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The 60-Second Instagram Series For Black Women Who 'Ain't Got Time'

In a perfection obsessed, social media driven world, two Black women strive to provide comic relief - one minute at a time.

Culture & Entertainment

Since the inception of shows like HBO's Insecure and Netflix's Chewing Gum, millennial Black women have sought comic relief from the pressure of simply being us.


As empowering as it is to soak up the fierceness of Olivia Pope and Cookie Lyon, it's hard sometimes to draw a correlation between what being a Black woman looks like and what being a Black woman feels like. We make mistakes, we have weird inside jokes with our friends, we fail at our jobs sometimes, and we struggle with the highs and lows of dating in the age of social-media. We swipe through our timelines and feel that pull in our gut willing us to compare our realities with the posed and poised images of influencers and thought leaders. It's a lot to be a woman in 2018, and the pressure can feel like it's pushing us through the floor.

Thank goodness for creators in media who have used their time and talents to offer a different narrative.

For Jessica Washington and Chloe Longchamp, best friends and co-creators of the Instagram series SZNED (pronounced "seasoned"), turning the tables on the common Black narrative was on their mind since graduating from St. John's University together in 2013. "When we met, we bonded over our similar, random and sometimes crass sense of humor, " says Jessica.

They sat with the heaviness of post-college life and that ever-looming question, "What now?" As they settled into their mid-twenties, they found themselves feeling bored and unfulfilled creatively. They wanted to fill their time with something that would keep them busy and make them smile, or even better - laugh. So, they decided to put their college experience, in PR and production respectively, to good use and develop a comedy series.

Their objective was simple: look at daily life for 20-something Black women and find the humor. "We toyed with the idea of creating a full-blown web series," Jessica explains, "One weekend during the fall of 2016, we spent an entire evening brainstorming potential loglines, conceptualizing themes, and developing characters."

But, eventually the pair got so overwhelmed by the idea of how costly production would be that they actually scrapped the entire project. A year later, Chloe raised the idea of creating a smaller-scaled version of their series idea. Instead of full-blown traditional episodes, she suggested developing the series for Instagram and keeping each episode 1-minute each in length. "We revisited our character development notes and re-evaluated the direction of the show, and by the next week, we filmed our first three episodes."

The show's main characters are Jordyn (played by Jessica) and Tori (played by Chloe) and focuses on their daily life as roommates. The juxtaposition of a quirky 60-second comedy existing on a platform like Instagram led the start-up series to finding a faithful audience after just one season. Jessica and Chloe have created a safe and funny space to reflect on the wins and the losses that come with getting your life together, something that can be hard to embrace in a filter-focused society. "While I enjoy seeing all the snatched waists, engagement photos, vacations, babies, and inspirational quotes on my Instagram timeline," Jessica shares, "I have to make sure I know there will be a few good 'lmao' moments coming each time I scroll my feed."

She thanks IG comic queens like B. Simone, Jasmine Luv, and Jess Hilarious for paving the way in bringing situational comedy to social media. Jessica explains, "Its liberating to use Instagram to expose people to more of the identities available to black women than the media shows."

This is a point both women are perfectly aligned on. Co-creator Chloe chimes in with her thoughts on the Instagram effect. "Life isn't about striving to reach perfection. It's about making mistakes and learning lessons from them. Nobody said life would be easy, but it makes it a lot more entertaining when you find humour in your failures."

"Life isn't about striving to reach perfection."

Not only is the show's content fitting and much needed to change the image of the "unbreakable black woman," but the format is also conscious of the busy lives of its target audience. Jessica and Chloe's limited production budget was a blessing in disguise that led them to a genius 60-second format. We have plenty of bingeworthy long-format shows that suck us into consumption as soon as they are released. SZNED is a quick dose of exactly what we need - a good laugh and some much needed validation. It's stated plainly in the bio of their show page, "1-minute episodes because you ain't got time and neither do we."

Jessica and Chloe have unabashedly tackled topics around sex and dating, career, friendship, and even racism and colorism. One storyline found Tori out to lunch with a local rapper who dropped her mid-date for a woman he assumed was white, touching on the "white is right" mentality that we've all come across at least once while navigating the dating world.

There's the episode where Jordyn's white cousin (by marriage) is introduced and they have a candid conversation about how it feels when white people touch our hair. Tori also struggles with securing a job and being the "broke friend" - something we've all had to go through.

While they dabble with some pretty wild storylines, the entire series in many ways reflects the creators' real-life struggles and the process has led to new growth for them both. "My character Jordyn is struggling with weight loss," Jessia says. "This is something that, like my character, I've struggled with for much of my life. To be honest, creating SZNED is helping me with accountability in that area and working toward that goal!"

Chloe has also gone through a transformation behind the creative process. "The series has also given me an immense amount of personal growth. Being an introvert that suffered from social anxiety a few years ago, I could have never imagined posting videos of myself for the whole world to see that showcased my true goofy personality."

Now that Jessica and Chloe have wrapped their first season, gained over 11K followers on their show page, and proven to themselves that they are capable of anything, they set out to drop season two in November. This time taking on new challenges and striving for new heights, their focus remaining still on connecting with an audience that seeks a break from the grind to laugh and reflect for exactly one minute. "The outpour of support that SZNED has received lets us know that our viewers share the exact same sentiments," says Chloe. "I can't even begin to describe the joy that I feel when someone sends us a message saying our videos make their day or that we put a smile on their face."

The overarching takeaway when we see women in media striving to create content that sits just outside of what is "typical" is that they are making strides in how our community is presented and perceived by the world. Humanizing what daily life looks like for us is an absolutely necessary tool in our fight to preserve a seat at all the tables we dare to demand a place at.

Check our season one of SZNED on 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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Featured image by Shutterstock

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