By Brenda Alexander

There isn’t an episode of Martin that I don’t find hilarious. The show has classic episodes and one-liners: from Pam’s buckshots to Tommy’s lack of employment, Martin was the classic fool.

Aside from the comedy, Martin and Gina’s relationship made the show great. They were the original #RelationshipGoals for the young 20 somethings of the 90s. From the beginning, their on-screen chemistry was lit and remains unmatched since its time. You couldn’t tell me Martin and Gina weren’t a real thing. But if you wonder why such a successful show ended seemingly before its time, that may just be the reason why. According to Tisha Campbell-Martin, Lawrence took their on-screen love affair and tried to have life imitate art.

Long before the “Me Too” movement’s breaking news articles of Hollywood Executives and Music Moguls being accused of chasing their subordinates around office chambers and cornering them in trailers on set, at the height of Martin’s success, Campbell-Martin filed a sexual harassment complaint against Martin, HBO (the parent company of the FOX Network at the time) and the show producers (Lawrence was also an EP), claiming that Martin was an intimidating predator who caused an uncomfortable work environment.

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JET Magazine profiled the lawsuit in their January 1997 issue. Campbell-Martin alleged the conditions she worked under were “intolerable” and that she “was subjected to repeated and escalating sexual harassment, sexual battery, verbal abuse and related threats to her physical safety” by Lawrence. She claimed that since the show’s first season, Lawrence asked her out on dates and she declined. As seasons progressed, she alleged that Lawrence’s behavior worsened with tantrums, outbursts and threats when he didn’t get his way on set. She even went as far as requesting that writers stop incorporating scenes featuring she and Lawrence in bed together, saying that Lawrence took their love scenes too far with excessive groping and using tongue while kissing against her wishes. Lawrence denied the allegations and accused Campbell-Martin of using him as a pawn for her contract negotiations.

In November of 1996, the talented costar left the show and its 6.7 million viewers, leaving the producers to find creative ways to film without her. Her absence called for episodes that were interesting, to say the least. There was the episode where Martin and Gina planned to go on a cruise but Gina misses the boat, leaving Martin with a crazed vacationer played by Lynn Whitfield, a promotional ploy on his movie A Thin Line Between Love and Hate. They even tried to highlight the supporting characters Pam, Tommy and Cole with episodes focused on them. The damage was done. Without Martin and Gina, the show’s ratings dipped and was subsequently canceled in its 5th season. Even in the final episode, Campbell-Martin refused to film with Lawrence. The two-part finale featured no scenes with either of them together, despite both appearing in the episode.

There was little backlash against Martin compared to what we see with the likes of Bill Cosby and others who have suffered tremendous career blows. Martin continued with box office successes post the Martin era with Bad Boys II, Life and the Big Momma’s House franchise. There has been minimal interaction between Martin and Tisha since, at least publicly. Co-stars have even alluded to there still being tension and tip-toeing around definitive answers. In interviews with the cast, the lawsuit was never mentioned and reunions were shot down. Maybe that’s the brilliant work of publicists or a gag order was in place, it’s hard to tell. The only cast member who touched on the ordeal at all is Tichina Arnold. In a 2012 appearance on Watch What Happens Live, she said,
“The lawsuit was a very interesting thing to be a part of. Tisha and I have been friends since childhood, and Martin and I are still friends. There’s a point where you have to be professional and a point where you have to be personal, and I was very well aware of separating the two, and Tisha always respected that. It was very weird, but I handled it as best I could.”
Fast forward to February 2018 and black twitter’s prayers were finally answered with a simple picture:

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Tichina Arnold, Martin Lawrence & Tisha Campbell-Martin

I am just as excited as everyone else, but I have questions:

· What about the lawsuit and allegations?

· What come to Jesus moment took place in this meeting that warranted kisses on cheeks?

I consider myself a woman of faith and believe in the power of forgives. But ma’am, if I suffered anything close to what Campbell-Martin claims, I doubt I would fix my lips to kiss that said man on the cheek. Is this a happy ending for the fans? Hell yeah! Give me a two-hour special, some appetizers and cocktails and I’m content; but, I am slightly concerned for what this says for this current rise of women speaking out against abuse in the workplace. I’m eager to see how or if this will affect the promotion of the reboot. Especially, since the demise of the show has been attributed to the abuse allegations.

Is this a happy ending or what? Chime in!
Brenda is a Philadelphia native with a love for Marketing, Creative writing, wine and Jesus. Her work has been featured on Mayvenn’s Real Beautiful blog and she is the co-author of the book Christmas 364: Be Merry and Bright Beyond Christmas Night (available for purchase on amazon). Follow her on IG @trulybrenda_ and
Photo of Tai Allen by Taylor Flash
By Sharon Pendana 

Tai Allen is a multidisciplinary creative— poet, performer, music and event producer, graphic designer, to name a few of his many hats. He is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. His recently published chapbook, No Jewels: A Biography (of sorts) Writ in Stanzas, through revelatory poetry uses his violation and ultimate healing to illuminate the staggering statistic that one in sixmen have experienced sexual abuse or assault and offer hope that "pain and trauma do not need to be permanent. Love and contentment are better options.”

Long before he grew into commanding presence, towering height, and manhood, he was preyed upon by rapacious family members older than he (a male cousin and an undisclosed female relative) who desired manly acts from a boy with still "hairless parts." A summer of stolen innocence: locked-door Saturday baths and illicit midday trysts; what child should know of these?

While on a multi-city book tour, Allen spoke to Curly Nikki with guarded frankness about his traumatic experiences, and using his platform as an artist to give voice to those silenced by fear, shame, and stigma.

First, thank you for your willingness to share your difficult story. You were so young when it all started.
Yes, between nine and ten.

By being a relative, your abuser had greater access to you than someone who wasn’t part of the family. Did the person "groom" you for it so to speak?
I’m not sure. If she didn’t groom me before, she was certainly very active in trying to get me to forget about it. And I did for a long time. I forgot about it until I was about seventeen– it was like a eureka moment. She was always so nice to me, lavished me with gifts; I couldn’t figure out why. One day I just remembered. There were actually two situations; one with my cousin, but I punched him in the face and fought him off, and that was the end of that. My female relative was much older, late teens.

Despite her attempt at normalizing her actions, you always knew that they shouldn’t be happening? 
Yes, but I didn’t have the language to explain it. I never did until I got older. She was, I think, bipolar. Abuse is usually about power, but when it’s someone who’s not too well, it’s power and a level of insanity.

How did you handle the unexpected re-emergence of your childhood abuse in your consciousness during adolescence?
Not very well. [I felt] disrespected. Betrayed. Angry. Fooled. Gaslighted. Mad. Violent. It took me ten years to fully reconcile how wack both persons were. They both need therapy. And maybe, a good smack.

Although you didn't undergo therapy, you suggest it for others.
Yes, there is even a number to an agency for readers in the back of the book. I did not get therapy, but I had compassionate listeners. Expression and compassion work in unison. 

So, how did you find healing?
The assumption is that it was art, everyone assumes that, but it's not true. I am the son and godson of black militants. They were big on character and personality building. Ever since I was young, I was given the tools to deal with white oppression and supremacy and those same tools work when dealing with personal abuse. More than anything else, they gave me legacy. They gave me something to believe in. They made sure I had a real affection for community and the Diaspora.

Photo of Tai Allen by Azzie Scott, The Dream Dept. 
You may not have come to rely on your art as therapy, but do you think there is some catharsis through art? 
Hell yes! Sports, hobbies, art, it is about finding outlets that can return the soul to your center. Finding peace is the goal. I truly believe holding on to distressing experiences will create ailments.

Your experience made you vigilant of your two daughters. How did you teach your girls to protect themselves when not under a parent's watchful eye?
The girls require a conversation that reminds them all people and spaces are not safe. And the danger can come from males who sheep their intentions. I understand power is also emotional and mental; I pray I have informed them that sex can be used against them. From abuse to coercion to faux sympathy. Plus, my daughters are Black. Society is often not fond of Black women.

Although No Jewels directly addresses the experience of a male survivor of sexual abuse, its theme of moving through trauma, from surviving into thriving is universal.
I wanted to write a book that men—and others—could use as proof that trauma can be overcome. That proves pain does not have be wallowed in, no matter how terrible the horror.

Your poem “very afraid” touches on the specter of the abused becoming an abuser, in hiding. The book also shares that although many abusers have been victims of abuse, statistically most survivors do not go on to abuse others.
True, and there should be an acknowledgment for those who did not become generational predators after being victims. I see them.

You offer a downloadable Blues/R&B/Acid Jazz soundtrack to the book. What inspired it?
I am a multidisciplinary artist. Absorbing the project in multiple ways can only enhance receiving its message. I wrote the book using triolet (a French writing style), senriyu (a Japanese form close to haiku) and “song” to resemble the African oral tradition.  All three forms scream musicality. I just listened to the call.

Get the book and soundtrack on  Follow Tai on Instagram and Twitter

National Sexual Assault Hotline Call 1-800-656-4673  Available 24 hours everyday.

How have you found healing from abuse?

Sharon Pendana is the creator of THE TROVE, author of Secret Washington DCand on a relentless quest to discover treasures, human and otherwise. Find her on Instagram, Medium, Twitter or binging on Netflix and Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps.