Soft, Beautiful, Bright Black Girl

I hope you slap your knee when you laugh. I hope you laugh hard and often, loud and unapologetically, with all of the might that your chest can withstand. I hope you cock your head back and kiss the sky with your cackles.

I hope you smile. I hope you smile not because some semblance of a man on a street corner has insisted that you turn your lips upward, but instead because there is something about this life that feels good and wonderful and brilliant. I hope you smile because you still uncover treasures in dark corners and find pennies in the holes of your pockets. I hope you smile because there is someone, some thing, some energy in your orbit that makes this life worth smiling about.

I hope you wear marigold and neon pink and fire engine red. I hope you fill the world with color and passion and spirit and vibrancy. I hope you radiate every shade of the spectrum and splatter your paint on life’s blank canvases. I hope you buzz and skip and hop and dance and strut. I hope that when other people see you, they instantly feel you, and that when their eyes meet yours, something inside of them wakes up from hibernation. I hope you never leave any place or any person the same way they were when you met them.

I hope you keep poems on your nightstand and bible verses in your heart. I hope you always have words to anchor you and quotes to carry you and sentences that rock you to sleep when the waves start rising. I hope you find solace in bell and Nayyirah and Nikki and Audre. I hope you are armored with all of the wisdom and solidity you need to build bridges over choppy waters and claw your way up crumbling mountains.

I hope you love without pretense. I hope you love in a boundless, unlimited, the-world-is-wide-open kind of way. I hope you love even after your heart has shattered. After your window panes have been broken. After you have bloodied your knees praying to God that some sort of change will come. I hope you still love without pretense. I hope you give of your wild love without reservation.

I hope you choose every day of this beloved life to remain soft and bright in a world that would rather have you be hard and darkened. I hope you let sunlight smooch your cheeks and moonlight brush your lips. I hope you never let the deck of cards stacked unfavorably against you keep you from giving this world all of the goodness you’ve got.

See, I’ve learned that this existence is full of contradictions and injustices and untidy truths. I’ve learned that black women hardly ever become angry in the blink of an eye, but instead stitch together bullet proof vests with the thread of every heartbreak and transgression they’ve ever survived. I have learned that remaining soft and bright as a black woman in this world is a choice. It is an intention. It is a battle and it is a risk. Remaining soft and bright as a black woman in this world is increasingly more difficult than just wearing your armor and moving on through.

But, still, I hope you slap your knee when you laugh. I hope you wear neon pink and keep poems on your nightstand. I hope you love with reckless abandon and let the sunlight smooch your cheeks. I hope you pen words and stir souls and enkindle the people around you with your undeniable rays. I hope you remain soft and bright. I pray you remain soft and bright. There is no greater rebellion for a black woman in today’s world than to forego the armor and elect to remain soft and bright.


Through Thick and Thin

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I am on sip number one of Jack and Coke number two when he announces that he likes his women thick. And although I relinquished the inclination to knot myself in his frame awhile ago, the comment still stings my ears in a familiar fashion. I don’t like it. I try to brush it off and keep swaying to whatever the DJ is playing, but the words stick to my back like damp sweat under a dress on a hot summer’s night.

See, Black women are supposed to be thick. We’re expected to be thick. Our bodies are meant to swirl and curve and swerve and spiral in delicious and astounding ways. If they don’t do all of the above, we’ve somehow betrayed the norm and defied the preferred standard. Or at least that’s what I’ve learned and am now fighting to unlearn. That is what I’ve been told and am now working to untell myself. And, it is difficult to carve a new truth after years of the world force feeding you tablespoon after tablespoon of bullshit.

See, I’m learning that the gap between what Black women are “supposed” to be and all of the many things that we actually are is colossal and wide and deep and not quite close enough to being bridged.

I don’t want to write self-love anthems or body image anthems or any other anthems for that matter. I want to write the truth and serve it on the rocks. And the truth is my body does a lot less swirling and curving; it does a lot more standing straight. The truth is I’ve been known to settle in the mirror for a few minutes lifting my butt and fantasizing about what it would look like if it were “just a little bit bigger.” The truth is I am a ball of contradictions – a woman who urges other women to define themselves for themselves while still untangling her story from the raucous narration of Black men.

It is that narration that resounds every day while I fight to mold my own thoughts about the body I inhabit. It is that narration that crept up on me on Sunday afternoon in aisle 11 while I was simply trying to grab dishwashing detergent. It’s that narration that has made me an expert comedian when it comes to cracking jokes to my male friends about my less-than-rotund butt. It’s that narration that rolls off my tongue anytime I bop and sing Drake’s line, “And your stomach on flat flat/and your ass on what’s that.” It’s that narration that I am trying so hard to unhear after 26 years of letting it fill a few chasms in my self-esteem.

I would like to tell you that I am giving it all up–the appetite for validation, the listening ear to the body types I’ve heard Black men prefer, and the complicated relationship with my silhouette–but, that wouldn’t be quite true. Because most revelations about this life don’t come in singular Eureka moments or striking sweeps of the heart. The ways in which we grow up and unbind ourselves from the same shackles that shattered us are complex and unending, complicated and never quite complete. The ways in which we evolve and step into the fullness of ourselves are not nearly neat or seamless enough for the conclusion of a blog post.

There will be another moment when a Black man announces that he likes his women thick. I’ll still flinch on the inside. I’ll still wonder when it became kosher to stick the possessive pronoun “his” in front of an entire group of people. I’ll still grapple with drawing parallels between his statement and my view of my own body and womanhood. I’ll still be a mess of contradictions trying to throw away all of the puzzle pieces and reconfigure them the way I want. But, I will remember that I penned this piece and I hummed this hymn. I will remember that for a woman who has spent years writing her own story, it’s about time she started narrating it as well.





The Dilemma Of Hope

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A Guest Writers’ Week post by Kelly Macias

I turned twenty on my knees. Well, not quite literally, but close enough.

I turned twenty in 1998. And I spent New Year’s Eve 1997 at my grandmother’s house with my cousin. At 11:45pm, my grandmother (a lifelong Catholic) announced to us that she had a tradition to pray from 11:59pm until 12:01am. The prayer signified the ending of the year that passed and asked for health and prosperity in the new year to come. As the first-born grandchild I had a special bond with my grandmother and was always terribly afraid of disappointing her. So I agreed to indulge her tradition. And at 11:59, I found myself on my knees praying, even though I’d probably only ever prayed a handful of times before.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Pajama-covered knees on the tiled floor of my grandparents’ basement, gripping my palms tightly and squeezing my eyes shut. I was excited that in just a few months I was going to no longer be a teenager. I was even more thrilled that in just a few weeks I would be leaving my hometown to spend the semester of my junior year in college studying in Spain–a very big deal for a girl born and raised in Baltimore by a single mother. There was a lot to be grateful for and so much to look forward to. I was supremely hopeful. And so I prayed with fierce determination that all of my dreams would come true. I prayed that what I felt was a very ordinary life would be magically transformed and made extraordinary. I prayed that I would find happiness, fun, adulthood and maybe even romance in Europe.

And that’s how I would characterize the decade of my twenties–spending a large part of those years in an attempt to hold on to a desperate, outwardly seeking, optimistic and innocent kind of hope.

For the record, I did find some happiness and fun in Europe. Weekend trips to Paris, Lisbon, London and spring break in Dublin were dreams come true for a young woman who had barely been on a plane before. And while I had my share of hook-ups with (mostly European) men, I didn’t really find romance, but I did find excitement. But looking back, as I recall that time, what I reflect most on is that I most certainly found adulthood.

Having been in predominately white schools for the majority of my school career, I knew what it was like to be something other than white. In fact, most of my friends were white women, though I did have a sprinkle full of friends of color from various parts of my life. My friendships at that time were a microcosm of how I understood the world. If I were nice to someone, they’d be nice to me; and anyone and everyone had the potential to get along–regardless of differences. While I was very aware of race and racism, my understanding of it was limited to individual acts of meanness instead of a complex system of structures resulting in the marginalization and oppression of people of color.

Though my time in Europe was not the first time I’d experienced racism, it was the first time it manifested itself in a way that caused me physical harm. I was touched by well-meaning strangers wanting to feel my hair and skin, I was grabbed on the street by men who assumed I was a prostitute, and I was even kicked by a skinhead one day as I was taking the metro to dinner with a friend.

It was a lot to take.

There I was, living the adventure of a lifetime, having some amazing fairy tale moments in beautiful European cities, coupled with very real, dangerous experiences that reminded me that I always walk the Earth as a woman in a Black body. It was difficult to grasp the idea that no matter how much I loved and accepted everyone, not everyone loved and accepted me. It was made worse by well-meaning white female friends who, as much as they might have tried, did not have a clue about what I was experiencing.

Those experiences, however, did not dampen my hope and optimism. In fact, I consider my study abroad as one of the most transformative events in my life and remain grateful for what it taught me about the world and myself. I spent much of my twenties trying to get back to Spain and Europe. I continued to hold out a delirious, almost childlike hopefulness that I would find happiness, fun and adventure and that the world would accept and love me for who I am and not for what I look like.

As I near the end of my thirties, I realize that the outwardly seeking, optimistic hope I once possessed has been replaced with a more bluesy kind of hope. It’s the kind of hope that I often see in other Black women and saw in the older Black women in my family; the kind of hope that a woman gets after embracing all of her lived experience. It is a hope that is optimistic but measured, grounded in reality and infinitely more practical. It is a hope that is resilient in times of tragedy and one that also finds great joy and jubilation in moments of triumph. Although I now have many years of travel under my belt, I still have fantasies of traveling the world and finding new adventures. Those dreams are now coupled with the knowledge that there will always be perceptions of me as a Black woman anywhere I go that I can’t control; misunderstanding, hatred and indifference directed toward me that I can’t explain.

And yet… hope urges me to push on. To continue to forge a life that is fearless and intentional and brazen. And, no matter the challenges, that’s just what I’m doing.

After all, hope is hope. No matter what form it takes.

kelly maciasKelly Macías is a writer, trainer and consultant whose work explores the intersections of race and identity, communication and conflict. She is the founder of the blog, Conflict Undone (, where she writes about the experiences of undoing life’s many conflicts in order to live a more authentic, transformative life. When Kelly is not working or writing, she is interested in supporting Black women’s storytelling and testimonies as a way of healing. She can often be found working out her own life’s conflicts on her yoga mat. 



Don’t Tell Me To Be Quiet.


The world does not always appreciate loud folks. We deem them less smart, in desperate need of a lesson in self-awareness. But, some days, even when an intelligent and self-aware black woman simply speaks, it’s too loud. It’s too much. The world hasn’t learned how to handle it. It hasn’t learned how to handle us when we would rather raise our voices than repress them, or when we occupy the arenas God has unapologetically given us. The opportunities to speak, laugh, and fill these spaces with our sounds are not things for which we should require permission. These opportunities are our birthrights, and we have to welcome them as such.

WYAO April general promoToday’s Write Your Ass Off April post was published as part of my Sunday Kind of Love newsletter. Read the full essay here

Write Your Ass Off April is a 10-day writing challenge to create your most naked, brave, and no holds barred writing. Ready to do this thing? Learn about the challenge here and share your work on social media using the hashtag #WYAOApril. 


Feature: Sit Black And Relax

Latasha Mercer
Latasha Mercer

Funny. Sharp. Witty. Acute. All adjectives I would use to describe Latasha Mercer’s trailer for her upcoming web series, “Sit Black and Relax.” I watched it about a month ago, and I instantly knew I wanted to know more about the woman behind the work. Tonight Latasha, better known as JustLatasha, will debut a screening of the series in NYC to a sold out audience. In this Q&A, she chronicles her creative journey and discusses the inspiration behind “Sit Black and Relax.”

Tell us a little more about your creative journey.
I began as an on-screen entertainment host for my brand Dope Files in 2010. I got to do really cool stuff like cover exclusive celebrity events and several seasons of NYFW, as well as provide a spotlight for underground talent in fashion and music. Three years later I found myself burnt out and empty: I no longer found purpose in the work I was doing. I was just chasing an image for myself while portraying false images on my platform. I decided I wanted to create something with meaning, especially with all of the attacks Black people were experiencing. So that’s the birth of JustLatasha: the name reminds me to always be myself and live in my truth, while also shedding light on racial issues.

What inspired Sit Black and Relax?
Black women have several types to play in Hollywood: slave, maid, “sassy homegirl”, or the strong woman who saves the world during the day, while secretly having breakdowns at night. I wanted to portray a shocking image: a Black woman being normal. I was inspired by both “Broad City” & “Louie” and I wanted to have a Black woman having fun in NYC while experiencing dark moments as well. I also wanted to show how color influences friendships involving different races, and what those perspectives may look like. Race debates don’t always have to be a head-butting of white vs. black, even though that’s a very real and valid experience.

How is your own coming-of-age story represented in Sit Black and Relax?
Easy! I had arguments with my white friends. I actually used exact sentences from texts they’ve sent me and put it in the script. I just kind of wondered, “I’ve been your friend all this time and somehow you’ve missed that I was Black and that I have experiences directly and specifically tied to that.” I needed to give us Black people with white friends a voice and show the slight tensions that can arise when our issues are overlooked, even though we care about our white companions.

What do you hope viewers gain from watching your series?
I hope Black women feel they were heard and something represents them, especially the awkward, introverted and sometimes passive Black women, because we’re here too. And I hope our white friends can acknowledge said differences, learn, and drop their defenses when discussing race.

What has been the most challenging part of creating a web series? The most rewarding?The most challenging part was putting all of it together; production is no joke! Putting a team together, casting actors and getting locations were difficult and put me through the mud. It definitely toughened my skin to be able to make quick decisions, keep the team in a positive place, and to not take anything personal. The most rewarding part is completing it and showing myself my own power. I saw a bit of my alchemy.

How did you highlight serious topics like race while maintaining the comedy and humor of the series?
I completely exaggerated whiteness and how white people deal with Black people. My lead character is a Black woman named Maya, and she passively deals with whiteness daily, like we all do. So we get to see her boss being extraordinarily white and being completely oblivious to his Black staff by being offensively loving toward them. We get to see her date a white man who goes about adoring her Blackness all wrong. We also get to see how “afraid” media and police are regarding Black people simply occupying space of any capacity and so much more.

Who are some black women creatives you would like to work with in the future?
Oooh good question! Is Beyoncé an option? If not, she can just glance at me and it will resonate the same. I would LOVE to work with Heben and Tracy of Buzzfeed, Chescaleigh, Issa Rae, Shonda Rhimes, and create Black superheroes with Ava Duvernay. Bree Newsome is a filmmaker too, so that would be dope.

What’s one piece of advice you’ve received as a creative that has stuck with you?
“It’s none of my business.” If people no longer want to be around, if something in the project falls through, if something was promised then it vanishes… Let it go. The “why’s” are a waste of time and it’s none of my business. Next.

Latasha is a Queens, NY native and cum laude graduate with a Bachelor’s of the Arts degree in Communication Arts. She started her first brand, Dope Files, in 2010, and was able to garner herself interviews with some of the most established names in Fashion & Music, such as Anna Sui, Pharrell Williams, Trey Songz, and much more. She ended Dope Files in 2014 in search of work with a purpose.  This birthed her current brand JustLatasha; she films and edits bi-weekly comedic vlogs about race issues to her 4,000+ subscribers. This also led to her highly anticipated upcoming comedy web series, Sit Black & Relax, debuting March 14, 2016. This is her first scripted work, and she is more than excited to share more of her talents with the world. Connect with Latasha on Youtube @JustLatasha and on Twitter @JustLatasha404.