Play It Cool This Weekend Reading List

Featuring: breaking the shackles of your hotep bondage, setting the record straight on Missy Elliot once and for all, the political impact of the open letter, Solange bringing us all to tears, a piece that finally isn't about loving white men, and what it's *really* like to quit your job.

By Wallace Mack

Her Eyes Were Watching The Stars: How Missy Elliott Became An Icon

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Elle

This is one of the most fantastic profiles you will ever read on anyone, dead or alive. Taking a deep dive into the life of the legendary Missy Elliot, Ghansah extends a grace and cultural understanding that I'm not sure non-black writers are able to give black artists. Things this piece does really well: the research on Missy's life and career is sublime, it draws amazing literary, artistic and historical parallels, it is easily digestible, and even the biggest Missy Elliot fan will walk away from this piece having learned something new. For bonus points, anything that invokes the spirit of Alice Walker is an automatic must-read. This is the kind of work I aspire to as a writer. This really is mandatory reading.

Reading Came First: How I Journeyed From Hotep to Black Queer Feminist

Myles Johnson, Black Youth Project

It's difficult to admit that, for a lot of us, our journey to self-realization involved a hotep phase. I certainly had one in high school and still have the continent of Africa and Eye of Horus tattoos to prove it. In this piece, Myles Johnson explains how he escaped a black history that went against his very existence, and instead began to consume critical and factual work by black and queer and feminist authors. His secret: reading. If you're a hotep (or an undercover hotep) and you've landed here, this is a great place to start đź‘€

Solange Wrote the Most Powerful Letter to Her Teenage Self

Solange Knowles, Teen Vogue

Solange wrote a really self-reflective letter to Solange's of days past, and if you're like me and have no fucking idea what you're doing in life, then you need to read this. 

The Intimate, Political Power of the Open Letter

Emily J. Lordi, The Atlantic 

As writers, I think many of us want to believe in the power of the open letter, even when we can't necessarily *feel* that they make a difference. In this piece for the Atlantic, Emily Lordi confirms that whether you feel it or not, open letters continue to be paramount in our struggles for change. This piece is a reflection on a new collection of open letters, Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times by Carolina De Robertis. Covering a gambit of writers like Mychal Denzel Smith, Darnell Moore, Kai M. Green, Marlon Peterson, and James Baldwin, you may want to check it out if open letters are your thing. 

I Quit My Job To Chase My Dreams. I Almost Gave Up On Myself In The Process.

Michell Clark, michellcclark.com  

In 3 acts, Michell Clark takes us on the journey of deciding to leave the "security" of the corporate machine, the reality of being jobless and the aftermath of his faith in the universe, and in himself. In doing so, he extends grace to a lot of people. I think it's easy to write angrily about people who suck on the path to your creative and career freedom; your old boss with unrealistic expectations, your friends who may not understand your visions or goals, and even your parents who grow impatient with your slowing career progress. But to write about people who have let you down and extend those actions grace isn't always an easy thing to do. This is exactly what Clark masters in this piece.  

Black Men Loving Black Men Is A Revolutionary Act

Darnell Moore, NewNowNext

Darnell Moore is the newly knighted Editor-At-Large of Cassius, a fresh online destination for Black millennial content. But before that, he'd always been one of my favorite writers and thought leaders. In this piece, Moore explores his relationship with his father and first boyfriend as pillars that develop his relationship preferences. In the past few weeks, we've seen an outpouring of essays by black writers, begging to be accepted for their desire for interracial relationships. Moore says it best, "Black men loving black men is, as the deceased black gay writer Joseph Beam opined in the 1980s, a “revolutionary act” because every moment a black man is transgressive enough to love what he has been socialized to hate he commits an act of insurgency."

Oh yeah, a weekend vibe! Be safe guys!