The general expectation of former Disney Channel stars is either a spectacular fall from grace or a fade into oblivion. Bridgit Mendler, known for her roles in television show Good Luck Charlie and movie Lemonade Mouth star, managed to escape the common pitfalls of childhood stardom.

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Sixteen is an age that kids all over the United States excitedly anticipate: the age they are given the opportunity to take their driving test, borrow their parents’ car, and experience their very first taste of freedom. Kalief Browder’s sixteenth year differed starkly from the “American Teenage Dream.” He was falsely accused of stealing a backpack, the young high school student from the Bronx was sent to New York’s infamously violent Rikers Island in 2010 to await trial when his family was unable to pay the $3,000 bail.

What was supposed to take just a matter of hours- clearing Browder of the unfounded hearsay against him- took three years. Approximately two of those years spent at Rikers were  in solitary confinement, where the bright, easygoing teenager sank into a desperate, depressive state. He was supposed to be going to school, playing sports, and spending time with friends; instead, Browder was enduring the physical and psychological consequences of being placed in a six by eight foot cell by himself for 23 hours every day. When he attempted suicide, the methods of which he learned from watching other inmates, Browder reported being denied food from guards as punishment. This is only a fraction of the cruelty and abuse inflicted on the youngster by both correction officers and other inmates when he wasn’t  in solitary confinement.

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Still fresh in our minds is J. Cole’s last album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, which is famous for being the first album in 25 years to go platinum with no features. The album was officially certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). But, of course you already knew that, since the internet memes won’t let us forget it. That album dropped exactly two years ago, so the artist’s newest gem, 4 Your Eyez Only was highly anticipated up until its December 9th release. It’s different, but in a good way.

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To describe Mellody Hobson as anything less than extraordinary would be a grave injustice. The Chicagoan businesswoman seems to enchant everyone she meets with her eloquence and breathtaking personality. Through her hard work and grace she has managed secure her spot within many prominent business empires and become one of the only two black women who chair a publically traded company; all while remaining grounded and unbelievably humble.

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Cultural awareness is something that many black people are deprived of. It’s always been a touchy subject, and a tough one to explain the answers to all of the who’s, how’s, and why’s. Questions like: How did things get like this? Who’s responsible for allowing these things to continue to happen? What are some plausible solutions to ending this systematic oppression? Since 2011, Tariq Nasheed has assembled a team of esteemed scholars and historians to breakdown nearly every imaginable facet of life in which the system has been designed to create the conditions that many of us either see on a daily basis or grew up seeing.

Tariq wasn’t always the conscious brother that we know him to be presently. There was a progression of learning experiences that happened over time that woke him up. Tariq was born in Detroit, Mich., before moving to Alabama where he remained until the age of 17. Growing up in the south was a bit slow, so he started traveling the world and studying other cultures and customs, specifically how people interacted in relationships. What better place to get a good feel for multicultural studies than Los Angeles?

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Often times hip-hop purists talk about how much the music has changed. How it’s watered down, or it’s too vulgar, and all that other “get off my lawn” talk that the old heads always inform the younger generation about. I myself have been and still am guilty of not taking a liking to most of the new hip-hop music that’s on rotation today. I’m pretty sure a ton of my contacts have gone ahead and put the old, light skinned man emoji next to my name in their phones; and I’ve accepted it. But it really got me to thinking, what exactly is missing from today’s hip-hop scene? One of the major differences I’ve noticed is that the traditional New York lyricists are at an all-time low. Chris Classic, who hails from Brooklyn, is one of the rappers whose name indicates he’s bringing back that “classic” New York feel. The artists addresses the routine of attaching labels to rap artists and the tunnel vision of a lot of music lovers in his song “Rudy.”

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Art begets more art. As we connect with a piece emotionally, or hear the melodic sounds of a song, it stirs a feeling or idea within the walls of our skin and lets us explore the hidden meaning of life, or deep and unanswered questions. Art moves us all.

No one understands this notion better than Canadian born, but well traveled, technical art illustrator and fashion designer Tara Dougans. She graces the world with her interpretations of life on the regular.

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aa2Hearing the word “fashion,” I immediately think of super-thin models strutting down a runway in the most impractical outfits. High fashion is something that, at times, eludes us and makes us feel like “the commoners” of modern society. We see women wearing completely mismatched outfits, inordinate high heels and makeup that is reminiscent of a 1980s Cyndi Lauper. Then we think, “I could never pull off that look,” or, “Who would wear that?!” However, some fashion designers, like Arthur Arbesser, experiment with alternative forms of presentation that refrain from the typical haute couture style.

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