposed to this pitiful L.T. Hutton/Benny Boom version that has Tupac randomly quoting bits and pieces of ‘Hamlet’ throughout the film. UGH!
…and lets not even talk about the monstrosity that is the ending. Would it have killed the creative team to show Afeni battling with the heavy decision to pull the plug on Tupac’s life support?…or even to show Tupac laying on his death bed and shaking the mattresses with both hands clamped down at his sides because he had something he wanted to GET OUT, but could not speak? THESE are the stories that have been told by close friends who visited him between September 6, 1996 and September 13, 1996. The film should NOT have ended with Tupac’s body laid out on the Vegas strip and a slew of title cards plastered across the screen highlighting his “Hollywood” achievements. The gospel music that played beneath the ending scene was very misplaced and drowned out the heavy emotion.
I don’t care what the millennials are saying about “All Eyez On Me”. It was terribly spliced together, and in such a way that reflected a very amateur team behind-the-scenes. I saw the film yesterday afternoon at the Columbia AMC here in Maryland and I left the theater feeling extremely disappointed. “All Eyez On Me” pales in comparison to every black film released between last summer 2016 and present day.
DO NOT WASTE YOUR COINS! Wait for this pedestrian mess to be released ON DEMAND and in DVD/Blu-Ray format.
It is 2016 ladies & gentlemen. There is absolutely no reason why our inclusion in mainstream television programming should STILL focus on these tired, lazy, DL characters and their associated “down low” experiences. It truly KILLS ME that producers are still seemingly perpetuating the idea that two black men can’t exist in an openly loving, monogamous, mentally & emotionally stable relationship. And if a black man does exist in a healthy union, his partner HAS to be of another ethnicity.
While I certainly am pleased to watch and support the Jamal Lyon’s, Tariq Muhammad’s & Milan Christopher’s of the world, I want to see them on screen in a way that reflects the reality of a changing, more accepting cultural landscape.
BLACK MEN DO EXIST IN ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER BLACK MEN who are out to their families, desire marriage, seek longterm partnership and are comfortable within their sexuality.
The large majority of us are NOT wasting our time chasing behind closeted rap stars & athletes who have not yet accepted their same sex attractions or feelings.
In my opinion, these “DL” storylines, though written & performed fairly well, do nothing at its core to lay bare the most visceral, romantic elements of male interaction. And because there are so few representations of gay, black men on screen, there is no time or space to waste on pure “entertainment”. We, as a community tend to accept and get excited about seeing these washed storylines because the only alternative in black, gay media comes in the form of start and stop web series’ made for YouTube or digital/print magazines that unfortunately never reach beyond a tiny segment of readers. I WANT TO SEE MY BROTHERS ON SCREEN accenting the sentiments of two men, living as partners, working to build a home together, establishing finances, raising a family and committed to loving one another, eternally.
It can be featured in the most basic form of two 22 year olds in their senior year of college: sharing their first apartment together, struggling to make ends meet, one working, the other unemployed, but both making sure the other eats daily and has his basic needs met. I’m not pitching fantasy situations here.
Networks and production companies need to STOP sensationalizing the “DL” man and his “struggle to be himself”. ITS TIRED. They do it specifically to throw black, gay men a bone (see… we included you) – all while echoing the perspective of the masses that suggests our interactions are abnormal or our carefree, sex filled, irresponsible, ungodly “lifestyles” are all the same. We are painted as being unworthy of traditional love.
It’s the antithesis of my reality and to those I most commonly meet, befriend and engage with across the country.
If God ever grants me the opportunity to create LGBT content beyond the Internet, it will be my priority to redefine the depictions of black gay male relationships – the connections we’ve established with ourselves, our families, our partners and the universe as a whole.
DITCHING THE FAMILY! headed to Los Angeles, California to spend Thanksgiving with my Marvin✈️ –
May God bless you this holiday season. 2015 has been the absolute best year of my life spiritually… since 2008. Each day has been filled with a sense of peace and mental tranquility. I’ve been able to think, create and engage clearly. I was telling Chrissy yesterday at brunch that this is the first time in 7 years that I have consistently lived and existed in the present. 2009-2014 was filled with so much self imposed pressure to have this mainstream media career and to accomplish this and achieve that. I pushed away potential love interests, ignored situations designed to form new friendships and set aside other opportunities for advancement in other aspects of my life all because I was so focused on “making it”.
But I gave all of that up on Christmas Day of 2014 because I got tired of living so miserably – being unable to literally appreciate the greatness of my present life because I was dead set on creating a “successful” future.
Listen to me when I tell you that GOD IS GOOD. Ask him to please give you comfort in your most uncomfortable circumstances and he WILL. You simply have to believe in the core of your heart that he CAN. The things that usually stress you out or sadden your spirit will no longer affect your days. IM LIVING IT! Call upon him to guide your journey and please STOP telling him how to bless you. STOP asking for surface, tangible favors. I haven’t experienced this level of peace and contentment for years and it feels amazing to look back on 2015 with a smile. Each day of this year has been pierced by light, solely because I decided last December to step away from the darkness of my own rushed, selfish desires. Now I know better & that’s why I live in the universe freely. My focus is no longer geared towards when When WHEN, but instead I’m basking in the glory of now, Now, NOW.
Thank you Heavenly Father – and HAPPY THANKSGIVING my love
After watching the first 2 episodes of FOX’S hit series, Empire & the 2nd experiencing a ratings dip of 3+ million viewers, is the show also losing your interest?
I AM AN EMPIRE FAN and have been a loyal viewer since January 2015. However, I am one of the series supporters who was only initially pulled in by the Jamal Lyon storyline, as well as Cookie’s sass & dominating on-screen personality. Terrence Howard also immediately captivated my attention as Lucious Lyon. I don’t think any other actor could have been hired to effectively pull off his intense, alpha male role.
Meanwhile, some people are arguing that the series was never really “good” and we simply rallied around it because of the excitement & thrill of seeing a predominately black cast framed in a primetime drama slot. Just as with ABC’sScandal, people seemingly jumped on the “Empire” bandwagon via social media in an effort to not be left out of what quickly became a television phenomenon. Others are presently stating that the recent focus on celebrity guest stars and gay themed plot lines are spoiling this second season. There’s already talk of a spin-off series in development, but IT MAY BE TOO SOON.
I will admit that I don’t hear the same level of post-show chatter or see the onslaught of online commentary that followed the pilot season episodes. And I will also admit that I am having a difficult time identifying with the riff between Jamal & Cookie, while trying to enjoy the particular songs/rigid musical numbers that have been performed thus far. I have also experienced difficulty over the past two weeks in connecting to the lack of depth or growth in central characters between season 1 and the most recent episodes.
I do realize that we still have 16 shows to view this season, but I’d like to see MORE FOCUS placed on Andre’s battle with his mental illness. I think it’s very impactful socially for the series to focus on how Andre’s mental health affects the Lyons family short & longterm — especially since black people are just recently beginning to openly discuss the issue. It makes perfect sense right now that Andre would be experiencing increased levels of anxiety and out-of-control rage now that he has lost hold of one of the more important aspects of his livelihood — his job. Andre’s character isn’t being given the screen time to react or reveal the inner workings of his present, mental state. We hear Andre express his frustration and share his dismay before Cookie. However, the intensity of the internal warfare that would be boiling inside of someone who endures mental instability isn’t present AT ALL.
I also feel that we don’t know who Rhonda or Becky truly ARE, aside from their very secondary roles as Empire Records employees. I’m interested in what makes these two ladies tick internally. We’ve already seen them both be FUNNY. That’s no longer enough now that the second season has launched. What are Becky & Rhonda’s relationships with their loved ones? Are either of them involved in romantic relationships? What are their creative passions & personal fears? How do they feel about themselves as women in the world and do they have dreams/goals that extend beyond their temporary assistant jobs? As of right now, neither character appears to be significant to the overall series, as they both simply provide occasional comic relief.
Becky’s character is displayed as nothing more than the girl in high school who has the gay best friend and is liked by everyone because she’s “so nice”. I want to see and know more about each woman outside of the Empire offices.
In comparison, Hakeem’s character is becoming less and less significant to the structure of the Lyon’s family. We know very little about the internal battles that are truly plaguing Hakeem as a young, black man living in America. He should have been standing alongside Cookie on stage during the second season opener and chanting, “Black Lives Matter”. If the show wants to deal with real, social issues, Hakeem is then the perfect character to target the epidemic of black men losing their lives carelessly on American soil. The show very lightly taps into Hakeem’s passion as an artist or his personal feelings of being neglected by mom AND dad in the past. We see Hakeem catch attitudes, TALK about his music and make other little snide remarks, but the pain he obviously carries around each day isn’t presented on-screen in such a way that the audience can truly empathize with him.
Every time we see Hakeem, he is ALWAYS paired alongside one of his brothers or one of the other supporting characters. He is rarely framed ALONE, and that is partially why viewers dont know who HE IS beyond the “rapper” and youngest sibling. Strong, well developed characters have to be displayed privately — alone with their emotions and able to successfully portray them in silence in order to reveal the layers that an audience will care about. I am thinking about the pivotal scene in the first season of “How To Get Away With Murder” when Annalise is home alone, sitting in the mirror, peeling off her wig, removing her makeup and taking off her lashes after a grueling day of being “seen as” strong and seemingly having it all together.
I can’t truly say who Hakeem is beyond his character description. We have not been privy to layers of his emotional being or even his reactions to other characters that aren’t immediately seen as being defensive.
I was also very taken aback to see Jamal romantically paired again alongside Michael. While I certainly understand that couples split and get back together all of the time, it would have been great for the audience to witness the very challenging process that couples endure between their first breakup and that moment where they decide to rekindle the flame. I don’t personally believe that Michael is strong or passionate enough to exist as Jamal’s central love interest.
Ryan Morgan (the filmmaker from season 1), was closer to the TYPE of guy that someone like Jamal would logically choose and organically connect to. Ryan pushed Jamal professionally, encouraged him personally and aggressively forced Jamal to see certain aspects of his life. It was Ryan’s presence in Jamal’s life that planted the seed of change in how Jamal’s character presented himself publicly for the remainder of the first season. Ryan’s character and that particular storyline should have never been so prematurely dismissed.
I do, however, appreciate that Jamal’s sexuality has been bumped to the backseat of his now leadership role amongst the “Empire” ranks. I don’t necessarily believe that a son would ever betray his nurturing mother to side with his physically and verbally abusive father, but I love the way Jamal’s new position has brought out the more aggressive sides of his personality. I think Lee Daniels realized very early on that Jussie Smollett had become the “fan favorite” amongst the brothers. It’s also obvious based on social media postings that Jussie & Lee have grown close off screen as well. It was a great choice creatively and business-wise to increase the role responsibilities of Jamal Lyon this season.
As for Cookie and Lucious, their battle against one another to frame EMPIRE RECORDS against DYNASTY RECORDS will carry the interest of the viewers throughout the next 16 episodes. I think watching Cookie build her business from the ground up will allow the audience to experience firsthand the inner workings of Cookie’s mental savvy — the know how that helped her secure the $400,000.00 Lucious used to ignite Empire.
Meeting Cookie’s older sister in episode 8, to be played by Vivica Fox, and potentially meeting her mother as well, will definitely add layers to her character. I am confident that behind the scenes, Taraji is pushing to give Cookie depth beneath the catchy one-liners, sharp attitude and ongoing feud with Anika. It’s undeniable that Cookie is the focus of the Empire series, even if her character wasn’t intended to lead the cast. Viewers tune in each week to be entertained by her antics. However, the series cannot stand on another season filled with surface behavior and quick, sharp dialogue spewed from Cookie’s mouth. This second season will hopefully reveal all of the internal strength, passion and intelligence that allowed Cookie to transition between drug lord 17 years ago to now being an aspiring, legit businesswoman.
Empire hasn’t lost my interest, but I am hoping that before a spin off season goes into development, each of the central characters are given a fair chance to grow.I do feel that it is way too soon in the fruition of this series, for the Lyon’s family to be sharing such increased screen time with random, celebrity guest stars. The inclusion of celeb cameos could work if these celebrities were playing themselves and appearing in diminished roles, much like they did during the final 5-10 minutes each week of FOX’s “New York Undercover” series during the early 1990’s. It honestly makes no sense to include these singers, comedian’s and reality stars in roles that solely seem to have been created JUST TO make room for them. I applaud Lee Daniels for using his favor and media opportunities to create positions for our black stars, but I’d prefer to first feel connected to the characters who matter to the core of the series before being bombarded by guest stars whose roles are only good for pieces of one or two episodes.
I am looking forward to watching this second season pan out. Despite any of our personal or collective opinions about the showcase, I think we all can relate to the dynamics of family and loyalty, the themes of jealousy and competition, as well as the universal language of music that are all combined to make EMPIRE the hit series that it is – still 14 million viewers STRONG.
Trying to connect with a guy over the phone can be an extremely daunting task. As KIK exchanges and direct message (DM) conversations have dominated contemporary means of communication, it almost seems awkward to ACTUALLY engage in regular, verbal conversations. Once upon a time, building up the nerve to ask a guy for his phone number was a supreme challenge. Now, figuring out what to say to him once he requests to TALK as opposed to TEXT puts many teens and twenty-something’s into a space of oblivion. No one wants to place themselves in the position of being the one to call, but feeling extremely uncomfortable trying to figure out HOW to fill those long, silent pauses. The easiest and most common convo starter is to ask, “what are you doing?” —
but what do you say to follow up when he simply responds with that one word reply… “nothing? “
COME UP WITH OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS – The honest truth is that most guys are very dry and draining when it involves engaging in phone conversations. They have become extremely use to typing their responses and often asking someone in the background what to say first. Therefore, being forced to verbally interact with a new romantic interest can really catch him off guard. The majority of his responses are going to be quick, one-word replies — as he will most likely not throw the same questions back at you. This is why everything you ask him should be a question that requires details or the telling of a story of some sort. One of the best questions to present to a guy during the first major phone conversation is, “why did your last relationship end?” – This question not only forces your potential new dude to speak in full sentences, but his response will truly give you insight into how he handles his heart, his role as a boyfriend and the feelings of the individual he’s romantically linked to. It makes little sense for you to present open-ended questions that won’t provide the types of information that you will need to make an informed decision about moving forward with him. Remember, the first phone conversation exists as the precursor for the first official date.
LISTEN INTENTLY TO HIS RESPONSES – A lot of people don’t realize that LISTENING is actually a skill that many of us lack. Often times, when we are engaged in a face-to-face or phone conversation, we are simply waiting for the other person to shut-up so we can chime in with our own thoughts and opinions. We hear the other voice on the receiving end, but are rarely tuned in to what the other individual is actually saying. When we take the time to actually listen to the new guy we’ve met, he will usually say something very intriguing or otherwise important that will easily allow you to guide the next phase of the conversation. As he is speaking, he may be answering your initial question, but more than likely, his reply will include information that raises even more questions or curiosities. Listening to him speak in detail certainly provides the necessary cues to bring up other topics of conversation.
My experience has taught me that guys are most honest and forthcoming with what you really want or NEED to know during moments when they aren’t being interrogated. When he starts talking, just let him go on and on and on.
PLAN AHEAD FOR THE PHONE CALL – Even though it may seem a bit corny to have your first phone conversation outlined, it really is a good idea to somewhat know which topics your new guy is most interested in. If your previous text messages and DM conversations have revealed that he loves to eat all of the time or really enjoys cooking, it makes perfect sense that you bring up food, recipes or inquire about his favorite restaurant during that initial convo. Even if you couldn’t care any less about working out, if exercising is his “thing”, it will help ease the tension to discuss his gym routine. You can even stroke his ego a bit by asking how he gets his arms so big and cut up.
People really do underestimate how much certain guys really do enjoy talking about themselves. Some of them won’t initiate conversations where they discuss their hobbies or other interests. However, once someone else presents the opportunity for them to delve in, guys will more than likely entertain the moment. Never hesitate in the beginning to address the topics and issues that you already know gets him excited, passionate and verbally engaged.
DO NOT DOMINATE THE CONVERSATION – Regardless of how dry and draining this guy may seem over the phone, never spend the entire time simply talking about yourself. These actions will more than likely turn your potential new dude off and he will avoid all future calls. If he is seemingly boring or shy, still make attempts to ask the open-ended questions or ignite topics that you know are already of interest to him. Of course you should openly share personal stories, your individual likes and other life experiences. Simply make sure that the two of you are taking turns being verbally expressive. To let truth be told, a lot of guys don’t want to be on the phone in the first place. So, once you do get him to set aside the time to talk, make sure that you are being fair in giving him the room to speak. If you have to ask, “ARE YOU STILL THERE?”… It means you are indeed dominating the conversation & he has gone silent in hopes that you will shut up.
MAKE YOUR FOLLOW UP PHONE CALLS SPORADIC – Just because the initial phone conversation went exceptionally well does not mean that the next few will be just as successful. There is no need to call his phone every single morning or every single night at the same time. When you have constant phone contact with someone new, it can sometimes limit what the two of you have left to discuss. The daily, back to back calls may even contribute to those awkward, silent moments that many of us try our best to avoid. If you stay on the phone three hours the first night, maybe allow the following day to be filled with a fun exchange of text messages and the third day spent face-timing or skyping. There is no rule that states two people HAVE to talk on the phone every single day in order to truly get to know one another better during the initial dating phase of their relationship.
Successfully getting through our first phone call with a new guy can be a challenging task. However, when we plan ahead, ask open-ended questions, listen intently, and refrain from dominating the convo, we create a space where this potential love interest will want to talk to us again. And as the two of you grow closer and your dude becomes more comfortable, maybe he will choose to carry the weight of guiding the follow up conversations.
written by Bryanna A. Jenkins & edited by Xem VanAdams
I first began my transition in 2008. At that time, I would have never imagined as a black transgender woman from Baltimore City, that I would see a day where other black transgender women were being recognized nationally for their contributions to entertainment. In recent years, it has become commonplace to witness my sisters dominate television screens, grace the covers of magazines, be included in conversations about feminism and also receive admiration for their beauty, poise and decorum. Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Isis King, Madison Hinton and Amiyah Scott all exist as shining beacons of excellence amongst black transgender women. I applaud each of these ladies who are birthed from the struggles in our community, but use their platforms not only to entertain the masses but to educate and consistently advocate for change amongst the treatment and acceptance of all transgender people.
However, my high is interrupted and I am slapped back to the reality that black transgender women are facing a state of emergency. One of the gifts that the increased media visibility of black transgender women provides is that is has amplified our multiple oppressions.
I’m forced to remember that 17 of my sisters: transgender women of color spread across this country have been senselessly murdered in 2015 alone. I remember that two weeks ago our community lost 5 sisters in one week — with 3 bodies identified in a single day. I have to face the hard truth about a large majority of my sisters being murdered at the hands of men of color who each lady was engaged with intimately or romantically. Every time I see a new headline detailing the story of how one of my sisters has been callously murdered, I think of missed conversations about how necessary it is for black families especially to embrace their children who are transgender and to also continue loving, protecting, and pouring into them. I also think of missed conversations about how space needs to be given to black men who are trans-attracted – helping each one to understand and accept themselves so that they can love transgender women instead of hiding or harming them in fear of social repercussion. I remember that when most of my sisters’ deaths were reported, they were each mis-gendered, misnamed, and vilified in the news. And the one thing that I remember the most is that the same people praising the Amiyah’s, Janet’s, Isis’ and Laverne Cox’s, are the same individuals excusing and condoning the murders of black transgender women on ground level.
There is an ironic dichotomy between black transgender women who have received media visibility and black transgender women who maintain regular everyday lives.
The same people who look to mainstream transgender women as a source of information and entertainment fail to see the humanity of everyday black transgender women whose bodies are constantly under social and physical attack through systems of patriarchy and white supremacy.
There exists a hard misconception regarding the idea that since a few black transgender women have “made it”, that somehow all is well with the black trans community as a whole. I know that is not the case. Black transgender women exist at the intersection of multiple oppressed identities. In America, the oppression of being a person who is black, female, and transgendered is a unique experience that more often than not leaves most black transgender women at the fringes of society. We are most disproportionately affected when it comes to homelessness, unemployment, victims of violence and harassment, faced with discrimination, difficulties accessing healthcare, and being murdered in drove numbers.
Society is still very much uncomfortable with having real conversations about transgender people. The common understanding of our lives is limited to our body parts and neglects our lived experiences. Our narrative has been neglected for so long or has carelessly been clumped into the real stories and tales of gay males.
Additionally, black transgender people have always existed within the structure of the black community at large, but we have always been erased from cultural consciousness due to social levels of hate and intolerance. The experiences of black transgender women have been separated from the experiences of black people as a whole. The increased media visibility has ignited the process of black transgender women socially realigning with the black community in this current climate of black liberation movements.
“Blackness” or what it means to be a black woman in America is diverse and it is indeed varied.
I believe that the work truly begins by having intentional inclusion of issues that affect black transgender women interwoven into movements that are working to address black liberation such as: #BlackLivesMatter. The inclusion would help to change the trajectory of how black transgender people are not only talked about in social spaces but how our humanity is protected and uplifted.
It also remains important for those trans women who start to receive mainstream media visibility to continue bringing the issues of black transgender women to the forefront – using their popular platforms to help dismantle systems of oppression that work to diminish and devalue our lives.
There is a lot of work that still has to be done that will not only involve the visibility of more diverse black transgender women but it will also involve SOLIDARITY from those cisgender people who call themselves friends and allies to our community. Intentional efforts of using cisgender privilege to interrupt patterns of discrimination and erasure for transgender people will be vital if we are to fight for the liberation of the black transgender women we love to see entertain us online, via television or otherwise.
I am hopeful that I will still be living to see a day where black transgender women will not only be celebrated for their contributions to the world at large, but we will also be celebrated for living our most authentic lives — free of judgment, ridicule and shame.
The summer of 2015 has unified black people under an umbrella of consciousness that encourages the development of our own ideals and unique forms of expression. Seasonal events such as Curl Fest and Afro Punk have been designed to magnify the voices of black people and to also offer a platform where the black experience is celebrated instead of brutalized or interrogated. Each local and national gathering seems to attract a crowd of African-American people who are often young, eccentric and easily distinguishable from those who regularly represent our race and culture within the framework of mainstream media. These crowds are dominated especially by a slew of women adorned in their dashiki dresses, wedge sandals, big, wooden jewelry and big, shea butter infused, twist-outs to match. These women exist as this generations ethnic, online icons – the card carrying members of #TeamNatural. Seen by onlookers up and down numerous tumblr timelines, Instagram feeds and various blogs dedicated solely to their subgroup amongst black women, #TeamNatural seeks to embrace beauty on their own terms by first accepting their natural, physical traits.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a surge in African-American women who are consciously choosing to display their tight curls and natural coils as opposed to wearing Eurocentric, chemically enhanced styles. Mainstream Hollywood starlets like Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o and Tracee Ellis Ross are walking red carpets and taking center stage under a spotlight that reinforces the beauty of cropped, kinky, spiraled hairdos — challenging America’s obsession with long, straight, blonde locks. Young, black girls are witnessing a change in the tides. Their big sisters, aunts, classroom teachers and moms are truly beginning to cultivate the roots of our ancestors by now embracing their natural wave patterns, instead of heating and straightening their hair strands or hiding them beneath bundles of Brazilian weave. Still, however, as more and more women begin to dump their perm kits and elect to wear hairstyles that cater to the likeness of Angela Davis, I have to wonder if #TeamNatural is all but another contemporary, pop-culture trend or a permanent movement towards changing the narrative for black women.
In light of current political and social protests against racism, ignorance and police brutality, it seems that black women are joining forces to disengage themselves from the physical standards of beauty that have been structured by American society. Within this raging climate, #TeamNatural seems to represent not only a simple hairstyle, but also a sense of empowerment for women of color. Just as the civil rights movement of the 1960’s highlighted the civil wrongs on American soil, people began wearing AFROS as a revolutionary political statement. More than just simply an expression of fashion or style, the natural textured fro became a distinguishable representation of black power. Now, over five decades later, it’s not too farfetched to believe that the rise of the #BlackLivesMattermovement has ignited the reemergence of progressive statements that black women are making by using their virgin hair to represent self pride.
My sister exists as one of the only women amongst her core circle of friends who still gets her hair permed every 6-8 weeks, visits the salon twice each month for professional styling and sometimes elects to have her strands highlighted with honey blonde streaks. While she has spent this past summer wearing long, Senegalese braids, my sister admits that she often feels judged by her female peers and other black women alike for not jumping on the #TeamNatural bandwagon. She does not ever wear weaves, extensions or wigs. Sometimes my sister wears her hair straight, bent at the ends and a short bang that edges slightly above her eyebrows. Mostly, however, her hair is styled in shoulder length curls that fall all around her head. As a professional, corporate woman who engages in yoga and other gym related exercise programs at least 3-4 times each week, my sister has shared with me that it’s simply easier and more convenient to manage her hair when it is processed and permed.
Meanwhile, despite her personal preferences and choice of convenience over the now popular twist-out hairstyle, it seems that my sister, along with other women in her position, are possibly being looked down upon. These women may be seen by those who exist along the #TeamNatural spectrum as “still” simulating whiteness and conforming to the mainstream standard of beauty.
But if #TeamNatural exists as more than a contemporary, pop-culture trend, then it suggests to me that the movement is indeed open to enveloping all women who support the idea of progression. As black women join forces to increase their visibility on movie screens and magazine covers, inside of board rooms, along the front lines of major political parties and amongst the ranks of the powerful, decision makers in the world, ones decision to wear her hair in its natural state is only a part of the fight. That very brave and powerful decision can possibly be paired alongside the responsibility that comes with redefining a generation.
The movement could begin challenging its members to live an overall, organic lifestyle. Wearing your hair in tight curls or a kinky updo does not necessarily make one natural, conscious or socially aware. I’m also thinking of the black women who elect to have thick, afro-textured, wooly fake hair sewn into their real, braided hair as a method to merely achieve the “look” of being natural.
The natural hairstyles are merely the top layer that sits above a pyramid that can include organic eating, African dress, minimal to no facial makeup, the full use of natural soaps, toothpaste, juices and other organic, skin care products as well. Beneath the Afros, must exist an understanding of what wearing natural hair represents politically, as well as a train of thought that is focused on total abandonment of processed living.
It is my hope that #TeamNatural and all of it’s card-carrying sisters remain as visible and collectively strong long after the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag fades from online, trending lists. I want to feel that black women truly understand that their natural, physical beauty shouldn’t only be celebrated in mass numbers as opposition to racial unrest or the fight for equality on American soil. Being proud of our skin and our nappy or kinky hair isn’t a trend that only coincides with a social climate riddled with hatred and earthly damnation against black people.
If #TeamNatural continues to reign supreme in the pages of our magazines, on our billboards and amongst our everyday communities, black women take back the agency in deciding the value and politics of their entire being amongst contemporary, westernized society.
posted via the Xem VanAdams social media networks on August 20, 2015
I think we, myself included, often forget that there still does exist the earthly presence of a single man who is happily “doing him”. Not everyone spends their days and nights thinking about being in a relationship. Instead of chasing cuddle sessions, weekend dates and thick, round tail, he is content spending time with himself. He enjoys the routine of waking up, working out, heading to work, coming home, washing his truck, fixing dinner for himself, reading, watching CNN, maybe posting a pic on Instagram, taking a shower, talking to his mother on the phone for 20 minutes and then falling asleep in the center of his own bed.
Every single man isn’t on the prowl for a romantic companion. He is just as content in life spending time with his nieces & nephew while his sister runs her errands. He looks forward to going to the movies to see “Straight Outta Compton” alongside the friends he grew up with in the old neighborhood. Yes, he has experienced romantic love in the past and knows firsthand the comfort that a partner potentially provides.
However, he isn’t looking for love…or expecting to even find it. He enjoys his freedom to just BE. And despite everyone’s assumptions that he’s sleeping with multiple people or entertaining numerous individuals behind closed doors, his life really couldn’t be any simpler. He’s single by choice, but open to allowing something new to impress upon his life – IF the opportunity just so happen to present itself.
posted via the Xem VanAdams social media networks on August 25, 2015
when a guy comes out of his mouth and blatantly says, “IM NOT LOOKING FOR A RELATIONSHIP. SHORTY, IM JUST CHILLIN” – pay very close attention & never forget his telling words.
it does not matter how often the two of you smoke together, have sex, wake up in the same bed or get caught up in the longest and most intimate conversations. it does not matter how many times he has asked you to help him with things that seem like tasks or responsibilities that someone would only ask of a romantic partner. the universal, social motto, “ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS” does not necessarily apply to guys who arent interested in investing themselves into committed, titled relationships. yes, he enjoys spending time with you. he definitely finds you attractive. and he may have even introduced you to his mother, god sister, close homeboys and first born. so what?…
once upon a time, these moments were monumental signals that suggested a dating situation was moving closer to something substantial. now-a-day, guys pull these stunts as a part of their regular, dating routine. EVERYONE meets the homies in 2015 and EVERYONE gets invited to family cookouts.
you and your “girlfriends” are wasting time sitting around trying to figure out WHY he would have said this or done that IF he didn’t really want to be with you. when a man you have been spending intimate time with has changed his mind about wanting to enter into a more serious, monogamous relationship, he will come out of his mouth and say so.
him getting jealous over you pretending that you’re seeing someone else or him blowing up your phone because you’ve been intentionally ignoring his text messages for days, is his EGO IN ACTION and not his heart.
it’s totally cool that you play with the guy who “isn’t looking for anything serious”, but balance the time you spend with him alongside another man who IS wanting a long term relationship.
*its just so unfortunate that the guys who are willing to give us the world are the ones we are usually not organically drawn to*
FOLLOW Xem VanAdams on TWITTER, TUMBLR, FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM to always be one of the first to receive these quick posts and commentary in your social media feed. These main Xem VanAdams social media networks are updated at least once each day.
The iPhone Group Chat Live *In association with XemSays.com and Emerald Eye Entertainment
The themes of love, dating and relationships between men of the LGBT community frame this 30- minute, real life video segment. Over the past three years, out writer, speaker, advice columnist and online personality, Xem VanAdams has spent countless hours throughout each day engaged in a series of group text message and screen-cap exchanges with his two good friends, NATE and DUANTE. On Saturday, July 11, 2015, the trio invited three other guys to join them in Washington, DC for a roundtable discussion that would bring to life their iPhone group chat conversations. MATTHEW, BRANDON and CHRISTOPHER were added as round table contributors to the candid conversation. The video release offers a balance in the images, ideas and experiences that comprise the spectrum of the modern day gay male.
With the unprecedented success of FOX’s latest musical-drama, Empire, it’s no secret that the character of Jamal Lyon has especially resonated with cross-cultural audiences. Jamal’s passion, talent, confidence and external strength appeal to not only the gay male, but also to the special women in our lives who support and champion our journey. Behind closed doors, if Jamal were to be sitting with his close, same gender loving friends, this video visually peers into how the group conversation may look and possibly sound. “Love, Dating & Relationships Between Men: The iPhone Group Chat Live (Washington, DC)” invites viewers to witness and embrace some of the backstory that creates our personal lives as open, gay men living in a major, American city. Filmed by Joshua Cristos and his Malak Media team, this group of guys engages on film in a 30-minute conversation that successfully addresses the relationship dynamics that frame their individual lives, which then ultimately ties them all together.
Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Xem VanAdams is a writer, speaker, advice columnist and nationally known online personality. Xem offers love, lifestyle and self-esteem advice through original articles posted to his XemSays.com website and a series of informational and entertaining videos recorded for his youtube.com/XemVanAdams channel.
I have spent the majority of my time over the past seven years sitting and existing behind closed doors. While writing, recording and collaborating with other creative types, my journey hasn’t provided many opportunities to form new, close relationships. I have created a space for myself, consciously and subconsciously where I am forced to rely on the random contact with friends who have been a part of my life since Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski reigned over Saturday mornings. It makes me feel good knowing that the individuals who fill the positions in my circle are people who listen to me, share with me, and like me as I AM – even as I have grown and changed into someone who isn’t as publicly social. In my daily struggle to reach mainstream media success, I have chosen to remain in regular contact with those who give me good advice when I ask for it, assists in taking action that will help me reach my goals, and works alongside me to help figure out what to do next in moments where I am facing difficult times. My goal is to maintain a crew I can tell anything to and know they will not betray my confidence.
In many circumstances, this generation has lost sight of the significance and supreme purpose of surrounding themselves with a group of people who can truly be considered friends. Instead, many teens and twenty-something’s have opted to simply hang out with individuals who engage in constant fun when out and about, while in the process — looking good standing together for group shots. The “MY CREW IS BETTER THAN YOUR CREW” slogan dictates a contemporary, collective status of surface qualities: pseudo notoriety and second hand loyalty amongst the ranks. Many young people are choosing their friends based on convenient connections that have very little to do with creating a circle where the interactions enrich their individual lives. Everyone wants to be accepted by the “cool kids” – even if that top tier of the social paradigm only provides temporary self worth and gratification. It has seemingly become enough however — in a world where including non-talent related booking information in an online bio has replaced the honor of listing degrees, certifications and other substantial achievements.
“MY CREW IS BETTER THAN YOUR CREW” should be measured on the basis of collective accomplishments and group success if indeed one circle is even to be compared to another. Are the majority of the people you call your “crew” involved in daily tasks and activities that somehow contribute to the growth and productivity of the communities from where they stem? When others see your “crew” walking into a venue or standing side-by-side at a Sunday, rooftop party, are you all being greeted with looks of admiration and handshakes gripped in respect? There’s a huge difference between a crowd being physically attracted to most or all members that comprise a crew and that same crowd feeling drawn to each member as a result of their positive energy and personal vibes. This generation sometimes confuses the surface attention their circle of friends receives, with the levels of high regard that is often afforded to those who are making great, individual strides.
It’s so easy to get caught up in this whirlwind of group praise and adulation when people don’t fully understand who they are behind closed doors or what their purpose is in the world at large.
People who are constantly attaching themselves to other social groups, unable to walk outside alone or attend events without being seen with a slew of others are often dealing with issues of inferiority. Somehow, they don’t feel confident enough to face the world as a solo entity — in fear that their insecurities and weaknesses will be exposed on the front lines. It’s easier to hide our lack of confidence or pride in self behind the names and reputations that others have built and established for themselves. Individuals who often jump between social circles, hanging with this group today and that crew tomorrow – are usually in search of their own identity. Because they are unknowingly confused about what they want to do with their lives or how to create a plan to reach certain goals, they constantly ride the coattails of people who are seemingly powerful & revered. “MY CREW IS BETTER THAN YOUR CREW” is only as relevant as ones perception. When each person who comprises the crew isn’t able to stand on their own accomplishments and ride the wave of their solo merit, it echoes a very empty reality. When someone has to rely on the company they keep to cushion the shattered framework of their self-esteem, that individual has to begin building their internal strength.
When we force ourselves to engage in public and private activities that don’t involve the distractions of television, music, the internet or the presence of other people, we begin figuring out who we are at the core. The silent time we spend with ourselves allows buried thoughts to rise to the surface of our minds and hidden feelings to pump their way through the largest vessels in our hearts. We give ourselves the space and time to not only identify some of our pain, confusion, frustration and self-doubt, but we allow our minds to process methods in dealing with these internal battles. Constantly hanging out with the “crew” only creates a situation where we train ourselves to only feel comfortable and confident within group settings. Alone time then becomes a nightmare of sorts – igniting a fear of being with our own struggles and demons behind closed doors.
WHO ARE YOU WITHOUT YOUR CREW? Sit by the water for two to three hours on a Sunday afternoon with no ipod, ipad or partner alongside you. Patiently wait and allow the tides to turn on your mind. The answer can only be uncovered when an individual separates themselves from the outside world, and deals with the mental and emotional layers of their stripped down character. It may be uncomfortable but it IS necessary.