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Throughout history, black women have faced the uphill battles of both racial and gender biases, especially in male-dominated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. Even so, many overcome their adverse circumstances, making invaluable contributions to the scientific community, particularly in the United States Space Program. The issue, however, is that the contributions these brilliant pioneers made largely went unnoticed.

NASA scientists including Katherine JohnsonDorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson began to get some overdue credit, however, when author Margot Lee Shetterly released her 2016 tome, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race

A film adaptation with the shortened title, Hidden Figures, hit theaters the same year to great acclaim, earning three Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.

These works told the stories of the women of color largely hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, later NASA) during World War II to work as “human computers,” manually crunching numbers, filling the many vacancies left by those fighting the war overseas. 


President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a 1941 executive order into law that prohibited racial, religious and ethnic discrimination in the country’s defense injury, thus paving the way for these “hidden figures’” advancements. While there are no official numbers on how many women filled these roles over the years, experts have estimated there were several hundred over the years. (Shetterly’s estimate was in the thousands.)

Of course, black women’s contributions aren’t limited to NASA. Here are 10 of the women who used their brains to skyrocket to the top of their fields.


Katherine Johnson


Katherine Johnson poses for a portrait at work at NASA Langley Research Center in 1966

Photo: NASA/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

Neil Armstrong's "one small step for man" may not have happened without this woman. Just weeks after Katherine Johnson began a position as one of Langley Research Center's human computers in 1952, supervisors transferred the summa cum laude West Virginia State College graduate (with degrees in both mathematics and French) from the African-American computing pool to the flight research division. There, Johnson performed the NASA calculations that made possible the manned space missions of the early 1960s as well as the 1969 moon landing.


Even astronaut John Glenn put his full faith in Johnson, requesting she re-do all-electronic computer calculations before he embarked on his 1962 Earth orbits. Glenn has been quoted as remarking, “If she says they’re good, then I’m ready to go.”

Aside from earning a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom, Johnson was portrayed by actress Taraji P. Henson in 2016's Hidden Figures.

Dorothy Vaughan


Dorothy Vaughan (l) in 1950

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Also a central part of Hidden Figures (in which was played by actress Octavia Spencer), Dorothy Vaughan left her position as a high school math teacher for a "temporary war job" in Langley's all-black group of female mathematicians known as the West Area Computing Unit in 1949. During what would become a nearly decade-long career, Vaughan became NASA's first African-American manager, eventually heading up the West Area Computing Unit.

An expert in NASA's programming coding language known as FORTRAN, she worked on the SCOUT (Solid Controlled Orbital Utility Test) Launch Vehicle Program that put America’s first satellites into space. Before her retirement from NASA in 1971, she also worked closely with Johnson on the computations for Glenn's orbital space missions.


Mary Jackson


Mary Jackson poses for a photo at work at NASA Langley Research Center in 1977

Photo: Bob Nye/NASA/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

Mary Jackson began working under Vaughan's supervision in the segregated West Area Computing section as a computer in 1951. After two years in that role, the former teacher (who was portrayed in Hidden Figures by actress and musician Janelle Monae) transitioned to working for engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki on wind tunnel experiments.

At Czarnecki's urging, she took engineering classes, and, after being promoted to aeronautical engineer in 1958, Jackson officially became NASA’s first black female engineer. After helping develop the space program throughout her successful career (during which she authored or co-authored about 12 research reports), the Virginia native took a demotion to fill the role of Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager. In that position, she devoted her time to helping other women find STEM jobs at NASA.

Dr. Gladys West


Dr. Gladys West at her induction into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. on December 6, 2018.

Photo: Adrian Cadiz

When Gladys West was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame in December 2018, the organization hailed her as the hidden figure whose mathematical work lead to the invention of the Global Positioning System (GPS). In 1956, she began working at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory and helped produce a study that proved the regularity of Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune.


Also while at U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, she programmed an IBM 7030 “Stretch” computer that delivered refined calculations for an “extremely accurate geodetic Earth model, a geoid, optimized” for what would eventually become known as GPS.

Dr. Mae Jemison


Mae Jemison

Photo: SSPL/Getty Images

Mae Jemison was a woman with many firsts to her credit. She was working in the medical field as a General Practitioner and attending graduate engineering classes in Los Angeles when NASA admitted her to its astronaut training program in June 1987. After more than a year of training, she became the first African-American woman astronaut, holding the title of science mission specialist.

On September 12, 1992, Jemison, along with six other astronauts, launched into space aboard the Endeavour, and with that earned the distinction of the first African-American woman in space as well. During her eight-day mission, Jemison conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness. Prior to her career as an astronaut, she also acted as a Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Dr. Shirley Jackson


Dr. Shirley Jackson stands with President Barack Obama before receiving the National Medal of Science, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on May 19, 2016, in Washington, DC.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A theoretical physicist, Shirley Jackson was the first black woman to graduate with a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in any field (Her Ph.D. is in Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics) and also just the second African-American woman to earn a doctorate in physics in U.S. history. 

During her tenure at what was formerly known as AT&T Bell Laboratories' Theoretical Physics Research Department in the 1970s and 1980s, she has been credited as helping develop the technology that enabled caller ID and call waiting.

President Barack Obama selected Jackson, a onetime chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to receive the National Medal of Science in 2015. She is currently serving as the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, also making her the first African-American woman to lead a top-ranked research university.

Dr. Patricia Bath


Dr. Patricia Bath

The first female African-American medical doctor to complete an ophthalmology residency and also the first to receive a medical patent, Patricia Bath invented a laser cataract treatment device called a Laserphaco Probe in 1986. (The co-founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness patented her invention in 1988.)


Her research on health disparities between African-American patients compared to those of other races lead to the creation of a volunteer-based "community ophthalmology," offering treatment to underserved populations.

Dr. Marie M. Daly


Dr. Marie Daly

After receiving her B.S. and M.S. in chemistry from Queens College and New York University respectively, Marie Daly went on to complete her Ph.D. at New York City's Columbia University. Upon graduating in 1947, she earned the distinction of being the first African-American woman to receive a chemistry Ph.D. in the U.S.

Daly's groundbreaking research included studies of the effects of cholesterol on the mechanics of the heart, the effects of sugars and other nutrients on the health of arteries and the breakdown of the circulatory system as a result of advanced age or hypertension.

Annie Easley


Annie Easley

Photo: NASA/Interim Archives/Getty Images

Another major contributor to the U.S. Space Program, Annie Easley worked on myriad projects for NASA over the course of her 30-year careers as a mathematician and rocket scientist. Like Johnson, Vaughan and Mary Jackson, she first worked as a computer and then eventually became a programmer.

Aside from conducting studies on battery-powered vehicles, Easley also worked on shuttle launches and designed and tested a NASA nuclear reactor. She was also a "leading member of the team which developed software for the Centaur rocket stage, which laid the technological foundations for the Space Shuttle launches and launches of communication, military and weather satellites," per NASA.

Dr. Alexa Canady


Dr. Alexa Canady

In 1984, Alexa Canady, a cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan's medical school, became the first African-American woman to be certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. Canada, who also earned B.S. in zoology from the University of Michigan, would later take on the role of chief of neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Michigan at just 36 years old, and, while there, she specialized in congenital spinal abnormalities, hydrocephalus, trauma and brain tumors.



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Halloween is right around the corner. In our family, we don’t exactly “celebrate” this holiday, but we enjoy some of the more fun aspects of the occasion. Aside from the sugar rush, roasting marshmallows by the fire, hoarding candy, and spending time with friends has no downside. But many Christian families are turned off because of what the holiday represents. Without getting too deep, the historical significance of Halloween is rooted in the fear of ghosts, evil spirits, and mayhem. Whether your family goes all in for the holiday or just takes advantage of the social engagement that comes with it, this is a great time of year to pray for our children to be protected from evil spirits and mayhem. Here are five biblically inspired prayers to cover your children from spiritual attack.

5 Biblically Inspired Prayers to Cover Your Children from Spiritual Attack


We all want our children to make wise choices. But before they can do that, they have to be taught how. There are so many things in this world fighting to influence our kids. Deuteronomy 11: 18-21 teaches us how to guide them and what we must do to protect their hearts and minds from bad influences.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (NIV) Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, there are so many things clamoring for my child’s attention. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to let in and what to keep out. Please give me wisdom to guide my child. And please allow me, second only to you, to be there strongest influence in this world. Help us to have a great relationship so they will hear your word through me and make wise choices. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Once we are able to influence our children, it’s important they learn to believe that God’s word is true. Pray for them to not only listen to God’s word but to believe and do what it says. That kind of belief starts with you.

Mark 11:22-24 (NIV) “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray my child will grow to believe in you. Help me to set a good example of faith that they can follow. I pray they will see you through me. I pray their faith grows stronger every day and they will choose to live like they believe. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



Even though we believe, it’s still hard to trust sometimes. Though they are often fearless, pray for your children to have unconditional trust in God.

Philippians 4:6, 19 (NIV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” 19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, When everything around my child goes crazy and they are tempted to doubt you, I pray they will trust you unconditionally. I pray they will not be afraid or worry. I pray they will rely on you without fear. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Image and Self Worth

Once our kids enter those teenage years, they are often bombarded with worldly images that draw their attention away from God and onto themselves. Pray for your child to see themselves in the image of God and to love themselves the way God made them. Pray they will value the gifts God has given them and not live their lives in comparison to others.

Psalm 139:13-14 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank you for the child you have blessed me with. I pray they will see themselves in your image. I pray they will embrace every part of who they are and love themselves as much as you love them. I pray that even if they are tempted by the images they see in the world, You will give them the strength to choose to be made and remade into your image every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Living life to the full

When our kids have direction, belief, trust, and a positive self-image, they can’t help but live life to its fullest. Pray that in an effort to live a full life, they will seek ways to serve God and others in the process.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for helping my child to embrace your word. I pray they will seek you, seek ways to serve you, and find ways to serve others. I pray you will grant them success in all they do. In the times when they lose their way, I pray they will pursue you once again and find you. I pray they will hold firmly to your word and never leave you. In Jesus’ name, Amen!


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Perfect marriage? I can already hear all the comments! “There is no such thing as a perfect marriage.” “Perfect marriages don’t exist.” Well, I’m here to tell you that they do. The question is, are you willing to train your spouse in order to get one?

3 Ways to Train Your Spouse for a Perfect Marriage


I love the movie “How to Train Your Dragon.” It’s one of the best-animated films I’ve ever seen. Of course, as much as the digital graphics and cinematography were meant to captivate and delight children, the life messages for young and old can’t be missed. If you haven’t watched it, or if it’s been a while, revisit the movie if your marriage is going through some things. I found a few nuggets that, if taken to heart, can help you and your spouse produce the perfect marriage.


Remember It’s the Two of You Versus the World

In the movie, Hiccup goes against Viking tradition when he befriends rather than destroys his first dragon who he names Toothless. Now, when you are born and raised in a family of dragon slayers, that doesn’t exactly go over well at dinner. The two supposed enemies end up as best friends and must face off friend and foe alike. Marriage is no different. If you want a perfect marriage, you must remember that it’s the two of you against the world. Train your spouse…and yourself to embrace unity in your relationship. In good times, in bad times, in the in-between times, you join hands with your spouse and present a unified front. Period.


Never Leave Your Spouse Behind

In his attempt to kill Toothless at the start of the film, Hiccup inadvertently destroys his left tail rendering him incapable of flying. As their relationship develops, Hiccup thinks of a way to get Toothless back into the air. He builds an artificial tail, straps it to his dragon and they eventually have lift off.

Isn’t that what marriage is like? Things aren’t always great. And sometimes, one of you gets knocked down. But, if you train your spouse…and yourself to have your back no matter what, your marriage will have lift off again in no time.

A perfect marriage is not free of trouble. A perfect marriage is defined by how you treat your spouse when trouble comes. Do you tear down your spouse and leave them incapacitated on the sidelines? Do you take advantage of their weakness in order to make yourself feel better? Or, do you recognize and acknowledge your mistakes and then move heaven and earth to fix it? Train your spouse…and yourself, that when trouble comes you won’t leave each other behind. Period.


Don’t Allow Others to Define Your Relationship

Hiccup almost caught a beatdown from his tribe for joining hands with Toothless. I mean, after all, Toothless was a dragon and they killed dragons, not tamed them. His father, friends, and others did not believe dragons were tamable. They tried to do all they could to turn Hiccup against Toothless and dragons in general. However, Hiccup saw in Toothless what they didn’t. Rather than let them tell him what kind of relationship he would have with the dragon, he showed them the relationship he chose to have.


Your perfect marriage will be defined by you and your spouse and only you and your spouse. There will be plenty of people on the outside looking in and offering their take on your relationship. From the time you say “I do,” train your spouse…and yourself to be ruled only by what you each think of your relationship. If you allow others to define your arguments for you, your relationship suffers. If you give others a foothold on the decisions that need to be made in your marriage, your relationship suffers.

To get the perfect marriage, train your spouse…and yourself, to be the ones to define what that means. Period.

Sure, I get that there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. But, all that means is that there is no marriage free of trouble. However, just as Hiccup and Toothless were able to overcome their differences and find meaning in what should have been an impossible relationship, so can you and your partner. Your marriage won’t look like anyone else’s. Your life won’t be like anyone else’s. But to train your spouse…and yourself to have the perfect marriage, you only have to know it’s perfect for the two of you. Period.

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Successful marriage. Everybody wants one. However, you can’t flip through the channels without seeing some “reality” show promoting anything but. Relationships are rife with manufactured tension, intrusive family members, and wannabe friends looking for their 15 minutes of fame. While these shows are not a good look for the ideal marriage relationship, they get one thing right. If your marriage is going to succeed, you have to make sure it survives friends and family.

Successful Marriage: 4 Ways to Ensure Your Marriage Survives Friends and Family

Recently, I wrote an article that caught a lot of flack because I outlined ways to “train” your spouse for a “perfect” marriage.  Some people took issue with the word “train” and some with the word “perfect.” Needless to say, it made for a hearty discussion. As I read some of the comments, I thought, ironically, when our marriages are in the crapper, isn’t this the reason why?

In our communication with our partners, we get so stuck on one word, we fail to get the point. So we run tell that to anyone who’ll listen…well, not anyone. We talk to people who will “take our side.” They feed our negativity, our pride, and the beast determined to kill our relationships.  Before you know it, we can no longer protect the relationship we once held so dear. If you want your marriage to survive friends and family, here are four ways to make that happen.


Keep God as a fence around your relationship

Marriages fail or succeed for different reasons. But most successful marriages have a strong spiritual influence on the relationship. God is often the center and the fence. With God at the center of your relationship, we are more likely to get out of our own way.

  • Harsh words are seasoned with love.
  • Anger is quieted by grace.
  • Pride is broken by humility.
  • Selfishness is overtaken by consideration.

Just as important, with God as the fence, we work hard at keeping negative influences out.

  • Don’t degrade your spouse to anyone, including your mother…or I should say, especially your mother.
  • When your friend is degrading her spouse, don’t join the party.
  • Pray…a lot…before you seek advice.

Don’t invite others into your business

It’s so easy to talk down our spouses when we’re angry. We find the nearest ear and vent our frustrations without regard for how that person will view our partner and our relationship. Actions have consequences. When you tear your partner down, either to or in front of others, those people will view your relationship differently. If they are your friends, they will want to take your side. And to them, taking your side includes demeaning your spouse along with you.

If you want a successful marriage, see point one. Take your frustrations, your fears, your concerns to God first. Then, after you’ve calmed down, speak to your partner with a level head and an open mind. Unless there is abuse, infidelity, or danger, do your best to keep others out.


Discuss issues with each other before anyone else.

To have a successful marriage, this point should be a given. However, oftentimes, we go to our parents or our friends before we go to our spouses to talk about stuff. Those same friends or family members remember all the other problems with our relationship and before you know it, they begin to stoke the fire designed to destroy your marriage.

Fair communication is more than just important in your marriage. It’s necessary. Your marriage thrives on communication. As issues arise in your relationship, talk to each other in a way that pleases God and uplifts your marriage. If things get heated, walk away and come back after you’ve had a good chat with God. In other words, see point one.


When asking for help, make sure it’s unbiased.

Sometimes, things go beyond what you can handle. That’s just the bottom line. You’ve prayed, you’ve talked, yet nothing is getting resolved. You’re unsure of how to move forward. One thing is certain, you want your relationship to work.

Getting counseling from a therapist or pastor is not a bad thing. Look, relationships are tough. Depending on the influences we have around us, it’s harder for some than others. But the moment we bring family and friends into the mix, we’re just making matters worse. Ask for help from people whose only desire is to see your marriage succeed.

So, what’s the bottom line? If you want your marriage to survive your friends and family, don’t invite them into your relationship, and stay out of theirs.



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To many people, this article may seem pointless. On its face, it seeks to deliver information that seems obvious. Love yourself. Okay. Yeah. But if you think about it, how many of us really take those words to heart. We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we give lip service to the very thing that makes life rich. Self-love is essential to a productive, happy existence. It’s the thing that keeps us dry when the rain comes pouring down. Now, imagine entering a life-long union with someone who fails to adhere to this principle. There are so many instances where marriage can go sideways if either spouse neglects personal care. Well, not to worry. We’re here to help.

5 Ways to Love Yourself So You Can Truly Love Your Spouse

In this article:

  1. The mind is a terrible thing to waste.
  2. Keep your heart beating for the one you love.
  3. Relationships matter. Oh, and relationships matter.
  4. Learn to embrace dirty dishes, dirty clothes, and dirty hair.
  5. Stay prayed up to nourish your spirit.

Not everyone will agree with what I’m about to share. To love yourself means different things to different people. I’m cool with that. What is undeniable to everyone, however, is that it is vital to our existence. It’s interesting. Often times as single people, we know how to take care of ourselves. We’re on the hunt…or we’re willing prey. But if we’ve been caught, we become all about our partners. We neglect some of the very things that lead them to us in the first place.

If you’ve noticed that your relationship is getting stale, it might be time to turn back the clock. Take a good hard look in the mirror and resolve to love yourself as you once did. The following five suggestions are mine. However, I’d be interested to hear what any of our readers have to say.


The mind is a terrible thing to waste

The mind is a powerful tool. But, like any tool, it needs to be properly maintained to fully function. The person you were at 18 will never understand the person you are at 30. The single you won’t get the married you. There’s a reason for that. Without effort, your thinking expands. With effort, your mind grows.

Growth is a natural part of a fully functioning relationship. There’s no greater respect you can show your spouse than the ability to open your mind. When you take the time to learn new things or enhance old ones, like a language or a skill, you’re saying to your spouse that you are willing to mature. When the mind grows, so does your level of communication. This means that your ability to see things from different viewpoints also develops. You can then love your spouse with a strength of mind which then serves to strengthen your marriage.


Keep your heart beating for the one you love

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With new love comes butterflies and sweaty palms. It’s thrilling to feel the heat rise to your face every time your loved one looks at you. Chances are you’re eating right, exercising, and making sure you’re as attractive as possible. After marriage, this shouldn’t change for the worse, but for the better. Putting effort into your physical fitness communicates to your partner that you want to be around to love them for as long as you are able. Taking care of your body helps you feel good and stay healthy on the inside while you glow on the outside. It’s a good look on you and a proud look on your spouse.

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Relationships matter. Oh, and relationships matter.

I’m not trying to beat a dead horse, but when you love yourself, relationships matter. The love between you and your spouse cannot be replaced. But, it can’t be the only love you get. It can be easy to get lost in your spouse and shut out the world. However, when things between you and your spouse don’t click, your world will come crumbling down. Your mental health is not something you should take for granted.

All your girlfriends or your boys you once hung out with are necessary to keep you mentally fit and keep your love for your spouse thriving. Time alone with your children deepens your bond as a parent. Serving your parents or elders gives you the wisdom needed to live life well. Sometimes, even scheduling time with a therapist will be needed to “woosah” your way through some rough patches. Foster great relationships so you can handle whatever gets thrown at your love.


Learn to embrace dirty dishes, dirty clothes, and dirty hair

You read me right. No one, no spouse, no marriage is perfect. Sometimes, when times get crazy, make it okay to not wash the dishes one night. Or, maybe delay doing the laundry a couple of days. If you have to rock a wig tomorrow so you can rest today, then so be it. The stress of perfection will kill your marriage quicker than some dirty dishes. I’m not encouraging anyone to become a sloth. I’m saying sometimes you need a break. Love yourself enough to take it.

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Stay prayed up to nourish your spirit

So, this should be a no-brainer. Pray. Pray to love yourself. Pray for your mind. Pray for your body. Pray for your relationships. Pray for your home. Pray for your marriage. Pray for your spouse. Pray for your children. Pray for your family. Then, pray again. Pray to love yourself. Pray to love the you that God made. Pray to love yourself so you can truly love your spouse.

There is so much more that I can say about self-love. In fact, the idea itself is a billion dollar industry. Books, seminars, and workshops stand at the ready to help you love yourself. Ultimately, you should love yourself for no other reason than to live your best life. But, if you’re married, a part of living your best life is loving your spouse well. To truly and successfully do that, loving yourself must be first things first. If you feel me, let me know your thoughts.

BMWK: What are some other ways you love yourself that are of benefit to your marriage?



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I married my best friend. Not everyone gets to say that so I’m grateful. At the time my now husband proposed, we’d been dating for a year and a half. We got married four months after he popped the question. We didn’t need anything too fancy, or pricey. Rather than simply prepare for a wedding together, we prepared for a lifetime together.  That’s what marrying your best friend does. It gives you perspective on what’s important. A lifetime of love is what every married couple wants. Marrying your best friend is one way to get it.

3 Ways Marrying Your Best Friend Ensures a Lifetime of Love

  1. Respect – Keeping it real means keeping it respectful with your best friend.
  2. Loyalty – You never have to wonder who’s your ride or die.
  3. Love – The better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, health kind of love.

With the divorce rate standing at 50% in this country, it’s clear that at least half of us get married for the wrong reason or to the wrong person.

Watch some of these “reality” shows and you’ll realize that some of those couples have no business getting married. Bachelor party sex romps and wedding day cuss-fests make it clear that the relationship has devolved into a fight for ratings rather than a relationship.

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So, what’s the cure? Well, “cure” might be a strong word. Maybe what’s needed is the right recipe. There are many ingredients to a good marriage. There are even more to a healthy marriage. But ultimately, they all boil down to three things when you’re married to your best friend: respect, loyalty, and love. Keeping these three as the main ingredients makes it easier to season your days and spice up your nights with the one who knows you best.



Keeping it real means keeping it respectful with your best friend. On the one hand, you can get so comfortable that you don’t care how you communicate with your partner. But when someone is truly the closest human soul to you, you choose to guard your tongue. The last thing you want to do is hurt them.

When your best friend hurts, you hurt. So during tough conversations, rather than fly off the handle, you speak your truth with respect. You speak to your spouse with love. A lifetime of communicating that way means a lifetime of peace, even when times get hard.

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You never have to wonder who’s your ride or die after marrying your best friend. It’s a given that respect in your relationship leads to loyalty. Your spouse has your back and you have theirs. Always. Without doubt. In public. In private.

There’s an unbreakable bond that’s forged when two people have each other’s best interests at heart. When loyalty is evident, it also puts everyone else on notice. In fact, “what God has joined together, let no one separate” is loyalty’s creed. Essentially, a lifetime of love with your best friend is easier when loyalty is on the table.



Love is a tricky word. If you think about it, most marriages claim to have that as the main ingredient. So how can the divorce rate be so high? Well, I’m talking about the “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” kind of love. This is the kind that will last a lifetime after marrying your best friend. With it comes laughter, joy, pain, sorrow, courage, fear, falling down, and getting up. It’s a love that will take you through anything life throws at your relationship. It’s not just a noun, it’s a verb. In effect, it must move beyond words into action. So sure, it’s a tricky word. But when marrying your best friend, it doesn’t have to be.

My husband is still my best friend. He became that for many reasons. But when it comes to our marriage, respect, loyalty, and love have remained constant. And for that, I’ll be grateful for a lifetime.


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Another weekend has come and gone and you and your spouse spent it doing the “same ole, same ole.” He mowed the lawn. You did the laundry. Later, you both watched TV then went to bed. Yawn! Don’t get me wrong. The love is still there. However, you weren’t shocked to find your wedding picture next to “boring marriage” on the internet. How did this happen? You two were the talk of the town during your courtship. You had so much fun together. But, at some point, you settled into a routine that left your marriage wanting. Now, you’re ready to turn the tables and set things back in motion. The question is, where should you start?

Boring Marriage? 2 Stupid Simple Ways to Spice Things Up

  1. Turn off the TV.
  2. Leave the house.

Making a decision to spice things up in your relationship is the easy part. Following through is where things get tough. Chances are you’ve worked pretty hard all week. By the time Friday comes around, you’re beyond tired. In fact, just the thought of doing anything outside of curling up in front of the TV wears you out. But a boring marriage isn’t what you signed up for so it’s time to make some changes. It’s time to spice things up and here are two extremely stupid simple ways to do just that!


Turn off the TV

Stupid. Simple. Not much else needs to be said here. However, just in case you’ve fooled yourself into thinking TV is a “fun” part of your relationship, let me help you out. Whether it’s watching Game of Thrones, a saving the whales documentary, or Martin re-runs, a night spent in front of the tube makes the “boring list” for marriage activity. Sure, once in a while, a night of Netflix and chill can turn into something more. But chances are if your marriage is boring, it’s time to let that idea go.

Whip out some cards and play strip poker. Grab a photo album and reminisce about the good old days. Have some friends over and get your spades game on. Turn on the radio. Dance a little salsa. Or let Luther take you…ahem…there.

Whatever you choose, just turn off the TV and make it spicy!


Leave the House

The comforts of home can make slaves of us all. At home, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of dressing to the nines and putting on makeup and tipping the server. Complacency creeps in and excitement creeps out. Finding a sitter takes a backseat to finding the right channel. What were once nights to remember have turned into nights you’d just as soon forget.

Enough said. It’s time to leave the house.

But for a couple whose nightlife has grown stale, what’s there to do? It wouldn’t hurt to call up some friends and schedule a double date. If your dating game is a little rusty, there’s no shame in tagging along with a couple who’s always on the move. Once you get started, you’ll find yourself planning some wild nights on the town by yourself. Here are some things you can look forward to:

  • Take some dance lessons together
  • Spice up your life with a cooking class
  • Go enjoy a day at an amusement park
  • Take in an outdoor…or indoor concert
  • A picnic in the park can be a lot of fun
  • Drive to a nearby city and take in the sights
  • Dinner without the movie also has its perks
  • A day at the beach, the lake, the pond…make it work for you

There are options galore for bringing some spice back into your relationship. But first, you have to take a sobering look at your time and see if you’re sharing the best time of your life with the love of your life. If you give in to complacency and neglect your thirst for excitement, your marriage will suffer.

I promised you two stupid-simple ways to spice up your boring marriage. And, that’s what you got. But by doing just those two things alone, you open up your relationship to a host of possibilities. Consider the effort you put into dating your spouse. Light that fire again in your marriage and sparks are bound to fly!



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“She’s your – Queen to be!” If you’ve ever seen “Coming to America,” these lyrics and the way they are sung stand out in the movie. Sang out of tune and high pitched, it was the first line to the song introducing Eddie Murphy’s character, Prince Akeem Joffer, to his bride to be, at least the one who had been arranged for him since birth. After her grand entrance, Akeem attempts to have a private chat with her. Since it’s their first meeting, he tries to get to know her, you know, her likes and dislikes. He soon learns that her whole life, she’s been trained to do one thing: meet his needs and his needs only. Unhappy with their choice for him, Akeem sets out to America to find his bride, someone who can serve alongside him as king and queen when his time comes to rule Zamunda.

King and Queen: How to Treat Your Spouse Like Royalty

  1. Respect their mind
  2. Follow their heart
  3. Love their spirit
  4. Serve their body
  5. Obey their intentions

Respect their mind

When Akeem attempts to learn about his arranged bride, he asks her about the things that she likes. Her answer was always the same. She liked whatever he liked. And, she would do whatever he told her to do. So, he asks her bark like a dog. And, she does. Now, we laugh at that scene because it’s a movie and it’s funny. However, the lesson here is that Akeem wanted a woman, a queen, he could respect.

As king and queen in a relationship, it’s important to have a high level of respect for your spouse. Respecting their independence of thought, their ability to think and act for themselves is the first place to start. Though the husband might lead the relationship, he seeks his wife’s thoughts in every area. Different points of view help us to grow as people and a good king and queen know that it makes your union that much more exciting and your bond that much stronger.


Follow their heart

Treating your spouse like royalty may start with respect, but it means nothing if you can’t understand and follow their heart. Always assume the good about your partner. Often times in relationships, especially during moments of conflict, frustrations abound when our hearts are misunderstood.

In the movie, Akeem travels to America and meets Lisa. As he courts her, not only does he hide his royal heritage, he presents himself as extremely poor. Upon learning his true status, Lisa is very upset. To her, it appeared as though he were testing her heart whereas, for him, he just wanted to be loved as a man, not a prince. There may be times when your partner’s actions are questionable. But to treat them like royalty, it’s important to first believe in the goodness of their character. For Akeem and Lisa, they both learned the lesson that they should assume the good and not the worst about their partner’s heart. You should do the same.


Love their spirit

When Akeem first meets Lisa, he’s smitten. Is she beautiful? Yes. But as he gets to know her, he’s not only struck by the softness of her smile, he’s also moved by the kindness of her spirit. Learning to love the spiritual energy your partner brings to your relationship is an important way to treat them like royalty.


Serve their body

Yes. I said, “serve.” Intimacy in a king and queen relationship is about just that, service. Finding out your partner’s likes and dislikes when it comes to sexual pleasure is an important step in treating them like royalty. Rather than focusing solely on your personal needs, there is tremendous satisfaction in meeting the needs of your spouse. Whether it’s engaging in foreplay or touching them where they like to be touched, the royal treatment is service oriented.


Obey their intentions

I have to say it’s unfortunate that when it comes to marriage, the word obey has gotten a really bad rap. I can’t say it’s without good reason. It has been abused so often that the intent of it has been completely twisted. When you are in a king and queen relationship, understanding each other’s intentions and being obedient to it doesn’t have to be complicated. It requires gratitude and humility to both see where your spouse is coming from as well as obey their requests of you. When you choose to see their point of view and submit your will to theirs, you are letting them know you uphold them as royalty in your life. It doesn’t mean you blindly follow, it just means you respect their role as your partner in the relationship.


In Coming to America, Akeem finds his bride. He found someone who he was will to respect, follow, love, serve, and obey. Lisa was also willing to do the same for Akeem. As the eventual king and queen if Zamunda, they could not rule as one without these qualities. For your family, your own little nation to be its best, you must treat your spouse like royalty. These five qualities are a great way to start.

BMWK, in what ways do you treat your spouse like royalty?



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I dated a millionaire miser. His name was Peter, and it was one of the most toxic relationships I’d ever been in. But, it was also one of the most transformational.

I can thank Peter for teaching me a few surprising things about love and money. Maybe you’ll benefit from learning them, too.

Money Is a Stand-In for Many of Our Values

I grew up in a household where money was hard to come by. Once I entered the working world, I became obsessed with saving money as a way to avoid poverty, as opposed to building wealth or funding professional and personal opportunities for growth. My thinking has since evolved, and I have come to view money as a tool to help me live life on my terms, which includes saving, spending, donating and investing.

In dating a miser, I witnessed how money could be used as a weapon to punish and control. Peter believed his wealth entitled him to speak poorly to waitresses, department store staff or anyone that he felt had less money than he did.

Dating a Financial Extreme Can Be the Wake-Up Call You Need

While dating Peter, I saw him read books in their entirety and return them to bookstores, haggle over the price of end-of-day pizza, skimp on tips and manipulate situations to get out of buying costly gifts. Observing these behaviors forced me to reflect on my own. While I had never done any of these things, it made me think about some of my unsavory financial actions and motivations.

Since dating Peter, I’ve adjusted some of my money behaviors: I tip at least 15 percent; I still love a discount, but don’t become despondent when I don’t receive one (specifically if I can outright afford it); I think about price as much as I do value when making a purchase.

Love should be easy in the beginning, but I soon found myself rolling my eyes at how Peter treated money, and by extension, the world around him: one-sided, self-absorbed and extremely demanding. In hindsight, I should have ended the three-month relationship sooner, but the bottom line was that it had to end and it did.

Misers Make Financial Intimacy Hard, but Financial Infidelity Easy

Cultivating financial intimacy, or the ability to communicate openly and honestly about money with your partner, is difficult to do with a miser. In the short time that we dated, Peter didn’t like the idea that I worked and wanted me to stop working if we were to get serious, despite my core (non-negotiable) beliefs of financial independence and career fulfillment. Even though there was never a chance that I would ever marry this man, I already thought about ways to hide my financial and career advancements and achievements while we dated, which would only deepen in a marriage to a man that wanted to dominate, if not, oppress financially.

I ended this jaunt of a relationship with Peter nearly ten years ago. It’s still one of the most memorable relationships I’ve had — not for the love, but for the lessons. If my life were a book, then Peter would have been my foil, the character that shows qualities that are in contrast with the qualities of the protagonist (me). The foil’s ultimate objective is to highlight the traits of the other character.

From Peter, I learned about how much love I had to give (and wanted to give) by how much love he withheld. From Peter, I learned that I wanted to use money as a way to express gratitude and appreciation for myself and others by experiencing how he systemically shortchanged and reduced the people in his life, including me. And for that, I will always be grateful.



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One of my dearest friends got married at the end of last year. The destination wedding, which took place on some of the most gorgeous beaches of Mexico, was hands-down one of the most exquisite ceremonies I had ever witnessed. And, as one of her five bridesmaids, it was also one of the most expensive

When I agreed to accept the invitation of being a bridesmaid, I knew I was also accepting the financial responsibilities that accompanied a destination wedding.

Bridesmaid Costs for a Destination Wedding

Regarding numbers, there were several costs that I had to incur. Here’s exactly how much it cost me to be a bridesmaid at a wedding in Mexico:

Bridesmaid Cost Breakdown
Expense Cost
Bridesmaid Dress $200
Flight to Mexico $400
Checked Bags $80
Wedding Makeup $70
Bachelorette Party $70
Bachelorette Party Gifts $40
Hotel $780
Total $1,640

Being a Bridesmaid: Cost vs. Value

Witnessing my girlfriend’s journey from single woman to married woman with a man that she loves was one of my deepest joys. I loved landing in Mexico and feeling my advanced Spanish flow out of me — I felt like a bilingual goddess. I loved ordering room service and eating Mexican burritos in my underwear every morning for breakfast. I loved all of the hoopla and fuss associated with the day; I loved running to a fellow bridesmaid’s hotel room and faux freaking out about getting to the wedding on time. I loved being silly and looking at how round our booties were in the mirror once we put on our bridesmaid dresses. I loved taking #selfies and #usies at the reception and chitchatting with the invitees at my table.


IMG_1393.jpg 113w, 768w, 610w" alt="" width="331" height="440" />I’ve known the bride since we were in high school. We interned at the same soul-sucking insurance company for two years and wobbled down Wall Street’s cobbled corners in high heels together. She was also my bridesmaid. And a deft one at that: She played referee when my mom and I went almost to blows on the floors of David’s Bridal when searching for my wedding dress.

In short, when I think of our 20-year friendship and all the various way this woman taught me about the power of family, forgiveness and faith, it was an honor to be one of the chosen ones. As a bridesmaid, I was able to create another memory with my friend and the cost of it, though hefty, was outweighed by the emotional returns of that day.

When the Value Is High but So Is the Cost

I understand my perspective is not the same for everyone. The decision to drop nearly $2,000 — the equivalent of startup funds for an online business, a mortgage payment or two, a used car or the cost of a college course at a local college — requires a lot of financial thinking, analysis and planning, even when you care deeply about the bride and groom. Consider asking yourself the following questions to help you determine whether accepting a role in the wedding party at a far-off destination is really worth it:

    • Will participating in this wedding put me into debt?
    • Can I afford to pay for everything in cash?
    • Have recent or upcoming life events like purchasing a home, a layoff or divorce created financial holes or gaps?
    • Do I consider this person a true friend?
    • Would they do the same for me?
  • Could I recoup the cost in some way? Could it be covered as a business expense? Could I extend my stay so I can have a vacation?

No matter what you decide, when it becomes to being a bridesmaid, your friend — if they are a true friend — will respect your (financial) decision.




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When it comes to your monthly expenses, your energy bills represent a significant outlay. The combined total for your gas and electricity can be sky high, especially if you don’t know how to economise. One of the simplest ways to minimise your expenditure is by becoming more energy efficient. Not only is this beneficial to your bank balance it can also have some huge advantages for the environment and your carbon footprint too. So, how can you cut your costs and your consumption in just a few simple steps? Here are four top tips to help you.


Did you know your choice of lightbulb could help to reduce your energy usage by around 20 percent? It’s true and it’s super easy to do. Changing your 40W lightbulb to a new and improved 8W alternative could cut your costs significantly and it needn’t have any detrimental impact on your aesthetic. Retailers like not only have dozens of different and on-trend options for you to choose from, they also intend to make changing a lightbulb a thing of the past. They have 30,000 different types of lamps and lights, and over 10 years of experience to be sure you get the right bulb for your needs. By offering LED lighting solutions, which have an effective life span 50 times that of a normal filament bulb, they give you the chance to save time, energy and money. All this is easy to find on the website, too: you can filter their ceiling lights page, for example, to show you only lights with a specific wattage or only LED ceiling lights.

Take control of your heating

Once you’ve reviewed your lighting, it’s time to think about the way you heat your home. Lots of people warm rooms that aren’t being used as well as those that are, which this can really add up – especially in winter. That’s why we suggest making sure that each of your radiators has its own thermostat and taking full advantage of this. According to the Energy Saving Trust, turning down the temperature by just one degree could save you around £75 per annum, which you could use for anything you choose: a new pair of shoes, the start of your holiday fund or even a little top-up for your savings account. 

Keep an eye on your energy usage

There are lots of small steps you can take to reduce your energy usage, but we find it’s much easier to stick to these when you can see the difference they’re making. That’s why we recommend getting a smart meter. Most suppliers will be happy to provide you with one and they’re currently working on rolling them out to every home by 2020. These clever devices allow you to monitor exactly how much energy you’re using each day, so you can see what’s costing you the most and where you can cut back.

Compare energy suppliers

Last but not least, we also recommend using a comparison site to see whether you could make any instant savings on your bills. The experts suggest that it takes around 20 minutes to complete this process and that doing so could save you roughly £300 per year, making it a very profitable way to spend your spare time. An Ofgem-recommended site will be your best bet, as these are fully accredited and will have all of the best deals for you to pick between.


What are you waiting for? Follow these four simple steps to cut your costs today.



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Later this month, my wife and I will celebrate our five year anniversary. Which feels like an accomplishment. Not because getting and staying married makes you any specialer than those who ain’t either of those things, but because I think we know each other well enough now to make a pragmatic decision on whether to escape. And there’s been no escaping (yet)!

With this anniversary comes some pressure. Year Five is one of the years that’s recognized by the greeting card industry and shit, so you know it’s a big deal, as what we’re supposed to buy, what we’re supposed to do, which animal we’re supposed to sacrifice, etc., are less questions than commodifiable goods. According to the Internet, there’s a standard gift (wood), a modern gift (silver), a preferred flower (daisies), and a gemstone (turquoise). Which together sounds like we should just buy each other Infinity Gauntlets.


I’m not too worried about that, though. We’ll figure it out, and like with the rest of our marriage, if all else fails, we’ll just eat some zinc pills. What really concerns me—and has concerned me for our entire relationship—is that I still haven’t quite figured out how to address my in-laws, and I feel like I probably should know that by now.

Now, my father-in-law doesn’t live in-state, and I only see him a few times a year, so this isn’t as pertinent with him. But my mother-in-law lives five minutes away. We see each other multiple times a week, and also occasionally correspond through text messages and phone calls. And when any of that happens, the following thing also happens:

***Mother-in-law comes over***

Her: Hello!

Me: Hi! How are you today?

Her: Great! How are you?

Me: I’m splendid!

***I need to call my mother-in-law to confirm what time she’s coming over to babysit***

Her: Hello!

Me: Hey ... I was just calling to confirm the time for tonight.

Her: Does 7 still work?

Me: Yes ma’am. It does. Thank you!

This—the excited greetings without a name or some sort of honorific accompanying them—doesn’t seem to bother her. I doubt she’s even noticed. But, while it doesn’t really bother me either—I’m fine with keeping things as they are—it just seems ... odd. Like this is something I should’ve figured out by now.

As I see it, there are four possible options here:

1. I can call her by her first name, which seems too informal. (And by “too informal” I mean “like some white people shit.”)

2. I can call her Ms. + her last name, which seems too formal.

3. I can call her Ms. + her first name, which feels performative and blaxploitationey.

4. I can call her “Mom,” which, um, no. I just don’t feel comfortable with that.

(Interestingly enough, reason #4 is actually one of the tens of thousands of reasons I neglected to jump in during last month’s “Auntie” wars. I don’t call anyone “Auntie” or “Uncle” except my actual aunts and uncles. And as much as I appreciate and adore my mother-in-law, my mom is dead, and I just can’t call someone else that.)

Now, I imagine many of you are reading this and thinking “Um ... why don’t you just ask her what she’d like to be called?” And yes, that’s the best answer. The smart answer. The adult answer. BUT IT’S BESIDE THE ENTIRE FREAKIN POINT BECAUSE THE SORT OF PERSON WHO HAS SOME MILD ANXIETY ABOUT HOW TO REFER TO A WOMAN HE’S KNOWN FOR SEVEN YEARS IS ALSO THE SAME SORT OF PERSON WHERE “EASY” ANSWERS LIKE “Just, you know, ask her” AIN’T EASY AT ALL! Also, an extensive four-person survey I did on Gchat and Slack 10 minutes before writing this proved that there are at least two other people not sure what to call their mothers-in-law, which officially makes this an epidemic. (For what it’s worth, both of the men I asked are in the same boat as me, while the women were both like “You’re running out of things to write about, aren’t you?” Maybe there’s a there-there.)

Again, though. We seem to have a good system now, so there might not even be a need to change. (And, now that I think about it, I don’t remember her ever calling me “Damon.” Maybe she’s writing a blog about it too.)



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Spoilers for “Pose” follow.

On Tuesday’s (July 9) episode of “Pose”—written by series creators Janet Mock and  Ryan Murphy, who also directed the episode—viewers were confronted with the brutal reality of violence against transgender women. In an interview with Deadline, Mock and Murphy discuss the way that Candy (played by Angelica Ross) died on the show.

“We were quite sure that we didn’t want it to be necessarily anchored around the epidemic of HIV/AIDS at the time,” Mock said. “Instead, we wanted to really concentrate on the epidemic of violence that trans women are facing, not just back then but today. And we wanted to illustrate what loss looks like for this community in a very deep and impactful and grounded way.”

Per the Human Rights Campaign, 13 trans women of color (all but one identified as Black) have been killed so far this year.

“We have this duty and this burden of occupying this space on television which is so accessible to millions of people, that we needed to have our viewers that were watching, who are just being introduced to this world and to these characters, that they need to also feel that loss…someone who was beloved, someone who stole scenes and someone who had these iconic moments on the show. So, because we had all these touchstones with her for 11 episodes prior, we knew she was the right person,” Mock said.

“We spent a lot of time talking about and plotting it out and working with the actors. It’s important to talk about this issue right now in our culture when so many trans women are being killed and they’re headlines. At best, they’re on page 24 in a newspaper and then the next day they’re gone and forgotten,” said Murphy. “We didn’t want to do anything gratuitous. We wanted you to know the characters, we wanted you to be invested in them. Because I feel so many times there is the trope of ‘kill your LGBTQ characters.’ Sometimes as a plot point, as opposed to a character development point.”

Read the full interview here.



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John Singleton passed Monday, April 29, 2019. After suffering a stroke that left him in a coma, his family ultimately decided to take him off life support. To say it was a life gone too soon is an understatement, especially for a figure who has had such a tremendous impact on the black community at large. I grew up in a movie family, so I became an avid watcher from a young age. And as a hip-hop head, I learned a lot, visually, about the worlds I only knew from songs, thanks to John Singleton. To that end, artistically, he is easily one of the most influential artists of my life.


When Boyz n the Hood dropped in 1991, I was 12 years old. Thanks to (and probably unbeknownst to) my older sister, I was already up on NWA and Ice Cube, an early favorite rapper of mine. But listening to those tapes and occasionally seeing music videos (I lived in Frankfurt, Germany, at the time; any videos I saw were on VHS tapes sent from cousins and family members in the States) didn’t expose me to Los Angeles and the South Central Los Angeles I’d heard about in song. Just for the record, I was an extreme L.A. hip-hop head. If it was coming out of L.A., there’s a better than 75 percent chance that I was all over it, even if I didn’t quite realize those were my tastes.

But 12-year-old me didn’t know what L.A. looked like. I didn’t get it. I didn’t truly understand any of the gang culture I’d heard or knew what the streets referenced in songs looked like. I could tell you all about Compton and the police, even though I had absolutely no real-life reference point for what the city looked like. Singleton changed all of that for me. Boyz n the Hood was a look inside South Central. It was a look at the palm trees posing as the backdrop for poverty. It was confusing. How could such a beautiful place be where the rappers said so much bad shit happened?

My first time in Los Angeles was in 2004, and I was mesmerized. I wanted to see if it looked like Poetic Justice. And I wanted to see if the streets looked like they did in Boyz n the Hood, and Baby Boy, one of my absolute faves. Because we watched a lot of movies in my family and because Spike Lee was a looming presence and because so many movies were set in New York City, and Harlem in particular, my vantage point—even if unintentional (I was young)—on most things artistically, especially black, was of New York. The black world of the South I knew because of family, and where I lived largely centered there. Singleton changed all of that. He added a setting to what I thought I knew. I could visualize the world.

I saw black stories I wasn’t familiar with. I saw a world I had heard of but couldn’t place. I saw people living like me but differently. I saw people who, up to that point, were mythical. I knew Southern black life, both city and country. And I vaguely remembered Detroit. But I was in college the first time I ventured up the East Coast and was a graduate of college by the time I saw New York City and Los Angeles in person. But the art I consumed, especially once I was looking for it on purpose, was inspired by those visuals gained as a preteen and teenager.

My favorite thing about art is how it can transport you into places you might not otherwise be able to go. It’s why I’m such an avid reader. My imagination builds landscapes and buildings that house characters. Much of that is inspired by the films I’ve seen. I saw The Color Purple as a child, and Coming to Americathe same. New Jack City, too. But those weren’t worlds that I fit into or even seemed real. Boyz n the Hood and Poetic Justice were worlds not too far removed from me, just as director Doug McHenry’s Jason’s Lyric would be when it showed me the Houston I knew from The Geto Boys.

Boyz n the Hood has been a looming influence on my life ever since I first saw it. I learned about gentrification. Every time I hear The Five Stairsteps’ “O-o-h Child,” I think of Furious Styles and a young Tre in the car. Even though my grandmother lived 10 minutes driving slowly from the campus of Morehouse College and Spelman College, Boyz was the first time the schools were put on my radar. I didn’t even see the campus until I’d already decided to attend, then taken on a tour by my older sister who was living in Atlanta in my grandmother’s old house that same 10-minutes-but-world’s-away distance. Oddly, Boyz drew me to Los Angeles, convincing me that somehow, I was supposed to be from there. Art is funny that way.

When John Singleton passed away, my first thought was about how much his films, the game-changing ones, affected me. Because they did, and their influence has been present ever since. I’ve never lost the feeling of how Boyz made me feel. I’ve written about it several times for that reason. John Singleton influenced my life with his vision and storytelling and desire to spotlight the world he knew. From Boyz to Poetic Justice to Higher Learning and much later to Baby Boy, John Singleton helped me see black life from new and different perspectives, and I’ve been better for it ever since.

John Singleton, you are appreciated. Rest in Power.



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Since November 2018, VSB has teamed with Mahogany Books, an online and brick-and-mortar, black-owned bookstore located in Washington, D.C., to do a monthly book club. On the first Friday of each month, we meet in the bookstore and discuss the book we read for the month in a very casual, entertaining and often enlightening manner.


Here is a list of the books we’ve read so far:

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin; Well-Read Black Girl Anthology, edited by Glory Edim; Heavy by Kiese Laymon; All About Love by bell hooks; Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires; She Begat This: 20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Joan Morgan; and What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young.


Well, I’d like to get us more involved in the book club discussions. Along with the actual in-store discussion, I think we should also do one on the VSB site. Basically, at the beginning of each month, we’ll announce the book here (along with our social media) and then on the first Friday, we’ll do an open thread here on VSB, so folks can discuss the book if they so choose.

With that said, the book for May is Yuval Taylor’s Zora and Langston. Here is the book synopsis from the publisher:

Zora and Langston is the dramatic and moving story of one of the most influential friendships in literature.

They were best friends. They were collaborators, literary gadflies, and champions of the common people. They were the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance. Zora Neale Hurston, the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Langston Hughes, the author of “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “Let America Be America Again,” first met in 1925, at a great gathering of black and white literati, and they fascinated each other. They traveled together in Hurston’s dilapidated car through the rural South collecting folklore, worked on the play Mule Bone, and wrote scores of loving letters. They even had the same patron: Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy white woman who insisted on being called “Godmother.”

Paying them lavishly while trying to control their work, Mason may have been the spark for their bitter and passionate falling-out. Was the split inevitable when Hughes decided to be financially independent of his patron? Was Hurston jealous of the young woman employed as their typist? Or was the rupture over the authorship of Mule Bone? Yuval Taylor answers these questions while illuminating Hurston’s and Hughes’s lives, work, competitiveness, and ambition, uncovering little-known details.

So pick up a copy of the book; it’s available at all booksellers (here’s the link from Mahogany Books). Give it a read and meet us back here on Friday, June 7. If you’re in Washington, D.C., come check us out on June 7 from 6-8 p.m., at Mahogany Books, 1231 Good Hope Road SE. We’ll also livestream the convo via VSB’s Facebook page.



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Last weekend, I was invited to a brunch hosted by Ebele Okobi, who is Facebook’s Head of Public Policy, Africa, and was my de facto tour guide and event planner during my week abroad. There were nine of us there—an African diasporic reunion of black people scattered throughout the globe but settled in London. Among the many conversations we had was a tongue-in-cheek assessment of the variances within the “brands” of racism, which then segued into the ways each country with an African slave-owning history currently reckons with its past. (Brazil pretends it didn’t exist at all, America acknowledges its existence but denies the existence of any sort of foundational residue from it, etc.)


And, well, I’m embarrassed to admit that it was here that I learned, for the first time, of the Congolese genocide, where up to 10 million people were killed during Leopold II’s 23-year-long rule of the Congo Free State, and countless others were systematically raped, tortured, dismembered and displaced.


Perhaps I was taught this in some history class decades ago and just forgot. Either way, that was the most American I felt in my time there.

This sort of cruelty that people with power exhibited towards vulnerable people—a process equal parts systematic, structural, intentional and gleeful—existed wherever colonization did, and still does today. It is not a uniquelyAmerican trait. But it is an American trait, more essential to our construction and our collective zeitgeist than Babe Ruth. There have been stretches in American history, of course, when the central driving force behind legislation and policy and law have been more empathetic and less antagonistic. But in the span of our history, these moments are outliers. Perhaps even anomalies. If America was honest about who and what it is, we’d sell the snapshots and postcards of the men and women smiling during lynchings at the Cheesecake Factory.

I am reminded of this history this week, as the state of Alabama passed a set of abortion-related measures and restrictions that would seem to be pointless (“Why would they do this?” an otherwise sane person might ask) if you hadn’t yet realized that the punishment is the point. This isn’t about preserving “life.” They—the governor who signed this bill, the legislators who created it, the people who voted for them, and the governors, legislators and constituents in each state where similar laws are being drafted up—just want to enact pain. They want to punish women. For possessing sexual agency. For wanting bodily autonomy. For enjoying sex. For not having babies. For having babies. For not possessing what they believe to be the birthright privileges of whiteness and maleness. It’s petty. It’s punitive. It’s vindictive. They want women—particularly women who are black or brown and/or poor—to suffer.

The silver lining here is that this realization can and should be freeing—as any compulsion to compromise, to “reach across the aisle,” to build a bridge, to extend an olive branch, or to find common ground should be set ablaze and stuffed into a cashew-shaped canoe.

You can’t sway a sadist when your pain is their greatest pleasure. You just build more canoes.



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I recently took a trip down to Atlanta for my niece’s high school graduation. Despite the amount of Red Bull I consume (does anybody else think the only reason flavored Red Bull exists is to mix with vodka?), I do not have wings. So I had to fly. There are times when I fly that I’ll spring for an upgrade to either first class if it’s not too, too expensive or just to move up in boarding so I can ensure my bag makes it into overhead cabin space. This time, however, I took whatever the airline gave me, and boy did Delta show its ass.

For one, Delta has done away with boarding zone numbers in favor of a more word-dependent system but in proving that the airline doesn’t keep up with social media or black people, the last zone to board is now called “Basic.” And really, calling it a zone is unfair; this is the point in boarding when the folks at the counter just say “anybody else waiting around who thinks they’re getting on this flight, you can board now.” On my flight to Atlanta, Delta didn’t even say that as apparently the “Basic” zone only included myself and another person, so they actually called our names over the loudspeaker like we had gotten lost in the airport or something. Do better Delta.


Well, buying a “Basic” ticket pretty much put me into a seat towards the back of the plane. And you know what that means. It means I got to sit with the folks who could afford a plane ticket, but also think that they should be able to afford a more expensive plane ticket or an upgrade, so their behavior comports to that fantasy as opposed to the reality of sitting in seat 39B. This creates an unintentionally funny social experiment of annoying people. You know the type—the kind who sit in standstill traffic and honk their horn because if the cars around them would JUST MOVE they’d be able to go about their day just fine. People are dumb. And all of those people are on airplanes, naturally. Here are five of the most ridiculous of them.

1. The person in the last row who somehow decides that as soon as the plane stops they should grab their shit and try to run down the aisle to get as close to the front as possible.

If this is you, stop it. You’re not getting more than two rows ahead and you’re fucking up the feng shui and flow of deboarding traffic. Because if you’re going to do THAT, then you’re definitely going to try to squeeze past others while they grab their bags and not say excuse me, as you fuck up everybody else’s deboarding process.

2. The person who is in row 21 but had to put their bag in the overhead above row 27 but thinks that the whole-ass plane should wait for them to get their bag before row 22 up and gets off the plane.

I saw this yesterday. A woman literally stood in the aisle asking people six rows back to get her bag out of the overhead compartment and pass it down as opposed to waiting like she ended up HAVING to do. Just stop it.

3. The people in the window seats in any rows behind say 10 in coach, who are trying to stretch out and inch closer to the aisle that’s being blocked by, well the people closest to the aisle.

Stop touching me.

4. The folks who try to get out into the aisle for no good reason because they can’t go nowhere and obstruct the people trying to get their bags out because it’s their turn to actually get off the plane.

I realize this whole ridiculous list includes the built-in notion that there is order to getting off a plane. Some of you don’t believe this. Some of you believe you if you can beat the system, then you should beat the system. In very rare instances the system is beatable on a packed plane. But mostly, you are just like the rest of us who ain’t first-class mofos who will need to patiently and chillfully wait to get the fuck up off the plane. Eckspecially if your ass is in the “economy coach” class rows above 30. It’s gon’ be a minute, buddy. Let the folks get their bags, my G.

5. The people in middle or window seats who ask you to get their roller bags from the overhead compartment and pass it to them taking up valuable real estate as they open it up and check to make sure all the shit that was in there when they put it in the overhead space is still there EVEN though literally nobody could have stuck them for their paper without them knowing.

I hate you people. Just perish. Panama says just perish.


On my flight to Atlanta, I was in row 35 and had the aisle seat. I was sitting next to two chaps with an affinity for flying planes who spent THE FIRST HOUR of an hour-and-a-half flight talking about famous plane crashes. Bruuuuuuuuh.



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“You’re so different. You’re so articulate. Why do you talk like a white girl? You’re the whitest black girl I know.”

Comments like these beg the question: What makes you black? Is it merely the color of one’s skin? Is it a state of mind? Knowing the lyrics to Cardi B’s songs?


It took me a while to embrace that my blackness was not the stereotype others believed.

In some ways, I am different. I was lucky to be raised in a household where I received all that I needed, with some of what I wanted. My parents encouraged me to spread my wings and move from my native New York to Miami for a job as a prosecutor. Being a black prosecutor was isolating, but I found others like me midway through my career.

I lived in a weird juxtaposition—I was a black female attorney, holding down a teaching job on the side, which allowed me some luxuries in life like a nicer car and the ability to travel. I never took it for granted; but in certain circles, I got pushback.

The message? That I “don’t know the struggle.”

Every black person’s struggle takes a different path but has the same theme. In my legal career, the struggle is respect, being heard, and having the ability to make meaningful change to uplift communities of color. The bias looks the same—while some people of color may be hesitant to embrace you because you’re perceived as “bougie,” certain white folks marvel that you can afford a luxury purse or a high-end foreign car without being tied to illegal activity. I was once at an event when a judge joked to me whether or not my Michael Kors purse was a result of dropping cases as a prosecutor.

No lie.

In doing community work, I often had to work harder to gain the credibility of my fellow people of color because I just seemed “so different.” One day, I was picking up a friend who lived in a poorer area of the city. She sent a young niece to let me know she was running late. I told her no problem. The niece went back to my friend and said, “why does she talk like that?”

“Like what, Sweetie?”

“Like a white girl”

I never was great at the code switch—I just was always me. Besides, I had no code to switch from. The result was working doubly hard in every environment.

Finally, I just stopped.

I always bristle when someone says “well s/he’s black, but you know, not really” or “s/he is the whitest black person I know.” Often this is said by a white person, possibly thinking it’s some sort of compliment, along the same lines of “you’re just so articulate.”

Really? How is that? Because the person doesn’t fit some sort of stereotype? Speak in a certain way? Throw the black power fist in the air for your entertainment?

To me, it’s not just about knowing pop culture or the latest urban wear designer. It’s knowing your history and being authentic to your roots. I’m an African-American woman, born of two immigrant Caribbean parents. If you really want to get down to it—Afro-Caribbean-American. I wear my hair in dreadlocks as a nod to the natural beauty of my own hair texture, not what Hollywood or someone else says is beauty. I can recite every Public Enemy song, but not so much for hip-hop past the year 2000 (I feel the message has been lost—with a few exceptions). I serve my community and humanity at large to the best of my ability. I fight injustice where I can. I see my dark complexion in the mirror and feel proud, strong and beautiful. Being African American presents challenges because of the ignorance of some, but I was given the tools at birth to be a warrior for positive change.

I’m in a place where I believe that the work I do daily reflects my authenticity. The work of fighting for racial equality is too important to get caught up in how I look or sound to others.

This is me.

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My daughter is now 10 years old. This means in eight years she’ll be off to Spelman College in Atlanta to become the best she can be at the best HBCU in the country. I remember announcing on this here website that her mother was pregnant. Oh, how time flies. While my daughter can go wherever she wants—and I will be fine with whatever she decides to do with her life as long as it’s what she wants to do—if you ask her right now, she’ll tell you Spelman. Look at gawd.

This means I need to make her HBCU-ready. Or at least make sure she ain’t like waaaaaay too many folks I know who went to HBCUs who weren’t up on various parts of the game. It was quite illuminating. One thing that I learned at Morehouse College is that even though it’s a black school, so many of our experiences were vastly different. I know we are not a monolith but you’d think some things translated across the African-American diaspora. Well, since I’ve found that to be untrue, I will ensure that my children are prepared to not be outsiders to any of the more standard facets of black culture so that there will be no blackness shaming up in nobody’s dorm as niggas break out the decks of cards. Here are seven black-ass things I will make sure my chirrens are up on.


1. How to play Spades

My kids will not be the ones who don’t know how to count books or even understand how the game is played. They will know how to play Joker-Joker-Deuce-Deuce, know proper Card Slap Etiquette and how to score. Basically, one weekend a month, my home will be a Spades camp. Feel free to send your kids if you don’t know how to play. I will accept cash or money orders and I’m not going back and forth with you niggas about it. Also, Uno.

2. How to do the Electric Slide

At no point will they be outsiders at weddings, funerals, cookouts, family reunions or random warm, sunny days on the yard. Where there are two or more gathered in the name of blackness, a line dance is threatening to break out.

3. The significance of Frankie Beverly & Maze’s “Before I Let Go”

Black staple. Call it the Urban Swingline. See what I did there? My chirrens will know how to bust out the Electric Slide to this song AND KNOW this means its time to go at the club, or it’s time to really enjoy yourself at the cookout. But most importantly, they will know the best time to unleash the song. Dracarys! Do you see what I did there?

4. Cameo’s “Candy” for the same reason as “Before I Let Go”

And because Beyoncé really does care about the people, she put them both together in one song so everybody can win at the same damn time. By the time my kids are in college, presumably at HBCUs, I believe Bey’s version will be the pre-eminent version.

5. At least the whole first verse to “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”

I know maybe one person who knows the entire second and third verses of this song. Most of us just hum. But anybody making you sing past the first verse is a masochist anyway, so as long as they have the first verse down we Gucci and I’ve done my job.

6. The black classic movies

Brown Sugar, Coming to America, The Color Purple, Love Jones, Love & Basketball, The Best Man, Boomerang, Boyz N The Hood ... I could keep going. There will be watch sessions of them all. Multiple times. Won’t be nobody talking about, “YOU HAVEN’T SEEN LOVE JONES!” to my kids. No siree, Bob.

7. The Autobiography of Malcolm X

This will happen. Because it must happen. Because it will always be one of the most important books ever. They will also read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and pretty much as many of the books on my black shelves as possible.

I know there are as many different ways to be black as there are black people on the planet. But my kids won’t be deficient in any of the aforementioned ways dammit.



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