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Billy Chapata On Why This Generation Struggles With Love

#xoMan

There's something about a man who's not afraid to be vulnerable.

Mask off. Walls down. Baring all, including the soul that the former tries to protect. With vulnerability comes an honesty so refreshing, it's like water—it's truth unwrapped. It's love personified, for to be vulnerable is to be selfless.


Though in the case of Billy Chapata (also known as iambrillyant)—author, writer and poet extraordinaire—that same vulnerability that's written and released for the world to receive, is actually a form of selfishness on his part. I first became introduced to his poetry and affirmations in a series of tweets that came across my timeline.

I decided then and there that I wanted to know the man behind the words. One of the first things I asked him in our interview was about his confidence and his fearlessness in his writing. I learned then the true purpose behind the self love poet. "I get people all the time who are like I'm so scared to let my writing out," he says. "When you write from a selfish place, you're not thinking about what people may think or anything like that. That's how I overcame that fear. When it becomes a selfish intention, you stop caring about what people think and what they may say.

At the end of the day, a lot of my writing is really for my inner child, for me to heal, and affirmations for my future daughters."

If selfishness produces words of wisdom where hearts are healed and wounds are restored, then by all means, we encourage him to be selfish—as f*ck.

Through Billy's writing, many have been able to delve deeper into the concept of love, challenging their own perspectives, and forcing inner reflection that becomes the foundation of freedom. His words hit home and they hit hard, so it's no surprise that he's grown a massive following—over 340,000 across his social channels—that makes his many affirmations go viral.

With three books under his belt, his life lessons become our instruction manual on navigating matters of the heart. But there's more to the teacher than powerful prose. So, we dug a little deeper to learn about the man behind the musings, how he overcomes fear, and his perspective on love.

How did you first get into poetry?

Billy Chapata: I started writing when I was like eight or nine, ever since I could hold a pen or pencil. I've been writing for a very long time. Anything that pertains to writing just came really natural to me from that age, and I was so musically inclined too from that age. I write to heal, I write to survive, I write to learn, I write to reflect. And through poetry, I'm able to do that. Writing became a means of survival.

We often see a lot of men who are afraid of vulnerability. What made you open to it and able to share your vulnerabilities with the world?

Billy: My dad passed away when I was like three years old, so in terms of energy, I've been surrounded by female energy for a very, very long time. My aunts, my mom, my sister, they kind of just raised me, and I got to see many sides of the feminine condition. Even as a man, I had to teach myself certain things in terms of the cliché stereotypes that a man has to adhere to in society, but it became so much easier to me because I realized how much power there is in vulnerability. It's kind of weird how not having a father figure in my life emancipated that side of me, and emancipated my writing.

I'm just able to be so open and so vulnerable and not feel judged at all.

Would you say this generation has a false perception of love? What's your perception of the current state of love?

Billy: I think this generation of love is just very skewed, and it's very misleading. I don't necessarily feel like it's this generation's fault, I feel like the media has a lot to play in it. But it's very skewed, and this generation, we base love on the premise of it being a feeling, and the problem with feelings is that feelings are fleeting. So if you feel happy or you feel sad, whatever the case may be, feelings are fleeting—they come and go. And the problem with basing your idea of love on the fact that it's a feeling is that you're also giving me the permission to just come and go as well.

Love, in all honesty, is a choice.

And that's the thing that this generation doesn't really understand. When certain obstacles happen, when certain things happen, we have this tendency of just giving up because we feel like this person doesn't stimulate me anymore, or this person doesn't do this for me anymore, or I don't feel this way. And instead of just choosing to try or continue loving this person, we're basing it on feelings. And I think that's the biggest issue. I think that's why it's so skewed.

And not to say that you should stay in a relationship or connected with someone when it's getting bad or poisonous, but it's like any small thing that happens now it's like, "Nope, this person's not for me." Or, "I don't want to be with this person anymore." And it's just based off feelings of the choice. And I think that's the biggest difference between this generation and older generations.

Do you think there's a lack of accountability that's causing the disconnect? That people aren't willing to look at themselves and what they contributed to the problem?

Billy: We have this tendency of taking accountability of all the great things. When something good happens it's like, 'Yes, this is what I've put in work for, I just spoke this into my life, I manifested this, this is what I deserve. This is meant to be. I did this.' And then when something bad or undesirable happens, we tend to shift the blame onto other people. We tend to shift the circumstances and that lack of accountability is the reasons why we feel like we're very scared to peel that surface off and dig deeper. And really look at our wounds and see why we behave the way we behave or why we react to certain situations that we react to it.

And I think that's a big issue, there's a lack of accountability when anything undesirable happens.

We're just very scared of what we may discover. I think we're very scared of not being in control. This generation, we lack faith in ourselves or in a higher being, whatever your religion may be. We don't trust our intuition as much, we're not as vulnerable, we're not as honest with ourselves. We just like to play on the surface. We don't like to dive deeper because we're just scared we'll drown, and I think that accounts for a lot of relationships that go bad because we just kind of insta-Relationships or connections without really doing the work on ourselves. We haven't taken our wounds out on a date and just really explore them and see why we behave a certain way we behave, and when something bad happens we shift that blame on someone or something else. Sometimes that's not necessarily the case, sometimes it's just the case of really knowing ourselves before getting into a connection.

In your piece "An ode to a future lover," you say that there are things that past lovers taught you that you are trying to unlearn. What are some of those things and what did past lovers teach you about yourself?

With time, I've learned that love and attachment have nothing to do with each other. I think a lot of the people that I used to be with they were very attached to the idea that I had to be around for the love to mean anything, or that I had to be calling you all the time to be in love with you. I had to learn that the person that you're with has to understand that if I'm not around at certain times, that doesn't make my love any less present, or if I'm not calling you back after two hours it doesn't mean I don't love you any less.

What's the sexiest thing about a woman to you?

Without a doubt, her mind. It's not going to be the same for every woman, but the majority of women the thing that really turns me on is her mind and her way of thinking. At the end of the day, I view everyone as just a vessel, but if your mind is on another level that you can think about things so beautifully and view life on a much more intricate level, or you just have this innate colorfulness about you where you're just very kind, sweet or very caring, very involved in anything that improves you spiritually and mentally, and you're all about your growth, I think that's so sexy.

I think women who are just all about improving themselves are just beautiful women.

And that all starts with the mind and the way she shapes her thoughts and the way she thinks about herself. I think women who know their self-worth are so beautiful. And that's something that comes from the mind, it's all how you shift your perception about yourself. Nothing beats that. I feel like that's sexier than any curves or body part or anything like that.

What does being a man mean to you?

I have this duality about me that's able to empathize with men and women. I think what being a man means to me is being able to be vulnerable, and really put my thoughts out there, because not many men will do that or are too scared to do that because of how society views them for being vulnerable.

I think being a man for me is just about really tapping into my self worth and understanding that regardless of how vulnerable I am that doesn't make me less of a man. Or regardless of how soft I can be, that doesn't make me less of a man. And I think that's something I want to pass on to my son, just be emotionally intelligent and vulnerable. I'm giving myself the opportunity to be the man that a lot of men are afraid to be.

Take a moment to view some of our favorite selections by the poet by clicking through the gallery below.

For more of Billy Chapata's wise words, follow him on Twitter and 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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Featured image by Shutterstock

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