I can’t find solace in Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict when police continue to kill Black people

Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

Rattled by the emotional dichotomy of the Derek Chauvin moment, I found myself questioning the nature of justice: how fluid and elusive it is when its recipients are Black, how it can’t seem to find us most days even when we call out for it by its Christian name. I considered how when justice does manifest, Black folks so often question its credentials. It appears so frequently on our doorsteps selling snake oil that we dare not trust it entirely when it offers us the real thing.

The whole world seemed pregnant with angst waiting for the Chauvin verdict, as…


Five years after the icon’s death, a deep dive proves his catalog to be timely — and political — as ever

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Prince died as Donald Trump was on the warpath to becoming president in 2016, and I’ve spent the last five years fighting the superstitious urge to connect those dots. Trump was boorish (and criminal) enough during America’s four-year red fugue state to justify any disgust and blame that could be lobbed in his direction, and I haven’t yet fully pivoted into this shiny new age where we don’t have a boogeyman as president. It’s been a hard five years since Prince died, both because he passed away and, despite that fact, what with all the glowing-hot White supremacy and rampant…


Representation isn’t reason enough to bask in Black trauma on television

Photo: Amazon

Along the course of writing this essay on Amazon’s new series Them: Covenant — in which I intended to recount my deep history with horror films and how Jaws ruined me for life — Duante Wright was killed by police in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Shortly thereafter, body cam footage from the March 29 shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago hit the internet.

As I write this, Black America is reeling, the bodies of our people shoved through a systemic machine that churns out stacks of Black victims. We hadn’t even gotten to the hashtag part of one killing before…


If you believe Kid Cudi’s ‘SNL’ attire threatens Black masculinity, it’s time to do some soul searching

Photo: Will Heath/Getty Images

It’s spring again, and with the opening of businesses after a year of Covid-19, it’s apparently become necessary to once more consider one’s personal fashion before stepping outside. You’d think that after a year of pandemic couch-surfing this would be a low priority, but as it turns out, if you’re a Black man, you still can’t wear just any old thing. Somehow, in light of all of the problems we face in the most racist country in the world, it is still ungenteel to wear dresses.

Last week, Kid Cudi appeared on Saturday Night Live in a dress. The decision…


It’s time for a musical litmus test for enlightenment

Photo: Gems/Getty Images

After the most recent Verzuz event this past Sunday, I’ve come to a social determination: There can be no further race conversations with people who are not familiar with Earth, Wind & Fire’s catalog.

The Verzuz format is so simple that it’s collectively embarrassing that no one thought to put it into motion prior to the pandemic: Put two legendary musical acts in the same room and make them have cookout debates over whose catalog is better. Almost none of the acts bring competitive energy to the challenge, with most artists appropriately deferring to each other’s greatness throughout. …


Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s first Silk Sonic single is a dope soul throwback, but it’s not a savior

Bruno Mars of Silk Sonic performs during the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards broadcast on March 14, 2021. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Earlier this month, power duo Silk Sonic — a collaboration between Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak — dropped its first single, “Leave the Door Open.” Produced by Mars and D’Mile (written by Mars, .Paak, D’Mile, and Brody Brown), it is, I suppose, a hit. It is everywhere. Given how the music industry has moved the goalposts to count streams as a portion of sales, if it isn’t a hit, nothing is.

And, because the song taps into historical Black musical forms and Mars is attached to it, we all have to have an argument about it.

Part of what’s interesting…


What you see in the artist’s latest is a function of what you bring to it

Still: Lil Nas X

The video for Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” may not shock everyone who encounters it, but I think it’s safe to say that it is shocking to most people who encounter it. I find this shock largely amusing, but then I’m a Prince fan who played Dungeons & Dragons in the ’80s. I’ve seen this kind of pearl-clutching before.

Everything about Lil Nas X is hilarious and his resting smirk face suggests even he thinks so. He knows what he’s doing with his music, and his videos, and his presence, and he doesn’t care that you…


We thought we could save people’s lives with the manna to be found in books — and they only got better over time

A black history book display at a library.
A black history book display at a library.
Photo: Newsday LLC/Getty Images

I began my journey into activism alone, a freshman at Ohio State University, still part of the city in which I was raised but a world away from everything I had known. I don’t think I was on campus a month before attending my first proper Black student event. As the African drumming and dance was winding down, I noticed a table full of books manned by a tall Black man in a suit and bowtie. I knew next to nothing about Black Muslims or the Nation of Islam and so struck up a conversation with the seller. …


Like many writers, I tend not to respond to comments. But it’s time for some exceptions.

A yellow paper quote bubble on a fishing hook with a blue background.
A yellow paper quote bubble on a fishing hook with a blue background.
Photo: Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images

I have been told several times over the years that, as a writer, I internet wrong. That seems to mostly hinge on a personal rule I put in place a few years back: With rare exceptions, I don’t respond to comments on my work.

There are several reasons I’ve installed such a defense mechanism. The primary one is that people who post replies are generally a fraction of the people who read an article — and statistically speaking, those who make the time to comment do not mean the writer well. I spend hours writing, researching, and experiencing whatever I…


Hip-hop’s always made room for contrast — so as the culture continues to veer toward profiteering, let’s celebrate the givers

Lavon, Kidd Creole, Rahiem and Mr. Broadway from Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five performs at the U.I.C. Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois in January 1985. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

In the introduction to Tricia Rose’s seminal book Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop — And Why It Matters, she laments that the national paranoia around the art form has robbed the culture of artistic validation — and worse, strengthened the conditions that fueled its urgency. “In this climate,” she writes, “young people have few … honest places to turn to for a meaningful appreciation and critique of the youth culture in which they are so invested. The attacks on black youth through hip hop maintain economic and social injustice.”

Unfortunately, not much…

Scott Woods

Writer and poet holding down Columbus, Ohio

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