Photo via The Root
By Mwabi Kaira

It’s been days since I saw Black Panther and I’m still thinking about it. There was so much to digest and I know I’ll have to see it several more times to fully receive all the messaging and beauty of it all. Not since the history making November night in 2008 when Barack Obama became President have I witnessed black people come together and share excitement collectively. It was such a beautiful sight to witness and I know I will cherish this moment for the rest of my days.


The hardest thing about being an African immigrant in America has been explaining the beauty of where I am from and how what we look like plays the tiniest of percentages in our day to day struggles to African-Americans. I tell them that race is not woven in the fabric of our lives and we are made aware of it only when we leave our homes and travel to other continents. We are not without problems but our problems are not race based. We are the majority and can go for days without seeing another race. I have grown accustomed to being met with looks of skepticism and full noncomputeness. Zamunda was a point of reference but seemed too far fetched to be real life. How many real Princes do any of us know in real life? I am grateful to now have Wakanda as my new point of reference and know that this conversation will be much easier going forward.

Lupita Nyong'o, Chadwick Boseman & Danai Gurira 
Black Panther depicted Wakanda, a fictional powerful African country untouched by the Western world so beautifully. In Wakanda beautiful black people are celebrated and not merely tolerated, they are strong, smart and want for nothing. Women in Wakanda are not second class citizens who are after thoughts, they are sought after for wise counsel and play such pivotal roles that Wakanda can’t do without. Wakandans are not our ancestors dreams, they are living exactly as our ancestors lived. Wakanda resonated in a way that I hope lasts forever.

There was also the addressing of Africans and African-Americans between first King T’Chaka and his brother N’Jobu and then between their sons T’Challa and Killmonger. Both T’Chaka and T’Challa believe in preserving Wakanda and not letting the outside in while N’Jobu and Killmonger believe in sharing Wakandan powerful weapons with the oppressed black people all over the world. Some argue that nothing was solved in this movie and the two worlds did not find a way to reconcile but honesty what could be solved in such a layered movie that had a timeframe? The much needed conversation has began and this start is enough for me.


Black Panther Cast
Black Panther made history, surpassed expectations and proved that a movie with a predominantly black cast can be received globally. I saw movie goers on social media in Australia, UK, South Africa, and Asia have the same excitement and reaction to the movie we did. Boris Kodjoe was in Bulgaria and the movie was sold out. He was the only black person in the theater and experienced everyone laughing and cheering throughout the movie. After the movie everyone wanted to hug him and Bulgarians pointed at him on the street and crossed their arms Wakanda style.

The narrative has been changed. Now it's time for studios to greenlight more of these kind of movies AND pay our actors the same as their white counterparts. Really it should be more money based on these numbers but we can start with the same. Black Panther was a reminder of our dopeness; our music is often imitated and duplicated, our style sets trends, our flavorful food is sought after, our rhythm is watched in awe, our inventions are innovative and have changed the world. We are the pulse of the culture and have been since the beginning of time. Black Panther just put all those things in Wakanda and it gave us pride. It's time for us to carry this pride forward and a piece of it in our hearts to remind us of our greatness. Wakanda doesn’t just have to be a state of mind, we are Wakanda everyday.

How do you think we can carry the Wakanda spirit into our everyday lives?
Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world.  She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993.  Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy.  She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon.  Keep up with her at http://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/


Idris Elba & fiance Sabrina Dahowre
By Ta-Ning Connai

Last week the black community was delivered some devastating news…

Idris Elba...Gone Too Soon

NO HE'S NOT DEAD, he's off the market, but you'd think he kicked the bucket based on the sudden hysteria connected to his name. How can one man’s public proposal make one woman so happy while simultaneously shattering the matrimonial hopes and dreams of black women across the globe? And why so many predictions for a negative outcome? Do we REALLY need to go there, hoping he cheats on his fiance? And why all the insults towards her? What in the world did she ever do to us? I'm just wondering how this will affect his box offices sales,‘cause you know us sistahs will put on a petty protest and make the brotha wanna repent for trespassing against us.

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We've all had our fantasy crushes get crushed once or twice in our lives. For me, Michael Jackson was a tough one. I mean, after all, I was in the 8th grade when I had to face that the King of Pop was never coming to my house to get my mom's permission to take me out. I took it pretty hard. But I'm sure I don't have to explain why I'm glad it didn't work out.

The grass is always greener on the other side, but keep this important point in mind...God created ALL the grass and He gave us all enough water to take care of our own yard. And way beyond every yard sits a house where we have NO IDEA what goes on inside. So let's be careful not to mourn the “absence" of people that were never meant to be ours because relational goals can still be achieved without them.

So, is all this sorrow truly about the guy that The Wire made famous or does the displaced resentment go way, way deeper than that?

There’s a downside to the never before access we have to the Hollywood elite and their private lives. Due to social media, entertainment news and reality TV, the compulsion to live vicariously through the lives of our favorite stars has reached an all time high and is completely out of whack. The once distinct line between fantasy and reality has unfortunately become more blurred. Nothing wrong with the imagination as a tool to inspire, but feeling dangled by a thread in front of heavily edited dreams only causes people grave disappointment and major distractions.

It's not fair for the media to bombard us with these lavish lifestyles and ritzy relationships without equally providing us with the how-to’s for our own lives. But hey it's not their job, but I can tell you whose job it most definitely is…

GOD’S.

No time to feel down and out, pumped and dumped when you're reminded of the very reason you were born. In Genesis 2:18, God reminds us that women were created to be man's helper. We come from the lineage of Eve, the original wife and mother of all mankind (we got it from our mama!). And although she is most known for the regretted bite heard around the world, Eve was DEFINITELY much more than that.

Wives are endowed with an innate ability to positively change the course of destiny for their husbands and their household. And it was the devil that perverted Eve’s calling to do just that; by twisting God's words and mixing them with his own. She was intrigued by that stupid ol’ serpent's claim that eating the fruit (um, who said it was an apple???) would give her more wisdom. MORE wisdom, which means she didn't recognize what she already had! Sounds like she thought the grass was greener on the other side too!

Oh, if we all would just realize the value of what we have to offer, we wouldn't let a few celebrity weddings sway us from the faith it takes to wait for the best man God has in mind. So get on the fast track to walking in wisdom and power because…

whether you desire to be
happily married
or remain single and free
this world can't make it without you
and that's a reality!

 Do you get bummed when your crushes find love?
TA-NING is a former model and clothing designer who one day got the "call" to leave the fab world of fashion behind. While in Bible College, she discovered her knack for mixing her quirky style of writing with her gift to teach. TA-NING'S TELL IT TUESDAY is a weekly column (originally launched on Facebook) that uses doses of pop culture to tear down the walls of churchy tradition, change the face of Christianity, and present it's message in a lively way. Ta-ning resides in Santa Monica (by way of BK), is obsessed with dogs, and is an old school Hip-Hop junkie!
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Nicci Gilbert 
By Mwabi Kaira

Twenty four years ago, Detroit native Nichole “Nicci” Gilbert burst onto the music scene with her powerhouse vocals. She, Monica "Mimi" Doby, and Charmayne Maxena "Maxee" Maxwell were the founding members of Grammy-nominated Brownstone, the first group signed to Michael Jackson’s MJJ Music record label. Brownstone had 2 successful albums that spawned the hits including “If You Love Me,” “Grapevyne,” “I Can’t Tell You Why,” and “5 Miles To Empty.” The group won a Billboard music award for “If You Love Me.”

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Nicci Gilbert
Fans of Brownstone saw Nicci show her acting chops on TV in Martin, Living Single, Sister, Sister and in the movie Woo. She also starred as Vera Brown in Tyler Perry's stage play Meet The Browns in 2004. It was not until 2012 that Nicci reemerged on TV on R&B Divas, a show she created, cast and executive produced for TV One. The reality show brought R&B singers Faith Evans, Keke Wyatt, Syleena Johnson, Monifah and Nicci together and documented their lives in Atlanta as they worked on their music. They recorded an album, “Faith Evans R&B Divas,” in memory of Whitney Houston. Nicci performed a duet with her mother Helene Gilbert on a song called “Sometimes” on the album. The show aired for 3 seasons in Atlanta and a LA spinoff aired for 3 seasons as well. Nicci appeared on the first 2 seasons of the Atlanta show.

R&B Divas was not the first reality show pulling back the curtain on the lives of beloved singers, but it was the first in the age of social media. Whitney Houston appeared on her husband Bobby Brown’s reality show back in 2005 to the disapproval of fans, but other than on radio shows, fans did not have a public forum for fans to converge at once, in real time, and give their disapproval. Enter Twitter. Black Twitter specifically. Although Twitter launched in 2006, 2012 is when the momentum came with more than 100 million users posting 340 million tweets a day. If people loved you, they hailed you and created loving hashtags and even made you a star but if they weren’t checking for you, you might as well have been left dead on the side of the road. By the time Nicci left the show, she had felt the brunt of black twitter and then some. She had been labelled the villain of the show she created and fans dubbed her as trash and cancelled.

Nicci went from being on top of the world to tired, broken and broke. She had put her own creativity, talent, and resources into the show and it continued without her. She saw the clothing line she created and launched on the show skyrocket and plummet within days. I ask Nicci if while creating R&B Divas she saw black twitter coming, “Honestly, we weren’t ready for what came with social media. I wasn’t ready. I loved Twitter, it was actually how the girls and I communicated as I put the show together, it was a great tool for that.” It took some time but Nicci remembered her core; who she really was and found a way to drown out the noise and not believe what was being said about her that was untrue. She found out who her true support system was and got back to doing what she does best; being creative.

Charmayne (Maxee) Maxwell
Nicci expressed her newest idea to fellow Brownstone member and best friend Maxee to create a show about women who achieved success then hit rock bottom in the public eye just like she had and how they built their lives back up. She wanted a show where women could turn their mess into a message and their test into their testimony. She felt that it was only right to name the show after their debut album 'From The Bottom Up.'  Maxee loved the idea and gave her blessing, Nicci took it to Queen Latifah’s camp and the show was born. In the midst of putting the show together, Nicci received another setback, this time the worst one of her life; Maxee had died suddenly on February 28th, 2015.

From The Bottom Up premiered in 2016 with cast members Stacii Jae Johnson (Atlanta political fundraiser pulled over for DUI), Christine Beatty (Chief of Staff for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick caught up in a sex scandal), Sara Stokes (former member of Diddy’s Making The Band 2 with domestic violence charges), Kim Smeadly (administered illegal butt injections to women across the US), and Chrystale Wilson (known from her role in the movie The Players Club). The show was well received and the women worked through their issues and found their footing through season 2. The third season, with a brand new cast, including Angela Stanton, Brandi Davis, Tamika Wright, Danielle Jones, and Iesha Jeng, premieres on March 3rd.

From the Bottom Up Season 3 trailer 

It’s evident just by looking at Nicci and hearing her speak that she has found her stride again. She radiates positivity and empowerment, goes hard in the gym, and is overall happy. Her rebirth has been for her mind, body and soul. When asked to pinpoint where the change began Nicci responds,
“I went through so much that could have easily broken me and it didn’t. One day I decided to be my authentic self and work on things that made me happy. Everything fell into place after that.”
Brownstone’s “If You Love Me” was reintroduced to the radio in 2016 when Tory Lanez used the hook in his hit “Say It” and even had the ladies join him for a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. It was a bittersweet moment for Nicci, “Maxee always wanted us to be current and she would have been so happy with Tory’s song.”

After a long break, Nicci is giving us some new music too.
“People may find this hard to believe but I had insecurity to sing alone after being in a group. I suffered a creative singing block that got worse after Maxee’s death. I just didn’t think I’d be able to sing again without having her by my side. I’ve decided that fear can’t hold me hostage and to sing again to honor Maxee.” 
In addition to recording her first single “Fly” available now on Itunes from her forthcoming EP due this Spring, Nicci is one busy lady. She's working on finding a home for her documentary, Broken Things; The Sara Stokes Story about sexual abuse. This is the ultimate #MeToo story that needs to be watched by everyone. She was recently awarded with the BET Her 2018 Woman of Impact Award and it gave her even more zeal and purpose.
“I’ve been thinking about what my legacy will be lately and I know that it will include my encouraging, and empowering women to speak their truth and to just be who they are.” 
Nicci plans to have many things under the From The Bottom Up Foundation umbrella including mentorship for girls in High School and College, speaking to and encouraging incarcerated women, and establishing a scholarship in Maxee’s name. Tune into Season 3 of From The Bottom Up on March 3rd on BET Her and purchase Nicci’s single Fly available on Itunes now!

Have you seen 'From the Bottom Up?'

Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world.  She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993.  Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy.  She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon.  Keep up with her at http://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/