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Be Encouraged Tour - Chance the Rapper

Katrice Mitchell

Who knew Chance the Rapper's #BeEncouragedTour was going to be the boost I needed to get me through the rest of this week. I've always loved Chance's music, but after the concert I have a greater appreciation for his artistry. Chance's music is for the person that does both and everything in between. On any day you can catch me listening to Kirk Franklin one moment, Babyface the next and then Lil Kim ("No Time" is a CLASSIC). Chance echoed the sentiment of doing both with Coloring Book.

The #BeEncouragedTour was my first time seeing Chance in concert. After hearing most of my friends saying how much they loved his concert, my anticipation was through the roof. I wasn't at all disappointed - after seeing him I was in AWE

The #BeEncouragedTour wasn't just about singing along and making cute Snaps & Instastories (which I did my fair share of :) ), it was about something so much bigger. I honestly felt at home during the concert. And in my opinion, the name of the show fit PERFECTLY. It was so inspiring and I left feeling both blessed and encouraged to keep pressing on. Of course there were lit moments, especially when he performed Favorite Song and No Problems.  

While watching Chance I thought about how he changed the course of his life by going after what he really wanted all while staying true to who he is. Seeing the projection of his high energy, personality and work ethic on stage was truly amazing. From watching him, it just re-emphasized how important it is to project WHO you are into WHAT you do. While performing it was very obvious that Chance is a super motivating and genuinely supportive person.  

"Tap into your strength, we're all blessed to be strong people in our own way and strong people do strong things." Chance said this at least three times during his performances of Blessings and it really resonated with me. Sometimes we look for very specific blessings without realizing that we could be overlooking something we are already blessed with such as strength. The strength to be secure in ourselves or the strength to work hard while we are awaiting for something we may have prayed for is indeed a BLESSING.

By definition, encouragement is the act of giving someone support, hope or confidence. The act of trying to stimulate the development of an activity, state, or belief. Chance managed to do just that.  

During Blessings the lyric "You must've missed the come-up, I must be all I can be. Call Me Mister Mufasa, I had to master stampedes," really hit me in a way it didn't before. For me this concert illuminated many things I conquered and how blessed I am during this time of transition in my life. I've been through some crazy things over the course of the past year, but I mastered the storms and grew to be a better me. The storms I faced allowed me to truly discover more about myself. The beauty of music is that it can allow us to explore things we may not have thought about otherwise.

When I saw Chance, it was easy to see that he was happy, thankful and just excited to truly be who he is while doing what he loves. He’s having fun but he loves the work he is blessed to do. Chance is a guy who had a dream and did the work to bring it into fruition. This inspired me to continue putting the work in to accomplish my dreams. Anything I want to do is attainable if I put in the proper effort to bring it to pass while keeping a positive attitude. Storms will come but learning to master them is one of the keys to success. 

So the question is are you really ready for your blessing? Are you ready to tap into your inner strength to achieve your dreams? The time is now to do it. Be encouraged.

 Images: thank GAWD for my iPhone 7 plus :) 

hennything can happen.

Gabrielle Hickmon


Yesterday, Hennessy tweeted the image that you see above. Upon seeing it, I heralded the brand for a marketing job well done. Hennessy knows that Black millennials drink their product consistently. We've created a whole subculture around Henny and honestly keep them in business. So, I'm glad to see an awareness of this reflected in their marketing - hence the following tweet...

A tweet that launched thousands of retweets and plenty of commentary in my mentions. Some agreed with me, others did not. 

The myriad of reactions to both the ad and my tweet didn't surprise me. The fact that some were mad about the ad/my tweet was surprising however. We berate brands like Shea Moisture because they forgot who their target audience was and berate brands like Hennessy when they do remember. It begs asking, what are we really looking for here?

I saw other tweets that asked extremely important questions like, how many board members are Black? Is Hennessy giving out scholarships for HBCU students? (I would argue that they should give them to all Black students across institution types but that is a conversation for another day). Who was responsible for the ad? Are there Black people on the marketing team? What is/does Hennessy do for the Black community?

All relevant and important questions that speak to the larger conversation of what do/can we expect from the businesses and brands we patronize. The questions aren't what lost me. The anger towards Hennessy for targeting Black people, their target demographic in an ad was. 

One, the ad is targeted at Black graduates. It's acknowledging graduation season and in my opinion commending Black grads on their accomplishment by inviting them to celebrate. TWO, BLACK PEOPLE DRINK HENNY! WE HAVE T-SHIRTS AND DAD CAPS AND WHOLE PARTIES THAT CENTER AROUND HENNY. Why wouldn't they target us in their marketing? Isn't the whole point of marketing to reach ones target audience?

The ad was not done in a racist manner. Maybe it did play into the stereotype that Black people like Henny but can we really be mad at that when its true to a certain extent?

We can’t be mad at brands when they target us poorly & mad when they get it right. #Hennessy

We don't get to be mad at brands when they ignore us, erase us, or negatively target us and mad at them when they get it right. I understand that liquor, tobacco, and other industries target the Black community in often negative ways. But this just wasn't that. Plus, no one is forcing you, me, or anyone else to buy Henny or drink it. Yup. I said it. 

Would it be great if Hennessy gave scholarships to Black students? YES. Would it be lovely if there were Black people on the board? YES. Should Black people have a seat their marketing table? YES. 

Yes. Yes. Yes. Answering yes to all of those questions doesn't negate the fact that it's a good ad. It just means that we have to use our buying power for good and push the brands we support to do the work of supporting us too. 


the dangers of diminishing black love

Katrice Mitchell

You may have heard the news that David J. Garrow is writing a biography about President Barack Obama called Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama. The work by Pulitzer Prize winner David J. Garrow attempts to dissect where Obama came from and how he became the president he was. 

Rising Star, paints him as a calculating individual who made himself into the man he needed to be in order to achieve the goal of being the first Black President of the United States of America. In the work Garrow alleges that young Barack was a fiction writer,  identified as multicultural and lived with a woman of Japanese-Dutch ancestry named Shelia Miyoshi Jager. The young couple was in love and everything was great between the two of them. Barack asked her to marry him not once, but twice and though she wanted to her parents insisted that she wait until she was older.  

As we all know Obama attends Harvard, meets Michelle Robinson at the firm at which he was an intern, and the rest as we know has been historic #blacklove relationship goals.

Honestly, when I first heard what was being reported it really disgusted me. No, it wasn't because the woman wasn't Black. It was because of the way the media diminished his relationship with Michelle.   

Many media outlets painted an image of Obama where he was torn between his gleaming political ambition and matters of the heart, with him being torn in the middle. Even if that is so, Sheila was almost The First Lady of the United States of America - except we know almost doesn't matter in the end.

The framing of this story is what bothered me and many others more than anything. The societal implications of relationships and race were very apparent. Black women are told in so many ways that we aren't desirable. We are always portrayed as the least suitable partner for anyone. We're told that no matter how intelligent, beautiful , pleasant or phenomenal we are, we are rarely a man's first choice. 

Many outlets that reported on the story kept implying Michelle may have been the first and only Black woman Barack dated. This suggests he preferred non-Black women. Implications such as these only add fuel to the notion that Black women can't be anyone's first choice. 

The main implication was that Barack primarily decided to date a Black woman because of the gain it would bring to his political career. It was alleged in the book that Barack felt he had to date a Black woman to achieve his end goal of being president of the United States. The underlying implication is that Michelle wasn't good enough on her own to be The First Lady (even though we know she was). It implies that because she is a Black woman, she had to have added value other than who she was as a person to be worthy of Barack's affection. These notions imply that women of other races merely have to exist without any accolades to be sought-after. 

Rising Star and the subsequent media critique questions the authenticity of Barack and Michelle Obama's relationship and it's really disgusting. It's as if people were fishing for an underlying reason why Barack, a Black man destined for greatness would pursue and marry a Black woman that he was attracted to. There just had to be some fringe benefits from him to even think about dating a Black woman - benefits which resulted in his dream of being President of the United States of America coming true.

When you think about the totality of these findings, it really doesn't matter. Yes, we figured Barack dated women before he married Michelle, but it doesn't matter what ethnicity they were. 

Reflecting on Barack's family and home life, it's really not shocking that he dated women of other ethnicities. As a biracial man who grew up in predominantly Asian or White areas there may not have been many Black women to choose from when he started dating. Barack's dating history could possibly be linked to his location. We don't know how many Black women Barack dated before Michelle, but we do know that he chose to get serious with Michelle, a Black woman. We also know that Barack was relentless in getting Michelle to give him a chance.

Rising Star makes it seem as if it is odd to be in love with someone else before you settle down. This is not uncommon. Everyone has a past, everyone has someone they thought was going to be the one before they met the real one. Barack, just like everyone else had serious relationships before he met Michelle but, his past relationships are a non-factor in his present.

Barack, like everyone else is allowed to grow and change from the person they were  yesteryear. It just so happens for him, he was the first Black President of the United States, and everyone has a public opinion on his private past. 

Shelia may have been one of Barack's loves, but she wasn't his greatest love. That title belongs to Michelle, the girl from the south side, Robinson.

Though he may have had something with Sheila, he still married Michelle. She was it for him. Michelle was the one, not the prototype. The relationship that Barack and Michelle have deserves to be respected and not diminished. With this in mind, there isn't a reason to bring up old baes, that have long since been dropped. 

Next time Barack's exes are brought up lets keep it moving to the next topic of discussion because it's really a mute point. In reference to Sheila, I would hate for the whole world to know that I curved Barack twice.

What really matters is that Barack and Michelle Obama are #goals personified. I would rather just stan for them and their love than focus on their exes. 

Images via GIPHY

culture vultures & More Life

Gabrielle Hickmon

It's been just over a month since Drake dropped his latest project, More Life. A project he deemed a playlist, not an album. A playlist on which he brings together artists from all over the world taking their vibes and waves with him. More Life features Giggs + Sampha + Skepta from the UK, Quavo of the Migos + 2 Chainz + Young Thug from ATL, Kanye's Chicago, PARTYNEXTDOOR to rep the 6 and Black Coffee from South Africa. More Life is a conglomeration of multiple cities and cultures sounds all brought together by Drake, one of the biggest names in pop today. (Yes, I said pop. Drake isn't a rapper anymore). 

Regardless of what you think about the playlist - I personally am still working my way through it, because I don't have an eighty-one minute long attention span, but I digress - there's something to be said for Drake's ability to bring together artists from all of the world. Love him or hate him, you have to give Drake his props. 

In the month since More Life dropped, I've had many a conversation about the project, Drake's role in the music game, and never letting anyone ride your wave. The most interesting of these conversations being about the last point, wave riding by Drake and the form it takes. A form some have deemed cultural appropriation. 

Listen, we all know Drake is a culture vulture. His British accent is atrocious. And while Toronto has a prominent Caribbean culture, Drake is Black and Jewish. So, his interest in other sounds rightfully warrants some interrogation. Maybe he puts artists on tracks to help them out, provide a platform, and promote the music he loves or is inspired by. But, maybe he's simply amplifying voices he thinks could eclipse his and steals their wave. What you think about that is up to you. 

More important than whether or not Drake himself is a culture vulture, is a larger question raised by More Life. The question being, can Black people appropriate other Black cultures/ethnicities? 

Most people I talked to are divided about the issue. Some, would argue that yes. An African American putting on Jamaican culture, when its not a cultural group they directly belong to is appropriation. Others would argue that given the nature of the diaspora and that we all likely came from the same or similar origins, no, you can't appropriate another Black culture as a Black person. 

I personally am not sure where I fall for a number of reasons. One, as a Black person who can trace her ancestry past the American South but whose family only identifies with being from Alabama, Mississippi, or Georgia, who is to tell me that I'm not actually a descendant of or connected to XYZ ethnicity? Plus, where is the line between appropriation and appreciation? My best friends are Jamaican and Belizean respectively. If they speak to me in patois and I speak some back because they've taught it to me, is that appropriation? Should I not listen to Caribbean or African music? Where is the line? 

When I go to Ghana, it's obvious to myself and everyone I interact with that I have some connection to the land, the people, the bone structure, hair texture. Sure, it could be the same in Nigeria or any of the old Gold Coast countries. But, why is engaging with that possible side of myself wrong as a Black American? 

Can we only engage with that which we are directly? What are artists allowed to be inspired by?

I understand the arguments on the other side of the aisle though. Drake isn't British so he shouldn't be rapping with a trash British accent. Drake ruins whatever wave he gets on. Drake is just putting on these cultures and their sounds for profit - not for the benefit of that cultural group/place. But, if Giggs being on a Drake track means more people look into and learn about what it mean to be Black and British + come to appreciate UK Grime is that such a bad thing? 

When did we learn to hate and separate ourselves to such a strong degree? When did we forget that at the end of the day, we're all just one big happy Black family? Maybe we didn't all come from Kings and Queens, but at we did all come from somewhere. Together. 

Image: MTV UK

Coco Conners: Why She Lucked Out Leaving Troy #DearWhitePeople

Katrice Mitchell

The first season of Dear White People dropped on Netflix last Friday and it DID NOT DISAPPOINT. There are so many elements to love about the series from its PHENOMENAL writing, a dope cast, as well as an in-depth take on the diversity of black experiences in a white space. While watching the show there were many moments where I found myself WEAK because it featured so many things my friends and I have talked about.

Each episode of the series highlights a character’s backstory and their specific internal battle. Sam is the biracial student that is super passionate about the struggle because she is coming into understanding her blackness. Lionel, is the withdrawn journalist struggling through coming to terms with his sexuality in the midst of a culture filled with homophobic Black masculinity. Troy is the product of privilege and Black excellence, but he could really be doing more. My personal favorite out of all the diverse Black experiences is Coco Conners and how she let go of her alleged Prince Charming.

We've all fallen into the trap of being engrossed in the idea of someone and not necessarily that person and Coco is no different.

Colandrea “Coco” Conners like many Black women, grew up in a world where she was marginalized because of her gender and race. From being told that she was not beautiful enough because of her complexion, to having the notion that she needed to find the right man so that she could fully realize her career ingrained in her - Coco has had her share of experiences. Through these things and more Coco reminds me of myself and so many other women I know. She is POPPIN in her own right, yet she still feels she needs the validation of having Troy aka Winchester's #1 FuckBoy as her man.

Coco wanted Troy, from their first introduction when he shielded her from the rain and hit her with "We can't let this beautiful chocolate melt in the rain." Who can really blame her for it? On the surface Troy seems perfect but when his character is explored we see he's not what we think he is (as with most guys).

During the series we see Coco hoping she can be wifey but to him she's nothing more than just a "come thru" message. In Chapter 4 we see Coco ask him why it was easy for him to claim Sam but not her, and instead of answering the question, he avoids it by initiating sex. Nine times out of ten if you have to ask someone to claim you or why they aren't, THEY DON'T HAVE ANY PLANS TO DO IT.

Coco, like many women, still decides to make Troy "THE ONE". She realizes he's not the brightest and that he's a puppet BUT she feels he can fit into the mold of what she feels like could be a good partner for her future. On her life list we see: Get into Winchester, Find "THE ONE", Intern at a major law firm, Law school, Marry "THE ONE". This explains why she is really trying to get serious with him. He doesn't necessarily fit into the mold but she's GOING to make him fit (which I, myself have been guilty of doing in the past lol).

While they are at an event mingling with donors she FINALLY realizes he isn't the picture perfect guy she thought he was. When Dean Fairbanks says, "Listen to her Troy and you'll go far," Coco looks as if the light bulb came on. SHE'S the one that's now pulling the strings to advance Troy. He can't advance her. Earlier in the day while they were messing around she was literally planning their life together: "We'll go to Columbia", "I'll be a hot-shot lobbyist" and "We'll have two kids Penelope and Prescott."  All the while Troy says nothing and continues focusing on sex. Here she's made the mistake many women make, planning a life while the guy is just there for the moment. She did all the talking and planning while he literally said nothing. When a guy isn't ACTIVE or ATTENTIVE in future plans it's for a reason - they have no intentions in BEING in the future plans.

Coco is the one to realize she and Troy are props to show that Armstrong-Parker doesn't have to be integrated in order for the campus to be peaceful. Troy on the other hand, thinks he's there because his father wants to show he's ready to have a real relationship with him. The problem in this is that Troy is nothing but a boy seeking his dad's approval and because of this he's ALWAYS going to float aimlessly in life playing the role that his father wants him too. Coco, on the other hand is more ambitious and likely to succeed because SHE WANTS TO DO SO, not because it's someone's dream for her.

Their "situationship" comes to a head when Coco goes behind Troy and talks to Sam about cancelling the protest. The problem is she didn't allow him to do it because she didn't think he would. During their argument Troy FINALLY says what everyone is thinking "You don't like me, you like the IDEA of me, better yet the idea of us." She asks him if he's breaking up with her and he hits her with "we weren't exclusive." She was living in a delusion when she was planning their future, kids and all.

Coco responds with the greatest SLAY, "I'm smarter than you. I'm more ambitious than you. Thirty years from now when I'm the second black female president you'll think of me and I won't even remember your name."

Even though Coco and Troy may not had been an "official" couple, she was still supporting him and building him up. Troy was a necessary experience for Coco to have because through her situationship with him she saw her true value. She IS smarter than him. She IS more ambitious than him. She didn't need to lower her standards to make him fit in her box.

A strong woman needs a strong man, not one that can be told what his future is. Coco discovered that Troy was just a puppet and not on her level. She thought she could deal with him but the closer she got to him the more she realized that, "It's not as good as you think it is..being with him," as she told Lionel. In order for her to truly walk in her #BlackGirlMagic and to learn that her light shined without him she had to ditch him.

Coco is the unsung hero of #DearWhitePeople for many reasons but especially because she ditched her fuckboy to really shine. Her light was dimming because she had to constantly turn hers down to illuminate his. Once she got rid of him, she could truly glow on her own accord. Leaving Troy was the best thing she could've done because if not she would've forever been in his shadow and we KNOW Coco is the only one that will shine. Sometimes we need to leave what we THINK will be good for us and EMBRACE our true potential.