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Former Child Star Parker McKenna Posey Is Ready To Take The World By Storm

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Parker McKenna Posey has come along way since My Wife and Kids. Most affectionately known for her role as little Kady Kyle on the hit ABC primetime show, she now stars as Laila James, the struggling and seductive actress looking to make a name for herself on the new BET hit series Games People Play. And while Parker and Laila differ in the way they go about establishing themselves in the world, it becomes clear as we chat that Parker wasn't exempt from adversity both inside and outside of the industry.


The 23-year-old actress admits during our phone call that the journey to get here has no doubt been filled with both let-downs and lessons alike. Taking the form of an acting hiatus while she finished high school, moving out of town, enduring a toxic relationship, unsuccessful auditions, and even a car breakdown the night before her BET audition--Parker assures me that those hardships weren't and won't ever be in vain.

"There were all these obstacles that were testing me in a way, kind of asking me, 'Do you really want this?'" she tells xoNecole. "So to have my manager call me not too long after and tell me, 'Hey they want you to test,' was such an amazing feeling. It was like a sign like, 'This is what you're supposed to be doing and all your hard work has finally paid off.'"

She continues, "It's definitely been a struggle, but I'm just happy to be back working on something that I'm super proud of being a part of. I love the cast and crew, it's all been really fun."

We got the chance to catch up with Parker where we talked her new show Games People Play, evolution, and why letting go of dead weight is so important, and here's what she had to say.

Describe your role as Laila James in 'Games People Play'.

Parker McKenna Posey: Laila James is an LA girl. She's a struggling actress, which is funny. She finds out that it's not as easy as just being talented or auditioning every other day. She realizes that that may not always get the job done, so she takes matters into her own hands. She kind of uses social media to get followers and views and blackmail in a sense. She just uses it for her own gain and throughout the season she finds that all that glitters isn't gold basically. She likes the attention but I think in the end she sees it's not worth it. I think right now people will love to hate her but by the end, people will come to understand her.

Games People Play/BET

How does it feel to be back on TV screens in this way on a network like BET?

Parker: To be honest, that was another thing that was really important to me coming back on-screen. I wanted to be a part of an all-black ensemble. On top of that, just having the chance to be on this network is amazing. I know BET is trying to make a difference on their network and bring more scripted shows and great projects to their network, so to be a part of that is really amazing. And to have an EP that's a black woman and who's been doing this for over twenty years--I feel like that was just an incredible experience to work with her and to just be in the same room as her. The writers are black and I love that. That was really important to me. To be a part of a project that cares about black excellence, it's really important at this time.

You’ve definitely come a long way from ‘My Wife and Kids’. 2006 to 2019, that’s 13 years, what has life been like for you since then?

Parker: We finished in 2006, so it's definitely been a long, long time… I just put it on hold throughout high school and I just focused on graduating and doing my best in school. I was trying to have the most normal experience possible, and then after that I kind of jumped back into it. I was constantly auditioning and try to figure out what the right fit for me. I was getting offered all these roles that weren't really how I wanted to come back and start off my career.

Parker McKenna Posey as Laila James

Games People Play/BET

"To be a part of a project that cares about black excellence, it's really important at this time."

I can imagine the journey between now and then has been filled with many twists and turns. How were able to stay focused and motivated? 

Parker: To be honest, acting was all I've known my whole life, you know? Even after My Wife and Kids wrapped, I did a few plays, I've done so many commercials and I've gotten actually involved with modeling--so this industry is all I've known. It's something I've always been super passionate about and I've seen that if I just never give up, I would eventually get my moment. When you follow other child actresses' lives, it doesn't always end up the best, so I definitely wanted to show up in a positive way--and show that it can definitely be done. If you believe in yourself, you can definitely do it.

The name of the show is called ‘Games People Play’ and we arguably get to see a myriad of games displayed through the lives of all of the characters in various areas. What’s something you feel our generation needs to stop playing games about?

Parker: I'm not sure, I'm glad that there is a character like Laila and even if I wasn't playing her, the fact that there is a character like her--I feel like you can learn some things. I think also because people use social media in a lot of different ways, they should see that it's not all it's cracked up to be. People suffer from depression now because we're constantly comparing our lives to the things we see all day long. So I'm glad that my character is representing our age group and how we sometimes play into the social media game. Because it's kind of sad how we base our lives off of Instagram and likes and stuff like that. It's very real, its not just based off some bullsh-t.

You were in a pretty toxic relationship last year and it was unfortunately very public. How were you able to move forward and get back to the heart of Parker?

Parker: Thankfully, I have a really good family and friends who really care about me and my well-being. I'm a normal person, I don't like to really live my life online. I like to live a private life. Last year was really different for me, I just wasn't myself. And I feel like having a good foundation, writing, reading, hearing from other people's experiences and really surrounding myself with people I could lean on--that helped me. Writing how I feel--that really helped me and praying! I've become so much more spiritual. I've always believed in God and my Dad is an Adventist so we were always at church every Saturday until we were old enough to say no (laughs).

But when you're younger, it's hard to have that relationship with God and really understand. I've gotten so much closer to God, just talking with Him and not really asking for anything but just talking to Him about everything and thanking Him for being alive and for my blessings. I really had to come home and figure out what it was I wanted to do. I had to do some soul-searching and get down to the nitty-gritty of because I kind of lost myself. I had to talk with myself, meditate, hike, I got a trainer, worked out, started eating better. You know, you don't really realize how certain relationships can even affect your outer appearance. So I really needed to focus on myself, not do anything but spend time with ME and get ME back right.

"I really had to come home and figure out what it was I wanted to do. I had to do some soul-searching and get down to the nitty-gritty of because I kind of lost myself."

We often hear a lot of established and older women talking about the importance of letting go of dead weight and baggage. Erykah Badu made a whole song about it. But why would you say it’s important for you and those of us in this generation to do the same?

Parker: I really believe in taking care of yourself and letting go of any negativity. It's important to work on your mental state. You can get so much farther in life by being strong mentally. And that can start by doing something like simply working out, it doesn't always have to mean going to therapy and telling someone all of your problems. But just starting with the inside definitely helps because it shows. If your inside is not right, then your outside is definitely not going to be 100. And you can only pretend for so long before it starts eating at you. So it's necessary to let go of that dead weight and whatever you feel is holding you back.

For more of Parker, follow her on Instagram. Catch her starring as Laila in BET's Games People Play on Tuesdays at 9.

Featured image via BET

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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