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Dear White People Review: Episode 2

Chapter 2

We start off with some of the Winchester’s past racially insensitive parties including a “Cowboys and Injuns” party, a “Wetback Cinco de Mayo” party, and the current blackface party all thrown by the campus magazine, Pastiche. Before Lionel Higgins and the crew crash the party scene we rewind back to some of Lionel’s less fortunate moments in life. One, is his awkward experience with the barbershop. When he arrives at a white barbershop he’s met with stares and when he visits a black barbershop he’s met with intimidating characters including a guy who states, “ya’ll know I don’t cut fags”, in response to another gay man. The homophobic incidents continue with a high school Halloween party. The boys insult Lionel’s costume with homophobic phrases like the played out “pause” and tell him that his Geordi La Forge outfit is gay. I actually thought this was supposed to be some rival gay group that had it in for Lionel but then I realized they were supposed to be the straight guys bullying him. These type of phrases are still being used in everyday conversations. It says a lot about how ingrained homophobia is in our society and how insecure “straight” boys/men are with their sexuality.

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Lionel receives the, “Dear Black People” party invite and proceeds to let Reggie and the group know about the event. They lead an epic crash of the event and soon after Lionel writes his article entitled, “Ebony and Ivory: Total Disharmony”. The next day, the black students in Armstrong Parker seem to dig the article; Lionel is even invited to sit with Reggie’s crew. Instead Lionel sits with Troy and his two passive black friends. In response to Sam’s radio show, one states, “Do we have to listen to this race baiting dribble?” (really nigga?) I guess his short term memory blanked out the actual racist party the night before. Anyway, the two friends argue about their conservative ways including one having a “framed picture of Reagan” and the other having a photo of Stacey Dash which he replies is “Deon; nothing after Clueless matters!” Then, a table with what seems to be a group of gay students exchange glances with Lionel. This was a minor hole in the chapter; the interaction between Lionel and other black gay students would have been interesting. Troy assures Lionel that he will attract a lot of girls from the article and his two friends begin to throw around the same gay slurs Lionel heard when he was younger.

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Troy is heard getting it in in the next room. Lionel starts to put his headphones on but takes this opportunity to get it in in his own way. The lights dim, the walls fall and Troy is seen doing his thing; Lionel pictures Troy speaking straight to him but before he can finish his visualization, Troy concludes. Poor Lionel. The Winchester Independent group and the head journalist in charge, Silvio, are introduced. He tells Lionel that even though his story on the blackface party is front news it’s not hard news or well written. He also asks Lionel about his inclusion of intersectionalities with him being black and gay; this throws Lionel off. “Gay?” he says. Silvio advises Lionel to find his label and that he, himself identifies as a Mexican, Italian, gay, verse top, otter, pup. Similar to Lionel’s statement; I know what all of those words mean individually but not together. Silvio invites Lionel to a speakeasy that the theater kids are throwing. At the party, Lionel meets Connor and his friend with benefits, Becca. They invite him back to their place. Childish Gambino’s, “Red Bone”, plays in the background. “Stay Woke!” Lionel listen up! Connor talks about the white students’ inability to know and understand the country’s history with minstrel shows. “White people are the fucking worse”, Becca responds. Then some freaky shit pops off. I could tell by the nod from Connor that something was up. This scene demonstrates how some white people can acknowledge racism but still play a part in it i.e., fetishizing black bodies and touching black hair without permission. So things are getting steamy until Lionel exposes their little game. It’s revealed that Connor is using Becca to not look full on gay and Becca is not really into their freaky experiment that’s been going on for TWO years; she storms out without any underwear on and Connor reassures she’s off her meds.

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Lionel leaves to the newspaper office where Silvio reveals the blackface party invite had been sent by someone other than Pastiche. Lionel goes through the secret transcripts of interviews where he figures out Sam was the one behind the hacking. Lionel does not want to break the news but Silvio insists, “We can’t control what people do with the news we can only report it.” Messy. This is basically Lionel’s perspective of the blackface revelation. His conflicted feelings show that his career in journalism might be a little rocky down the road.

 

Lionel finally asks Troy to cut his rising fro. Troy asks about his hair setting which Lionel knows nothing about. I can relate because my barber never told me my setting, he just fades the back and the sides low so I have no idea what my settings are either. Lionel reveals that he is gay as Troy walks out of the room; Troy doesn’t hear Lionel. It seems Lionel will hush up about the reveal but he repeats himself and Troy exhales a little, says, “cool” and returns to Lionel’s hair. A slow motion scene of Troy cutting Lionel’s hair without a shirt on is a beautiful sight to Lionel and the viewers watching. Lionel now has new, up close, and personal visuals to do his private dirty deed which he does and afterward stares back at the audience. End scene!

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Overall:

I love how the topic of homophobia is explored within the black community and how it occurs at different levels. You had the black adult men in the barbershop, the black high school students, and the conservative black students who all used gay slurs like it was second nature. This, added with physical assault and neglect affect the LGBT community immensely. I’m wondering how Lionel’s journalism career will play out in the future. He has a level of integrity and ethics that seem to conflict with the position. His intersectionality does not only include his sexuality but his race as well. He’s showing that the lives of the black students are more important than a campus article. Like I stated earlier, the scene with Connor and Becca symbolizes the sexualization of the black body; later on we see the couple target another black victim. That scene also highlights another issue with men denying their sexuality as a whole. Troy’s acceptance of Lionel’s sexuality was great; I feel like there are many Troy’s out there. In the past decade or so there’s been a shift in acceptance of the LGBT community so Troy’s reaction is not so farfetched. That’s not to say that there aren’t still many instances of rejection and abuse towards the community in this day and age.

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Neon Fade Burning Sands Review (SPOILERS)

My first movie review for 2017 and in general will be for the 2017 film, Burning Sands. This review contains spoilers.

Plot

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Burning Sands is the feature length directorial debut from Gerard McMurray and is distributed through Netflix. The film is about 5 young men who are experiencing, “Hell Week” the final week in the pledging process for a fictional black fraternity at an HBCU. The boys go through extreme and abusive hazing in their journey to become members of the prestigious fraternity. The protagonist, Zurich, is played by rising actor, Trevor Jackson. Zurich’s father had pledged in the past but later dropped before he could cross over so it seems that Zurich is fulfilling what his father could not finish. As the hazing process intensifies and starts to affect Zurich’s body, relationship, and school work, he starts to question the process and how bad he really wants it.

Now, I didn’t pledge nor did I have the desire to pledge so my knowledge of black Greek life is small. I’ve seen School Daze which was one of the first films, maybe even the first to bring black Greek life to the forefront in the 80’s and I like many others have heard stories about the extreme hazing and the mistreatment as well as the brotherhood/sisterhood and support for the community. I saw the trailer before watching the film so I knew this would be a dark film.

Visuals

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Pros:

I could tell the cinematography would be amazing from the trailer alone. The aerial shots of the campus and the bodies of water were smooth and gave a sense of the rural location. My favorite scenes in particular were the intro of the pledgees in the woods, the pool scene, and the entrance into hell night. The shot of the pledgees running to get in formation moved perfectly and set the mood for the film; the green and the black were very vivid. The water level cinematography in the pool scene matched the erratic feeling. The scene where the guys enter the barn for the hell night was intense as well. Again, I could feel it even in the trailer. The way the camera went from still to shaky as it followed behind the guys added that level of chaos that followed. A lot of the tracking shots from behind reminded me of the film, Moonlight. It placed the viewer right along the journey with the protagonist.

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Cons:

Some of the scenes were a tad bit dark specifically the party scene and the scene where the guys were confronted by the cops in the woods. I felt like it added a sense of realism but at the same time some of the actors got lost in the sauce with all that lovely melanated skin. During the party scene, I thought the tracking shot that followed Rotimi’s character right before the line dance (?) lingered for a little while.

Music/Sound

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Pros:

I was actually surprised at some of the copyrighted songs that were featured. I didn’t think the film was going to use current popular songs. Ju Ju on that Beat is my little guilty pleasure but the original beat, Knuck If You Buck, got me hyped. I can literally listen to that song every week and still love it. As I read on Twitter, that scene was a little unrealistic because most claimed the fraternities stroll to this song at any given moment. Then, my song Wicked came on! It’s not a party until some Future is played. From what I’m learning, the stroll to Down for My Niggaz, is also a common thing for fraternities. Rapper, Common also contributed an original song entitled, The Cross, which features Lianne La Havas. This came in at the credits after a very emotional moment and it was very fitting. As far as sound goes, the pool scene stood out to me. The thud of the water mixed in with the muddled voice-overs blended very well.

I have no cons about the music

Characters/ Acting/Writing (Toss up of Pros and Cons)

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All of the actors had great performances. Kudos to the line brothers for staying in those menacing characters. It takes a lot of vulnerability and patience to play these characters especially the pledgees. In a way, the actors had to go through the same hazing rituals as their characters did and what I heard in an interview, some of them were actually hit with some real blows.

I would like to personally thank the casting director for choosing the beautiful Trevante Rhodes and all his deliciousness for this film. I loved that his character was included because it gave a sense of normalcy that was missing from the other big brothers. He teetered between going along with the hazing tradition and stepping in when some things got out of hand. My only issue was the inconsistency of his authority. He seemed to stand his ground in the shower scene against Big Country but lost all authority in the paddling scene so that was a little confusing.

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Zurich

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I think Trevor Jackson did very well as the protagonist. He was able to transition from his laid back demeanor to the fraternity sets in a snap. His delivery in the last shot perfectly captured the emotion of the tragic ending. Zurich’s lack of urgency and common sense was a bit much. I understand that he is young but he made a lot of stupid mistakes that he and his line had to ultimately pay for (they would have probably went through it anyway so idk). He didn’t have as much growth as I thought he would.

My biggest issue is the fact that Frank had actual growth that was missing from Zurich. In the beginning, he made it known that he didn’t have or want a brotherhood with the rest of his line brothers. As the film progressed, he changed and ultimately sacrificed his life for his brother which was devastating.

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The Line Brothers

I understand that the film is not going to dig too deep into all 5 of the line brother’s lives but I would have loved to see more from the Christian pledgee. He literally had around 5 lines. I thought the scene with Toya could have been a perfect moment to show the pressure of sex for his character. This could have highlighted another extreme action that many young men have to endure.

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The Women

The women in the film were just meh to me. The sorority girl, Angel, was very unnecessary; she seemed intrigued by Zurich but it went absolutely nowhere. Her little dance scene with him was awkward and she showed how delusional she was for thinking he wanted her. Alfred Woodard’s character, Professor Hughes, was ok. I liked that she showed support without beating him over the head but I felt something was missing. I would have liked to have seen a conversation between her and Dean Richardson as they seemed to have different views on pledging.

Zurich’s girlfriend, Rochon, was beyond annoying. I get it, you want to spend time with your man but it’s literally a week! It would have been nice if she worried more about the bruises on his stomach and why he was having difficulty breathing but her character took a cliché narrative. The only thing I could think of is that she was completely oblivious to what pledges have to go through. At one point, she asks, “What do they have you doing?” So, maybe she didn’t understand that he had to be attentive at any point of the day for his frat.

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Now, Toya. Toya, Toya, girl. Right off the back, I was annoyed by her intro as the black girl popping gum with a slight attitude. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this but it’s getting old. At first she comes off as a thirsty groupie but her scene with Zurich showed she had some depth, I guess? I don’t really find using the word “noble” mind blowing but the scene was funny. My biggest issue with this scene is her nonchalant attitude about the sex with the whole line. I think it’s fine to be sexually free but the film ignores the mistreatment and more than likely rape that happens to women during this process. I understand that there are tons of women who are ready to do whatever for the attention of the frat but I feel the film could have explored the concept of women being pressured or forced into having sex with these men. Maybe the director didn’t want to add anymore negative images of the frat life or maybe he didn’t want to emulate that pivotal scene from School Daze.

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Other Issues

My main issue with the film was the overall goal of Zurich. From the look of the trailer, I thought throughout the process he was going to finally taking a stand to the harsh treatment of the hazing. At one point, Professor Hughes tells Zurich that he should lead his brother’s from the underground back to where his fraternity was meant to be. This line should have been introduced earlier and ultimately been the goal of Zurich. He grew to an extent by telling his line brothers that they were worth more and should change the future of the hazing tradition but it fell flat when he continued to hell night. This could possibly open a door for a sequel. Another note, I understand the concept of, “We come from Kings and Queens”, in the context of how people of African descent have been treated in America. We have to use different methods to uplift our people but at the same time with every King and Queen came thousands of workers, peasants, and even slaves so we might want to use a different method.

Another issue I had was understanding some of the fraternity language and actions. I didn’t understand what being on the yard meant. Maybe it’s just me. I didn’t know what GDI was until Angel broke it down. Also, the relationship with the big brothers outside of the college was confusing. At first, I thought they were members of their family who happened to pledge but then I realized these were mentors who were part of the fraternity.

Overall

The visuals, acting, and music of the film were great. The casting made sense. Some of the female characters needed more depth or should have been excluded altogether. The same goes for some of the big brother’s who put them through hell. The growth of the protagonist could have been fleshed out better. The ending was very emotional and brought a sense of realism to the film. I think that this film is very important in hopefully putting an end to the extreme hazing issues across all fraternities and organizations outside of college. Hopefully, no current pledges are getting it worst because of the film. I think Gerard McMurray and all involved made a great piece and I hope to see more from him if he’s still breathing after the backlash of the film.

My rating for this film: 7/10

2016 in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Side Eyes of 2016

2016, a year of celebrity deaths, protests, a horrible election outcome, Olympic history, and unapologetically black movements, films, television, and albums. Let’s a take a look back!

The Bad…let’s start and end this one real quick.

He who shall not be named

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He didn’t win the popular vote but enough Americans voted for him and that’s an issue! It did however open some of America’s most ignorant and blind to the rooted racism, xenophobia, and sexism in the USA. If Hillary would have won, the same mindset would continue to prevail.

The Obama’s Leaving

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So much progress and achievement from Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and their family. The Obama’s showed how poised and mature they were in a firestorm of racism and ignorance. Obama ended the 2008 recession, provided affordable health care, lowered gas prices, brought diversity in ethnicity and gender identity to the White House, all with no personal scandals. Michelle Obama was one of the most influential first ladies to step foot in the White House. Her may initiatives towards food reform and education caused many to wonder if she would run for president in 2020 (she denied and I don’t blame her). It’ll be hard to see them and their legacy leave the White House.

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Police Killings and Mass Shootings

2016 brought more murders at the hand of the people who are supposed to protect us. Philando Castille,Korryn Gaines, Alton Sterling, Keith Scott, Janet Wilson were some of the high profiled cases along with the many who were not reported in the media. 2016 also brought no charges to the officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray.

The Pulse Nightclub Shooting

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The mass shooting at Pulse Night Club, a gay bar in Orlando, FL, took the lives of  49 innocent people. This and countless killings of LGBTQ individuals in the country showed the pervasive homophobia that is still widely ignored.

The Birth of a Nation and Rape Culture

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I, like many, was excited for the film adaption of America’s controversial figure, Nat Turner. The directorial debut from Nate Parker was about the famous slave revolt led by Turner in Southampton County, VA. There was early praise and accomplishments attached to the film; it was the highest selling film to date at Sundance. Then, a past rape case involving a fellow female student, Nate Parker and friend Jean Celestin, who was also a writer on the film, resurfaced. Parker was acquitted while Celestin was convicted and then the case was later overturned.

The whole situation opened the gateway to continued lack of empathy for women and rape victims, a dialogue of possible racism, and a moral tug of war in supporting the film. Some felt as though there was a witch hunt against Parker because of the topic of his film. Tons of black people suddenly sided with the very broken justice system when it came to Parker’s “acquittal”. Of course, compared to other controversies surrounding white filmmakers, the backlash was stronger. Case in point, Casey Affleck continued to receive praise towards his film, Manchester by the Sea while having multiple sexual assault and harassment accusations against him. Parker didn’t help the situation by giving a roller coaster response to the incident; one minute he was apologetic, the next he didn’t understand what was going on. One of the only organizations to show the film love was the The NAACP Image Awards.

Celebrity Deaths

I’m just gonna leave this photo collage here. Listening to Purple Rain, Dear Mama and watching Martin won’t be the same.

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Phew! That was a bad rewind…Now

The Side Eyes of 2016

The halt of the Dakota Access Pipeline

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The protest against the North Dakota oil pipeline, demonstrated how unifying together to protect humans and nature can go a long way. Thousands of indigenous people of America along with people of different ethnicities banded together to protest a greedy initiative that could potentially poison the water of many. The protectors were met with dog attacks, mace, and freezing water while demonstrating peacefully. In early December, the Obama administration halted plans for future construction. Time will tell whether the pipeline will continue especially under a new bigoted administration.

Possible Solution to the Flint Water Crisis

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The unfortunate Flint Water crisis has made national news for the past few years. To save money, Flint officials made an unethical and dire decision to switch its water source from the Detroit Water Department to the untreated water of the Flint River. This resulted in a high level of lead in the water which caused death and sickness amongst the Flint community. On December 8th, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act passed Congress with $170 million for Flint. Hopefully, it resolves the situation and the rest of the world does not forget about Flint and the other cities affected by pollution.

Ok, I want to end on a positive note

The GOOD of 2016

With devastation came tons of amazing and unapologetic black work from artist, filmmakers, writers, politicians and athletes.

Athletes

Colin Kapernick and multiple WNBA players used their platform to stand against racism in 2016. In true American fashion, a barrage of insults, threats, and “protest at another time” comments followed the events. Kapernick also held multiple events including the, “Know Your Rights” camp for underprivileged youth. He was not alone in 2016; many NFL players, high school players, and other athletes kneeled in support of the movement.

The 2016 RIO Games

The 2016 Summer Olympics brought the world the first competing refugee team, the first woman to compete wearing a Hijab (Ibtihaj Muhammad), and the first African-American woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event (Simone Manuel). Gymnast, Simone Biles showed up and showed out winning four gold medals and one bronze. Usain Bolt continued as the reigning gold medalist in the men’s track and field races, the US Women’s 4×100 defended their Olympic Gold title, and Michelle Carter became the first American Women to win gold in the shot put.

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Unapologetic Music and Legendary Releases

Artist who have relatively been on hush mode about social justice let it loose in 2016. America’s favorite R&B/Pop Queen Bee decided to make a statement with her liberating project, Lemonade. She collaborated with talented artist and filmmakers to bring forth a project that celebrated Yoruba culture, paid homage to police shooting victims, and uplifted black people specifically black women. Let’s not forget her amazing super bowl homage to the Black Panther Movement.

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Solange dropped her third release, A Seat at the Table, with stunning visuals and performances to follow. The project represented her creativity, vocals, and her unique sense of style. 2016 also brought us the highly anticipated release from Frank Ocean and albums from hip hop legends, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Vic Mensa, J Cole, Abdu Ali, Chance the Rapper, Rihanna, Princess Nokia, Anderson Paak, Kaytranada, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino all released stellar projects as well.

Film and Television

There were so many great television debuts this year. Donald Glover’s, Atlanta, took a unique and sometimes bizarre look at the music scene in Atlanta, Marc Lamont Hill debuted his talk show on VH1, and Luke Cage brought enough soul to fill the entire Marvel Universe. Issa Rae’s Insecure gave black millennials so much life; between the humor, the music and the realistic code switching, Insecure brought it every Sunday.

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Queen Sugar brought such great talent and diverse characters. It shined a rare light on activism, farming while black, and mental illness in the black community.

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We can’t forget about one of the saddest losses in television history, Poussey Washington! I never cried that hard for a fictional character in my life. The entire time I thought “why her!”. After reading that Poussey’s death symbolized the high profile police fatalities in recent times, I thought differently. The way fans felt about a fictional character’s death is the same way families around the world feel with their own loss but quadruple the emotion. We also lost Glenn and Abraham in a gruesome season 7 opening of The Walking Dead. RIP to them all.

Diverse Representation in Cinema

Along with great television came more diverse stories from talented writers and directors. Moonlight continues to gain praise throughout the award season for its dark but uplifting story of a young black male struggling with his identity. The film introduced some very talented new actors (hey Trevante 😉 ) and proved that our stories can be presented with quality and artistry.

Hidden Figures reveals one of America’s best kept secrets, unheard and unseen in cinema; black women contributing to the field of science and math. Fences, Queen of Katwe, and the 13th also showcased diversity and will continue to make waves in 2017.

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Politics and Activism

Not everything related to politics was a circus act. Many black and brown men and women were elected as mayors, senators, and representatives. 21 year old Jewell Jones was elected as the youngest state representative ever in Michigan, Michael Tubbs became Stockton, California’s first black mayor and youngest at only 26 years old, and Kamalah Harris became California’s new Democratic senator-elect, and only the second African American woman to be elected to the Senate.

Here’s a glass for your white tears

It’s so refreshing when black folks not only stand up for their people but do it unapologetically. No “all lives matter” bs, no “all cops aren’t bad” bs, and no “can we all get along” bs. Jesse Williams did just that at the 2016 BET Awards when he accepted his Humanitarian Award. He thanked black women, organizers, and got right to the point about Americas racist actions against African Americans.

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Taylor Amari Little perfectly summarized what most “woke” black people have known or deal with in regards to the colonization of black culture. Her presentation entitled, “white people stay colonizing” took a historical look at American “slang” and “dance crazes” rooted in black culture. This goes for music, fashion, and hairstyles as well. Little also started “The Temple Project” which services the homeless in Detroit and “Queer Ummah” an organization for queer Muslims.

Ericka Hart represented so much in 2016. After being diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Hart realized there was little visibility and knowledge of black queer women with regards to the disease. She wanted to show that she was no victim and felt just as sexy as anyone else. Her photos from Afro Punk 2016 were liberating and inspiring.

Oh yeah, one last thing!

The creation of Neon Fade. I started this blog in the summer of 2016 and I hope to continue to bring unapologetic, fun, and informative articles in 2017. Thank you to everyone who has contributed, liked, or followed NeonFade!

Here’s to a great 2017!

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