The Honeycomb Edition

Fly. Funky. Fresh.

May 16, 2018
ashleabrandon

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The Heat: Why the Summer Is Your Chance to Reset on Sunset

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Quite some time has passed since I have been a student, yet the anticipation of summer still gives me excitement like it did when I was a kid. Summer was never just about having extra time to play for me (although this is important for children as well). The time away from the norm was my chance to explore more of my own interests and reflect on what I liked and disliked from the previous school year.
Now as an adult summer does not mean unlimited free time. Still, I do take the overall casualness of season as a chance to have an internal retreat. We can never forget the importance of exposing ourselves to new things and analyzing what we see without outside influence.
First, it is important we take a moment just to be thankful for where we are. No matter how frustrated you might be in the moment you are blessed just to have the capacity to try and march on another day. Having a sense of gratefulness keeps us from making decisions out of desperation.  Settling will not take you where you want to be, but changing your strategy will.
From there, you need to be honest with yourself about what it is you really want. So many of people feel unfulfilled because they struggle to express where their true ambitions lie. Do not feel reserved or embarrassed about being your authentic self. And if you do not yet have the answers to get to where you want to be, that’s fine too. If we had all of the answers, where would faith come in? If we had all of the answers, we could not grow during the journey. Learn to find joy in the process because destination-based happiness (graduating from college, owning a home, etc.) is fleeting. Learn to fall in love with the process of becoming who and what you want to be. Life is too precious to merely define it by moments that can be spaced out by months or even years.
Now that you have done some self-observation, strive to gain some outside knowledge. None of us should possess such hubris that we fail to understand how important it is to study the work and sacrifices of those that came before us. Often times, we will discover that the difficulties we have someone else has already struggled with and possibly provided a solution to. More times than not, learning how people persevere can be a source of encouragement as we face difficulties along the way.
Be sure to closely observe the current times around you as well. Information is readily available to us, but we must take the time to decide what we believe for ourselves. We have to have some sort of anchor of our own before we can be prepared for new opportunities. Do not let being a novice or newcomer in a field allow you to be taken advantage of because you have not taken the time to establish your own tenets. Humility is key, but never fall into the trap of thinking that your own voice is not relevant.
Summer is such a prime opportunity for self-development because it is a fun time of the year. We are supposed to enjoy growing. Sometimes change brings on the heat, but there is beauty in being exposed as our true selves. Take the summer to blossom and grow and return in a new form with childlike joy.
Photo Credit: Model Gail O’Neill in Elle’s June 1987 issue; photographed by Marc Hispard

April 30, 2018
ashleabrandon

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Forever, For Always, For Love: Examining the Lyrical Text of Luther Vandross

Few are synonomous with love songs to the extent Luther Vandross is. His music, more than decade after his demise, remains a penicillin for the lows and woes of love. Despite Luther’s clear penchant for singing of love unrequited, his music remains homogenized in the “love making” category. He sang about “love” but he did not sing about “romance”nearly as much as his legacy is packaged.
A prolific songwriter, Luther revealed to us a man who struggled with isolation, rejection, and uncertainty. His attention to detail in his lyrics did not make listeners feel that they were listening to a novella. Instead, he helped people to find the words that they struggled to articulate from their innermost thoughts.
In his 1983 song “Make Me a Believer,” he expresses his skepticism in such a tender way. He crooned,
“Superman can fly high way up in the sky/’Cause we believe he can/So what we choose to believe can always work out fine/It’s all in the mind/So think of a place and imagine a time/And let’s go be lovers.”
Luther spoke of preparing the vessel for love. So often the idea and sensation of love deceive us. Luther explained in the song that the mind must be prepared to receive. Just the same, sometimes doubt can impede the ability to receive love, as seen in these lines:
“I know the way to persuade me over to your side/And I am sure you can/So if you get me to believe/It all will work out fine/’Cause you’ll blow my mind.” The song shows a constant battle we experience as lovers, which is trying to manage reasonable expectations and never fully letting go of our wildest dreams of love.

A change of perception can help us to realize just how much we can limit ourselves. In his 1985 song, “Other Side of the World,” he sings of someone he had known for “quite some time” and the discovery that the person was actually tailor-made to the love he needed. Luther sang,
“There’s so many stories of love/All with the wonders of love/And so very sad I would be/’Cause none belonged to me/Could be it’s all for the voice/So I finally let it rest/Sad but I thought that maybe/Love wasn’t meant for me…”
Often times as people, we become so engulfed in the love stories we have seen or heard that we forget to appreciate that our own love story will be unlike anyone else’s. As Luther makes this revelation as the song progresses, you can sense the emotional relief he received from realizing the beauty in his own journey to love.
“So crazy how things can change your life/Now that love is you, everything is right/And loneliness is the other side/Of the world…”
Our minds limit us far more than our locale.

The willingness to remain still was often a topic in Luther’s music. “Wait for Love,” released in 1986, reflects someone who had dealt with enough bruises from love that he could recognize a healthy love when it actually came his way. He sang,
“When you take the chance on love you see/It’s not a waste of time if you truly believe/The impossible can be/So hold on tight if you think you’re right/’Cause nothing hurts as bad as when you see.You gave up too easily.”

In the vast majority of Luther’s songs, he offered some sort of resolution to the long suffering of love. While he might not have obtained the object of his affection, he at the very least gained a greater sense of self. In those tunes where his desires were matched, he had matured into a person who could enjoy the lushness of love.
The intention of this piece is not to put a veil of sadness over Luther’s legacy. Instead, we as people should celebrate the ability to be our most vulnerable selves, knowing the importance examining ourselves, and not being comfortable with settling.
Luther left us with many more standards that would take years to encapsulate. In addition to the gift of being able to write his thoughts, he had an unparalleled ability to reinterpret the works of others. Below is a list of songs he sang that are worth a further observation:
  • “Better Love” (1983)–a call for his lover to weigh the risk-reward of running off with a new love
  • “Promise Me” (1983)–after reflecting about time away from his love, the distance has reignited his passion to make the relationship work. The piano chords are seductive and lure you in.
  • “Creepin'” (1985)–the joys and frustration of falling for someone who does not even realize how sprung you are. A great listen when battling insomnia because of its repetition.
  • “Any One Who Had a Heart” (1986)–a Dionne Warwick cover, Luther credited seeing her perform this tune live during his teenage years as the revelation that he should pursue a music career. It’s a heart-wrenching portrayal of being exploited in love.
  • “I Can Make It Better” (1996)–by the late 1990s Luther had a period where he infused the blues into more of his work. This song is a battle cry to someone who has yet to discover self-worth.
  • “I’m Only Human” (1998)–Luther did a bit of reverse psychology in this jazz-blues collaboration with Cassandra Wilson. Rather than questioning himself about love, he was able to convince his subject to do the same.

 

May 3, 2017
ashleabrandon

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Freshness: TLC’s “Way Back” + Reflections on What TLC Did for Black Girls Who Have Fun

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TLC released the first single from their long-awaited fifth studio album and it bops!

The song is true to the ATL sound they introduced to us in 1992, all while nodding to the sounds of today. The tune is just breezy. You can dance to it but just the same you will enjoy going down memory lane with your girls as it plays in the background.

As I listened to the song, I kept thinking about what TLC meant to me growing up. As thorough 90s baby, I remember the highs and lows they had of being the biggest girl group in the world to Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes’ tragic passing. From “Ain’t Too Proud 2 Beg” to “Way Back,” what stands out to me most is how these ladies always seemed to have fun and were never embarrassed to show that side of themselves.

Now T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli had plenty of grown women talks. Whether is having a sidepiece (“Creep”), disloyalty (“What About Your Friends”), or putting a trifling man in his place (“No Scrubs”), their quick and clever delivery dismantled the bitter black woman narrative. Their frank talks showed that being carefree and light-hearted should priorities and not to feel guilty for dismissing people who rob us of those feelings.

Furthermore, their personalities shined. Sure, they had their rough patches as group members, but their synergy was unparalleled. We saw three women with three starkly different stories who seemed to thrive off what made them different rather than be intimidated by it. Their support of each other is what made them so confident to challenge gender norms like wearing sagging jeans or take beauty risks like rocking blue lipstick years before is became the norm.

 

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Currently I am in the age range I so vividly remember TLC being in. Being a young black woman can quickly devolve into deadlines, stress, and just overall uncertainty. I look back at TLC in their 20s, even as they faced bankruptcy, health issues, and their share of mistakes, they still were unapologetic about having fun. They are proof of how healing a goofy moment with your girls can be. Their oft-mentioned press conference after the 1996 Grammys is a prime example.

Now in their forties with teenage children and having suffered the devastating loss of losing a friend, TLC is still having fun. That should lift us. Maybe this brand of fun they have given us for 25 years is called “carefree black girls” or “black girl joy” in 2017. I’m not sure and it really doesn’t matter—“fun” has no box!

Thank you ladies.

April 26, 2017
ashleabrandon

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Shed Tears, Shed Fear: An Appreciation for Isaiah Thomas

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Isaiah Thomas openly wept as he faced the Chicago Bulls for the start of the 2017 NBA playoffs. Just the day before he lost his sister. Time will tell how the playoffs will end for the Celtics, but Thomas has done much more showing the emotional maturity of black men during his grief.

 

Black men have generationally been chastised for openly showing hurt. Signs of vulnerability have been unfairly manipulated to show weakness and instability. This line of thinking often misguides black men into grieving in detrimental ways. We need to be thankful that Thomas spared his pride and let us see him hurt while he worked. He has channeled his pain in a productive way, showing that we can build even as we try to emotionally rebuild.

 

Even beyond that, Thomas’ openness with his grief has allowed us to see how beautiful it is to see men, particularly black men, emotionally support each other. He was quoted as saying, “Mentally and emotionally I’m not here. I just feed off what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence, so I can’t do without those guys. They believe in me, and being here is what makes me, I guess, sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through this tough time.”

 

The journey to healing is far from over for Thomas, but he is blessed to have an outlet and we are blessed to see him healthily take the journey.

April 14, 2017
ashleabrandon

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The Pleasure Principle: Janet Jackson and Black Female Empowerment—An Overview

Black womanhood is the most nuanced of femininity. While historically many women were expected to be confined to their homes, black women were expected to physically labor alongside black men to build a country that was not theirs.

Our beauty has historically been dismissed, even dehumanized, yet commoditized and fetishized for the profit of others.

The obligation of appeasing family also largely shapes black womanhood. We sacrifice our dreams and beliefs to appease family, knowing we could be more.

One black woman has had the unique juncture of living this life from a pre-schooler to now middle age for the world to see. Her name is Janet Damita Jo Jackson.

Being the baby of such large and renowned family, the world placed her in a box before she could even reach the age of 18. THE will break down her evolution starting with her teenage years.

She emerged from the shadows with Control, an unabashed account of needing your own identity and unapologetically setting standards for yourself.

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With Rhythm Nation 1814, she examined how detrimental societal structure cannot be eradicated from our personal space, even as we experience a great “Escapade.”

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As wonderful as it is to command the respect of others and share our philanthropy with the world, sometimes we have to reintroduce ourselves…to ourselves. With the janet. album, she showed how important it is we pursue to our desires for personal satisfaction. Not because my family said I shouldn’t or society tells me I can’t, but rather do what I love because there is only one me and I deserve to make her happy.

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The Velvet Rope album tackled one of the most taboo subjects of the black community—family trauma. It explored how you can love the people closest to you but resent their ways and yearn not for their approval but instead their support.

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Just to make all of this more exciting, Janet gave us all this potent content with dazzling aesthetics and visually simulating production values.

Let’s go!

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March 2, 2017
ashleabrandon

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Can I Get a Witness?: “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)”

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Tax season springs up many jokes about refund checks, but the manner the funds from the citizenry is spent annually can be quite antagonizing. The way the government allocates taxes does not always seem to serve people. As a matter of fact, sometimes it feels harmful.

Marvin Gaye was plagued by tax issues much of his adult life. Though some of these problems were self-inflicted, his childhood in racially segregated Washington, D.C. made him skeptical at an early age as to how citizens are really benefited. The hypocrisy that the city expected to enforce national equity failed to do so for its own citizens remained apart of both his psyche and artistry.

He once said,

“The Washington schools were still segregated and so were the restaurants and movies. I don’t remember ever having a white teacher. How’s the average black kid supposed to buy the Bill of Rights when he sees on his own streets that his own rights aren’t worth shit?”

Gaye knew that the conditions had to change, but he was not willing to conform to the standard federal regulations might prescribe to the public to bring about such change.

The quest for improvement and the subsequent government resistance towards it is the nucleus of his 1971 staple “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).” He co-wrote the song with James Nyx. Gaye notes the burdens of urban life and chastises the burden-givers. Concerning economic woes, Gaye wrote, “Rockets, moon shots/Spend it on the have-nots/Money, we make it/’Fore we see it, you’ll take it…Natural fact is/Honey, that I can’t pay my taxes.” He is critical of the federal system channeling vast amounts of money into outer-space research that could be used to benefit people on Earth who have no resources. He expresses resentment for heavy taxation, a practice that he feels depletes the reward of a person’s work before he or she can even have it.

Police brutality has also been problematic for urban life, escalating to new heights in the 1970s (Dempsey and Forst 229). Taxes are used to fund police departments and implement policies that many African-Americans feel are detrimental to black communities. We continue to face this paradigm in the 21st century. Law enforcement misconduct and the failure to address its repercussions were and continue to be most prevalently found in minority and economically suffering communities. Such a dynamic further breeds anxiety in an already tense area. Gaye sang, “Crime is increasing/Trigger happy policing/Panic is spreading/God knows where, where we’re heading.” Gaye’s frustration with police corruption would help to solidify a refrain heard again generations later in black music.

Michael Campbell wrote in his book Rock and Roll: An Introduction:

In its depiction of the hard life of inner-city residents in both words and music, social issues, and even fewer that succeed in enhancing the message musically as well as Gaye does here….In an important way, Gaye’s song is a bridge between blues and rap, the two black styles that have tackled social issues more frequently than any other. It updates the blues as social commentary and lays the groundwork for rap…such as Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy. (297)

On a personal level, Gaye’s tax problems became so problematic that he eventually went into a self-imposed tax exile in Europe (Ritz). His escape was bigger than owing a debt—it was symbolic of feeling excluded from his nation of birth because financial legalities did not serve him. Ranging from proper school funding to adequate police procedures, the money citizens owe the government each year can be perceived as working against us.

THE is not advocating a refusal to pay taxes, but we do acknowledge that many black Americans feel taxation puts us into our own exile because the funds are often use to marginalize our potential.

Campbell, Michael. Rock and Roll: An Introduction. Stamford, Connecticut: Cengage            Learning, 2008. Print.

Dempsey, John S. and Linda S. Forst. An Introduction to Policing. Stamford, Connecticut: Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

Ritz, David. Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye. New York, New York: Da Capo Press, 2002. Print.

 

 

 

 

November 23, 2015
ashleabrandon

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Controlling Your Narrative

 

Soul-Food

The holiday season can be the happiest of times but also the messiest. With so many festivities during the end of the year, people have the natural inclination to ask about your personal life.

Depending on your current events, you might have some matters you would rather not touch. After all, it is your life and your business. Still, some details of our lives cannot escape public consumption. Maybe a job everyone thought you had fell through, a relationship collapsed, or any other occurrence this generation of over-sharing might spring on you. When this happens, it is important to directly address it.

Once you enter adulthood, of course, you are not obligated to explain how you live your life; however, people will talk regardless. The key is not to become consumed by their discussion but rather shape the discussion.

The news that hits people’s ears first tends to control the narrative. Whatever time of the year you find yourself becoming a hot topic, here are a few ways you can spin it all in your favor:

  • First, stop beating yourself up about the disappointment. Learn from it. Be accountable for your part in the situation. Still, not properly regulating your internal struggles will at some point stifle your overall productivity. If we live long enough, we will all have something we wished the world did not have to see play out. Forgive yourself and use this as an opportunity to grow.
  • If you know the topic has already began to circulate among other people or will eventually become known, be the first to say it. Being the first to address a topic allows you to set the standard. Anything said after your statement will be measured by your words. It is your life, so you should not give anyone the inadvertent privilege of speaking on your behalf.
  • People usually magnify a situation by based on how embarrassed they think you will be concerning the circumstances. Addressing the issue forthright lets people know that this issue will not have you walking on eggshells. No fact that you acknowledge can be used against you effectively. The allure of the gossip mill automatically fades when you do not try to sidestep a scandal or setback.
  • Many of the gossipers do not mean you well, but be considerate of those who are true friends, significant others, close family, and other valued relationships. One of the most hurtful things is to learn a major occurrence “in the streets” about someone you are close to. If you know that a “secret” is only a Facebook click or a group text away from revealed, please let your good friends, lovers, and relatives know. For one, people close to you will be find it painful that you did not have enough confidence in the bond that you could come to them about your difficulty. Additionally, anyone who is really down for you would rather help you pick up the pieces rather than kick you while you are down.

Whether it be the holidays or not, anytime is a good time to free yourself from the opinions of others. Rather than wonder what people are saying, you should say what needs to be said. Let the world know where you stand—the rest is irrelevant.