In celebration of Black History Month, NYLON is running a spotlight series called UNAPOLOGETIC. Every day, we’ll celebrate different aspects of black culture through profiles, interviews, roundtables, reviews, videos, and op-eds. #Blacklivesmatter and we hold that truth to be self-evident.
It can feel overwhelming merely living and breathing while black. We wanted to find a way to send an uplifting message of our own, so we asked 16 black creatives to share one piece of advice they would tell a black kid living in America today. Click through the gallery bellow and let their words sink in.
If you want to continue to celebrate UNAPOLOGETIC with us, we're selling some limited-edition merchandise at the NYLONshop; 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to #BlackLivesMatter.
"There's two important things that you must do so that not only you succeed, but everybody that's close to you succeeds and you can make your whole environment succeed—everywhere you go should be prosperous and should be blessed. You gotta focus on the education and all the education is information that somewhere, somehow, sometime, someday you want to have to utilize that information or the skills you used to get it. The second thing is, look deep down inside of yourself and not be ashamed to do what you're passionate about. I don't care if you like to color, if you want to do ballet, if you want to tap dance, and if you want to play the piano, don't care if people tease you and tell you that's corny and that's a sucker and only sissies do that. You gotta find your passion, is the key to your deliverance. But it must be empowered by that education. All of you young people, whether you like it or not, the education is valuable because the information you receive and the process you go through of learning that will be a key to assist you with whatever your talent or passion is. And then, and only then, will you see change in your life."- Darryl 'DMC' McDaniels
"I would tell young black girls living in America right now that [they] are everything. That's all I would tell them constantly over and over and over again. A million times. "- Vagabon
"Understand your strength, don't allow yourself to underestimated."– Salem Mitchell
"To quote the one and only Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, 'Live your life out loud.' If you stay committed to your dreams and the things you enjoy most in life, you'll no doubt find a sense of peace and purpose. The obstacles, oppression, and haters are all going to be there, but your commitment to your dreams is a form of resistance. I think a lot about the times I was the most down, the times I took the most L's, and honestly, they make me appreciate my achievements even more. Being committed to your dreams after everyone has told you no will make the yes you receive feel so good. But also during the process, just know no matter what you've always been worthy of that yes."– Jasmyn Lawson
"Know that you are enough as you are. And also know that you can have what you want. If you believe in a thing and a have a plan and put in the energy, you can manifest anything. I also say don't believe the hype—the media can make you think all sort of terrible things about being a POC. Know that you come from the strongest and the smartest people to walk the face of this earth. So many people are jealous of that. Don't let their misery make you miserable. In the words of Kendrick Lamar, 'We gon' be alright.'"– Ashlee Haze
"I feel like we wear where we come from as a badge of honor, but sometimes that can really pigeonhole us or close us off to new experiences. I grew up being like, 'I'm a poor kid from immigrant parents,' and it made me angry, but it made me proud. But, in a way, it didn't allow me to walk into a room and feel like I was invited. So when I walked into the room and felt uninvited, the people in the room read that energy as "oh she's closed off." So in a way, my energy preceded me and my experience with people, and I realize now that it can limit you sometimes. And not saying being proud hurts, and not being proud and happy and glad for where you came from, but maybe just knowing that what defines you doesn't limit you. Growing up, I always felt like there was an excuse for why someone got the job or whatever, and sometimes it's not an excuse and sometimes it's reality, but I think that once you start to let that confine you, it'll really limit you. I think that just being proud, happy, and grateful for all the experiences, good and bad. [I'm] not saying you should take the worst of the worst, but just be aware that sometimes a negative can be turned into a positive."- Vashtie
"We need to come together more than ever. We need each other. We are so talented and have so much power and influence in this country. If we come together and cooperate, we can make this country what it really should be."- Asata Maise
"I know it sounds generic but just be yourself. Trying to be cool isn't cool, especially if you're trying to be something that you're not to be cool. Being yourself is cool to me no matter who you are."- BLESSED
"Know your worth. I think now it’s more important than ever. Especially if you’re black and poor, this country is not going to tell you what you’re worth. We’re in a time where a lot of stuff is about to get taken from us, and we’re not even going to know it. We have to hold on to who we believe that we are and what we believe we deserve because we will be given less. Take care of yourself, drink water, eat vegetables, spend time with people who you know love you because these next four years will be really rough, and we’re going to have to fight in many ways. You can’t do that the most in the best most effective way for yourself and your community if you’re not in a good space."- Vanessa Newman
"Don’t recoil from racial conflict or tension. It helps no one to bite your tongue. Every time says something racist or sexist to you, call them on it. Relieve yourself of the pressure to placate those willfully ignorant of the suffering in the world around them. Oh and also, you’re amazing, never let anyone tell you otherwise!"- Jasmine Harris
"Life will always slam you with challenges, especially as a black person. Know that there are communities of people out in this world who are here to support and celebrate you. Having that support will help you navigate those challenges more gracefully. "- Jessica Jones
"Take pride in your black beauty. There are many people out there that will tell you your hair is too kinky, your skin is too dark, your features are too big. Don't let those negative thoughts cause you to hide your beauty. Embrace it. Learn to love your own hair, take care of your beautiful brown skin, and run as fast you can from anyone that tells you your natural beauty isn't good enough. "- Bianca Lambert
"Stop underestimating yourself."- Kimberly Jenkins
“Stick to whatever you're doing and work harder. Because you're going to have to. Everybody's going to have to work harder, and I feel like it's going to make people smarter. It's good all around. I feel like everything's going to shift, and the shift is good. Whatever's happening is happening. You can't necessarily stop it, but you can definitely change the way you interact with the world and how you put work out and why you put work out.”- Telfar
"I would say, you are beautiful, you matter, your life matters, you're valuable, and you are loved. There's a twitter hashtag that was circling, I think around the Philando Castile and Alton Sterling shootings, [#CarefreeBlackKids] of just young black children being happy… We're fighting a fight for you so that way, hopefully, you don't have to fight it. To me, that's the most important thing; I don't want the young black children to be robbed of that joy. I'm fighting and will continue to fight."- Natasha Rothwell
"Midterm [elections] are coming up, get focused. It's so funny because I think that when I talk to the newer generation now, they're like, 'Our voices aren't really heard, and I don't think that's fair.' I think that there were a lot of things not put into place and everybody has their own opinion right now and a lot of things affected the way that everything panned out for us, but it was fear that got us here. And I feel like it's important, moving forward, to not move in fear but to move openly; to move with intent to change and to be part of that change. But you have to do the work behind it, and part of that is letting people know what's going on with midterm elections. And, as women, we can't say, 'Oh, well, we like this, and we'll stand behind this,' but then not actually show up for something else that another woman, maybe of another race, is going through. It affects all of us. I don't care who you are or what it is; as women, it affects all of us. It's important for us to support each other on everything because then they know that we're unified, they know we're not taking no for an answer and are demanding change. And I think women are a great part of that."- Kelly Rowland