This is an email from Keepin' It 💯, a newsletter by ZORA.

Let Black women be sexy, damn!

Hey, Fam:

It’s been a joy watching our lil sis Chloe Bailey grow up. She’s become one of the most talented musicians of her generation and grown into a young woman flexing her agency. I know I sound like a proud auntie. I’ll take that. On the flip side, it’s been infuriating to see the reactions of folks who have a problem with Chloe’s public displays of self love and self-possession. So consider me a protective auntie too.

Over the weekend, Chloe — one half of the sister duo Chloe x Halle — got emotional while on Instagram Live as she discussed the criticism leveled at her for showing off her sexier side. While many of us loved seeing her flaunt her vibranium knees in a #BussItChallenge clip and appreciate her reminding us to sage-and-palo santo 2021 in the comfort of our homes and underwear, others were hating on a carefree Black woman being a carefree Black woman.

“I’ve been really insecure for a long time, and I’m finally at that place where I have self-confidence…I don’t post what I post for validation from anybody, or even male attention. It’s just me,” Chloe said in a tearful 20-minute message. “I felt it was important to address it, so you guys get to kind of know who I am inside. And it’s really hard for me to think of myself as a sexual being or an attractive being quite frankly. So, when I see all the uproar about my posts and stuff, I’m a bit confused. Like, I really don’t understand because I’ve never seen myself in that way.”

After watching Chloe address fans and foes, I found myself asking the age-old question: Can a Black woman just live? The ridiculousness of managing the insecurities and conditioning of others is never surprising, but it still has the capacity to be stunning. So I leaned on ZORA contributor Candice Benbow for a good word of clarity.

➡️ Read: Chloe Bailey’s Confidence Should Make Us Proud, Not Spiteful

“Contrary to what others suggest, the problem has never been Black women’s agency and affirmation of themselves. The dilemma is that we live in a world committed to denying Black women agency and affirmation,” Candice writes. “Instead of recognizing that the stripping away of our sexuality and agency was the negation of our humanity, many embraced it as the right way to be a Black woman…Now enters a generation who knows better.”

A generation full of Chloes we should be uplifting, not policing.

As we navigate the outsized expectations of others, respectability politics, and our own self-doubt, no matter how covered up or uncovered we are, some folks get big mad at the rising confidence of a Black woman. Whether on the ’Gram or in the workplace, we will be told to humble ourselves, pipe down a bit, and take it down a notch. But as Candice tells us, “the greatest gift we can give ourselves is being ourselves.”

It’s taken some of us a lifetime to do just that. But at 22, young Chloe Bailey, is being herself — confident and free. That’s cause for celebration. Not ridicule.

Take care,
Christina M. Tapper, deputy editor

✊🏾HAPPY BLACK HISTORY MONTH!✊🏾 Team ZORA wants to hear from YOU! How does knowing your history make you feel powerful? Write an essay on Medium and share it with ZORA. We might feature it in the magazine! More information here.

Zero to 💯

Who kept it 100 this week? Let’s take a look.

NAACP Image Awards are coming: 💯/💯
Award nominations are in and it’s Black excellence’s time to shine! Some of our faves — Insecure, Grownish, and Black Is King received nods. Also, there are new specialty awards recognizing the achievements of 2020 including Entertainer of the Year and Social Justice Impact.

Stacey Abrams and Black Lives Matter nominated for Nobel Prizes: 💯 /💯
We started Black History Month with a bang. The prestigious award is given to people or groups who have done the best work to promote peace in the world. Abrams and BLM were nominated for their separate efforts to end racial inequality in America and around the globe.

Tracee Ellis Ross named new Diversity and Inclusion Advisor at Ulta Beauty: 70/💯
Ulta Beauty is putting in real effort to amplify Black beauty, Black voices, and Black culture. In her new role as their Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, Ross will help steer the company for diversity in leadership and in the brands it offers.

Golden Globe nominations and snubs: 0/💯
Regina King and the late Chadwick Boseman received recognition, but many others were ignored, including hit shows like Shonda Rhimes’ Bridgerton, Michaela Cole’s I May Destroy You, P-Valley, and Lovecraft Country. A white-washed awards season is surprising to no one, but damn!

Police use violent tactics on a nine-year-old girl: 🚮/💯
Three officers have been suspended after police pepper sprayed the girl while she was handcuffed in the back of a squad car in Rochester, New York. How many ways and how many times do we need to see police officers violating the most vulnerable among us before we address the brutality? It’s not just a few bad apples at this point. We understand why people want to throw the whole bunch away.

🗣️ The Last Word 🗣️

“I don’t owe anyone more joy than I owe myself.” — Roya Marsh

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Rule breaker, champion of women and education, and recovering sports journalist.