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.

YOUR HEALTH MATTERS: African American models wear their natural hair and talk mental health

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African American models wear their natural hair and talk mental health

By Annie Krall, WBay

“A woman’s hair is her crown” a saying which takes on a deeper meaning for black women. Wearing their natural hair for example in afros or braids is a source of cultural pride. But it sometimes invites social and professional rejection.

Some of the African American women in our community and across the country tell us heavy is the head that wears the crown in the struggle for racial equality. For black women, having access to products and stylists who know how to care for their hair and makeup can be life-changing.

“Just access to basic products sometimes can be a huge barrier to being able to feel really good about how you’re looking,” Renita Robinson the vice-president of diversity and inclusion at Prevea Health shared. “So, with African American hair there are curl patterns and you can have super curly hair. My hair is super super curly. So, when my hair was longer when it was 12 inches long, when it got wet it was probably about an inch. It curls up super tight. You have to straighten it to have it look longer.”

It’s a local problem. Trying to find a hair stylist with different textured hair can be difficult. Which is why visiting black hair stylists like Shear Images Salon in Appleton is so crucial. However, it’s not just a problem of beauty access in Northeast Wisconsin. It’s a national issue.

“I’ve been on sets where I actually came with a full afro like this, it was actually bigger, and I left with my hair straight, and it wouldn’t revert back,” model, entrepreneur, and mental health advocate Tanaye White remembered. “I’ve been on sets where the makeup artists didn’t have my foundation color and I was literally on set looking like Casper the Ghost. I’ve been on sets where I’ve had to run into the bathroom and do my makeup myself because no one knew or had what I needed.”

Working for brands like Adidas, Sports Illustrated, and Juicy Couture featuring her natural afro, Tanaye said was a turning point in her career. As was the summer of 2020 for the modeling industry after the race riots with the creation of the Black Beauty Roster. An entertainment industry directory of hair and makeup artists with expertise on people of color.

An initiative to prevent models showing up to fashion shows and feeling, “just exhausting,” Mamè Adjei, a model, actress, and activist, emphasized. “Exhausting and a little traumatizing to be honest because we’ll go on set and I would just love to get up and be on set like my white counterparts and not worry about doing my hair or makeup. But I have to come prepared as with anything in life.”

When asked about having that expertise about different skin tones and different hair types, how important is that to sort of see makeup artists who are able to work on models like you, who actually have that familiarity that a lot of times wasn’t there.

“I love Black Beauty Roster because they really amplify the voice of D&I,” Tanaye replied.

Showcasing the beauty and strength of black women in Northeast Wisconsin.

“If a person doesn’t feel good about belonging or has issues around belonging and those kind of things,” Renita said. “Of course not looking good is only going to exacerbate it particularly if there is bullying. Or if there are environments where people are making comments to make you feel more vulnerable.”

These black women emphasized three points. First, fostering positivity and understanding even if you don’t regularly have to think about your hair. Secondly, to use resources like YouTube to learn more and be an ally or do outreach. Finally supporting local black hair stylists or joining the Black Beauty Roster to inspire change.

Click here to read the full article on WBay.

Dr. Dre helps break ground on new Compton High School performing arts center

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Dr. Dre

By ABC 7

A performing arts center at Compton High School that’s being built with the help of music mogul Dr. Dre is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Compton native – who donated $10 million to the project – joined city and school leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the first step in getting the center up and running.

The facility will include a 1,200-seat theater and will be a place for young people to be creative in a way that will help further their education and positively define their future.

“When I was approached about funding a performing arts center that would provide an arts and technological education to students and be accessible for the community at large, I was all in,” said Dr. Dre. “I wanted to give the young people of Compton something I never had.”

Dr. Dre – born Andre Young – grew up in Compton and first rose to fame as a member of NWA, whose debut album was titled “Straight Outta Compton.”

He later found success as a solo artist, producer and businessman.

The performing arts center will be the first new high school facility to be built in almost a decade in the greater Los Angeles area.

Compton High School is more than 100 years old.

“This is very historical for Compton,” said Compton Unified School District Board President Micah Ali.

Click here to read the full article on ABC 7.

Kevin Hart Signs $100 Million Investment Agreement To Create HARTBEAT, Which Will Be Led By An All Black Leadership Team

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HARTBEAT Team L to R: CCO Bryan Smiley, Chairman Kevin Hart, CEO Thai Randolph, and CDO Jeff Clanagan

By Corein Carter, Forbes

Kevin Hart, trailblazing entrepreneur, executive, and entertainer, has now combined Laugh Out Loud and HartBeat Productions to create one of the leading sources of comedic storytelling and experiences with HARTBEAT, after more than a decade of leveraging his individual success to build the two high-growth companies.

With the mission of keeping the world laughing together, the multi-platform company creates entertainment at the intersection of comedy and culture. Hartbeat Productions’ best-in-class television and film production capabilities are combined with Laugh Out Loud’s extensive distribution network, as well as marketing, sales, experiential, branded content, digital, and social capabilities.

HARTBEAT was established with a $100 million investment from Abry Partners, a private equity firm that took a minority stake in the new company. Evolution Media Capital and a team from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP led by Sophia Yen, a partner in the Entertainment Group, advised HARTBEAT on the deal.

The creation of HARTBEAT and the capital raised with Abry Partners mark the beginning of a new era in comedy. Hart is proud of what has been delivered. As part of the agreement, Nicolas Massard, a partner at Abry Partners, will join the HARTBEAT board as part of the agreement. Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, will remain a shareholder in Laugh Out Loud after signing a multi-year, first look deal and taking an equity stake in the network in 2020.

Hart discusses his commitment to building the most innovative and inclusive comedy storytelling company. “In an industry where people love to say no and shut doors, I’ve been confident in forging our own path and using our success to open doors for others. We’re taking the new entertainment blueprint we’ve built to the next level with this merger and funding, paving the way for a new generation of comedic talent. I can’t wait to bring more comedians, experiences, and heartfelt stories to the world.”

HARTBEAT intends to use the funds to expand its team, accelerate growth for existing brands and franchises, and develop a new IP that will appeal to a global audience. This will be accomplished by collaborating with today’s most influential stars and rising comedic talent, both in front of and behind the camera, using HARTBEAT’s creative engine, relationships, and resources.

The existing leadership from Hartbeat Productions and Laugh Out Loud will continue to oversee day-to-day operations. Thai Randolph, who previously served as President & COO of Laugh Out Loud and COO of Hartbeat Productions, has been appointed CEO of the new entity. Hart will serve as Chairman in the interim. Bryan Smiley of Hartbeat Productions will become President & Chief Content Officer, and Jeff Clanagan of LOL will become President & Chief Distribution Officer. Leland Wigington, co-founder of HartBeat Productions, will lead a new production banner under HARTBEAT.

Randolph spoke with For(bes) The Culture about the emergence of HARTBEAT.

“Commercially, it’s a milestone moment. In terms of the company’s capitalization and valuation, as well as the possibility of expanding the team to create more content. We are breathing rare air when it comes to scaling companies of this size, especially when it comes to having a company that is minority owned and run by people of color.” Randolph continues, “We don’t consider diversity to be an initiative because, the composition is more than half women and half people of color. We are diverse by design because it’s just good business. With the mission of keeping the world laughing together, we have a team that looks like the world around us, so we can program relevantly to those audiences.”

The LOL! Network was named one of the top 10 media publishers in an April 2021 Conviva report that ranked the size of social media audiences across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. It came in ahead of major players like Hulu. The merger and capital raise will allow HARTBEAT to expand and invest in the future of comedic entertainment, producing more in-demand content and experiences where comedy meets culture.

HARTBEAT is a full-service entertainment company that develops, markets, and distributes the most culturally relevant IP and experiences in comedy and beyond. The company is divided into three divisions:

● HARTBEAT Studios led by Bryan Smiley finances, develops, and produces comedy and culture-related film, television, and content.

● HARTBEAT Media, under the leadership of Jeff Clanagan, connects with consumers all over the world through events, gaming, music publishing, Web3 initiatives, and a vast distribution network.

● PULSE, the company’s branded entertainment studio, works with companies like P&G, Lyft, Sam’s Club, Chase, and Verizon to provide creative and cultural consulting.

Operating under HARTBEAT Media, the LOL! Network will continue to be the company’s flagship consumer brand, reaching audiences across its O&O social media, audio (SiriusXM) and OTT partners (Peacock, Roku, Tubi, PlutoTV, Vizio, Redbox, Xumo, and more).

With projects featuring Tiffany Haddish, Hasan Minhaj, Amanda Seales, Deon Cole, and Affion Crockett, HARTBEAT creates hit vehicles for A-list comedians and brings the next generation of comedic voices into the mainstream.

HARTBEAT is currently working on more than 60 projects with 15+ entertainment partners, all of which are in various stages of development. The company also has several multi-year strategic partnerships, including the unscripted first look deal with NBCU’s Peacock, a film deal with Netflix, a partnership with SiriusXM, and a deal with Audible via the joint venture SBH Productions with Charlamagne Tha God.

Among the upcoming projects include: Me Time (Netflix) with Mark Wahlberg and Regina Hall, “Storytown” (HBO Max), the F. Gary Gray action heist Lift (Netflix), #1 on the Call Sheet documentary (Apple TV+), “Die Hart” season 2 (Roku), “So Dumb It’s Criminal” with Snoop Dogg (Peacock), and a new season of the Hart-led sports talk show “Cold as Balls” (LOL Network).

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Diversity in the Healthcare Industry, at Every Step

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business woman seated at desk smiling with hand on laptop

Abbott and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) recently announced a $37.5 million initiative to empower diverse small businesses to help create a more diverse healthcare supply chain. The initiative will provide diverse small-business owners with the tailored solutions, support and resources they need to grow, compete and create jobs – enabling greater diversity in healthcare and a more inclusive supply chain for Abbott and other healthcare companies.

This work advances Abbott and LISC’s shared commitment to create a more diverse healthcare industry and generate jobs and stronger economies in underinvested communities.

This funding opportunity is open to qualified diverse small businesses and offers support through:

  • Growth capital: interest-free capital to help businesses overcome hurdles to expansion, such as investing in management systems to comply with regulatory and environmental requirements
  • Business loans: flexible, affordable loans that would not typically be available through conventional lenders
  • Tailored coaching and technical assistance: targeted, customized support, including help with fulfilling investment and loan requirements and identifying and addressing specific business challenges

Eligible diverse small businesses for program participation and funding must be:

  • Diverse-owned, defined as those that are majority owned by people of color (including Black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans), women, veterans, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQ, and other historically underrepresented groups;
  • In business for more than two years and are based in the U.S. with an annual revenue of $250,000 or more; and
  • Focused on manufacturing nutrition, diagnostics, medical devices or other health technologies, or offering business-to-business products and services that the healthcare industry can use.
  • Sole proprietors are not eligible for the program.

For more information about this initiative, please visit the LISC site. And to learn more about Abbott’s work to support a more diverse supply chain, visit Abbott’s site.

Black women start to talk about uterine fibroids, a condition many get but few speak about

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Uterine Fibroids patient Daye Covington after treatment

By , NBC News

When Daye Covington visited her doctor for a routine physical last year, she expressed concern about weight gain in her belly that she said made her look seven months pregnant. But she knew she wasn’t pregnant, and she had a healthy lifestyle. An MRI revealed that she had multiple uterine fibroids — noncancerous growths in the uterus — the size of cantaloupes.

“First, I was relieved to know that I was not pregnant because I was not trying to be pregnant,” she told NBC News, “and then I was scared because I didn’t know much about fibroids.”

Uterine fibroids are rarely discussed, despite being a common condition, particularly for Black women. Experts say that by age 35, about half of Black women have had them, and by age 50, 80 percent of Black women have them, compared to 70 percent of white women. Black women are also more likely to have higher fibroid growth than other racial groups. While most cases require no treatment, in some instances, they can cause weight gain, heavy periods, frequent urination or pelvic pain, and they may require surgery.

Now, some Black women, like Covington, who shared her experience on are speaking up about their struggles and are encouraging others to educate themselves about the condition, so they can identify the symptoms and seek treatment, if necessary. Former star of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” Cynthia Bailey, 55, recently shared her experience with uterine fibroids with People, saying she endured heavy bleeding during periods, fatigue and an expanded belly, which led fans to assume she was pregnant. She also said her mental health took a toll.

 

31-year-old Daye Covington’s stomach is shown before and after her myomectomy.
31-year-old Daye Covington’s stomach is shown before and after her surgery to remove fibroids. Daye Covington

“It’s very hard to be in a good space mentally when you’re bleeding all the time and when you don’t have any energy, and you’re anemic,” she told the magazine.

While all women are at risk for developing uterine fibroids, Black women are disproportionately affected, with one study showing that Black women are three times more likely to develop them than white women and that Black women are more likely to need surgical treatment.

The reasons for this disparity, however, are less clear, said Eric Hardee, a physician and co-founder of Houston Fibroids and Texas Endovascular Associates. A family history of fibroids increases a woman’s risk. Obesity, diet and environmental factors may also play a role. Hair relaxers have also been linked to increased risk of uterine fibroid development.

Black women may also be less likely to seek help.

Cynthia Talla, 28, said despite her severe symptoms, she felt like she had to endure her pain alone. When she did seek help after dealing with fibroid symptoms as a teen, Talla said the medical professionals made her feel that Black women are able to bear the pain.

After Talla had surgery in 2020, she recalled telling her mother how good she was finally feeling.

“I remember crying, like, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t feel like this for years,’” she said. “So it’s very bad.”

Sara Harris, who serves on the board of the reproductive health organization Resilient Sisterhood Project, agreed.

“I do think there’s that superwoman phenomena, that Black women can do it all,” she said, “and speaking from my own personal experience, not wanting to ask for help because you know that you can take care of your own stuff, and you have to take care of everyone else around you at the same time.”

Harris added that many Black women also feel a taboo talking about these issues. Resilient Sisterhood Project offers support groups and virtual webinars with Black health experts to answer questions about topics on endometriosis, infertility and HPV, as well as training for universities and health care organizations about reproductive health and Black women’s needs in accessing health care.

Another issue with uterine fibroids, Harris said, is that they’re often misdiagnosed.

“Black women might be misdiagnosed for having an STI [sexually transmitted infection] or misdiagnosed for being pregnant or treated for preventing pregnancy, rather than looking at sort of what could be a deeper cause of the same symptoms that a Black woman is facing — like pelvic pain or prolonged menstrual bleeding,” Harris said.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

The CROWN Act highlights years of workplace hair discrimination finally being legally reprehensible

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Linda Husser modeling Zoom meeting crown (hair)

By Amiah Taylor, Fortune

The House of Representatives passed legislation on Friday, March 18, in a vote of 235-189, that would ban hair-related discrimination.

The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, first introduced to Congress in March 2019, prohibits prejudicial treatment towards individuals on the basis of their hair texture or hairstyle. This is the first step on a federal level needed to officially get the bill signed into law. The bill now goes to the Senate.

“Routinely, people of African descent are deprived of educational and employment opportunities because they are adorned with natural or protective hairstyles in which hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled, or worn in locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, or Afros,” according to the bill.

Personal style and grooming choices do have negative educational and employment consequences for Black people in ways that are not consistent for white individuals. For example, in clinical settings, Black nurses have been told to cut their hair for the sake of ‘infection control’ whereas their white peers are merely told to tie their hair up. “Black nurses worldwide have experienced ‘racial gaslighting’ through the profiling and policing of their hair, to the point of being driven out of nursing,” according to the Journal of Nursing Management.

Black nurses are not the only professionals who have been threatened with dismissal over “looking unprofessional,” when they show up to work with their hair in its natural state. In 2016, a Black woman was allegedly fired from her position as a waitress for wearing her natural hair in a bun. In 2019, a Black news anchor was fired over wearing a natural style, because of a company policy which stated on-air talent could not have “shaggy and unkempt,” hair. In 2021, a Black woman who stopped wearing wigs over her afro-textured hair was fired promptly from her sales position at American Screening.

Studies show that Black women with “Afrocentric hairstyles” are viewed as less professional than their counterparts who wear Eurocentric hairstyles, that are rooted in European standards of beauty which often emphasize straight hair. Whether it’s corporate America or the service industry, Black people have historically been expected to change their appearances to fit into the aesthetic norms of white professional settings. Echoing this sentiment, in a Feb. 28 statement in support of the CROWN Act, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler cited a 2019 study conducted by the JOY Collective in which 80% of Black women said they believed they had to alter their natural hair to gain acceptance in the office.

“While this study illustrates the prevalence of hair discrimination, it is the people behind those numbers that make this legislation so vital,” Nadler said. “For example, a Texas student was told that he would not be allowed to walk at graduation because his dreadlocks were too long; a Florida boy was turned away from his first day of school because his hair was too long; and a New Orleans-area girl was sent home from school for wearing braids.”

Nadler’s point about how hair racism affects school aged children is apparent in the petition of Latrenda Rush, which has gained over 89,000 signatures as of Mar. 21.

Rush was preparing for her son Joshua’s graduation from Abeka Academy, a Florida-based Christian school, when she was informed that he would be barred from walking during the graduation ceremony because of his hair. Abeka Academy’s grooming policy required male students not to have hair that exceeded their ears and specifically banned Black hairstyles such as braids and dreadlocks.

Abeka Academy has since apologized on Facebook, stating regret over their “insensitive rule,” and removing their ban on dreadlocks. However, the fact remains that without Rush’s vigilance, and the social pressure of a public outcry, Joshua and other Black students like him may have been excluded from walking during their graduation ceremony because of implicit bias against their racial hairstyles.

If passed in the Senate, the CROWN Act could potentially rectify the ongoing discrimination Black people face for wearing their hair in natural styles, by adding legal consequences for schools and employers alike. The social media response was that inclusive work and academic environments that do not chastise people of color for their natural hair are long overdue.

Click here to read the full article on Fortune.

Black therapists are struggling to be seen on TikTok. They’re forming their own communities instead

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Black therapists on TikTok are creating safe spaces for people of color.

From a well-lighted room, the plants blurred in the background, their face framed by closed captioning, Shahem Mclaurin speaks directly into the camera. The lesson: “Ten ways to start healing.”

But this is not a classroom, nor is it a therapist’s office. This is TikTok.

“We all have our own things to carry, and those burdens shouldn’t be carried with us for the rest of our lives,” says Mclaurin, a licensed social worker.

Through videos — some on topics like grief, “race/race-ism,” trauma and healing, others raw reactions or trending sounds, like this call to action to amplify people of color on TikTok — Mclaurin advocates for better representation in the mental health field. Mclaurin speaks to viewers who haven’t found caregivers they connect with because of stigmas surrounding therapy and acknowledges that few practitioners look like them.

“I am a Black, queer therapist, and I want to showcase myself being fully that,” Mclaurin said. “I always say, ‘My durag is part of my uniform.'”

Mental health professionals have soared in popularity on TikTok, addressing a wide swath of mental health conditions, reacting to the racial trauma from charged events like the trial of Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s murder and the January 6 insurrection, and bringing humor to sensitive issues like depression that for some communities remain hushed. On TikTok, Black therapists talk openly about working in a predominantly White field, while at the same time making mental health care more accessible for people who might be shut out of the health care system.

The Chinese-owned video app, with its U.S. headquarters in Culver City, California, provides a massive platform and even the potential for fame, with more than 1 billion monthly users. The hashtag #mentalhealth has racked up more than 28 billion views, alongside others like #blacktherapist and #blackmentalhealth that attract audiences of millions.

Video production has ballooned into a main job for Kojo Sarfo, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner living in Los Angeles, who has pulled in 2 million followers. Sarfo dances and acts out short skits about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders and other mental health conditions.

“I try to lighten topics that are very difficult for people to talk about,” he said. “And to let people know that it’s not as scary as you would think to go get help.”

Mental health professionals can run the gamut of medically trained psychiatrists to psychologists with doctorates to mental health counselors with master’s degrees. Although diversity is improving in the field — Black professionals make up 11% of psychologists younger than 36 — just 4% of the overall US psychologist workforce are Black, according to the American Psychological Association’s most recent data. More than three-quarters of mental health counselors are White.

Patrice Berry, a psychologist from Virginia, mostly uses TikTok to respond to people’s questions about things like tips for new therapists and setting boundaries with teens. Berry isn’t there to find clients. She has a waitlist at her private practice. She said TikTok is a way to give back.

Her comments sections are an outpouring of largely appreciative notes and follow-up questions, with some videos getting more than a thousand replies.

In one TikTok, Berry jokes about abruptly leaving a church when “they say you don’t need therapy or medication.” One user commented that was how she was raised in her Black Baptist church and that “we have so much unlearning and relearning to do.” Another wrote, “As a therapist I love this. Preach!”

A tightknit TikTok community has formed, and Berry spearheaded a Facebook group dedicated to Black, Indigenous and other people of color focused on mental health.
“I wanted to create a safe space for us to be able to have real conversations about our experiences on the app and to share tips and resources,” she said.

Therapist Janel Cubbage’s video topics range from evidence-based strategies for preventing suicides on bridges to collective trauma, sometimes addressing her Black audience directly.

Like other TikTokers, she is quick to note that watching videos is not a substitute for seeking professional help and that important concepts can get lost in the scrolling. Plus, even as TikTok works to identify and remove inaccurate information, creators without mental health degrees are going viral discussing similar issues without the expertise or training to back up their advice.

When dealing with trolls, Cubbage said, the emotional support from creators she’s met on TikTok is indispensable. “That’s been one of the really neat things about the app is finding this community of Black therapists that have become like friends to me,” she said.

Unlike Facebook, which relies largely on a user’s friends and followers to populate the feed, TikTok’s algorithm, or “recommendation system,” has a heavy hand in what people see. When a user engages with certain hashtags, the algorithm pushes similar content, said Kinnon MacKinnon, an assistant professor at York University in Toronto who has researched the app. At the same time, TikTok does heavily moderate content that does not abide by its community guidelines, suppressing pro-eating disorder hashtags like #skinnycheck, for instance.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

These Afro-Latina Beauty Influencers Know How to Celebrate the Wonders of Black Beauty

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Black Beauty Influencer smiling at the camera ina. yellow tank top and light blue jeans. Behind her is a calendar on the wall and some post its

By ASHLEY JIMENEZ, PopSugar

Afro-Latinas are very much a part of the Black diaspora, yet there’s still a major lack of representation. Growing up, I rarely saw Afro-Latinas in television series, movies, books, or advertising campaigns. Although I recall seeing Afro-Cuban singers like Celia Cruz and La Lupe in music, there was still a massive part of the media counting us out. Pop culture consciously spoke to Latinas who saw themselves reflected in celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, and Mariah Carey. Although these A-listers are glamorous, respectfully, they do not represent the diversity of Black beauty within our community. They cater to Euro-centric beauty standards such as fair skin, light eyes, and straight hair.

Hence Afro-Latinos within the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Honduras, Panama, and Colombia, to name a few, are curating their own spaces. And this is especially true of the hair, makeup, and skin-care industries, where influencers and entrepreneurs are forging a representation path for those who identify with these experiences. Here, we collected the perspectives of Afro-Latinas who turn to Black women for inspiration and are honoring the African diaspora and embracing their Black beauty through their brands and the content they share on social media. Because, as Lulu Cordero points outs, “Our hair, skin, hips, etc., are a part of Black beauty.”

Alexa Dolmo
When Alexa Dolma came to Houston from Honduras, she did not see any representation of herself among the masses. The influencer identifies as Garifuna, a mix of African and Indigenous ancestry, mainly from the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Belize. Over the years, Dolma tells POPSUGAR, she’s grown to be more vocal and confident about celebrating her Afro-Latina roots on her page and Garifuna Bosses, the platform she created to represent and highlight other Garifuna women. Dolma has featured Black women like Kalifa Marin and Eunice Suazo, the founders of Tru3 B3llas, a hair-care brand that offers detangler brushes, edge controls, and bonnets. “I felt the need to do this because, as a blogger, I always came across pages that highlighted other bloggers, and I never saw one who did the same thing for my people,” she explains.

As a proud Black Latina, Dolma says she saw herself in the rom-com “Nappily Ever After” featuring Sanaa Lathan. Based on Trisha R. Thomas’s novel of the same name, the film illustrates the relationship between Black women and beauty standards imposed on them by society. “This movie shows that our hair is beautiful whether bald or full of coils,” the beauty influencer says.

Lulu Cordero
Lulu Cordero, the CEO of Bomba Curls, wasn’t always proud of her natural hair. Like many, growing up she heard the word pajón when people referenced her hair, but when she stepped into womanhood, Cordero decided to let go of the relaxer and embrace her natural texture. Being an Afro-Latina from the Dominican Republic, she always knew the beauty benefits of natural ingredients, and that’s how she decided to formulate her line of curly-hair products featuring fundamental formulas such as cafecito, rosemary, and more.

“Our hair, skin, hips, etc., are a part of Black beauty. These are all gifts from our ancestors, and by celebrating said gifts, I honor them,” says Cordero, who remembers watching Dorothy Dandridge in “Carmen Jones” as a pivotal moment in celebrating Black beauty and representation. The 1950s American musical features an all-Black cast and tells the story of a parachute-factory worker and an Army corporal. “I’d never seen anything like it before. Before that, I’d only seen Latino media, which has a history of erasing us.” Seeing the iconic Black actor sport a sultry red lip and epitomize retro glam gave the beauty entrepreneur hope.

Sherly Tavarez
Like many Afro-Latinx women, Sherly Tavarez grew up hearing the phrase pelo malo, which means “bad hair.” After years of chemically treating her gorgeous curls, the fashion stylist decided to design apparel to debunk the notion of “bad hair” once and for all. The Dominican blogger created Hause of Curls and is now known for her shirts and accessories that read “Pelo Malo Where?” and her feed that features diverse women within the natural hair community.

“My first time appreciating the beauty of my Afro-Latinidad was when I watched the Netflix series ‘Celia,'” Tavarez says. “It taught me about my background, roots, what it was like to be an Afro-Latina back in the day, and how much we have had to fight to be seen.” She adds: “Back when I was straightening my hair all of the time and honestly being a slave to my hair, I didn’t feel like my true self. I felt like I was celebrating a version of myself that other people told me to be. I didn’t even know what my natural hair looked like until I stopped applying heat and relaxing my hair. Now I celebrate by sharing my journey to natural hair with others and by building this community we have at Hause of Curls.”

Click here to read the full article on PopSugar.

Here’s the story behind Black History Month — and why it’s celebrated in February

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By , NPR

Every February, the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation. Black History Month celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of our country’s history.

This year’s theme, Black Health and Wellness, pays homage to medical scholars and health care providers. The theme is especially timely as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected minority communities and placed unique burdens on Black health care professionals.

“There is no American history without African American history,” said Sara Clarke Kaplan, executive director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University in Washington, D.C. The Black experience, she said, is embedded in “everything we think of as ‘American history.’ ”

First, there was Negro History Week
Critics have long argued that Black history should be taught and celebrated year-round, not just during one month each year.

It was Carter G. Woodson, the “father of Black history,” who first set out in 1926 to designate a time to promote and educate people about Black history and culture, according to W. Marvin Dulaney. He is a historian and the president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Woodson envisioned a weeklong celebration to encourage the coordinated teaching of Black history in public schools. He designated the second week of February as Negro History Week and galvanized fellow historians through the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which he founded in 1915. (ASNLH later became ASALH.)

The idea wasn’t to place limitations but really to focus and broaden the nation’s consciousness.

“Woodson’s goal from the very beginning was to make the celebration of Black history in the field of history a ‘serious area of study,’ ” said Albert Broussard, a professor of Afro-American history at Texas A&M University.

The idea eventually grew in acceptance, and by the late 1960s, Negro History Week had evolved into what is now known as Black History Month. Protests around racial injustice, inequality and anti-imperialism that were occurring in many parts of the U.S. were pivotal to the change.

Colleges and universities also began to hold commemorations, with Kent State University being one of the first, according to Kaplan.

Fifty years after the first celebrations, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month during the country’s 1976 bicentennial. Ford called upon Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” History.com reports.

Why February was chosen as Black History Month
February was chosen primarily because the second week of the month coincides with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln was influential in the emancipation of slaves, and Douglass, a former slave, was a prominent leader in the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery.

Lincoln and Douglass were each born in the second week of February, so it was traditionally a time when African Americans would hold celebrations in honor of emancipation, Kaplan said. (Douglass’ exact date of birth wasn’t recorded, but he came to celebrate it on Feb. 14.)

Thus, Woodson created Negro History Week around the two birthdays as a way of “commemorating the black past,” according to ASALH.

Forty years after Ford formally recognized Black History Month, it was Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, who delivered a message of his own from the White House, a place built by slaves.

“Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington or from some of our sports heroes,” Obama said.

“It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America,” he continued.

(Canada also commemorates Black History Month in February, while the U.K. and Ireland celebrate it in October.)

There’s a new theme every year
ASALH designates a new theme for Black History Month each year, in keeping with the practice Woodson established for Negro History Week.

This year’s Black Health and Wellness theme is particularly appropriate, Dulaney said, as the U.S. continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“As [Black people], we have terrible health outcomes, and even the coronavirus has been affecting us disproportionately in terms of those of us who are catching it,” Dulaney said.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

Because of Black women, the period drama ‘The Gilded Age’ has a Black story line done right

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By Helena Andrews-Dyer, The Washington Post

Fans of high-society high jinks will instantly recognize the dazzling and dizzying characters of “The Gilded Age,” the long-gestating period drama from “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes that premiered Monday on HBO. But there is one conspicuous exception.

Among the blindingly White milieu of social-climbing “wives of,” acid-tongued grand dames, bored heiresses, buzzing staff and one wide-eyed country cousin is Peggy Scott, an ambitious young Black woman who shines instead of shrinks.

In the first episode, Scott, played by actress Denée Benton, arrives to newly gold-plated Manhattan via train with the show’s fish-out-of-water character Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson). On-screen, Peggy’s journey is rather quick. Off-screen, it took 10 years, two networks, at least four Black women and exactly one global pandemic for her to get here.

It started with Fellowes, who, while doing research for “Downton,” took an intellectual detour into new moneyed New York and become fascinated with the robber barons of the era. They redefined what it meant to be rich, laying the Italian-marbled foundation for economic inequity as they built their grand palaces across from Central Park.

“How Peggy came around is that the more I researched this period of American history, the more it seemed to me that the whole Black community, they were so substantial a part of the American people at that time,” Fellowes said in an interview before asking his co-writer Sonja Warfield for an assist. “Sonja, what was the name of that period? The rebuilding?”

“The Reconstruction,” answered Warfield, who doubled the number of heads in the “Gilded Age” writer’s room from one to two when she joined Fellowes, famous for writing his expanding canon of British period dramas — including all six seasons of “Downton” — entirely on his own.

“I felt we very much needed a Black story line and principal character,” he said. “The revelation that there was this functioning prosperous Black bourgeois in New York in the second half of the 19th century was kind of new to me. And I was so interested to learn it, then I just felt that other people might be interested, too. It was really as simple as that.”

But is wasn’t quite as simple as that.

Benton, who plays Peggy, said the self-possessed young woman viewers meet in the show’s premiere is not the same woman she met on the page in 2019. That beta version was flatter, lacking a world of her own outside of the venerable van Rhijn household, where she works as a secretary.

Peggy’s broad strokes were a start, said Benton, a stage actress who was nominated for a Tony Award in 2017 for her starring role in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” and played Eliza Hamilton in “Hamilton” on Broadway. The actress knows her 19th-century female characters and saw a clear opportunity for Peggy to stretch — to give her an interior life, her own agency, her own world.

To do that, the character was afforded “little moments of dignity,” Benton said. Peggy doesn’t solely exist in the all-White world of the Gilded Age; she has her own purpose, her own family drama and a secret the audience won’t learn until several episodes in. Later in the series, viewers will see her in a world that is entirely Black and unconcerned with whatever drama is going on in the burgeoning Upper East Side. Peggy’s story also has modern-day relatability: the tension of respectability politics in the Black community, code-switching between racial worlds and the stress of being “the only one” in any given room.

And should viewers get their Googling fingers in a knot looking up the probability of Peggy’s existence, historian Erica Dunbar, who played such an integral role in the production she was eventually promoted to co-executive producer, said you simply can’t do a show about New York without Black people.

“This is about world-making,” Dunbar said. “This is about bringing characters who’ve been relegated to the margins into the center.”

It’s also about correcting the record. Too often, Black American cinematic history focuses on slavery, the Civil War, the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights era. “There is a 40- to 50-year gap that hasn’t been explored in ways that are nuanced and show Black life in the North,” Dunbar explained.

Added Benton, “This is the Peggy that’s doing the ancestors proud.”

Click here to read the full article on The Washington Post.

Michelle Obama’s guest appearance on ‘Black-ish’ excites fans while also serving a purpose

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Michelle Obama Smiling at the camera in a white sweater and blue jean pants

By Kyle Moss, Yahoo! Entertainment

On the eighth and final season premiere of Black-ish Tuesday, Michelle Obama made a guest appearance after the show’s main characters attended an event for When We All Vote, an organization that Obama founded to help register and turn out voters across the country.

What began as Andre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross)’s chance encounter with the former first lady turned into a casual dinner at the Johnson house.

Obama’s main scene mostly consisted of the rest of Dre and Bow’s family interrupting with attempts to try and impress her. And there were also a few moments of conversation among Obama, Dre and Bow about what it’s like having teenage kids.

“When our girls were that age, you should have seen how they rolled their eyes, especially at their father,” Obama said during the episode.

But clearly the cameo for Obama, who was personally asked to appear on the show by Ross herself, was all about getting the word out about voter registration. And while it was subtle within the episode, Obama reiterated the objective with a tweet after the show aired, reminding people to get themselves and others registered.

Meanwhile, viewers on Twitter celebrated Obama’s appearance on the hit series with plenty of praise and even a few requests like, “Please decide to be president in 2024” and “I too would like to invite you over for dinner.”

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Entertainment.

The youngest Black female professor ever to be tenured at Oxford was born in Kenya

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The University of Oxford has made history by appointing Patricia Kingori to a full professorship, making the sociologist the youngest Black woman ever to receive tenure at Oxford or Cambridge.

By Ananya Bhattacharya

The University of Oxford has made history by appointing Patricia Kingori to a full professorship, making the sociologist the youngest Black woman ever to receive tenure at Oxford or Cambridge. Kingori, born in Kenya to a Kenyan father and Caribbean mother, spent her childhood in St Kitts, before the family moved to the UK during her early teens. Her sister, Vanessa Kingori, is the first female publisher in British Vogue’s 102-year history.

She studies the everyday ethical experiences of frontline workers in global health, and “was awarded this historic distinction in recognition of the quality and global impact of her research on academia and beyond,” the university said on Dec. 13. Kingori is in her early 40s.

From Kenya to Oxford, via St Kitts
During her eight years at Oxford, Kingori has consistently obtained large and competitive funding grants, written frequently cited and impactful publications, supervised numerous DPhil candidates, and taught hundreds of students, the university said.

However, Kingori’s road to professorship wasn’t without roadblocks. For instance, she was awarded a Wellcome Doctoral Studentship to fund her PhD with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine just a month after she gave birth to her first child. After a year’s maternity leave, she relocated to Kenya with family to do fieldwork. But her career nearly stalled when civil unrest forced her to leave in 2007. Pregnant with her second child at the time, she thought people would write her off at work.

But 10 months after she left Kenya, she was able to go back, armed with two new supervisors, to bring her data collection back on track.

After completing the PhD, she bagged the Wellcome Research Fellowship to do postdoctoral research at the University of Oxford’s Ethox Centre. Since then, her career at the British institution has taken off. Within a span of five years, she went from being a research lecturer to an associate professor.

Kingori beyond academia
In addition to garnering accolades in academia, Kingori has also served as an adviser to multiple organizations including the World Health Organization, Save the Children, Medecins San Frontières, the Nuffield Council of Bioethics, and the Obama administration’s White House Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment in Africa Initiative.

Currently, Kingori is the recipient of a Wellcome Senior Investigator award, leading an interdisciplinary team of researchers exploring global concerns around fakes, fabrications, and falsehoods in health. Outside of her research, Kingori also helms several diversity initiatives, including a visiting scholarship for Black academics to the University of Oxford, and an internships program for students of color.

Click here to read the full article on BBC News.

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