#NOWLISTENING: to COLE TURNER by Foxx Tailored

Culture, Music

A beautiful R&B and Soul EP by Soundcloud artist, Foxx Tailored, produced by YellowSynth, Copta, HCM, Cosmic Beatz, The Martianz, Tokyo, Mantra, LAVI$H JAX, P. Soul, Ajet, Nish, IGNORVNCE, and The Boy. It holds inspiration to the hit WB series, Charmed. Listen and see where you can spot where!

If you like the sound, don’t forget to comment, like and share!

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Best of Afropunk Brooklyn 2k17

Articles, Culture, Fashion, Uncategorized

By: Steven Underwood

Featured Photo courtesy of  Don Fonso (@fonzfranc) Stylist , Look Innovator and Fashion Icon for the Digital Age. 

Every year, around August 26th, there is a weekend of pure Black joy and happiness: Afropunk.

Afropunk is a festival that is part celebration of the alternative blackness, part exposition of black music in its numerous forms. The life that isn’t paralleled to the commonly understood black experience, but in fact goes perpendicular — actively intersecting with our very life.

#TRENDSETTER: ZEL, 21, NEW JERSEY

#TRENDSETTER, Articles, Culture, Fashion, Fiction

Steven “Zel” Vasquez, 21; Graphic Designer, Cover Artist, Fashion Blogger

IG: Sayitaintzel

Inqueries: Byzelclo@gmail.com

“It’s BYZEL”

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Black Culture is about intersection, and Zel’s art is no different. Crossing the decadent fashion of rap culture with digital graphics, Zel is forming a career by making the unexpected a statement. While most would think a digital artist focuses less on physical presentation, they will be surprised to find Zel pays as much attention to what he is wearing, and how he feels with it as he does to the tools of his trade — a sentiment someone like me, who feels aesthetic conveys as much as a written word, agrees with.

Zel’s Inspirations could come from the very artists he designs his concepts for: such as the subtle festive street looks of ASAP Rocky, or the maddening lost outlook of Kanye West. There is an approach to his graphics and designs that always feels familiar, yet vibrant and distinct like a splash of color on a monotone backdrop.

 

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Even though he attends school far out in the boondocks of Hackettstown, New Jersey, he where style takes a backdrop to the salt-pillar lifestyle surrounding the college, he still maintains he isn’t simply Steven Vasquez — but the artist who creates: Zel. He appreciates the power of attention and detail on a t-shirt, in footwear and on a Mac book screen.

Whether it is a custom fit, or a digital concept for his favorite artist’s albums, Zel maintains a bold, elegant and sharpness. His art continues the trend of true Black Boy Joy.

For graphics and designs, well, BYZEL, reach the artist at byzelco@gmail.com or at his IG: Sayitaintzel.

Black Panther Shows Out in Entertainment Weekly

Articles, Culture

By: Steven Underwood
Today, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY released the promotional pictures for Black Panther, debuting during 2018’s Black History Month. And from the images (found below) we have nothing but great things to expect from this well cast, expectantly well acted, well designed celebration of Afrocentricism.

Last year, I wrote on the importance of Black Panther for COMICSVERSE, an article found here.

#BlaqueTwitter: June 26th 2017, THE BET EDITION

Articles, Culture

Photo Courtesy of Hypebeast

By: STEVEN UNDERWOOD

SPOTLIGHT

JOE BUDDEN ruins another peaceful interview with another rising talent in Hip Hop, TAKEOFF of MIGOS*. At the BET Awards last night, JOE BUDDEN interviewed the Versace-décor’d trio along with DJ Akademiks and [whatever that girl name was] for the EVERYDAY STRUGGLE podcast. DJ Akademiks started the interview confusingly antagonizing TAKEOFF in a scene that felt reminiscent of a Chappelle Skit (WHAT?!). JOE BUDDEN, being allergic to successful black rappers younger than himself, immediately start barking like the pitbull he looks just like. Little did Budden know, MIGOS are always ready to square up like they’re rooted.

Follow the Birdie for the Tweet!

Summary, the situation escalated into a fight, because MIGOS obviously had the power advantage. No one turned for confirmation in the trio. QUAVO stood, OFFSET stood, TAKEOFF didn’t even break his gaze, just eased on out of his seat, didn’t even stop to take off the very expensive jewelery around his neck. I didn’t know OFFSET was still a gentleman. Homie just got to rolling up his sleeves. And way to go TAKEOFF, the underdog is always ready to bark. Never doubt MIGOS is the next incarnation of the Three Muskateers: Blouses and all. Budden took the L in this situation, he’s just looking sad. Almost as Sad as DJ Akademic shoving a girl in-between himself and the situation. The next day, JOE BUDDEN took to Twitter, saying something about not liking MIGOS attitude. But, when you not only a fashion Icon, immune to the consequences of rampant homophobia, and the hottest rap group out, you can afford to have an attitude. To this situation, I refer to the Crissles philosophy: “Ain’t Yall too rich for this stuff? Don’t yall got a yacht to buy?” Joey, go host your podcast and stay silent. We get it, you’re talented and mad you get no respect. It ain’t our fault, it’s your own. Chalk it up to the game and go home. *TAKEOFF, QUAVO and OFFSET are all members of MIGOS. No, MIGOS is not one person. Pay attention to American culture.

Lesser News

MIGOS also fought CHRIS BROWN, but this is like a normal Sunday evening for CHRIS BROWN. I won’t be satisfied until either he gets folded like the lawn chair he looks like, or he ends up in prison. There’s girls won’t let him go broke. Homie gonna be 16 to them until he 80 in a retirement home threatening to fight his nurses and getting into dance battles with his own reflection.

Follow the Birdie for the Tweet!

TREY SONGZ had another mediocre performance. The TL is still confused about why he still making music about all the sex he has, and still somehow makes the same song over and over. I just want someone to break his heart, or for him to have some character development. He needs to have his LEMONADE by Beyonce (this is the only accurate way to refer to THE album). I want to like his music like I liked LAST TIME, YOUR SIDE OF THE BED, and BOTTOMS UP, but he just…doesn’t give me a reason to? Maybe he can make an album about his dog, the true talent in his family.

SOLANGE, the Moon Goddess, won the Centric Award last night. Some people got made she thanked the Universe and not God. Some people also aren’t aware that not all Black People are Christian or Religious. She made the bop for Depression, which most church folk think is just an imaginary illness you can pray away without actual therapy or medication or actual, I don’t know, acknowledgement. So boo.

REMY MA, stole an award. Let’s not dwell on her speech – which she made about a feud and not about her own development, growth, abilities, appreciation, etc. The TL didn’t say NICKI MINAJ should’ve won the award (they screamed it from the rooftops), but REMY MA certainly didn’t do everything all the Runner-ups did to possibly win over her. MISSY ELLIOT has put in so much work this year that she has certainly earned that win. CARDI B has actually shook the pedestal that Nicki Minaj twirls 5 inches of Indian hair on. YOUNG M.A. has brought a dynamic flow to the game. All of them have done more thank REMY MA and her need to tear down other female rappers. REMY MA is just Joe Budden with two X-Chromosomes and a ghost writer (Guess you needed a, PAP). It’s a shame, because I really WANT to like her. She a Potterhead, she a carefree black girl, she’s rude. All things I love in people.

SZA was a carefree black girl on stage living her dream, and we loved her for it. KEYSHIA COLE stayed for the celebration of what is apparently her favorite album about her life and then left. We love this girl and her crown of curls she turns into this magical prop. Honestly, SZA is Rapunzel and I love her.

People still thing CHANCE THE RAPPER is a new artist, and he isn’t. But I think the qualification for this award just means you were recently signed. Which means one year Chance will one day receive the Lifetime Achievement Award along with his Best New Artist award, because he ain’t -ever- gonna sign.

BIG SEAN continues to be the example all Rappers should follow. Fashionista, Philanthropist, Poet, Artist, Professional Own-Business-Minder, Good Boyfriend. BIG SEAN, keep laying down the blue print.

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LUKE JAMES tried to steal everyone girlfriend on stage in front of the most violent men in Hip Hop and got away with it. NEW EDITION also performed with the -entire- cast of their Biopic. That stage was all white blazers and Motown choreography. I enjoyed what I could see of it (I couldn’t tell who was who, at all. They could’ve been lipsynching for all I know).  

#BlueBoys: The Inspirational Sadness of Demetrius Harmon

Articles, Culture

By Steven Underwood

Let’s be clear, Demetrius Harmon, Black Viner Meechonmars turned rising comedic actor, isn’t inspiring because he’s sad — an understatement for what Depression really is. His struggle with mental illness has been a brutally honest battle to watch – especially considering my own struggles with the dark underbelly on depression. Rather, Meech is inspiring because of the moments outside of his sadness.

Demetrius Harmon began his career several years back during Vine’s primetime as a promising comedian. Primarily, Meech trafficked in some of the most creative skits to hit the site, yet when largely underappreciated (especially when compared with other major accounts of a lighter complexion, and weaker content). When Meech turned his attentions to Youtube and Instagram, it appeared a welcome change. Now, in 2017, Vine is as dead as Black Nationality in America. While some Viners dedicate portions of their careers to outing other black celebrities’ sexualities and hosting gigs, Meech has done something that felt is as sorrowful as it is beautiful: advocacy.

Meech struggles with many monsters. Beasts known as anxiety, depression and suicide, as evidenced in his 2016 short, BE HAPPY. The short was a speculative story of Demetrius’s journey to reconnect with his old friend, Happiness (Caleon Fox), while he is constantly hounded by the ever-present dangers of Depression (Victor Pope Jr.), Anxiety (Caleb City), and the apathetic misunderstanding of his father (Nathan Zed). In the short’s epilogue, Meech discusses a particular tweet where he talked about killing himself, and his decision not to do so, and while one may confuse this confession as an end-all cleansing of mental illness – it was only the start.
Speculative fiction isn’t new to the art scene. All artists draw on some kind of pain to shape their craft. Yet, Meech goes above and beyond to invite his fans to connect with him and his own. As a poet, he writes about the icy coldness that Depression brings and the dangers he faces when neglected by those around him. A realism that becomes that much more substantial when Meech shifts his shape from loss to laughter as a Youtuber. Much of his real life portrayals of himself reflects his own creation, BE HAPPY: Art imitating life is an understatement.

He is a Blue Boy, like me. A child cursed with something that submerges you in the secret terrors of the mind — washes you away from love and suspends you miles away from the happiness which drives a person to make it to the next day. You have no choice but to fight it until you can’t anymore. Blue Boys don’t get over it, Blue Boys can’t wait it out. Blue Boys just have to express it and damn the rules set up by people not like us. We express it, and bury it for just another minute, where we can be joyful and open and free — with the energy of life incarnate nestled in our cheeks — until the next moment of descension. We have to be so many things at once, and be these many things pretty well. A Blue Boy is a warrior with a shining smile fighting darker demons: gladiators of whole made happiness harvested from mildewed sad.

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Likewise, his fans see Meech in this multifaceted point of view: from sadness to happiness, slipping between the obstacles. From tearful reflections on isolation and misery to a quick and soul-blazing dancebreak to anything in a Childish Gambino catalogue. Speaking as someone with depression that gets so dark that it becomes a struggle to bath, to get up, to even look another human being in the eye, it reminds a youthful artist that this sadness is temporary. That there is beauty in the triumph of tomorrow.

But to see Meech on the average and know that my own depression isn’t just limited to my own mortal shell, it gives a wizening glow to him. Sometimes, it is hard to even remember I’ve got a good two years on the young man; especially when you look into his eyes sometimes and see that same haunting sadness lingering there. The Inspiration comes every time he posts, and every time he speaks of his ambitions that are coming tomorrow. There is nothing glorious about Depression, though many artists swear by it as a muse for talent. There is everything glorious about perseverance, which this young black man has in mountains.

Meech, your fight never falls on deaf ears, and you are valued.

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Demetrius “Meech” Harmon is a Detroit, Michigan native transplanted to Los Angeles. can be found on Instagram and Twitter @Meechonmars and on Youtube at Demetrius Harmon. Follow him for some of the finest content of this generation.

#WHYWEMAD: #BLACKBOYJOY and Keith Powers’ Bi Erasure

Articles, Culture

By: Steven Underwood

Okay, first off: Bisexual Boys exist. I’m not sure why that’s such a hard concept. Why it’s a complexity, you know, because sexuality is a spectrum: people shift and shape across it through their lives and some people identify with this flexibility and choose to allow themselves the freedom to bend through it.

Yesterday, the timeline was met with Keith Powers’ recent interviews with HOLLYWOOD UNLOCKED. In the interview, the NEW EDITION actor discussed the rumors of his sexuality. Set to clear the air of his apparent heterosexuality, he proceeded to drag bisexual men everywhere down the drain and drown them.

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The moment it happened, Bi-Twitter released a collective aggravated sigh of despair. Attacks on Polysexual identities isn’t new, Bisexuals have suffered from ruthless disparaging comments from homophobic, ally and LGBTQA communities for various reasons. This has occurred so much that sociological groups have coined terms like “biphobia” and “bisexual erasure” to explain the phenomena of othering this specific group of Queer identities.

So, most Bisexuals knew what was coming next. Within the hour, the timeline was flooded with people – gay and straight – slamming Bisexuals into the mud. Gays declaring that people can “only be gay or straight, no in-between,” straights declaring “any nigga who sleeps with a guy is gay. There’s no in-between.” The attacks came just a few days following a specific conversation on whether or not closeted gays should use the Bisexual identity as a stepping stone to coming out: using it to “soften” the blow of the coming out process. Fairly, many bisexuals viewed this as aggressive, because it invalidated the identity which already suffers disapproval from the LGBTQA Community.

That’s an issue for another day, however, because to explain to the LGBTQA why bisexuals are being octstravized, you need to explain to Queer identities that sexuality doesn’t make you immune to bigoted behavior. (See Also: White Gays and Racism/Transphobia).

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Today, we’re discussing why Keith Power’s behavior is shocking. Anyone who follows Keith Powers understands that he is a rep of the #BLACKBOYJOY movement, a trend of allowing Black boys the right of expression and freedom. Black men have barred from being free and expected to fit into a stagnant box of expectations.

Much like footballer and all-around clown, Odell Beckham Jr, this has caused Keith Powers to suffer some ridicule for his sexuality – despite their very apparent and long rap sheet of female sexual conquest. (Keith Powers has even taken to Snapchat to check the men on his Instagram coming at him because their girlfriends are In his comments). Instead of being like OBJ, who just swerves past the comments in a defiant act of self-security, Keith Powers is always “clearing the air.” This time, it ended in comments that damaged a movement he seems to dedicate his career to – and his social media.

What the FAKING IT actor doesn’t understand is that you cannot be all around about #BlackBoyJoy and #CarefreeBlackBoys without allowing Black boys to be sexually multifaceted. Black men today are not allowed to sexually explore without being labeled or criticized. Whether it is with a man or a woman, black men are always subjected to limiting stereotypes that forces us down. Even the idea that it is “Different for women” is supported by a misogynistic standard that women sexually perform at all times for the consumption of men – rather than an expression of individual identity. A double standard of limits, checks and oppressive chains.

If we are going to be all about #BlackBoyJoy, and I do want us to be, this must come with loving every boy who chooses to express their multifaceted personality. That includes not deeming gay black men as weaker by sexual categorization; that includes not deeming “feminine” black men as gay because of their aesthetic; that includes not barring black men from specific careers, goals and artforms because that would deem that on this outlier of the “Hard Black man” trope; and that certainly includes allowing black men to reject heteronormativity and embracing sexual fluidity at their own will and loving all of them NOT in spite of this, but because of this.
Keith Powers, there was a bar set for you that wasn’t met. I know you apologized, but apologies only go so far as they’re put into action. I’m very much against Cancel culture and Woke activist who use it as a punishment for those who just didn’t know better, but you do need to understand that there is now a watch on you to meet the standards of the Black Platform you stand on.

Rhianna’s Versatile Style Explodes in New WILD THOUGHTS Video

Articles, Culture, Fashion

By: Steven Underwood

This morning, Snapchat Sage, DJ Khaled, Real-world Mystique, Rhianna and Bryson Tiller debuted their video to their instant hit, WILD THOUGHTS and set a commotion across Twitter that is sure to top Summer playlists everywhere as a hit. While many are speaking about the genius sampling of MARIA MARIA’s guitar solo, a ballad during the 90’s brilliant dalliances into Latin Pop, even more are noting the subtly vibrant styles of Rhianna.

The Multihyphenated-singer-songerwriter-styler-setter, Rhianna shoulder shimmies and groves across the screen in a passionate pink tone complete in a Latin inspired ensemble: tantalizing with an off-the-shoulder pink sheer crop, beautiful floral-inspired bottoms, rose patterned headscarf, pink shades and dangling golden earrings, invoking the clandestine seduction of Carmen herself. Seductive, yet highlighted with a bombastic street aesthetic the entire way, furthering the sentiment that the seduction of the flower begins and ends in the heart of the ghetto culture Black girls were scrutinized for almost a decade back.

The Empress of Style changes her look maybe once the entire production. And to what you may ask? A simple strapless dress in a sorrowful blue that showed legs longer than Tiller’s feature. She was complete only by her bracelets of beads and silver, inch-long ruby nails, and an effortlessly primal stage presence. A dominate ambiance that’d send a puritan spiraling in their grave: praise be Rhianna.

If anything , WILD THOUGHTS further proves that there is no look Rhianna cannot dominate on her way to the top of American Fashion Iconography.

#TRENDSETTER: Talia Rashay, Columbus, OH

#TRENDSETTER, Articles, Culture, Non-Fiction

Talia Rashay, 22, Columbus, OH; Dancer

IG: _taliarashay

Twitter: @_ImShay

“The possibilities are endless when you do what you love and love what you do!”

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By Steven Underwood

 

When I met her, she had a dance at the base of her foot and a kick in her step that set flowers to bloom down the halls of our middle school. We weren’t rich, but her presence always was. Talia Rashay (Or simply, Shay), a Columbus native, had a beautiful art to her that was like smelling spring. She collected anything orange; she sung in the choir; she was pure and cool and vibed like jazz in moonlight behind a pair of glasses and a butterscotch smile.

Talia’s RAW profile sings her love for dance: “Dancing lives in me, music frees my soul and I express my love through the connection of movement and music” – she follows this with a heart emoji, because she’s just sweet like that.
Few who know her do not also know her reverence for family – and friends that are family, like her heart-and-soul, Brittany Dinea. Her brother is featured stage right in all of her snaps, and she smiles next to him like a proud mother. That butterscotch smile she reserves for love, affection and dedication. Her brother was an athlete for FRANKLIN HEIGHTS HIGH SCHOOL, a public school on the Southwest side of Columbus that has become the seed for Ohio’s most powerful and inspirational young minds like the revered Marshawn McCarrel, model, Brandon Lynn Watters, local entrepreneur Tony Harvard and Community Organizer, Matthew Quinn.

Often, her left manifests Brittaney, a bohemian princess who moves through Columbus like a nymph of concrete and beauty through perseverance, filling walls and canvas with art and inspiration. This inspiration flows into how she moves: always seductive, but rhythmically modest and conservative, like a dance of spring fertility – seduction for the sake of life, rather than excess and sloppy gluttony.

This kind of movement is rediculously difficult in Hip Hop. The artform is naturally bombastic and raw. It is delivered in truths: both measured and unmeasured, brutal and delicate. Few people ever call the Truth beautiful, but somehow Talia moves beautifully. On her Instagram, followers can find a video of her practice with Tru Kingdom Mega Crew from Columbus, Ohio. Far from alone on the stage, Talia’s actions are complimentary, but motivates an blossoming energy under the strobe lights. She doesn’t seem to ever strive for the spotlight of the performance, but lures it in as a matter of personality while up there. She lacks bombastic move, but — as every dancer knows — it’s not in what you do, it’s how you do it.

Stripe Shirts and Chocolate Ears with a Butterscotch Smile (PC: _Taliarashay)

Such art is never a product of talent. Anyone could move to something sexually; anyone could step out on a floor and live in the moment selfishly. Talia’s talent comes best through hardwork and dedication to a craft that is meant to convey love. Though her Twitter Profile (@_ImShay) whispers of “Naturally Gifted” across the bio, her actual talents are a reflection of a flower pushing through icy bedrock and overwhelming snowfall: a promise of tomorrow’s spring day.

All Rights for the Featured Image are due to Visual Artist, Brittaney Dinea, and can be found @Brittanydinea on Instagram.

#TRENDSETTER: Brandon Watters, Columbus, OH

#TRENDSETTER, Articles, Culture, Non-Fiction

Brandon Watters, 22, Columbus, OH; Fashion and Acting

IG: Brandoooonnn

Twitter: @NoOtherName_ 

Inspirations: Jaden Smith, ASAP Rocky, Frank Ocean, Mace Windu, Deadpool

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By: Steven Underwood

Brandon Watters collects DVDs: rows of them, and he watches them in the mostly remodeled basement of his family house in one of the more suburban neighborhoods of Columbus, Ohio.  When we were younger, it was like a cold prison: four dense white walls of cinder with too few power outlets and an itchy carpet that we turned into a teenage paradise.

Even then, that room had more DVDs than necessary. Some were his father’s, a large, stern black man with a pair of ever watching eyes. But most of those DVDs belonged to Brandon. His most prized and prestigious collection of every movie you wouldn’t realize to think of from action-adventure to obscure heart-wrenching dramas.

And if you ask Brandon why he collects these DVDs, he will shrug at you: “Bruh, this is art.”

Brandon and I have been cool since the day he walked onto my bus with a semi-tall curly afro and a green sweater. He was easily impressionable, and did a lot to hide the talents he thought people didn’t: it was basketball, or nothing.  At the time, I don’t know what made me choose him, but I did and since that day I’ve been defensive and protective of the man I knew he could become.

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Post-fashion show, Watters chills in a turtle neck and chain complete with a furry staple.

Now, he wears face-length dreads, leather jackets and buys his pants from the female section of unisex clothing stores. He loves to thrift shop and, soaking wet, he maybe weighs the combined weight of all three dogs he’s lost. And, just like me, and many members of the Columbus Underground of Artistry, he is an artist whose sensitive about his shit.

“I kinda just express the moment.” He says when describing his art form. “I don’t wanna say how I feel, so I express what I feel in that situation. Like if it’s raining, my outfit will reflect it. I embody that time. Even when I’m taking pictures, I think about something someone said about me and that will be my caption. It will be my response. Something I will say in a certain moment”

Brandon is naturally anti-social despite the charismatic image he adopts like an armor to protect himself. It makes him seem more radiant than he is, and somehow it’s this armor that causes people to float towards him at their own peril. Vanishing over the course of a week or a month isn’t anything foreign for him, no matter who is looking for him. During his Caspar days, he’s shoulder deep in a project he wants to perfect. Other times, he is just in that same basement as our teen years, isolated in that basement with his DVDs.

But this need to isolate himself is something that has caused much friction between him and others whom he deems to love. My own personal friends have asked me personally why are we friends. “The way you talk about him, i’ve always expected that nigga to be this suave, charismatic, awesome nigga who glows,” said my own friend, Jan. “I kept expecting some fine cross between Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba and Trevante Rhodes with the way you painted him.”

Other less blunt people have just rolled their eyes when he and I were in the same room and just bluntly ask: “Yo, why are you two friends?”

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Watters upstairs from the infamous basement.

To both of these kinds of people, I have no idea what to say afterwards (especially to the former, because the implications is always that I’m not “worthy” to even associate with him). Both perspectives are valid, though, we’re so dissimilar on the surface: maybe it’s something that I just see in him that he conveys via his Art?

After all, it isn’t necessarily that we have a lot in common: he’s athletic, and I’m not. I express love in the most open and warming ways, and he doesn’t. He tries to maintain this image of himself with a certain kind of power, and I do what I want, when I want in a devil-may-care attitude, while veiling my own real power behind a carefully tapered cloak. I was raised to be a loving brother-in-arms, and he has been raised to be in solitude.

How we see each other, and why I’ve strived to make a friendship last the trials of post-graduation and three states in distance…It’s always been something that you would have to grow up with us to understand.

The twenty-two-year-old, like me, is a proud Franklin Heights Alum. Heights is a high school set in Southwest Columbus between the shiny suburban neighborhoods and what is widely considered the ghetto of the city. It was there we learned the imperative of hard work through shitty lunches, and a year without sports or extracurricular activities. We watched kids fight one another just to have something worth fighting for; talk loudly just to remind everyone that they had a void and thought within the now because the pain of now was the only thing present.

It was a place of hard knuckles, hard hearts and harder heads; where you needed fangs and claws and a sharp tongue to remain on top of your own life and not be crushed by your environment. An experience like that is life-bonding, and that helped us both make it out.

If you ask us now, we don’t know what made us different than the others who were swallowed by the city we both loved. The place we claim as our artistic homelands.

We suspect it was because we had people – and by we, I mean I: I know those days despite anything that happened, we knew we had each other – Brandon, I, and our friends; we had a way of inspiring each other to express who we were. We did it through performance mostly (even I dabbled in dance for two years), but others took mild inspirations where they could find it and applied it to something secret and theirs. Yet, no matter what, it always expressed the cacophony of characters we had at Heights. At the time, we – everyone, Brandon included –thought the interest that struck Brandon was his athletics as a varsity point guard.

Brandon was a Baller. His father created the mold that he would fill that was exactly that. Everyday after school, dribbling up and down the asphalt drive way, practicing the right way to dunk, to pass, to make the J from middle court. He practiced in the rain; the sun; in fog. Brandon was a Point guard and that was it. He was an Academic, sometimes. But that was it, Brandon’s hobbies revolved around a spotted, orange ball and a netted hoop a foot in diameter.

Sophomore Year of High School, Brandon Watters was cut from the Basketball team.

“I realized I wasn’t going to the NBA at a very young age. I realized that this wasn’t going to happen. And I lowkey wasn’t trying to push it, but everyone kept trying to push me. I got cut, though. That was the biggest reality check. I mean I was a weird kid, I’ve been drawing since the age of one, I’ve been watching weird shit since age one.”

Weirdness is something that captivated Brandon for a long time. One of the many things Brandon veils behind his armor is a love for the alternative interests commonly refered to as Nerd Culture. There were days in our youth when I would wake up from the middle of sleep to find him looking through my own ULTIMATE X-MEN issues. He never mentioned he was reading them out loud to me, ever. It became a secret that he never knew I knew until I brought it up to him one day.

When the first and pivotal AVENGERS movie debuted, we all went in one large group and watched the movie through the end credits and Brandon personally pretended that he didn’t know who Thanos was. When I asked him why, he tried to laugh in an involuntary sigh of charisma. “I ain’t want to seem like a nerd.”

His Netflix account has a lot of provocative shit: BEETLEBORG marathons, a soiree with the season-long series, PUSH, and even the hit DC TV show, YOUNG JUSTICE. He is just a bit more open about what he loves now. Yet, there still seems to be that involuntary distancing between Fashion Brandon and Nerd Brandon, as if both could never live together in unity within his being — because, you know, black men are never allowed to be multi-faceted.

“I especially love YOUNG JUSTICE. Anytime I need some inspiration, I sit down and watch some old episodes over again. Especially the dark episodes.” He said “Knowing I wouldn’t go far in sports took me a far place. I want to be what I want to be. Art is something I really enjoy watching.”

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A turtle neck is always a signature look.

Brandon dabbles in a bit of everything for his Art. For a time, his Art was acting. Brandon took several acting classes and submerged himself in the lore of the craft. He went to many Theater shows just for the hell of it: to see actual actors at work, forming expressions and formulating their dialogue. “I was going to a theater show. I love watching it because they’re artists. They’re artists, but they’re acting in real time. You will never see that play again. You can see the plot again, but this performance? Never again.“

During NYFW 2017, Brandon had the courtesy of walking for a few fashion designers after meeting with them in Cincinnati. He was one of a handful of Columbus artists to appear during any of the shows that week. For the first time in a while, Heights students were pounding the pavement throughout the Gotham city.

Though I never told him, I was very proud of his accomplishment. Brandon, as a person, is known uniformly by his nearly open charisma and shining smile. He laughs off pain and shrugs it down as if that careless motion could send years of darkness cascading off like small black raindrops off a raincoat. A certain kind of person will look at him and think they can know him in totality: as a Fashionista, as an Asshole, as an Anti-Altruist, as a Player who deflects love of any kind. The more observant person will notice something softer beneath the surface that craves the need to express itself at any stakes and at any cost. I see an amalgamation of many things: some of which is positive, some of which is negative and recognize that complexity of him as a person. I embrace that he is, in-fact, a multifaceted black artist.

But when he walked during NYFW, as a Columbus’s one true son, and as someone I’ve personally see grow large enough to survive in both the dark of day and the light of night, I was proud to say that I was right about this young artist from my city.

I was right the day I saw his curly afro on the bus when I thought he was going to shine and everyone had to be there to see it. Even if he’d have to shine without me.

We the People in a Less Perfect Union

Art, Articles, Culture, Non-Fiction, Poetry

Sometimes, it’s better to look at the world through poetry until it starts to make a lick of sense.

***

On Monday, he wasn’t our president, and we celebrated the legacy of a man with as many faults as he had virtues. The skies held their breath, and a world of bright blue became bleak and cried. We remembered how we love the rain, but this was different.

Together, We investigated the landscape of the world. We judged the people of the time: for treating people like cattle, for their shameful attitudes, for their racism. We couldn’t see how these people, relatives, and friends to many of us, couldn’t see what was going on in front of them. That same day, we ignored many obvious clues that history was licking its fingertips and turning a few pages backward in its book just for emphasis.

On Tuesday, We pressed our thumbs to small digital boxes and opened Twitter. We discussed “Dr. King’s Dream,” and judged the black community according to it. Are we honoring him when we kneel during a pledge of allegiance? Is calling a white person racist acting in his image? Dr. King’s progeny got into the tabloids and said Dr. King would’ve liked Donald Trump. Our world cracked at the seams.

On Wednesday, We steeled ourselves for the worse, and found that our best metals were but rust: we would lose Barrack Obama. The skies remained gray, but the winds whipped with a sheering coldness. Tempers were high, and we fought each other. We lashed out, without really knowing what we were lashing out f. Anger for anger’s sake, a test of those chains we swore would remain. Both to unite us, and to shackle our ambitions.

On Thursday, We maintained the song of Monday. Dr. King’s progeny’s comments sang again. I stare blankly at the screen for a moment. This is someone who knew him best, isn’t it? I re-read a line by Fredrick Douglas, and I make us remember.
“Power concedes nothing without a Demand…It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows or with both. “
I take to this new world of zeroes and ones, and I make a declarative. “If we are to believe MLK would’ve supported Trump, then maybe MLK isn’t the person we should look up to?”
Few comment. Many have a feeling. The words hang in the air.
On Friday, the sky wept upon his head. Orange flushes down his face and drips onto the American soil beneath his feet. The brown in the soil becomes stained in chemical lies. We shake our hands and test these chains. We meditate on what others have decided for us. We ask ourselves how people could be so ignorant. We judge the people for many things: for their racism, for their bigotry, for their sexism, for their phobias.
History hasn’t turned her page.
The page becomes wet and the ink runs down the page. Our name runs with it. These symbols hold no more meaning.
On Saturday, we ask ourselves if we can be united when these important things have no more meaning.