Long Live X !

Lately, I’ve been doing my best to ensure that I  practice what I preach; keeping in mind to reciprocate the same energy unto myself I exude to others.

It always seem to amaze me how the death or birth of one person could shake the world up and evoke universal emotions, causing people to put their differences aside. So, when you hear people say music is their life, believe them it’s no joke. XXXTentacion’s influence on his cult-like fanbase is proof.

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The name XXXTentacion might be unfamiliar to most and up until his death that was probably your first introduction to him. For other people, just hearing his name brings tears to their eyes. I have a confession, when I received the news of his death, it took me a minute to put a face to the name. Even then I still had some difficulty and immediately did what most people do when we need a visual reminder, googled him.  I had never personally went out of my way to search his music and listen to it.  I told myself I wouldn’t listen to the hip-hop freshman of this generation and cancelled him out before even giving him a try.

Well, look at me now. I spent the last few days since XXXTentacion’s transition (06.18.2018) obsessively listening to his music on streaming sites such as sound cloud and apple music. I have to admit his talent exceeds far beyond intense messages of his troubled life and turnt up riot music. He presents his real life experiences, pains, and inspirational messages to fans, then etches them into his musically inclined talents.

His musical style is an infusion of diverse genres including: alternative rock, heavy metal, and of course, hip hop/rap. My eyes have been glued to youtube searching for any answers to reveal the truth about his untimely death-others may arguably say, it was a publicity stunt and he’s still very much alive.

This is why the cliche “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” quote continuously resurfaces in my life. Before listening to his music, I remember seeing images of XXXTentacion: dreadlocks wildly protruding from his head, dark squinted eyes, tatted body from face to torso and a grim, unsmiling face.

0621-xxxtentacion-insta-3I saw the images and instantly judged him. I’m usually not one to judge, but let’s be honest everyone judges to some extent, whether it’s intentional or unintentional.  I’m in no position to judge, but his pictures gave me a eerie vibe. My first thoughts were, he’s either on some heavy drugs; a demon worshipper in the industry; or just another trap rapper, with nonsensical rhymes who will end up having a short lived career.

I guess in some instances my judgement was true, indeed his career was short lived but to my knowledge all of my other assumptions held no truth.

xxxtentacion

From what I read in articles, heard in his lyrics, watched on youtube interviews and his social media videos, his life wasn’t perfect and he wasn’t perfect.  Based on the alleged assaults and incidents he seemed self destructive; constantly getting into fights and harming others. Yet, he was mindful of becoming a better man and he used his music as a cathartic method to express his personal pains, while voicing his opinions about the injustices of the world. He served as a catalyst for the youth to promote love (on all levels), and speak positivity; always reminding his supporters (mostly adolescents) to not cheat themselves of living to their greatest potential.

XXXTenatacion was categorized as a  “black sheep” “troubled”  whatever other adjectives the media and the general population have listed him underneath are welcome to this list. It truly saddens me to write this post because we all have a purpose-maybe his was fulfilled or only getting started. What so ever it was, each of our experiences are different for a reason and no one leads a perfect life. By the way, what is perfect? if you’re perfect then you’ll have no room to grow or learn. Ask yourself this, would you rather be perfect than flawed?  The human race has fallen into the dark pit of desensitization. We are quick to label, judge, scrutinize and condemn without having  full awareness of ourselves and confronting our own demons.

I didn’t know him on a personal level or even reached a pinnacle to converse with him. From my personal research, I’ve only seen the media depict a distorted perception of him. Yet, i decided to perceive him in my own light and not based on someone else’s opinion of him. I always try to remind myself:

Keep an open

Research

Know the facts

& Bring them to the table with YOUR perspective

In the days, months, years to come, I hope the novelty of XXXTentacion’s death doesn’t wear off instantly. We live in an age where gun and gang violence are normalized, we mourn for a few seconds then quickly forget and move on with our lives.

Yeah, you might read this and call me a “fake supporter” but sometimes it takes death for someone to live eternally. I don’t mean live in the sense of physicality but spiritual and lyrically. I’ll admit, I’m not a day one but from now on I’m a forever.

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Rest easy Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy,  the world will NEVER forget you.

LONG. LIVE. X.

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Black Panther: A Hidden Gem

Is Black Panther really for the culture?

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Some claim the film to be over-hyped, while others perceive it as a cultural movement.

After all the hype and major suspense, leading up to the official premiere day of “Black Panther.” I finally bought my ticket (a few days later because the movie was sold out the entire weekend) and with the company of my 7-year-old nephew, we headed out to join the glorious nation of Wakanda. (sigh) No, we didn’t join the wave of wearing traditional African garb. Truthfully, I don’t own any at the moment (yea, yea, I know shame on me). However, we still looked pretty good in our casual modern, westernized ensembles.

It’s refreshing to see Black actors (of all ages) step away from Hollywood’s stereotypical “Black roles” which often limit our narratives to enslavement, and a variety of other societal forms of oppression: drug dealers, impoverished/ struggling working class people, drug addicts and common victims of authoritative inflicted violence.

Let me just say this, any movie that makes you want to join a fictionalized nation is- in my opinion- a life changing and enjoyable experience. I’d love to live in Wakanda; if it were a real nation, I’d revoke my American citizenship and move there in a heartbeat.

I mean no shade to the hundreds of other classic Marvel superhero films that have countless remakes. Once again, no shade, noooo shade:(#AllMarvelSuperheroLivesMatter). It’s just Black Panther’s story-in contrast to his fellow Marvel counterparts- was never brought to the forefront and popularized in the mainstream. Black panther isn’t a new super hero on the scene, he’s nearly 6 decades old. So, yea, he’s pretty mature at this point.

I guess it’s fair to say, some of the best things are worth waiting for. & 2018 was definitely Black Panther’s time so shine.

It warmed my heart seeing various hues of beautiful brown complexion grace the cinematic screen and deliver their roles with ferocious power.

Black Panther presented more than just vibrant, intense combatting; dope high tech equipment, afrocentric beauty; national/cultural pride; innovation and traditional rituals. It depicts, the story of Africa in a positive, uplifting and forward thinking way- without the spoon fed HIStoric accounts of poverty and emaciated people. Before someone comes on here and tries to burst my proud ‘black panther bubble’ let me clarify; Yes,I’m aware the story is fictionalized. But there’s no denying that the influential sources derive from actual African cultures.

WahKinda LOVE? WAKANDA LOVE.

 

Another thing, I’ve been keeping in my hypercritical mind when it comes to watching movies are the overt portrayals of love and the role(s) each love interest plays.

Now, we all know it’s clear who the film’s central love interests are: T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o)

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T’Challa plays the role of a powerful leader who is both influenced and weakened by women. His sister Shuri, is a young innovative scientist, whose technologically advanced inventions- with the use of a natural resource (vibranium)-enhances T’Challa’s abilities, allowing him to seem nearly indestructible against his opponents. It’s with Shuri’s inventions that T’Challa simultaneously defeats and protects his precious Wakanda.

 

The film projects heterosexual love in a different light for both genders; Love is perceived as patient, unwavering, persistent, protective, and eternal. The love T’Challa displays for his country and lover, Nakia, are somewhat similar, yet deeply disparate.

The romanticized stereotypes of male obsession, sexual acts, conversations revolving around the male figure were not present in this film. Tbh, I’m relieved. I’m beyond tired of these redundant, cliche plot lines.

Neither, T’Challa or Nakia, portray cliche gender biased characteristics (i.e., the female= submissive or usually lacking self-confidence, sometimes both; male= dominate, popular and physically attractive) instead T’Challa and Nakia demonstrate their strong rapport through mutual respect and balance. The males in the utopian society of Wakanda level the playing field by showing respect for their women through, inclusion, understanding, leadership and influence. There is an overall respect for female influence in Wakanda.

I find  T’Challa’s inability to think or speak freely in Nakia’s presence so cute and innocent. What’s even more humorous about it, is how often he’s teased for his act. Once again, there is a clear message of the strength feminine aura upholds in this society and its undeniably powerful influence on men.

Nakia asserts her power by vocalizing her wants and aspirations to T’Challa. Although Nikia is offered the  honor of claiming the throne as T’Challa’s wife and Queen of Wakanda; she chooses  to follow her own path and fulfill her desires before settling for a life blanketed with comfort (You go girl!).T’Challa respects her wishes and continues to show his undying love for Nakia in other ways.

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I appreciate the writers and most importantly the characters for showing us that it’s possible to express love far beyond the confines of physicality or intimacy. Not once was there an act of sexual expression or subliminal messages. Thank God! It would’ve been awkward having to explain that to my nephew. 

Both characters were aware of their significant roles in one another’s lives, but used their love to join forces to fight for their even greater love, Wakanda.

So, to answer the question. Yes, I wholeheartedly believe Black Panther

is the culture

for the culture

and is a representation of the culture.

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Anti-thot Anthem: Who wouldn’t want SZA for “The Weekend”?

Lately, I’ve been having a major issue with people categorizing SZA as a “thot” or advocating for the  “thot lifestyle”.

Thot strange word, right? I know some of my readers probably have peculiar expressions on their faces,  wondering what in the hell does that mean?

Well my friends, this slanged terminology simply means Hoe or let me be politically correct, an avidly promiscuous individual.

As you can see I have a thing for digressing, but it’s all in good nature. I just want to clarify any misconceptions and allow my readers to understand what I’m saying.

I might have just added a new word to your vocabulary. You’re welcome 😉

I’m very aware of the fact that I don’t know SZA on a personal level. However, there’s something powerful about a music artist’s ability to be lyrically vulnerable, which helps bridge the gap between artist and fan, causing you to feel as if you really know them and share their pain.

Well let me say this I resonate all too well with the situation SZA sings about in her popular R&B track, as some may call it a thot anthem “The Weekend”

I’ll just sprinkle a tad bit on you. The content may be too heavy for the faint, uppity or judgmental hearted.

“My man is my man, is your man, heard that’s her man too Repeat. (…) Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I just keep him satisfied through the weekend. You like 9-5, I’m the weekend.”

Let me clarify this, in no way shape or form am I promoting infidelity/Side chick-ism. I simply just want people to actually listen to songs (not just the beat) hear the sources -in this case- the artist’s P.O.V, in order to truly get a sense of why they wrote the song? What place were they writing from? What influenced them to release their song to the public?

SZA starts off by saying “You say you got a girl,  how you want me, how you want me, when you got a girl.” The latter verses explains that this young man clearly holds no emotional ties to any of the women he is sexually involved with. His sexual desires are fulfilled through various sexual partners.

SZA explains from her perspective that she enjoys being sexually intimate with him and desires to have it more often, so she is proposing to reach a compromise with the other women where she can selfishly have him all to herself  throughout The Weekend. During weekdays, the other women can work it out amongst themselves. SZA is basically saying, he’s for everyone and each woman gets their fair share of his loving.

In this age and I’m sure many women of past generations have encountered experiences where they willingly accepted to play a role for the sake of their lover. Sometimes we as human beings. become selfless for our partners and blindly agree to what numerous other people would contest too. Those same people are the first to give you the vicious side eye, advising you how to live your life. Of course, it’s through their clean, unscratched, perfectly wiped narcissistic lenses.

I’ve played many roles in my life and I’m not proud of them all, neither am I ashamed.  I’m a young woman who takes ownership. Maturity  and growth is a daily learning task, not some intuitive instinct we’re born with. Everything takes time and we all live different lives.  I’m not perfect, hell no one is.  I support SZA’s stance on the weekend and stand firmly in her perspective that she is not promoting infidelity, thots or side chicks.

And I reiterate for the umpteenth time, this is not a “THOT ANTHEM”

When artists like SZA are willing to be candid and freely share their pain and life lessons through their love of music; I ask that you please listen and refrain from judgmental labels which only hold negative stigmas and connotations.

I am not a thot or a fucking whore. I am just an imperfect, flawed, sometimes naive, too nice, too understanding and accepting 20 something.  What can I say? I guess that’s just the growing pains of a 20 something. Every experience is either a blessing or a lesson. My personal experiences may not be the best, but I’m grateful, now I can say yea I’ve encountered some situations where  I traded my morals for the temporary fulfillment of lust. Yet I survived.

I might just help another maturing woman through her situation while withholding the I-am-holier-than-thou attitude.

Thank you SZA for your words and sharing your experience.

Sometimes the worse experiences are the best stories. 

Here’s a link to the song as well, give it a listen and comment with your opinion of the lyrical message. I’d love to hear other perspectives.

“The Weekend” By SZA

And remember, Those who can’t relate are always the first to judge!!

#JustSayin

#SorryNotSorry

Carpe diem!

I think I know the moment I became disconnected with myself.

While residing in Buffalo, I allowed myself to settle for any mediocre job opportunity that was at hand, for the sake of making ends meet. I hated every second of each temp job I attained. During this time I allowed other people-employers-to look at me and form their assumptions about what I needed. And that desperate need was settling for their low wages, ridiculous long hours and heavy labor. I allowed a string of employers to both indirectly and directly tell me that my concerns and future aspirations did not matter; what mattered the most was my commitment to clocking-in to their schedule and doing what they demanded.

I lost myself, I lost hope of my dreams and I was blinded by the negative, bitterness to break free. I began to agree with them and after a while I began showing up to work with the forced poker face, trying to convince myself “Ok yolee, just fake it until you make it, that’s all.” I was so caught up in the hype of having my own apartment and my own space, but in reality what I truly lacked was a sense of complete ownership. The ownership of my decisions, career, love-life, relationships with others, and my life in general. I was lost, struggling to hold on to everything, without realizing that nothing in Buffalo was ever really mine. I rented an apartment, I relied on public transportation, and I lost friends, so in retrospect I had not owned anything.  All I truly had was myself and I often questioned that.

I’m nearing my fifth month of unemployment.

Today, I decided to take a chance without second guessing or overthinking the possible outcomes. Lately, I began accepting rejection as a commonality in my life, but today my warrior spirit showed up and led me to seek out a long awaited opportunity. I was watching everyone around me- close friends, former school peers and even relatives attain their glorious success in the job market.  I even believed in the reassuring repetitive phrase, “Don’t worry your time will come, it’ll show up when you least expect it.”

So you know what I did, guess?

I waited…waited and waited. I’ve been waiting for almost 5 months for this wonderful, mind-blowing opportunity to miraculously appear in my emails or present itself in a voicemail.

The wonderful opportunity didn’t arrive, but you know what did, my good old reliable friend, rejection. For these past few moths she’s been a dependent one. Always ready to greet me with a welcoming smile and open arms. I hated her so much and the more my hate grew the more she swelled with pride.

Today,

I learned a few lessons about myself, 

I allow fear of the unknown to control me and potential progressive steps. I also accept the possibilities of defeat to prohibit my attempts,

I learned that for some people, the universe sends opportunity their way without restraint. As for me, well the Stewarts in general we have to walk out in to the world and pave our own way.

Today as my feet led me to my destination there wasn’t a speck of self doubt within my body.  I opened that door for myself and God opened it on a spiritual level.

If I had not left my mom’s apartment I would’ve remained comfortable in my daily duties of texting and  waiting for replies; waiting for calls I’ll probably never receive, flipping through channels and raiding the food pantry for my umpteenth snack or meal of the day.

My brother made a valid point yesterday. He said to me, we’re already at a disadvantage because we don’t have a foundation to build from and nothing was ever handed to us.

I’m proud of myself for seizing the day, and placing myself back out into the world to show them who I am and what I’m capable of. I somehow landed an instructor specialist job based on my degree and the qualifications on my resume.

I’m completely nervous about this new chapter I’m about to open in my developing adulting memoir.  It’s scary, kids are scary, but I trust God knows what he’s doing for me and with me. my story is just beginning, my life is just beginning and there’s so much more to go.

 

Humanity rises above all

09/11

On a day like this it seems appropriate to write about, discuss, show or share Sympathy. 

Which ever medium you choose, it’s still a credible act.

In the midst of all the natural disasters our not-so-happy mother nature plagues upon us. She’s reminding us not just female/male, black/white, hispanic/asian but  (humankind) on a whole that throughout moments of our own personal lives we should strive to show sympathy. After all, it doesn’t cost you a dime to extend your hand and help someone beside you who has become unbalanced and fallen down.

Sympathy– doesn’t cost a thing. The slightest words, touch or gesture may bring a smile to another persons face and ignite a momentarily extinguished light that somehow  darkened their day.

Whether it may or may not have been you affected by the disasters of Harvey, Irma or Jose, remember there are people out there who felt their wrath and are now suffering the loss of homes, family members and personal items they’ve worked hard to attain. I know Life is worth more than materialistic possessions-although some of those things do bring a sense of temporary contentment- it’s about being present to witness and experience all life has to offer.

So on days preceding 09/11, on 09/11 and days following 09/11, remember to carry sympathy in your heart knowing that we all have an expiration date.

The AfroPunk Experience: Live in your truth

IMG_2464Leikeli47 performing at AfroPunk17

This post is long overdue, but it’s better now than never, right?

When it comes to AfroPunk, a few things come to mind:

Eclectic fashion

Black culture

Music

Afros

Natural hair/braids

Unity

Platfroms

Free spirits

Diversity

Punk rockers

& Of course a whole lot of “BK love”

Personally,  after experiencing AfroPunk for myself what comes to mind is love for ALL people. Yes, white supremacists you read correctly, I said all people. So that includes your Negro lovin’ white brethren.

Amidst all the hatred that has occurred and is transpiring, it warmed my heart to see people of different cultures, ages, and various backgrounds congregate together. Events like AfroPunk show that no matter how disparate, inferior or superior, society attempts to make us feel, in the grand scheme of things we’re actually all just human beings.  AfroPunk is more than just a fashion runway for attendees , a concert lineup of dope artists (both mainstream and upcoming) it’s an open forum for individuals to freely be their self in their most truest and purest form. In this space of Afrocentric love and appreciation; people are able to be Black and proud + say it out loud! With no discrimination to any other cultures.

Is it fake of me for initially wanting to see three main performers: The sultry Solange, fearless Willow Smith, and carefree SZA.

Yea, I guess it is a little fake of me for wanting to support only three artists among the array of talented acts. Well guess what AfroPunk organizers caught the drift and I was swindled into paying for a weekend pass. Yup they got me. Oh and By the way, Solange, SZA and Willow you’re welcome.

All in all, the AfroPunk experience is one of the major highlights of summer 2017 and it’s also my first official summer returning home to reclaim my place as a New Yorker after years of traveling to and from Buffalo, residing there for a year as a post-graduate (Phew) that was a mouth full. Let me just say it’s bittersweet readjusting to living in NYC with my parents in my childhood home. any who, that’s another story for a different day.

Back to the main topic, AfroPunk! There isn’t a more satisfying feeling in the world than having the opportunity to wholeheartedly live in an experience you’ve always wanted to do. Most of us (yes, i’m including myself) pile a ton of things on our to-do lists, but never actually live to see the day that particular seeded dream manifests into a living breathing reality.

The feelings of love and good vibes immersed me, almost suffocated me both physically and emotionally. I felt a sense of relief being in a place where people weren’t overtly judging others for their clothes, hairstyle or musical choice. We embraced and celebrated all of our differences and similarities through the love of music.

For those New Yorkers who have not gone to AfroPunk, I say this you should be ashamed of yourself and even if it’s not your thing you shouldn’t knock it before you try it. Check out the line up and give it a shot, you might just discover some new music to add to your playlistI, I know I did. Besides my three must-see artists, I’m now feeling the Afrocentric, feminist vibe of the HWIC Princess Nokia, the fast paced, get-up-outyour-seat hip hop dance music of Leikeli 47 and hardcore, British rapper Little Simz made Nicki Minaj and Remy Martin look like mere nursery rhymes.

Looking back at the AfroPunk Saturday lineup, there was some serious female empowerment vibes.

The most important aspect of AfroPunk is that it’s not a place to proliferate ideologies of sexism, racism, xenophobia and/or cruel intentions. Leave your violence and negativity at the door, as the great, rap trio Migos once said “Yea that way”—> For those of you who don’t know what that means let me clarify: Leave. The. BS. At the door. It’s not welcome in this space.

Self expression comes in multiple forms, love of music, fashion, and artistry. Thank you AfroPunk for allowing us to freely incorporate all three.

And my Amigos here a few fun pictures for you to scroll through. Enjoy!

IMG_2489What can I say, I have a thing for murals.

IMG_2472 .    Little Simz

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“Hoping my 20-somethings don’t end, hoping to keep the rest of my friends” -SZA

 

 

 -S.Yolee

A long overdue Thank you

Thank you for holding my hand during moments I pulled away

Thank you for reaching for a kiss even when I stubbornly resisted the urge to feel the warmth of your love

Thank you for pulling me close and embracing every flaw and fault even when I  refused and pulled away from you

Thank you for attentively listening to me ramble about my day

Thank you for considering to alter your wardrobe a little even though I knew sweats & hoodies were your go-to comfort outfit

Thank you for oiling my scalp, when my braids itched against my scalp and I was too lazy to do it myself

Thank you for refusing to allow me to wallow in self-pity and doubt when I encountered a few bumps in the road

Thank you for lovingly gazing at me, although my insecurities caused me to repeatedly tell you to stop

Thank you for the moments you argued with me and shared your perspective on life, love and politics

Thank you for teasing me

Thank you for your witty and sarcastic rebuttals

Thank you for moments of laughter

Thank you for being a supporter

I thank you for every moment and the impact you had on my life in such a short time.

Most importantly, thank you for being you and not asking much of me.

Thank you for trying to wait for me, but realizing that eventually you had to let me go for the sake of your own heart.

Thank you for the promises, I once believed in when I saw the way you looked at me and felt the passion of your embrace.

Thank you for once loving me, leading me to the possibilities of receiving love.

Thank you for assuring me that it is okay to accept love.

I wanted to be perfect for you. So, thank you for not asking me to not be anything, but myself.

Thank you.

 

-S.Yolee