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5 Phenomenal A Different World Episodes

by JAM


As an 80’s baby, I grew up watching A Different World. I can honestly say that the show affected my life in a number of ways. It was the reason why I wanted to attend an HBCU. Consequently, I attended both Albany State University and The Fort Valley State University for undergrad. The first time I ever heard Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping” poem, was while watching an A Different World episode. I was just a kid but I still remember thinking to myself, “Wow I have to find this poem.” Did I mention, I’m also a poet?

The power of A Different World was its complete grounding in the African American experience. It was when Debbie Allen stepped at the beginning of the second season that the show really started molding towards this trajectory. A Different World started off as a Cosby Show spin off, following Denise to college and ended as a show with a massive following and fan base completely its own.

There are a slew of memorable episodes but here are my top 5.

1. The “A World Alike” episode aired in 1990, when I was five years old. I saw it a number of times as a re-run. It was one of the first times I heard African Americans speaking about what I would later come to understand as Pan-Africanism. The students at Hillman University were putting pressure on their school to divest from South Africa and cut off all connections with any companies that engaged in business with South Africa during the apartheid era. It was real life worldwide protests like this that supported South African freedom fighters and helped bring additional awareness about the horrors of apartheid in South Africa.

2. The “Mammy Dearest” episode aired in 1991. Kim, an aspiring doctor recounted how she was called “Mammy” as a child, after she dressed up as a queen. The pain of this stuck with her, as a young dark skinned Black girl. Meanwhile, Whitley struggled with the new found knowledge that her family had owned slaves. It was during this episode that Kim triumphantly performed Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping.” She shed the mammy stereotype and was re-crowned queen (I’m pretty sure I practiced this scene about 10 times. My favorite line was, “I turned myself into myself, and was Jesus.”

3. The “No Means No” episode aired in 1989. In this episode Dwayne learns that one of his friends is a rapist. His friend Garth bragged to him about forcing a girl to have sex. Garth says, “Once we got started, she started putting up a fuss. You know how they are. They wanna do it but they just can’t give it up. It’s our job to let them off the hook.” Dwayne them realizes that his friend Freddy who has a date with Garth, is in danger. He rescues her right as Garth is trying to rape her. This episode does a great job of defining rape with its mantra, “No means no!” There is no confusion or excuses.

4. The “Love Taps” episode aired in 1992. In this episode Gina attempts to hide her abusive relationship with Dion, a local rapper. With black-eyes and bruises, Gina is caught in the cycle of abuse and is unsure how to escape. Her friend Lena tries to help her but she is too ashamed to accept assistance. Once the rumor spreads about her painful truth everything unveils and her circle of friends comes to support and protect her. This is what needs to happen in real life. So many Black women are in abusive relationships and not enough receive the support that is needed in order to break away from them. The episode also touches on the recursive nature of abuse. Dion recounts how his father beat his mother. In real life many abusers grow up in domestic violence environments and grow up to become perpetrators themselves. Most importantly this episodes shows Black women AND Black men coming to her defense.

5. “Save The Best For Last”, known to many at Whitley and Dwayne’s wedding episode is one of my absolute favorites. It aired in 1992. I don’t advocate someone storming into an ex-girlfriend’s wedding to confess their undying love and steal the bride. However, this episode showcases a powerful bond and love between two Black people that is not seen enough on television or anywhere in the media for that matter. I also rewound this scene a number of times.

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JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of & To reach JAM, email her at Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.

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RIO Hair Naturalizer System, Magic Hair Pills, And God Knows What Else

by JAM

Photo Credit: Youtube ScreenshotPhoto Credit: Youtube Screenshot

Years ago, Black women across America were enthralled with the hottest new hair product on the market, the RIO Natural Hair Relaxer. It was supposedly so harmless, that the infomercial showed someone eating it. It was the best thing since sliced bread. Until people suffered from severe hair loss, burned scalps and hair that turned green. There was a class action lawsuit and the company quickly folded. It caused a nationwide alopecia outbreak  that is still being talked about. However, it’s a key lesson of caution that is often forgotten.

There are a plethora of articles about the harmful effects of relaxers (especially when applied by non-professionals). However, the natural hair community is not exempt to throwing caution to the wind when it comes to hair. This is because dialogue about natural hair often emphasizes length, and other ways (besides perms) to alter the natural texture of hair.

Right now there are a few products on the market that are exciting hair enthusiasts and raising the eyebrows of skeptics. I’m one of those skeptics, mostly because I know these products are going to draw in a lot of money for the worst reason imaginable. Simply put, Black women relaxed or natural are still overly consumed with hair texture and length. These are remnants of Western beauty standards that perforate the otherwise positive discourse surrounding going natural.

As far as we’ve come with recognizing our natural beauty, there’s still a long way to go.

There are countless products focused on helping women with natural hair get the “perfect” curls. Followers flock to these brands in hopes that they too would have “curly” hair. The problem is, for everyone, natural hair is different, so certain curls are completely unrealistic for some.

Consequently, people are going through stunt shows for the “good” hair they claim not to want. People are obsessively popping pills ordered from the internet or putting their scalps at risk with the latest miracle concoction.

I’m not against pills or relaxers, I just want people to be more cautious. Right now, there are a plethora of tex-lax, natural relaxers and hair growth pills permeating the natural hair market place. These products are best used under the guidance of professionals and physicians.

In the case of hair growth pills, there is an ongoing debate as to whether or not they render desired results. Some users have even claimed that pills caused hair thinning and acne breakouts. These are symptoms of what could be greater unknown affects to your body. As I tell you these things, remember I’m not a doctor but you probably aren’t either. This is why greater counsel than a Youtube video is needed when deciding to use these products.

In the case of natural relaxers, tex-laxers and hair straightening crèmes, consumers are often mesmerized by the term “natural.” In the beauty product world, “natural” actually means a lot of things. Products regularly contain ingredients that can be labeled as natural even though they contain synthetic substances. This is because the FDA has yet to define what “natural” actually means.

FDA has not defined the term “natural” and has not established a regulatory definition for this term in cosmetic labeling.

And remember, choosing ingredients from sources you consider “organic” or “natural” is no guarantee that they are safe. You are still responsible for making sure your ingredients are safe when used according to the labeling, or as they are customarily used, no matter what kinds of ingredients you use.  Source FDA

Unfortunately, so many people still haven’t learned their lesson. Every year there’s a new hot product that promises Black women long flowing hair. Many of these come in the form of pills and elixirs. As many times as we’ve been through this, I’m flummoxed by how quickly people put their lives on the line for hair.

Vitamins are no exception either. Contrary to popular belief, “vitamin” is not synonymous with “harmless.”

On October 10, 2011, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that women who took supplemental multivitamins died at rates higher than those who didn’t. Two days later, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic found that men who took vitamin E had an increased risk of prostate cancer. “It’s been a tough week for vitamins,” said Carrie Gann of ABC News.

These findings weren’t new. Seven previous studies had already shown that vitamins increased the risk of cancer and heart disease and shortened lives. Still, in 2012, more than half of all Americans took some form of vitamin supplements. (pg. 1)

Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, said, “The concept of multivitamins was sold to Americans by an eager nutraceutical industry to generate profits. There was never any scientific data supporting their usage.” (pg. 2) Source: The Atlantic

Additionally, certain vitamins are better suited for certain bodies. Certain people have deficiencies that others don’t, for them an increased intake of these vitamins may increase hair growth. Right now the vitamin Biotin is the popular kid on the hair block.

Excess biotin is excreted in urine; therefore, no known side effects exist for this vitamin. However, any ingested substance carries the potential for an allergic reaction; consequently, let your physician know if you have any allergic reaction to biotin, as advised by

The fact that it is a B vitamin indicates that people who have an allergy to cobalt or to cobalamin should not take biotin. In individual cases of allergy, a serious reaction may result. Signs include chest and throat tightness with chest pain, which could indicate the life-threatening reaction, anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can produce a loss of consciousness and severe respiratory or breathing problems. This is an emergency situation — immediate medical treatment is essential. Source: Livestrong

Livestrong also notes:

…it is important to note that the amount of biotin you take or consume is not commensurate with the amount of hair growth that will occur. Instead, biotin is more often used to supplement those who have a biotin deficiency. For these people, consuming increased amounts of biotin or taking a biotin supplement is associated with faster hair growth.

The amount of people that are willing to gulp down a pill for speedy hair growth, instead of eat healthier for overall health is disturbing. Countless Youtube videos and articles across the blogosphere are unknowingly encouraging recklessness. Every time you swallow a pill or “vitamin” for the sake of hair growth without first seeking professional medical guidance, you are putting your life at risk.

Even though it may be unnecessary, some vloggers are offering non-chemical methods for hair growth like the inversion method. The premise is that by placing your head at an inverted angle and rubbing the scalp, it stimulates blood flow and increases hair growth. Once again, I’m skeptical.

However, if people want to stand on one leg, hop around in a circle, bark like a dog 3 times and spit when the wind blows west, and it keeps them from unnecessarily popping pills; it’s better than the alternative.

Just please stop taking your hair more seriously than your health. Let’s focus instead on overall wellbeing starting with exercise, an apple, kale and some almonds.


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JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of & To reach JAM, email her at Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.Follow OurLegaci at

News – Click the Image and Petition – Protest for change please…What goes in your son or daughters mind? You have no one to blame but yourself if you allow Urban Radio along with the largest black owned station ” Radio One ” to continue to feed poison to the ears of your children. Take A Stand and Sign the Petition.


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  • Skip, there is nothing cool about rape. There are certain folks in America who shouldn't be on television talking to millions of people.

    Skip Bayless, the ESPN commentator and co-host of First Take, happens to be one of them.

    "Looks like the guys over at ESPN's First Take may need to take sensitivity courses in women's issues ASAP, especially if they're going to venture into issues involving domestic violence and rape.

    Just a few months back, Stephen A. Smith alluded to the fact that women shouldn't provoke men into violent confrontations. Now Skip Bayless believes that Kobe Bryant's 2003 rape charges, in which the basketball star was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old in a hotel room in Colorado, added to his street cred—thus making him more marketable.

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