Thank You, Andre

 Grace Elizabeth Hackney | Staff Writer

The fashion community has taken a hit in these past few months. The unexpected death of Virgil Abloh in November and Andre Leon Talley in January have left many creatives, especially Black creatives, in the fashion industry speechless. 

Andre Leon Talley is someone who I have always admired. He came from humble beginnings and was raised in Durham, North Carolina by his mother and grandmother. 

Talley’s approach to couture seems to stem from growing up in a Black southern church. The bright colors, monochromatic coat-skirt combinations and, of course, the flamboyant hats on the Black women in church influenced the iconic editorials we know today.

Talley made cultural statements through his fashion journalism and editorials. Anna Wintour said “he [Talley] could make people feel” when referring to Tally’s writing about fashion. While working at Vogue, Tally used his position to uplift Black designers and models.

One of his most iconic editorials was based on Gone With The Wind, where Naomi Cambell, a Black supermodel, was featured as Scarlett O’Hara. 

The parallel of seeing Talley sitting in the front rows of shows at Paris fashion week in the 1970s and seeing Black creatives and rappers in the front row of the last Virgil Abloh Louis Vuitton runway show is fantastic to me. There was a point when Talley was one of the few Black people with a known influence in fashion at a runway show in Paris. 

It is still rare to see Black people in important positions in the fashion industry. Even when working at Vogue, Talley still faced bigotry from others. 

For Abloh to be the head of one of the most iconic fashion houses and build his luxury brand is a massive step for Black people in the fashion industry. His death hurt so many young Black designers since he was one of the most popular Black designers who achieved mainstream fame in the predominantly affluent and white space that we know as high fashion. 

In 2022, it is normal to see Black people who are influential in hip hop in the front rows of high fashion runway shows. To think there was a time when the only people who you saw in the front seats of these shows were middle-aged white people. Who are the most fashionable people you know? Are they middle-aged white people? Right. 

Elements of Black culture and street style have always existed within high fashion, yet the people who pioneered these styles seldom have a seat at the table. Talley made room for Black creatives. Talley made room for the Laquan Smiths so that Virgil Abloh could be the designer many admire.

“You don’t get up and say, ‘look, I’m Black, and I’m proud,’ you just do it, and it impacts the culture,” he said in the documentary The Gospel According to Andre.  

That is precisely what Talley did. 

Thank you, Andre. Thank you for your work. Thank you for inspiring Black creatives all across the world.


The Men Who Stand On Trial 

Sydney McCall | Staff Writer

A nearly all-white jury convicted three men of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man killed in Georgia on Feb. 23, 2021, after three men chased and killed him. 

The verdict came days after the not-guilty ruling in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 18-year-old who was on trial for the shooting of three Black Lives Matter protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Two of those he shot died, and one was severely injured.

The conviction of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery came as a relief to those who felt betrayed by the justice system after Rittenhouse’s trial. Many felt disbelief that Rittenhouse was given his freedom after killing and endangering those three men. Others thought that the law protected him under the terms of self-defense. 

Arbery was out for a jog, unarmed the day he died. The men who killed him believed that he was committing a crime. They said they saw him exiting an unfinished home and immediately chased him in their truck. The men even recorded the incident, which shows Travis McMichael confronting 25-year-old Arbery before shooting him. 

The incident is similar to Trayvon Martin who was killed in 2012 by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was found innocent. 

Zimmerman and the three men who killed Arbery, William Bryan and Travisand George McMichael were not police officers. They claimed to be attempting to make a citizen’s arrest. 

The senseless killing of Arbery shows how easy it is for regular citizens to kill people. Americans have too much access to guns. If guns were harder to obtain, many people would still have their lives. 

This case also highlights the issue of racial profiling. Those men’s unconscious bias made them believe he was guilty of committing a crime. 

In Arbery’s case, the prosecutor used the video of him running away to prove that the shooters were not acting in self-defense. She even highlighted that racial profiling was the basis of his murder by saying the men attacked Arbery because he was “a Black man running down the street,” according to the New York Times. 

 Many people were surprised by the convictions of Mr. Arbery’s killers due to past acquittals for similar situations. Others believed that the facts were so clear they couldn’t be found innocent. 

“I would have been very disappointed if Travis McMichael, George McMichael, and William Bryan were let free because there was so much evidence,” says Monae Fletcher, a second-year biology major at HU. “The videos and the fact that they were not police officers, nor did they have any proof of him doing anything illegal settled it for me.” 

So often in the United States, white people are let off the hook after killing Black people. Some examples are the shooters of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake. 

One of the reasons these shooters are found innocent is because of the makeup of the jury. The demographics of the juries that decided the case’s fate were inconsistent with those of the victim. When those on the jury can relate more to the defendant and not the victim, it is easier to believe the victim is innocent. 

 Arbery’s killers’ conviction was a step forward but did not mean we do not have more work to do within our justice system. New gun laws and more diverse juries are just some of the ways America can prevent cases like Kyle Rittenhouse or Trayvon Martin, just to name a few.

A Penny for Your Pleasure, a Dollar for Your Smile

Alfred Johnson | Staff Writer

As Christmas gets closer, many of us find ourselves scrambling to get the perfect gift, if not for our family and friends, then for ourselves too. There is an incredible amount of pressure surrounding the search. 

We’re all expected to remember what our loved ones want, but with the lengths we go through, there’s more that we’re sacrificing than we may be thinking about. 

When it comes to gift-giving, we’re taught that, traditionally, we’re supposed to be grateful for what we receive. Regardless of what we receive, someone went out of their way to do this one simple favor. The least we could do is appreciate the effort.

Nowadays, when it comes to gift-giving, we find ourselves looking through more of a materialistic lens, seeing these gifts as a reflection of the value of our relationships.

People become selfish when it’s time for Secret Santa. Some get hurt to the point where they find it offensive if the gift does not reach their expectations, while many, on the other hand, argue that an event like this is not to be taken seriously.

We’re told time after time, movie after movie, show after show, that Christmas is supposed to be about spending time with the ones you love and sharing that positivity and that “Christmas Spirit” to as many people as possible. But with people fighting each other for that perfect gift, it seems that we’ve lost the value of camaraderie.

Once Cyber Monday hits, the fight for the “Perfect Gift” slowly swells into a war for the last box. People race for the checkout button just to find out they’re late to a drop that hasn’t even been open for a full ten seconds. 

The low prices have people scrounging their pockets and checking their bank accounts just to see if they have the last penny to spare on a product. Commercials and advertisements remind us daily that they now have affordable prices for a limited amount of time. 

On Black Friday, there are brawls in stores. People swipe items from kids and possibly even go so far as to steal things. Hundreds of videos of people fighting for products and being trampled as soon as doors open.

All this pain, all of this madness, for temporary joy? 

We do our best not to think about it, but we can’t escape the fact that we’re trapped in the system.

These events contradict the meaning of the holiday. We don’t look inside ourselves enough to notice that the choices we’re making for the ones we love get in the way of the meaning of why we’re doing it.

Consumerism blinds our true intentions, propelling greed to the forefront of our minds. We become more concerned with the value of a gift rather than the value of a relationship.

The farther we go with this behavior, the harder it will be to escape it. Although there will be excuses for our actions, we know deep down that we don’t have to.

The hard part about it is that even though we understand this isn’t how we were taught to celebrate Christmas, we conform because of societal pressures. The mere thought of losing someone close to us because of what we present to them was not sufficient can scar us.

While the happiness of our loved ones is important to us, consider this question: Is all of this worth the risk? 

Black men, stop mocking Black women 

Grace Elizabeth Hackney | Staff Writer

The mockery of Black women can be seen in all sorts of media since the ages of reconstruction. I’m tired of it.

The first time I saw content that mocked Black people, specifically Black women, was on Vine. Do you remember the ages of King Bach and his posse? 

Do you remember their numerous videos featuring watermelon, fried chicken, Jordans and T-shirt wigs? While I did find some of their content a little funny, it never sat right with me. 

This trend has continued to TikTok. And the people carrying this cycle are Black men. I will never understand mocking the women that raise you and fight for you. 

I cannot talk about the mockery of Black women without mentioning Tyler Perry.

I am not too fond of Tyler Perry movies, and I’ve never watched a Madea movie all the way through. They have never interested me. To be honest, I never thought men dressing up as women was a top-notch comedy. It’s a tired act unless it’s Mrs. Doubtfire

When thinking about Tyler Perry movies, you can’t just think about the Madea franchise. What tends to be a trend in all his films is Black women being the villain or being the butt of the joke. Many of his non-Madea films have this storyline of a Black woman cheating on or leaving her broke male partner right before he starts making more money.

In the end, the woman wants to take him back but gets rejected and ends up in a much worse position than she was before. This consistent narrative is harmful and pushes the stereotypes that the Black community is trying to fight. 

This is not to take away from Perry’s success in his field, but we must acknowledge that he has made his billion-dollar net worth off of the detriment of Black women. 

TikTok has not helped this problem. I think it has made it worse.

The “hot cheeto girl” trend on TikTok took off over quarantine. It was just another way to make fun of Black girls, from what they wore to the snacks they chose to eat. 

I never liked this trend. It was full of people wearing long, fake nails, T-shirt wigs, big lashes, laid edges, and speaking in African American Vernacular English. My question was always, “what do you mean by ‘hot cheeto girl’”? 

The many Black men who engaged in these trends to gain followers always made these trends worse. The amount of Black men that will tear down Black women for the validation of, well, I do not know, white people, is astounding. What’s even more astounding is the nonblack people that engage with this content as if there’s nothing wrong with it. 

This is not Black men’s fault. It’s how many of them were socialized. It’s how many of us were socialized. 

The systems embedded into every aspect of our lives teach people that it’s OK to profit at the expense of Black people. They teach people that it’s OK to profit at the expense of women. These identities intersect, and it creates a difficult choice. 

Some Black people choose to be closer to whiteness because that’s what they equate to being successful. 

Tyler Perry made that choice. Look where that got him. King Bach made that choice. Look where that got him.

That’s why we see Black people (not always just Black men) quickly turn the women that raised them and fought for them into a joke. It’s what pays the big bucks. 

However, the continuous mockery of Black women will not stop until Black men stop. That’s because of the patriarchy, but we should all know that by now.

People fail to understand that when Black men mock Black women, they open up the door for non-black people to be racist, misogynistic and engage in microaggressions. This is a cycle we have to end on all platforms. 

Black Art Does Not Always Depict the Struggle 

Alfred Johnson | Staff Writer

When it comes to art, interpretations are limitless. From overall looks and aesthetics to the most intricate details, a story is presented and depicted an infinite number of times. 

As artists of color, what we make is by us, for us, and it’s our job to help inspire the future generations and let them know they can do whatever they put their minds toward.

The issue, however, comes in when Black art is consistently thought of as reflective of the “Black struggle.” This perception could get in the way of how the artist envisions their work.

Some feel that they need to express that struggle, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But just because this happens in one piece doesn’t mean that that is the aesthetic they are going for.

Crystal Baggett, a junior sequential arts major at Savannah College of Art and Design, says that a white classmate asked her if one of her pieces was about how white people oppress Black people’s culture. Although she thought the idea was funny, she told the student that that wasn’t the case.

This isn’t necessarily just white people. People of all races look at the work of Black creatives and assume that it reflects their struggle as a Black person. This isn’t always the case.

In the opening scene of the Netflix film Malcolm & Marie, Malcolm Elliot, a film director, talks about the reviews from the premiere they just attended. He rants about how a white reporter for the L.A. Times says she loved his film and compared him to famous Black filmmakers such as Spike Lee and Barry Jenkins. When he asked her about a white filmmaker, William Wyler, he notes that she became flushed, as if asking herself if Wyler was Black and realizing that he was not.

In the middle of his rant, he says he was going to the larger conversation about filmmaking without having someone tie it into a discussion about race because of the convenience.

“What was interesting, though, was that you could tell that just because I’m Black, as the director, and the woman is a Black lead, stars in the film, she’s already trying to frame through a political lense when in reality, it’s a film about a girl trying to get clean,” Malcolm Elliot says.  “Now are there certain obstacles because she’s a Black woman? I mean, hell yeah…That’s reality, too, but it’s not a film about race.”

If you watched Disney as a child, you know that everything is not what it seems. Art doesn’t just have to be suited to one central archetype.

Black people should not always have to be compared to the same stereotype every time.

Students Loans are a Problem 

Sydney McCall | Staff Writer

Millions of students across America are in a bind with student loans, even though most have no option but to take them out. For those who have graduated college, loans have been holding them back for years.

Student loan debt in the United States totals up to $1.73 trillion and grows six times faster than the economy, according to the Education Data Initiative. Additionally, the average student borrowers are in debt by $39,351. 

For the class of 2020, the average starting salary was $55,260 after graduation. So why does the average student owe most of their annual salary?

It starts with financial education. College students are encouraged to fill out the FAFSA and take out as much as they offer if their families cannot afford to pay. For an 18-year-old to take out a large sum of money they will owe back, mandatory and extensive financial counseling should occur. 

The simple entrance loan counseling offered does not seem enough for young people to sign a 360 deal with the Department of Education.

Additionally, the government should provide a student loan debt forgiveness program. As a part of his campaign, Joe Biden promised a forgiveness program, but many people wonder where it is or how it will be rolled out.

“I am betting on a student loan program to save my life,” said Joy Prince, a 2000 social work graduate from George Mason University.“I am still struggling to pay off my student debt 20 years after graduation.”

Hampton students are also very fearful about how they will pay off their loans when they graduate.

“I am already worried about how I will afford to pay my tuition after I graduate,” said Monae Fletcher, a second-year biology major at HU. “I plan on attending medical school, so I do not have an option as to whether or not I take out loans.”

In August, Hampton University paid the outstanding balances of continuing undergraduate students. That relief took a burden off so many students. No student should be under stress or pressure simply because of the financial implications of getting an education.

Everyone deserves the right to an education, and money should not have to be the reason education has to stop. A national student loan forgiveness program should be put in place by our administration. 

Also, colleges and universities should educate students thoroughly on loans and finances before students take out loans. These actions would save so many young people from debt, stress and crisis.

What’s Wrong with Black Content?

Grace Elizabeth Hackney | Staff Writer

When thinking about the range of Black movies and TV in the ’90s and early 2000s compared to what there are now, you would think they’d have gotten better. Better writing, better representation of intersectional identities, better marketing, just better. I’m not so sure that’s the case. 

When it comes to present-day Black entertainment, most of it seems to stem from struggle. I can’t even think of one TV show about Black high schoolers that does not involve some sort of stereotypical trauma. 

In the ’90s and 2000s, you had The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Moesha, The Parkers, and Sister Sister to tell the stories of Black kids in high school. You had A Different World to tell the stories of Black students in college. You had Living Single, Girlfriends, and Martin to tell the stories of Black young adults. 

I didn’t even mention the plethora of Black family sitcoms from the ’70s and ’80s. Not only were these shows entertaining, but they also featured Black people dealing with day-to-day life issues and not only Black struggles.

While these shows touched on issues that affect the Black community, those issues were not the narrative that pushed the entire storyline forward. Not to mention that these shows featured characters of all sizes and shades, unlike the Black TV content that we see today. 

When thinking about Black shows now, the first thing that comes to mind is Kenya Barris and his roster of “ish” shows. While I like these shows, I do think the shows cater to white audiences. 

I also don’t consider Grown-ish to be a Black show. Barris himself said he cares about what white people think in his Netflix show, #BlackAF. It is evident in his work, especially since people have criticized Barris for not featuring dark-skin characters in his sitcoms. 

Now all of this is not to take away from the good Black shows there are right now that are not built off of Black trauma and stereotypes such as Insecure, Run The World and Queen Sugar. I would even loop Power in as well. 

However, we need more for our Black teens and young adults. I know we love All American, but that can’t be our only option. 

Now let’s talk movies. 

The ’90s and early 2000s were almost like a renaissance for Black movies. Not only did you have the classic hood movies such as Boyz In The Hood, but there was also an abundance of romantic comedies, biographies and dramas. 

Love Jones, Malcolm X, Eve’s Bayou and Coming to America are just a few. There was also a selection of movies about Black college life like Drumline, School Daze and Stomp The Yard. What happened to these types of movies? Why aren’t they being made anymore? 

Today, Black movies that aren’t about a historical figure, slavery or Black trauma lack good writing. The Photograph is a movie that had so much potential. It had a solid cast, good storyline and beautiful cinematography, but the writing seemed elementary. 

We got Black Panther, though. That was a great one. 

I’m not going to talk about Tyler Perry’s movies. 

Every few years, we get a Kevin Hart comedy. I would consider those to be Black movies. They serve their purpose, but we need more.

I do think we are starting to get a little more. We have Jordan Peele making Black horror movies where the Black people aren’t the first characters to die. Marsai Martin vowed never to produce content about Black trauma, and I’m excited to see what Issa Rae’s next big project will be as we approach the final season of her fantastic show, Insecure

It’s important to remember that our fight is for equality and representation, not assimilation. It’s important to remember that white people do not need to like our movies. They are not for them.

Should the COVID Vaccine be Mandated?

Sydney McCall | Staff Writer

While vaccine mandates continue to be a national debate, signs show that current vaccine mandates are working. 

COVID-19 has affected more than 44 million people in the U.S. and taken more than 700,000 lives, according to official Center for Disease Control and Prevention data. When the Coronavirus first appeared in March 2020, everyone wished for an easy solution to end it. Now that it is here, many people are skeptical, which is confusing. 

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 95 percent effective against the coronavirus, according to the CDC. Additionally, if one does happen to catch the virus after being fully vaccinated, they are less likely to develop severe illness or death. So why do so many people have reservations?

Social media has spread much misinformation about the vaccine. Some say there is a microchip inside of it that allows the government to track its citizens. Others say the vaccine causes infertility. Some anti-vaxxers even claim that the vaccine can turn one into a zombie, as if that is physically possible. 

Vaccines are not a new concept. As an American citizen, one receives several vaccines throughout their childhood. Polio, hepatitis B, tetanus, and chickenpox are just some examples of life-threatening diseases that have practically been eliminated in our country because of vaccines. 

The COVID-19 vaccine saved more than 140,000 lives over the first five months of 2021, according to a study by Sumedha Gupta published by Health Affairs. In New York, vaccinations led to 11.7 fewer COVID deaths per 10,000 people, according to Healthline. 

The efficacy of the COVID vaccine can also be seen at Hampton University. The COVID numbers at HU are very low because 97 percent of faculty and 98 percent of students are vaccinated, according to a Sept. 15 letter from the university.

Some students were on the fence about receiving the vaccine, but now that the campus can be fully open, they feel it was worth it. 

“I am just happy that I can be back with my friends at my Home by the Sea,” said Kendal Johnson, a second-year business major. “I feel like the vaccine made me feel safe. I am also protecting my older professors and staff here.”

It has been proven that the vaccine saves lives. It can help us get back to our everyday lives since so much normalcy has been taken away from us for almost two years now. Misinformation should not get in the way of saving the life of a parent, grandparent or friend. The vaccine should be mandated in spaces where one is exposed to other people to keep everyone safe.

Reset and Run it Back

Alfred Johnson | Staff Writer

Hampton University’s Homecoming is one of the most long-awaited events on campus. Still, after the world’s continuing battle with COVID-19, changes are being made, and it’s making students raise a brow as to what’s happening. 

The reason is that people were expecting Homecoming to occur a little later in the month. Coming into the school year, students had Homecoming as one of the biggest topics on their minds, specifically if the event was even happening. Because of state and national regulations, students weren’t sure of what to expect.

Little to no one could confirm if one of Hampton’s most popular events would happen, and it left students in a sort of limbo. Word spread that other HBCUs were having to adjust or cancel their Homecoming activities overall. Because of this, Hamptonians became skeptical.

“I felt a little sad because Homecoming is one of those big events that everybody goes to,” Hampton University senior Iman Jones said. “You can meet other people that went to the school. That’s where connections happen.”

Hollands and 12 to 2s feel more like a memory to returning students and a dream to new students. The only thing worse than a fear of missing out is hearing about what you missed. 

It isn’t news that COVID has people missing out on potentially pivotal moments in their lives,  

Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that people will expect more from the university. 

For returning students, however, the campus feels more like a ghost town. Less is happening, and people are more hesitant to be out and about with the national mask mandate. Newer students don’t know enough about moving, and returning students are readjusting to being back. 

With the number of campus events being reduced, people are doing their best to hold onto whatever is happening around campus. 

Lines for Homecoming tickets formed a U-turn in the Student Center, and they sold fast. Events like the fashion show, step show and silent party filled up, and students made the most out of every experience. 

Balancing social life with academia is enough of a challenge. With students trying to hit deadlines, subtle pressure is building up, and students are doing their best to make little to no sacrifices in the classroom.

The issue is not with how Hampton is carrying out mandates. If anything, people are more pleased with the fact that the school is taking caution. 

The concern is more around the fact that students don’t know what is going on. It wasn’t until recently that people got news about what is happening with campus events. The questioning isn’t about who said what but what is truthful.

Once people could confirm that HUChella 2.0 was happening, they made sure to attend whatever they could.

“I think it’s cool to have Homecoming, especially for those who weren’t able to experience it,” Jones said. 

All of this to say what? Students aren’t necessarily upset. They’re just confused, and students do not need to throw blame everywhere.

The people and organizations working to push these gatherings and events are doing everything they can to notify students of what will happen and when. With COVID changing our way of life and everyone trying to rebuild, this feeling of disorientation is just a side effect. 

Thanks to the people behind the scenes, students get to continue the Hampton Homecoming tradition and go home with stories from their home by the sea. 

I Don’t Like Guys That Want Girls That Want Girls

Grace Elizabeth Hackney | Staff Writer

With the recent release of Drake’s tenth studio album, Certified Lover Boy, Drake has taken over the Billboard Hot 100 chart with nine of his songs in the top 10. There’s one song that got my attention, the song that holds No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts: Girls Want Girls ft. Lil Baby. 

Songs like Girls Want Girls are harmful and emphasize how romantic relationships between women are not seen as valid relationships.

In Girls Want Girls, Drake says, “She said she a lesbian, girl me too.” Drake is not the first musical artist to fetishize same-sex relationships between women. Many popular songs have fetishized relationships relating to the broader LGBTQIA+ community.

 In 2019, PnB Rock and Lil Skies released a song entitled, I Like Girls, where PnB Rock sings, “I like girls who like girls.” The song that launched Katy Perry’s career was I Kissed a Girl. Coi Leray says, “Couple bad bitches with me and they go both ways” in the song Ocean Prime

Nicki Minaj even has multiple songs where she insinuates women-loving-women relationships even though she is straight. Why is this? Simple answer: misogyny.

Part of what encompasses the LGBTQIA+ movement is the freedom to enjoy your relationships without anyone else inserting themselves or their opinions into it. From what I’ve seen, LGBTQIA+ women do not have that freedom. 

Instead, people fetishize women loving women because, I guess, it’s impossible for a woman to be happy in a relationship that does not involve a man. 

Relationships between LGBTQ+ men are rarely fetishized this way. Most women do not constantly yearn for relationships with gay and, at times, bisexual men.

In our society, women are already objectified for every little thing and seen as objects. 

This is reflected in the way lesbian relationships are often treated as if they are a show for everyone’s enjoyment. Drake’s new song just feeds the fire from which LGBTQIA+ women are trying to escape. 

Girls Want Girls has prompted a TikTok trend of men stitching and duetting videos of lesbians with the song playing in the background. It’s an attempt to show that they are attracted to these women regardless of their sexuality. As if saying “I’m a lesbian” means “try harder to flirt with me.” It does not mean that, by the way. 

Now let me make something clear: I’m not trying to take away Drake’s—or any musical artist’s—artistic license. This is not an attempt to cancel Drake. I’m not telling anyone to stop listening to Drake. I still like Drake’s new album. I understand free speech. 

However, musical artists should be aware if they are spreading content that is harmful to marginalized groups. Truthfully, I do not think Drake knows the effects of the fetishization of lesbian relationships. I doubt he was purposefully trying to be harmful. That still does not mean he is free from accountability. This goes for his listeners as well because the goal is always education and awareness.

And to my men who pine after women in hopes of fulfilling some sort of fantasy: Stop.