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Talking With Activist Michaela Angela Davis About Black Lives Matter, Self-Care, And Afro-Feminism

Culture
Photographed by Ibra Ake, Makeup by Samantha Granados

I practice radical self-care because I want radical change

A few years ago, I was introduced to a woman with these simple sentences: “T, this is Michaela. I feel like you should know each other. You might get along.”

Judging purely by the golden halo of an afro she sported, in tandem with some of the brightest kicks I had ever seen, I couldn’t help but smile and agree. Soon, Michaela and I were meeting up for tea and talking about art and the state of the world, taking little walks around the hood, once we learned we were neighbors, and giving happy hugs at rallies and festivals.

I loved the way Michaela’s mind worked, the way she dissected everything, felt no fear around speaking her truth, and how she managed to see the brightness of the world, often in spite of itself. It wasn’t until a full-fledged friendship was formed that I learned this new light in my life was in fact civil rights and image activist Michaela Angela Davis.

Michaela is as complex as she is bold.  A longtime fashion editor and stylist, for the likes of Essence, Vibe, and Honey magazines, Michaela turned into an image activist and social justice champion following a transformative experience while speaking at Spelman College, when she realized that what was important to her was “to be in action particularly around our image and expand the narrow narratives of what it is to be woman, what it is to be black, what it is to be young.”

Since then, Michaela has consistently sought ways to use her platforms to call out and lift up, and can be seen everywhere from the studios of CNN to protests in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., to her living room, surrounded by the young women that she mentors. She can often be found celebrating, sometimes dancing to soul music in various parks around the city, or at Afropunk, talking to another woman about their hair, smiling all the while. And let me tell you, Michaela may be known for that afro, but you’ll never forget her smile.

I always walk away from talks with Michaela feeling enlightened and inspired; I truly respect and value the insight of those who have come up before me, both in the movement and in life. So after a series of the conversations we had in the wake of so many recent tragedies, I asked if I could sit down with her and take note of some of her thoughts on the civil rights movement, specifically as it pertains to Black Lives Matter; how she got involved in her work; and how she navigates all that she does without burning out.

Click through the gallery below to read what Michaela has to say.

Photographed by Ibra Ake, Makeup by Samantha Granados

What are some of the challenges, especially as an activist, that you face?
The biggest struggle I have now is to maintain myself and my sense of humanity; to not get bitter, or broken, or angry, or overly resentful, or too tired. That's the challenge not just in activism, but in aging and in being a woman—being a grown-ass woman. I find myself in a constant battle to maintain my identity, to be who I say that I am, and continue to expand what that is. And dodging boxes that declare, "If you're middle age, you do this. Or if you're black, you do this; if you're a woman, you do this." I feel like there's often a pressure, somewhere around the mid-40s, for women to disappear. I feel, especially as I get older, I have to continually say, "No, that's not who I am." I am agile, and strong, and sexy, and interested in shit.

Photo courtesy of Balenciaga / Photo via @McDonaldsSverige Instagram

I'm cackling

Last year, Balenciaga released bright red square-toed mules which bore a striking resemblance to McDonald's french fry cartons. Now, the chain has fired back at the designer, threatening to release its own version of the shoes.

McDonald's Sweden posted a photo to its Instagram of a person wearing actual McDonald's fry cartons as shoes, and honestly, if there weren't yellow M's printed onto them, I'd have a hard time distinguishing them from the Balenciagas from a distance. Though the post doesn't directly reference the Balenciaga shoes, one can only assume that's who they are trolling.

McDonald's version actually makes for some pretty fly slip-ons, if you ask me. Good thing the Swedish branch of Mickey D's seems to be considering releasing the shoes if the post receives enough attention. The caption of the Instagram post translates to, "If we get 103042 likes we release these for real," though it only has about 17,000 as of publish time. These would likely cost much less than the Balenciaga shoes, which cost $545.

Internet, do your thing. I want a pair.

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Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.

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