Essays/Commentary

What TI Taught Me About Pregnancy

Fit Pregnancy, 2014

I found out I was pregnant the week after I attended Grammy Awards Weekend in Los Angeles. As senior editor of a women’s magazine, I may not have been a pop star myself, but I earned my living writing about them. Oh, the horror of discovering my condition after three days of Hennessy-drenched, sushi-filled, extremely-rare-steak-fueled debauchery! My doctor told me that whatever I drank or ate before I knew I was pregnant “didn’t count.” (This is why I love my doctor.) And thankfully, Baby has no medical issues to speak of. But while I steered clear of those nocturnal indulgences for the next nine months, I didn’t ease up in the office. Why would I? As far as I was concerned, pregnant gals could certainly still work 10-hour days, take frequent business trips and carry their own luggage through airports. I saw no reason to alter my approach to my professional life just because I had a baby on board.

But even I had to admit that it was time to slow down when, during my eighth month, I found myself in a Chicago nightclub sometime around 2 a.m. with the rapper T.I. We’d met before, and he was in town filming his reality TV show and promoting new music. He stopped by the office for an interview, and since he has six (six! ) kids, our conversation turned into all things baby. He complimented my bump and my ability to prance around work in high heels. I responded by saying one child “don’t stop no show,” and before he left the office, he asked if I’d be his guest at the club that night. It was my job to maintain relationships with celebs. Plus, my hair was so luscious and—for the first time in my life—my boobs were so big; I actually felt like putting on a sexy outfit and flaunting my assets. Why not live a little? Put me in the VIP list plus-one, please!

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The Problem With ‘Chiraq’

It’s important not to let the popular slang become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

CHICAGO magazine, 2015

Spike Lee is up to something.

The working title of his next film is “Chiraq,” and TheWrap reports Lee hopes to cast at least three prominent Chicagoans: Common, Jeremy Piven, and Kanye West. When I contacted Lee he declined to talk about the movie, but I do know this: the title is loaded.

Chicago rapper King Louie coined the term back in 2009. Pronounced “shy-rack,” it’s a riff off of how some people pronounce Iraq as “eye-rack.” The mispronunciation is purposeful and intended to link Chicago’s violence with the warfare in the Middle East.

Some are assuming the worst about Lee’s use of the word. The term “Chiraq” has come to describe and characterize certain neighborhoods, corners, socio-pathological behaviors, and everything else affiliated with the intersection of violence and poverty in Chicago.

Some are assuming the best. Lee is a socially conscious black man, so chances are great that this film will have a twist and make a point about society, or gun laws, or discriminatory housing policies. (Lee also has an ironic sense of humor, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the film was something totally unpredictable but no less political, like, say, a musical about the closing of Chicago’s Public Schools to make way for charters.)

In early 2014, Louie and I talked extensively about how he came up with the word. It had been a stroke of rap genius. At the time I was working on a Chiraq origins story for the Sun-Times. Louie, who also created the term “Drillinois,” another nod to Chicago’s drill music scene, said he had no idea the moniker would go on to become the title of movies, documentaries, and hit songs, such as the one released last year by Nicki Minaj and Chicago’s own Lil Herb.

Then came the anti-Chiraq movement, which emerged last year just as the Herb/Minaj song was released. The anti-Chiraq crew opposes both violence and the usage of Chiraq as a synonym for Chicago.

Local promoter Aaron “YdotGdot” Pierce is one of many who has worked to bury the word and to fix the conditions that lead to violence. To raise awareness, several store owners and local fashion designers made anti-Chiraq t-shirts. Hashtags were made. People rallied. And I agreed, in part.

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