And my commitment to stop trying to fit in

Photo by Jared Giles

In my 8th grade yearbook, my English teacher wrote a message that has stayed with me for the past 14 years. “It’s O.K. to be the only one at times (you know) because you help to break the mold.” It wasn’t difficult to decipher what she meant: there will be moments throughout my life, as there had already been, in which I will be the only Black person in the room, which is okay because my presence is necessary to break the proverbial glass ceiling. …

Popular media must elevate Black stories instead of perpetuating racist stereotypes

Screen-capture from The Queen’s Gambit of Jolene (left) and Beth (right)

This article contains major plot points from The Queen’s Gambit.

Every few months, Netflix markets another binge-worthy series in full-force for global consumption. On October 23, The Queen’s Gambit, a limited series based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, made its debut on the streaming service. The series, set in the 1960s, follows Elizabeth (Beth) Harmon, a chess prodigy who discovers her love and aptitude for the game after her mother passes and she moves to an orphanage for young girls.

Soon after we are introduced to Beth at the beginning of the series, we meet…

It is time to integrate love and empathy back into our daily lives.

Photo by Kurt Belen /

When a place can so quickly determine who does and does not matter, no life matters. Tell me who matters? Tell me someone in the world that matters? That’s why there are so many songs about love. Because somehow you know that you don’t matter, and we’re searching for the person that makes our life matter.

My professor made this comment in 2018 while discussing Black Lives Matter and police brutality in the United States, and now, 2 years later, I am revisiting his words as I reflect on the past 7 months and the torrent of pain, disaster, and…

Government touches every piece of our lives. Now we have to show up to change the people who run it

Jennifer Griffin / Photo of a mural by Chicago artist Mac Blackout / Unsplash

Earlier this year while discussing the Trump Administration’s failure to control the COVID-19 pandemic, my father commented: “You can’t have people in government who don’t believe in government.” On the surface, his sentiment seemed self-evident.

Those working in government should believe in the institution in which they serve. I wouldn’t want a teacher who doesn’t believe in education or a doctor who doesn’t believe in medicine, so why would the government be any different? …

When facing insurmountable obstacles, we must continue to stand up for the world the way it should be.

Screen-capture from “Cloak and Dagger” / Tyrone Johnson (left) and Adina Johnson (right)

Growing up, I was taught to heed authority. To be respectful if I ever found myself pulled over on the side of the road awaiting judgment from law enforcement. When I got my driver’s license, my mother made sure I placed my insurance and registration in the car door so an officer would not question what I was reaching for in the glove compartment. We rehearsed what I was supposed to say, where my hands should be, and where to look, all to ensure that I survived the confrontation.

I noticed then, as I do now, that my mother was…

Your strength will carry on through all whom you inspired.

Arsh Raziuddin / The Atlantic via Getty Images

I was proud the first time I saw Black Panther. When I arrived at the theater, I felt I had come home; stepping into a sea of fans sporting Black Panther costumes and accessorizing with African clothing and jewelry (in a personal call to Black culture and history, I chose to dress like a member of the Black Panther Party). This moment was different. Unlike other Marvel premieres, we did not rush to the box office because we were obligated to view every cinematic experience leading up to the next Avengers mega-movie. Our reason for being there had little to…

Black Lives Matter Protest in New York City / Kurt Belen

On the day following the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the day celebrated as the official end of slavery, White nationalists will rally in Tulsa, OK, as if to commemorate the anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre. While watching us protest, shout “Black Lives Matter!”, and demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many others; Donald Trump will rile a group of people who look all too similar to the mob that slaughtered more than three hundred Black men, women, and children and burned Greenwood to the ground. He is mocking us.

But Trump’s actions, while predictably reprehensible, are…

In “Get Out”, guests ogled at Chris’ body, eye, and skin. Earlier this year, Jessica Richardson described it as ‘heat’:

“I felt it. I felt the heat from it. I felt it in her eyes. I knew exactly what it was.”

It’s the feeling you get when your eyes meet another’s and you know they see you as less. You know they want you out of their space. You don’t feel safe.

And while I’m glad P&G is acknowledging an often unrecognized prejudice that people of color experience every day, I can’t help but wonder why the man in this…

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during her testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

When I watched Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special Nanette, I couldn’t help but relate her words to the ongoing Senate confirmation battle over Brett Kavanaugh. Her message — that a connection built on love should be the focus of the stories we tell — articulates why sexual assault allegations are commonplace in our society. Somewhere along the way we chose to focus on individual desires and aspirations, forgetting how to approach one another with love, compassion, and empathy.

Earlier this summer, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago while they were at a…

Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali)

Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Grey, Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner. These are only a few of the black lives that were stolen by police brutality. These cases ignited racial tensions and reinvigorated protests on police violence in America, so it seemed only appropriate that “Luke Cage” was selected as Netflix’s next superhero series. Headlines around the Internet admired Luke Cage’s invincibility and acknowledge his place in our country’s dialogue on race and police violence. Though, in all the discussion about the hero Luke Cage, rarely mentioned was his adversary Cornell Stokes. A talented pianist…

Jared Giles

Writer & dancer working in education. I can be found writing on race, culture, media, and politics. Twitter/IG: @jaredfgiles

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