Race, Money and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Is Black Capitalism the antidote to Black suffering? And if not then why do we all subscribe?

Derek Chauvin , George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Adam Toledo, Ma’Khia Bryant, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King , your own best friend. Your mother , your brother , your sister, your child.

No one group of people should have this many martyrs. What exactly is the cause that they die for? And how far have we as a people come in the pursuit of that cause?

I find myself often going in between emotions of hope and despair when I think about the plight of so many black people in America. While on one hand black people in America are making strides in the pursuit of racial equality and the overall pursuit of happiness that Thomas Jefferson speaks of in the Declaration of Independence. In this declaration , Jefferson adopted John Locke’s theory of Natural Rights, “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. The irony is that black people were not considered during the authoring of this declaration. So inevitably we are still some of the poorest, under-represented, and persecuted groups in America.

Though many people before us have dedicated their lives to the cause of racial inequity in America, many of us today have chosen not to dedicate so much of ourselves to this cause in order to preserve our own mental health and individual pursuits of happiness.

For me personally, the longer I fixate on the problem of racial inequality in America the bigger the problem becomes and the more multiplicitous the problem reveals itself to be. This is because I cannot discuss the issue of racism in America without addressing disparities in economics, education and healthcare. I can’t talk about racism in America without including the issue of colorism and featurism. I cannot even conceptualize the black identity crises in America without taking into account, intersectionality. Furthermore, I cannot discuss any of these issues without focusing on their individual affects on our mental and physical health overall.

So sometimes my resolution is to not even begin to address the issues or to just ignore these issues because they seem like they will always persist. Lately more than ever, I feel a need to simply enjoy my seemingly insignificant life here.. for it is short. Oftentimes the issues of race seem so much bigger than me, that I cower at the idea of solving them. Someone once said before we change the world we must change ourselves; I have found that personal development has been much more rewarding .

Let’s face it .. We live in the Capitalist mecca. In order to thrive in this society you are better off with money and with more money usually comes more education, more resources and subsequently success. Whatever success means to you, a majority of people would agree that oppression is not a tenet of a thriving, successful life. Over the years, I have seen successful black people use money to transcend the effects of racism or to pull themselves out from under the burden of racial oppression.

If you don’t really understand what I mean when I say oppression it’s okay. If you don’t feel oppressed it is understandable_ ideology is something so thick and omnipresent that you don’t realize you’re in it. It is like fish swimming in water. If you were to ask a fish what water was would they be able to tell you?

This is true for both the ideology of racism and of capitalism. It seems the only way to transcend racial inequity in America is to succumb to the game of capitalism. Get rich, get so powerful that you are strong enough to withstand the inequalities or so the inequalities barely affect you. Is that not the blueprint of the Carters, the P Diddys, and Steve Harveys.

But are we selling out? To succumb to capitalism is to succumb to a system that disregards humanity. But the opposite choice for s black person in America is oftentimes to suffer. That’s why shorty’s hollerin “where the ballers at?” Right? But like a wise man once said in conclusion, “ (..)and the white man get paid off of all of that”. So the more we subscribe to this idea of black wealth, luxury, and success inevitably the more we perpetuate this capitalist system:

Oppression and racial inequality in this capitalistic system is the reason you may have had to take out student loans but Lori Loughlin could buy her daughter’s way into an Ivy League. Inequality Is the reason you may be the first generation of your family to even have attended a college. The reason doctors don’t take you as seriously when you say you’re in pain. It’s the reason why when you go to the corner store in the hood you may not find much fresh produce but you’ll find thousands of cheaply made products with little or no nutritional value. It’s the reason the dark skinned girls get picked last in the music video lineups. It’s the reason for our relatives’ diabetes and hyper-tension. It’s the reason you can’t think straight at work the day or week after another black person or child has been killed again in the country.

But it’s also the reason we push through. The reason we finish that shift. The reason we hustle and pivot and maneuver through life. The reason we bust down our time-pieces and our gold jewelry. The reason wealthy black women everywhere are sporting new birkin bags by the week. The reason my mom worked 80 hours a week. The reason we know how to survive without heat or hot water and sometimes even food. The reason we manage to somehow carry on and add flavor to this bland world, despite the loads we carry everyday. The reason we can turn cornmeal into hush puppies and ox-tails into a delicacy.

It’s the reason we rob, scam and prostitute. Sure, white people commit these crimes all the time and oftentimes at much larger scales but the difference is often a matter of survival. This game of survival for a black person is a never ending speed-chase. But we run with grace. As we ascend we ascend with grace. My question remains, to where are we ascending? What have our individual successes actually done for the progress of racial equality in America?

Jesenia The Singer: Jesenia The Artist

Jesenia the singer is taking the R&B world by storm, captivating us with her versatility in her two newest music videos. The multi-talented, independent artist recently dropped two new singles “Rodeo”  and “Do Me Like That”, accompanied by music videos. Jesenia channels old school R&B in her latest single “Rodeo”, a song about repetitive failure in love. Her other video for the single, “Do Me Like That” depicts a multimedia artistic experience, as Jesenia uses several mediums to tell a love story gone awry. “Do Me Like That”  chronicles the thought process of a woman presumably at the end of a volatile relationship. She expresses disappointment in her love interest who seems to have left her at a low point or in Jesenia’s words “folded” on her.The opening scene of the video is a testament to Jesenia’s artistry, as she adds the finishing touches to a dark mural painting which serves as the backdrop for a good portion of the music video. Jesenia channels her inner Lara Croft in an all-black outfit, with a slinky black bralette, sheer black cargoes, black timbs, and a floor-length, braided ponytail that screams alpha-woman. She contrasts these scenes with scenes of her interacting with her love interest. In these scenes, she is clearly embodying a more vulnerable version of herself, of which her lover seems to be taking advantage. She contemplates their relationship, “Certain questions that I sit around and I ask myself/ Like do you love me/ Will you leave me?/ Are you bad for my health?“Rodeo” is a bit more upbeat tempo, but the message is similar in this R&B ballad: This is not Jesenia’s first rodeo. Jesenia voice travels in melodious rifts over a soft guitar. Clad in a cowgirl outfit, she rides in on the back of a chocolate brown horse. “When I’m with you boy it feels good but I always find myself misunderstood,/ then you tell me I’m trippin/ And you start acting distant. She goes on to say that her personal damage has caused similar situations in her love life, and maybe it’s time for her to be alone. I loved that the resolution after both of these rollercoaster experiences was self-love. Jesenia’s vulnerability makes her so relatable. She has been through some things, just like any of us and she is sharing her stories with us through her art. Her work is pure expression, and her delivery is authentic. She is no doubt a talent to watch. 

“Do Me Like That” shot and directed by @colinpagnoni, big shout out for the pictures???

Amor Fati

Concerts and tours have come to a halt since the coming of the Coronavirus pandemic, forcing  artists to find innovative ways to connect with their fans. Specifically,  R&B artists are collectively shifting their focus from consumer to art. Artists like Jazmine Sullivan, Jhene Aiko, Kehlani and Queen Naija bear it all on their most recent projects, focusing less on catchy choruses and more on poetic expression through song-writing. Continuing this theme of “bearing it all” is SZA in the alternative genre. SZA released “Good Days” at the end of 2020, on Christmas, as a gift to her fans. Since its release, “Good Days” has been at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. On February 21st , during its 9th week on the charts, SZA announced through an instagram post that her single had just went platinum, selling over two million copies in the United States. She captioned the post, ” Proof of life. Good days is platinum ? thank you beyond a caption???✨?? ” .


I think it’s high-time we reflect on the magic of “Good Days”.


What exactly makes “Good Days” so special? Well, it’s a mixture of things. SZA’s fans have waited over three years for a solo project by her since the release of her debut studio album CTRL, in 2017. Her voice was missed. But even moreso, her genius lyricism was missed. It’s also nice to witness SZA’s growth as not only an artist but also as a woman. I thought it was a testament to her womanhood that SZA (a usual hopeless romantic) used her heartbreak as the backdrop for this particular story. She made her life the subject of her inspiration, rather than relying on a love interest as her muse like she has done so many times in the past on songs like “Sobriety” and “Love Galore ” featuring Travis Scott. On one hand, SZA is emerging from heartbreak in “Good Days”, but on the other, she is healing. As the song progresses, her regrets and doubts are replaced by acceptance, and we get to heal with her.


SZA redefines a “Good” day in a time when so many of our days have been questionable. While we maneuver these news transitions, and care for our mental states, while depression creeps up into our everyday lives, and the questions about the future persists, SZA teaches us several lessons about what having a “Good” day really means. 

  1. First of all: A good day can be a decent day. 
  2. Secondly, not all good days start off so good. 
  3. Good days can have sad moments.
  4. Sad days can still be Good Days. 
  5. Any day that you are alive and get to feel is a good day.
  6. And lastly, you can choose to have whatever day you wanna have. 

There is something paradoxical about how SZA presents all the binaries in her song. Her lyrics are filled with opposing ideas but yet these opposites cannot exist without each other . There is an inside and an outside, a dark past and a hopeful future , fear but also courage. She begins the song with a dichotomy between the world in her head and the one outside of it, “Good day in my mind/ Safe to take a step out/Get some air now”. She starts out feeling confident and decides it may be safe to step outside of her thoughts and literally, physically step outside. But she quickly realizes that she is not ready, “ Too soon, I spoke. You’ve been heavy on my mind”, then she’s back in her thoughts. She describes this process of trying to make sense of this heartbreak as a war going on in her mind, “Trying to make sense ( or cents) of loose change/ Got me a war in my mind”. I think that anyone who has experienced heartbreak, or any trauma for that matter can relate to that feeling of your mind literally battling to let go of the pain. 

How does SZA cope with the pain? Through acceptance. I’ve been wondering for so long what that line about armored fate meant. She sings, “Choose to watch/ While the world break up in front of me/ All the while, I’ll await my armored fate with a smile”. SZA is known for her wordplay and she is familiar with double entendres, like the one she used in the line about making sense/cents of loose change. While tumbling down the rabbit hole of google, scrolling through rap genius summaries, and SZA’s tweets, I came across a Wikipedia Page explaining the term Amor Fati, “Amor Fati is a Latin phrase that may be translated as “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate“. . . used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good or. . . necessary”. This is SZA’s attitude on ” Good Days”. Otherwise, why would she be waiting with a smile? Another way to read armored fate is that anything armored is protected, it cannot be assaulted or affected. She could be acknowledging the fact that fate is concrete, and you cannot change it no matter how much you stress, or maneuver. This could be why she chooses to wait with a smile.


The most important take-away is that SZA is processing her own healing experience, which involves isolation, self-doubt, regret, fear, and insecurities. Heartbreak is not the main focus of “Good Days”, but I don’t necessarily think healing is either. I think ” Good Days” is celebrating the transition or the process and all of the parts in between heartbreak and healing. Sza chooses to relinquish a need to control her circumstances and instead allows herself to just go through the motions. Sometimes, we focus so much on the end goal we forget that living is all in the process.


Not 4 Tik Tok

Avenue’s Brownstones opens up with a heavy guitar tune and a small band. When I heard the opening of “Box & 1” my initial thoughts were, “Wow, instruments? A choir, singing in a minor chord?” It’s been a while since I heard rap over a soul beat ( since the rise of trap music and drill beats). Immediately, Brownstones takes you to another era, which is precisely the vibe of the EP: old-school, nostalgic, experienced. Avenue uses subtle and soulful instrumentals on his EP, allowing his lyricism to shine.

Thriving, is the theme of the first song, “ Box & 1”. Avenue reflects on how far he has come, from where he started, comparing his old ways to the current, “ Saying less, but I’m more observant”/ “Still got work on that corner but I ain’t doin’ the service.” In a way, he’s elevated from humble beginnings, but he wants us to know that those humble beginnings made him as resilient as he is today, “The trenches were never safe, but I mastered and navigate.” A Box&1 refers to a defensive play that’s used in sports like basketball. The box&1 tactic is usually used against a team with one dominant scoring threat according to Wikipedia.com. So even while being surrounded by adversity, Avenue has found his own success– He will not be “boxed in”. The last few lines of his hook are a testament to that fact, “Watching the game from the box ( box seats), that’s how far we’ve come/ Drinking so much champagne I forgot we won.”


The major single off of Brownstones , “Bobs the Chefs” turns us up a notch, incorporating more vocals and trumpets on the instrumental. Though the vibe is smooth, Avenue’s cockiness on this single cant help but perk you up. It could be the way Avenue unapologetically reps his city in this ode to himself, “My old-head told me my voice was a weapon/ That’s why I’m always reppin/ Mass Ave and Lennox like it’s intersectin’/South End, Roxbury but the lower section”. His authenticity draws you into his life story. For those who don’t already know this single is titled after the famous landmark soul food restaurant on Columbus Avenue in Boston MA, called Bob the Chefs. Avenue manages to always tie in his theme with the city of Boston. You can tell that Boston is intertwined fully with his identity. Avenue ends this single confirming his identity (just incase anyone forgot), “I’m really from the town but I ain’t got the accent/ And fuck whats going on I’ll be forever crackin”.


The EP ends with the freestyle, “ Brownstone freestyle”. Transitioning from a more commercial sound, leaving the hooks behind, rapper Avenue leaves it all on this last track. This freestyle is somewhat a reminder to his listeners that he is still indeed existing as a human being, which can get hard at times. He ends his album with a voiceover by Keiajah “ KJ” Brooks. Taken from the infamous clip where she is literally reading the Kansas City police commissioner for filth. Her final words to the police: “ I’m not nice, and I don’t seek to be respectable. i’m not asking ya’ll for anything. Because ya’ll cant and wont both my savior and oppressor. Um, I don’t want reform. You get one life and you all in this room have chosen profits over people and that’s pathetic”. In conclusion: Ain’t shit sweet

These aren’t songs for Tik-Tok. These are songs that’ll still mean something years from now. Raps that someone could have written decades ago. Songs that you replay over and over again to grasp the full message. The conclusion of this album solidifies Avenue’s individuality as a conscious street rapper. Following in the footsteps of the Jay-Z’s, Nipsey’s, and Kendrick Lamar’s, Avenue remains grounded in his pursuit of success. 


2021: The Year of Authenticity

This January 2021 marked the year of Authenticity for the Black Woman. It is an interesting time for us in America, right now. While most things seem to be at a stand-still, black women are forging ahead in all industries, delivering a clear message to the world that says:  “We are here”. 

January 20th, 2021 marked a monumental moment in American History. Kamala Harris ( a graduate from the historically black college Howard University, and an member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority ) became the first black woman to be voted Vice-President of America. Ironically, after President Trump made a mess of the country, they sent a black woman in to clean up the mess.

With her unapologetic confidence, Harris made it very clear that she would not shrink herself to pacify the American public, and quickly became a beacon of inspiration for black girls all around the country. But this would only be the beginning for us.

As a response to police brutality and the growing oppression of white supremacy, many black consumers started “buying black”, pouring money into black industries and businesses, truly recognizing, and finally giving credit to the work of black creatives in all fields. Black creativity has become the theme of this Black History Month, with the notion that this world simply cannot exist without it.

Black women: This is the year where we strip away the layers that no longer serve us and we show the world who we truly are. Black women are not a monolith. We come in many shapes and forms. We as individuals are able to shape-shift all throughout our lives. We are ghetto, and we are boujie. We are submissive but we are also leaders. We can twerk and we can code. I bet you somewhere out there, is a black girl who can twerk while coding!

Whether it’s by chopping off your perm, or simply choosing not to code-switch at work, this is the time for black women to step into their power by stepping into their truth. And the truth is: We are reclaiming our position at the head of modern society.