I’m super excited about the premiere of Nappily Ever After on Netflix.
The movie is based on the book by Trisha R. Thomas. It’s refreshing to see the narrative concerning the relationship that Black women have with our natural hair and how it affects our sense of self and relationships. I remember the first time that I ever chopped off my hair. I never had much, to begin with, but like many Black girls, that was mainly due to breakage and damage caused by perms that we were taught to live by in our communities.
I dabbled with natural hair in high school but social pressures and a lack of guidance concerning natural hair care brought me back to the perm. There were no natural hair Youtube gurus back then. Growing up in a small town, I was pretty much on my own. As soon as I graduated, I cut off every bit of permed hair and started growing locs. It was a liberating experience that was one of my entry points to womanhood. I had chosen to embrace my natural kinks and that process led me on a road to self-discovery and empowerment.
Nappily Ever After showcases a similar experience.
Additionally, I think it’s great that this movie ties in how Black women’s decision to wear our natural hair has an effect on our dating lives. I’ve found it to be a blessing. Natural hair is a simple ignorance deterrent. It helped me to stay clear of men obsessed with European standards of beauty. No Black woman should be dating them anyway. What some view as a diss is really a blessing in disguise.
Many of my sister-friends have shared similar stories. I’ve enjoyed watching Sanaa Lathan share the ups and downs of our experiences in a positive light on a major platform.
Nappily Ever After is not only about hair. It’s a story about a Black woman’s journey to self-discovery and the reclamation of her life.
Read the movie synopsis below and Happy Watching!
Violet Jones has a seemingly flawless life – a great job, a handsome doctor boyfriend, and a meticulously maintained perfect coiffure. But after an accident at the hair-dresser, each of these things start to unravel, and Violet begins to realize that she was living the life she thought she was supposed to live, not the one that she really wanted. Starring Sanaa Lathan, Ricky Whittle, Lyriq Bent with Ernie Hudson and Lynn Whitfield. Nappily Ever After premieres September 21st only on Netflix.
In this old interview with Charlie Rose, Toni Morrison responds to a past question about if/when she will stop writing novels centered around race. She then responds with a bold answer about centering Blackness. Morrison explains that African writers, like Chinua Achebe, helped her to see the perimeters of writing without being consumed by the white gaze and how this was liberating.
The quote below hit home the most for me:
The problem with being free to write the way you wish to, with out this other racialized gaze, is a serious one for an African American writer.
Thanks to Anti-Intellect for posting this on Youtube!
Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of Our Legaci Press. To reach Jessica, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.
As an 80’s baby, I grew up watching A Different World. I can honestly say that the show affected my life in a number of ways. It was the reason why I wanted to attend an HBCU. Consequently, I attended both Albany State University and The Fort Valley State University for undergrad. The first time I ever heard Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping” poem, was while watching an A Different World episode. I was just a kid but I still remember thinking to myself, “Wow I have to find this poem.” Did I mention, I’m also a poet?
The power of A Different World was its complete grounding in the African American experience. It was when Debbie Allen stepped at the beginning of the second season that the show really started molding towards this trajectory. A Different World started off as a Cosby Show spin off, following Denise to college and ended as a show with a massive following and fan base completely its own.
There are a slew of memorable episodes but here are my top 5.
1. The “A World Alike” episode aired in 1990, when I was five years old. I saw it a number of times as a re-run. It was one of the first times I heard African Americans speaking about what I would later come to understand as Pan-Africanism. The students at Hillman College were putting pressure on their school to divest from South Africa and cut off all connections with any companies that engaged in business with South Africa during the apartheid era. It was real life worldwide protests like this that supported South African freedom fighters and helped bring additional awareness about the horrors of apartheid in South Africa.
2. The “Mammy Dearest” episode aired in 1991. Kim, an aspiring doctor recounted how she was called “Mammy” as a child, after she dressed up as a queen. The pain of this stuck with her, as a young dark skinned Black girl. Meanwhile, Whitley struggled with the new found knowledge that her family had owned slaves. It was during this episode that Kim triumphantly performed Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping.” She shed the mammy stereotype and was re-crowned queen (I’m pretty sure I practiced this scene about 10 times. My favorite line was, “I turned myself into myself, and was Jesus.”
3. The “No Means No” episode aired in 1989. In this episode Dwayne learns that one of his friends is a rapist. His friend Garth bragged to him about forcing a girl to have sex. Garth says, “Once we got started, she started putting up a fuss. You know how they are. They wanna do it but they just can’t give it up. It’s our job to let them off the hook.” Dwayne then realizes that his friend Freddie who has a date with Garth, is in danger. He rescues her right as Garth is trying to rape her. This episode does a great job of defining rape with its mantra, “No means no!” There is no confusion or excuses.
4. The “Love Taps” episode aired in 1992. In this episode Gina attempts to hide her abusive relationship with Dion, a local rapper. With black-eyes and bruises, Gina is caught in the cycle of abuse and is unsure how to escape. Her friend Lena tries to help her but she is too ashamed to accept assistance. Once the rumor spreads about her painful truth everything unveils and her circle of friends comes to support and protect her. This is what needs to happen in real life. So many Black women are in abusive relationships and not enough receive the support that is needed in order to break away from them. The episode also touches on the recursive nature of abuse. Dion recounts how his father beat his mother. In real life many abusers grow up in domestic violence environments and grow up to become perpetrators themselves. Most importantly this episodes shows Black women AND Black men coming to her defense.
5. “Save The Best For Last”, known to many at Whitley and Dwayne’s wedding episode is one of my absolute favorites. It aired in 1992. I don’t advocate someone storming into an ex-girlfriend’s wedding to confess their undying love and steal the bride. However, this episode showcases a powerful bond and love between two Black people that is not seen enough on television or anywhere in the media for that matter. I also rewound this scene a number of times.
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Jessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Growing up as a Black girl writer, various books and writers sustained me. One such writer was Zora Neale Hurston. I lived by her. Her robust unveiling of Black human experiences were the literary nourishment to my young mind. I read over and over again her short story, The Gilded Six Bits.It was like I was there. I could feel the spirited home of Missie May and Joe. I could taste the molasses kisses Joe bought for their new born baby boy. I was literally wrapped up in the entire story.
Yet what intrigued me the most about Zora as a writer was her free spirit. As a folklorist and anthropologist, she saw the world and soaked up its wonders. This captivated me. As I grew older, the list of Black women writers that ruled my universe expanded. In college I was enamored with Ntozake Shange, then in graduate school mesmerized by June Jordan. They all knew a part of my soul, they all held pieces of me in their words. It was a long running connectedness. With each page turned, I saw myself.
When it seemed like the world had turned against me or had become lopsided, they turned it right side up again. Through their writings they let me know, that the things I’m seeing and experiencing are real. Most of all I learned that I had the right to tell my truth, no matter how often its existence may be denied and its fullness unsuccessfully subdued.
This edging out is a tradition of oppression, while the ability to rise even in its midst is a signature testament to the dynamic tradition of literary inspired liberation through Black women writers.
Here are some quotes from legendary Black women writers that can be used as continual tools for learning, growth, confidence and fearlessness.
1. “It’s no use of talking unless people understand what you say.” -Zora Neale Hurston
2. “No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much.” Indeed, no woman writer can write ‘too much’…No woman has ever written enough.” – bell hooks
3. “I’m a firm believer that language and how we use language determines how we act, and how we act then determines our lives and other people’s lives.” -Ntozake Shange
4. “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” – Audre Lorde
5. “We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans – because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings.” – Maya Angelou
6. “I think writing really helps you heal yourself. I think if you write long enough, you will be a healthy person. That is, if you write what you need to write, as opposed to what will make money, or what will make fame.” -Alice Walker
7. “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” -Toni Morrison
8. “The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.” -Toni Morrison
9. “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
10. “Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it.” – Toni Morrison
11. “Challenging power structures from the inside, working the cracks within the system, however, requires learning to speak multiple languages of power convincingly.” – Patricia Hill Collins
12. “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
13. “Writing can be a lifeline, especially when your existence has been denied, especially when you have been left on the margins, especially when your life and process of growth have been subjected to attempts at strangulation.” ― Micere Githae Mugo
14. “Sure you can do anything when talking or writing, it’s not like living when you can only do what you doing.” ― Sapphire
15. “A writer should get as much education as possible, but just going to school is not enough; if it were, all owners of doctorates would be inspired writers.” – Gwendolyn Brooks
16. “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” ― Octavia E. Butler
17. “I write for young girls of color, for girls who don’t even exist yet, so that there is something there for them when they arrive. I can only change how they live, not how they think.” -Ntozake Shange
18. “Let woman’s claim be as broad in the concrete as the abstract. We take our stand on the solidarity of humanity, the oneness of life, and the unnaturalness and injustice of all special favoritism, whether of sex, race, country, or condition. If one link of the chain is broken, the chain is broken.” – Anna Julia Cooper
19. “I don’t want to be limited or ghettoized in any way.” -Sista Soulja
20. “Discomfort is always a necessary part of enlightenment.” ― Pearl Cleage
21. “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” -Maya Angelou
22. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ― Octavia E. Butler
23. “Many times, what people call ‘writer’s block’ is the confusion that happens when a writer has a great idea, but their writing skill is not up to the task of putting that idea down on paper. I think that learning the craft of writing is critical.” -Pearl Cleage
24. “Shakespeare wrote about love. I write about love. Shakespeare wrote about gang warfare, family feuds and revenge. I write about all the same things.” -Sister Souljah
25. “Putting words on paper regularly is part of the necessary discipline of writing.” -Pearl Cleage
26. “Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.” -Alice Walker
27. “You must be unintimidated by your own thoughts because if you write with someone looking over you shoulder, you’ll never write.” ― Nikki Giovanni
28. “Writers don’t write from experience, although many are hesitant to admit that they don’t. …If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.” ― Nikki Giovanni
29. “There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing.” -Lorraine Hansberry
30. “People who want to write either do it or they don’t. At last I began to say that my most important talent – or habit – was persistence. Without it, I would have given up writing long before I finished my first novel. It’s amazing what we can do if we simply refuse to give up.” ― Octavia E. Butler
31. “People wish to be poets more than they wish to write poetry, and that’s a mistake. One should wish to celebrate more than one wishes to be celebrated.” –Lucille Clifton
32. “Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth.” ― June Jordan
33. “We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.” -Angela Davis
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Jessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of Our Legaci Press and the National Black Cultural Information Trust. To reach JAM, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jessica @JAMAiwuyor.
For 150 years African Americans have been gathering at church on New Year’s Eve to pray and celebrate new beginnings. We call this “Watch Night”. This tradition was started on December 31, 1862, the day before the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. They prayed and waited through the night for official confirmation of the good news.
When I think about that faithful night, I imagine what their prayers must have been on the height of anticipation. I’m reminded of my own family’s struggle for freedom, even after slavery ended. My grandmother was a very young girl when my great grand parents packed up their children to escape from the new form of slavery called sharecropping.
The opportunities and successes bestowed upon my generation are not “entitlements” or “handouts.” They are hard fought liberties, the result of faith coupled with tireless works. Our freedoms came through the wet nurses, slaves, cooks, bus boys, school teachers, preachers and drivers…the everyday people that lived in the midst of sheer pain and wouldn’t allow themselves to die out even when the pain was too much to bear.
Somebody dared to dream of freedom, prosperity and hope. Somebody saw the bodies hanging from trees and wouldn’t let it stop them. Somebody pushed those limits until they burst at the seams.
Somebody prayed. It is through these prayers that fears were diminished, aspirations were solidified and futures were protected. It is through this legacy that new generations dare to go further and reap what was sown by our forefathers and foremothers.
Often slave rebellions and freedom movements were organized by preachers, spiritual leaders and activists like Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Queen Nanny, MLK, Ella Baker, Mary McLeod Bethune, Toussaint Louverture, Malcolm X and etc. It was they who foresaw brighter futures.
The mantra holds true, “We’ve come this far by faith.” This faith maintains that “trouble don’t last always,” and “weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” How quickly we forget how we got over.
We live in the age of Apps, iPhones, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s easy for us to become consumed with the world around us. We often forget that even the most simple rights like drinking from a water foundation and ordering food, were hard fought.
One hundred fifty years ago, our ancestors held the first official “Watch Night.” They’re still watching, guiding new generations as we usher in a new dawn.
Jessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.
We all go through days that seem to take all of our strength to get through. Sometimes, we have experiences that are life changing and we don’t know how or why it’s happening to us. My grandmother experienced this over 50 years ago. As a young wife and mother, Mrs. Hattie Virginia Jones decided to start working to bring in some extra income. At the time, my grandfather was the sole family provider. They had a house full of children and were living on limited funds. The extra income from my grandmother working was helpful. She enjoyed being able to buy her children extra Christmas presents.
However, they were living in government housing aka “the projects.” Due to her additional income, however minimal it was, authorities said she was making too much to continue living there. My struggling grandparents, with a house full of children, were kicked out and forced to pack up everything. Some would expect my grandmother to be bitter about this situation. But instead, decades later, she used it as a testimony. She said,”The day they kicked us out of the projects, I thought it was the worst day of my life. But now I’m glad. Because if I was never kicked out, I never would have bought a house.” Years later she bought a second house.
Someone told this story as one of her many testimonies at her funeral this past March. The house that my grandparents bought is full of memories from my mother’s childhood and my childhood. I picked plums off the trees in the back yard. I slept beside my cousins and shared peanut butter syrup sandwiches. Even as a college student, on summer breaks I’d go to grandmother’s house and sleep beside her like a little child. And even as she lay taking her last breaths, that house is where her children gathered to sing hymnals, pray, and hold her hand as she went home to be with God.
When my grandparents were kicked out of the projects, my grandmother didn’t know what was in store for her. She didn’t see the treasure and foundation that she was about to create. She thought it was the worst day of her life. It turned out to be the beginning of a long loving, memory filled journey that impacted the lives of all the generations she nurtured. When she died, her legacy was continued through her 6 children, 14 grandchildren, 12 great grand children and one great great grand child. Every one of us spent our childhood in the house she never would have bought, if she hadn’t been kicked out of the projects.
The worst day of your life, might be the best day of your life.
Jessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.
Khawuleza by the legendary Miriam Makeba, known widely as Mama Africa
Opening: Khawuleza! Khawuleza is a South African song. It comes from the townships, locations, reservations, whichever, near the cities of South Africa, where all the Black South Africans live. The children shout from the streets as they see police cars coming to raid their homes for one thing or another. They say “Khawuleza Mama!” Which simply means, “Hurry Mama! Please, please don’t let them get you!”
Khawuleza mama Khawuleza mama Khawuleza mama
Nank’ amapolis’ azongen’endlini mama, khawuleza Nank’ amapolis’ azongen’endlini mama, khawuleza Jonga jonga jonga yo khawuleza mama, iyeyiye mama, khawuleza Jonga jonga jonga yo khawuleza mama, iyeyiye mama, khawuleza x2 Bathi jonga jonga jonga yo khawuleza mama khawuleza mama khawuleza jonga jonga jonga yo khawuleza mama khawuleza mama khawuleza