Are Will Smith and Jay Z making mental health cool for black men? We hope so!

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Since the onset of 2018 articles like “We’re Obsessed With Will Smith’s Instagram” and “Will Smith’s Instagram game is stronger than most” have been popping up all over the place.

For those who have been following Smith for some time, none of this was a surprise.

While the A-list actor may be known for his well seasoned comedy chops (and definitely brought that undeniable humor to all of our timelines), what makes him stand out in the social media sphere is his lifelong commitment to championing the power of mental health and emotional intelligence.

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Back in the day, male movie stars — particularly the few black men who were allowed that distinction — were required to be strong, stoic, unflinching bastions of toxic masculinity. They felt nothing, they were rarely introspective, and pesky things like feelings and vulnerability were silly distractions better left for women and children to worry about.

But times have changed

Having Moonlight, a love letter to the rich emotional landscapes that men aren’t usually allowed to navigate, (eventually) be called up to accept the Best Picture Oscar in 2017 sent a clear signal to men all over the world: Brother, you are human and therefore allowed to feel all the things that come with that.

Four months later, Jay-Z, who has arguably penned some of the most toxically masculine (albeit genius) lyrics in hip-hop history, shocked fans by releasing 4:44 – a candidly introspective offering where instead of “making the song cry” Hov admitted that he’d found himself weeping, in a therapist office, admitting where it hurts.

Even rap mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, has turned a new leaf and spoken about his emotional and spiritual growth so extensively, that when he joked he was changing his name to “Brother Love” we all took him seriously!

Gone are the days when saying things like “take it like a man!” are considered an appropriate response to Black boys’ tears. In fact, studies have consistently shown that when children aren’t taught to properly deal with their feelings, they end up being destructive adults who hurt themselves and others.

Given the current political landscape and how Black children are being gunned down while carrying a pack of Skittles, it is now a matter of life and death that we teach our kids how to work through their pain.

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“Researchers have long been interested in traditional forms of intelligence for predicting personal and profession life successes, however such dimensions have not been largely successful as they oftentimes miss the social component of human interaction. To capture this absence, researchers have proposed a new type of intelligence, which has been coined emotional intelligence.
Constructs of emotional intelligence, such as the ability to understand, regulate, and perceive emotions, can contribute to the promotion of mental, social and physical health . Emotions are a motivating factor that can initiate, sustain, and direct human behavior.”
Source: Emotional intelligence: a place in public health promotion and education 

According to the science, being a “real man” now has to include knowing when to ask for help.

And this new-wave thinking that Black boys be raised to actually feel their feelings – is probably where Smith’s Instagram (which debuted in December 2017 and has already attracted 12.5 million followers) shines the brightest.

The Fresh Prince star’s relationship with his son Jaden and the outwardly affectionate bond that they share is giving men all over the globe a new example of what black fatherhood can — and probably should — look like moving forward.

Black boys need to be hugged, praised, supported, empowered, held accountable and told they are beautiful just as much as our girls do.

And if you can get a reminder of that timely message while scrolling through your Instagram feed, maybe Big Willy really does have the best IG page around after all.

Follow Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric.

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