Fate allowed me to attend the taping of the 2018 Black Girls Rock awards show, which took place at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark this past Sunday. This year, awards are given to Dancer & Choreographer Judith Jamison, Queen Mother Janet Jackson, Writer Lena Waithe, and Queen of R&B Mary J. Blige, to name a few. Believe you me, the stars presenting the awards are of the same fan-moment inspiring caliber as the honorees. The likes of the incomparable Phylicia Rashad, Ava DuVernay, Ciara, and Misty Copeland are far more superior than anything else likely to grace your screen. Yes, ever.
Photo Credits: FashionSizzle.com
I refuse to ruin anything for you dear reader, especially regarding the opening, but I definitely suggest that you prop yourself up before the show begins. I pretty much keeled over in my seat watching it live. You have been warned. With the door having been immediately blown off its hinges, you will soon realize that it was just to make way. Behold, the mogul MC and Black royalty, Host Queen Latifah. Black Girls Rock and we get to rock with the Queen for the entire evening. Stunning and attention demanding, suited in an almost tangible coolness, the Queen commands the stage just as you would expect.
With praiseworthy performances (plural, yes) from Yolanda Adams, a goose-bump raising ballad full of swagger soul by H.E.R., and the dipped-in-honey vocals of none other than Tamia, the announced performers will give you the show you are expecting. The soul-stirring performances will leave you with more to say than ‘Great gowns– beautiful gowns’. Okurrr? But what you’re NOT expecting though? The sheer force of the performances that WEREN’T announced. While there are no spoilers here, the good news is that you don’t have to wait long in order to experience it for yourself. ‘ Black Girls Rock ‘ premieres on BET this Sunday, September 9th, at 8pm ET/PT. Check your local listings.
Have you heard? At last month’s Essence Fest, Essence Ventures CEO Richelieu Dennis announced the official launch of the $100 million New Voices Foundation. Dennis, also Founder of the Shea Moisture Brand, had already invested more than $30 million in the 6 months prior to the announcement. “What many of you may not have known all these years is that when you were buying Shea Moisture products you weren’t just investing in that business,” said Dennis during the event’s opening press conference. “We need you to continue buying Shea Moisture so [that] we can continue putting that money back in[to] the community.” The New Voices Fund, dedicated to funding Black Women in business, was originally established in 2017.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence
As if that were not enough, the CEO also took the opportunity to announce the new Essence Creators and Makers Fund. Essence Ventures, the parent company of Essence Communications, has already invested $20 million into that fund under the guidance of Dennis. Focused on curating African-American content, production company ‘Flavor Unit Entertainment’ lead by Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere is the first partnership on the bill. Appropriately so, being that during the announcement Dennis gave credit to the duo for developing the idea in the first place. During a later panel discussion on Entrepreneurship, Queen Latifah spoke about the financial obstacles that new ventures often face. “One of the most difficult things is struggling to find the capital to continue your ideas. So by supporting us, you are going to keep this engine running in a way you [can’t] even imagine.” Flavor Unit Entertainment will both create and finance film, television, digital, and documentary-style content that reflects the lives and experiences of Women of Color. The Essence Platform — including print, digital, and live events — will be used to market and promote projects taken under the fund.
I truly respect Dennis for his direct actions against the disadvantages plaguing Black Economics. So far concerning the Makers and Creators who need to “own our content and not just be work for hire” and the Black Women Entrepreneurs that will receive funding for their businesses, I can’t wait to see what else is in store. “Essence and the vision… speaks to Black Women, but also that creates an economic engine through which… we can reinvest back into our community.” Dennis leads by the example that, with initiative, each of us can take part in the collective growth. I’m convinced that, in finding his purpose, Dennis has our backs for the long haul. That’s almost enough to make me grow back out my hair to support Shea Moisture again. Almost.
This is a bigger reveal than when Sanaa first posted pictures of her #Baldie Cut. We had the title for a while, but yesterday Netflix released the Official Trailer for Nappily Ever After. Ms. Lathan will be starring in the Netflix film based on the Best-Selling book from Author Trisha R. Thomas. Alongside the likes of Halle Berry, Lynn Whitfield, Ernie Hudson, and Ricky Whittle, this is stacked to be a good one.
Nappily Ever After follows Sanaa as Violet Jones, a Woman who is obsessed with Perfection. Not limited to her hair, if it isn’t perfect Violet wants nothing to do with it. But as we all know, it’s not always about what you want, but what wants you. Out of respect for not giving the ENTIRE story away, let’s just say that the gods giveth and they taketh away. Violet’s hair is simply the straw that breaks the Camel’s back. After cutting her hair in a (seemingly intoxicated) act of furious desperation, she is left to face the truth (and the mirror): She doesn’t know who she is without it all. Mix in external pressure and disapproval and you have a story that reeks of resonance. I have a feeling that, Bald or otherwise, most of us Women can relate and even tell a similar story or two. While Women also cut their hair as an act of joy, celebration, and rebellious freedom, this story is one of inevitable truth.
“My Hair was like a second job… Now I’m forced to focus on Myself.”
Coincidentally enough, Sanaa released the pictures of her fresh cut alongside the growing momentum of the #BaldCut and the Black Panther film (btw: Wakanda Forever and ever). There were already ongoing conversations concerning the beauty of Black Women, our hair, femininity, identity, and our imminent liberation from the stereotypes and limitations placed on all of that. Director on the bill is Haaifa Al-Mansour, the first woman Saudi Director and controversial legend of her own country. Being even slightly aware, there are interesting ties to hair and femininity in Saudi Arabia as well. So, with my disappointment at her not being of the Diaspora aside, I am interested to see how she weaves such truths together. In Nappily Ever After, we will get to watch as Violet struggles to recalibrate her entire life and embrace who she is without her preconceived notions of perfection. I have a feeling that it will be just that in the end: Perfect.
Release Sep 7 2018 | Vol16 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Melanin on Chrome! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of Stephan Marcellus & Lola Valentine. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick on Budding Young Actress, Model, and Influencer Briana Roy; Community Spotlight: Instagram Recommended Body Butter “Mocha Whip”; our highlighted Hair Feature by Intl I Love Braids Day; “Solo Travel: Excursions” by D. Carrie; “Protection” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Shades of Melanin” from City Republik; Fitness Feature Model & Actor Marshall Price; “#BlackLoveConvo: “All Blue with Jade Novah” by Dapper Dr. Feel; Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef’s Thai Pad Recipe; Featured art piece by Will Focus; Must Have Graphic Novel: Marassa; Black Business Highlights; Taji Mag Model Contest Winners; and more!!
International I Love Braids Day (IILBD) 2018 was all things braided godliness! This July 29th, the Queens came to make a statement, and that they did! From traditional styles with ancestral meaning to modern spins on staple techniques, these hairstyles left everyone in awe. They proved that braids can be worn by anyone for all occasions, at all ages and stages in life. Your royal can be clean and simple or adorned with cowry shells and jewels, whatever makes you strut and walk with your head held high. This inaugural celebration made history.
International I Love Braids Day received it’s official Proclamation on July 21, 2017, by the Brooklyn borough president’s office to the founder of IILBD, master hair braider Debra Hare Bey. Debra has been styling natural hair for over 30 years in Brooklyn. Her current salon, OMhh Beauty Oasis, is located at 407 Lewis Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. At the salon, she services clients with a multitude of natural hairstyles, but she specializes in braids. Debra is the originator of the style Nu Locs, most popularly worn by “Maxine Shaw” on the television series Living Single. Go ahead, question it. You thought Erika Alexander was rocking locs back then? Nope, those were yarn braids done by Debra. Debra also has a line of nourishing vegan hair and body care products that smell so good you’ll never want to stop using them. Fall in love with all things Debra Hare Bey and OMhh at www.OhMyHeavenlyHair.com.
Some of the other participating stylists were Ayana Card of Kinky Rootz, Fajr of Sophisticated Loc Salon, Ngone Sow of Soween, and Thema Taylor.
If you slacked in your mackin’ and slipped in your pimpin’, check the images here to see what you missed. Be sure to mark your calendar for July 29th next year for International I Love Braids day and follow @internationalilovebraidsdayblc on IG to be notified of the #BraidLoveBK celebration for 2019!
Release Jun 7 2018 | Vol15 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Eclipsed Beauty! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of Stewella Daville. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick on Loc’d Queens @loclivin, @mzladylox, @killadoesthat; Community Spotlight Weeksville – A Historically Black Community; our highlighted Hair Feature by Debra Hair Bey; “Solo Travel: How I Decide Where to Stay” by D. Carrie; “Your Food Might Be Eating You” by Jashua Sa’Ra; Chit Chat with Andrea Rachel; “The Creator’s Lawyer™ – Ticora Davis” by Fiat; Stächa Huis is an Ode to Surinamese Enslaved Women; “#BlackLoveConvo: “When Family Passion Inspires Art: Kenadi Johnson” by Dapper Dr. Feel; “Cayden Cay Consulting” by Fiat; “How Group Economics is Rebuilding the Black Community”; Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef; Featured art piece by Will Focus; Must Have Graphic Novel: Kubadilisha The Manga Series; Black Business Highlights; Taji Mag Model Contest Winners; and more!!
The Black Panther movie released this weekend in all of it’s Black Excellence glory. It was worth the wait and the estimated $218M it earned during its opening weekend, shattering records and telling movie studios to STFU about Black movies not busting box offices wide open. More on that and my thoughts about the deeper storyline to come (skip to below the bullet points), but first my reactions to some of the Blackest moments and lines in the film. Ryan Coogler has a way of capturing the essence of Blackness, especially with Michael B. Jordan, from Fruitvale to Creed and now with Black Panther. The writers did an excellent job at including colloquialisms and mannerisms specific to Black culture and the actors did a phenomenal job of bringing them to life.
I loved the irony of the newscaster calling Wakanda a “third world country” which made me ask wtf defines a third world country to begin with?
Okoye (Danai Gurira): “Don’t freeze when you see her.” T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman): “What are you talking about? I never freeze.” Then he freezes, LMAO. Lupita has that effect, hunny.
Shuri (Letitia Wright) gives T’Challa a playful middle finger while walking away and Ramonda (Angela Bassett) calls her on it without even seeing it. Black Mothering at its finest…
Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) tells the lily-white museum director, “Don’t worry, I’m going to take it off of your hands,” referring to the Wakanda artifact. MJB is consistently Black as hell…
The boat ride to the ceremony with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) giving us a taste of #danceislife deserves mention.
When T’Challa walked into the water and saw his nation rooting for him. That was powerful on multiple levels. We all need to be rooting for each other like that.
When Zuri (Forest Whitaker) asks if anyone of royal blood wishes to challenge for the throne and Shuri raises her hand only to ask them to wrap it up because her outfit is too tight. Typical Black sibling trolling.
Ramonda yelling to T’Challa “SHOW HIM WHO YOU ARE!” during the challenge with M’Baku (Winston Duke). Babbbbbbyyyy, I felt that in my bones. That needs to be a daily affirmation.
I loved how every ritual was ancestrally-based.
T’Challa telling Nakia she would make a great Queen if she wasn’t so stubborn (I almost threw my boot at the screen), for Nakia to respond that is WHY she would make a great Queen. T’Challa just wanted her to admit that she wanted to be his Queen.
Shuri’s consistent afrobeat playing throughout her lab. *hearts*
Shuri yells “WHAT ARE THOSE” to T’Challa’s traditional sandals. She then gives him his new soundproof footwear and says she calls them… wait for it… sneakers… get it? LMAO! THEN she tells him about his new suit design and he’s all my suit is fine and she says, “Functional, but old. If people are shooting at me, wait, let me put on my helmet.” She had jewel after adorable jewel. She tells him to strike the suit and he boots it across the room and she yells at him for messing up her lab, but informs him of the suit’s design and that it absorbs and then redistributes kinetic energy. She takes out her camera, for research purposes, and tells him to strike the suit again only to howl laughing when he goes flying across the room when he is blasted back by his own force.
Okoye said she couldn’t wait to get her wig off of her head and that it was a disgrace. Shots fired?
Nakia in the green dress in the Korea scene. Have mercy.
Agent Ross’s ole bitchass needed to be popped in the mouth for how he was speaking to T’Challa at the table. Find some respect.
Okoye pointed out that no weapons were allowed yet yielded her weapon less than 60 seconds later when the fight broke out! Black women always prepared for EVERYTHING. That jump down from the 2nd level was the first of her notable jump scenes.
Shuri’s excitement when the car populated in her lab. Adorbs.
The quick shot of Nakia driving barefoot was a great attention to detail since she lost her shoe when she used it as a weapon in the fight.
When their car is blasted by Klaue, Okoye flips, grabs her spear in mid-effin-air, and lands on a piece of the car. Then Nakia comes hilariously sliding in with just the seat and steering wheel.
Can we talk about how T’Challa could’ve ended Klaue and Killmonger wouldn’t have had his dead body as leverage if we weren’t in such a digital age? Oh ok.
Okoye’s disdain for taking the shot Agent Ross into Wakanda to be healed, and Shuri saying, “great, another broken white boy for us to fix, this is going to be fun.” Classics.
Killmonger showing his Wakanda tattoo and killing Klaue made me smile.
When they revealed that Young T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani) and Young Kuri (Denzel Whitaker) left baby Erik after killing his father, N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown), I was livid. Though we are ultimately responsible for our actions, we cannot ignore the roots of our issues. People keep referring to Killmonger as the villain, but, in my opinion, he killed the main villain. He’s just a brother who needs some healing and therapy to learn to deal with his past and how to properly bring about the change he wants to see for his community.
Shuri to Agent Ross: “Don’t scare me like that colonizer!” when he woke and started asking her where he was. According to the internets, wypipo will officially be referred to as colonizers until further notice.
Killmonger points out there are 2 billion people that look like them struggling around the world and that Wakanda had the tools to LIBERATE them all. T’Challa remarks that it is not their way to use vibranium for they are not judge, jury, and executioner for people that are not their own and Killmonger then he says “Not your own? But didn’t life start right here on this continent? So aren’t all people your people?” JEWELS JUST FALLING FROM HIS LIPS!
Killmonger nonchalantly to Ramonda: “Hey Auntie.” By far tied for my favorite line of the movie. He makes the challenge for the throne and Zuri says it’ll take weeks. Killmonger says I don’t need the whole nation, I just need him. That was real. I also lowkey enjoyed watching him fight T’Challa . It was like he had the power of every oppressed souled within him. His pain was relatable. Hated that it was targeted towards his own blood, but that was also real. We usually strike out to those closest to us. Him having them burn all of the ancient flowers was egotistical and short sided, but also a key part of the character.
When Killmonger sits on the throne, he points out that where he’s from, Black people start revolutions without the firepower and resources to fight their oppressors. More jewel dropping…
Okoye’s face when W’Kabi agrees with Killmonger…
M’Baku to Agent Ross: “You cannot talk one more word or I will feed you to my children. Just kidding, we are vegetarians.” The vegan in me howled with laughter. Plus he made him shutup initially by overpowering his voice with their chants. Then he made Agent Ross turn away during the ritual. He won 4 times (presented the preserved T’Challa) in under 4 minutes.
I appreciate T’Challa realizing that his father was wrong for both leaving Killmonger and for turning his back on the Africans worldwide and for calling him out on it when they meet once again in the ancestral realm.
Killmonger: “All that challenge shit is over with. I’m the king now.” Hood af, lol!
W’Kabi so quickly fighting with Killmonger made the whole theater suck their teeth. Will Focus gon say he’s still in the sunken place. I DIED! LMAO
Killmonger got Black Panther suited. That shit was sexy.
We all felt Okoye’s pain when Killmonger killed one of her fellow Dora Milaje. *sad face*
Will also brought up a good point and asked where were the other 3 tribes during this fight before M’Baku’s tribe showed up to assist the Dora Milaje against W’Kabi and his tribe?
When W’Kabi and his techno rhino were charging towards M’Baku but Okoye stood between them and the rhino kissed her. All powerful. Then W’Kabi asked if she, his love, would kill him, and she said, for my nation, absolutely. POWERFULLLLLL.
So I was highkey pissed that T’Challa took Killmonger to look at the damn sunset instead of to Shuri, but later that was put into perspective for me (read below).
T’Challa: Maybe we can still save you…” Killmonger: “Why? So ya’ll could just lock me up? Nah. Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships. They knew death was better than bondage.” CHILLS. That line right there spoke volumes. VOLUMES!
T’Challa buying the block. Just. Yes.
The kids wanting to break apart Shuri’s ship to sell for parts. So real, lol. We need that community bridge building though.
There has been lots of debate about seeing a white studio production and where our dollars could have gone and even about the characters parallels to sections of society, but I personally feel like it’s all chest-inflated poppycock. 99.9% of movies that we love and hold as staples in our society are produced by white studios simply because, well, WE DON’T OWN ANY YET. Keyword, yet. So Malcolm X, Selma, Hidden Figures, Thurgood Marshall, Coming to America, and the likes that are so near and dear also fall under that umbrella, but we still went to see them in droves. Could we have collectively used that money and built a small town with our roughly 37% contribution to the $218 million? Most likely, but we already know we’re still combating centuries of conditioning and teaching ourselves to love ourselves and each other. So chill. It’s a process, and this movie is a major part of that process because representation matters. Seeing ourselves and what could be matters. Sometimes people need to see it to even know it’s possible.
Yes, this is in Africa.
The visuals and quotables definitely woke up some of the sleeping and even smacked a few people into loving themselves and reframing their thoughts on Africa. Yes, Wakanda is fake, but Africa’s beauty has never been a lie. It’s just been retold and intentionally hidden from the masses, especially Africans born in america, in attempts to continuously divide and conquer. This is touched on via Killmonger’s story. His story simultaneously parallels the american Hood King and the Revolutionary. He grew up without his parents, more specifically finding the dead body of his father. He had to learn and grow on his own which resulted in his genius-level intellect and thirst to avenge his father via combat and claim his spot on the throne. Via his research, he learned of the advancements of Wakanda and grew resentment because they had the capacity to liberate Black people globally, but never bothered to. He wanted to ‘stick it to the man,’ and rightfully so.
Killmonger’s passion was in the right place, but his methods wouldn’t have fully resulted in the outcome suitable for most, mostly due to his dictator ways. T’challa had to come to learn that peace and hiding weren’t the way either. With their collective intellect, Shuri’s technological advancements, and Wakanda’s wealth and resources, they could have liberated Africans globally, but pride was a key factor in Killmonger having to die. (And also, as my bro Jashua Sa’Ra pointed out, “the movie studio couldn’t show us what it would’ve looked like if the forces joined in this already powerful Black Panther movie.” AKA the reason why the FBI killed Malcolm & Martin when their speeches started to mirror each other and they were on the verge of working together instead of fighting each other. Someone call up an independent Black production company to bring that story to life. “If Malcolm & Martin Lived to See Their 40s.”)
Leave your thoughts on the Black Panther movie in the comments. What rating do you give it?
Release Mar 7 2018 | Vol14 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Copper and Gold! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of Sassy, Krystal Garner, and Shanice Thompson. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick on Glamourina’s newest athleisure line; Community Spotlight on Melanating.com, your Premier Source for Black Events; our highlighted Hair Feature by Ngone Sow; “Solo Travel: Deciding and Booking My Flight” by D. Carrie; “Spiritual Teknowledge: Openness” by Jashua Sa’Ra; Must Have Book: Authentically Rich by Khay Shepard; Knotable Designs providing Marketing for Emerging Brands; Black Youth Appreciation: Theirno Barry; “#BlackLoveConvo: “Greatness in Brotherly Love: Ali and Me” by Dapper Dr. Feel; “Who are Financial Systems Designated to Uplift? How Do We Take Control?” by Jatali Bellanton of Kids Who Bank, DTR360 Books; our Health & Fitness Advice Column with Trainer Clint & Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef; Featured art piece by Will Focus; Must Have Graphic Novel: DayBlack by Keef Cross; Black Business Highlights; Taji Mag Model Contest Winners; and more!!
Release Dec 7 2017 | Vol13 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Virility! This volume’s cover feature is musician, actor, and model Daniel Jones. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick: StockOnyx, premier royalty-free stock content from Black creatives; the Community Spotlight on the elegant soaps, scrubs, and body butters of The Celestine Collection; Sankofa Community Empowerment; our highlighted Hair Feature; “Solo Travel: The Step Before Step One” by D. Carrie; “Spiritual Teknowledge: Intersource” by Jashua Sa’Ra; New Panther: A Call for Action; The Nola D. Collective; “#BlackLoveConvo: “AJ Andrews: Lady With a Golden Glove and Heart” by Dapper Dr. Feel; “Clarifying Credit… the Quick Fix” by NayMarie, our Health & Fitness Advice Column with Trainer Clint & Vegan Fun with Delliz the Chef; Featured art piece by Will Focus; Must Have Graphic Novel: Ayanmo Stigmata by Tyrone Jackson of Sovereign Comics; Black Business Highlights; Taji Mag Model Contest Winners; and more!!