My insta handle is paintedmlf
Today in Black Excellence: Akua Njeri—writer, activist and former member of the Illinois Chapter of The Black Panther Party.
“People are still being murdered in the houses, wrong houses, that are so-called ‘raided by police’.”
What was Akua Njeri like in her earlier years?
Akua Njeri, known as Deborah Johnson at the time, became an activist at the very young age of twelve. From marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. to protesting slumlords in the city as a teen, Nehru was committed to social causes in Chicago. In the late 1960s, 17-year-old Njeri attended an event sponsored by a Chicago college’s Black Student Union. It was at this event that she met her future fiance Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, who was murdered on December 4, 1969, during an illegal raid of their home.
What has Njeri been up to?
Njeri has since continued to dedicate her life to the cause. She has served as president of the National People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, an interracial organization dedicated to self-determination for Black Americans, and as chairperson of the December 4th Committee, which fights to defend and maintain the legacy of the Black Panther Party. In 1991, she published My Life with the Black Panther Party, recounting her experiences, including the deadly raid and its aftermath. She continues her lifelong commitment to serving communities in need, coordinating clothing and fresh vegetable drives.
Original portrait by Tumblr Creatr @princecanti
Akua Njeri’s quote from the 50th anniversary of the fateful day in which officers murdered Chairman Fred Hampton is what inspired this piece. As such, I wanted to emphasize that statement by drawing attention to just how true that quote would continue to be into the following year—highlighting the dates of Fred Hampton’s death in 1969 and Breonna Taylor’s in 2020.
March is Women’s History Month! To celebrate, we’re honoring the courage of those who insisted women have a voice at the ballot box.
First up is Ida B. Wells. Ida devoted her life to the cause of justice as a journalist and activist. She ensured Black women had a voice in the suffrage movement even when they were excluded from other organizations and activities. Ida also championed the right to vote for the entire Black community, helping found civil rights organizations including The National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and the NAACP.
Banana Peppers / Bri Pippens
“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”
Black Excellence 365 Spotlight: Christina Anthony, Mixed-ish
If you’re a fan of ABC’s Mixed-ish, you may recognize actress, comedian, and writer Christina Anthony as Aunt Denice. A veteran writer/performer from the Chicago comedy scene, she is perhaps best known as an alumnus of the Second City Chicago resident e.t.c. stage, where she co-wrote three original sketch revues and performed thousands of shows. Christina’s archived work tours the world in The Second City National touring company, and her original comedy pilot was a finalist in the TBS & Refinery29 RIOT Comedy Writers Lab. On-screen, Christina has starred on Key & Peele, Mash Up, Bajillion Dollar Propertie$, and The Dilemma.
You were only the 7th Black woman to join the resident stage at Second City. What advice would you give to young Black talent looking to get their first break in the entertainment industry?
Building relationships in and adjacent to the industry is so key. I wish I had known to do that more. Talent can only get you so far. It’s not “who you know” but rather “who knows you.” It’s also about who is willing to give you a chance when they have their own opportunity. With that said, trust the gift you have. Hone it. Sharpen it—so that when your time comes, you are READY.
Which scene or episode from Mixed-ish (so far) means the most to you, and why?
There are so many to love, but it was really emotional to shoot our first season finale. The whole cast dressed up and performed “Crush on You” by The Jets. We had no idea if we’d be coming back for another season, and I actually started crying while shooting it. “Crush on You” is such a fun song, but I was on the verge of tears the whole time!
You’re having a round table discussion with any four people (living or dead, real or fictional). Who is at the table, and what are you discussing?
Easy. Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Dave Chapelle, and my 80-year-old Uncle Jerome. We’re discussing if we’ll ever have another Black president. You don’t know my Uncle Jerome, but he will give those three a run for their money.
How would you describe your sense of humor?
My humor is rooted in the culture (Black culture), nostalgia, and political satire. That’s what I love about playing Denise on Mixed-ish. Denise is constantly dropping (polarizing) gems, but they are wrapped up in pop culture, so she gets away with it. And every Black person has an “Aunt Dee Dee.” She is THAT chick.
How much room for improvisation is there in Mixed-ish?
Mixed-ish is scripted and written by the BEST writers. Everything the writers give us is ready to go. Now, I do improvise sometimes, but the script is a fully baked cake, and my improvised comedy is sugar. The key is knowing when to sprinkle the improv—not dump a five-pound bag on the scene. You’ll ruin it.
Thanks for chatting with us, Christina! You can catch Mixed-ish on Tuesdays at 9:30pm on ABC.
February has come to an end, but Black Excellence is here to stay! We will be celebrating all year round.
We have had a blast sharing your artwork this month, alongside Creatr features of trailblazers and history-makers, and this playlist that we’ve been vibin’ to all month long.
As we look forward to March and beyond, we want to make sure your voices are heard. The party is still going, and we need your help to make this celebration as BIG as possible—so keep sharing your work with us! Keep using the #BlackExcellence365 tag to help us find it.
We want to hear from you!
Who are the people who exude Black Excellence and who inspire you? Whose stories do you want to hear, and who do you want to see celebrated? Submit your suggestions here —let’s keep this party going!
This is #BlackExcellence365 ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽!
Beautiful Queen: Adult Coloring and Affirmation Book: Relaxation and Encouragement For Women of Color (2020)
Beautiful Queen is an adult coloring and affirmation book for women of color. Feel confident and empowered as you color the pages.
“Beautiful Queen” affirmation coloring book features motivational sayings and floral and scene patterns. Each page has a positive quote to encourage women to live their best life. “I Am Important” and “I Love Myself and Others” are quoted within the book.
“Beautiful Queen” affirmation coloring book offers hours of relaxation and stress relief. Feel happy and at peace while coloring your favorite affirmations.
by Nicola Joshua (Author)
Get it here
In honor of Black History Month, we’re celebrating the work of South Bronx native Tanya Denise Fields, founder and executive director of the Black Feminist Project. Using food and reproductive justice programming, the Black Feminist Project empowers Black women, girls and non-men to become leaders and enrich their lives.
Inspired by her experiences as a single working mother living in a marginalized community, Tanya Denise Fields founded the Black Feminist Project (formerly the BLK Projek) in 2009 as a response to sexist institutional policies, structurally reinforced cycles of poverty, and harsh inequities in wealth and access to capital that result in far too many women being unable to rise out of poverty and sustain their families.
The Black Feminist Project offers programs such as:
- The Black Joy Farm, where folks not only grow food but have a place where they can be themselves. The farm has grown hundreds of pounds of food, hosted about 100 summer youth employees and has hosted many community events.
- Corona Relief Food Box, a biweekly food pantry program that provides free and sliding scale food for people in The Bronx.
- Sis, Do You! hosts virtual workshops on topics such as self-care, money, and sexual and reproductive health.
To learn more about Tanya Denise Fields and the Black Feminist Project, visit theblackfeministproject.org.
Black Excellence 365 Spotlight: Jay Reeves
New Jersey’s Jay Reeves is a multi-talented actor, producer, and musician currently starring in Safety on Disney+. Growing up, Jay ranked #9 out of 100 in the Western Region of Underclassmen and went on to play at Pasadena City College before leaving to pursue a career in acting. After experiencing homelessness, Jay went home to regroup, eventually studying acting in New York, and debuting as Shawn Scott on The CW's All-American. Jay took the time to chat with us about the making of Safety, his music, and Black Excellence. Check it out:
Which scene from Safety had the most impact on you as you were filming it, and which do you hope viewers pay the most attention to?
The most impactful scene for me was the scene about the custody of my little brother. I mean, I grew up with a single mother most of my childhood, and placing myself in that circumstance, as Ray, was hard for me. A young man who has to rise to the occasion and take custody of his little brother is a difficult situation on its own. But when you add the stakes of having such a life-altering conversation with your mother, now that is difficult. It took me to a level of vulnerability that I haven’t been able to showcase thus far.
You’ve said that “as content creators [we] have the obligation to hold a mirror up to the world.” What do you hope to reflect?
I hope to reflect honesty at all times. That’s whether I’m playing a fictional character or someone who lives on this earth, because people gravitate towards that, people love to feel. Most importantly, there’s always someone who can relate to the truth, and that’s whether it’s my truth or the truth I live through on the big screen. There’s always someone who can relate to the story at hand, so I just hope to reflect enough honesty so the audience can organically connect.
How does your experience playing football impact your approach to acting roles?
My past experience in athletics helps me keep a level of discipline when it comes to acting. Just like any professional level player, in the NFL or elsewhere, we have to work every day and treat our bodies well. That looks like eating clean, being prepared, and knowing when to rest, and that all starts with self-discipline. You have to wake up every morning and want these things for yourself before the world can see it for you. I wake up at 5 AM every day just like I’m in high school or college again playing ball. I truly believe that’s the level of intensity you should bring as an entertainer, athlete, or whatever your dream is to be.
What music are you working on right now, and can you give us a sneak peek or hint about what you have coming up?
I’m working on an EP between acting gigs, so it’s early on in the process—a hint would be too much of a giveaway. But I am working with the same folks I have in the past, Ashton McCreight and Spencer Nezey. It’s early in the developmental process, but I trust these guys, and I can’t wait to see what we can collaborate on and put together. However, I did drop two EPs on SoundCloud this week, so be sure to tune in!
If your life was a choose-your-own-adventure, what decisions would viewers have to make on an average day?
Luckily, I do have a career where I can choose my adventure daily. Being an actor, I find myself studying and always learning about so many different careers and life decisions. What’s also cool about being a filmmaker is you get to play around with different periods, so I’m not confined to a box or any kind of structure. We get to imagine and break any form of limitation.
When you hear the phrase “Black Excellence,” what or who comes to mind?
When I hear Black excellence, I can’t help but think of Issa Rae and her infamous speech of saying, “I’m rooting for everyone Black,” because that is how I feel. Black excellence goes so deep, and there’s enough success on this earth for us all to be excellent. As a Black man, I hope to one day no longer be confined to just having the label of Black Excellence, but reaching higher and achieving overall human excellence as a Black man. My mother’s side of my family came from Monrovia, Liberia. I am my ancestors’ wildest dream!
How did you find your voice?
I found my voice falling flat on my face. I moved to Los Angeles, but things didn’t work out on my first go-around. I didn’t have money, and I lost my support by making dumb decisions, so I went back home and scraped up every single dollar and sent off the most prayers I think I’ve ever had in my life. Doing so allowed me to dig deep within myself and realize my true potential—but without that moment of failure, I wouldn’t have had my back against the wall to do so. If you’re dealing with fear, I encourage you to face it with faith because that is how I found my voice, and I’m pretty sure it’s how you’ll find yours.
You have the opportunity to ask an all-knowing genie one question. What do you ask?
If I had the opportunity to ask a genie a question, I would ask him what stock is going to short through the roof because then I would just dump all of my investments and savings into that and ride the wave. But that might be illegal for the genie to tell me that. As young people, I believe we need to no longer be consumers of a product but be producers and makers of products.
What advice would you give to young Black talent looking to get their first break in the entertainment industry?
Shoot your shot, reach out to these CEOs and ask them for advice. Don’t be afraid to ask questions…look for information, look for a mentor and work hard. Nothing worth it is easy. And you wouldn’t want it to be easy anyway. The person we become as we follow our dreams and hit the ground or backs against the wall is the true blessing. The success is the cherry on top.
How do you practice self-care?
I take good care of myself, and it’s as simple as that. I eat clean, I work out, and most importantly, I feed my spirit daily. Even if I’m not feeling in the mood, I’ll pray, and I take time to give thanks. I do whatever it takes for me to feel 100% because health is wealth.
Thanks for taking the time, Jay! Safety is now streaming on Disney+.
Singer and songwriter Nina Simone wowed audiences as the “High Priestess of Soul” and an advocate for social justice. 👸🏾🎙 These inspiring quotes reveal her love and loyalty to the fight for change during the height of segregation:
✊🏿 “It is an artist’s duty to reflect the times, as far as I’m concerned.”
✊🏿 “Music is a burden and a gift I have had since my childhood.”
✊🏿 “You got to learn to leave the table when love is no longer served.”
✊🏿 “You don’t have to live near me; just give me my share of equality.”
✊🏿 “The worst thing about prejudice is that while you feel hurt and angry, and all the rest of it, it feeds your self-doubts. You begin thinking, perhaps I’m not perfect.”
📌 PushBlack is a Black-led nonprofit dedicated to raising up Black voices. We are a small team but we have an outsized impact:
We reach tens of millions of people with our BLACK HISTORY STORIES every year.
We fight for CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM to protect our community.
We run VOTING CAMPAIGNS that reach over 10 million African-Americans across the country.
And as a non-profit, we can’t do it without you! Click here to subscribe to a small monthly donation to help support our work.
Today in Black Excellence: Amanda Gorman—activist and poet laureate
“There is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it.”
Where have you heard this name before?
You may have watched the 22-year-old poet reading her moving poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’ during the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. On that chilly day in January, the Los Angeles native joined an esteemed list of poets that includes Robert Frost and her idol, Maya Angelou. Just in case you missed her during the inauguration, she also recited her poem ‘Chorus of Captains’ before the 2021 Super Bowl Game.
What was Amanda doing before she graced us with her presence at the inauguration?
Amanda was the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate in 2014 and published a book of poetry, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, in 2015. In 2016, Gorman founded the nonprofit organization One Pen One Page, a youth writing and leadership program. In 2017, she became the first author to be featured on XQ Institute’s Book of the Month and became the first youth poet to open the literary season for the Library of Congress.She has read her poetry on MTV and been featured in The Root Magazine and Glamour.
“It was a great honour for me to illustrate Amanda Gorman. She has demonstrated to many young girls, boys, women and men that they can achieve absolutely anything that they put your mind to. Her perseverance, individuality and optimism make her a breath of fresh air as well as an inspiration to many, and I wanted this piece to reflect that.”
When a scholar like W.E.B. Du Bois teaches, we should take note. Fortunately, he left us with some key insights, often ignored, that can be applied to one of modern Black America’s biggest obstacles:
✊🏿“The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.”
Emancipation didn’t completely free us. This quote from “Black Reconstruction” warns that there’s a difference between abolition and reform. Slavery became convict leasing and ultimately became the prison system.
✊🏿 “The accused law-breaker is tried … by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape.”
The system isn’t failing us, it’s doing what it was designed to do. Du Bois told us so in “The Souls of Black Folk” well over 100 years ago.
✊🏿 “…If America is ever to become a government built on the broadest justice to every citizen, then every citizen must be enfranchised.”
Du Bois wrote this in “Darkwater.” Black people are still being disenfranchised and excluded from needed resources. Justice doesn’t exist until this isn’t the case.
✊🏿 “Daily the Negro is coming more and more to look upon law and justice, not as protecting safeguards, but as sources of humiliation and oppression. The laws are made by men who have little interest in him.”
How can a system that was not designed with Black liberation in mind free Black people?
✊🏿 “Rule-following, legal precedence, and political consistency are not more important than right, justice and plain common-sense.”
Reflecting on the Civil War, Du Bois points out the unconstitutionality of the conflict that upended slavery. When laws and established rules are unjust, breaking them can bring change.
📌 PushBlack is a Black-led nonprofit dedicated to raising up Black voices. Click here to sign up to our daily messages.
Black Excellence 365 Spotlight: Nick Sagar
If you’re a fan of Netflix's The Princess Switch film franchise, you probably recognize Nick Sagar, who starred as Kevin opposite Vanessa Hudgens. His work spans a variety of genres, from Victor Aldertree in Shadowhunters to Charles in Tyler Perry's The Have And The Have Nots and Detective Alonzo Loya in Queen of the South. Nick took the time to chat with us about how he prepares for and approaches roles, the importance of representation, and how he practices self-care. Check it out:
How do you prepare for a role, and does your approach change for each project?
I usually prepare differently for each specific role. The first step is always to read the script several times over. That’s a great technique I learned. So much jumps out at you the third or fourth time over.
What’s going through your head when you’re filming a scene?
I try to be present in the scene and in the character’s thoughts and world. I do that by creating the character’s world vividly and imaginatively in my mind. That way, it keeps me grounded in the character’s reality and not my own. I still do bring aspects of myself to each role, though.
What role do you think the entertainment industry should play when it comes to social causes and activism?
Black representation is extremely important. The same goes for Latin and Indian too. I’m a mix of all, so I love to see our cultures represented accurately. We can teach so much by practicing accurate representation of all the beautiful cultures of the world. Media has a huge impact on our lives. I remember as a kid, I would feel disappointed that most of my favorite movies never had people like me even involved. I’d watch historical flicks and be like…did we even exist? Which was really harsh to take as a kid. Growing older and doing my own research, I realize not only did we exist and take part, but we were pretty damn magnificent too—in all shapes and walks of life. I’d like to see more of that, and I think we are getting that now. Long may it continue.
If you could switch lives with any person for one week (real or fictional, living or dead), who would you choose?
I love the life I live, so I’m not sure I’d switch with a real-life person. If I had to, maybe one of my idols like Bruce Lee, Sam Cooke, or Bob Marley. Fictional—now that’s where it’s at. I would probably be Jon Snow, Goku, or Neo.
What’s the funniest photo on your camera roll?
My funniest photo…I don’t think I have to say anything on this one, lol. My 30th birthday, and I just took out my braids. If they ever remake Street Fighter, I want dibs on Blanka, lol!
What do you do when you want to feel excellent (e.g., play a certain song, put on lucky socks, etc.)?
Music is everything to me. If I wanna feel great, meditation and music do the trick. Also, nature has a way of making me feel amazing. The little things in life are so powerful and replenishing. Like love, for example, laughter, friendships—they’re magic.
What gives you hope?
Dreaming gives me hope. Nature gives me hope. Love is the biggest hope-giver of all. These things can ground you but also propel you to the magic places the universe has to offer. They give me life!
How do you practice self-care?
My self-care is based on self-love—taking care and being aware of your own emotions and feelings and being able to say, “Hey, I need some time for myself to look after me.” Meditation, martial arts, the gym, and nature have really helped me.
Thanks for taking the time, Nick!
Photo: Michal Williams