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Multi-Hyphenate Serayah Talks Compromise & Why She'll "Never Be The Same"

"I've definitely matured and learned so much about myself and what I want to be and who I want to be in this world."

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FOX's Empire coming to a close may be the end of the road for the Lyon family and longtime fan favorite Tiana but as far as Serayah is concerned--things are just getting started. Admitting to being bit by the performing bug at about five years old, the insanely beautiful multi-hyphenate had big dreams from that point on of making a name for herself in the industry--and it's pretty safe to say that she's now living those same dreams out day by day. The Cali native has since been linked to some of the biggest names in the music industry such as Taylor Swift and Chris Brown.

And after giving fans a taste of her own musical prowess with her debut EP Addicted in 2018, Serayah is serving up something new with her forthcoming project Ray in June. Let's just say, the "Never Be The Same" singer is now set and ready to take center stage. xoNecole recently got the chance to catch up with the 24-year-old entertainer to talk all things Empire, her quarantine self-care routine, and why she says learning to compromise is a major key in relationships.

xoNecole: How have you evolved personally and professionally since being a part of ‘Empire’?

Serayah: Professional-wise, I've learned so much about the business. Personally, I just grew up. I started at 19 and six years later: I'm in my twenties and I'm a different girl than I was when I was a teenager. I've definitely matured and learned so much about myself and what I want to be and who I want to be in this world.

"I've definitely matured and learned so much about myself and what I want to be and who I want to be in this world."

What life lessons have you learned from your co-stars that helped you along the way?

A major life lesson is probably just to go for it and don't hold yourself back. Taraji [P. Henson] always says just go for it and don't hold anything back. And I think that's her mantra as you can see, she's a powerhouse. So I've always taken that advice from her and just shake off anything else that I've been going through during my day and turn it into my art.

Has there ever been a moment in time, maybe in life or in love, in your past that has changed you or that you really learned a lot from? Where maybe you felt like you’ll never be the same after this?

Yeah, I think with past relationships: I learned what I like and what I don't like and not to hold grudges. I learned so many lessons in 2019, growing past immaturity and egotistical thinking. And I think that's a daily thing that we all should try to do and it's something that I'm aware of now. It's hard because you're dealing with yourself so you have to be completely 100% with yourself, right?

"I learned so many lessons in 2019, growing past immaturity and egotistical thinking. And I think that's a daily thing that we all should try to do and it's something that I'm aware of now. It's hard because you're dealing with yourself so you have to be completely 100% with yourself, right?"

What has been the most surprising thing to you when it comes to love?

Mmm, let me think about this one (laughs). Probably compromise is a big thing, I think. And understanding. I think before we judge and before we get so mad at certain things, we should try to understand where another person is coming from. I learned that you're dealing with another person's past and history and life, so I think in relationships you have to be a little bit more gentle with certain things. Everybody doesn't have the same triggers but some things don't go down smoothly with some people. So, I think learning those things and trying your best not to do them and compromising in certain areas is where it's at.

What has been the most challenging thing to you when it comes to love?

For so long, you're so used to running your life the way you want it to run, that you never really think of someone else's opinion or thoughts on something. Especially when you're an opinionated person. So I think for me, it was learning to see where someone else was coming from and putting myself in their shoes to understand things and not be defensive.

"I learned that you're dealing with another person's past and history and life, so I think in relationships you have to be a little bit more gentle with certain things. Everybody doesn't have the same triggers but some things don't go down smoothly with some people. So, I think learning those things and trying your best not to do them and compromising in certain areas is where it's at."

What's been your quarantine self-care routine? How are you dealing?

I've been trying to deal. I've been doing some deep conditioning with my hair. I've also been bored so some days I put on a wig and do my makeup. But really it's just: wake up, get coffee, check my emails, see if there's anything I need to do for the day, then the rest of the time I'm just thinking of ideas for content. Why not? We have all this time.

What's next for you?

I wish I knew for sure (laughs). But I am definitely releasing new music in June, I'm releasing my EP. I'm still auditioning and I have some things in the works for film ideas, but for the most part I'm just seeing what I can get into after all this quarantining is over.

"Miss You" and "Never Be The Same" are available to stream everywhere now. And for more of Serayah, catch her on Instagram: @serayah.

Featured image by Shaun Andru/Instagram

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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Michelle Williams On Depression, Healing & Why It’s Important To Check In With Yourself

"Now, the only label I've got that matters is God's: God's creation. God's work. God's child."

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