Plots

On the Come Up ~Angie Thomas

“Who are you? of the millions and billions of people in the world, you’re the only person who can answer that. Not people online, or at your school. I can’t even answer that. You’re the only one who can say who you are with authority. So who are you?”

On the Come Up is the highly anticipated sophomore album from New York Times best-selling author Angie Thomas. By now you should have already read and watched or at least heard of The Hate U Give and therefore you should know how powerful Angie Thomas’ prose is. It feels fun and personal but then hits home with some real truth about today’s society.

Sixteen-year-old Bri Jackson dreams of being a rapper and On the Come Up is her story. With an uncertain home life and people’s opinions and prejudices on every side believing, Bri faces tough decisions and rough situations.

As a character, I honestly didn’t connect with Bri as much I wanted to. She was definitely well developed but I didn’t feel a strong attachment to her. Her supporting characters though, definitely stole my heart. Curtis was amazing, silly and sweet and he showed real character growth (I won’t spoil it, but he definitely was not the same from beginning to end.) Sonny was funny and balanced Bri and her other friend Malik out. Bri’s brother Trey was also an interesting character, he and Bri have a close relationship which I adore. By far however, my favorite character was Supreme. Bri’s dead father’s ex manager, he wasn’t a main character but he had a hand throughout the narrative. He was mysterious and ambiguous, a real dark horse for sure.

The story touched on a lot of current issues: Trey earned a college degree but struggles to find a job, Bri’s grandparents go to a church filled with members who profess Jesus but would rather gossip about people behind their backs, and Aunt Pooh stays involved with horrible things because it’s where she feels accepted and can take care of her family. Ultimately this story is a narrative of identity. Bri grapples with being a black girl in a white world, being seen as aggressive and a threat for things that are tolerated in others. Is Bri the criminal and hoodlum her school and strangers on Twitter believe she is? Is she a carbon copy of her father like her neighborhood thinks? This book drives us readers to wrestle with these questions as Bri does.

Don’t fear though, this book isn’t just heavy existential questions, it’s got a lot of humor and a plethora of references for hip-hop heads. I especially liked getting to read Bri’s rhymes as they appear in the book, it’s evident that Angie Thomas used to be a rapper and I’m all the way here for it. Another thing I love is how, like T.H.U.G, On the Come Up shows the beauty of a place others are quick to write-off. Both books are set in the Garden, which feels like a reimagining of Chicago’s ghetto, and while outsiders see a dangerous area unfit to live, the residents see hard-working people who are proud of where they come from, a neighborhood that supports their own.

Often, it’s hard to follow a mega success like The Hate U Give, but Angie Thomas delivered a solid story. She’s definitely an author to rely on for some hard-hitting, unapologetic, and fun books.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

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Plots

I’m Still Here -Austin Channing Brown

Per my mom’s suggestion, when I read certain books I keep a pad of sticky notes inside to mark special quotes and passages. Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here held dozens of sticky notes peeking out from both ends: a testament to gorgeous prose holding deep thoughts. The rest of the title is “Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” and the narrative explores Austin’s experiences as a Black woman in America. I laughed, cried, and got chills. A lot of Austin’s experiences are familiar to me: I felt seen in her accounts of the unsolicited invasions of privacy, uncomfortable off-handed comments, and the solace of the Black church. She reminds us that racism in America will never be completely resolved here on earth but that Jesus is our ultimate hope.

I challenge every single person to read this book. I’ll leave you with a few quotes to drive home how spectacular this book is.

“White supremacy is a tradition that must be named and a religion that must be renounced, when this work has not been done, those who live in whiteness become oppressive whether intentional or not”

“The white co-worker who was walking behind me stares in shock. She has never seen me with my hair in a pineapple fro. She reaches out to touch my hair while telling me how beautiful it is. When I pull back, startled by the sudden act of intimacy, she looks hurt and isn’t sure what to do next. The message: I am different, exotic. Anyone should have the right to my body in exchange for a compliment.”

“Whiteness wants enough Blackness to affirm the goodness of whiteness, the progressiveness of whiteness, the open-heartedness of whiteness. Whiteness likes a trickle of Blackness, but only that which can be controlled.”

“But the truth is, even the monster – the Klan members, the faces in the lynch mob, the murderers who bombed churches – they all had friends and family members. Each one of them was connected to people who would testify that they had good hearts…The monster has always been well-dressed and well loved.”

“I love being a Black woman because we are demanding. We demand the right to live as fully human We demand access – the right to vote, to education, to employment, to housing, to equal treatment under the law. And we do it creatively: sit-ins and die-ins, signs and songs, writing and filmmaking. We demand because our ancestors did. We demand because we believe in our own dignity.”

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Music

Is BTS Low Quality Music?

Recently, I saw a DKDKTV video in my feed that grabbed my attention. It was called “BTS is Low Quality Music”. Of course, I couldn’t scroll on by after that. I had to see what this was about. The video was an answer to Parkgaedae’s video “BTS is McDonald’s” (which he has since deleted). His premise is that like McDonald’s, BTS is very popular but they produce low quality music.

Now, before I begin I would like to preface a few things: #1 I’m an American (African-American to be exact) and I have never been to South Korea before. #2 I’m an ARMY, I’ve been a fan of BTS for about 1.5 years (I’m multifandom, so I stan a lot of groups). #3 I don’t know any Hangul (my little sister can read and write it), I know a few words in Korean but I don’t speak the language.

I tried to approach this video in a logical way instead of just saying “BTS is amazing and you’re a hater!” I tried to figure out Parkgaedae’s arguments and look at his and DKDKTV’s premises.

His first argument was that people think BTS’ music is catchy, they’re handsome, and nice but their music is low quality. Now, I didn’t get to watch the original video because it was taken down, but in the clips that DKDTV referenced, he never defined “low quality music”. David (from DKDKTV) talked about how Kpop has a reputation for being “fast food music” essentially mass-produced and “factory made”. I understand how you could think this if you only listen to the catchy choruses of comeback tracks that are released twice as often as western artists. But if you look at the song credits and see how many Kpop artists are producing they’re own music, if you examine the lyrical genius, and observe a studio recording session of a kpop group, I believe your “fast food music” mentality might be changed a little.

Particularly BTS, if you’ve ever watched RM’s Vlives where he breaks down the album in his studio: recounting writing processes, funny production moments, and exclusive demo tracks, then you would see all the care that they put into their music. I’m assuming Parkgaedae is not an ARMY and I wonder if he’s ever asked any of us why we like BTS. Because he seems to think that it’s only because we “think they’re handsome and nice” which is a factor, but at least for me, it’s more about how much they’ve impacted the world and individuals with their message. It’s about how they’ve taken their pain and struggle, worked hard and risen to fame, yet still stayed humble and appreciative. It’s about how they create amazing music about real issues and encourage people to love themselves.

Parkgaedae’s next point was that Koreans have immense national pride in BTS and it’s displaced. He referenced the fact that the first thing Korean people mention to his American friends is BTS and their place on the Billboard Charts. He (and his American friends) are rather disgusted that a country would be so proud of a boy group.

Danny (from DKDKTV) agrees that it’s irritating to him (as a Korean) to hear Koreans always asking foreigners if they know BTS, Gangnam Style, Park Jisung (soccer player) etc. David pointed out that if it’s the easiest thing to talk about or have in common: whatever thing your country’s known for. Parkgaedae likened it to him as an American talking about how amazing McDonald’s is. Mentioning how far it’s spread across the world and how many people consume it. That “feeling is what a lot of foreigners get when Koreans take a bunch of pride in BTS.”

What I think Parkgaedae missed in his analogy is that we as Americans don’t HAVE to do that to feel like we matter as a country. We take for granted that the rest of the world looks up to us, we assume that they consume American food, music, and products. We assume that we’re the most important on the world stage so we don’t even try to find common ground. (Please note that I’m not saying all Americans believe this and I’m also not saying that every country “looks up to us”, I’m simply saying that seems to be a prevailing mindset among the general American public.)

When you’re excited about something, you tend to mention it as much as you can. Think about those recently engaged people who talk about their ring, engagement story, and wedding plans every time they have an opportunity. Listeners understand this because it’s exciting and it’s new, it’s something to be proud of. Another possible component to nationalistic pride in BTS is the feeling to have to prove oneself or country. If you’re a part of a minority group you’ve probably experienced the feeling of standing in a room where you had to prove you are good enough. Having to have something in common with the majority culture and show that your culture can “hang with the cool kids”. This is something that Parkgaedae probably has a hard time fathoming as a white American male, because his culture is the dominant one. If you’re a minority and a person or thing that is appreciated in general society comes from your culture, you generally want to leverage that. It’s interesting to me how it seems the majority of the people upholding the rhetoric of “you’re talking about Black Panther too much or you shouldn’t take pride in BTS” are white males.

Parkgaedae’s final point is that Koreans should take national pride in Hangul instead. They should be proud of this amazing alphabet that is beautiful and systematic rather than promoting a pop boy group. While I agree that Hangul is amazing (it seems so organized and efficient but also gorgeous to write) and should get more love, I have an issue with this point. Rather than making a video about how cool Hangul is and how it deserves more recognition, he comes off as a bully telling another ethnicity and country what they should and should not take pride in. Somehow he thinks it’s his place to dictate how people should show their pride in and admiration of their own culture. The fact that he’s telling Koreans what they should promote/be proud of rather than telling other cultures/people groups about this cool thing and promoting it himself seems like a very backwards thing to do. I believe he partly did this to get views: make a video bashing BTS in order to get millions to watch it, but since he removed the video, he probably wasn’t prepared for the response.

The final thing I want to say is in agreement with David. BTS is one of the biggest promoters of Korea to the world (at least from my American point of view). They’re part of the reason that my sister is and I want to learn Hangul and Korean, they’re part of the reason I’ve research the politics and history of South Korea, how I know what hanbok is and even some Korean recipes. They’ve used Korean traditional music in songs that have taken over the charts, spoken in Korean at major awards shows, and promoted a message to the world that South Korea can be proud of. Like their music or not, their impact is undeniable, as evidenced by their winning the Korean Order of Cultural Merit for “outstanding meritorious services in the fields of culture and art in the interest of promoting the national culture and national development.”

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Life · Music

What Went Down April + Mixtape

So I started drafting this post and realized that the normal format I do for monthly wrap-ups just wasn’t cutting it, instead, I decided to just talk about the highlight of April: my college tours trip. And of course my monthly mixtape because April music was lit.

Spontaneous trips are always fun, and this one was no different. We set out before the sun on a Thursday morning and drove the 4 hours to Atlanta from Nashville. First stop was Clark Atlanta University for a tour. The campus is in the heart of ATL which gives it the city feel that I like. While we were there, we had the amazing opportunity to see their art gallery, which was my favorite part.

The fashion students created a look based on certain works of art and accompanying pieces of poetry. It was so beautiful and completely my thing.

 

Next we went to the historical Tuskegee University in Alabama. This is the university Booker T. Washington started after reconstruction. Just being on the campus after reading Booker T. Washington’s autobiography last year was powerful.

Our final stop was Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama. Our tour there was so polished and informative, all the students and faculty we met were kind and helpful, that school made an amazing first impression.

Overall, this trip got me even more excited about college because now I can feel it becoming real for me. It was a really fun trip and all of the schools were so worth my visit.

 

Shifting gears because I just really wanted to share my playlist like this was a regular What Went Down post, here are my most loved/played songs of April 2018.

  • Don’t Leave Me ~BTS
  • Chance of Love ~TVXQ!
  • Thunder ~EXO
  • Blooming Day ~EXO CBX
  • Sweet Dreams ~EXO CBX
  • Polygon Dust ~Porter Robinson
  • Jealousy ~Monsta X
  • Shine ~Pentagon
  • Redbone ~Childish Gambino
  • No Scrubs ~TLC
  • Haru Haru (acoustic version) ~BigBang
  • Tender ~Jones
  • Plz Don’t Be Sad ~Highlight
  • I Got You ~Jaylon Ashaun
  • lovely ~Billy Eilish, Khalid
  • Rewind ~GOT7
  • Us ~GOT7
  • Baby Don’t Like It ~NCT 127
  • 90s Babies ~Victoria Monet
  • Mad Generation ~Victoria Monet
  • Paradise ~GOT7
  • sidetoside ~Chris McClenney
  • The Move ~Reva Devito
  • One ~Samuel
  • After the Storm ~Kali Uchis, Bootsy Collins, Tyler the Creator
  • What You Mean to Me ~Chris McClenney
  • Run ~Chris McClenney
  • Off-Road ~Pentagon
  • Do It For Fun ~Pentagon
  • Fallin ~Monsta X

I hope you enjoyed my different format for this month, and look forward to some epic posts in May!

Stay fly,

~Akilah

 

Palates

Lunch at Plaza Mariachi

I absolutely adore places that are dedicated to celebrating culture and Plaza Mariachi is one of those places. It’s a collection of restaurants and specialty stores that showcase Latin culture. They have live music, an array of cuisines, and even a grocery store where you can buy authentic ingredients.

A few months ago, we went there for lunch and had some bomb food. First, we stopped at place to get drinks. I ordered the Avocado Lime Agua Fresca. It was so creamy and refreshing, if you’re wondering how avocado works in a sweet drink, it works wonderfully and adds a satisfying mouth feel.

Next, we went to Tres Gauchos for food. I’m a huge fan of chorizo, so when I saw a chorizo sandwich on the menu I was intrigued. It also had chimicurri and pico de gallo on it, which added a freshness and moisture. The roll was toasted perfectly and soft in the middle. Plus, the fries that came on the side were thick-cut, crispy and warm. They also had this amazing spicy aioli to dip the fries in that was to die for. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

If you’re in the Nashville area definitely go to Plaza Mariachi, you won’t be disappointed!

Stay fly,

~Akilah

 

 

 

 

 

Plots

The Hate U Give ~Angie Thomas

“The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen -people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.” ~The Hate U Give

I’ve been waiting for so long to read this book. It’s one of the most hyped books of 2017 and shocker its a hyped YA contemporary that I actually wanted to read. The premise sounded interesting, I’m always searching for more “YA of color”, and Jason Reynolds, one of my favorite authors, acclaimed it, so it was a perfect fit. 

The Hate U Give is about sixteen-year-old Starr Carter who witnesses her best friend Khalil get murdered by police. I’m ecstatic that a book about hard topics like police brutality and race relations by a debut woman of color author is getting buzz. I hope that this will lead to more  authors of color getting the recognition they deserve, especially in YA. Also, as there’s a movie in the future (with the great Amandla Stenberg I might add) I hope that the movie will do it justice and expand the platform even further.

I love the cover, first of all. My book cover aesthetic is very clean and minimal and I love the white, black, red, and brown color scheme. I appreciate that it isn’t a photo, as I’m not a fan of photos on book covers, but that it features a WOC on the front (representation matters).

Starr is a wonderful character, multi-faceted and imperfect. Her obsession with Jordan’s and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air make her quite endearing. On a side-note I loved the descriptions of shoes in the book and hearing which J’s are Starr’s favorite.

Family is also a major part of this book, Starr’s parents and siblings are developed in a satisfying way and add to the book. Seven, Starr’s older brother is the epitome of cool and her younger brother Sekani adds bits of humor to the family. I also love how strong  her parent’s relationship is, even after a messy past. Starr’s Uncle Carlos is a police officer, which adds an interesting dynamic to this issue of police brutality, making her perception of police complex.

As far as friendships, Angie Thomas uses Starr’s relationships with her friends to deal with deeper issues, which is perfect. Also I admire her friend Maya, I would definitely hang out with her in real life. The only person close to Starr I did not like is her boyfriend Chris. I understand what Angie Thomas was trying to do with exploring interracial relationships (Chris is white) but I didn’t like his character. Their relationship seemed unnessecary and I wish I could just cut out his scenes.

I would love less Chris and more Khalil. I knew going in that Khalil was going to die, yet I still let myself love him so much. Why do I do myself like this?? I cried, physical tears when he was shot (and at other times during the book) because he was just so kind, funny, and he loved Starr. They grew up together and I would love to see a prequel of their childhood. Also, his love for his momma and grandma is so sweet, Angie Thomas did a fantastic job of revealing his character even after his death. Starr’s character development also continues throughout the whole book. It was amazing to see her growth over the course of the story.

My only other complaint aside from Chris is the language in this book. It’s like a PG-13 movie, but I find language even more bothersome in books. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone under 13, it also can be a little intense at times so be aware.

This book was bomb, and I’m glad it’s getting so much acclaim and I hope the movie delivers like the book did.

Stay fly

~Akilah

What did you think of The Hate U Give?

If you liked T.H.U.G. you might like…

  • When I Was the Greatest ~Jason Reynolds
  • Piecing Me Together ~Renee Watson
  • Scorpions ~Walter Dean Myers
  • Maizon At Blue Hill ~Jacqueline Woodson
Plots

Humor, Culture, and Race// Open Mic by Mitali Perkins Review

Using humor as the common denominator, a multicultural cast of YA authors steps up to the mic to share stories touching on race. Listen in as ten YA authors — some familiar, some new — use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Henry Choi Lee discovers that pretending to be a tai chi master or a sought-after wiz at math wins him friends for a while — until it comically backfires. A biracial girl is amused when her dad clears seats for his family on a crowded subway in under a minute flat, simply by sitting quietly in between two uptight white women. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction uses a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poingnant, in prose, poetry, and comic form

The Good:

I love reading short story collections, they offer a chance to find new authors, listen to different voices on the same subject and experience new adventures. This collection: Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, is an excellent manifestation of those things.

My favorite stories: Confessions of a Black Geek and Like Me, resonated with me as I could identify with the characters. On the flip side however, I also enjoyed the stories where I could experience the point of view of characters in other cultures.
The Bad:

Nothing was bad, but my least favorite story was Lexicon, I couldn’t quite understand what it was about.

The Beautiful:

The cover for one, so simplistic with the color scheme of a sunrise. And the freedom with which all these authors approached the touchy subject of race and race relations. It’s always wonderful when important conversations can begin in a format like this.

Stay fly

~Akilah