The Future is…Hannah Eko

 

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This past summer I hosted a workshop on women of color: creativity and self-care. I decided to reach out to good friend/fellow writer, Hannah Eko. Eko has done amazing work on the issues of self-love/body positivity/mental health. I knew she would have some fabulous advice for attendances. So, I was thrilled when she agreed to an interview.  I thought I would share with y’all as well 🙂

Hi Hannah! Tell us about yourself/background…

I’m a Nigerian woman who was born in London and mainly grew up in Southern California. I’m the oldest of four. I’m also an Aries with a Gemini Moon and Ascendant in Aquarius. I served in the Coast Guard for 8 years and was Miss Tall International 2014. Currently, I’m a third year MFA in Fiction student at the University of Pittsburgh.

I first met you at a zine event. Why did zines resonate with you? In your debut zine, The Weather up Here is Great! you write about your experiences as a tall Black woman. Why was it important for you to tell this story?

I grew up reading TONS of magazines as a kid/teen. I went to this after-school center. The site leader, Cristina, would gift me all her magazines. I read Teen, CosmoGurl, YM (my fave back then), Teen People, and Seventeen. I had adolescent dreams of being some kind of model-writer person, but obviously wasn’t really seeing too many models that looked like me. Nor was I always interested in the banalities covered within the articles. So, when I moved to Portland, Oregon, I was really looking for something to express myself. I somehow luckily got wind of your Black Women Zine Group and immediately loved it. I loved how with zines, anyone could create what they want and share their unique vision with the world. I loved the creativity and the community. I had a lot of insecurity about being taller than the average woman. So, zines were the perfect place to write about this. I wanted other tall girls to know that they were gorgeous the way they were. Of course, I wanted to tell myself this as well. My experience being a tall woman is multi-layered and a lot less straightforward than I was seeing presented. I wanted to at least showcase my own point of view.

You’ve been published in various magazines (Bust, Bitch, etc.) Did you always want to be a writer? How do you stay passionate about writing? Are there any writing tips you can give to folks? 

I always wanted to be a writer, though I had absolutely no idea how one “became” a writer. I honestly thought you were just kind of discovered (a nod to my modeling dreams, I’m sure.) First I was into drawing, probably around age 4 or 5. And then writing soon followed. I love writing because it helps me make sense of the world. It’s a way I talk with myself, it’s a way that my thoughts become crystallized and I can sit back and be like, wow, so that’s what I think. Writing allows me the room to create whatever I want to see. Though I have many interests and extra-curriculars, writing is the one thing that has been a constant. I sometimes get frustrated with my own progress and fearful of the fast pace of the market and all these new, sparkling writers. However, I will forever love writing. I don’t really have to push myself to be passionate about it. I’m a constant journal writer, so I am always writing. I think my only suggestion is the piece of advice I am doing my best to live out, which is: write from your deepest self. Let go of ego and awards and fame and being clever and cute. Write fucked up things. Write things that make you cringe and propel you to go deeper. Write the thing you most want to see.

Continue reading “The Future is…Hannah Eko”

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It’s June…

which means summer is just a couple of weeks away. Thank goodness. I’m ready for sweet sunny days, delicious dranks, and lip smacking bbq. This month also means the celebration of Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19ththat the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.”  http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm

Juneteenth is a Black American holiday. It is an opportunity to honor the resistance of Black people and our contributions to this country. It must never be forgotten that this society was built off the backs of Black people.

My group, PDX Black Feminism, will be hosting our own Juneteenth gathering. It’s a time to connect as a community and hold space for Black liberation. We always welcome donations and/or promotion of our campaign. The funding helps with refreshments, self-care needs, etc.

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Girls Trip

Yes, I’m hella late. I normally avoid films like Girls TripI’m not really into comedies (or romantic films),  so I didn’t get swept up in the hype of the film. However, I was bored the other day, and decided to give it a shot.

It was pretty much what I expected…in the current wave of grown folks comedy (Hangover, Bad Moms).  But I’ll admit I did give a chuckle or two. It was unique to see this type of film from the perspective of Black women. I thought it was clever to set the storyline at the Essence Music Festival. Attending the Essence Music Festival, is on most Black women’s bucket list.

It was also nice to see a film for Black women Gen-Xers. In general, Gen-Xers tend to get lost in the shuffle of Baby Boomers and Millennials. I mean, we remember when New Edition really was a boy band. I’ll never forget a friend’s daughter watching The New Edition Story with wide eyes. She couldn’t believe they’ve been around since the early 80’s 🙂

A lot of attention has been given to Tiffany Haddish’s breakout role in Girls Trip. I thought her character was okay (“wild friend” trope). There has been much made about her rising comedic career. Actually, I think Haddish would make a great dramatic actress. There was something touching during her scene in the coffee shop, when she is talking to her friend. She says quietly,  “I know y’all just keep me around for laughs.” There was an honesty to her words. Especially, after learning more about Haddish’s traumatic childhood. As Haddish has shared, people who come from painful experiences often use comedy/attention as a way to cope.  I feel she has a lot of layers/complexity she could bring to a more serious film.

Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett-Smith, are Hollywood now.  It was bound to happen, but they will forever be in my heart as Cleo and StonyRegina Hall was Regina Hall. She plays the same character to me in every film she is in.

Several Black women who reviewed the film, talked about crying during Hall’s speech. It was cliché (the unhappily married woman finally has an epiphany), but it was still a nice message.

Basically, that we should be our authentic selves. Hall’s character was trying to hold onto an image for the public, but also to deny some truths to herself. Especially, in this age of social media/instant stardom, where we are often pressured to present a level of superficiality.  As well as to consume it. 

That’s how we got stuck with Trump for president. Folks were going off branding/sound bites/illusions of wealth. So we ended up with a guy running the country like a reality television show, but I digress.

I give Girls Trip a B-

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Girls Tripping

Racism Fatigue

Last weekend, I attended a zine festival. I was excited, because I knew I was going to see friends of color I hadn’t been able to connect with since moving back to my city.  While folks seemed okay for the most part, I noticed a weariness with a lot of them. The DIY (Do It Yourself) event showcased the creative writings/art/comics of those who self-publish. The history of the festival has traditionally been white hipsters. This year, organizers worked hard to center the voices/work of writers/artists/activists of color. The overall theme was how marginalized communities are resisting the resurgence of hateful racism happening in America.

I actually was invited as one of the guest speakers, and hosted a workshop specifically for Black women/non-binary black folks. My workshop was called “The 94%: Dusting Off Our Shoulders,” after a piece I wrote for a women of color zine collective I contribute to. The workshop was a continuation to the homage I wrote to Black women. Black women were a powerful force during last year’s election. It wasn’t so much because Black women overwhelming voted for a potential woman for president (while white women let Clinton down), but rather the bigger issue of Black women’s activism, leadership, and organizing skills that were ignored by mainstream media, including “progressives.” Instead the media focused on the woes of the white working class, especially white women.

We had a heartfelt conversation about this at the workshop. The thing I that stood out to me the most was the fact Black women are exhausted.  We are giving are all to better our communities/society as a whole, and keep getting degraded/rendered invisible. Later, I thought about this discussion, as well as remembering the tired faces of some of my friends of color, I encountered that weekend.

The Message (Grandmaster Flash)

Racism fatigue is hurting our health. I mean, at this point, what more can Black/Brown folks do? We’ve written scholarly books. We’ve put on insightful plays. We’ve read soul-stirring poetry. We’ve made numerous truth-telling movies. Hell, Black/Brown folks even created a whole new genre of music, rap, to discuss these issues (early rap music focused on the lives of poor Black/Latino youth).

Yet, despite it all, studies show that most white folks still tend to hold stereotypical views of Black folks/folks of color. It doesn’t matter if we’ve gotten the degrees, have traditional relationships,  or “act right…” most white folks still tend to see Black folks as less than. It’s strange. One would think it was Black folks who held white folks in slavery for hundreds of years, and continually denied them their basic human rights.

It’s not that we’ve given up hope. It’s just that we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” to quote Fannie Lou Hamer. We keep giving and giving, and all we’re getting back in return is a kick in the ribs.

 

Sisters In Law

“Sisters In Law” is a new reality show on WE tv that “follows a close-knit group of elite high-powered black female lawyers as they juggle their families, busy careers, and even more demanding social calendars.” http://www.wetv.com/shows/sisters-in-law

I was able to catch the first episode of “Sisters In Law” before it officially premises on March 24th. Well,  I can say, the women are fashionably fly. Otherwise, the show quickly spirals down to “Love and Hip Hop” dramatics of over the top arguments and “female rivalry.”  A bit disappointing for a show that’s supposed to be about high-powered black female lawyers. I always wonder don’t folks worry about ruining their names/brand by acting a mess on tv, but what do I know. I couldn’t relate to any of the women, although I guess I’m not supposed to as they are representing Houston, Texas’s black upper class. Future shows have the women discussing issues regarding police brutality and black lives matter so “Sisters In Law” may have some redeeming value in the end.

Oh well,  did I say the women looked fly?

 

Dope

I remember the buzz surrounding “Dope” last year. I mentally put it on my list of films to watch, but kind of forgot about it. The film popped up on my Google Play recommendations so I decided to give it a shot. “Dope” is an amusing tale about high school senior Malcolm. Malcolm hangs out with fellow “geeks,” Jib and Diggy. He wants to attend Harvard, but finds it’s not easy coming from a disadvantaged environment/home life.

While there were plenty of chuckles and moving moments in “Dope,” I’m still processing the film. It seems like another story of a young black kid wanting to get out of “the hood.”  Yet, actually subverting/mocking that stereotypical story line. The film doesn’t necessarily fit into a box, similar to the character of Malcolm. Or rather it’s “complicated.” The movie in some ways reminded me of the 1994 drama “Fresh.” 

The one thing I can say is that the black women characters were underdeveloped/blah.

  1. the single brown mother (the underused Kimberly Elise)
  2. the light skin crush (the bland  Zoe Kravitz)
  3. the film did try to be unique by including a gay female character, but she was mostly there for the guys to talk about ***** and show her breasts to get into a club (the curious Kiersey Clemons)
  4. and finally the drug snorting/sex kitten (the okay Chanel Iman)

Overall, an interesting indie film that will definitely make you think while giving you a fun ride.

 

Randomness: “no one remembered…”

As folks know, I’m about that zine/self-publishing life. I was pleasantly surprised when a good friend shared she was venturing into DIY (Do It Yourself) work. I know she has always wanted to establish herself with a major publishing company. She said it was I that made her fall in love with small press (yes!) I met Olivia Olivia a few years ago when I organized my city’s first women of color zine symposium. Olivia Olivia was a young woman who let you know she was in the room. We quickly became buddies as we were both foodies at heart. Olivia Olivia writes about her experiences as a Salvadoran author/activist.  In her new chapbook “no one remembered your name but i wrote it down” chronicles her time living in Berlin, growing up as an undocumented youth, and the death of a beloved sister.

A great addition to anyone’s zine/small press collection 🙂

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Ghost Summer Stories

I couldn’t sleep for weeks after reading Tananarive Due‘s “The Good House.” It was a deliciously disturbing book. I soon became a huge fan of Due’s work. Due tends to be lumped in with science fiction writer Octavia Butler, but Due dabbles more in the supernatural/thriller genre. Her work stands on its own.

When a good friend asked me if I wanted a book for my birthday (she knows I love to read), I said “Ghost Summer…please.” I’ve been itching to get this book. I was excited when it finally arrived in the mail the other day. The book contains 15 short stories. A perfect read for a new mom like myself.

I’m scared already 🙂

 

Barbershop 3/Giving Thanks

Okay, the first barbershop was decent enough. The second one I don’t even remember. Now a third one with no Michael Ealy? Blah. I guess the movies try to be positive, although Ice Cube got on my nerves this past summer with his “Straight out of Compton” anti-woman antics. The film comes out spring of next year.

This is the time of year folks post on Facebook “thanks-giving” lists sharing all the things they are grateful for in their lives. I usually find these lists annoying, but after this bizarre year of the rise of Donald Trump, the continued violence against black folks/folks of color, push back against reproductive rights, etc.,  I find myself also reflecting on the more positive aspects in my life/the world. You have to to stay sane in these increasingly cold-hearted times…

  • Thanks for my new little one. He brings me love, happiness, and no sleep all at the same time  🙂
  • Thanks for my recent birthday celebration. I usually bemoan another candle on the cake, but hell I could be dead.
  • Thanks to friends who supported me when I needed help with housing/relocation this year.
  • Thanks to the the three women who started #blacklivesmatter igniting a new wave of social justice/civil rights/student activism across the country.
  • Thanks to President Obama for telling folks to stop “popping off” at the mouth. I have my issues with him, but he does have a way of bringing flavor to boring American politics.
  • And last but not least love to the Native/Indigenous folks as we get ready to celebrate the colonizer’s holiday. Special shout out to Mrs. Universe Ashley Callingbull who refuses to let folks shut down her work for Native/Indigenous women. Go girl.

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