As a Black child growing up in America, Blackness can look like many different perspectives based on different locations. Oftentimes, cultural conversations are had in separate rooms with only one culture in the room – making it very easy to see Blackness subconsciously as a monolith. I'm from Brooklyn, NYC, the home of the second-largest Afro-Caribbean migrated community in America, second to Florida, according to the Migration Information Source. So as a child, the first massively Black population I was exposed to was the Afro-Caribbean community.
Then, I moved during the middle of middle school to a predominantly white neighborhood in P.A., and it was a complete culture shock. I immediately felt out of place and missing referencing Caribbean cultural topics with my friends back home. In high school, my family moved to a mixed neighborhood, and it exposed me to other types of Blackness, Afro-Latinas, Black Americans, Africans, etc. It wasn't until after college that I thought to myself, wow, I really only know one Black community in-depth, and that's the Afro-Caribbean culture because of how I was raised and moving back to Brooklyn, and it's still my main friend group.
Looking back to what I learned in my history classes, there was very little information given regarding Black history, that's only taught about 8-9% of the school year. So, 1) we're robbed about learning about majority Black American pioneers; and 2) Black immigrants' stories are often misrepresented from Black media and literature, which leaves our learning about each other through who we grew up around, self-educating ourselves, and traveling, which is another luxury in itself.
For way too long, we have been learning about every aspect of whiteness, from Italian, French, British, Germans, etc., and they are all allowed to take up space and be celebrated as separate white cultures globally. But when it comes to Blackness, we're often looked at as homogeneous and robbed the access to all those resources and tend to go off of stereotypes of each other or comparing struggles of each other's journey.
So let's be open to healing from these stereotypes and learn about our actual cultural journeys. Take a look at some of the resources below to be more informed about the collective Black women experience through the lens of various Black cultures like Black American, African, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latinas, Bi-racial black women, and transracial Black women experiences.
How To Learn More About The Afro-Caribbean Experience In America
The Afro-Caribbean community in America started increasing in the 1960s throughout the country. Many immigrants moved here thinking the "American dream" is accessible to everyone, when in reality, it's just a scam. Back in the 60s- 90s, it wasn't cool to be from the Caribbean; they were often told to go back on their banana boats to their countries because, in Black Americans' eyes, they were robbing their opportunities, but that was never their goal. They fled from their home countries that didn't face many racist issues but faced classism and economic issues.
Unfortunately, many people weren't educated enough regarding how the Black American community was treated at the time; Afro-Caribbeans heard stories of how intense segregation and Jim Crow Laws were, but hearing about it and living it are two different experiences. Like many immigrant communities, they tend to flee from their countries to spaces that many other people from their communities are, so some of the biggest Caribbean communities in the States are in Florida, NYC, and Atlanta, but they are also sprinkled throughout the nation as well.
Some books to read to familiarize yourself with the Afro-Caribbean experience in America are Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream by Christina M. Greer and Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realitiesby Mary C. Waters. You can also check out a phenomenal documentary series called Small Axe, directed by Steve McQueen, based on the initial migrating Afro-Caribbean community in the U.K. called "Windrush generation."
How To Learn More About The Black American Experience In America
You would think learning about the Black American experience is easy because they are the dominant Black community in America. However, we live in a timeframe where Black culture is celebrated more than Black history. And often, Black history is ostracized from American history, so it's harder to access it if you aren't self-learning.
The community that deserves the most flowers for paving the way for all Black people in America is Black Americans – for all the doors they've opened thus far.
I think it's essential to read some older books based on the Black American experience from the past few decades prior to be more effective with combating issues in the present. Frequently, patterns of oppression repeat themselves but through new ways in a different generation.
Some of my recommendations for every Black person to read is The Autobiography of Malcolm X, written by Malcolm X, and Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by Bell Hooks, which is an informative read about the history of Black feminism in America. There are countless recommendations regarding the modern-day Black experience, likeBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The New Jim Crowby Michelle Alexander. The latter thoroughly explains today's modern-day slavery in the nation's mass incarnation system that disproportionally targets Black men.
How To Learn More About The Afro-Latina Experience In America
The Afro-Latina experience feels like such a new age sub-culture of Blackness because for so long, I just heard several Latinas say they were just 'Latina' as if it's a race, or they would say they are Black, but they just speak Spanish based on where they come from. But the truth is, Afro-Latinos collectively have existed for generations. According to Pew Research Center, "for a long time, several Latin countries didn't collect official statistics on ethnicity or race, especially from populations with African origins." It was only within the last few years it's been recorded because of the high demand of minority groups requesting it. This means that many people aren't fully aware of their racial background from those countries.
Afro-Latinas, like Haitians, have another layer of an intersectional Black experience in America because their first language is Spanish, French, or Portuguese. Anyone coming from Hispanic countries, inclusive of the Caribbean, Central America, South America, that comes from African descent are Afro-Latinos. Their race is Black, and their ethnicity is Latinx.
An educational documentary series I watched recently called Black in Latin Americaopened my eyes to the lineage and discrimination of Afro-Latino communities in Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Dominican Republic, and Brazil. And a great read to get acquainted with to learn more about the Afro-Latina experience in America is The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United Statesby Miriam Jiménez Román.
How To Learn More About The African Woman Experience In America
African women are a unique group of Blackness because they aren't included in the Black diaspora because they come from the motherland. So to all my African-American sistas, you aren't the only ones that don't know where you come from. Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Latinas also don't know our full roots because we were brought to these western countries based on colonization and slavery.
Don't let our new flags, foods, and cultures fool you; we have always been digging to learn about our African roots too.
They also come from predominantly Black countries that are more fixated on classism and don't deal with as many racist issues as Afro-Caribbean countries. Africans have another intersectional Black experience to deal with in America; many of them speak languages other than English as their native language, like Igbo, Hausa, Oromo, Yoruba, Portuguese, Francophone Africa, etc. An enlightening read to start with is Voices of African Immigrants of Kentucky: Migration, Identity, and Transnationilty by Francis Musoni, Iddah Otieno, and Angene Wilson.
How To Learn The Black Bi-Racial Woman Experience In America
Being a Black Bi-Racial woman in America is a subjective experience based on how you were raised, if both partners were in your life, and what race you look more like. Black bi-racial women are perceived and treated very differently in society based on how dark or light their complexion is, as well as what their hair and facial features like. What could be perceived as two people from different backgrounds in a loving relationship and having a child in the world brings forth a range of conflicting issues to deal with once this child is born.
Most individuals in the world aren't mixed, and they often want their child to choose their race more than their partner's race. I've been there myself because I'm a bi-racial Black woman, that has always identified as more Black based on how I was raised, the parent I was closest to, and what I look like more. But my experience isn't apples to apples with other bi-racial black women that may look less Black or identifies more with her non-Black side.
Then, there is the you're never Black enough to lead the protest, or you can't speak to the Black women experience because you're not "fully" black conversation. And there is a long list of bothersome fetishes as if we chose our racial ethnicities or our existence is some hip trend. Overall most bi-racial people never feel like they truly fit, and we're interrogated of whether or not we are being Black enough or enough of our other race. An informative read exploring the Black bi-racial journey isHalf and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural by Claudine Chiawei O'Hearn. You can also check out this documentary called Armor: Biracial in the Deep Douth directed by Sarah Gambles.
How To Learn More About The Transracial Adopted Black Woman Experience
Transracial adopted Black women are Black women that are adopted by non-Black families. This experience isn't often spoken of in-depth, and it was brought to my attention when I listened to an episode on the Therapy for Black Girls podcast where Dr. Joy Bradford interviewed Judith Sadora about the transracial adoption process. People often see adoption as something to be grateful for, but it's more responsibility to adopt a child outside of your race. It becomes the adopted parents' responsibility to teach and provide resources for their children based on how the world sees them and is going to treat them.
However, many people aren't aware of the additional responsibility and just raise them as their race. And because of that, transracial adoptees often grow up with a lot of identity issues, having no biological parents to reference for things that speak to their direct racial issues.
Some good resources to inform yourself about this particular journey are tuning into the bonus episode of Therapy for Black Girls podcast interviewing transracial adoptee Angela Tucker. You can also tune into her podcast, the Adoptee Next Door Podcast. Also, one of my favorite shows currently streaming on Hulu, called This is Us, is a heartfelt show that features a transracial Black man growing up searching to connect with his Blackness all throughout his life.
There is so much power with learning our stories! It's an unfortunate reality that the world is currently complacent with obsessing over Black culture rather than they are about learning about all the beautiful layers of the Black lineage. The more we are open to learning about each other's specific journeys allows space for less criticizing and the more empathy that we can extend to each other. No more crabs in a bucket lifestyle; we need to change the narrative because it's always gone against us with every other culture working together to help each other, not hold each other back. We all have unique qualities to contribute to the collective Black lens.
As brother Malcolm would say, "Without education, you're not going anywhere in this world." Without learning about each other, it limits our collective growth when staying in segregated cultural Black communities, so be the pan-Africanist you want to see in the world.
Featured image by Getty Images
Ajeé Buggam is a content writer and fashion designer from New York City and an alumna from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She specializes in writing about race, social injustice, relationships, feminism, entrepreneurship, and mental wellness. Check out her recent work at Notes To Self
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
Finding Your Perfect Match: A Guide To Sex Toy Shopping
Have you ever walked into a sex toy store and didn’t know what the hell to buy because everything looked fun and intimidating all at once? Sex toy stores are a vibrator overload; there are pink ones, twirling ones, remote-controlled ones, and ones that look like penises. Can you say overwhelming? As a former sex store employee, I can’t begin to tell you how many customers I would see walk into my store with that “deer in headlights” look on their faces. I mean, I get it–there are sex toys EVERYwhere!
And all of them claim to have promising features designed to take your pleasure to the next level. I loved working at the sex store, mainly because I love all things sex toys, and secondly, I absolutely loved helping the customers that came into our store find their perfect match. I made it my personal mission to make sure each and every customer left feeling more informed and less nervous than they did before entering. When shopping for a new sex toy, there's a lot to consider. With so many options, it can be hard to decide which option is best on your own– especially if you are new to this scene– but it doesn’t have to be a daunting task.
A sex toy purchase should be a well-thought-out decision. Before you even set foot in a store, there are things you must ask yourself, such as what you want from your new toy. Will the toy be used with a partner? Decide whether you wish to purchase your vibrator in-store or online, the materials you prefer, and the price range. Knowing what you’re looking for beforehand can save you both time and money. But don't worry, you're not in this alone.
Consider me your personal sex toy Fairy Godmother who's here to hold your hand every step of the way. And by holding your hand, I mean I’ve created my own “how to” guide just for you below.
Know Your Needs:
Whether you’re buying your first sex toy or adding to your collection, it's essential to understand what you want. Are you looking for something to use solo or with a partner? Do you prefer clitoral or G-spot stimulation? Or do you crave something that can do all the work for you? Once you’ve identified your needs, it becomes easier to narrow down your choices when shopping.
Research Is Key:
Before walking into a store or making a purchase online, take some time to research the toy you want. Check the reviews and the product description to know what others have to say about the product. This is important since the experience of others can help you make an informed decision.
Set a Budget:
Sex toys come in different price ranges, so it's always a good idea to set a budget. It's easy to get carried away and overspend, but it's important to remember that expensive doesn't always mean better.
Size Does Matter:
Sex toys come in different sizes, shapes, and textures, so finding one that fits your body and preferences is vital. Don't be afraid to pick it up, feel the texture of the material, and read the product’s measurements to ensure you make the right choice.
Ask for Help:
Sex toy shops have amazing assistants that are always ready to help you make a decision. They can provide you with informative suggestions while ensuring your privacy is maintained. Don't hesitate to ask them about the products' features, how to use them, and how to clean them.
Sex toy stores are not scary places. Remember to take some time to understand your desires, do your research, set a budget, know what size you prefer, and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Sex toys can be a game-changer for your sexual experience, and with these tips, you'll be on the path to finding your perfect match.
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