“…Nothing without intention. Do nothing without intention.” – Goddess Lula Belle (a Black woman who be knowing)
Whew chile! This has been an underwhelming month as far as the weather goes. I don’t know about y’all but I’m highly aware of the impact that the weather has on my mood. I’m either ready to tackle the world or ready to run from it depending on what my weather app got to say. This April, I couldn’t tell if I was in King’s Landing or Winterfell (shout out to Game of Thrones. Last episode damn near sent me to the ER though.)
While I ain’t hype about the temperature- and I know y’all tired of hearing me complain-, there was so much to be hype about this month. I just came back from North Carolina where the weather made me tight AF about returning north. While I was there, I saw the movie Little because 1.Issa Rae and 2. when you hear that Marsai Martin is the youngest executive producer in Hollywood, you have to support her Black Girl Magic.
Of course, this past weekend my ass went to see The Avengers: Endgame because who didn’t go see that? But there were some other highlights, all by Black women that I need to share. These women are showing what it means to have the tools.
What do I mean by “the tools”? I’m talking vision, resourcefulness, resilience, passion, the ability to inspire and of course, love of Black folks among many other qualities. So let’s look at the Black women who by using their tools, made April a great one.
Beyonce’s Homecoming– released on Netflix April 17th
What do you do when Queen Bey takes her Coachella performance and makes it accessible to millions more by partnering with Netflix? You give your offerings and thank the Queen. While I’m not part of the Beyhive because that’s not my thing, I love to support Black women who prove time and again that they are game changers and elevators of the culture.
Many think pieces have come out regarding the celebration of HBCU’s; Beyonce sharing her family and work ethic and of course her exercise and diet regimen which basically consisted of no meat, no carbs, no dairy, no alcohol, no happiness and no hope. I heard the word no so many times, I’m surprised Destiny’s Child didn’t perform the damn song. We even got a “Before I Let Go” Beyonce dance challenge out of this.
But I’m highlighting some of the parts of the documentary that demonstrated that Beyonce had the tools on a larger scale.
She took up space. When Beyonce was asked to headline Coachella, she didn’t just show up and show out with her beautiful, Black ass, she showed up and showed out with 200+ beautiful, black asses. This is a Black ass example of when you get invited by White folks, you bring your whole family reunion to the party because you are the party.
Visually and aesthetically, it was just dope to watch all of the Black bodies who were a part of this experience. She included a choir, a band, dancers and steppers. For anyone who has followed me on previous blog sites such as Creadnyc, you know that one of my favorite movies is Spike Lee’s School Daze. While I didn’t attend an HBCU, I love the way Blackness is celebrated and affirmed in those spaces.
To see the hues of brown all over the stage was so important and at more than one point of the film, Beyonce says that she wants people to “see themselves on stage.” She emphasized the idea that representation matters. A few of my homegirls and I have a group chat and we immediately texted each other to share our take on the performance. And at least two of my friends immediately made reference to the fact that Beyonce keeps some thicc girls on stage and that made them feel seen.
I was in awe of everyone during the performance just as I was in awe of Queen Bey.
Gotta respect the process. One of the things that I appreciated about the documentary is the fact that Beyonce wanted people to understand the process not just see the end result. We look at the Beyonces and Rihannas of the world and we feel so distant from them. Sometimes we believe they just magically got where they are because they had the look or the know-how or a hookup.
But in order to understand Beyonce you have to understand how she puts in that work. The amount of rehearsal time she put in made sense but the shit that had me slow clapping was the way she chose everything from hand-picking each and every performer, to the colors, to the height of the pyramid on stage as well as making some of the costumes. I ain’t built for that shit. If I was on a no, no, no diet, my ass wouldn’t do shit but put one finger up for yes and two fingers up for no. That would be the extent of my input.
And while I’m joking, there’s no way you get to Beyonce-level status without being a perfectionist and without making sure that your vision comes together exactly as you see it. Her intentionality was evident and there was no questioning her greatness as a performer, her passion for her craft and her love of Blackness. When she started the narrative with Nina Simone’s unapologetically Black ass, I knew I wasn’t just tuned in for the performance. I was interested in her notes, her inspiration and her thinking.
Finally, I have to say that she lives up to the lyrics of her songs. There’s a scene where she’s speaking with her creative team and they are reviewing the rehearsal on the day of her anniversary. All I could think about as she sat next to her husband, Jay-Z and insisted that they get the performance right were these lyrics from “Bow Down”,
I took some time to live my life
Don’t think I’m just his little wife
Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted,
This my shit, bow down bitches
She was handlin’ her bidness. Even Jay had to step aside because Beyonce bosses up in a way that fans haven’t really gotten to see in her 20+ year career. But in her own words,
Ain’t nothing to it, real one
Ain’t nothing to it, boss…
I pay the cost, who gon’ take it off
The Shade She Throws. One of the ways you know someone has the tools is their ability to call shit out and never shrink themselves for others. Let me elaborate right quick.
During her performance, she states that she is the first African American woman to headline Coachella. The crowd screams (I mean they basically been screaming the entire time) but that information is scream worthy. And while there is tremendous pride in that declaration, her follow-up question is the real message, “Ain’t that a bitch?” She’s saying, can you believe that these motherfuckers didn’t think to call me or another Black woman sooner? Bey has been in the game for over 20 years and been making hits the entire time. Why niggas ain’t been hit her line?
Historically, Coachella has been one big MTV-in-the late-80s/early 90s concert with headliners such as Nine Inch Nails, Bjork, The Beastie Boys, Coldplay and Rage Against the Machine, so Black women have been excluded from this space. No wonder she gathered every Black person she could find and threw them on stage. Think of it as Coachella reparations. Point for you, Bey.
She renamed Coachella, Beychella. Who better to announce the name change than DJ Khaled? That’s like being invited to someone’s house as a guest, you put your feet all over their white couch (shout out to Dave Chappelle) and then you rip your host’s name off their mailbox and put your name on it. I mean, what else do you say about that other than “Yup”? Bey did that shit. The end.
Gratitude to Bey for an inspiring and memorable performance that forced the mainstream to see that there ain’t just pockets of Black greatness. That shit’s everywhere. And we shine brighter when we shine collectively.
LaTonya Yvette author of the book, Woman of Color- published on April 2nd
Y’all know I can’t get through a post without mentioning something that I’ve read. While I was down South, I got a lot of reading done as part of my self-care promise. I randomly picked up this book because I read about it on the 21Ninety blog.
First off, the title had me curious. Second, on the cover, the words motherhood, sisterhood, style, beauty, loss and resilience are displayed behind the author’s incredible curly fro. I immediately connected just by reading those words. I’m a mother; I value my sisterhood(s); I’m a stylish cutey; I see beauty in all things Black; I’ve experienced loss (whether that means death, romantic and friendships, loss of former selves, etc.) and I always bounce back stronger and doper so I was all in with this read.
LaTonya Yvette definitely has some tools that I’ll call the 3C’s.
Clarity. I saw this book as a tool for healing and how we can get clear about our purpose. In the introduction, she states, “I have learned that clarity often happens in the moments when we share…the sharing goes beyond just me, as I share not only my experiences, but those of other women of color.” Like Beyonce, she also wants her audience to understand that healing and life is a process- and we have to honor that process no matter how painful.
I loved this so much because I always get hype to see Black women gathered together just to get through and enjoy life. We never think of our accomplishments or spaces as advancing ourselves alone but as an opportunity to bring in other Black women. I get such a sense of strength and rejuvenation from being around Black women and that’s the vibe I got from her book.
Community. Yvette shares a lot of her story which you just need to read but she also interviews Black women whom she admires and who have poured their magic in their respective spaces. Two of the women whose words stood out to me are Sade Lythcott, CEO of the National Black Theatre and Latham Thomas, Doula and founder of Mama Glow.
I’m familiar with Sade Lythcott because I love the National Black Theatre and try to visit once or twice a year. I recently saw her at the Schomburg and thought that she was just vibrant, dope and stylish as fuck. Her advice, as she states “is simple. Travel light. Keep reaching for the light. Be the light.”
Tell me you don’t wanna be better just reading that? I read Iyanla Vanzant’s Acts of Faith and Faith in the Valley everyday as part of my morning ritual and let me learn you- that has been a recurring theme-this idea of traveling light. That is part of the toolkit. We gotta stop holding onto other people’s shit, holding onto our own shit that doesn’t empower us and we have to actively work towards that everyday. This means being mindful of when we’re getting too heavy and weighing ourselves down in ways that don’t propel us forward and threaten our wellness.
Lightness isn’t something to get but something to be. I really believe in being not just doing. Doing is performative (but necessary in the beginning of a journey) but being is effortless. Peace, calm and lightness allow us to live our life without so much emotional and mental clutter. I’m digging this. Simple but not easy.
I became interested in Latham Thomas after I heard her on the Wild Mystic Woman podcast. I began the new year with her book Own Your Glow: A Soulful Guide to Luminous Living and Crowning the Queen Within (which I would also recommend.) In her interview with Yvette, she echoes Lythcott but from a slightly different angle,
“We never really stop to address how much we are actually carrying, how much ancestral pain, how much angst- where does that live in our bodies? We never have permission to express it. Our pain, sorrow, anxiety.”
What’s that sound? The sound of gems dropping everywhere. You can’t tell me Black women ain’t got the answers. We have to give ourselves permission to talk about our pain, sorrow and anxiety and do so knowing that we won’t heal overnight. Ancestral pain is not the same as a paper cut. Black folks are out here healing from 400 years of shit (racism, income inequality, unattainable beauty standards, state violence…) so we can’t expect to do and be better simply by giving shit time. This is an active process and a necessary one.
Classic Black girl photos and tips. Lastly, LaTonya celebrates being a Black woman as only a Black woman can. The book is like a documentary with countless pics of her as a child, pics of her during her pregnancy and pics of her children. She takes the classic Black girl pose, hand on the hip and body at an angle. She serves Black girl style, Black girl boldness and Black girl-living-her-life-like-it’s-golden.
She also gives tips on how to apply makeup, purging your wardrobe and my favorite tutorial, “How to tie a head wrap.” She shows that as a woman of color and better yet, a Black woman, there’s no such thing as staying in our lane. We do so many things well and we shouldn’t hide our gifts. We should show them and share them. I saw parts of myself in her story and I have many of my own stories to share. Sharing ourselves is one of our Black girl tools. Let’s use it.
And last but damn sure not least,
Noelle Santos, owner of The Lit. Bar– grand opening on April 27th
Since I’m always talking about books, I can finally talk about one of my favorite places to be- THE BOOKSTORE. Yeah, I’m a sexy nerd. But this bookstore is special because it made its debut on Independent Bookstore Day- in the South Bronx, making it the ONLY bookstore in The Bronx. Yes, you read that shit correctly. It’s unfortunate that it’s not only a not-so-fun fact but most people, even some Bronx residents, didn’t even know that there weren’t any bookstores in the borough. #SadButTrue.
The Bronx was not just neglected when it came to promoting literacy but pretty much forgotten. The Afro-Latina responsible for bringing this dream to a reality is Noelle Santos and she is the owner of the Lit. Bar and trust me, shit is lit.
The Story. As a BX girl, born and raised, who is also a lover of books, it was not lost on me that we didn’t have any bookstores. When we were down to our last bookstore, the Barnes and Noble in Bay Plaza, located in the Northeast Bronx (which is not the most accessible location), I knew that there was a message being sent to our community- you niggas don’t read.
I remember being forced to go to the Barnes and Noble on 86th Street and 2nd Ave (before it moved closer to Lexington) just so I could get my daughter The Berenstein Bears or pick up a copy of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings or just sit down amongst some of my favorite titles and enjoy tea in a comfortable setting. I would go there about once a month since Hunter College, where I attended for undergrad, wasn’t far away.
Once the Bronx Barnes and Noble was announced to close, we were essentially entering a book desert. Noelle recognized this but she didn’t just complain, she decided to be the one to open the bookstore that the community desperately needed. On the The Lit. Bar’s site, Noelle documents her journey (again, respecting the process) and shows how she petitioned, secured money by fundraising and acquired grants, as well as sought mentorship from other independent bookstore owners.
The Message. As soon as you approach The Lit. Bar, the first thing you see is a mural with a little Brown girl, who has spray painted the words, “Reach the World But Touch the Hood First.” PO. WER. FUL. Those who have been forgotten, mainly poor Black and Brown people MUST be a priority and that is what Noelle and this bookstore are doing. Everyone was taking pictures in front of the mural, including me and my generic-ass Black girl pose.
It’s obvious that all of the decisions she made were intentional, from the murals which pay homage to graffiti and Hip Hop culture (birthed in The Bronx) to the merch which include candles with iconic figures like Frida Kahlo and the one I bought with James Baldwin. She also has a huge ass mural of a Black girl reading located behind the cash register. But you know what?I’m not telling y’all nothing else. Just take your asses to The Bronx and see the dopeness for yourself.
The Impact. Her story is a Bronx tale. It took about four years for The Lit.Bar to open which is a reminder that nothing comes easy for us and no one gives us anything, even when there’s a need. She had to be resilient and fight for the bookstore which meant fighting for her hood. The amount of support that poured in was amazing to witness and my word of advice for Noelle is she better get baskets in her bookstore cause folks were buying by the boatload. Running out of inventory is a good problem to have.
One of the moments etched in my memory from that day was a car honking, the guy inside congratulating her on the opening as she walked by in her long red dress with high splits and stiletto heels. She holla’d back “Thank you. My dream came true.” She wasn’t just speaking for herself but for the entire BX.
All I know is I’m ready to get lit.
Drop comments about the Black women who you believe have the tools (famous women and/or regular-degular-schmegular women) and what they mean to you and/or for the culture. You can also big up yourself cause we all out here trying to elevate.
Black women be moving with intention.
Black women be honoring the process.
Black women be moving the culture.
And if you don’t know, now you be knowing.