Racism Makes Me Question Everything. I Got the Vaccine Anyway.

Surviving in an anti-Black society requires some personal negotiations. This was one of them.

Last summer, when Covid-19 vaccines were in development, friends on text threads and Zoom calls asked if I’d get one. My response was always the same: Sure, I’ll be right in line — after 100 million of y’all go first. I told them I’d seen too many zombie movies. But my hesitancy was actually grounded in a less cinematic reality: I just don’t trust America enough.

This mistrust comes from an awareness of the ubiquity of American anti-Blackness — a dynamic that can, um, modify your sense of reality. That’s what happened, for instance, with the persistent myth of Tommy Hilfiger’s racist comments.

In 1996, owning a Tommy Hilfiger shirt was everything to 17-year-old me. But a year later, I’d completely extracted Hilfiger fits from my rotation. Word had spread that Tommy Hilfiger, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, had complained about Black people wearing his clothes. The shirts, windbreakers and parka I owned were immediately relegated to the deepest parts of my closet.

Mr. Hilfiger never actually made those racist comments. In fact, he hadn’t even been a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” when the rumors started. But the myth wouldn’t die because it felt so true that to question it felt like gaslighting your own Blackness. Of course this white man with aggressively preppy oxfords and an American flag aesthetic would believe that people like me sullied his brand. It just fit.

The same way, a story about Dorothy Dandridge and a pool just fits: As the urban legend goes, the movie star was visiting a hotel in Las Vegas in the 1950s, and she dipped a single toe into the all-white swimming pool. This so disgusted the hotel’s management that they drained the entire thing. This story, which was also depicted in the HBO biopic about her life, has never actually been confirmed. But to anyone familiar with the history of America’s relationship with its Black citizens, the anecdote is believable. Maybe it ain’t true, but it also ain’t exactly a lie.

To question whether this bottomless skepticism is justified is like asking whether a cow has cause to be wary of butchers. From redlining and gerrymandering to the Tuskegee experiment and Cointelpro, the proven conspiracies against Black Americans are so devious, so deep and so absurd that they blast open pathways for true-sounding non-truths to enter, too.

The terrible spoken word poems I wrote in college (“We’ll never get justice, because justice for just-us just-aint-for-us”) habitually referenced the so-called Willie Lynch letter — an instruction manual for controlling Black slaves that I, along with many others, believed was written by a slave owner in 1712 and contained deep insights into modern race relations. The truth: Willie Lynch never existed and the document was forged. I believed that the government conspired to track my thoughts and movements — as if my flaccid stanzas and banded collar Wilsons Leather biker jackets were a threat to the state. I even once allowed myself to entertain an argument that the natural color of milk is not white, but brown. (Don’t ask.)

The term “hotep” has become a catchall among Black people to describe other Black people who still believe some of these easily debunked stories — but the reality is that most of us have some hotep in us. And not because we don’t know how America really works, but because we know too much. The lack of trust in our nation’s systems and structures is a force field; a bulwark shielding us from the lie of the American dream. And nowhere is this skepticism more justified than with the institution of medicine.

I don’t trust doctors, nurses, physician assistants, hospitals, emergency rooms, waiting rooms, surgeries, prescriptions, X-rays, MRIs, medical bills, insurance companies or even the food from hospital cafeterias. My awareness of the pronounced racial disparities in our health care system strips me of any confidence I would have otherwise had in it. As critics of a recent Saturday Night Live skit suggesting that Black people are illogically set against getting vaccinated pointed out, the vaccine hesitancy isn’t due to some uniquely Black pathology. It’s a direct response to centuries of anecdote, experience and data. (Also, the demographic among the least likely to get a vaccine? White evangelicals.)

Despite all this, in March, I stood in a long line to receive my first dose of a vaccine to prevent me from becoming seriously ill from a virus that I had no idea even existed 14 months ago.

My journey from “I don’t even eat hospital pizza” to “voluntary Pfizer guinea pig” is complicated, but not singular. Existing in America while Black requires a ceaseless assemblage of negotiations and compromises. Even while recognizing the anti-Blackness embedded in society, participation is still necessary to survive.

For instance, I am dubious that American schools are able to sufficiently nurture and prepare Black children for 21st-century life. But my interest in home-schooling my kids is the same as my interest in letting them attend school on Neptune. So my compromise is to allow them to attend school, but then to also fortify them with as many academic, social, and political supplements as possible.

Sometimes the negotiation is just the choice to participate: My parents were two of the tens of thousands of Black victims in the subprime lending crisis. I watched them be evicted from their home after loan terms they just couldn’t meet kept multiplying. But when I was ready to buy a house, the gateway to homeownership was through those same banks.

The trust still isn’t there. Will never be there. But the negotiation that placed me in that vaccination line last month required me to weigh that distrust against all that I miss. I miss the year we just lost. I miss playing basketball. I miss watching it with my dad. I miss barbecues. Malls. Movie theaters. Restaurants. Cities other than Pittsburgh. I miss only needing to be hypervigilant about racism and gluten, and not whether the air inside of a Giant Eagle supermarket might kill me too. And I know other people miss their years and their hobbies and their dads and their homies. With the disproportionate havoc this plague has wreaked on Black and brown people, my desire to return to some semblance of normalcy and prevent more death is a force greater than my cynicism.

I’ve already begun to fantasize about the cookout I’ll host after I get my second shot, and each of my equally-suspicious-about-America family members and homies get their shots, and enough time has passed to feel safe gathering. Maybe we’ll laugh about how us seeing each other was only possible because we trusted an institution that has been pathologically untrustworthy. Or maybe we won’t. Because that’s not actually funny.

‘Monster’ Trailer: Netflix’s Walter Dean Myers Adaptation Has All-Star Cast Led By Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Netflix has dropped the first trailer for Monster, a film adapted from the classic Walter Dean Myers novel of the same name. The film first premiered way back in January 2018 and had an extended festival run, a name change (it was once known as All Rise) and a prior acquisition announcement by Entertainment Studios.

The stacked cast is led by Kelvin Harrison Jr., before his star-making turns in Waves and Luce. It also features Jennifer Hudson, Jeffrey Wright, a pre-When They See Us Jharrel Jerome, a pre-BlacKkKlansman John David Washington, Jennifer Ehle, Tim Blake Nelson, Nas and A$AP Rocky.

Directed and written by acclaimed music video director Anthony Mandler, the screenplay is from Radha Blank (The Forty-Year-Old Version, Colen C. Wiley and Janece Shaffer.

The logline: Monster tells the story of Steve Harmon (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) a seventeen-year-old honor student whose world comes crashing down around him when he is charged with felony murder. The film follows his dramatic journey from a smart, likeable film student from Harlem attending an elite high school through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison. 

Harrison, an in-demand star on the indie and festival circuit, told Shadow And Act back in 2018 that Steve was one of the hardest characters he’s had to play. “Steve in Monster is probably the hardest to play, because I was learning so much about myself growing up,” he said.“It’s hard to look back on your life at 17 and how you may have been. Steve comes from this privileged home and has a lot of opportunity. Then things happened, and he thought he was an anomaly in a world where black boys are incarcerated or killed because of the way they look. The hardest part is just really digging deep in yourself and coming into your own realities and then separating from the character so you can tell their stories truthfully.”

BRON Studios, ToniK Productions and Get Lifted Film Co. are the movies’ producers, in association with Charlevoix, Red Crown and Creative Wealth Media. Tonya Lewis Lee, Nikki Silver, Aaron L. Gilbert, Mike Jackson, and Edward Tyler Nahem produced the film.

John Legend, Ty Stiklorius, Dan Crown, Yoni Liebling, Wright and Jones are executive producers, alongside Brenda Gilbert, Steven Thibault, Brad Feinstein, Joseph F. Ingrassia, Ali Jazayeri, David Gendron, Linnea Roberts, Jason Cloth, and Richard McConnell.

Watch the trailer below:

‘Pose’: The Final Season’s Trailer Is All About Legacy

FX has dropped the first trailer for the third and final season of PoseThe network announced in March that shortened, seven-episode season would be its last.

Upon its debut, the series made television history in its first season by featuring the largest-ever cast of transgender actors in series regular roles, including Michaela Jaé, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore and Hailie Sahar, who star alongside Billy Porter, Dyllón Burnside, Angel Bismark Curiel, Sandra Bernhard and Jason A. Rodriguez. Pose also features “the largest recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever for a scripted series, and boasts a full roster of LGBTQ and POC behind-the-scenes as producers, writers, directors and crew.”

For the series, Billy Porter became the first openly gay man to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, and Janet Mock becoming the first trans woman of color hired as a writer on a TV series, as well as the first transgender woman of color to write and direct a TV episode.

The official description for season 3: In this final season, it’s now 1994 and ballroom feels like a distant memory for Blanca who struggles to balance being a mother with being a present partner to her new love, and her latest role as a nurse’s aide. Meanwhile, as AIDS becomes the leading cause of death for Americans ages 25 to 44, Pray Tell contends with unexpected health burdens. Elsewhere, the emergence of a vicious new upstart house forces the House of Evangelista members to contend with their legacy.

The new season premieres May 2 on FX. Watch the trailer below:

Gonzaga Stuns UCLA With Three-Pointer Buzzer Beater For Final Four Win

At halftime Saturday night, UCLA coach Mick Cronin challenged his team to keep it close for 10 more minutes and that they should then be able to crank up the pressure on unbeaten Gonzaga.

The flawless combination created a masterpiece of a college basketball game. It just didn’t lead to a win for the upstart Bruins.

After UCLA star Johnny Juzang’s basket with 3.3 seconds to go in overtime tied things up at 90, Jalen Suggs answered with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send the unbeaten Bulldogs into their second national championship game and the Bruins home to think about how close they came to adding another memorable chapter to the school’s rich history.

“When Johnny got the putback, I didn’t have a timeout left so I was running at my guys to get their attention to trap the ball and they got there late,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said. “It’s not their fault because we trained them to get back because Gonzaga is so fast. If you look at the film I was trying to get them to come up so he (Suggs) couldn’t get into that shot. Still, it was a bank shot from half court.”

UCLA (22-10) played this one a bit different than they had through their incredible tourney run that started in the First Four. The Bruins often traded baskets with Gonzaga (31-0), one of the nation’s most prolific scoring teams, and didn’t allow the Zags to go on one of their trademark runs.

The Bruins also made sure to keep things slow, deliberate and tense.

It was almost enough.

Juzang finished with 29 points to lead the Bruins, trying to become the first No. 11 seed to reach the championship game. Afterward, stunned UCLA players gathered around as the officials looked at a replay review to make sure the shot was off in time. It was.

“We went out fighting,” Juzang said. “We went out, there’s no better way, there’s no regrets. Everybody fought to the last play and the last shot is the last shot.”

UCLA can take solace in doing something no other team did this season by forcing the high-scoring Zags into overtime. It just couldn’t close out Gonzaga to continue an incredible postseason run that included overtime wins over Michigan State and Alabama, runaways against BYU and Abilene Christian and holding off off top-seeded Michigan to join VCU as the only teams to advance from the First Four to the Final Four.

The Bruins were fighting for school pride, too.

Only seven Division I teams and four schools have been undefeated national champs. Only UCLA has done it more than once, celebrating perfect seasons in 1963-64, 1966-67, 1971-72 and 1972-73. The last team to accomplish the feat was the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers.

Since then, two undefeated teams had reached a Final Four in Indianapolis and lost — UNLV to Duke in 1991, Kentucky to Wisconsin in 2015. Gonzaga is the third and the Zags, too, were in a dogfight.

“Everybody is going to ask what I just told my team, so I’ll just tell you: I told them they have to let the last shot go,” Cronin said. “As much as they want to be beaten down and gutted and miserable, they have to let it go because they’re winners. As a coach all you can ask of your players is to give everything they’ve got.”

The Bruins certainly did their part.

Each time it looked like Gonzaga might get away, they fought right back — methodically erasing a 64-57 deficit midway through the second half. And it looked like they might win in regulation until Juzang was called for a charge with less than 1 second to go.

In overtime, Gonzaga jumped out to a quick 87-83 lead but when they couldn’t put it away, the Bruins capitalized. Cody Riley hit a 15-footer. The Zags answered with a 3-pointer from Andrew Nembhard to make it 90-85 with 1:15 to go and yet the Bruins knotted things at 90 — only to see their effort fall short when Suggs’ magical shot set up the Monday night matchup college basketball fans have waited all season to watch — Gonzaga vs. Baylor.

“Kudos to them, they’re a very good team,” Juzang said. “But we’re UCLA and the guys on this team, there’s no one I’d rather go to battle with. And we expect to win. We are who we are and every game we went out and left it out there and let the best man win.”

Mahalia Jackson: 5 Things To Know About The Gospel Legend At The Center Of Lifetime Movie

Lifetime continues its streak of biopics with Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, which premieres April 3 at 8 p.m. ET. Orange Is The New Black alum Danielle Brooks stars as Mahalia Jackson, who is one of the most revered gospel figures in U.S. history. The film, executive produced by Robin Roberts, chronicles Mahalia’s rise to fame and her impact on the music industry and the civil rights movement.

Mahalia lived an incredible life and had so many memorable moments. Decades after her death, her legacy remains more vibrant than ever. Get to know Mahalia before the Lifetime movie airs.

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 Vaccine Emerges as Preferred Shot for Homeless

CHICAGO—Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine has found a niche among organizations that work with the homeless, who say the one-dose shot is better-suited for a population that can be difficult to reach twice. The U.S. homeless population has soared during the pandemic. Shelters have become a source of spread as experts puzzle over how to stem stubbornly high infection rates despite an aggressive national vaccine rollout.

In Chicago, the Night Ministry, a group that serves the homeless, has increasingly used the J&J vaccine since it was approved by U.S. regulators in late February. Before that the group had only the Moderna Inc. vaccine, which requires two shots. But the often-transient population can be tough to find a second time, said Stephan Koruba, a nurse practitioner with the Night Ministry, especially those sleeping on the Chicago Transit Authority train system. Now, the group offers both. Many of the group’s beneficiaries are living on the streets. Others in tent encampments. Or, for those able to pay a few hundred dollars a month to escape Chicago’s frigid winter, in transient hotels.

“When we’re out on the CTA, we’re never going to see these people again,” Mr. Koruba said. “We’ve specifically held to J&J doses for them.”


Bottega Veneta Launches a New ZineFeaturing a Few of Your Favorite Artists

Nostalgia is always in style. Take it from Daniel Lee, the Creative Director of Bottega Veneta, who has implored sentimentality in his most recent media rollout for the brand. Records, songs, and books have been common mediums for its audience to experience culture through an artistic lens. Now, the Italian luxury fashion house is exploring an alternative way to engage with their audiences with a new zine. For the uninitiated, a zine is akin to a digital journal. Think of it as an online diary, but featuring some of your favorite celebrities and artists. Launching today, Issue 01 features collaborators ranging from Missy Elliott and Tyler Mitchell to Barbara Hulanicki and Tyrone Lebon. The digital journal captures the stylish and innovative universe of Bottega Veneta and will publish four times a year to coincide with the launch of in-store collections. The first issue will reflect the vibe of Salon 01 and hone in on domesticity.

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The Best TikTok Trends and Challenges Right Now

It’s easy to lose track of time and fall into mindless scrolling while on TikTok. The platform stores countless videos that cover a massive range of topics—even ones you’re not looking for (that’s arguably the best part of the app). Launched in China in 2016, TikTok currently has over 100 million active monthly users in the US alone, and has been downloaded over 2 billion times worldwide.

Somehow, the app knows which videos to place in front of users and the perfect time to push those videos forward. That insane algorithm has created one of the best spaces to start viral trends. But it’s not just the algorithms that make TikTok pop. The music, editing tools, filters, and variety of video effects also help users create short clips, up to 60 seconds long, that are addictively entertaining and shareable. We’ve all seen viral dances, pranks, skits, stories, and challenges make their way from TikTok to other media platforms; sometimes it’s hard to keep up with what’s what. But Complex has you covered. Here are some of the best TikTok trends and challenges to watch, right now.

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