4 Golden Moments of President Obama Being So Trill Lately

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From Cuba to Bill Cosby, and then the criminal-justice system, Obama’s on something, and we’re loving it.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on July 20, 2015.

For a while there, I was concerned that President Barack Obama wouldn’t do enough to earn a think piece describing all the ways he’s kept it “completely 100″—similar to the way we commended former Attorney General Eric Holder for keeping it “eight more than 92” last year. 

Let me tell you, I fretted over this, had sleepless nights and bit my nails. I knew that the guy had it in him and shared many of the frustrations that black Americans have been hashtagging and protesting these past several months. But there’s the idea that Obama’s status as POTUS prevents him lashing out at the ridiculous ideas proposed by the GOP or speaking up about blatant injustices. Stuff like unarmed black kids getting shot in the street.

I even argued that Holder would fare better in discussions about which guy—him or Obama—was more demonstrative when it came to speaking up for black Americans. 

And then, bit by bit, almost out of nowhere, this new Obama started to appear. He’s not mincing his words or holding back, and when he does speak about controversial “race” topics, he’s forceful and speaks in a matter-of-fact way. 

Is it because he’s on his way out of office and doesn’t have as much to lose? Probably. But so what? We’re here for it, and the bottom line is this: Obama’s getting a boatload of stuff done, so it’s not as if he’s just blowing hot air. Just take a look at some of the ways he’s waved his middle finger furiously at all his haters these past several months:

Two fist pumps in the air for that blunt NAACP speech he gave on Tuesday slamming the U.S. prison-industrial complex.

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He did two things very well in his recent speech at the NAACP conference: He reminded folks about the “structural inequalities” that make it harder for black and Hispanic Americans to get ahead (and I mean, he spelled them out, describing how qualified black Americans don’t get called back for job interviews or approved for housing in good neighborhoods, and how we get suspended from school at higher rates when committing transgressions similar to whites’). Plus, no one likes to talk about it, but he spoke about how slavery and Jim Crow rigged the system and put black and brown Americans at a disadvantage.

Second, he drove a needle through the prison-industrial complex by calling foul on how a lot of people are serving hefty prison sentences for soft crimes. Obama said, “We’ve also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before.

“And that is the real reason our prison population is so high. In far too many cases, the punishment simply does not fit the crime,” he argued.

This item appeared on Holder’s “trill” list, so it supports the argument that Holder was a mouthpiece for a lot of the things that Obama himself believed but presumably couldn’t yet say. 

He basically said, “To hell with ignoring Cuba, when’s the next shuttle boat to Havana?” 

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What was great about this moment is that Obama used the ol’ “What’s the definition of insanity?” argument to justify why he felt it was high time we restored diplomatic ties with Cuba. Our policy of treating Cuba as if it didn’t exist wasn’t working, so instead of relying on our failed “embargo” strategy, he brought Cuban officials to the table to hatch a plan for the future. 

Naysayers argued that Cuban officials hadn’t done enough to garner the U.S.’ friendship, since they hadn’t moved the ball on improving human rights on the island. (As if women are allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia—but I digress.) Meanwhile, as more and more of Cuba’s history comes to the forefront, we’ll see that it was the United States that in the early part of the 20th century introduced Cubans to the racist and segregationist thinking that made life hell for black Cubans. Black Cubans were left to contend with colorism and inequality, and it was those inequaliities that made the environment ripe for Castro’s administration to come into power to attempt to undo those injustices. 

He defined “rape” in layman’s terms for those who forgot its definition just because Bill Cosby is the alleged perpetrator. 

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It seemed that a few people were trying to downplay or sugarcoat what Cosby is accused of doing: giving sedatives to women he planned to sleep with. They were questioning whether his accusers consented to being drugged, and couldn’t believe that Cosby could commit such crimes.

But when court documents revealed that Cosby did have a penchant for including Quaaludes in his sexual repertoire, that made the allegations that much more substantive. Obama laid it out plain and simple for those who still weren’t convinced that this kind of behavior constitutes “rape.”

“If you give a woman, or a man, for that matter, without his or her knowledge, a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape. And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape,” Obama said. 

He practically did the Shmoney dance in the Oval Office after hearing that his health care plan would remain intact.

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Gloating is not bad all the time. Especially when you’re a guy who’s known for being level-headed and not bragging about your wins or kicking your opponents when they’re down. Then you’re allowed to gloat and boast about your accomplishments every now and then.

That’s what makes these photos of Obama reacting to how the Supreme Court voted not to gut the Affordable Care Act—known colloquially as Obamacare—that much more riveting.  

I mean, look at him giving dap to his chief of staff, Denis McDonough.

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And tell me this doesn’t look like he and Vice President Joe Biden are about to start Shmoney dancing.

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Here’s to many more moments of Obama speaking his mind and hopefully becoming more and more raw during his last 19 months in office. 

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Root TV: What Nigerians Thought About #BringBackOurGirls & Americans Wanting to Help

The fervor for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has dwindled and Diana explores what Nigerians made of the world’s fascination with the abduction crisis and whether foreign help was welcomed.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article and Root TV segment was published at The Root on November 28, 2014.

From the vantage point of Nigerians, it must have been an incredibly overwhelming experience to go from being a nation with a decent amount of obscurity, to being at the center of a worldwide social media campaign in just a matter of days.

That’s what happened seven months ago in April, when insurgents from the Boko Haram terrorist group stormed into a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria, in the middle of the night and abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls. The subsequent #BringBackOurGirls Twitter hashtag was born soon thereafter and went viral. People from all over the world held protests, tweeted and crafted Facebook posts expressing outrage and remorse for the families that were experiencing the unthinkable.

But like most humanitarian causes that spark international outrage, the fervor for the movement has since died down and Nigerians are still contending with the conflict, but with fewer outside voices holding their officials accountable and demanding results.

In the Root TV segment above, The Root’s Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele speaks with Chika Oduah—an independent journalist working in Nigeria—about what this entire experience has been like for Nigerians, especially their being at the forefront of the philanthropic cause that was “en vogue” for the better part of 2014. In May, President Obama sent 80 military personnel to the region to assist Nigerian officials with the search—but what did Nigerians think of all the foreign interest and help? Watch and see.

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People Who’d Be Better at Protecting Obama than the Secret Service

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Because it’s time we started interviewing people for the job.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

1. Brother Mouzone from The Wire

It’s not just about muscle and brawn. Lest we forget, Brother Mouzone was the crafty mastermind that Avon Barksdale called upon to bring a certain type of prestige back to the Barksdale drug operation. He’s also the guy who beat Stringer Bell at his own game of deceit and manipulation.

Brother Mouzone has the psychological savvy of a seasoned CIA analyst. He anticipates foul play before it happens and is the living embodiment of how security is more like chess, than checkers. Brother Mouzone would have tapped Omar J. Gonzalez on the shoulder—right before he tried to scale that White House fence—and advised him to think again.

2. Debo from Friday

Debo was not letting an armed ex-convict get into an elevator with the leader of the free world. Remember what the South Central bully did to poor Red when he asked for his mountain bike back. Debo has a way about him that encourages people to do exactly as he says.  

I suspect the CDC contractor would have seen Debo shadowing President Obama, about-faced and walked the other way.

3. Ol’ Otis from Martin

When the sniper rolled down his window to position his rifle towards the White House back in 2011, Otis would have snatched the gunman by the collar, dragged him out of the car and stuck his coke-bottle glasses all up in the guy’s face during the verbal lashing.

4. Dragonfly Jones from Martin

So maybe his martial arts needed work, but Dragonfly Jones has passion and drive. He would have taken down anybody looking to harm Obama, purely by accident.

5. Edward Meechum from House of Cards

Frank and Clarie Underwood’s ride-hand man. He’s wide-eyed–which means he wants so badly to do a good job–and he can keep secrets. He’ll do whatever it takes to keep his job alongside the Obama’s. 

6. The Hound from Game of Thrones

As feisty as Arya Stark can be, the Hound managed to trot her behind up and down Westeros, first getting her to the same location as her mother and brother even though that didn’t pan out well (remember the Red Wedding), and then getting her to her delusional aunty (but that didn’t quite pan out either). Playing babysitter to a mouthy, but brilliant, 9-year-old is no easy feat, especially since he had to fend off a boatload of eager people looking to capture the young Stark. He’s dead now, but the Hound would have been great for the job. 

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New Rules: Hillary, Cut It Out; Ebola for Guantanamo; and More Perks for Black Women at Work

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Allow me to get my ‘Bill Maher’ on for a moment.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

The ‘Hillary Clinton’ portion of this article was published at The Root on August 15, 2014.

They say much truth is said in jest. Plus, Bill Maher’s on vacation, so allow me.

It’s time for new rules:

1. New Rule: If we ban Ebola patients from the U.S., then we have to shut down Guantanamo and rid Cuba of our detainees.

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Since we’re getting all particular about each nation keeping their cooties to themselves, it’s only fair that we put our Guantanamo prisoners on the first red-eye out of Cuba.

Surely Donald Trump—who tweeted that we should “stop Ebola patients from entering the U.S.”—and all those people sending nasty e-mails to the Atlanta hospital treating America’s two Ebola patients, would understand if Cubans decided to take a page out of their book, and developed a new sensitivity for how they’re a stone’s throw away from the world’s most accomplished terrorists?

And it’s not even that the Donald Trump’s and Ann Coulter’s of the nation have all of a sudden become hypochondriacs. It’s pretty clear that implicit in their concerns is the xenophobic idea that the Ebola virus is a West African disease that ought to be dealt with over there, and not here. Hell, Donald Trump said as much when he caught himself trying to cloak his disgust in compassion, suggesting that the patients ought to be treated “at the highest level,” but, of course, “over there.” Some people just can’t fathom the idea that a foreign pathogen is brewing in our midst. It’s as if the Ebola virus is messing up America’s feng shui, and folks are worried that we don’t have the appropriate device thingy to zap those negative particles away.

I mean let’s not act like America doesn’t have a few “harmful” exports that intrude on foreign lands on a habitual basis. I mean there’s McDonald’s, that horrible twerking sensation and the Kardashian clan’s family vacations.

Plus, with regard to the Guantanamo trade-off, the Cubans were never really fond of us housing our most dangerous criminal minds in the southeastern pocket of their beautiful island. This Ebola crisis gives their argument new ammunition. If we ban our Ebola patients from U.S. shores because Ebola is somehow un-American, then we should exercise a little quid pro quo and show the world that we’re ready to act on our principles by ridding Cuba of our detainees.

So, America, send Donald Trump a huge gift basket for this honor, and make way for the likes of Khaled Sheik Muhammed and Abdul Haq Wasiq because they’re coming to a correctional facility near you.

No more subjecting Cuba to our prison virus.

2. New Rule: Your black female colleagues get to have the big piece of chicken during company outings.

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And that’s just one of the quick-fix remedies to correct for the travesty that black women make 64 cents for every dollar a white man makes for doing the exact same job—this according to a new study released by the National Women’s Law Center.

Others remedies can include a 4-day work week, her own shelf in the refrigerator, extended vacation time and her own personal assistant.

It’s ironic that these finding have come in light of how some black women have been in the spotlight lately for the ways in which they’re trying to balance being a mother and being a career woman. There’s the South Carolina mom who was arrested for leaving her nine-year-old in the park while she went to work and the Arizona mother who was arrested for leaving her children in her car while she went on a job interview. These women are trying to make a dollar out of the 64 measly cents that they are given, and so it’s no surprise that some of them don’t have enough money to afford adequate child care.

So the next time you see your black female colleague taking a half-day, don’t cry foul or furrow your eyebrows, offer to buy her some lunch, thank her gratuitously for her contributions to the company’s bottom line and bow down.

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All the Times Eric Holder Kept It Completely 100

Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder

Here’s proof that our attorney general is as real as they come.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on July 24, 2014.

It was nothing for Attorney General Eric Holder to tell ABC News that Sarah Palin “wasn’t a particularly good vice presidential candidate” and for him to suggest, in his own way, that she ought to read the Constitution before proposing that President Barack Obama be impeached—seeing as how there would be no legal basis for such an act. Lest we forget, Holder has been speaking his mind since he got the job, and lucky for us—that is, people who love it when politicians let loose and tell us what they’re really thinking—he won’t stop.

As attorney general, Eric Holder is America’s chief law-enforcement officer. And judging by this roundup of times that he has spoken candidly and uninhibitedly about hot-button topics and controversial issues, I think it’s safe to say that Holder is the type of counsel who will give it to you straight—no chaser.

1. That time he said most of the hate and vitriol that he and the president receive stems from racism.

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder

Holder is not saying anything that black folk and liberals haven’t been saying among themselves for years in barbershops and hair salons, at the kitchen table and on MSNBC. Let’s face it: President Barack Obama could bring unemployment down to 3 percent, get the Dow to 20,000, make peace in the Middle East, solve the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, find that Malaysian plane, have a caramel latte once a week with Rush Limbaugh, curse Al Sharpton’s name, and he would still be hated on by some individuals who can’t stand to see an African-American president in the White House.

During an interview with ABC, Holder basically articulated that there is nothing—I repeat, nothing—that the president could do to win over those people who can’t wrap their minds around there being a black president. These bigots hide behind their half-baked political arguments and trot out played-out talking points from the 1980s to mask their utter disgust of what Obama represents: an H-N-I-C.

2. That time he begged David Simon to bring back The Wire.

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Attorney General Eric Holder; Idris Elba and Wood Harris in The Wire

We knew that Obama’s presidency was going to be a truly special experience when he gushed about how much he loved The Wire—the critically acclaimed HBO show. We black people practically stomped our feet, cupped our mouths and mouthed “Yooooo!” when Obama said that Omar, the gay stickup bandit played by Michael K. Williams, was his favorite character.

But Holder one-upped his boss during a panel discussion when he pleaded for David Simon, the show’s creator and lead writer, to bring back the series for a sixth season. The attorney general, like the rest of the show’s cultlike following, knew how authentic the series was in communicating the complexities of inner-city life: There are no good or bad characters in the hood. Nearly everyone—the cops included—is shades of gray.

3. That time he told those Republicans who were hell-bent on perpetuating the Fast and Furious scandal to get a life.

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Attorney General Eric Holder

It was a well-intentioned strategy of follow-the-gun-trail. Federal agencies looked the other way while American guns were being sold up the ladder to high-level drug-cartel leaders in Mexico. The plan was that U.S. law-enforcement officials would monitor the gun sales to eventually catch all of the big-time criminals wreaking havoc in and around the border.

That was until some of the guns were found at the murder site of a U.S. border-patrol agent. Somebody needed to take the fall for Operation Fast and Furious, and the GOP picked Eric Holder. He became the only Cabinet member in U.S. history to be held in contempt of Congress. The attorney general didn’t take too kindly to what he perceived was election-year shucking and jiving by Republicans, and described the entire ordeal as “truly absurd conspiracy theories” that were “unnecessary and unwarranted.”

It’s his politically correct way of saying, “This is bulls–t.”

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5 Years Later: Obama-mania from the 2008 Presidential Election

On its fifth anniversary, here’s a photo essay describing that historic day.

On its fifth anniversary, here’s a photo essay describing that historic day.

On its fifth anniversary, here’s a photo essay describing that historic day.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

A version of this article was published at The Root on Nov. 4, 2013.

(The Root): Five years ago, The Root launched to deliver news and analysis focused on the issues of black Americans and the greater Diaspora. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t put our conception into context. The creation of our site in January 2008 was in large part because of the success of Barack Obama’s campaign during the presidential primary elections.

Black Twitter didn’t exist then, but black folks were always discussing and parsing issues, and it reached an even heightened pitch when the Obama family came into the nation’s periphery. We wanted to collect those compelling voices into once space so that we might pay homage to a political force that would forever change the trajectory of politics, black culture and the nation.

The 2007-2008 primaries, and subsequent general election, was an interesting political cycle filled with lots of twists and turns. There were those heated exchanges between a then Sen. Barack Obama and his opponent Hillary Clinton. In the end, Obama etched his way onto the general ticket as the Democratic candidate, and went head to head with Sen. John McCain, a seasoned politico and Vietnam veteran. The selection of his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, was also an historic one for the nation. 2008 was the year for black America, but it was also the year for women. Race and gender are forever sitting at an intersection. The Root aspired to be a space where folks could come and engage in those complex conversations as well.

As The Root celebrates our fifth birthday with a refreshing new look, we commemorate the fifth anniversary of Obama’s 2008 election win, by rounding up photos that capture the magic that engulfed that day. 

The Obama’s Vote

Then Sen. Barack Obama and Michelle Obama

That Tuesday morning, the Obamas cast their votes at an elementary school in Chicago. Barack Obama joked that Michelle took so long to fill out her ballot he wanted to check to see if she had actually voted for him.A cute 10-year old Malia Obama watches her parents from the side.

Observers in Kenya

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Kenyan onlookers, who shared an intimate connection with President Obama, who is half-Kenyan, gathered to watch the election results come in on a small television set in town.

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Your Black Son: What He Needs to Know about the Zimmerman Acquittal

'Negro boys on Easter morning.' Southside, Chicago, Illinois.  1941 (Russell Lee/Library of Congress)

‘Negro boys on Easter morning.’ Southside, Chicago, Illinois. 1941 (Russell Lee/Library of Congress)

The ‘not guilty’ verdict creates an opportunity to school—and at times, remind—your black sons about history, race, morality and everything in between.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

Editor’s Note: A lengthier version of this article that includes guidance from child psychologists was published at The Root on July 21, 2013.

It’s the question on several parents’ mind: What do I tell my black son about George Zimmerman’s acquittal? Whatever feels right – but here are some guidelines to steer you in the right direction.

The Law Does Not Always Factor In Morality

Son, this is not a referendum on the value of your life. The judicial system is complex and verdicts do not necessarily reflect the moral consensus on any given issue. One of the jurors in the Zimmerman murder trial–Juror B37—initially wanted to write a book about her experiences (she’s not anymore) and in a  dated statement released by her former literary agent, she referenced the dissonance she experienced during the trial as she weighed the evidence, writing that “despite one’s personal viewpoints, it is [important] to follow the letter of the law.”

A few of Juror B37’s peer jurors released a statement distancing themselves from some of  her viewpoints, which demonstrates the diversity that exists among white people, a diversity of opinion that you should be familiar with.

And so while the jurors may have believed they could not convict Zimmerman based on the evidence, they mourned the life of Trayvon Martin, deeply, and probably wished Zimmerman had stayed in his car, per the 9-1-1 dispatcher’s orders. There are a lot of folks working hard to change the laws so that boys who look like you aren’t carelessly gunned down under the false pretense of self-defense.

Remember Your History Lesson about Blacks in America

Like Nelson Mandela said, people are not born to hate, therefore, people are not born to hate boys that look like you. It’s a learned affectation. History helps explain this.  Boys with your complexion are feared because black people were brought to this country to work as nonpaid laborers and were perceived—even back then, without any valid reason for perceiving your chocolate complexion to be nefarious—as subhuman. Unfortunately the government gradually carried out an intricate and intentional plan—via legislation and social norms—to disenfranchise black men. This ensured that black boys didn’t receive a good education and hence a good job, quality housing, and proper representation.  In television and in movies, and in the news, anti-black content flooded the airwaves—both intentionally and at times inadvertently—to sully the collective black male self-esteem and made black men believe in the inferiority these customs tried to place upon them. Unfortunately, those practices took its toll – black men paled underneath these conditions and the negative perception of black boys emerged and persevered. But no worries – all that is unraveling. The civil rights movement of the 1960s reversed a lot of the extant legislation that stifled black men, and people of all walks of life, including lawyers, legislators, teachers, writers, actors,   singers, and activists are doing everything they can to restore the perception of the black man to its rightful manner.

You are a good person, so you are already aiding in this effort.

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When First Ladies Clap Back: Michelle Obama vs. Hillary Clinton

How their off-the-cuff responses to adversity are a departure from racial stereotypes.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton

First Lady Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

The LGBT activist who interrupted First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech during a fundraising event in early June said she was “taken aback” by Obama’s reply. Her and everyone else. Obama’s response to that interruption went viral.  A boatload of people shared the heckler’s (Ellen Sturtz) feelings of being startled by the First Lady’s reaction, but more specifically, tickled by the level of directness and candor—yet class—that was cloaked in the response, especially from a—dare I say—African-American woman. Social media commentary convened on the idea that Obama’s comments were a departure from the idea that black women cannot be disagreeable in a tactful manner and that they cannot go on the offensive in a polite way.

It’s also interesting to think about Obama’s response when juxtaposed against one of her predecessors, Hillary Clinton, who also spoke up when her feathers were ruffled. If Sturtz was “taken aback” by Michelle, she would have cowered in the face of an early-90’s, pitbull-in-a-suit Hillary Clinton.

Michelle Obama’s comments were not nearly as snippy as Hillary Clinton’s infamous “I suppose I could have stayed at home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession,”  comments she made to reporters back in 1992, when she and her husband Bill Clinton (then a Governor) were on the campaign trail for the 1992 presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton was on defense about foregoing the route of Mommy-tracking her career in light of her husband’s blossoming one. In an interview with 60 minutes earlier that same year, she ballooned this ballsy woman persona when she said, in a rather curt fashion, “I’m not a woman sitting here standing by my man like Tammy Wynette…if that’s enough for people, then heck, don’t vote for him.” Clinton was referring to the country singer’s hit song Stand by Your Man and the idea that she idly stood by while Bill Clinton engaged in extramarital affairs.  If one were to compare those comments against the “Listen to me or you can take the mic…You have one choice” ultimatum Michelle dished out to the LGBT heckler lady, it might not have been clear which statement belonged to the black First Lady (let alone the first black First Lady) and which one belonged to the white First Lady, given the mainstream narratives about how black women and white women perform in the face of adversity. According to pool reports, Michelle considered leaving the event, instead of staying to engage Sturtz’ disruptive behavior—again, a clear departure from what some might expect from a self-proclaimed opinionated black woman.

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