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Kehlani Reminds Us That Sometimes You Fall Before You Fly

Celebrity News

Kehlani Parrish, a 23-year-old singer/songwriter from Oakland, CA is currently living her best life.


The talented performer has been killing it since she was a kid on America's Got Talent and now she works with some of the hottest names in the game while she isn't slaying New York Fashion week or launching an app, or creating opportunities for the LGBT community. Yeah, we love her too.

And not because she's this month's "It" girl, but because we knew what it took for her to get here. Recently, Kehlani told Cosmopolitan magazine:

"I'm just a firm believer in you're always being prepared for your blessings because blessings are huge. If I hadn't got prepared to get so many nos and to be closed on so many times, I wouldn't be able to appreciate all the heavy heavy great things that happened. It was all preparation."

And as she learned, falling is just a part of learning how to truly take flight. When asked what she would tell a younger version of herself, she said:

"I would tell her to keep in mind, things are coming so don't beat yourself so hard that you keep getting somewhere good and falling. Getting somewhere good, and falling. Because those falls are literally just to make the rises so much better".

Let's be honest, when you're a smart and successful woman with potential and opportunity there is no room for complaining or weakness. The superwoman complex is dangerous and unrealistic and takes a toll of women of color in a major way. Kehlani was kicking down doors in the industry and had finally found her place in the game when she was ambushed by a bogus tabloid story gone viral in 2016.

The media had no mercy and Kehlani was met with attacks so ruthless that she deleted all of her social media accounts and attempted suicide. In a since-deleted Instagram post, she captioned:

"I wanted to leave this Earth. Being completely selfish for once. Never thought I'd get to such a low point."

The way that the internet reacted to this dark time in Kehlani's life makes a powerful statement about how we as a community and the outside world perceive mental health and women of color in positions of power.

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be on stage. I looked at artists like Janet Jackson and Beyonce and I've always thought to myself, wow. I can't believe they're so amazing while all of those people stare at them. How are they not dying of anxiety? I thought they were superhuman and wanted to be just like them. I couldn't sing so I started kicking rhymes and wanted to be a rap star. I wanted people to care what I had to say, like they did Janet and B.

I was given a shot at my dream when I was 18 and featured on a reality show on MTV. So much of my life was put out to the public and I realized that there is duality to the spotlight that I desired. Not only did people see me when I was graceful and talented, but they saw me when I was weak and vulnerable, and it was a horrible feeling.

I began taking antidepressants and even though I had struggled with thoughts of suicide since I was 10, my thoughts became louder and more subtle than ever before.

"I wish I could just not wake up tomorrow." Or, "I never do anything right, I bet if I died everyone would be better off."

I read what spectators had to say about me on social media, and my anxiety increased. This was the first time I had actually wanted to die. After I had gotten everything I prayed for. I was on TV. Everyone was watching me. But I couldn't breathe.

It was difficult for me to write this article because what's even scarier than killing myself, is letting my friends and family know that it was something that I had thought about… more than once.

I know that I'll either be met with criticism that I'm too dramatic or met with pity, guilt, and disconnected sympathy.

So I buried my thoughts in my indulgence. I indulged in lethal combinations of Xanax and Adderall, or in the men that I loved, or just made love to. All so that I wouldn't have to be alone with my thoughts. I felt that after I had been on TV, people would just keep asking what I would do next and I had no clue. Kehlani teaches us all the value of shake back season.

I had been watching her story for years, and when I saw how the media attacked her after she expressed her mental illness I was disgusted and sad for her. I realized I felt that same pity that I didn't want my friends and family to show me, and I developed a new respect for her.

She told The Cruz Show in 2016:

"I wasn't a victim, you know what I mean. I'm never a victim, I refuse to be a victim—I'm not. It was really recovering from so many things at once…on the flip side, there's not too much that can hurt me now."

Kehlani was able to confront her demons on a public spectrum and became a worldwide inspiration. She is now one of the most notable names in the R&B industry appearing in Vogue, being recently featured in A Wrinkle in Time soundtrack, and working with huge artists like DJ Khaled. Kehlani also recently partnered up with Eminem to speak out against gun violence.

Despite the viral trauma that nearly burned her to the ground, she was able to channel the Phoenix that is deep inside of all of us and rise from the ashes to slay the world.

Featured image via Tenor

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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