‘Being Mary Jane’ Finally Gives Us Peace & Closure We Needed

Culture & Entertainment

Here's your heads up—If you didn't see the series finale of Being Mary Jane last night, click out of this now. Spoiler on top of spoiler is all up in this.

Before getting into the series finale of Being Mary Jane, can I just say on behalf of all of us who have a long-standing history of supporting quality Black television that we're grateful it got a series finale? Some of us know that (eh hem) certain networks have done some of our favorite shows wrong in the past (Living Single and Girlfriends immediately come to mind. New York Undercover did have a finale although it ran almost six months after FOX canceled it; the show is reportedly getting a reboot, though). So yeah, although the last episode Being Mary Jane aired in the fall of 2017, it was still good to see everyone—both on the show and watching it from home—get some much-needed closure last night.

Being Mary Jane/BET

The writers didn't waste any time, either. In the first five minutes of the finale, Mary Jane got engaged to Justin (Michael Ealy) and found out that she was pregnant—the two things Mary Jane has been wanting, basically since we've met her. However, conception was not due to some make-up sex with fine-and-some-mo-fine Andre (Omari Hardwick) after he officially ended things with his wife (season one will always be my absolute fave!) or a quickie from that absolutely breathtaking piece of Godiva chocolate football playin' man Brandon (Thomas Q. Jones). Nope. It was because, many moons before, Mary Jane and Justin broke up and—surprise, surprise—she did something erratic: she went to a sperm bank and got some donor sperm. 48 hours after their break-up.

Needless to say, this didn't go over well for Justin as he said to Mary Jane what it seems all of the men in her life—family, friend, boyfriend or sex buddy—have said to her since episode one of the show: "It's always about what you want" and they broke up. Again.

Fast forward into Mary Jane showing—by the way, Gabrielle, you continue to show us your strength. You've been so open about your fertility journey and although you have your own little bundle of joy in Miss Kaavia James now, I can only imagine what it was like to pretend that you were pregnant for so much of this finale. She's again not listening (this time about what her diet choices should be while pregnant) and ends up throwing up in a trash can. Then an old flame walks up. Let's pause here. If there's one thing that Gabrielle Union and Morris Chestnut have in common, it's how exquisitely they age. Well, that and the fact that cameras really seem to like them together because this isn't even close to being the first time they've shared the screen together.

Being Mary Jane/BET

Anyway, this time Morris's character's name is Beau (short for Beauregard, go figure). He and Mary Jane used to date in college (according to Mary Jane's family, he was quite the nerd. Apparently, we should look past nerds up on IG to see what's up). They start to date. He's not bothered by her pregnancy. Not in the least.

OK, allow me to get in my feelings for a moment. Although Gabrielle and Morris always look beautiful together and have great chemistry (I personally appreciated the pregnancy sex scene; we don't see women portrayed as mad sexy on the tube nearly enough), I have to admit didn't feel super connected to them. I think it's because up until last night, I don't recall ever even hearing about Beau. Although I knew that Shelden (Gary Dourdan) and Lee (Chiké Okonkwo) returning were long shots, I know I'm not the only one who thought that maybe, just maybe, time would heal all wounds and mature some things so that Mary Jane and David (Stephen Bishop) could finally end up on the same page. Yeah, David did some crappy things (they both did), but their storyline was written so well that I couldn't help but be somewhat emotionally reminiscent, invested and…hopeful. Nope. Guess he's still a millionaire and with the 6.5 model and his daughter.

Back to the recap. In between all that Mary Jane had going on, her family had their own stuff too. Before last night, her parents were on the outs and her dad (an also fine man, Richard Roundtree) put their family home up for sale. Well, guess who bought it? Cutie pie—and I mean that in the best and most grown up way possible—PJ (B.J. Britt). Let me also pause here and say that, as a woman who is oh so very fond of tall, dark and handsome, Being Mary Jane has always been consistent in showcasing just that. THANK YOU. OK, back to the house. Guess what one of the rooms consists of? The beginnings of Mary Jane's niece, Niecy's (Raven Goodwin) beauty salon.

And can I just say this about Raven? She looked really beautiful last night. I've been checkin' for her ever since she played the little girl in the movie Lovely and Amazing. Niecy ends up finding love with a man who helped her put her business plan together. Black love and partnership. Dope. Niecy's dad (Richard Brooks) also looked great last night. Still sober and clean. Also dope.

Being Mary Jane/BET

Then there's MJ's bestie, Kara (Lisa Vidal). Whew. Kara had a lot going on. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and got a double mastectomy. The scenes with her and Mary Jane right after surgery and then Kara's man, Orlando (Nicholas Gonzalez) proposing while she was recovering in the hospital probably got to me the most.

Real love is when you're adored at your "worst", not your best. Memo received.

OK, so back to Mary Jane. Without MJ's knowledge, Kara asks Justin to fill in for her until she could come back to work. However, really what Kara was doing was playing matchmaker. Clearly, she was onto something because when Justin and Beau run into each other in Mary Jane's office, Mary Jane introduced Beau as "her friend" (ouch). You kinda knew where Mary Jane stood after that.

As far as she and Justin go, probably my favorite scene with them was when she went out to his home/farm/compound and he told her about herself. Justin described Mary Jane as being "curious, persistent, passionate, driven, courageous" and "frustrating, stubborn, difficult and selfish as hell". Honestly, I think all of those adjectives are what kept us attached to Mary Jane for so long. No matter how mad we got at her at times, more than anything, it was probably because she reflected some of the best and worst parts of our own selves. Wanting love but not always going about the right ways to get it. Exuding strength while being extremely vulnerable. Being accomplished but never fully satisfied. Making erratic decisions that reflect all of these things.

Being Mary Jane/BET

The writers were kind to MJ, and us, by granting closure. Oh, but it wouldn't be a true Being Mary Jane episode without some last-minute drama—and there was. When Justin came to her place to meet her son, Albert James (AJ for short), while Justin was in the bathroom helping AJ get through a night of cholic, guess who shows up? Again, not David (le sigh). It was Beau. Beau with a ring (of course, with a ring). Justin walks in and then…the next scene is Mary Jane in that killer wedding dress.

Do you really have to guess which man she chose? I mean, c'mon now. Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed" played at the wedding. I was giddy to see—and hear—Lalah Hathaway sing "Angel" at the reception. I must say that, for nostalgia's sake, I did wish that Mary Jane's old ATL neighbor Mark (Aaron D. Spears), her on-again-off-again homie and publicist Nichelle (Brely Evans) or even the couple she put through the ringer Chris (Chris Spencer) and Valerie (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) were present. But still, between Mary Jane getting married to a man she really loved—yes Justin—and not just a man who wanted to marry her, her parents reconciling and everyone being happy and healthy, it really is good to not be stuck ever-wondering what happened to everyone (like we still are with Living Single and Girlfriends…SMH).

And although we didn't get this finale wrapped up in a Post-it, one of the last things to come out of Mary Jane's mouth are definitely words to live by—in her world and in our own.

The second you get out of your own way and stop orchestrating, it happens.

If you retain nothing else I said but that, it's more than enough.

Take care, Mary Jane. Enjoy the rest of your life…just as it happens.

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.


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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