June is Black Music Appreciation Month and it is a time to reflect on and celebrate the contributions made by Black musicians. While former President Jimmy Carter is credited for introducing Black Music Month in 1979, (President Biden signed a recent proclamation recognizing June as Black Music Appreciation Month) what many people may not know is that it was co-created by veteran radio and TV personality Dyana Williams, Kenny Gamble from the legendary songwriting and production duo Gamble & Huff and DJ Ed Wright.
All three were involved in the Black Music Association and launched a campaign called “Black Music is Green” which is where Black Music Month sprouted from. Dyana opened up about that monumental time for Tidal.
“The Black Music Association petitioned President Jimmy Carter to host a reception at the White House acknowledging the contributions of the Black music business,” she said. “That took place on June 7, 1979, on the South Lawn of the White House, where Gamble and I sat with President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. Dexter Wansel was the musical director, with MFSB providing the music for Sara Jordan Powell, Billy Eckstine, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Andraé Crouch, and Chuck Berry. That was the first official Black Music Month celebration at the White House.”
Black music has come a long way since the 1970s. While Black artists have continued to be innovators in music, their accomplishments are often overlooked especially if it doesn’t fit a specific genre. However, there are Black artists who refuse to be boxed in and are using their music as a form of expression, individualism, freedom, and resistance in spaces that have historically been reserved for non-Blacks.
From country star Mickey Guyton to electric pop singer Dawn, these artists are pushing the boundaries on how Black music is represented and doing a damn good job.
Mickey Guyton has made a name for herself as one of the few Black artists in country music and with that comes some hardships. With the country music industry being historically white, the “Lay It On Me” singer has faced racism from the genre’s fans and has even addressed it such as the time she responded to someone saying they didn’t want her kind in country music.
“Started off 2022 with a good ole batch of racism. I show you this so you guys continue the fight for equality and love and acceptance,” she wrote.
However, the mother of one hasn’t let racism and discrimination rain on her parade. Her single “Black Like Me” which came out during the wake of George Floyd’s death earned Mickey a Grammy nomination in 2020 which made her the first Black female solo artist to receive a nod for a country category. She was also the first Black country artist to perform at the prestigious award show.
Most people may be familiar with Dawn Richard from the groups Danity Kane and Dirty Money but since the singer went solo, she has been making music on her own terms. The “Frequency” artist has been making waves in the electronic music space as one of the few Black artists in the genre. In an interview with Kyle Meredith, Dawn opened up about how her skin color initially kept her in a box.
“As a solo artist when I did my albums, they kept calling me alternative R&B as a Black girl because I kept doing music that wasn’t traditionally R&B,” she said. “But because of the skin color that I had, I couldn’t get out of that genre. They put experimental R&B; they had to put that next to it. And what I found was though I didn’t care what I looked like, I wanted to do the music that I did, my color was limiting me and society was limiting me for that. So my entire trajectory has been to choose to say no. We belong here.”
She also shed light on the history of electronic and dance music and how it derived from Black culture although now it is mostly white men in that space. The New Orleans beauty has released six solo albums so far with her last project titled Second Line being a nod to her New Orleans roots.
The Nova Twins are taking over the punk rock scene in the UK and eventually the world. The duo, which is composed of Amy Love and Georgia South, come from multicultural backgrounds that influence their music. Amy is half Iranian and half Nigerian, and Georgia is half Jamaican and English and they have made it their mission to change the way Black women are viewed through their music.
The “Antagonist” artists spoke with NME about speaking up in spaces where they typically aren’t celebrated. “Being black women doing punk music is political, so yes. ‘Devil’s Face’ touches on Brexit, ‘Bullet’ speaks about sexism, but ‘Athena’ is completely fictional and mythological,” Amy said. “We called it ‘Who Are The Girls?’ because we didn’t always feel heard or accepted making the type of music we do, looking the way that we do. It’s definitely challenging and there is a stigma attached to it.”
The group is gearing up to release their second studio album Supernova in June 2022.
Willow Smith’s music trajectory has been an interesting one that finally saw the 21-year-old find her voice. She released “Whip My Hair” at just nine-years-old and it became an instant hit. However, the success became too demanding for the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith which caused her to rebel and step away from music at that time. As she got older, she began following in her mother’s footsteps and found herself creating punk music. The “emo girl” singer released her pop-punk album lately I feel EVERYTHING in 2021.
In an interview with NPR, Willow explained why Black artists should enter other genres and be empowered by that decision. “Black youth get taught that we belong in R&B and rap spaces, and we don't do the research,” she said. “We're not given the truth. There's no way that we would be able to follow that example, because we don't even know it exists.”
“I want to tell all the Black and brown, young girls that they can scream, they can growl, they can cut their hair, scoop it to the side, dye it. They can do whatever they want. They can make any kind of music and do it better than anyone they've seen. I want to give girls like me that confidence and that feeling of power and beauty. That's the only reason why I do anything.”
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Featured image by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for CMT
This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
Practically every woman has a smoldering group chat that’s brimming with jaw-dropping red flags–from bad dates, promising love that never quite lived up to its potential, and fractured relationships that can serve as a cautionary tale on Iyanla, Fix My Life.
Most of my dating life–up to my late 20s–consisted of surviving a deluge of red flags and mistaking them for par for the course of securing sweet love. And, I often contributed to my own toxic red flags, like snooping through my then-boyfriend’s phone without his permission. (Yes, young, immature, and capricious).
Oh, how I wish my parents had equipped me with a helpful list of green flags long before I scribbled my name on my and my older boyfriend’s apartment lease and before I packed up the shabby U-Haul along with the shattered pieces of a broken heart, several months later.
However, since we’re now living and thriving in a revolutionary conscious era of healing, self-love, and breaking generational curses, let’s focus on the good: green flags. They are the hallmarks of a soft, joyous life and, of course, healthy love.
What Green Flags To Look For In A Partner
In case you’re new to the term, green flags highlight positive actions or traits, which are usually signs of healthy behaviors.
Licensed clinical social worker, Khalida Bradford, LCSW, at A Journey of Wellness Therapy, says, “In my therapy practice, I look at the green flags in the relationship, and I always have my client identify and list what their green flags are so this can help them see what they view as important. These green flags are going to be individual and some general, but it really is going to depend on what that person values and sees fit for their life.”
Whether you’re single and dating, looking forward to returning to the dating pool, or in a committed relationship, here are 11 green flags to look for in a potential mate or existing relationship.
Respect is the solid foundation of any healthy relationship. Without respect, a flourishing love is difficult to exist. A green flag is planted when they demonstrate they can respect you. The whole you. Your hopes, cares, reveries. Your noes and yeses. They even respect when you activate your boundaries.
Bradford says boundaries are important because it ties into respect. “Having respect for someone’s individual boundaries is definitely a positive sign. When you think about healthy boundaries, you think about the need for someone’s personal space, time, privacy. You don’t want to date someone who for example, keeps calling your phone and not respecting your time at work; they’re not respecting your personal items–maybe they’re going through your stuff at home, driving by your house [unannounced]. Or, if you say, ‘My boundary is that I don’t allow people to come over to my house on the first few dates’ and yet they keep trying to come over.
"There are so many different aspects to what healthy boundaries are. And it’s a green flag if someone has already established healthy boundaries.”
2.Communication Is Top Tier
Clear and effective communication is typically a must-have skill or trait that companies require in the professional world, and for good reason. Likewise, for couples or people getting to know one another, the ability to communicate effectively is an essential building block to construing and maintaining a healthy relationship.
Forms of healthy communication include that they check in with you regularly. They are consistent in communicating. They put in the time to get to know you. Or, if you’ve been partnered for a while, they take the time to stay updated with all that’s currently going on with you. And my personal favorite: they are a good listener.
Establishing each other’s preferred method of communication is also critical. Do they prefer to text, email, or call? Do they like “good morning, babe” texts or, are after-work calls more their style? What works best for you?
As a writer/producer who sits poorly slouched over a computer typing for over nine hours a day, I prefer to give my carpal tunnel wrists, hands, and fingers a break by sending vivacious voice notes or scheduling phone calls with bae. Plus, I like the fact that I can convey my true emotion and tone through voice notes and phone calls. And vice versa, I can hear his too.
Relationships often falter simply because one or both people are unable to communicate the things they need or want. As the old adage goes, “A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.”
Thus, having top-tier communication is key because, as Bradford says, “It allows you to express your needs, wants, and concerns."
3.Safe and Secure
You’re confident that whether you have a profound conversation with them, send intimate selfies, or share a litany of unfiltered details of yourself, those moments or items are safe between the two of you.
Another green flag is that your nervous system feels at ease and peace when you’re around them or when you simply hear the cadence in their voice. They create a perpetual, safe space enabling you to feel unencumbered to give your body, mind, emotions, and the many layers of yourself.
Emotional intelligence is a cacophony of hidden gems.
Photo by Case Kenny, That's Bold of You
Emotional intelligence is a cacophony of hidden gems. It is the golden key that unlocks the treasure to build and sustain a wealth of healthy love and relationships.
Does your potential partner or current partner display empathy? Are they caring? Mature in their decision-making and responses? Are they able to control and regulate their emotions?
Conflict is inevitable, but if they’re able to regulate their emotions–such as self-soothe, diffuse a fight, admit when they’re wrong, or empathize with you–hooray! These are all signs of green flags.
Trust is like a whimsical botanical garden: In all its glory, it's built over time. You must plant the seeds of trust and continually water and nourish your efforts, long after the petals have bloomed.
A sure green flag is when you can wholly trust them–with every fiber of your being, and with your time and resources. You can even trust sharing your secrets, future plans, and dreams. You can confide in them with your past, which, let’s be honest, everyone isn’t equipped to handle. And you can trust both their words and actions.
There’s no greater euphoric feeling than the ability to trust whatever your potential mate or partner says because fidelity has been established. Like when he/she says the reason they didn’t answer their phone at 11:37 p.m. last Saturday was because they were sprawled out on the couch in a deep sleep–instead of letting your mind wander into a myriad of catastrophic scenarios, you can relax knowing they’re telling the truth. Or when they say, “She’s just a friend.” She really is… just a platonic friend.
6.Character Is A-1
As you grow and mature, what matters most in the grand scheme of life crystalizes. External factors like what they do for a living, how much money they make, how many degrees they’ve accumulated, or how chiseled their physique is, fade into the background of importance, while one’s character shines brightly in the spotlight.
Their character will demonstrate if they are reliable. Whether they are a person of their word. If they will show up when they say they will. If they’re truthful and embody integrity. And whether they uphold their character when they’re not around you.
A supportive person is also a green flag. Someone who encourages your endeavors, goals, and your loftiest dreams. Someone who celebrates your progress, wins, and success–and has compassion for your failures.
Sure, a person’s enticing, dapper appearance and status may attract you to them, but ultimately, it’s their character that will sustain the test of a relationship’s time.
Thoughtfulness and consideration are powerhouse underdogs when it comes to green flags in relationships.
Photo by Case Kenny, That's Bold of You
Whenever you scrawl your list of top “must haves” in a highly desirable partner, in your journal–or as the honeymoon has long phased out and you begin to analyze the good, bad, and what needs improvement–thoughtfulness and consideration may not immediately make your Top Five, but these two green flags are powerhouse underdogs. After all, it’s the tiny things that make a monumental difference in dating and relationships.
Bradford believes, “Thoughtfulness and consideration go hand-in-hand. Like, the way someone thinks about you; they think about how something is going to make you feel. If there’s a certain behavior, action, or situation that they may be engaged in, they consider your feelings in it. They consider how it will make you feel.”
She continues, “For thoughtfulness, it’s someone who thinks about you in a way that shows a high level of interest and effort. In essence, they’re listening to you, they’re observing, they hear what you say. For example, ‘I heard you say you had a bad day, so I’m going to schedule a massage for you.’ Or ‘I know you like sparkling water, so I bought you a case of sparkling water.' They’re showing they are both thoughtful and considerate.”
8.Generosity Is Good for the Soul
There’s nothing sexier than a magnanimous beau. There are a multitude of ways one can be generous. And generosity isn’t to be conflated with the amount of money one has, ‘cause Lord knows I’ve dated enough men who were affluent and stingy, just as I’ve known men who've had modest means but were extremely benevolent and would happily give you their last $20, plus the warm coat off their back in the middle of a snowstorm.
Do they help the less fortunate, family, or friends with their resources? Do they tip well when they receive good services? Are they willing to lend their time, talent, or natural gifts to volunteer or mentor? If so, these are just a few ways they’ve demonstrated a green flag.
Money, money, money. If you’re currently in a serious relationship or have ever been, then you, too, can attest that finances play a significant role. While every couple has their own unique set of rules as to who should pay or split the bills, rent/mortgage, and life’s other never-ending expensive expenses, a partner’s financial wellness is a tremendous green flag.
“How secure they are financially? Someone who is in-tuned and mindful about how they spend, save, invest. Someone who isn’t overspending; they spend responsibly. Those are all major green flags for a partner to have,” Bradford emphasizes.
10.Values Family and Friendships
How a person treats their family and friendships is not all-encompassing of who they are as a person (because humans are capable of compartmentalizing), but their treatment of their loved ones is largely indicative of how their actions towards you, can and will be.
Bradford notes, “Someone who is family-oriented is a green flag because you can see what their values are. Family being important to them means they will also support you and encourage you to establish and maintain good relationships with your family.”
Does your person show up for their loved ones in times of need? Do they speak positively about those closest to them? Is your person a beacon of light or a source of joy, hope, and replenishment for their family and friends? If so, wave that green flag.
11.Acceptance (For the Real You)
If bae can accept the totality of who you are, that’s a green flag. They don’t try to change you or make snide remarks about how you would be more desirable or look better if you were something else. They appreciate and adore you for who you authentically are.
And they accept that when you do inevitably change–be it physically, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise–they are appreciative of the new version of you.
I knew I had finally entered my healthy relationship era when I could freely divulge the scariest parts of me–my flaws and the emotional baggage from toxic ex-boyfriends and fun-boys–for the first time in my life. My then-partner fully embraced my most vulnerable parts and cheered me on in my journey of healing.
Becoming the Green Flags You Desire
Chile, I’ve endured an obscene amount of trial and error throughout my glorious dating and relationship years–but I’m grateful that through habitual meditation, therapy, prayer, and asking God to show me what healthy love truly looks like that I’ve finally gained clarity and wisdom on green flags that I should discern in a partner and epitomize myself.
Because after all, finding the healthy and positive traits we admire in our ideal person begins with embodying the qualities we seek in others.