8 photos that flip the script when it comes to stereotypes about black women.

Black women are beautiful, complex, and worthy of love. It sounds so simple, and yet here we are.

While representations of black women have increased on television and movies, it's still an exercise in extremes. It's easy to scan from well-worn negative tropes and stereotypes like the "angry black woman," or "the baby mama," or the "hypersexual black Barbie" to the powerful leading ladies of "Hidden Figures," "Being Mary Jane," or "Black-ish," but there are few stops in between.

What have you done to support Viola Davis today? Double it! Photo by  Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures.

In fact, according to a 2013 report in Essence, negative depictions of black women appear twice as often as positive ones. These representations are demoralizing, and, speaking from personal experience, exhausting and embarrassing. Thankfully, we can look beyond television and film for positive representations in pop culture.

Mickalene Thomas brings bold, powerful representations of black women to fine art.

Based in New York, Thomas is known for her large-scale paintings of domestic interiors and multi-textured, rhinestone-covered portraits of women. Her work is colorful, vibrant, and affirming. Her paintings of women appear as collages, with small pieces accenting and challenging each other. Each woman is more than the sum of her colorful, mystifying parts. Time passes quickly as you attempt to "figure her out," but you can't. Therein lies the beauty.

Mickalene Thomas, "Racquel Leaned Back," 2013. © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Thomas' photography series, "Muse," seeks to challenge norms of black beauty.

In the series and book, "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs," she portrayed black women in highly stylized, fantastical portraits.

Mickalene Thomas, "A Moment's Pleasure #2," 2007, from "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs" (Aperture, 2015). © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

With each photograph, Thomas redefines black beauty for herself, pushing back on tired stereotypes and outdated norms. Each one is a stunning act of resistance.

Mickalene Thomas, "Calder Series #2," 2013, from "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs" (Aperture, 2015). © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Thomas drew inspiration from portrait photographers like James Van Der Zee (who beautifully documented the people of the Harlem Renaissance with his pioneering tableau portraits) as well as pro-black modeling campaigns from the 1970s featuring stars like Beverly Johnson.

Mickalene Thomas, "Remember Me," 2006, from "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs" (Aperture, 2015). Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Instead of using professional models for her series, Thomas' muses include her mother, sisters, lovers, and friends. These visually stunning portraits are a truly shared effort between Thomas and the women who've had an impact on her.

Mickalene Thomas, "I've Been Good to Me," 2011, from "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs" (Aperture, 2015). © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

In addition to "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs," released in 2015, Thomas has exhibited her work in galleries around the country.

Through March 12, 2017, "Muse" is on display in the Meyerhoff Gallery at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Thomas also curated  a companion exhibit of photography, called "tête-à-tête," which is also on display at MICA.

Mickalene Thomas, "La Leçon D’amour," 2008. © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Representations and depictions of black women are vital.

It's still too easy for little black girls to grow up seeing few positive depictions of black women outside of their families. It's easy to grow up feeling less than or unworthy when women with curly or kinky hair, women with full lips, and women with rich, dark skin don't make it to your picture books — or your history books, for that matter.

Mickalene Thomas, Din, "Une Très Belle Négresse #1," 2012, from "Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs" (Aperture, 2015). © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

That's why we need to shout out and celebrate black women as the superheroes they are.

Black women write laws, start businesses, make art, explore the natural world, build towers, save lives, and teach at local schools. Yes, we are strong, but we are also tender, loving, and vulnerable. Black women are the embodiment of balance and resilience, holding down families, communities, and nine-to-fives, while pushing back against racism, sexism, and privilege. It's hard work. It breaks you down. But black women, for better or worse, keep grinding.

There is beauty in our strength, but you don't get to see that. Not nearly enough. And that's why black representation matters, why black art matters — it's a love letter to our persistence.

Mickalene Thomas, "Negress With Green Nails," 2005. © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist; Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Most Shared

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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