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How we talk about sex has largely been shaped by whiteness — it’s time to change that.

The word autonomy has become a part of the lexicon in my household.

My daughters may not fully understand the definition, but it’s become part of our regular communication. It’s a reminder that they have a say in what gets to happen with their bodies. I want them to understand that their voices matter, and they get to choose what they do with their bodies, regardless of how the world may try to dictate it for them. It matters to me because they matter to me.

Growing up in the Bronx in the ’80s, autonomy wasn’t an option I thought…


For too long, women have been forced to remain quiet about the abuse they’ve suffered at the hands of men who were meant to protect them

TRIGGER WARNING:

Toward the end of Allen v. Farrow, the HBO docuseries detailing Dylan Farrow’s harrowing account of abuse, I felt a large lump in my throat.

It had been there from the beginning of the series, but something about Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, now an adult, sharing her story triggered me. She shares a startlingly account of the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of Woody Allen, Hollywood’s poster-child for anxiety-ridden white men made more attractive on camera because of their neuroses.

Something about Woody’s apathy and blatant disregard for his child struck me to…


Our art gets to inspire — and be inspired by — cultural and political shifts

I was on my second to last glass of whiskey. The hum of the ceiling fan gently cooed in my ears. I rocked you to sleep, slowly and silently, while Daniel Kaluuya, as Fred Hampton, finished the speech of a lifetime. Sweating and yelling to an engaged room of extras, he proclaimed, “I am a revolutionary!”

During that scene in Judas and the Black Messiah, I was a revolutionary, too. We all were as we took in the stained glass space of the 1969 Olivet Church. It’s where Hampton laid the groundwork for many of the black and white clips…


The energy can’t be duplicated

“New Jack City.” Photo: Warner Bros.

New Jack City makes me feel nostalgic.

My partner and I watch — and, at times, laugh — while Wesley Snipes delivers his tragic, Shakespearean performance. While we watch, I am talking about Christopher Williams’ acting debut and singing “I’m Dreamin’” louder than our Bed-Stuy apartment’s walls can take. I’m talking the rising tide of the New Jack Swing era and how Teddy Riley’s production is the backdrop for the lives of 1980s babies. The 1990s were the landscape for my upbringing: how I lived, loved, talked, and ran the streets. …


Our biases and projections affect how we engage with Black art

“If I don’t like I don’t like it, I don’t like it/It don’t mean that I’m hating…” — Common “6th Sense”

The first time around watching Malcolm & Marie, the latest must-see stream TV on Netflix featuring the rising stars of Zendaya and John David Washington, we stopped watching after the first five minutes. After much exasperated eye-rolls, shrugged shoulders and frustration, my partner and I found a salve in watching New Jack City. Our little played with the other TV remotes we left for her, the ones without the batteries in them, that entertained her over the course of…


Photo by Kiana Bosman on Unsplash

Black girls deserve to live in the beauty of their Blackness

Before I hand my infant daughter to her mother for feeding and soothing, I talk to her in rhymes and spellbound lyrics from Jay-Z songs and Old Dirty Bastard ad-libs. I finish tickling her small tummy, the tummy that can fit under the whole of my palm. I hold her; I sit and stare at the brown of her eyes that I know others drown in and think about how fortunate I am to raise a little Black girl.

The world tends to try to tell us differently. The media will spoon-feed us by the bit the perils of being…


The truth will set us free — it will also help us heal

Photo: Nicole Baster via Unsplash

There are two types of parents: carpenters and gardeners.

Carpenters believe they can build the kind of structure for their children that will dictate a successful outcome. But gardeners create the space to allow their children to thrive.

I liken myself to a gardener. Both of my daughters were born during revolutions. I don’t know if that makes me dumb or them martyrs. What kind of parent does that make me?

My little girls — my little Black girls — will have questions about what was happening in the time when they were children. They will remember some of what…


We get to return to love as we grow from our experiences

“Red or green pill, you live and you learn…” — Jay-Z “Excuse Me Miss”

Looks like we are riding off to the sunset… want to thank everyone who has read their column and shared their love for it on the interwebs. For now, the weekly Medium column “What Would Hov Do?,”, written by me, Joel Leon, will be on hiatus. I’ll still be on here writing and sharing my thoughts and words, but in a different, more personal way, so stay tuned!

For those who may be stopping by for the first time, the format has been fairly simple: you…


Letting love in means being open and honest about our feelings

“I suck at love, I think I need a do-over

I’d be emotionally available if I invited you over.” — Jay-Z “4:44”

We back at it! It’s your friendly neighborhood writer and storyteller Joel Leon returning once again with your weekly dose of “What Would Hov Do?,” the Medium weekly column that tackles life’s problems with a little help from some Jay-Z bars.

If there’s a topic or question you think could be answered with some assistance from yours truly and Hovito, feel free to drop your question here; you may see your anonymous response shared and answered.

For many…

Joel Leon.

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