it is possible that a very ugly thing will happen tmrw. it is more possible that you will make it beautiful. for yu must believe in tmrws, too. yu were made to see them. they were made just to see you. you have to be there. G-d lives in the possible.
i am in love with a hymn
the song in his voice.
the fountain behind his lips that i drink
from on mornings when i feel like drowning.
i find myself running his name over my tongue
like a comb does an afro.
he untangles me.
my brain is trying to hold on to him.
it knows what time does to beautiful things.
we found each other like broken people do
you made my wounds feel pretty and i healed yours too.
New Yorkers are supposed to be assholes. So goes the common mythos. Being a Long Islander, I’ve very often been on the receiving end of this asshattery…long ago the founding fathers of ratchetdome decided Long Island wasn’t the ‘real’ New York. Fair enough. I will take having a front lawn and backyard over waging turf wars against the NYC rats, any day. Those dudes are gully. Saw one mug a kid for some French fries once.
Issa Rae really did a lot of us justice with her web series. Truth be told, there’s few things that piss me off more than being told how I should and am expected to behave as a black girl. I love being chocolate, but as they say, heavy is the head that wears the crown. Us black girls have a lot of crowns we juggle.
There are those who are abusing feminist theory. Yet, we rarely call them out as we stubbornly pursue the illusion of solidarity. I prefer to attribute this abuse to mainstream or popular feminism – feminism as the every day, unread Joe has come to know it. It is this brand of feminism that wreaks of hypocrisy: it is intolerant of critiques or opposing opinions, it is often one-dimensional and unwilling to admit or rectify fault. It concedes nothing…is extreme, off-kilter, and unbalanced. This is pop-feminism. Pop feminists haven’t explored their own identity as much as they’ve merely taken on a collective conscious, stitched together from pieces of what they perceive feminism to entail.
Pop feminism has told me many things over the years:
- That my God is not real and is instead a tool fashioned for patriarchal oppression.
- That I cannot be entirely fulfilled in child-rearing.
- That if I do not agree with abortion I am a pawn of the oppressor.
- That I am only truly celebrating my femininity when sexually liberal.
- That men are never right. Ever. Only tools and proponents of the patriarchy.
- That our ‘icons’ are above reproach, even if they do nothing to aid other women. Or worse, sabotage other women. (see: Beyonce)
There are definitely contrarians and misogynists alike who will have something negative to say about feminists and feminism regardless. They’ll do and say whatever they can to discredit its messages, simply because it is inconvenient to them. But then I have observed this pop-feminism is a weakness in our armor. I’m tired of detractors being able to pull examples out the woodworks in which we could’ve aided someone or lent collective support, hungry for social justice as we all allegedly are, and we didn’t because the victim was male and because the nuances of the problem at hand were too intimidating to tackle. There are examples of the feminist movement doing just that at times, but more often than not there is an extreme sector of this movement whose voices are louder than the other parts of it. It is that extreme faction that detractors remember us by, simply because we don’t speak up and correct these extremists. Instead we focus on correcting the detractors (people who won’t agree or come correct regardless) all while allowing our ideological sisters and brothers to continue in their arrogance and ignorance.
That is not right. But then again, who decides how one correctly goes about being a feminist? That is my issue with pop feminism: it asserts that there is only one way to be a feminist.
There is no reason that we shouldn’t ring the alarm on domestic violence perpetrated against men, on the double standard that exists when it comes to men and child rearing, or at the very least, concede when we’re being hypocritical. Pop feminism gives the requisite acknowledgment of these issues, but treats them as secondary.
Many times in the constant narrative to eschew victim-blaming and shed light on rape culture, among other things, we purposely ignore the role personal responsibility plays in some of these cases. We put our blinders on and remain stubborn in our insistence that a faceless patriarchy is at work when there are many different forces at work. And some of these forces are actually in our control. There is a non-exhaustive list of –isms that can be attributed to any social problem, depending on how you choose to see it. Feminism is just one of these.
I would love to see more individuality in this movement. I’d love to hear more from both conservative and liberal women alike in this sphere, but often I see a regurgitation of the same opinions, the same rabid and unyielding defense of what have been accepted as social absolutes… and I am not entirely surprised that people tend to roll their eyes at the mention of the “F’ word.
Someone recently asked me to defend my dislike of black clubs and parties. They basically said, that’s funny, seeing as how I’m so ‘pro-black’. Uh huh.
Fair enough. Now keep in mind, I’m not big on clubbing to begin with. You’re reading the words of level 3 introvert here. I can go out or stay in, but 7/10 times I’m leaning towards staying in (or just doing something else entirely, with people I actually know and like). When I do get in the mood to go out, however, I don’t want to feel like I’m forcing it. So below are just a few reasons that, despite my numerous attempts to assimilate, I can’t stand partying with ‘my people’.
- Don’t usually care for the music. Growing up in New York, most parties you went to were a Carribean free-for-all. Reggae, Soca, dancehall…whatever. All sorts of music I just really wasn’t into. Perhaps times have changed as other music has become more popular (I’ve certainly developed a greater appreciation for Soca since then), but I remember going to those parties and just finding the whole thing bizarre. I mostly remember being very bored with being grabbed indiscriminately and talked at in accents I didn’t always understand. Not to mention, I can’t wine. So I really can’t identify with most people there. If it’s not Carribean, then its ratchet tunes all night. I have a few problems with that brand of music on an intellectual level, but when it comes to parties the fact is often I don’t know the songs and/or find them kinda dumb. Which usually precludes me form dancing to them. Sometimes I like ‘em, other times I don’t.
- I get tired of being pressured to drink high-proof, shitty alcohol all night. For whatever reason, other races of people don’t often pressure me when it comes to drinking. I’m not going to say this is out of good-natured-ness on their part so much as not feeling comfortable with peer pressuring a black girl. Who knows how I’ll react, right? Regardless, not only do ‘my people’ love to side-eye you for not throwing caution to the wind with alcohol, they love high proof trash. The stuff of medicine cabinets and World War II infirmaries. Nooo thankyou.
- Bratty black men trying to pressure me into giving them lap dances. “Why’d you come if you ain’t gonna dance!?” The nerve of me, leaving my house and coming to this shindig, only to refuse a ‘dance’ with you. Shame on me! Yea, I get tired of that shit. If I wanna dance, I want to DANCE. Not grind on you all night while you keep some sort of odd vice grip on my waist or wrists. I didn’t agree to some sort of indentured dancing servitude to you, nigga, I came to bond with my friends and if possible, enjoy the music and the vibe. The minute you start enjoying a song and getting into it, here comes some dude latching onto you like a dry-humping barnacle for the remainder of the music. Don’t get me wrong…I know many people who live for that interaction. Me, not so much…I actually loathe it. My best friend was an avid party-goer up until very recently. She said the most bizarre, yet relatable thing to me when I asked her about why she prefers to go to strip clubs now: She prefers strips clubs because the men are too busy harassing the strippers to harass you. Men often take issue with this statement for many reasons, particularly because they consider it arrogant. But to that I reply: when was the last time you were a woman in a black club? Like men grab me and I just have to rub my ass all over them? Weird. Can I go home now and finish The Life of Pi? I’ve paid my social dues for the night, me thinks.
- I don’t really like to dance…how ‘we’ like to dance. I’m sorry, grinding with strangers just isn’t my idea of a good time. Sue me. The level of physical contact in other club settings I’ve dealt with is on a completely different level than the average black gathering. Like, yes, you can touch me and dance with me…but do you have to hump me?
- Black people love to stunt. Black people can be some of the snobbiest people I know, ironically enough. Even now, I’m still taken a back at how limited some people’s idea of fun can be. I have friends who consider the whole night a wash if they don’t get drunk enough or if ‘pregaming’ isn’t ‘lit’ enough. Uh huh. That being said, black clubbing and partying usually seems more about the presentation than anything else. What I’ve learned about partying as a black girl: If you left your house in relative comfort, you’re doing it wrong. Dress up, stand around, maybe shake your ass (if possible… are you accomplished at twerking on stilts?), get groped and/or hit on all night…this is a successful night out for some. Otherwise, it was ‘wack’. Hm, pass on that. I remember feeling virtually alone in this idea until talking with a Southern friend of mine in college. She loves to socialize and hit the club, but even she noticed this about going out to black clubs and parties. Dance only if you know how to dance, dress like you’re about to hit the catwalk…all very pretentious and exhausting.
- I feel as though I can’t identify with most people there. All of these points come down to this central theme. Probably my biggest problem is that I tend to view the experience through the lens of a lot of our social issues. I feel critical and out of place at these events, like I’m watching a documentary on something peculiar. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gone to predominantly white parties and taken note of some of their more ridiculous habits. Every race has something. But I’ve noticed for me, I usually enjoy an outing if the crowd is mixed and so is the music.
Who knows, maybe I’ll revise my opinion on this at a later date. If so, I’ll definitely add an edit to this post and write a separate one on what made me see the light. For now, this is my opinion and experience.
Bamboo Girls Pt.II Written by Te'mar Ellis
Bamboo Girls Part I Written by Te'mar Ellis
Perception is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment.
Perception is the ability of an individual to see the world in a unique way that can not be easily expressed. We've all experienced moments where we find ourselves incapable of articulation. It should be impossible to share the complexities of our consciousness with another person, to map out the depths of our minds and make our thoughts transparent to an audience of one or of many. However, there are those individuals who have been blessed with the ability to make their perception visible; the talent to express themselves through visual intrigue, giving us a glimpse into their world, a small piece of their reality.
Artists. Painting with words, guiding every stroke with similes and metaphors, using colorful language to give each piece depth. Employing a canvas of seventeen lines or a short 5-7-5, to portray the picture they wish to convey. Others use more visible mediums to capture the dark corners of their conscience spilling dramatic portraits onto wooden canvases that articulate thoughts into tangible works of art.
Minjae Lee, a 22 year old South Korean native has found his voice in the self taught manipulation of "old fashioned tools". Using markers, crayons pens &acrylics, to bring to life his women of ethereal beauty. These portraits strike deep into hearts with its profound displays of emotion. There is a somewhat disturbing "inner tension" that encompasses the overall feeling of Lee's work which seems to only draw one in more. His bright colors only seem to add to the looming sadness, that overwhelms each portrait. Lee's work has a look of technical perfection in his details. It is a great surprise to find that all his work is hand crafted. Every line was made when pen touched paper and that in itself is not a small thing. I suppose with the challenge of painting what one sees there is a certain amount of patience necessary to complete such a task. His work inspires me to use cliche phrases to depict the genuine inspiration I have gotten from his work. I mean with work this beautiful who needs 1000 words? If my art looked that great i'd let it speak for me too.
Today was officially my last day of my last summer vacation. Tomorrow I start the second and last year of my Master of Public Health program. Next summer, prayerfully, I will be working as a public health practitioner somewhere. And I’ll be really grateful for that opportunity. But today, I was just a little sad about that. This whole week, I’ve been sad thinking about today.
I want to do meaningful work. I want to accomplish great things. I want to live in my purpose every day. I just…I wanted summer to last a little bit longer. So I wasn’t particularly productive today. I’ll be productive tomorrow. I didn’t make a whole lot of preparations for the year ahead today. I’ll do that tomorrow. I didn’t put on my grown up clothes. I’ll have to do that tomorrow. Instead, I got in my car and drove down the street, around the corner, down the big hill on the narrow back road, to the park. And I stood in the sun. I watched the little boys suit up in their tiny gear and charge the field for their football game. I watched the community drive up, park their cars, and go sit out in the sun to watch their boys play. And it lifted my spirits. Today, I was just a kid enjoying summer vacation in my play clothes.
And now, it’s tomorrow. I should have been asleep already. A 10:00 class awaits me and I have no clue what I’m wearing. But it’s the last night of summer vacation. So I’ll figure it out in the morning. In the morning, God-willing, I’ll wake up and put on my business casual. I’ll grab my planner, my laptop, my water bottle, and I’ll start the last year of my formal education like the fake grown up I am. But tonight, I’m happy I stayed up past 12, like the big kid I am lol. Goodbye, summer.
Looking at hip-hop and its primary targets these days, you might have noticed that it's becoming increasingly more -- well, white.
Going to a hip-hop show means that you're destined to see a crowd of white kids mouthing the words to popular songs while wearing the latest in hip-hop fashions. You can overhear them conversing with one another about past attendance to other hip-hop shows and how the current one measures up. They seem to know who's in and who's not, at least within the mainstream well, and to some extent a growing knowledge of what's in with the underground crowd. They're the ones who drive up iTunes and Bandcamp sales and own vinyl copies of classic albums -- if only to say they have them.
Even the artists themselves have noticed that the white kids are the ones who seem to care the most. I recently attended a video shoot for an up and coming young rapper, who upon the compliment of his song said "The black kids really don't like me. It seems like it's only the white kids who buy my music". On the surface, it seems as if white kids are the primary targets for hip-hop these days, based on sheer purchasing power.
So what about the black kids?
Because of the shift of hip-hop consumerism, it would seem as if black kids just aren't listening to the genre as much as they used to. The recent shift is a part of the age old story of consumerism, racial privilege and media representation. It's a widely known fact that years of racial discrimination and a system that promotes the success of whites over people of color enables whites to have more purchasing power. Hip-hop is not immune to this effect. Without the ability to put disposable income to things like albums, concert tickets and merchandise, it would seem as if black kids aren't interested in the genre anymore.
The average black kid would probably tell you a different story. Behind the scenes, they're the ones who actively and genuinely care about the genre from a vastly personal level. Despite not being able to support artists from a financial standpoint, they're often downloading music through free sources, offering support through sheer fandom and appreciation for the music. Some would say that this is less important, since one of the main factors for an artist's success is album sales.
But fan support is also an important part of an artist's success, and this is where black kids are a hidden driving force. This is where an artist can receive love and support on a deeper level, through knowing that their music reached someone from circumstances like their own. Although it may not always show through album sales or concert attendance, black kids are often the biggest supporters of an artist on an emotional level. Unfortunately, black kids may not always be able to attend a show or buy an album, but they're often the ones who are avid supporters of artists throughout their careers, even when the initial hype has long subsided.
White kids may be the catalyst that launches an artist into mainstream success, but black kids are the ones that drive them to do what they do.
I knew by the age of 8 that I was meant for great things. Life, however, has the habit of teaching us that an artist isn't destined for much more than poverty, especially a young pigment challenge Hoosier. I quickly learned that lesson and shamed the more grandiose ideas I held for my future. Instead I shackled my thoughts to more plausible ideas of success: firefighter, surgeon, lawyer, psychologist… Not to suggest that those fields are anything less than great, but I now believe that there is a greatness that flows from us all, if we would but search for that which was divinely imparted to each of us.
If your lucky, you’ve known what it is you want to do from an early age in life. However, for what I would say is a large majority of our society, you learned to swim by being thrown into the deep end, fending for yourself and your own survival. The difference between the majority and the minority is the preparation and knowledge imparted prior to their introduction into the water, no matter how deep the water happens to be. It is no wonder then that so many people drown, even if they managed to survive the introduction, many people get lost along the way, they can’t stay a float, and don't know how to tread water.
It is of course by design that we find ourselves twisting and turning, trying to find the way up, searching for a breath of fresh air. It is by design that we feel helpless. We are most susceptible in our helplessness, to the darkness of this world. Fear of failure is a tool of your destruction. Success can only come when you step out in front of all the things that attempt to separate you from all that you are meant to be.
Ingredients for Greatness:
Know what it is you want
Don’t allow fear to cloud possibility
Don’t allow the opinions of others to dictate your decisions.
Gangster rap saved my life. Really -- it did. And not in some catchy, cliché, ironic t-shirt to make me seem cool type of way.
Gangster rap did more for me than I ever thought it could.
It gave me a sense of confidence and swagger that helped me push through some of my lowest points. It helped me to understand my own people. It helped me see past negative media representations of the artists spitting gunplay over 808s. It made me search for a deeper understanding of pain, struggle and sorrow. It forced me to open my eyes to the systematic oppression and the death of my people. It placed a heavy burden on my heart to some how think of some way to inspire change, to lead revolution and to just ride along to the music, all in the same breath.
Gangster rap is more than just violence, gold chains and hoes. It's raw form of poetry about a part of society that everyone would rather forget about, even within the black community. It's easy to turn a blind eye when you're as little as 10 miles away from a place that can seem like another world. It makes me want to strive to do better for myself, my people and to work to bring the community together, instead of tearing ourselves apart. The music refuses to let you ignore it. It's hard, heavy, abrasive and in your face. It’s powerful, drawing you in until you finally find yourself understanding, if only for four minutes, the pain and suffering that inspired the tune.
Then you're forced to think. In a society where you're force fed the "correct" types of media, something that makes you think is rare. The genius of gangster rap lies in the packaging -- knowledge over dope tracks.
It'll probably always get the reputation of being a catalyst for crime, despite the people pulling the strings to create the systems in which crime begets crime. This is why I choose to believe that gangster rap saved my life. There's so much more to it than it'll ever get credit for.