How Beyoncé and Solange Were Shaped by Childhood Therapy

Beyoncé and Solange Knowles grew up at the salon. Miss Tina’s salon, to be exact, where their mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, fostered an uplifting community among her 24 stylists. “I think that’s so important because as women, we are taught very early to be competitive,” Knowles-Lawson says on the latest episode of The Carlos Watson Show, a new late-night-style talk show hosted by OZY co-founder and CEO Carlos Watson

The entrepreneur and fashion designer reveals an unlikely journey as she opens up about her businesses, her daughters, politics and the pandemic. With her family originally hailing from Louisiana, Knowles-Lawson spent her childhood in Galveston, Texas, but it was the metropolis of Houston that taught her she had to dream big to be big. 

It was there that she opened a hair salon in her early 30s, prioritizing customer comfort and promptness and modeling a more efficient style of entrepreneurship in Black communities. “It was a very professional atmosphere and there was no gossip, nothing but uplifting women,” Knowles-Lawson says.

If I screw everything else up in my life, I’m going to do this right.

Tina Knowles-Lawson on motherhood

Still, Knowles-Lawson acknowledges that she was “a young rebellious woman, and had a mouth on me, and got into trouble a lot.” What changed her? Motherhood. After Beyoncé was born, Miss Tina decided: “If I screw everything else up in my life, I’m going to do this right.”

That meant everything from making sure her daughters were exposed to the uplifting salon community to defying cultural norms by taking them to counseling at an early age. “Solange loved it because she was always very outspoken, you know?” Knowles-Lawson says. “And Beyoncé didn’t like it at all, because she didn’t like to talk to someone. But it just made her sensitive and Solange sensitive to her. And they have been close ever since.”

Lately, Knowles-Lawson has led a COVID-19 relief drive for her community in Houston, sourcing masks, gloves, gift cards for groceries and vitamins as well as testing. And she’s become a voting rights advocate, penning a letter to congressional leaders to push for absentee voting funds and organizing schoolchildren to register new voters.

“Especially in Black communities because we’ve been unheard for so long, and we’re just so systematically abused every day and we’re hardened to it and just think, ‘Oh, that’s the way it is,'” Knowles-Lawson says. “We don’t connect the dots when it comes to voting.”

The Next TikTokers to Follow

With 800 million active global users, TikTok has taken over the world in just a few short years. It’s also creating a language for a generation that’s not fully reflected in mainstream media: 35 percent of U.S. users are between the ages of 16 and 24. The platform — with an AI algorithm that quickly can elevate unknown voices to huge followings — has minted a fleet of Generation Z megastars. Here are a few who are on the verge of a breakout, bringing TikTok’s relatable form of content to a broad audience.

Darrion Nguyen, @lab_shenanigans

What do you do with a degree in biochemistry and theater from the University of Texas at Austin? Make TikToks, naturally. Nguyen, 25, a research technician getting ready to enter graduate school, has more than 460,000 followers on the platform, often personifying biological processes with audio from memes circulating around TikTok. For example, his most viewed video (8.5 million views) displays a lysosome’s defensive response to a foreign bacteria entering the body, all through the audio lens of an explosive episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

@lab_shenanigans

lol dang lysosome chill ##fypage ##fyp ##foryoupage ##lab ##foryou

♬ ThE JONAs BROTHerS USED MY SOUnd – crustyegirl

Nguyen started making funny science videos on Facebook while working as a lab technician at Baylor, but as he garnered more attention, he decided to try TikTok. “I never would have expected that people would be so interested in the world of science,” he says. At first, he was just showcasing the day to day of lab work as relatable content for people in the industry, but with his newfound fame, he feels compelled to educate as well — especially now with the politicization of science. In one recent video, he vividly displayed how soap fights the coronavirus’ lipid membrane. “I really want to inform the public on these biological and biochemical concepts that affect them daily,” he says.

At Baylor, Nguyen studies a neurological disorder called HADDS, and he feels that the core of TikTok dovetails with his fascination with how humans behave — neurologically and physically. “Making videos requires me to pay close attention to behavior and to work as much as possible to replicate that behavior for people to connect with.”

Boman Martinez-Reid, @bomanizer

TikTok finally has its own reality star. Martinez-Reid, 22, a Canadian arts school graduate, has garnered more than 1.3 millions followers on TikTok since his first video in December — by raising the bar for comedy on the platform. His content plays off of the ridiculousness of reality TV.

@bomanizer

When your mom tells you to get off your phone but it’s reality tv (feat mom @anabee_martinez) ##realitytv ##fyp

♬ original sound – bomanizer

Through advanced editing practices, Martinez-Reid has created an overdramatic, satirical reality show about him and his two friends, with all of the trademark hysterics and music of a traditional show. As an offshoot, he’s created two vintage-style music videos based on his prior content. Now that Martinez-Reid has signed with mega talent agency CAA, get ready to see him on larger screens too.

Uyi Omorogbe, @youngyosa

This one is a family affair. Omorogbe, 22, is a recent graduate of Colgate University who has gained 1.7 million followers since his first video in April. A first-generation Nigerian American, Omorogbe launched the fashion brand Naso “that marries my love for my African heritage with my love for minimalism.” He started the brand during his junior year of college, and took his ideas to Nigeria, where he recruited tailors to create his first designs. While in Nigeria, he visited his father’s village, Urhokuosa, and found that the school his father once attended was severely underfunded. He then decided to use his brand to support schools across Africa.

His first impulse on TikTok was to “make content that would connect to African people and to the African diaspora.” And so the series “Pissing Off My African Parents” was born. In these videos he obnoxiously sings 2000s pop-punk songs at his unknowing father, who responds with a hilariously annoyed look.

@youngyosa

It’s not a phase dad. ##fyp ##africanparents ##viral

♬ original sound – youngyosa

The scenes have racked up as many as 35 million views apiece, while Naso has seen a tremendous jump in sales. Omorogbe has been surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response. “My videos definitely bring up elements of nostalgia in terms of the music I’m singing, as well as relatable content for Gen Z people, especially for those who are first-generation immigrants.”

Brittany Broski, @brittany_broski

Brittany Broski, 23, otherwise known as Kombucha Girl, became famous in August 2019 when she tried kombucha for the first time on camera. Her mixed reaction to the drink was memed and replicated across the app, and she rose to become one of its most popular comedians, garnering 4.8 million followers. Her videos are relatively simple, many of them playing off of the trends happening on TikTok, but she has an unmatched relatability for young viewers.

@brittany_broski

##duet with @thereal_tati

♬ Bruh – Hovey Benjamin

Broski, like her cohorts, is reflecting and remaking the world — one one-minute video at a time.

America Needs to Grieve

This year, I’ve watched the televised funerals for George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, both victims of police brutality. As a Black woman, these services provided me the time and space to grieve the innocent deaths of Black Americans at the hands of the police, and in a way, it served as a space for me to process all of the murders that have sparked nationwide protests. As I reflect upon these grief-fueled moments, I realize that Americans have not had any sort of national funeral or memorial for the lives we’ve lost in the past few months amid the pandemic, and it’s impeding our clarity on ways to move forward. 

The U.S. has lost more than 130,000 lives (and counting) to COVID-19 — in addition to the scores killed by police brutality this year. News outlets and social media are unrelenting in their coverage of these atrocities. This coverage is important to wake us up, but we are now halfway through 2020, and we have become overexposed. We’ve lost loved ones, neighbors and colleagues, and yet, grieving is postponed by the fresh statistics taking us to new lows each day. 

The unique stress of 2020 is pitching the country further into an already rampant mental health crisis. In April, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that around 45 percent of U.S. adults say that “worry and stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic are hurting their mental health.” Since then, racial violence and COVID-19 deaths have exacerbated things. Meanwhile, our leaders and media have been moving forward, furiously looking for answers to the nation’s greatest problems. 

Simultaneously, politics has many among us questioning the recommended protection: masks. President Trump has repeatedly refused to wear a mask because he feels that he’s not in danger. This emboldens some of the president’s supporters to similarly abstain from wearing face coverings in solidarity and as a reflection of their political beliefs. This politicization of the mask amid a pandemic distracts us from the main issue, ensuring that more will needlessly die.

To move forward as a nation, we need space to grieve properly, and to recognize those who have died. Stress and worry have extreme adverse effects on decision-making and on our demeanor. Amy Arnsten, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the Yale University School of Medicine, writes that stress neurologically leads to impulsive action and that “impulsivity is likely to worsen patterns of behavior that produce the stress in the first place, inducing a vicious cycle.” These emotions make it almost impossible for Americans to move forward in support of or against the decisions our leaders are making. 

But could grieving help? Psychotherapist Amy Morin explains that “grief is a process by which we heal, and how we think through the things we feel.” The Northeastern University psychology lecturer has dedicated much of her work to the power of grief after losing her mother and husband when she was a young woman. She notes that the center of grief is uncertainty and longing for what could have been. “When I lost my husband, I didn’t miss him as much as I missed the life that we were hoping to have together,” she explains.

That’s exactly what America is experiencing. We miss the lives we could have lived, we miss those we’ve lost, and we are completely unsure about our collective future. To move forward, we need to move toward acceptance. We need to accept that we have lost a lot of lives. We need to accept that the lives we used to live are forever changed. We need to accept responsibility in making decisions to protect ourselves and our community against this rampant virus without political nonsense. 

A funeral is one way to facilitate such acceptance. Morin comments that a funeral serves as “a more tangible way of honoring someone or something.” And a national funeral or memorial service might give us that space to honor those memories and continue processing our losses. “We need a memorial to provide a meeting space to talk about the things and people that we miss,” Morin added.

Mass meetings are obviously dangerous at the moment, so for now, Morin says, a day of remembrance similar to Memorial Day may be the answer. If Americans are given the national day without having to work, we may “give ourselves time to work through those emotions without escaping them,” she adds.

We need a day of remembrance (framed with collective safety in mind) to mourn those we’ve lost and ensure that they did not die in vain.

Take Space, Make Space With Roxane Gay

Her best-selling essay collection, Bad Feminist, offers her perspectives as a queer Black woman amid a whitewashed heterosexual narrative of feminism. But Roxane Gays work doesn’t stop there. The 45-year-old has written Marvel’s Black Panther universe into existence in the World of Wakanda, she has explored the ebb and flow of body image in Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, and she has left readers wishing her short story collections never had to end. We caught up with Gay — one of OZY’s 86 “Angelic Troublemakers” — to discuss her work and legacy. This interview has been condensed.

How did your upbringing in Omaha, Nebraska, form your views and identity?

Roxane Gay: Growing up in the Midwest as one of two Black families in our neighborhood made me notice a lot about race for me. It left its mark for sure. Also, being the child of Haitian immigrants and knowing that they had to overcome a lot for me to thrive affected me a lot. Because of that, I thought a lot about the fact that everybody is not born with the same advantages. Racism is everywhere and part of absolutely everything. 

When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was 4 years old. I was very fortunate to have parents who supported my creative interests. That kind of support goes a long way when you’re a young writer. The older I got, the more seriously I took myself as a writer. It really started to take off maybe 10 or 15 years ago.

You talk a lot about intersectionality in your work. How do you think this is missing in today’s society?

We have to remember that nobody is just one thing. We don’t separate ourselves out when we go places. We have to understand what it means to be a collection of identities and the issues that people face from those different perspectives.

People tend to be very shortsighted and seem to only want to talk about race. People think, “That’s too much” or “too complicated.” But it’s not that complicated because people live their intersectional lives every single day. They need to stop being intimidated by what they think of as complex ideas. 

How do you think about representation in your work?

Representation is always important because people deserve to see themselves in the media they consume. It’s getting better, but there’s a long way to go. It’s really important to remember that. I always want to make sure that I’m representing one version of Black womanhood, not the totality of it. That is unfortunately what white people and creators tend to do, as if writing from one subject’s position is meant to represent anyone else who shares that identity and would share the exact same experience. That’s not how it works; we contain multitudes. 

When was the first time you saw yourself represented in any work?

I’ve seen parts of myself in work, but I’ve never seen my whole self there. That’s OK, though, because maybe I’ll create it myself. I think I started to see something of myself in the works of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker for sure. 

How do you conceptualize your role as a writer in terms of human rights work?

People love to say that they are giving the “voiceless a voice.” No you’re not. There’s no such thing. Nobody is voiceless. People may not have the venue to use their voice, but everybody has a voice. So I always try to work from that position. Sometimes it’s best for me to lend my platform for them to use their own voice instead of presuming to speak for them. The reality is that there are some issues that I can speak to and some that I can’t. So it’s important that in order for people to get the right information, I should assist in amplifying the voices who know the work best. 

I always want to make sure that I know when to speak and I know when to listen.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I think I’m most proud of the fact that I may have been the first to achieve something in different realms, but I’m not the last. I’m really dedicated to mentoring writers, and I always try to share opportunities with them as much as possible.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a book called How to Be Heard, which comes out next year. As I continue to write, I’m thinking about prison and police abolition and trying to educate myself about it. I’m also really interested in addressing the homeless population in Los Angeles. It’s ridiculous that this city with so much wealth has an unhomed population as significant as we do. I really hope that people pay attention to the unhomed populations in their cities and hold their civic leaders accountable for that. Give these people homes. It’s not that hard. When you see someone pleading in the street, you should do something about it. People need money and a roof over their head and that’s it. They don’t need religion, they don’t need counseling, they don’t need job training. They need money. So I’m trying to help with that.

What do people get wrong about activism and human rights work?

So many people are like, “Oh, it’s impossible,” and that doesn’t accomplish anything. Giving up on something before it’s even given a chance is wildly unproductive. 

How do you think about your legacy?

I don’t think in terms of legacy, although I’m aware that I will have one at some point. I always want to make sure that I know when to speak and I know when to listen. And I’ll make sure to highlight other voices as much as if not more than I do mine, because I’m simply one voice in concert with many other voices who deserve just as much recognition for the work they are doing right now.

She’s Taking Her History Lessons From the Ivory Tower to the Community

“Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.” — Malcolm X

Professor Elizabeth Hinton finds herself reenergized to achieve her goals each time she reads that quote. In 2017, Hinton, a professor at Yale, published From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America, in which she examined the implementation of federal law enforcement programs beginning in the mid-1960s, formulating a system of mass incarceration of Black American citizens. Hinton says her book inspired her to transfer her education from the campus to the community — to work directly with law enforcement, community groups and nonprofits.

Hinton, 36, grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, believing that she would be a lawyer, having been influenced by national debates on criminal justice surrounding the O.J. Simpson trial as well as the war on drugs. After working in politics for a summer, she soon realized that she couldn’t quite commit to the darker side of politics. After attending New York University, she soon found that history offered a balance between the law and the personal stories she cared for, as she dives in on the persistence of poverty and racial inequality in 20th century U.S. history. “The decision to research and teach is a kind of happy medium between my research interests,” she says. 

It wouldn’t make any sense to study [mass incarceration] without also leading the change.

Elizabeth Hinton

Hinton views her work as a reciprocal process. After beginning her graduate degree in history, she realized that “it wouldn’t make any sense to study [mass incarceration] without also leading the change.” She seeks to learn the most about people’s historical experiences and ideas in order to fuel true change within the criminal justice system. Since 2017, she has been working with the police department in Stockton, California, to host listening sessions and programming to improve the extreme poverty and crime rates within the city.

At this moment, however, she is mostly thinking about her legacy, as she has a 1-year-old daughter growing up in this tumultuous world. Hinton believes that in order to properly effect change in terms of racism and criminal justice reform, we must look at the mistakes in history and repair them through a restorative justice model. One that “brings victims and perpetrators together to think about how both the harms and the harmed can come together after an injustice has been committed.” Ultimately, she thinks that her work is more urgent than ever. “COVID has unmasked the deep contours of racial inequality, and we need to begin to commit resources to building a different kind of world.”

All Red Everything: The Color of Juneteenth

Red velvet cake. Red beans and rice. Red drank. Yes, you read that correctly — drank. You can’t have the cookouts, skits and dancing without the red-themed cuisine. Juneteenth just isn’t Juneteenth without it. “We make soul food every Juneteenth, but red food is a real ethnic way of showing our appreciation for emancipation,” says Texas caterer Denise Harper. 

By now you’ve probably heard of Juneteenth. It commemorates when Union army general Gordon Granger proclaimed the freedom of the slaves to the citizens of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 — two months after the surrender of the Confederacy, and more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. But it’s highly unlikely you learned about it in school. For years, America’s second independence has mostly been discussed within southern Black circles.

While it’s appeared in pop culture (see season one, episode nine of Donald Glover’s Atlanta), Juneteenth really hadn’t gotten this kind of sweeping exposure until the May 25 killing of George Floyd and the mass protests for racial justice that followed. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s plan for a Juneteenth rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma — where the Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street, was burned down by white vigilantes and the police in a murderous 1921 rampage — sparked national outrage. Trump backed down and moved the rally by a day, then told the Wall Street Journal: “I did something good. I made Juneteenth very famous.” It’s not solely Trump’s doing, but there are perhaps more people celebrating this year than ever.

Now Google and MasterCard want to make it paid holiday. Why? Because they want Black dollars.

David Canton, director of the Africana Studies Program at Connecticut College

“Because of the murder and death of Black people, now Google and MasterCard want to make it paid holiday,” says David Canton, director of the Africana Studies Program at Connecticut College. “Why? Because they want Black dollars.”

And many of those consumers will be loading up on red. Why? Well, for starters, watermelon is in season in June. The strawberry soda, red velvet cake and barbecue slathered in red sauce that have served as traditional Juneteenth foods, however, have a deeper meaning. (You can scroll down to see our tasty recipes at the bottom of this story.)

Culinary historian and food writer Michael Twitty has written that the use of red dates back “to the enslaved Yoruba and Kongo brought to Texas in the 19th century.” In Yoruba religion, red symbolizes strength, spirituality,  life, and death — all themes associated with endurance and the struggle toward emancipation. Red also can represent the blood of slaves, shed on the road to freedom.

How is it celebrated? In the vernacular of the people who it is meant to celebrate. Harper and her husband, Chef Ty Frazier, have run a Texas catering company, Our Door to Yours, for the past 30 years — and June 19 has always been a busy day. “People down here are always having a cookout and celebration for Juneteenth, and all they want to do is be with each other and enjoy good food and music.”

This year, Harper says that there has been no shortage of requests for their services at fish frys, barbecues and cookouts, despite the continued uptick in COVID-19 cases in Texas. Juneteenth lives on as a means of remembrance and celebration. A multi-sided holiday that honors those who died for the fight, celebrates all that has already been achieved and revitalizes the community for the struggles that have not yet been won.

Check out OZYs specially curated Juneteenth playlist here:

Our Juneteenth Recipes

Eloise Nesbitt’s Red Velvet Cake

This traditional southern delight has everything that makes Juneteenth great: red coloring to signify strength and resistance, sweet taste, and a whole lot of heart. 

Half a red Velvet Cake

Source Getty

Colorful How to Wear a Mask Coronavirus Poster

Juneteenth Strawberry Soda

Using fresh strawberries, strawberry soda and strawberry lemonade mix, this drink is vibrant red and bursting with flavor. Cheers to emancipation! 

8-10 servings

Colorful How to Wear a Mask Coronavirus Poster (3)

Juneteenth Bowl

Indigenous to Africa, this hearty dish is a colorful mix of sorghum, sweet potato, black-eyed peas, collards and peanuts.  

Serves 4 to 6

Colorful How to Wear a Mask Coronavirus Poster
Colorful How to Wear a Mask Coronavirus Poster

COVID-19 Crashes Into Harvard, Chaos Ensues

On Tuesday, March 10, I was supposed to wake up at 8:45 a.m. for my 10 a.m. class. I was apprehensive about waking up so early after a weekend of nonstop rehearsals and meetings for every single extracurricular I have, culminating in a 3 a.m. bedtime the night before.

When my alarm rang and I went to turn my phone off though, I saw that I had 33 unread text messages. At the top of my notifications, I saw an email from Lawrence S. Bacow, the president of Harvard University, with the subject line: “COVID-19 — Moving Classes Online, Other Updates.”

Disillusioned by the vague COVID-19 updates I had been receiving, I opened the email expecting to hear that the jig was up, spring break would be indefinitely extended and we’d take classes online for a couple of weeks. And I was right.

I and many of my classmates are still in shock and in the process of fleeing our Cambridge campus. And we’re not alone …

But then I received another email from Rakesh Khurana, dean of Harvard College, with the subject line: “An Important Message from Harvard College.”

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I didn’t read the whole email. I really only read the bolded phrasing: “Harvard College students will be required to move out of their houses and first-year dorms as soon as possible and no later than Sunday, March 15, at 5:00 p.m.”

I read that phrase multiple times, and it didn’t really register for me until I found myself on a group FaceTime call with my parents. By the end of our call, we had devised a plan for me to fly from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Dallas that Saturday. Numb, I prepared for an unexpected exit from Harvard College with little information besides the news of my eviction in the face of a pandemic — all of which was supposed to happen in the span of five days.

This news forced Harvard students into a new brand of panic: College Armageddon. As I walked through Harvard Square that day, I realized that I had never seen so many people outside before. I received six messages in multiple different group message apps saying “Senior Week starts now.”

This eerily sunny day had, unexpectedly, turned into a day of partying and hysterical denial about the global issue at hand, as raucous day parties opened at every Final Club’s private on-campus housing.

That night, the mayhem continued.

The local liquor store, C’est Bon, sold out of Corona beer within hours of Dean Khurana’s email. People traveled around campus in packs, shouting and roaming the streets looking for more parties as students willfully ignored social distancing because if the world was ending? Why not? The entire campus had entered into school-wide senior week mayhem where all bets were suddenly null and void.

But my classmates who receive financial aid or had come from unsafe homes were inconsolable. I’ve never seen so many people on the phone weeping and sending emails requesting financial assistance.

dorm room

To all of us, it seemed that Harvard had forgotten that many students need their campus. It felt like the institutional constancy of Harvard, an institution where many students build their futures, had suddenly disappeared.  

But amidst all of this confusion, graduate students stepped up to support their undergraduate community members. Students crowdfunded housing and storage subsidies for qualifying undergraduates, and students expressed their concerns to administrators, who shared more resources for undergraduates who needed it.

At this point, I and many of my classmates are still in shock and in the process of fleeing our Cambridge campus. And we’re not alone as most college campuses in the U.S. are following suit in asking students to leave their campuses.

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Nihilism about this outbreak, however, feels like a luxury as there are plenty of people who cannot afford the philosophical distancing from the virus. To me, the behavior of undergraduate and graduate students on my campus is representative of the attitudes and actions we should be taking globally.

So if I had one thing to offer, while pandemonium ensues, it’s that it’s important that we as global community members not only take care of ourselves as we weather this storm, but that we also support those who are more affected, physically, emotionally and financially. That might be the best way to a good start of the end of a bad situation.