Signed Sirelle: FEBRUARY 2016 – “The Significance of Black This, Black That: for People Stuck on Stupid”

“There shouldn’t be a Black History Month. We’re Americans. Period. That’s it.”

From the moment we begin our grade school circuit of history courses, we’re taught a “wide-ranging” curriculum of American history. The Reconstruction Era, Western Expansion, FDR’s New Deal, and—hell!—even the British monarchy are several exam subjects many dread during their grade school days. But that about covers it.

Certainly there were the three to four paragraphs beneath the Lyndon Johnson unit that glossed over the Civil Rights Movement, neglecting substantial evidence that the president, himself, was a notorious racist; but aside from that, “American history” is about as white as Apple’s board of directors.

The term black serves to be a vessel of empowerment for those under the umbrella; an identifier that breeds a sense of belonging, and purpose. Its concept is far too complex to be seen merely as an adjective.

The “we’re Americans, period” argument is an illusion, that can only be a reality when six Arizona schoolgirls—and the imbeciles who influence them—understand that a derogatory slur is more than “just a word” that certain races “shouldn’t be so offended” by. That such a word was often the last one scores of African-Americans were savagely taunted by seconds before nooses snatched away their final breaths.

Students, today, are gut-wrenchingly clueless that some of our most essential daily mechanisms were invented by African-Americans. They have no idea who Garrett Morgan is, nor that his traffic signal innovations revolutionized transportation for centuries to come.

Duke Ellington

The societal need for black history, the month, the days and weeks beyond it, is paramount. And frankly, we need Black History Month because that history isn’t represented within American history.

When a group isn’t represented on platforms deemed, arguably, as primary or mainstream, it manufactures platforms to represent itself. Thus, you have Black Entertainment Television.

“But just imagine if we had a White Entertainment Television channel!” Well, we do. It’s CBS, with the casts of “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory”. Just as there was NBC with “Friends”. Sitcoms comprised of all-white casts are essentially a television norm. Yet, outside of BET, one would be hard-pressed to discover several of the opposite.

As a result, and understandably so, some find the aforementioned to be continued evidence of privilege. But it doesn’t stop there. Just the same, privilege is also the roar for justice when the black mayor of Michigan’s first-largest city is tried for a “pattern of extortion,” followed by the enabling silence when the white governor essentially poisons the seventh. When the black quarterback (Cam Newton) is chastised for his on-field jubilation, while his white counterparts (Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers) are heralded as passionate for theirs. And attempting to dispute that might leave you all dressed up, with nowhere to go.

To some, this may be a conflicting ordeal. But the most critical aspect in comprehending this ordeal is to understand that people aren’t asking you to state that you are the problem, rather that there is a problem. And if you can’t do that, you might be the problem.

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Signed Sirelle: JANUARY 2016 – “Letter to Obama”

Dear Mr. President,

I could not be more ecstatic that your presidency is coming to an end.

You see, I voted for you twice. And if not for that damned 22nd Amendment, I would certainly be voting for you again. But over the course of your tenure as Commander-in-chief, myself, and so many others, have continuously been confronted by an ugly truth.

I reckon that whether seeking to prove the existence of climate change, be it figurative or literal, one would achieve success either way. With nearly a third of our country campaigning to make America great again, it sends chills down my spine to ponder what their definition entails. Although the temperatures may be warmer than usual, the climate has been anything but. We are a cold society. And with our spacious skies as my witness, America has been all but beautiful.

In what seems to be nearly a lifetime ago, I pledged an allegiance at the start of every school day. “One nation under God,” was the line that always stood out to me; but it was indivisible that resonated most. Here was an adjective, that in context, declared We the People were unable to be divided or separated. Though nearly my entire life, our country has been just that.

Obama Painting 1

For me, this has been no more evident than over the last several years. I can count on one hand how many individuals I have encountered who oppose you, and your beliefs, solely based on political differences. Your election came at a time when America needed it badly. And you have presided over America when we needed it most.

Just over ten months from now, America will elect your successor. And oddly enough, one of the frontrunners seems to be such because he “speaks his mind”. Who knew, that over hundreds of years of electoral history, it was speaking your mind that screamed presidential.

I mean, imagine that: an individual, debatably sane, walks into a voting site and casts a ballot to elect someone to be the most powerful person in the world, all because they aren’t politically correct; pro-life or choice be damned! So it is there, Mr. President, where this country will miss your temperament. Your keeping of the head, when all around you are losing theirs.. and blaming it on you.

Via #hashtag, no less.

However, many of us thank you. As your presidency has exposed us to a hypocritical America. Those that champion Reagan Era politics, in the course of forgetting who said “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”. Bookmarking their bibles with core values, while placing higher ones on semi-automatic tee times, than elementary school kids. And they are the faceless avatars who demand that inner city youth not blame the world for their downfall, in the midst of blaming you for theirs. They are the real patriots.

So Mr. President, if it is the aforementioned that defines what real patriotism is, I’ll elect you and your fraudulent want of providing health care for all Americans, and criminal justice reform, in this lifetime and the next.

I commend your reserve, Mr. President, but I think it’s time to speak your mind.



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Signed Sirelle: SUMMER 2015 – “Love, Again”

contemporary love painting Love is so inconsiderate.

I mean, imagine this: one finally reaches a mild level of self-satisfaction — or content — with keeping themselves company, and in the click of a Facebook minute, your status changes.

We’ve all gone through the motions. Stuffing your bitter mouth with popcorn — during the previews of a Gone Girl premiere — keeping score of the tonsil hockey game taking place a row in front of you, and convincing yourself that you’d rather spend six more dollars on Sour Straws than to ever feel that way about a person again. Nonetheless, it’s a lie, and we know it.

At some point, spending New Year’s Eve — alone — fighting off shrinking 9-pound eyelids, two hours before the ball drops, becomes a bit banal; and it’s at that moment you arrive at the realization that you’re ready to dedicate those “Thinking Out Loud” lyrics to something other than your bowl of Ramen.

Even so, we still go through the senseless woe is me! cycle of ‘forever alone’, persuading ourselves to believe that no person will ever – again – make us as “happy” as we are when we’re saying “table for one,” at the sushi bar on Main Street. And just when we’ve convinced ourselves that living life by our lonesome, at 60, won’t be too dreadful, some pesky little nuisance with hazelnut pupils and mesmerizing chitchat, favorites our tweet, and before you know it you’re four names deep on your “Future Children” list in your iPhone’s Notes app.

I’ve heard this from a friend.

At some point during the infatuation process, you come to a crossroads in deciding if this is a project you’re willing to invest in. Quite frankly, the answer should almost always be yes. “Concentrate the mind on the present moment,” the old Buddha adage states; as one cannot let the trials of the past serve as a detriment to the triumphs of the present.

Love is a triumph. And in most cases, love is a reoccurrence. But love can only be a reoccurrence when the pessimistic mind allows the pardoning heart to succeed in the present, even though it has failed in the past.

One’s life begins as an inquisitive solo, that is inevitably intended to become a duet. And ultimately, a lifetime of duets are intended to become a medley: a songbook of experiences shared with an individual responsible for showing you that for every yin, there’s a yang.



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Signed Sirelle: APRIL/MAY 2015 – “Sacrifice”

Just a few days removed from our annual observance of Memorial Day, I found myself pondering over the sacrifice every individual — in which we as a nation remembered — had made. They’d given their life to serve this country, and such is a debt we will never be able to repay.

uneven balance sacleBut what was it all for? Both nothing, and something, I’ve determined. Their sacrifice was for nothing, in the sense that it was that in which they — our fallen soldiers — wanted in return; but it’s that very nothing that makes it all worth something.

Imagine that for a moment, a commitment so grand that one risks their life for it, and essentially expects nothing in return. Incredibly remarkable, I find it; as should we all.

As a society, we can learn from such a creed: sacrifice. Marilyn Manson, of all people, once noted that “sacrifice to me is something you do without expecting something in return.” Whether such entails forfeiting a few minutes jamming out in the car, to call your grandmother — just because — or skipping Sunday brunch with friends, to help your mother with yard work, do it genuinely. With sacrifice, often comes reward; because I assure you that one will find much more self-gratification in their mother’s thankfulness, than they would have if they opted to day drink with their friends.

Personally, I have discovered that I find my true happiness in contributing to bringing joy to those I love. By nature, however, sometimes that may require me to miss out on engagements that would have otherwise only brought joy to myself — and I’m at peace with that. Because only then is the sacrifice that our fallen soldiers may have believed they made for nothing, truly, worth something.



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Press Play: SUMMER 2015

Heli Luukkanen Sumemr GirlThree summers ago, I labeled the relationship between music and summer as being mythical, a cohesion of some sort. Fast-forward to the present, and my subscription to that belief is even stronger. I don’t find it a stretch to deem music as an essential component of our every day lives. For many, it’s our therapy, it keeps us sane. Although for whatever reason — that I have yet to be able to determine — I find this especially relevant during the summer. It’s the collective relativity, perhaps, that each individual track contributes to that we — the enthusiasts — identify with. And over the course of several scorching weeks, through our adventures and experiences, a seasonal soundtrack is created.

These are a few of the tracks that SCO will have on its summer playlist:

“I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” Jamie xx featuring Young Thug & Popcaan: Featured on the debut album of Britain’s Jamie xx — yet to be released — this track foreshadows the quintessential summer. This is an instant feel-good record, that sparks energy throughout you from the opening a cappella sample. Speak it into existence. With this record on your playlist, it’ll be nearly impossible not to subscribe to its’ title.

“Bitch Better Have My Money” Rihanna: For all the plans you have going into the summer, let’s face it, it will be nearly impossible to carry any of them out if that direct deposit doesn’t go through. So here’s a bi-weekly (or monthly) warning to all of our employers: BBHMM!

“National Anthem” Lana Del Rey: As we observe the 229th birthday of our nation, it’s practically our civic duty to celebrate America via song. Furthermore, this record — off Del Rey’s 2012 album Born To Die — is a harmony of eroticism and patriotism, so you can salute more than just the flag when you hear it.

“King Kunta” Kendrick Lamar: On the subject of patriotism, the concept becomes a challenging one in the absence of unity. Our nation has faced some critical events over the last several months — and summers — and this record by Kendrick Lamar serves as a symbolic reaction to those events. High temperatures have unfortunately resulted in high tensions, though on the contrary, one can only hope that this anthem leads to a period of cooling off.

“California Roll” Snoop Dogg featuring Stevie Wonder and Pharrell Williams: Not to rain on your sunshine, but if your summer doesn’t include California, is it even a summer? Okay, that may have been a bit rude but nonetheless, this track is tailored made for a California cookout.

“Bad Blood” Taylor Swift: Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but someone’s going to make mistakes this summer — and there may be no coming back from some of them. This track serves as a reminder that temporary acts of thoughtless spontaneity are permanently unforgivable.

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The Buzz: Bloodline

Netflix Bloodline

I found myself needing to stay in the comfort of my own home this weekend, after recent trips to both New York City and Los Angeles; and where there is home, there is Netflix.  Admittedly, I’d already conquered the most recent seasons of House of Cards and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so I was fresh out of Netflix Originals. I thought.

I stumbled onto a series entitled Bloodline, starring Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) and Sissy Spacek, among several other Hollywood veterans. Also a Netflix Original, the series chronicles a celebrated family — the Rayburn’s — in the Florida Keys. Although the Rayburn’s are presented to be an upstanding fixture of their community, I found there to be an element of mystification hovering over them.

Through narration, foreshadowing, and flashbacks, my suspicions were confirmed. When it comes to the Rayburn’s, all that glitters isn’t gold, and perhaps nothing is what it seems. From the beginning, Bloodline evokes a range of emotions, such as laughter, grief, disdain and empathy. “A family is a risky venture, because the greater the love, the greater the loss,” actor Brad Pitt once said, “That’s the trade-off.”

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Signed Sirelle: MARCH 2015 – “Civil Rights, Moral Wrongs”

Oklahoma Sooners LogoMusician Dave Matthews once stated that, “The saddest part of the human race is we’re obsessed with the idea of ‘us and them,’ which is really a no-win situation, whether it’s racial, cultural, religious or political.”

I stumbled upon that quote several months ago, dreadfully anticipating the next time its factuality would prove to be genuine. And thanks to the University of Oklahoma’s (OU) Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter, the wait is over.

On Sunday, a cell phone video recording revealed several of the fraternity’s members singing: “There will never be a n*gger ΣAE. There will never be a n*gger ΣAE. You can hang ’em in a tree, but they’ll never hang with me(?), there will never be a n*gger ΣAE.”

In just ten seconds — the length of the video — myself, and so many other African-Americans, were involuntarily drafted into that us against them war Dave Matthews spoke of. We were the “them”. We were the n*gger.

Yet, what has always perplexed me is the uncertainty of when one is and is not the aforementioned. Because I reckon the young men singing racial slurs in that video are the same young Oklahomans who leap from their seats when point guard Russell Westbrook drives to the basket for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. They’re the same young Oklahomans who complement their Sperry loafers with Kevin Durant jersey’s, herald Blake Griffin as one of their own, and scurry for photo-ops when OU alum Adrian Peterson returns to campus. Illiterately fascinating, if you ask me.

Russell Westbrook fatheadI’d known next to nothing about the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity — better known as ΣAE — prior to the video surfacing. I specifically recalled passing by their houses on several campuses across the country, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Thus, I sought out the fraternity’s website, to gain an overall perspective of their mission as an organization. To my surprise, I was taken aback when I discovered their mantra to be “The True Gentlemen,” the creed of ΣAE.

Almost immediately, one objective of the creed jumped out at me. In essence, it detailed that the true gentleman does not make any man feel as though he is inferior — a direct contradiction of the racially-charged sentiments displayed within the video.

Therefore, it would be foolish for one to expect such a gentleman to have respect for me, as an African-American, when he doesn’t even have respect for the letters in which he bears.

Justifiably, however, those letters will no longer be displayed at the University of Oklahoma, as Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been dismantled at the university, effective immediately.

The national ΣAE elected, Sunday night, to close the OU chapter, as a result of the video. Whereas, OU President David Boren — former Governor of the state — announced that the university would sever ties with the fraternity; swiftly removing the letters from the fraternity house, and ordering residential members to vacate the premises. And although I applaud the swift reaction taken by university President Boren, I don’t put too much stock in it. What else — really — was he to do, chalk up the video to free speech?

In the aftermath, the true champions proved to be the OU student body.

On a day where OU students should have been heralded for their recent philanthropic efforts, they were shamefully robbed of the headlines by ΣAE. Over this past weekend, the student body raised over a half million dollars, according to the Oklahoma Daily student newspaper, with Soonerthon — a dance marathon similar to Penn State University’s annual THON event.

By word of mouth, and my own explorations, I found the efforts of OU students to be immensely admirable, as the whole purpose of their figurative and literal generosity is #FTK — a hashtagged acronym that illustrates that all the effort was “for the kids.” And that effort should be celebrated, as OU became the top donor for the OK Children’s Hospital over the weekend, according to an OU student.

Boomer Sooner Logo

The celebration, though, shouldn’t have ended there for OU, as junior student-athlete, Buddy Hield, was named the Big 12 Player of the Year, by the Associated Press, in college basketball. OU’s men’s basketball team is currently ranked 15th in the nation.

Nonetheless, an entire weekend of positivity was nearly erased by ten seconds of shameless ignorance and misguided entitlement. But I would argue that like the phoenix represented within the ΣAE symbol, the OU student body quickly rose to reclaim their glory, with how I witnessed a majority of OU students react to the video. 

They were disgusted, and loudly roared for action to be taken, as if it was a Saturday afternoon in Gaylord Memorial Stadium — the home of their beloved Sooners football team. This was the real University of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Sooners of all backgrounds took to social media to voice their frustration; reminding us that one should never devalue the painting of life by rejecting colors. Because, in the history of humanity, never has there been a painting that wasn’t made beautiful by a mixture of many different colors and shades.



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Flare: Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie 2014 Critics Choice AwardsAt only 24 years old, actress Margot Robbie already has Hollywood wrapped around her finger. The Australian native quickly rose to fame after co-starring in The Wolf of Wall Street, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in 2013.

Although The Wolf of Wall Street was Robbie’s first “prominent” role, the actress also co-starred in the 2013 romantic comedy-drama, About Time — directed by Richard Curtis.

Seductively enchanting at first glance — and every glance thereafter — Robbie is much more than another pretty face, as is being currently exhibited in her masterful role selection.

The actress seems to be aiming to cement her place in modern-pop culture, as she is signed on to portray fabled characters such as Jane Porter (Tarzan) and Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad). Both films are slated for 2016 release, and recent reports detail that her role as the comic book villain, Harley Quinn, is a multi-film deal.

In her most recent film — Focus — Robbie partners with Hollywood super-heavyweight Will Smith, as an opposing con-artist, with an amorous twist. Written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the romantic-action film releases in theaters on February 27. 

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The Buzz: 87th Annual Academy Awards

In the utterance of basketball great Shaquille O’Neal: Birdman, Birdman!

Eddie Redmayne, Best Actor, OscarsThe Alejandro González Iñárritu-directed drama — Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) — was the night’s grandest champion, earning Iñárritu Best Director recognition and three other Oscar statues.

Grand Budapest Hotel also took home four Oscars on the night, but it was Birdman in which The Academy awarded with Best Picture, Original Screenplay, and Cinematography honors.

Continuing the trend of British dominance, Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) won Best Actor for his portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking. Redmayne is the third British-born actor to win the award in the last five years, with Daniel Day-Lewis and Colin Firth completing the triangle.

Redmayne delivered one of the more feel good acceptance speeches in recent Oscars memory, exuding pure jubilation, shock, and gratitude. And that was the theme of the night: captivating speeches.

John Legend Oscars Acceptance SpeechLike never before, this year’s winners utilized acceptance speeches as platforms to spread awareness for social, political, and self-awareness issues. Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) unshakably, yet gracefully, advocated for wage equality and equal rights for women in America; while Iñárritu used one of his many acceptances speeches as a platform for immigration. The Mexican filmmaker expressed his plea for future immigrants to be treated “with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and built this incredible, immigrant nation.”

Having expressed that, perhaps no moment was as commanding as when musicians John Legend and Common were awarded the Oscar for their Original Song, “Glory,” from the Selma soundtrack. Minutes after their riveting performance — that notably brought actor Chris Pine to tears — the two musicians accepted their award and reminded all that the civil rights movement is as much apart of the present as it is the past. While this year’s Oscar’s may not have been as “entertaining” as last year’s, from a cultural perspective, they served a critical purpose.

2015 Oscars Best DressedThe red carpet was as glamorous as ever. With recent headlines reporting that business at Saint Laurent has doubled since the hire of Hedi Slimane, it came as no surprise to see two of Hollywood’s brightest, young starlets — Dakota Johnson and Margot Robbie — opt for designs from the reemerging brand.

An isolated crystal shoulder strap was the focal point of Johnson’s red gown, while Robbie’s deep V neckline seemed to coincide with an unspoken theme that the gowns of Lupita N’yongo (Calvin Klein) and Scarlett Johansson (Atelier Versace) also featured.

The blush-toned Atelier Versace gown of Zoe Saldana — who gave birth to twins just three months ago! — was another noteworthy design, but it was the red, scalloped Givenchy haute couture gown worn by lead actress nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) that was the SCO favorite.

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Why I Walked Away From Journalism

Marshawn Lynch FatheadWhen I’d first enrolled at Arizona State University, it was the initial step in my pursuit of journalistic aspirations.

However, it wasn’t long into my first year as a journalism major that I’d realized the culture of the journalism industry was one that I did not want to be apart of. And mainly, sports journalism.

Both in the classroom, and out, I was observing an industry primarily populated of egotistical, judgmental personalities who routinely harbored contradictory perspectives. I couldn’t relate. Journalism is objective, at least it should be. Yet the issue at hand is that today’s culture of journalism is widely predicated on subjective material, political even.

Walter Cronkite once said that, “Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.” Try to understand, in no way am I vilifying the concept of opinionated journalism, as op-ed’s, for example, have long been a staple of American journalism. The conflict, for me, arises when that is the only avenue from which journalists can navigate.

Believe it or not, there are codes of ethics (referred to as points) in which all journalists are to abide by, such as the ones adopted by the Society of Professional Journalists. One of the points calls for journalists to Be Accountable, and it is my personal favorite, as it does a tremendous job exposing the hypocrisy within the media. Specifically, being accountable calls for journalists to “Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media,” and “abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.” Which may understandably come as a shock, because it seems those are some of the very principles many sport broadcasters and journalists struggle to uphold.

And that brings me to Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. With Super Bowl XLIX just days away, the participating coaches and players have essentially been required to meet with the media daily. Lynch, sometimes colorfully, has long illustrated his disdain for talking to members of the media. Although, this particular postseason, the relationship between the player and the media has soured even more. The situation, in fact, has gotten so bad that the NFL threatened to fine Lynch $500,000 if he skipped Media Day, two days ago. Needless to say, he didn’t. Lynch showed, but only to repeatedly answer various questions with the statement, “I’m here so I won’t get fined.”

As expected, many people outside of the media took to social media to label Lynch as defiant and ignorant. Although I find that criticism to be misguided; also expected, as I have written many times, that the American public’s struggle with both comprehension and consistency is simply one that will never cease to exist. “He makes millions, he should have no problem sucking it up and talking to the media,” some say. Ironic, because many of those same critics do not make millions, yet I would bet the last croissant that they don’t respond kindly to being forced to have to do certain things either.

Essentially, all of this brings me back to the media and their self-regarding agendas. At some point, journalists have convinced themselves that professional athletes owe them something. And that is the first lie. Athletes don’t owe the media, nor fans anything. “Well we pay their salaries,” some fans quip. For starters, you don’t; and more importantly is the fact that no one forces us, as fans, to buy tickets to a sporting event.

We aren’t forced to buy our favorite athlete’s merchandise, we do it because we want to. But just because we make that choice, doesn’t mean we’re in turned owed something for it. The same goes for the media. Just because they spread awareness and publicity for the game, doesn’t mean the personalities they cover owe them something. At the end of the day, it’s their job. That’s what this whole thing – journalism – needs to be about.

Journalists are also expected to Minimize Harm. It’s another ethical code. One of the conditions of minimizing harm states that journalists are to, “Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.” So here we have, already, two codes in Be Accountable and Minimize Harm that journalists are violating as it pertains to Marshawn Lynch. So that begs the question, who’s “disrespecting the rules,” Marshawn or the media?

As American Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour once perfectly put it — in response to a reporter’s question regarding Wintour’s icy relationship with the media — “It’s not so much troubling, as [it is] they always seem to ask the same questions, so it would be refreshing, sometimes, if they could dig a little deeper.”

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