IT’S BLACKHISTORYMONTH, aka, the most 🔥 month of the year! 🙌🏾✊🏾👊🏾 #melaninonfleek
I figured I’d share what’s been playing in my earbuds aside from music for this month’s post. I’m a podcast junkie, y’all. My Spotify Unwrapped stats will have you like 😲…
Speaking of Spotify, their CEO, Daniel Ek, is 🗑 and deserves all the backlash he’s getting for doubling down and backing that former Fear Factor host. I was PISSED when Spotify signed him and even canceled my premium account. I gave them another chance to do better, and here we are again, same shit, new day. PSA: You cannot claim to “support” Black Lives Matter and then pay the dude 100 million dollars to spew misinformation and racist 🤬 a few months later.
Censorship my arse. Sure, in America, everyone has the right to speak freely, but speaking freely sometimes comes with consequences, especially when “free speech” is nothing more racist dog-whistling riddled with ignorant stereotypes coupled with misinformation. Daniel, in this instance, “support” does not mean what you think it means. Corporations engage in performative nonsense and then backtrack with the quickness. Anywho, let me not further digress because I could go down a rabbit hole. Fortunately, some of the podcasts I’m hyping address the hypocrisy.
I love giving my people shine, and by sharing these podcasts, I hope you expand your horizons and add some new faves to your list. So without further ado, check out these Black podcasters that keep me entertained:
I do not recommend listening to this podcast if you’re a commuter who uses public transportation. There have been too many instances where I’ve laughed so hard I was on the verge of hyperventilating on the subway. I guess I should be glad people were genuinely concerned for my well-being! Kid Fury and Crissle address pop culture in a way that’s nothing other than unapologetically Black. They give it to you straight, no chaser. And honestly, Crissle and Fury kept me sane during 2020. They showed up week after week and gave the public moments of joy when the world was a flaming pile of rank Cheetos.
I visited New Orleans for the first time in November 2008 with my then boyfriend. The trip took place about a week after Obama won the election and three years post-Katrina. Culturally it’s amazeballs, but then we went to the Ninth Ward, and it was shocking to see that THREEYEARSLATER, the community hadn’t been rebuilt. Hell, even buildings belonging to nearby Tulane University were still boarded up. It was weird walking from areas that were still in deep need of repair and then later coming across a Saks Fifth Avenue still intact doing business as usual. Priorities, amirite? 🤷🏾♀️
Floodlines is SUPERB. Vann Newkirk II talks with residents about where they were when Katrina hit and how the aftermath of the hurricane changed their lives forever. Unfortunately, not everyone was lucky enough to pick up and move on.
Initially released in early 2020, Floodlines was sponsored by The Atlantic.
Fiscal responsibility isn’t intuitive for a large portion of the population. Fortunately for me, my parents instilled excellent money management skills. Still, learning is an ongoing process. Bola Sokunbi gives women the tools to get their finances in order. I subscribe to the Clever Girl Finance Newsletter, and I love the gems of advice enclosed. LOL, I legit get happy when I get a newsletter. It’s always an enjoyable read. Did I mention Bola’s website has free courses? OHYESYES, Y’ALL! The Podcast extends all the wonderful nuggets of knowledge found in her newsletter and website. And if you’re down for a massive financial cleanse, pick up her book!
Aside from being a sincere and lovely person (I’m biased; she’s cool af), Leslye, aka L. Penelope, is one heck of a storyteller. If you like your fantasy with romance attached, she’s an author you want to add to your TBR pile. THISWOMANSTAYSHONINGHERCRAFT! Her podcast is so fun to listen to, and I feel like I always need to have a notepad nearby because she will drop a helpful tidbit in a minute! I love her candidness as well. Not everyone has this writing thing figured out, but many of us rarely share the highs and lows publicly. One more reason I dig My Imaginary Friends. My editor also enjoys Leslye’s podcast. If she can get a hardcore Editrix on board, you can’t resist. Go listen, and then check out her backlist!
I’m always impressed (and scared) by journalists that do whatever it takes to chase a story. MSNBC Correspondent, Pulitzer Prize, and Emmy Award winner Trymaine Lee hits the road and heads straight to the people to get their perspectives on issues in America. I’m not talking mainstream cities. My dude goes off the beaten path to get to the nitty-gritty—profound respect.
WHEW, if there was ever a time to invest in mental health… now is it! Neeooooowwwww!!! Black women are many things to many people. Unfortunately, it’s ingrained from a young age for us to be the “strong one,” the “support system,” that “holds everyone down.” It’s a toxic mentality, and in the end, it leaves us drained. When are we allowed to relax, be soft, and express vulnerability? Dr. Joy Harden does a beautiful job of helping Black women center themselves. Personal development, self-care, pop culture, and various topics are discussed weekly. I am also a subscriber to the Therapy for Black Girls Newsletter. If you’re interested in finding a Black female therapist and you’re not sure where to begin, here’s a precious resource: TFBG.
If you’re a sports fan, you’ve probably heard of Jemele Hill. Since leaving ESPN in her rearview mirror, Miss Thing has ELEVATED her game. Her interviews feature a who’s who of Black Excellence.
I ❤ Investigative Journalism. It’s why I’m a big fan and supporter of Reveal and ProPublica. They can get all my coins! *Sidenote* Please donateso these types of stories get told. Mississippi Goddam was my favorite podcast of 2021. Journalist Al Letson travels to Mississippi to explore the death of 17-year-old Billey Joe Johnson Jr., who died in 2008. Billey Joe was a high school football star that seemingly had everything going for him, except he was a young Black man who lived in Mississippi and was dating a white girl.
Be prepared to be enraged at our Criminal Justice System and the fact that after a 400-year-old institution based on dehumanization and oppression was eradicated, people truly believe there aren’t ANY residual effects. Uh, Jim Crow? The War on Drugs? Stop and Frisk? 🙄 Racism didn’t suddenly pull a disappearing act, peeps. My heart goes out to the Johnson family and many others who lose loved ones by suspicious means, and their deaths aren’t given the attention they deserve. Sadly, it’s a tale as old as time for many Black families. Justice isn’t something we’re equally afforded.
And this concludes Podcasts You Should Know: The Black History Month Edition. You can stream these podcasts on services such as iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you find your faves. Till next time, y’all. 💕
I’ve been trying to get this blog post up for the longest time (I started drafting it on December 28th), but the last quarter of 2021 was WILD and then the first week of 2022 came in with a bang. 2021 was quite the ride, but that last quarter really tried it. 😑
I figured I’d give you all a rundown of what 2021 had to offer me:
January-March was amazing! I set my goals for the year, and I was determined to have those mf’ers manifest. I had a consistent writing schedule, and I was nearly finished with a project I started back in 2017. I received a promotion at work, which meant a lot more responsibility, longer work hours, and of course, greater pay. 🤑
April-May began great. I had a couple thousand more words to go until I finished my project, and then May came along. After Mother’s Day, things went downhill as my sister passed suddenly. And let me tell you, her death upset the natural order of things. A domino effect set off a chain of events that were not necessarily great for my family.
June-August was a blur, but my sister’s death put many things in perspective for me. After a loooooooong hiatus, I started dating again. LOL, peeps, I should have video chronicled my experience. The good news? Your girl still got it. 😏 I had suitors out the wazoo. Sadly, after going on multiple dates, there wasn’t anyone I wanted to connect with long-term, but it was great to dip my toe back into the dating pool. I also realized I am way better off single than dealing with what’s currently available. It’s rare to find people who are secure and comfortable in their skin. And to possess self-awareness? Whew… unicorn status. My light is too bright to dim and foolishness and has no place in my orbit. #aintnobodygottimeforthat Anyway, it was a great learning experience.
Post-dating I tried my best to revert to my first quarter mindset. I will admit it was a tad tricky to do when grief continuously crept in. But the beautiful thing is after the dating experiment; I became highly selfish with my time. I had already begun to taper off social media within the last two years. I did a lot of deep reflection, and the life I wanted to lead was outside of a keyboard and phone. It may have seemed like I cut ties with many people, but truthfully, I began centering myself (okay, if we’re keeping it 💯 I may have also cut ties with some folks). I let go of anything and anyone that didn’t elevate me or make me happy. I read TONS of self-improvement books. If you check me out on Goodreads, you’ll see the list of books I conquered for my 2021 reading challenge. I also returned my fitness routine. In 2016 right before I published The Sweetest Taboo, I was in the best shape of my life. I was going to the gym daily and lifting heavy, but my fitness dedication began to wane once writing entered the chat. In August, I committed to returning to my formerly physically fit self.
September-October I began doing nightly sprints with my editor. This helped immensely with moving forward in my manuscript. I mentioned in earlier blog posts that after getting home from a long workday, the last thing I want to do is look at a computer screen. The sprints with my editor took place online, but if not for her prodding me to “get it in,” I would have gotten zero words on the page. Sometimes we have to look at the bigger picture. THESEBOOKSAIN’T GONNAWRITETHEMSELVES. Get yourself an accountability partner! I also turned forty-three in October. Peeps, I’m over here aging like a bawse. When you drink water, mind your business, have a solid skincare routine, tend to your physical, spiritual, and mental health, you age like a fine wine. I highly recommend it. I’m trying to keep that energy consistent throughout 2022 and beyond. I also wanted to finish my manuscript in October, but work deadlines prevented that from happening. It’s not like I could tell my bosses, “I have this book I’m trying to get out into the world… can you put all this other stuff on pause?” 🤔
November-December were a hot mess. My sister would have turned fifty-five the first week of November, so grief was like, “👋🏾 Hey girl, heeeey!” Then a week before Thanksgiving, my parents were in a car accident. The accident was 100% the fault of the other car’s driver. So, I had to do a LOT of heavy lifting. Assisted my parents with shopping for a new vehicle, hired lawyers, and took my parents to doctor’s appointments. With my sister no longer around, I am the only person who can tend to my parents. My parents are also elderly, seventy-five and seventy-nine respectively—shoutout to all the caregivers who have full plates all day every day. Elderly parents and car accidents don’t mix, ya’ll. Then, there are other family issues I’m dealing with. I will likely become a guardian for tiny humans ages seven, four, and two. The holidays were a bust, but I still managed to keep an extremely positive outlook because, hey, I am incredibly blessed despite hardships that cross my path. I no longer question why things happen but what’s the lesson embedded. A positive outlook makes all the difference. Oh, and since recommitting to my fitness routine in August, I’ve lost twenty-six pounds. YASSSSS! 🙌🏾
So what does 2022 have in store for Ms. Harper?
Becoming a pro at learning how to pivot. You can make plans, but plans can also be like, “TUH, YOUTHOUGHTTHEREWOULDTHEREWOULDBENOHICCUPS? You only had Plan A? That will not work. Not today, ma’am. Not today.” Having contingency plans B, C, and D will always be something I think about and have in my back pocket. Losing a loved one suddenly will make you audit your life.
What else is on tap?
Transparency! I have always been pretty private about things I’m working on, but I intend to change that moving forward. I used to think it was bad luck to talk about a story until it was at least 70% completed, but NEWYEAR, NEWME! If you put your desires out into the universe, you have no choice but to follow through and make them come to fruition.
Between raising tiny humans and juggling a career as a single parent, I will be releasing new material this year. 👀 People do it every day; why can’t I? It’s good to be ambitious. With that said, I have three projects I’m looking to complete this year.
One is a manuscript I started working on in the early days of this author gig. It’s about 50% done, but it needs some tweaks and heavy rewrites. My editor is aware of my goals and is entirely on board to help me attain them. Newsletter subscribers already have insight into the second of the projects. They had a sneak peek back in 2017 with Climax and Collision. Remember Nate and Gwen? Aden and Mimi’s maid of honor and best man? I left you all on a cliffhanger with the ending to Collision, which is crazy because I abhor cliffhangers with a passion. Well, the continuation turned into a novel of sorts. So I figured why not go back and expand the shorts and give you the conclusion to Nate and Gwen’s tale you deserve. Lordt, 2017? It’s incredible how quickly the years fly by. Hell, 2010 seems like it was just yesterday.
The last project is going out on submission—a gay (M/M) romance. Yeah, if it ain’t your thang, I respect that, but this story has deep meaning for me. I create stories for myself based on what I want to read. I wish I could say I follow trends and look at what’s popular in the romance genre and try to emulate that, but honestly, it doesn’t matter one iota to me. Authors have to write what they connect with. It’s not a process all writers abide by, but I’m not mad at people whose craft is trend-based. Do you. If you write to get the bag—more power to you. There’s something for everyone. Readers will always select a story they connect with to scratch their itch. That’s the cool part about having a varied audience. But back to going on submission… I used to view looking for an agent as this scary process, but that’s no longer the case! I’ve provided the first few chapters of super relevant gay romance (SRGY for short - that’s what I’m calling it until it’s in the hands of a publisher) to people in the industry. The feedback was HELLAGOOD, HELLLLLAAAAAAGOOOOOD, peeps! So I do not doubt I’ll get my dream agent once I wrap it up. Me and dream agent are going to set stuff on fire once our Wonder Twin powers activate. 🤩
I’m also going to try and get a blog post up at least once a month. It’s the least I can do for readers who visit this website and sigh with disappointment that there are no new buy links, lol. I got you!
That’s all for what’s upcoming in 2022. Now, let me fill you in on all the musical shit I dug in 2021. If I added books and TV, this blog post would be even longer, and I have a word count deadline to meet today!
Check out my playlist on Spotify to listen to all the songs I adored in 2021! A few artists featured on my 2020 jams list are back again with another appearance.
SZA- I Hate U
Silk Sonic - Leave The Door Open
Lizzo - Rumors (ft Cardi B)
Qveen Herby - Abracadabra
BIA - Whole Lotta Money
Drake - Fair Trade (with Travis Scott) *Disclaimer* Before the tragedy in Houston, I wasn’t fond of Travis Scott’s music, and frankly, I could do without him on this track. I was on the fence about including this song as part of my list, but when Certified Lover Boy came out, I had this song on repeat.🎵🎶 I been losing friends and finding peace. Honestly, that sounds like a fair trade to me.🎵🎶
Tierra Whack - Cutting Onions
JoJo - Anxiety (Burlinda’s Theme)
Normani - Wild Side (ft Cardi B)
Megan Thee Stallion - Megan’s Piano
Victoria Monét - Coastin’
Kehlani - Altar
This video is like a warm hug. The concept! The lyrics! Kehlani’s voice is magical. Everything she does is beautiful, and I cannot wait for her new album to drop.
Chloe - Have Mercy
I’ve been a Chloe x Halle stan for some time now, but it is wonderful to see Chloe navigating a solo career with ferocity. 🎵🎶 Lawwwwwwd have mercyyyyy🎵🎶
Lil Nas X - Industry Baby (ft Jack Harlow)
If Merriam Webster’s had a place to insert “trolling” as part of a dictionary entry, this video would be it. As of this blog post, my dude has over 270 MILLION views. Lil Nas X does the absolute most, and I’m here for it. You shine when you are authentic in all you do and drown out the noise of naysayers! Also, you can’t go wrong with a Kanye West produced song. The guy knows beats.
FKA Twigs - Tears In The Club (ft The Weeknd)
😍😍😍 Twigs brings originality to all she does.
Adele - Easy On Me
I saw Adele in a small concert in Lower Manhattan back in 2011. Oh, did I mention I scored free tickets? She had just started to make a name for herself in America, and not that many people knew who she was. I swear I missed my calling in the entertainment industry when it comes to predicting careers that would take off because I just knew she would be HUGE. Well, fast forward to 2021, and 2011 Harper was on point! Adele has her foot on everyone’s neck when it comes to perfectly crafted ballads. And now EVERYONE knows who she is.
Favorite Albums of 2021
Two albums stood out for me and they are:
Zayn’s - Nobody Is Listening
I was never a One Direction fan, but this dude is creative when mixing R&B and pop and making his mark. If Justin Bieber can get recognition for his take on R&B and pop (🥴🥴🥴), then Zayn needs to be right behind him.
Jazmine Sullivan’s - Heaux Tales
Let me tell you, when you’re writing erotic romance, this album is INSPIRATION! 😅 Jazmine went hard. It’s great seeing her finally get the recognition she deserves for being a fantastic vocalist. #webeenknew
And there you have it, folks, all the musical shit I dug in 2021. Till next time…💖
I started and stopped working on this blog post numerous times within the last couple of months. I wrote a lot, but I think it was more of a brain dump. You know, working through my feelings and emotions? After all was said and done, it wasn’t anything I wanted to share publicly. If you don’t follow me on social media, you likely missed the news. My sister, Denise, my only sibling, passed away suddenly a week after Mother’s Day. These past few months have been full of grief, anger, and enlightenment. It’s a weird combination for sure, but death is unpredictable, leading to a lot of complicated feelings. Anyhow, emotionally, mentally, and physically I’m doing okay. I’m still finding my footing navigating this new normal. Denise’s death has caused me to have a different outlook on how I live my life. It’s hard to explain, but I’m in a perfect place, heavily focused on myself and dispersing good energy into the world. I’m not interested in engaging in anything and anyone that doesn’t contribute to my individual growth. If it ain’t enhancing me in some form, it has to go. I refuse to waste time on non-factors. Time is our most precious commodity and we have to learn to use it more wisely.
This Tina Turner quote is a whole mood and also my road map moving forward. I’m all about stockpiling good karma, drowning out negativity, and contributing to humanity. I strive to become a better person every day.
So, there you have it. That’s why I’ve been silent and under the radar. In other news, before Denise’s passing, I was working on getting this sorta secret project out into the world. Well, that’s still progressing. I haven’t wanted to touch my manuscript because I needed to be in the right headspace. And also, with the new job promotion, I spend entirely too much time at my computer. When I get home after a long day, the last thing I want is to spend more time staring at a screen. My editor suggested I write longhand, and that idea has me like…🙄 GIRLBYE, but maybe I will. I’m soooo close to finishing, and honestly, I’d like to end the third quarter with a bang. I’d also like to get a product out to my audience soon. I value everyone who’s been waiting with bated breath (for years), and it’s about time you get something in return for your patience.
In any case, I’ve been fueling my well of creativity as usual.
Check out the shit I’ve been digging:
I May Destroy You
Michaela Coel is a goddess. 😍😍😍 I’ve posted here about Chewing Gum, but this series is different. And dark. And wow. Also, can we acknowledge that this show has a predominantly Black cast and highlights millennials who are not only heterosexual but queer? Because of it, IMDY is out here scooping up Emmy nominations like they’re candy. You love to see it. So, the premise?
Via HBO Max
Set in London, this series centers on Arabella (Coel), whose raw and personal experience of consent is at the heart of the story.
I wouldn’t steer you wrong, peeps, but major trigger warning: Rape is at the forefront of this series. It’s a stellar show, but tune in only if you feel you can handle the difficult subject matter. You can watch it on HBO and HBO Max.
I love seeing Joel Kinnaman on my TV screen. You know what I love even more? Seeing Joel Kinnaman shirtless on my TV screen. He plays an ex-con recently released from prison but intentionally goes back as part of an undercover operation. If you like action and a good storyline, give this movie a watch. The Informer is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
I had to watch this because Richard Madden stars in the lead role. ROBBSTARKFANSSTANDUP! 🙌🏾 (I’m still gonna remember the beginning seasons of Game of Thrones fondly, even if the series ended up being trash). I’m of the mindset if you can’t hook me by the first episode, I’m going to tap out of your series. Unfortunately, this series starts off sloooow. I pressed pause mid-episode and didn’t think about it for weeks, but eventually, I came back. I’M SOGLAD I DID!!! If you like action, intrigue, and glorious British accents, this series is right up your alley. Bodyguard is currently streaming on Netflix.
Hit & Run
I finished this series last night after a day of binge watching. I adore Sanaa Lathan. I also adore profound and complex storylines, and this saga takes us from Israel to NYC. And thanks to subtitles, you may end up learning a bit of Hebrew. Segev is a tour guide in Israel. His wife, Danielle (Dani), is a dancer. She leaves for a trip to New York to audition for a dance company, but before she can make it to the airport, she is struck by a car and dies. Segev is stunned, but what’s even more shocking is what he learns about his wife, her death, and the secrets she kept. Warning: the series ends on a cliffhanger (which I despise), but let’s hope that Netflix gives Season Two a green light.
I blew past my Goodreads Challenge for 2021. My goal was to read 15 books and as of typing this blog post, I’ve read 65. I’ve been concentrating a lot on personal growth which leads me to my first book rec:
I’ve wanted to read this book (it’s about 40ish pages) for the longest time. It puts a lot into perspective and reinforces the idea that individuals are responsible for their actions, and if you focus on your purpose, you can do anything your heart desires.
This book was recommended to me by an author friend, and it hit the spot! LISTEN, ITIS A MASTERPIECEONCRAFTINGENEMIESTOLOVERS. Rachel Reid made me care about hockey, a sport I have never watched in my entire life. I was in it to win it, and I highly recommend you dive in.
I listened to this audiobook, and it is Blackity, Black, Black, Black! Danez has a way with words, and he holds nothing back. You will appreciate the material, or you won’t. But I promise you won’t be bored. Pinky swear.
I love a good gay romance, but I am putty if you throw football into the mix. The key players involved? We have Anson, a closeted football player, and Weston, a young senator. I loved how gentle and supportive West was with Anson. It was delightful reading these two!
In book 1, readers were introduced to Darren (Anson’s best friend) and Jeremy (West’s friend and former fuck buddy). I was slightly intrigued by these two, but I I wouldn’t say I was deeply invested in a relationship between them until Riley Hart threw me for a loop. I DIDNOTEXPECTTOLIKEDARRENANDJEREMYSOMUCH!!! West and Anson took a backseat to these two. I truly enjoyed this series.
I received an ARC of this book, and even with the underlying BDSM theme, it was so charming! April French is a transwoman, and she meets Dennis at one of the local fetish clubs. They spark up a flirtatious banter, and things take off from there. I loved this book’s authentic trans rep. Also, Black men written by white women are rarely depicted well in romance. Most characterization is rife with ridiculous stereotypes. It’s rare to see a transwoman writing romance, but Penny went all out. I loved this debut, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
These singles and albums have been in heavy rotation. They’ve provided me with solace and excellent writing material.
Wild Side by Normani ft Cardi B.
The Aaliyah sample had me from the very beginning. The single art is gorge, but you need to jump into this music video because it is 🔥🔥🔥
Rumors by Lizzo ft Cardi B.
Cardi is cashing some checks this summer! The song is growing on me, but goodness, I’ve missed Lizzo! I adore the injection of humor into her lyrics and her entire IDGAF attitude. If the execs at Disney haven’t started drafting a contract to cast Lizzo in the live-action version of Hercules, someone needs to lose their job. Like, come on. The Muses aren’t Muses without Lizzo, and this video proves it.
Tragic by Jazmine Sullivan
Not gonna lie; the Maxine Waters “Reclaiming My Time” soundbite is amazeballs! Also, Heaux Tales is one of my favorite albums of 2021. Jazmine never fails to deliver.
I listen to this album at least once a week. Correction, I listen to the Deluxe Edition at least once a week. Rihanna hasn’t put out an album since 2016, but it’s cool. No big. I know she’s busy building a fashion and skincare empire. 🤷🏾♀️ Who isn’t? I know whatever she releases; next, it will be brutal because ANTI was top-tier Rihanna. Every song hits just right.
You can’t go wrong with the Queen of Soul, but listening to this album has helped me with the grieving process. I cry, I sing. I process the moment.
A few weeks ago, my sorority sister invited me to stay with her and her husband at their home in Morristown, New Jersey. They spoiled me the entire weekend. It was amazing! I ate many delicious feasts, hung out with friends I haven’t seen in years, visited local breweries. I cracked open some of my brewery purchases this weekend. Many of you know I’m vegan. However, you might not know many vegans don’t eat honey. I’ve recently decided to loosen my no honey restrictions since most wines aren’t vegan anyway due to the bottling process. I never give it a second thought and drink with abandon. Long story short, The Swarm beer is made with local bee honey, and it is hands down the BESTINDIAPALEALE I HAVEEVERTASTEDINMYLIFE! I’ve had a lot of beers, y’all, but this beer is magnificent. I will have to get back to that brewery somehow because I can’t buy the beer online. Also, the cider is tasty as heck. I tried one with ginger and turmeric. It opened up my nasal passages and changed my life. 😂🤣
And this concludes the shit I’ve been diggin’ these last few weeks, folks.
I wish I could definitively announce when I’ll have another update for you all, but at this point, I’m keeping my head down and working through my to-do list with intention. Things come as they come. I hope by the time my birthday rolls around in October, the secret thing I’m working on will have been released, and I’ll have a few other things to report.
Take care of yourselves and remember to tell the people who are important to you how much they matter. We say we’ll do it later, tomorrow, soon, but we never know if we’ll get the opportunity. So there’s no better time than the present to express your love and admiration for those closest to you.