The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 9/6

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So much happened on the internet this week. Remembering Daniel Prude, killed by Rochester police in March, and Deon Kay, killed by DC police on Thursday. Brandy and Monica battled on Verzuz. Jazmine Sullivan released a live recording of “Lost One.” and OG Anunoby made a buzzer-beating shot. Highlights: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Longform Podcast, Jesmyn Ward’s grief, Julia Bullock on poetry, Margie Hendrix’s unforgettable voice, we don’t know Mariah Carey, SZA released new music, the MTV VMAs, Adele, Jessica Krug isn’t Black, and Niecy Nash comes out. 


1. Longform Podcast: #408: Ta-Nehisi Coates

In his sixth appearance on the Longform podcast, Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects on his relationship with Chadwick Boseman and the process of guest editing the latest issue of Vanity Fair. Here, Coates addresses some of the controversy I discussed last week on whether or not it was productive to put Breonna Taylor on the cover of the magazine, stating “my greatest concern was her mom and her family. I wanted them to feel like their daughter was respected and their experience was respected.” He also wanted to ensure that “the journalism inside [was] of weight and quality. So that it wasn’t just a cover with Breonna, but that she be representative of something deeper that was actually happening.”

This interview is filled with a lot of good stuff, including how activism can look different for everyone, the importance of reflecting and taking time, and that sometimes journalists just need to pass the mic to their subjects instead of speaking for them. 



2. Vanity Fair: On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by Pandemic

This deeply moving essay by Jesmyn Ward for Vanity Fair’s “The Great Fire” issue explores the parallel griefs of personal and collective losses. In January, Ward’s husband died of acute respiratory distress syndrome “within 15 hours of walking into the emergency room of that hospital” and after coding eight times. 

Ward’s writing flickers between the loss of her beloved, the pandemic, global protest against racism, and reflects on witnessing: “Witness Black people, Indigenous people, so many poor brown people, lying on beds in frigid hospitals, gasping our last breaths with COVID-riddled lungs, rendered flat by undiagnosed underlying conditions, triggered by years of food deserts, stress, and poverty, lives spent snatching sweets so we could eat one delicious morsel, savor some sugar on the tongue, oh Lord, because the flavor of our lives is so often bitter.”


3. Poetry Society of America: Stopping by with Julia Bullock

The last concert I saw before the pandemic hit the US was Julia Bullock in recital at the San Francisco Symphony when I went to visit my sister in February. I have a very hard time not fangirling over Bullock and have tried to see her perform every season for the past five or six years. 

The thing that first drew me to Bullock was her repertoire, and how her political ideologies have always guided her work and musical interpretations. As with most artists and performers, Bullock’s practice has shifted in recent months due to the pandemic and the global reckoning with racism and white supremacy. Currently she is “discerning how to continue to field opportunities that come to me. Even the proposals that I have made for projects in which I am driving from the ground up, I have to examine from every side to ensure that my methods of action are not perpetuating supremacist systems.” In this interview she discusses music, poetry, and politics, and how “music doesn’t just make the words ‘last long’ by lengthening the duration of the word—melodies and tunes allow words to sink in, settle, organize themselves, and resonate deeply. Words with music, at least in my life, have left a lasting impression.” 

The thing that always draws me back to Bullock is her generosity and how she reflects on so many things so deeply. I always learn so much from watching her performances, listening to her recordings, and reading her interviews. 


4. Longreads: A Lover’s Blues: The Unforgettable Voice of Margie Hendrix

The Longreads and Believer series Hive, about women and their musical influences, is one of my favorite things on the internet. I love writing about music and I love personal essays, and these two elements together form this alchemical series. 

In this essay, Tarisai Ngangura investigates the life of Margie Hendrix, a solo artist and backup singer to Ray Charles who regularly out sung him. Ngangura has “thought about her regularly for years, wondering how a woman with that voice could disappear from the public eye so easily, after making such an unforgettable appearance.” 

Hendrix “began her career as a solo singer who became a background vocalist for some of the world’s most beloved musicians and died working to make it on her own,” writes Ngangura. “I think she stays on my mind because I see in her life the reality of what it means to hustle with nothing but faith and talent. Sometimes there’s simply no ascent no matter how hard you try. Sometimes, or maybe often, the path ends not through any fault of your own.”

While this essay is only a 14-minute read, according to Longreads’ note at the top, it took me an hour to get through, stopping to listen to each clip and rereading Ngangura’s analyses of them. 


5. Vulture: You Don’t Know Her 

I don’t know why anyone ever presumed to know her. I mean, how does one truly know someone as infamous as Mariah Carey? Even after a 30-year career! 

There are so many amazing things about this profile of Mariah Carey by Allison P. Davis. It is funny and empathetic yet it doesn’t fangirl, and it is critically reverential. The profile is focused on Carey’s upcoming memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, as part of her “MC30” celebration, commemorating her 30 years in the industry. There has been much speculation about what is actually in the book, but “if somebody or something didn’t pertain to the actual meaning of Mariah Carey, as is the title, then they aren’t in the book,” says the songstress. This piece is expansive, covering Carey’s past marriages, mixedness, “time zone” (she “is a self-proclaimed vampyyyyra”), and why she has to keep explaining herself. 

This is a beautiful piece on how “Carey has finally shaped her story the way she sees it: one of herself as a perpetual underdog who has risen, fallen, and climbed back as dexterously as her famed melismas. It’s the narrative that has propulsed her to greatness; it’s also her mental loop.”


6. YouTube: SZA - Hit Different (Official Video) ft. Ty Dolla $ign

SZA RELEASED NEW MUSIIIICCC! Featuring Ty Dolla $ign, this is the first song SZA released since her 2017 debut Crtl. SZA also directed the video, making it her directorial debut. Craig Jenkins writes for Vulture that “what sets the writing apart from your run-of-the-mill callout jam is that SZA is not just annoyed by a love interest’s bad moods and drifting eye; she’s annoyed by herself and her willingness to suffer through these difficulties. Smarter still is how, if you don’t want to lean in and nitpick about lyrics, you can still receive ‘Hit Different’ on a surface level as a cozy, airy Ty Dolla $ign collab built around a popular 2020 turn of phrase.”

I’m sad we had to wait so long for new music, but I’m happy that the wait was well worth it! Hopefully this is an indication of an upcoming album. 


7. YouTube: Every 2020 VMA Performance feat. BTS, Lady Gaga, & More | 2020 MTV VMAs

The VMAs happened last weekend and there were A LOT of good performances. Most of the performances were pre-recorded due to COVID concerns, and even though the format of awards shows has changed (and their metrics of accomplishment have always been problematic), watching them has become a form of escapism for me over the past few months. I, quite simply, had fun watching this and listening to the music in the background as I wrote this list. 


8. Instagram: Adele

Last weekend, Adele posted a picture to Instagram in which she is wearing a Jamaican flag bikini top and her hair is styled in Bantu knots, writing “Happy what would be Notting Hill Carnival my beloved London 🇬🇧🇯🇲.” 

The photo immediately received criticism from across the African diaspora, with many saying that Adele was appropriating Jamaican culture by wearing the flag top and Bantu knots. A lot of Jamaicans, however, have since come to Adele’s defense, explaining how they love seeing people wearing their flag. I am not Jamaican and am going to sit back and listen to Jamaicans on that. However, Bantu knots are not only found in Jamaican culture—they’re a “traditional African hairstyle that has been around for over 100 years” and are worn by Black people around the world. Black people are also discriminated against for wearing natural hairstyles. Because of the history of the hairstyle, I think that Black people that are not Jamaican have the right to get upset over Adele’s hair. 


9. Twitter: Jessica Krug

In a now-viral Medium post this week, historian Jessica Krug admitted that “to an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness.” Academic Twitter quickly filled with stories about Krug, recounting how she harassed Black people about their Blackness, acted as the morality police, and some of what she did to fool people. Out of the many tweets I read, no one seemed to have had a positive interaction with Krug. Krug being able to masquerade as Black for so long touches on colorism, showing how “lighter and fairer-skinned black folks are more valued because of their proximity to whiteness,” tweeted Jemele Hill. Others are pointing out that “It’s ok to study Black history or African history and be white. You can even get degrees and be a professor and be white.” We don’t need any more Rachel Dolezals. 

Krug’s entire Medium post is disturbing, and she uses accountability rhetoric to weaponize her absolution. “I believe in restorative justice, where possible, even when and where I don’t know what that means or how it could work. I believe in accountability. And I believe in cancel culture as a necessary and righteous tool for those with less structural power to wield against those with more power,” writes Krug. “I should absolutely be cancelled. No. I don’t write in passive voice, ever, because I believe we must name power. So. You should absolutely cancel me, and I absolutely cancel myself.”

It has since been revealed that Krug likely admitted to this after an investigation brought on by concerns by a junior Black Latina scholar. I absolutely believe that if it weren’t for this, Krug would have continued the lie. 


10. Out: Niecy Nash Comes Out, Gets Married, Introduces Wife to World

Actress and comedian Niecy Nash came out earlier this week by posting a photo from her wedding with new wife Jessica Betts on social media. To say people were excited would be an understatement, as the couple was not public about their relationship prior to the announcement. “The news makes Nash the latest in the string of high-profile Black, sapphic women with love life updates. Raven-Symone announced her marriage to her wife Miranda Pearman-Maday in June. Da Brat clarified speculation about her sexuality, and confirmed that she was seeing Jesseca Dupart in March.”


Images taken from referenced articles. Have a suggestion for next week? Email with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”

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