Exhale: Magic Johnson’s Aspire Network Launches New Talk Show Series

Exhale: Magic Johnson’s Aspire Network Launches New Talk Show Series

The hosts of Magic Johnson’s new talk show, Exhale. From left to right: Angela Burt-Murray, Erin Jackson, Issa Rae, Rene Syler and Malinda Williams. (Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Holness).

Just a few years ago Rene Syler was at a crossroads in her life. She had lost her lucrative position as an anchor for CBS’ “The Early Show,” which is now defunct. She had a preventive mastectomy as the daughter of two breast cancer survivors. And she lost her hair after a bad relaxer. (Talk about black girl blues!) However, she turned a corner in her journey when she wrote “Good Enough Mother: The Perfectly Imperfect Book of Parenting” in March 2007 and created her website www.goodenoughmother.com from the book. From there, she nurtured her online presence through blogging and social media. Eventually Magic Johnson’s new network ASPiRE, launched a year ago today, took notice and asked her and four other African-American women (Journalist Angela Burt-Murray, Actress Malinda Williams, Comedian Erin Jackson and Writer/Actress Issa Rae) to be the hosts of its first original weekly talk show series “Exhale.” The eight-episode show debuted last night at 8 p.m. EDT. After the premiere, new episodes will begin July 10 in its regularly scheduled time slot on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EDT.

I spoke with Rene at the Atlanta premiere for the groundbreaking television show. “I think the biggest lesson I learned is that I took an untenable situation and made something of it,” Rene said. “I realized I had to save myself and have a career rebirth. I’m excited, energized and looking forward to the next chapter in my reinvention.”

I, along with other media professionals, bloggers and members of the entertainment community in Atlanta where the new network is based, were invited to watch the first episode which featured guests Judge Lynn Toler, host of “Divorce Court,” actress Tichina Arnold who starred in the hilarious “Everybody Hates Chris,” Celebrity Matchmaker Jasmine Diaz and Dr. Nicole LaBeach, a life coach.

From this first episode, which focused on relationships (a topic always guaranteed to get women talking like no other), I learned that each woman brought a unique and interesting perspective to the talk show. Actress Malinda Williams, who I adored in “The Wood,” interviewed Judge Toler about divorce as Malinda revealed she is a two-time divorcée. During the interview, Judge Toler talked about how her television. program prevented her own marriage from ending. I spoke with Malinda as well. “I’m an actress, mother, sister and friend and so I bring those points of view and perspective. People may see me as a celebrity, but I’m just like everyone else.”

Also during the first show Issa Rae, the witty and sharp creator of her awesome web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” lamented about her belief that black women and Asian men are the bottom of the dating totem pole to the laughter of the audience. As the lone member of the cast under 30 years old, she is able to offer the 20-something angle. “Since I am from a different generation, I have a different viewpoint. I’m here to learn.”

As a journalist, I am familiar with Angela Burt-Murray, a former editor-in-chief of ESSENCE magazine and now creator of CocoaFab.com, which features celebrity interviews and urban pop culture stories. Although Angela said she is typically guarded about her personal life, she disclosed during the first episode that she and her husband have been to therapy for marital issues. “For 15 years, I have been telling the stories of African-American women and now I have a different platform to tell their stories.”

Comedian Erin Jackson was also tapped to be a co-host on “Exhale.” Interracial dating was a topic of discussion during the first episode. Erin said that she dated a Hispanic man, NOT a white man (as many typically assume that an interracial couple is a black person and a white person). “Since I’m a stand-up comedian, I bring a lot of sarcasm and my ‘mom eyes’ although I’m not a mother,” Erin said with a laugh as she widened her eyes for me to see.

Aside from relationships, the women will also discuss other issues that elicit and warrant in-depth conversation. From HIV/AIDS in the black community to the objectification of black women, the show promises to deliver a diverse amount of content. In the faith and religion episode, they will speak with DeVon Franklin, Columbia Pictures executive and “Produced By Faith” author, R&B artist Kelly Price, Pastor Beverly Crawford and Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, atheist and author of “Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and The Value Wars.” Controversies such as homosexuality in the black church and the increasing number of black atheists will be conversation topics.

As a talk show connoisseur who cut her teeth on the long-running “The Phil Donahue Show,” “The Jenny Jones Show” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the show and the mix of personalities hosting “Exhale.” When I first heard of the show, I wondered if the show would be a “’The View’- esque” type of show, but other than multiple women hosting the show, the show is markedly different. This talk show offers FIVE BLACK but varied vantage points.

“Exhale” Executive Producer Lynne Robinson said, “’Exhale’ is a show that features five amazing hosts, who will open up and talk about everything that is on the minds of women today. In each episode, they share intimate, spirited and honest dialogue to make you laugh and sometimes make you cry. We are thrilled to bring these provocative, enlightening conversations with these dynamic women in a compelling new series to life on ASPiRE.”

High Court Rules Marriage Benefits Not Just for A Man and A Woman

High Court Rules Marriage Benefits Not Just for A Man and A Woman

The Supreme Court’s recent decision has caused a lot of Christians to view it as a threat to traditional marriage. But is that what we should be concerned about? (Photo courtesy of thinkstockphotos.com)

The saying often heard in churches that God intended marriage for “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” may soon be just another cliché as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriage, particularly the extension of benefits within same-sex marriages.

In separate 5-4 decisions, the justices struck down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and let stand a lower court decision overturning California’s Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage. Holding that the issue is a question of equal protection under the law, the justices established that federal services and benefits must be applied equally to all married couples recognized by states. It also reaffirmed that the federal government must respect state laws.

“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages,” read the majority opinion. “It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their state, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same state.”

In the Prop 8 case, the court declined to hear the appeal to reverse the California state court’s decision to overturn the same-sex ban. The justices said those who brought the suit before the high court were not entitled to do so. The court, in effect, dismissed the 8 million Californians that voted for Prop 8, which passed in 2008 with 52% of the vote after the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriages.

“I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted,” California’s Gov. Jerry Brown said.

The justices did not issue a broad opinion about the morality of same-sex marriage, which remains banned in 38 states.

The court’s decisions have shaken many faith communities in America. For conservatives, particularly those who  believe that America is a Christian nation whose laws should comply with the Bible, the court’s ruling is a travesty. They say the justices overstepped their bounds by redefining marriage, which is the domain of God alone.

For many other Christians, besides those brothers and sisters in Christ who are gay, the decision is not as cut and dry. It’s neither tragic nor a reason to hope for a wedding party where water is turned to wine. As a man who has been married to the same woman for more than 20 years, I consider myself among this number.

Though I believe the Bible affirms that marriage is a holy union between a man and woman only, I also believe that consenting adults have a right to live the way they want. Over the course of world history, people have gotten married for various reasons that often had nothing to do with religion or God. Many tax paying citizens see marriage not as a holy covenant, but as a contract. America is a pluralistic society where the government is constitutionally prevented from aligning with any particular faith. American citizens have a right to practice their faith – be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. – as well as to be agnostics or atheists. If two consenting adults love each other and want to spend their lives together, the government has no right to get in their way – period. The government’s role is to protect us from each other to insure that our individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not infringed upon. The government has no right to dictate what we can and cannot do with our bodies, including whom we live with or who we choose to be intimate with. The same goes for the church.

Many Christians may reject same-sex marriage on biblical grounds, but we still have no right to dictate to others through state or federal laws how they should live their personal intimate lives. True, the church is the only institution in society that, as God’s representative on Earth, is ordained with the responsibility to define how we should morally behave toward each other, including even our private intimate relationships. Christians believe our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. However, God still grants individuals the “free will” to govern their own bodies. Whether pastors, ministers or lay members, Christians are called of God to state what we believe the Bible says. But after that, we are ultimately called to live lives as examples of Christ’s love daily.  We are to inspire and influence people with our godly light, not condemn and force them into submission. Certainly Jesus is heartbroken over Christians who are aligned with those who verbally or physically assault members of the LGBT community, or who drive many of them to committ suicide. Certainly we have no business cursing them to a hell that we do not own, as if we are sinless. This is what Jesus meant by “Judge not, that ye not be judged.” We will all have to face God’s judgment seat alone regarding our individual sins. But God reserves that final decision exclusively.

So rather than be upset about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, I simply prefer to trust the Lord. The God who tossed the stars into the sky and who keeps the Earth revolving around the sun without crashing into the other planets is certainly big enough to handle “Adam and Steve” or “Alice and Eve.”

Besides, with divorce (which the Bible says is a sin) being high among heterosexuals, including among Christians, I’d rather stay focused on keeping my own marriage together.