Chance The Rapper On R. Kelly’s Alleged Victims: ‘I Didn’t Value Their Stories Because They Were Black Women’

Budweiser Made In America Music Festival - Los Angeles - Day 2

Source: Chelsea Lauren / Getty

A clip featuring Chance The Rapper is making waves on the Internet as the finale of Surviving R. Kelly” dropped on Saturday night. In a never-aired interview for Cassius, former Interactive One VP Jamilah Lemieux sat down with the Grammy winner in May 2018 to discuss a range of topics, including his past collaboration with the Pied Piper. READ: #SurvivingRKelly: Five Emotions You’ll Experience Watching The New Lifetime Docuseries In it, Chance, a Chicago-native, apologized for working with the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer and explained why he did it at the time. “We’re programmed to really be hypersensitive to Black male oppression. It’s just prevalent in all media, and when you see n***as getting beat up by the police, it’s men,” Chance says in the interview clip. “That’s a scene you see…slavery for a lot of people, they envision men in chains, he said. Adding, “But Black women are exponentially a higher oppressed and violated group of people just in comparison to the whole world. Maybe I didn’t care because I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were Black women.
Rolling Stone had previously reported that Chance simply said, “I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were Black women.” However, Chance clapped back on Saturday night saying the quote was taken out context because it didn’t take into account everything he had said before that in the interview. In a note he shared on social media, the 25-year-old explained his controversial quote: “The quote was taken out of context. The truth is any of us who ever ignored the R Kelly stories, or ever believed he was being setup/attacked by the system (as Black men often are) were doing so at the detriment of Black women and girls. I apologize to all of his survivors for working with him and for taking this long to speak out.”
Even with Chance explaining himself, many Black women still flocked to Twitter to express how his quotes made them feel. And the results were polarizing: Some condemned the rapper, while others commended him for being able to admit he was wrong.
BEAUTIES: What do you think about what Chance said not valuing the alleged victims because they were Black women?  RELATED NEWS: Praise! Chance The Rapper Going On Sabbatical To ‘Learn The Word Of God’ #SurvivingRKelly: Five Emotions You’ll Experience Watching The New Lifetime Docuseries #MuteRKelly: Black Hollywood Teams Up To Hold R Kelly Accountable For His Alleged Sex Crimes Against Women & Girls [ione_media_gallery id=”3020908″ overlay=”true”] HelloBeautiful

Does Cracking Your Knuckles Give You Arthritis?


I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard someone say, “Don’t crack your knuckles! It’ll give you arthritis!” But I do know that ever since then, I’ve felt a weird pang of guilt any time I do it.

Although not everyone enjoys hearing it, there’s something so satisfying about that familiar cracking sound accompanied by the feeling of release in your fingers. As with eating lots of candy and other nice things in life, the notion that this habit isn’t particularly good for your health doesn’t feel inconceivable.

Still, is the whole “cracking your knuckles causes arthritis” thing even based in scientific fact? We asked doctors to weigh in.

What’s happening when you crack your knuckles?

“The sound produced by cracking knuckles [comes from] nitrogen bubbles in the synovial fluid that is found within the joints in the body,” said Dr. Jason Liebowitz, a rheumatology specialist in Rockaway, New Jersey. “Synovial fluid is a natural substance that helps lubricate the joints.”

Basically, synovial fluid allows for healthy movement and helps protect the cartilage from wear and tear. When you crack your knuckles, you create negative pressure, which leads to the generation of bubbles in the fluid.

While experts previously believed the cracking noise was the “pop” or collapse of bubbles, more recent research suggests the sound may actually stem from their formation.

“This phenomenon occurs primarily in small joints of the hands and facet joints in the spine ― responsible in part for ‘cracking your back,’” explained Dr. Robert G. Hylland, an assistant clinical professor at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Those people with looser joints can’t generate enough negative pressure to create bubbles, explaining why some people can’t crack their joints.”

You may have noticed that after you crack your knuckles, you can’t just immediately do it again and again. There’s a biological reason for that as well.

“It takes about 20 minutes for these cavities, or bubbles of vapor, to refill,” said Dr. Iziegbe Ehiorobo, a rheumatologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Hence it might take that long before a knuckle can be cracked again.”

Does it cause arthritis?

“There is no evidence that ‘cracking knuckles’ is associated with the development of arthritis, thus it is not in any obvious way bad for one’s health,” Liebowitz noted.

Many studies over the years have failed to find any correlation between knuckle-cracking and arthritis ― an umbrella term for a number of conditions involving joint inflammation or damage. Ehiorobo pointed to a famous decadeslong experiment from Dr. Donald Unger as further proof that there’s no relationship between knuckle-cracking and arthritis.

“Donald Unger performed an experiment on himself to test the hypothesis that knuckle cracking increases the risk of arthritis,” he explained. “For over 50 years, he cracked the knuckles of his left hand at least twice a day and left those of the right hand for control. He then compared both hands at the end of the experiment and found that there was no arthritis in either hand. Also, there was no difference between the hands.”

Image Source via Getty Images

Although the medical community feels confident that the habit doesn’t increase your risk for arthritis, there’s less certainty around the origin of this widespread myth.

“How this common misconception got started is not clear, but I suspect the commonality of osteoarthritis in the hands as we age and the commonality of knuckle-cracking, along with the distinct noise thus created, were all factors,” Hylland said. “Given the annoying nature of the sound, I suspect parents were quick to use these observations to halt the behavior and, eventually, repetition through time solidified its justification.”

What about other health issues?

OK, so cracking your knuckles doesn’t cause arthritis. But is it bad for you in other ways?

“There is no evidence that the process of cracking knuckles can cause arthritis, but it can rarely damage the tendons that connect muscle to bones,” said Dr. Scott Zashin, a Dallas-based internist and rheumatologist.

Indeed, Harvard Health Publishing notes that there have been “occasional reports” of injuries related to “overly vigorous knuckle-cracking,” but emphasizes that these are extreme exceptions. A 1990 study also found knuckle-cracking might be linked to swollen hands and lower grip strength.

Still, these potential adverse affects seem to be extremely rare. The real concern may simply related to psychological aspects of the habit.

“There is no apparent damage caused by this activity save the annoyance it tends to provoke in people nearby,” Hylland said. “Many people feel a sense of relief, albeit short lived, after cracking their joints, suggesting that joint tightness may create some sense of discomfort for them. This cycle of tightening, cracking, tightening, etc. may promote the habit that some find difficult to break.”

And no medical experts are touting any health benefits to incessant knuckle-cracking.

“While it may be comforting for some people and used by others to deal with stressful situations, there is no evidence to suggest that it is good for the joints,” Ehiorobo said.

So what does cause arthritis?

Getting back to the myth that knuckle-cracking causes arthritis, a question still remains: What does cause arthritis?

“In terms of types of arthritis that do exist, the most common is osteoarthritis,” Liebowitz said. “Although it is more complex than a simple one-liner, osteoarthritis is, generally speaking, the narrowing of the joint space that results from loss of cartilage (such as articular cartilage lining the joint) and causes aches and pains, particularly with use or changes in weather.”

He added that there are many forms of arthritis, and they can be caused by autoimmune diseases (as with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis), crystals depositing in a joint (as with uric acid crystals from gout), infections (like staphylococcal or Lyme disease), medications and other issues.

Some arthritis is hereditary and related to mutations in genes for collagen. However, genes alone aren’t the cause. There are many unknowns.

“A lot of things can cause arthritis ― genetics, your environment, your activity, so many things can impact the way our joints work,” said Dr. Nilanjana Bose, a rheumatologist at Lonestar Rheumatology in Houston. “There are a lot of variables that go into who develops symptomatic arthritis and who doesn’t.”

If you experience unusual joint pain, stiffness or swelling, seek medical attention and find out if arthritis might be the culprit.

“Anyone who has arthritic pain deserves an evaluation,” Bose said. “These days rheumatologists are available. That makes care a lot of more accessible. There are tools to help.”

Source link

That’s It?! Atlanta Director Discusses The Series Finale That Was Never Intended to Be and Yet…Felt Entirely On Brand

Image for article titled That's It?! Atlanta Director Discusses The Series Finale That Was Never Intended to Be and Yet...Felt Entirely On Brand

Photo: Paras Griffin (Getty Images)

As the curtains close on the final season of the critically acclaimed and equally controversial show Atlanta, we say goodbye to the characters we’ve come to know and love, and the stories (or the lack of narrative entirely) that they leave behind. During a recent conversation with Vanity Fair, director Hiro Murai discussed the show’s ending, and whether or not we’ll ever hear Paper Boi spit another bar. We’ve gotta warn you though, this article does contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the season finale, spin the block on this post a little later.

The show starring creator and executive producer Donald Glover (Earn), Brian Tyree Henry (Alfred a.k.a. Paper Boi), Zazie Beetz (Earn’s girlfriend Van), and Lakeith Stanfield (Darius), gave us four seasons of absurdist creativity, social commentary, and storylines knee deep in Black southern culture. And while at times the show completely departed from plot lines focused on these characters, (as many episodes didn’t even feature its main cast), Atlanta’s finale brought the foursome together once more, a decision that Hiro Murai wasn’t initially a part of the plan.

The finale was not originally the finale, because in some ways it’s like a very normal Atlanta episode,” Murai told Vanity Fair. “And one of the writers said, ‘This has to be the last episode because it just seems perfectly thrown away—emotional and poignant but also ridiculous as the last episode of this four-season show.’ So there was never a plan for the final episode, we just kind of stumbled on it and realized that we already had one.”

So yeah, if you expected the finale to tie a pretty little bow on the Atlanta package, you might have found yourself a little deflated. In the episode, Darius visits a sensory deprivation spa in the city, and continues to emerge from the waters gasping for breath as if he’s woken abruptly from a dream, or has barely escaped death–it’s hard for one to tell. And according to Murai, that’s the whole point.

“Our show’s always been sort of obsessed with existential angst, you know?” the director continues. “So as ridiculous as the concept is, it’s also about: Does any of this mean anything in the long run? Is it all ephemeral, like a dream, or is this something that we can treasure and have it have meaning in our lives? I think that’s always been the balance of the show—to do something kind of silly and maybe semi-meaningful at the same time.”

While the viewer is perhaps happy to see all four characters together in the final scene, there’s not necessarily a heartfelt ending in the way that, say The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air wrapped with Will being left in LA as the rest of the family prepares to move out of state. Instead, the cast sits around a living room coffee table eating Popeyes after Earn, Van, and Paper Boi leave a new Black-owned sushi spot unsatisfied. The three eventually get up from the table to go smoke as Darius is left alone watching Judge Judy.

“…We won’t necessarily give you an emotionally satisfying ending,” Murai says. “But in the course of getting to the fourth season, Donald and I came to a place where—we kind of grew up in a way. We realized that we do care about these people and we want to see them end up in a place that feels satisfying.”

When asked about the possibility of there being a final final season, or a one off, Murai responded:

“We often joke that we’ll come back when we’re all 70. It’ll be called Atlanta: Lottie’s Revenge. If there’s a good story to tell, I think we’re all open to the idea of reopening the door. But it feels right to have this [finale] as a punctuation point.”


At ‘WrestleMania 37,’ Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair are embracing history Two African American women will compete in a one-on-one championship match for the first time at wrestling’s biggest event

Bianca Belair couldn’t contain her excitement. Standing in the ring across from WWE SmackDown women’s champion Sasha Banks, with a huge “WrestleMania” banner hovering above them, she felt a tremor run through her body.

Belair, the winner of this year’s women’s Royal Rumble match, was about to make a historic announcement during the Feb. 26 episode of WWE SmackDown.

“The finger that was pointing to the WrestleMania sign was shaking,” Belair said. “The hand that held the microphone was shaking. And I was [thinking], ‘Oh, God, I hope the TV is not picking up my hands shaking.’ ”

In front of a live TV audience, Belair declared her intentions to challenge Banks for her title at WrestleMania 37, uttering the words, “Sasha, it’s on.”

Fireworks exploded around the WrestleMania sign. But the celebration was just beginning. When the segment ended, Belair, whose real name is Bianca Blair Crawford, went back to the women’s locker room and found Banks crying. With the promotion of the match official, both could finally let all of their emotions out.

“Once that promo was official and it was over and the fireworks went off, I got to be Mercedes again,” said Banks, whose real name is Mercedes Varnado. “I got to be that 10-year-old kid being like, ‘Oh, my God! Are you potentially checking off the biggest check mark, goal, dream you’ve ever had in your whole life?’ And that is to main-event a WrestleMania.”

When Banks and Belair step into the ring at WrestleMania 37, a two-night event beginning Saturday, it will be the first time two African American women will compete in a one-on-one championship match at wrestling’s equivalent of the Super Bowl. No two Black male superstars have ever wrestled in a one-on-one world title match at WrestleMania.

“That’s how much this moment means to the both of us: I’m shaking, she’s crying,” Belair said. “I think that just speaks volumes, to be in that moment and have that real emotion coming out of both of us.”

Banks, a crossover star who made her acting debut in the second season of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian, said she was so overwhelmed by the moment she didn’t leave the arena until about 2 in the morning. She knows how hard they’ve worked to earn this spot.

“It’s because of the work and the talent behind it, and not just because of the color of my skin or anything else, and because of the workflow that Bianca and myself have put into this,” Banks said. “I can main-event, not just because I’m a woman or woman of color, but because I put in the work just like everybody else.”

Banks and Belair were inspired by the same female wrestlers on their journeys.

Banks and Belair have taken different paths to reach their historic WrestleMania match. Belair, a former gymnast and collegiate track and field athlete, had dreams of the Olympics before becoming a standout CrossFit competitor. After an untreatable condition forced her to quit CrossFit, she tried out for WWE in 2016 and fell in love with wrestling. Banks, on the other hand, found that love when she was 10 years old. She grew up watching Eddie Guerrero and wanted to become the female version of him.

Despite their unique roads to the world of professional wrestling, Banks and Belair were inspired by the same female wrestlers.

When Belair was training to become a wrestler, she would frequently watch old women’s matches and gravitated toward Jacqueline (real name Jacqueline Moore) and Jazz (real name Carlene Begnaud). Banks said she also saw herself in those two superstars, as they were the only two Black female wrestlers on the WWE roster in the early 2000s. Banks used to play as Jazz in the video game ECW Hardcore Revolution for Nintendo 64.

“Jacqueline and Jazz, I remember just how strong they were and how they picked up men, too,” Banks said. “I always remember Jacqueline versus Chavo Guerrero when she won the cruiserweight championship and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, maybe one day I can win the cruiserweight championship too! If she can do it, I can do it!’ ”

Jacqueline is still the only woman to win the WWE cruiserweight title. She was the first African American women’s champion and became the first African American woman to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016.

Jazz, who is still actively wrestling and currently accepting bookings for her retirement tour, worked for WWE from 2001 to 2004 and was a two-time women’s champion. She recalls proposing for her and Jacqueline to form a tag team, an idea that unfortunately didn’t go anywhere.

“We had great chemistry, and I don’t believe there was anybody in there who could’ve went up against Jackie and I as a team,” said Jazz. “It would’ve been money.”

It wouldn’t be the last time WWE put its Black female superstars on the back burner.

After Jazz’s last championship reign ended in June 2003, no Black woman held a WWE title for seven years. In 2010, that streak ended when Alicia Fox (real name Victoria Crawford) became the first and only African American woman to win the WWE Divas Championship.

The only Black woman on the roster at the time, Fox inspired other wrestlers, including former dancer and cheerleader Naomi (real name Trinity Fatu), who signed a developmental deal with WWE in August 2009.

“When I went to my first show before I got signed, I saw Alicia perform, and that gave me all the motivation and inspiration that I needed,” Naomi recalled. “And validation that, OK, we got a sista in here, she’s killing it, she’s beautiful, she’s amazing, I know it’s possible. That’s what I felt when I saw Alicia. 

“And it’s funny because Bianca says that she had a similar experience when she saw me.”

Belair saw Naomi perform at a live event in Atlanta right before she got started with WWE in 2016.

“Seeing her in the ring, I was able to see myself and imagine myself being in the ring,” Belair said. “So she was representation for me before I even met her.”

So when Belair became the first African American woman and second person of African American descent to win the Royal Rumble match in January (the first being Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), her interaction with Naomi stood out above the abundance of congratulatory messages she received that night.

“I was just telling her, like, she’s put so much work into this business, especially as a Black female superstar, and I feel like I’m actually benefiting from a lot of the groundwork and the foundation that she’s laid,” Belair said. “So, I was happy but at the same time I was like, ‘I don’t know. I wish it was you, too.’ ”

Naomi’s response?

“Girl, shut up,” she said. “No, this is your moment, you deserve this. When you win, we all win.”

When Belair and Banks take the stage together at Wrestlemania 37, they’ll be paying tribute to those who came before them.

In the weeks following Belair officially choosing Banks as her WrestleMania 37 opponent, hashtags trended on Twitter from fans and from wrestlers, past and present, all campaigning for this historic match to receive top billing.

The two-night WrestleMania 37 has multiple matches being advertised as a “main event,” but in wrestling, it’s common knowledge that the last match of the night is the true headliner.

Banks and Belair’s match is scheduled for night one on Saturday, but they likely won’t find out whether they are closing out the show until the day of the event.

Whatever the outcome, history will be made that night.

“I think about our match, you have two alpha females, two alpha Black females that are in the ring, the representation,” Belair said. “Without us even touching or talking or opening our mouths, that’s already a moment right there. That’s history.”

Naomi, who cherishes her memory of winning the WWE SmackDown women’s title in her hometown of Orlando, Florida, at WrestleMania 33, believes the significance of Banks and Belair’s match will outweigh anything that came before it.

“This is 37 years in the making,” Naomi said. “These girls are going out there to do something that’s never been done before to inspire Black women and just women, period! These are the things that change the world, change wrestling, break stigmas and stereotypes, it’s these moments.”

Jazz said she’ll watch Banks and Belair’s match with her 12-year-old twin daughters, who are training to become wrestlers, and she expects that to be the only WrestleMania 37 match she watches. As a pioneer of women’s wrestling, she feels a sense of satisfaction, knowing how hard Black women have had to work in this industry to be on the cusp of this moment.

“Finally, we’re allowed to showcase what we have and who we are,” said Jazz, whom Belair frequently pays homage to by using some of her signature wrestling moves. “We’re authentic and we’re beautiful and we’re proud. … I really wish I could be there to celebrate with them because, man, I’m getting goose bumps now just talking about it.”

For Jazz, Jacqueline, Ethel Johnson, Fox, Naomi and all the women who came before, Banks and Belair want their match to be a showcase of gratitude, and to inspire all the women who will come after them.

“I hope it just means to them that their hard work and efforts didn’t get unnoticed,” Banks said through tears. “It’s because of everything that they did that I’m here now, and I thank them so much.”

Said Belair: “We’re representation for all the Black women that came before us and laid a foundation and all the groundwork before us. It’s us physically in the ring, but they are in this match right along with us. So I just want them to know that we’re paying tribute to them, we’re honoring them, we’re representing for them.

“I want people to know that when they see us, I want them to see them as well. Because without them, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Features — The Undefeated

The Real Deal’s roots run deep in Alabama For Crimson Tide pitcher Dylan Smith, family is the focus

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — “It’s really just intensified pink.”

Felecia Evans-Smith, a second-generation member of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Gamma Mu Chapter, is describing with a big smile how she manages to wear the colors crimson and cream, complete with an elephant logo.

She crossed into her sorority at Alabama A&M University 25 years ago exactly, and still carries her pink and green AKA blanket to the ballpark on chilly nights. Just like on the Saturday before Easter, when she was seated next to her mother, who crossed 50 years ago exactly, and her grandmother who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, rooting for the Barons in the Negro Leagues.

“We are like a sports family for women,” Evans-Smith said the following day at a Sunday brunch while some Alabama AKAs were celebrating themselves in their holiday best.

And they don’t care that they were in fact rocking the colors that most people associate with Delta Sigma Theta, a different member of the Divine Nine, who are not to be confused under any circumstances.

Why? Because they were there to root for Evans-Smith’s son: Dylan Smith, the mild-mannered, hard-throwing right-handed pitcher for the Alabama Crimson Tide, who started the day before.

Smith, who was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 18th round in 2018, chose to play at Alabama, where his mom, grandma and great-grandma are often in the crowd, wearing their “D. Smith – 25” jerseys in both home and road colors. With, of course, their AKA blankets to keep warm.

“Whenever we started on this journey years ago, we’ve always had my mom, myself,” said Evans-Smith, who moved from Alabama to Houston with Dylan when he was a baby. “We go to mostly everything that Dylan does. He played a whole bunch of different sports. My grandmother used to come to Houston and spend many weeks with us and go to his tournaments. It’s kind of just like how we operate, you know, just support each other.”

We’re not just talking orange slices and pompoms here. Felecia knows the game. “They’re killing us with the changeup,” she notes at one point when a teammate goes down on strikes to end an inning. When a new Tennessee pitcher enters the game in relief, with a bit of an oddball delivery, she points it out. “Look at this dude’s motion. He finna C-walk if he strikes somebody out,” she joked, to the delight of the group.

Evans-Smith’s brother and nephew are there along with her best friend from Houston and their kids. It’s a complete family affair at the yard. Her energy is loud, smart and infectious. She made the TV broadcast several times while rooting for more people than her son, and the team overall.

That night, Smith’s pitch count got up early and he came out of the game in the fourth, instead of going his usual seven or eight. He wasn’t as bummed about his outing as much as he was upset that he couldn’t go longer to give the Tide’s much-used and banged-up bullpen some rest. That’s the kind of teammate he is. They lost to the Volunteers that night and eventually the series, too.

“If we’re fully healthy,” said Smith, “these are teams we beat.”

But he understands it’s part of the process.

One of the unfortunate things about not just racism, but more generally, lazy Americans, is that we operate our “narratives of need” for Black people along lines that almost always have to do with pain. If a Black family is trying to achieve in sports at the highest level, the general presumption is that they’re trying only to strike it rich, as if a love of the game isn’t enough to motivate success – or that the two are somehow mutually exclusive.

Reminder: Not all Black folks are broke. Or from the inner city.

So when Major League Baseball opened its second youth academy in Houston in 2010 – one of the facilities designed to connect the game to kids of color – it was hailed as a highly progressive and hands-on way of tackling a key problem that baseball finds with itself: access. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

For the families whose kids were playing little league and excelling, the academy wasn’t a great option for a simple reason: It was too far away. Sure it was cool, but ultimately too much of a hassle. So some of the parents of Houston’s Missouri City Little League did what Black folks have been doing for years: They started their own team.

Hence, the Houston Monarchs were born in 2015. On this team, Smith found his extended family.

Started by parents and eventually headed up by Marquis Jonkins, a former college baseball player at Prairie View A&M who just plain loves the game, the Monarchs excelled almost immediately on the select travel circuit. But it was a whole new game for a lot of them, and not just the players.

“It kind of reminded me of myself when we grew up playing baseball,” Jonkins said. “They wasn’t really functioning at a level that I thought they could be at. So when I came aboard, I implemented some rule changes to make them a whole lot better. …

“I just got together and told the parents, ‘First things first, we’re going to look like a team.’ Make sure all the kids had the same cleats, all the bags, we’re gonna look neat. And then we’re going to work on the fundamentals of baseball and make sure they get it together. They started at 8. And I got them at 9. And I just told the parents, ‘Trust me, I can get these kids where they need to be.’ ”

In baseball, the experience of being on a team is a large part of the appeal. The ordered pairs of the game, the long but satisfying routine of ground balls, bullpen sessions, batting practice and shagging fly balls, is a process that gels players as both friends and competitors. It isn’t just all raw power and speed, it’s a lifestyle.

The Monarchs ended up winning a couple titles on that circuit, traveling the country and dominating their age group, a life win that few could have predicted.

“It’s one of my greatest accomplishments,” Jonkins said. “We took the kids to Myrtle Beach [South Carolina] for a week. We traveled to Beaumont [Texas]. We dealt with racism. We had incorporated unity and teamwork with them kids, to the point that they understood that’s just how life is set up for us. And that goes back to learning life skills. We can’t sit up here and complain. Because that’s what they want us to do. So let’s channel that energy, and let’s go win.

“Just traveling and seeing the kids pack their bags, hotels, they’re running around having fun, and that’s what it is. This is an experience that I knew would carry over to the next level.”

And that it did for many guys, particularly Smith.

Oftentimes in America’s pastime, Black kids with speed and range are immediately coached to the outfield, because scouting brains can’t fathom the notion of a player with the smarts to pitch or catch, or the repetitive patience required to hone one’s skill on the infield. Playing football, basketball, track and soccer, Smith wasn’t about to get pigeonholed.

A story told so many times, the politics of private school baseball didn’t work out so well. He switched to public school, but he was undersized for most of his career. Now, he’s tall enough to wave at fans over their booth dividers when they yell his name in public places.

Looking back on his first days at St. Pius X High School in Houston, before he landed at Stafford High School, he can only help but laugh.

“I was only 5-foot-2, maybe, uh, 95 pounds,” said Smith, who is now 6-foot-2. “But I could throw it.”

In the Deep South, folks take style very seriously. Whether it’s the frat boys wearing ties to SEC football games, or the pageant-type mindset of the Southern belle lifestyle, some folks really like to bring it on the threads front. Smith is no different. His Instagram rivals that of many pro athletes who think they’re doing something stylewise.

He learned it from his grandfather. The man who he called “Daddio” was impeccable to the nines, and his signature hats were a whole vibe. He passed in December 2020, but Smith continues his traditions today, and the kid with the wry smile is so nice with it he’s even got his coaches (and their families) getting on board, too.

But he had to prove it first.

“He showed up in January on that scrimmage day and just showed up to the stadium all decked out,” Alabama coach Brad Bohannon described of the origin story for the man they call D-Smoove on game days. “And we were kind of ribbing him like, ‘Hey, dude, you better bring it. If you’re going to swag out like that, like, you can’t go out there and pitch like crap.’ And he had an awesome outing that day, and it just kind of caught steam. Next thing you know, two weeks later, there’s four or five kids showed up [dressed up]. In fact, our first road trip to Arkansas, even I participated.”

The skinny kid from Texas has his whole college squad getting fresh on his throwing days, a far cry from him not making varsity at some private school because of coaching changes.

And Coach Bohannon didn’t do it halfway either.

“I did let my wife dress me,” Bohannon said with a hearty laugh.

College baseball is about as team-oriented as a team sport gets. The grind of the schedule, the relative dearth of scholarship opportunities on the whole and the still relatively low profile of the game means there isn’t a whole lot of room for prima donna behavior for the most part.

Smith, even with the big league-ready nickname (Real Deal), the great stuff on the mound and the support system, is very much about his business.

“My biggest thing was I needed to focus. My whole thing to be here is to get closer to my degree and develop as a player at a faster rate,” Smith explained.

He started as a computer engineering major, something he has a genuine interest in, but now majors in sports marketing with a minor in sports management. Of course, the rigors of college baseball just don’t allow the time – from a scheduling standpoint – to do both. You can’t practice during class.

“I couldn’t worry about all the extra stuff going on outside,” he said. “I mean, you gotta stay focused to your goals. If I’m here for baseball, that’s what I’m focused on.”

His grandmother is also holding him down, beyond her attendance at every home game, including weekday matchups.

How? Exactly how you’d expect. Cooking him what he likes. Just saying the words “beef tips and rice” lights up Smith’s face. When he was trying to gain weight after arriving on campus, she’d bring him food from time to time. After a while, he had to up the requests, because who isn’t trying to eat as much of grandma’s food as possible, and he legitimately needed to consume the calories. Wilhelmina Evans gets it done in the kitchen.

“Like this past week, I brought in some. It was the middle of the week. But, then since it’s the weekend, he called me and told me to bring some more,” Evans, 70, said with the exact kind of welcoming voice you would expect of a woman with her grace and experience. “Sometimes he likes fried pork chops, but sometimes grilled. He loves chili when it’s cold out. He likes greens, he likes candied yams. Fresh ones. I don’t do the canned stuff.”

Alabama’s Dylan Smith in the dugout on game day.

Alabama Athletics Photography

Back in Houston, they’re focused on him. His age group of guys from the Monarchs is still tight. So much so that coach threw a party for him at a public establishment to watch Smith pitch.

“I mean, we all became best friends,” Smith said with pride. “We all treat each other like brothers. You know, we all had each other’s backs, no matter any situation, we had each other’s backs. And now we still have the same backs today.”

So much so that Coach Jonkins made flyers. And folks showed up. Even people who didn’t know they’d be watching the Real Deal pitch that evening found out as well.

“Man, we had a good time watching that game,” Jonkins said. “The highlight was of course when we looked up on TV and saw Felecia and them jumping up and down when he struck the kid out. It was just amazing, to see that. People came in there because of course they had the Final Four on, but said, ‘Hey, what y’all watching?’ I said, ‘I used to coach that kid!’ And people just started gathering around watching too, because you see a Black kid pitching and you’re like, wow. And he’s from Houston? It was a good day, man.”

For Evans-Smith, this journey isn’t close to over. She travels to games from Houston and keeps up with the majors too, because her son will likely be there soon. They basically did all of this in the proverbial dark, because the systems of development that were so clearly available to so many other people just weren’t on their radar. Smith had a chance to go to the Dream Series, sponsored by MLB’s Breakthrough Series program, but didn’t even know what it was. And who could blame them? Nobody told them. That’s why she’s still active to this day on a private Facebook group where members discuss all matters of the game from fundamentals to culture. Each one teach one.

Ultimately, her boy went home to Alabama and he’s growing with his family, just an hour away from the town that built them. Alabama, while still very much Alabama, isn’t necessarily a place of constant fear or consternation. It’s where they grew up.

“We’re coming from an educational background, you know, in our family, we believe in having an education,” Evans-Smith, 44, noted. “I do believe that Dylan needed the maturity. It’s great to get drafted, but sometimes you need to make sure that your kid is balanced to go into that type of situation with a bunch of grown men.” 

His team sees it, too. “Dylan deserves all the credit, man, he is the one that’s put in the work and he’s the one that stood out performing,” Bohannon said. “He’s had a great season to this point and I think his best baseball is still way ahead of him.”

That trip to Houston that Coach Bohannon made, a relatively abnormal instance because of baseball recruiting rules, to look Evans-Smith in the face and tell her that her son would be well-coached and well taken care of considering he was passing up actual money to play pro ball to come to Tuscaloosa, was worth it for everyone.

“They always been there since day one for me. The women in my family always are behind me,” said Smith, who is starting Saturday on the road against Texas A&M (on SECN+). “To be honest, I was kind of sad, you know, at a time, you know, I was like, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve did it [gone pro].’ But at the same time, I can see everything’s paying off how I wanted to. I’m starting to come into my own. I’m starting to become better from a standpoint on the field, off the field. Everything has matured. From my development of this game to the classroom, everything’s become way better than what I used to be.”

The pandemic didn’t rattle Smith. It might have paused the one thing he’d been working his whole life for, but that’s exactly why, just like in his days as a Houston Monarch, he stuck to the fundamentals of life and kept building.

“The turning point for me with him, honestly, was the COVID situation,” Evans-Smith said. “Even though a lot of people would give it as a negative deal, it was the time for us to kind of reset our lives. He reset and he came back better. So at the end of the day, I don’t regret anything. And, I like the University of Alabama. It’s been good to us.”

Sounds like a pretty sweet place to call home.

Features — The Undefeated

Don Lemon Slams Tucker Carlson: ‘Mainstreaming Of White Supremacist Propaganda’


CNN’s Don Lemon joined the avalanche of criticism being leveled at Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Friday night, slamming Carlson for “the mainstreaming of white supremacist propaganda” on his widely watched show.

Lemon said the point of Carlson’s rhetoric was “to fuel up the audience with a false sense of grievance, outrage to justify voter suppression based on anger and fear and lies and insecurity and racism.”

“You don’t have to do that,” the “CNN Tonight” anchor continued. “You can win more votes in this country when you have better ideas and a better message unless you can harness hate and use your power to suppress others.”

But there’s “zero chance of that,” he lamented. “Not from the network that promoted the big lie of nonexistent voter fraud.”

Source link

A Black Entertainment Roundup Joint, Volume 4

(L-R): Ebonee Noel, Yaani King Mondschein, Karen LeBlanc, and Rance Nix
(L-R): Ebonee Noel, Yaani King Mondschein, Karen LeBlanc, and Rance Nix
Photo: Headshots courtesy of OWN Communications

Before we go, I must make you aware of some wonderful casting news from the Oprah Winfrey Network.

In a press release sent to The Root, it seems the upcoming drama series from Janine Sherman Barrios, Kings of Napa, has found their four leading actors: FBI’s Ebonee Noel, For All Mankind’s Yaani King Mondschein, Jack Ryan’s Karen LeBlanc, and Zero Issues Rance Nix. To help jog your memory, Kings of Napa will center around “a gorgeous and picturesque Napa Valley, California vineyard owned by the Kings, an aspirational African American family whose wealth and status lands them on the pages of design magazines and society pages. The wine business has brought the family success and acclaim, but following the patriarch’s sudden exit from the company, his three children must grapple for the reigns to the kingdom—to their own power, wealth, and legacy.”

Illustration for article titled The Root Presents Role Call: A Black Entertainment Roundup Joint

The characters descriptions, per press release:

Ebonee Noel (“FBI,” “Wrecked”) plays the role of August King, the middle King sibling and the family’s brilliant marketing whiz. She is passionate about wine and always looking for new ways to expand the business.

Rance Nix (“Zero Issue,” “Amsterdam Ave.”) plays the role of Dana King, August’s older brother and the savvy CFO of the winery. He and August often butt heads when it comes to the family business.

Karen LeBlanc (“Ransom,” “Jack Ryan”) plays the role of Vanessa King, the matriarch of the King family. Vanessa is a former news reporter who gave up her career to help run the winery in Napa. She and her husband Reginald seemingly had a picture-perfect marriage — until she discovered things about his past.

Yaani King Mondschein (“For All Mankind,” “Bad Hair”) plays the role of Bridgette Peele, August’s cousin and right hand who works as the vineyard manager for King Estate Wines. When secrets threaten to change the family forever, her life turns upside down.


An entire generation owes DMX for his lesson in resilience He defied expectations during an era when the public and media weren’t kind to his struggles with drug addiction

DMX’s entire life story has felt like him standing down at the prospect of an early death — and the Grim Reaper retreating to a corner. But not even the old adage that “all dogs go to heaven” makes the truth any less arduous. After being rushed to the hospital on April 2 following a heart attack brought on by an apparent drug overdose, the man born Earl Simmons died Friday at a White Plains, New York, hospital following his family’s decision to remove him from life support. The Yonkers-born rap titan was 50.

His life, and now forever in death, will continue to revolve around what he ultimately couldn’t escape. This isn’t the only conversation to be had about DMX, as none of us are defined simply in the manner of how we take our last breath. Those inner demons and fights against them, though, are a large part of the fabric that made him the complex man he was.

Oftentimes, all an addict has in their fight against addiction is their own resiliency. That test of wills has made it seem like DMX has lived at least 100 lifetimes with everything he endured, making the news of his death all the more sobering. The life of Simmons has been a personal odyssey lived on the most public of stages. He was a nuclear bomb of equal parts passion, pain and, most important of all, perseverance. His interviews and moments of intense introspection, too, have never hidden the source of his life’s pain that fueled one of rap’s most historic, and concurrently, troubled careers.

DMX, in one way or another, is a portal into our own lives or many of our families’ darkest secrets. That’s why DMX matters to the depths that he does. In so many ways, he is us. We’ve lived with his music while witnessing loved ones or even ourselves battle demons. 

So when the news broke last weekend about X having to be rushed to the hospital, an all-too-familiar sense of anxiety and grief engulfed the hip-hop world. Death is a part of life, but in rap, so many artists define periods of our lives. X’s music, which always had an overwhelming element of mortality, is a poster child of this belief. His music is littered with tales of near-death experiences and each album in his catalog contains a passionate prayer directed at God for the blessings and curses in his life. That dichotomy, plus a penchant for creating aggressive and animated hit records, made DMX not just a famous rapper, but also one whose art soundtracked a generation in its most intimate and personal moments of need.

“The reason I think my fans love me is because I let them know so much about me,” X once said. “I bare my soul. I’m not ashamed to cry. I’m not ashamed to hurt. I’m not ashamed to fall. ‘Cause I pick myself up.”

In the genre’s history, few come close to how transcendent and transparent DMX and the music he produced were. With two No. 1 albums in 1998 alone in his magnum opus Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood and It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot — and later the only artist in history to have his first five projects hit No. 1 — he was a true one-of-one in an industry where carbon copies are often celebrated.

X’s sound was an avant-garde act that diverted from Bad Boy’s “shiny suit era” that was flooding airwaves and radio stations in the post-Tupac and Biggie Smalls hip-hop universe. His music felt dark, genuine and honest. His connection to dogs felt closer than people, an admission he’d make in “Slippin’,” a landmark record from a landmark catalog. But brazen confessions in songs such as “I Miss You,” an ode to his late grandmother, or “Coming From” could not have been any more human. His music proved phenomenal, but the same demons that helped create the music were very much co-pilots in his life.

From the crippling economic collapse in New York in the 1970s to the crack cocaine’s vise grip the following decade, his life was a product of many wrong turns in American history. Trauma was a constant companion, specifically in his personal life. His father was absent, causing X to once lament that life made him live through that in return, as he rhymed on “I Can Feel It,” for a talent and being able to survive when it’s harder. He never hid the violence he suffered at the hands of his mother when he was a child — once having two teeth knocked out by her with a broom.

He’d later say of the life his mother and absentee father involuntarily afforded him, “I personally struggle with forgiving my parents. But until you learn how to forgive others, you can’t forgive yourself. You can’t forgive yourself if you don’t know how to forgive.”

But forgiving himself proved difficult. What was also rough was the life he lived whenever he stepped foot outside of his front door. He was arrested for the first time when he was 10 years old for arson. In those same streets he was running were also older men with whom he sought peace and belonging. One man in particular was someone who X considered a mentor and role model. When X was 14, that mentor gave him a blunt to smoke. He never told X that it was laced with crack. X never recovered from that betrayal. Abandoned at home and manipulated on the streets, the severe mental and physical pain took a deep toll on X, who in turn plunged deeper and deeper into the streets. I’ve got a good heart, he once said on “Look Through My Eyes,” but this heart can get ugly.

Had it not been for Simmons’ resiliency, the world would’ve never heard of DMX. He’d been on the music scene in New York for years prior to his major label debut — even appearing in The Source’s famed “Unsigned Hype” column in its January 1991 issue. He didn’t have one foot in the streets while trying to get into the music industry. He was still fully immersed in it.

For years, X had earned a reputation as a fearless stickup kid. But he was also known for street rhymes that were so gritty they couldn’t have been coming from a guy who watched from afar. They were coming from a guy who lived the life. A guy who, in 1988, once escaped from an upstate New York prison in the middle of winter and survived in the cold by rubbing multiple layers of vaseline over his body, wrapping it in Saran Wrap and wearing multiple layers of clothes. That’s the type of realism, however flawed, that would later live in his music. Before linking with Def Jam, DMX was jumped by a rival street crew who believed X had robbed them days earlier. The truth is it was a case of mistaken identity. The end result was a wired jaw, but that didn’t stop him from rhyming through his teeth to then-Def Jam executive Lyor Cohen. An impression was made before he mouthed the first word.

Open conversations surrounding addiction and mental health awareness in the ’90s were taboo. Society was not mild when it came to unleashing its cruelty toward artists such as Whitney Houston and Kurt Cobain who openly suffered. Yet, struggles have historically made for the greatest and most personal of albums (see: Marvin Gaye, Mary J. Blige or Adele). X has always been a living, breathing and rapping cry for help. He’d admit, on the Dame Grease-produced “F—in’ wit D,” that he was listed as a manic depressive with extreme paranoia.

Unable to treat his condition, the only place of solace for DMX was the same streets that would make him a well-known figure in New York’s criminal justice database. X once said that his rap sheet was read in court one time and that it stretched across half the courtroom. Over the course of his life, X has been arrested nearly 30 times. If X had nothing else in his life, he did have the revolving door of the penitentiary.

“Before I really had a life,” X told GQ in 2018, “jail was a playground.” 

Later, as X’s star power rose to make him the biggest rapper in the world by the late ’90s, his access to certain vices increased, too. As high-level peers such as Jay-Z and Nas remained consistent in their output, X teetered as his addiction and various arrests for a litany of charges led to jail time and even a failed 2010 reality TV series that would document his journey toward sobriety. In 2016, he was found “lifeless” in the parking lot of a Yonkers Ramada Inn. X’s attorney said it was asthma, though investigators noted the police report stating that he ingested an unknown substance. For so long, X’s music and even his life in the headlines had always been about what was going wrong and why X’s life was on borrowed time. Dogs were kindred spirits and his bark would signal his alliance to them — but DMX seemed to have more lives than a cat. He always bounced back.

Regardless of the setbacks both self-imposed and unavoidable watermarked by the unaddressed grief still on his heart, X found a way to survive. He brought with him the joy that survival afforded him to places like homeless shelters. His smile during these last 18 months produced a visceral joy. Now, it felt, he was taking that time back. Dancing and singing along to songs with his daughter on Instagram. The highly anticipated and well-received Verzuz battle with Snoop Dogg last summer. And his incredibly revealing and entertaining Drink Champs sit down in February. He looked to be basking in the joy that he deserved, not just as a hip-hop icon, but as a man.

Like so many rap luminaries to precede him, we’re left to wonder what the second half-century of his life could have offered. Yet and still, I’m both inspired and haunted by two things DMX has said, both a decade apart: “I think my life,” he predicted in 2011, “is just beginning.”

Just two months ago he’d say, “If I was to drop dead right now, my last thought would be I’ve had a good life.”

Perhaps this light, ultimately more than any of the demons he fought for a half-century, is the best way to remember Dark Man X: A man who finally found peace in a life of so much chaos.

Features — The Undefeated

In ‘Beautiful Scars,’ legendary backup singer Merry Clayton walks by faith After a car accident took both her legs, the ‘20 Feet from Stardom’ singer testifies to God’s grace on her new album

There comes a point in talking with Merry Clayton when it becomes clear, like the prayers of the righteous, that you’re tuning in to a ministry, a walk, a testimony that unfolds like an extended sermon.

“I know one thing, I know God is in control,” said Clayton, who began her recording career singing a duet with Bobby Darin at 14, and by 16, was the lead Raelette, performing with Ray Charles. The “queen diva” of background vocals has worked with Carole King, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Joe Cocker. She lent the Rolling Stones a searing authority with her iconic turn on the 1969 anti-war anthem, “Gimme Shelter.”

Hers is a worship service already in process. “I thank God every day. ‘God, thank you for my gift!’ ” she said.

Clayton, 72, was trained up in her father’s church in New Orleans in the ways of the Lord, and as a woman and an artist, has never departed from them. Which is not to say she hasn’t been tested.

In the Academy Award-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, Clayton starred as one of the mostly Black female background singers whose sound defined popular music, even if their names never rang a bell. Months after the film’s 2014 win, Clayton was in a near-fatal car accident not far from her Los Angeles home. She woke up in the hospital to the news that to save her life, doctors had to amputate both her legs below the knee.

But her voice, she had to know, was it still all there? 

Clayton’s new album Beautiful Scars, her first in 25 years, out Friday on the Motown Gospel/Capitol Records label, features songs of uplift and faith. Co-produced by Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Lou Adler and gospel artist Terry Young, it includes songs by Coldplay’s Chris Martin, covers of Sam Cooke and Leon Russell, and the title track written by Songwriters Hall of Famer Diane Warren.

To get to this moment, Clayton spent five months in the hospital and nearly five years in rehabilitation.

“I thought I knew patience,” she said. But “you don’t know patience until you have lost both of your legs from the knee down.”

Until you have to learn to steady yourself in prosthetic legs to move about your home. 

Still, Clayton says she wouldn’t change a thing. “Even the bad, because everything that made me break, it made me who I am.” 

And allowed her to walk on faith. 

In the documentary, Clayton reflects emotionally on her solo albums in the 1970s, which enjoyed only moderate success, never getting higher than No. 36 on the R&B charts. “I felt like if I just gave my heart to what I was doing, I would automatically be a star,” Clayton said in the film. 

“I think at that time, there was only room for Aretha,” said Adler. He first worked with Clayton on Bob Dylan’s 1969 gospel album, Dylan’s Gospel, and throughout her solo career, eventually becoming someone she considered family. “She had the same talent” as Franklin, Adler said. “It was just the situation.”

An image of Merry Clayton behind the scenes during the album photo shoot.

Mathieu Bitton

Or perhaps it was not her time. But this time is different. 

Clayton began singing in New Bethel Baptist Church, where her father, A.G. Williams Clayton Sr., was an accomplished musician and pastor. This is where she met guest singers such as Cooke and Franklin. She’d always sit with Mahalia Jackson, another New Orleans native and close family friend, or stand in the corner mimicking everything Jackson did.

“From the time that she was in church with her father, and the people that she came in contact with, it’s always been about the artistry and singing,” said Adler, 87, whom Clayton calls Uncle Lou.

During her hardest times, Adler says, they weren’t working on records, they were working on recovery. 

“My thought was, if anything could bring her back to where she was before the accident, and what she thinks about and what she feels, it was music,” Adler said. “And that’s why I might’ve been overly obsessive, but she allowed me to be when I kept on saying, ‘You’ve got to sing, Merry, you’ve got to sing.’ ”

Maxine Waters is part of the storied Waters family of vocalists who also starred in 20 Feet from Stardom, and sang backup on the world’s bestselling album, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and The Bodyguard, the most successful film soundtrack. She and Clayton met in 1970 when the two altos bonded as part of the backup choir for the song “Are you Ready?” by Pacific Gas & Electric. They’ve been best friends ever since.

Lou Adler (right) first worked with Merry Clayton (left) on Bob Dylan’s 1969 gospel album, Dylan’s Gospel, and throughout her solo career, eventually becoming someone she considered family.

Lester Cohen/WireImage

Waters was there in 2002 when doctors told Clayton that her husband, renowned jazz saxophonist Curtis Amy, who had cancer, had only a week to live. The couple had met when she was a Raelette and he was the musical director for the Ray Charles orchestra, and they had been married more than three decades. They’d lost a child to miscarriage after the strain of the “Gimme Shelter” recording, Clayton told the Los Angeles Times in 1986.

At a restaurant across the street from the hospital, Clayton started planning who she needed to call to come say their goodbyes, and what she was going to sing at her husband’s homegoing. 

On the way back to the hospital, Waters says Clayton broke into song. “We were on Third Street, that’s here in Hollywood. We were walking. People were looking and she was just singing ‘A Song For You,’ you know?” It was a song she and Amy performed together on Clayton’s eponymous 1971 album. “I was just crying and she was singing,” Waters remembered.

After the car accident, when Clayton was in the intensive care unit surrounded by family, she called Waters. “This was right after the amputation,” Waters said. Clayton told her, “Max, I’m just going to sing.” So she started singing the gospel standard, “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired.”

Waters knew then that her friend would be OK, because she doesn’t sing softly. “She was blasting it out in her regular voice that she does.”

“I live by faith, not by sight,” Clayton said. “I always knew who I was, but I also knew whose I was.” She says she would have been fine if she’d never been able to sing again, because “I had done my duty here on earth.” But like the song says, God was not through with her yet.

When she woke up from surgery, the doctors “were very tender and very sweet,” Clayton said. “They said, ‘OK, Ms. Clayton, in order to save your life, we had to amputate both legs from the knee down.’ I said, ‘OK, but did you, did anything happen to my voice?’Oh, no. Nothing happened to your voice.’

“Then I just started to sing,” Clayton said. “I knew if I could sing, I would be OK. But I also knew that if I couldn’t sing, I would still be OK. It would take me a minute to get it back together.” She felt that, she believed it. “I knew that in my spirit. As my pastor would say, ‘I know in my knower.’ ”

She’d learned a long time ago when she was complaining about some show business thing to her godmother, actress Della Reese, whom Clayton sang with in the mid-’80s gospel group Brilliance. Reese had told her, “That’s called L-I-F-E. And you don’t get through this life without going through some things.”

“You can’t have a testimony without going through a test, darling,” said Clayton. “And I’ve been through the fire. I’ve been through the fire, honey, and through the rain, and came out sounding like gold, like pure gold. I’m just glimmering.”

Young, the singer and songwriter who toured with Dylan and whose “Circle of Life” arrangement plays at Disneyland, first met Clayton decades ago when both were singing background around town. Session friends, Young calls them. In 1994, he wrote five songs for her gospel album Miracles.

Adler, who’d worked with Young on a children’s gospel album, called to say Clayton wanted to do an album. On the phone, Young sang them a song he’d already written.

Singer Merry Clayton (center) in the studio with producer and record mogul Lou Adler (right), circa 1970.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

He sent full tracks and backgrounds for three songs, including “Oh What a Friend” and “God’s Love.” “When I brought the track to Merry’s house,” Young said, “Merry was just excited to just have the right kind of music to sing to.” She went right into “Oh What a Friend,” and her granddaughter Kyliyah, 17, kept saying, “Grandma, grandma!” because it was incredible. Adler felt the same. “He just told me, ‘Terry, I could give you the whole album,’ which is exactly what happened.”

Young put together a choir of 15, including the Waters family and singers Clayton had known for years who wanted to be part of the project. Some didn’t even want to be paid.

Adler also reached out to Martin. Clayton had sung on the 2015 Coldplay album A Head Full of Dreams, just months after she’d returned home after the accident. At the time, Martin had told Clayton that when she was ready to do her own album, he’d write a song for her. When Adler called, he sent over “Love is a Mighty River.”

Warren shouted into the receiver when Adler called her, and, a few days later, she gave them “Beautiful Scars.”

I’ve been on the battlefield of Life, I’ve been through it
But I just had to go through that/to get to this
I, I’ve been knocked out/I’ve been kicked down
But faith brought me back/ And I’m still standing here now
These are beautiful scars that I have on my heart/
This is beautiful proof that I’ve made it this far

Many artists with long careers lose something in their voice, Adler says. “If it isn’t how high they can go, what note they can hit, there’s a little bit of a change of key. Not for Merry. She has got all of that.” He muses that the years after the accident, when she sang less often, might have had something to do with that.

The only thing that’s different about Clayton’s singing is, “we record her mostly sitting. … However, if she has to reach for a note, we have bars, very similar to parallel bars, like in gymnastics, and she’ll have to reach up on those,” Adler said. “Before she just had to reach within herself. Now she has to do something physically to get it.”

“I just really had to pray to get through it,” Clayton said. Had to say, Lord, please. “I’ve got to sing this song and I’ve got to sing it with love and with dignity, but I can’t sing it crying, you know?” So she asked God to dry her weeping eyes.

“I got through it,” Clayton said. “But, boy, that ‘Beautiful Scars’ did a number on me.”

Young added two more original songs, “Room At The Altar” and “He Made a Way,” and rearranged a Cooke gospel song, “Touch the Hem of His Garment.” There’s a medley where Kyliyah Merry Amy takes her grandmother’s vocal torch and sings a lead part.

And Clayton updates her performance of the Russell classic, “A Song For You.” As a surprise, Adler lifted the Curtis Amy tenor sax performance from the couple’s 1971 recording of the song and dropped it into the new arrangement.

As he was songwriting, “I was really thinking about what a representative and an ambassador they would be,” for Clayton, said Young. “In big arenas, coming onstage, on wheels or however she’d come onstage. She would be such an inspiration.”

When the singing community found out about Clayton’s accident, “We were devastated,” said Young. “To lose both your legs, especially in our industry, that was a big pill to swallow.”

But Clayton has a strength in her and that’s why they’d stay in the studio sometimes until the early morning. Clayton never complained, and she’d call or text to check on Young. She gives people “who might be feeling a certain way, she gives them strength, so she turns it around,” Young says. He credits the spirit that’s God’s given her.

A lot of singers perform gospel, “but not everybody’s gospel has understanding,” Young said. Clayton has come into her own, he says. “It’s almost like her voice is better. I think it’s better than it was before the accident. … People will wonder how can you not serve a God like that.”

Sometimes on social media, people write, “I don’t know who needs to hear this … ” before sharing their thoughts. Listening to Clayton, something similar applies. It’s not clear if a grieving world needs to hear this more, or if she needs to sing it. The answer, of course, is both.

Clayton calls the album right for a time when so many have suffered so much. 

Your scars are hidden, or secret, or sometimes on display for the whole world to see. Sometimes you might not even know they are there yourself, and there’s just no accounting for the ache. “That’s a scar. But you know what makes it beautiful is how you came out of it. It’s how you worked your way out of it. What did you do in the midst of that situation? That’s the beauty of your scar. What did you learn from it so that you won’t have to go through it again?” said Clayton. “Why don’t you just go ahead and say, ‘Preach, Ms. Merry?’ ” she asked rhetorically, like the Spirit has gotten to her. And in the background, you can almost hear the organs and a chorus of amens.

Features — The Undefeated

Junie Shumpert does the walk challenge


Hellobeautiful Featured Video


Teyana Taylor In Concert - Miami, FL

Source: Johnny Nunez / Getty

Baby Junie has done it again. The 5-year-old daughter to Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert has a personality that bursts at the seams. We’ve seen her give model face, we’ve heard her sing on her mother’s records, and now she’s showing us why she is the official winner of the “Walk” Challenge.

In a video posted to Teyana Taylor’s Instagram page, she wrote, “Was scrolling thru my phone and found Junie doing what she does best. BE JUNIE 😩😩 I told y’all I can’t make this up 😂😂😂 @imanshumpert what we finna do with her? It’s giving @1saucysantanaofficial I BLAME YOU 🤣🤣🤣🤣”

Junie’s personality is a dead ringer for her spirited mother. This lil baby is an entertainer! Teyana Taylor is definitely raising her daughter to be her authentic self and it shows. Junie’s confidence is infectious and I’d love to see her start a YouTube channel like Zhuri James. It won’t be long before baby Junie is making her acting debut on the big screen.

It is so fun to watch this generation of celebrity kids grow up. Tots like Kaviaa James, Blue Ivy Carter, and Junie Shumpert will eventually become the leaders in years to come. Nurturing their creative sides is extremely important during these years. What do you think?


Teyana Taylor Gave Birth To The Same Beautiful Baby Twice, And We’re In Love

Baby Junie Is Serving LEWKS On Teyana Taylor’s Instagram Page Again

10 Times Iman Tayla “Junie” Shumpert Jr. Looked Just Like Her Mama Teyana

Also On HelloBeautiful:

She's got a natural glow
25 photos

Source link

Why Clutter Can Be So Bad For People With Anxiety (And What To Do About It)


Stacks of mail and papers cover your desk. Piles of clothes accumulate on the chair in your bedroom. Makeup, toiletries and other products crowd your bathroom counter. Toys are strewn across the living room floor. For some people, a messy home is a minor nuisance or something they can easily overlook. For others, it can have a significant impact on their mental health.

As Wendy Wisner, who has an anxiety disorder, explained in a blog post for the site Scary Mommy, “Cleaning up clutter is not just another thing on the to-do list like packing my kids’ lunches, changing the car’s oil, or making my next dentist appointment. It’s a full-on ragey kind of panic.”

“It’s the feeling that I literally can’t breathe with all the clutter that’s filling our house,” she said. “It’s a feeling that the world is a chaotic place that I can’t control, and all of that chaos is represented by the loud, unruly, angsty wreck that is my living room.”

Research seems to back this up, too. A small 2009 study found that women who described their homes using words like “cluttered,” “messy” and “chaotic” had levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) that did not show a normal, healthy decline over the course of the day. Rather, their cortisol levels followed a flatter pattern that’s been associated with greater chronic stress and has been linked with other negative health outcomes.

A 2016 survey of people with mild to severe issues with clutter found that their disorderly living spaces had a negative impact on their perception of their home and satisfaction with their lives overall.

It’s important to recognize that, when excessive, clutter can be both a cause and effect of mental health troubles, said Cindy Glovinsky, who worked as both a psychotherapist and professional organizer during her career. Many of her clients with more severe clutter issues had been diagnosed with conditions like depression, attention deficit disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“And people who are grieving can sometimes go through a temporary period of clutter and disorganization that improve as they begin to heal from their loss,” said Glovinsky, author of “Making Peace With the Things in Your Life.”

Why Clutter Can Trigger Anxiety

Generally speaking, our external environment can have a strong influence over how we feel internally and how we behave. Think about how energized you feel at a concert or sporting event or how calm you feel when you hike through nature, said Gina Delucca, a clinical psychologist at Wellspace SF in California.

“Our environment can affect our mood for better or for worse, and different people may respond differently to certain environments — for example, some people may feel annoyed by the crowds of people at a musical festival,” she added. “Your home environment is no different.”

Similarly, individuals have different levels of tolerance when it comes to clutter and disorganization, Glovinsky noted. Those prone to anxiety (or people with the highly sensitive personality trait) may have a lower threshold for messiness in their surroundings than the average person.

“Some people actually like a certain amount of chaos in their environment, as it makes them feel freer and more creative, while others feel overwhelmed by even a small amount of clutter,” Glovinsky said. “Those who feel overwhelmed may become anxious or depressed as a result.”

“It’s the feeling that I literally can’t breathe with all the clutter that’s filling our house.”

– Wendy Wisner, associate editor at Scary Mommy

If you fall into the latter camp, then a home that’s in disarray can make you feel mentally overloaded, drained or lacking control — unpleasant sensations that are all too familiar to people living with anxiety.

“For many people, their home is a sanctuary away from the overstimulation of the world and its daily operations,” said Kim Strong, a licensed clinical social worker at Wellspace SF. “A messy or disorganized environment at home can be a tangible reminder of this chaos and may cause a feeling of being out of control or anxious. Looking around at a messy room can be a reminder of a long to-do list, unfinished tasks or, in general, can make moving around and finding things one needs more difficult.”

Decluttering, however, can be a productive way for some people to channel their anxious energy.

“It may also serve as a nice mental distraction, taking your attention away from whatever you were anxious about in the first place,” Delucca said. “You may feel more in control afterward and experience a feeling of accomplishment or satisfaction, which can help to alleviate some of your anxiety.”

How To Deal If A Messy Home Triggers Your Anxiety

Experts offer advice for people whose anxiety is greatly affected by the state of their living space.

Experts offer advice for people whose anxiety is greatly affected by the state of their living space.

When you live alone, it may be easier to keep your home up to your personal cleaning or organizational standards. Perhaps you already have your own system in place. But if you don’t, The Spruce, a home decor and improvements website, recommends decluttering your space room by room. Or, you can break the process down into even smaller chunks by just focusing on your bedroom closet, for example.

Before you start, create five baskets: one for stuff that needs to be put away, one for items that need to be recycled, one for things that need to be repaired or cleaned, one for trash and one for donations. Then tackle each room part by part, making sure you’ve fully completed one area before moving on to the next.

Once you’ve gotten things organized, it does take some effort to keep them that way. Strong recommends employing a mantra like “finish the task” whenever you do everyday things like open the mail or change clothes.

“This helps to ensure that the junk mail actually gets thrown away or recycled and the dirty laundry makes it into the hamper,” she said.

However, when you share your home with other people — be it a significant other, roommate, kids or other relatives — it can be more of a challenge to maintain a level of order that doesn’t put your anxiety into overdrive. Below, experts share some advice to help you cope.

Have a conversation with your partner or housemates about your individual levels of tolerance for clutter.

Talk about what you need in order to keep your mental health in check. Ask them to share their preferences, too.

“If theirs is different than yours, approach this as a problem that you can solve together so everyone’s needs can be respected and met as much as possible,” Glovinsky said.

Ask for help — and be specific about what you need.

Do you feel like you have more household tasks than you have time to complete? Are you constantly cleaning up after your spouse or kids? Even if you find organizing therapeutic, it can be hard to manage the mess all by yourself when you already have a lot on your plate. If that’s the case, then you probably need others in your home to pitch in.

“Ask your family members, partner, or roommates to help out a bit instead of trying to do it all on your own,” Delucca said. “Be specific on which tasks you’d like others to do, especially if they’re not in the habit of taking things upon themselves automatically. By not saying anything, you may build up frustration and resentment on top of your anxiety, leading you to feel worse.”

If it’s within your budget, consider hiring a housekeeper to come every so often. “Sometimes the extra cost can be worth the time and energy you get back in return,” Delucca said.

Keep at least one room super neat and organized, if you can.

That way, when the rest of the house is a mess, you have somewhere you can escape from the chaos — “even if that’s the bathroom,” Glovinsky said.

If you have kids, teach them how to tidy up.

Expect that children — younger ones, in particular — will require some (or a lot of) hand-holding in this department.

“Help the children to learn to pick up toys during ‘clean-up time’ and to keep their possessions in their own rooms or other designated areas,” Glovinsky said. “No child was born knowing this, and some children need more guidance than others. Adults too often assume that cleaning a room is easy for a child when it may not be.”

You can also try turning straightening up into a game, Strong suggested. Set a timer and have the kids put as many things away in their proper place as they can before the buzzer goes off.

“You’d be surprised how much you can actually get done in just 60 seconds,” she said. “The emotional benefits — like less anxiety — of a clean and organized place can be achieved in a small amount of time, indeed.”

Take a deep breath and accept that your home may not be as neat as you’d like it to be.

Your dream of having one of those Instagram-worthy, immaculately organized living spaces may not be realistic for you — at least not right now. Try to make peace with that if you can.

“For example, if you have small kids, chances are things will always be a little messy,” Delucca said. “By practicing acceptance and letting go, we can sometimes offer ourselves some relief from our anxiety and the pressure we put on ourselves to have things a certain way, rather than constantly trying to control and fight against our reality.”

Source link