Queer, Gifted & Black


Self-Determination For Our Bodies


Was just cleaning out my hightail account (online file sending site) and I found these pictures taken years ago by brilliant photographer @nabilshash and all these memories come rushing back. At the time I couldn't share these, not even the ones where you couldn't see my face. I was at the beginning of my career and had to work so hard as a ‪#‎BlackWoman‬ to be taken seriously as a ‪#‎careerartist‬, in ‪#‎business‬ and in my ‪#‎humanrights‬ work. Femininity is always so policed, and that is why I work so hard with whatever visibility I have to fight for the right for women and genderqueer folks to wear what they want in public and private space. We all deserve the autonomy to contribute to our communities in looking the way we want to, in the ways we see ourselves. This means women wearing the hijab, and strippers wearing nothing at all. It means glitter, and prosthesis or heels or hairy legs. What someone is wearing is not an excuse to disrespect them or take away their rights. ‪#‎Tattoos‬‪#‎piercings‬‪#‎surgery‬ and all the ‪#‎bodyarts‬ are all choices that individuals are making that hurt no one but themselves. What matters is the content of our character. If you don't like it, then do not wear it or do it. Making assumptions about my capacity despite a genius level IQ and a wicked work ethic because I like short skirts and push up bras. ‪#‎phuckthat‬ ‪#‎younggiftedandblack‬ And whatever your genius and gift is to bring to the world, let us work towards a world where the capacity of women in saris or in next to nothing will not be doubted. As for whatever you all wanna do with your bodies; if you like it, then I love it. ‪#‎self‬ determination


Centering The Margins

"I often hear black girls complain that their hair is difficult to control, and its precisely because we are not meant to control it.
I have always found that jeans hurt my body with waistlines digging into my stomach as I try to exhale.
T shirts that cut into my arms, bras that dig into my flesh leaving scars that remain today.
We are not the architects of this system, of course these things wont fit us when they come from people who refuse to acknowledge that we exist. We know this because we see their runways, their print ads, their magazines. We are not wrong.
Beige is not the definition of 'nude', my hair does not need to be restrained, it needs to be liberated. My hair isnt too thick, I didn't go through puberty too early, my mama is not 'plus sized' - these statements all use an invented standard of whiteness and then define me in relation to that standard.
Fuck mainstream. Fuck counter culture and sub culture. We are our own mainstream. We are our own culture.
Fuck standards and constructions of normal. Nothing ever grew by being measured. We grow by being nurtured and affirmed for who we are as we are.
Standards are always relative."


Chronic Illness

I have been chronically ill for my whole life. The pressures of having to excel as a queer Black femme and over a decade in abusive household, being houseless and with a string of abusive partners forced me to manage my illness as quietly as I could, which compounded it. Right now, I am about 3 months into a diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis. There isn't a cure and medical doctors have offered me either endless medication or removal of my colon as options for treatment, neither of which personally work for me. 

Western medicine operates in this isolationist way, where a cure for them is just to remove the part of your body that is dis-eased, as opposed to treating things in their context, both historical and environmental. Their solutions? To medicate with drugs whose side effects range from depression to tuberculosis or to remove my colon entirely. And although I respect anyone's decision to address their illness in whatever way makes the most sense to them, these don't work for me and to have doctors literally yell at me when I refuse these options is so profoundly wrong. Especially considering that the studies that are constantly being cited are funded by the same companies who are producing the drugs and stand to profit the most from their use. When the health of any community is tied directly to profit, it is impossible for it to be accessible and equitable whether our healthcare is 'free' or not. Especially as an immigrant of colour, ‘this modern western’ medical industrial complex is touted as being the best in the world, despite the fact that our bodies and our experiences are rarely if ever included in their studies and when they are it is based on experimentation and abuse, Henrietta Lacks and ‘modern gynecology’ as two examples of violent, abuse targeted at Black women that benefited ‘Western science’.

I am still needing to work to support myself which is hard as stress is a primary trigger cause I am still a cash-poor in debt artist & organizer. My partner is amazing at taking care of me as I explore natural options. Trying to find a way to manage the whole 'you don't look sick' ableist bullshit and still exist in capitalism is also so hard. 

With chronic illness, you often operate on a 'hope for the best, but plan for the worst mentality'. You give all that you can to your friends, family and community and then sometimes you can't. You plan for parties and events that you may never be able to show up to. You focus your energy on the things that you hope are the most generous to your community and to your own spirit but sometimes it just isn't enough (I try to still share lots of knowledge on fb, but can rarely reply to messages and I am really sorry for that)

It's hard to talk about illness especially as a Black girl. People, including and most often doctors either dismiss it entirely as exaggeration or they assume that you can no longer do anything or contribute in anyway and then stop asking you to participate in community. When people rage about how writing on the internet isn't activism and people need to actually 'do something', it is such an incredibly abelist framing that excludes sick and disabled folks who are necessarily a part of our community and continue to try our damndest to keep up with the capitalist ethos, namely that you are only as valuable as what you produce'. 

So I share this in solidarity with all my other sick folks who so choose to identify. I share this with those who are hurting and hustling and those who can not even imagine what it would be like to leave the bed. With all the folks who are in debt up to the hundreds of thousands just trying to stay well. In a free world, being alive would not be tied to making money. All life would be a right as there is more than enough to go around to sustain us all and at no one's expense. I am gonna keep fighting and healing in all the ways I can, and continue to try to love and be accountable and grow and transform. The words of my sister Imani rings so loud and true in my mind, ‘Get it how you live’. So often when we have been made sick by our histories and environments, we have to go away for a while and get better and then subject ourselves to the same contexts that made us sick in the first place. If capitalism creates the equation that time is money and healing needs time, it makes wellness a privilege of the elite. For those most marginalized by systemic oppression, we are in desperate need of time, resources and care in such a way that these things don’t come at a cost to the very things that we are trying to protect.

This isn’t a plea for pity or sympathy, but a call to examine a system that leaves us with so few choices no matter how hard we try. I want so much more and so much better for us all.



Prison's Don't Make Us Safer

Just to keep it 100, I don't believe that prison is a solution to disappearing social problems. I think that people can and do have transformative experiences in prison but I believe that it is in spite of as opposed to because of it.

Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to protect the 'property' of slaveowners. Enslaved African people were that property. "Slave patrols helped to maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing (enslaved African people) who essentially were considered property." That is still largely what they do.http://www.plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/brief-history-slavery-and-origins-american-policing. I think that as Black people it is important that we set up community based supports so when we need help, we have places to call with people who aren't going to murder us. Neighborhood watches, healing justice spaces. With folks that I know may be vulnerable for violence, I have been part of a phone tree of people they can call in an emergency. Structures like this are important for finding ways to navigate violence circumventing increasing levels of violence from service providers. These structures have been flexible and changing and have always been more reliable than anything external.

I don't think that counseling programs that are set up by these racist white institutions run by people who hate Black men and Black people are ever going to work to 'rehabilitate' our communities. They might provide a service, but they don't provide care. When I ask for more in these situations of domestic violence I am thinking of community based healing work, transformative justice, things that would involve our peers, that involve Black women, other Black people - I am interested in the ways that we change families, and communities and shift paradigms. As Black people we transform the world all the time! From Hip Hop to Jazz, we impact culture globally - what makes us think that we couldn't heal the world if we believed in our capacity to? 

I am so interested in movements around transformative justice and prison abolition. Generation 5 has some really amazing approacheshttp://www.generationfive.org/ or justice circles as held by Indigenous communities across North America http://www.restorativejustice.org/press-room/05rjprocesses.

The things that are currently in place clearly don't work and prison definitely doesn't. If prison worked, the United States would be the safest country in the world. With only 5% of the worlds population with 25% of the worlds prison population. I am suggesting that things should be radically different. Why keep doing things that fundamentally don't work and make our communities less safe? Maybe we should have folks go live in a monastery, be taught meditation by Tibetan monks who have been known to have phenomenal control of their minds - but prison does not produce men who respect Black women more than when they went in. No one will ever convince me that is an appropriate solution to ending violence or any social problem at all.


Punishment Doesn't 'Solve' Anything: Ray Rice & The NFL

I get that Rice is out of the NFL, but that doesn't solve anything, it is only punitive and I am not sure what that accomplishes. 
That doesn't mean that now he would never do it again or does it mean that he has now become a hero for women's rights and would now step in when Black women are being violated. That would be a victory for me, rehabilitation and transformation that is tangibly demonstrated over time is an ideal I would at least like to try for.

This doesn't get other men to start thinking about the ways that this is happening in their life, it doesn't ask them to check in with their boys to see if that might be an issue elsewhere. Most responses I have see make it clear that moving forward Janay will face an enormous amount of judgement and resentment and hatred from men and other people who will blame her for 'ruining' his career because victim blaming is what people are already doing. 

I need us to start employing all the strategies that Black women have laid out to prevent violence against Black women. 

I need preachers and teachers to acknowledge racism and trauma and stress and the way that Black women are most likely to be beaten and abused by the people who are closest to us, whom have sworn to love and support us. When our partners are beaten by the world, they all too often come home and take that out on our bodies. 

We need to acknowledge the double standard that allows Iggy & JLo to be 'sexy' and Nicki 'nasty'. We need to talk about a system that sets men and women up as natural enemies and opposites, when in fact we are connected to each other and many other genders too. This culture produces so much toxicity and we don't have accept that violence has to just be a part of it.

I want us to try to fix it. Try to heal from it. Try to have justice around it. Prioritize Janay's needs. I want us to talk about the fact that the number one cause of death for Black women between the ages of 18-34 is domestic violence. I am hard pressed to think of one Black woman I know who hasn't been physically or sexually assaulted MULTIPLE TIMES. I want us all to accept that this is un acceptable and it can't continue any longer#notonemore. No more punishments, no more apologies much after the fact, no more feigned concern. For all the things that are the number one killers of white women, there are foundations, there are even days of commemoration (Dec.6th as an example). I genuinely just need people, EVERYONE to care more.