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The bright future of the CROWN Act: Is VP Kamala Harris the answer?

Note: Karla Arroyo is the Inaugural Fellow of the CROWN Campaign.

The Crown Act has had VP Kamala Harris on its side for some time. But what does it mean now that she’s in a position of power at the executive level?

The pervasive belief that Black women’s hair must be straight in the workplace and schools goes beyond aesthetics. For ages (and still today), Black women feel the need to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards, which deems straight hair as the norm.

This is embedded in many institutions today, resulting in a lack of opportunities and diverse and inclusive spaces for Black people.

For Dr. Patricia O’Brien-Richardson, Associate Professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, hosting events like the annual CROWN Conference offers a platform to discuss her three core values: inclusion, education, and cultivating community.

The second annual CROWN Conference, dubbed #CROWNCON2021 on social media, was moderated by Dr. O’Brien-Richardson and supported by the Bloustein School at Rutgers University’s Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement.

Panelists included co-founders of the CROWN Campaign, Dr. Bernice B. Rumala, and Shemekka Ebony; Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU-NJ, Karen Thompson; MPH candidates at the Rutgers School of Public Health, Christina Anderson and Amber Rockson.

Hairstorical context

Hair discrimination dates back to the Transatlantic slave trade, where millions of Africans forcefully migrated to the Americas. Slaveowners and colonizers viewed slaves as animals and referred to their hair as wool. This eventually led to the notion that Black hair is problematic and inferior to that of European hair.

Today, European beauty standards such as fine hair and light skin make many Black and brown people question their identity in white spaces.

“Hair marks who we are as Black people,” says Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU-NJ, Karen Thompson.

“Of the many injuries that the Middle Passage did to us as Black people, I think one of the things that is such a loss is that we lost that relationship to our hair as expression,” Thompson added.

hair map
Photo courtesy of

Attorney Karen Thompson also discussed the concept of hair fractals, which are infinite repeating patterns seen in architecture, clothing patterns, braids, and hair in general. African design has existed in the use of fractals, which are depicted in the photo above.

Thompson cites that dehumanizing events such as the Middle Passage has stripped many Black people from their ancestry. “We think we don’t have this lineage but we have a lineage and it is profound,” said Attorney Thompson. “We have history–the way we look, the way our hair grows, it is profound,” she added.

Structural violence towards Black hair and even Black body types may appear different as time passes, but the intention remains the same. When slaves arrived to the Americas, their hair was shaven as a way to erase their culture.

angel davis hair crown
Photo courtesy of

In the 1700s, Tignon Laws forced Black women in Louisiana to cover their hair with head wraps because their hair was viewed as dangerous.

“Americans were fed a diet of anti-Blackness and Black hair. We fast forward to the 60s and see the afro as a symbol of violence and anti-police/government,” said Dr. Patricia O’Brien-Richardson. “Every decade has brought us a reminder that Black hair is not accepted,” she added.

Next steps for CROWNCON and the CROWN Act with Kamala Harris in office

crown act kamale harris
Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Ringer illustration.

The election of U.S. President Joseph R. Biden and Madam Vice President Kamala Harris offers hope for many Black and brown people across the country.

Harris, who comes from a Black and Asian-American background, resonates with a lot of women, like CROWN Campaign co-founder, Shemekka Ebony, who is ecstatic about more CROWN-related policies.

“I believe [that] with her representation of leading the Senate, her representation of having the way paved with Senator Cory Booker presenting it to the floor back in January of last year, there could be opportunity that it will mobilize, so we can go!”, exclaimed Ebony.

“So if I were to make some projections, I project people are more confident in their hair journey,” Ebony added.

While MVP Kamala Harris is a great signifier of change for not only the Crown act but Black and brown communities, there is still a way to go. Luckily, for many anti-discrimination advocates, Dr. Patricia O’Brien-Richardson plans to host CROWN Conferences every year until the CROWN Act is passed on a federal level.

Dr. Patti also plans to give her students the autonomy to host the event because they are “awesome, amazing, can go viral and reach more people”.

New Jersey became the third state to pass the CROWN Act in December 2019, following New York. So, for Dr. Patti, it’s perfect that CROWNCON is held in New Jersey, in an institution where public policy is the focus.

To watch the #CROWNCON2021 recording, click here. Note: Karla Arroyo is the Inaugural Fellow for the CROWN Campaign.

The importance of the CROWN Conference and diverse documentation

Note: Karla Arroyo is the Inaugural Fellow for the CROWN Campaign.

There is a dire lack of industry research when it comes to racial discrimination. The impacts of oppression are perennial and because there is a lack of diverse documentation, stories often go untold.

This was proven by last year’s in-person CROWN Conference, where policymakers requested more research in this field so it can be cited when presenting legislation.

Dr. Patricia O’Brien-Richardson, who is also a researcher, has spent eight years doing this work so Black and brown policymakers can use it as evidence of diverse documentation in chambers.

diverse documentation
Dr. Patricia O’Brien-Richardson. Photo courtesy of O’Brien-Richardson’s Twitter account.

Diverse documentation matters

“These policymakers don’t look like me, they don’t look like the CROWN Campaign founders,” said Dr. Patti in regard to the current demographic of older white male legislators.

“These are the people that get credit for passing these laws.”

Dr. Patti

During the event, attendee Naomi Samuel, a doctoral student in the Department of Management and diversity scholar at the University of Texas-Arlington, who is developing a natural hair policy project, asked an important question that often gets overlooked in this sector: “Do you all have advice for those of us who are conducting research on natural hair?”

CROWN Campaign co-founder Dr. Rumala, who is also the Director and Founding Faculty of the People with Lived Experience Institute (PLE), stressed the importance of white papers for research and encouraged #CROWNCON2021 attendees to submit papers to the PLE for peer-review publication.

But most importantly, she wants to help uplift the stories of those with lived experiences of discrimination so they can be referred to at the federal level.

“We need more research,” said Dr. Rumala. She continued, “And the research could be capturing lived experiences of individuals. This is something that we’ve used in our cases for CROWN Campaign, for advocacy, where we’re citing the stories and the papers.”

Naomi Samuels mentioned that Dr. Rumala’s words at the conference were “a loving push to liberation.”

She attended the conference with a purpose towards research and she will be receiving additional guidance for her research interest on engaging people with lived experience as an inaugural People with Lived Experience Institute Fellow and CROWN Campaign Fellow.

Cultivating community in schools

Hair discrimination plays a large role in schools. Black students, like Michael Trimble, or “Tink,” are often isolated and discriminated against in their schools.

Tink was discriminated against due to his hair, which eventually put his grandmother (Randi Woodley)’s freedom in jeopardy.

These hair policies can be subjective and racist, which is why CROWN Campaign co-founder Shemekka Ebony strongly urges people to look at existing hair policies in schools and how they can be more inclusive for Black students.

rutgers unviersity
Photo courtesy of

As an educator, Dr. Patricia O’Brien-Richardson emphasizes the importance of inclusion in a community, especially in a higher education institution. She says a lot of the new students at Rutgers University are experiencing their college life at home due to COVID-19, stripping them of the diversity that exists on campus.

Since students are attending school virtually from home, Black students will probably be wearing their hair in natural styles. “It’s completely fine to show up in your bonnet.

We’re in a pandemic, nothing is normal,” said panelist Amber Rockson. “I think we need to have a little bit more grace with ourselves because for the first time, my whole class saw the inside of my house,” Rockson continued.

With more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) measures in place in schools, Black and brown students are more likely to feel accepted if they wear their hair natural.

Dr. Patti’s mission

Dr. Patti has made strides to educate and create a more inclusive environment at the Bloustein School at Rutgers University. She is on the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging task force and the recruitment and hiring team for employees.

Belonging is a core value Dr. Patti holds dear to her heart. Hosting events like CROWNCON are opportunities to capture all facets of diversity at the Bloustein school and beyond.

“I’m very fortunate that for the second year in a row, CROWNCON has been supported by the Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement,” said Dr. Patti. She added, “I’m very fortunate to be in a university where there’s a Black president who values inclusion.”

Dr. Patti describes the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy as a fitting setting for the CROWN Conference. This event specifically feeds the facet of her vision to cultivate her community through essential research and diverse documentation.

To watch the #CROWNCON2021 conference, click here.

CROWN Campaign Ambassador LaShawn Hill embodies leadership in AL

Note: Karla Arroyo is the Inaugural Fellow of the CROWN Campaign.

Race-based hair discrimination is still prevalent today, especially in workplaces and schools. The CROWN Act, a law currently available in seven states and nine municipalities, protects Black people from hair discrimination in these environments.

LaShawn Hill, natural hair salon owner, and stylist at Natural Elements in Homewood, Alabama, learned about the legislation and the CROWN Campaign after a commercial during the 2020 BET Awards.

The CROWN Campaign is an interdisciplinary grassroots organization that supports legal protections like the CROWN Act and advocates against natural hair discrimination.

Hill reached out to the CROWN Campaign shortly after the commercial to inquire about how she can lead efforts in Birmingham, AL. For reference, Alabama (nor any of its cities) does not yet employ the CROWN Act.

The co-founders of the CROWN Campaign, Dr. Bernice B. Rumala and Shemekka Ebony, MS, gave LaShawn the most important tool she needed: a voice in Alabama.

Taking the CROWN Campaign to Alabama

Hill joined the CROWN Campaign in July 2020 as their Alabama state leader. Later that month, she was the recipient of the CROWN Campaign’s Community Leader Award.

Photo submitted by LaShawn Hill.

“LaShawn Hill has been a forward thinking visionary in terms of her leadership. She hit the ground running from the first day she joined the CROWN Campaign in summer 2020,” said Dr. Rumala.

In this role, LaShawn mobilizes, supports, advocates for and networks with people with lived experiences of hair discrimination. Hill is an exemplary change agent; she addresses the root of the problem, too.

On July 28, 2020, the Birmingham City Council passed a resolution led by LaShawn in observation of CROWN Day, which falls on July 3.

Crown ambassador LaShawn Hill
Photo from LaShawn Hill’s Facebook account. Left to right: Ida Tyree Hyche-Hill, Esq; Concilor Crystal Smitherman, Esq and LaShawn Hill.

“Dr. Bernice Rumala has instilled a pride in me that’s made me want to do my part in Birmingham,” said LaShawn.

Hill worked alongside Birmingham District 6 Councilor Crystal Smitherman, Esq’s law firm, Smitherman Law Firm, to pass this resolution. In its early stages, LaShawn googled African American mayors in Alabama and looked for something they both had in common: natural hair.

This allowed Hill to make her case on how natural hair and its relationship with discrimination affects Black and brown people heavily.

“She was able to mobilize community and get the first resolution passed in two weeks for Birmingham which was the first for the state of Alabama,” said Dr. Rumala.

“She is the epitome of the CROWN Campaign principles. One of which is that even one person can serve as the catalyst for change in the community as part of the village,” Dr. Rumala added.


LaShawn’s drive for change did not end in Birmingham, however. Hill led another grassroots effort resulting in a second CROWN resolution in Center Point, AL on December 28, 2020. This effort was completed alongside Mayor Bobby Scott, Council President D.M. Collins, and others.

Crown ambassador LaShawn Hill
Photo submitted by LaShawn Hill. Left to right: Councilwoman Tiffany C. Moore, Sharon Jones Council Place 4, Mayor Bobby Scott, LaShawn Hill, social media influencer, Kaleah Spears; Council President, D.M. Collins, Eboney Copeland, Council Place 5.

“I believe in making changes with people that are ready to change,” said LaShawn in her talk as an invited distinguished speaker at the People with Lived Experience Institute Conference. “So, we thank the city of Center Point for supporting our grassroots organization…this is just another step in our goal that we’re trying to achieve,” she added.

In the video, LaShawn highlights her efforts as a community organizer and her support in leading two resolutions. While Hill’s efforts are highly distinguishable, she was initially a person who worked behind the scenes.

“I like to kind of work in the background and get things organized and push other people. But, one thing the CROWN Campaign has instilled in me is leadership–knowing how important one person can be to make a difference and a change in their community,” says LaShawn Hill in her presentation.

To the root

When LaShawn isn’t attending city council meetings, she is running her salon. Founded in 1999, Hill’s family business set the tone for natural hair in Alabama. Natural Elements serves all types of clients and hair types, even those who are undergoing chemotherapy or alopecia.

The connection between LaShawn’s business and policy is clear. She has lived experiences of discrimination and therefore, understands it. LaShawn launches change in two ways: aesthetically and legislatively.

“This affects my livelihood and my client’s self-esteem,” says LaShawn. “When people sit in my chair, it’s not about hair. It’s about what drove them to the shop and what’s going on in their lives,” LaShawn continued.

Hill asks every client what city they are from then tells them to study their legislators and vote for them. Usually, she steers away from politics but stresses the importance of knowing who is creating laws.

LaShawn dubs herself a “natural networker”. She says when you’re passionate about something, you’re not working, you’re doing.

New year, more resolutions

Crown ambassador LaShawn Hill
Photo submitted by LaShawn Hill. Left to right (LaShawn is in front): Cody Vaughn, Khi Lyn Vaughn and Kaleah Spears.

LaShawn is already planning her next steps. She is currently targeting eight Black-dominated communities in Alabama (one being Montgomery) for more city council resolutions. Hill already completed resolutions in two cities out of her personal goal list of 10 in Alabama.

LaShawn says she has letters and emails set to be sent out to target cities. “I’m pretty much on track,” said Hill.

She recently met with senator Rodger Smitherman to speak about the next city council resolutions. Ultimately, Hill’s goal is to get one passed in the state of Alabama.

“Leaders like LaShawn educate communities about how legal protections like the CROWN Act can benefit marginalized people in Alabama,” said CROWN Campaign co-founder Shemekka Ebony, MS.

To learn more about LaShawn’s efforts in Alabama, watch her conversation with CROWN Campaign Director of Research, Dr. Manka Nkimbeng here.

This Black Texas grandmother is not giving up the fight for her grandson’s hair

Note: Karla Arroyo is the Inaugural Fellow for the CROWN Campaign.

On August 15, Governor Pete Ricketts vetoed LB 1060, also known as the CROWN Act, in Nebraska. Ricketts said he understood the point of the bill, but on the other hand, he believes hairstyles are not “attributable to one racial group” and can be easily changed.

He added that locs, braids, and twists — styles often worn by Black women — are “not exclusively worn by one race.”

This easily defeats the purpose of the CROWN Act. The law protects Black women, who are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work due to their hair. White women are rarely policed due to their hair because they tend to wear it straight, and obviously, they’re not Black.

The fight for Black hair and freedom

However, other groups are also being targeted due to their hair — young Black children.

Randi Hogan Woodley’s five-year-old grandson, Michael Trimble, known as “Tink,” has been isolated and discriminated against since his grandmother attempted to register him in a headstart program in Tatum, Texas.

Tink’s hair is long and often in braids which led to Randi’s arrest. It all began on August 13, 2019, when Tink was treated differently at Tatum ISD.

“He has been suspended and kicked out of school for three months and I’ve been jailed twice. The first time I went to jail was for felony child endangerment because I refused to cut his hair and continue to send him to school,” said Woodley.

She continued, “The second time I was arrested, I had to actually turn myself in because they were going to try to have me indicted under new charges.”

Tink’s suspension didn’t come with any actual premises, however. Randi states Tatum ISD unlawfully removed Tink from school without providing paperwork nor notice.

She went to the school to have what she thought was going to be a “healthy dialogue,” but instead she was presented with an unconsiderable offer — the school’s superintendent requested Tink gets his hair cut or put on a dress and be identified as transgender.

“At that point, all bets were off,” said Randi.

Actionable steps against Tatum ISD

She began organizing protests on the school’s campus and encouraged others to join. However, the school’s superintendent, J.P. Richardson, caught wind of the plans and sent an email to all parents stating that protestors will not be allowed on the premises.

This didn’t stop Randi; she organized another protest, but she was arrested.

“[Tatum ISD] gave me a criminal trespass while Tink was still in the school,” said Woodley.

The CROWN Campaign, an interdisciplinary team of women with lived experiences of hair discrimination, provided expert testimony by addressing a letter to the Tatum school district. The letter, written by CROWN Campaign co-founder Dr. Bernice B. Rumala, was loaded with points on how hair discrimination has perennial effects on Black people.

Dr. Rumala and co-founder Shemekka Ebony addressed another letter to the Tatum Independent School District’s Superintendent, Matt Crawford regarding the school’s grooming policies.

One of Tatum ISD’s dress and grooming policies suggests hair “must be neat, clean, and well-groomed.”

“This ain’t about Black hair, this is about rules that apply to the other side,” said Randi in a Facebook video below.

Tolerance, but in another district

Since then, Randi continues to journal her and Tink’s hair discrimination journey on Facebook.

As per Tink’s Godmother’s suggestion, Woodley enrolled Tink in East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, a school out of their district in Longview, Texas. He is now in Kindergarten.

“I have to get him up every morning at 4:30 am, get him dressed and have him at a bus stop so that he can take a 30-minute bus ride to a different district — due to his natural hair and due to me not giving up this fight,” said Woodley on the Facebook video above.

Luckily, Randi reports Tink has not faced any discrimination at his new school. In fact, the school’s enrollment process was seamless; no invasive questions about Tink’s hair were asked upon applying.

“I should have the opportunity to send my grandson to school in his district,” said Woodley in the video.

While Tink may be in a better situation, Randi’s fight further jeopardizes her freedom. Before these series of events, Randi never had an arrest record. She was summoned on February 18, 2020, for a different charge under the initial child endangerment one. She was not indicted for the charges, yet they have not been dropped to this day.

We got your back

Randi’s “village” also known as her Facebook friends, and the CROWN Campaign have shown strong support for her and Tink’s fight. Dr. Bernice B. Rumala, co-founder of the CROWN Campaign, reflects on how inspirational Randi’s fight for justice is; it starts with one voice.

“What [Randi] was able to do in her community is just amazing. She spoke her truth boldly online,” said Dr. Rumala. “That’s what we’re doing within the CROWN Campaign — continuing to share stories that support legislative efforts,” she added.

Randi’s freedom is still in question; she still has to report to a bail bondsman on Tuesdays. She is now waiting for her District Attorney to place her on a docket so she can go to court.

NowThis Wrongful Conviction producer Andrew Johnson on storytelling

When it comes to Black storytellers, Andrew Johnson producer at NowThis also known as Andy, has been in the digital media space for over a decade. He is currently a video producer at NowThis News, specifically for their series Wrongful Conviction.

The inspirational glo-up

Andy recalls being interested in filmmaking and creating visual media after watching MTV’s Making the Video.

He was fascinated by hip hop culture while growing up and would watch a lot of music videos. Andy also noticed something interesting–he would look at the bottom of the screen to see who directed the video.

Johnson would often guess who the director was based on their thematic and artistic choices. Hype Williams, Paul Hunter, and Little X were his common guesses. Watching this series gave Johnson the opportunity to see the creative process of the music videos. It also introduced him to a possible career path.

He knew he did not want to create music videos, but rather full-length movies. When he enrolled in college at Long Island University – post campus, he became a film major.

Andy’s first filmmaking gigs started at weddings. He would do 10-hour wedding days and then edit the footage. He would have hours of video and ultimately turn them into short, five-minute films.

NowThis’ Wrongful Conviction

NowThis News covers investigative reports, interviews, along with original series, like Wrongful Conviction, which Johnson produces. The series highlights individual cases of people who were sentenced for crimes they did not commit.

One episode Johnson produced was that of Huwe Burton’s. Burton’s mother was murdered when he was 16. He came home to the body and called the police.

At first, it appeared that the police were conducting an investigation on the murder. They shifted the blame towards Burton and he eventually was jailed following a coerced confession.

Huwe Burton’s case

At the time of the murder, Huwe had a 13-year-old girlfriend. The police accused Burton of statutory rape and told him if he admits to killing his mom, they will bring him to family court and he will serve no jail time. If he didn’t admit to the murder he never committed, authorities told him he will get a murder charge alongside a statutory rape charge.

Johnson remembers the episode:

“Being that he was 16 years old, he confessed to the cops’ coerced confession about his mom’s death. Basically, it made me think of what I would have done when I was 16.”

He continued,

“At 16, you’re not necessarily operating with a full deck, so that kind of weighed heavily on me. [I reflected] on what kind of child I was at 16, and said if I was in a situation like that…where would my life be right now?”

Huey Burton’s case hit close to home for the producer. Andrew admits he develops emotional connections to some of the stories on the NowThis series. He cites that Black and Brown people are disproportionately affected by incarceration. However, he focuses on other demographics as well in order to keep his work versatile.

“As a Black person…my outlook on life and every day is the Black experience. So, I do cover that, but I also don’t want to be boxed into, ‘He only covers Black content’.”

The experience is for everyone to see

By expanding his palette, he can also highlight the human experience overall. Andy is interested in finding other groups affected by incarceration, like suburban moms and convicted children.

“I want to take the time to get different aspects of the problem or different demographics…Although this does disproportionately affect Black and brown people, it can happen to anyone.”

The COVID-19 outbreak caused a lot of companies to shift the way they operate. In Andrew’s experience, NowThis switched in-person interviews for the show to Skype interviews. The pandemic altered the storytelling, but the episodes still garnered thousands of views and engagement.

Andrew Johnson may make film production look easy, but there are some challenges that come with it. Research is paramount to the creation of a successful episode. Usually, when you speak to friends or family of incarcerated people, they will suggest the person in question is innocent.

By conducting heavy research, the Wrongful Conviction team can present the public with the facts of a case. For Andy, this means he has to make sure he can stand behind what he published. Sometimes, that involves filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and talking to forensic examiners.

The end-goal

Andy’s end goal doesn’t stop with NowThis. The film producer dreams of creating feature-length documentaries on stories surrounding social issues in general. More specifically, he wants to explore the African and Caribbean diaspora through his lens.

He’s already started doing the work–Johnson is currently working on a project about Black farmers in America. Johnson cites that there were over a million Black farmers in America in the 1920s and that there are roughly 49,000 today. That makes up less than 1% of all farmers. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is notorious for discriminating against Black farmers, of which we see the effects of today.

“[We] have less Black farmers now and when you look at Black areas, there’s a lot of food desserts. And then when you look at it even deeper, you find out that the top deaths for Blacks are food-related, like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.”

Advice for the up-and-coming

Andrew’s pro tip to young aspiring producers: start now.

We have an abundance of technology to the point where you can even record a film of an iPhone. There are a lot of software programs and apps to download for editing, like iMovie. YouTube is also a great resource for tutorials.

“Start now. It doesn’t matter if you suck, you’re going to get better. Just keep working on improving. Find your niche, find the stories you like to tell; even if they’re quirky.”

He continued,

“Chances are, if you are interested in something, there’s probably other people who are interested in it.”

Johnson also reminds the new generation to opt for start-ups or smaller companies versus large corporations.

He searched for openings at companies like MTV and CBS when he was in college. However, when he began to look at smaller organizations, he noticed he could have the opportunity to do more work.

Internships sometimes have a bad reputation (e.g. supervisors making their interns grab coffee and print and copy documents).

The medium you’re looking to get into also plays a large role in your job search.

“Sometimes, you can actually be functional without a large company. So when you look at segments of media like podcasting, you can do that on your own.”

Andy also suggests creating a name for yourself. If you’re working for a large corporation, your work reflects their practices and tone. So, by creating your own experience, people learn about you, what you do, and ultimately turn yourself into a brand.

To check out more of Andrew Johnson’s work, click here.

How Megan Thee Stallion bossed up from college girl to rap superstar

Megan Thee Stallion, also known as “Tina Snow” or “Hot Girl Meg” is one of the most dynamic female rappers today. Thee Stallion is also a soon-to-be senior student at Texas Southern University.

Before releasing the “Savage” remix with Beyoncé, the Texas-native was making songs in her college dorm room. Her talents eventually landed her this major track, which debuted at #1 on the American iTunes Chart. The track has lived on the U.S. Songs Chart for 82 days since.

Early beginnings

At 18, the Hot Girl expressed to her late mother and former rapper, Holly-Wood, that she wanted to start rapping. Her mother suggested she wait until she was older because there is a lot of vulgarity in rap.

If you listen to Thee Stallion, her lyrics are raunchy, but her fierceness is what makes her who she is.

Not only is Megan a schoolgirl by day and rapper by night, she knows how to freestyle. Mainstream female rappers don’t tend to freestyle often, so seeing Megan do it is refreshing. Her verse in the 2016 “The Houston Cypher” offered her exposure, followed by her Stalli Freestyle in 2017.

Hot Girl Summer

The rapper’s 5’10 stature and ample features attract many to her, but the Hot Girl is rather humble. Thee Stallion is often seen hanging out with other fellow rappers, including women and men, like Sza, Kash Doll, Lizzo, Da Baby, and Nicki Minaj just to name a few.

She feeds them shots of liquor, particularly D’usse or tequila, in videos and calls it “driving the boat.” The Hot Girl’s friendliness has landed her lots of opportunities in music, like her collaboration with Nicki Minaj.

In 2019, Thee Stallion collaborated with the rap star for “Hot Girl Summer”. The track landed at #1 on the American iTunes Chart on August 9, 2019.

The Houston native told The Root that a hot girl summer is about “women — and men — just being unapologetically them, just having a good-ass time, hyping up your friends, doing you, not giving a damn about what nobody got to say about it. You definitely have to be a person that can be the life of the party, and y’know, just a bad bitch.”

Legal issues

In March 2020, the rapper went public via Instagram Live about her issues with her label, 1501 Certified Entertainment. Turns out 1501 wasn’t allowing the Hot Girl to release new music. Megan acknowledged she signed a contract with them when she was 20 and “didn’t know everything that was in that contract.”

Megan filed suit against the label and was granted an extended restraining order against the label. Once issued, the rapper released a short project called Suga on March 6. The EP is home to “B.I.T.C.H.,” “Captain Hook,” and “Savage.”

Thee Stallion couldn’t be held back for too long, and hopefully not for much longer. The rapper was recently involved in an incident alongside rapper Tory Lanez, who allegedly shot her multiple times. Megan is in stable condition, but she did take to Twitter to express her current feelings surrounding the world’s climate.

“Black women are so unprotected & we hold so many things in to protect the feelings of others w/o considering our own. It might be funny to y’all on the internet and just another messy topic for you to talk about but this is my real life and I’m real life hurt and traumatized,” said Thee Stallion.

Why y’all acting like Nick Cannon wasn’t riding out for Black communities?

Nick Cannon wears many hats and being an activist, in support of Black communities, is just one of his most prominent roles.

Last week, ViacomCBS fired Cannon following “hateful speech” in a recent episode of his YouTube podcast, Cannon’s Class. His conversation with Professor Griff, former Public Enemy rapper fueled controversy.

It’s only “wilding out” when a Black man speaks up

His comedy improv show, Wild ‘N Out, is ViacomCBS’s child company, so this means we won’t be seeing Nick wilding out any time soon.

Following the alleged anti-Semitic remarks, ViacomCBS issued a statement.

“ViacomCBS condemns bigotry of any kind and we categorically denounce all forms of anti-Semitism. We have spoken with Nick Cannon about an episode of his podcast ‘Cannon’s Class’ on YouTube, which promoted hateful speech and spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”

The company continued,

While we support ongoing education and dialogue in the fight against bigotry, we are deeply troubled that Nick has failed to acknowledge or apologize for perpetuating anti-Semitism, and we are terminating our relationship with him. We are committed to doing better in our response to incidents of anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry. ViacomCBS will have further announcements on our efforts to combat hate of all kinds.

Sincere apologies

On July 15, Cannon took to a Twitter thread to apologize for his comments and acknowledged his statements were hurtful to the Jewish community.

He continued,


Surprisingly, the rapper didn’t receive the support he expected from the Black community.

By Friday, July 17, Cannon tweeted about the backlash he’s received following his apology regarding his comments about Jewish people being “true savages” because of the way they treated melanated people.

Why apologize, though?

Rapper Master P, along with many other Twitter users were not in favor of Nick’s apology. On Sunday, July 9, P told TMZ, “I hate that Nick Cannon apologized. He shouldn’t have did that.”

The rapper continued and said Cannon wouldn’t have had to apologize if he didn’t have to worry about losing his job.

Other Twitter users weren’t too happy about his decision. Some felt as if Black people have already done too much apologizing for the oppression they face daily.

FOX is still with it

Despite his removal from ViacomCBS, Fox, has decided to move forward with Cannon as the host of “The Masked Singer”.

Fox News made a statement last Wednesday suggesting they were aware of Cannon’s podcast episode and addressed it with the rapper. FOX TV wrote in a small tweet thread,

He is clear and remorseful that his words were strong and lacked both understanding and context, and inadvertently promoted hate. This was important for us to observe. Nick has sincerely apologized, and quickly taken steps to educate himself and make amends.

The road to redemption

Almost a week after Nick’s remarks on Cannon’s Class, Cannon sat with Rabbi Abraham Cooper to discuss the events.

Nick acknowledged he angered a lot of people, including the Jewish community. The Rabbi emphasized that he deemed Cannon’s apology as sincere. The two spoke about the conversation not being about hate, but rather a way to self-educate.

Complex reported Cooper will serve as a guide to Nick and will maintain contact with him while he continues to educate himself further.

Don’t cancel Nick, now

Rapper T.I. took to the Breakfast Club to discuss the conversations surrounding The Masked Singer host Tuesday morning.

T.I. stated that not everyone has to agree with Nick Cannon’s apology, but he shouldn’t deserve all the criticism.

“Whether you agree or disagree with the apology, you don’t use it to villainize or slander one of our national treasures,” Tip told The Breakfast Club.

He continued,

“I just really feel like if a mistake was made, then he has to rectify that mistake. But it ain’t our job to cancel him. First of all, let’s look at Nick Cannon’s career and reputation. Look at how many Black people he put in position and helped and got off of zero.”

Ultimately, cancel culture has immediate and also lasting effects. Cannon is widely known for his work towards uplifting the Black community, so if he is canceled, that’s another Black man being brought down.

Welcome to Stiami! Steinway Street was a little too lit last weekend

This past weekend, COVID-19 saw many opportunities for transmission in Steinway Street, Astoria. The Queens street was home to hundreds of maskless people on Friday, July 17.

Why won’t you follow the rules?!

Phase Two of reopening in New York City consisted of the “Open Restaurants” plan.

The plan suggests restaurants and bars can reopen for outdoor dining; the dining usually takes place on sidewalks and curb lanes. The six-feet rule applies to this and most restaurants have placed their seating according to the rule.

Customers must wear their face coverings until they are seated. Employees, however, must wear them at all times. Talk about no consideration for Stiami.

Once the video footage of the crowded street surfaced on social media, Black Twitter saw an opportunity. Twitter users named Steinway Street, “Stiami”, in comparison to Miami, which has also experienced a lot of recent partygoers.

Welcome to Stiami

Stiami, like Ocean Drive, has over a dozen bars and many daily tourists.

Steinway visitors did not respect the coronavirus advisories, like social distancing and wearing PPE. Partygoers spent hours dancing and drinking in the streets, some even dancing on cars.

Queens TikTok comedian, JCal, created a video mocking the risky conditions that took place on the strip this weekend.

Local authorities discovered the flood of people nearly 40 minutes after midnight on Saturday.

The NYPD responded to a 311 call for a “traffic condition” on Steinway Street between 25th and 28th streets. Gothamist reported that officers asked the crowd to leave the area.

According to NYPD Detective Sophia Mason, no incidents followed the order. One bar on the strip, Brik Astoria, is known for its loud music past the 10 p.m. business cutoff.

A Steinway Street resident, Emily Maretsky, told Gothamist that her neighbor has a decibel reader and said Brik’s music measured over 100dB from her apartment.

By Sunday, the bar’s outdoor dining and drinking provisions were removed for a week.

Brik Astoria will not be allowed to serve outdoor customers until a new plan (which will ultimately be approved by the city’s health department) is set, a City Hall spokesperson confirmed.

Wrap it up

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration stated they will offer feedback on the restaurant’s plan once submitted.

Apparently, the bar’s owner, John Zorbas, plans to keep outdoor seating open due to his outdoor sidewalk permit, Gothamist reported.

De Blasio stated he will increase enforcement in Astoria and will be in the neighborhood to surveil restaurants.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s three-strike rule could heavily affect many businesses on Steinway Street as well.

Wait a minute… Dyckman, too?!

Obviously, this rule isn’t ideal for business owners trying to make money, but it also isn’t ideal for people that can contract COVID-19. We are living through a pandemic that has claimed the lives of many.

Not following city orders puts many people at risk.

On Sunday morning, a video surfaced from 207th Street in Inwood, Manhattan. The video depicts a topless woman dancing on top of a car followed by doing splits on the floor, where she even got money thrown at her.

The Coronavirus has exposed many people’s desperation to return to the days of clubbing and being in large groups.

The more people break the rules, the longer we will have to deal with the many consequences of COVID-19.

Creative stoner Lloyd Kanchan sets the scene with his cannabis dioramas

Lloyd Kanchan, also known as @rapoleon_dynamite on Instagram, aims high when it comes to creativity. No pun intended.

The creative stoner offers us something unique: a blend of marijuana and action figurines in dioramas.

He incorporates TV shows and films into his artwork like Stranger Things and Pulp Fiction. Kanchan even made his content political and created a Black Lives Matter diorama.

Talk about being multi-faceted.

Inspiration from up high

While Rapoleon’s work may seem like he’s been doing it for years, he actually only began two and a half years ago. He came across an Instagram account, @super_smacked_bros420, that inspired him.

The California-based creative stoner noticed the account incorporated Pop toys in its displays. He then stumbled across posable action figures and let his imagination take him further, paving the way for his online portfolio.

Rapoleon Dynamite’s introduction to cannabis happened over a decade ago. In 2005, he got injured while playing on his alma mater’s football team at the University of Oregon.

The medications he was prescribed, like Vicodin, caused him to have bad side effects. It wasn’t until he ended up at a party where he was offered a joint when he discovered marijuana was the remedy he never knew he was seeking.

After that, I remember I started dancing, and I felt good…The next day, I [remembered] that I’m probably going to have pains and wake up sore.

He continued,

But no, I remember we smoked again the next morning and we actually went to go play ball. I was like, wait a second; I wasn’t able to do this before when I was on the pills. With weed, I was able to do everything and still focus.

High input = High productivity

Marijuana affects people differently; some are more productive while on it, while others tend to become lazy.

For Lloyd Kanchan, it’s made his day-to-day tasks smoother. He previously worked in warehouses where productivity was paramount.

Kanchan realized that by being high at work, he avoided feelings of anger and discomfort. When he wasn’t high, he noticed those who weren’t working or moving rather slowly.

Moreover, this helped him focus more on his individual tasks, allowing for a smooth tenure.

I would just do my work, take my breaks, and pretty much just go home.

Haters, as Kanchan refers to them, assume he is slothful because he’s a weed smoker. He is far from that–the influencer plays basketball, football, and some baseball.

However, he says the haters are few and he’s received lots of love from fans. He adds that fan love is what keeps him going because he knows his content sparks happiness.

Ultimately, Kanchan reflects on what they love the most beyond the weed: the toys and photography.

Lloyd has options

One great advantage Rapoleon Dynamite has is his place of residence. The diorama creator currently resides in San Bernardino, CA, where cannabis laws are lenient if an adult utilizes cannabis in their home. In addition, California made medical marijuana legal in 1996, making it the first state to legalize it.

If the California resident lived in another state, like Nebraska, where cannabis is fully illegal, his Instagram page probably wouldn’t operate so openly.

If I had the way to get [weed] still, I would still [operate my account] but I probably won’t be able to get sponsors and as much exposure.

Lloyd Kanchan keeps his roll-up preferences quite diverse. He says he often turns to hemp wraps or Royal Blunts as his first option.


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Loyal 2 Royal 👑 ….. #RoyalBlunts

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Kanchan likes these two because they don’t offer tobacco’s harshness. Other contenders are RAW papers and elements rolling papers.

Dear creative stoner

If you’re a creative stoner and would like to follow in Rapoleon Dynamite’s footsteps, he has some words of encouragement:

Don’t care about what people say. That’s a big, big, thing these days…If you have a passion for it, if you love it, don’t stop. I started this two and a half years ago and I would’ve never thought I would be at this point.

The diorama creator shared that past experiences have helped him develop a thicker skin. He understands not everyone has tough skin, but he reminds them to keep a healthy circle of people around them for encouragement.

Rapoleon Dynamite says he used to spend time around a “bad crowd,” which stalled him. Until he changed his circle and environment.

I noticed that positivity goes a long, long, way.

The content creator says he would love to work with weed-smoking celebrities in the future, such as Seth Rogen, Snoop Dogg, Silent Bob, and Cheech and Chong.

Senator Kelly Loeffler’s dumb ass is launching an anti-BLM movement

Black lives don’t matter to a lot of racist whites, and certainly not to Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA).

This week, Popular reported that Loeffler said she adamantly opposes the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black Dreams deferred

The Georgia senator is co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, a team on the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and also, whose members are majority Black.

On July 7th, Kelly Loeffler wrote a letter to the WNBA commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, expressing her objection to the WNBA’s plan to “affirm Black Lives Matter and honor victims of police brutality and racial violence.”

Loeffler received a lot of backlash by team members and the public for this decision. Other large corporations such as AT&T and Google will face criticism as well, especially since they publicly supported BLM. Clearly, not enough.

Corporate bullshit

In June, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson called on chief executives to make a statement following the racially motivated killing of George Floyd. In the same month, Google Assistant added an explanation of the BLM movement when users ask, “Do Black lives matter?”. The company also updated responses to “Do all lives matter?”

While this is a way to educate and bring awareness, it still doesn’t coincide with uplifting Black voices.

AT&T will dedicate an event to the Black Lives Matter movement next weekend at the WNBA’s Tip-Off 2020. However, according to FEC filings, AT&T donated $2,500 to Loeffler’s campaign on March 3rd. AT&T did not respond to Popular’s request for additional information on the support for Loeffler’s campaign.

Google’s corporate PAC also donated $5,500 to Loeffler on December 30, 2019, despite their homepage support of BLM.

Best Buy also had questionable intentions when vowing to do better to address racial injustice. Its CEO, Corie Barry, wrote in a letter that the corporation apologizes for not doing enough to address racism.

It was discovered that they too contributed $1,000 to Loeffler’s campaign on March 10.


One of Senator Loeffler’s outrageous claims is that the BLM movement is anti-Semitic. In addition, Loeffler believes the movement “called for the removal of Jesus from churches and the disruption of nuclear family structure…” in a letter.

Atlanta Dream players want Loeffler to resign from her opposition as part owner. The senator says politics should be kept out of sports, but that’s virtually impossible when the Black bodies on the team are at risk every day.