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A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
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Though we're all part of the same species living on the same planet, our experience as humans walking through this world can differ widely. Children see things through a different lens than adults. Women and men have different perspectives on certain issues. And because racism has long been an active element in our society, people with varying amounts of melanin in their skin face specific challenges that others don't.


As a white American, I don't instinctively know what it's like to walk in a black person's shoes. I can tell you about the legacy of white supremacy laced throughout our country's history. I can explain the far-reaching effects of slavery, lynch mobs, Jim Crow laws, redlining, mass incarceration, and more. I can intellectually break down the psychological and sociological impact of centuries of race-based oppression.

But I can't tell you what it feels like to walk through this world, right now, as a black person—which is why it's so important to listen to the voices of people who can.

David Summers shared a story on Facebook that reflects the experience of many black Americans—one that can help us non-black folks see through a lens we simply do not and cannot have. Perhaps that's why it's been shared more than 20,000 times. From the fear that any object he carries might be mistaken as a gun to figuring out how to smile at a stranger just right so he won't be considered a threat, the "black thoughts" Summers describes during his walk through a beautiful, white neighborhood—presumably a neighborhood most of us would consider "safe"—are heartbreaking.

He wrote:

"I took a black walk this morning. I took a black walk through a white neighborhood. When I take black walks, I think black thoughts. I am conscious of where I've placed my gun, my gun, and my gun. I mean, my phone, my wallet, and my keys. Because Peace Officers have a hard time telling the difference. I rehearse what I'll say if a concerned resident, or a law enforcement employee has questions about why my black body is walking through their white space. And I remind myself to make sure the law enforcement employee has his body camera recording. Sometimes it helps if there is video evidence to accompany the hashtag.

There is no way to be stealthy when you take a black walk. White neighborhoods are blanketed by a sophisticated security system comprised of nosy neighbors, Ring doorbell cameras, and white women walking their dogs. So, I've learned to notice the white world through my periphery. To be aware of the dangers without acknowledging them. There is an art to making white people feel safe. To say 'Good Morning' and flash a smile that shows confidence and deference at the same time. To being polite because your life depends on it.

I felt the squad car behind me before I saw it.

It moved deliberately. Not like the other cars mindlessly whizzing past. Its tires inched. Crept. Stalked their way toward me.

I kept walking.

"Don't take your hands out of your pockets," I thought. Or wait, maybe I should? Maybe it's better if my hands are clearly empty. But it's cold outside…maybe it's nothing. Keep walking.

The car rolled past me and made a slow right turn. I glanced quickly but didn't stare. The air is still. My ears tuned out everything but the slight scuff of my sneakers on the sidewalk and the fading sound of those stalking tires.

Almost there.

Suddenly the squad car re-emerged. It was a block ahead of me. It made a quick right turn, continued to the end of the street, and then waited. No more stalking. This was a show of force. This was a roar. This was a reminder that I was trespassing.

I kept walking.

"Don't take your hands out of your pockets," I thought. Or wait, maybe I should? Maybe it's better if my hands are clearly empty. But it's cold outside…maybe it's nothing. Keep walking.

The car rolled past me and made a slow right turn. I glanced quickly but didn't stare. The air is still. My ears tuned out everything but the slight scuff of my sneakers on the sidewalk and the fading sound of those stalking tires.

Almost there.

Suddenly the squad car re-emerged. It was a block ahead of me. It made a quick right turn, continued to the end of the street, and then waited. No more stalking. This was a show of force. This was a roar. This was a reminder that I was trespassing.

I kept walking.

As I approached the corner, the front window began to roll down. The occupant didn't speak. Didn't smile. Just stared. I was being warned.

I crossed the street and the lion trotted off. He had effectively marked his territory. The brave protector had done his job.

I however, couldn't help but wonder what I'd missed during my black walk. It's hard to hear the birds chirping, or to smile at the squirrels playfully darting along the branches when you're on a black walk. It's easy to miss the promise of a light blue sky, or appreciate the audacity of the red, yellow, and purple daisies declaring their independence from the green grass when your mind is preoccupied with black thoughts.

I took a walk through a beautiful neighborhood this morning. But I missed the whole thing."

Thank you, Mr. Summers, for sharing your "black walk" experience. Hopefully, it will prompt us all to ask ourselves whether our words and actions serve to reinforce or remedy what you've described.


This article originally appeared on 03.02.20

Black women are everything.

I say it without reservation or hesitation. I say it with personal experience and anecdotal knowledge. We. Are. Everything.

Need someone to replace your contaminated water pipes? We can do that. Need someone to tell off Paul Ryan? We can do that. Need someone to help you master a skateboard trick? We can do that too. Try to keep up.


Our talent, know-how, grace, and grit is unparalleled. There's only one problem: No one seems to care.

At least not visibly — not when it matters. In the spirit of intersectionality, black women cape for black men, we support women, other POC, people with disabilities, and our LGBTQ family. But who is championing, listening to, trusting, and promoting us? Fine, we can do that too.

[rebelmouse-image 19532556 dam="1" original_size="750x500" caption="Dropping knowledge about the awesomeness of black women. Photo by WOCinTech Chat/Flickr." expand=1]Dropping knowledge about the awesomeness of black women. Photo by WOCinTech Chat/Flickr.

This is the beginning of a weekly column dedicated to signal-boosting the black women who make the world spin.

From tastemakers and politicians, to women making a name for themselves in their communities, these are people whose stories merit attention and enthusiasm.

Let's go ahead and give them their roses. Here are the women I'm here for this week — support them, believe them, and celebrate them.

"We've Got Your Back": Janet Jackson and Lola Olufemi

Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images.

  • Across the pond, Cambridge student Lola Olufemi joined together with other students to write an open letter about improving the university's English department. It included suggestions for creating a more inclusive canon and improving representation among the authors and viewpoints. (You can read the entire thing here.)  Soon after, Olufemi's simple, clear proposal was mischaracterized and demonized on the front page of The Daily Telegraph, who suggested she was trying to drop white authors, including Shakespeare, altogether. The paper has since printed a tiny apology, but the damage is done. We know the truth, sis.

"We Believe You": Myeshia Johnson and Kitti Jones

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

"Go off, sis": Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay recently accepted Smithsonian magazine's American Ingenuity Award. The award honors great talents and contributions in eight categories: technology, performing arts, visual arts, life sciences, physical sciences, history, social progress, and youth. DuVernay picked up the honor for visual arts for her work in TV and film. And if that's not enough, check out this clip from "Finding Your Roots" when she discovers her genetic makeup is majority African. Her smile is like standing in a sunbeam.

Final thoughts: Robin Thede

Robin Thede, host of "The Rundown with Robin Thede" will deliver this week's final thoughts:

I'll be here next week with more women to celebrate, support, and signal boost. If you know a black woman that I should feature, send me some links.

After playing a supporting role in "Captain America: Civil War," Black Panther is finally getting his own standalone film — and it looks absolutely awesome.

The majority black cast is unlike anything seen in the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe and is a completely welcome change of pace.

Some people, however, pointed to the film's casting as proof of hypocrisy from people who advocate for diversity in Hollywood. One Twitter user reached out out to John Boyega. It ... didn't go well.

"Hey @JohnBoyega, why aren't [you] complaining about the lack of diversity of Black Panther's cast? 9/10 actors are Africans/Afro-Americans," they wrote.


Boyega, who is not in this film, but has been outspoken about diversity in Hollywood, replied, "Because it's about time Biiiihhhhh."

It's a fundamental (and possibly willful) misunderstanding of efforts to increase diversity on- and off-screen to suggest that the goal is for every movie to have a perfectly racially balanced cast.

The reality is that there aren't a lot of big budget movies out there that feature majority black casts.

The University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism's annual diversity report highlights just how disproportionately white and male Hollywood's top films still are.

A look at the top 100 films of 2016 found that 70.8% of all speaking roles were played by white actors, 13.6% black, 5.7% Asian, and 3.1% Hispanic. A quarter of the top 100 films didn't have a single black character in a speaking role, 44 with no Asian roles, and 54 without any Hispanic characters.

[rebelmouse-image 19532170 dam="1" original_size="700x420" caption="Data from the USC Annenberg diversity survey and the U.S. Census Bureau." expand=1]Data from the USC Annenberg diversity survey and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Fear not, white fans of the Marvel cinematic universe!

You've still got the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Star-Lord, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist representing you. You'll be OK. I promise.

To date, Luke Cage has been the only black character to get his own standalone streaming show, and Black Panther will be the first to get his own film. Because, like Boyega said, "It's about time."

Black Panther director Ryan Coogler stands alongside actors Danai Gurira, Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o, and Michael B. Jordan at San Diego Comic-Con in 2016. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney.

It happened. It really, really happened.

Lena Waithe and Aziz Ansari took home the award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for their work on "Master of None," at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards.

The duo won for the episode "Thanksgiving," from the critically acclaimed Netflix series.


Aziz Ansari (L) and Lena Waithe accept Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for 'Master of None' Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

"Thanksgiving" chronicles the coming out journey of Denise (played by Waithe) over years of Thanksgiving dinners. From realizing she might be queer to bringing home a girlfriend and the many complicated and awkward moments in between, much of the deeply personal episode was pulled directly from Waithe's own experience as a black lesbian woman.

"This is probably the most autobiographical thing I’ve ever written," Waithe said in an interview with Vulture earlier this year. "But it is about a ten-year difference from when I came out to making this episode, so I have a lot of space and distance from it, which I think is the best way to tell the story. It’s like, 'Okay, in hindsight this happened,' and to see the progression I thought was really important."

Waithe's acceptance speech was an inspiring battle cry to LGBTQIA people everywhere.

Ansari stood to the side as Waithe did all the talking for the award-winning duo, thanking Netflix, her family, and professional collaborators before taking a moment to lift up and celebrate the LGBTQIA community.

"And last but certainly not least my LGBQTIA family, I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are our superpowers. Every day we walk out the door, put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world. Because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren't in it."

With her Emmy win, Waithe becomes the first black woman to win the Emmy for comedy writing.

Yes, in 2017 there are still plenty of firsts, landmark moments, and milestones to hit when it comes to black and queer history.

Here's to Waithe, Ansari, and all of the people of color putting in work to improve representation and tell heartfelt, funny, authentic stories.

Actors Kelvin Yu, Aziz Ansari, Lena Waithe and executive producer Alan Yang. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.