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The “Anti-Racist” Michael Brown Art Exhibit is the Epitome of White Privilege

Michael Brown, Jr. was murdered in cold blood last August in Ferguson, MO. Now, a life-sized model of his dead body is on display in an “art exhibit” in the historically Black neighborhood of Bronzeville in Chicago. Sadly, it epitomizes the very definition of the White Privilege and racism it seeks to rebuke.

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Zoë Kravitz Has Words for Hollywood’s Foolery


In a recent cover interview with Nylon, 26-year-old actress Zoë Kravitz had a lot to say about her prior issues with understanding the complexities of blackness and with Hollywood’s ongoing “race problem.” The young starlet and daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet shared how race has factored into her acting career thus far. The interview spotlights just how complex the industry’s casting choices really can be especially as it pertains to diversity and the portrayal of characters of color.

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Amandla is Right. Kylie (and the Kardashians) are Problematic.

 

The Kardashian-Jenners are no strangers when it comes to public drama. Usually, it’s the older half sisters of Kylie Jenner who are caught in public confrontation. However, a recent spat between Kylie Jenner (best known for being someone else’s half sister)  and Amandla Stenberg (beloved Black actress from the Hunger Games series) highlights just how much certain members of this family appropriate blackness while openly diminishing actual Black people.

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What if We Loved Black Women Like We Love Black Male Rapists?

This article was originally posted at Water Cooler Convos.

When I was seventeen, I was groomed and preyed upon by a high school basketball coach. He told me to stop wearing panties if I wanted to get a ‘real man.’ He invited me to drink, smoke weed, and hang out with his twenty-something year-old friends. He explained to me that part of becoming a woman was wrapped up in how men viewed me. For months he did these things. Then, when I had ongoing issues with my abusive dad, he coerced me into sex (an act of statutory and coercive rape) after I asked for his help and called him on a school day seeking safety.

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Let Jaden Smith Live

My one-year-old son loves to wear his sister’s red, polka dot Christmas dress. For a few weeks, he would sneak into her bedroom, pull it off of the hanger, and drag it around the house until someone with more dexterity would put it on his body. We never told him he couldn’t wear it because it was “girl clothes.” And, while his older sister and brother initially expressed confusion as to why he was “allowed” to wear the dress, they quickly let it go when they saw how my partner and I de-emphasized gender rules and their entanglement with popular fashion. I imagine that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith take much the same approach with their children, Willow and Jaden Smith. So, why can’t the rest of the world come to terms with the fact that Jaden’s clothing choices are his to make?

Jaden Smith’s presentation in dresses and skirts, floral prints and headbands, and tights has been causing some media outlets and Twitter users to lose their scruples for the past few months. They continue to express confusion over his wearing of “female clothes” despite the fact that clothes, as far as I know, have never had a gender. In fact, they never will.

Kat Blaque, artist and dope Black girl, made an informative video about the differences between sex and gender and how often those terms are mixed up with gender norms like clothing.

 

Her core message is simply that our conceptions of “masculinity” and “femininity” are based on societal norms not actual biology. Our mental commitments to labeling and categorizing some bodies as “female” and others as “male” stems from our inability to move away from restrictive gender binaries which exclude many people in society.

While Jaden identifies as male, his choice to wear clothes commonly worn by folks who identify as female shouldn’t be misconstrued to mean that he has a new gender identity. Because, again, clothing does not determine, validate, or articulate gender.Given that we are living in the year 2015, it seems odd that many people still struggle with these simple concepts.

At this point in history, where we have seen the legalizing of same-sex marriage and challenges to historic symbols of racism in America, this uproar over Jaden Smith’s evening wear is almost baffling. Perhaps the puzzlement stems from an overall discomfort with allowing others to be free.

What we choose for ourselves by way of clothing, sexual partners, or anything else, is our choice. Yet, the same freedom we seek and protect for ourselves, we deny in others.

For most people, self-expression is not a privilege but a right. When Jaden walks out of his front door dressed as a caped hero or in an outfit typically found in the petite young women’s section of the department store, he, too, should have the right do so freely. Like my children, who were able to understand that fact within a matter of moments, I’m certain that us adults can let Jaden Smith live in whatever clothing he pleases.

 

Photo credit: Jaden Smith 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.

 

Young, Black and Mentally Ill: ‘No Shame Day’ Reduces Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

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Many people of color living with mental illness face stigma in public spaces. Because of a lack of general education around issues of mental health in the community at-large, many of these individuals are forced into the background and erased from the public psyche. However, Nigerian writer and artist, and founder of the Siwe ProjectBassey Ikpi, has been working to make space for folks living with mental illness. Her work as the creator of “No Shame Day” is meant to educate others, encourage those living with mental illness, and reduce the societal stigmas associated these diagnoses.

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (MMHM). Thus, Ikpi has worked to highlight the lived experiences of people of color, specifically Black people, living with mental illness during this month. She lives with Bipolar II Disorder, which she shared with Essence several years ago. While she has been open about her struggles, she does not define herself by her diagnosis.

What Ikpi seeks to eradicate is the idea that folks have to live away from the public eye and the scrutiny and judgement of others. By living freely and on her own terms, she has made clear that she seeks to liberate others like her.

She told Essence:

“There’s no shame in what I and millions more like me have been through. And I hope to encourage others to speak up, hold their heads high – to let go of the stigmas and get help. Getting help takes strength. Staying healthy takes strength. Being here takes strength. Feeling good is your right. Fight for it.”

While many have shared their experiences across social media, Twitter erupted in support of #NoShameDay Monday.

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The affirmation of Black folks with mental illness is a long overdue phenomena in public and social media. Let’s hope this trend continues indefinitely.

 

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.