Rihanna’s homeland wants her to continue to “shine bright like a diamond.”
The singer was honored Monday in her native Barbados during its presidential inauguration, which served to mark the country becoming a republic.
Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley told the crowd, “On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you the designee for national hero of Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty.”
“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation by your works, by your actions, and to do credit wherever you shall go,” Mottley said.
The makeup and fashion mogul was appointed as an ambassador of Barbados in 2018.
According to a statement from the Barbados Government Information Office released at the time, the position gives the celeb “specific responsibility for promoting education, tourism, and investment for the island.”
She also became one of the Caribbean island country’s cultural ambassadors in 2008, doing promotional work for its tourism ministry.
In a move that received a great deal of support in the country, Barbados formally cut ties with the British monarchy by becoming a republic almost 400 years after the first English ship arrived on the most easterly of the Caribbean islands.
Zendaya made history in 2020 when she became the youngest woman — and only the second Black woman (after Viola Davis) — to win in the lead drama actress category at the age of 24. Now, with the 2022 Emmy nods out, Zendaya, has made history yet again as the youngest producer to be nominated for an award after Euphoria’s Outstanding Drama Series nod. Zendaya serves as both a star and executive producer on the series.
The general drama series nod comes as she received three other nominations for her role as Rue Bennett in the HBO drama. She was, once again, nominated for Lead Actress in a Drama Series and also received two nods for Outstanding Original Music for both “Elliot’s Song” with Dominic Fike, and”I’m Tired” with Labrinth.
In the Lead Actress category, she faces off against Killing Eve‘s Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh, Ozark‘s Laura Linney, Yellowjackets’ Melanie Lynskey, and Morning Show‘s Reese Witherspoon.
Meanwhile, Euphoria is nominated for the Outstanding Drama Series category against Better Call Saul, Ozark, Severance, Squid Game, Stranger Things, Succession, and Yellowjackets. (Squid Game is the first non-English-language series to be nominated for the prize.)
The list of “firsts” doesn’t end there for the Oakland-born star. With her nominations, she’s also the first Black woman (and only second Black person) to receive both songwriting and acting nods in the same year.
More history could be made next year by Zendaya as she revealed in a recent interview with Vogue Italia that not only does she want to direct, but she “probably” will direct a future episode of Euphoria. “I was supposed to direct Episode 6 [of Season 2], but then I had to act in it,” she said in the interview. “I didn’t have enough time, so, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to this time around. I wanted to have enough time to do it the right way, so next season probably.”
Click here to read the full article on the Rolling Stone.
You’d have to go pretty far and wide to meet someone who doesn’t know the name Cedric the Entertainer.
Born Cedric Antonio Kyles, the multihyphenate comedian, producer, entrepreneur, host and actor has been a recognizable face in entertainment for almost 30 years. Many recall Cedric from his time as a former host of BET’s ComicView and Def Comedy Jam in the 90s. Others will remember him for his co-starring role in the hit sitcom on WB The Steve Harvey Show, next to fellow comedian and friend Steve Harvey.
However, most fans hear his name and immediately think of the sensation that was The Original Kings of Comedy tour and video in 2000 where he performed beside fellow legends Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and the late Bernie Mac.
No matter how you know his name, face or signature laugh, Cedric the Entertainer is always guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of his audience. He has hosted talk shows, led game shows and even recorded comedic interludes on rap albums: one triple platinum (Jay Z’s The Blueprint), one quadruple platinum (Ye’s Late Registration) and one certified diamond album (Nelly’s Country Grammar). For over 20 years, he has appeared in numerous movies (such as the Barbershop, Madagascar and Ice Age franchises) and television shows, including his current hit The Neighborhood, recently renewed for its fifth season and produced by Cedric’s production company, A Bird and a Bear Ent., which he manages with his longtime partner Eric Roan.
What’s kept him going all these years?
The constant inspiration from fellow artists. “Now, I’m just motivated continually to do great work,” Cedric shared with Black EOE Journal. “We had so many new creators that came on the scene and are doing great things to where I feel like, now, there’s heavy competition all around and great, and you just want to be a part of the conversation.” He’s talking about writers adding culture and depth to the conversation like Ava Duvernay, Lena Waithe and Kenya Barris. He also referenced fellow comedian creators like Kevin Hart. “You just want to keep leveling up,” he said. “That’s why I stay busy and stay at it and stay motivated. I’m actually just excited that the energy is…moving forward and not slowing down…”
And Cedric hasn’t slowed down either.
Building an Empire
From lead comedian at a White House Correspondents’ Dinner to Broadway to host of this past year’s 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards, he is always finding ways to bring joy through his work.
Along with The Neighborhood, his company also produces two shows on the Bounce TV network that are about relevant issues and stories, particularly in the Black community: Johnson, a show that follows the lives of four Black men in their 30s navigating the trials of everyday life. They are childhood friends and happen to have the same last name… Johnson. The other program is a dramedy called Finding Happy about a Black woman working in the Atlanta radio industry, played by comedian and actor B. Simone, who, with the help of some friends, decides on her 36th birthday to make a decision to change her stagnant life and find her own happiness.
According to Cedric, “I guess as far as what has changed [over the years], I feel like so many creators are gaining more and more control of their brands and their ideas that they want to see and do and that becomes even more motivating… the fact that your creativity doesn’t have to be limited to a group of producers, creators or networks that have no idea what you’re about and what your people want to see. Now there’s just a wide array of opportunities.” He also commented on the emergence of new streaming networks and platforms, both large-scale like Netflix, and smaller ones such as those started by social media influencers and content creators from underrepresented backgrounds.
“The networks have to up their game because the streamers are so hot,” he shared. “It opens up the playing field for diversity all across the board. When you think about it, across the cultural diaspora that we have in this country, it just gives great opportunity to see shows and people from different cultures which really allows all of us to grow…and, of course, it’s forced the major institutional networks to have to change up because they’re now getting left behind. So now that gives an opportunity for so many other people to create.”
Along with his creativity on the screen and stage, Cedric the Entertainer is also an ardent businessman. He released his own line of hats a few years ago in his signature style called Who Ced?. “I loved hats from very early on in my career. I had a couple of images when I started to do comedy, and one of them was of my grandfather wearing his fedora. I thought it was cool to do when I was on stage, so I started rocking them and eventually I wanted to expand my brand.” The line was intended to be an inexpensive, everyday wear accessory. However, they’ve recently undergone a rebrand and will soon be launching a new line called Egg & Butter, which will feature hats that are more upscale and Italian-made. Visit eggandbutter.com to sign up for the mailing list for news of the official launch date. He also debuted another business in January of this year, a 100 point, three-time gold medal-winning, two-time Best in Class red blend wine he named after his mother. According to Cedric, “I partnered with Smith and Devereux winery in Napa [Valley]. It’s called Zetta.
My mother’s name was Rosetta. It’s a Napa Valley blend red, beautiful wine. You can go to smithdevereux.com and get a case, get a bottle. It launched on her birthday, January 4.” 10 percent of all profits are donated to the RedRoseReads Foundation to support literacy programs throughout the U.S.
But that’s not all he’s working on. “I’m sure I’ve got a hundred other businesses. I stay busy. I’ve got a very cool thing called Fan Room (fanroomlive.com) that I do which is kind of like an online green room situation where celebrities meet their fans in a virtual environment, and they sit and talk, and they chill with them in the Fan Room. It’s pretty cool. That’s been growing. We started that over the pandemic.”
Always Giving Back
What may surprise many isn’t that Cedric the Entertainer gives back. It’s how many ways and through how many organizations. For example, there’s the Cedric “The Entertainer” Charitable Foundation scholarship that he started in 1996 for high school students in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
“My mother was an educator, a reading specialist,” he said. “She passed a few years ago, but she instilled in my sister and myself this idea of philanthropy, to be able to help give back to help those less fortunate. I started that with an educational program mainly for kids who grew up in single parent households who needed a little help to go to college… partnered with UNCF…partnered with my alma mater Southeast Missouri State University as well as any HBCUs. We’ve been doing that since ‘96, helping kids go to college. We deemed that very important.”
But that’s not all.
“From there, when my mom got ill, [my sister and I] really got involved in women’s health issues. We started a women’s health pavilion in St. Louis, Mo. at St. Mary’s Hospital in her name, the Rosetta Boyce Kyles Women’s Pavilion that deals with all kinds of women’s health issues from athletics for young students to cancer to the heart to just getting people rides to the hospital. That initiative has been something we’ve done for about six years. Of course, I’ve worked with the American Diabetes [Association] because my dad deals with diabetes. So, we did the neuropathy campaign, really trying to get especially Black males to go get checked out; something we don’t do in our culture. We always try to man it out and tough it out and don’t realize these are things we can actually fix and prevent if we got a heads up soon enough.”
Long May He Reign
Cedric the Entertainer’s good work is never done, and we’re thankful for that.
His commitment to making a difference in the world through charity and philanthropy is admirable, but one can’t forget his work with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to help mentor a new generation of voices in media and entertainment.
“My work with the Academy is all about improving the minority participation in this industry, especially coming in at the internship level and giving people the opportunity to be here, to be working and be involved with these shows.”
Cedric has been an outspoken supporter of diversity and inclusion in American society as well as a champion of racial and social equity. “It’s very important. You need a group of people that’s truly and completely about advocacy…We do need people who are all about the advocacy; they’ve got to stay and make people accountable, to show that we’re necessary and worthy of all the stuff we’re asking for.”
But what’s next for The Entertainer?
Anything. Maybe even music?
“I’m a person who likes to write songs. I write little songs and jingles quite a bit.
I haven’t really introduced my music, so I guess people will come to find that out soon,” he told Black EOE Journal. “I haven’t really ever [shown that]. I do them for jokes, but I haven’t really shown some of the sincere stuff that I do.” Well, we’re excited to see what the future holds. Hearing about any new projects Cedric has up his sleeves will surely be sweet music to our ears.
As noted, WWE NXT held another live event last night in Orlando, Florida, headlined by Bron Breakker successfully defending his NXT Championship against Tony D’Angelo. Elsewhere on the card, the leader of Toxic Attraction, Mandy Rose, defeated Ivy Nile to retain her NXT Women’s Title, and The Creed Brothers defeated Joe Gacy and a member of the DYAD to retain their Tag Team Titles.
But one of the biggest stories coming out of the show isn’t about the in-ring action at all. Fresh WWE NXT talent Ava Raine, the real-life daughter of The Rock that signed with WWE in February 2020, cut her first promo at last night’s event. She was presented as a heel to the audience as she talked down to Cora Jade and the rest of the NXT women’s locker room.
Raine also revealed what her nickname will be going forward and it’s possibly a nod to a recent horror film. Raine, a fan of cinema influenced by the supernatural, apparent by the many references to “The Craft” (1996) on her social media, was referring to herself as “The Final Girl” during her in-ring promo. The film, “The Final Girls” was a horror/comedy film released in 2015 that first debuted at the SXSW Film Festival before receiving a wider release in the United States later that Fall. The premise of the movie sees the protagonist, Max, along with her group of friends, getting trapped inside a B-horror film where they must use the tropes they’ve learned from watching horror movies to survive. There’s no certainty this film influenced the new description Raine is giving herself in NXT, but the connection is possible.
“The Final Girl” is also a common trope in horror cinema as a whole. She is recognized as the last girl or woman surviving in the film as the story becomes centrally focused on her.
As seen in the photos below, Raine was trending after she dropped the promo last night, signifying that we might be approaching a televised debut for the 20-year-old. She has been teasing her debut for several weeks until last night when she finally revealed her persona to a live crowd.
Click here to read the full article on Wrestling Inc.
Simone Biles continues to break records and make history. On July 7, the 25-year-old Olympian, along with 16 other honorees, received the esteemed Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor — making her the youngest person to ever do so, according to President Joe Biden.
Beyond being a world-renowned gymnast, Biles was honored as a “prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault,” the White House previously announced.
“Today, [Biles] adds to her medal count of 32 — I don’t know if you’re going to find room,” President Biden joked during his remarks at the White House. Biden then praised Biles for her ability “to turn personal pain into a greater purpose, to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” During the award ceremony, Biles wore a bright smile and black tweed blazer dress as Biden placed her medal around her neck, and her fiancé, Jonathan Owens, was there to cheer her on from the front row.
Biles was honored alongside other recipients like Megan Rapinoe and Denzel Washington, though the latter wasn’t present for the ceremony due to a positive COVID test, CNN reported. The actor will be awarded his medal at a later date.
Over the years, Biles has shattered glass ceilings in the sports world and become the most decorated gymnast in world championship history. Now, her latest accomplishment only solidifies that she’s a true trailblazer. Ahead, check out more photos of her receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House.
The youngest self-made billionaire woman in the U.S. didn’t grow up in a Manhattan high rise or the Hollywood Hills. Instead, Rihanna amassed her fortune from her own music and entrepreneurial ventures.
Recently, the 34-year-old singer and Fenty Beauty CEO graced Forbes’ annual list of America’s richest self-made women for the third year in a row. She ranked 21st overall, and is the list’s only billionaire under age 40. Some of Rihanna’s $1.4 billion net worth is from her successful music career. Most of it is from her three retail companies: Fenty Beauty, Fenty Skin and Savage X Fenty.
In March, Bloomberg reported Savage X Fenty lingerie was working with advisors on an IPO that could potentially be valued at $3 billion. Rihanna owns 30% of that company. She also owns half of Fenty Beauty, which generated $550 million in revenue in 2020. The other half of the company is owned by French luxury fashion conglomerate LVMH.
The numbers are impressive, but Rihanna has said that her focus isn’t on valuations and accolades. In 2019, she told The New York Times’ T Magazine that because she never planned on making a fortune, reaching financial milestones was “not going to stop me from working.”
The nine-time Grammy Award winner also said she wants to give that money away to causes that matter, anyway. “My money is not for me; it’s always the thought that I can help someone else,” she said. “The world can really make you believe that the wrong things are priority, and it makes you really miss the core of life, what it means to be alive.”
In 2012, Rihanna started a philanthropy fund, the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF). It aims to “support and fund groundbreaking education and climate resilience initiatives,” according to its website.
One of its first initiatives, which launched a year after the foundation began, raised $60 million for women and children affected by HIV/AIDS through sales from the singer’s lipstick line with MAC Cosmetics. And in January, CLF paired up with Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s #SmartSmall initiative to donate a combined $15 million to 18 different climate justice groups.
That money is meant for organizations “focused on and led by women, youth, Black, Indigenous, people of color and LGBTQIA+ communities” in the U.S. and Caribbean, according to CLF’s website.
“At the [CLF], much of the work is rooted in the understanding that climate disasters, which are growing in frequency and intensity, do not impact all communities equally, with communities of color and island nations facing the brunt of climate change,” Rihanna said in a January statement.
Sunday night’s BET Awards was not only a big night for Sean “Diddy” Combs but also for Howard University in D.C.
While accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Diddy pledged to donate $1 million to both Howard University and Jackson State University.
“I want to donate a million dollars to Howard University,” Combs said to the audience before he left the stage. “Also, I’m gonna drop another million dollars on Deion Sanders and Jackson State, because we should play for us. Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart, I love y’all.”
The announcement came as Combs accepted the award from surprise presenter Kanye West alongside Babyface.
“I got this dream of Black people being free,” Combs said. “I got this dream of us controlling our own destiny. I got this dream of us taking accountability and stop killing each other. I got this dream of us being rich and wealthy and living on the same block. I have this dream of us unifying.”
“Y’all know I wouldn’t be here without Howard University, Combs said before starting an “HU” chant during his speech.
Combs attended Howard University in the late 1980s but left to pursue a career in music. In 2014, he returned to receive an honorary doctorate from the university.
Also during Combs’ speech, he paid homage to the late Andre Harrell, who launched his career, as well as his mother for working several jobs during his childhood and the late Kim Porter, his longtime girlfriend and mother of his three children.
Click here to read the full article on ABC 13 News.
Black excellence is reigning on TikTok. Twenty-year-old Khabane “Khaby” Lame recently surpassed Charli D’Amelio as the most followed user on the popular social media platform.
The Senegalese influencer reportedly has almost 100,000 more followers (he has 143.4 million) than the dancing influencer (142.3 million). The popular TikToker built his massive following in the beginning by making dance vids, comedic skits and video game reactions.
It wasn’t until 2021 that the Lame’s account blew up after his hilarious and expressive reactions to life hacks. His viewership took off after his reaction only vids caught the eyes of TikTok platforms. Fans made it their business to elevate the 22-year-old social media star.
Lame explained the magic behind his success.
“I came up with the idea because I was seeing these videos circulating, and I liked the idea of bringing some simplicity to it,” Lame told CNN. ” I thought of a way to reach as many people as possible. And the best way was not to speak.”
The creator now lives in Italy and has amassed over 2 billion likes for his hilarious videos.
Black TikTokers called the social media platform out over allowing white creators to steal from Black trendsetters.
BET.com reported choreographer JaQuel Knight partnered with Logitech to ensure that Black creators copyright and monetize their projects.
“I am so thrilled to announce this collaboration with The JaQuel Knight Foundation and Logitech, a remarkable step in our goal toward creating a system of protection for young creators,” Knight said.
He continued, “The JK Foundation was ultimately started to provide a place of support for dancers (during an extremely fragile time in the pandemic, nonetheless), and to put the power back in the artists’ hands – not just for myself, but for the next JaQuel Knight. For all of the little boys and girls who look like me.”
Four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka is launching a media production company in partnership with The SpringHill Company, a media conglomerate created by Lebron James.
The production company, called Hana Kuma, will produce scripted and nonfiction content, starting with a New York Times documentary about Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to U.S. Congress, according to a press release. The announcement says Hana Kuma will highlight “empowering” and “culturally specific” stories.
“There has been an explosion of creators of color finally being equipped with resources and a huge platform,” Osaka said in the release. “In the streaming age, content has a more global perspective. You can see this in the popularity of television from Asia, Europe and Latin America that the unique can also be universal. My story is a testament to that as well.”
The SpringHill Company, founded by NBA star James and business partner Maverick Carter, will provide production and strategic resources to Hana Kuma, the release said. Hana Kuma also has partnerships with crypto exchange platform FTX and health platform Modern Health.
In May, Osaka launched an athlete representation agency called Evolve.
She’s already crushing the beauty game with her PATTERN line of hair care products and accessories. Now actress and entrepreneur Tracee Ellis Ross is teaming up with the non-profit Buy From A Black Woman (BFABW) and H&M USA to inspire and support other Black women business owners. According to a June 13 press release, H&M will partner with Buy From A Black Woman for the second year in a row to shine a light on Black women-owned businesses. And this time, Ross will serve as the non-profit’s ambassador.
In a June 10 sit-down with Buy From a Black Woman founder Nikki Porcher at H&M’s LA showroom, Ross shared her advice on achieving success with other young Black female entrepreneurs. “I am proud to help support Buy From a Black Woman and the incredible network of business owners they’ve brought together,” Ross said. “Black women and their contributions are often overlooked, which is why it’s crucial for us to come together to build, strengthen and create our own opportunities for success.”
Buy From A Black Woman launched in 2016 with a mission of providing Black women with all of the tools they need for success, including educational programming, an online directory and funding. In the second year of their partnership, H&M USA plans to donate $250,000 to BFABW and provide sponsorship for the Buy From a Black Woman Inspire Tour, which will place products from Black women-owned businesses on shelves in select H&M stores across the country.
BFABW founder Nikki Porcher says she believes Ross is one of the best advocates for the cause of supporting businesses owned by Black women. “It’s hard to describe in words what it means to have Tracee Ellis Ross as an ambassador for Buy From A Black Woman. This year we are celebrating and showing the world that Black Women are living examples. I couldn’t think of a better example to help us spread our message of just how important it is to buy from and support Black Women Business Owners better than Ms. Ross. We are truly honored to work with her and to continue our partnership with H&M,” she said.
Jennifer Hudson has officially achieved EGOT status! The actress and singer clinched her first-ever Tony Award on Sunday evening, when A Strange Loop won best musical. (Hudson, 40, serves as a producer on the show.) It was the final trophy she needed to complete the EGOT quartet of having won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.
Hudson won her first of the big four awards, an Oscar, for her role in 2007’s Dreamgirls. She is a two-time Grammy winner, having nabbed her first one for her 2009 self-titled album. The American Idol alum went on to score a Daytime Emmy last year, for the animated short Baba Yaga, which she co-produced and lent her voice to.
Hudson previously joked when asked about her plans to achieve EGOT status, “I should get two more dogs.”
“I got a dog and named it Oscar, and then I won my Oscar. And then I got a dog and named it Grammy, and then I won my Grammy,” she said at the time. “So I think I should get some dogs and name them Emmy and Tony — and it’ll give me good luck, and I’ll win. [They’re] like my good luck charms.”
Presented by the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing, the annual Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre (as the Tonys are officially known) recognize the highest honor in U.S. theater — the equivalent of TV’s Emmys, music’s Grammys or the film industry’s Oscars. It’s a necessary award in achieving EGOT, the grand slam of show business.
Since the beginning of time, people have included their experiences in the art they make. Sexual experiences are not exempt from that. R&B, in particular, has served as a space for singers to explore their sexual desires, specifically women. Although listeners are most used to hearing women sing about love (and the joy and heartbreak that comes with it) in R&B, the genre has also allowed them to explore a part of themselves that is often too taboo to touch on — sex — in both subtle and unsubtle ways, often to the surprise of listeners who tend to see R&B as a sanitized genre or don’t get the sly, suggestive lyrics being presented to them.
One of the best examples of a woman R&B artist treading the line between directness and subtlety is Janet Jackson’s 1993 album Janet. A step away from being known as the baby sister of Michael Jackson, Janet allowed her to explore her sexuality freely in a way she hadn’t done before. A standout from the album, “Any Time, Any Place,” is a testament to that. On the song, Jackson expresses pure joy in her public displays of affection toward her lover, declaring “I don’t care who’s around” during its chorus in a way that speaks to the pleasure of wanting to touch — and be touched — by a romantic interest.
In a 1993 Rolling Stone review of the album, Touré wrote that Janet is “A significant, even revolutionary transition in the sexual history and popular iconography of Black women.” To see Janet depart from her conservative image and create an album promoting sexual liberation not only served to expand her artistry but also foreshadowed how women would continue to express their sexuality in contemporary R&B.
However, some R&B artists have come under fire their lyrics, especially those that are more explicit. Two years after Janet came Adina Howard’s Do You Wanna Ride?, a fusion of hip-hop, new jack swing, and R&B that included the hit single “Freak Like Me.” Driven by a g-funk beat, Howard channels the bravado and confidence of male rappers, singing about how she needs someone to be just as freaky as her to be satisfied sexually. Unfortunately, not everyone was in support of Howard’s sexual anthem. In a 1995 Washington Post profile of Howard and Do You Wanna Ride?, a handful of Black women spoke about the artist’s explicit lyrics and persona, among them Christina Kirksey, a 17-year-old National Political Congress of Black Women intern who called Howard’s lyrics “nasty and vile.”
“I have to constantly fight against catcalls and sexual harassment on the street and here comes Adina Howard. I need a freak in the morning . . . I cannot stand her because all she does is show her behind,” Kirksey said at the time.
Gregg Diggs, then music director of BET, also spoke unfavorably about Howard’s music, saying: “Because she’s a decent singer with a solid voice, I think it would have been wiser on her part if she had focused more of her energy on her talent and not her sexuality.”
But Howard succinctly speaks to the importance of Black women being able to openly express their sexuality and not having to ignore their inner freak. She shares in the profile: “When people have a problem expressing sexuality, it becomes a bigger problem because a lot of things start in the bedroom. Sexuality should be open, expressive. I’ve never been hypocritical. I’ve never been one of these girls lying too loudly about not wanting to do it.”
This expression of sexuality continued on in 2000 with singers like Jill Scott, who expressed her desires in a way that were direct but also poetic. For fans that were surprised by her viral microphone antics during a live performance in 2018, they clearly weren’t paying attention to songs like “Love Rain” from her 2000 debut album, Who Is Jill Scott? Words And Sounds Vol. 1.
On the track, she expertly blends the poetic and overt. In the second verse, you can hear how Scott is deeply satisfied with her lover, ultimately declaring “Better than love, we made delicious.” Even in name, “Love Rain” plays with innuendo, hinting at sexual acts and experiences that aren’t often mentioned in R&B.
In the 2010s, sexual desire and expression from Black women in R&B has become more common — especially toward the end of the decade. CTRL, SZA’s 2017 major label debut, began with “Supermodel,” a track where she declares that it was the sex that kept her in a temporary love that didn’t end well. There’s also “Doves in the Wind,” where she’s not only hesitant to tell someone how they’re not satisfying her the way she wants (“High key, your *beep* is weak buddy / It’s only replaced by a rubber substitute”), but she yearns for sexually (“I’m really tryna crack off on the headboard / And bust it wide open for the right one”). In 2019, we saw the release of Summer Walker’s Over It and Ari Lennox’s Shea Butter Baby, with the former more along the lines of the alternative R&B of SZA and the latter more traditional R&B. But in both, they’re expressing their wants freely. “Girls Need Love“— which first appeared on Last Day of Summer mixtape — reappeared as a remix with Drake on Over It, with the singer offering a chorus that Howard likely would be proud of, and a first verse that is unabashed in its want for one lover over countless other options. Shea Butter Baby is more reminiscent of Jill Scott, with Lennox offering subtle (but still suggestive) lyrics centered around sex, as is the case with hit single “BMO.” But Lennox also doesn’t hesitate to say exactly what she wants — whether that be on “Up Late” or “Pop.”
So, it’s understandable that Lennox also made an appearance on fellow R&B artist Jazmine Sullivan’s 2021 EP Heaux Tales, with the song “On It.” Lennox and Sullivan are unapologetic in their wants, not only demanding that their lover prove their worthiness but letting them know what what they want to do and what they need to feel satisfied.
The collective moment when I first saw a three-dimensional reflection of my own college experience in popular culture happened not once but twice: on the television series “A Different World,” which premiered in 1987, and in Spike Lee’s film “School Daze,” which debuted in 1988. Together, they presented a meditation on the many layers and complexities of Black campus life that I had not seen before.
The magic for me wasn’t in particular characters as much as it was in the plot lines and the elements of culture imported from H.B.C.U.s, or historically Black colleges and universities. These recognizable moments from my own experience — campuses filled with students who celebrated the diversity of Black culture; the Greek steppers whose chants and thunderous stomps filled the gym; the homecomings that felt more like a family reunion — could have been plucked from any of the more than 100 H.B.C.U. campuses across the country, including my alma mater, Florida A&M University (FAMU).
When they appeared more than 30 years ago, “A Different World” and “School Daze” harnessed the power of familiarity and affirmation — and marked one of the first big moments of visibility for H.B.C.U.s in mainstream culture.
Finally, I thought, a defining chapter in the lives of so many Black Americans was being told in a big, big way. Finally, our H.B.C.U. history and inheritance, our legacy and sense of belonging, were being mined for storytelling.
Finally, we saw ourselves.
Over the decades, what began as sporadic nods to Black campus experiences has grown into more: portrayals that are both authentic and that challenge stereotypes about H.B.C.U. college life. While there is room for more — and more varied — narratives, in 2022 it is no longer an anomaly to see a television show set at an H.B.C.U., or an H.B.C.U. marching band featured in a music video or commercial, or a real-life celebrity or athlete wearing H.B.C.U.-branded apparel.
Earlier this year, the CW network released “March,” an eight-episode docuseries about the marching band at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. The CW’s new show “All American: Homecoming,” a spinoff of the popular “All American,” takes place at the fictional Bringston College in Atlanta, which is home to several real-life H.B.C.U.s.
“This just felt like an organic opportunity where I can extend what we’re doing on ‘All American’ and explore a whole new different world of Blackness at an older, broader level,” Nkechi Okoro Carroll, the showrunner for “All American: Homecoming,” said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, adding, “It’s time that people understand we’re worthy of being the ‘A’ story, the H.B.C.U. experience is worthy of being the ‘A’ story.”
In the fashion world, Ralph Lauren used the vintage finery worn by students at Morehouse and Spelman Colleges between the 1920s and the 1950s as inspiration for his new capsule clothing collection, developed in collaboration with the schools and released in March.
And in one of the biggest nods by one of the biggest stars, Beyoncé incorporated the high-stepping electricity of an H.B.C.U. marching band and the iconography of Black Greek life into her historic headlining performance at Coachella in 2018, which came to be nicknamed Beychella. (The performance was documented in “Homecoming,” a behind-the-scenes concert film on Netflix.) The unmistakable sound (her band included performers who had marched in H.B.C.U. bands), the precision choreography, the call-and-response chants, the unwavering spirit — the performance was every bit a visible and visceral celebration of deeply rooted H.B.C.U. traditions.
“This feels like a very new and different moment around the acceptance and visibility and pop-cultural representation of H.B.C.U.s,” said Mark Anthony Neal, the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African and African American studies at Duke University.
Will Packer, a top filmmaker and a graduate of FAMU, has both witnessed and contributed to the rise in visibility of H.B.C.U.s. He also remembered the one-two punch of “A Different World” and “School Daze” as his own meaningful introduction to seeing H.B.C.U. life onscreen.
“That was the first time I saw those images and was able to really process them in a way that said, Oh, this is a real place,” said Mr. Packer, whose producing credits include “Ride Along” and “Straight Outta Compton.” Seeing those early depictions, he said, was “not just something fresh out of Hollywood but someplace I can have access to.”
Click here to read the full article in The New York Times.
America's Leading African American Business and Career Magazine