What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

J. Crew’s latest cover is adorable

and a reporter is reminded of black love

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Let’s just take a second to take in the newest J. Crew catalog. What a beautiful cover.

When it comes to what major marketers view as so-called wholesome holiday images, people of color are often not a part of the original canon. Just take a look at any movie based on this time of year, and unless it’s made specifically for us, very rarely is it about us or does it include us in any significant way. But aside from moving pictures, static adverts can have an equally if not more formative impact on views about our identities, depending on where they’re shown. Why? Because when it comes to America’s concept of family, we still haven’t accepted the basic presentation of diversity.

For J. Crew (the one-time apple of Michelle Obama’s eye), the brand that represents the WASP-iest of WASPs, every time a nonwhite person shows up in one of their pages it feels like news, even though they’ve been way better than many over the past few years. Not necessarily screaming headlines — but like, oh, that’s nice, they invited a black person to dinner this year — kind of way. Remember Armando Cabral? We like him. Liya Kebede is a favorite, too.

More specifically, though, this latest catalog feels like another addition to a collection of modern mainstream brands/publications that have taken a lens to people of color as, for lack of a better term, normal.


The first one that comes to mind is the 2012 campaign from The Gap, featuring rapper Nas and his father Olu Dara. Of course, their respective careers have made them extremely famous and well-regarded in music and the arts, but at the end of the day, they are still father and son. Those images of a black man bonding with his black father were nothing short of profoundly impactful. Everyone noticed. The message in this particular frame didn’t hurt, either.



Last summer, Los Angeles artist Kadir Nelson made waves with his cover of The New Yorker magazine that featured a black father with his three children, titled “A Day At The Beach.” At the time, Nelson pointed out that his work was not a specific response to the plague of black people being shot and killed by police officers in the U.S. It wasn’t just an attempt to humanize, it reminded him of his own childhood.

“The two were unrelated. It was not a response to what’s going on in the news,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was really just a celebration of fatherhood and particularly my experience as a father. When I was a kid, I really loved going to the beach with my family. Particularly my father was a really big swimmer. We grew up in Atlantic City, so the beach was really a big part of my upbringing. My family moved from Atlantic City to San Diego when I was a kid, about 10 years old. But the cover provides counterpoint to a lot of what’s going on in the country right now that we’re being bombarded with — these very unnecessary and tragic, heartbreaking experiences. I’m at a loss for words. These young men are losing their lives unnecessarily.”

Anyway, the December 2016 issue of J. Crew is a nice little reminder that black love and family celebration are real, and not just when we’re being hurt or otherwise discriminated against. I think I need to go see Almost Christmas now.

Keeping up with Kanye

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the rapper

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Now that we have a better idea of what’s going on with Kanye West after his emergency hospitalization, let’s take a look at how things shook out over the Thanksgiving holiday. Dealing with one’s own family is enough of a pain, and now that we’re all back to reality, we’ll catch you up.

To begin with, apparently what we’re looking at with Yeezy is a mental health issue. Any armchair doctor could have taken that guess, but per TMZ, the situation at the hospital is a pretty stressful one. It started with the robbery in Paris of Kim Kardashian. Then, things spiraled from there and the election found him on stage ranting about Donald Trump and the powers that be in the entertainment industry. Now, he’s apparently concerned that people are trying to affect his relationship with his wife.

However, his art is still motivating people and creating spaces for people to succeed. Which is ultimately what he’s done better than almost any other rapper of his era not named Gucci Mane. At the Soul Train Awards, Teyana Taylor won an award for Best Dance Performance for her work in Fade, the Flashdance-inspired banger of a video that had people all over the country headed back to the gym well before their New Year’s resolutions guilted them into it.

In addition, Lil B has decided that now’s the time to come out with that Black Ken mixtape that we’ve sort of known about for the better part of a decade now, according to XXL. He released the original title track back in 2010, when Mr. West was just hitting the height of his powers. Who knows why, and it’s not like it takes much for The Based God to drop new heat, but there’s something particularly appealing about where this comes from.

Not to mention that the parallels between Ye’s life and the concept of being a black Ken are definitely there. Even if Jay Z did already play the part for Halloween this year, there’s no way to really know if the two things would be coincidence or happenstance. Meaning, only the release will tell us how much Kanye might have affected Lil B’s creative process. The track Black Ken itself is a throwback beat with a flipped soul beat that West made so famous, so there’s a good chance.

Bringing it all the way home, however, are the goals of Rhymefest. You know him. Yeezus’ former co-writer who had a very public split with him back in February, and pretty plainly laid out exactly what was going on. He said in no uncertain terms that mental and spiritual help were what The Life of Pablo creator needed. Not only did he prove to be prescient on that, he’s also doing his best to make sure that Ye’s latest troubles don’t lead to the desecration of his memory overall.

Rhymefest bought Ye’s childhood home recently and plans to turn it into an arts center. Many people have long speculated that West was never the same after his mother, Donda West, died back in 2007. For an ex-member of his crew to find a way to repurpose what is effectively a memorial haunt is not only incredibly thoughtful, but also brilliant.

“I’m excited to announce the purchase of Kanye’s childhood home as a community arts incubator,” Rhymefest wrote on Instagram. “It will be the first of our Nationwide Lite-Houses. A state of the art recording studio, a curriculum space for @dondashouse and southside music museum. We want to show bright spots in communities that’ve been divested from, we know more lights exist here, they just need to be activated.”

While West’s wife and family are by his side, his boy has his back.

Daily Dose: 11/28/16

Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies at 90

11:39 AMHey y’all, hope your Thanksgivings went well! We recorded a podcast before the break, if you missed it. Download here or listen here.

Across the globe, Fidel Castro’s reputation was infamous. While he was lauded by some people for standing up for what some viewed as his country’s people, he was also notorious for the human rights violations his government imposed on them. As a politician, he was obviously a character. But his death marks an interesting point in Cuban-American relations, considering what President Barack Obama has done. Here’s a look at Castro’s life in pictures over the years and in Havana, and the crowds that are lining up to pay homage to the late dictator.

Donald Trump couldn’t make it through the weekend without something. After Jill Stein and others mounted campaigns to potentially recount votes in some states, the president-elect went on a couple tweet storms in which he not only claimed that “the people had spoken” — which, if you understand anything about the electoral college, is not true — but also lobbed the notion that millions of people illegally voted for Hillary Clinton. This is known as doubling down, in the business. ABC News’ Katherine Faulder explains.

Today’s a great day if you like shopping. The thrill of shopping online is that you can literally not move and outfit your entire place with enough useless junk to make you feel like you’re not alone through the holidays. In all seriousness, though, it is pretty fun. Today’s the biggest day for that nationally, but there are some downsides. No. 1, always beware the okey doke. There are no shortage of fools who will fall for anything, just because it’s on their screen. There’s a larger question here, though. With so many early deals, does Cyber Monday matter?

It was a rough day for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. While they were being handed their 12th loss of the season, courtesy the New York Football Giants, things went awry when Odell Beckham Jr. decided to openly taunt the crowd with a rather famous impression. Instead of his usual kicking net antics, he went full LeBron James, hitting his signature powder toss as well as big shot reaction. All of this happened in Cleveland. Meanwhile, after the game, head coach Hue Jackson legit shed a tear on the podium because he’s just had enough of losing.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Dylann Roof is the kid who shot and killed a bunch of people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church, then had a bunch of police officers take him to Burger King after he got arrested, because he might be hungry. Now, he apparently wants to represent himself at trial. A judge has granted him that opportunity. Major wow there.

Snack Time: We’ve all seen a lot of racist foolishness in our lives, but this one story from Richmond, Virginia, is just beyond insane. Apparently, two men walked into a CVS looking for cheese. What happened next is really odd.

Dessert: Remember those $66 collard greens? Well, someone reviewed them, and it was hilarious.