Cardi B: The Black Girl Who Beat Taylor Swift On The Charts

This was some black girl shit.

In front of a raucous crowd tucked into the lobby of Atlantic Records’ New York office on Monday, Cardi B, newly minted as the first female rapper in 19 years to top the Billboard Hot 100 without any other credited artists, set her champagne flute on the stairs and shouted out her community.

“All of my friends, everybody I grew up with, my family, my gang — everybody posted so I could go number one,” she said. “Everyday harassing they followers like ‘Make sure you download and stream Bodak Yellow!’” Then she hit a slight whine and started dancing and crooning: “And ‘look what you made me do, look what you made me do, look what you made me do.’ Oh my God! I’m so excited!”

She’d knocked Taylor Swift off the top of the charts, and now she was spiking the football, by quoting the song that hers had supplanted: “Look What You Made Me Do.”

And look what Cardi had done: a non-respectable black girl from the hood, talking in a thick Santo-Domingo-by-way-of-the South-Bronx accent, had booted the biggest name in music from the No. 1 spot, overcoming a corporate marketing campaign designed to ensure Taylor’s song dominated the charts. “Bodak Yellow” is an anthem dedicated to the grit, perseverance and triumph of black womanhood, and in hitting No. 1 over Swift’s expression of betrayal, the story of the song fulfilled the aspirations of its lyrics.

Read the entire piece here.

What Are Black Sports Journalists Allowed To Say About Trump And Race?

Jemele Hill said what she said.

In a series of tweets stemming from an odd conversation about Kid Rock, the co-host of ESPN’s “SC6” called President Donald Trump a “white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” she wrote. “His rise is the direct result of white supremacy. Period.” She added that Trump’s presidency had empowered other white supremacists and that his bid for the White House wouldn’t have been successful if he weren’t white.

Backlash to the tweets, helped along by people like former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry and Fox Sports Radio’s Clay Travis ― who frequently says racist things ― led ESPN to release a statement saying Hill’s views “do not represent the position” of the network. This made things worse.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, called Hill’s tweets a “fireable offense.” That same day, ESPN tried to prevent Hill from co-hosting “SC6” with Michael Smith. In a tweet, Hill said her “regret” was that her comments “painted ESPN in an unfair light.” ESPN’s public editor, Jim Brady, said Hill ― and the media at large ― should “let the reporting do its work, and resist more incendiary labels.”

None of what Hill said in her initial volley of tweets was inaccurate. Trump voters were driven by racism, and white supremacists openly support him. His campaign rhetoric was a dog whistle for white supremacists. His attorney general has praised the Immigration Act of 1924, a law crafted by eugenicists and championed by people hoping to preserve a “distinct American type.” After a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump attributed the violence to “both sides,” even though none of the counter-protesters killed anyone.

That Trump is a white supremacist is a straightforward conclusion that can be drawn from an abundance of available evidence.

But not all straightforward conclusions are admissible in mainstream American media, particularly on the subject of race, particularly when stated by a black woman.

To get a sense of the straitjackets placed on black media figures working in a predominantly white industry, where “white supremacy” is usually seen as a slur applicable only to Klansmen and Nazis, I convened three prominent black journalists: Greg Howard, a Metro reporter at The New York Times who previously wrote for The New York Times Magazine and for Deadspin; Elena Bergeron, former staff writer at ESPN The Magazine and current editor-in-chief of SB Nation; and a current ESPN employee who, for obvious reasons, wanted to remain anonymous.

The conversation took place over Slack, a group messaging service. With the participants’ agreement, a transcript of that discussion appears below. It’s been edited for clarity and length.

Read the entire piece here.

Memphis Pushes To Level The Playing Field For Black Entrepreneurs

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ― Darrell Cobbins’ grandfather was a real estate man.

Samuel Peace opened Peace Realty in 1959, a company whose legacy includes building Memphis’ first neighborhood for middle-income African-Americans ― the 600-home Lakeview Gardens subdivision.

“I grew up seeing him go to work six days a week. He had six children, a wife that didn’t work and he provided for all of them,” Cobbins said. “From an entrepreneurship standpoint, I’ve seen a great model for success ― especially black entrepreneurship.”

Shortly before Peace died, Cobbins’ mother showed him a 1967 edition of the Memphis Press-Scimitar that included the headline “Negroes Climb Ladder To Success.” The piece profiled 10 black businessmen of the era, including Benjamin Hooks, a civil rights attorney who ran his own law firm before becoming the first black criminal court judge in a court of record in Tennessee; A.W. Willis, another local civil rights attorney who opened the city’s first integrated law firm and founded Mutual Federal Savings and Loan in 1955; Antonio Maceo Walker, whose family founded the Universal Life Insurance company and Tri-State Bank, which supported black entrepreneurs that had been denied loans; and Peace.

Cobbins is also a pioneering black entrepreneur. He founded Universal Commercial Real Estate in 2007. It’s Memphis’ first black-owned commercial real estate company, and its name is a nod to Walker’s company, which Cobbins calls “the quintessential example of everything great about the black business legacy in Memphis.” He keeps a portrait of his grandfather hanging in his office.

“I wanted to make sure that I had that to look at every day, something to remind me of that legacy,” Cobbins said.

Read the entire piece here.

The Anti-Trump Movement In North Carolina Has The Potential To Flip The South

DURHAM, N.C. ― North Carolina has been in an almost constant state of protest for the last year.

It started in March 2016, when former Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed HB 2, a measure preventing local governments from passing anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, into law. Thousands of protesters responded by storming the state Capitol. In late September, six consecutive nights of protest rocked Charlotte after a police officer fatally shot 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott. In October, the state chapter of the NAACP sued several counties over an alleged voter suppression attempt. Protesters again swarmed the capital, Raleigh, in December to stand against GOP-backed measures to limit the powers of the newly elected Gov. Roy Cooper (D).

Now many activists are coalescing around another shared concern: President Donald Trump.

Read the full story here.

32 Blue Lives Matter Bills Have Been Introduced Across 14 States This Year

WASHINGTON ― Lawmakers in 14 states have introduced at least 32 bills proposing that members of law enforcement be included in hate crime protections ― like those received by people of color, religious minorities and members of the LGBTQ community ― since the beginning of the year, according to an analysis of state legislatures by The Huffington Post.

Last year, Louisiana became the first state to loop law enforcement into its state hate crime statue, with it’s so-called “Blue Lives Matter” bill. Several states soon followed. The Mississippi state Senate advanced a similar bill on Jan. 26, and the Kentucky House of Representatives advanced its own version on Feb. 13.

Most of the bills aren’t that successful. At least 20 of the bills introduced over the past year died by vote or at the end of the congressional session after being referred to a state legislative committee. Twenty-two are currently sitting in a committee for review, including in South Carolina, which doesn’t even have a hate crime statute on the books. A bill in Tennessee was withdrawn.

The wave of legislation exposes an appetite to provide political sanctuary to an already protected class. Including police officers in hate crime statutes is legally redundant, or even counterproductive, creating deeper divisions between police and the communities they serve. All 50 states, according to the Anti-Defamation League, have statutes that automatically increase the penalties for violent attacks on police.

And, unlike hate crime laws, they don’t require prosecutors to prove motive.

“In the vast majority of states, you will get life or considerably less in prison for murder; but if you murder a police officer, you are almost certain to get death,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “So the truth is that including police in hate crime laws is merely a political statement ― and an unnecessary one at that.”

Read the entire piece here.

Nana, Are You Proud To Be Black?

My Nana is not one to joke around. Like many black women her age, Virginia Louise Evans is usually quite stern and, at times, blunt to the point of cruelty. At 69, she has earned the right to say whatever she pleases.

But she was cheerful last Thursday evening, when I sat down with her to talk about the election, and about politics and blackness more broadly. We’d been laughing and chatting over pasta salad and Cheerwine for a few hours when she looked at me from across her big wooden kitchen table, which is crowded into her small kitchen. Her large brown eyes ― the eyes she passed on to my mother and me  ― dulled a bit as she asked, “You ready?”

“Let’s start with what you think about Donald Trump,” I said.

Nana was born in 1947 in Lexington, North Carolina. She never attended an integrated school and graduated from the segregated Dunbar High, named after black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, in 1965. Her experiences as a black woman born and raised in the Jim Crow South shaped her political identity. She learned to see the smallest of blessings, saying that life as a black woman in Lexington wasn’t as bad as it was in Birmingham, Alabama.

Nana, like many elders, is a living link to the past. She’s wise and prides herself on knowing what she’s talking about. The first thing she noted about Trump was his lack of political experience and personal honesty.

“He’s talking about Hillary Clinton with the emails, but he never said anything about his taxes. He never said anything about messing with these young girls ― he never brought any of that up,” Nana said, her voice rising. “But he always brought up everything that everybody else had done. But nothing on him. So I don’t think he’s fit to be president. If you gon’ talk about somebody else’s deal, talk about yo’ deal.”

“I hope that he will be able to run the country without being prejudiced about anything. Because he said all through his campaigning about the Mexicans, the blacks ― and he’s racist to me.”

Read the entire piece here.

Thanksgiving Ritual

I visit her once a year.

I come with my pain, my grief — grief I pass onto her, grief she coaches me through, grief she silently bears.

I come with gifts — the flowers she wanted three years ago, the flowers I couldn’t afford.

I walk up to her, afraid. I haven’t seen her in a year. I feel her everyday but I haven’t knelt before her in a year.

This seems blasphemous. I stand before her afraid.

I drop to my knees, my hands reach out for her but touch the large, ornate stone that adorns her final resting place.

A sigh escapes me. I apologize for my sins, then silence.

I wait for a response I know I will not receive.

Another sigh.

My hand slides over her date of birth, over the day she left me.

I apologize for more sins — all of the things I’ve done, the things she wouldn’t approve of.

I want forgiveness for my mistakes, redemption for my humanity as I kneel before a flawed woman who was, somehow, the closest I’ve ever been to god

I cry. I ask for her approval. It’s been three years. I still need her approval.

Say something, I need a sign.

Let me know you’re proud of me. Tell me you’re okay with who I have become, who I am becoming.

Nothing. Silence.

She’s not here.

Then, the wind blows a little harder. The sun becomes brighter.

Her arms wrap around me. I am warmed by her light.

Her hands blow across my face. My eyes are dried.

She brushes my hair back, she cups my chin in her hand.

She’s here.

I rise. She sends me on my way.

See you next year.

Rough Edges – A Poem

To all my ladies who are rough around the edges, do not smooth yourself to pamper another’s comfort

Your edges do not showcase what you are, but what you’ve been through. What you’ve survived

The most beautiful diamonds are immaculately flawed until a jeweler smooths them down to be more appealing to the blind eye.

Fuck appealing to motherfuckas who only see your beauty when you’re respectable or presentable. Fuck appealing to niggas who don’t want the scars you bear upon your skin to be more obvious than theirs. Fuck hiding or changing who you are to appeal to anyone.

Your rough edges are glamorously stained glass windows. You’re rough because every man you’ve encountered long enough to love broke you, took a piece and left a portion of himself behind.

Another shard of glass for you to stick onto yourself. Another shard of glass making you appear rough to others though that glass could never pierce them as deeply as it does you.

All you wanna do is love. But your edges are so prominent that they detract from the glowingly gentle soul lurking just beneath the surface.

These edges are all the simple minded see. They can’t grasp that you’re rough because your being showcases the pieces of other ppl you tote with you on a daily basis

They don’t know that those edges could never hurt them like they hurt you. They don’t know that by rejecting you because you’re too rough around the edges, they’re just adding another shard to your body. They don’t see how impeccably beautiful you are.

You are rough but you are beautiful. Your imperfections and your dirty little sailor mouth show us the lioness that lives inside of you. The stern woman who only pushes you because she loves you.

The visionary who sees things in people they can’t see in themselves because you know what it’s like to be misperceived simply because of these edges.

Baby girl, you scare the shit outta these weak ass niggas but don’t let that bother you. You were crafted for a king.
You were crafted for a man who isn’t afraid to love you. You were crafted for a man who doesn’t let his fear of not being enough for you and your roughness to deter him.

You’ve been jumping off cliffs and flying your entire life so god will not allow you be with someone who won’t even try to soar like you do

The weight of your world, your reality has never kept you on the ground for long. You’re rough like fire and burn like salt in a wound because you know nothing worth having, keeping or being comes from safety, ease or comfort.

You were created for someone who holds you despite the fact that every aspect of your being stabs, cuts and bruises their ego because they know those cuts will toughen them up. Build them up. Help mold them into what you know they can be.

You were molded by the forces of this universe to exert change, move mountains and shift tides. You were created to burn and your strength, your fire exudes from those rough edges.

Nothing in this world comes smoothly. Your roughness aligns you with forces of higher purpose. Forces that craft this universe. Forces that shatter these classy motherfuckas facades because you are real baby girl.

Don’t ever hide it. Embrace your edges. Love them. And see them for exactly what they are: revolutionary.

In Winnie’s Footsteps: Becoming a Feminist Wrought in my Grandmother’s Image

This post is a part of the What Black Feminism Means to Me series

I was raised by my great-grandmother — a self-proclaimed strong Black women who ain’t need no man. Winnie was independent. She was a woman who only wanted my great-grandfather’s attention, but never coveted it. Her self-esteem was not based in what others, or society-at-large, thought of her.

Winnie, Muss as I affectionately called her, gave me my first exposure to feminism. She never called herself a feminist. I don’t think she even really understood what feminism was, but she was definitely a human marker of the phenomenon.

I remember being five-years-old and telling her that I wanted to be president one day. It is a dream since forgotten though it illustrates a moment that sits at the crux of my self-worth. I never expected Muss to look me square in my eyes, place her hands upon my shoulders and say, “You can do anything you set your mind to.”

Blocking out hateful voices that so fervently attack little girls with big dreams was a lesson my Muss instilled in me from an early age. She gave me the tools I needed to construct internal barriers that would protect me from societal sentiments proclaiming little girls can only wear pink, play with dolls and aspire for careers in the more “feminine” fields — like nursing or secretarial positions.

When I was dead set on becoming a physician, a woman relative asked me why didn’t I consider going to nursing school instead. She told me medical school was “too hard” for women.

“I’m not going to be a nurse just because I’m a woman,” I said. “You’re also insulting women who want to be nurses and dismissing men who nurse.”

“And nursing school isn’t easy,” I added.

Women can do whatever the fuck we want to do because we work just as hard, if not harder, than men. This is an ideology I inherited from Muss, who genuinely believed women could do anything just as good as — if not better than — men. Winnie never wanted me to hinder myself just because someone thought I shouldn’t, or couldn’t, do something.

She believed in women being strong socially and financially. “Never take any wooden nickels,” she would say to me meaning, essentially, don’t deal with anybody’s bullshit. She knew that because I am a woman and because I am Black, bullshit was inevitable. I believe she understood the ills that would plague my life since she herself had experienced, and was molded by, the intersection of racism and sexism.

Expectations to carry my family’s weight upon my back once I was married is another thing Muss knew would be presumed of me. Black women, whether subtly or explicitly, are expected to be the backbone and whipping posts of our families. We are expected to endure whatever we must in order to keep our families intact. And if it falls apart, blame often lands upon our shoulders and the struggles we may have faced within a hapless marriage are silenced.

Muss knew if my future husband or marriage failed, I would be scapegoated since my Black skin and vagina make me an easy target for shame. She knew no matter how decent of a husband I found, the world in which we reside would anticipate me giving up my hopes, dreams and career to stay at home, raise children and make sure my man obtained the wildest of his fantasies.

Why a woman would want to be beneath a man sociopolitically or economically is something Muss never quite understood. But she did grasp that if I chose to be a housewife then it was perfectly acceptable. I just shouldn’t allow myself to be backed into any corners or pressured into a life position I did not desire.

10176067_10152434798400844_6085404994073366793_n

Muss believed women could change the world and that we had to seize our right to do so. She supported women in office and other leadership roles. She was adamant on women receiving high-caliber educations (she’s why I’m a Carolina alumna).

Though not in the educated, nuanced sense for which she championed, my great-grandmother was a feminist. She sewed feminist oats in me from an early age and, looking back on it, it was inevitable that I, too, would become a supporter of Black women.

If it were not for her, I would not have learned that my only limits are the ones I place on myself and I would have never begun shooting for the stars. If it were not for Muss, I wouldn’t be a feminist.

An Unique Lens

This post is a part of the What Black Feminism Means to Me series.

By Desere’ Cross

When I was first asked by my friend Julia to write about what black feminism means to me, I was stuck.

I wasn’t quite sure what black feminism was and how that was different from mainstream feminism. So I did my research. I found what sets black feminism apart from mainstream feminism is its focus on the intersectionality between prejudices such as racism, classism, sexism, etc. Black feminism focuses on how these things combine to create a different reality for women of color.

With this basic understanding of black feminism established, I then began to reflect on the question Julia posed to me: What does black feminism mean to me? Two things came to mind.

1. Black feminism means I have unique struggles I will have to face. It means while some of my white counterparts can turn a blind eye to race, it will be forever present in my life.

For example, as a black female, I constantly worry about how people in the workforce will perceive my hair. Do I wear it straight to interviews and gradually reveal my kinky hair once I land a job? Once at work, can I flaunt my afro, or should I constrain it in a pony puff? These are questions I ask myself that my white counterparts do not have to think about.

Another example: I have a friend who is a broadcast journalist. We attended a job fair last summer and she was told that her work was good; all she needed to do was straighten her hair. To be told to mirror European standards of beauty in order to remain competitive in the job market is an experience unique to black women.

2. Black feminism means I will always walk a thin line between love and hate. As I prepared to graduate and enter the work force, I had many mentors warn me how to carry myself. I have to be friendly, but not too friendly because then people will try to take advantage of me. And I can’t be too unfriendly because then I will be perceived as a mad black woman.

Figuring out a happy medium between “pushover” and “mad black woman” is a unique struggle I have encountered in the workplace. Either my coworkers will love me or hate me, depending on how they have stereotyped me and how well I fit outside their box of preconceived notions.

During my quest to define black feminism and understand what it means to me, I was surprised to find that there was so much division in the feminist community. It saddens me to see women with commonalities let unacknowledged differences prevent them from working together. But as I started to critique black feminists for their strong viewpoints and separatist behavior, I realized that black feminism is a necessary fragment of a larger movement.

As I thought about my experience as a black female and how my race, gender, class, and sexuality have combined to affect how I experience the world, I realized I will always see the world through a different lens.

Black feminism is the prescription in these lenses that helps me to better anticipate the obstacles ahead.

You can read more of Desere’s ponderings on her blog Media Whistle Blower.