All posts by Africa Jackson

Africa Jackson

About Africa Jackson

Africa Jackson is a politics and culture writer from the deep South now living as an international nomad. She is a fervently nasty woman who spends her days offer unsolicited whistles and comments to construction workers. In her spare time, she volunteers by working with at-risk adults and randomly calls white people the “C” word. (It’s ok, her best friend is white.) Her critically acclaimed multi-national lecture series is a figment of her imagination. She specializes in making the best of poor decisions (#lemonade), but doesn’t let that get in the way of her mission to amplify the voices of marginalized groups. As a Black Chahta scholar, her research focuses primarily on the arts. Africa is a staff writer for Black-Owned Taji Magazine. Her writing has also been featured at Black Girl Dangerous, Role Reboot, and The Tempest. Her articles about anti-Black microaggressions piece and Self Esteem Among Girls of Color have been published by The Establishment. Africa is currently working on her non-traditional anthology about the power of unearthly orgasms as a natural remedy for anxiety and depression. Her #MustLoveBeards series featured on Taji Magazine celebrates entrepreneurship every Monday. You can follow Africa Jackson on twitter @AfricaJwrites and on Facebook: AfricaJacksonWrites. Or don't. Jerk.

24May/17

May Maven: Elle’s Elations

For today’s #WCW we’re featuring the lovely + talented Tarrin Davis, creator of Elle’s Elations. As many Black women entrepreneurs before her, Tarrin showed love for and respect to her ancestors by naming her company after her great-grandmother (Elease). Tarrin is a scientist by trade and an artist at heart. She makes her soaps entirely from scratch using cold and hot press. 98% of her products are vegan too!

Join us for a review of Elle’s Elations and use the coupon code TAJIMAG for a great discount this week!

FEATURED PRODUCT: Luxury Coffee Scrub 

First of all, when this coffee scrub was first described to us as a “luxury” product, we rolled our eyes. In this age of artisan paper clips and $300 romphims, there’s no telling what the next click on the internet will bring. When we actually tried it though? We agreed wholeheartedly. This caffeinated coffee scrub has the perfect thickness, created by its unique blend of organic, fair trade, dark roast Arabica beans and essential oils. After just one use, you can feel your skin getting firmer.

Coffee can do more than just wake you up for your daily grind. It has properties that significantly reduce under-eye puffiness,, battle cellulite, and prevent premature aging of your beautiful melanin-rich skin. This coffee scrub is also great for anyone who has to work around smoke or other smells that kind seep into your skin. As a natural odor defense, this coffee scrub from Elle’s Elations will work wonders. As an added benefit, this unique body scrub is packed with antioxidants to help ward off wrinkles.

If you’re worried about oily skin, this creation by Elle’s Elations is perfect because its emulsified. That means you don’t have the burden of dealing with stirring some messy concoction.

Use the Coupon Code: TAJIMAG to get a discount on your Elle’s Elations coffee scrub purchase

OTHER PRODUCTS WE TRIED (AND LOVED)

Strawberries & Bubbly

The lovely & elegant gold dusted Strawberry soap is worth gushing over. The bubbly champagne adds a touch of elegance to the already decadent beauty product. This soap is gentle and effective. The only down side is that over time, the gorgeous hand-crafted shape/design will shift. Maybe we should stock up before it sells out!

Pearberry Everything

Listen, if there is a product with the word “pearberry” in the name at the Elle’s Elation store, do yourself a favor and buy it. This has to be one of the most natural smelling and intoxicated scents. It puts Bath & Bodyworks to shame. We spent 10 minutes just smelling it. It goes on smooth and feels light on your skin. This is a great gift for someone on the go who love tElle's Elation Cremeo feel their best when they step out.

In addition to having a wonderful, high quality product line, Elle’s Elations also offers free advice, skin care solutions, and other beauty resources for free. Most notably, subscribers can access the blog and special discounts so you always look + feel your best.


This month only, use the Coupon Code: TAJIMAG to get a discount on your next Elle’s Elations purchase!

You can catch Elle’s Elations on Social Media to learn more and stay updated on new products!
Facebook: facebook.com/elleselations
Instgram: @elles_elations
Pinterest: @elleselations
Twitter: @EllesElations
Email:
info@elleselations.com

 

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15May/17
Black man Chance

Because You Need Black Men on Your Timeline

If our #MustLoveBeards series taught the internet anything, it’s that we love Black men. Blue collar Black men, creative Black men, Black men climbing the corporate ladder, Black men taking care of their families, activist Black men, and poetic Black men all have a place in our hearts.

This week, for #MCM we decided to bless your timeline with 3 Black men doing great things.

RASHID CAMPBELL – OAKLBlack menAND, CA

This 25 year old Oakland activist and father leads a youth program dedicated to supporting youth of color in the Bay area. He teaches students about how to incorporate history from the African Diaspora into their everyday lives. Rashid completed his studies at Oklahoma State University on a debate scholarship and he won top speaker at the National College Debate Tournament. His peers admire the way he talks about the importance of Black love in our community. His students are grateful to have a coach who is so dedicated to helping them be successful. Long hours and frequent trips across the country take up a lot of his time, but it seems to be worth it when you look at his track record and the passion he has for young Black students and their success.

CHANCE THE RAPPER – CHICAGO, IL

Who doesn’t know Chance the Rapper at this point? This Black man is gifted, philanthropically inBlack man Chanceclined, and charming. The Chicago native often speaks of his commitment to family and Christianity in a way most rappers don’t.  His powerful verse on Kanye West’s ‘Ultralight Beam’ shows just how talented he really is. Chance the Rapper has an uncanny ability to walk the line being humble and confident. We love the way he navigates his fame.

Chance is also beautifully flawed. On multiple occasions, he discusses mental health, addiction, and self love. While most people, no matter their level of fame, tend to shy away from personal flaws or mistakes they’ve made, he puts his history on display for the world to see. He made hip hop history at the last Grammy Awards show and will surely continue to impress. Beyond his professional accolades, he continues to offer his music to fans for free and has devoted over $1 million of his own money to youth development programs that benefit children in Chicago. All we want to know now is who he is referring to when he says that his “ex looking back like a pillar of salt”.

JUDGE OLU STEVENS – LOUISVILLE, KY

Becoming a judge is no easy task. First, you have to earn a college degree. Next, you need to get a decent LSAT score. Next, you have to actually get into law school and become a good attorney. Only then can a person attain a spot on the bench. Judge Olu Stevens graduated from the prestigious Morehouse College, then went on the complete his juris doctoraBlack man judgete at George Washington University Law School. He was a circuit court judge for the 30th Judicial Circuit in Jefferson County (Louisville, Kentucky).

Judge Olu Stevens did something that most professionals wouldn’t dare do–he put his career on the line to stand up against white supremacy. Specifically, Judge Olu Stevens denied all-white juries from taking over his courtroom. It was a bold move and we appreciate him for the stance he took against racism. Of course, no one is perfect. Though mainstream media outlets have accused him of being a reverse-racist, his act was meaningful. Judge Olu Stevens, we applaud your efforts!

Much love to all the Black men out there walking in their purpose. We appreciate you all and we are happy to see you shine!

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06Mar/17
Minda Honey is NOT Your Negro

#WomensHistoryMonth: @MindaHoney

Minda Honey is our Women’s History Month feature

Black women are brilliant; Taji Magazine knows and celebrates that every month. For #WomensHistoryMonth this year, we will profile four women who embody the talent that makes us smile.

First up is the fashionable and witty Minda Honey, creator of WrMindaa + Issaite Louisville and all-around amazing woman.

Minda Honey is a writer, editor, and Louisville native. She writes about love, relationships, and food. The common denominator for her work is consistently critical analysis that lends visibility to marginalized intersections that would otherwise be ghosted. She has introduced us to other stellar Black women like Issa Rae and Cynthia Bond. From earning an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside to founding Write Louisville, she is a southern woman with a global heart. Minda Honey was recently featured in Teen Vogue. The article explored the hair discrimination Black women face in the workplace.

Scholar, Agitator, Lover

When others shied away from addressing the Nate Parker rape accusations, she took the issue head on:

Yes, Black women on Twitter held Nate Parker accountable…Black women were also the majority of filmgoers who saw and supported Birth of a Nation—but of course we don’t get credit for that part. (Well, I don’t deserve credit for that part because I refused to go see it).”

But did anyone really expect less from a woman who shares a birthplace with Muhammad Ali, CJ Fletcher, and bell hooks?

In a 2016 piece, Minda Honey explores the audacity of whiteness and encourages us all to do us. She urges us to have “the confidence of a mediocre white man”.

Minda HoneyMinda Honey is a columnist and regular contributor for The San Diego CityBeat, The LEO (Ask Minda Honey), The Establishment, Thrillist Louisville, and The Voice-Tribune. Her company, Write Louisville, has recently taken off. Minda Honey is not just a another writer; she is the Zora Neale Hurston of our time.

You can follow her all over social media on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. She also writes website copy, blog posts, infographics, and more. We are exciting to be first in line for a copy of her memoir-in-progress, Anthology of Assholes.

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11Feb/17
Cultural Appropriation

Here’s When Cultural Appropriation is OK

Cultural Appropriation: A Beginner’s Guide

Curtis M. Wong at Huffington Post celebrated Ben Yahr, a gay white man who thought it’d be cool to inject cultural appropriation into Beyonce’s maternity photos. He thought wrong. While Wong is no critical race scholar, it is still surprising he finds Yahr’s behavior celebration-worthy. Just like it’s never okay for gay white men to call themselves “Black women,” Yahr is not functioning as an ally in this series of photos where he appropriates Beyonce’s Black body. It’s disappointing that the Huffington Post has chosen to give this microaggression a platform. It’s time for white people to fall back.

In the article, Wong quotes Beyonce by noting that Yahr’s series of photos is flawless. Here I agree with Wong, these photos are a flawless. They are a flawless example of how gay white men can be racist too. Congratulations.huffpo cultural appropriation For Wong to suggest that this effort by Yahr encourages everyone to embrace body positivity is another way of telling us our Black bodies are not good enough or that some white man can perform Blackness better. As a Black woman who struggles with body positivity, Yahr’s work only silences the joy I felt when I saw Beyonce’s photos.

We collectively smiled at Blue Ivy kissing her mother’s belly. It was a contrast to of the way pregnant Black women were tortured during chattel slavery. Seeing Nefertiti in the background of her photo inspired the hope of resurrection for our culture. I thought about last Black History Month when she performed at the Super Bowl in a way that made me forget all the trauma we face on a daily basis as Black women.

Yahr attempted to desecrate that.

This is the norm: ignore Black culture until it is legitimized by whites. For example, there is an unlimited supply of young Black girls twerking, but white girls are often credited with popularizing the dance. Andy Cohen is an excellent example of a gay white man who appropriates Black women, yet fails to acknowledge his racial bias. The Bravo “Watch What happens Live” host called Amandla Stenberg a “jackhole” after she commented on Kylie Jenner’s cultural appropriation. This ignored the undeniable ways he has directly benefitted from the work of Black women: his show only came into existence after the predominantly Black Real Housewives of Atlanta, despite several all white Real Housewives series.

To say Yahr’s appropriation “slays” is an overstatement at best. What he really does is get a little more famous on the back of a hard working Black woman. That is not innovative. That is simply cultural appropriation. Please miss me with that.

Many of us remember Laganja Estranja whose cultural appropriation rivaled that of Elvis Presley. Estranja, a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, was the epitome of appropriation. This is a person known for twerking like Beyonce and fake code switchingIsobel DeBrujah notes that this is all “an obvious imitation of black voice/speech patterns, specifically black female voice/speech patterns, specifically black, southern, speech patterns popularized by white people at black people’s expense.”

The lack of respect and outright unwillingness to accept when they are called out is rampant.

Why do white men–especially gay white men, who in a better world should be our allies–feel like it’s ok to use our bodies without our knowledge or permission? There are ways to prove your point without the unapologetic cultural appropriation Black women. Any intended commentary is invalidated when you represent the same disregard for our existence as the people/systems Cultural Appropriationyou criticize. This is not some one-off incident. There is a litany of gay white men who enjoy our Black womanhood, while routinely dismissing our grievances.

We have been telling white gay men about their blatant cultural appropriation for years, but the message hasn’t quite sunk in for the Huffington Post. The proliferation of polite racism is why we can’t have anything. White supremacy persists because of the invisible privilege that white LGBTQ communities ignore. Yes, there are some people coming to Yahr’s defense and adding context, but this blatant disrespect will never be ok. There will always be white people who apologize and make excuses for their racist peers. Cultural appropriation and its apologists are not new and they are not acceptable.

I know what some readers are thinking, though. Can’t we celebrate everyone? Why does it have to be racial? What if we just enjoy the culture? These are all completely natural questions.

So when is cultural appropriation of Black women OK?

Try February 31st.

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31Dec/16
Good Black Man x Africa Jackson

Good Black Man Profile: Nestle Snipes

A Good Black Man is Easy to FindGood Black Man x Collis Torrington

Today is bitter sweet. Bitter because this is our final #MustLoveBeards profile of 2016. Sweet because we are bringing back our Taji Mag crowd favorite: Nestle Snipes. This Good Black Man is the lead photographer of Made For a King Photography. A lot has happened since we last spoke with this bearded dapper gent.

Since our last encounter, Nestle Snipes recently shot 8-Time Olympic Track & Field Medalist & Fellow Jamaican Legend Veronica Campbell-Brown and Mr. Fly Malcolm X himself was once again featured in the Hunks 4 Hope calendar, and Made For a King photography has grown its client base. You might have caught a glimpse of our bearded brother on an episode of the breakout Netflix series Luke Cage.

We already know about his stunning portfolio and philanthropic work. This time, we want to look more closely at the man behind the lens.

Africa Jackson: Last time we spoke, it was such a meaningful conversation. It was great to learn about your work to stop domestic violence and your clearly superior artistic eye. We focused a lot on your business before, and now we want to focus more on you. What makes you happy?

Nestle Snipes: (smiles) A lot of things — a healthy bond with others, experiencing nature, laying in the grass, meditation, doing something meaningful with my hands. Giving gifts and seeing the recipient smile. Laughing — I love a good laugh. I enjoy partying. If people want to be jovial, I’m down. Spending time with my mom also makes me happy.

“Our potential is limitless.”

Good Black man x Tish Ferguson

AJ: Ok. You’re in film school, you volunteer, you’re an activist, you party, you run a successful business, you stay fly, and you let fans like me ask questions for 2 hours… but how do you take care of yourself?

Nes: Easy question. In the morning I have an hour of silence. Total hour of appreciation. Daily mantras are vital. I look at my vision board. When I come home, I listen to inspirational music with powerful frequencies: Afrobeat, electronica, jazz.

Taking care of myself also involves proper sleep. I want more people to realize that grown-ups are not exempt from naps.

AJ: Let mainstream media tell it, a good Black man is still hard to find. We know that is a myth, but in the midst of the negative energy thrown at yall, I want to know something. What is the greatest thing about being a Black man?

Nes: Our potential is limitless. We are often so revered and appropriated, but our resilience in uncanny. We convert sunlight into energy (metaphorically and literally).

AJ: So much of the miscommunication between Black men and Black women comes from lack of knowledge or lack of understanding. Black love is powerful and has the potential to grow even stronger. What is one thing you wish Black women knew about Black men to help cultivate that growth?

Nes: The Black man you interact with is only working with what he has at the moment. Don’t infringe on his freedoms based on your own desires. For example, getting work done is paramount for me at the moment. I don’t want to cheat myself or anyone else, so I may not pursue a woman. Please don’t say “all men” or “yall men”. We are trying. Don’t be disheartened by certain men who receive you wrong. Young Black boys deal with trauma that may stem from unresolved issues. Many of us had no clear definition of manhood.Photo Credit: Nestle Snipes + MFK Photography

“Little gestures mean a lot, yes, but I know it is not enough.”

AJ: What is one thing you wish you knew about Black women?

Nes: How can I be more of an ally beyond taking you out [to dinner]? How can we help? Little gestures mean a lot, yes, but I know it is not enough. We are at a loss without you telling us. The best way for Black women to communicate their needs to Black men is to do it without being condescending. Please don’t project the pain from other men onto us. In 2017 I want people to stop negative blaming and projecting insecurities. We have full autonomy. the transfer of energy matters.

“I want Black men to start protecting Black women.”

good Black men x Collis Torrington

Visit Made For a King Photography and Bearded Dapper Gents to learn more about the upcoming projects of this undeniably talented good Black man. You can also treat yourself by following him on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. His new blog “Simply Snipes” is set for an early 2017 release.

Congratulations on your recent and continued success, Black man. We look forward to your next great project.

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20Dec/16
Myke Archie, WorkForce Comics

#MustLoveBeards Profile: Myke Archie

Get to know a brilliant emerging artist named Myke Archie

Happy #MCM Taji readers! Taji Mag is happy to introduce Myke Archie because we love his work & now you will too.

First of all, we’ve been fans for years. Myke Archie is the Perfect Man to buy a holiday gift from If you’re looking for a unique option this season. Check out our #MustLoveBeards profile features a down to earth Southern brother with a knack for creating beautiful works of art. He is the creator of WorkForce Comics who has been stirring up controversy all over social media. Today’s #MCM is a comic prodigy with a lot to say. His work has beeJ. Dilla x Myke Archien featured by Polite Conversation, All Real Radio, and now Taji Mag. Especially relevant is his drive to make economic autonomy a stronger part of how his fans live.

Graphic designer Myke Archie is on the rise. He illustrates book covers, album art, posters, and logos. This Atlanta native earned his BFA from Georgia State University. Consequently, he is not the biggest fan of traditional education. He prefers to think critically rather than follow trends. Perfect Man Designs, his privately owned company, has lots of fans. The first volume of his critically acclaimed series WorkForce Comics was released 2014. It looks at the crazy ways we think about life, making money, and politics while scratching and surviving in a society that cares more about loot than love.

Art x Myke Archie

His work has a certain quality that is not the same as other designers. The style, the stroke, and the scope is different than any comics out there. Other influences for his work include classics like Ice Cube’s film Friday and another favorite: old school Sci-Fi thriller called They Live. Myke invites fans to listen to his playlist of artists like Isaiah Rashad, Yani Mo, Denmark Vessey, and Knxwledge. The man something special.

#MustLoveBeards feature Myke ArchieMyke is part of the #BlackBusinessSelfie campaign via Nay Marie’s Black Owned Business Collective. He showed off several businesses including: Freedom Paper Company, Rooted-N-Nature, Dash Motor Oil, The HXLM Collective, and of course Taji Magazine!

Support Black Owned Business – Buy WorkForce Comics

WorkForce Comics Volume 4 is set to be released this month. Until then, customers can buy copies of volume 1, 2, 3, or all three on his blog: Perfect Man Designs. Like his fan page for the latest news and exclusive content. In conclusion, respect the man’s grind.

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17Dec/16
Jollof Rice

The Joys of Jollof

The Joys of Jollof

Jollof Rice

If you’re planning for the holidays and you’ve never tasted Jollof rice, stop everything. Taji mag is giving you another great reason to love the continent. Africa is full of culture, beauty, knowledge, and history. Some of the best food also comes from the motherland. Although a number of West African nations argue about who created it, we can all agree on one thing for sure: it is delicious! If you like Jambalaya, you’ll enjoy Jollof (Jambalaya is actually a derivative of Jollof that came to fruition when Africans were taken from their homeland as a result of the transAtlantic slave trade). All Jollof rice around the world is not the same, but it all started in Africa because our motherland is the  genesis of everything beautiful.

You can spice it up with a bit with more cayenne. Furthermore, as much as I personally like adding chicken or shrimp, you can make it vegan by omitting the chicken bullion and butter (substitute with olive oil or vegan butter). It can compliment a protein as a side dish or be the main course. Another thing to note is that everyone does it their own way. Consequently, Jollof rice is simple and flavorful because of that diversity. So, here is a version I’ve made below with my great grandmother’s instructions, because Taji is different:

Total Time: I say about an hour, depending on how slow yuh chop
Prep: Like 10 min
Cook: 45 minutes (more or less)

Ingredients
1 pound parboiled rice (no other kind, either)
2 maybe 3 large tomatoes, chopped fine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 onion, sliced
3 maybe 4 cloves of garlic
4 teaspoons olive oil
3 large red bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked
1 teaspoon white pepper
8 chicken bouillon cubes
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon smoked paprika

Directions
1. Blend together yuh garlic, tomatoes, onions, and red pepper til it gets real smooth.

2. Put in your fresh thyme and white pepper.

3. Add the oil up in there, then put it to the side

4. Fill up yuh pot with 4 cops of water (preferably alkaline, but sick water is fine too I guess)

5. Wash yuh rice in hot (not boiling) water til it come out clear. Drain it real good.

6. Pour alla yuh rice into the hot water with that blended mix you set to the side earlier, stir it with a wooden spoon (any other type of spoon and yuh not doing it right, maybe yuh don’t want real jollof afterall)

7. Put the stove on like a nice heat (not all the way up high, just medium or so) and cook it like for…I say about 45 minutes or so. A good while so the flavors with amalgamate the right way. Keep your eye on it while it cooks and stir every 15 minutes.

8. Eat yuh soup

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12Dec/16

#MustLoveBeards Profile: TheOneWillFocus

TheOneWillFocus x Taji Mag

© NayMarie Photography | www.NayMarie.com

This week we are grateful to feature an immensely talented Afro-futuristic graphic designer and brand expert TheOneWillFocus. His work is an uncanny display of ingenuity and historical veneration. He focuses on effectively shaping perception.

We sat down for a virtual conversation with TheOneWillFocus about his work.

Africa Jackson: What is the best thing about being a Black man?

TheOneWillFocus: I’m not sure if there’s just one answer to this question for me, but let’s see… me being a Black man alone is symbolic to strength, durability, spirituality, and limitless potential. It also allows me to attract the type of queen that only a Black man could attract.

AJ: What makes your work unique?

TheOne: My work is focused highly on the uplifting of our people and more so on the Black woman. She is highly undervalued and overlooked and if I have the power to change her visibility via my art, why would I not pay her respect? So, I take an approach to show the Black woman in a way which SHE can be proud of, representing her strength, intelligence, and perseverance through imagery. I call my illustration style Satabu, which is a combination The words Art and Book in Swahili. I made this term simply because we do not have a representative category of art under which Black people create, although other cultures do indeed have theirs. We need our own category, our own sect, that is all our own. Satabu is just such a thing.

AJ: Who do you credit for the success of the Black Owned Business Collective?

TheOne: Honestly, I had no parts in the creation of the Black Owned Business Collective, that was all the work of the always innovative NayMarie, but I was all for helping. When I saw that she began looking for a means to collect business information, I wanted to create a central hub outside of facebook, something that would allow us to no longer excuse our lack of support for black businesses by saying we are unable to find them. Creating OBW (Our Black Web) was a natural progression… we can now search businesses and get directions to them, as well as filter them by business types and keywords worldwide. No more excuses. We can work towards financial freedom/economic empowerment through group economics.

AJ: Why is Black love important?

TheOne: Black love is important because the world around us will do everything in its power to convince us that it does not exist. This creates a need, dependency, and desire to seek out love that does not LOOK like us. Black love is a love that understands, that comes from a very familiar place, and makes the road you are traveling together that much easier due to your mutual understanding of one another. This also allows our children to understand that Black love isn’t something to be avoided, but to be embraced and that with it brings strength to the home and the community. We are a communal people so family is at the center and Black love is essential to our survival.

The One Will Focus Original Art

AJ: When did you realize you were talented?

TheOne: It was never something I realized, but more so was ingrained in me. My mother told me every day since I can remember that “You can do anything you want and noone is smarter than you”. As a result, my talent was something I assumed was something normal that I had to cultivate. I remember being wowed by my mother taking my cousins and I into the dining room, sitting us down with lined paper, and drawing each of us individually. This was the point in which I knew what I wanted to do, but as I started to do it, drawing day by day, the more I did it, the more I realized how amazed people were and THAT was when I realized I had a talent. I was probably about 9 years old at that point.

TheOneWillFocus is currently working on (and super excited about) his upcoming comic book. He decided to push forward after ten years of work, reflecting on his life and eyes opening to the world, as well as how well received his art and coloring books have been after showing them to the public. The comic will go by the name of “Tension” and will feature his character “Eternity”, which can be found on his Instagram. He is also building a collective that we are all eagerly waiting for.

You can find TheOneWillFocus all over the internet: Facebook, Twitter, and IG: @TheOneWillFocus. You can also email him and inquire about commissions: TheOne@TheOneWillFocus.com

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14Nov/16

#MustLoveBeards Profile: ALAN KING

Happy #MCM everyone! This week, Taji Mag sat down with the talented brother Alan King, author of the new book POINT BLANK. Alan King has worked with the Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper. King has also been an outspoken housing rights advocate. He has also served as a researcher with the Center for Public Integrity. In addition to his impressive resume, he is a devoted husband and father. Mr. King has an upcoming book tour, and took a break to talk to us about his work, love, and the perseverance it takes to be an artist.

POINT BLANK

Africa Jackson: What do you love most about being a Black man?

Alan King: I love being another line in the legacy of Black people. I’m juggling two legacies as a Caribbean American. I’m inspired by the writers that come before me. Writers who are ancestors now like John A. Williams, Clarence Cooper Jr. and Chester Himes. Oh yeah, and Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Let me throw some women in the mix: Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Wanda Coleman, Octavia Butler. I also love Black culture.

poet, husband, father, visionary

poet, husband, father, visionary

AJ: You mentioned ‘legacy’. What does that word mean to you? In what ways have you seen that manifest in your career and/or personal life?
AK: There’s a heritage that connects us to the diaspora. There [is] rhythm, history. There’s a beauty in our culture. Being a husband and father allows me to pass on the best of myself. I was a teacher. That role allowed me to be an example to my students. I taught a class, where I was the first married black men the young women encountered. This was middle school. They kept staring at my wedding band asking about what it’s like to be married.
AJ: The “wicker” reference from the latest Point blank trailer is indicative of Black culture. Have you ever been discouraged from being too Black? If so, by who? How did you respond?

AK: I had a higher up, during my work study placement, who asked me to read poems, but then said “Don’t get too back with it.” That came from a Black man. I wasn’t sure if I should still read poems. It was for an office party.
But my writer friends encouraged me to do it. They said by me going through with it, it would show him that his biases are wrong. As a writer, I don’t worry about being too black in my work. White writers aren’t asked not to be too white. I feel I should have that same freedom to explore various types of blackness in my work. In Point Blank, more of my Caribbean heritage comes through. Rereading the poems, I was surprised how present it is.
AJ: What advice can you offer to other artists struggling with double consciousness?

AK: My advice to other artists is to be true to yourself.

AJ: Did you ever seriously consider another career?
AK: I’m a Communications Specialist for a living. I’ve always been a writer at heart. There was one time, in college, when I considered being a programmer. I later found out from my mom that she thought I was making a mistake. She knew my passion is writing. My dad kept pushing me to do something that makes money That’s why I went the programming route. But I don’t regret my decision. I’m also open to learning other skills that might mesh with my writing.
AJ: Switching gears, there is this belief that Black men don’t love Black women. What are your thoughts about that?
AK: I know there are some brothers who date outside the race, but so do some black women. It’s touchy to assume why those folks do it without knowing the whole story. I know for me, it was important to be open to however love presented herself. I had no idea that I’d meet my wife, a passionate Nigerian woman, the way I did. I think it’s important to be open to love, whatever way it presents itself. I don’t think someone should be with someone because the community feels that way.
AJ: Audre Lorde taught us that self-care is revolutionary. As an artist, father, husband, and Black man has self care been part of your life? 
AK: My family is part of my self care. I draw strength from my wife and my daughter. I hit the gym when I can and go for walks to clear my head. The important part of self care is having friends, people you can vent to when needed.

AJ: If someone were to choose between your new book and Starbucks, what would make them pick up POINT BLANK over a Frappuccino?

AK: The image of the young man on the cover. I purposely chose it because he embodies what people of color are going through in this country. The picture is powerful. He’s on his way somewhere. Depending on the point of view , he could be up to no good or just minding his business. I thought it was powerful how the photographer, Ewholomeyovwi Jeroro, captured him. The young man is in the photographer’s scope much like how people of color are in the scope of law enforcement.
CLICK HERE to purchase his book of poetry and learn more about why we love this Black man!
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13Nov/16

Happy Birthday Whoopi Goldberg

I hated Whoopi Goldberg growing up.

Whoopi Goldberg

#teamnatural

I know that’s a messed up way to start off the birthday celebration for her. When The Color Purple came out, everyone thought I looked like her. Back then, Black gums, Black skin, and nappy Black hair were the perfect recipe for a depressing childhood. I was all kinds of African booty scratchers, skillets, and midnights. It was one of the things that made me miserable growing up. I only had two real friends during that time–my right hook and my mother. Needless to say, I fought a lot and wrote a bunch of angry poetry. Whoopi Goldberg represented (and still represents) everything I hated about myself.

whoopi-goldberg

Between elementary and middle school I got in dozens of fights over the way I looked. My main goal was to make the pretty white girls as ugly as I felt when they teased me about being so dark. I hated looking in the mirror. My mother was a kind and candid woman who reminded me that I was not ugly everyday. She asked me if I thought she was beautiful and of course I said yes. My mother was a striking, bold woman with high cheekbones and mahogany skin that glistened. She would laugh and tell me that I looked like her, so by default I must be beautiful. It made logical sense, but when I looked in the mirror I did not see her reflection. Instead, I saw what kids at school called me–shit skin. I was faster on the track than all the children who teased me. I was consistently ranked at the top of my class academically. I won awards. I earned internships while still in middle school. I was invited to special events for gifted children. None of it made up for my skin insecurity though. It was like running a long distance sprint that never ended yet I still lost.

At some point in high school I announced to my mother that I was too dark to run in the Olympics, so I was going to be a writer and stay in the shadows. My mother was tired of the decade long pity party so she showed me a movie she promised to God I would like. (My mother refused to swear to God). Those were the be kind, rewind days so she pushed in the tape and pressed play. The Associate changed the game for me.

In the film, Whoopi Goldberg stars as a brilliant investment banker whose talent is dismissed by a white male dominated financial world. First of all, Whoopi Goldberg plays the quintessential Black woman. She has a full time job and she owns a rental property. Before this film, I didn’t know Black women owned places to rent out. It blew my mind. One of her older tenants told her as she came home one night: “It’s nice you young girls have your your careers. But when you come home to an empty apartment what do you really have?

Without blinking an eye, her character replies: “Independence”. I was hooked.

When she tried to start her business, the bank almost denied her a loan, but she risked her home to make it happened. I came from a place where faith was too expensive. From there the movie got better and better. Instead of learning golf last minute to impress a client, she pulled in a golf celebrity to win the client over. She was the original spook who sat by the door. No one could have ever brought that character to life the way she did. She was slick, quick-witted, and dark-skinned. She had the confidence I never dreamed imaginable. Even pre-presidential Donald Trump was following behind her. She had a box of ideas she saved over the years–something i still do today with my pitches. She taught me that rejection is never the end. I won’t spoil the whole movie for you, but just know that I cried during the climax scene. She says what I think!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmHr8L0KRg4

Whoopi Goldberg was equally phenomenal off screen too. She is an interracial relationship pioneer (as fr as I knew at the time), natural hair advocate, and human rights activist. Like me, she was raised by a single mother. She embodies resistance. Her critically acclaimed, award-winning one-woman show about Moms Mabley. Whoopi’s impact on me was parallel to Moms Mabley’s impact on her.

All those years people idolized Halle Berry we could have been praising the original sexy beast.

Before her brilliance graced the big screen, she was a stand up comedian who rivaled the likes of Eddie Murphy and Redd Foxx (for those who don’t recognize those names, that’s like saying she was up there with Kevin Hart).

Whoopi is still a force. Her guest star appearance on this terrible ABC show called 666 almost coerced me to become a fan. When her character flew away, though, so did I. She has worked with undeniable talents like Ernest Dickerson (Good Fences Director), Angela Bassett (duh), Danny Glover, and others over her career. This woman has won a Tony, Grammy, Emmy, and Academy Awards. People sleep on her resume.

My top 10 favorite Whoopi Goldberg films

  1. Soap Dish (Rose)
  2. The Associate (Laurel Ayres)
  3. Corrina, Corrina (Corrina)
  4. Sister Act 2 (Sister Mary Clarence)
  5. The Lion King (Shenzi)
  6. Color Purple (Celie)
  7. Ghost (Oda Mae Brown)
  8. How Stella Got Her Groove Back (Delilah Abraham)
  9. Sister Act (Sister Mary Clarence)
  10. Good Fences (Mabel)

In honor of all she has done and continues to do, I proudly exclaim: “I’m poor, Black, I may even be ugly…but dear God I’m here. I’m here!”

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