Thursday, August 14, 2014

#ForThoseWhoHaveBeenGunnedDown

If you watch the news or troll social media at all, I'm sure you've seen multiple postings, link shares, pictures, and status updates regarding the recent shooting and killing of black people in America. The most recent trend that has really caught my attention, is the "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown" posts. These posts showcase two or more photos of young black people, asking which photo would the media use if they were gunned down, hence the hashtag. In comparing the pictures, it is interesting to see the difference a simple change of clothes and posing can make in perception. Most of the postings showcased a less formal  picture, in which the poster is wearing casual/street clothes, and the other is a more formal picture in which the poster is wearing a graduation gown, suit, dress or uniform of some sort. I suppose the latter is supposed to showcase a more "respectable" side- the side that we often feel is not publicized enough by the media. But the more I looked at the postings, the more concerned I became. I found myself concerned because the more I saw the pictures, the more I came to realize that the issue of the portrayal of black people in the news is not about the clothes we wear or the pose we choose; it's about the skin we inherit and the associations and societal implications that come with it.

(left) "Wiz Khalifa"- Halloween 2013, (right) Miss Kentucky, Miss America 2011
I understand that the point of the pictures was to really get people thinking about the way black people are targeted and portrayed by the media. I get that. But what I don't get is how unfair it is that we have to feel that our jeans and hoodie are any less respectable than a graduation gown, suit, dress, or uniform. At the end of the day, underneath the clothes, and underneath our skin, we are human and THAT is why we should be respected and treated as such.  But the fact that we have been made to feel that we must share our accolades and be dressed and in a suit to be respected or at least appear to be respectable is once again an example and reminder of what it is like to be black in America. It is a reminder that in addition to the skin color that we cannot escape, our casual dress in a hoodie and jeans is also a threat. Society has taught us that regardless of who we are and what we know, the color of our skin is a threat, so to compensate for the innate threat that we are, we must dress and present ourselves in a certain way as a deflection of our blackness. That is the bigger issue here. It's not just about what photo the media would use if we were gunned down, it is about why we can't be respected as human beings regardless of being college bound, having a "good job", or good standing in our communities. It's about why we have to be viewed as respectable or despicable based on our attire, because the bottom line is that it's not really about the clothes or the presentation. Deaths like that of Mike Brown are painfully unwarranted reminders that racism, classism, and profiling are very real in America.

I am black. I did not ask to be black. I was born this way thanks to my black mother and my black father.  I embrace it and I love it and I celebrate it. Events like these affect me in a way that I am almost unable to verbalize without sounding angry or passive aggressive because I am so incredibly overwhelmed with emotions and realizations- realizing that someone who knows nothing about me would hate me, profile me, and/or even kill me all because of my black skin. And yet, we still have (white) people who want to sing Kumbaya by the fire as we all hold hands and imagine a colorblind world. You're not making anything better by choosing not to acknowledge the color of someone else's skin- you're not color blind, you are just choosing to be blind to the problems and issues created by a society that undercuts and preys on the minority, while protecting and building up the majority. All of this business about being colorblind is a slap in the face to those of us who do not have the luxury of drifting through life without constant reminders that after years and years and years and working towards true freedom and equality, young black men are still being unjustifiably killed in the street by the law who is SUPPOSED to protect and serve THE PEOPLE. Are we not the people?  

A few months ago, I posted a photo of my "I love being blackwristband and someone commented, "I think we need to start a trend of 'being human is great'. Not just a specific color."  Being human is great, but how can I sit around and celebrate being human when people who look like me are being killed in the streets like animals? How can I celebrate being human when people who look like me are being portrayed as hooligans in the news, not just because they are wearing a hoodie and jeans, but because they are black and in order to be respected they must overcompensate with suits, ties, graduation gowns, education, accolades, and good standing? We are all human, regardless of race, religion, etc...yeah, yeah, yeah..all of the good stuff. I get it. I acknowledge that beyond our skin, the common bond that we all share regardless of anything that may diversify us, is that we are human. I acknowledge that. I get it. But please do not attempt to trivialize the vocalization and celebration of my black skin, because although we are all human, society does not always treat us that way. Another black soul has been lost to injustice. I am sad. I am frustrated. I am confused. My heart is heavy. I am hurting. We are hurting.

I don't care what picture they use to portray us in the news, because I know that what we are up against is deeper than that. This is about injustice, prejudice, and societal woes. This is about bringing peace to another lost soul.  #ForThoseWhoHaveBeenGunnedDown, we must take a stand. We must fight (not literally- peace and power, y'all). Fight for justice and peace. We must fight for ourselves, for those who came before us, and for those who will come after us, because our souls cannot rest at the hands of injustice.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Do You Say to the Girl Who's Not Pretty?

"The photos are nice, I just think they made you look so masculine... You're just so pretty. I wish they would've captured that."
Photographer: Steve Squall, Stylist: Megan Wilde, Set Design: Gunnar Deathrage, Make Up: Isidro Valencia

The afore mentioned comment was made in reference to my photos in STORY Magazine. As the comment was made, everything in me wanted to roll my eyes, puff my chest out and give a piece of my curiously progressive mind. Instead, I took a moment to pause and think...deep breath in and out...and I responded, "The photos are exactly what I wanted."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Secret Recipe for Time

Time. We all want more of it right? We try to fit as much as we can into every hour, minute, and second of the day, and it seems that no matter how much squeezing we do, there is always more to be done.

Lately, I've had quite a few people ask me, "How do you do it?" And interestingly enough, I find myself wondering the same thing. So, I figured I'd write out some thing to share! Here we go!



Thursday, July 17, 2014

East End Barbershop Talk

Last week, I went to the barbershop for a haircut, for the first time. I walked in and was greeted by two barbers sitting in the front of the shop, talking and looking out the storefront window, people watching perhaps. Mr. James was the barber I was there to see. I'd attempted to cut my own hair earlier in the week and while I did an okay job, I definitely needed a professional touch to clean it up. Mr. James took me to his chair in the back of the shop and got me all prepped for the cut/clean up that was about to happen. He was great. I showed him pictures of what I was going for and we discussed it a bit. I felt comfortable and I trusted him and his clippers.

Well, if you've ever been to a (black) barbershop, you know there is always a conversation going. These conversations can be about anything, from Beyonce vs. Kelly Rowland to immigration reform. I didn't expect much "barbershop talk" considering it was only me and Mr. James- I was the last client of the day.  I figured we would have the general "Where are you from? What do you do?" type of talk...nothing really substantial enough to carry out a full blown conversation, but at least enough to break an awkward silence and show interest in someone other than yourself and whatever form of social media you may be scrolling through on your phone. The conversation started out that way, with the typical questions and answers, but it did not take long to escalate into something beyond the usual small talk..

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Dreamed a Dream

When I was a little girl, going to McDonald's for a happy meal was one of my favorite things. Getting a happy meal was a big deal! It was a meal, especially prepared for me, with a prize/toy inside and happiness included? Oh Mr. Ronald McDonald, you have really outdone yourself sir. How could he have been so genius as to put a smile in a box, in the form of a cheeseburger, french fries, orange hi-c, and miniature figurine or beanie baby (do y'all remember how crazy people got about those?)??? GENIUS, I TELL YOU! GENIUS! At least to me, at the time, it was. Going to McDonald's to get a happy meal was something that I always looked forward to, however, I did not always get the experience I'd hoped for. The experience I hoped for was what I saw advertised, which generally included a smiling, happy-go-lucky McDonald's employee who was glad to put the "happy"  in my happy meal. But often times what I actually got was no eye contact, no smiles, no "happy"...just a meal. This did not sit well with me, at all. I didn't even care about the food. My greatest concern was that the happy people that I saw in the commercials were not the happy people that I met in the drive-thru. I felt cheated...so...I decided to do something about. One day, I told my mom, "When I grow up, I am going to work at McDonald's, just so I can smile at every customer that comes through the drive-thru." I don't remember my mom's response, but I'm sure she was praying, "Dear Lord, please let her grow out of that." Well...I didn't. I didn't grow out of it. As a matter of fact, as soon as I was old enough to work, my first job was at McDonald's on Veteran's Parkway in Columbus, Ga. I was excited to have a job and proud to be working at McDonald's. It was time to make my dream come true!

Monday, June 23, 2014

This Morning

When I woke up this morning, I did not feel awesome.
I rolled over and stared into the darkness and allowed my thoughts to flow. My thoughts bounced back and forth between acknowledging anxiety and focusing on the present moment. I felt guilty for feeling anxious because I know that what is most important is what is right in front of me, and if I am experiencing anxiety that means I am focusing/worrying about what's ahead and not what is "right now".  So I laid there, feeling anxious and guilty and a little sticky because I didn't turn my air conditioning down last night, thinking that the breeze from the storm would cool the house down, but it didn't. I closed my eyes and I asked myself, "why? why are you anxious???" I was taken back to a conversation I had over the weekend with a friend. We were discussing tattoos when she said, "I don't understand why people get quotes and sayings as tattoos. Maybe you like that quote today, but ten years down the road, your life may have changed and that will be completely irrelevant to you." Well, being someone who has a script tattoo, I shared the reasoning behind my decision.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

And About That Time I Threw a Surprise Party for Myself...

When I was in the fourth grade, I threw a surprise slumber party for myself.
And the best present I got that year, was an invaluable life lesson.
I know exactly what you're thinking... "Why wasn't I that cool when I was in the fourth grade?!?"  Right? Or... "How is it a surprise if you threw it for yourself?" Well, basically, if I told you how I managed to pull that off, I would be giving away one of my secrets to awesome, so you'll have to buy the book for that :)