It’s June…

and yes, I know I’m late as hell.  But, things get hectic sometimes.  I’ve been busy with work and other projects. I also attended two amazing conferences. I shared before about getting a scholarship to go to the AWP Conference & BookfairThe AWP is a literary event featuring well known and up and coming writers. As someone who deems herself a writer, it was nice being in a space with other nerdy folks. Hey, most writers tend to be quirky people, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The highlights of the conference: Come Celebrate With Me” : Women of Color Writers and Literary Lineage, and Safe Writing Spaces: Building Community Through Literary Advocacy workshops. The Come Celebrate With Me… women of color authors offered great advice for new writers. In particular, to “be vulnerable, be honest, and take risks.” The Safe Writing Space…session featured Renee Watson. Watson is originally from my city, and has written a best selling young adult novel. She is also the founder of I, Too Arts Collective.  The non-profit encourages people from marginalized communities to write/be creative.

Watson and other great writers, talked about the importance of not just creating a safe space, but a “brave space” for writers of color. The need to make sure participants feel seen/heard, providing community norms/agreements, and empowerment. I also attended the wonderful workshop “We Are Our Own Gods: Writing for Black Women’s Liberation.” The speakers consisted of writers from the Black Ladies Brunch Collective. I talk about their book in this video.

The members from the collective uplifted Black women writers. They stated that “vulnerability can be a path to liberation,” don’t be afraid of the early draft,” and “think about who is shaming us?” The last comment speaks to how mainstream society seeks to oppress Black women by making us feel bad about ourselves, while at the same time exploiting/commodifying our bodies/beauty/talents. The members also noted that Black women should be open to writing about a variety of things, exploring beyond the binary/whiteness. I learned a lot and really enjoyed the conversation.

Continue reading “It’s June…”

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Self-Care is Self-Love

I try to engage in self-care. It’s difficult to do on a consistent basis as a busy mama. And it’s an internal struggle using extra funds to splurge on myself, and not on buying the kid a new pair of shoes.  Plus, self-care spaces (spas, yoga, etc.) have been heavily promoted and imagined as a pleasure for white women. When I celebrated my birthday last fall, I decided to treat myself to a soak and sauna, with a massage sandwiched in between. I found it interesting that the mostly white staff seemed surprised and even a bit hostile I was there.  I guess a Black woman wanting to focus on self/healing was unthinkable to them.

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This past weekend, I attended a fundraising event for an organization that is dedicated to encouraging Black/communities of color to practice self-care. I had a wonderful time and ate some amazing Thai curry chicken soup! I enjoyed all the guest speakers, especially Day Bibb. Bibb shared about being a survivor of domestic violence. She noted when she was seeking services to reclaim her life/sense of self after leaving her abuser, white medical practitioners were eagerly willingly to give her medication to “deal with the trauma.” However, she realized she was never provided self-care resources. She made the profound point that Black women aren’t seen as worthy of self-care spaces. We are just expected to “mule” and take the lumps and bumps of life, without recourse.  It reminded me of my experience at the spa. The look on their faces that read they didn’t think I belonged.

The truth is, self-care is more of a necessity for Black women than it is for white women. Let’s be honest. What do white women go through? They live in a society that puts them on pedestal, coddles their white woman tears, and pretty much let them get away with nonsense (all those 911 ones on Black people for eating while Black, swimming while Black, napping while Black, etc., were majority placed by white women).

Self-care spaces need to be more open and welcoming to Black women because we need/deserve it the most. This country was built off the bodies/labor of Black women, and we continue to be exploited/marginalized. Bibb stated Black children also need time for reflection/to breath, as they are even ruthlessly attacked under the system of white supremacy/oppression.

Self-care is self-love and I’m working hard this year to treat myself more and allow myself space to just be.

 

Ntozake Shange

“Somebody almost walked off with all of my stuff…”

This line starts my favorite monologue from Ntozake Shange’s award-winning choreopoemfor colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf . Shange recently passed away at the age of 70. Her death has received little attention in mainstream media. It has been mostly Black women honoring her life/work, probably because Shange wrote about our lives in such an honest and frank way, it’s hard for many people to digest.

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Shange detailed our pain/fears/disappointments, but also our healing. In a society that is anti-black/woman/poor etc., Black women often find themselves navigating a myriad of oppressions (racism, sexism, classim, heterosexism, colorism).  Shange’s for colored girls… captured all of these “isms” so eloquently, it’s not surprising it’s considered an iconic piece of work.

The homegoing of Shange (as well as Aretha Franklin), highlights the importance of always celebrating brilliant Black women, when the world quickly wants to forget them. Thank you so much Ms. Shange, and rest well.

 

 

 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

This month has been going by so fast, I almost forgot to pay homage to Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an annual designation observed in October. For many, home is a place of love, warmth, and comfort. It’s somewhere that you know you will be surrounded by care and support, and a nice little break from the busyness of the real world. But for millions of others, home is anything but a sanctuary. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical violence by a partner every year.” https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-domestic-violence-awareness-month-october/

It is especially important to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as the current administration has made it clear its disdain of women. The absurdity that surrounded Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings is an example of this hatred. The whole situation was alarming, because if a white upper-class highly educated woman could be treated with such venom, what hope is there for women who aren’t as privileged. Particularly, Black/women of color.

I thought about this when I recently attended an event focusing on domestic violence in communities of color. Black/women of color often face unique challenges when trying to deal with the issue of violence in their lives (interpersonal, sexual assault, etc.) They are forced to rely on institutions that have historically oppressed, ignored, or exploited them (healthcare services, law enforcement, etc.) The workshop I participated in, the speaker discussed the need to create resources for Black/women of color outside these dominant systems. This can look like building underground networks for these women.

As the speaker noted, “Since the days of slavery, we as a people have been resourceful in creating safety amongst ourselves because safety historically has not existed for us within dominant culture. As enslaved peoples our ancestors created and learned to use codes and underground avenues to create safety and community amongst themselves. This same concept applies for DV survivors of color today; safety and support is sought in unconventional ways.”

We also watched a video featuring Bernadine Waller. Waller talked about the stereotypes and assumptions about Black women that make it hard for them to be taken seriously as victims of violence. She urged professionals to see Black women, to REALLY see us…to see our humanity.  Waller’s speech was moving, and highlighted how much work needs to be done in ensuring that Black women are living whole and healthy lives.

 

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”

Blogcation

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”–Audre Lorde

Now, that it’s summer it’s a perfect time for a Blogcation. I’m ready to tackle some other projects these next couple of months. A few of my summer plans are to cut back on social media, read a good book, and spend time with my toddler. There’s been an agenda from “you know who” to crush our spirits. The mainstream news has been filled with overwhelming stories of racist/other oppressive incidents. This constant bombardment of negativity is meant to disorient us and leave us feeling hopeless. While traditional forms of resistance are always necessary (boycotts, etc.), engaging in self-care is also important.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. I encourage all my readers to do the same. I also want to thank everyone for your support. My goal with this blog has been to show the unique experiences and complexities of Black women/womanhood. If you are not quite ready to say goodbye for the summer months, I will be offering online courses at my new virtual school.  It’s an opportunity to expand on my work. There will be fun activities, so be sure to check ’em out! The courses will be available in July.

Otherwise, I will be back in the fall. Have a safe and cool summer!

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take care of self 🙂

Well, That Escalated Quickly

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I’ll never forget the first time I saw Franchesca Ramsey’s “Sh*t White Girls Say.” I watched it over and over again. I couldn’t stop cracking up. I thought it was an accurate portrayal of some of the ridiculous things white girls say to Black girls. I actually used the video as an example of the microagressions Black women experience, for a paper I was writing at the time. I was working on the paper to submit to an essay contest at my university. I won the $500 award (thanks, Franchesca).

It’s hard to believe that video debuted six years ago. It’s been amazing to see Ramsey go from a YouTube talent, to a well-known persona on shows like MTV’s Decoded. So, when she announced she was coming out with a book, I waited with anticipation. I was curious to learn more about the funny young woman with the lovely locs.

Because I’m a busy single mama, I cheated and got the audiobook. I’m actually glad I did. There were some parts in the book that made me burst out laughing. I startled a couple of folks, while out and about, with my hee hawing. Ramsey has a great speaking voice, and reading her own story with her voice inflections will tickle you.

The one thing I took away from her book, is that she is hopelessly optimistic. I don’t mean this in a snarky way at all. As a natural cynic, and a member of Generation-X…the original “side eye” folks, I found this to be interesting. Ramsey recaps her journey from an unknown content creator, to what she calls “an accidental activist.” She shares how she learned to deal with racism (and other isms), as she came into social justice work.

However, I wondered at times, if she’s too forgiving. In the book, she talks about call in/call out. Call in is basically talking to someone privately if they do something racist/sexist/etc. in public. It’s considered a better strategy than calling out or as the young folks say, “dragging” someone.

I have mixed emotions about this approach. I think it’s because the call in method requires you to educate/explain to the offender what they did wrong. I don’t know, I guess I’m sick of educating folks. Personally, I think most people know what they are doing when they engage in oppressive behavior. Not everyone is naive or ignorant. Some folks just don’t care. Sometimes a good clowning or calling out will do.

For example, Ramsey speaks about having dinner with Lena Dunham. After meeting Dunham, she felt guilty that she used to bash her show and speak negatively of her. She decided to give Dunham benefit of the doubt, and try to have an amiable relationship with her. Dunham has been hella problematic and is symbolic of white feminism/white hipster racism. Also, I’m still trying to figure out how she got away with practically bragging about sexuality exploiting  her sister when they were children.

Someone likes Dunham deserves to be called out. I would never waste my time talking to her about anything. This is not to say Ramsey agreed with everything Dunham has done, but this is where that hopeless optimism comes into play.  The idea that we need to leave space for racists/sexists to become “better people.” Yes, that works for some folks. But most people just aren’t going to change. No matter how many bell hooks books you recommend. I feel Dunham is one of those people.

I did enjoy listening to Ramsey speak about the power of social media, and the impact it’s having on people’s lives. The good and the bad. Especially, for folks her age. As someone in her 40’s, I’m still trying to get a handle on all these damn apps. It’s fascinating to know there’s this whole generation where things like Facebook, twitter, etc., have always been apart of their lives. Ramsey talked about making videos, blogging, and graphic designing as a teen. These are skills I’m just now learning.

A couple of months ago, I took a class on training materials. The instructor talked about the do’s/don’ts of PowerPoint. One student talked about the horrible ways his teacher in high school made PowerPoint presentations. I almost fell out. When I was growing up, we were lucky to have a chalkboard in the room. I still remember teachers writing on overhead projectors.

“Well, That Escalated Quickly” was a good read…uh, listen. Ramsey brought humor as she covered everything from activism to her interracial marriage to “trolls” online. She does not disappoint. My grade: A-

Have you read Ramsey’s book? What are your thoughts?

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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Thursday Giveaway: HANNAH Magazine

Last year, TIME magazine dropped the ball with their Person of the Year cover. The issue was dedicated to women speaking out against sexual harassment/abuse…courtsey of the #MeToo movement. Instead of specifically featuring Tarana Burke (originator of #MeToo),  white women celebrities cluttered the cover.

Recently, TIME magazine rectified the situation by predominately featuring Burke as one of their 100 Most Influential People for 2018.

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However, I was more excited when I saw Burke gracing the pages of HANNAH Magazine. HANNAH is a fairly new publication. The first issue was released in 2016.

“HANNAH is an unapologetic celebration of and safe space for Black women in the form of a growing community, a biannual custom publication, and an online presence. HANNAH is a place where we are not asked nor demanded to justify our existence, presence, or humanity. It is, rather, a space where we can simply BE.” http://hannahmag.com/

HANNAH Magazine wanted to pay homage to Burke after the TIME slight.

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I eagerly ordered the issue, but thought it would be more fun to give this fabulous magazine to someone.

So, if you are a Black woman/Non Binary person…this particular giveaway is for you! I want the magazine to go to the population it’s intended for. This will be a first come, first served treat. There’s a catch (of course!) If you are the recipient of this gift, you have to tell me your thoughts about the magazine. It can be via video/short essay/poetry etc., however you like to express yourself. Your review will be posted on the blog.

Entries can be sent to womanishseeme@yahoo.com. Please put HANNAH Magazine Giveaway in the subject line.

GO!

Spring Break

“summer summer summertime….” *record scratch*

Oh, it’s still spring. Well, I’ll take it. I’m sooo over the cold weather, getting sick every other week, and zombie folks. I’m ready for sunny days, blossoming flowers, and people with a little pep in their step.

I will be taking a short blogcation. This is the season of rebirth, rejuvenation, and renewal. I hope you are also able to engage in some self-care 🙂

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