This Rapper is Joining the Fight for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention

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Waka Flocka posing at a press event

On the evening of May 25, near the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, rapper Waka Flocka tweeted that he was going to dedicate his life to suicide prevention and mental illness. This tweet likely stemmed from the reminder of his deceased brother’s upcoming birthday, which would happen less than a week later.

The rapper tweeted his support by saying, “I’m officially dedicating my life to suicide prevention and mental illness!!! Y’all not alone Waka Flocka Flame is with y’all now!!!!”

In 2017, Waka Flocka revealed in an interview with the show The Therapist that his younger brother committed suicide in 2013. In this interview, he stated that his brother, Coades, tried to call him before taking his life, leaving Waka Flocka to wonder what would have happened if he picked up the phone.

While the specifics of what the renowned rapper will do is unknown at the moment, Waka Flocka has made his goals clear, stating in a follow-up tweet that he has officially accepted his brother’s passing and believes he is now in a better place.

Waka Flocka stated, “You have no idea how it feel to wanna take your own life man…my little brother took his own life…This year I’m officially accepting the fact that he’s in a better place.”

Lil Nas X ‘Will Never Trust Pants Again’ After ‘SNL’ Wardrobe Malfunction

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Lil Nas X seated on the set of Jimmy Fallon's talk show with special guest David Groll.

, HuffPost

Lil Nas X is setting the record straight about splitting his pants on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, assuring fans the wardrobe malfunction was not a publicity stunt. Appearing on “The Tonight Show” Monday, the two-time Grammy winner recalled what was going through his head during the memeable moment, which took place toward the end of his debut live performance of the No. 1 smash “Montero (Call Me by Your Name).” “I’m pretty much going down the pole, doing my little sexy drop down and boom! I feel air,” he told host Jimmy Fallon. “I’m like ‘OK, there’s definitely a breeze going on.’ And I also felt some popping still happening while I was down there.” Lil Nas X was unable to halt the “SNL” broadcast, of course, so he held a hand over for his crotch for the remainder of the song to avoid a Lil Nas X-rated moment. “You know what the worst part is? At the end of the performance, the dancers are supposed to touch me and tug on me and they were tugging on the pants,” he said. “I was like, ‘Please God, no.’”

Though the Atlanta rapper and singer has a sense of humor about it now, the wardrobe malfunction apparently weighed on his mind as he prepared for his late night television spot. As the interview aired, he joked on Twitter that he’d opted for a red tartan skirt for his “Tonight Show” appearance because he “will never trust pants again.”

Click here to read the full article on HuffPost.

Billboard Music Awards: Drake’s son joins him to accept artist of the decade

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Drake and his son standing on stage accepting his award at the billboard music awards

By Mark Savage, BBC

Drake’s son Adonis made a surprise appearance at Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards, joining his father onstage as he won an artist of the decade prize. The rapper, 34, gripped his son’s shoulder throughout his speech, before hoisting him into the air and saying: “I want to dedicate this award to you.” The three year old burst into tears, and left the stage clinging to his father’s leg.

Meanwhile, The Weeknd was the night’s big winner, taking home 10 awards. Among his prizes were best artist; top Hot 100 album for After Hours; and top Hot 100 song for Blinding Lights. The star, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, more than doubled his career total of Billboard Music Awards, having previously received nine trophies.

Korean pop band BTS also picked up four prizes, winning best group for the second time in three years; and top social artist for the fifth consecutive year. The band is now just one year short of equalling Justin Bieber’s six-year hold on the social award from 2011- 2016.

Here are some of the other highlights and talking points from the show.

Machine Gun Kelly painted his tongue black

Best rock artist winner Machine Gun Kelly arrived at the ceremony with a rather unusual oral condition: A jet-black tongue. Had he gone overboard with the charcoal toothpaste? Developed a crippling liquorice habit? Been cursed by an evil dentist? Sadly not. A visit to his Instagram reveals that the musician had someone paint his tongue carefully with a cotton bud. On the red carpet, he made sure everyone noticed, sticking his tongue out for fans, sticking his tongue out for the cameras, and (hold your stomachs) touching tongues with his girlfriend, Megan Fox.

His reasons are still unclear. Is it a reference to The Rolling Stones Paint It Black? Or is he simply a big fan of giraffes? We may never know.

Pink admitted her childhood crush

Pink accepted the Icon Award from rock star Bon Jovi, and confessed she’d been obsessed with the star when she was eight – locking herself in her bedroom for a week after he got married.

“I’m very glad you found lasting love, Jon, but you broke my heart. I take this as an apology,” she laughed, indicating her trophy.

To celebrate her prize, the star performed a career-spanning medley of hits, including Who Know, Get The Party Started and Just Give Me A Reason.

But the highlight was a breathtaking aerial acrobatic routine, performed with her nine-year-old daughter Willow, set to their duet Cover Me In Sunshine.

Click here to read the full article on BBC.

Billy Porter Breaks a 14-Year Silence: “This Is What HIV-Positive Looks Like Now”

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Billy Porter in a black and white photo posed to the side looking at his right hand

BY BILLY PORTER, AS TOLD TO LACEY ROSE, The Hollywood Reporter

Billy Porter takes a long deep breath. “I have to start in 2007,” he says, having settled in across the table. He’s here, at Little Owl in the West Village, to get something off his chest — something that’s been shrouded in secrecy so long, he can barely remember life before.

“In June of that year,” he continues, a ball of nerves, even if the performer in him refuses to let on, “I was diagnosed HIV-positive.” In the 14 years since, the Emmy-winning star of Pose has told next to no one, fearing marginalization and retaliation in an industry that hasn’t always been kind to him. Instead, the 51-year-old, who has cultivated a fervent fan base in recent years on the basis of his talent and authenticity, says he’s been using Pray Tell, his HIV-positive character on the FX series, as his proxy. “I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate,” he reveals, acknowledging that nobody involved with the show had any idea he was drawing from his own life.

Now, as the Peabody Award-winning series, a ball-scene drama set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, concludes its third and final season, Porter is preparing for what’s next. There’s a memoir, over which he’s agonized and blown deadlines, set for later this year; a Netflix documentary about his life, which will keep him in business with Pose co-creator Ryan Murphy; a 2021 take on Cinderella, in which he’ll play the fairy godmother; a directorial debut; a host of new music; and much, much more.

But the Broadway-trained actor, who is an Oscar shy of an EGOT, isn’t interested in entering the next phase of his life and career with the shame that’s trailed him for more than a decade. So, with Murphy by his side for support, and a cadre of documentary cameras hovering above, Porter tells his story. An edited version follows.

Having lived through the plague, my question was always, “Why was I spared? Why am I living?”

Well, I’m living so that I can tell the story. There’s a whole generation that was here, and I stand on their shoulders. I can be who I am in this space, at this time, because of the legacy that they left for me. So it’s time to put my big boy pants on and talk.

Click here to read the full article on the Hollywood Reporter.

Last Name Ever, First Name Greatest: Drake to Receive Artist of the Decade Award at 2021 Billboard Music Awards

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Drake poses in the press room during the 2019 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada

By Shanelle Genai, The Root

Cue the “Toosie Slide!” On Tuesday it was announced that Drake will be receiving the Artist of the Decade Award at this year’s Billboard Music Awards.

Variety reports the award takes into account Billboard consumption data from 2009 through 2019, noting that during that time the Canadian rapper racked up a historic 27 awards—the most of any artist ever. Additionally, during his 10-year run, producers also pointed out that Drake had nine No. 1 albums, the most of any artist during the decade and 33 Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, the most by any artist ever. (GOAT shit, I know that’s right!)

This year’s BBMAs will also see Drake vying for eight more ‘“Ws,” including Top Artist, Top Male Artist, Top Billboard 200, Top 100 Artist, Top Streaming Song Artist, Top Rap Artist, and Top Streaming Song alongside fellow “Life is Good” rapper Future. I don’t know about you but as The Root’s resident Drake stan, I have to say—I’m glad to see the Certified Lover Boy getting this recognition.

But Shanelle, Drake always gets recognized. What are you saying?

OK, but not like this. This award is for Artist of the Decade, which means whether you wanted to or even knew it or not, you have been hearing Drake consistently in some form or fashion for the last 10 years. “Nonstop.”

I don’t think that’s technically what it me—

And if you haven’t heard Drake, then you’ve most definitely been privy to the influence he’s had on the culture. Whether it’s through his gif-worthy facial expressions and debatable dance moves or a caption on Instagram, Drake’s influence is unmatched. Period point blank. And I, for one, am always glad when people have to talk about it. He told us back in 2013 to see who’s still around a decade from now; seeing as how we’re just two years shy of 2023 and he’s still relevant—it’s safe to say that Drizzy Drake is here for a good time and a long time.

Click here to read the full article on The Root.

Ask a Black therapist: 4 ways to support Black people’s mental health

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A young man cries while being consoled by female friends during a group therapy meeting.

By Ashley Vaughan, CNN

“There is a difference between being informed and getting retraumatized.”

That’s what clinical therapist Paul Bashea Williams tells himself and his clients as they struggle with the distressing images that resurfaced during the Derek Chauvin trial.

The proceeding churned up a persistent trauma. The frequent replay of George Floyd’s final moments may have left many feeling raw, vulnerable and without relief.

While the evidence surrounding Floyd’s death is distressing for most people, it is overwhelming for African Americans — and especially excruciating for Black men who see their very humanity reflected in him.

“Sometimes you are visualizing you,” says Williams, lead clinician and owner of Hearts in Mind Counseling in Prince George and Montgomery counties in Maryland. Ninety percent of his clients identify as Black.

In the aftermath of Floyd’s murder and Chauvin’s trial, African Americans are fighting harder than ever to protect and prioritize their mental health.

Caught between hope and hopelessness
According to Williams, his clients are continuously cycling through feelings of hope and hopelessness. While many hope for justice, they are also bracing for disappointment, one that feels familiar when unarmed Black men and women are killed by police officers.

Williams also points out the secondary trauma African Americans experience from the images and video surrounding Floyd’s death.
“It is the emotional and psychological effects experienced through vicarious exposure to the details of traumatic experiences of others,” he says.

Among the private concerns Black men have shared with Williams are “feeling anxiety around leaving the house” and “depression over not having control over one’s life.”

Tip 1: Acknowledge your feelings

Take a moment to be present with yourself and to name the feelings and experiences you may be having, Williams suggests. To begin, you can start with this question, “What am I experiencing now?”
The answer to that question may be fatigue, headaches, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, irritability, and anxiety. Emotional and physiological responses can be helpful gauges of knowing when enough is enough.
“If I know what is happening in my environment, I can allow myself to make shifts,” he says.

Tip 2: Create community

A trusted support team is helpful in gently identifying changes you may not readily see in your mood or behavior. The therapist is clear that one’s self-care community must be grounded in relationships they can trust.
Helpful communities can flourish online through group texts and at socially distanced meetings.

Tip 3: Prioritize self-care with boundaries

In his practice, Williams helps his clients identify ways to care for their mental health in their everyday lives. One way to do this individually is to take an internal inventory of moments when you historically experienced joy.
Williams mentions that, culturally, Black individuals are often taught to care for others ahead of themselves, while balancing the pressures that come with daily life.
“We have to have self-advocacy. We have to prioritize ourselves,” he says. “And it is not selfish.”
To begin this process, Williams suggests asking yourself, “What are the things I liked growing up?” and “What are the things I like now?”
Williams says this step is often unfamiliar for men.
When asking male clients “What does your self-care look like?” he’s often met with blank stares and hesitation.
“They were like, ‘Man, I don’t know what that is,'” he says.
Seeing this need among his clients and social media following, Williams created a men’s self-care calendar to help men rediscover their own individual needs.
The next step is to create boundaries to prioritize needs. For example, Williams says using the “do not disturb” option on a phone is one way of “putting the responsibility on the boundary.”
“Boundaries allow you to protect yourself,” he says. “Boundaries are like a set of rules that you have in order to function, and to have healthier experiences with people, places and things.”

Tip 4: Seek therapy

“It is important for the Black community to get into therapy,” Williams says.
He recommends finding a therapist whom you trust and who fits with you.
“Your first therapist might not fit,” he cautions.
When seeking a clinician, he encourages individuals to try out therapists. He also recommends pushing back if you feel you aren’t getting enough in sessions.
“Be empowered to find another therapist.” He says. “Say, ‘Hey, I don’t feel like I am getting what I need. Can we try something else?'”
And, if your therapist isn’t working out, Williams recommends acknowledging it and finding someone who may be a better fit.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

A Black woman is hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards for the first time

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Mickey Guyton wearing a long sleeve black gown smiling at the camera and holding up her country music award

By Alexis Benveniste, CNN

Country music singer Mickey Guyton will make history Sunday when she hosts the Academy of Country Music Awards with Keith Urban.

The 37-year-old singer from Arlington, Texas, will be the first Black woman to host the awards ceremony.
And this isn’t Guyton’s first time making history in the country music world. In September 2020, she became the first Black female solo artist to sing her own song at the ACMAs. And in March, she became the first Black solo female artist to earn a Grammy nomination in a country music category. At the ceremony, she performed “Black Like Me,” her song that address the discrimination she has experienced as a Black woman. The song was released just eight days after George Floyd was killed.
The door to country music has long been closed to many Black artists, with just a handful of exceptions. Starting in the 1920s, record labels deliberately marketed what was once called “hillbilly music” as the music of the rural White South, historians say.
But the thumbprints of African American culture are stamped on virtually every facet of country music, including its vocal harmonies, instrumentations, and some of its most popular songs. Black artists helped build country music.

Click here to read the full article on CNN Business.

THE WEEKND DONATES $1 MIL FOR 2 MILLION MEALS … To Help Ethiopians

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A headshot of the weeknd from a concert of his with the WFP logo next to him

By TMZ

The Weeknd is getting involved with the military conflict in Ethiopia — donating a million dollars, which will provide food for people who need it there.

The singer, who is of Ethiopian descent himself, partnered with World Food Program USA — a UN World Food Programme affiliate — to send over a million bucks toward relief efforts in the North African country … which has been mired with bloodshed and chaos for months. Specifically, Abel’s money will provide the equivalent of 2 million meals for citizens there who have been caught in the middle of the feuding factions … many of whom are running out of resources, like food.

TW says, “My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are being displaced out of fear and destruction.” He goes on to encourage others who can to donate as well.

If you haven’t heard, Ethiopia has been embroiled in a bitter battle with its own people since November — when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an attack on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front — the ruling party in the northern part of the region.

Click here to read the full article on TMZ!

Beyonce Makes History Winning The Most NAACP Image Awards

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Beyonce performing in a rose gold off-the-shoulder gown with built in cape from Ralph and Russo’s Fall 2018 couture collection

Beyonce has made history at the 2021 NAACP Image Awards.

The music icon now has the most NAACP Image Awards in history after she racked up four awards for the 52nd event, NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson announced on Saturday.

The NAACP Image Awards hosted a series of non-televised virtual events recognizing winners in over 60 categories in the five days leading up to its televised ceremony on Saturday. The two-hour virtual event, which was hosted by Anthony Anderson, aired live across ViacomCBS networks including BET and CBS.

Beyonce took home wins in the Outstanding Female Artist, Outstanding Hip Hop/Rap Song, Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (Traditional), and Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (Contemporary) categories during a virtual event on Thursday.

Johnson celebrated Beyoncé’s achievement on Twitter, writing, “Congratulations
@Beyonce on winning the most #NAACPImageAwards in history!”

Representatives for the NAACP Image Awards did not immediately return requests to confirm Beyoncé’s total tally of wins, but the “Black Parade” artist has won at least 20 Image Awards as a solo artist since the 2004 ceremony when she first won the Entertainer of the Year award. She won that award again in 2019. Her former group, Destiny’s Child, racked up a handful of wins in the Outstanding Duo or Group category in the early to mid-2000s.

Beyoncé has already made music award history this month.

She won four awards at the Grammys on March 14, bringing her total wins to 28 ― the most Grammys won by a female artist.

Click here to read the full article on HuffPost.

Miko Marks is blazing trail again as Black women find place in country music

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Singer Miko Marks poses for a portrait outside a studio

By Andrew Gilbert, Datebook

Nashville can be a lonely place for a Black woman breaking into the country music scene. And Miko Marks knows this firsthand.

The Oakland singer, who recorded two well-regarded albums during a Tennessee sojourn in the mid-aughts, said she found a warm welcome just about everywhere she performed except for the home of country music itself.

“I was always open to wherever my path would lead, but things did not work out in Nashville,” Marks said, noting that she felt fitting in required tamping down her identity.

Music City may not have been ready for Marks, but she helped clear a country music trail for other Black women, and now she’s getting back on the horse with her first new album in 14 years. Working closely with the creative team at the recently launched East Palo Alto label Redtone Records, Marks recorded “Our Country,” a rollicking, gospel music-infused session that thrums to the justice-seeking frequency of Black Lives Matter.

“These songs were made out of the experience we’re going through right now,” said Marks, who celebrates the album’s Friday, March 26, release with an acoustic performance that will be live-streamed on her YouTube channel and Facebook page. “The music is there to speak to the times.”

Miko Marks sins autographs in front of a wall of her album covers
Miko Marks is blazing trail again as Black women find place in country music. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle 2008

The album grew out of a vivid dream Marks had, but not in the sense of fulfilling a long-held ambition. Rather, late in the summer of 2019, she literally dreamed about musicians she hadn’t worked with for more than a decade. A quick phone call put her back in touch with Justin Phipps and Steve Wyreman, the Redtone Records founders who perform together as the Resurrectors.

Phipps and Wyreman were excited to get back in touch with Marks and realized a song they’d recently written, “Goodnight America,” would be ideal for her rich contralto. An elegy for a country headed in the wrong direction, “it didn’t fit anyone we were currently working with,” Phipps said. “When Miko reached out, we sent it to her and she sat with it for a while. Ultimately, she felt it resonated with where she was and where she wanted to be going.”

When Marks released the song as a video last year, a few weeks before the pandemic lockdown, it was definitely a departure from where she’d been. Before “Goodnight America,” she’d always avoided taking a political stance in her music, preferring to focus on personal themes. With “Our Country,” she’s jumped into the fray.

“I definitely feel like there’s a conversation being had that’s long overdue,” Marks said. “I am hopeful. I feel that the times are different than when I started out.”

Marks grew up with gospel music, singing in church in Flint, Mich., “but I was always drawn to country music,” she said. “Loretta and Patsy, Kenny Rogers and ‘Hee Haw’ were huge in my household. It was a normal thing. It wasn’t until I was older that there was this line clearly drawn, but country music has its roots in Black music. Even the banjo is from Africa.”

She met her San Francisco-raised husband David Hawkins when they were students at Grambling State University in Louisiana, and by 1996 the couple settled in the Bay Area. Though she loved singing, Marks said she wouldn’t have pursued a career in music without Hawkins’ encouragement, and after recording a Jeffrey Wood-produced demo at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, she decided to give up her day job in San Francisco as a legal secretary and try her luck in Nashville.

Working with producer Ron Cornelius at Mirrome Records, she released her debut album, “Freeway Bound,” in 2005 and followed it up with 2007’s “It Feels Good.” Both albums featured first-call studio talent that caught the attention of mainstream country music audiences. And yet, while the sessions were well received, the indie label couldn’t break Marks into country radio and it became clear that Nashville didn’t really know what to do with her.

In 2006, the Bay Area welcomed her back. Marks became one of the region’s most visible country music singers, performing everywhere from the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo and San Francisco’s Pier 23 to the Saddle Rack in Fremont and Oakland’s Overland (the latter two permanently shuttered during the pandemic).

Click here to read the full article on Datebook.

Power: LaKeisha star LaLa Anthony reunites with 50 Cent for huge new Starz project

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LaLa Anthony as LaKeisha on the set of Power seated next to co star.

By LISA WEHRSTEDT, Express UK

After her amazing performance as LaKeisha on the Starz show Power, LaLa Anthony has now landed a major new role alongside Power producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, on an upcoming drama. Inspired by true events, Black Mafia Family will tell the story of two brothers from 1980’s Detroit who started one of the most influential crime family in the country.

LaLa Anthony will plat Markaisha Taylor, the wife to flamboyant drug dealer and head of the family Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory.

She is also best friend to her husband’s brother and fellow boss Terry “Southwest T” Flenory, which will make for some interesting dynamics as family loyalty is called into question.

The brothers’ vision is to take their business beyond the drug trade and into the world of hip-hop to become global icons.

Meanwhile, Markaisha has her own plan to harness Terry’s seriousness and sense of purpose to make herself rich.

As the two grow closer and ultimately intimate, their relationship will mean the demise of Markaisha’s marriage as well as Terry’s reputation on the streets.

Snoop Dogg has also joined the cast as Pastor Swift, the Flenory family’s spiritual advisor.

His character description reads: “He’s a man of The Word, with the aura of an ex-con.”

“The Pastor believes in the power of the Lord, and does his best to keep Meech and Terry in good graces.”

He will eventually make his way into the family and become a close confidant, although “Meech and Terry’s father resents all the attention the Pastor showers over the Flenory’s family, but no one can deny all the good the Pastor does for them.”

Joining the show is also Serayah, who will play Demetrius’s girlfriend, Lori Walker.

She is a smart, driven, yet naive college athlete who fell for Meech’s bad boy charm when the couple was younger.

After having a daughter with him, Lori is now more mature and clear-eyed.

Her world centres more around her daughter, and she expects less out of Meech, which makes him want her more.

Click here to read the full article on Express UK.

Grammys: Read Trevor Noah’s Opening Monologue

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Trevor Noah poses with his head resting on his hand with a Grammy award in a tuxedo

By Jackie Strause, The Hollywood Reporter

The host kept his jokes to a minimum while introducing a very different version of music’s biggest night amid the pandemic era of awards shows.

Trevor Noah kicked off a very intimate Grammy Awards show on Sunday, using his opening monologue to tour viewers around the CBS telecast’s COVID-safe, indoor-outdoor set.

Opening the night outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, Noah explained that the nominees were seated in a tented limited audience outside the venue, while the artists would be taking the stage for the night’s performances inside the nearly empty convention center. While he quipped about hot-button topics like COVID-19, the U.S. Capitol insurrection and the royals, his opener was intended to set-up the different-seeming and yet hopeful night.

“Tonight’s about bringing us all together as only music can. I mean — music and vaccines,” said the Daily Show host in an introduction fit for the pandemic-era of awards shows.

Good evening, everyone. And welcome to the 63rd annual Grammy Awards. My name is Trevor Noah and I’ll be your host tonight as we celebrate the last 10 years of music that got us through the last 10 years of coronavirus. I know it’s been one year, but it feels like 10.

As you can see, this year, people, we have made the decision to socially distance from the Staples Center, but we’re still broadcasting to you from the heart of downtown Los Angeles. This is not a Zoom background, alright? This is real. My uncle isn’t going to walk behind me naked even though I told him I was having an important meeting. That’s not going to happen tonight.

Tonight, we’re going to celebrate some of the fantastic music that has touched our lives and saved our souls over this unprecedented year. And as you can see, we are outside. Meaning, we get to enjoy the great Los Angeles air — which I know maybe as dangerous as COVID, but we’re willing to take the risk.

Tonight is going to be the biggest outdoor event this year besides the storming of the Capitol. Because, you see, right here in this elegant, open-air tent, we will be presenting the most prestigious, sought-after, peer-voted trophies in music, giving out shiny new Grammy awards live throughout the evening. But we have to do it quickly because tomorrow this tent is reserved for an outdoor wedding in Malibu and I do not want to lose my security deposit.

Click here to read Trevor Noah’s full monologue transcript on The Hollywood Reporter

This New Agency Is Harnessing Data To Improve Black Women’s Access To Wellness

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Jasmine Marie sits at her lap top smiling at her screen. She is sitting at a desk , aside her computer is a plant and behind her is her bed.

By Anna Haines

“Black women aren’t a monolith, representation isn’t enough,” Jasmine Marie, the CEO and founder of Black Girls Breathing, tells Forbes. “We need the data to craft solutions that meet their unique needs.”

Since the company’s inception in 2018, Black Girls Breathing (bgb) has been going beyond their breathwork circles, strategically collecting feedback from their community. Now their new research and creative agency, House of bgb, will be devoted to the research they’ve collected to fill the gap in data on Black women.

PHOTO : SOLOMAN JONES VIA BLACK GIRLS BREATHING

Black women are disproportionately affected by health issues stemming from chronic stress, yet continue to face disparities in accessing wellness services, like breathwork, which can cost upwards of $300 a session. Even for those with insurance coverage, consistent mental health services remain largely inaccessible, says Marie. COVID-19 has not only heightened the financial barriers facing Black women, but made their need for accessible health care even more urgent.

In response to the pandemic, Black Girls Breathing has offered sliding-scale, virtual breathwork classes, and fundraised to provide over one hundred Black women with free breathwork access for one year. But Marie worries these initiatives are not enough—68% of the bgb community has reported that the bgb breathwork circles are the only consistent mental health practice they have. By strategically collaborating with companies that have Black women’s best interests in mind, House of bgb plans to make Black women’s access to mental health services sustainable.

“We’re keeping it all in the family, building this community and making companies rise to the occasion, not just leeching on our culture but working with us in the right way,” says Marie. She wants to set a new bar for representation, insisting House of bgb will only work with companies who demonstrate a genuine commitment to improving health outcomes for Black women. Whether it’s custom research or developing a brand campaign, clients who want to reach this target audience have an incentive to work with House of bgb’s Black-led team because they’ll be “sowing right back to the community,” says Marie. “Black creatives will have jobs to work on and Black women will be able to continue to access breathwork in a free and accessible manner.”

Given that Black women control a major portion of the African-American community’s spending power—estimated to reach $1.5 trillion this year—house of bgb’s ability to collect real-time data on the needs of Black women gives them a competitive edge. They’ve surveyed the bgb community on a wide range of topics, such as job loss, insurance coverage, occupation, stress levels at home and work, and of course, how breathwork has helped participants specifically. Their first white paper summary, “Impact Of COVID-19 And The State Of Black Women’s Mental Health,” released last month, combines these findings with public research to draw new insights on Black women’s unique needs.

House of bgb is just the latest example of Marie’s creative approach to entrepreneurship. “I love the fact that I don’t have a typical mental health background because that’s where innovation begins,” Marie tells Forbes. The bgb founder was working in global brand development when she discovered the healing benefits of breathwork through a pastor at her church in Harlem. “In 2018, I woke up and it was clear in my spirit that I needed to get trained in it,” she says.

Read the full article at Forbes.

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