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Friday, January 20, 2017

Women's March: Signs of Protest

Image credit: The very talented Erika Briggans-Jones. Check out more of her design work here:

#Womensmarch #translivesmatter #blacklivesmatter #womensrights #intersectional #protestposter

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Incumbent Fear

For months, disappointment looms
A tap on the shoulder thrills you with the idea that
Someone has come for you
You turn only to discover
it is the boot of 
Hope, whose lifeless form is swaying from the trees above.

#inauguration #makeamericahate #blacklivesmatter

Monday, January 9, 2017

"Dreadful" Redux

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 25 seconds.

C- Bringing an argument about (ancient) Greeks, Mongols, Celts etc. to a discussion about racism and appropriation in the context of the last 200 yrs is a derailment of the discussion and is an attempt to undermine legitimate grievances of modern day black people.
As mentioned by OP, dreds do have "deep meaning" for African Americans and they explain a couple of reasons why this appropriation might be hurtful or offensive to the AA community.

KG- actually, it's not. Just because all those cultures don't have wide stream use of those hairstyles, it dosent take away history. I can tattoo my face blue, and it would be my cultural heritage, even tho few have chosen to continue that tradition. Op has proven her self deeply misinformed, from her picture is white, and didn't actually give any cultural reason, just that essentially, American black people don't like it because it blurs the line between cultures. Which is looping logic. Can't blur two cultures if you can't show two cultures. So i asked someone else. Just saying "deep cultural meaning" isn't an answer, i said deep cultural meaning in regards to native symbols because i already know the reasons and there are tons. Im asking to be informed, because no literature on here is informative and i get accused of trying to derail the discussion. Do you see why i find it difficult to take this complaint seriously? In my experience when someone talks around the question, they don't have an answer.

C- Okay, so here goes:

When we enter a discussion about cultural import and offensive appropriation vs. culture sharing and assimilation, we have left behind objectivity and quantifiable data. We are now talking about “feelings”, and often these discussions really boil down to “Who is a cry-baby and who has a legitimate claim to anger/upset”.

In saying that you understand cultural appropriation regarding Native/ Indigenous people, you’re in a different spot than many people. Often fashion or pop culture will “borrow” Native garb (specifically head dresses) because they are visually captivating, and like you said- they have little to no regard for the history or context surrounding those cultural signifiers.

For current context and to try to answer your initial question: African Americans have long been ostracized for their natural hair. In terms of beauty standards, 4C hair (what some refer to as “kinky” hair ) was and still is often seen by people outside of the AA community (and sometimes inside) as messy, unprofessional, and ugly. This can be seen in the recent Supreme Court case where the plaintiff’s job offer was rescinded because the office hiring her had a policy against dreadlocks (, citing that locks get “messy”.

Some might then ask why black people don’t just stop wearing dreads or dreadlocks altogether. We are limited in the ways in which we can wear our natural hair and have it be seen as “professional”. We face active discrimination for the hair that grows naturally from our bodies, and this discrimination is often legalized through “dress code policies” like the one cited above. There is a far-reaching history in the African diasporic community of wearing our hair in dreads or locks. Some of the people in this community are in fact, indigenous (indigenous Taino people lived in Haiti, for example, before the slave trade arrived there).

In my community, we have those who have paid to have locks styled in their hair, whereas dreads are how some people’s hair natural dries and binds together. The root of the hair on dreads is not separated into “neat” individual ropes as it is with locks. Dreads are how many people’s hair forms naturally if not interfered with or styled differently. For those people, it is intrinsically part of their body and their blackness.

The issue with white communities “adopting” this hairstyle is that they belong to a dominant cultural group who has set the beauty and social acceptability standards in the US. Those who are white have the luxury of wearing their hair how it naturally occurs and having that be acceptable. They do not *need* to chemically straighten it, pay hundreds of dollars/spend long hours having it braided neatly in order to secure a job. They might need to get it cut, but that is a far less onerous task than being asked to transform your hair to a state which is not how it occurs naturally.

If it is possible to respect Native/Indigenous people who are offended by appropriation of their cultural markers, then it should also be possible to respect those in the AA community (some of whom are also indigenous) who have an issue with the appropriation of the cultural/racial marker of dreadlocks/locks. If we don’t, it is a signal of whose culture we respect and value more. Since AA culture is often diluted with phrases like “gang culture” or over-simplified to mean only contemporary “rap”, there is not a high societal value on it and it is not seen as “sacred”, “ancient”, or having deep meaning. When in fact, the culture is much more broad, diverse, and longstanding than what is understood by the dominant white culture- which, not only sets the beauty standards as mentioned before, but also standards of cultural importance; deciding things like which art, music, or even history is valued and amplified through teaching and media. You’ll notice, the importance of culture is often tied to its longevity: Greek culture, Roman culture, Egyptian culture (which is often made to look white in its retelling: ) for some examples.

However, part of the reason some AA traditions are not “longstanding” is due to the condition of slavery, and not to any shortcoming of AA society. We were not permitted our art, our history, or even to develop *new* history during the course of slavery (since we were made and then kept illiterate). This effect cannot be discounted and its relevance to our discussion on the importance of AA hairstyles is tied to the fact that we are still, to this day, trying to recoup our significant cultural losses and regain a sense of personal and collective history.

To say that dreadlocks and locks cannot belong to the AA community is to be ignorant of the contextual history of our cultural development and an attempt to syphon a sense of belonging from us under the guise of “cultural oneness”. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a peaceful approach and is in fact a violent daily occurrence which affects people of color on a visceral level.

Additional reading:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Guest Post: Choosing Visibility

Guest Post: Choosing Visibility
by Casey Lynn
4 minutes, 39 seconds.

In the wake of the political disaster we’re calling an election, I was, and still am, an emotional mess. I am confused, frustrated, saddened, angry, defeated, lost, and most of all, on November 9th I woke up afraid.

Looking back, I thought I had experienced fear before: in 7th grade when the beast of a forward on the opposing team came charging right at me, before every improv show I’ve ever done, the first time I said “I love you” to a partner, going away to college, traveling across the ocean to study abroad, leaving my life in Chicago behind to move to Atlanta for grad school. At those times, I thought I was afraid, but I realize now that nervous energy and fear are vastly different.

As a cisgender, white, upper middle-class female, I’ve always been very fortunate to be comfortable and proud of who I am without having to fight much for it.

But also, surprise! Hello everyone; I’m bisexual. Consider this my official coming out. Visibility level one: achieved!

Being a bi-sexual who has primarily dated men, I’ve always had the “privilege” of invisibility. Falling in love with men meant my sexuality was never publicly an issue, as long as this part of me was cached away. And I know, if I ever did fall in love with a woman, she would be welcomed by my family with open arms.

So, despite my sexual identity, the renewed fear I woke up with, and continue to live with now, stems from an event I’ve kept private for years. In 2012, just after my 24th birthday, I was raped.

I was at his apartment ready to go to sleep, so I curled up on his couch. He said, “no, please, take my bed,” so naturally I got in because beds are way more comfy than couches, thinking that he was going to relinquish his bedroom spot and sleep in the living room. When he started to get in bed with me I said, “what are you doing?” to which he replied, “don’t worry I’m not going to try anything,” and I trusted that. So, I got onto my side of the bed, still fully clothed, and fell asleep.

As I was drifting off, I felt him touching me, grabbing my breasts, trying to get his fingers inside my skirt and underwear. I told him to stop; he persisted. He tried to kiss me and again, I told him to stop. He apologized and told me he wouldn't keep trying since I was "clearly not into it." His ego was bruised and I was too exhausted to placate his fragile masculinity. Again, I trusted him and fell asleep.

This time when I woke up, my bra was unhooked, my skirt was around my waist, my top was hiked up to my neck, my breasts were exposed and he was on top of me. It took me a second to process what was happening. I would like to say that I punched him in the face, ran to the police station, took his ass to court and now he’s in prison, but that isn’t what happened. I, like many survivors, blamed myself.

The only thing I said to anyone about it, when I talked about it at all, for the next three years was “I was drugged.” Which was a lie. I didn’t want anyone to think that I let that happen, that I made bad choices, which “led” me to being raped while I lay sleeping, so I gave myself an out. It couldn’t possibly be my fault if I was drugged.

That is fucked up. It’s not my fault, it was never my fault, and yet I felt the stigma of victimization living inside me. Yes, I could have left his apartment instead of falling asleep, but that moment of potential indiscretion- and this is crucial- does not make his actions my fault. He betrayed my trust and touched my body without permission. That is not okay.

I am afraid because I feel that no one is advocating for this part of my experience as a survivor. What little semblance of understanding and support I felt has vanished overnight. I am afraid because a man who lives by the “if-you-want-it-take-it” philosophy, even when it comes to women, has been elected to be the next president. I am afraid because that man has inadvertently empowered men across the country to believe that women’s bodies are theirs for the taking. I am afraid because what happened to me was reduced to “locker room talk,” and years of hard fought efforts to end rape culture have been reversed.

I never thought I’d feel so obligated to come out as a survivor. In the same way I never thought I’d officially come out as bisexual, it seemed to be a non-issue. But now, I choose to be visible. And I hope that this will encourage others to be visible as well. I decided to make this disclosure because there is power in numbers. I want this because, when we stand together and share our stories of survival, we can bring awareness to this epidemic (and it is an epidemic). We can’t rely on leaders to advocate for us; we have to advocate for ourselves. In the context of sexual assault, silence does not equal consent. However, when it comes to allowing the perpetuators of rape culture, sexism, and bigotry to continue unchallenged, our silence is an accommodation. As allies, our silence means we consent to violence against women and I do not consent.  

Casey is an aspiring novelist and copywriting novice. Read her blog about portfolio school and smashing the patriarchy at .

#bisexual #sexualassault 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How to Survive Not-Quite-So-Abject Poverty

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes, 32 seconds

You're reading this, so you have some kind of device on which to view it.
It's on my blog, so you have some kind of internet access. And if not, you have just enough cash to buy a tea at that coffee shop that has free WiFi.
If this is right. You might be just the person I'm talking to.

You might have an apartment or maybe you're couch surfing for now until you can find a place cheap enough to dump your suitcase of diminishing ramshackle belongings.

You don't have a car, or if you do, it's not going to pass that next inspection.

When you eat, it might not be ramen noodles every day, but when you're short on rent by twenty five dollars (meaning you're short on everything else by about two hundred dollars), you reach past your empty ice cube tray and pull out that bag of freezer burnt peas and carrots you bought 4 months ago when this same thing happened- to make the noodles a bit more interesting.

The beer cans your roommates leave strewn about the living room and kitchen are each good for five cents towards a bit of laundry money so you can at least be clean for work.
You leave the Miller lite bottles where they are because the machine won't take those.

You read your homework for class on the bus, and then the train, and then on another bus because you worked a 17hr shift last night to try and fill the $200 defecit. You made $145.
Just enough to buy the newest edition of the textbook for class, which you note bitterly, has an edition that came out the previous year, which is now only $35.

Tomorrow is the first of the month, and though you need a new month pass for the bus/train, you add the $5.25 floating around in your pocket to your card so you can take one more trip to campus and then back to work.

Your depression is flaring up again, but the medication they put you on costs $30 a bottle and you've already split your last pill in half to buy some extra time.

When you get off the train, you walk by the two story book store, looming over you at the corner. Oversized red sans serif announcing the final days of the already gutted behemoth.
Your mother worked there until they let her go, so your insurance lapses along with her job.
You can't sign up for classes with no insurance, so when you get home there's an envelope containing what you thought would just be another request for your immunization records, but is instead a crisp correspondence on University letterhead announcing that you'll need to pay $1,000 for the school insurance. Yours doesn't meet "mandatory minimum requirements".

Your essays are typed on a four year old Mac book whose "0" key sticks every time. Purchased in '07 before the recession hit. After seeing a post on Facebook from a younger friend, you donate the Mac book to them in the hopes that it will help them survive their own not-quite-so-abject poverty experience.

It's now Thursday. Today is the start of a three day work-a-thon. You leave your apartment at 7am, but the first two busses whiz past you, already filled to the brim with passengers. Somehow you manage to get to job #1 at 8:15am. Caught up in paperwork and errands, you forget to eat lunch until you look up and realize it's 3:10pm. All the better. Now your fullness will last a bit longer into the evening.
You're technically off at 5, but job #2 starts at 5:20pm and sometimes the traffic makes the busses late, so you know you need to leave at 4:45pm. Since it's now so close to time to leave, you can't take a full lunch break. So you run downstairs to Dunkin's and order an eggwhite flatbread sandwich for $2.34 (because that one is supposed to be better for you, or have lower calories or something) and try to savor that plastic sheen on the cheese and the hard kernels of "whole grains", instead of just demolishing it in two bites. You drink a full glass of water with it so the bread will hold a little more weight in your stomach. That- and you forgot to drink anything all day, so you're dehydrated.

You finish up at your desk job and rush to catch the train, to the bus, and then speed walk to job #2.
Mostly cleaning up, it's not a glamorous occupation, but after some initial work you can sit, sedentary, for about an hour while you let the stressful buzz of the commute to get here subside. But sometimes, like now, it just resonates and echoes. So you get up and clean the drains and mop one more time to keep your mind off of it.

Thankfully, you get to sleep on this overnight shift. Once 8pm hits, you're technically free to relax, but you haven't eaten dinner yet and this realization makes you even more hungry. Trudging downstairs, wishing there were a way you could completely avoid using the swollen soles of your feet, you get to the microwave and slide the frozen burrito onto the glass. The icy brick of it makes a loud clanking noise and jolts you back to the cacophony of the train, the reception desk, the customers- but the beeping of the microwave timer brings you back to reality and you relish the warmth of the burrito inside the paper towel hovel you crafted for it. Feels like hands pressed against warm sidewalks in the summer.

You clumsily hop scotch your way back up the steps, biting just the end off of the burrito in the hopes that it might actually be less scalding by the time you get upstairs. It's not, but you eat it anyway. Too tired to wait, too hungry to go to bed.

Your alarm pings you awake. It's 5:25am. You're back on at 6, but if you want to eat breakfast before 9am, you'd better do it now. There' are some morning duties to tend to which require getting a little muddy, sweaty, stinky. Nothing to wake up your senses like a stinging, pungent smell waiting to be cleaned.

The next pungent smell is you peeling off your sullied work clothes to get in the staff shower, but then you get to rinse off the last day and a half of hair-tie grunge, and go back to office attire. You have to set an alarm so you don't get too caught up luxuriating, because you need to be back at the office and now you only have thirty minutes to do it.


You plop down with your many bags and realize that smell you were silently bemoaning wasn't the T, but was your Job #2 work tennis shoes which have literal shit on them- a common occupational hazard for you. You don't have time right now to rinse them off so you double tie the plastic bag they're in and shove them in the nook by your feet.

Work #3 comes into play at lunchtime. You have a schedule to put out for the following week and you gave away your computer, so you need to work on it now. Cross checking emails from employees to confirm which schedule changes they requested and then confirming you're available to cover the dates they can't, you set up the calendar and mail it out. About two hours later, you get a reply email from one of the employees saying they can't make it in tonight. It's almost 3 o'clock and their shift starts at 5:30. You have Job #2 duties, so you can't just swoop in and take the shift which, although it doesn't feel like it at the time, is actually the simplest solution. So you set about emailing all the other employees, imploring one of them to take a shift while framing it like it's something desireable "Does anyone want more hours?". We all know the answer, but replace "want" with a more apt word like "need" and things start to make a bit more sense. Finally someone volunteers, and it's someone dependable, so you don't need to be waiting in the wings, but it's almost time for job #2 again so you start to pack up your things.

Repeat Thursday afternoon routine and fast forward till Saturday morning. This time it's 7am, but you won't get off so easy. This time you're staying at Job #2 until 4pm.
More cleaning, customers, phone calls, and a few card transactions later and it's 1:30pm.

It's dead. So you sit down with your new tiny off-brand laptop that you bought just for writing, and start fumbling around on the keys:
Like the product of rape

the fruit of unpaid labor

I leave
a taste,
a pain,
a memory

at best

Outlawed from my body

Sandy aggregate of the time

Expanse and Sprawling

Inescapable Commodity


Like all things

Must pass

The start of a catharsis that might just get you through however much longer you have to do this.

This goes on for seven years, but the extended release of your writing is timeless.

And that's how you survive.

Thursday, September 22, 2016 Couldn't Really Care Less

To be clear, I have no problem with people needing help to clean their house.  
My problem is with the way this ad  "others" people in positions of service by:

1) appealing to consumers basic desire for happiness and free time and then
2) implying that their target audience is white (stock image of the blonde woman with her child) and entitled to those basic desires ("get that time back"). Then
3) by juxtaposition, suggesting the housekeeper's free time is "supposed" to be full of cleaning and that they are *not* entitled to that free time, because their *clients* are the ones who are entitled to it. Which is why clients pay housekeepers to service them.
Since housekeepers usually cannot "get more quality time" by hiring someone, this implies that those who do not have the extra money for that service simply don't need that "quality time".

This creates a hierarchy within the ad's premise:
-You (client) have money but no extra time to be happy.
-Pay a someone else to do it, so you can be happy.
-that someone else *IS* the solution to this problem, so who can that someone call for assistance in order to get time back and "be happy"?
-That's not really any of your concern. It's not as important as your free time. You deserve free time because you have the money to pay for this service.

The fault is with the ad for equating money with deserving happiness. Obviously it's an ad strategy as old as time (buy our thing; be happy!), but in this case, the message of the ad comes at the cost of service workers' humanity.