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MARCH - APRIL 2021

AN EMPOWERING Conversation with TUV Editor’s

OW N YO U R P OW E RS

STRONGER THAN STIGMA

Trans Activist Renae Taylor

Monick Monell

Speaks Truth to Power

Marvin Anderson founder of Stigmocracy Inc.

D. Majik DeCosta

Master Hairstylist to the Stars Atl + LA + MIA + NYC

Exclusive Interview!

Rodney Chester NOAH’S ARC & BEYOND

Rodney Chester, best known for his role as Alex Kirby on Noah’s Arc, talks about staying sane and productive during the pandemic, rebranding to take over the reins of his professional image, and diving into community outreach as an ambassador for Metro Health DC.

THE TRANSFORMATION ISSUE

VISIT TUVMAG.COM

Owning Your Powers


LITERARY CORNER April “Skyy” Blair April “Skyy” Blair is a 38-year-old author, screenwriter and playwright from Memphis, TN. Her first novel, Choices was released in 2006 and quickly gained popularity both within the lesbian and urban fiction on communities. The highly anticipated sequel, Consequences was released in 2009 with high praises and rocketed to the top 10 lesbian best-sellers lists on Amazon.com and in independent bookstores across the country. To date, Skyy has published five Novels in the Choices series which include Choices, Consequences, Crossroads, Full Circle and Southern Comfort. She has been featured in three anthologies, Les Tales: Tempted to Touch and Carl Weber’s: Full Figured Divas 8 and 10. Her most recent novel, Southern Comfort, debuted at number one in lesbian fiction on Amazon.com. Touted as the lesbian E. Lynn Harris, Skyy blurs the lines between lesbian and straight communities in her fiction on by speaking with intimate familiarity about the striking commonalties of loving and living as African American women in America. The books resonate with truisms among women of all ages and gender identities. In 2018, Skyy wrote, produced and directed her first short film entitled Motions. Within a week Skyy received over 20 thousand views with an impressive number of positive likes and comments. Also in 2018 April was the winner of the Script to Screen Competition at the American Black Film Festival, a TV writing competition created by BET and Issa Rae’s Company, ColorCreative.  She went on to produce her first TV pilot entitled “Curves” for the BET network.

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| THE UNLEASHED VOICE

Outside of her commitment to the LGBT community, April also wants to bring body-positive, strong, and fierce images of plus-size women. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with love ones. Her current focus is on film and television writing and creating.


LITERARY CORNER

Monika M. Pickett is a relatively new voice in a literary category that is often overlooked, African American lesbian romance. Now her latest release, Pretty Boy Blue, 2nd Edition, has become the number one best-seller on Amazon.com in the U.S. and Canada across multiple categories including lesbian romance and LGBTQ fiction, among others. Monika M. Pickett is a veteran of the United States Army. She served as a medic in Operation Desert Storm and received an honorable discharge in 1991. Monika is the author of the #1 international best-selling novel Pretty Boy Blue, 2nd Edition, and its sequel, The Darkest Shade of Blue. Ms. Pickett is a highly sought-after speaker and LGBTQ rights advocate. She also is an author of a monthly column, available online at EURWEB. com and Medium.com, where she shares her thoughts, experiences, and advice about coming out, same-sex marriage and divorce, navigating the U.S. healthcare system, ongoing cultural bias, and a variety of other issues. She is also a contributor to the Huffington Post, The Unleashed Voice Magazine and is a recurring host of “Inside Out” on WPFW-FM 89.3 in Washington, DC. She earned a Master of Human Services degree from Lincoln University in 2001 and a MBA from Johns Hopkins University in 2005.

THE UNLEASHED VOICE |

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CONTENTS

Ad Deadline April 12, 2021

Next Issue May | June 2021

10Cover & Story 11 Rodney Chester Actor & Community Activist 02 | Literary Corner Author April “Skyy” Blair

Author Monika M. Pickett

06 | Editor’s Letter Gwendolyn D. Clemons

Dr. Davin D. Clemons, DMin

15 | Spirituality Section

20 | Guest Contributor

Beth Trouy

Nigel Ashford

Hone Your Powers

16 | Entertainment Chris Parker Expert and Founder of Parker XL

19 | Health & Wellness Diandra Marie The (Power Of the) Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

OUTSPOKEN

08 & 09

Guest Contributor Marvin Anderson Founder of Stigmocracy Inc.

21 | Featured Writer Monick Monell Own Your Powers

22 | Wedding Announcement Meet The Quarles The Story of Us

23 | Featured Writer Jeremy Johnson The Highs and Woes of Using Dating Apps

14 17

Trans News

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Renae Taylor GNC & Trans Activist | CONTENTS

Entertainment News D. Majik DeCosta Master Hair Stylist

24 | Advocacy News Madison “The Blue-Haired Unicorn” Butler The Erasure of Black Emotions


Shawn M. Clemons Administration/ Fashion Director

Gregory Graphics Layout/Design

Diandra Marie Guest Contributor

Monick Monell Talent Director & New York Correspondent

Whitney Johnson Chief Editor

Renae Taylor Transgender Correspondent

TEAM TUV

Snap to Subscribe to TUV Magazine Scan this code with your phone to subscribe to The Unleashed Voice Magazine Today! Take it everywhere you go, along with the print edition. You’ll qualify to download each issue digitally through your iPhone, iPad, or Android devices.

@TUVmagazine National Advertising + Rivendell Media Company 1248 US 22 Mountainside, NJ 07092 Office 908.232.2021 | www.rivendellmedia.com CONTENTS |

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HAPPY WOMEN’S MONTH, HAPPY SPRING, HAPPY BLACK HISTORY MONTH (which is every month) and HAPPY TRANSFORMATION ISSUE!

ON THE COVER: s a lifelong practitioner of the art of transformation,

I applaud anyone who is also on this journey. Walk with

me for a moment. In 2021, I closed a 25-year chapter as a

counseling professional with my employer. However, as I closed

one professional career, I gladly welcomed my new fulltime career. I am officially COACH GWEN! As a transformation specialist, I

added another layer of credentials to my coaching business by becoming certified as a Professional Recovery Coach. I just

graduated from the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy, where I

met my tribe! Their slogan “Transformed People, Transform People” is the perfect complement

for our Transformation Issue.

Our issue title is dedicated to the list of awesome advocates, activists, community leaders,

non-profit organizers, political warriors, religious champions, womanists, trans-activists, grant

funders, and anyone working tirelessly to help transform people’s lives for the better. That is what we do! The caveat to this journey is that you finally realize that the power necessary to manifest

transformation has been in your possession all along. To become a transformer is not for the faint of heart because your intentions will often be under examination. I have found that doing good

and being good to others is deemed an anomaly and is not easily recognizable. However, do not let that stop or deter you from always showing up and being an example of a good steward. Personally, I am stoked because my dream job is finally coming to fruition as a

Transformation Coach. I get to be a support or catalyst to help others transform their lives all because I decided to be transformed. The skills and knowledge will lend itself to the people who need it the most and hopefully propel them to take the baton and join me as a “transformer.” In the grand scheme of things, we really do need each other to make this world a better place for all of us!

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| EDITOR’S LETTER

TUV Magazine secured an

exclusive interview with Mr.

Rodney Chester, most notably known as Alex Kirby in the

LOGOtv series Noah’s Arc,

created by Patrik-Ian Polk. We dive into what life has been

like after Noah’s Arc and what Rodney has been up to lately. You will most definitely want to catch this tea!

As 2021 is still unfolding and

giving us a glimpse of what life may be like for years to come, it is my hope that you are

heeding the CDC guidelines,

taking your COVID-19 vaccine,

wearing your masks, and social distancing. We all yearn for our way of living to return, but we

cannot have it if we won’t yield to the scientific data. Be well my friends,

Gwendolyn D Clemons, MBA, MSM, PRC.


Owning Your Power early Beloved, the Bible declares in Psalm

139:14, “I praise you because I am FEARFULLY and

WONDERFULLY made; your works are wonderful.” If you

only believed that you were fearfully and wonderfully made

then this world would be a much better place. Yet we have so

much doubt in our ability and capability. Remember, “You Got

The Power.” Owning your Power allows you to create and maintain

strong relationships both in and out of society. It allows you to stand

up for yourself, negotiate for yourself, and demonstrate your strength while

nevertheless admitting when you’re wrong. “You Got The Power!”

During this season of Lent in 2021, our Bible study group is focusing on giving up some of our

favorite sins and cleansing our inner souls. The ironic thing about this 40-day fast is that many of the individuals are so doubtful of their inner powers that they are afraid of even trying to accomplish the task at hand. So I had to remind the Cathedral of Praise Church of Memphis, Inc. Bible study group, “You Got The Power!”

Let’s talk more about how to step into your own Power. Below are ten steps that sound very easy, but require commitment and a fight with your inner self:

1. Make the decision to follow through.

5. Change your routine and habits.

2. Have a plan.

6. Understand YOU!!!

3. Be mentally strong.

7. Stay in the present and stop looking back.

4. Learn and research.

8. Finally… Stay committed.

We have one life to live. So let’s find our inner power because you are fearfully and wonderfully

made in God’s image. Fearfully, when

translated from Hebrew, means with great reverence, heartfelt interest, and respect. Wonderfully, when translated from

Hebrew, means unique and set apart. So you were created with great reverence, heart-felt interest, and respect in order to be unique and set apart! In other words, “You Got The Power!” Selah,

Dr. Davin D. Clemons, DMin.

EDITOR’S LETTER |

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STRONGER THAN STIGMA

“I was embarrassed, ashamed and mortified by her question. I mean why was this the first thing she asked me?” By Marvin Anderson

T

he fragments of life’s brokenness

have always been used to construct

monuments of greatness. I believe the fight and determination to elevate self

above the cultural chaos and culprits of life

that come to steal our self-worth, value and authentic existence is the fight that we all

must be willing to get in the ring of life for. Living in our authentic existence, fulfilling our authentic purpose, fueled by our authentic passion is living a life of personal empowerment.

I remember like it was yesterday. I sat in

the triage room waiting for the results of

my HIV test. The wait seemed significantly

long and in the silence of the room, loomed this pause. My life was stilled. My voice

was muted. My breath was interrupted. My thoughts were being attacked. Yet I

knew whatever this verdict like moment was, I had the power to decide what life

was going to be like for me. I took a deep breath, lifting my head from creating

mental patterns on the floor and said these words “I shall live and not die”

and immediately the trance-like state that I sat in was broken.

The doctor came in the room and said, “Mr. Anderson I have good news and bad news,

8

| FEATURED INTERVIEW

which one would you like first?”, I looked at him and quickly responded “It doesn’t matter,” because moments before I had decided I was going to live through this

moment! The doctor looked down at his

clipboard and said “Ok the good news is

the skin abrasion in your penile area isn’t

an injury from your zipper, it’s syphilis and we can remedy that, the bad news is that

that mean I am bad news? Does that mean the people around me, would now view me as bad news? Will I now have to tell

my future partners, “Hey I got some bad

news to tell you?” It was, “The Bad News” statement for me. I knew I was going to

live, but I also knew I was going to keep my bad news to myself.

you have tested positive for HIV.” I looked

A few months after being in treatment and

committed to my strong poker face and

on cruise control. I continued to impact my

at him, refusing to blink my eyes and

said “Ok what’s next?” This was the day I had to win at living a new normal and the day I was introduced to a negatively framed narrative of living with HIV.

I was now living with a diagnosis that was delivered to me as “Bad News.” So, does

achieving a non-detectable status, I was

community as a minister and empowerment speaker. I stood before audiences and

empowered them to live their authentic

lives. However, I made sure I didn’t tell my bad news, but that was about to change.

I had a lingering cough that was concerning. Actually, after receiving my HIV diagnosis a


having my second encounter with stigma.

I didn’t know at the time that this thing that I was feeling, that came to contend with

my declaration to “Live and Not Die” had a term called Stigma. So now I was bad

news and that bad news meant I could be disrespected? On no! I don’t think so!

I went home and sat in my bed that night

and cried with anger not pity. I knew this was not my new normal. I knew as an individual who lived to empower others, I did not deserve this treatment. The next day I

filed a grievance, which led to me getting an appointment to speak with the CEO. I was determined that no one else would

experience a moment like I had experienced. The stigmatizing experiences that I had

encountered in the early stages of my HIV diagnosis was my birthing pains to what is now Stigmocracy Inc. Stigmocracy is

my prevailing power against the negative

narrative of HIV stigma. Stigmocracy has a

vision of a world free to live beyond stigma. The passion is driven by a mission to

educate, empower and advocate to end the stigma of HIV intersectionality within the communities we serve.

Marvin Anderson

is the founder of Stigmocracy Inc.

based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Marvin continues to serve his community as an sneeze was concerning. Anyway, I made an

I was about to slow her RIGHT

The nurse called me back and began to ask

that her question made me feel

appointment and went in to see the doctor.

me question, but we never made it past the first one, “Have you had unprotected oral sex, like gave anyone head”.

I was embarrassed, ashamed and mortified by her question. I mean why was this the

first thing she asked me? Did she not hear

DOWN! I quickly let her know incredibly uncomfortable.

She quickly let me know that she was asking me questions, based upon

a diagnosis that was a result of my actions and decisions, and she

couldn’t do anything about that.

me say I was at the clinic because I had a

Now, in addition to me feeling

gate going too damn fast! It’s cool because

I was angry and hurt. So now I am

lingering cough? I mean she came out the

embarrassed, shame and mortified.

Empowerment Speaker and Advocate, HIV Consultant and Lifestyle Empowerment Coach. Marvin recently made history in

his city, located in the southern bible-belt, by becoming the first black, open, same gender loving man to Pastor a church. To learn more about Stigmocracy visit:

Stigmocracy.org

or Follow on

@Stigmocracy @Stigmocracy FEATURED INTERVIEW |

9


Rodney Chester Rodney Chester, best known for his role as Alex Kirby on Noah’s Arc, talks about staying sane and productive during the pandemic, rebranding to take over the reins of his professional image, and diving into community outreach as an ambassador for Metro Health DC.

Photo: Carell Augustus

clusive Interview! ∙ Exclusive Interview! ∙ Exclusive Intervie

clusive Interview! ∙ Exclusive Interview! ∙ Exclusive Intervie PIECES streaming now on

HDProductionsNetwork.TV TRACE streaming soon on WatchVIM.com

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| COVER STORY


DC, featuring All Boys Aren’t Blue, a short

been pioneers in that way that is being

narrated by Jenifer Lewis.

recognize and correct that. Noah’s Arc was

film directed by Nathan Hale Williams and In recent months, I also guest starred as

Nigel Stevenson on a show called Pieces, which is streaming on HD Productions Network. As I Am, also streaming on

multiple platforms, is another film we shot

view!

during the pandemic, in which I played a

father to an adopted son who didn’t know if he was gay or straight. Streaming on

H

throughout the wild and often

frustrating times of this ongoing global pandemic? I like staying inside anyway, watching TV

ahead of its time because Patrik Ian-Polk, the show’s director, shopped that show

everywhere, and nobody wanted it. We just happened to meet up with Logo TV in New York when they were working to establish

themselves as the first gay network almost

15 years ago, and they decided to make the show its first scripted series.

VIM Media’s website soon, I also have

Things have changed a lot since then. We

a five-episode series about a group of

special, which had over five million views

a special guest cameo role in TRACE,

ow have you been staying sane

recognized. And he was nice enough to

strangers mysteriously linked by a series

of murders. I’m also excited to be working with Dorvelyn Productions, a production

company in development, on a lot of more acting and hosting projects. So I feel like everything has been in divine order.

just won a GLAAD Award for our reunion

across the two days it originally streamed. Everybody always asks me, I still get at

least one comment a day, “Are you guys going to do a reboot?” I just say, “I have

no idea.” Personally, I don’t know why you would need any more interest in a show

reboot than to have all those people who

and movies, so I was cool with that. But I

What has the experience been like of

organizing my life to see where I want to

ever frustrating?

powers that be. It’s out of our control. I just

We’ve definitely had to follow all the

a problem getting rebooted after such a

was able to also take this time to focus on be. Before, everything was kind of rushed. You do this, you do that. So I did a lot of

cleaning, organizing, throwing away stuff, packing up boxes to take to The Sharing Center, stuff like that just to make sure I

had things in order. I did a visionary board

to get some clarity, and dedicated the rest of this time to rebranding myself, finishing my website, redesigning my logos, and

strategizing for the future by really taking hold of my image and what I’m doing. By

the summer I hope to have merchandise available for sale on my website, and

depending on when it’s safe to go on

the road, I’m looking forward to traveling

filming during the pandemic? Was it

COVID guidelines, wear masks on set

outside of filming, social distance in some of the scenes, and have some parts put

together in the editing. If it would normally take 30 minutes to do a scene, it might take an hour or 45 minutes. But if you

wanted to get it done, you already knew what you had to do. So you couldn’t be

stressed out. You just had to be patient and understanding of the process. You

know that that’s what the change is, so

you make it work just being aware, being

conscious, and sticking to the guidelines.

with my Sweet T Sundays variety show

After the ground that Noah’s Arc

artists, singers, and comedians.

and opportunity in the entertainment

featuring a drag performer, spoken word I’ve already been able to see some

things come to fruition from my visionary board. One desire was to do something I had never done before. Becoming the

ambassador for Metro Health DC offers me the opportunity to do that by appearing in

view! PSAs, hosting events, promoting testing, and educating through engagements in service of their mission to provide

community access to primary healthcare,

behavioral health, and nutritional services. So I recently hosted the pre-show for a

virtual event co-sponsored by Metro Health

broke in terms of LGBTQ visibility industry, what do you think is still missing to continue that advancement? Who do you think has been pushing that envelope most these days?

viewed the reunion special. But hey, it’s the honestly wonder if other shows would have successful turnout like that.

Being the first black gay series to ever

have been done, we created a stamp in

the LGBTQ community. So people still love it, but I think with shows like Pose, there’s also more light now on the transgender community. There was a transgender

character on Star, the spin-off from Empire. My friend Flame Monroe, a transgender comedian who was one the first to do

BET’s ComicView, was on Tiffany Haddish

Presents: They Ready. I think Candis Cayne has been a big part of that too with her platform and her role as a transgender

in Dirty Sexy Money. And then you have

P-Valley, another show from the director of

Noah’s Arc, about female strippers but with a gay character lead. So I see it moving in

a great direction. I think some adjustments

are still uncomfortable for people, but I think

We had no idea that we would impact so

the doors are definitely opening more.

Arc. I saw an interview with Billy Porter,

Management: Richard E. Pelzer

many lives when we were doing Noah’s and they asked him, about Pose, what

was it like being the first to do a gay love

richard@harlem2020.nyc

scene with two African American men on

RodneyChester.com

“Actually, Noah’s Arc was the first.” So I

@RodneyChester5

TV. He corrected the interviewer and said, think what that means is that we still have

Rodney Chester @itsrodney_ COVER STORY |

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IMPORTANT FACTS FOR BIKTARVY®

This is only a brief summary of important information about BIKTARVY and does not replace talking to your healthcare provider about your condition and your treatment.

MOST IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT BIKTARVY

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF BIKTARVY

BIKTARVY may cause serious side effects, including:

BIKTARVY may cause serious side effects, including: � Those in the “Most Important Information About BIKTARVY” section. � Changes in your immune system. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any new symptoms after you start taking BIKTARVY. � Kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do blood and urine tests to check your kidneys. If you develop new or worse kidney problems, they may tell you to stop taking BIKTARVY. � Too much lactic acid in your blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious but rare medical emergency that can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: weakness or being more tired than usual, unusual muscle pain, being short of breath or fast breathing, stomach pain with nausea and vomiting, cold or blue hands and feet, feel dizzy or lightheaded, or a fast or abnormal heartbeat. � Severe liver problems, which in rare cases can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow, dark “tea-colored” urine, light-colored stools, loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, or stomach-area pain. � The most common side effects of BIKTARVY in clinical studies were diarrhea (6%), nausea (6%), and headache (5%).

� Worsening of hepatitis B (HBV) infection. If you

have both HIV-1 and HBV, your HBV may suddenly get worse if you stop taking BIKTARVY. Do not stop taking BIKTARVY without first talking to your healthcare provider, as they will need to check your health regularly for several months.

ABOUT BIKTARVY BIKTARVY is a complete, 1-pill, once-a-day prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in adults and children who weigh at least 55 pounds. It can either be used in people who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before, or people who are replacing their current HIV-1 medicines and whose healthcare provider determines they meet certain requirements. BIKTARVY does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS. HIV-1 is the virus that causes AIDS. Do NOT take BIKTARVY if you also take a medicine that contains: � dofetilide � rifampin � any other medicines to treat HIV-1

BEFORE TAKING BIKTARVY Tell your healthcare provider if you:

These are not all the possible side effects of BIKTARVY. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any new symptoms while taking BIKTARVY.

� Have or have had any kidney or liver problems,

including hepatitis infection. � Have any other health problems. � Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if BIKTARVY can harm your unborn baby. Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant while taking BIKTARVY. � Are breastfeeding (nursing) or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed. HIV-1 can be passed to the baby in breast milk.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.FDA.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088. Your healthcare provider will need to do tests to monitor your health before and during treatment with BIKTARVY.

HOW TO TAKE BIKTARVY Take BIKTARVY 1 time each day with or without food.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take: � Keep a list that includes all prescription and over-the-

counter medicines, antacids, laxatives, vitamins, and herbal supplements, and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist.

Ask your healthcare provider and pharmacist about medicines that interact with BIKTARVY, and ask if it is safe to take BIKTARVY with all your other medicines.

Get HIV support by downloading a free app at

MyDailyCharge.com | THE UNLEASHED VOICE

GET MORE INFORMATION � This is only a brief summary of important information

about BIKTARVY. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to learn more.

� BIKTARVY and other medicines may affect each other.

12

(bik-TAR-vee)

� Go to BIKTARVY.com or call 1-800-GILEAD-5 � If you need help paying for your medicine,

visit BIKTARVY.com for program information.

BIKTARVY, the BIKTARVY Logo, DAILY CHARGE, the DAILY CHARGE Logo, KEEP ASPIRING, LOVE WHAT’S INSIDE, GILEAD, and the GILEAD Logo are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc., or its related companies. Version date: February 2020 © 2020 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. BVYC0197 03/20


DIMITRI LIVING WITH HIV SINCE 2018 REAL BIKTARVY PATIENT

KEEP ASPIRING.

Because HIV doesn’t change who you are.

BIKTARVY® is a complete, 1-pill, once-a-day prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in certain adults. BIKTARVY does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS.

Ask your healthcare provider if BIKTARVY is right for you. See Dimitri’s story at BIKTARVY.com. Featured patient compensated by Gilead.

Please see Important Facts about BIKTARVY, including important warnings, on the previous page and visit BIKTARVY.com. THE UNLEASHED VOICE |

13


I strongly believe in finding inspiration in others’ work as a way to

sexism, and discrimination. One of her quotes is the mantra

binary person in the Midsouth. Learning from each individual who

people and make the world a better place for those following

stay motivated as an activist in the LGBT community and as a nonmotivates me transforms my work within our community.

behind me. I’m going to share it with you:

I look to Kimberlé Crenshaw as she coined the

When I dare to be different, to follow my calling no matter

of oppression felt by Black women.

the boundaries that I and others have placed

term “intersectionality” to describe the levels All oppression is interconnected, and

we must work to dismantle oppressive structures within society to be able to access everything equally.

I look to Ms. Major Griffin-Gracy as a

beacon for the Trans community, as

an example of how to advocate for your

community as a Trans person. Even now, she

is still here teaching and motivating the younger

generation of trans people.

I look to Bayard Rustin as an organizer of the March

on Washington and as an adviser to Martin Luther King

who also fought for the advancement of gay rights even before there was an actual movement.

I look to Audre Lorde as a black lesbian feminist author activist who used her writings to address racism,

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that motivates me daily to go out and continue to advocate for

| THE UNLEASHED VOICE

the whispers, no matter the stares, I break through

about me and I feel my true Self. And within that

Self, I find the strength and the power to be me. My light shines brighter, not dimmed by the doubting darkness of others.

I look to my elders who may not be as famous

as the other people I mentioned, but they

inspire me to keep moving forward against all the

obstacles that come my way. I look for inspiration all

around me to give me the strength to step outside my

door and be unapologetic about my life.

My intent is to move intentionally because I don’t know who I am

inspiring while I go along with my work. I want you all to know that you are the reason I do what I do. I want to thank all the people who have

helped improve my analysis as I do this social justice work. I ain’t where I was yesterday, I improve my awareness daily because of you sharing with my personal growth as an activist. I look to you.


OWN YOUR WEAKNESS BUT HONE YOUR POWERS By Beth Trouy

things we enjoy doing and people in turn, are

drawn to us. We are energized and empowered when we run with our strengths. We cross the

river so much faster when we go with the current that carries us. Each of us has been gifted with

uniqueness in talent and it is our purpose to hone

them into superpowers. Not only is it our purpose, it is our calling and mission. “We have different

gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” (Rom12:6) If it is to teach, then teach; if to lead,

then lead; encourage, then encourage; if to show mercy, then do it cheerfully. Whatever the gift, hone it and invest yourself into its perfection. These gifts are your gift to the world and in sharing them, we are all benefactors.

D

Life is short and we get but one pass through

or get everyone to mingle at your party, then invite

also be immeasurably happier in focusing on our

on’t ever ask me to plan a party. Or plan

anything else for that matter. I always was a

procrastinator and planning ahead was drudgery for me. But if you want me to motivate the crowd, me. If you want someone to lead a discussion

and keep the group on track, I’m your girl. I know

where my lanes are and I stay in them. It took me a long time to recognize my true strengths and

weaknesses and it took even longer to focus my

energies in the right places. You see; we all usually know what we are lacking and unfortunately, we

spend useless time and energy trying to improve

on them. We eternally compare ourselves to others

and lament our short-comings instead of accepting what is and capitalizing on our strengths.

Yes, we do need to know our weaknesses but

it so let’s invest our time wisely. Take a cold

hard look at your weaknesses, but then move

on. We have infinite more potential in making a difference by improving our strengths. We will

gifts. Interestingly enough, when we are working with our strengths, sometimes our weaknesses improve in the process. In focusing on my

gifts of teaching, motivating and encouraging

others, I have found myself gaining in patience, understanding and empathy. In letting go of trying so hard in self-improvement, we may

better improve ourselves by just doing what we

love. Owning our weaknesses is noble but honing our powers is the gift we give ourselves and the world. What are your superpowers?

that’s where it should end. Truth be told, we will

never really be good at anything we don’t enjoy doing. I really tried to be a better planner. I tried to work math word problems too. I also tried to do my own home improvements. But I can’t say I

got much better at any of these things. I hated most every

minute of the drudgery and I

lacked the patience to stick with the task. Instead of investing

time in the skills we lack and don’t

enjoy doing, how about investing in

our gifts and passions? My motto: Own

your weaknesses but HONE your powers. When we are doing what we love, we are most

happy. We also are most passionate about the THE UNLEASHED VOICE |

15


C

hris Parker notably known as

Parker XL, is a branding expert,

consultant, style influencer, lifestyle commentator, entrepreneur and creative director. Parker XL has

worked with major brands such as

Nordstrom, Macy’s, Versus Versace and celebrities Lizzo and J Balvin just to name a few.

As a lifestyle commentator he has

learned every hack under the sun and

his digital magazine Parker XL features such hacks under his popular buzzworthy column, The Parker Report.

His self-named digital magazine Parker XL is a source of inspiration to millions of people across the internet and

globally. It is dedicated to lifestyle passions from fashion

Having immersed himself in technology, business, and fashion, Parker is also the owner of Truth Black; a genderless lifestyle brand which offers headwear, candles, bags, clothing, accessories, underwear and more.

to travel and you can even shop his signature style hats.

Parker XL is a creative prodigy and an influential force to be reckoned with.

combined with his official profiles and social networks,

to be an integral part in shaping major brands and creating his own. The

The digital magazine was a great immediate success, Parker’s brand has garnered over 130k followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Parker is a distinguished consultant and has made

an incredible name in the industry as someone who is known for his effortless take on conceptualizing branding strategies and execution.

16

| ENTERTAINMENT

His illustrious career has flourished as he has continued to prove himself

secret to Parker’s success is the absolute clarity of his taste and passion

for his followers and projects. Parker XL is respected for his comprehensive knowledge of branding and fashion and 2021 has just started! Keep up with Parker XL by following him on social media: Parker XL’s Instagram Truth Black’s Instagram

@parkerxl @truthblack_


t was in his hometown of Fort Pierce, Florida, where

Majik began to develop an affinity for hairstyling. At

an early age he considered the possibility of making it his life’s work. As a teenager that became a dream differed as he opted to go in another direction and

attended the world renown Florida A&M University. Fast Forward ten years and destiny began to call. At the age of 29 he entered cosmetology school at Queen City College in Clarksville, TN. While in school he went under the tutelage of LaShonda

Brewington and began as her hair tech. While still in school he won his first award at the Music City

Hair Battle winning first place. Graduating in 2009 as the standout of his class. A year later he purchased his first salon Majik City Barber and Beauty and it quickly became one of the most sought-after

salons in the area. In 2012 he made the executive decision to move to Atlanta to pursue the next

level of his career. He became a platform artist

for numerous companies, most notably Nairobi. In addition, he served as Cosmetology Instructor at

the illustrious Aveda Institute. With his tenacious,

no nonsense demeanor, Majik DeCosta has proven himself as an industry standard. He is a master

hair stylist with classic skills who never gives less than his best. Since entering the industry, he has

amassed an impressive client list, which consists

of tastemakers and celebrities like: Kandi Burruss, Tameka Tiny Cottle, LaTocha Scott, Tamika Scott,

Robin Givens, Keke Wyatt, Justine Skye, Mike Epps, Michael Jai White, Angell Conwell, Tamala Jones,

Towanda Braxton, Trina Braxton, Traci Braxton, and Kim Fields. His work has provided him a platform to graced the television and movie screen. He is

the artist behind the looks that have appeared in

Essence, People and InStyle. Majik currently resides in Atlanta but is constantly on the move. He is a

true jetsetter who continues to travel the world,

working with television/film stars, recording artists

D Majik DeCosta

I

You can follow D Majik DeCosta on social media platforms.

D Majik with Actress Paige Hurd of The Oval & Power Book of Ghost 2

D Majik with

Toni Braxton

and more. A defining force in his field, Majik is still making his mark on the industry that he loves so dearly. Majik DeCosta is a true professional on

a level of his own who meets and succeeds the

highest level of expectations. Majik newest projects includes working on “Will packers Bigger Season 2

as Department head, and on the set of Tyler Perry’s Sistas and the Oval Season 3.

D Majik on the Set

with Cast of Assisted

Living on BET

ENTERTAINMENT |

17


18

| THE UNLEASHED VOICE


The (Power Of the) Mind Is a terrible

e t s a w o t g n i th

By Diandra Marie

L

iving in a society where good and evil always seem to be at war, we can find ourselves desperate

for a superhero. Even if you’re grown, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were secretly yearning for Black

Lightning, T’Challa, or Storm to intervene during the

January 06, 2021 terrorist attack at the Capitol. These heroes, who usually have their own unique set of

superhuman powers, always come through to save us

even during the bleakest moments. They inspire some

negative thoughts to thinking of

contribute to making the world a better place. What

opportunity. Instead of harboring the

which can further lead to our

reframing will sound more like “what

As I’m writing this, I am very aware

an uncomfortable time in my life, but

said than done. It means we have to

of us to long for our own superpowers so that we can I wish we would realize, though, is that we already have a superpower. One that has to be nurtured

and developed in order for us to fight off evil and

negativity as it piles on. Unfortunately, a lot of us take the power of our own minds for granted. We often

underestimate our mind’s ability to adapt to change, send us positive reinforcement, and provide the

mental endurance we need to carry on. I personally think this has to do with various myths and stigmas surrounding the importance of our mental health.

our circumstances as a learning

“my life won’t get better” outlook,

breakthrough rather than our demise.

am I learning from this?” or “this is

that mental reframing is way easier

I’ve gotten through uncomfortable

times before”. The strategy doesn’t

fix our problems, but it alters the way we see and approach them. Instead

of succumbing to what life is throwing at us, this strategy puts us back in

A stigma that’s still attached to mental health and

the driver seat. We no longer have to

weak. People think we lack the capacity to be resilient

Killmonger because we’ll have an

It’s more acceptable to suffer in silence, which can

herb. By reframing how we think

of asking for help. These feelings may have been

are able to follow suit. If we pose

unsupportive family or partners. Lack of genuine

our minds, emotions, and actions

worse than kryptonite. We feel so disempowered

the difference between labeling our

will last forever. We start to believe that WE are

than a challenge? One makes us feels

is difficult to break out of this mindset, it is possible.

ourselves and the other stimulates

professionals call cognitive, or mental, reframing.

can bring us to the emotions that lie

mental illness is that those struggling with either are

feel like T’Challa after his fight with

enough to live through the ebbs and flows of life.

endless supply of the heart-shaped

be depressive and suicidal, than stand in the truth

about our situation, our emotions

amplified for folx who have been quarantined with

our circumstances as a challenge,

support during depressive episodes can seem

can become more hopeful. What’s

that our minds start to believe our circumstances

circumstances as problems rather

failures who aren’t worthy to walk this earth. While it

hopeless and can result in isolating

We can put our hope in a practice that mental health

and refreshes us. Mental reframing

Mental reframing is a technique that helps us look

at situations & people from a different perspective. It causes us to shift our energy from hopeless or

beneath our depression or anger, like dread or hurt. It gives us the

opportunity to become vulnerable

break down our own mental barriers in order to receive and respond to a new perspective. It takes consistency &

practice. We have to nurture and have compassion for ourselves. Some of

these things do not come naturally to

us, especially given the environments we’ve grown up or continue to live

in. As superheroes ourselves, we all have some level of kryptonite that

has the ability to hinder our success

and growth. While barriers to mental wellness are real, the capability our

minds possess, should we choose to

harness it, has the power to overcome them. We no longer have to wait on

our favorite Marvel or DC character

to save us. We are able to show up for

ourselves, our communities even, with the invisible cape or custom suit built for a hero. Whether we reach mental reframing through therapy or our

own reliable, reflective practices, just

remember that the power of our minds is a terrible thing to waste.

HEALTH & WELLNESS |

19


Own yo Own your Powers! 20

By Monick Monell

D

id you know that there is no age

or date for growth? We grow into

our true selves every second of our

lives. I saw my growth at age 30 where I learned my strengths and awakened my powers. I have often questioned at what age do we share our stories

of life, and why must we wait until we feel we are (seasoned) older? Who

says when we cannot control time or destiny? When I say find (yourself) I mean your voice, your heart, your passion, and convictions.  

I opened myself to understand others and to have empathy; in return it gave me a new turn in how I foresaw life.  

Daily, I ask on social media why do you

wait for other people’s approval to take a chance in life? When do we speak

greatness unto ourselves? I see we have time to speak about everyone else’s growth but never our own. 

I always ask how much love will you pour into yourself today?

| THE UNLEASHED VOICE

I learned that all of us truly have the

A world where we share our life, our

own questions of life and steer the

would not just like to be remembered by

answers within. We can answer our wheel to our own travels. Some of

us need to speak it out loud and hear themselves and some need to write

it down and read it a couple times to manifest what can and will be.

There is power in reading as well as power in thought. Years ago, in my

20’s I worked for a Jewish resort in

Connecticut where I met a holocaust survivor who saw me reading a book

on my break time. That evening as she was leaving the premises, she told me “Reading is something they can’t take

away from you.” I was touched by those words and by the time I hit my 30’s.

Her words were printed in my mind and gave me courage whenever I felt fear

of not knowing something. It helped me to write every thought, on paper and

create it to share with the world. I learn we all can leave a legacy in this world. 

stories, and our truth. A world where we our words and action, but also our love which is a superpower for all. I believe there is still a great deal of growing to do so that many generational curses can be broken. Because I am still

growing and breaking curses to unwrap

a new me, one in which I never thought I

could create. I want to become a person that can share their powers with others

in storytelling and in writing. Just know, we all have a story to tell so why not

share yours with us. You never know

who you are healing or saving through your words and existence.

“Breathe You“ @- Brooklyn_Moz @Team_Tuv


“Yes, right before I was about to take the

County Public School Education Network

best friend, so I ignored it, but it kept

position for a talk show with the Mobile and worked part-time as a production That’s what Nigel Ashford describes

assistant for WPMI Local 15 News.

as to how he felt for a long time after

After college, he moved to Amarillo, TX

voice through his Facebook Live Show

as a television and radio reporter for

being silent for so long until he found his OUTSPOKEN.

The 28-Year-Old, born in Birmingham, AL, but now residing in Nashville, TN is the

creator and host of OUTSPOKEN, a show that speaks on serious and light-hearted relevant topics as it relates to culture,

issues, changes, and achievements within

where he worked seven days a week

KFDA CBS News 10, and KGNC Radio.

pills, my phone ranged, and it was my

ringing, and she wouldn’t stop calling me

so I picked up the phone, and she told me that God told her to call me, and not to

stop calling until I answer, and all I could do was break into tears because I knew

then that God had a purpose for my life.”

While in Amarillo, Ashford went through

Ashford moved to Nashville a couple of

by co-workers and supervisors that his

for a company. During COVID, he had to

a battle within himself after being told

dream to become a talk show is very slim, causing him to doubt his career path, his purpose, and even living his life.

years later, working as a Digital Manager work from home, and in doing so he said that he was still finding himself until his

therapist suggested that he start his show. After prayer, a pep talk, and a leap of faith,

the LGBTQ community.

“It was a hard pill to swallow because

The show provides a platform for

that talk shows were dying out, hosting

Since Ashford has finished his first season

told that most talk shows were looking

on season 2. The OUTSPOKEN Digital

an audience that seeks access to

commentary on politics, health, pop

culture, and current events that takes place within our rainbow culture,

becoming a voice that exudes positivity, diversity, and equality while captivating an audience through adversity.

Ashford first fell in love with media during his sophomore year at the University of

South Alabama when he obtained a unique that told the story of one of his college

friends Diamond Grey. It was a sobering

story about Diamond who found out at age of 15, that her cousin was her twin sister,

and after reuniting, in less than a year, she

my peers and my bosses would tell me jobs are extremely hard to get. I was

for attractive female hosts and that my gender might hinder me in achieving

my dream. After hearing this, I felt lost, hopeless, and defeated.”

At the time, Ashford was at a crossroads

with himself and decided not to renew his contract with the station. In the following week, he was then fired from the radio

station. Now unemployed, his bills began to fall behind, resulting in the repossession of his car. Ashford felt that he hit rock bottom resulting in his suicide attempt.

lost her twin sister to breast cancer.

“I hit rock bottom for the first time in

Nigel said, “in hearing Diamond’s story, it

it. I was too embarrassed to tell my

opened up another world for me. Not only

did I receive an A on the project, but I also received an internal confirmation from God that this is what I am meant to do.

After doing research on interviewing and

storytelling, and I knew then that I wanted to be a talk show host.”

The young host to be was on the right

track during his junior and senior years of

college. He had a talk show at USA’s Jaguar Production Television Network, a radio

my life, and I didn’t know how to handle family and friends that I failed because

Ashford started OUTSPOKEN in June 2020. resulting in 20 episodes and is now working Live Show has been featured on shows,

OUTSPOKEN

show on Jaguar Radio, a freelance hosting

podcasts, and social media. OUTSPOKEN

has been on the air for less than a year and has guest appeared on Promo Homo TV, Black Boy Joy, and the Straight Spouses

Podcast. OUTSPOKEN was also asked to

do a live show at the Freedom 2B Summit Los Angeles. OUTSPOKEN also hosted,

produced, and directed Virtual Black Gay Pride and the Black History Program for Nashville Black Pride.

“I am so blessed to be where I am right

now, and I thank God for not only saving my life but also providing purpose in my life, so I can continue to help our LGBTQ+ community.”

I always presented a persona that I had everything together, so had no one to

talk to. I decided that I would kill myself. I

knew I was going to do it because I didn’t tell anyone that I was going to do it, I

wrote my goodbye letter and I purchased pills I found through research.”

Right before his attempt, Ashford said

that God spoke through his best friend resulting in saving his life.

Nigel Ashford (He, Him, His)

C R E ATO R / HO ST/ P RO D U C E R OUTSPOKEN

Outspokenlgbtq.com Outspokenlgbtq@gmail.com OUTSpokenLGBTQ 806-410-6324 THE UNLEASHED VOICE |

21


MEET THE QUARLES THE STORY OF US Q: WHERE DID YOU LADIES MEET? A: In 2007, I started a new job and

other, but it all really came easy.

Shawnita was one of the first people

Not only did we connect so well early

spoke & I LITERALLY tripped over

family welcomed me with open arms.

I was introduced to. She smiled as she my own feet. From that moment on,

I knew it was something about her that would change my life.

We became fast friends and before

into our relationship, but Shawnita’s

My parents love Shawnita as well, but for religious reasons, they aren’t too fond of the relationship. But, that’s another story... lol

we knew it, we liked each other. You

As our relationship progressed, it just

would show that they like someone

We were meant to meet each other.

know how in grade school a little kid by basically getting on the person’s nerves? Well, that’s what I did. I

couldn’t wait until our shift started and she had to work in my area. I’d joke

with her, pick at her, whatever I could do to keep her attention.

Q: HOW DID THE RELATIONSHIP DEVELOP INTO A COMMITMENT?

As our relationship progressed, it just always seemed like we’ve always been. We were meant to meet each other. When we finally found each other, it was like destiny.

Of course, we had to learn about each

A: A little backstory before the

backstory... lol... we actually kind of

met years before. Shawnita saw me at

a party, thought I was cute, but she was dating someone at the time. The next time we saw each other a few years later, I was dating someone. So this

time around when we actually met, the timing was just right.

We fell for each other pretty fast and in

2008, we became an official couple! We even moved in together later that year. So, for the next 3-4 years, we worked

together and lived together. For some, that is a sure recipe for disaster, but

that wasn’t the case for us. We feel like it worked because we legit didn’t have

always seemed like we’ve always been. When we finally found each other, it

was like destiny. We complement each other. While I’m more of an extrovert & Shawnita is more of an introvert,

she’s actually the one that’s not afraid to speak her mind. And she’s really helping me find my voice. And she tells me that I help push her to do things she may be hesitant to do.

We are the yin to each other’s yang. Q: WHERE DID YOU GET MARRIED AND WHERE DID YOU HONEYMOON? A: So, numerous times... lol... I asked

Shawnita to marry me. We loved each

other, but she said that she never really felt like marriage was for her. That

never changed how either of us felt

about one other. We would even always make the joke that if one of us got tired of the other, just go & take a nap... lol So, fast forward to November 2020 when we talked about wanting to

take a trip in January for her birthday, Shawnita casually said, “let’s get

married on a beach.” As stunned as I was, I was TOO ready... lol

any drama, we loved each other & we

We set things in motion, got married at

honestly been best friends as well as

our ceremony in Costa Mujeres on the

genuinely liked each other. Like, we’ve in a loving relationship from day one.

the courthouse in Memphis, TN. We had beach in Cancún, México.


F

or some, clearly defining and

understanding what intimacy is,

and isn’t, is a challenge. If this isn’t

complicated enough, try finding intimacy within the LGBTQ+ community. And ooh

chile, God help us if we add the dynamic of incorporating one of the many

available “dating” apps like Jack’d, Grindr, or Scruff to our quest. Can you say

troublesome, perplexing and convoluted? While not every man would agree with this conclusion, it is fair to say that

employing apps like the ones mentioned, can be like Beyoncé once sang, a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare.

Picture it; not Sicily 1912, but Circa 2011. This is around the time that Branden Lee from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, the

Executive Producer at Bleeventertainment, joined Grindr. When asked why he joined, Branden shared that he “always loved

meeting new people, going on dates, and being social.” One thing that appealed

to him about the app, was the diversity

in terms of age groups, races, and body

types. In addition to using Grindr, Branden began using Jack’d around 2012. What

he found most interesting about Jack’d at that time, was that it was mostly used by black men. Whereas some apps require

you to pay for basic filter features, Jack’d does not. This can be quite the attraction for many men in the LGBTQ+ community; many, but not all, like Kenzi James, a

graduate of Cornell University who shared that, “Jack’d and Grindr are not apps for dating. They are apps for sex.”

“Well, sex and intimacy is the same thing,” is what many men think and say. But, Au contraire, mon frère, sex is merely one

form of intimacy. Intimacy is defined as a

close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group (dictionary.com). Cool,

but men within the LGBTQ+ community

are well capable of verbalizing their own interpretation of this big-little-eight-

letter word. Rod Alexander, a resident

of Atlanta, Georgia, defines intimacy as

“sharing special moments in which you can connect to a person emotionally through

conversation or some type of interaction.” Another gentleman defined intimacy as “feeling comfortable with someone in a

sexual, romantic, or physical way. Whether it’s kissing, cuddling, or sex. Intimacy is

closeness and affection.” And, still another

brother defined intimacy as “sharing space. Intimacy is a flow. It can be small and quite great. It is not always sexual. Intimacy is a quiet comfort. Intimacy is raw.”

With so many nuances as it relates to the

definition of intimacy, it should not come as a surprise that LGBTQ+ men who frequent dating apps come with varying agendas

and motives. When asked if they believe other men use dating apps in the hopes of experiencing intimacy or something

else, well, you may have already guessed. Responses vary. Kenzi shared that,

“People frequent these apps with varied understandings of intimacy. Some enter

to fuck and demonstrate that in a myriad of ways. Some enter merely to fill voids

and some to waste time and be messy.”

Branden expressed, “I do think most guys are using dating apps for intimacy. Many

love to dismiss dating apps as just being used for meaningless sex. I think most

ideally want a relationship, but it’s easier

to find sexual partners since you’re most

likely to instantly know if you want to have sex with someone than date them.” Rod stated, “I think they do, but because so many men don’t know how to separate

intimacy from sex, it’s never achieved.” While these views cannot possibly

encompass the thoughts and intentions of all men within the LGBTQ+ community, it is fair to say that these views do represent the actions and motives of quite a few.

Speaking of motives, it is quite interesting to learn what some LGBTQ+ men think

about the general level of honesty and

genuineness men who frequent dating

apps possess and reveal by their verbal communication and actions. The slang “send a representative,” refers to an

individual choosing to present a side

of themself that they think will be best

TO JACK’D OR NOT TO JACK’D - THE HIGHS AND WOES OF USING DATING APPS IN THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY. By Jeremy Johnson So, how exactly should one approach seeking-out romance and intimacy

when using dating apps? Two words of

advice-very carefully. Kenzi’s suggested to either be confident in being explicit in your desires or learn how to manipulate others to attain what you want because

that’s what everybody’s doing. Know that by frequenting apps like Jack’d, Grindr,

Scruff and various others, you are taking a risk; hopefully, a calculated risk, but a risk all the same. Whatever you do, it’s

important to keep a positive mindset and to not allow your self-esteem to get too wrapped up in the outcome.

received, rather than simply presenting

About Jeremy Johnson: A graduate of South

genuine or sending a representative,

Jeremy is the author of Intimacy from His View:

lie about their name, age, HIV status,

Presently, Jeremy lives in Atlanta where he

their authentic self. Regarding being

Brandon asserted, “Men do lie. They’ll relationship status, etc.. I like to think most

are genuine.” Rod shared, “I think most send the representative because they want to

put their best foot forward and attract the guy they have their eye set on,” and Kenzi

Carolina State University with a B.A. in English, What Black Men Have to Say about Intimacy.

enjoys offering his Life Coaching services to

members of the LGBTQ+ community, aspiring artists and running his weekly blog. Visit jeremyjjohnson.com to learn more.

concluded, “What I have learned is that

A special thanks to Kenzi James, Branden Lee,

find on the app, there are many individuals

information and insight which was very useful in

much of the world is dishonest and you can with hidden agendas and expectations.”

and Rod Alexander for providing much needed completing this article.

THE UNLEASHED VOICE |

23


By Madison "The Blue-Haired Unicorn" Butler

BL ACK HI STO RY MONTH IS E N DI N G , BUT DO NOT LET THAT SILENCE YOU. Too often our identities are

centered around “months” where it is okay to exist out loud.

We are given 30 days to be alive and

highlight our identities. We continuously

on a sliding scale in America.

We cannot only speak of our identities when the world is spotlighting us. We must use that spotlight to shine it into the darkest

parts of our world. The world only wants to

acknowledge the beautiful parts of Black and queerness without acknowledging the pain society thrusts upon us.

We must claim our identities each day,

our stories are our own. They are not the pre-created fluff we see during Black

History Month or when every company touts a rainbow in June.

schedule workshops, talks, and events

We cannot stop speaking out about who we

Companies want to believe this is how you

matter and yet, they often go unbelieved and

around our identities, once a year.

“do it right”, as if it is a rite of passage into

being “inclusive.” Celebrating people once a year is not how we solve for exclusion or dismantle white supremacy.

I struggle with the idea of having to separate my identities from one another to be

palatable to society. I am often asked why I talk about my Blackness in spaces that intend to center work.

I am often asked why I talk about my

queerness in spaces intended to center work. However, I am still all these things

when I go to work each day. I cannot shed my identity like a cardigan. Even if I code switch

to fit in, my identity is still an intrinsic part of

If America wanted us to say nice things about it, America should've acted right.

and a constant reminder that we are valued

are and what we go through. Our experiences unrecognized. We are asked to prove our

trauma over and over only to be told we are “dramatic” or “just overthinking”.

Ahmaud Arbery was murdered one year ago. His life still matters. We are still angry.

We are still grieving. I feel as if I am always grieving. Yet we are still tip toeing around

the things we need to say for fear of being stereotyped as “angry”.

The erasure of Black emotion is trauma. The erasure of queer emotion is trauma. The use of Black bodies for martyrdom is trauma.

who I am, and who all of us are.

Being Black in America is trauma.

Our identities are 365 days a year, not just on

Being queer in America is trauma.

the days the world is celebrating us. We are

Black and queer on the days that are heavy,

on the days that are hard, on the days where

we watch mirrored images of ourselves dying on the news. We were Black on all the days that 2020 threw at us, and we felt it. The

weight of 2020 was on all of our shoulders,

We are more than hashtags and tragic news

headlines. We are more than diversity metrics and training. We are more than the trauma we

have endured. But just because we are strong does not mean we deserve to stay silent. We deserve to live our experiences out loud.

Profile for The Unleashed Voice Magazine

2021 MARCH - APRIL TRANSFORMATION ISSUE "OWNING YOUR POWERS!" EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW W/ RODNEY CHESTER