4 Years Forgotten

The ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan ranks right up there with Hurricane Katrina as one of the most deplorable acts against the Black community. Only slavery in America has them both beat, and that’s not saying much. All three events represent this country’s continued genocide attempts on Black people.

It’s been 4 years since Flint has had clean water. Not only do residents still don’t have drinkable water, they are being forced to pay for the tainted water.  It’s a disgrace.

Back in March, I came across the campaign “4 Years Forgotten.” It was started by 10-year-old activist, Mari Copeny. On the website, she states:

“My hometown has been in a water crisis since April, 24th 2014. Yes, for 4 years. Thousands of kids and adults were exposed to lead and other toxic chemicals in our water. When word of the crisis first broke we had media from all around the world shining a spotlight on Flint. But now, the cameras are gone and this crisis is far from being over with. To mark the 4 year mark of the Flint Water Crisis I am hoping to sell as many of these shirts for people to wear on April 24th to bring attention back onto Flint. Four Years Forgotten.” https://www.bonfire.com/4-years-forgotten/

When I think about the 2017 Women’s March, I don’t reflect on white women wearing pink pussy hats. I think about a picture I saw of three Black women standing by themselves. They were holding signs that read “DON’T FORGET FLINT.”

I was happy to support this fundraiser. It looks like Copeny and company have restarted it, so don’t miss your opportunity to get a shirt!

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I never know how to take selfies. Repping my 4 Years Forgotten t-shirt 🙂

 

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Eloquent Rage

A month or so ago, there was a huge debate regarding singer Bruno Mars. Mars, who has had a succesful run making r&b music,  was called out as a cultural appropriator. This shocked a lot of his fans. Usually, it’s white artists who are accused of cultural appropriation. Folks wondered how Mars, a man of color, could be considered a cultural appropriator. His fans pointed out Mars was of Puerto Rican descent, thus had enough Negro in him to sing Black music/use Black cultural images.

We Talked to the Woman Who Reignited the Bruno Mars Cultural Appropriation Debate

It was a YouTuber, Seren, who sparked the national conversation. I’ve been a follower of Seren on YouTube. While I don’t always agree with her, I find her to be a well-informed young woman. She’s passionate about her views, particularly the importance of maintaining Black culture/Black legacy/Black history…as it seems to be up for grabs to any/everybody these days. I really didn’t find anything wrong with her argument, so it was surprising when people reacted to her with hostility, even threats of violence. Some folks thought it was tacky she said she didn’t care if Mars ate a cake and died, or something to that effect. Umm.. I’m sure most of us have celebrities we don’t care for, that if they fell off the face of the earth, we would say “oh.” To me, her dis didn’t warrant the vitriol she received. So, what else could it be?

I was on a messageboard, when someone pointed out what I had been thinking, the hatred toward Seren seemed to be because she was a Black woman. I read several posts were people felt she was loud/stupid/had an attitude, stereotypical words used to describe Black women. Or basically, Ms. Seren didn’t know her place. It was fascinating to see the abusive language coming not just from white folks, but people of color (they failed like hell on their allyship to a Black woman) and even some Black people. Black women are never allowed to be angry. Even when that anger, was really in protection of what this young woman saw as an erasing of her culture/her people’s contributions to this racist country. She wasn’t saying some off the wall shit, she was stating facts. Folks just couldn’t handle it.

Continue reading “Eloquent Rage”

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

I’ve had to use a few tissues, my toddler’s sock, the edge of my bed sheets (whatever is nearby)…to soak up my tears. Why do you ask? I’m listening to the audiobook “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Patrisse Khan-CullorsCheck it out, if you can. Especially before March 29th. Khan-Cullors will be on Facebook Live Book Club to answer questions/chat about her work 🙂

The Future is…Danielle Heard

It was the cute bowtie that caught my attention. I’d seen Danielle post several times on a Black woman’s website we both visit. I enjoyed her thoughtful commentary. I always wanted to ask her about her bowties. One day, someone started a thread encouraging people to promote their side gigs. Danielle shared briefly about her bowtie venture. It was an opportunity to learn more!

Hello! Thank you for the interview. Tell us about yourself. 

Firstly, I was born in Frankfurt, Germany via military and experienced various countries, languages, and peoples…thus my engagement with learning about the world outside of the United States began. Those formative years shaped me into the individual I am today, because when you have the birth situation or opportunity to experience culture outside of the U.S., you’re able to intellectually flex your brain muscles a tad more to engage with a lot of really heavy topics. We eventually moved back to the U.S., to a military base, (surprise-surprise) and that’s where I’ve been intermittently since.

Second, I’ve always had natural hair, which I have to brag about because Black Women have been given so much scorn and belittling because of the way our hair naturally grows out of our scalp. Our hair is the most versatile and beautiful work of art: mohawks, high tops, braids, locs, curls, afros, bantu knots, etc. The sky is really the limit with our hair and it never fails to leave me speechless. Praise be and blessings to my Mother who saved my Sister and I from a lot of self hate.

Third, I identify as Ace-greysexual. This was a process of self discovery that was as confusing as it was educational because I knew about the main umbrella/lettering but the periphery letters so often get left off of the promotional materials, you know? I always felt like I was standing on the outside looking in when the topic of romantic and sexual relationships came up. I had no interest and the synapses that were supposed to ignite, didn’t even fizzle. I’ve learned that I’m not alone, an outlier, and more than anything broken.

Fourth, when I’m not working on content, you can catch me at the gym or working out at home. I got into powerlifting and various muscle training exercises while I was at University. It’s super cathartic, an incredible way to decompress, and great for my health. When I personally channel my own vanity, it’s for mental health and to combat some body dysmorphia issues that used to pop up for me.

I am excited about your upcoming bowtie business. I know you love fashion, but why specifically bowties? Any challenges you’ve faced as a Black woman entrepreneur? When will products be available for purchase?  

Bowties have always been fascinating to me; I’ve always been enamored by their shapes and how they rest on/around the neck. Plus, I puzzled when I was little, where/how do you tie these? I bought my first bow tie when I was in Undergraduate school and am reaching closer and closer to 100. They are so much more exquisite in form, function, and variety to me than neckties. Alongside bowties, I have a sizable hat collection and collect more when my funds permit. The motivating factor in starting this business venture was minimal job opportunities after I graduated—and not living in a state where a fashion store or company could easily pick me up—with my particular niche/expertise.

Also, my Grandmother who passed away two years ago was a sewer, knitter, crocheter, needle-pointer, and anything else you can imagine with fabric. She made various clothes for her children, drapes and curtains, quilts, pillowcases, and so much more. My main regret is missing out on crucial learning time about her and with her; Dementia gradually sapped her mind and her voice. But, her legacy will continue in a way through her grandchild that wants to take up her mantle and sewing machine. I’ve faced no challenges thus far with my business (praying that the waters don’t become rough). My market has so much untapped potential that I personally feel that people will be knocking my website door down to make a purchase.

There’s so many businesses that by proxy of having a Black Woman (or Black queer woman) attached do incredibly well. My Grandmother has so much fabric, sewing machines, needles, thread, etc. that purchasing essentials may be nil to very inexpensive. At most, the domain for my website may cost a bit through Squarespace, but once I launch later this year, everyone should be on the lookout for something truly special!

You shared you’re an avid reader. I love to read too! My latest obsession is N.K. Jemisin (science fiction/fantasy). What books do you enjoy reading? 

Thanks for the recommendation! I really need to get into more science fiction books because I love the science fiction genre, especially in film, plus I know it’s really grown and has tons of Black Women and Black people as leads. I read a lot of social justice, history, feminist, environmental, sci-fi, horror, and video game texts. I’m a logophile nerd that loved reading the dictionary and competing in spelling bee competitions, so of course I read everything!

There’s a book that was released recently called, Let’s Talk About Love by a young Black female author named Claire Kann. You’ve got to check out the cover too, you will be overwhelmed by its beauty. The story follows a young Black Woman that’s trying to navigate her relationships as an Asexual person, and its representation like that, which was severely lacking when I was a child/young person trying to navigate the world as a non-overtly sexual Black person. The media we ingest so often over-sexualizes Black people so that when you don’t fall into that spectrum, you feel like an otherized other inside of another otherness.

I also just downloaded the comic Bingo Love, it’s about two Black girls that fall in love in the 1960s, society forces them to change/act heteronormatively, get married yada, yada, yada…however their story doesn’t end there…when they’re much older in their sixties they reconnect in a Bingo Hall and rekindle the same love that was snatched away so many years earlier. The story and then the artwork had me hooked immediately, Black Women loving each other outside of a cis-hetero framework, sign me all the way up!

Continue reading “The Future is…Danielle Heard”

The Future is…Coreena

*My new series “The Future is…” highlights innovative Black women/Non Binary folks.*

A few weeks ago, I was reading my new favorite online magazine Divine Dark Skin, when I saw an ad featuring singer Coreena.  I love learning about upcoming Black women artists, so I double-clicked. I liked what I heard, and decided to follow her website. Not long after, I was pleasantly surprised to find out Coreena was a member of an internet forum that I’m part of. I enjoyed her vibe in the group, and decided to reach out to her. I almost fainted when she agreed to an interview. I’m glad I asked. What I found was an adventurous young woman, carving her own path/identity/career.

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Hi! So, tell us about yourself…

Hello and thank you for having me. Just want to say your blog is the bomb!!! Okay, enough of me gushing! My name is Coreena, I’m a musician currently based in Seattle Wa., but in two weeks moving to Berlin, Germany! I was born and raised in Seattle, went to college in Boston, MA at Berklee College of Music. I got married in Southern California and was in that relationship for 8-9 years. I divorced and moved back to Seattle. I currently teach voice/piano and perform /record music.

After my divorce, I started stepping into the person I wanted to be. My favorite quote is…“your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your actions do.” So, I became an ethical vegan. I’m more spiritual than religious. I followed my true path of becoming a full-time musician, no more side giggin. I wanted to use all of my talents to make a living.

I started getting into activism for animals and made the connection of oppression, abuse and subjugation in all forms. I was always aware of social justice issues in the Black community, but I was a bit of an elitist. I used to think the Black Panthers were too “extreme” and thought that upward mobility and respectability politics was the path to success for Black folks. Thinking about it now I’m like…who was that woman? She had all the best intentions, but allowed fear to guide her.

Currently, my “politics” and/or belief systems may be viewed as radical or extreme. Although, I think its ridiculous that some would view equality for all as radical! I proudly identify as a Black feminist/womanist. Let me be clear this identity for me includes trans women and gender-nonconforming femmes. Black feminism has really taken heat and so many folks don’t have a clue of what this identity embodies.

When I interview Portlanders of color, I often ask “What do you like/dislike about Portland?” I know Seattle is a bit more diverse than Portland, but is also known for being a white city. What are your unique experiences as a Black woman in Seattle? 

Seattle is my home so I’m sentimental and nostalgic about my physical surroundings, seeing familiar family and faces. I like that some of the younger Black folks and POC are already clued into radicalism. Maybe these younger folks can make the changes I’d like to see. What I don’t like is how Seattle prides itself on being very liberal, yet drinks diet racism. Many fail to ask the question, “How can I use my privilege to help and contribute to equality?”

Has music always been a passion of yours or did you have other interests? You are also a songwriter/producer. Do you think it’s important singers be “multi-talented?” 

I started singing when I was a wee little girl 5-6 years old, but professionally my career started when I went to Berklee at 19. It has ALWAYS been a passion. I can’t imagine doing anything else, maybe little things on the side like acting as I did in high school. My other interest was history, it’s so fascinating and important to know. You don’t know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you came from.

YES! I think its very important, but not necessary. It’s not public knowledge that a lot of “singers” are actually multi talented. Aretha Franklin played piano, wrote her own music and was her own music director at times. Chaka Khan played drums and did many of her own back up vocals in the studio. Bjork writes and produces. And the list goes on and on…

Your music has an electronic/Afrofuturism flavor, that reminds me of Kelela and FKA Twigs. What are your thoughts on the current state of Black women singers/artists?  How do you define your music? 

I’ve been making music in this genre and have had this sound for the last 13 years. It was not popular to see Black faces let alone a Black woman doing this back then. One of the main reasons I’m going to Berlin is because electronic music and its sub-genres are thriving there. As a Black woman who is an indie artist I get questions like…do you have anything that sounds like Beyoncé? Don’t get me wrong I really DIG Beyoncé, but I’m not her. I can get down singing some R&B/soul music tho! Don’t sleep! LOL!

I think the U.S. has a long way to go still in its acceptance of Black women “alternative” artists. I define my music as Electronic/Ambient/Trip Hop/Alternative/Beat Driven/Downtempo…with hints of jazz.

Your YouTube channel “CoCo Reena Goes International: A musician’s guide to travel, food, and discovery” chronicles your move to Germany. What do you hope to accomplish in Germany?

I decided to go to a place where the genre of music I do is celebrated and not tolerated. I’ve always want to spend quality time abroad and I do not want to get to a place in my life and look back with that big regret. After the election of #45 that was my push…escaping the U.S. in the era of Trump. I’m so disgusted by him and how bold his supporters are. The current climate in the U.S. is not healthy. I told myself I need to go be a citizen of the world for a while.

I’m girl crushing for real! I think your beautiful smile, exemplifies the positivity that radiates from you. What keeps you joyful/optimistic? Do you engage in self-care? Do you have any tips for Black women maintaining a healthy sense of self? In our “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” society (to quote bell hooks).

Oh, Thank YOU!!! What keeps my mind in a productive place really is music. Thru music I have the opportunity to do my passion while expressing all my feelings, thoughts and activism! Music is my self-care. I also get those books out, take those baths and veg out!

I think for Black women to obtain a sense of self and foster healthiness is such an effort that it has to be done EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Specifically, for those that are dark-skinned Black women such as myself. We are perceived with so much bias. The images, social media, and person to person contact…just about everything in the outside world will remind you to “stay in your place.” What I do to fight this is surround myself with media, books, and people who reinforce what I believe to be the truth. Black is beautiful. Black is diverse. Black does not mean wrong or bad. Black is me and I love me.

Thank you for your time

Thanks for having me!

HOW TO SUPPORT COREENA

Website– https://www.coreenamusic.com

Patreon https://www.patreon.com/coreena

Youtube (Coco Reena)https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC432n57Sb0mnmcNnr2zzlyA

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/coreenamusic/

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/reena0519/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/coreenamusic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. It’s a great opportunity to support women’s organizations/businesses. Here are some of my favorite Black women led groups:

Pay Your Teachers: How to Compensate Black Women and Femmes on Social Media for Their Emotional Labor

A Long Walk Home

Black Lives Matter

Black Women’s BluePrint

Bloom Beautifully

Divine Dark Skin

#metoo

Safety Pin Box

SisterSong

The Feminist Wire

PDX Black Feminism 😉

 

Black Panther

As wacky as it sounds, I haven’t had a chance to see Black Panther yet. Unfortunately, I came down with a terrible cold, this past week. Then, my city became engulfed in snow. It seems like a conspiracy to keep me from seeing the movie! I’ll get there someday 🙂 However, it’s been wonderful reading all the critiques of the film (I don’t mind spoilers, I’m the type to read the end of a mystery novel…first).

A few of my favorite takes on the film:  In Defense of Erik Killmonger and the Forgotten Children of Wakanda, Black Panther film fuels calls for release of  jailed political prisoners, and ‘5 ways ‘Black Panther’ celebrates and elevates Black women.

What’s been amusing about the release of  the film…is folks response to it. There’s been white folks hostility towards “Black Panther,” since it was announced last year. The fake outrage of “reverse racism” due to an all Black cast. Nevermind the fact, Black folks have no qualms watching the ton of white superhero films that flood the theaters every summer (all those damn Spiderman and Batman roboots).  There’s even been Black criticism. Some Black folks thinks it undermines Black empowerment, think Black superheros are silly, etc.

I don’t think Black folks think a movie is going to save us. Black folks, just like other communities, have subcultures. There are Black nerds/Black cosplay folks, who love comics. There are Black parents (like myself) who see it as fun event for their children. There are some Black folks using this as an opportunity to broaden the issues of Black activism/politics. As with anything, it’s what you make of it.

There’s actually been some great things to come from this film…whether if it’s flawed or not. The call for a syllabus resource submissions (due this Friday!), as well as a Wakanda Curriculum created for secondary students. If nothing else, “Black Panther” definitely made an impact in 2018.

Black History/Future Month

“All that you touch, You Change. All that you Change, Changes You. The only lasting truth is Change.”–Octavia Butler

It’s Black History/Future Month. A time to reflect on the past contributions of Black Americans, as well as the visions/creativity/activism of the next generation.

The purpose of my group (PDX Black Feminism) is to honor the barriers broken by Black women/Non-Binary people. We provide a space to talk about issues affecting us in/outside of our city.  It’s also an opportunity to explore the Afrofuturism tools of resisting oppression.

Please support our work this month. The funding helps rent space for meetings, provide refreshments, and self-care needs. In celebration of Black History/Future Month, we will be hosting a showing of “Unbought and Unbossed.” The film explores Shirley Chisholm’s run for presidency, a Black politician trailblazer.

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Black Children

Several months ago, my little one and I were at a fast food place, waiting for our order. An older Black man walked in, dressed to the nines. It was a Sunday, so I’m guessing he had just come from church. He stopped in front of us, and gazed at my son. My toddler, who was playing with his toy, looked back. He flashed a grin. The older Black man raised an eyebrow.  “Your boy has Sidney Poitier’s smile.” He said. Then he gave us the required Black head nod and wobbled away to stand in line.

The encounter with the older Black man, sums up my interactions with Black folks when I am with my child. They are usually loving, and say encouraging words.  I think it’s because they understand Black children aren’t appreciated in our society. I mean, we live in a country, where non-Black people will argue passionately why it was okay for a 12-year old child to be murdered carelessly by police (Tamir Rice).

We don’t get the same warmth from white folks. Since we live in a majority white city, when we’ve attended play groups at the library, park, or wherever…white parents dominate. Usually, they ignore us. And if they do give us any kind of attention it tends to be in annoyance or confusion. White parents generally have no respect for Black parents. They also keep a suspicious eye on my son, while their child is tearing up the place.

Recently, my little one and I were at a store. I stood in the aisle trying to remember the things I needed to get, as my son sat in his stroller. There was an older white woman, across from us, waiting in the pharmacy line. My son waved at her and said “Hi!”with his signature smile.

The white woman looked at him, curled up her lips, and rolled her eyes. I couldn’t believe it. It took everything out of me not to pop her eyeballs out. Then she would have nothing to roll. Instead, I casually walked passed her, and gave her the middle finger. Her face turned red, and she quickly walked to the front of the line. She better had.

Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve seen white folks act like “shitholes” to my kid. White supremacy/privilege/racism is such…most white folks can’t even stop themselves from being hateful to Black children.

The Opposite of ‘Monkey’ Isn’t ‘royalty’; It’s ‘Human’

So, H&M’s antics didn’t really surprise me.  As more grown Black folks are becoming “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and resisting/organizing against white supremacy, like never before, Black children are easy targets. They are innocent and impressionable. They haven’t learned yet how to counter anti-blackness.

And no. I don’t care if the mother doesn’t care her son was humiliated for the globe to see. Some Black folks use denial as a way to escape white violence. Also, I believe the mother lives overseas. She probably doesn’t know that monkey images have been used consistently in American culture to degrade Black folks. Plus, we are living in a Trump world. White supremacists are trying their hardest to bring back the “good old days.” A time when they could abuse Black folks anyway they wanted, and faced no consequences.

There is an agenda to destroy Black children. That’s why it’s easy to leave them freezing in a public school.  Black parents have to stay vigilant and fight white supremacist attacks on our kids.

 

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The little one…showing his “Sidney Poitier” smile.

Black Santa

Remember, a few years ago when Fox News insisted Santa Claus was white? I’ll never forget the incredulous look on Megyn Kelly’s face when suggested Santa could be a Black man (or any man of color). It would be funny, if it wasn’t sad. I’ve often wondered why isn’t more written about white pathology? To insist that a fictional character is white…speaks to an underlining obsession with white supremacy/privilege. It’s rather strange.

‘Santa Just is White’: Here Are Megyn Kelly’s 7 Most Ridiculous Moments on Fox News

In any case, as far as my son is concerned (and other Black children)…Santa is Black. I was excited to see several opportunities around my city, to visit a Black Santa. I took my toddler for the first time. He kept it together, for the most part. Okay, two huge tears rolled down his cheeks as he clutched his candy cane, but at least he didn’t punch Santa  (whew!)

Rock on Black Santa 🙂

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My youngin looking for an escape route…