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It was rather sweet to see Shonda Rhimes dismiss the criticism—delivered in real time by way of Twitter—that the new ABC hit How to Get Away With Murder had one too many gay scenes the way she did. Ever cognizant of everyone’s humanity, Rhimes tweeted back, “There are no GAY scenes. There are scenes with people in them.”

It reminded me of an episode of Sesame Street—a compliment, I promise—in which we learn at the end the valuable lesson that people are just people. The sentiment is endearing, but our differences and labels make note of another reality.

I don’t subscribe to the logic that labels are bad. Yes, they can be limiting, but oftentimes it’s not so much the label that’s the problem as it is the associations that the linear-thinking sect attaches to it. You can remove the label—e.g., refer to “scenes with people in them” as opposed to “GAY scenes”—but it proves to be a fool’s errand because the person who has the problem with two people of the same gender simulating sex on camera will have a problem no matter what you call it.

So let’s just call it exactly what it is: gay sex. More important, gay male sex. How to Get Away With Murder features a lot of it. That gay sex has since sparked debate on specific topics related to bottoms and the notion of “bottom shaming,” as well as a broader conversation about what all of this gay sex on a key night of network TV means.

Ultimately, it means the normalization of sex between two men in a meaningful way. Support for marriage equality may be thriving, and the movement will eventually triumph with nationwide recognition, but a lot of that has to do with packaging. Straight people have increasingly accepted gay marriage because it is presented to them through a heteronormative filter: Two consenting adults want their love recognized. Maybe they’ll then go have a family.

It’s shrewd, but many can get used to the idea of two people in love, wanting a wedding. But the thought of what happens during the honeymoon may still trigger some discomfort.

We have seen lesbian sex featured on various sitcoms through the years, but that feat was accomplished far sooner because of the boost it was provided by certain circumstances—say, the way the imagery might play into a heterosexual man’s fantasies.

Two gay men having sex does not play into that; therefore, the struggle to see it regularly in certain places has remained. Even on gay-centered shows like HBO’s Looking, the sex scenes are never as explicit as those you’d see involving straight characters. How to Get Away With Murder and its gay male lead—Jack Falahee as Connor Walsh—are changing that. The more you see gay men—gasp—expressing themselves for this big audience the way every other horny person does, the more that discomfort will be tamed over time.

And though Rhimes is not the creator of How to Get Away With Murder, she is the reason it’s on the air. Her contributions cannot go unnoted. The same goes for the irony.

Read the rest at The Root.

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As much work as the people behind the Washington Post’s interactive project on “The N-Word” likely put in, its biggest and only beneficiaries are those who profited from the traffic it generated. Sure, the publication tried to argue the purpose of its package. When you venture on to the site, you are greeted with this message: “After the National Football League made the controversial decision to ban it on the field this year, a team of Washington Post journalists explored the history of the word, its evolution, and its place in American vernacular today.”

This, despite the reality that such exploration has been done for what feels like a million times already. I’m probably really close to the exact number.

It may be serious in its presentation, but no serious person could expect any real evolution from long-established points: the word isn’t going anywhere; some Black people will continue to use “nigga,” and they are well within their rights to take a slur and morph it into a colloquialism they feel comfortable with; some Black people will never feel comfortable about “nigga” and they are well within their rights to hold that opinion; and most will reach an accord that a White person who uses “nigga” should immediately lose their lips and tongue.

Another basic albeit inconvenient truth is that it’s easier to have a conversation about “the n-word” than racism.

It’s not even a symptom of systematic racism so much as it is a response to that. A response that’s relatively small when you consider everything else going on right now.

The Washington Post makes note of this point of view, but where is the big interactive project on that?

A project that examines just how detrimental institutionalized racism is and how strongly it presses on. Just check the Washington Post masthead — particularly the very top of it.

Even if Black people took part in the project, this is another instance of White people holding a magnifying glass to Black people when they ought to be standing tall in the mirror, wondering just when are they going to give Black people a fighting chance in this country. Instead, we go for repetition and the superficial. And not surprisingly, we are met with the same results.

Enter television personality and unapologetic troll Piers Morgan (pictured), who wrote the essay “If Black Americans Want the N-word To die, They Will Have To Kill It Themselves,” where he attempts to tell Black people about themselves when it comes to the vernacular remix of “n*gger.”

Like other White men who have no realistic concept of racism because it has never been a factor in their lives, Morgan offers a naïve assessment of how racism works.

Black people are victims of racism. We cope with the conditions we’ve been given. It is not our responsibility to solve the problem we did not create.

It’s hilarious that a British White man wants to tell Black Americans about the state of race when he’s from a country long criticized for not even acknowledging Black people and culture.

In any event, Morgan got the attention he wanted from John Legend and writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Rebecca Carroll. And now me. He’s been smug in all of his responses to the aforementioned and basically told Black Twitter to shut up given he covered Trayvon Martin.

You know, despite it being those very members of Black Twitter who helped up the volume on the journalists and activists who worked to have the story of Trayvon’s tragedy told.

Read the rest at NewsOne.

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Consider the optics: A man, who sits at the intersection of domesticated Luther Vandross and a Black grandmother’s couch, is shouting, “I’m not gay no more. I am DELIVERED. I don’t like mens no more. I like wimen. Wimen! Wimen!” Already, there has been a dance remix crafted from the now-viral hit’s infamous quote.

Based on the looks of him, this dude couldn’t find his way into a vagina if he went by Google Maps. What follows his testimony is just as hilarious. After he is delivered from biology through the notion of divine order, he is then greeted by a bunch of men who proceed to join him dancing in celebration. That is what every ex-gay man needs: A bevy of individuals with penises happily crowded around him.

The spectacle only worsens after the pastor announces that God told him to give the man a $100 because he’s no longer gay. It’s crock logic about how sexuality works, coupled with a capitalistic-centered reward: pure comedy for those who don’t fancy themselves as Biblical literalists (including those of convenience).

Once the laughter fades, though, reality sets in. This is a person who has been beaten down week after week by his religion, which ideally, should only serve the purpose of uplifting him. Frustration soon follows once you consider how this reality is the same for many men who sit in church pews each week to be told that they are an abomination. Or “sissies” in bow ties. Or “faggots” in lavender. That their existence is a mistake, and their natural urges, perverse.

I know this feeling, as do many other gay people who’ve sat in church pews and faced similar harsh circumstances. You want to reach out and declare that it doesn’t have to be this way. That you don’t have to accept this rhetoric as your truth because none of it’s true. It’s neither true from a theological standpoint or just plain basic common sense about how humans truly operate and have operated since civilization.

You want to make sense of the senselessness you see and let those self-loathing gay Christians know that Jesus is not waiting somewhere with a flashlight, itching to point them in the direction of genitalia different from theirs in order to save their souls. Sometimes, you can convince people. You tell them to read the Bible themselves. You direct them to documentaries from actual religious clergymen and scholars who can help them rectify their faith with their sexual attraction.

Read the rest at The Urban Daily.

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You know when you’re feeling extremely chicken-deprived, so you rush to a Popeye’s (or whatever franchise you prefer) to recharge only to discover that they ran out of white meat, red beans and rice, and the Cajun fries are cold? That was last night’s episode of Love & Hip Hop Hollywood. Sure, I was fed, but not necessarily fulfilled.

It’s probably a good thing this show is teetering towards the end of its season run as this gang of fools is starting to remind me of a DJ Mustard beat: repetitive, but, to be fair to DJ Mustard, I dance to that same beat each time. Not so much with last night’s episode of my Southern California-centered telenovela.

The episode kicked off with Nikki being Nikki: bouncing around like she has fire ants running up and down her ass cheeks, babbling a bunch of nothing over a beef that only exists in her mind. After discovering that Masika would appear on a billboard for a club who rents its space from her parents, Nikki vowed to have Masika removed from the billboard. Unfortunately, Barbie Kardashian doesn’t have as much power as she thinks she does, but her mom did reveal that once upon a time, Masika was arrested for allegedly stealing something. You would think given that Nikki was born into money and had a doctor create the face and body she wanted that by now she’d feel secure enough to not need such intel to feel like she one-upped Masika, but alas, she’s on the waiting list for a self-esteem transplant.

In Nikki’s mind, Masika’s mugshot was ammo, only when she threw that in her face, Masika didn’t give a solitary damn—explaining that she made a mistake as a teenager and that Nikki’s spoiled, bratty ass could never understand the struggle. This happened after Teairra Mari organized a meeting of the mindless.

I love reality TV because it continues to present the false narrative that two people who barely know each other yet have beef can solve their TV-ready rift over alcoholic beverages. As if we don’t know how futile an exercise this is. God bless, though.

In any event, Teairra Mari had her own back and forth with Hazel and it was all Hazel’s fault. She was so thirsty to get in the mix with Teairra on camera that I wanted to down a liter of water in the name of her desperation. I’m surprised that future UFC champion Teairra Mari didn’t roundhouse kick her.

Hazel wanted to know if Teairra was screwing Yung Berg. She is not. Thankfully Masika reminded Hazel of the following: Teairra is not fucking Berg, Masika is not fucking Berg, and Hazel isn’t fucking Berg because Berg does not want her.

As a result of that truth serum, Hazel stormed off like a petulant child. Hazel, stop going out like this. No one should be debasing themselves for a man that small. But while we’re on Hazel, let me just say she talks like a girl who learned Black slang from BET Uncut and local access TV.

Speaking of throwbacks, Ray J is now on probation and his daddy told him that he ought to clean up his act, which includes giving Teairra Mari the closure she desires. For someone who tries to make it seem as if Teairra was nothing more than a jump off, I find it interesting that she still regularly speaks to Ray J and Brandy’s mama on the phone. I don’t know about y’all, but if you’re a cashew or almond for me, you’re never speaking to my kinfolk.

While Ray J was meeting with his new anger management counselor, Soulja Boy was pressing pause on moving in with Nia and her child. Soulja Boy told Nia that he doesn’t want her to move in because he fears for her safety. Yes, Soulja Boy doesn’t feel like Nia is safe in his house. In fact, he wants that house to be his “man cave” so he can smoke and have sex with other women. Does that make any sense? Hell no.

Read the rest at Complex.

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I don’t wake up everyday obsessing over my race or my sexual orientation. As much pride as I have in being both Black and gay, my first thoughts of the day are usually “What songs shall I jig to?” and “How can I get myself out of Sallie Mae’s Burn Book?”

Alas, enough people obsess over my race and sexuality in this world for me. To the extent that I end up being forced to think about it at least some point on any given day.

As a result, I am usually exhausted by the predominate narrative about being a gay Black man. I often have to fight erasure from white gays and Black heterosexuals alike. Or, I have to wrestle with the reality that when trying to tell my story, it is preferred that I tell it through some sort of prism of pathology.

Yes, it is still very hard to be a gay Black man.

So often we are limited to the perceptions other people have about us. Our masculinity. Our expressions of sexuality. Robbed of our basic right to simply just be.

I like to think I try to find the good in even the most difficult situation, but funny enough, when faced with the question “Could you write about what you enjoy about being a gay Black man?” I was a bit stumped. All too often I am asked to write about this experience from the opposition perspective. The task felt like a pop quiz I was possibly going to fail.

A few moments later, I went with sarcasm: “Uh, was ass and Beyoncé’s B’Day?

The more I thought about it, I felt that was a good enough place to start. I also like not having to ever be lumped in with those ‘stay-at-home sons’ Twitter often drags (or celebrates)—those sexist, heterosexual Black men who are an enemy to Black gays and Black women alike.

As for other benefits, I cannot speak for other gay Black men, but for me, the best parts of being who I am is all that I am. This includes the things that challenge the stereotypes about what a gay Black man is and the other characteristics that fit right into the caricature.

Read more at EBONY

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Teyana has come a long way as a singer. She sings with far more confidence than she did a few years ago and conveys vulnerability sweetly even if the actual lyric is especially aggressive a la “The last nigga broke my heart, you’ll probably break it, too” on “Broken Hearted Girl” featuring Fabolous.

When her aggression is more pronounced, it works just as wonderfully. It’s evident in VII’sfirst single, “Maybe,” which should be a much bigger song than it appears to be. And though Chris Brown may still be a public relations nightmare, he remains a radio staple. Now that we’re in the midst of “cuffing season,” I would advise Teyana to consider releasing her duet with Breezy, “Do Not Disturb.”

There are other “I’m horny as hell”-themed tracks, like “Dreams,” though the album version doesn’t quite work as well as the original, “Dreams of Fucking a R&B Bitch.” “Dreams” is the singer-songwriter’s equivalent of “just let me put the tip in.” I don’t know what spurred this more sanitized final version, but in the future, if you’re going to go there, just go there.

Read the rest at Complex.

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In theory, the historic victories of Tim Scott and Mia Love are worthy of celebration. After Sen. Jim DeMint resigned in November 2012, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley appointed Scott to the office – thus his win on Tuesday makes him not only the first Black senator elected by South Carolina, but the first Black politician to win stateside election in South Carolina since Reconstruction. And thanks to voters in Utah, Mia Love became the first Black Republican woman – as well as the first Haitian American – to be elected to Congress.

For a party who counts only a minuscule amount of Black people in its fold, to have two Black faces serve in two powerful positions sounds like progress for both the GOP and the rest of the country. However, as common as these remarks from Zora Neale Hurston may read, they are no less powerful or truthful: “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.”

Fellow South Carolinian and Congressman James Clyburn understands this point, and like me, is not impressed with Scott’s victory. Speaking with the Washington Post, Clyburn explained, “If you call progress electing a person with the pigmentation that he has, who votes against the interest and aspirations of 95 percent of the Black people in South Carolina, then I guess that’s progress.”

This would include Scott openly speaking to the necessity of impeaching President Barack Obama; voting to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act; voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress; voting to delay funding a settlement between the United States and Black farmers who accused the federal government of refusing them loans because of their race; calling for the tightening of food stamp restrictions; and slicing the HIV/AIDS budget for South Carolina.

Scott also notoriously refused an invitation to join the Congressional Black Caucus, saying, “My campaign was never about race.” Like Scott, Mia Love also discounts the role of race in her win. Some people just like to pretend.

When asked why it took so long for Republicans to elect a Black woman by CNN’s John Berman, Love said:

“This has nothing do with race. Understand that Utahans have made a statement that they’re not interested in dividing Americans based on race or gender, that they want to make sure that they are electing people who are honest and who have integrity. That’s really what made history here. It’s that race, gender, had nothing to do with it, principles had everything to do with it.”

Love’s response is a cake full of lies topped with way too much disingenuous icing; it’s nasty, stale, and worth immediate trashing. Love and Scott managing to be Black Republicans who can win elections in 2014 despite a clear opposition to Black voters, Black political interests, and our first Black president has everything to do with race, only not in a way either would imagine.

Love and Scott can succeed as Black Republicans in Republican territory because they are Black faces to political views typically associated with White men.

Love of all people should know the role race plays in politics because she fell victim to it only two years ago when she was running in office. Both she and Scott choose to ignore race, though, because it is benefits them professionally. That doesn’t negate the role race plays, however, and their choice only confirms that they are two people who are willing to uphold a standard molded by White supremacy for the sake of self-interests. Congratulations to them on their victory, but forgive some of us for not being impressed with the soulless.

That said, this is not a direct shot at all Black Republicans.

Read the rest at NewsOne.

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When I first laid eyes on Masika, I didn’t give a particular damn about her one way or the other. The only real thought I could muster about Masika was more of a question: “Did Janice Dickinson have a secret Black baby two or three decades ago?” The answer seems to be no, only if going by last night’s episode of Love & Hip Hop Hollywood, there’s a very strong chance that Masika is the lovechild of some Black man and one of the worst Disney villains imaginable.

Masika strikes me as the kind of person that has been jumped a couple of times in her life. Hell, she’ll probably get popped at the reunion, too. Now that she’s no longer engulfed in a love triangle with Mally Mall and human blow up doll, Nikki, she’s set her sights on Yung Berg, who apparently was her friend before she forged a superficial friendship with Hazel E.

While Hazel E complained about Berg for what feels like the billionth time, Masika slid in the following comment: “You all about the girl code, I’m all about keeping it 100.”

Translation: I will fuck your man.

Granted, Hazel was only close to Berg when had a condom on, but you get what I’m saying. Even if the relationship was mostly in your mind, Masika will discard that friendship trivia for the sake of self-interests. In this instance, her music career.

Yes, not only is she suddenly Berg’s friend, Masika is also a recording artist of some sort. About that: Masika is too slow to realize that when it comes to her “music,” women aren’t going to support a person they think betrays women. Masika is also one of those birds who doesn’t think she’s a bird, given she comes with Creole mustard as opposed to BBQ sauce. I don’t see this music thing happening for you, Masika, but best wishes on all future endeavors.

As for Hazel, in addition to dropping the hobby of creating imaginary boyfriends, she should also stop having imaginary friends – even if they come with real bodies. Beloved, you used to be a publicist before you became a rapper, right? You’ve got to know how these “industry” people work, especially if you get the suspicion that they could come with a side of pico de gallo. Masika is not your friend.

Even so, Masika’s sudden interest in Berg works in that man’s favor. You know, since his attempts at trying to sleep with Teairra Mari were dropped faster than she was from Def Jam. I’m glad Teairra Mari is seemingly getting serious about the state of her music career. She has to know she can do better than making a living getting drunk and fighting women in the club over vaginal cream usage on VH1. And while they don’t have any romantic chemistry, the track Berg produced for Teairra sounds pretty good. That said, Teairra, I hope you have reached out to DJ Mustard, too.

I can already hear it: “Mustard on the beat, ho. Te-Te’s fist on your jaw, bitch.”

Before we move on from this, let me just remind you all that Berg continues to be a five foot poster for the phrase “Who hurt you?” He is cruel and heartless. Stevie J and Peter Gunz are serial womanizers with plenty of issues, but even they don’t ever sound this casually callous.

When Masika wasn’t getting on Hazel’s nerves over Berg, Fizz was making everyone at home shake their head as he continues to try to make a family with Amanda, who has proven time and time again that she’s not ready for that. Fizz and Amanda got into a fight after Fizz found out that Amanda had breakfast with the man she cheated on him with.

Let’s recap: Amanda says she’s unsure about helping raise his child, has cheated on Fizz, and continues to hang out with the man she’s cheated on him with.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Despite the concurrent, Siamese hype of their early careers, neither Brandy nor Monica really popped off as long-term R&B stars. By the ’00s, both their profiles were trumped by the likes of Aaliyah, Beyonce, and Ciara. Monica went platinum twice—with Miss Thang in 1995, and then The Boy Is Mine in 1998—and then never again. Brandy pressed on through the early ’00s, working with producers Rodney Jerkins, Timbaland, and Kanye West, and releasing Full Moon in 2002. After she sang the hook of Kanye’s Late Registration cut “Bring Me Down” in 2005, that was the last many fair-weather fans heard from/of Brandy Norwood, save for R&B’s stalwarts and reality television watchers.

Of course, we’re always down for a critical reevaluation. Most recently, Solange’s caping for “Brandy deep cuts” is as ripe a provocation as any to revisit both Brandy and Monica’s respective catalogs, to finally declare a winner in the War Over That Boy, a beef that never really was.

Written by Judnick Mayard (@Judnikki) and Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick)

JUDNICK: Despite the fact that I was always Team Monica back in the day, I actually have to side with Brandy on this one, seeing as how Never Say Never andAfrodisiac remain two of the hottest R&B albums of all time, to this day.

I had abandoned Brandy for a while, but after she dropped that single with Chris Brownit’s an injustice how good this dude is at writing my favorite songs. And I was forced to listen to 2012’s Two Eleven, which is so solid I would’ve written 1,500 words on the comeback of one Brandy Norwood.

In high school my argument was always that Monica could simply sing better than Brandy, but I know now that I simply had not begun to appreciate the vocal range of a woman with a deep voice. Now that I am old and constantly being called “sir” on the phone, I realize her range is fantastic, and the bass of her voice gives it this wild, stand-alone qualitykinda like Mariah Carey’s smoker’s raspand part of why she can still make music now that feels so “true.”

MICHAEL: Although I do still remember getting Brandy’s debut album on cassette tape along with Shaquille O’Neal’s Shaq Fu: Da Return for Christmas, I, too, was more of a Monica fan than a Brandy one. I didn’t really come to appreciate Brandy until she started lying about being married and singing about her party habits when there’s a full moon.

However, I definitely still think Monica is the better singer. I mean, she was able to give credible Whitney covers as far back as 1998. Actually, let’s have a moment of silence for Whitney Houston because I will never, ever forget her going up to Monica while performing and starting to sing, “Monica, I know you can shoop.”Monica shooped in a way that Brandy could never, ever shoop, and still can’t shoop.

I don’t want to take anything away from Brandy because I enjoyed Two Elevenwhen it came out, but I think people often forget how gifted a singer Monica is, and honestly, may not have peaked as much as Brandy did in terms of mainstream. But as a recording artist, Monica hasn’t really struggled as much in her adulthood as Brandy has. A lot of that has to do with Monica just having this kind of classic voice that will always want to be heard if given the right song. After The Storm did well, and though there have been some mishaps—​namely 2012’s New Life albumMonica’s always good for a few (urban) radio hits. Other than “Put It Down,” name the last time you really heard Brandy on the radio like that?

My only thing about Monica is that she forfeited the “I’ll slap the shit out of you” brand of soul music to people like K. Michelle and Keyshia Cole. Monica’s the one who should be singing about pistol-whipping sideline chicks right now. You started that with, “Kick down the doors and smack ya chick.”

Read the rest at Complex.

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1. BYE, Benzino: Benzino is mighty pissed about being axed from the cast of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta and is likely retweeting his supporters at this very moment, hoping that producers will please (baby, baby, please) let him and his fiancé, Thi Thi, back on the show. I doubt it’ll happen and as much as he may dislike their decision, there are some things he should accept. For starters, I was at the reunion when the brawl between he and bae along with Joseline and Stevie J erupted and he did start the fight. I distinctly remember Joseline trying to calm Stevie down as the two exchange words until Benzino ultimately said and repeated, “We can go right now.” On top of that, he hit Joseline during the fight and seem pleased with himself about it

Maybe that could be forgiven, but Benzino didn’t help himself when he yelled, screamed and rushed his boss, executive producer Stefan Springman, on camera during the post-fight interview. Bless any Black man’s heart who thinks yelling at a White man responsible for his checks on national television will do his employment status any favors. Oh well. At least the show will stop pretending that Hip Hop Weekly is the New York Times of the ‘[hood. If it helps, Thi-Thi, I do love your track “Ghetto Love.”

2. Sam Smith Ain’t Soulful: With all due respect to Sam Smith, who I think is a talented vocalist, I find it curious that so many people classify him as soulful – some in more hyperbolic fashion than others. Like christening him as the “ruler of soul,” the most soulful man out there right now, blah, blah, insert more lies here. Sam Smith can sing, but if Luther Vandross is collard greens and smoked turkey, Sam Smith is kale with the wrong kind of hot sauce. That’s cute if you like the latter, but never mistake it for the former.

And before you chime in, blue-eyed soul fans, I have a deep passion for all things Teena Marie. See a more contemporary example: the late Amy Winehouse. Appreciate a good voice when you hear it, but watch how you classify it.

3. You’re Not Running Anything Besides Your Mouth, Sarah Palin: Back in July, a poll revealed that most Americans would prefer if it Sarah Palin to “be quiet.” Of course, silence is an arch nemesis to a narcissist and media whore, so the former Alaskan governor has not honored that request. Sarah Palin is still talking while dually managing never to say a damn thing.

Case in point, during a recent appearance on the Fox Business Network, Palin was asked if hatred directed toward her has driven her away from ever running for office again.

She responded: “No, bless their hearts. Those haters out there, they don’t understand that it invigorates me, it wants me to get out there and defend the innocent. It makes me want to work so hard for justice in this country. So hey, the more they’re pouring on, the more I’m going to bug the crap out of them by being out there with a voice, with the message, hopefully running for office in the future, too.”

Madam, you are not running for office. You are about as interested in running for office as Sen. Ted Cruz is learning about RuPaul’s tricks in perfectly duct taping your junk down. Gon’ somewhere far, far away.

Read more at EBONY

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