Photo Source: Vulture

R. Kelly is certainly a divisive person when it comes to his connection with ephebophilia. There are usually two camps: those that defend him as fans of his music and those that have no tolerance for his behavior with minors. Ever since his 2008 trial on child pornography, that debate has heightened and still remains a hot point today. He has since been acquitted of such charges, but the effect of that infamous sex tape has not faded away in the public eye.

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Cut to now, where the stakes have gotten much higher. According to several parents’ reports to police, the R&B self-proclaimed “Pied Piper” is being accused of running a “cult” for teens and subjecting them to emotional and sexual abuse. Additionally, Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones and Asante McGee have provided more details from their perspective as former members of Kelly’s inner circle.

“R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet,” said McGee. “But Robert is the devil.”

Per the three former inner circle members, Kelly oversees the “cult” full of teens that he dubs his “babies” which reportedly includes acts of sexual training of the teens by a “den mother,” videotaping sexual acts to be later shown to Kelly’s friends, and controlling rules such as having to notify Kelly when they want to leave the studio or their assigned rooms. Any deviation from the “house rules” are allegedly means to punishment.

Mack shut down any perspective groupie fantasies about R. Kelly who hope to live a “lavish” lifestyle once they become connected with the singer. “No. You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control. ... He is a puppet master,” Mack said.

In one instance, a couple parents noted their daughter -- an aspiring singer -- once lied to them about a weekend trip to visit a college, but was in fact planning to visit Kelly in a trip arranged by Mack. There were even phone recordings obtained between the daughter and Kelly in which Kelly said things like, ““I want you to get in the habit of telling me what color panties you got on every day.” He also noted, I’m more interested in developing you. Songs are not an issue. We can always do a hit song.”

This is just one of the many similar stories about young girls led astray toward a man who is reportedly a master at mind controlling vulnerable teens. As someone who is roughly 50 years old at this point and a superstar, there is a significant power dynamic in play in Kelly’s favor.

Contrastly, Kelly has maintained his innocence ever since the infamous trial for which has acquitted. “We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life,” wrote R. Kelly’s attorney Linda Mensch, in a statement to Buzzfeed News. “He works hard to become the best person and artist he can be. It is interesting that stories and tales debunked many years ago turn up when his goal is to stop the violence; put down the guns; and embrace peace and love. I suppose that is the price of fame. Like all of us, Mr. Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that.”

Source: Buzzfeed News

What do you think about these new allegations? Let’s discuss in the comments!
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Tonja Renée Stidhum is a writer/director living in Los Angeles by way of Chicago. She is the co-host of the movie review podcast, Cinema Bun Podcast. She is made of sugar and spice and everything rice... with the uncanny ability to make a Disney/Pixar reference in the same sentence as a double entendre. You can follow her on Twitter @EmbraceTheJ, on Facebook FB.com/tstidhum, and Instagram @embracethej. You can find more of her work on her About Me page, https://about.me/tonjareneestidhum.

Earlier this week, rapper, T-Hood, posted a video of actress, Maia Campbell, pumping his gas and saying she wanted some crack. In the video, Campbell is clearly missing a tooth and is barely dressed in a bra and spandex shorts.

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It wasn't long before the video went viral. Right now, a search of 'Maia Campbell' on YouTube yields more than 800 results for videos posted this week.

If you're not familiar with who Maia Campbell is, she played the role of Nicole on the 90's show, South Central. She also appeared on Iyanla Vanzant's show, Fix My Life back in 2012, detailing her battle with bipolar disorder.

LL Cool J, who was Campbell's co-star on another 90's show, In the House, attempted to get in contact with the actress through Instagram writing, "If anyone has a contact on Maia pls let me know... " In response to the video posted by T-Hood, LL also took to Twitter: “Instead of pulling out your phone and filming someone who’s obviously having trouble. Maybe lend a helping hand? A kind word?”

As Campbell revealed in Fix My Life, she stopped taking her medication for bipolar disorder, which eventually led to her losing custody of her daughter, Elizabeth Elisha Gutierrez. Campbell has been in rehab before for drug addiction, but has relapsed multiple times.

Rapper T-Hood, who also filmed Campbell denying help from LL, has received a mountain of backlash on social media. Many people felt that he was exploiting Campbell's mental illness for views and was wrong to film her in the state that she was in.

T-Hood responded to the criticism in a video stating that he's known Campbell from "the block for years" and that she is not suffering from an illness, but that "... this b***h is just high as f**k". He even went as far to say that if she was white, like "Hilary Duff", and not black, viewers would care less.

Instead of using Campbell's life as a source of entertainment, it should be a call to action in the black community. Not another community issue that gets twisted into a race issue and deflects our focus away from opening our hearts to those who obviously need support. The worst that can happen is someone be considered a "lost cause" because they are struggling to deal with the stress of losing their mother, their daughter, and their career while also battling a mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, people with bipolar disorder may use drugs to help "control their moods or treat their symptoms". However, this will only make their illness worse, potentially leading to "more frequent relapses", thus creating a cycle of mood swings, drug addiction, rehab, erratic behavior, and relapse.

The constant re-posting of this video sheds light not only on the MIS-education of folks on mental illnesses, but also to the stigma around black mental health and its intersection with drug addiction.

If you don't remember, crack was brought into black and brown communities - after white people fled for the suburbs - and was followed by the mass incarceration of black and brown men and women. The crack epidemic of the 80's and 90's is still haunting us in 2017 and unfortunately, its victims are faced with hurt and criticism when they really just need help.

This is an inter-generational issue and like so many other problems that plague the black community, has been normalized and transformed into a topic of comedy, i.e., the term "crackhead" and movies like Friday.

With the normalization and mockery of such issues also comes denial, from both the sufferer and the observer.

T-Hood initially denied that Campbell had a mental illness until social media dragged him after which he had a change of mind, apologized to social media, and offered to take her to rehab if LL Cool J did not reach out to him.

Social media is obviously not the space - nor safe - for individuals with mental illness to seek help. Platforms like Instagram and Twitter, when used outside of private messaging, can put victims of media exploitation, like Campbell, in a vulnerable position, compromising their willingness to seek help or be helped. When a community lacks the knowledge and skills necessary to have a real discourse around mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder, its members perpetuation of stigma associated with mental health.

Campbell's own response to LL Cool J's offer to help can be seen as an extension of stigma around black mental health from being solely external to the individual, to existing within that person. She makes it clear in another video filmed by T-Hood that she does not actually want to connect with LL. Although there is truth in LL's statement that "you can't help someone who doesn't want your help," it does not mean that the community should give up on people like Maia Campbell.

It is unfortunate that there are so many people out there in the world like Campbell who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and have a co-existing mental health condition. To expand your knowledge on mental illness, here are some articles from the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses' website:

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Ariel is a 23-year old SoCal native, working professional, and Alumna of the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and through her studies, acquired a passion for gaining knowledge that would improve the quality of her life and further allow her to interact with and touch people in a positive way. You can follow her own blog, The Freewoman Diaries, at www.thefreewomandiaries.com

I've been thinking a lot lately about stress. First it was singer Brandy who recently collapsed on a plane due to the stress of traveling and working incessantly, says her publicist, and not long ago it was modelpreneur Tyra Banks who confessed that while she was at the height of her career, she was also exhausted and sad. Just today I saw a video that's been making the social media rounds of former ‘In The House’ actress Maia Campbell turning down LL Cool J’s request to get her help. It’s no secret that the once stunningly beautiful actress is addicted to drugs and in the footage she’s running a mile a minute. I couldn't help but wonder what will make her stop.

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And then I turn the question towards me.

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been running. Running from food stamps, a father who was never there, bills, weight, myself.

I only stop when I hit a wall. Like when I finally had to take care of my fibroids. Or when I was so stressed that I couldn’t pee. I’d sit on the toilet for hours waiting for a stream that would never come. It took walking around with a catheter strapped to my leg for a week, and eventually running to another city to shake it off.

Even when I had my babies I didn’t stop.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps,” people would say. But they were clueless about my life. When the baby sleeps is when the work begins. One time, just a week after giving birth I broke down on the way to Target. Mental and physical fatigue set in and I couldn’t remember what was so important that I needed to get in my car and battle horrific LA traffic. Before I knew it, I pulled over to the side of the road and cried till I ached. Maybe it was just hormones, but I cried like that earlier today and I haven’t had a baby in 5 years.

Lately, I’ve been crashing into my husband and my kids. I’m either dismissive, not present, or just plain mean.

My husband shared a poem he discovered online with me this morning and I was so far away. Thinking about work that needed to get done, bills I needed to pay. It almost felt silly to think that I could stop and listen to poetry. But I didn't say that, I half-listened with a blank look on my face, prompting him to scream, “After 12 years of marriage you still can’t tell me that your mind is somewhere else?!”

No. ‘Cuz I’m going to try to handle everything with as little disruption as possible, so I can get to the next thing. It’s not that I don’t care. I absolutely care. That’s why I run. It’s how I show my love. If I run fast enough all our problems will disappear.

Sometimes I envy my friend who just shuts down. She’s the only Black woman I’ve ever known to just stop getting out of bed for weeks. I never understood how she could do that because if I’m not moving I’m dead.

This running didn’t start with me. It was my mom and her mom before that. My mom doesn’t sleep at night because her mind is running like a motor that never stops. She’s taken three sleep studies in the past three months and doctors don’t know what’s wrong. I do. It’s called Black Woman Syndrome and it's been in our DNA since enslavement. I know this because the only time I slowed down was in Africa. Don’t believe that lie that it’s so hard there because it’s not. There was plenty of help. Help for your kids, help to cook and clean, help for your help. It’s in America that a Black woman has to work till her back and spirit is broken. And for what? To be told that she’s a b-tch who wants to spend her life alone? Listen Sherlock, work is all a Black woman knows, and if she let it all go, if she truly depended on someone else and it didn’t work out the joke would be on her and then she might die. I don’t like being this way. I wish I could change, just trick my DNA into thinking I’m a white woman because they don’t have to do sh-t. They get to whine and be soft and vulnerable because the world doesn’t depend on them like they do us.

So I run. And I’m not sure what will make me stop.

This evening my daughter was looking at me with this weird look while I was plowing through the dishes.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked her.

“I’m just watching you, seeing what you’re doing,” she said.

I pushed pause to think about it for a minute...I’m doing the same thing I do every day, and I get faster and faster, I swear I can wash a whole sink full of dishes in two seconds. I saw her life flash in front of me, but the difference was she wasn't washing dishes she was taking a long walk in the park, smelling the roses. In that moment I realized that this is some straight bullsh-t’ and I sat my ass down.

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Erickka Sy Savané is a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter and Instagram or ErickkaSySavane.com

It’s okay. We all worry a little too much sometimes. You’re not alone. You may worry about not having enough time to do everything in one day. Or you may worry that tomorrow won’t bring any less stress than today.

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When you’re tired from a long day at work, it can be difficult to deal with your worries head on. All you want to do is sleep and forget about the day.

But you must find a way to confront the stress in your life and minimize its control over your happiness and well-being.

So what do you do when you feel hopeless? When you can’t seem to find the time to relax?

Do you give up?

OF COURSE NOT! Instead, you improvise.

Here are three tips for how to deal with your mind-bogging worries head-on, in as little as 5 minutes:

1. Note It and Throw It!

Take a piece of paper, preferably a small sticky note if you have one. On that paper, quickly write down one of your stressful thoughts. Now that you’ve written it down - stare at it. After a couple seconds, crumble this paper up and throw it away. If you’re at home, throw it away in your trash bins outside. If you’re in the office, throw it in the farthest trash can away from your desk. Repeat this step until you have no more thoughts left to write down.

By writing down your thoughts, you actualize them. You bring them to the forefront of your view. This is you meeting them head-on. Once you throw the piece of paper away, you are throwing your bad thoughts out and make room for happy thoughts. Healthy thoughts, like, “I can do all that I put my mind to.”

2. Balance It Out.

Balance exercises are a great way to shift your focus away from your mind and onto your body. There are so many varieties of balances exercises, you’re bound to find one that works for you! Let’s try a simple balance pose called, Bird Dog. This pose can work your abdominals and also strengthen your back. Here are the steps:

Get down on all fours (both hands and knees).
Ensure your spine is in a neutral position by leveling your neck and looking down at the floor.
At your own pace, bring your left arm up and out from the floor - straight in front of you. Then take your right leg out slowly at the same time as straight as you can. Make sure your leg does not go higher than your buttock or back.
Hold this pose for 3 seconds and then slowly bring your arm and leg back to starting position.
Repeat on the other side, alternating sides until you feel relaxed or break a sweat.

You may find this position a bit difficult at first. You may even fall over. But that’s the point! Pushing yourself to find balance in the midst of chaos. Creating your peace of mind. You are building mental strength as you must focus to maintain balance.

3. Motivation is Key.

Sometimes when you’re worried, you can feel alone. But you’re not alone! There’s always someone out there - even if they don’t know you - who is wishing you happiness and success.

If you’re familiar with Eric Thomas, then you know his famous saying, “I can. I will. I must”. Thomas went from being homeless to a well-known motivational speaker with over 580,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, etthehiphoppreacher. Many people look up to and towards Thomas for support. He attributes his success to believing he can do anything he puts his mind to.

Check out a popular video of his titled, OVERCOMING ANY OBSTACLE - I CAN, I WILL, I MUST (TGIM S7 E12). I guarantee you Thomas will make you and push you to think twice about giving up:

In general, listening to motivational videos or even reading self-help books can make a big difference in the way you perceive your problems. And further, what you do about them.

Although a strong sense of worry can feel overwhelming, it is important to understand that stress is apart of life. It’s even more important to have a plan for how you tackle your worries BEFORE you begin to feel hopeless.

When you tell your co-worker about your problems, they’ll be there to listen, but they won’t be able to solve them for you. So now, when you get home from a long day of work, will you just sleep your problems away? Or will you be more proactive about the way you deal with them?

If you chose the latter, then start with one of the tips above and continue to develop a plan for not succumbing to your worries, but overcoming them.

Yes, your problems are real.

And yes, you deserve a break.

However, it’s mind over matter baby. And you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for.

What are you doing on a daily basis to practice worrying less?
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Ariel is a 23-year old SoCal native, working professional, and Alumna of the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and through her studies, acquired a passion for gaining knowledge that would improve the quality of her life and further allow her to interact with and touch people in a positive way. You can follow her own blog, The Freewoman Diaries, at www.thefreewomandiaries.com

Photo Source: Youtube/Left to Right: Riana Anderson and Shawn C.T. Jones

For the past week you’ve been feeling a little hopeless.
Your sleep has been off.
You either eat too much or eat too little.
And to top it off, you don’t want to do anything or go anywhere with anyone.

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These are common symptoms of depression that are usually unrecognizable to people who’ve never been diagnosed by a professional or are not well informed about mental health issues. “Even though research shows that [black people] are not diagnosed often, we tend to have problems that last longer and are more intense,” states clinical psychologist, Shawn C.T. Jones.

In a series of mental health talks published on YouTube called, “Our Mental Health Minute”, Jones and fellow clinical psychologist, Riana Anderson, discuss various race-related social issues and mental health problems prevalent within the black community but rarely discussed - or even acknowledged. Some of the topics covered include: racial identity; racial socialization; coping; stress; and therapy.

Anderson and Jones are both postdoctoral fellows at the University of Pennsylvania where they both work with Dr. Howard Stevenson in the Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC). Individually, the psychologists focus on different areas in their research such as “cultural pride” (Anderson) and “using applied research to promote racial literacy” (Jones), however they share the goal of reducing the negative “impacts of race-related stress”.

The purpose of the Our Mental Health Minute series is to increase mental health literacy within the black community while helping viewers understand how to recognize the signs of mental health problems like depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Anderson and Jones explain each problem in one minute, keeping viewers engaged while not bogging them down with too much information in a single video.

During their mental health minute on anxiety, Ria highlights significant statistics such as the fact that “anxiety is the most common psychological issue” and how “20 to 30 percent of all black adults actually experience it within their life.” In another video on therapy, Anderson and Jones share the different types of therapy available, such as therapy for kids, couples, individuals, or even families.

Anderson and Jones list three goals for their channel:
1) Reduce stigma about mental health in the Black community
2) Provide resources in access, utilization, and quality of mental health care
3) Increase mental health literacy (in a fun and relevant way!)

The most important aspect of Riana and Shawn’s work is that they are building a platform through which they can educate viewers on problems they may personally be experiencing, but are not able to identify or define. Even more, they want viewers to become comfortable with the idea of talking to someone, like a therapist, about what they’re going through.

Maybe you think that your feelings of hopelessness cannot be put into words.
You feel as though your inability to sleep well will eventually fade.
Your lack of appetite will soon enough subside.
That may be true!
But it never hurts to reach out to someone for support.
Someone, somewhere always cares about you. Even if you don’t know them.
You are not alone!


Check out Riana and Shawn’s YouTube channel here.

What challenges have you had with mental health? Why is mental health still a taboo thing in the Black community?
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Ariel is a 23-year old SoCal native, working professional, and Alumna of the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and through her studies, acquired a passion for gaining knowledge that would improve the quality of her life and further allow her to interact with and touch people in a positive way. You can follow her own blog, The Freewoman Diaries, at www.thefreewomandiaries.com