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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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Featured image by Shutterstock
August invites you to shine bright like the sun which requires you to leave behind the sob stories of being the underdog. Recognize your power as a reflection of the Divine and watch how far you can go. Be mindful of that inner critic when Mercury enters Virgo. For every negative thought, counteract it with three compliments about yourself. When Venus enters her home sign, relationship matters get a whole lot sweeter after the wild ride that was Mercury Retrograde.
Check out how the month ahead affects your zodiac sign!
AriesAriesLaci Jordan for xoNecole
The month kicks off with a New Moon in magnanimous Leo inviting you to share your creative gifts with the world, making this a supportive time to start a new project or hobby. On the 11th, Mercury enters Virgo, helping you streamline your routine so you're not spending as much time working. When Venus enters Libra on the 16th, love is in the air. Discussions of taking things to the next level in a relationship are likely right now, Aries.
On the 19th, Uranus goes Retrograde which will radically transform your view of financial security and abundance. Get creative and don't be afraid to try something outside of the box.
The Full Moon on the 22nd inspires you to dream bigger as a result of a major accomplishment. What's next on the bucket list? The Sun enters Virgo on the same day, making it a good time to schedule your annual health screenings to make sure your body is running in its optimal condition. The month ends with Mercury teaming up with Venus, bringing some important negotiations to the table for you.
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Home and family matters are the focus on the New Moon, Taurus. Planning to add a new addition to the family, renovating/decorating your current abode or investing in new property is supported during this time. On the 11th, Mercury enters Virgo to sweeten up your love life (if you'll make some time for it). As good as work is going, it's important to indulge in some fun from time to time.
When Venus enters Libra on the 16th, you're encouraged to fall deeper in love with your body which isn't just about draping yourself in the finest clothes. Feed your vessel nourishing foods and keep your stress levels at a minimum.
On the 19th, Uranus goes Retrograde inviting you to liberate yourself through your appearance and the way you present yourself to the world. Consider this transit a rebrand of your identity. The Full Moon on the 22nd is bringing the pressure in matters of career but if anyone can handle the heat, it's you. On the same day, the Sun enters Virgo encouraging you to tap into your creative side. Don't let your inner critic stifle your self-expression. At the end of the month, Mercury joins Venus to restore balance to your life through a better schedule and some much-needed organization.
GeminiGeminiLaci Jordan for xoNecole
August begins with a New Moon on the 8th encouraging you to shine bright like the sun, Gemini. Use your voice to inspire, uplift, and encourage others to shine as well. On the 11th, Mercury enters Virgo which could be stirring up a little tension on the homefront which could make this a good time to consider making some changes in your environment--even if that means you moving elsewhere. When Venus enters Libra on the 16th, you're invited to indulge your romantic side. Buy yourself a cute outfit, ball out at Sephora, and getcho fine ass outside so somebody's son can see you.
On the 19th, Uranus Retrograde serves to transform you as you surrender your plans to the Divine plan. The Full Moon on the 22nd positions you in the spotlight to share your gems of wisdom.
Writing, mentoring, and teaching may be areas of interest for you around this time. On the same day, the Sun enters Virgo which has you laser-focused on your family's imperfections. Hold space for people's humanity. No one is perfect. Not even you. On the 30th, Mercury teams up with Venus, encouraging you to nurture your creativity and inner child.
CancerCancerLaci Jordan for xoNecole
The month kicks off with a New Moon inviting you to plant the seeds for a new financial endeavor. Expect new money-making opportunities to be presented to you this month, Cancer. On the 11th, Mercury enters Virgo which could have you more critical of yourself than usual. Detach from your inner critic and affirm your greatness! When Venus enters Libra on the 16th, be mindful of tension amongst your family. Remember, you're allowed to assert your boundaries with anyone--even mom and dad.
On the 19th, Uranus goes Retrograde, giving you a chance to adjust your perspective on humanity. Yeah, humans suck at times but there's a lot of great people out there as well. Be open to aligning with like-hearted individuals.
On the 22nd, the Full Moon liberates you from traumatic experiences that resulted in you hiding the true you. The Sun enters Virgo on the same day, making this a good time to brush up on your communication skills and learn something new. Your mind is super absorbent right now so take advantage of this by handling anything that requires brainpower, organization, and discipline. On the 30th, Mercury links up with Venus inviting you to beautify your space to host a cute dinner party for your family or friends.
LeoLeoLaci Jordan for xoNecole
August begins with a New Moon in your sign inviting you to blow out the candles and make a wish for what you want to accomplish in your next year around the Sun, Leo. On the 11th, Mercury enters Virgo, giving you a chance to organize your budget and streamline your strategy to your many different streams of income. When Venus enters Libra on the 16th, you're feeling the love thanks to all of the lovely words of affirmations and compliments that you're receiving from your admirers.
On the 19th, Uranus goes Retrograde could be uncomfortably forcing you to make some changes in your career that could be shocking to others but ultimately the best thing for you to align with your future vision of the legacy you're creating.
The Full Moon on the 22nd has you reevaluating your partnerships and whether they are compatible with your current need for freedom of expression. On the same day, the Sun enters Virgo, making this a good time to get clear on your personal values so you can avoid wasting time on pursuits that just don't matter to you. The month wraps up with Mercury entering Libra supporting you in any public speaking, communications, or writing efforts. Let yourself be heard!
VirgoVirgoLaci Jordan for xoNecole
The month starts off on a more secluded note for you with the New Moon on the 8th. Rest, reflect, and release anything that you don't want to take into your new year with you, Virgo. On the 11th, Mercury enters your sign which will pick up the pace for you. Expect to be a little busier during these next few weeks. A planner will help you stay on top of your many different tasks, social engagements, and responsibilities.
On the 16th, Venus enters Libra to help you establish some balance with how much you're spending and how much you're saving. As my mother always taught me, "Don't forget to pay yourself first."
On the 19th, Uranus goes Retrograde, inviting you to radically break away from beliefs that restrict your sense of individuality and freedom. The Full Moon reveals a blindspot that has been affecting your productivity levels. On the same day, the Sun enters your sign ushering in your birthday season! It's your time to shine! Bask in the admiration and generosity of others. The month wraps up with Mercury entering Libra which has you in the mood to renegotiate some contracts. It's time to raise those rates, honey!
LibraLibraLaci Jordan for xoNecole
Your friends and social circle are top priority on the New Moon, encouraging you to expand your network and align with more like-minded people. On the 11th, Mercury enters Virgo which has your dream world more active than usual, Libra. This is a supportive time for uncovering roadblocks within your subconscious so you can receive what you actually want instead of making up excuses for why you don't deserve it right now.
When your ruling planet, Venus, enters your sign on the 16th you are the belle of the ball. Your aura is even more magnetic at this time which has you attracting a lot of attention, opportunities, and fortune.
On the 19th, Uranus goes Retrograde to create some powerful change in your internal world. Unlearning some of your conditioned beliefs and behaviors is necessary for the breakthrough and growth you want to experience. The Full Moon on the 22nd is a supportive time to launch a creative project, go on a date, or reconnect with your inner child. On the same day, the Sun enters Virgo which can be draining your energy. Rest up for your birthday season and reflect on the lessons of the past year. August wraps up with Mercury transitioning into your sign which can feel a little demanding if you're not well-rested. Don't be afraid to say "no" to invitations for the sake of self-care.
Laci Jordan for xoNecole
August kicks off with a New Moon in Leo which is forcing you to make some changes in your line of work. It's time to think bigger and long-term when it comes to your career and your legacy. On the 11th, Mercury enters Virgo which has you feeling more sociable than usual. Take advantage of this transit and get out to mingle. You never know who you'll meet, Scorpio.
When Venus enters Libra on the 16th, be discerning about who you're welcoming into your inner circle. Everyone may not have the best intentions but that doesn't mean you can't make some genuine connections.
On the 19th, Uranus goes Retrograde which is stirring up the winds of change in your partnerships and personal boundaries. If you feel stifled in a connection, it may be time to address it or break free. The Full Moon in Aquarius could have you feeling stretched thin between the demands of family, your significant other, and your career. You can't please everyone so don't stress yourself out. On the same day, the Sun enters Virgo, inspiring you to revive your vision for a better future. Creating a detailed strategy can help keep you on track towards achieving your goals. The month ends with Mercury entering Libra inviting you to regain some internal balance after being so externally-focused.
SagittariusSagittariusLaci Jordan for xoNecole
The month begins with a New Moon in Leo inviting you to expand your horizons through higher learning, cultural exploration, and travel. On the 11th, Mercury enters Virgo which could have you feeling a little more critical of yourself. Just keep up the good work and the recognition will come, Sagittarius.
When Venus enters Libra on the 16th, you're feeling the love amongst your friends. They'll be the pick-me-up that you need to remember who the f*ck you are in all of your greatness.
On the 19th, Uranus goes Retrograde encouraging you to explore your talents and how they're able to serve others. What you once viewed as a curse may actually be a gift if you can reframe your perspective. The Full Moon on the 22nd liberates you from the shackles of conforming. You were always meant to be a stand out in a crowd of carbon copies. On the same day, the Sun enters Virgo which has you reaching beyond your comfort zone in matters of career. Shoot for the Moon and land amongst the stars. The month ends with Mercury entering Libra, supporting you in connecting with the right allies to achieve your long-term goals.
CapricornCapricornLaci Jordan for xoNecole
The New Moon on the 8th invites you to transform your pain through creative expression, Capricorn. Your vulnerabilities need an outlet. Don't feel pressured to share with others. Just do it for the sake of your emotional well-being. On the 11th, Mercury enters Virgo, making this a good time to go back to school or seek some knowledge through your travels.
When Venus enters Libra, you're feeling the pressure to make some major career moves. Just avoid stepping on people's toes on your way to the top.
When Uranus goes Retrograde on the 19th, you may feel more restless and bored with the day-to-day routine. Your need for excitement and adventure are valid so get creative on ways you can nurture your inner child while still tending to your responsibilities. On the 22nd, the Full Moon releases you from financial troubles with the launch of a new project or job opportunity that comes your way. On the same day, the Sun enters Virgo, inviting you to explore the truth within. You're much wiser than you give yourself credit for. The month wraps up with Mercury transitioning into Libra, helping you talk a good game when it comes to contracts and negotiations. Don't sell yourself short, boo!
AquariusAquariusLaci Jordan for xoNecole
Your partnerships are the focus on the New Moon inviting you to (re)establish your boundaries and negotiate new (or existing) contracts. On the 11th, Mercury enters Virgo, making this a good time to get out of your head with all of the overanalyzing and talk it out with your therapist instead. When Venus enters Libra, you're ready to pack your bags for your next excursion. Where to next, Aquarius?
On the 19th, your ruling planet, Uranus, goes Retrograde to invoke radical transformation to your idea of home and family. We can't choose the family we're born into but we can choose connections that nurture our authenticity.
The Full Moon on the 22nd liberates you from feeling the black sheep. Honor the eccentricities that make you the unique badass that you are. The right people will come. On the same day, the Sun enters Virgo which could be supportive for new financial alliances. The month ends with Mercury entering Libra, making this a good time to study, research, and write about all of those ramblings in your mind. You never know how sharing your perspective can change someone's life.
PiscesPiscesLaci Jordan for xoNecole
The New Moon on the 8th invites you to get a better grasp on your daily routines if you've been lost in the astral realm somewhere kicking it with the ascended masters. Come back down to earth, Pisces. You've got work to do. On the 11th, Mercury enters Virgo, making this a good time to renegotiate contracts and establish some clear boundaries in your relationships.
When Venus enters Libra on the 16th, it's time to get serious about paying off any outstanding debts. The less you owe, the more your finances can grow.
On the 19th, Uranus goes Retrograde which has you revamping your communication style. What strategies can you conjure up to connect with your audience more consistently and effectively? The Full Moon on the 22nd confirms that you do, in fact, have a hater in your midst. Your authenticity triggers those that aren't brave enough to be themselves and that is not your problem. They need to grow some self-esteem before they step into the presence of a goddess. On the same day, the Sun enters Virgo, which has you focused on aligning with powerful allies. The month wraps up with Mercury entering Libra, helping you regain balance between your heart and mind.
Featured image by Laci Jordan for xoNecole
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Lawd, lawd. I'm assuming that I'm not being too presumptuous when I start this all out by saying, I'm pretty sure that more than just a few of us can relate to this title and topic. I know that personally, there are several men from my sexual past who would've been out of my space a lot sooner had the sex not been…shoot, so damn good. And it's because of that very thing that you'll never ever convince me that sex can't mess with your head. The oxytocin highs (that happen when we kiss, cuddle and orgasm) alone can easily explain why a lot of us will make a sexual connection with someone and stay involved with them for weeks, months, years even, even if the mental and emotional dynamic is subpar, at best.
Thankfully, I got free from the whole "the sex is great but the relationship sucks…WTF?" cul-de-sac. And while it left me with a few skinned knees (no pun intended), I'm hoping that this will be a bit of a "beauty for ashes" kind of moment. I'm hoping that if you currently are in this exact type of situation that this read can help you to figure out what you should do about — it all.
1. How Did Things Begin?
Aristotle once said, "If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development," and when I say that there is so much truth to that right there, chile. Matter of fact, I was recently talking to a friend of mine who recently reconnected with someone from our college days. Back then, there was a young lady he messed with who had the biggest crush on him, he had zero emotional interest in and yet she still basically begged him to sleep with her. Hmph. One day, we'll have to get into the discussion of how, when a man is upfront with you about where he stands and what you can expect and you proceed with him anyway, he didn't "dog you out"; you simply lowered your standards. I'm telling you, self-accountability is where the big kids play.
Anyway, when he told me that she reached back out, all of these billions of years later, to try and strike up yet another sexual situation, only for him to say "cool, but I'm STILL not interested in anything serious" — first, I was really disappointed that she clearly has not evolved when it comes to him after almost three decades; then I found myself being kinda sorta thankful because that cyclic thing they are in is what helped to inspire the first part of this piece.
If you're caught up — or is it turned out? — in someone and you know that it has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than sexual chemistry or a man's technique and yet, you still can't seem to let ole' boy go, the first thing to ponder is how things began. Was it pretty much only his physicality that drew you in? Did you have sex faster than you probably should have? Can you even count on a full hand any real dates that the two of you have ever been on before? The reality is, more times than not, that the beginning is the foundation of things.
My friend and that girl don't have many places to go because they started off pretty foul because she wanted everything and he desired nothing but a way to get off; it's still that way. If you and the guy in your life — or is it just your bed? — don't seem to have much in common outside of sex, the way things started could reveal a whole heck of a lot about how you got to where you are.
2. Are You Even in an Official Relationship?
I believe I've shared before that a pattern I had with a lot of the men in my sexual past (check out "14 Lessons I've Learned From 14 Sex Partners") is I was friends with them yet not much more than that. On the friends tip, we were real friends in the sense that we talked/hung out often, knew a ton about each other and, with most, I shared a lot of their world with them (family included) too. So, there was a strong connection, even before coitus transpired. Hmph. Problem was, when you have sex with your friends (check out "5 Things You Should Ask Yourself Before Having Sex with A Friend"), things can get really weird because, although the two of you may be close, you're not officially anything but friends. As a direct result, you may find yourself not really knowing what to do about the relationship after the get down goes down. Then ish can really get messy when you find yourself enjoying the friendship and the sex and yet somehow, there is still a…disconnect.
That's why pondering if you're even in an official relationship (which is not something you can decide on your own; "he" has to be on the same page with you) is so important too.
If the sex is great and the relationship isn't, there's a really strong possibility that what could be going on is you're not in a relationship at all and the awkwardness of that reality is what's causing all of the internalized distress.
So yeah, figure out if the two of you are in a relationship. If you're not, do you want to be? If so, the two of you need to have a serious conversation, sooner than later. If you are in a mutually-decided-upon relationship and things suck…well, it's time to go to my next point.
3. Take Sex Off of the Table. What’s Left?
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, "Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good". One of the points that I made in it is, if you have to rely on make-up sex to "make things better" in your relationship, that is a red flag. That said, say that you are in a mutually-agreed-upon relationship and you're just not as happy in it as you thought you would be yet you stay because that man has a way of making you climb every wall in your house. If that's the case, do me a favor and, as difficult as it might be (because the sex is just that good), take sex totally off of the table. What's left? If you can't think of anything past kiddie-pool-shallow answers (you know, like "We like the same movies" or "It's not like we fight or anything"), you have some reevaluating to do…on a few levels.
For one thing, if the ah-ha moment that you discover is you're in a casual relationship and you don't mind being in something that is light, unintentional and lacks serious intention, then I guess there isn't too much to worry about. Although I will say that if that was the case, I doubt you'd be reading this all the way through. On the flip side, if you desire to be in the kind of relationship that evolves into something bigger and greater, as crazy as it might sound, you may need to literally take sex off of the table so that the two of you can see what else you've got going on.
Again, this is something that you need to discuss with him because, since you both decided to have sex, you both should discuss not having it anymore. And I will tell you this — if he's open to seeing what else you both have, there's a chance for growth. On the other hand, if he's totally not interested in a season of abstinence…I think you've kinda got your answer. This brings me to the next point.
4. Are You “Sexually Settling”? Think Hard Now.
Not too long ago, I was talking to a married male friend of mine about his thoughts on how men process sex overall. He said, "Shellie, sex is great, but we don't need it as much as y'all think if it means putting up with a lot of b — shit. We can pay someone to get off and there's no drama. The older men get, the more we realize that amazing sex is when you're with someone who you feel safe and peaceful with, there is a solid connection, and she gets off on pleasing you as much as you get off on pleasing her. Even we like to be into our partners."
Where am I going with this point? I agree with my friend, 1000 percent.
If you're able to have an abundance of orgasms with someone when the relationship is just "meh", think about how much better sex could be if you're truly in sync with an individual. Because here's the reality that, for whatever the reason, a lot of us do not want to face — you can find good sex many places; don't let the guy you're sexually hung up on cause you to think otherwise.
Not only that but for every day that you stick around, telling yourself that you're staying because the sex is so bomb, that's one more day that you're wasting when it comes to clearing the path to get the entire package. And if you're willing to waste time, just for some good "D", sis, you are most certainly sexually settling. You are basically saying that you don't deserve to be relationally happy and fulfilled both in and out of the bedroom. And that couldn't be further from the truth.
This leaves me with just one more thing to say on the topic.
5. Be Honest. Are You Turned Out? For Real.
There is one guy from my past who, we were never really friends. For a season, we spent a significant amount of time together and we had a fair amount in common, yet I never wanted him to be an intimate part of my life. He was too opportunistically creepy (I honestly don't know a better way to put it; he was just always trying to charm his way in and out of stuff) for that. So why did I allow him into my treasure trove? Because I had just come off of a relationship a few months prior, was emotionally exhausted and didn't feel like building anything substantial — not a friendship, not more than a friendship. Just wanted a sexual distraction (not saying that was smart; it was just my truth at the time). And how does all of this tie in?
You know, something that I try and drive home to my clients as much as possible is, you can't get very far if you're not willing to hold yourself accountable in your relationships. So, with all that I've already said, where I think this should end is, if the sex is great and the relationship sucks, it can never hurt to look within. What I mean by that is, is the sex good because that's where YOU are showing up and does the relationship suck because that is where YOU are putting in the least amount of effort? Are you so comfortable in the afterglow of orgasms that being sexually turned out is enough for you? And gee, if that's what's going on…is it enough for you?
Because here is something that I can assure you. If it's not enough for "him", he's somewhere getting whatever else he needs. Yeah, one day, I'll do a full piece on monkey-branching (folks who go to one person while holding on to another for safe measure) and how very few people stay content with being…discontent. For now, I'll just say, relationships don't just "suck" — they are a direct result of one or both involved parties not showing up. If you know that's you, what do you want to do about it? Is there enough, beyond sex, to try and make things work and last? Or do you need to come to grips with sex being all there is and that definitely meaning that you are on a timeclock because 98.7 percent of the time, lust, eventually, exhausts itself.
Again, I've been where some of you are. Where the sex is so mind-blowing that you're not really making the rest of your needs the priority that they should be. Yet you know how the old saying goes — if you're looking for a sign to do something different, this would be it. Sex can be great AND you can be in a good relationship too. It's your move. Time's a tickin'. Sis, moving forward, what's it gonna be?
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This article is in partnership with Staples.
As a Black woman slaying in business, you're more than likely focused on the bottom line: Serving your customers and making sure the bag doesn't stop coming in. Well, there's obviously more to running a business than just making boss moves, but as the CEO or founder, you might not have the time, energy, or resources to fill in the blanks.
Well, here's where Staples comes in. Sis, this is not just the spot to drop in and grab a few replacement cartridges for your printer or a pack of paper when you're in a jam. With August being National Black Business Month, you'll definitely want to check out the slew of resources and perks Staples offers.
Staples' professionals can literally serve as the team behind your team. Their tailor-made services and selection of products offered in-store will help you adapt to any issues life might throw at you, and they literally have everything you need to bring your small business dreams to life!
Here are 5 must-haves that Staples provides for your business that you just won't be able to live without. These small business solutions ensure you'll remain a leader and can always be where the money resides:
1. Connections with communities.
Business owners are as strong as their tribes, and Staples can help you connect with the people where you work and live via their Community Business Directory. It provides access to Staples' extensive customer base and the potential to be featured in store and via community emails (which, by the way, reach an average of 15,000 readers). Listings in the directory are also linked from Staples Connect, so you'll get the exposure you need as a small business owner. You can register your business for free at StaplesConnect.com/Small-Business/Register.
They also offer a Local Chamber Program where, as a member, you'll have access to their resources and exclusive savings of 20% off your in-store print and marketing services, as well as 10% off your in-store purchases of regularly priced items. For information on enrolling, contact your local chamber leadership.
2. Valuable tips and advice just for entrepreneurs.
The Staples' Resource Center offers content on how-tos including marketing strategy, taxes, and finances, entrepreneurship advice, and more. It's a hub that benefits entrepreneurs by giving them the insider knowledge for continuing to work at their best and the tools needed to do so.
Find out everything from how to optimize your online shop (to make the experience better for customers to stay on the site and buy more) to profiles on successful businesses to inspire your own glow up. Visit StaplesConnect.com/Small-Business for the jewels!
3. A one-stop shop for office and tech necessities.
Beyond the impressive array of top quality office supplies, technology, and equipment offered at competitive prices―from paper, ink, and toner, to computers, printers, and electronics, to ergonomic furniture, facilities maintenance, and health and safety supplies. You can't beat deals on everyday staples, like shipping boxes, premium shipping supplies
(key word: premium), and 50-pack, 3-ply face masks. And the deals on top tech, especially for those constant video calls, online correspondences, and web meetings, are indeed not-to-miss, with hot items like the iPostal digital mailbox services, the Logi H800 wireless headset, and the Logi C922 Pro webcam.
4. Shipping made more than easy.
With everything gone mobile or virtual, you can't miss out on the best ways to transport items. With Staples, you can pack, mail and ship all in one place―even rush orders. UPS® shipping services are available early and late, 7 days a week. You can even complete your direct mail projects, from design to targeting to delivery.
5. Marketing, marketing, marketing!
You can also bring your signage concepts to life―from sidewalk signs, window, wall and floor decals, to indoor and outdoor banners, to paper, adhesive, and foam board posters. Staples has experts who can help you create consistent, professional-quality marketing materials for your brand. Custom outdoor banners are offered at competitive prices, and you can get double-sided A-frame sidewalk signs as well.
And let's not forget those extra details and special touches that allow your business to stand out and put you at top-of-mind for customers, partners, or prospective clients, like business cards, flyers, brochures, postcards, menus, advertising labels, presentations, manuals, and letterheads. Going custom is always a good look, and Staples has in-store professionals to help you with this!
Staples' general managers are standing by to help you with your business's unique needs, so tap in! Let this be the year you rebound, refresh, and rejoice in the growth you and your business deserve.
To find a store and access more resources for your small business, visit StaplesConnect.com/Small-Business, today!
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"Black men, we're in constant warfare. Every day is a fight outside of my house, so why would I want to come home to more fighting when that is the very place where I should be resting? There are loved ones who I don't speak to as much anymore because they aren't peaceful people. A huge part of the reason why I am happier without my ex is she was rarely a source of peace. The older I get, the more I realize that peace really is the foundation of everything; especially relationships, because how can I nurture anything if I'm in a constant state of influx and chaos? Guys don't care how fine a woman is or how great the sex may be if she's not peaceful because there is nothing more valuable than peace. If the closest person to me is not a source of it, that can ultimately play a role in all kinds of disruption and destruction. No man wants that."
My ever-since-college friend Anthonol recently said that as I was talking to him about a conclusion that I have firmly come to after having countless conversations with men about what they prize more than just about anything in a long-term relationship. Yep, you guessed it — peace. I don't care if the guy is 18 or 60, single or married, I can't tell you how many times a man has told me that they have remained with someone or left them in a heartbeat and it was all because that individual, for them, was not a very peaceful person and/or did they cultivate an environment of peace.
And honestly, I get it. The older — and hopefully wiser — that I become myself, something that I too value is peace. I want to be a haven of peace. I want the people around me to cultivate an atmosphere of peace. And yes, I will be quick-fast-and-in-a-real-hurry to remove myself from people, places, things and ideas that do not bring peace to my space and psyche.
Personally, whenever I think of the word "peace", the Hebrew word for it comes to mind — shalom. One of my favorite things about the word is it has so many meanings. Today, I want to touch on five of them in hopes that, if someone reading this is looking of a bona fide and surefire sign that they are with the person who is truly right for them, they will 1) come to understand that peace is absolutely essential and 2) gain even more clarity on what peace is — and requires.
The reason why I picked a GIF that has the ocean in it is for this particular point is because that type of environment is what immediately comes to my mind whenever I think of tranquility. To be tranquil is all about being peaceful and calm. That's already dope; however, there is more to it than that. Did you know that another definition of tranquil is "free from or unaffected by disturbing emotions"? That said, another male friend of mine (who prefers to be off the record) said something that really stood out to me — "Women don't mind feeling a wide range of emotions throughout the day. Some of y'all will literally be like, 'I want to cry. Let me find a movie that will make that happen.' Your emotional focus and sometimes even resilience is wired like that. We like to remain as even as possible because there is so much going on that we know we need to remain centered and focused. So, anything or one that constantly triggers us to be upset, bothered or angry, we'll avoid that."
To me, here is a great place to start. When you're in a healthy relationship, it will not consist of you constantly feeling disturbed, confused or unsettled. Typically, when we're feeling that way, it's alerting us to the fact that something is…off. And if things are always off, something is…really off. No relationship is perfect and there are going to be times when things are a little disruptive. Still, if you can't use "calming" as a way to define what you are currently in, don't ignore that reality check. Please ponder what's really going on.
Another word that defines peace is agreement. Here's the thing about that, though. To agree is "to have the same views, emotions, etc." and "get along together". This speaks to having similar views, values and to some extent, even communication styles. Still, don't sleep on another definition of the word which is to "come to an arrangement or understanding". You know what this means, right? People who are in peaceful relationships, even when they don't have the same views or feelings about something, they are able to negotiate. Peaceful people are the folks who are far more interested in keeping the relationship healthy and moving forward than being right all of the time. They can compromise. They are open to hearing someone else's point of view. They can even agree to disagree when needed.
Another definition of agree is harmony. I'm a huge music fan, so that makes me think of a choir. Sopranos, altos and tenors all sound different yet when they come together and everyone knows and does their part (which is so key, y'all), the collective sound is beautiful. Men and women aren't supposed to be the same. There are proven scientific differences that help us to come together and cultivate a balance — a beautiful sound, so to speak. When it comes to your relationship, do you have similar views? Do you get along more times than not? When there is discourse, can you come to an understanding that you both can feel good about? If not…why not?
Something that I shared not too long ago is I'm a firm believer that no one should expect another person to make them happy. Humans are fallible; they tend to be pretty fickle too, so there are going to be times when they disappoint you, hurt your feelings and straight up piss you off. If you feel like they should never do that, because they should be the source of your happiness, you really should stay single because that expectation is unrealistic as all get out. I mean, do you make yourself happy all of the time? Exactly.
Same thing goes for another definition of shalom-peace which is wholeness. While a partner can help to cultivate a sense of wholeness, it shouldn't be expected of them to "make you whole". No, the focus here should be more along the lines of "containing all the elements properly belonging". Healthy relationships are better able to go the distance when they contain the "core ingredients" that make a relationship work and last — love, respect, patience, support, consistency, attentiveness and similar relational goals are certainly a great place to start.
I can't tell you how many couples I've worked with where the love is there yet so many other things are lacking. You can't ever truly be at peace in a relationship if what it takes to make one work is fractionated on some level. Is yours? It can never hurt to direct this same question to your partner too.
While it might seem a bit redundant to have wholeness and completion listed as signs of peace, even when shalom is broken down, the words are separated. I get why too. It's because while complete does mean "having all the required or customary characteristics, skills, or the like", it also means "thorough", "consummate" and "uncompromised". Let's break all three down a bit, shall we?
Thorough. When it comes to relationships (really, when it comes to almost anything), very few words are literally gonna make me literally tingle more than proactive and thorough. A thorough person pays attention to detail. A thorough person isn't negligent. A thorough person is extremely careful when it comes to what they say and do. And a person like that? How can they not be seen as a source of peace?
Consummate. You wanna know why couples can get their marriage annulled if they never had sex? It's because sex is considered to be what completes their wedding day. Yes, to consummate is to complete. It's also to fulfill and to fulfill is to satisfy. It's very easy to feel peaceful in a relationship when you also feel satisfied with the person you are with. Not that you are needy (needy people are like a bottomless pit); that your needs are being met — the needs that you've clearly expressed and your partner has verbally agreed to meet.
Uncompromised. Whenever I think of the word "uncompromised", I think of character and stability. While again, no human being is perfect, someone who operates from a space of being uncompromised is someone who says what they mean and means what they say. You can trust them because they are dependable, reliable and steady. And how can you not feel totally at peace with a person like that?
One more. Y'all, let me preface this final word by saying, it is no one's job to save or restore us. EVER. That is God's task and even then, we've got to be willing to do a lot of work, along with his help.
So, when I say that a sign that you're with the right person is that they will bring you peace and that a definition of shalom-peace is restoration…"encourage" is what I think of. The right guy will encourage you to come back to a place of health or vigor if you haven't been there in a while. The right guy will encourage you to return to an original state if you've felt lost or like you've been unclear about some things. The right guy will encourage you to improve, repair and strengthen (all words that are synonyms for restore) the areas of your life that need them. There will be something about that man that will always motivate and inspire you to want to be better — to get back to what makes you your absolute best.
Y'all, there's a reason why I entitled this article using the word "right" instead of something like, "a sign that you're in love". It's because loving someone doesn't mean that they are right for you (trust me, I've got a few T-shirts on this point). When someone is right, they are good. When someone is right, they line up with facts and truth. And when someone is right, a part of what comes with them and your relationship is peace. Loads of peace.
I'm not sure why peace is so underestimated in relationships. Hopefully, you're reading this and possibly sharing it with others will help us to maintain the healthy relationships and release the unhealthy ones. 'Cause chile, if you ain't at peace…if your relationship isn't bringing you peace…what in the world is "right" about it?
Join our xoTribe, an exclusive community dedicated to YOU and your stories and all things xoNecole. Be a part of a growing community of women from all over the world who come together to uplift, inspire, and inform each other on all things related to the glow up.
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When Ngozi Opara Sea started Heatfree Hair almost a decade ago, curly and kinky extensions weren't the norm on the market as they seem to be today, especially if you wanted those textures in quality human hair. Beauty supply stores mainly sold synthetic curly hair, and there was a surge of renewal for women who were just beginning to embrace natural styles, taking to YouTube to experiment with new techniques and styles.
"I just knew there was a market out there for women who were going natural, who were big chopping, and who wanted more human hair options for extensions, so that's where Heatfree Hair came in."
Trained as a stylist, she even went as far as traveling to China to see, first-hand, the whole process of manufacturing and shipping hair, and she meticulously came up with the right formula for wigs and extensions to match the beautiful coifs of a client base she was sure would love it.
Image courtesy of Ngozi Opara Sea
Today, Ngozi heads a multimillion-dollar empire that includes the Heat Free Factory, which runs exclusively to manufacture the company's line of products. Customers can get closures, wigs, wefted tracks, clip-ins, and ponytails in textures that range from 3B to 4C. The company ensures you're getting 100 percent virgin hair that can be dyed and styled just as if it were growing out of your scalp, and the versatility is very evident, with options that can go from blow-outs, to twist-outs, to wash-and-gos, to kinky twists, to Afros, and back.
Well, we still can't ignore the fact that the market has also changed tremendously. There are now hundreds, if not thousands, of online vendors selling curly extensions, and so many new hair companies are cropping up via Instagram and Amazon. And some brands that once only offered straight and wavy hair have been diversifying, and even beauty supply stores have finally caught up.
The difference with Heatfree Hair is that it continues to stand out, scaling for longevity in the hair space and building an online community of 200,000-plus to boot. With her factory, she's also disrupting by being self-run and self-managed. (Thus, sis is, essentially, the plug, cultivating what her company offers from start to finish versus adding a custom tag on products that were bought from a secondary source or vendor.)
Image courtesy of Ngozi Opara Sea
"We were―and still are―very selective with what we offer our customers, from how the hair is sourced, to the production, to the marketing. We want our customers to truly feel beautiful and purchase hair that they can be proud of spending their money on."
So, the question is: In what is often seen as a saturated market, how can an entrepreneur remain viable and thrive? Let's take a page from Ngozi's journey with these key points for success. (And a plus: These insights can apply to any business or industry):
1. Authenticity dominates every time.
Ngozi and her team are keen on remaining true to the company's goals of providing premium human hair that is responsibly sourced, with an emphasis on premium and proper sourcing. "When you're dealing with human hair, it's important to know exactly where it came from and to be honest about what you're getting, how you're getting it, and the quality. There's a commitment to really be part of that process and to look at what we're choosing to supply women who are going to use our products to style their hair," she added. "We don't really chase trends or what the next person or company is doing. We like to really target what we do and excel at that."
2. Trends can die but great customer service never gets old.
"We have been able to build a good relationship, and the key to that is great customer service," Ngozi said. "It's really been great because the customers we had in those early days are the same customers we have today. Customers No. 1 or No. 50 are still buying from us," Ngozi said. "And having a customer retention rate of above 40 percent just shows the level of customer loyalty we have as a company."
And what does good customer service look like? It's actually asking your customers what they like, what they would like to see in the future, and getting insights on how exactly they use your products. It's also quickly addressing issues, being relatable, and putting customers first in any initiatives or campaigns you choose to do to market your products or services. A good word on a great experience from one customer can lead to many new customers and thus, loyalty ushers in growth.
Image courtesy of Ngozi Opara Sea
3. Know when to pivot and diversify what you offer in order to continue to show up for your loyal customers―and gain new ones.
"With Covid, we had major issues with the manufacturers shutting down. HD lace had become very popular and everyone wanted it, but we couldn't get lace. There was a shortage," Ngozi said of a recent challenge her brand faced. "Well, we decided, hey, let's offer the headband wigs. And they began to sell out! Our customers really loved those, so we're glad we were able to pivot to offer that since we couldn't with the lace wigs."
For Ngozi, it was a matter of thinking of how she could cater to the needs of her customer when her company couldn't offer something else that was in demand. "It's another product part of our line that can be an asset along with, now, the HD lace wigs and closures. Oftentimes it's about timing and reacting in a way, again, that serves the customer."
4. Forward-thinking is key, and having a vision separates a short win from a long-term one.
"Listen, in 2019, we were thinking of 2020 or 2021. We're always trying to get a step or two ahead in terms of what we dream of doing. We like to strategize what we'll offer way ahead of time," Ngozi said. When you have a vision that focuses on the future, you're not so set on duplicating what someone else has done or trying to be a replica of another concept. Having a mindset that looks to the future and seeks to be a trendsetter vs. a follower of trends, is a must.
5. Do your research and build an understanding of the ins and outs of the industry you're in.
"I moved to China and really got to know all about how they made the hair, how the hair was produced, and the whole business behind it. I like to have a hands-on presence in what I'm trying to do," Ngozi said. It's also a great idea to research the ingredients, processes, and other aspects that will contribute to solving a specific problem or meeting a need. For Ngozi, it was always about being able to give women the opportunity to provide extensions and wigs that could be a positive part of growing one's kinks, curls and coils. "We just want women to enjoy the experience, to wear our products throughout every transition of not only their hair but of their lives, and to enjoy!"
For more on Ngozi Opara Sea and Heatfree Hair, visit @ngozioparasea and @heatfreehair on Instagram or HeatfreeHair.com.
Featured image courtesy of Ngozi Opara Sea