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There is a missing presence of the black author in America. The stigma says that authors of color can’t create the content needed to make any of the bestsellers list. Despite having the body of work, many authors of color are usually overlooked by authors from big publishing companies with the budget to promote their book. Here at Melanoid Exchange we fully support the quality of information a book has despite its level of funding. We have taken a step in changing the persona and creating a bestsellers list for authors of color.

In our first volume of the Melanoid Exchange Bestseller list we want to highlight a piece of work titled The Hood Scholar by Jovante Ham.

The Hood Scholar by Jovante Ham is a book that we believe anyone looking to beat the odds of life should read. He gives real life examples showing how he became the man he was and also the mistakes he made along the way giving all the glory to God.

Ham’s word choice and real-life examples allows readers to relive the situations as if they were there.

All in all, The Hood Scholar is a must read that will encourage readers to realize that where you are from doesn’t determine your outcome in life and it’s never too late to get back on track. This book will wow readers by its realism and give hope to those who may be struggling with their faith.  The Hood Scholar is available for purchase on our Melanoid Exchange App and website.

by Star Jackson

photo courtesy of: kewon hunter (website: https://kewonhunter.photos/ )

photo courtesy of: kewon hunter (website: https://kewonhunter.photos/)

In hoods all over America, countless Black boys who grow to become Black men have witnessed horrendous acts of violence while living in what some consider ‘inner-city war zones’. Because of this, thousands of Black boys are tasked with surviving the hood and PTSD. Baltimore, a city that is 63% Black has a crime rate that exceeds the national average. St. Louis, a predominantly Black populated city, is the murder capital of America. Detroit has a concentration of nearly 80% of its residents listed as African American and is highly ranked as one of the most dangerous cites in the United States. All of these cities have a commonality in the fact that they are majority Black and extremely economically underdeveloped. Disadvantaged and poverty-stricken communities statistically have lower employment and educational attainment rates and thus higher crime and imprisonment rates than neighborhoods with more economic wealth. Because of these varying factors that contribute to Black deprivation, the inevitable remains: Black people are marginalized, and the disparities continue to grow. Your socioeconomic status dictates your fate in many cities in America. Zip codes have become the determining factor of life expectancy rates in urban areas and at the center of these statistics is Black boys. 

The on-going oppression encountered is certainly enough to trigger post-traumatic stress disorder.

The hardly spoken truth is that Black boys are suffering. The trauma that is faced when witnessing the deaths of their peers, living in impoverished neighborhoods, watching parents struggle to provide, facing systemic racism, dealing with unjust policing and brutality and being denied access to certain class-based economic and educational resources is the foundational cause of their PTSD. The toll that these experiences take on young, Black boys subconsciously and consciously leads to chronic fear and in turn, may lead to constant vigilance or even paranoia, which over time may result in traumatization or contribute to PTSD, (Carter, 2007).

The pressure of navigating through environments that have been methodically created to breed violence and suppress Black prosperity evoke the ‘effect’ to the ‘cause’ of the problem. Subsequently, society has created the false narrative that Black men are inherently violent. The trope that Black men are “dangerously aggressive” and are “thugs” permeates the media’s headlines. Thus, pervasive stereotypes convince the world that Black men have put themselves in disadvantaged positions in society and any wrongdoings on their behalf simply points at their inability to “boot-strap” themselves out of their situations. In turn, distorted understandings and attitudes towards Black males are adopted and lead to negative real-world consequences for them, (Opportunity Agenda, 2019). One of the consequences that is prevalent is lack of emotional support, therefore Black boys are statistically more susceptible to mental health related issues. The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health has determined that African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious psychological problems than their white counterparts. According to the report, poverty directly affects mental health and African Americans who live at or below the poverty line as compared to those who are twice over the level are three times more likely to suffer from mental health issues.

Survival. For a multitude of Black boys and men who live in the hood, it’s all about getting through the day. More times than not, this means doing whatever it takes to see ‘another 24’. As a result, the connection between deprivation and miseducation induces violence. Until we critically address the underlying issues that poverty and disenfranchisement have caused, Black males will continue to be forced to fight a war that they are ill-equipped to win in order to survive and the distress that is caused from existing in the hood will eat away at them like a ferocious lion feasting on its prey.

So how does a Mother console her child who lost his best friend to gun violence? How does she look him in the eyes and offer comfort? How does she reassure him that things will be okay when she is uncertain herself? My Mother, as strong and resilient as all else could only offer my brother what she had: a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear because unfortunately, professional help was not a fiscal option. Consequently, Tupac’s ‘So Many Tears’ became the battle cry anthem and therapeutic release for my brother following the death of his best friend. He also wrote raps and stayed high to cope with the pain; which seems to be a hood remedy that offers no real healing at all. Shortly after Andre was killed, another one of my brother’s peers was murdered, and another one months later. A vicious cycle that has yet to stop repeating.

For Black boys like my brother who have grieved in silence, who are forced to carry on without any counseling or therapy after losing a loved one, who have lived in a state of shock for so long from post-traumatic stress that the hood has caused, I offer this:

What traps you, must also free you. There will come a time when you realize that the same place that pulled triggers force bullets to drop bodies that leave the hood to mourn the immortal on airbrushed shirts is the same source that sparks the genius of the world. The hood is a gift and curse. Although the world may see you as less than, know that you are the warriors of each day’s tomorrow. With all odds stacked against you your perseverance is what ‘they’ fear. The beauty in the things that you are capable of is not defined by what you’ve been through; there’s power in knowing that. I pray that you may one day truly see that you are your brother’s keeper. But the weight is not all on you, as the system was built to suppress. Society’s views that have been placed upon you are merely a falsehood of lies. Just know that you are capable of soaring so long as you believe you can. And even if you don’t, understand that hood ni**as are royal too!

“I suffered through the years and shed so many tears.” – Tupac Amaru Shakur

R.I.P Andre, and to all the Andres’ of the world. Forever in our hearts.

References

AZ DPS. (2010).Arizona Department of Public Safety. Crime in Arizona Reports.

AZ Annual Report (PDF). (2017). Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. 

Carter, R. T. (2007). Racism and psychological and emotional injury: Recognizing and assessing race-based traumatic stress. The Counseling Psychologist.

The Opportunity Agenda. (2019). Media portrayals and black male outcomes. TOA Publications.

US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. (2016). Mental Health Data/Statistics. OMH.

by Jennifer Jean-Pierre

@jenjeanpierre on instagram

Let’s be real. Even if I had the money, I probably would not buy much designer or luxury. Not because I don’t like it (been wanting this bag for 14 years now) but because my brain and my upbringing have me funny about money, I still do not own it. My husband always tells me to treat myself and that I deserve it, and I do but my guilt would be too much. I could not possibly be renting an apartment I don’t love and not owning a car but owning purses or shoes that cost upwards of 4-5 figures. I really wish I could but every single time I think about getting my beloved Balenciaga, I think– that is the cost of a transmission or new engine if something were to happen to our one car lol.

You know the craziest thing– I could have saved 150 bucks a year for the last 12 years and could easily own it. But it isn’t really about the money. It is me and always wanting to “save for a rainy day”. UGH!

It is also the fact that I just really do not know how to treat myself. I want everyone around me to get what they want and have a smile on their face for it but I feel like it is a waste for me. Probably because material goods don’t really make me that happy. I need more in life. But that Balenciaga sure is pretty!

Yes, I realize that some of these goods can be investment pieces but right now, I would rather invest in my 401K or a 529 for future kids. Yes, I am kinda lame. But trust and believe I lust over my fellow bloggers’ monthly luxury purchases. I just am not built that way……. yet.

rent the runway unlimited black fashion blogger wearing a yellow polka dot dress and faux goddess locs in hair brown sandals summer look in washington dc style-30

But this post is not about my weird brain and it’s ridiculously annoying frugal ways. This post is about how my partnership with Rent the Runway Unlimited allows me fashion freedom AND the ability to wear luxury and designer goods without the guilt of buying it. In all honesty though– it gets hard to return the goods after I have worn and shot in them though.

For those unfamiliar, Rent the Runway Unlimited is a monthly clothing and accessories subscription service that allows you to borrow 4 items at a time and swap them out as many times you want during that month. For bloggers like me, this is an absolutely amazing solution to the “I don’t have clothes to shoot in” dilemma that often plagues us. I rent, wear, shoot, return and do it all over again and never have to worry about not having enough content. It works for me. It will probably work for you as well.

For non bloggers, this subscription is great if you just do not have time to shop around for clothes or have numerous functions you attend on a daily basis. For instance, this yellow dress is from RTR Unlimited. It retails for almost $500 and I get to rock it for the price of one amazing DC dinner and 3 drinks out. For those who may really fall in love with something, you can purchase some items at a discount.

black fashion blogger wearing a yellow polka dot dress and faux goddess locs in hair brown sandals summer look in washington dc style rent the runway unlimited

I’ve been posting about RTR on my Instagram alot and a few have taken advantage of this service. Now I am bringing it to my blog because I really think it is cool and someone would find it beneficial. By using my code: JJPIERRE50, you are able to receive 50% off of your first month of the service. Yup- HALF OFF!

It is the easiest way to be summer ready without spending a fortune and cluttering your closet!

black fashion blogger wearing a yellow polka dot dress and faux goddess locs in hair brown sandals summer look in washington dc style-30
black fashion blogger wearing a yellow polka dot dress and faux goddess locs in hair brown sandals summer look in washington dc style-30

by Ibi Zoboi

@thesolereader on istagram

Synopsis

Summer, 1984. Ebony-Grace Norfleet flies from Huntsville, Alabama to Harlem, where she’ll stay with her father while her mother deals with the trouble that’s arisen for Ebony-Grace’s grandfather, Jeremiah Norfleet, one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA in the ‘60s. Ever since she came to live with him when she was little, he’s nurtured his granddaughter’s love of space and science fiction – especially Star Wars and Star Trek, both of which she’s watched dozens of times on Betamax. So even as Ebony-Grace struggled to make friends, she always had her grandfather and the imaginary words they created together. New York, though, is different. Hip-hop, Break dancing, Double Dutch, Graffiti. Harlem is a bewildering place for a sheltered country girl, and her instinct is to retreat into her imagination. But soon 126th Street reveals that it has more in common with her beloved outer-space adventures than she ever dreamed, and by summer’s end, Ebony-Grace discovers that broken but beautiful Harlem has a place for a girl whose eyes are always on the stars.

Ready for Lift Off

Upon seeing the beautifully designed cover and reading the title, I was drawn in immediately. The cover is immaculately designed with a color scheme that mimics a sunset with hues of orange, yellow, and blue coupled with the posterior view of Ebony-Grace on a rooftop. The title, My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, is catchy enough to grab a young reader’s attention. I was ecstatic to begin reading this novel, especially to see how the author could connect to younger readers. While I have never been a sci-fi fan, I was intrigued by the story mostly occurring in New York City, especially Harlem, due to the rich culture, history, and magic that ensues there. I absolutely adore NYC, especially in the summertime! I had high hopes for this novel and the potential for it to not only connect with younger readers, but to serve as representation for girls of color.

The “Overview Effect”

While I was apprehensive about the sci-fi nature of this novel, there were some elements that I enjoyed. Ebony-Grace would be considered a Trekkie, someone who is very interested in space and in books and films about space. [[Thank you, Macmillan Dictionary!]] I loved how Ibi Zoboi chose to build Ebony-Grace as this nerdy, space loving, black girl from the south. She challenges the stereotypes of girls of color and what their interests can consist of. That is highly inspirational and encouraging for younger readers. It made me wonder if the character was inspired by Mae C. Jemison, an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut, and by N.K. Jemisin, an American science fiction and fantasy writer.

I also found great joy in the beautiful and sweet relationship that Ebony-Grace has with her grandfather, Jeremiah Norfleet. Ebony-Grace adores her grandfather and aspires to make him proud. He is her gateway to all things space related seeing as he worked as an engineer at NASA. Jeremiah frequently encourages Ebony-Grace to use her imagination and is incredibly patient with her, which is how she has come to develop her own reality inside of her “imagination location” that takes both of them on some wild space adventures. I found it interesting how Jeremiah is able to help his granddaughter understand reality through Trekkie connections, which has a tremendous impact on how she views No Joke City, also known as New York City. Their shared interactions were some of my favorite parts throughout My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

The novel is easy to read and could work in conjunction with ELA curriculum, especially in reference to teaching students how to make inferences. Also, readers who enjoy sci-fi based novels might enjoy reading this one.  

There is a missing presence of the black author in America. The stigma says that authors of color can’t create the content needed to make any of the bestsellers list. Despite having the body of work, many authors of color are usually overlooked by authors from big publishing companies with the budget to promote their book. Here at Melanoid Exchange we fully support the quality of information a book has despite its level of funding. We have taken a step in changing the persona and creating a bestsellers list for authors of color.

In our third volume of the Melanoid Exchange Bestseller list we want to highlight a piece of work titled So Now What? by Jerome Howard.

So Now What? by Jerome Howard is a book that has sold over 600 + copies and can reach out to readers despite their position in life. Whether you have just been laid off from your job, graduating high school, or even retiring from a lengthy career. So Now What? speaks directly to you. I would definitely rate So Now What? as one of the best self help books this past decade.

Howard entails his story of how he reached the place he stands in life today while giving knowledge people would pay thousands of dollars for. So Now What? gives real life examples making them practical answering many questions of what to do when life takes its jab at you.

All in all, So Now What? Is a must read that will stretch you the next level in life despite your current situation. This book will challenge you to hold yourself responsible by regaining the sense of accountability and ownership which has taken the backseat to entitlement in today’s era while encouraging you to be the best version of yourself. So Now What? is available for purchase on our Melanoid Exchange App.