Who am I?
For such a profound question, it's an answer that steadily changes. I am always metamorphosing into new versions of me. It's the reason why I've gone years without a bio on my personal blog. When I hit a moment of satisfaction or shame within myself, I can't sit with or savor it long enough before I am reaching and aiming for something else. Something new.
This is the process of someone piecing together parts to make a whole.
I am constantly refining and redefining who I am. I've wrestled with understanding my existence and wrote about my racial-ethnic identity as a Black Latina for xoNecole years ago. Publicly, I've documented a deteriorating relationship with my mother and the search for my other half through an unidentifiable father. By the other half, I do not mean in respect of another human soul intertwined in harmony with my own being, although not knowing the origins of my birth story did play a vital role in how I sought and see love. There are so many moving and missing parts to me. This evolutionary story of who am I and the road to self-actualization is why I find comfort in Beyoncé's visual albums, more often, than in the music itself. She is always giving me what I need when it comes to identity.
Bey's film version of Lemonade came at the right time in 2016. Perhaps even divine timing for most of us, myself included. We dissected pieces of the 65-minute film in academia, through blog posts, and over social media.
Her personal story—this beautiful fusion of intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, reformation, forgiveness, resurrection, hope, and redemption—mirrored our own Black lives.
Our womanism and the fruits of our wombs. Our homes and our healing. Lemonade's release happened around the time of my own birth, a Saturn return, the elements of water, and womanhood centering itself in my own world. It was life-changing for me.
Black Is King is no different.
Sunday was spent with my now three-year-old who thought an afternoon in bed would bring another edition of Frozen II. I wanted to push Black imagery to the forefront. To accompany the darkness of Black Is King's opening, we heard:
"I feel like I'm not a king yet. But, like, I got potential for it, you feel me? But I'm not there yet, you feel me? Like, I know I got the capabilities to. But sometimes I don't know how to navigate."
The opening felt like home, a familiar territory. I know that even with gaps in between the early chapters of my life, I still have lands I need to explore within myself. Who am I as the (great)granddaughter of Alabamian women and military men? Who am I beyond them? Black Is King's purpose is to transcend brick walls and to "come home to" who we inherently are. This has been the mission of my thirties thus far.
"Meant to celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry," Beyoncé said of the film's intent:
"We are all in search of safety and light. Many of us want change. I believe that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our REAL history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books. With this visual album, I wanted to present elements of Black history and African tradition, with a modern twist and a universal message, and what it truly means to find your self-identity and build a legacy…This is a story of how the people left MOST BROKEN have EXTRAORDINARY gifts."
The Lion King was always that one childhood film that had endless knowledge to draw from, but I was always pulled to the lesson that it's important to (1) know who you are and (2) know where you come from. Bey's incorporation of Africa's lands, its native people, its color, and culture, alongside her family, reiterated just that.
It was in Blue Ivy's showcase of sass and stardom at the tender age of 8 that warmed me throughout, knowing there was a Brown skin girl who would grow up with the awareness of who she was and who came before her.
So many of us were once Black girls who transformed into Black women with no recollection of the past that made us.
With tears, I celebrated the rising star that fell from the sky in the form of a meteor within the film, knowing Blue and Rumi were the exception to this visual dedication to Sir, and hoping the same for my own children. This was a moment of hope.
It was in the mesh of flesh in Kelly Rowland and Beyoncé's intimate face-to-face embrace; Bey's insight on women as saviors and protectors with our own set of plights; the encouraging poetry of Warsan Shire in lines like "Life is a set of choices. Lead, or be led astray. Follow your light. Or lose it"; and the joyous inclusion of Afrofuturism at a time where tomorrows aren't promised for Black folks, that allowed me to see how Black Is King is more than just a retelling of a classic Disney movie.
Black Is King/GIF
It was in these visual connections and pleas to return to our ancestry that confirmed for me to drop my reservations about wandering into DNA-testing territory, in order to glue the holes of my story together for the sake of myself and the children rooted in me. Introspection is dark and heavy. I have yet to weave together the puzzles by way of genetic testing, out of skepticism. What will I find? What is in me? Who's "blood keeps the score of [my] blessings and [my] trials?"
Learning of your lineage and coming into yourself comes with criticism—internally and from outside forces.
Black Is King/GIF
As evident in the film's growing opposition. Appropriation, a lack of understanding to an unfamiliar culture that many are attempting to reclaim, and BIK being seen as "an African aesthetic draped in capitalism" are all understandable critiques worthy of a deeper exploration into where African-Americans fit in, and what table we get to sit at.
Beyoncé is no stranger to criticism, nor is she exempt because of her status in pop culture on an international scale, or how she's elevated Blackness in modern times.
But to knock the messenger before weeding out the message is something I can't get behind (and no, I have never been a devout member of the Hive). Jay said it excellently in Black Is King: "Understand that good and evil often appear together. Nothing is complete on its own...It's not always a battle; it's a conversation."
Maybe the art, the film's symbolism, and its relation to my own life blinds me to "the bigger issues", truth be told. But my identity and understanding my existence is just as important. To this I sing, "They'll never take my power, my power, my power..."
Beyoncé associating Blackness with wealth/regality is corrective promotion and y’all need to be happy about it. too often blackness is associated with struggle/poverty. and the messaging I get from her often is that wealth and regality lives inside us, it’s not always material.— coffee bae (@iamsashakae) July 31, 2020
so many black people are taking African black diaspora courses in college. majoring/minoring in it. returning to af… https://t.co/2TDbNxTpnG— coffee bae (@coffee bae) 1596232681.0
"To live without reflection for so long might make you wonder if you even truly exist."
Who are you?
For years, I was bound to the narrative that I was solely a descendant of enslaved people with ties to Latin cultures and African countries. After mass consumption of films centered on that history as a child, I was turned off by "urban novels" that pushed hood love chronicles, life in projects and poverty, and the countless ways incarceration plays a guest role in our upbringing, as classic as they are.
My Black card would be revoked for sure if I told you how many street lit books I didn't read. Not because of access, but because I wanted a new account of how my life could possibly be. Because the school wouldn't teach it. Because American history tried to erase it—word to Nick Cannon. It's why I've stopped watching movies on slavery made by white men that win awards and yearn for new stories by way of my own telling or others.
Black Is King/Disney Plus
Perhaps I am not an offspring of African royalty, a reoccurring point made by critics from the African diaspora on Black Is King. Everyone isn't cut from the finer cloths and Africa shouldn't be romanticized by fantastical accounts of its history and inaccurate reflections of its modern times. I know this. But what I also know is:
I know that my resilience as a Black woman stems from some deeply rooted part of me. I know that my ability to make do with little and transform it into the most as a Black mother is ingrained in the women buried inside. I know "the Orishas hold [my] hand through this journey that began before [I was] born."
As a storyteller, I know the most used line in The Lion King to be true: that "we are all connected in the great circle of life." I am trying to piece together my own constellations and find my way home in a human game of chess.
I am both the pawn and a Queen.
Featured image by Black Is King/GIF
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The Libra woman and Aries man are the divine feminine and divine masculine, coming together as one. The love compatibility between these two is one for the books. These two are opposite signs, however, their differences tend to complement each other well. This is a dynamic relationship where they know how to have a lot of fun together, but also aren’t afraid to deal with the more serious stuff that comes with a relationship.
The Libra woman is looking for her equal in love, someone who is willing to put in the same effort she is, and the Aries man sees Libra as someone he is willing to do that with.
The Love Compatibility Of A Libra Woman And An Aries Man
What attracts a Libra woman and an Aries man to each other?
There is a magnet of attraction pulling these two together, and things tend to move pretty fast in this relationship. The Libra woman is always open to love and her charming nature rarely has any challenges here. The Aries man fights for his independence and doesn’t sacrifice that unless he is completely enamored with someone.
Once the Aries man catches the eye of the Libra woman, he is typically the one to make the first move and this instantly wins the approval of Libra.
These two feel like they have known each other forever when they meet, and this spark between them doesn’t die down easily.
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What is the relationship like between a Libra woman and an Aries man?
The relationship between the Libra woman and the Aries man is one of balance and excitement. The Aries man tends to take on the more dominant role in this relationship and the Libra woman tends to be the more receptive one. Aries is ruled by masculine Mars, and Libra is ruled by feminine Venus. They understand they are coming from two completely different worlds, yet they also instinctively feel this underlying connection to each other and like they could be something each other needs in their lives.
The Libra woman can rely on the Aries man, and the Aries man never has to ask for the love that Libra already knows he needs.
This is a couple that is often reading each other’s minds and wanting to do a lot of the same things. However, not everything is rainbow in this relationship as well, and there are some major differences they have to overcome to make things work. One argument can lead to an explosion between these two, and addressing things when they come up rather than sweeping them under the rug, will be needed to make this relationship long-term.
What is the sex like between a Libra woman and an Aries man?
The sex between a Libra woman and an Aries man is adventurous. These are two cardinal signs with plenty of energy and stamina to keep things exciting in the bedroom. There tends to be a good give and take in this relationship, and their yin and yang energy benefits them when it comes to their sex life.
There is electricity felt between the two of them in this area of their life, and their power of attraction to each other is strong. These are two people who will want to do a lot of things together, including exploring sexually together.
The Aries man will have to be careful with being overly aggressive, however, as the soft Libra woman may not like this energy- it will completely depend on the two individuals at hand. The Libra woman wants to ease into things, the Aries man wants to get going right away. Learning about each other's bodies, and energy, and reading each other’s cues will help with this.
Petri Oeschger/Getty Images
What makes a relationship between a Libra woman and an Aries man work?
These two genuinely like each other, and that basis is a key factor for success in any relationship. The Aries man is straight to the point, direct, and inspired. The Libra woman admires these characteristics in others, as she is often herself finding her balance in this type of energy as well. Neither sign is overly emotional in a way that turns them off, and they both require a lot of the same things in a committed relationship. They want honesty, fun, good communication, passion, and to be moving towards a common goal together.
The Libra woman and Aries man don’t have a problem being real with each other and this is something they really value within the relationship. They are both very charming, and there is plenty of flirtation and attraction to keep this relationship going. Aries being the protector they are, Libra finds a sense of safety and ease in this energy, and like they have found their match. Overall, this is a well-balanced relationship and one where they don’t have a problem when it comes to compatibility or chemistry in the relationship.
What may cause a Libra woman and an Aries man to break up?
Libra is the lover, Aries is the fighter, and this energy may be tiring for the both of them after time. The Libra woman can be passive to a fault, and the Aries man who is not evolved, may take advantage of that. She will need to be careful with putting Aries’ needs above her own, creating resentment later down the road. The Aries man loves a challenge, and the Libra woman would be up for that game for a little bit, but if she is not being met in the middle, she will begin to look for other places. These two can have a difficult time keeping the peace in the relationship, and there could be a lot of arguments and disagreements here if they both aren’t willing to put their egos or self-pleasing attitudes to the side.
The Libra woman and Aries man are both more sensitive than they appear or come off as. They are also not necessarily the type to dive deep into their emotions and express them to others, even in their relationships. However, this energy can keep the relationship to a surface level than what is needed to progress and grow the relationship, and a sense of openness is required for this couple to work. Libra needs romance, she wants to be wowed. Aries needs to remember this and to always consider her love language.
Overall, this is a successful pairing. They will have their fair share of challenges in the relationship, but nothing they can’t overcome if they are willing to. The trouble will come in when it comes to the longevity of the relationship, keeping Aries excited and Libra in love. However, all in all, there is more power, attraction, and love to keep this relationship together rather than apart. No relationship is perfect, but this one is a little more blessed than most.
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