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Exclusive: Jill Marie Jones And Wesley Jonathan Talk New Series, Celibacy, And Swinger Couples

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Monogamy isn't especially popular today as swipe-right culture and oversharing has increased, thanks to social media.


Through the vast majority of content society markets to us daily, falling in love and being committed to one person is an idea most of us can easily subscribe to but, to be honest, doesn't seem all that attainable. Tabloids and Top 40 hits constantly boast allegations of cheating scandals, and on almost every reality shows and scripted series, there are extramarital temptations being discussed, and unfortunately, celebrated.

So, is monogamy possible? Of course. But, according to The Urban Movie Channel's new series Craig Ross Jr.'s Monogamy, it damn sure isn't easy.

Husband and wife producing team Craig Ross Jr. and Caryn Ward Ross have created this new drama series to challenge how we view the practice. Each episode follows four married couples who resort to a spouse-swapping experiment as a last ditch effort to save their relationships. Starring Caryn Ward Ross, Jill Marie Jones, Vanessa Simmons, Chrystee Pharris, Blue Kimble, Brian White, Wesley Jonathan, and Darius McCrary, the show may bend your previous perspective on marriage, what you'll do to maintain love and discuss your views on commitment honestly. "I love [this show] because it's something that I'd never seen before in television and film," says Jones.

Monogamy/UMC

Jones plays Maggie, an emotionally guarded, type-A woman, who is married to Wesley's Carson, a Christian man who's kind but is hard pressed to loosen up. The couple experienced a horrible tragedy but struggle to share more than hollow pleasantries day to day. By the first episode's end, Maggie is paired with Sawyer (Kimble) and Carson is with Simmons' Caroline.

xoNecole got Jones and Jonathan on three-way to chat about their personal feelings on monogamy, how healthy relationships can best be achieved in a social media climate, and what they hope audiences learn about black love from the series.

As I watched the first three episodes, there are a lot of personal obstacles it seems every character is facing. The overarching theme is everyone's relationship is in need of dire help, but it's apparent that each person is having some individual struggle. Which character do you feel has the hardest personal obstacles to face?

Jill Marie Jones: I think everybody. The d-word is looming, and every character is at their wit's end because they're looking at the cliff and saying, "Am I jumping or am I not jumping?" For every single character, the stakes are very high.

If you found yourself in the same dire marital situation, would you try an experiment like this?

Wesley Jonathan: Absolutely not. You're playing with fire. You're tapping into the possibility of actually liking the experiment to the degree to where you end up crossing those lines with the person. I don't think that is the answer. It's a desperation move. To me, it's a major no-no, especially if the person is attractive. You [are] asking for problems.

Right, and out the gate in the show you can see the chemistry between the newly swapped coupled. So, what is your advice for couples having relationship struggles IRL?

WJ: Oh, that's easy. You have the one source of practical teaching and you don't have to be religious to look into it, and that's the Bible. It's practical teaching for marriage, for love, and for happiness period. You don't have to be religious, but if you have practical morals—you don't steal, you don't lie, you don't kill—you can look into the Bible, the source. There, is practical teaching on how to have a happy marriage. Everything else is secondary.

"You can look into the Bible, the source. There, is practical teaching on how to have a happy marriage. Everything else is secondary."

JMJ: First thing I would say is communication. Sometimes I feel like in relationships, even in my friendships, we don't communicate if something hurt us or if something didn't make us feel good.

I like that you mentioned your friendships because all of it is relationships with other people really.

JMJ: Yeah, for sure. After my last boyfriend, I took a sabbatical. It's amazing how much you hear when sex is not on the plate.

I agree. Sex can bring so much noise to where you don't communicate how you really feel.

JMJ: Right! Because if it's good, it's like, 'Girl, he's OK. He didn't really mean what he said. I didn't see what I saw.' It clouds your judgement. Your body is a temple; own it. Own you. It shouldn't be easily given to anyone.

That segues perfectly because with today's generation of dating individuals, there's so many distractions like dating apps, social media, and this general environment of oversharing and #relationshipgoals. So what's your advice for the younger, 20 somethings coming up. Some want traditional marriage but then there are the kids who just want to date and have fun. What do you say to them?

JMJ: I would say to just live your life in your 20s. Work toward your business acumen but in your relationship life, you should live. When you meet the one you're supposed to be with, when you're both mature enough to live life, then you're ready.

WJ: That's tough, real tough. If I could go back, I would definitely focus more energy into me, myself, and my career and getting myself together. But it's only natural for a young man and woman to like each other. So for me to say not to explore, that would be unrealistic. I would say though find some self-control, however you see fit.

Monogamy/UMC

JMJ: So you're agreeing with me!

WJ: Oh, well I definitely agree to a degree. When you say "live," to me you have to be more specific.

JMJ: I'm just saying in your 20's, don't try to make hard plans in your personal life but work on your business.

WJ: Yeah, what happens is that everything is so fast and so quick now, and because there's no self-control, there's no discipline. People are just jumping to do stuff and they find themselves all jacked up. Take a minute, take a step back, and truly evaluate the situation. Don't be so quick to throw your genitals up on that screen. Just find self-control.

You make a great point about self-control. Not a lot of people harp on the discipline aspect of relationships or growing up, which can curb things like cheating. Wesley, as a married man, do you feel monogamy in a marriage is natural? Is it necessary for a lasting, fulfilling relationship? Because the series challenges those ideas.

WJ: I feel monogamy is possible. It is natural? Yeah. But it's also natural to look at someone and say they're attractive. Here we go with self-control again. Some people would say it's not natural to be with one person because they're looking at everything else. Well, that's just because you have no self-control. Our imperfect impulses have us looking at others, and that's being greedy and not having any self-control and losing the value in what you have. Sometimes you have to come back to the person that you're with, work things out and rejuvenate, and have a conversation, even if it hurts. Those conversations help. But to say it's not natural to be monogamous is an excuse for everybody to be with everybody. It is natural to be with one person. That's God's arrangement. If you add more people to the marital bed, it gets real cloudy.

"Our imperfect impulses have us looking at others, and that's being greedy and not having any self-control and losing the value in what you have."

Monogamy/UMC

Jill, I want to ask you the same question but tailor it a bit differently. Black women, as you know, are always as far as headlines go, dealing with being cheated on and many women go into relationships with a fear or expectation of being cheated on. In relationships outside of marriage, do you feel monogamy is natural thing or something to be expected nowadays?

JMJ: Well, OK, yes I believe in monogamy. But I have two different couples that are together and they swing. And I have to say, both of those couples have great relationships. One couple's been together 18 years, the other maybe 11 or something like that. So I think in 2018, people carve out what monogamy means for them. It wouldn't work for me but it works for these two couples. So I understand, it's complicated.

"I think in 2018, people carve out what monogamy means for them."

WJ: But check this out though, is that still, in fact, monogamy? People start to take the true meaning of words and flip them. If y'all swinging, that's technically not monogamy. Y'all just understand it to be OK with each other. It doesn't make you unhappy.

So maybe it's not monogamy, but what Jill is saying is every couple should do whatever helps their relationship last, whether it's monogamy or not, right?

JMJ: Exactly. If it works for them, they're the only people that are in that, right? So if it works for them, that's cool.

WJ: Nah, that's polyamory [Laughs]. You missed the key phrase, it's the state or practice of being with one. It changes the game when you add another person. You can do that if you like, and you can say, 'Aye, it's just us three,' but they're not practicing monogamy because it's more than one person.

Monogamy/UMC

What do you hope the audience learns from this unique way of discussing Black love?

JMJ: It's a show that after each episode will provoke conversation. That to me is the brilliance of it all. People need to not just tell their loved ones the good-good stuff. Your partner needs to hear about what's not working. The things like, 'Wow, I wish you could be better at this.' Communication, I would hope, comes out of the show.

WJ: Yeah, she kinda took it. She's right. It brings up great conversation and controversy. As far as taking anything away, I just want people to feel. Whether it makes you angry, appalled, makes you cry, I just want you to feel something.

Lastly, your hope for [your characters] Maggie and Carson?

WJ: Man, I hope that we work it out!

Be sure to check out 'Craig Ross Jr.'s Monogamy' on UMC TV, available now to stream the entire series. And for more Jill-Marie Jones and Wesley Jonathan, follow them on Instagram.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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