For the Culture TV reached out to Missouri native, Trina Hien Quach about her experience navigating colorism within her community. Read Trina's personal essay below.
Both of my parents are Vietnamese. However, my dad’s skin is a copper color and my mom’s skin is like ivory. I inherited three features from my dad which would be the wavy hair, forehead, and the beautiful copper skin. Other than that, I look just like my mom. However, my skin color is distracts people from that. I know that because every time my mom and I would run into her friends, they would scream “She is so dark! No way can she be your kid!” or they would asked if I was adopted.
In the Asian culture, girls are pressured to look and act a certain way or else they are undesirable and no man wants them. I remember when I was 14 years old, one of my mom’s friend suggested to bleach my skin because “no man wants a wife with dark skin”. I never took her advice in consideration. If I bleached my skin, I would be erasing one of the few features that my dad passed down to me. However, her words hurt my feelings a lot. Despite this confident, cheerful persona of mine, I have always been insecure and quite vulnerable. Everyone always tell me to ignore what people say, but I can’t help it. I have social anxiety and her words just made the fire spread even more. What sucks even more is that she was just only one of the many (Asian) people who made a negative comment about my skin color. I just felt unwanted by my own race.
When I got to college, I made so many friends who come from different backgrounds. Majority of the friends I made in college are black and hispanic, and we love talking about social justice. However, one day the topic about colorism got brought up. My friends were talking about how people with darker skin within their race get looked down upon within their own race. I was so shocked because I never knew skin color affected social dominance within other races/ethnicity. Before college, none of my friends back home has ever experienced with colorism. Therefore, no one understood my pain so I always kept my mouth shut. It was a relieving feeling because I finally met some people who I could relate to in regards to this topic, but it makes me angry because I feel like NOBODY should ever go through this. Why is a person with darker skin less desirable than a lighter skinned person? Why is there a hierarchy within our own in-group? You're telling me I have to have the same skin color as a white person to be worthy? *Rolls eyes*.
We need to put away the stigma against darker skin. It's already bad enough that we, as minorities, get put down by the majority. Why must we put down the people in our own race? We are supposed to uplift one another. At age 14, I was depressed because I was told I would never get married because I am dar. At 19, I am embracing my natural skin color. I am not going to change what I was blessed with. However, I learned a lot within the past five years. Something I would tell my 14 year old self is that there are girls in your class that walk around with orange skin to be as dark as you.
And lastly, who needs a man in the first place?
-By Trina Hien Quach
Q&A with Cami Thomas
Q: Where do you draw inspiration for your personal style?
A: Ive always thought I had a sense of fashion but honestly my best friend Shelton (who is a contributor to thestylechronicles.com and also has his own fashion blog aestheticallyawkward.com which is launching soon) has helped me hone my style to what it is today. By keeping me up to date on The latest trends along with my own personal taste has made my style what it is today. I call it ratchet sophistication.
Q: What are you most passionate about?
A: Right now I'm passionate about my career as a photographer and creating a path for myself and other photographers around me. My goals include owning and curating my own art gallery here in the city giving an opportunity to urban artist who normally are left out of the professional art scene.
Q: As a member of the LGBT community, what do you consider your responsibility in the movement for equality?
A: I consider my responsibility to just be vocal about the injustices we face day to day. As most of us know not only do we face oppression from other races but we also face discrimination from within our own community. Most people hide their bigotry behind religious beliefs and make those of us who live "alternative" lifestyles feel inferior. I'm sick of that shit. I'm sick of people feeling like the gay community needs saving. What we really need is for our stories to be heard and that's why I'm here.
Q: Do you believe that black gay men have a unique experience in comparison to other members of the LGBT community?
A: I feel that being a lesbian is more accepted within the black community than it is to be a black gay man. Being we live in a very patriarchal misogynistic society anything that challenges the macho image of the black man is deemed inappropriate. Most men fetishize lesbian relationships but have no problem discussing their disdain for the black gay man. I won't make it seem as though it's easy for gay women of color but I do believe our challenges are vastly different.
Q: What type of advice do you have for anyone who may be reading this?
A: My words of advice for anyone reading this is that we as a community (black community) will never be truly free until we have inclusion within the community. There are so many voices afraid to speak up because they feel as though their voice will be overpowered by those in power. We must put aside our differences and realize that we all are one. We all are fools dealing with the same struggles and until we realize that we will never be free.
Troubadour, village storyteller, guy in the shadows of the campfire. Create & elevate; for the city, for the culture.
Richard Dailey @toldbybenny. Photographer and creative director.
St. Louis style roll bounce (sent in by St. Louis model, Mars). When's the last time you've been skating? Where was your favorite place to go?
By Zuri Nyla Anderson
Barry Jenkins’s ‘Moonlight’ thoroughly examines the complexities of generational trauma whilst bravely challenging the stereotypes of blackness and poorness. The backdrop of the film is a familiar one, a poor black neighborhood with rampant drug use and crime, but the characters of the film humanize this frequently dehumanized setting. The artful cinematography and use of classical and hip-hop music is not employed to show a cultural juxtaposition between rich and poor or white and black, but rather to state that the ‘ghetto’ is just as refined as the Opera House.
In three parts, ‘Moonlight’ follows the life of Chiron, played by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, and each chapter of his life teaches a new lesson. The first chapter teaches us about the vulnerability of being different. Chiron, also called ‘Little’ and later ‘Black,’ is different in that he is small and soft-spoken. He is often ridiculed and attacked for those differences by not only the kids from school, but by his own mother—who struggles with drug abuse. Ironically, Chiron begins to find his voice with the help of a mentor named Juan, played by Mahershala Ali, who happens to be a prominent drug dealer. Though the two major influences in Chiron’s life are both consumed in the world of drugs, they have profoundly different impacts on his life. Juan teaches him about manhood in a way that is free from toxic and rigid expectations. Juan also gives Chiron a stability that his mother could not, a roof over his head, and a surrogate mother in the form of his girlfriend Teresa—played by Janelle Monae. In Juan’s household, Chiron is given the freedom to choose who he will be and is taught skills that will help him in the future, such as swimming. In a sense, Juan’s presence allows Chiron to simply be a child—something the world does not allow of black kids. Juan also learns through Chiron the effects that his drug dealing has on children of his neighborhood. ‘Moonlight’ does a brilliant job of explaining, not excusing, the reasons why people hurt other people. That, perhaps, is the film’s greatest achievement.
Getting a grill can be messy business! But in St. Louis, grillz are more than just an accessory; iced out teeth are a cultural staple, like Red Hot Riplets & Vess. I took a quick visit to STL Grillz on Delmar to link up with St. Louis' grill kings. Wes & Abdul run the shop, & they are definitely some characters, to say the least. Webisode on STL Grillz coming Nov. 11!
Host: Cami Thomas
Visuals: Jon Alexander
Music: Young Juve
The Mali Moolah mini-documentary is finally here! After months and months of hard work with Mvstermind and Jon Alexander, we're ready to show St. Louis how we pulled off this crazy guerrilla marketing campaign, and made the Mali Moolah music video go viral. Peep and let us know what you think in the comments!
Shout out to Muhammad Austin, Mike Roth and Jon Alexander, and everyone who came out to support the execution this summer. Grab some popcorn and enjoy.
St. Louis videographer Jon Alexander documented the weeks leading to the world premiere of Mvstermind's Mali Moolah music video. Mini-doc coming soon.
Pictured: Muhammad Austin and Cami Thomas
Location: Central West End, St. Louis, MO
Photo by: Jon Alexander
Cigars & Coffee for Breakfast
That's Rihanna biting into a stack of money. If you're good with your finances, and follow the six following tips, you'll be able to eat one hundred dollar bills as well. Or at least, you know, not eat ramen for ever.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have some pretty financially savvy adults in my life. My grandparents and great grandparents have been spitting money knowledge my way since I was still crawling in a diaper and kente cloth baby booties. As any other young adult, I was often reluctant to such business talk. After all, what 16 year old wants to hear about the benefits of a Roth IRA or the definition of compound interest? I loved to drown out their financial lectures with the clicking of the buttons on my flip phone and blasting Nelly in my headphones, because let’s face it, money talk can be awfully boring. Boring as hell, in fact.
Then I graduated college. With a fresh diploma clutched in my hand, I was wide-eyed and ready to face the adult world. I immediately locked down a job with a company Forbes Magazine referred to as the “most innovative company in the world”. I went to the car lot with my mom and picked out a shiny sports car for me to strut around the city in style. I browsed apartments, taking preference for anything with high ceilings, wood floors, and beautiful downtown views of the city so I could appropriately plot my black girl magic dominance. I felt like a black Bill Gates in the making, with my first big girl job and some extra change in my pocket. No one could stop me.
Predictably, my trip on cloud nine ended about the same time my student loan grace period did. Then there were taxes, insurance, and heaps of other expenses that I never would have anticipated. All my grandparents could do was shake their heads and sip their tea while looking at me wallow in my own ignorance. Surprisingly, the “I told you so”s never came. Instead, they sat me down and slid a pen and paper across the table. My grandmother raised an eyebrow at me and the look on her face said it all; it was time that I finally soak in the financial information that I’d been ignoring for 23 years. Or in her words, “Don’t go broke child.”
A year later, and I realize how fortunate I am to have adults in my life who are so knowledgeable in financial matters who saved me from my impending self-destruction. As I watched my friends make the same mistakes I did, and bury themselves in debt, I realized how urgent it is for us to spread good financial habits to our brothers and sisters. We can’t expect our families and communities to rise out of poverty and lower middle class mindsets if we continue the same money practices that have kept us there. It took me graduating college and staring in the face of student debt to realize that my family’s advice was relevant, no matter how young I was. In our communities, we need to start passing down monetary intelligence the same way we pass down recipes, stories, and values.
From numerous conversations with my family, interviews with local influencers, and a few financial advisors, here is a list of six valuable pieces of financial advice for any young adult who wants to move towards financial freedom (or just not go broke, child). I made this quick list to hopefully pass down some of the useful information that I’ve learned from the successful black queens and kings in my life, with the hope that it’ll help someone who was in my shoes.
1. Don’t ignore your student loans:
That six month grace period will fly by, and when it does, there’s no room for error or confusion. You don’t want to wait for that massive bill to hit your mailbox before you realize that the suggested payment amount is too unrealistic. If this does happen, don’t panic. I distinctly remember the dismay that washed over my body when my student loan statement requested nearly $500/month from me, an amount that would have devastated any chance of me saving money after bills (or my chances of eating anything but ramen for eight years). There are plenty of options for graduates whose student loan payments are unbearable. For federal loans there are repayment plans that offer monthly amounts more fitting to entry-level salaries, or even no salary at all. In fact, repayment options can be as little as $0 if you meet the necessary requirements. You won’t know your options until you ask.
Whatever option you go with, just be sure that you are proactive. Too many months of ignoring your student loan payments as they rack up could throw you into default. So as daunting as it may seem to rip open that envelope when it lands in your mailbox six months after graduation, do it.
2. Live at home.
The exception for this is if you move to a city without family, or if you live in a dangerous home environment that requires you leave. In that case, find somewhere affordable and hopefully with roommates to lessen the blow of the rent.
Renting your own place is overrated at best, and ridiculously, crippling expensive at worst. The monthly out of pocket expense is never what it seems, especially when you’re spending money on things you never expected. Parking fees, laundry, renters insurance, and maintenance fees are just a few overlooked costs of living on your own. And don’t think you’ll get your deposit back after your landlord realizes that coconut oil and shea butter is forever engraved on the bathroom walls from your wash days.
When you land your first job out of college, resist the urge to search for high rise penthouses or condos by the marina. It’s best to grasp a comprehensive understanding of what your true budget will be before committing to a lease.
To give an example, when I started my first full time job, I was convinced that I had more than enough to split the rent with a friend of mine. I sat down and calculated my monthly budget based on the offer letter and salary breakdown from my employer. Only problem is, just because you calculate that you’ll be bringing home a certain amount every month doesn’t mean you will. It’s hard to predict how much you’ll actually spend on food, gas, insurance, and emergencies. Waiting at least a year will give you a better idea of how much you actually need to survive on. Luckily, I decided to hold off on my apartment search while I settled into my new job. A few months on the job, I realized that there was no way I would have been able to afford the apartment options that I’d planned on moving into. Yikes.
3. Invest in your retirement.
Retirement seems so far away. Frankly, it is. At least for a 20 something with endless possibilities and the world at our disposal. To put it simply though, you have two options. You can ignore the fact that time will pass and that at some point, you won’t be 20 something, and end up working well into old age to make up for the lack of funds in your 401k and Roth IRA. Another option would be to start putting money aside early, retire when you want (possibly early), and spend your golden years traveling the world and having your daily expenses covered. I was tempted to neglect the retirement plans that my company offered and worry about my retirement later. Then I watched as my grandparents took off on planes and cruises across the world, bringing back trinkets from Cuba and beyond. If your company offers retirement options, take them and don’t look back. You’ll thank me when we’re both retired, happy, toasting our piña coladas in Copacabana letting our melanin pop.
4. Walk away from the new car.
It’s understandable that you don’t want to pull up to your new job, or apply for jobs, on your sister’s old Razor scooter. That said, it’s not a good idea to go straight to the car lot and pick out a brand new car, especially if you just got a new job. For one, it could make you look impulsive and irresponsible to your senior managers and co-workers who park their 10 year old Toyota Camrys next to your shiny new, expensive car. My personal experience showed me that my seniors who made triple my salary, tended to drive the modest vehicles on the lot. This made me rethink my ambitions of pulling up to the office in a brand new Camaro, and forced me to consider a more humble transportation option.
Hidden costs of a new car purchase are taxes, down payment, insurance, and repairs. Not to mention that taking out an expensive loan just adds more debt to your name and could have a negative impact on your debt to income ratio.
Take a page out of Alfred Morris’ book. Morris is a millionaire runningback for the Dallas Cowboys, who can be seen whipping around Texas in his ‘91 Mazda.
Use that money that you were going to use as a down payment on a new car, and find a cheap reliable vehicle to take you from point A to point B. Some Febreeze and an AUX cord (or one of those cassette player AUX plugs) is all you need to make it yours.
5. Watch your credit.
For the love of Beyonce (or whoever the hell you listen to), please check your credit. There are too many free websites out there for a person to not know what their credit score is. It’s not an arbitrary number that’s only relevant when you feel like buying a house in ten years. It’s what will determine whether or not you can even have the house or car that you want in the future. Luckily, keeping track of your credit is relatively simple.
Don’t go crazy with credit cards. This is not to say that credit cards are forbidden; in fact, having some line of credit is beneficial because it increases your credit history. But a credit card isn’t free money, and it’s not a golden ticket to filling your closet with the latest digs and taking a Eurotrip every three months. If you do decide to get a credit card, pay off the balance in full every month. If you want to build your credit up, I suggest getting a credit card for small recurring purchases such as a Netflix account or gas costs. This will make it easy to pay off the amount in full every single month.
There will be endless opportunities for you to take out more lines of credit. When I couldn’t afford four new tires, I took out a Goodyear Credit Card to cover the cost, while I worked in overtime to have it payed off before the six month no-interest grace period ended. Sometimes, taking out a line of credit might be the most responsible option, and that’s okay. Just be incredibly picky, read the fine print, and never charge anything that you don’t trust yourself to pay off immediately.
6. Enjoy your life.
Right now, you’re the youngest you’ll ever be. Following the tips above will save you plenty of money in your first few years out of college. Sit down with a financial advisor to determine where you’d like to place your money, and how much you should save out of every check. He or she should point you in the direction of high yield savings accounts, stocks, and other decent investment options.
Once you have a financial game plan, you’re free to spoil yourself in a few of your most cherished indulgences. Take advantage of flash flight deals and travel to a city or country that you’ve only seen on Instagram. Go to happy hour on the rooftop with your best girlfriend and throw your head back in laughter as she catches you up on the juicy details of her life. Reward yourself to those sneakers you’ve been eyeing for a few months.
Saving money and making smart financial decisions doesn’t need to be painstakingly boring. Having exciting, reasonable, rewards for your hard work and dedication will serve as a reminder to what financial freedom will offer you in the future.
I learned a lot from my family, and from my community. I can detangle my curly ‘fro in a matter of minutes, whip up some decent gumbo, and make the quick distinction between Nu jazz and neo-swing jazz. In addition to the other rich parts of our culture that we pass down through generations, we millennials are responsible for pouring useful financial information into our communities as well. Access to the information can make the difference between a paid off house and a relaxing retirement, versus struggling and working well into old age. It’s necessary that these basic principles are communicated just as often as wiping our feet at the door and saying “yes ma’am” to our grandmothers. “Good with money” needs to be just as synonymous with our people as “good at sports” and “aging like fine wine”. As young people armed with knowledge, education, and a certain unmatched swag, it’s our duty to set the new standard for what it means to be a successful young adult. Take it seriously, and in the words of my grandmother, “don’t go broke child”.
By Cami Thomas