The Face of America

america, identity, racism September 24, 2020

No matter where I go, I am never far removed from America:

A place lead by an aspiring authoritarian whose unconstitutional actions have consistently been upheld by other money-hungry, power-hungry, bad partisans.

A place where executive power topples all else, rendering checks and balances more of an illusion than a necessary practice.

A place where protecting people from an insidious virus is not a priority, but, downplaying the government’s responsibility in containing it, is. 

A place where government officials can work for tax-payer dollars while emboldening vigilantes to attack anyone who speaks out against a president who stands against so many.

A place where harmful misinformation is actively spread about antifascists, while the rise of white supremacy, posing the biggest terror threat to the country, goes underreported. 

A place where policies that worsen wealth disparities are instituted by an administration that touts ‘major economic growth,’ benefitting the top 10%, whilst millions of Americans teeter on the brink of eviction, hunger, or joblessness. 

A place that has successfully modernized and legalized slavery, and solidified a system that benefits greatly from the labor of incarcerated people within for-profit prisons. 

A place committing genocide by performing mass hysterectomies on women within ICE’s concentration camps. 

A place where police officers get charged for causing more harm to inanimate objects than they do for murdering Black women, men, and children. 

A place that is quickly growing more authoritarian than it is democratic. 

America’s racism is in Supreme Court decisions; the air and the water; and it’s pastimes. And it’s in you too. One thorough vibe check would show us the insincerity of the this-isn’t-who-we-are’s, when all signs strongly point to what America is, and always has been: the home of unabashed racism.

“Even the Nazis did not stoop to selling souvenirs of Auschwitz, but lynching scenes became a burgeoning sub department of the postcard industry. By 1908, the trade had grown so large, and the practice of sending postcards featuring the victims of mob murderers had become so repugnant, that the U.S. Postmaster General banned the cards from the mails.”

–Richard Lacayo, Time Magazine (2000)

The Eternal Optimist + The Capitalist

america, life, thinkpiece August 23, 2020

Once upon a time, a Black man lived in America.

Originally from a ‘small island’ in the Caribbean, he was in awe at the wealth of opportunities up for grabs in the new country he made his home.

He found himself in the concrete jungle of New York City, which excited him to no end; the idea of working on Wall Street put more life in him than God ever could, but he settled for medicine. He enrolled in a two-year Physician’s Assistant program at Touro College in New York, and worked as a security guard and taxi driver to put himself through school. He had guns held in his face on more than one occasion, but he never folded.

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Sans sufficient emotional support, he tried to be everything he could be, for himself. He seldom made it to class, but in the end, he got his degree, and immediately got to work, as he always had; Touro College, on the other hand, changed its rules on attendance requirements immediately following his graduation. He worked hard, so much so, it left him with little time to think about anything else in his life, but he always made it to the gym, and on Sundays, to the parkway with his little girl.

He breathed life into his community by seeing anywhere from 40 to 80 patients a day,  six times a week, until recently, when he scaled back his schedule to five days a week. He worries when the government cuts Medicare and Medicaid because he knows it means life or death for some of his patients. He has cared for the ill, trans, and the deserving from Rikers Island, New York, down to Albemarle, North Carolina. He truly cares about people’s wellbeing, whether they’re his patients, or someone he’s just crossing paths with; I had seen him do this throughout my life, but his latest, un-billed diagnosis happened at the gym, pre-COVID, when he urged a man working out next to him to get checked for sleep apnea, which he did, and confirmed for him that he had it. Currently, he weans addicts off of opiates, among other things; all in all, his life revolves around saving lives. Every. Single. Day.

The man I speak of is my dad: the eternal optimist, and the capitalist.

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…And, perhaps, the person I am most similar to–sometimes, to both of our detriment. Fortunately, he was the first person to teach me about mindfulness, the value of energy, and the freedom that can come with detachment. He was the first person to sit down with me, an 8 year old, at the time, and openly contemplate God’s womanhood; in fact, he’s the only man who has ever posed the question to me. He was the first person to teach me about the erasure of ancient African deities and belief systems. He was the first person to encourage me to question ‘what if?’ again and again, and yet, he is unable to believe in anything other than the system that wears him down, keeps his beloved patients sick, and begs his children to sell their souls.

I’m asking him, ‘why?’ very often, pointing to the system’s brutality, its intrinsic racism, and its false promises. But, my father’s opinion won’t budge, and luckily, neither will mine: this system is killing us, and only we can save ourselves. Reform is a bandaid that we can only wear for so long, and even then, we are lacking enough public servants in positions of power to make the kind of reforms that we so desperately need.

The writing is on the wall: capitalism is failing us; only our imaginativeness and resilience can save us. I mean, seriously, if we can ask, ‘what if?’ in regard to nearly everything else in this life, why is it so hard for us to begin to ask ourselves,

“Is Capitalism the Best Option for All?”

25 Things I Learned Before My 25th Birthday

events, happiness, life, love, me August 9, 2020

As of yesterday, I am twenty-five years old.

It wasn’t a particularly Earth-shattering event, in fact, I’m currently waking up in the same bedroom I was dreaming in, crying in, and generally, being bratty as fuck in from age 10 to 18 . It has been a cool 7 years since I’ve experienced the stillness (and mania) that comes with this long of a stay at your childhood home (but I am enjoying the perks, like the six-layer, rainbow, explosion cake that my mom made me.)

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And with that comes a lot of time to reflect on how I’ve spent my life, where I’m at, and where I’m heading.

Here are 25 things I’ve learned about life:

  1. Treat yourself like an asset with appreciating value. You are your longest relationship, so treat yourself kindly for the long haul! Furthermore, not treating yourself this way just increases the likelihood that others also won’t show you the respect you deserve.
  2. Trust in the divine, and your angels. No matter what that divine looks like for you, they’ll never lead you astray. My God is a faceless, nameless God that I believe in without books, or any other rhyme, or reason; my faith has been tested on several occasions, and I’m happy to know that my God is very much so walking with me through this life.
  3. Cut all the bullshit, and expeditiously! Call yourself on your own crap (limiting beliefs, biases, and unhelpful habits), cut out fake friends, lousy partners, and unsupportive family. You cannot reform anyone’s hateration other than your own, so when you see that someone’s heart isn’t in a place that feels good to you, leave, and expeditiously!
  4. What’s in your head and what’s in your heart will always take you farther than what’s in your bank account.
  5. Celebrate who you are–especially if you’re seen as “other” within your community. Your mind, your heart, and your vision are very needed in this world.
  6. Don’t second guess yourself, and don’t let anyone make you feel like you should start doing so.
  7. Set BIG (and sometimes, seemingly unrealistic) goals; go for what your heart truly wants–it always knows.
  8. ….THEN, pair that with setting achievable mini goals. Whether it takes you 2 days, 2 years, or 2 decades, your big goals can happen when you commit to working towards them little by little, every. single. day.
  9. Stay curious about yourself, others, and human nature. Nothing stays the same; allow that to excite you, not terrify you.
  10. LOVE LIKE IT’S GOING OUT OF STYLE. This goes for all kinds of love, not just romantic!!! There is SO much love to experience in the world, keep your heart open to giving and receiving it whenever you can.Processed with VSCO with p5 preset
  11. …BUT, give your love with discernment. Loving people unconditionally is unrealistic because healthy relationships, whether they’re romantic, platonic, or familial, are reciprocal.
  12. Express yourself with your entire chest. Do not say something behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t have the courage say to their face; my mom taught me this at a young age and it has helped me avoid A LOT of conflict.
  13. You *really* don’t have to be friends with everyone. And honestly, you really can’t be because not everyone can offer you the same support.
  14. Give without expectation. Whether it’s a good deed, a monetary donation, or your freakin’ heart, pour from a cup that is full.
  15. Tell people how you really feel, always. You owe it to yourself to be transparent about your feelings, no matter if they’re reciprocated or not.
  16. Validate yourself on YOUR standards. What makes a good life is wholly subjective; believe in your vision and your vision alone.
  17. Most things are black and white, but the grey area is OK too. Sometimes just accepting things as they are is all you can do.
  18. Give your time and energy to people who celebrate you. Without question, no matter what–even when they don’t completely understand your life.
  19. ACCEPT YOUR FUCKING BODY. It is beautiful the way it is, no matter how “other” you are. Having a body that does what you need it to do (contain your insides) is much more important than how it looks.Processed with VSCO with p5 preset
  20. Your words have energy. Everything that you say is possible and can become true. Seriously! My grandma and I watched Oprah most days after school, and she always said, “T, I wanna see you on TV one day,” and it just so happened that I shared that vision for myself too. I kept believing in it–no idea when, or even how it would happen, but I kept putting energy behind it, declaring it, and shaking the hands I felt would lead me to it. Then, BOOM, 3 TV appearances later, I do not mess around with what comes out of my mouth. There’s no room for negativity, or speaking out of anger.
  21. Have some tact!!! Churchill was a real POS, but he told 0 lies when he said “tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”
  22. Failure is just an illusion if you look at each one as a lesson, and give yourself some grace. Perfection IS an illusion, and nothing will change that.
  23. Taking accountability will improve your quality of life in every sense. It will not kill you to admit that you’ve been wrong (I have), have hurt others (who hasn’t?), and need to look in the mirror (it’s part of life.)
  24. Stay playful. Life is everything and nothing all at once; it’s tiring, yet fleeting, but we are here to make the most of it. Keep laughing, loving, and accepting the lessons learned from the bad days, because better days are always coming.
  25. You will find someone who loves everything about you, but before then, the universe will send you lots of riff raff. As my Angel Reader, Ivette, says, “focus on having an abundant, joy-filled life, first and foremost, and the right person will be happy to join you for every inch of that journey.”

In conclusion:

All the glory onto God;
I will never be ungrateful.
God blessed me in real life;
I don't fear demons nor enemies.
I'm protected by the most high.

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Revolutionaries You Should Know

activism, america, art, creatives, politics, thinkpiece July 26, 2020

Between half of the Black Twitterverse declaring, “I am not my ancestors,” and the rest of America gobbling up the Disney-fied stories of Civil Rights leaders, the amount of cap we’re producing as a society right now is truly unprecedented.

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I’m no historian, but the re-writing of history that is occurring on social media in threads that contemplate all things headass, from “why MLK Jr. wasn’t more radical?” to, “why can’t Black men stop killing Black men?” and even, the K*nye W*st special, “why didn’t Black people try harder to end slavery? is beyond concerning and asinine, but luckily, it can also be easily debunked.

History shows that Black freedom fighters sought their basic human 
rights knowing that they would face some combination of social 
blackballing, financial retaliation, violence, or death.

And the threat of death continues to this day. A piece published in Rolling Stone in 2019 explores the ‘mysterious deaths of six Ferguson Activists:’ In 2014 Deandre Joshua, 20, was found dead inside of a torched car, bullets in his body; two years later, Darren Seals, 29, was found the same way. Three others, MarShawn McCarrel, 23, Danye Jones, 24, and Edward Crawford, Jr., 27, died in apparent suicides; though Jones’s mother, Melissa McKinnies publicly revealed that she felt her son was lynched. In 2018, Bassem Masri, 31, was found unresponsive on a bus and was later pronounced dead by overdose.

Their deaths (suspected murders, really) have spurred widespread conversation about surveillance, and full-on campaigns that independent journalists and media outlets blur protesters and organizers faces to protect them from violent, systemic retaliations. We have yet to see if their deaths, or if the mass of Black deaths (and if not death, the physical, mental, and emotional scars, losses, debilitating anxiety, and experiences of upheaval) in the freedom fight, can convince the collective that protest, in all of its forms, was nothing short of revolutionary, but if any thinkpiece hopes to change that, it’s this one.

It’s been time that we put some fucking respect on ALL the names of the people who fought for Black liberation, expression, and excellence, beginning with, the great, Bob Marley.

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From his, “Redemption Song:”

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.”

Though Marley became a household name from his hits “One Love,” and “Three Little Birds,” the lyricism within his discography explores the history of slavery, the brutality of capitalism, punitive justice, and of the system as a whole, while promoting Pan-Africanism. Despite The Wailers’ lively instrumentals, Marley’s recounting of life in Trenchtown, the lasting effects of Britain’s rule on Jamaica, and the violence levied at activists like himself, is as raw as his many philosophies on life. 

His final words? “Money can’t buy life.” 

Lorraine Hansberry

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Hansberry wrote A Raisin in the Sun, the first play written by a Black playwright to debut on Broadway on March 11, 1959; it was revolutionary not only for its subject matter, but also, its majority-Black cast. One year after its debut, Hansberry’s play was nominated for four Tony Awards. In 1983, Frank Rich, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, declaring, “A Raisin in the Sun changed American theater forever.” Several revivals of Hansberry’s play have been performed all over the world as recently as 2017, leaving no question of its enduring influence.

Beyond her writings, Hansberry inspired her friend Nina Simone to write “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black,” an anthem during the 1970s era of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Gil Scott-Heron

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Ironically, my own introduction to Gil Scott-Heron’s, “The Revolution Begins: The Flying Dutchman Masters” is due to K*nye’s sampling of Heron’s “Comment #1” on “Who Will Survive in America:”

The time is in the street you know
Us living as we do upside down
And the new word to have is revolution
People don’t even want to hear the preacher spill or spiel
Because God’s hole card has been thoroughly piqued
And America is now blood and tears instead of milk and honey
The youngsters who were programmed
To continue fucking up woke up one night
Digging Paul Revere and Nat Turner as the good guys. America stripped
For bed and we had not all yet closed our eyes. The signs of Truth
Were tattooed across our often-entered vagina
We learned to our amazement untold tale of scandal
Two long centuries buried in the musty vault
Hosed down daily with a gagging perfume
America was a bastard the illegitimate daughter
Of the mother country whose legs
Were then spread around the world
And a rapist known as freedom: free doom
Democracy, liberty, and justice were
Revolutionary code names that preceded
The bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling
Bubbling in the mother country’s crotch
And behold a baby girl was born
Nurtured by slave holders and whitey racists
It grew and grew and grew screwing
Indiscriminately like mother, like daughter
Everything unplagued by her madame mother
The present mocks us, good Black people
With keen memories set fire to the bastards
Who ask us in a whisper to melt and integrate
Young, very young, teeny
Bopping revolt on weekend young dig
By proxy what a mental ass kicking
They receive through institutionalized everything
And vomit up slogans to stay out of Vietnam
They seek to hide their relationship with the world’s prostitute
Alienating themselves from everything
Except dirt and money with long hair, grime, and dope
To camo-hide the things that cannot be hidden
They become runaway children to walk the streets downtown with everyday
Black people sitting on the curb
Crying because we know that they will go back
Home with a clear conscience and a college degree
The irony of it all, of course
Is when a pale face SDS motherfucker dares
Look hurt when I tell him to go find his own revolution
He wonders why I tell him that America’s revolution
Will not be the melting pot but the toilet bowl
He is fighting for legalized smoke, or lower voting age
Less lip from his generation gap and fucking in the street
Where is my parallel to that?
All I want is a good home and a wife and a children
And some food to feed them every night
Back goes pale face to basics
Does Little Orphan Annie have a natural?
Do Sluggo’s kinks make him a refugee from Mandingo?
What does Webster’s say about soul?
I say you silly trite motherfucker, your great grandfather
Tied a ball and chain to my balls
And bounced me through a cotton field
While I lived in an unflushable toilet bowl
And now you want me to help you overthrow what?
The only Truth that can be delivered to a four year
Revolutionary with a hole card i.e. skin is this:
Fuck up what you can in the name of
Piggy Wallace, Dickless Nixon, and Spiro Agnew
Leave brother Cleaver and Brother Malcolm alone please
After all is said and done build a new route to China if they’ll have you

He did far more than saying, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”

Afeni Shakur Davis

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To many, she is Tupac Shakur’s mom, but to her fellow activists and Black Panther Party members, she was a consummate guide. In an interview, Jamal Joseph recalls seeking out the BPP “[to get] a gun, but was instead given books and a mentor in Afeni Shakur.”

“Afeni would teach people how to lead themselves. She would not just help people, then leave...She made sure you knew how to get out of your own circumstances and your march toward liberation, being able to transform personally and in the community.”

She was known for running the BPP’s free breakfast program for Black youth, and was the youngest of 21 Panthers accused of conspiring to bomb department stores and police stations in New York City. Pregnant, with a $100,000 bail (in 1970s $), and 300-year sentence over her head, she represented herself after reading “History Will Absolve me” by Fidel Castro; she was the first Panther released, and played a major role in their 1971 acquittal on 156 charges.

Her legacy? Showing people how to defend their constitutional rights.

Adrian Piper

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Piper is easily the most underrated, conceptual artist of our time. Her 50 years of work can be identified by her many street performances, which addressed “ostracism, otherness, and attitudes around racism,” a shock within the overwhelmingly white, male-dominated industry of conceptual art.

"In Catalysis (1970-3), her earliest sets of street performances 
aimed at testing public perception," she boarded a peak hour train in New York in clothes that had been soaked in eggs, vinegar, and fish 
oil for a week [intended to see how the public would react to someone deemed ‘unwashed’ or ‘repulsive’], walked around Central Park with 
helium-filled Mickey Mouse balloons tied to her ears, [and] travelled on a bus with a bath towel stuffed in her mouth."

Like many other artists, performance art wasn’t her only ‘thing,’ but regardless of how she created, she used “direct action to generate change.”

"In Catalysis III (pictured), Piper walks down the street and 
around a Macy’s department store with a sign on her body saying 
‘wet paint’, just like a freshly painted handrail. Many would have 
witnessed Piper and been intrigued to touch the board to see if the 
paint was actually fresh or not, but no one did because of society’s restraints."

Piper’s work relied on confronting the uncomfortable, repressive, and deadly, as did Davis’, Heron’s, Hansberry’s, and Marley’s. They, and all other Black, freedom fighters in history, chose not to shield themselves from the proverbial fire and brimstone, set upon them for speaking truths of the past and present, whilst fighting for a better future.

Until you do the same, who the hell are you to say that their actions weren’t radical, or revolutionary enough?

STFU and learn Black history

STFU and learn Black history

STFU and learn Black history

Everything I Baked in Lockdown

food, lifestyle, quarantine July 16, 2020

Before we get into this, I just want to make one thing really clear:

I didn’t become some baking Barbie because everyone else was doing it; I have a long (and well-documented) penchant for baking, and had the quintessential 6th-birthday party-at-a-bakery to prove it (just call my mother). To my super, not-green baking hands, lockdown was just an opportunity to manifest the hell out of my dreams about carbs; true story: one night, the vividness of my sex-esque dream about homemade fettuccini resulted in me purchasing a heavy duty, pasta maker before I could wipe the crust out of my eyes. So, if you ever questioned my standing in the food world, shame on you.

But, regardless, I’ll give you the recipes to make this bread.

My flirtation with making homemade pizza began with buying the pre-made dough at Trader Joe’s, which was extremely satisfying until I decided I wanted all of the credit for the pizza’s deliciousness, not just part of it (including the sauce, which I made with this recipe). Overall, finding yeast was the hardest part about making this, but once you sacrifice your first-born to the Saf gods, you’ll be good. I’ve been really satisfied with exclusively making Margherita’s, but I’m going to start getting really fancy and throwing on some spicy Italian sausage, peppers, and probably some mushrooms too. Whatever you fancy, I recommend starting with this dough recipe.

As for my precious sourdough…the first I’ve ever created (I’m so proud of her, even though I clearly forgot to give her the trendy slash); I highly recommend this with brie cheese, and for Italian sandwiches. If you take my foolish advice, report back with pictures.

My love of breakfast foods led me to make both of these, and along that journey, I found a new, deep respect for bagel makers (just check out this 7473-part recipe). They’re definitely worth the effort, but these southern-style biscuits  will require far less mastery.

Out of all my lockdown bakes, I’m probably proudest of this brioche (*pictured on the right with melted cheese), because it was the perfect pairing to the spicy, katsu chicken cutlets I made…and swiftly obliterated, before remembering that I wanted to write this piece.

…I won’t even lie, all of these recipes are probably going to have that effect on you too.