#BlackOutDay Should be Every Day

BlackOutDay

The first social media Blackout Day happened back in March 2015. It was started by Tumblr user Y.R.N. He says that he began the movement when he wasn’t seeing enough Black people across his “dash.” So, to overcome this sad but true fact, he created an initiative to get more Black people to share images of themselves across platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. This event has become a regular occurrence on social media ever since. It pushes back against the erasure of Black folks, especially queer and trans folks, and demands that our images be normalized, included, and present in media every day.

Following the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last week, the Blackout team called a special Blackout Day to support and honor those who were murdered. On Sunday, many people shared their images across social media to reclaim the space.

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The events have been inspiring for many who often feel shut out of the media or who rarely see images of themselves reflected back. Follow the Official Blackout page for more updates on these events.

Photo Credit: Twitter

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

Why it Matters That Hillary Clinton Said “All Lives Matter” In a Black Church This Week

 

On Tuesday, Democratic presidential hopeful, Hillary Rodham Clinton, gave a speech on race in the United States at a Black church in Florissant, Missouri. The church is just a short drive from Ferguson, the city where Michael Brown was murdered by Officer Darren Wilson last August. While Clinton’s speech was meant to score points with Black voters, a voting bloc which has been on the fence about her since her 2008 run against then candidate Obama, she missed the mark on several fronts. Mainly, her speech seemed like a canned response with no actual thought toward fixing the issues of ongoing systemic racism in this country. And, her use of the violent phrase “All lives matter” in the speech only confirmed to many Black Americans that she is completely out of touch with the community at-large.

Clinton’s speech was problematic for two major reasons.

First, though it hasn’t been mentioned much in the mainstream news media, Clinton’s words focused deeply on the concept of Black forgiveness. This appearance was likely brought on in response to the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last Wednesday. So, almost immediately, she outlined the myriad versions and examples of forgiveness she saw after that horrible event. She cited Archbishop Desmond Tutu when noting that, “There is no future without forgiveness…and forgiveness is the first step toward victory in any journey.” She said that the acts of mercy toward terrorist Dylann Roof from the families of those slain in Charleston were “as stunning as his act of cruelty.” She also implored onlookers, “Do not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good.” It is absolutely absurd that Black forgiveness is “as stunning” as White terror. If that stuns anyone, they are the problem.

Her rhetoric of forgiveness is yet another attempt to burden Black Americans with the guilt and shame for racist, terrorist events they had no hand in creating. It is concerning that she focused on Black people rather than the Whites who perpetrate and maintain systems of inequality and racial hatred. By telling Black people that they are responsible for forgiving White murderers and terrorists, without making a call to Whites to repent or even acknowledge their own racism and bigotry, Clinton espoused the same shallow (pretend) solutions many Whites have in the past. The fact is: Black forgiveness won’t keep racist cops and murderers from killing us. We already know this unfortunate fact. Why didn’t Clinton implore Whites to examine whatever ideologies make them (falsely) believe this is a real step in ending racial tension in the first place?

Second, she positioned the conversation as if she was talking to White people and White people alone. She opened the speech describing “our” inability” to understand that racism still exists. Her words were obviously not directed at Black people who are living through these tragedies, murders and terrors every day.

“I know it’s tempting to dismiss a tragedy like this as an isolated incident. To believe that in today’s America, bigotry is largely behind us. That institutionalized racism no longer exists. But, despite our best efforts and our highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished.”

Who is tempted to dismiss the Emanuel AME Church massacre as “an isolated incident?” Certainly not the Black folks sitting in the church where she delivered the speech. Her discussing these issues like she was talking to a group of well-meaning (read: bigoted) White people underscores the fact that even she – while giving a speech on race in America – is incapable of facing our deeply-rooted, historically anchored issues with systemic racism and White privilege.

She said, “I grew up in an all-white middle-class suburb. I didn’t have a black friend, neighbor or classmate until I went to college and I am so blessed to have so many in my life since.” She also said that her mother taught her that “everybody needs a chance and a champion.” By calling up the language of the “black friend” and queueing the concept of the White Savior, Clinton, once again, reminds White Americans of their comfortable ways to address race in the United States. She followed up this personal story with the term “all lives matter,” proving that her conception of race still positions White people as the point of reference.

Clinton wants credit for race activism and allyship which she hasn’t earned. Her pandering to White voters, while at times using the language of Black activists, shows how unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and unaware she is about actual issues facing Black and brown folks in this country.

Many will praise this speech noting that Clinton was willing to discuss this “very sensitive” topic. Others will reduce the criticism of her use of the term “all lives matter” making it into a partisan issue or Black Twitter drama. But, the fact is that Hillary Clinton’s words, during times like these, represent and reflect many of the sentiments of those who will vote for her. Her inability to really address the issues facing Black communities speaks to a larger, societal issue with grappling with our very real and very present problems with racism, violence, and exclusion of Black people from the public sphere.

Hopefully, she gets it right soon. But, honestly, I don’t have any reason to believe she will. In the meantime, we can’t accept this half-baked approach to race and racism in this country. We simply deserve better.

 

Photo: Flickr/Brett Weinstein

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

Don Lemon is Literally Trolling Black Americans

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On Monday evening, Don Lemon went full fool. The CNN Tonight host held up two different symbols. The first was the confederate flag which has been a major topic in news coverage since the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last week. The second was a placard which read the word, “NIGGER.” The callout on the bottom of the broadcast screen just read four words, “Does this offend you?” The answer is simple: Yes. Yes, Don Lemon, it is offensive that you think this public display of desperation is journalism.

CNN covered the story on social media like this type of foolery is reputable.

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Meanwhile, many folks on Twitter seemed more amused and confused than offended at Lemon’s inability to produce actual journalistic coverage.

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Quickly, the signage turned into memes (as they should have) making Don Lemon look even more foolish than he already did.

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Let’s not forget that Don Lemon was called an “Uncle Tom” on camera last week.  Can you blame her though?

Perhaps comedienne Amanda Seales (whose racial commentary is always on point) gave the most astute summation of Lemon’s “coverage” and career when she questioned CNN as a news production company altogether.dlemon4

 

At this point, one has to wonder what CNN’s goal is in keeping Lemon on the air. Besides clicks and word-of-mouth promotion from people looking for these airings in disbelief, most folks aren’t taking the broadcast seriously anymore. It is a wonder of the universe that he even still has a job.

If nothing else, Lemon provides comedic relief every day. Any viewers looking to him for anything else might want to consider changing the channel. Permanently.

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

Afro-Latino Spider-Man Miles Morales to Replace Peter Parker This Fall

miles_morales_is_spider-man-1-who-could-play-miles-morales-the-next-spider-manBlack comic book fans all over the world have been beaming since news broke that the new (official) Spider-Man will be Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino teen. This fall, he will replace Peter Parker, the original Spider-Man, in the popular comic books.

This isn’t the first time fans are seeing Morales. The character has been around since 2011 when writer and co-creator Brian Bendis and artist Sarah Pichelli introduced him as an alternate version of the comic book hero. He also isn’t the first Latino Spider-Man since Miguel O’Hara, a biracial Mexican geneticist, appeared in a 1993 comic book set in the future. But, he is definitely the first Black Spider-Man, a fact that Bendis is very proud of.

Speaking to NY Daily News, Bendis said “Many kids of color who when they were playing superheroes with their friends, their friends wouldn’t let them be Batman or Superman because they don’t look like those heroes but they could be Spider-Man because anyone could be under that mask…But now it’s true. It’s meant a great deal to a great many people.”

Given that Peter Parker was murdered and replaced by Morales in the “Ultimate” version of the comic, many had hoped to see the Afro-Latino teen on the big screen in the next film but recent casting rumors suggest that Parker will still be headlining the film due out in 2017. Not only that, recently leaked emails from Marvel and Sony declared that Spider-Man could never be Black or gay in the movies. This seems odd since the Marvel franchise has introduced a Black Captain America and a female Thor. In all likelihood, Peter Parker will still be around even when Morales takes centerstage in the films. But, the hope is that he will be phased out as the “true” Spider-Man altogether.

The movement toward a more diverse, more representative Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one we have all been waiting for. Bendis realized this when his Black daughter, one of two adopted Black children of his, put on a Spider-Man mask in a department store and said “Look Daddy, I’m Spider-Man!”

“I started crying in the middle of the aisle,” says Bendis. “I realized my kids are going to grow up in a world that has a multi-racial Spider-Man, and an African American Captain America and a female Thor.”

Hopefully, Morales’ presence in the MCU will change the way comic book writers, artists, and fans design heroes going forward. If nothing else, this means that the diverse children who consume this media have a chance to see themselves in the iconic characters we all grew up with. That little change could have drastic impacts on the genre in the future.

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

8 Things Black Folk Don’t Have to Do in Light of the AME Massacre

Black Millennials Banner

By Arielle Newton

 

1. Justify or police our rage.

We have the right to feel and express our rage in a manner we deem appropriate. My only ask is that Black folk aren’t harmed by other Black folk.

2. Apologize for our trauma or anger.

We do not need to further relinquish what little power we have. To anyone.

3. Stay informed of every update or development.

The triggers are real. If constantly being plugged in to this tragedy is causing mental, emotional, physical, and/or spiritual angst, it’s okay to power down and step back. Personally, I have not hate-watched any news coverage because I do not feel compelled to pad the pockets of white supremacist propaganda.

4. Explain ourselves to anyone — especially white folk.

Explanations given to those who don’t agree or understand your analysis takes up entirely too much emotional space. Especially when these explanations are given to white people who are comfortable benefiting from a system that literally hates us.

5. Include or involve the feelings of white folk in our responses.

The last thing on our minds should be how white people will respond to our expressions. If anything, they need to be concerned about how their expressions are received by us. We aren’t obligated to hold white hate, denialism, and guilt.

6. Give up space.

Space is yours to take. Especially if you’re from the most marginalized corners of Blackness.

7. Be peaceful.

Peace is a subjective, shallow term that upholds the status quo. Being “peaceful” — especially when mandated by the agents of white supremacy — is coded language which tells us to stay quiet, assimilate, and internalize our oppression. We are not obligated to be or remain peaceful when “peace” only exists to solidify racism.

8. Forgive.

Forgiveness does not make us more profound or conscious than our oppressors. This beast that was invited into Black space and murdered these gracious host does not deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness is not justice. Forgiveness — especially since we have not yet had room to decompress or process —  is at best, an impediment and at worst, a distraction.

Photo: Black Millennials/Screenshot

Arielle Newton is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Black Millennials

The Massacre at Emanuel AME Church and Our “White Problem”

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Emanuel AME Church/Google

Last night around 8pm, a twenty-something year-old White male walked into the historic Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. He came there with a loaded gun and at least five rounds of ammunition. As the twelve Black men, women, and children who were present in that church prayed and invited this man into their Bible study session for the evening, he contemplated their deaths. He thought about what he would say as he killed them. He figured out who he would let survive to tell the story. Then, about an hour later, after spending time with his victims, he shot and killed eight congregants. A ninth person died at the hospital. The murderer allowed a grandmother and her grandchild to live to tell the story. This ensured that he would be established in a long line of White Supremacists who came before him.

According to reports, the final words he settled on were, “You rape our women and are taking over our country – and you have to go.” While mainstream news outlets tussle over the term “hate crime” rather than calling it the literal result of racism, hatred, and White Supremacist thinking in the United States, Black citizens are reminded that when this murderer said “our women” and “our country” his words were rooted in a long tradition of exclusion for Blacks in this country. While many will focus on this singular event like it is an aberration or an anomaly, I argue that this is yet another incidence steeped in the structural dismissing of White Supremacy, the efforts to perpetually pacify Black Americans, and the commitment to de-humanizing Black people in any public or private space.

Just this week, a 12-year-old girl was slammed against a police car while visiting a community pool in Fairfield, Ohio. Her family members were all handcuffed and pepper-sprayed during this altercation with at least a half dozen police officers. Their offense was “swimming while Black.” We saw a similar incident at a swimming pool in McKinney, Texas just a few weeks ago. What we don’t see, however, is any  sense of responsibility for the brutality against Black people from Whites.

What we never see is a collective shaming or guilt from those who have the privilege to exist in public as they wish. These very same people whose sons and daughters riot at their college campuses or mow women and children down in their drunken stupors see Black Americans who are swimming, walking, praying, standing, or just existing as a threat to “their country” and “their women.” They see us as vermin which “needs to go.”

The reason why these news outlets don’t and won’t call events like the Charleston AME Church Massacre a hate crime is because many White people can’t seem to understand how they can possibly be guilty of hating something that they don’t see any worth in. Many Whites don’t see Black Americans as equal citizens. They don’t classify Blacks as being rightful members of “their society.” It isn’t about hate or crime for them. How could they commit a crime against individuals they mentally place lower than their pets?

The three-fifths clause was added to the US Constitution in 1787. While slaves could not vote and would not be granted freedom for another 100 years or so, the law meant that non-voting slaves still counted as “three-fifths of a human being” so that southern slavers and plantations owners could have hefty sway over the proceedings of the US government. The law remained unchallenged until 1865 when it was nullified as a result of the Civil War and the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. But does that mean that, in the eyes of White Southerners, Black Americans just magically became whole people? Like, instantaneously?

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Daisy Bates/Tumblr

What always strikes me about thinking through the codifying nature of slave and lynch law is how many White Americans see the abolishment of these written rules as the physical end of the sentiments which perpetuated them. Somehow, many White people believe, once schools were integrated and legal segregation ended with the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, everyone just started to like the idea of not being racist. But we have seen the images of a little Black girl walking into a schoolhouse amongst angry, cursing White men and women enough times to know what really happened. We’ve seen how Whites followed and intimidated the Little Rock Nine. We have seen images of the four little girls who were murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Alabama in 1963. This happened almost a decade after the Brown  decision. We know what really happens when White people are denied the full exercise of their racism.

Rather than calming relations between racist Whites in the south and terrorized Blacks trying to survive, forward progress toward equality as always resulted in further violence against Black Americans. There are so many examples of this in history that it’s confounding as to why many Whites continue to treat incidents like Charleston like they’re new. They simply aren’t.

The four girls killed in the bombing (Clockwise from top left, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair) Source: Wikipedia

The four girls killed in the bombing (Clockwise from top left, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair) Source: Wikipedia

To further complicate the obfuscation of the terrorizing of Black Americans, especially in the South, the Confederate flag is still hanging in South Carolina at this very moment. They had the nerve to lower it to half mast in honor of those who were killed at Emanuel AME Church. Those victims, six women and three men, included the church pastor and South Carolina state senator, Rev. Clementa Pinckney. This issue is the epitome of racial hatred. The powers in South Carolina only reinforce anti-Black sentiment by using the Confederate flag as a “symbol of pride.”

When this White male murderer, a far more commonplace member of this society than many Whites would like to admit, entered this church, spouted his hatred in the name of “their country,” and killed Black men and women, he wasn’t acting out of random animus. This wasn’t the manifestation of mental illness. It was the very historical, completely normal behavior from racist White Americans who still see Blacks as an encroaching population. These are the Whites who see Blacks as “three-fifths human.” These are the Whites who don blackface and demand entry into safe spaces for Black women. These are the Whites who would stand outside of a school to curse a little Black girl carrying a book bag. These are the Whites who want Black kids to stay out of the community pool. These are the Whites drunk on White Privilege and enamored with the dominion it grants them. This is “their country.” “Our” doesn’t include us for them.

This is what terror in the United States looks like. As many people wrestle with ideas like “reverse racism” or question why many Black Americans recoil at the idea of accepting Whites into their social circles, events like these (and many, many others) remind us of an era long gone chronologically but very present substantively.

When are we going to start addressing the very real “White Problem” here in the United States? Isn’t the time right now?

 

This article was originally written for Water Cooler Convos.

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

There Wasn’t a Shooting in Charleston

By Arielle Newton

There was a shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal. There was a shooting, a massacre, and a tragedy at AME.

Calling it anything else — especially a #CharlestonShooting is a function of white supremacy. The erasure, the inability or unwillingness to name how a white twenty-something shooter specifically targeted this central and iconic locale is violent.

At around 9pm, a white shooter unleashed racist hell on the Emanuel AME during a bible study. At least 9 people were assassinated, including State Senator Clementa Pinckney who served as the church’s pastor. Although little is known at the moment, I strongly doubt this racist anti-Black act of violence was random or spontaneous. The Emanuel AME, preciously nicknamed “Mother AME,” was established and unofficially organized in 1787. By 1822, one founder, Denmark Vesey — a former slave from the Virgin Islands — planned a slave revolt from this specific location. The revolt failed because George Wilson enslaved physically, economically, socially, and mentally, tipped off his white master. The aftermath was devastatingly structural; the white power structure soon implemented stricter laws, codes, and racist socio-cultural principles to prevent future revolt. Mother AME was burned down. Vesey and 36 others were hanged. The righteous coup was planned for July. And that’s why this deranged racist shooter targeted this location. That’s why before his deadly racist rampage, he staked out AME’s members and developed a rapport them. “Allegedly.”

 

So no. This isn’t just a #CharlestonShooting. This was a strategic racist attack festered, smeared, and drenched in anti-Blackness. Dominant media narratives will suggest otherwise. Don’t let them. Name this massacre appropriately.

 

#AMEShooting #AMETerrorism #AMEMassacre. So much more than a Charleston shooting.

Arielle Newton is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Black Millennials

Why I Really Want to Stop Talking About Rachel Dolezal

 

This post was originally titled “Rachel Dolezal and the Audacity of Whiteness.” I was completely prepared to rage against the machine and rehash what everyone else has said about this ordeal. But, then, I realized that I am tired of Rachel Dolezal, whiteness, and all the intersections thereof.

When it came time to write that essay, I simply couldn’t bring myself to pen yet another piece decrying White Supremacy and its boundless nature. I couldn’t spend one more moment explaining why Dolezal’s  claims that she is a Black person are the epitome of her privilege as a White American. I couldn’t waste 750 words shouting into the ether that Dolezal is a conglomeration of one liners from Black movies, quotes from Black authors, and Indian Remy Yaki-ness.  So, I’m not going to do that. I’d rather talk about what Dolezal has done, the issues her farce has raised about blackness, and what it means for real Black people going forward.

From the moment this story hit the mainstream, folks have been writing in response. Some have taken issue with the conflations Dolezal’s acolytes  have made of race and gender. Others have been awestruck at the inconsistent and problematic presentations Dolezal sets forth in her differing interviews. Others still have been concerned with how Dolezal’s masquerade is harmful to actual Black Americans. There are so many think pieces about Dolezal on the internet. So much air time and web space has been dedicated to this White woman, posing as a Black woman, in the past few weeks. But why though?

As far as the media goes, White people really like to discuss themselves. I’ve said it before but, White folks seem to feel most at ease when they can simply be White amongst other White people enjoying whiteness. Therefore, I’m not really surprised Dolezal is the juiciest story these (predominantly) White news outlets have right now.

As for Black news outlets, I know that some media groups just have to cover this stuff. Unlike the personal blogs (like this one), they have no choice but to attempt to get “the latest scoop.” I respect that. I don’t like it. But I respect it.

However, it has been more perplexing to see the staggering numbers of Black people caping (definition: the act of putting on a cape to save this heifer like Clark Kent did for Lois Lane) for Rachel Dolezal. Rather than talking about her character, pretending to be a licensed pathologist, or pontificating about her intentions, I’d rather explain why our infatuation and, in some cases, defense of Dolezal is indicative of a deeper problem we (Black people) have with respectability, White Saviors, and the exploitation of Black women’s bodies.

Case and point: This White woman posing as a Black woman has been lauded by many in the Black community for “doing something for us.” In essence, she behaved like a respectable Black person should (even though she’s White) by leading and working with the NAACP. Their need to praise Dolezal’s White Savior Complex ignores the fact that while “doing something for us,” Dolezal also reinforced the very violent, very exclusionary act of silencing and erasing Black women’s experiences in the United States.

Her efforts to literally place her feet in Black women’s shoes meant that there were some Black women who went barefoot. She took up space in academia and in a prominent social organization when a Black woman – perhaps one who has identified that way since before 2002 – could have had access to those opportunities. Why should we continue rewarding this deceit with coverage and other accolades?

Even worse, some Black men have indicated that Dolezal’s caricature of Black women’s skin and hair is akin to the fashion and hair choices celebrity Black women make. Meme after meme has indicted Black women like Beyoncé, Ciara, and Mary J Blige for straightening their tresses or donning blonde extensions. Why? These men argue that these fashion choices are no different from what Dolezal has done to darken her skin and make her hair kinkier.

The problem with this line of reasoning should be obvious. There are two main issues with this claim. First, Black women’s choices in hair or makeup doesn’t make them assimilable into whiteness. The one-drop rule in this country has always set a baseline that any African-descendant lineage makes an individual Black. Second, and more importantly, Black women who do pass for White do so for survival purposes. Historically, “looking White” could mean greater access to employment opportunities, less risk of harm in public spaces, and opportunity to marry outside of one’s race without persecution from the law. Any argument which ignores these very real facts is just as ficticious as Rachel Dolezal’s identity.

Similarly, Dolezal’s embodiment of blackness strikes much the same low, underdeveloped notes as we have seen by the likes of Miley CyrusKaty Perry, and Taylor Swift. These disembodied, exaggerated mockeries of “The Black Experience” (as if there is only one) prove that Dolezal isn’t actually Black. Instead, she seems taken with the fetishized caricatures of Black womanhood. Her rise to fame seems oddly meta in that way. Frankly, every time Rachel does an interview, an angel loses its wings. And, sadly, the more hype we give her story, the more likely she is to get a book deal, reality television show, or other reward for her audacious whiteness at the expense of Black people.

Honestly, I feel like Dolezal’s actions have shone a light on many of the issues we face in Black social movements and existence. We can’t quite decide if there are boundaries to blackness or, if there are, who gets to set them. Her elaborate Catfishing experiment makes it clear that blackness can and will continue to be infiltrated. This is not something that can be avoided. But, rather than offer more lip service, arguing against those who would like to give Dolezal credit which she did not earn, I’d rather start to work through the very important secondary effects her clandestine affair has had on what it means to be Black in the United States.

Suffice it to say, I won’t be writing about her in this space ever again. This was my first and last time. What I will say though is her antics raise important questions about who we are and who we choose to be. So, let’s stop talking about her and spend more time talking to one another about us.

This post was originally written for Water Cooler Convos.

Photo credit: Rachel Dolezal/Facebook

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.