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Tweet Gets Real About Depression, Thoughts Of Suicide & Motherhood In 'Finding Tweet'

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Singer and songwriter Tweet sat down with BET for an exclusive interview, Finding Tweet, where we were able to learn a lot that we didn't know about her unconventional journey to success. Though we know her as a mysteriously beautiful star that shot up the charts with singles like "Oops (Oh My)" and "Call Me," her road to that point was far from easy. Tweet, born Charlene Keys, grew up in Rochester, New York as a shy teen who found her voice in the church choir, later to have it hushed by the reality of becoming an 18-year-old mother. She told BET:

"Becoming a mother so young in the church, I got sat down. If I was in the choir, I couldn't sing in the choir anymore. And I was ashamed because back then that was something you don't do. You don't talk about sex. You don't do anything. You just don't wear makeup. You just wear skirts and you just sing for the Lord and that's your life."

Tweet shared that although she had to endure the initial shock and overcome her fair share of obstacles after becoming an unwed mother from a religious family at such a young age, she wouldn't change the experience for the world:

"I know I disappointed my mom and my dad but I don't regret it, you know? Because I have a beautiful, young lady now. But it was hard at first because back then you didn't do that. A lot of the girls that did it was called fast. I wasn't fast. But that's what it was back then."

Her journey as a musician was sent into overdrive after meeting Devante from the then-top music group Jodeci, who introduced her to upcoming artists at the time, such as Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Ginuwine, and the group Sugah.

Over time, she and Missy started to bond over their similarities and creativity, however, the contract she was in seemed to be souring due to mismanagement. Tweet recounted the ordeal of having her dreams seemingly served to her on a silver platter and then stripped away:

"We kept getting deals and not delivering the product. Everybody had left from Missy, Tim[baland], Ginuwine and Playa so we were the last group left and we didn't feel like nothing was going to come of it, so we decided to disband. I was devastated."

Things got very dark for the young singer, who admittedly contemplated suicide. She shared:

"I used to ride out here to the beach and go to the water and think about what am I going to do. Because I had a daughter. I had no job, no money. I had nothing. So I'm thinking I'm going to jump in the water. But I'm so scared of the water, I can't even swim."

Not being able to take care of her responsibilities as a mother compounded the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness she was experiencing as a woman seemed too much to bear. However, just when she was about to give up, she was reminded by her faith and friendship that she had a higher purpose.

Though some of us are not fortunate enough to experience our friends in the form of a hit-making superstar producer who happens to be Missy Elliott, whom Tweet now calls her "Guardian Angel", I think we can all attest to the power of knowing someone has your back and seeing the best in you.

"One day, out of the blue, Missy called me and was like, 'I need you out in LA.' I was like, 'Whatever. Alright, girl. I'll talk to you later.' At that time, I was contemplating doing something to myself. And she came at the time—I always call her my guardian angel because she came at the time when I didn't want to be here anymore. You know, being a mother you want to be able to support and take care of your child and I couldn't do it and it hurt my heart."
"She said, 'Okay, you better have your bags packed.' The next day, she had a limo at my house. And I was on my way to LA to do her background vocals. She came at the right time. Always though."

Although her chart-topping hit "Oops, Oh My" seemed to promise a bright future, a shift in management would ultimately prove to be devastating to Tweet's music career. This transition led to a 10-year hiatus where the singer would eventually hit rock bottom. The dissemination of her music career led to an all-time low fueled by disappointment and unhealthy coping mechanisms:

"I was smoking three packs [of cigarettes] a day, I was drinking Bombay wine all day. I had isolated myself so much, I didn't even want people to see me. I had found this apartment in Atlanta and was in there just smoking and drinking [by] myself. I hadn't even allowed my daughter to come over."

She explained that she suffered a severe depressive episode where she was reminded of both her faith and her power. She explained:

"And in one of my drunken episodes, I watched Tonex sing "Lord Make Me Over" and I fell to my knees and started crying. I never called it depression. I used to always say God hated me. I used to call myself a lab rat for God. Then I would get mad and just shut down. But I didn't know that that was depression. And it still creeps up sometimes because the industry is cruel."

Like many of us, whose symptoms of depression and anxiety are easier seen in hindsight, Tweet may have not have had a definition for what she was feeling, but she was wise enough to say when she needed a break from it all.

Tweet went back to her spiritual roots for solace, which helped ground her in a reality that was less about keeping up with the happening of pop culture, and more about constructing a life where she could live out her talent all while serving her higher self:

"When I was on that hiatus, I woke up praying and on my knees. I was reading the Word all day like I was one of those militant Christians. But today, I have a relationship with Him. It's not religious, it's spiritual. I'm not the deep Christian. I'm a woman of God and we have a relationship. I talk to Him like I'm talking to you. And I don't have to be on my knees to communicate. He's still working with me. I'm still a work in progress, like everybody else. As long as I'm in that progress and process, then I'll be alright. Just a little girl from Rochester, trying to make it still."

It is so important to remember during the times that you don't feel good enough, and you feel like everything is going wrong, that there is a whole support system out there in the form of friends, family, mentors, and the universe that is waiting to catch you when you fall.

Isolation, and keeping quiet about your struggles robs you of experiencing the miracle that is love and support. If you give yourself a fair chance, you can have it all; success and happiness and with the support of your faith and support system you will see you don't have to sacrifice one for the other.

If you are feeling lost in your journey, then perhaps that is a sign that you are doing something right. I am looking forward to new music by Tweet!

How Tweet's Bumpy Road Led To Missy Elliott Being Her “Guardian Angel" | #FindingTweet www.youtube.com

Feature image by Jim Spellman/WireImage

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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

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