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Ready To Feel Old? 'Girlfriends' Turns 20 This Year. (Wow, Sis)

Take a moment and ask yourself: Where would Joan, Mya, Lynn and Toni be now?

Culture & Entertainment

Charge it to my daddy when I say that I adore accumulating random bits of information. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to look around to see what movies had anniversaries this year (you know, being that 2000 was the end of a millennium and all; you can verify that it was the end and not the beginning here and here). Anyway, I was already trippin' when I saw that, in 2020, movies like Inception and The Social Network are 10; Crash, Hustle & Flow and The 40-Year-Old Virgin are 15; Love & Basketball, Bring It On and Bamboozled are 20, and Bad Boys, Braveheart, Clueless, Devil in a Blue Dress, The Usual Suspects, Seven, Toy Story and Friday (its official anniversary is actually Sunday, April 26) are all 25. What in the world?!

As I kept going down the rabbit hole of entertainment nostalgia, what caught me totally off guard was the fact that on September 11, 2000, the very first episode of Girlfriends premiered.

Girlfriends. I mean, that fact threw me so much that I actually went to some of the cast member's social media pages, just to make sure that Google wasn't trippin'. It wasn't.

Wow. Just wow. Back in 2000, I was 25 (26, by the time of the actual premiere date). Matter of fact, I didn't even start watching Girlfriends until I was like 28-29. It started out because people would tell me that I reminded them of Toni on the show. Yeah, I didn't believe that either until one day, back when I was on social media, Facebook had a day when we all were supposed to put up our celebrity doppelgänger. I posted a picture of Jill Marie Jones (who played Toni Childs on the show) with short hair. No one noticed that it wasn't me for two weeks (hilarious).

Anyway, that's just one of the many things that makes me smile when I think back to the sitcom that featured four women doing their thing in Los Angeles. Like so many other Black shows, Girlfriends paved the way and set the tone, on so many levels.

Black-ish Season 6 "Girlfriends Reunion" Featurette www.youtube.com

I remember last year, back when Joan, Mya, Toni and Lynn made an appearance on Black-ish. As they were doing their press tour for it, the cast addressed two questions that a lot of us have had for years. One, no Jill Marie did not fall out with everyone else when she left the show; she simply wanted to move on and that happened to be the season before Girlfriends came to an end.

And two, just like when it came to Living Single (and I want to say the "spin-off" from Girlfriends, The Game as well), they didn't get a proper series finale. The final episode was "Stand and Deliver", where Joan read a letter to her fiancé Aaron's class, letting him know that he was coming home from his stint in Iraq. (Yes, ya'll. The CW totally left us hangin'.)

In a particular article I read that referenced all of this, Tracee Ellis Ross said that, in regards to a reboot, that would probably be unrealistic, but the cast was open to doing a movie:

"People will literally come up to us and say, 'Why don't you guys get on Netflix,' but what they don't realize is we literally have no power over that. We weren't executive producers or showrunners, we were just actresses, so we have no say in none of that."

So that gave me an idea. Rather than wait until the fall to write a piece celebrating the show's 20-year anniversary, I thought it would be a good idea to get this out now. For one thing, it'll give us five months to (hopefully) create a buzz that just might get Netflix (or somebody) to take seriously that, not only is a Girlfriends movie something that we want but it's something that the creator (Mara Brock Akil) and cast truly deserve. And secondly, it gives me the opportunity to do a little dreaming in the meantime about what I think life for the ladies would actually look like right now. Are you ready to brainstorm a bit with me?

Joan Carol Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross)

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I'm gonna be honest. A part of me wonders if the writer who created Joan Clayton drew their inspiration from Carrie Bradshaw on Sex & the City. They both were accomplished, they both were one who others went to for advice and they both were pretty erratic and intense; especially when it came to their own matters of the heart. Anyway, anyone who watched even a season of Girlfriends knows that, at the end of the day, what Joan wanted more than anything was a HUSBAND (that's in all caps on purpose) and children. Although I think that my favorite boyfriend of hers was actually Brock (played by Malik Yoba), while the one who I believe brought out the absolute worst in her was Ellis (played by Adrian Lester), I get why she ended up with Aaron (played by Richard T. Jones). One day, I'm gonna write a piece on here about the difference between choosing a man who is good to you vs. choosing a man who is good for you. Brock was probably the former and Aaron was the latter.

That said, in my mind, Aaron did come back and they did get married. Joan had the wedding of her dreams although maturity brought her to a place of wanting to marry the groom more than the actual wedding (if you catch my drift). She did get pregnant and have a child of her own, but she and Aaron also decided to adopt a couple of other kids (not babies but youth).

The house that they renovated, they turned into a home for underprivileged Black youth and with Joan's law degree, she started a non-profit for Black kids as well. Oh, and even though she and Toni did fall out, 20 years brought forth some healing and Toni is actually the godmother to one of Joan's little ones. In fact, all of Joan's girlfriends are.

Mya Denise Wilkes (Golden Brooks)

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Mya, boy. First, let's address another question that I always had, that I recently looked up. Some of you might recall that, during the first season, her husband Darnell was actually played by Flex Alexander. Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, fine ass Khalil Kain filled the role. From what I read, Flex left, not due to any bad blood, but because he got a lead role in One on One (I think her son, Jabari might've changed from Tanner Scott Richards to Kendre Berry simply because they needed someone much older in a shorter period of time).

With that out of the way, one of my favorite storylines for Mya was when she had an emotional affair (including a kiss where her lip got bit while she tasted pieces of pickles) with Stan (played by Don Franklin). It ultimately cost Mya her marriage, and also caused her to grow up a bit. Since I'm a marriage life coach whose niche is reconciling divorces, I dig that she and Darnell ended up getting married again and making things work.

By now, I'm thinking that Mya has turned a couple of her books into movies (even though she would probably prefer a one-woman show), she had a baby girl and she's also a grandmother. What? It is 20 years later, which means that Jabari would be what—mid-30s at this point? Darnell runs a franchise auto shop business with Peanut 'n them while Mya has an assistant who is just as sneaky, shady and late to work as she was.

Lynn Ann Searcy (Persia White)

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I got my start as a writer by being a house poet at a local venue here in Nashville. So, I was aware of the spoken word artist Saul Williams for a while and was thrilled when he played Lynn's man Savid on the show (fun fact: Saul and Persia were actually married in real life, once upon a time).

Even though Vasco (played by John L. Adams) and Lynn probably had the most endearing relationship, in my mind, she and Savid found their way back to each other once Lynn actually found more than sex to keep her happy—or at least, focused (although I doubt she's married; she probably had a commitment ceremony on a beach in Bali, tatted some rings on her finger and called it a day).

These days, it's not uncommon to see her at Sundance festivals whenever she's not public speaking at universities across the country. And while Lynn still sings, she has finally found the beauty and benefits in not always mooching off of other people. So, she writes more than she performs so that she can collect that publishing check. She does still live in Joan's old house. Only difference is that now, the deed is actually in her name. She's hardly ever in it, though because she's always getting new stamps on her passport. Oh, and she has her own sex toy line. It too is called Indigo Sky (diehard fans will know why I threw the "too" in there).

Antoinette Marie Childress Garrett (Jill Marie Jones)

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Toni. Before there was Molly (on Insecure), there was Toni Childs. Both women are chocolate and beautiful. Both women are super accomplished. Both women are fun to be around. And, both women are self-absorbed and semi-petty as all get out. By now, Toni and Dr. Todd Garrett's daughter, Morgan is (wow) in college herself.

Although Toni never saw it coming, she is quite the helicopter mom, and so she actually first moved from New York to Atlanta while Morgan attended her first year at Spelman. But since Toni is now a business consultant, she can pretty much live anywhere. So, she spends time in three places—New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. She and Dr. Garrett peacefully co-parented, but she came to the conclusion a long time ago that marriage isn't really her thing. That doesn't mean she isn't seeing anyone, though.

Believe it or not, for a couple of years, she and my favorite boyfriend of hers, Greg (played by Chuma Gault) got back together; they still rendezvous from time to time. While he's always been the man who has had the most of her heart, for now, Toni enjoys not sharing, spending all of her money with no accountability and spending time with her girlfriends. Being a mom has brought some balance and perspective, so she does anonymously give to others, including to Joan's non-profit every year. She has no intention of ever letting Joan know that, though.

William Jerome Dent (Reggie Hayes)

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Who didn't adore William? Now his choices in women were another story. Monica Charles Brooks-Dent (played by Keesha Sharp) couldn't have been more pretentious (I'm thinking that she's now a housewife on a reality series somewhere). Before her, there was the cop, Yvonne Blackwell (played by Cee Cee Michaela) who left him at the altar. Although he and Joan tried to make it work, I thought it was super realistic that the love was there, but the sex was wack. It's a reminder that sometimes platonic love is all that's meant to be between a man and a woman—and that's totally OK.

Yeah, William's love resume had much to be desired (remember when he and Lynn were cutty buddies and then had the nerve to get married? Uh-uh). Bless his heart.

While I secretly wish that he and Donna (played by Jill Scott) got back together, for some reason, I feel like William is still enjoying the bachelor life, even now. He's still a lawyer but he runs his own firm. He's still super tight with his nephew-son (who interns for him during the summertime), and he still has dinner with the girls on a consistent basis. He's actually godfather to one of Joan's children too.

I know. A lot of this sounds super idealistic, but a sistah can dream, can't she? Besides, I don't care how the actual movie script turns out, so long as there is one (le sigh). Either way, on behalf of the entire xoTribe, I just wanted to take out a little time to say—Joan, Mya, Lynn and Toni, we see you, we appreciate you—hell, we still watch you (Tracee, Golden, Persia and Jill Marie, what them syndication checks be lookin' like?!). Here's to 20 years now and the 20 years of more reruns—with prayerfully a movie too—to come! Take a bow. You've earned it.

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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

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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