Love Me Well: Terria and Terrica

Love Me Well is a limited edition multimedia series that aims to celebrate and elevate black love through the stories of 10 different couples. Each couple has showcased their love story through photography and either a written Q&A or podcast interview. This series was made possible thanks to photographer Jazzmin Awa-Williams, podcast producer Austin Weatherington, and 32 incredible crowdfunding campaign backers who invested in the production of the project.

There is love you see and love you can feel. Terria (TB) and Terrica (TC) exuded that love you can feel. When we photographed them, it was nearly impossible to look away as Terrica’s soft demeanor balanced Terria’s playful nature. Over the course of the shoot, the two blossomed in front of the camera and they bring that efflorescence to life even more in their interview. In this Q&A, they discuss the value of true vulnerability in love and how their unique expressions of womanhood manifest in their relationship.

(L to R) Tea and Terrica photo by Jazzmin Awa-Williams
(L to R) Tea and Terrica
photo by Jazzmin Awa-Williams

How would you define your womanhood? Has how you define your womanhood changed in the context of your relationship?

TC: I think my womanhood is a work in progress. Everything about me is, at all times. To me, there is no “right” or wrong way to be a woman. Too often we hear about things women should and shouldn’t be doing, what it means to be a good and “respectable” woman, and the roles we’re expected to play. I reject all of that. I don’t subscribe to those notions of womanhood, and I don’t let others define my womanhood. Traditionally, the concept of womanhood is limiting. My womanhood is limitless and it belongs entirely to me. My relationship with Terria really just reinforces that for me. We bring to the table two completely different definitions of what it means to be a woman and both of those are valid and beautiful.

TB: I agree. The woman that I am now is not the woman that I was five or 10 years ago. Everyday my womanhood is growing and changing, and I can see the same in Terrica. Our similarities bring us comfort, but our differences help us grow.

What is the most challenging aspect of being vulnerable in a relationship?

TC: Vulnerability has always been a challenge for me. I’m a naturally guarded and private person – that’s what’s most comfortable to me. So the challenge for me is breaking down walls and barriers to allow another person to get intimately close to me. It’s scary. But when vulnerability is met with an open mind and understanding, it can be a beautiful thing.

TB: For me, the most challenging aspect of being vulnerable in a relationship is combating an internal feeling of being weak. I’m a nurturer. I like to be the one that is there for others, not the one who needs someone to be there for me. In a relationship, my partner is there to balance me and be strong for me when I am weak; I know this. Terrica always allows me to be vulnerable when I need to, and I love her for that. It’s just deciding on when to express that vulnerability that I find challenging.

What does it mean to be a woman in love?

TC: A woman in love is a woman who understands what it means to love and be loved. A woman in love is a woman who knows who she is and what she wants. It’s a woman who’s found, not the things she needs, but rather the things she wants and deserves in another person.

TB: Being woman in love means a lot of things to me. It means being strong, being the backbone that keeps everyone together. It means finding that delicate balance of being vulnerable without being seen as overly sensitive. It also means being treated like a queen and being taken care of in return for taking care of others. It means being cherished and cherishing someone else.

Photo by Jazzmin Awa-Williams
Photo by Jazzmin Awa-Williams

How does loving another person require black women to be vulnerable?

TC: For black women, the strength that we’re so lauded for (by some) is in a lot of ways a defense mechanism. And while strength and vulnerability aren’t mutually exclusive, the kind of strength we possess often requires a lack of vulnerability. So to be vulnerable means to let go of that defense mechanism and in a sense to be defense-less. And again, that’s fine when it’s met with love and understanding, but too often for black women, it isn’t.

TB: Loving another person requires black women to be vulnerable because it requires us to take down a wall that many of us have spent a lifetime putting up. Each time life knocks us down, we rebuild that wall stronger and more impenetrable…until the next person comes along that makes us want to take it down again. It’s a cycle. It’s a scary cycle. But it’s our ability to be vulnerable continuously, while still being whole on the inside that makes us strong and unbreakable people. Plus eventually, hopefully, you will meet someone who makes taking that wall down seem not so scary and that vulnerability will become a comfortable resting place.

What’s one thing that’s special to you about black love?

TC: We live in a world where we’re constantly taught to hate ourselves. Whether it’s our hair, the color of our skin, our bodies – we’re too this, and too that, but not enough of this. Black love is special because it flies in the face of all that. It’s choosing to love ourselves despite the world telling us we aren’t worthy of love. Black love is affirmation.

TB: One thing that’s special to me about black love is how transcendent it is. Our people are all different shades of brown and come from all over the world with every background imaginable, but our love, our black love, is nothing but beautiful.

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.

Xoxo,
Tyece

 

 

 

On Love and Podcasts: The First Half Of 2016

 

The brisk January day when I said I was open to love
The brisk January day when I said I was open to love

I’ve teamed up with State Farm® as part of its Color Full Lives campaign, an initiative that promotes positivity & empowerment and celebrates all women in the African American community through a multitude of experiential and digital engagements. You know how this works-views, opinions, and musings of the unscripted kind are all my own. 

Somewhere in between our tapas and bottle of wine, I told my friend that this was the year I would be open to love. That was back in January, when the air was brisk and my heart was wide open. Like everyone else around me, I was pumped up with the kind of blind and inflated hope that ushers in a new year.

It’s August now. The air has grown thick and humid, and this heart of mine is more of a spectator to love, than a veteran recipient of it. Since that dinner in January, I moved my twenty-something self much closer to the District of Columbia, started swiping left and swiping right despite vehement declarations that I would never download Tinder, and watched time tick in the weeks that one man stopped texting me. And through it all, somehow, I’m still open to love – less as an eager pup hoping it manifests for me romantically, and more as an ardent and spirited observer of how that love has taken shape for people in my orbit.

The June day when I celebrated love, also known as my sister's wedding (photo credit Jazzmin Awa-Williams and Dejah Greene)
That beautiful day in June when I celebrated love, also known as my sister’s wedding (photo credit Jazzmin Awa-Williams and Dejah Greene)

Perhaps what I’ve learned most is that being open to love means just that – being open. It means extracting lessons from both the monumental and the molecular, keeping an ear out and an eye open for any pebble of wisdom you can garner from anywhere. I’ve collected a lot of that wisdom this year from podcasts. From the essayists behind the Modern Love podcast to the rapport between husband and wife duo Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson on #RelationshipGoals, there’s always something new to be gleaned from people’s perspectives on human connection.

And then there are the ladies of the Color Full Lives podcast.

Color Full Lives, a new podcast sponsored by State Farm, combines the sharp and influential voices of American radio personality Angela Yee, self-proclaimed “Duchess of Tech” Tatiana King Jones, and lifestyle influencer Francheska Medina, known for her brand Hey Fran Hey. During each episode, the women share their perspectives on everything from branding to diversity in tech. But, the episode that tugged at my heartstrings was episode 3 where the women broke down the raucous, unpredictable, and grey world of dating and relating. You can listen to it here.

 

Here are a few standout gems from the episode.

On trusting your partner in the age of social media | “If you have to look, you already know what it is.” – Angela

On balancing a public online presence with your private life | “I have a duty to protect myself and my family. They are people who did not sign up to be this public person.” – Tatiana

On dating a man’s potential instead of acknowledging his reality | “I’m a sucker for some potential. But, lesson learned. I’ve been burned too many times with that one.” – Fran

On not settling | “I’d much rather be single than be with the wrong person.” –Angela

On reconciling what a person looks like on paper with who they are in real life | “We tend to assume markers of success mean something about the mind of the man, but it’s not the case.” – Fran

On relinquishing the idea of saving or changing a partner | “Put your capes away! Why bother?” – Tatiana

These are all lessons we learn along the way if we are lucky, and early on if we are smart. But, we’re not always that smart. If there’s anything I’ve learned and heard reaffirmed from the women, it’s that the cobblestone road to love is a hands-on experience, a fight in the ring, a jump in the mud, and a dance with the devil. But, like the three of them, I am trying to both learn from my mistakes and laugh about them along the way.

That hot July day when I was surrounded by love
That hot July day when I was surrounded by love

I’m not sure how else “being open to love” will manifest this year. I don’t know if it will crystallize in some way or remain shapeless, coming to me through sound bites and spectatorship. But, what I do know is that I’ll remain open to whatever love – or podcasts – have to offer.

This post was sponsored by State Farm, as part of its Color Full Lives campaign. For more information, please visit https://www.statefarm.com/finances/

The Dilemma Of Hope

kelly post

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 (www.conflictundone.com), 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. 

 

 

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.