The Based Gods of Black Internets Have Give You The Obama Mixtape You Ain’t Even Know You Needed

I know, my ass has been ghost and MIA like I owe y’all tax money and I’m going to address that at some point before the end of 2015, BUT, until then, I’m going to give you this sonic ambrosia that the trap gods have whipped up in the basement.

Just in case you missed it, Obama just broke code and came for Ben Carson and his crew for “popping off” at the mouth about things like foreign policy and being some hating ass haters. I direct you to the geniuses over at Very Smart Brothas for their analysis and take on the whole thing.

But because Black people with a Wi-Fi connection have absolutely no motherfucking chill, there’s a song. With a catchy beat that’s going to make you hate yourself for liking it. And they put that picture of Obama with the tucked-in sweats next to it, because favor ain’t fair, beloveds.

obama basketball

Don’t hurt ’em Barry.

We Owe “Scary Spice” An Apology

Originally published on Medium in the Human Parts Collection. It was also listed in Dazed Magazine’s “Best of The Web” the week that it was published. 

mel b

Lately, I’ve been in my Black Girl Hair feelings. It’s winter and I’ve been travelling up and down the East Coast, so I’m spending more time in beauty salons, straightening it so that I don’t have wash it and risk pneumonia while it air dries (into curlsicles). But really, there’s never not a time that Black Girl Hair isn’t in my feelings. Solange’s wedding photos had every Black girl in the world — me included — feeling some kind of way. And as I finish testing over 15 products for an article about affordable hair care products for women of color in Paris, I’m being confronted with the global issues of how little Black hair is considered, much less, the possibility that it’s beautiful.

Of course, there are those comments to think about. The comments about Zendaya’s hair. The sound bites: weed. Patchouli. Dreads. Deeply rooted in anti-Blackness, the subtext of these remarks “dirty,” “undesirable,” and “unworthy.” Hair that is so unabashedly Black that it cannot be fantasied into racial ambiguity or “otherness” and thus, must be dealt with severely for its inability to amuse and/or be exoticized. Coiled dreads that are so unabashedly Black that Zendaya — who months ago many claimed she was not Black enough to play Aaliyah — is now so Black that she reeks of weed and patchouli through the television screen.

All of this talk has me thinking about Melanie “Scary Spice” Brown. For me, she was the first Black woman who wore curls and wore them proudly, the first I could identify with. And I think of her when White women say they are excluded from the natural hair movement, the new focus on curly hair in beauty products that hesitates to mention that aforementioned movement for fear of associating with Blackness. And in 2015, where a Black woman’s hair on the red carpet is evocative of deviant behavior, it’s worth collectively examining how we consider Blackness in its follicle form and the pathological fears and stereotypes that those follicles are wrapped in for mainstream consumption.

Nearly 20 years later, I still can’t get over the fact that we thought it was okay to call a brown girl with beautiful curls “Scary.” I can’t believe that we’re still using that name for her in headlines. Sure, she uses it herself in her Twitter profile — but as a public figure who uses name recognition as part of her brand, does she have much agency in the matter? That nickname is awful, erroneous, and racist. Why was Melanie scary? Because she’s Black? Because she has big curly hair? Because she’s the only Black girl girl in a group of White girls? Because mainstream doesn’t know what box to toss her in?

I remember so vividly the first time I saw Mel B. and her curls bouncing across the Zenith television in my room. My eyes immediately zeroed in on the cool Black girl amongst the other White girls, feeling an immediate kinship with that mise en scéne. (I was one of the few Black kids at my suburban elementary school.) It wasn’t that I didn’t think that Posh’s Gucci mini dress wasn’t cute or that I didn’t want Baby Spice’s pigtails; it’s just that I knew those things were unattainable for me. There was nothing in Baby Spice’s long, thin, blonde hair pigtails that went almost to her waist that spoke to my curls-turned-cute Afro puffs, not in any way. (And my mother was not buying a Gucci mini dress for her 12-year-old.) But Mel B. — she was a girl who looked like me. I was immediately obsessed. I wondered if she fought with her hair the way that I did, if she had ever gotten a relaxer (a Black girl in the 90s that did not get a relaxer might as well have been a unicorn), if she had spent hours of her Saturday mornings in beauty salons slathering creamy crack onto her curly roots while her White girlfriends were at soccer practice. I wanted to be Mel’s friend or at the very least, a pen pal. I did numerous and unfruitful searches on Netscape 2.0 for “Scary Spice hair conditioner.” Without question, “Scary Spice” was my first Black girl crush. After an 80s and 90s childhood that demanded I find myself in Alicia Silverstone and Winona Ryder, that gave me hair advice and tips that would never apply to my hair, Mel B. and her ringlets were manna from MTV.

But “Scary Spice.” It felt so wrong to call her that. Why was I calling this beautiful woman that looked like me, “Scary”? Sure, I thought she was beautiful, but why would the “people in charge” (in my 12-year-old mind, everyone) call her “Scary” if she were really pretty? I looked at her, trying to find something to justify the name, but couldn’t. And then I began to think, “Well, is she as pretty as I think that she is? Does that mean that I’m ugly?” The girls at my suburban middle school, many of whom vacillated between wanting to be Posh or Baby Spice, did not notice Mel B. at all. Was it because she was ugly? Less than that, she didn’t even register. She was just “the Black girl.” And though the “lesbian” and “slut” coding of Melanie Chisholm (“Sporty Spice”) and Gerri Halliwell (“Ginger Spice”) are for another day, the invisibility of Melanie Brown’s beauty to my friends only made me love her more, as I didn’t have to compete with anyone to prove who was a bigger fan of Melanie B. But it was also a reminder as to how hostile the world would be to me and the things that made me beautiful.

In normalizing “Scary Spice,” we trained a whole generation of Millennials to think about Black women and Black hair as frightening. (Millennials are less racially tolerant than you think.) Without realizing it, we’ve helped create a generation of feminists that lack intersectionality; those excluded are made to create their own spaces because of a lack of inclusion. And we’ve given a whole generation the continued license to not consider Blackness as something that can be beautiful without Whiteness being a reference point, thus enforcing White supremacy by means of implying that Whiteness is a neutral, identity-less baseline of objectivity. Beauty standards built on restrictive norms enforce this idea that beauty is a scarce resource and that anything outside of those resource boundaries (i.e., Whiteness) must be attacked and diminished to preserve the potency of resource horde.

I don’t think for one minute that Giuliana Rancic was thinking about all of that colonialism, perpetuation, and preservation of patriarchy when she compared the scent of a Black woman’s hair to patchouli or weed. I really believe she didn’t understand why those comments were hurtful. I think her apology was sincere and should be an example of how to listen to people of color and be an ally. But that’s the thing; the messages of ugliness, the unworthiness, the otherness of Blackness has been so thoroughly engrained and approved by our society, that the bias is implicit and subconscious. The associations of inferiority that were made were so smooth and unassuming, just like the straight, thin locks our society covets. Some might feel that being cognizant of how stereotypes and tropes are perpetuated isn’t fun, but having one’s humanity confined by them is a helluva lot less fun.

We owed Melanie Brown the apology that Giuliana Rancic gave Zandaya 18 years ago. And I’m glad to see we’ve come far enough that Zandaya received it. I don’t know Melanie Brown in real life, but she seems to be a complex, beautiful, and rather full person. A collective disregard and fear of Blackness and Black femininity prevented a more thorough appreciation of Melanie Brown, both then and now. The casualness of saying that a young woman on the red carpet at the Oscars smelled like drugs because of her un-malleable Blackness is completely related to the fact that for almost twenty years, we’ve called another Black woman scary because she too, had non-negotiable Blackness.

Some might say Melanie Brown’s singing talents are mediocre. This may be true, but then again, when did that ever stop the majority of White pop singers in this country? Melanie Brown deserves more credit than what we’ve given her. Not because she’s an overlooked talent, but because she stands as a testament to our subconscious anti-Blackness that is still rampant in its casualness and frequency. Mel B. was a big influence to finally cut off the chemicals and embrace their curls, and their Blackness, for many Black women — myself included — who went natural in the early 2000s. And though she’s rarely seen today with her curls, I still want to ask her what conditioner she uses — and to apologize for calling her “Scary Spice” without understanding what I was continuing or condoning.

A Great Cover (Idea): Adele and The Bee Gees’ “Run to Me”

Honestly, that would have been such an amazing collaboration, but with only Barry left, not possible. THOUGH, a duet between Barry Gibb and Adele would be amazing. But couldn’t you see Adele covering “Run to Me”? The whole lush yet stripped down ballad is right up her alley. I’m surprised that no pop singer/act has covered this in recent years. I actually think One Direction would’ve done a great job with this song, that is before the one kid that could genuinely sing Zayn left. But you know what would have been the ULTIMATE cover of this? Queen killing this, with Freddy Mercury tearing up those lead vocals. But, alas. Anyway, can someone call Adele’s people and get her on this?

My Latest for Elle: French Hair Products For Women of Color

Here’s my latest for

french hair products

Aside from eating foie gras and cheese with wild abandon, I had one particular mission on a recent trip to Paris, and that was to find hair products. Now, this isn’t a particularly ground-breaking mission in the beauty capital of the world, but I was looking for hair products for women of color. In all of my years of traveling and living in Paris, I’ve never seen an article extolling the “must have” beauty products to be had in the City of Lights that acknowledges women who don’t have straight or “normal” hair, let alone the complex hair types and needs of women of color. Because of Paris’s colonial past, it is an incredibly diverse city, widely recognized by women of color as the place to go to go find hair and beauty products. So why aren’t they represented when we talk about Paris and beauty products?

Taking into account my prior experience with a leave-in conditioner recommended by a “Must Buy” guide, which left me with an empty bottle and wallet to match after two uses, I was on a mission to find affordable products, too. Before my departure, I scoured the blogs, finding a shout out or two for the usual suspect—Kérastase—which is great, until you have to pay for it in dollars. Clearly on my own in this quest, there wasn’t a Monoprix, pharmacie, or out-of-the-way beauty shop uptown that I missed. I journaled and Excel’d beauty products and their end results with a focus that’s equally vain and admirable, with one central aim: wanting to be represented.

beauty products

The editorial oversight is strange, because Paris is a pure treasure trove of products for women with “problematic” hair. When I went natural in college, I struggled to find affordable products that addressed my curls, which were dry and voluminous but when straightened, went flat and desperately needed dry shampoo. It was when I studied in Paris that I discovered that yes, black girls can use dry shampoo, and I found real leave-in conditioners, not left-in conditioner. Part of the reason I didn’t think I needed things like clarifying shampoos (which I now swear by) was because those products never featured women like me.

check out the rest of the article on and the review of the products by clicking the link!

Whole Foods Is Expensive. You’re Poor. Stop Going.

Whole Paycheck.

Whole Paycheck.

It’s really and truly that simple – just stop going – but I understand; it’s much easier said than done. Millennials, I’ve said it once before, but it’s really true – you’re all poor. No really. But you must understand beloveds, Whole Foods is partly to blame as to why you have no assets. I get it; it’s easier to buy Maple water for $4 and feel solvent than it is to actually be solvent in this economy. And when your student loan balance is the size of a small country’s GDP, what difference does $10-a-pound buffalo meat make?

There’s a convincing argument to make for that argument. However, today is not that day. What I’m talking about instead are the dreams, unrealistic life expectations that keep you mired in the artistinal feudal system. Buying your way into the upper classes through Whole Foods and other aspirational stores (J.Crew junkies, I’m looking at you) is why you have no car, though you live in cities that claim you don’t need one or that the Metro is cheaper than owning a car. (Okay, New York.) Whole Foods is why you can’t afford a mortgage. Whole Foods is partly why you have three roommates. That’s simplifying things a bit (like overlooking your B.A. in Medieval English), but it’s essentially the truth.

Note: As we’re taking this pixelated tour of the ridiculously priced items in Whole Foods that stand between you and solvency, (or at least, a full grocery bag for less than $100) you’ll also have to excuse the quality of the photos, as when you’re busy taking photos and documenting Millennial poverty not buying food, you have to move quickly, lest you arouse suspicion. It’s one thing to be poor, quite another to act it, but capturing reality, or whatever.

People in New York will say that Whole Foods isn’t that expensive. Some will even say that there are statistics showing this to be the case. These are all facts. To someone. After Fairway, Whole Foods is the second cheapest grocery store in Manhattan. But this is all relative. Relative to the fact that people in New York and San Francisco are paying nearly $3 for five sprigs of kale. This is absurd folks and could be argued as a form of produce terrorism when people in Dallas and Houston are only paying $1.50 for a real, full bushel of kale.

better and cropped kale

the price one pays to eat in the People’s Republic of California

A while ago, I went to a Whole Foods in San Francisco with $10. Just to see. Laughable, I know, but what can I say – I’m a gambling woman. (But, to be fair, I now have a more empathetic view of what it feels like when men attempt to date notches out of their league.)

Whole Foods and I have never had a great relationship, but I still go, because in SoMa, it’s the only grocery store for miles. As far I’m concerned, Trader Joe’s doesn’t even carry produce when you must pay 75 cents per apple. It’s actually ironic; most poor Americans in this situation are subjected to K-town with bananas as spotted as plantains, but the poor in San Francisco, they’ll just have to make do with their $4.99 a pound hybrid fruit.

hybrid fruit limequats

As John Steinbeck would have said, I’m a temporarily embarrassed millionaire – with a very strong addiction to Siggi’s yoghurt.

siggi's yoghurt

At a $1.69, Millennial holistic crack Siggi’s ain’t cheap. But, it does come in a “basic” flavor, so, that’s a bonus, I suppose.

basic bitch yoghurt

does not come with “Pink” sweatpants.

Ten dollars does not go really much further than this. That said, the coconut, spiced pear, vanilla and acai & mixed berries flavors are BOMB. Try them all, though not all at once unless you can afford it. If you are truly destitute and have to pick one, I’d say go with the coconut and print coupons from the Siggi’s website. Because, again, $10.00 does not go much further than this, especially if you do not bring your own reusable bags. So, I begin backpedalling/doing the running man away and bump into the cracker aisle. Yes, the sustenance of The Poors. The BAF gods (Broke As F*ck) are looking out and this is fortuitous. But of course, crackers aren’t just crackers at Whole Foods. First, I find these dishwashing sponges Green Crackers, which I thought were for dogs at first given the Purina grade of green, but I was wrong. And they were $7.39.

Continuing to back pedal, I bump into alcohol. I’ve never been known to find myself at the bottom of a spirit glass, but I am also approaching an age in my life where I shouldn’t be against it. But what does one do exactly when it’s the prices of libations that makes you want to drink?

Christmas beer

And how is it, nearly a month after Christmas, beer from said holiday is the same price as regular beer? And this “sale” is going on until February 10th? Look. If Beaujolais can lower their standards prices after the season, surely this maison of craft beer can make some adjustments. I have no skin in this game; I hate beer. My grandfather called it “peasant piss” and though I agree, it’s neither here nor there. I just want to know what I could drink if I were destitute and despondent. This is not the drink of the actually poor. I keep the search moving.

This is just getting depressing and as such, the idea of sharing alcohol with people is even more depressing, so I begin to look for cheaper yet elegant ways to privately humiliate and depress oneself. Prosecco. Yes. Introducing American women to fake drunkenness since their spring semester studying abroad in Italy.

Eventually after fine tooth combing the entire wine selection like I’m looking for a last ponytail holder, I find some $5.99 house Chardonnay. It’s probably for the best, because at the point where I’d be willing to drink this, I’m not paying attention to the taste anyway.

Basically, breathing self-destructive behavior at Whole Foods is expensive, so I took it as a sign that perhaps I should look for more constructive ways of dealing with poverty in Whole Foods. Naturally, my mind wandered to that time that I heard Miranda Kerr, truly one of the Baddest Bitches in the Land, drinks noni juice religiously and puts maca powder in her green smoothies and thus, has not aged. (Disclaimer: as a Black woman, I will look 25 for the next 25 years, but still. I’m setting my bar at Thandie Newton/Tina Turner levels.) What can be more constructive than self improvement? I had actually been thinking of switching up my green smoothie routine and maybe this was just the nudge to do it.



maca powder

noni juice

How the f*ck is this an everyday deal? Who is buying this sh*t everyday? Can they buy me some? Can Miranda Kerr buy me some? How does one achieve levels of Miranda Kerr bad bitchness when $31.00 juice is a requisite? I begin wondering if there’s a bar that I can go to that just mixes vodka with noni juice, but then remember even if this drink does exist a.) I hate vodka and b.) this drink is probably $15.00. c.) disregarding point “a”, I still will probably need three drinks to feel its numbing effects, cancelling out any therapeutic or budgeting effects.

The system is rigged beyond reproach.

it is what it is.

it is what it is.

$7.39. Yes, seven hundred thirty nine pennies. Plus the five cent California bottle tax. And I left my reuseable tote at home? Add another ten cents for the San Francisco paper bag tax. That’s obscene right? I can’t imagine any artists surviving in San Francisco off pasta sauce that costs $7.54. I mean, that’s like a two day eating budget for a real renegade.

Looking at the actual pasta was not worth the bother. Instead, I thought crackers were a more worthwhile pursuit. Can’t go wrong with crackers right?

this is what we've come to.

this is what we’ve come to.

Nevermind I couldn’t find Saltines and we won’t even talk about how one of the employees didn’t know what I was talking about. What the fuck are you doing in Whole Foods on a budget? At this point, I’ve spent close to $30.00 of my $10.00 budget. Onto the quinoa. No hipster diet is complete without this grain and though I didn’t have the time or money to make a $15 quinoa salad, I couldn’t help but to take a peek.

cropped quinoa

It wasn’t nearly as bad as what I thought it’d be – pasta sauce is more?! – but still. This budget is way over budget. In fact, the free honey and agave at the $4 coffee bar was the only thing that I could *truly* afford.

Are Millennials poor because of Whole Foods? No. Not technically. But, it’s also dumb to pretend that it’s not a status symbol, a consumer good onto itself and a means of projecting class ideals. Most people, let alone Millennials, can’t afford the upper-middle class aspirations that Whole Foods represents. It’s not just the whole foods they’re buying. In a time where higher education is out of reach for many, home ownership seems fantastical and living without roommates and saving for retirement simultaneously seems impossible, Whole Foods kind of represents buying a slice or two of the gluten-free American pie.

Don’t forget the $2 bottle of herbal water to wash it down, of course.

herbal water

From The Vaults: The Bee Gees’ “Fanny Be Tender (With My Love)”

the bee gees

The Bee Gees are some of the most disrespected, under-appreciated geniuses of pop culture and music. The creators of a sound that was so distinctive that even Michael Jackson borrowed it, the Bee Gees wrote close to a 1,000 songs for other acts, including Diana Ross, Barbara Streisand, Otis Redding, so on and so forth. So iconic were they, one of Al Green’s trademark songs, “How Do You Mend (A Broken Heart)” is actually a cover of their 1971 version.

Because this lack of knowledge is really reprehensible, I’m sharing one of my favorite songs, “Fanny Be Tender (With My Love)”. Have a listen, it’s really exquisite. You can read more about the song here.

So complex this song is, Maurice Gibb stated that while they all loved the song, it was hardly performed live, because of its intricacies. Honestly, this is one of the best love R&B songs ever written and performed. It’s one of the rare songs in which you can hear the range and depth of each Gibb’s voice; Maurice stuns with great harmony and Robin, long considered the best singer in the group, also shines with a surprising depth not normally seen in the fragile timber of his voice. It’s one of the few songs that Barry and Robin share lead vocals.

As to where this idea came from, last night on Twitter, where I frequently hold office hours, my timeline was full with love and admiration for the Bee Gees and a lack of understanding as to how deep and rich their catalogue is. And I get it; for those of us that came of age in the 90s and 00s, the disco era has been ridiculed so much that to actually like – forget about appreciate – the era, is almost a backhanded compliment of kitschy irony. I’m of the camp that the aesthetics of the 70s lead people to prematurely disregard the whole decade, which is both a mistake and a topic for another blog post.

But yet.

The Bee Gees’ catalogue is deeply, incredibly amazing. And genius. Their songwriting and harmonizing skills are truly genius – there’s no other word or hyperbole for it –  with no real peers of their peers. After all, Michael Jackson frequently cited them as his favorite band – which, if you listen to Barry’s his falsetto and consider Off The Wall a disco record (as Michael himself did), isn’t hard to see at all.

Check the receipts. And take a closer and more thoughtful look into the Bee Gees’ catalogue.

Why We Left

Hey y’all. I do still write, though at the moment, I’m writing mostly on other outlets and working on a stealth project that I’ll be sharing later in the year. 🙂 In the meantime, I’ll be reposting my work and other dope writers on the blog. This piece, “Why We Left” is republished from one of my most recent in Medium’s Human Parts Collection

why we left

“A powerful way to sidestep America’s reluctance to become post-racial would be for more Black Americans to become post-national.” – Thomas Chatterton Williams

As 2015 already seems exhausting with regards to the frequency of police brutality, I’ve been having parallel conversations with a number of friends, mostly Black, about their holiday travels. Non-ironically, almost all of them went abroad. Between the friend who spent three weeks in Trinidad and Jamaica, the friend who went to Ghana for almost a month, and my own holiday in France, it was clear without having to be stated: the fatigue of American life has sent a number of my friends, particularly my Black friends, abroad.

Going out of the country is hardly newsworthy. Facebook is full of travelers, mostly childless Millennials flexing their international check-in muscles at hole-in-the-wall bistros across Europe and half-ruined Buddhist temples. A few friends are feeling thirsty and bohemian, trapezing across Southeast Asia; another friend is hiking across East Africa; a poet friend is planning her tour across South Africa. But the reasons my friends are travelling doesn’t quite split down a racial line — rather, race and class illuminate the fractured spaces. Ostensibly, my friends, irrespective of race, are travelling to get away from the ties that make life respectable but taxing. Everyone said, “I need a break,” but the subtext from my Black friends was screaming, “I needed to get out of the United States because I can not breathe.”

And then there are those who can neither breathe nor leave. The activists across the country who organize, who fight, who sacrifice, who make decisions like choosing between bus fare to protests and eating dinner — they can’t leave. Most Black Americans, when shit starts hitting the fan, the walls, etc. — they can’t leave. It’s not that they don’t want to. They too dream of lying on beaches of white sand and warm waters with their families. They too want to travel the world. They want to know what it’s like to mention places like the Louvre and the Tate with a casual boredom that happens when money, opportunity, and freedom have bred familiar contempt. Eric Garner was selling cigarette loosies (but not that day) because of a judicial and economic system that denied him more formal alternatives; the probability that he or Mike Brown or Kimani Gray could “just get away” is laughably and insultingly, low.

The end of 2014 was a traumatic period for lived Blackness; the miscarriages of justice for Clinton Allen, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner left me completely drained. Being Black at the end of 2014 left me with an overwhelming mix of anger and despair that can only be described as fighting with an opponent whose arms are so long it feels like air boxing. For many, “Black Lives Matter” reminded them how much their lives actually don’t. The paradoxes of Blackness in late 2014 were reconciling the love of a country that your Blackness has built, but that hates you. We left because of fatigue, because the arc is long and we are still so very young to be this exhausted. Anywhere but here was appealing. “Why are we even staying in a country that hates us?” someone asked me on Twitter. I couldn’t really answer that. I was conflicted. As much as I needed to go, I didn’t want to. I stalled looking for an Airbnb. I waited until the absolute last minute to renew my passport. I was late when contacting friends in Paris. I briefly wondered if I’d regret not booking a one-way ticket. I wasn’t even completely sure what I’d be writing about in Paris. I just knew that I wouldn’t be in the States. But I felt forced out.

I chose Paris because I like problems and paradoxes. I went knowing that Paris was not free; Paris has not been free since the Romans colonized and humiliated the Gauls, who never forgot it and in turn, colonized and brutalized Algeria, Morocco, Vietnam, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, and more. I knew better than most that racism in Paris can be acute, if not for African-Americans, most surely for the North Africans, whom I have been mistaken for on occasion. Paris has always loved African-Americans, even if French history itself has despised and exploited Blackness. As such, while New York was filled with protests through the holidays, I floated through Paris for nearly two weeks mostly unbothered, the assumption being until I opened my mouth that I was from Martinique or Guadalupe. The Martiniquaises and Guadeloupéens more or less, are people from island colonies in which their very racially mixed population are widely cited testaments to the alleged French commitment to racial mixing and thus, racial harmony. Even when my Americaness was revealed, it was not a problem for two reasons: one, I was African-American (the only Americans the French respect) and two, I would be leaving soon — but while I was there I was spending money, not like those other Black immigrants sponging off the French economy.Perhaps this is what White privilege feels like, I remember thinking. You can convince yourself that none of this is really about you.Should you even think that hard about it to begin with.

I failed this practice test of White privilege miserably and immediately. The protests that I left behind in the States had ignited passions in Paris; weeks before I arrived, activists took to the streets to protest the human zoo exhibit. Gross old Frenchmen suggestively raised their eyebrows and when they could, whispered loud enough, “café au lait.” I interviewed people of color in Paris about their experiences, which ranged from wanting to open a Black Panther Party chapter at the Sorbonne to forced indifference. The correct answer, had I passed this test, would have been to assign it all to Frenchness, to the lasciviousness of French men, to the complex colorblindness of French society that I, as a race-obsessed American, would never understand. But it seemed like a trick answer given how deeply French functions as a proxy for “White.”

I thought of another dear friend, who now lives in London with no immediate plans to return to the States. His words before he left always ring clear: “There’s no law that say that you have to make your home in the country you were born in. In fact, America was built on a whole mass of people that did exactly the opposite of that.” But I didn’t want to be French, or British, or even African for that matter. How could I be? I am so thoroughly American. And part of what makes me so deeply American is my Blackness. Blackness, as a concept of not Whiteness and a justification for exploitation, was put on the books in the Americas first, most notably in 1639 and 1705, though the slave trade had begun and been perfected by the Europeans.

If culture has always been America’s most valuable export, the fruits of Black labor are still its biggest and most lucrative. And since Blackness and subsequent racial constructs were first created, used, and exported to the rest of the Americas, Europe, and even Africa in order to justify the economic system of slavery, how, in my Blackness, could I be anything but American?

African-Americans, as it pertains to descendants of American slaves, have every logical reason to permanently leave the United States of America. African-Americans have also ingeniously employed every seemingly illogical reason to stay. Incredibly, many of them are returning to the lands of plantations, sharecropping, and lynching that just a generation or two ago sent their grandparents fleeing north as political refugees. If we were to look at this objectively, it is clear that African-Americans should consider their investment in America as sunk costs. The cultural capital of Black America would presumably travel wherever they go. Try elsewhere. Start over. But yet, African-Americans do not. Why they do not leave, collectively, I can’t answer. But I know why I cannot permanently leave. I have lived elsewhere, but it is here, to me, that the breadth of Black sorrow has become the most radiant form of life affirming brilliance — and it is addictive. Living while Black in America requires an intellectual and mental athleticism and finesse that has few peers. It is the startup of all startups. It is the ultimate marathon. Blackness demands from its cognizant participant a rigor and focus that can only produce majesty and mania. It is both heaven and hell. It is mercilessly reviled and hopelessly imitated. It is in short, a spiritual experience.

The reasons why we left are explicit and endless. The reasons why we returned are more complex, more paradoxical. Black America has consistently provided the moral compass and blueprint for a country in which its White faction has consistently, more or less, asked us to leave. And perhaps we would have left, if we knew that America — one of the brilliant masterpieces that Blackness has created, the thing which our soul, over centuries, has been given to and pillaged for — would be all right without us. Would you abandon your masterpiece? For a people denied property, rights, the opportunity to possess much less bequeath, America is what we own. It is our life’s work, our investment, our birthright, our trust fund. We are past the point of sunk costs, or even investments; it is a matter of ownership, stewardship. Our deeds and receipts are written in blood that still flows out of brutality and exploitation. And while America as a proxy for Whiteness has never thought to wonder this, many of us are more terrified of what America would become without us. Or perhaps it has. And it could be that the inability for Blackness to breathe is what America would feel too, if we left.

Paris is Classier Than Us All

This should have been a long time ago. My apologies.

I’ve been so busy raising hell on the internets and working on articles and most recently, at the very dope Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective in Toronto and speaking at Williams College, that I have not had an opportunity to tell you exactly what the hell I was doing in Paris, besides working.

And working.

my writing table at Mariage Freres. Not a bad gig, I know.

my writing table at Mariage Freres. Not a bad gig, I know.

But yes, besides testing fabulous teas and beauty products for articles, I did *manage* to have fun. (Imagine how tough THAT was.) Given that I mostly write about such serious things, I think it’s important to show that I have a lighter side as well. From finding what I think are the best macarons in Paris (sorry Ladurée) the best foie gras to the most amazing musée in Paris. And of course, affordable beauty and hair products, but I can’t really write about it JUST yet 😉

But back to macarons. Like, these right here.

the best stuff on Earth

the best stuff on Earth

The bag above is about 10 minutes old and half empty. It’s shameful – and it’s all caught on tape.


And of course, if you’re a tea addict like me, there’s only one real place in Paris to go for tea – and that’s Mariage Freres. There are a lot of amazing places to go for tea in Paris and one day, I’d love to do a blog post on the amazing tea services in Paris, but really there’s only one place in Paris to go – and that’s Mariage Freres. (Just in case you didn’t catch that the first time.)

there's tea, then there's Mariage Freres

there’s tea, then there’s Mariage Freres

one of the amazing teas that I sampled

one of the amazing teas that I sampled

And when I was not harassing the impossibly chic staff at Mariage Freres for samples and tea notes (“mais, je vais écrire un article, Monsieur”, I think I said about 10 times), I was more or less importing Monoprix brick by brick, or rather, shower gel by shower gel. And shampoo. And facial scrub. And hair masque. And leave-in conditioner. And toothpaste.

Side note though: Monoprix is the Target of Paris, but because Paris is so classy, imagine if Target sold foie gras and Bordeaux wines and Roger & Gallet perfume. That’s Monoprix and absolutely worth a visit.

beauty products

The other half of the haul is just too embarrassing to post, if only for the sheer amount of sh*t I had to bring back. Honestly, I’ve never really fancied myself as a beauty products writer and I don’t think I’m about to start. It’s actually a hard and time consuming job! And a lot of the products that I found for Black women and other women of color was truly off the beaten path, in the 18th and 20th arrondissements which means it took a lot of time to find them. I mean, it’s a ton of fun trying products, but you have to try each product for at least 3 – 7 days and if you don’t shampoo your hair everyday like me, some can take longer than others. So, um yes – that article is literally still in progress, or rather, in between hair masques.

Meanwhile, when I wasn’t doing my part to rebuild the French economy, I stopped into McDonald’s. Orrrrr, rather, my friend stopped into McDonald’s after tiring of hours spent at Monoprix. (I think I said,”But it’s for an article!” more than “Je voudrais”). I think at this point, it’s a rite of passage for every American in Paris to go into a McDonald’s and order a royale avec fromage as in Pulp Fiction and if you haven’t, please get it together – and watch this clip.


Can I just say for one minute, that McDonald’s fascinates me, for cultural and culinary reasons. I love McDonald’s – and I don’t have to be drunk to go. In fact, it’s one of my “last meals on earth” meals. But I’m under no illusions that I’m not eating food that will probably outlive me, which is why I find McDonald’s in Paris so fascinating. But leave it to Paris to give McDonald’s the majesty that its GMO food lacks. My mind was blown when I went inside and saw they had macarons at McDonald’s. YES. You read me right. Macarons in this b*tch.

mcdonalds macarons

And croissants. And pastries.

mcdonald's pastry window

And it was expensive. And there were mad people there shopping with bags all over them and it kind of reminded me of Times Squares, where everyone eats at the McDonald’s there after shopping because they’ve all spent their rent money at Zara. But I don’t think this was the case, per se. With prices like these (a full meal at McDonald’s costs about 13 euro), I think eating at McDonald’s acts as a kind of consumer good and conspicuous consumption act that can only make sense in Paris.

paris mcdonalds

And always being on a hunt for people to bother interview, I met a few subjects that were willing to give me a few quotes about the state of Parisian affairs with regards to race and postcolonialism, my favorite French subject.  The real gem was the man that stood outside of the line to the restrooms and told us all, for 20 minutes, how racist White people were in France and how we were all slaves to consumerism. The man had a point on all accounts, even if he was raving more than a little bit. He was too close for me to take a photo, but trust me, I wanted to.

Another cool thing about Paris? The street art and graffiti. On our bike ride, my friend and I kept seeing the work of Invader, whom I was unfamiliar with until this trip to Paris. This one piece that we saw on our bike ride, which was a nice consolation prize after standing in line for nearly two hours for the Picasso Museum, to no avail. (Spoiler alert: most of the Picassos you want to see anyway are at the MoMa in New York, though my personal favorite, The Old Guitarist, is in Chicago.)

space invaders

That said, bike rides: so much fun. The bike share in Paris: even MORE fun! I’m a big fan of them and often do them when I’m in San Francisco and New York. (C’mon L.A. I know you can do this.) When I lived in Paris, the woman that lived two floors below me (with her ridiculous collection of red leather bound books and the husband that she had been separated from for 14 years that came over for dinner on Wednesdays and sometimes with her boyfriend, BUT THAT’S A STORY FOR ANOTHER DAY) had a wonderful bike that she often let me borrow. So, it was great fun to ride my rented bike through the city and feel like a 21 year old student again. (But I’m much chicer than my 21 year-old self.)


My twin nephews just got their first set of wheels this Christmas and being that this will probably be a lifelong love with bikes of some sort, I just want it on the record that I told them NOT to ride their bikes in Paris, because it seems like a responsible disclaimer to put out there. Bike riding in Paris isn’t unsafe per se, if you’re used to riding with bikes in a major city, but pretty daunting if you’re not. And given how narrow the streets are…well, I wouldn’t say it’s for beginners, but then again, nothing is until you get the experience by beginning.  That being said, I absolutely think they’ll break my rule – as they should, which is why I also included this video for their future 20 and 21 year-old selves:


children's armour from the 16th century. My nephews need these for Halloween next year!

children’s armour from the 16th century. My nephews need these for Halloween next year!

powder flask

printemps window

And of course, there’s the other side to Paris that never gets written about until the banlieues burn or tragedies like Charlie Hebdo. And that’s the other Paris, the Paris of the 18th and 20th arrondissements, where many immigrants live, particularly Black and North African immigrants. It has a special fondness for me; my senior project in college was on French racism, mixed race communities and postcolonialism in Paris and so, it’s something that I intellectually revisit a lot. I did this project way before Tumblr and blogging became as huge as they are now, so it’s probably worth it to put that work online now. Either way, interviewing people of color, particularly women, was truly the highlight of this trip.

I’ve always thought it was fascinating that Paris became this refuge for so many African-Americans but was a very inhospitable place for so many people of African and North African descent. And given the subject matter that my own writing finds itself at the nexus of, it’s hard to not think and write about French racism when you know how bad it is. And many of the Black people in France are watching what’s happening in the U.S. and are in turn, speaking out about the rampant racism in their own societies. I don’t think that the search for equality in France is all that much different than what many Black people are fighting for, still, in the U.S. And I think it’s particularly important to make sure that Black oppression is put into a global context, because it happens globally and it has ramifications, globally. It’s important to look at what Paris, which functions as an example of civility and elegance throughout the world, especially the Western world, is doing with regards to its communities of color. Basically, what I’m saying is that its ironic that the most elegant city in the Western world treats a great deal of its non-White citizens horribly, in subtle and not so subtle ways. The pressure to conform to the proxy of Whiteness is all around, in subtle and not so subtle ways – like this skin bleaching cream below.

oh dear.

oh dear.

Though Paris is hardly representative of the world, it is very cool to see that the conversations of White supremacy, Blackness, anti-Blackness and inclusion are important conversations that are really on the conversational pulses of societies in Europe and from what I can see and read, elsewhere. Hopefully, this site can do its part to further continue and push that dialogue and those necessary conversations, in the states and beyond.

Something New, Something Blue and Something Not For Many of Us: A Response to Tiffany’s Gay Ad

gay tiffany couple

This was written by Joe von Hutch in a response to last week’s post about Tiffany’s engagement advertisement targeted towards the gay community.

Before diving into my response, I first have to apologize to all of my friends, married and unmarried who may be offended at some of what I say. That’s not my desire, but I enjoy open dialogue on my page so here goes.

First, to quote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (sampled on Beyonce’s “Flawless”): “Because I am female / I am expected to aspire to marriage / I am expected to make my life choices / Always keeping in mind that / Marriage is the most important / Now marriage can be a source of / Joy and love and mutual support / But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage / And we don’t teach boys the same?”

Throughout what will fairly accurately be described as an anti-marriage rant, please keep in mind that I agree with Ngozi Adichie that marriage *can* be fantastic; at least in its modern form practiced by partners who are more or less equal. But, historically, marriage was state-sanctioned slavery and I think it is a mistake that LGBT activists have applied most of their intellectual and economic weight to this one cause (and usually at the exclusion of all others e.g. employment discrimination, HIV/Aids research, youth homelessness, etc.). But, here we are, and esp. when I think of my friends who have or will be married, the fact that they cannot do so in only 14 states is a tremendous accomplishment and a true testament to the hard work of all the men and women who fought and fight tirelessly for us to get here.

Now please take it back. Seriously, I don’t want it. And while I am happy for my friends who choose monogamy and monogrammed towels, I neither want the pressure to aspire to the same nor disapproval from both within and without my community when I choose to remain a deviant. Because what we forget is that the movement used to be about radical change and accepting people for who they are and how they choose to live. And I know society can only be changed in discrete ways, but images of (a seemingly happy and loving couple, mazel tov) white, well-to-do men being used to hawk bits of rock mined by Africans under, at best, questionable and, at worst, slave-like conditions just to further global capitalism, exclusion, patriarchy and white privilege is simply not my idea of true activism. Pandering, yes. Smart business, yes. But there is nothing radical or inspiring about this, at least not to me. I’m sure others will disagree, as they should.

And I think I’m also particularly rankled by this because I know people who are currently facing housing issues for being “dirty, disgusting faggots”. And people who do not feel comfortable being out at work for fear of what certain partners might think. And a lot of it is because the media (and we as activists) are selling an image of an antiseptic and non-offensive gay man or woman that rarely matches the reality of me and my friends on the pansexual, polyamorous and BDSM margins. And, domestically, while this image might do some good in convincing the few remaining dinosaurs that “I guess gay people are people too”, it will do nothing for the young queers living on the streets or the trans men and women, whose families slot them back into another sex at their deaths. And, internationally, I would love to see more being done to improve the lives of the people who actually dig these things out of the ground than the lives of those who can afford them.

Happy Humpday: Frank Ocean’s Cover of “At Your Best (You Are Love)”oul

If you’re like most of us on the West Coast still struggle through your Wednesday, look no further than this inspiration:

For Baby Girl’s 36th birthday, Frank Ocean released a cover of Aaliyah’s cover of the Isley Brothers’ “At Your Best (You Are Love). It’s simply stunning. The beat is rather bare, letting Ocean’s falsetto play across scales and bars.  Ocean’s version is so reminiscent of Baby Girl as well as being his own creative interpretation that it’s one that you’ll have on repeat. Here’s hoping he releases a cover of “Back, Back, Forth and Forth”.

And for fun, listen to Aaliyah’s version and the Isley Brothers’: