Danisha L. Baughan (Dani) is a long term educator, community activist, and philanthropist. Dani is a mother of two who enjoys writing on her spare time, hosting an event she created called Chat N Chew Battle of the Sexes, and has also directed and produced a cultural/gender based documentary on dating in today's society, It's Not You, It's THEM!. Follow her on Instagram @dani_beaux_.
Tall, dark, handsome, and passionate about his community, Jason Rosario of The Lives of Men advocates for taking accountability into his own hands, even when it goes against the popular opinion. Jason is well known for his men's empowerment movement and the use of his platform where he creates safe spaces for men of color to address manhood and wellness.
Jason's impact is so powerful that it landed him a position hosting his own original series on Yahoo News called Dear Men. Dear Men serves as a more intimate extension of his larger support for helping black and Latino men navigate masculinity in today's world. As a man of distinction, a father, and a partner, he is in the most ideal position to share insight on how shaping the lives of men also helps to empower women.
In the most comfortable setting, outdoors on a warm summer evening, it was a joy to interview Jason and get his perspective on some key points that directly impact the opposite population from which he normally services. This was a challenge of versatile guidance and he caught every curveball effortlessly like the professional he carries himself to be.
As a Black man, minority man, in today’s society, how have you made it to the point where you ignored the status quo and decided to uplift other men?
"Something real happened. [In 2016], I was just coming out of business school, the police shootings were occurring, so like every week it felt like black men were under siege for a while. And then where I was in my life, I was going through some stuff--just went through a break up, started a new job, and [was] just fed up… I was like, what do I want to do with my life? Like how do I want to move forward? So I started to conceive this idea for The Lives of Men which was the second iteration of something I had done before--years before. [It was] a platform that served as a resource for men as we go through different things in our lives.
"Since 2017, I've just been doing this, dedicating my life's work to helping men identify and embrace healthy frameworks of what manhood looks like, all the while being inclusive not just of the female voice but the female voices in our lives."
"I recently connected with Yahoo to executive produce and host the Dear Men show which is just an extension of and an offshoot of the conversations we've been having. The show was an effort to sit down with men from different backgrounds… The goal was to have a conversation and show that regardless of where you are in life, whether you're a celebrity or not, we all struggle with the same things."
Courtesy of Jason Rosario
How has your upbringing molded you to be prepared for one day becoming a good father and partner?
"For me, I think it's my values. Though I was raised by a single mom, I do see the value of having and building a partnership and building a family. Watching my mom struggle, and her instilling certain values in me in terms of respecting women, respecting relationships. I think all of that has helped prepare me."
What are your thoughts on balancing career and relationships? Do you believe that people have to choose between the two?
"I don't believe that you have to choose between the two. Part of [the reason] why I left my job is because it was getting to that point where I was having to choose between the two. There were times within that last year that I was in the office on a Friday until 9:30pm… I couldn't commit to dinners because I didn't know what my job scenario would be like or what situations I had to react to last minute, so that started to happen and I was like this is not the life I want to choose. I believe in integration, I believe everything should harmoniously be working together to help you get to where you want to be. As far as relationships, yes we still have to make time to build relationships. I'm a dad, I have a partner, I have my family, I have my friends and I think all of those require a certain level of dedication and attention."
Courtesy of Jason Rosario
"I believe in integration, I believe everything should harmoniously be working together to help you get to where you want to be. As far as relationships, yes we still have to make time to build relationships. I'm a dad, I have a partner, I have my family, I have my friends and I think all of those require a certain level of dedication and attention."
How can men be more open to utilizing the five love languages?
"I think it goes way deeper than that. I'm going to take you back to a young man's childhood and adolescence and the way that we're taught to emote, and the way that we're taught not to emote. If you're telling a young boy from as early as he can remember that boys don't cry, 'you need to man up', 'you need to be strong' -- what you're doing is you're essentially preventing him from developing the capacity to articulate his emotions and his feelings. So if you're doing that from an early age, and as he grows into adolescence and young adulthood and then adulthood, you're getting a man that's emotionally repressed. So when you're asking someone to identify love languages and be able to articulate them, by the time he's a grown man, he hasn't had that practice… he doesn't have a language to be able to articulate that."
What is the barrier between some millennial men and commitment?
"First, in a city like New York or LA or these major metropolitan, cosmopolitan cities, there are a lot more you's than there are us… There are a lot more quality women that are educated, career-focused and -oriented, and doing positive things, [and that are] more progressive than there are men of color in the same age group that have as much going on for them. Then you have mass incarceration, you have drugs, you have crime, you have all these things, and I think…women have always been ahead in terms of getting advanced degrees, so there's slim pickings. So you're competing not just against each other for that same crop, but then you're competing with the other part of it which is the men that know the numbers are in their favor and don't want to commit. So you have that group of men that might be the perfect guy but he knows that if you're not down for it, then the next woman will."
What are your thoughts on the “me ethic” that exists in this generation?
"We have been fed through the media that the traditional nuclear family -- you don't need that to succeed. I can speak from my personal experience. I'm a product of a single-parent home. I've seen my mom do it on her own… and I know that's flawed thinking but men think with better education, I can do it all myself, I don't necessarily need to be married. I think it's just what we've been taught and how generations have shifted."
Courtesy of Jason Rosario
"We have been fed through the media that the traditional nuclear family -- you don't need that to succeed. And I know that's flawed thinking but men think with better education, I can do it all myself, I don't necessarily need to be married. I think it's just what we've been taught and how generations have shifted."
What’s your opinion on WYD texts?
"So this is a thing? Wow... See you're talking to someone that speaks in full paragraphs in texts so it's hard for me to grasp why that's a thing. I think it just speaks to two things, laziness [and] it speaks to the lower barrier that there is in terms of men communicating with women and the lack of value that they place in the traditional building of a relationship. The tradition of dating and courting, all of that has gone away. Swipe left and right culture, social media, instant gratification, all of these things contribute to that. Yet, ladies you have to be willing and open to receiving a man who's going to come and be expressive and be all of the things that you're asking for. Too many women unfortunately when they receive that, they don't know what to do with it. By the way, I hate all the acronyms. Don't text me for my birthday 'HBD'."
How do you feel about timelines?
"You're talking to someone who in the last two years has made most of his decisions based on creating the freedom for myself, so I don't believe in timelines. At one point of my life, I did. My mom used to tell me that by age 35 you should be like whatever it is you're going to be. First of all, I would encourage people that feel the pressure of a timeline, whether it's to be married by a certain time [or] have kids by a certain time, to analyze where that comes from, almost 100% of it is not coming from you. It's external."
What kind of guidance do you give your daughter on navigating her life and relationships in today’s society?
"The approach that I've taken is just one of openness and vulnerability. She knows everything there is to know about me. I don't want her to grow up with this false sense of dad was this superhuman that did no wrong. And as far as relationships and boys, again just being open with her. Hormones are a thing your hormones are raging, their hormones are raging so understand that you are going to fall in and out of love with the next guy, but more often than not, they just want to do one thing. I try to let her know that. But I'm not here to tell her what to do and what not to do. I try to give her as much information as I can so that she can make as many informed decisions that she can."
How would you encourage more men to find interest in marriage and commitment?
"I think a lot of us, especially in communities of color, and I'm going to count myself, we don't have a lot of examples and models of what a healthy marriage looks like so we grow up with this fear of the unknown. I think for men who have all of these options, marriage sounds like a death sentence… Marriage isn't placed in the holiest of lights in our community. It's actually the exception, whereas in other communities, it's the norm. I would say that the conversation with men has to be what is the definition of marriage? How do you define marriage and what values do you attribute to it?"
"A lot of people confuse love for marriage…so this is for both men and women: if we focus more of our time building and cultivating and nurturing love, and less time focused on 'I need to be married by a certain age'. If we focus less on that then we will successfully take the fear of the unknown out of the institution of marriage."
*Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
When anyone asks me to describe the dating scene today the first thought that comes to mind is Drake's "Doing it Wrong" lyrics, "We live in a generation of, not being in love, and not being together." Even previously while in relationships, something always felt temporary and inorganic and there was never much certainty of a title or status. I couldn't recall the last time I was involved with someone and felt total fulfillment from anything in the situation other than sex. Many situationships these days begin and end in sex, and maybe a little false hope of commitment in between.
Those were the men I referred to as my "something to do" boo because the peak of the productivity between us occurred only during a spontaneous Netflix and Chill night, thereby designating them as something to do when there's nothing to do. Of course, there was the usual night out to eat here and there, and maybe a movie, but never anything that knocked me off my feet and gave me an experience that was remarkably unique. I think sex played a heavy role in the lack of effort. Was this what I preferred? Absolutely not.
By nature, humans desire love and companionship, no matter how much they try to deny it. I'd take a romantic walk in the park with my partner any day over a random night of sexcapades.
It was one Sunday morning that I woke up and realized there was some truth to a tweet I recently came across which read, "Women can eliminate weak men in a single generation by simply refusing to sleep with them."
After some heavy reflection and contemplation, I decided that it's best to hold back on sex until I'm in a fulfilling committed relationship. Normally, women choose to practice abstinence until they're married, but I knew my limitations and wanted to set a realistic goal for myself. I believe that for any woman seeking to settle down and be in a committed relationship with someone, they might also want to consider eliminating sex until then.
Here are the ways you can approach and practice abstinence while dating:
Always keep in mind and prioritize your long-term goal.
Featured image by Shutterstock
There's an undeniable pressure that society places on us to fit in and have the "ideal" physical appearance. The pressure begins early in our childhood and continues throughout our lives through a variety of influences including TV, school, friends, family, and relationships. For the average person, you either rise above it all and shake the pressure or you enhance your physical appearance with everyday adjustments like makeup, new hairdos, and fashionable clothes.
Yet, for the unique individual born with a physical birth defect, such pressure becomes nearly impossible to disregard.
Entrepreneur and celebrity stylist Ashlee Muhammad is one of those people who could only change but so much about her day to day physical appearance. With the use of her increasingly popular fashion sense and her passion around embracing the skin that you're in, she conquered societal "norms" and refused to let anyone else limit the love she had for herself. Ashlee's evolved self-confidence birthed the launch of "BeEyeconic," a self-love initiative featuring custom designed, intentionally replicated, reconstructed designer bags.
Through BeEyeconic, Ashlee used her creativity and personal experience to share a much-needed message with the world. Her mission? She wanted to crush the influence that "designer" equated to someone "being better" and "doing better" than the next person. It was about proving you can be your best self simply by embracing being yourself.
Embracing herself was something that Ashlee had a lifelong complicated relationship with. The entrepreneur endured feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and just feeling unpretty. And a lot of it was rooted in a birthmark that left her blind in one eye, which resulted in a blue/gray discoloration in her left eye. Bullied all throughout her childhood, and even into adulthood by her previous partner, Ashlee spent a large part of her life hiding behind the emotional security of her eyeglasses and even contemplated medical reconstruction for her eye a number of times.
She grew up in Harlem during an era where self-sabotage was highly encouraged and loving yourself was hardly ever a topic of conversation. Never initially having reasons to aim high and set many standards, Ashlee was content and accepting of whatever she had direct access to. And after high school, while most of her peers were preparing to attend college and begin new lives, the teen mom had to make the decision to focus on working right away in order to take care of her infant daughter. Insecurities had landed her in a relationship where she found comfort in the mere thought of someone wanting anything to do with her.
It would damage her self-esteem in unimaginable ways.
She only survived half a day before leaving her first job, but later enrolled in a medical assistant program while working part time at Harlem Children's Zone. She eventually landed a position in the medical assistant field, but as personal and relationship circumstances shifted, she would be forced to relocate to Atlanta only for fate to bounce her right back to NYC working with her previous company. This blossoming entrepreneur had no idea that everything happened as it should and, while in her new position at Harlem Children's Zone, she'd discover her true gift of creativity.
Ashlee's natural yet individualized fashion sense and artistic skill progressively caught the attention of everyone at work, earning her several leadership tasks. Over time, the only barrier to her realizing her full potential was that her work life starkly contrasted her personal life. Despite having a daughter she both loved and cared for, her relationship with her daughter's father was beyond toxic. It only intensified in the level of hurt and poison it seemed to inject in her life and self-esteem as time went on. "He would call me a 'one-eyed ugly bitch,'" she recalled of her partner at the time.
"He told me that no one would want me with my eye, and I believed him."
Love from a partner can make or break any of us, and in Ashlee's experience, she was forced to believe that she was not only incapable of being loved but also incapable of loving herself. It wasn't until she gravitated towards things that ignited her creativity and brought her joy, that she found the strength to leave her partner. "I knew that once I learned to love ME, I would make better decisions and wouldn't allow certain things in my life to continue."
"Unlike everything else In my life, loving myself did not come easy. It was very hard work. [It meant] day in and day out, challenging myself to do things outside of my comfort zone."
Breaking free to focus on herself had unexpectedly molded her to later attract someone who would exhibit the true meaning of unconditional love for self and others.
Through a growing friendship at work, Ashlee found her current husband, Mustafa Muhammad. There was a natural bond between the two ordained soulmates. Mustafa encouraged her to indulge more into her talents while she spent time at home taking care of their newborn twins years later. She credits her husband as being one of the reasons she began seeing herself in a more positive light. "While the road to loving myself was hard, Mustafa's consistent encouragement was very, very necessary for every aspect of my emotional growth," she explained.
From that place of light, love, and growth, BeEyeconic was born.
The pieces that comprised of her Broke Little Rich Girl collection would be the beginning of her self-love movement. With the eye-catching design and the message behind the creation, BeEyeconic became increasingly popular on Instagram, providing Ashlee with the platform to launch her next self-love designs: Eyeconic Merch.
She leaned on the artistic direction of her husband and together created the EyeConic Merch logo. The BeEyeconic logos featured the face of the late great artist Jean-Michel Basquiat with two different colored eyes, and another logo of Ashlee's face with a triangle emphasis around her blinded eye. These designs replicated Ashlee's physical birth defect while using both herself and an icon who too struggled with emotional battles.
BeEyeconic seamlessly meshed together art and the powerful message of self-love.
Today, under the creative leadership of well-known industry movers and shakers like celeb stylists Jason Rembert and Binkie, Ashlee travels the U.S. helping to style celebrities, including Winnie Harlow, Cardi B, Khalid, and Molly Qerim. Her creativity has been used to work high profile industry shows and events such as the MET Gala, Coachella, ESPN's First Take, and The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.
This mom of three and bonus mom of two conquers all of the above and still soars as a superwoman who never loses sight of the many reasons she now has to love herself. The abundance of love and encouragement from her family, children, and husband all help Ashlee prove to the world that love stories are real and your once upon a time doesn't have to make your happily ever after impossible.
You can catch Ashlee working with some of your favorite icons while continuing to spearhead the BeEyeconic self-love initiative and merchandise, collaborate with 5001 flavors and Harlem Haberdashery, and build the Happily Ever Muhammad Partnership and Marriage podcast/brand with her husband, Mustafa.
She hopes to continue her work and be able to advocate for self-love on a larger platform across NYC and beyond, fulfilling her ultimate goal of having people "accept themselves as they are and embrace every inch of their individual beauty."
I remember being 22 and pregnant with my first daughter. The bold question from my uncle, "Are you prepared to take care of this child by yourself?" continues to resonate until this very day.
I assumed he was just being yet another pessimistic, overprotective male family member. Yet, I had no clue this thought-provoking question would become my reality.
Society trains us to believe that there is a "right" way to go about having a child.
Get your education, secure a career, get married, and then create a family. While this sounds all well and good, and does increase the opportunity for a stable foundation, what everyone failed to teach us was how to be prepared for the possibility of becoming a single parent. Even in the case of such "proper" prior planning. My uncle was probably the only person I've encountered to keep it real and suggest that the priority be to plan for the worst-case scenario.
As young ambitious partners, we don't always fully think about long-term parenting responsibilities, such as the financial demands of clothing, food, healthcare, child care, etc.
We also don't take into consideration the possibility of becoming the child's primary parent or, in worse circumstances, the only parent.
As mothers, we don't imagine ourselves one day possibly being the head of household who not only has to maintain this child's survival via food in the refrigerator, electricity in the home, and a roof over their head, but in addition, we are primarily responsible for all things relative to this human being and with little or no help from the father.
If I could have done it all over again, I would still have my children, just with someone different, preferably someone who was already a father.
When people are boasting the societal norm to do things the "right way," never do they take into consideration two people who are new to parenting and what type of parent they will turn out to be.
Most women are natural caretakers, thus parenting becomes something we dive into and master on our own or with some guidance from other women in our lives. Fathers on the other hand don't naturally carry the exact same parenting/caretaker trait that women do.
While there are some very hands-on and active fathers, many leave the majority of the parenting to the mothers.
Many of these fathers adapt to the role of the financial caretaker and, to them, that is parenting enough. The fathers described here possibly come from a background of learned behavior in which their father mainly provided financial support, was absent from the home, or the women in their life trained them to believe that the bare minimum is all there is to fatherhood and the rest is the mother's responsibility.
It is then that the child's mother, whether married or not, is left with the bulk of the responsibility.
The mother is the primary contact for school or daycare, the mother is first to leave work when receiving the emergency illness calls. She's responsible for the morning drop off and afternoon pick-up, she's responsible for the doctor's appointments, she's responsible for night and morning routines. She is the point person for almost everything relative to the child's well-being.
Meanwhile, the father is totally disconnected from much of the above and, in some cases, his parents are more connected to these matters than he is himself.
Again, this does not apply to all fathers, but unfortunately in my case and largely in the black community, there is a norm that the majority of parenting is a Mother's job. The proof is also evidenced by the mother's inability to partake in certain lifestyle events without having to secure reliable childcare first. Many fathers are able to come and go as they please without a worry in the world as to who will be responsible for the child they created, as long as the mother is involved and fit as a parent.
I've watched the elders in any given father's life take over his parenting responsibilities, training him to believe his role is separate from that of a mother's, and I've also listened to these women say that certain responsibilities are a "mother's job." Besides bonding with a newborn the first few days and breastfeeding, I do not believe any other part of parenting to solely be a "mother's job." Not only was I raised by a man (my father), I grew up watching the men in my family be very active in their children's lives and met male friends who too carried out just as much responsibility as the mother. Those elders who trained men to believe the majority of parenting is a "mother's job" are just further aiding the issue.
My hope is that society moves away from the idealized way of preparing us for parenthood.
Truth is, it's very unfortunate that no matter how much you prepare for a child or get married and make a plan, you simply cannot predict what type of father a man will be unless he already has a child, and even then, you still can't guarantee the ideal situation.
As a 34-year-old single parent of two, this is why I now prefer to date single fathers. Meeting a single father allows me to learn more about his parenting style and helps avoid getting into another failed attempt at establishing a 50/50 parenting foundation.
Being involved with a single father means I can learn more about his beliefs around the balance of parental responsibility, no matter if we're married or co-parenting.
For ladies that wish to start their family from scratch as two individuals new to parenting, I suggest you take into consideration your partner's upbringing and make sure he wasn't raised to believe that a child is momma's baby and daddy's maybe.
xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at email@example.com
Featured image by Getty Images