On Loving Self: Inspired By the 30-Somethings

LOVING SELF (1)

Uhhh 30 feels utterly spectacular! I’ve finally arrived. I look around me and I can breathe a sigh of relief because I’m surrounded by people who truly make my heart sing. Many of my friends have celebrated or will soon celebrate the dawn of a new day: the thrilling thirties. And, if 30 is any indication of what’s to accompany the 40s, 50s, 60s, and so forth—I’m totally up for the joyride.

At 32, Beyoncé released her fifth studio album entitled Beyoncé (2013), which sent an electric jolt coursing through the veins of millions of women who were able to live vicariously through her songs by way of her intimate and insightful accounts of being a woman who has chosen to reject constricting definitions of what it means to be a mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, and performer—most unabashedly. It’s plain that the thirties are treating Beyoncé quite well, as they are countless other women.
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Oprah, OWN & Opportunism

Is it just me or is there something totally “off” OWN’s journalistic decisions as of late? As a brief disclaimer: This piece is not an attempt at lambasting the big O; rather, it is an attempt at uncovering what is really going on beneath the surface at OWN. I would be remiss if I didn’t first laud lady O for her numerous humanitarian contributions, poised demeanor, along with the immense career she has solidified for herself. I mean from building a school in South Africa, while embracing the true meaning of the adage “charity begins at home” after having sent a plethora of young men and women off to college in America – “O” is one of the few people who – when faced with the lurking reality of their demise will be able to utter the words: “I made a difference in my lifetime.” We can all learn a lot from the O – hands down that’s a feat that deserves a standing O [pun intended].

Contributions and all that good stuff aside, it has been [for lack of a better term] perplexing the opportunistic journey upon which the producers of OWN have been since its inception back on January 1st, 2011. From the lackluster shows and ratings, to the network only being available on premium cable, to the saturation of self-help topics, which were dare I say it “stuffy” and veered off the beaten path of what we had become accustomed to seeing from the often boisterous, never really subdued O.

What irks me most about OWN’s descent into a place of near extinction are the mechanisms that are being used to salvage it, which by the way they’ve achieved this year by witnessing its viewership increase by 25% in recent months. But should African-American popular culture be attributed for the network’s steady ascent back into the limelight?

Let us just have a quick flashback, shall we? When Whitney Houston passed on back in February, the O landed herself in the coveted position of being the first journalist to interview Whitney’s family to unveil just how they had been coping with the untimely passing of a beloved sister, mother, friend, mentor and legend to many. Subsequent to the Houston interview that attracted the network’s highest ratings to date – an impressive 3.5 million, the O has ventured out some more to interview the likes of Rapper Fifty Cent, Singer Rihanna, and more recently Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas, with Rihanna raking in the network’s second highest ratings to date with 2.5 million viewers. It’s all fine and dandy that the OWN network has added all of these interviews their roster. However, the question to ask is: Are these interviews being conducted solely for the purpose of gaining viewers for her network or is OWN genuinely interested in so doing?

Many may recall a time back in the days of the Oprah Winfrey Show when the media mogul came under fire for refusing to allow rappers onto her show – claiming that she was against all of the misogyny and harsh lyrics that rappers often espouse in their songs. Fair enough. The O was entitled to her opinion. Though rappers, namely Ice Cube came out against the O by hinting at the irrationality behind allowing murderers and rapists onto her show, while refusing to entertain rappers in her studio. The O’s decision to ban rappers appeared to have been set in stone. Who would have thought that the O would later revoke her own decision by inviting rapper Fifty Cent onto her new network for an interview? If that ain’t opportunism at its finest then I don’t know what to call it.

While I have never considered the O to be a spokesperson for Black America, nor do I believe that she should be, my greatest concern is that she and her predominantly White, middle class production team have – by all accounts – begun to tap into a market that was previously deemed unpalatable to them. Be things as they may, it just does not sit well with me that what was useless before has all of a sudden become useful to OWN because their agenda is now fixated on a ratings increase.

What are your thoughts? Do you think OWN is being opportunistic with their journalistic prospects?
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Nikki is an educator and writer, whose musings cover a broad range of topics including but, not limited to: politics, love, education and cultural criticism. You can follow her on Twitter @artculturemusic

On the Topic of Sexuality

July 4th marked a transformative moment in history – not only in the R & B and Hip Hop worlds but, the world at large. The day Frank Ocean proclaimed to the world that he is in fact a bi-sexual African-American man, ignited a long-standing conversation that needed to be had within our community, albeit not limited to our community alone. That Ocean has been steadily rising to fame in recent months with impressive works such as hits “Novacane,” and “Swim Good,” alongside his behind the scenes [ghost writing] jobs for the likes of Justin Bieber, Brandy Norwood, Beyonce Knowles and John Legend, to name a few – was put on the back burner: in his “coming out” moment, all of those success charting and critically-acclaimed notables instantaneously dissipated and then came back.

You see, the moment that Ocean came out, his sexuality became bigger than his talent…and then people came to their senses again. People having come to their senses again may have easily been attributed to the fact that the infamous “coming out” affair was supported by a few good men a.k.a popular culture magnates including: Jay-Z, Russell Simmons, members of Ocean’s crew Odd Future, and plentiful others. My greatest concern lies not in the “coming out.” Rather, my greatest concern lies in the fact that people spend their time caring about with whom Tom, Dick or Harry choose to sleep. Really? What’s it to you anyway?

The coming to their senses aspect of this entire event lies in the many people are just too darn nosy for their own good, so the moment they realize that they were over-zealous about someone else’s sex life, especially a celeb, who they will never spend a day in day in the life of – they recognize that the person is actually pretty talented or quite simply should not be defined by their sexuality. Not that sexuality doesn’t matter because to most of us it’s a big deal. It’s more a matter of sexuality being a huge public deal. I’m from the school of thought that believes that what a person does in the bedroom should be a private matter because if you’re really that interested, you should just join ‘em.

I think that’s where my concerns lie as it pertains to the whole sexual rights phenomenon. I don’t think there should ever have been a movement in the first place and that stems from the knowing that people poking their noses in what’s better known as “none of their business” was the cause of it all. It’s completely unnecessary for people to have to spend their time explaining why they choose to sleep with whom they choose to sleep. Personal beliefs aside, we’re all humans who may come from different vantage points on a variety of topics but, it is my belief that whether or not we agree with another’s preferences or choices – be they religious, sexual or other – we do have to respect them. So long as they are not harming anyone during the process of living their lives in the ways in which they so choose, then what gives?

With all this in mind, given the cultural climate, particularly as it relates to our community’s angst toward Black men’s sexuality, I thank Ocean for his bravery, his truth-telling nature, his talent, his voice, and his opening up of a can of worms for other Black boys and men who may one day choose to do the same.

Why do you think people care so much about others’ sexual preferences? How much of a factor do you believe religion is in peoples’ opinions around sexuality?
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Nikki delights in writing both informative and thought-provoking pieces that propel readers to choose a healthier alternative [in all facets of life]. Nikki views the Blogosphere as an educational space in which transformation and truthful dialogue can transpire for the purpose of unifying humanity, in spite of our differences. As such, Nikki intends to make use of her love for words and keen eye to ensure that the site delivers optimal pieces for your perusal. You can follow Nikki on Twitter @artculturemusic.

My Love Ideal: In Honour of Those Who Came Before

I want what my grandparents had. They were married for over 50 years. And, I don’t just want it for the sake of merely wanting it. I want it because it’s no longer viewed as plausible. It’s rather passé to some, and for others it’s perceived as being darn right near impossible. Yet others’ opinions as it regards Black love still leave me unwavering in my perspective. I maintain that I desire to experience a Black love affair that lasts forever. For me, that would be a revolution of epic proportions. I would liken it to a silent war, as opposed to a noisy revolution. A lengthy love affair with a Black man would stand to erase the very notion that stability with regard to the notion of the Black family is not a prospect that could become a reality; whereas the disintegration of the Black family currently stands as the norm. Now, I’m not suggesting that those who would rather opt for a life of perpetual singledom, serial monogamy, an open relationship, polygamy, or anything that goes against the standard heteronormative relationship experience, wouldn’t wind up being just as fulfilled – I’m simply stating what I desire, along with the reasons for it.

Amid the chaos and confusion that has been disseminated throughout popular culture conduits, namely the World Wide Web, which really don’t seem to be lessening in terms of the wide availability of editorials, videos and research that go viral in a matter of a few hours – with Satoshi Kanazawa’s, Why are Black women rated less physically attractive than other women?, being the tip of the iceberg, to the litany of tirades against Black men as criminals, deadbeat fathers and washed-up-has-beens – only further propels me to want to establish an amorous, secure and equally-beneficial union with a Black male counterpart. Given the climate of the post-racial meme which we are presently supposed to be experiencing, it almost seems as though it’s a slight for me to be pro-Black love.

I don’t offer my opinion to imply that my pro-Black love views are anti-any other type of love affair. Rather, my longing for a Black love affair that lasts forever is deep-seated, heavily shaped by the historical experiences of Black peoples, and is primarily for the purpose of ascertaining for the masses of naysayers that in spite of the would-be congratulators, who tend to suggest that a Black woman’s education, curvaceous body, and headstrong attitudinal ways are much too much for any Black man to be able to handle. I thought those were good qualities? I would venture to agree to disagree on this matter. Instead, I offer to completely disavow the claim that I or any other Black person will not be able to: a) find a spouse/life partner; or b) maintain a lifetime relationship with said spouse/partner [one that is relatively free of strife of course]. And, if it weren’t for the ideas floating around to suggest that the aforementioned were implausible, we would have far less reservations when searching for our potential mate.

Perhaps, it’s just in my nature to be both up for a challenge, as well as to challenge the status quo but, I’ve about had it with all of these statistics, psychological analyses gone awry, timelines to suggest at which age we should get married and quite frankly, the culture of fear being privy to our most intimate of thoughts. We shouldn’t feel as though we have been placed in a situation whereby we fear venturing into one of the most sacred and coveted of human acts: partnership. The only person who will ever be able to hold you back from finding the love of your life is you. But really, how amazing would it feel to be able to have a “you said I wasn’t gonna be able to but, I did it anyway” moment with your spouse 60 years from now despite all of the triumph we’ve had to overcome as a people?