By Mwabi Kaira

Are you watching 'Black Love' on OWN?  Oprah Winfrey has taken her Master Class series and turned the lens on couples for a master class on love. Husband and wife filmmakers Codie and Tommy Oliver interviewed famous and everyday married couples about how they fell in love and have stayed in love and their stories are told in the most honest and emotional way.

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With the hashtag relationship goals bombarding us daily on social media, giving us little more than cute pictures and even cuter captions to aspire to, 'Black Love' gives us the behind-the-scenes on #RelationshipGoals and leaves no stone unturned.  This series covers love from the amazing times, financial crisis, incarceration, and the loss of a child. So if you are not already watching 'Black Love' here are 5 gems dropped in the series that could give your marriage longevity.

Your Life Gets Better with the Right Partner
Oscar winner Viola Davis didn’t call her husband Julius for a month after getting his number.  She had a lot going on including bad credit and wanted to work on herself before she started a relationship.  After some convincing from her friends, she called him and her life changed.  Viola recalls, “After my first date with Julius my life got better in every way; anxiety went away, fear went away, he just made my life better.”
Devon Franklin feels the same way about marrying Megan Good.  Devon says, “As a single man I was good but as a married man, I’m great.  Get the right woman and you can conquer the world.”

Differences are meant to Teach You
There is nothing more frustrating than living with someone and finding out that they’re messy and you’re clean, that they leave 3 sips of orange juice in the container in the fridge instead of finishing it up, and my personal favorite, that they leave trash on the counter NEXT to the trash can!
Tia Mowry was raised in a military family and knows structure very well. Her husband Cory Hardrict was not. They decided to learn from each other instead of getting frustrated.  Corey reflects, “I have learned structure and how to pay bills on time from Tia and I have taught Tia how to dream, have no fear and take risks in life.” 

Fix the relationship and not the person.  Fix Yourself and then Come Together

Danielle and Hasan fell in love and enjoyed their courtship. Danielle grew up with brothers and felt like a Princess in her home. After their marriage, Danielle began to feel criticized and became jaded and cold.  The couple was disconnected.  Danielle felt like Hasan was trying to fix HER and not the relationship.  Hasan notes, “When we began to look internally all of a sudden there was an emotional connection, sex was more frequent and pleasurable and we bonded.” 

Allow Yourselves to Step Back from a Challenge

Sean Patrick Thomas and Aonika Laurent had a whirlwind romance and an amazing marriage until their hardest tribulation came.  Aonika knew Sean wanted to be a Father and they were excited when they first got pregnant.  She describes them being so ecstatic and literally skipping to the ultrasound.  There they heard the worst news; they lost the baby.  They had multiple miscarriages and each time Aonika felt like she was letting Sean down and even considered divorcing him.  The thought never crossed his mind. 
It wasn’t until they decided to stop trying and step away completely from IVF treatment  just so they could concentrate on what was going right in their lives that they got pregnant again immediately.  They are now parents to a daughter and a son.

Be Willing to Accept Love in a Different Package Other Than the One You Imagined

Ashley always imagined that her Prince Charming would have chocolate skin and dreadlocks down his back.  She imagined them reciting hip hop rhymes and being the real life Brown Sugar couple.  She met Chea from Cambodia and kept him in the friend zone.  The more time they spent together made Ashley realize something very crucial as she explains on Black Love, “I stopped paying attention to what he was. I couldn’t pass him up just because he wasn’t packaged how I wanted.”  The couple has been married since 2015 and has 2 children.

Are you watching 'Black Love?' What do you think?
 
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/
Cover photo: TheDefenderNetwork.com




By Erickka Sy Savané

“My name is Shaniqua,” said a blogger I met at a luncheon in mid-town Manhattan. Shaniqua? I did a double take. She gave me her card. As soon as I got home, I was all over my computer, genuinely curious to see what a “ghetto” website looked like. Hmm…it was nice…and there was even a picture of her and Oprah Winfrey...

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A few weeks later, I’m on the phone with my old roommate from college. We hadn’t spoken for a few months so it was time to catch up. She told me she was launching a dessert business and I was thrilled. But there was an underlying anxiety in her voice.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’m stuck. I don’t know whether to use my name or my initials for my business,” she responded.
“I’d go for your name all day,” I answered. “People with initials seem shady. Look at O.J. Simpson, and who is T.I., really? 10 reality shows later, and I'm still lost.”
“Yea, but my name is Shi-kwan-da.”
“Okay, I get it,” I say, suddenly remembering Shaniqua, and how quick I was to throw her under the ghetto bus…only to find out that she’s doing better than a lot of us.
“Wait, I think I have an answer,” I say, telling her about Shaniqua and how she's embracing her name, and using it for her business. It's really smart too, because people are curious enough to go to her website to learn more, and by that time she's already got you. There's no better advertising than a unique name!
“I never thought about it like that,” says Shikwanda.

And we know why. There’s no denying that distinctly Black names get a bad rap. Just last year Raven-Symone publicly apologized for saying on 'The View' that she wouldn’t hire someone with a “ghetto name” and who can forget the famous study that found when applying for jobs, names that sound white receive 50 percent more callbacks than names that sound distinctly African American. But at the same time, a Black man with a Muslim name became President of the United States. Twice. If 69 million Americans can get over any hangups they might’ve had regarding the name Barack Hussein Obama, surely Shaniqua and Shikwanda can carve out a space for themselves in their respective industries.

 A few months later…
It’s catch up time with Shikwanda again. I find her in the middle of making vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for a birthday event. I guess she’s in business, which reminds me that I never found out what name she decided to use.

“I went with Shikwanda,” she tells me, with a smile in her voice so bright I can see it through the phone. “ I realized that Shikwanda is who I am, take it or leave it, and I needed to stop focusing so much energy on my name, and put it into my business. At the end of the day, your name doesn't make you, you make your name.”

Amen to that.

This article first appeared on Madamenoire.com 

Have you ever been name shamed? If so, how do you handle it?

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

We often count the days, weeks and months since we lost the ones we love, but it always feels like it just happened yesterday.

Have you ever been through a storm and could feel the sun, just for the clouds and rain to swiftly cover its glory? Have you ever felt like you were just starting to “feel normal," then another crush to your heart brings you deeper into despair?

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This is what it felt like on May 3, 2016, when my Uncle Nell passed. He wasn’t the first family member to go, but he was the one I was closest to. On a Tuesday evening, my mom and I were walking back to her house after exercising when my grandma called. I can still feel the moment she told me that Nell passed; the angst that rushed out of my throat as I yelled “No!” The river of pain that flowed from my eyes; the morning after that felt like it was all a dream.

Nell was one of my best friends. I could be myself and talk to him on the phone for hours without being bored. I could share my doubts, fears, and insecurities. He never judged me, but loved and uplifted me.

Between February and June of 2016, a member of my family died each month – five people. My husband’s grandmother lost her battle with cancer, our nephew passed due to complications from an asthma attack, and my uncle died due to blocked arteries.

Each of these losses – individually and collectively – were a reality check, revealing the healing I needed from a lifetime of pain.

I hadn’t spoken to my uncle in several months, maybe a year, before he died. To be honest, I don’t even know exactly how long it was, but the wedge between us began as his mental illness got worse. He became paranoid, verbally aggressive and erratic. One evening, when my husband and I were at the grocery store, he called me. As I was having a conversation with him, my husband and I laughed about something going on in the store. He thought that my husband was talking about him, so he threatened to beat him up. The moment before this was the last time I felt safe around him.

As his casket was being lowered into the grave during the burial, I became trapped in a net of guilt and regret. I felt awful that I let Nell’s mental illness separate us instead of forgiving his episodes for the sake of our relationship.

For weeks, I struggled to get “back on track," although I had no idea how to get there. I worked as a business manager at a counseling center and couldn’t focus on my tasks. It was also difficult for me to do the things I wanted and planned to do before Nell died. I was depressed, lost and anxious. A few days later, I started weekly counseling sessions.

During therapy, we started with the grief from my losses and worked backwards. It was easier than I thought, and I began to believe that it was okay for me to release the guilt I felt about disconnecting from Nell, in addition to the hurt and disappointment from the way he treated me and the love of my life.

Eventually, I found that forgiveness is possible without receiving an apology from the person or people who hurt me. It is a decision to release what someone did to me and focus on how I can use the hurt to grow. We never know when someone will take their last breath, so it’s best to let things go. Most times, what people do to us has everything to do with them and little to do with us.

The next thing to work through was being molested when I was around 10, and groped during school and walking home from school in junior high. So many times, I felt like I betrayed myself because I didn’t yell for help when I was being abused or tell my family what happened. I wondered how someone could love me when I didn’t love myself enough to speak up. I felt weak, and like I deserved everything that happened to me.

Each time I spoke of my pain though, healing filled my wounds. I felt strength rise from within me, my voice becoming a tool for me to heal myself.

Journaling was another way I found healing. Every day, I wrote to God, being honest about my emotions and thoughts, just like the scriptures in the book of Psalms. The more open I was, the more comfort, peace and love I felt wash over me. God quickly became more real and accessible to me, and now I know what it feels like to have a relationship with the One who created me.

Since then, I’ve been blogging, sharing my journey to wholeness, of self-love, faith and growth. Through the pain, I discovered one of my purposes.

Loss has taught me a lot about life. The main things are that God is a healer; life isn’t promised and every moment we breathe is a gift; don’t live life passively, but intentionally; forgiveness frees the heart, soul and mind to love; pain can open the door to freedom from what holds us back; and I have a choice regarding what I do with my pain. I can either let it destroy me or use it to restore me.


 How have you dealt with the grief of losing a loved one?

Sharee Silerio is a St. Louis-based freelance writer, Film and TV writer-producer, and blogger. When she isn’t creating content for The Root or The St. Louis American, she enjoys watching drama/sci-fi/comedy movies and TV shows, writing faith and self-love posts for SincerelySharee.com, relaxing with a cup of chai tea, crafting chic DIY event décor, and traveling. Review her freelance portfolio at ShareeSilerio.com then connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


By Kanisha Parks

If we’re going to talk about poetry, we have to go back—to Harlem, the 1920’s. Back to Langston Hughes and his weary blues, back to Claude McKay and his black man rage. I’m talking about rhyme and rhythm, music and tone; brokenness, hopelessness, sorrow, and pain. I’m talking about the Harlem Renaissance, which is (arguably) one the most essential movements of American poetry. In all honesty, if it weren’t for the Harlem Renaissance, I’m not sure I’d be a poet today.

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The Harlem Renaissance was, "A period of musical, literary, and cultural proliferation that began in New York's African-American community during the 1920's and early 1930's. I first learned about the movement in middle school and had the opportunity to study it more in-depth during college. I fell in love with these poets, their plight, and their determination to make their voices heard despite the deplorable conditions they were living in at the time. One of my favorite poems of the era is Countee Cullen’s “Incident:”

Once riding in old Baltimore, 
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee, 
I saw a Baltimorean 
Keep looking straight at me. 
Now I was eight and very small, 
And he was no whit bigger, 
And so I smiled, but he poked out 
His tongue, and called me, 'Nigger.' 
I saw the whole of Baltimore 
From May until December; 
Of all the things that happened there 
That's all that I remember. 

I remember feeling amazed at how in just a few short lines, I went from feeling hopeful to helpless, just like the writer and I thought to myself, “Wow. This is so incredibly moving.” His poetry didn’t tell me how to feel but it made me feel something. I learned so much from studying the poets and poems of the Harlem Renaissance, which cemented my love for poetry and its ability to inspire and promote change.

I wrote my first poem when I was ten years old and it was about how much I truly loved God. From then on, I started writing Christian poetry, which is simply poetry that explores various topics of Christianity—God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, faith, love, and anything discussed in the Bible. Most of my poems center around what it means to be a Christian and how to make it in this world, while some come from God’s perspective, revealing how much He truly loves and cares about us.

I write poems that can accompany you through every season of this faith journey that is the Christian life. Yet it’s amazing how, at a time when we have much more creative freedom than the Harlem Renaissance poets, it appears that poetry has “died.” Although this is a sentiment that I wholeheartedly disagree with, I must recognize the truth about the current state of poetry. And realistically, poetry has become one of those art forms that a lot of people appreciate—from a distance. It’s like, “Yeah, poetry sounds nice and all, but do I really want to buy an entire book of it? Nah."

And yes, I’ve heard and read many a negative remark about Christian poetry: that it ‘sucks,’ isn’t deep enough, doesn’t resonate with the average person, or it doesn’t sell. You’ll be hard pressed to find a book publisher interested in producing poetry at all, let alone Christian poetry. Some poets like me choose to self-publish, others just share their poems with family and friends.

So that leaves the question—why do I write Christian poetry?

Just like Harlem Renaissance poetry, Christian poetry has meaning and purpose. Similar to many of the Psalms and encouraging verses of the Bible, Christian poetry has the unique ability to lift you up out of your current circumstance and redirect your attentions upon God, so reading and writing poetry helps me keep my mind on God. I also write poetry because I know it pleases God, and it helps me see the good in any and every situation, like Paul suggests in Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

I know that no matter what I do in life, I will always write Christian poetry. It doesn’t matter to me if two people read them or two million, I know that these words can and will bless someone. And who knows, maybe there will be a movement of Christian poetry next and I’m here for it! 

Are you a poetry fan? What types of poetry do you read?

Kanisha is a Christian writer/author based in Augusta, GA. Other than CurlyNikki.com, 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 kanishaparks@gmail.com