Music mogul Russell Simmons © Lucas Jackson / Reuters
By Veronica Wells

If you’ve been even semi conscious in the past few months, it would have been impossible for you to avoid the news about men, in various industries, being accused of everything from sexual harassment to rape. Things have died down a bit now; but for a good two to three months there was a new name to add to the list of potential predators every week.


I was speaking to a friend about how I wouldn’t be surprised by anyone’s name being called. My friend mentioned undisputed good guys like Tom Hanks or Levar Burton. And just as I was willing to go with her, we learned that “nice guy” Aziz Ansari had been implicated in some type of sexual...insensitivity.

The point is, we don’t know these celebrities like we think we do. And more importantly, you can’t swear for anybody. So it begs the question, how would you respond if a man you loved was accused of sexual assault?

With that premise in mind, I’m always surprised to see women take the “stand by your man” approach when it comes to allegations of sexual assault.

Rapper Nelly has been accused of rape or sexual assault by at least three different women. He claims that he had consensual sex with the first woman who accused him. After this particular case went back and forth, with the alleged victim deciding whether or not she was going to testify against him, two more women from the United Kingdom stepped forward with allegations of their own.

Shantel Jackson's IG
What adds another layer of interesting to Nelly’s narrative is the fact that during all of these instances, he was in a relationship with Shantel Jackson. The two have been dating for some time now. And while I wouldn’t be so quick to defend a man who, at the very least, cheated on me and, at the very worse, raped women, Jackson took to Instagram to offer an explanation of her man’s innocence.

Shantel Jackson's IG post
In the weeks since she issued the statement, another woman in the UK came forward with another allegation of rape.

Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons has spent the past few months defending his innocence. While he’s issued an apology to the women he’s hurt and said he’s open for dialogue, he’s also stepped down as head of his companies, taken lie detector tests and created the ill-advised and short-lived #NotMe campaign.

When TMZ ran up on Kimora Lee Simmons, his ex-wife and mother of his two daughters, they asked her about the assault allegations involving her ex husband and whether or not she believed in his innocence. She said she loved him, that they were friends and she did believe he was innocent.

Later, with some more time to think it over, she issued this more in depth, more nuanced response.
It was a good statement, considering she’s speaking about her children’s father, a man who has been active and present in their daughters’ lives. It acknowledged the relationship they share but doesn’t belittle the experiences of the women either. And while I know that a lot of people were waiting for her to weigh in, I would have told TMZ, I only speak for myself.

Honestly, at a time like this, asking women to speak up and out for the men they’re connected to seems like a distraction and a deflection from the central issue here, the behavior of men.

If anything, the Aziz Ansari story taught us that men aren’t always clear of what constitutes sexual force or coercion. In a society that trains men to convince, persuade and coax women into having sex with them, at all costs, men aren’t taught to read body language, to keep checking in to make sure a woman is comfortable, to understand that permission for one sexual act doesn’t guarantee permission for another. In our own lives and the lives of our friends and family, we can point to the ways in which liberties have been taken when it comes to sex and sexuality, by men who we know meant well. Men who didn’t understand that their pressure felt like a violation. Imagine how much more heightened it is for men who have money and power, who see and use women as commodities, men who aren’t used to being told anyone. Who knows how power and access affect the sexual psyche. In the heat of the moment, when a man wants sex, none of us can swear by what he would or wouldn’t do to get it. We just don’t know.

Bill Cosby & Kesha Knight Pulliam
Most of us can agree that with over 50 allegations against him, with receipts of payouts and strikingly similar stories that span decades, Bill Cosby is guilty of some, if not all of the allegations against him. It’s hard to ignore the voices and faces of all those women. Still, when he stood trial his play daughter Keshia Knight Pulliam (Rudy Huxtable), walked into the courtroom on his arm.

It was a moment staged with the internet and news media in mind. It reminds us of Heathcliff as the loving and devoted father, of Rudy, his doting daughter. If his reputation hadn’t already been besmirched beyond repair, it might have struck a chord. But it was too little, too late. And with Keshia’s desperate and frequent grasps for relevancy, I could see right through this photo opp. I had a visceral reaction to it. After all, Bill Cosby has real daughters, a real wife. While they have spoken out in his defense, why weren’t they present to walk him into the courtroom? Afterward though, it made me consider what I would do if someone I knew and loved had been accused of and likely did something so heinous. I wrote that I would probably be, “at the crib, praying. I'ma come visit you in prison and we can talk about treatment.”

I know from personal experience that you can love people despite their vile behavior. If someone has been kind and loving to you, there’s an ability to split them in your mind. To see and know them as two different people. I think we confuse love for someone as an excuse or rationalization for bad behavior. We make it an “either, or” scenario when it’s really a “both, and” type of deal. You’re not either a saint or a sinner. You can be a rapist and a mentor. While we like to create just one box for people, most of us exist in more than a few. And despite cancel culture, the illusion of perfection, and our reliance on binaries, you can love parts of a person and despise the parts of them that hurt others. What you don’t have to do is let loyalty impede your humanity.

How would you behave if someone you love was accused of rape or sexual assault?
Veronica Wells is the culture editor at She is also the author of “Bettah Days” and the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug
By Kanisha Parks

Since the beginning of the month, I’ve been seeing a clip from The Rundown with Robin Thede where she says, “Happy Black History Month . . . or as we call it, Month!” on BET. Quite naturally, I know it was a joke but as most jokes go, it seems to be surrounded by a bit of truth and caused me to ask myself, “Do black people actually celebrate Black History Month?”


Growing up, Black History Month was always important to me and personally, I looked forward to it because it felt like the only part of history that was truly interesting and that I could understand. This was the one time of the year when I was immersed in the knowledge and understanding of influential people who actually looked like me after enduring entire curriculums centered around well, mostly white people.

Zora Neale Hurston
Even when taking American Literature my sophomore year in college, only two African-Americans were included in the “canon” of writers who made a mark on American history: Fredrick Douglass and Phillis Wheatley. As a result, I made it my business to take African-American Literature the next semester. Every day I was surrounded by my peers and able to discuss my thoughts on important African-American writers such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, W.E.B Du Bois, Lorraine Hansberry, Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, Octavia Butler, Audre Lorde, and many more.

Each year after that, I participated in the National African American Read-In at my university and felt honored to uphold their memories. These writers, these words, still live with me today and I am grateful for the memories I have from those few months and the opportunity to study them at a time in my life when I was still learning about myself. The experience forever changed the way I look at the world. But as a working adult, I had to learn to continue to honor these historical Black figures and others—and not for the sake of my participation grade or because a paper was due.

Janet Collins
When asked if and how they celebrate Black History Month, viral sisters Dani and Dannah shared: “We start off by learning what makes us unique as African Americans and who were some of our pioneers that history books don’t teach us about. Like Janet Collins, she was a ballet dancer, choreographer and teacher. She was among the pioneers of black ballet dancing, one of the few classically trained Black dancers of her generation. We participate in plays and black history programs at our school and church too! Learning about our history is just as important as learning about world history to us! Happy Black History Month!”

Popular Hair & Beauty Blogger, Romance aka @heycurlie, says that she enjoys going to the library with her son and picking up books and learning more about the exceptional contributions made by African Americans. “It’s a great bonding experience to teach my son about his history.”

Natural Hair YouTuber @happycurlhappygirl says she celebrates Black History year-round and during February, she participates in special activities and programs with her daughter at school and church to “highlight and celebrate the history and culture of Black people.”

When I spoke to writer Erickka Sy Savané she acknowledged that she struggled with Black History Month this year. “Given all the blatant racism going on in this country every day I started feeling insulted by Black History Month. Kinda like the government is saying, 'Here’s your month to celebrate yourselves and after that you can go sit down.' But then I realized, it's not about them, it's about us and if we don't take a moment to pat ourselves, our ancestors and each other on the back, not only could history repeat itself, we could lose that pride...that magic.” 

There’s no right or wrong way to “do” Black History Month as long as you take some time out to appreciate the strides Black people have made. The accomplishments of Black writers, entertainers, scientists, athletes, historians, engineers, activists and entrepreneurs are truly endless. Given our history in this country, we have a lot to be thankful for and proud of.

Do you celebrate Black History Month?
Kanisha is a Christian writer/author based in Augusta, GA. Other than, she has also written for BlackNaps.organd Devozine, and has authored a book of poetry entitled, "Love Letters from the Master." Kanisha can be contacted for business inquiries at [email protected] 
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Emmy Winner Lena Waithe

 By Winnie Gaturu 

You’d imagine that having a first for a black woman would be rare in 2017 but it’s not. There are black women breaking barriers everyday all around us. Whether it's in school, work, politics or in seemingly normal activities, there are firsts happening everywhere. Since it is human nature to admire people you can identify with, it is crucial for black women, especially young girls, to see black women making major achievements in life. Each first opens a new door we never thought of opening. It motivates black women and shows us that we can all be firsts. Right now, we celebrate some of the women who've paved the way for us in many different ways. Here are 10 black women’s firsts in 2017!