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FIERCE

Just a Soul…

Boy …

In the wake of the murder of Alston Sterling and not even a full 24 hours later Philando Castille, the world is shook. Oh, no, that’s wrong. Black America is shook and no one else seems to understand why. The same sympathies and support that were given to the victims in the devastating tragedy tragedy in Orlando, Florida are little to none in the case  of our Black men, our Black boys.

It hurts and irritates the hell out of my soul knowing that the country that my little brother is out here protecting, won’t protect him when he comes back dressed in regular civilian clothes. I look at my baby brother who is only eight and doesn’t even understand the target he has on his back. I think of my own father and what I would do (not what I might do) if he was laid there out in the street, body not even cold before I have to start hearing some made up bullshit about how he lived his life.

My mother when she’d come home from work after a long day, she’d say, “I’m tired. And I’m tired of being tired.” She’d laugh then, with her high pitched chuckle I often miss. But we’re not laughing. And we really are sick and tired of seeing our people lay slaughtered in streets without any regards to the life that they lived and could have lived.

I’ve been up half the night because I haven’t been able to sleep. I’m tired. I’m afraid. I’m disgusted. I’m mad as hell. I’m confused and don’t what to do. What can I do?

I can write. I can use my voice.

This here poem is something that I’ve been working on for almost five years, very well not be completely finished. But I feel the need to share. Inspired by Jamaica Kincaid and the countless of lives being taken away from here far too soon (Tamir Rice just missed his 14th birthday!). I don’t have children, so I can only imagine the instruction that a mother today gives her Black son. I imagine that the discipline and guidance she gives may seem overbearing, overprotective and erratic but only because of her underlying fear of one day seeing her black boy in the street. The question I ask is, how do you talk to your young boys about the value of life, when their’s gets taken away?

***

Iron your clothes Sunday night;  brush yo teeth before going to school; don’t be talking to no teachers with no stank breath; this is how you keep a nice and sharp crease in your pants; a balanced breakfast is the most important meal of the day; be careful not to spill any orange juice on yo clothes; don’t you go out there giving these people any reason to look at you differently; I heard you been trying to skip school with that boy from across the street; this is how ya walk with dignity; I hope you not out here skipping school; don’t look so menacing; stay away from some of these females; but I don’t be skippin school; keep that beautiful smile on your face; I ain’t one of ya lil friends; be careful how you look at these people; this how you tie a tie appropriately and so prevents you on the thug you trying to be; where are yo books; I wish I could of taught you how to fish; don’t you be talking back to no one; I love you; read those books yo daddy gave you; don’t be bringing no babies up in this house; don’t be smack talking none of these people and maybe they won’t see the thug that you think you are; don’t be out at all hours of the night; go out and find yourself a nice decent job and don’t be out here on these streets; keep these dishes and this house cleaned; if you just got to be out – yo curfew is 9:00 pm; do you know how to fish; when taking out the garbage make sure you don’t arch your back; don’t lose your temper around these people; you sound like your father; don’t give these people no attitude; your voice so deep and heavy; don’t speak so loud; listen closely to those of your elders and to these people; you don’t know everything; some things in this world just don’t make sense; you think you all that with that basketball, huh; don’t be so money-hungry; idle hands are the devil’s background; don’t be in such a hurry to understand these people; they barely understand themselves;  don’t be a walking contradiction; your eyes are always full of such wonder of this world;  don’t keep your hands in your pockets for too long while talking to these people out here; turn down that riff-raff you call music giving these people a reason to pull you over;  you so damn beautiful boy; don’t be out here staring these people down; I heard you bought a gun; pull up your pants and tuck in your shirt; keep yo hands where their eyes can see that you are a young boy and not the thug they believe you to be; be honest; keep your fists unclenched being careful about how you defend yourself because these people are quick to see you as the aggressor; having a gun will make you the thug I have instructed you not to be; no, you cannot go over yo lil friend’s house, the people always up over there; you gotta stay out of places like that; these people always disrespecting us; don’t let petty things get you so riled up; I see it in your eyes the thug you are soon to become; don’t walk too quickly in neighborhoods where there’s not a lot of us; what you doing giving these people reason to treat you like the thug I’ve instructed you not to be; what if I stand up for myself and demand the respect I deserve; you mean after all I’ve told you, you’re still going to end up murdered by these people like your father?

What I Know Now 

God’s people are more uniformly and constantly blessed, even in their worldly affairs, than others and they do not come into poverty or want. This does not mean go and live life recklessly or difficult situations will not arise. It simply means you will not be abandoned. You will not be without. You’ll always be covered by God’s grace. In return, we have to know that our problems are finite, but our God is infinite. 
God got my back. I’m gon be alright. 
JC

When Your Kobe Year, Ain’t So Kobe

I can’t believe it. Another year is almost gone. 2016 is already peaking behind the shadows, ready to make its grand entrance. Time for everyone to start their New Year resolutions (some of them being from the ones they didn’t finish this year). It’s time for everyone to start doing that thing where they announce that it’s time to cut some people off because “it’s just going to be them in [enter year here]”. I’ve already seen a couple posts talking about new year, new me.

It’s time for people to start reflecting on how great the year has been to them. Well, I don’t make New Year resolutions. I don’t make intend to cut anybody off in the near future. I definitely can’t reflect on how good 2015 has been to me.

I’m tired. I’m dog tired of pretending to everyone (my family, my friends, co-workers) that I’m fine. I’m not fine and everything is not going great. This year, I have been depressed. I’ve tried to hide it from everyone that cares for me. I was afraid to tell anyone because I feared what people would say.

I’ve been living 2015 in so much fear. I took a few chances but all those chances had negative effects. Twenty-four was anything but my Kobe year. I’ve been heartbroken, I’ve gotten into an accident (less than a week of getting my new car), the damages and insurance are about to drain my already thirsty pockets, I’m living with my parents (under their Wi-Fi as I write this), still abiding by their rules.

My best friend is miles away from me and it sucks I can only talk to her through the screen on my phone. I have two half-finished novels sitting on my desktop because I’m afraid that by finishing them means I have to turn them in. By turning them in, that means I have to mentally prepare myself for a rejection that may or may not come. If I’ve ever talked to one of you long enough or you know me well, then you know rejection gets very hard for me.

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I’ve doubted my purpose so long this year. I’ve not touched my laptop since May. Call it writer’s block if you want, but it’s been hard for me. I’ve been living in a huge slump. This year has not been LIT.

I’ve been living to paycheck to paycheck. I save a little bit, but  when things need to be taken care of, it needs to be taken care of. (Bills were something created by the Devil himself to reassure we don’t get to far ahead, or what that the government?)

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I have to make sure everything and everyone else is good first. But I’ve not been taking care of myself. I haven’t made time for myself. I honestly don’t know where DayJonnae is.
I’m trying to find her. I’m have to find the me I used to be. The me that at one point I was in love with and not this shell of a human being that I’ve become. I’m not happy with myself and I’m trying to get to happy. That starts now. I’m done with trying to please people if that means putting myself last.

I care for everyone around me and I would put my life for every single one of them multiple times if I could, that won’t ever stop. But I can’t keep telling you all that I love you, if I don’t love myself, and I need so strongly to get back to that.
That’s why I cut my hair a few weeks ago. Symbolically (and literally) I’m starting all over. My best friend has been asking me for weeks why. Well now you have your answer Shawnique. With each section that I cut I was attempting to cut off a layer of fear. (Cutting my hair was just something I would have never done.)
I do love the new look. I am hoping to love the inner look too. Hope you all do too.

If you rocked with me throughout this post, and understood where I was coming from (because I don’t want it to look like I was complaining), then thanks for listening.

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Peace & Blessings,

Jonnae Chantele
Live Abundantly,
Laugh Some More &
Love w/All Your Heart
(AND MEAN IT TO YOU & YOURSELF)

Spotlight: Kelah McKee is Polishing Some Bricks

Kelah McKee (Photo Credit: http://www.facebook.com/polishedbricks)

A college junior, an entrepreneur, and creator and founder of her own non-profit organization at 19 years young is definitely a feat. But for this young lady, it is just the beginning.

Majoring in communication with emphasis in Public Relations and a minor in African American studies, Kelah Chanice McKee has a bright future ahead of her, with aspirations to become an advice columnist for Essence magazine and turning her non-profit organization, PolishedBricks into a Fortune 500 company.
PolishedBricks is an exclusive platform that gives African Americans the opportunity to share their stories, highlight the work being done in their communities and provides an overall positive light on the lives of African American.
When asked how PolishedBricks came to be Ms. McKee remembers being asked a simple question, one that made her think clearly about what direction she wanted to go with her life.
“On July 18th, 2014, I asked myself how I was being accredit to my race and [that is when] I found that African Americans needed to be heard and showed in a positive light,” McKee said.
“PolishedBricks is targeted towards African Americans who have an interest in building the African American community in a positive way by sharing the stories, networking to work with one another, and [being] heard,” she said.
In creating this type of space it was important to McKee that the organization be exclusive to African Americans. “Many organizations are diverse, but their primary focus is to incorporate all races,” she said, “[and often times] the needs of African Americans [are left hanging in the balance].”

Polished Bricks Logo  (Photo Credit: www.facebook.com/polishedbricks)
Polished Bricks Logo
(Photo Credit: http://www.facebook.com/polishedbricks)

As for the name she credits a friend for giving her the idea. “A friend took a picture of me behind a brick building and [ever since then] I have been fascinated by the solid foundation that it gives,” she said. “Finally, I figured that if anyone could make a brick shine, it was [the individual] themselves.”
Mckee plans to continue the evolving of PolishedBricks and hopes to see many African Americans share their “bricks” with the world. She’s also expecting PolishedBricks to spread throughout the United Sates.
Accomplishing so many things at such a young age, she remains humble by divine power as well the obstacles that strengthen her and gives her the authority to walk through doors unbothered.
“I would like to thank the Heavenly Father up above for allowing me to do all things under his rule. Secondly, I would like thank the experiences that showed me I could grow beyond my comfort zone.”
However, it is a dear family member that she holds dear to her heart. “I thank my Aunt Alice for believ[ing] in me, even when I was of broken faith. [I also thank] the African American community [at my university], who inspires me to see beyond the media’s view of us and the ones who have a passion about building the African American community.”
Anyone wanting to share their experiences or ‘polished bricks’ can contact Kelah McKee by email at polishedb@gmail.com or polishedbricks.com. Also, like her facebook page: PolishedBricks.
Keep polishing those bricks and stay FIERCE!

Why I Dropped Everything And Started Teaching Kendrick Lamar’s New Album

Dope!

Brian Mooney

When Kendrick Lamar released his sophomore album, To Pimp A Butterfly (2015), I was in the middle of teaching a unit on Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye (1970). My freshmen students were grappling with some big ideas and some really complex language. Framing the unit as an “Anti-Oppression” study, we took special efforts to define and explore the kinds of institutional and internalized racism that manifest in the lives of Morrison’s African-American characters, particularly the 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove and her mother, Pauline. We posed questions about oppression and the media – and after looking at the Dick & Jane primers that serve as precursors to each chapter, considered the influence of a “master narrative” that always privileges whiteness.

Set in the 1940s, the Breedlove family lives in poverty. Their only escape is the silver screen, a place where they idolize the glamorous stars of the film industry. Given the historical context…

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2015 Black Girls Rock Re-Cap: My Top 5 Favorite Moments

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The 2015 Black Girls Rock! annual ceremony commemorating women of color premiered last night (April 5) and proved once again why such a platform is important and so necessary. From our ever so gorgeous FLOTUS declaring that Black women rock to Mother Cicely Tyson planting seeds of wisdom to everyone in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and to those, like myself, who watched at home.

It’s a change of scene. On this night we see the movers and shakers that are really rocking the boat, the women that constantly run under the radar. For about two hours, the negative stereotypes being portrayed about Black women take a backseat and you see the Black women who are full of strength, hope, love, vulnerability, FIERCEness and just all around happiness.

Black Girls’ Rock isn’t just a show. It really is a movement, and it’s helping young sistahs come to realize nothing is impossible. The word itself says, I’m possible. The message that Beverly Bond spreads with this organization is the reason why I will forever support and declare that Black Girls Rock!

Last night was indeed a game changer for me, here are my top five reasons why:

  1. Black Love Still Reigns

“Black women ‘go hard’ for the Black man. But do they do the same for us?” YES! YES, THEY DO! The one and only Fresh Prince presented his wife of 20 years with the Star Power award. Will Smith officially smashed all rumors about the couple getting divorced saying, he couldn’t imagine a life without her. Reflecting on their relationship, he not only let the world know he encourages her dreams and ambitions but wouldn’t want it any other way, “For living your dreams, out loud, baby, for modeling an alternative way of being in the world, I present to you, along with BET, the Black Girls Star Power Award. Baby, come and get it!”

It was a beautiful declaration of love, respect and humility. Black Girls Rock!, but so does Black Love.

  1. Erykah Badu Gave Us Life

Ms. Badu, goddess of all things light, love, and groovy vibes, blessed everyone with her presence as she was awarded the RockStar Award, presented by none other than The Electric Lady herself, Janelle Monae. Dedicating the award to her five mothers: her mother Queenie, grandmothers Viola and Thelma, godmother Gwen and Mother Nature she gave “little Black girls all over the world” some very intuitive wisdom of her own. “The thing that keeps us going is our vitality,” the 44- year old songstress said. She also admitted that she has five doctors that she sees on a regular.

Dr. Sun – Makes sure you get the necessary vitamins your body needs

Dr. Nutrition – Makes sure that the vital body is clean and healthy, “performing to its highest ability”

Dr. Exercise – At least 15 minutes a day

Dr. Spirit – Makes certain that we are communicating with the highest part of ourselves

Dr. You – Makes certain that YOU are taking care of YOU

Later that evening, the songbird rocked the crowd with a beautiful performance of “Soldier” and “Master Teacher” proving to everyone in the room why she was much deserving of the award.

  1. We Are Conquerors

Estelle gave an outstanding performance of “Conqueror”, off her latest album True Romance. It was a great choice, as she sang the inspirational song with her impressive vocal skills. Representing the resiliency of Black women with lyrics like, “We all make mistakes/we may fall on our face/but don’t ever give up,” she stole the show declaring that she is a conqueror. Her performance along with the words to listen to was definitely one of the most memorable moments of the night.

  1. Lights, Camera & Action

Ava DuVernay, director of the Academy nominated film Selma, accepted the ShotCaller’s Award, and she did something tremendously beautiful with it. “I really feel strongly that you don’t have to be actress or director or singer or famous to be a star. You can be a star in our own eyes my sisters, right where you are,” DuVernay said.

She also gave acknowledgement to the many Black women filmmakers that have not only been trailblazers in her own life but don’t get the appreciation they deserve. “The films that [filmmakers] make for you, the stories that we make for you, they’re truly for you,” the director said. Due to time restrictions all the filmmakers that the inspiring director named were not added to the final production of the show for Sunday, night, but on her Twitter (@AVAETC) she made sure to acknowledge all of those trailblazers.

Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
Twitter: Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC)
  1. Queen Floetic & T-Murda Killed It!
Queen Floetic (@ReginaKing)   & T-Murda (@TraceeEllisRoss)  take the BET Black Girls Rock Stage. (Photo Courtesty of BET.com)
Queen Floetic (@ReginaKing)
& T-Murda (@TraceeEllisRoss)
take the BET Black Girls Rock Stage. (Photo Courtesy: BET.com)

As always the incomparable Regina King and Tracee Ellis Ross were amazing as hosts. However, this time, the duo took a break from their hosting duties to allow a couple of new artists a time to shine.

Queen Floetic (an alter ego of Regina King) and T-Murda (a hilarious alter-ego of Tracee Ellis Ross, who is the genius behind decoding some of Young Thug’s lyrics) for the first time took the Black Girls Rock stage. They moved the audience with lines like, “Don’t be fooled/Black girls are precious jewels/Don’t take our kindness for weakness/You can’t just come through and freak this,” from Queen Floetic. Even T-Murda, who was slightly nervous, dropped some #BARS for us. “Bright, gifted, beautiful, there’s nobody cleaner/Black girls smashing Hollywood like Venus and Serena.”

The only question you can really ask after their performance is: When that mixtape dropping doe?

Bonus*** My Sisters Are Black Girls Who Rock Too!! ***Bonus

My Group of Sistahs & their Choreographer.  (Sistahs N Christ.) jonnaechantele photography
My Group of Sistahs & their Choreographer.
(Sistahs N Christ.)
jonnaechantele photography

This year, I watched the show with my three sisters, cousins and my step-mom. We “oohed” and “awe’d” all night long, trying not to shed a tear. As I watched Change Agent award winner, Nadia Lopez, ask the question, “What are you doing with God’s gift,” and Michelle Obama tell us we are beautiful, I looked at the expressions on my siblings’ and cousins’ faces. I saw expressions of joy and hope, and I smiled when they said, “Don’t worry y’all. We are going to be up [on the Black Girls Rock! Stage] too.”

Keep an eye out Beverly Bond.

What were your favorite moments of the night? Let me know in the comments!!!

Re-Cap: 2012 Black Girls Rock — My Top 5 Favorite Moments

Black. Girls. Rock.

If you missed the premiere of BET‘s 2012 Black Girl’s Rock, you missed out big time.

From Alicia Key’s opening of the Top 10 Billboard hit, Girl on Fire to the SWV’s old school medley, I couldn’t help but be glad that I am a black girl that rocks! Here are five of the most memorable moments of the night.

  1. For the first time, men took the Black Girls Rock stage to show that they appreciate the presence and the power of women.

Thunderous applause roared throughout the Paradise Theater as everyone’s favorite British, Emmy award-winner, Idris Elba declared his support for all black girls around the world. “I’m thrilled to be here to pay tribute to your brilliance, beauty and fortitude,” the actor said. He introduced Luke James, Anthony Hamilton, and Eric Benet who serenaded all women with the rendition of Wildflower the ‘70s-era band New Birth. With the way they sang, I would say they have an extended invitation to come back.

luke james

  1. The living legend award this year went to the original R&B diva, Dionne Warwick.

Despite the death of her cousin, Whitney Houston, earlier this year, Warwick was in high spirits as she delivered an uplifting message to the women all around the world. She was thrilled that she is considered a role model for both new and old musicians alike, but the bottom line is she’s still a work in progress. “I am a legend in the making,” she said. My favorite part, just before she left the mic, her award in tow, “I am no longer a girl, I’m a woman. Not only do black girls rock, but black women rock, too,” she declared.

  1. Former editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine (1981-2000), writer, and journalist Susan Taylor was awarded the Inspiration Award.

“Lips aren’t enough, hands that serve are holier than lips that pray.”

Being awarded the Inspiration award she didn’t fail to make everyone, including me, light up inside and say, ‘I’m proud to be a black girl.’ She let everyone know that the night was to celebrate the divine feminine of who we are. “It’s a privilege to be black and a female in the now time. When you and we can choose to live our lives through the authority of our own soul,” she proclaimed proudly. She challenged everyone in the room to get involved in mentoring (someone). “Let us not fail our children, the vulnerable ones that are hoping that we awaken…we are (National Cares Mentoring Movement) only asking that you give one hour a week of your time to save a life. They Holy Spirit is asking more than just say the word…Lips aren’t enough, hands that serve are holier than lips that pray.”

  1. Janelle Monae sheds tears as she accepts the Young, Gifted, and Black award

The Grammy-nominated musician thanked BET for honoring her, and then she honored her own parents. “My mother was a proud janitor, my stepfather who raised me like his very own, worked at the post office, and my father was a trash man. They all wore uniforms and that’s why I stand here today in my black and white (her signature look) and I wear my uniform to honor them.”

  1. The witty, sexy combination of hosts: Regina King and Tracee Ellis Ross

Last, but certainly not least, the witty, talented actresses Tracee Ellis Ross and Regina King returned to the Black Girls Rock stage as they shared laughs, and words of encouragement to everyone at Paradise Theater in the Bronx and everyone at home watching. These two women really rocked us out of seats!

it was a great time for Black women. What were your favorite moments for the 2012 Black Girls Rock Awards Show?

Being Black: Knowing Beauty

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Photo Credit: Jonnae Chantele (Me!)

I dig the skin I’m in. I love how my face glistens when I wash my face. I love how (some days) I wake up and feel like I don’t need make-up on to enhance my beauty. I love my wide nose, and high cheek bones. The melanin that runs through my veins gives me the confidence to walk with my head held high, gradually proving to everyone just how ba-ad* I am and cannot be limited to the negative portrayals of me on a daily basis.

I enjoy seeing my brothers and sisters, all shades of brown, walk with such pride as they come to realize who they are, whose they are, and where they are going. I love the resiliency of my people. I can see the impact we have (and are having) on the world. We have the most emulated culture there is (I don’t have to prove this**, history does).

We are creative. We are talented. (And no we aren’t just athletes, singers and dancers, though we exceed greatly at each of these.) We are innovators. We are the matriarchs and the patriarchs of our households. We are royalty, Kings & Queens, as one of my dear friends says.

When we learn our history, when we find out things about ourselves that we didn’t know before, we begin to act accordingly. When we begin to see how rich our culture is, we can’t help look in the mirror and see that in our own selves.

Speak with some authority. Speak as if all that you want to accomplish is already written out in plain view…because it is.

My Black skin is what give me the confidence to go after opportunities that I know I deserve just as much as my White counterparts. That light shines within me because I have firm knowledge of who I come from and my purpose while I’m here on this beautiful earth.

“I Am Black

I Am Beautiful…

& Even in My Errors

I Am Hip”

– Nikki Giovanni

*Ba-ad: (adj.) as in being hella dope, not just good, but great; FIERCE

**At a later date, I will be, what some say, “dropping that knowledge” on that history/herstory.

Live Abudantly,

Laugh Some More & (if You Can Stand It…)

Love With ALL of Your Heart

 

 

What Worries Me

While we’re out worrying about

finding jobs

keeping jobs

getting paid

paying bills

phones

(which takes up most of our lives; causing us to be less and less interested in human interaction)

the accruing interest of student loans

(for some of us)

what men want

what women want

what our children want

the business

of celebrities

the business

of social media

(honestly no one cares about your invented relationship goals/what i should or should not do with a partner/that so and so are no longer together or are they?/or that you just saved a million dollars on your car insurance by switching to Geico)

an unrequited love

thoughts that won’t go away of

feeling inadequate

faking it until i make it

(when i’m not even sure if i’m going to make it

whatever “it” is)

someone misunderstanding

my intentions

(when i plead with queen nina and sing “please don’t let me be misunderstood, no one can always be an angel”)

we are inevitably abandoning

so many blessings

that have come our way—

completely missing opportunities–

because we were too busy

worrying about things

out

of

our

control.

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