Quantcast

How 'Hella Opinions' Is Redefining Black Media On Twitter

Sylvia Obell isn't a new name to many in the industry.

Culture & Entertainment

Sylvia Obell isn't a new name to many in the industry.

The North Carolina A&T and Columbia Journalism School graduate has held multiple stints at some of today's leading media outlets, including her current role as entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News. While tasked with the constant work of reading, researching, and reporting today's biggest breaking news to the mainstream, Obell also has a responsibility to serve a demographic that is undeniably forgotten about consistently in media: Black people.

That's why Hella Opinions, an unapologetically Black show, initially started to recap the popular HBO show, Insecure, means so much to the journalist. "It provides a safe space for cultural references that don't have to be explained and codes that don't have to be switched," Sylvia told xoNecole. "We can talk freely like we would at a kickback among friends and occasionally break into songs from Sister Act 2 without judgment. That's a real thing that happened last week."

Read on to learn more about Hella Opinions and the dynamic team of Black creatives behind it:

How did you get into journalism and storytelling? Did you always know you wanted to tell other people's stories?

Writing was always my strong point in school, I enjoyed it but knew I didn't have the patience to be an author full-time. My love for pop culture magazines and Black magazines that told our stories led me to journalism. Being able to help someone find their story, and amplify it in a way that could inspire/inform/empower others was definitely the allure to me early on when I was just a local news reporter, and even then I would highlight a real-life Black woman doing something impactful in her community; that was at my first job at Essence in the "10 Things We're Talking About This Month" column.

How did 'Hella Opinions' come to be? What was the original thought process behind the show?

BuzzFeed News had gotten into original programming the year before with AM to DM and was accepting pitches. Our Entertainment News editor, Kovie Biakolo, pitched the idea of an Insecure aftershow for Twitter Live with me tied to it as the host. She felt like both the show and I understood the pulse of Black culture and the conversations Black millennials are having as a result of shows like it.

On my end, I had been guest hosting AM to DM over the past year and it had become clear to me and higher-ups like Shani Hilton and Cindy that I was good on-camera. I had been thinking of the right opportunity to do something outside of the morning show so the pitch from Kovie was perfect, and I jumped on immediately to help her develop the show. The "Men Are Trash" segment was one of my first ideas. The name of the show was actually one of the very first I came up with, but we pitched like 100 others before we ultimately came back around to it.

Now more than ever, we're seeing more Black creators create our own lanes and champion ourselves when mainstream media doesn't do it. How does 'Hella Opinions' add into that celebration and into the larger conversations we're having right now?

My favorite thing about Hella Opinions is that it provides a lane for Black media personalities and experts to come on a platform like BuzzFeed. It opens a lane for them to reach a people they may not have been reaching or flex muscles they hadn't been able to at their current job. There's so many talented black creatives in the city that deserve a chance to be seen on a mainstream platform, I'm happy that Hella is playing a small role in doing that. The result of having an intentionally curated Black-only panel is that the conversations are automatically genuine because we are the ones pushing, leading them on social media.

"The result of having an intentionally curated black-only panel is that the conversations are automatically genuine because we are the ones pushing/leading them on social media."

A lot of people don't know the time and resources it takes to produce and run a show. How do you balance a show and your 9-5, and what type of research and work does it require of you?

Yeah it's definitely a lot, but thankfully I have an amazing team made up entirely of Black women – something I can thank EP's Kovie and Tracey Eyers for because they made the hires and manage the staffing. The show's senior producer Donya Blaze really took the baton and ran with it when she came on for S2. We were working on re-developing the show from an Insecure aftershow to a nightly show with a Black culture lens and she gave it a script format that manages to do just that.

Together, with our new segment producer Diane Oswu (who truly gets my humor), Donya created segments like "Unpack It" where we have a deep conversation about issues pressing the Black community on and offline; "Black AF" trivia; "Preaching or Reaching" where we decide if selected tweets are doing the most or just enough; "First of All" which is basically our version of hot topics.

There is nothing else on Twitter right now like the show. What do you think has added to the show's success and the dialogue that it is having on Black media?

I think it's that there are so many great Black culture podcasts, but not many video shows that have the production quality that a company like BuzzFeed is able to provide. I love seeing our energy play out, the way we laugh, dap each other up, roll our eyes, make faces, sip tea (or in the case liquor) – those are things you miss on a podcast. Black people are also just beautiful AF and I love seeing us on camera every chance I get so I'm just happy to be able to provide one of those chances. There's also the way we incorporate Twitter, we also use tweets to drive the show's conversation because we want it to feel like an extension of the conversations we're all having on the platform.

What is missing in today's media? What is the show adding to our communities?

I'm not sure how many FUBU productions exist with this kind of budget but there's definitely not enough. This show is run by Black women behind the camera and on camera. All the major positions are filled by us. I've never had this much freedom over the kind of content I'm creating, it's something I want as many Black women to feel as possible. Give us all shows! Let us write and produce everything. Sometimes my guests catch themselves mid-conversation like, "Oh can I say that?" or "oh my bad I just said nigga" and I'm constantly reassuring everyone that they can be their unapologetic Black selves.

And these are folks who are not new to this media game. I can't wait 'til experiences like this are more common than not with us. The short of it is, what's missing from today's media is more Black women being given the reins to have fun on the job. I get to have fun with old and new friends week-to-week; that energy translates to those watching. At least that's my hope.

Instagram/ @sylviaobell

"What's missing from today's media is more Black women being given the reins to have fun on the job. I get to have fun with old and new friends week-to-week; that energy translates to those watching."

What's next for you and for Hella Opinions?

We've been really fortunate that BuzzFeed News has decided to continue to invest in this season enough for it to be about twice as long as the first. It would be great if brands could notice what we're doing and see this as a show they'd like to sponsor in some way; to pour back into us as we attempt to pour into our community. I told myself from day one, "This show will do for my career whatever it's supposed to do for my career."

If I put too much expectation or stress on it, I think it would show and also eat at me all the time. Digital media has taught me to only plan about 3-4 months ahead at a time because things change quickly and often. What I do know is that whether this show lasts a long time or not, hosting is something I'm good at and want to continue to do for as long as I can. And that's a sentence I would've been shocked to hear myself say this time last year.

For more Sylvia, follow her on Instagram @sylviaobell.

Originally published on January 9, 2019

Featured image courtesy of Sylvia Obell

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
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

Every day, Black women elevate the world. We are trendsetters and visionaries; the shapeshifters that lead by virtue of presence alone. In a world that sells our identities for consumption, we remind everyone that joy is our birthright and the grace we carry will always be authentic. Our existence is not a social experiment but a crafted emblem of perfection. And for that, we deserve everything good this world has to offer.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

Mj Rodriguez has been giving us all of our lives since she emerged on our screens as the ever-so-fabbbulous Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista in Pose, in 2018. Since, she has captured the hearts of many all over the world, from LGBTQ advocates, to everyone in between. The beloved series officially came to a heart-wrenching end, after three seasons of tackling homelessness, sex work, the rejection that the trans community deals with on a daily basis and combined it with heart and dance to captivate millions around the world weekly.

Keep reading... Show less

Sometimes, when things are a little "off" when it comes to our health, there are simple steps that we can take to get ourselves back on track. For instance, did you know that around 92 percent of Americans are considered to be vitamin or mineral deficient in some way? And since there are core nutrients that all of us need in order to function properly, it's important that we're aware of what certain deficiencies are directly linked to.

Today, that is the focus. Here are eight health-related issues that, oftentimes, if we'd just add more of a vitamin or mineral into our system, we will start to feel better in no time (technically a couple of weeks but you get my drift).

1. Muscle Cramping

media.giphy.com

Something that happens randomly to me sometimes is I'll have a muscle that cramps up, seemingly out of nowhere. Then I'll snack on a banana and start to feel better. You know why? It's because bananas are high in potassium and potassium is a nutrient that our system needs in order for our muscles to easily contract. If you sweat a lot or don't have enough fluids in your system, you can become a high candidate for being potassium deficient. As far as how much your body requires on a daily basis, it's somewhere between 3,000-4,000 mg a day. Foods that are a good source of this mineral (that is also an electrolyte) include mushrooms, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and lentils.

2. Lip Cracking

media.giphy.com

If your PMS is off the chain or you've been catching a lot of colds lately, it could be because you need some more Vitamin B6 in your life. However, a telling sign that this is almost definitely the case is if the corners of your lips are cracking or even if your tongue feels a bit swollen.

The main thing to keep in mind with this point is if you're noticing indications that you could stand to have more Vitamin B6, there's a pretty good chance that your system has gotten close to totally running out. And just how much does your body need of this vitamin on the daily? About 1.3 mg. Up it up to 1.5 mg if you're over the age of 50.

Foods that are loaded with Vitamin B6 are peanuts, poultry, oats, avocados and pistachios.

3. Brittle Nails

media.giphy.com

If it seems like no matter how much pampering you do to your nails, they are brittle and breaking, that could be an indication that you are low in iron and/or Vitamin C. The reality is that just our periods alone can make us vulnerable to having lower iron levels. And just how much should you be getting into your system? A lot of healthcare professionals recommend somewhere around 14.8 mg each day. As far as the Vitamin C goes, not only can you have brittle nails when you're not getting enough of it, this is a nutrient that makes it easier for your body to absorb iron too. 75 mg per day of it is recommended (120 mg each day if you're pregnant or are breastfeeding). Foods that are high in iron include beef, dark leafy greens, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and broccoli. Foods that are a good source of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, potatoes, berries and Brussel sprouts.

4. Allergy Symptoms

media.giphy.com

If you've got allergy symptoms that are driving you totally up the wall or you're someone who deals with asthma or eczema, these things can be so much worse for you if you are low in omega-3. Long story short, they're fatty acids that pretty much every part of our body needs from our skin and hair to our reproductive system and our heart. Matter of fact, I actually read once that if you tend to have an excessive amount of earwax, that can also be a heads up that omega-3 is lacking. As far as how much is good for you, 1.1 grams daily is enough. And as far as foods that have omega-3 in them, those would be walnuts, spinach, salmon, chia seeds and eggs.

5. Weakness

media.giphy.com

Magnesium is both a mineral as well as an electrolyte that helps to regulate muscle and nerve functions and keep your blood sugar in balance. Well, when you don't have enough magnesium in you, it can cause you to experience extreme amounts of fatigue and weakness. A part of the reason why is because magnesium is what helps to keep your potassium levels where they should be. So, when your potassium levels are low, your muscles will not perform with as much strength as they should. Somewhere around 315 mg each day is what your system requires. Foods that are loaded with magnesium include whole grains, pumpkin seeds, halibut, bananas and dark chocolate.

6. Hair Loss

media.giphy.com

One of the main things that all of us need in order for our hair to flourish is zinc. It's a mineral that assists with hair tissue growth and repair, fights dandruff and, it also helps your scalp to produce the sebum that it needs for your hair follicles to remain healthy. That's why it makes a lot of sense that if you're low in zinc, you could possibly suffer from some hair loss or, the very least, hair breakage. What can keep your tresses in good condition is if you consume around 8 mg of zinc daily. Foods that are high in it include Greek yogurt, cashews, black beans, sesame seeds and kale.

7. Sleepiness

media.giphy.com

OK, if you're out here getting less than six hours a night on a consistent basis, that's probably not an indication that you are lacking a nutrient; what that probably means is you are sleep deprived.

However, if it seems like no matter how much sleep you get at night and/or naps you take during the day, you are still sleepy as all get out, what that could be telling you is that you are low in Vitamin B12. I can personally attest to this because I was sleepy a lot (and I get no less than six hours a night and sometimes a nap) until I started taking a B12 supplement. When you're low in this vitamin, it can trigger sleepiness or even sleeplessness because it plays a significant role in maintaining your energy levels.

It's kinda crazy that a lot of us are Vitamin B12 deficient when most of us only need .002 mg a day of it. Anyway, foods that are a good source of this nutrient include liver, fortified cereals, shellfish, nutritional yeast and milk alternatives (like almond or oat milk).

8. Food Cravings

media.giphy.com

Last fall, I wrote an article about signs that you've got a sugar addiction going on (you can check it out here). One indication is if you're constantly wanting to eat sweets all of the time. Well, along these same lines, if you're experiencing food cravings, that too could mean that you've not some nutrient deficiencies happening. Sweets typically mean that you can stand to have more magnesium or tryptophan. Fatty foods mean you need more calcium. Red meat, caffeine or the desire to chew ice means you're low in iron. Salt is oftentimes connected to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance.

Wanting to eat bread all of the time could also mean that you could use a tryptophan boost (because you are looking for something to make you feel better and bread is a comfort food. Tryptophan helps to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin so that you don't want bread as much). Foods that are high in tryptophan include tuna, cheese, turkey, milk and apples.

While I certainly wasn't able to tackle all of the nutrient deficient-related issues that exist, take this as a bit of an intro cheat sheet. Again, if you are currently experiencing any of these issues, try getting more vitamins and minerals into your system. You might be surprised just how big of an impact...a little bit of tweaking can make.

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.

Featured image by Getty Images

I can honestly say that I haven't used Cantu since I went natural back in 2016. It's not that I don't like the brand — let's be honest, Cantu is the holy grail brand that a lot of us probably started our natural hair journey with. It was and still is affordable, accessible, and effective haircare. I somewhat strayed away though because it's very easy to get caught up in trying different brands that some products honestly just get lost in the sea of haircare. Nevertheless, Cantu has dropped a few collections that I couldn't help but try. One of their most recent drops is the Jamaican Black Castor Oil line which works for all hair types but is made with 4C hair in mind.

Keep reading... Show less

Born between December 22nd and January 19th, these Saturnians are notorious for being pragmatic workaholics who are constantly striving to reach the peak of their proverbial mountain of acclaim and success. Ruler of the 10th house, Capricorn is no stranger to grind as they are internally driven by their duty to fulfill their obligations.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

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."

Do you have a story to share?

Latest Posts