A little over a year ago, I had the awesome privilege of bringing together some of the Blackest and most brilliant minds to produce “FBIL Magazine.” It was a vision I had been sitting on for over 20 years.I wanted to own my own magazine.John H. Johnson did it.Oprah Winfrey did it.The way my mind set up, I’m like, “why can’t I do it?” So I did it. Even though I’d grown up reading through pages of Ebony, Jet, and Vibe Magazine and imagining myself on the cover of them for something worth gracing their cover, that wasn’t where the motivation came from.Even though Oprah had almost single-handedly instilled in me as a youngster that literally anything was possible, Mama O couldn’t take responsibility for my belief that I could get up and actually put together an actual magazine that went beyond the concept of my head.Nope.So where had this vision come from? Who had planted this seed in me as a youngster?
Khadijah “All Chain” James.
Designed by Geoffrey Evans
Yes. It was Khadjiah, the home girl I was always wanted; The HBCU grad who, right out of college, founded her own magazine in Brooklyn, New York and had a mostly Black staff and employed her family. It was Khadijah who clandestinely planted the seed in me to go and get mine.FBIL Magazine was my Flava Magazine.Literally hours before the magazine was supposed to be released, my co-collaborator – in all of his glorious aloofness was my Sinclair (Woo, Woo, Woo!) – and my other homie who, on the eve of the biggest release of the biggest project I had ever taken on, threw the hissiest of hissy fits I had ever seen a grown man throw over lost keys (that were never lost) was my Regine in that moment (Remind me to tell yall that story one of these days).Building FBIL Magazine in the wee hours of the night, it hit me at about 3AM that morning: I was a child born in the 80’s, reared in the 90’s, and influenced by an impeccable class of Black & Royal Excellence; I was child of Generation FleX.
What is Generation Flex?
Generation FleX (GFleX) refers to the period in |Black| History that swept across the nation and the world from 1980-2000.From the birth of hip-hop to the Cash Money Millionaires, GFleX is where soul and revolution intersect; combining cultural awareness and unapologetic Blackness, Generation FleX is the revivalof the renewal of fierce pride in one’s self and community of the late “Black Power” era. The era is rooted in the idea of showing reverence to those that were chief architects of being Bad& Black & Black & Bad.Generation FleX is Queen Latifah and Will Smith.Generation FleX is Martin Lawrence and The Sugar Hill Gang.It’s John Singleton and Robbie Reid; It’s Penny Hardaway and Faith Evans; Spike Lee and Russell Simmons; Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole and Savion Glover; Dem Jacksons and Dem Wayans; Missy Elliott and Funk Master Flash; Kriss Kross and Mob Deep.The list of contributors is endless.
Tupac and Janet Jackson – GFleX pioneers
This is the period in |Black| History that engulfed me as a youngster and pre-teen. Born in 1986, my life ran almost concurrently with the Oprah Winfrey Show. Phylicia Rashad had graduated from Dream Girls, to America’s Mom on The Cosby Show. By the time I was 5, Eddie Murphy was King, I was sneaking to stay up to watch Arsenio Hall, and I had already committed to Hillman College before I could read.It was my rearing during this period of pure, unadulterated uninterrupted, grandiose negritude that affirmed for me, what it meant to be Young, Gifted, & Black.For a dark-skinned child like myself, seeing Whoopi Goldberg, Westley Snipes on television meant everything to me. I was Kyle Barker: Black images mattered.Generation FleX isn’t a generation in the sense of age- because they were frozen in time.They were a wave of freedom; a fresh voice in a new era; they were here and they were realand they were Black. Real Black.They were Monicaand Sistah Souljah; Debbie Allen and Mike Tyson.Generation FleX were those 20-30’s somethings who were not afraid to conquer the world, live freely and chase their dreams.But that wasn’t what made this generation special; this generation, were the off-spring of Malcolm X.
Martin & Malcolm, 1964
These are X’s kids. The Children of X. These are Nina’s children – children who did not bash or put down mainstream culture; they just simply chose to ignore it. Birth by a fiery revolution and covered in soul, Generation FleX was unleashed. They took their place in history by making it about them, rooting themselves in projects that were seeped in Blackness. They proudly wore Malcolm X and HBCU gear on their television sitcoms – often starring in, and executive producing these sitcoms – many of them in their mid to late 20’s. I remember being a child in the mist of this cultural and social revolution; I didn’t know what it was and I couldn’t put my finger on the feeling, but it was in the air and I was breathing it in every single day.
They were bosses in every sense of the word. They created their own rules; walking paths uncharted, while paying respect to those who had come before them: Lorraine Hansberry, Diana Ross, Martin Luther King, Richard Pryor. Diahann Carol, Muhammad Ali, and a slew of innovators.
Generation FleX made schools cool for me with each semester at Hillman College and Mission College; they induced me into a love affair with the HBCU.
They brought Detroit, and Philadelphia, and Brooklyn to me. They showed me that a Black college
Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson
graduate could leave Howard University, found her own magazine and, jussohappen to live across the street from her best friend who was the partner of a law firm by the age of 26. They were vice-presidents of advertising firms.They were college graduates. And well versed on African art and unabashed ambassadors of soul; when Mary opened her mouth, she reminded you that Aretha, Natalie, Chaka, and Mahalia had once occupied this space – but it was now her time to reign supreme.And Baby…did she reign. They were the first generation where mother and daughter, father and son could bond over the same music, films, televisions shows – Generation FleX was bounded by an intergenerational connectedness that linked us to one another like never before.
This was the generation that gave me Kid-N-Play, Kris Kross, and TLC; the Young, Black, and Fly.
Generation FleX is the last real class of the Josephine Baker, Gregory Hines, Lena Horne, Pearl Bailey, and Dorothy Dandridge School of the Triple Threat; a school that boasted alumni such as Jasmine Guy, Tisha Campbell, and T’china Arnold. They are our big brothers and extended families; They are Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Flex Alexander; Salt-N-Pepa and EnVogue. They are Nia Long and Larenz Tate: the closest thing to a real life Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis.
Why Generation FleX?
All of my life, I have always dreamed of telling those heroes who inspired me to be bigger, badder, and Blacker just how much they meant to me.I always wanted to tell James Brown and Natalie Cole, influences of this generation, how their unapologetic Blackness – James and his soul brother demeanor, Ms. Cole and her mastery of call and response – what they did for me as a youngster. I dreamed of the day I could tell Michael Jackson how the world premiere of “Remember The Time” at 5 years old sent me on a lifelong love affair with Black Royalty. I always wanted to tell The Fresh Prince that it was because of him that I always saw myself owning a home with the white pillars out front.I always wanted to tell Eric Jerome Dickey how his novels Sister, Sister and Between Lovers sowed the seed of creative writing in me.It was these personal connections, and the personal impact these people had on me that drove me to give them their accolades while they are here.
Eddie Murphy, MJ, Iman, and John Singleton
And then, James Brown died. Then, MJ. Just last month, Natalie Cole departed this place.Now, more than ever, I am more determined to use the gift of writing and creative expression to show this generation and many of their influences what they mean to me. So to David Allan Grier, Vivica Fox, Hype Williams, Tevin Campbell, Frederick Humphries, Michael Jordan, Bob Johnson, Susan Taylor, Tia, Tamara, and Taj Mowery, Steve Harvey, Nas, Montell Jordan, Genuine, Sean Diddy Combs, The Fugees, Master P, Brandy, Cornell West, Carol Mosley Braun, Sherryl Lee Ralph, Jenifer Lewis, Jackie’ Harry, Robbi Reid, Robert Townsend, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Dion Sanders, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, Reagan Gomez, Kurtis Blow, Roxanne, Zane, Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Rick James, Samuel L. Jackson, Tupac, Timbaland, Mario Van Peebles, Kadeem Hardison, Tempesitt Bledsoe, Raven-Symone and the infinite number of Black and Excellent writers, directors, actors, producers, singers, song-writers, authors, dancers, poets, and other muses from various walks of life: You reared a generation that is about to re-claim our rightful place in |Black| History; you reared a generation who have a firm grasp on what it means to be Black and proud; you reared a generation who have now sprouted into Redwoods from seeds that you planted in us.When we were children, we idolized you; as adults, now more than ever, your influence means more to us than you’ll ever know. Later this month, I’ll be debuting the Generation FleX podcast. Why? Because The”Insane Martin Payne” told me I could….