“What to the Slave is the 4th of July?” Part 2

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The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.

Here we are again. We’ve arrived at yet another anniversary of this nation’s birth 244 years ago. 244 years ago, your “founding fathers” Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and the boys declared that all men were created equal and whatnot. The United States of America was free from Britain’s tyrannous rule for the first time since colonizers took the land of the free and home of the brave from Native and Indiginous peoples. Citizens of this “new land” had the right to own property (including Africans and their descendants) and the freedom to be whoever and whatever they wanted.

Not my people, though. We were and still are in life-long bondage to the man. In different but similar ways, though.

We hold these truths to be self-evident …

Two years ago, I wrote “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?” part 1. You can access it here: https://thecrownedseries.com/?s=what+to+the+slave . In that blog post, I outlined the ways in which freedom does not ring for Black Americans the way it does for white folks. In the era of COVID, every time I go out in public and see someone with an American flag mask on their face I cringe. To me, the American flag is the equivalent to the Confederate Flag. How can people celebrate a country that keeps children and families locked in cages at the border, kills unarmed Black people, calls the police on unarmed Black people, has an overtly corrupt clown occupying the white house who threatens to rage war on anyone who defies him, gives its citizens $1,200 (maybe) for a stimulus check but gave millions of dollars to banks, and robs the American education system of pertinent funding for children and gives it to arm law enforcement. The list goes on.

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that still has yet to arrest, charge, and convict the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor in her bed while she slept with her boyfriend on March 13, 2020?

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that keeps its knee in our necks (rest in Heaven George Floyd) in every aspect of American society? Here’s a short list to name a few:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Employment opportunities
  • Home ownership
  • Business ownership
  • Bank Loans
  • Red lining
  • Gentrification
  • Employment and pay equity
  • Prison

This list is never ending. 

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that values going to bars without a mask on over changing the systemic racism embedded in our institutions of law enforcement? 

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that has anti-Blackness inside its DNA? 

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that would rather paint BLACK LIVES MATTER on a street than defund police departments?

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that gave us the Civil Rights Act of 1965 but in 2020, there’s still voter suppression in states like Georgia and Kentucky?

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or a country that still keeps Black folks in some of the lowest paid positions and expects us to “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps”?

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or a country that blackballed Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the National Anthem but allowed armed protestors in Michigan to storm the capitol when they wanted outside to open back up because of COVID?

…that all men are created equal.

Nah,

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. 

While it is true, there is no other country that I’d rather live in because this is the only place I know, it is also true that this is a really shitty place to live sometimes as a Black person. Our homie Frederic Douglass told y’all this back in 1852 when he gave this famous speech. Read it here: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927t.html or listen to his descendants read it to you! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBe5qbnkqoM&feature=emb_share&fbclid=IwAR0UghtdUZD8J-dIskTE_YqGuYRpgYBbigNdzvV7BOPQI28tM1L5G47S60w

How sad it is to see that 168 years later, Douglass’ words still ring so true. He’d be disappointed at just how little progress the country has made. He’d be disappointed with how white Karens weaponize their white womanhood against Black lives on a daily basis because they can’t mind their own business. To be honest, I could see him giving another speech called “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July…continued” to tell America about itself once again. But this time instead of expressing his disappointment as “eloquently” as he did in the first speech, he’d probably just say, “Y’all still out here trippin’ and it’s pissin’ me off”. 

But fret not Black folks, I hope on Juneteenth last month, we celebrated just as hard as the closeted and out klan members are doing today. I hope we sprinkled all of our Black magic around this globe as our people were out there on the frontlines as medical workers and as activist calling for the justice of Black people. I pray we continue to celebrate. We have a right to be happy. We have a right to joy and I’ll be damned if I don’t find ways to keep my joy in this long fight. I pray that while I’m still alive, I’ll live to see the day when justice is really for all, when laws are stripped of the inequitable practices and rebuilt from the ground up, and when Black Lives Matter in all aspects of this country. 

Life. Liberty. Pursuit of Happiness.

So, what am I doing this July 4th? Minding my extra Black business and moving about the day like a regular day. Keeping six feet apart from strangers and checking my surroundings everywhere I go. Lastly, I’ll be spreading the magic I possess all around Tampa Bay.

❤ Queen T

 

“What to the Slave is the 4th of July?”

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July 4, 1776 is the date our precious, stolen country celebrates its independence from Great Britain. All that fighting over taxation and tea and the Revolutionary War happening, we were finally free! Our nation’s Forefathers signed that venerable document and the rest is history. The United States of America from thirteen colonies.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

Well, a few years later, in 1852, our good ol’ abolitionist friend and freed slave, Frederick Douglass gives a speech to a predominately white audience. This famous speech as we know it is called, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”  In his oratory, Douglass talks to the audience about how 76-years prior, the nation was founded and that the Fourth of July was a time to celebrate its independence. Douglass then goes on to make the point that the people in the room were able to celebrate because they were white and free. Slaves, on the other hand, were considered property and had no reason to celebrate being in bondage in a country they built. You can find the link to the entire speech (its a great read) Here!!!!

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To this day, we see the effects of slavery in everyday policies and practices in our country. For example, as we know, our country imprisons more people than any other country in the world. Majority of those people are Black and Brown. Black and Brown people are more likely to get longer sentences for the same crime as white people and longer sentences for non-violent drug offenses. The police are literally lynching unarmed Black people in the streets and on video and are not held accountable in the justice system. Collin Kaepernick took a knee on the football field sidelines during the National Anthem to protest the unjust killings of unarmed Black people in America. He challenged the system and the system banned him from the NFL. The tried to ruin his character calling him unpatriotic. In other words, “that boy disrespected Massa”.

We see it in our educational system and low-income neighbors in our cities. We know which schools get the most money for resources and updated technology and we know the schools that don’t. It’s a never ending cycle. Yes, we’re free but the system is still set up to see our demise. This is why we must continue to speak up and out about our rights as people in this country. Everything we need to know is at our disposal. We can use our voices to make a difference for ourselves and communities.

I personally, don’t dress up in red, white, and blue anymore on July 4th. When I was a kid, I definitely did because I didn’t know any better. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in America. I have no desire to live in any other country (unless the job was good and they had good food). I am privileged in my own ways but that hasn’t stopped racism from making its way to my front door plenty of times.

aa8c4f549cf1d25a90cd638464065575A holiday that they don’t teach us in our history books is Juneteeth. I just learned about Juneteeth back in 2009. I went to a Juneteenth barbeque at my undergrad. June 19, 1865 was the day more than 200,000 slaves in Texas found out they were free from bondage. This was three years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln freeing Blacks in America. Then came the Reconstruction Era and the KKK made their presence known and the development of prisons and you know the rest.

Anywho, Juneteeth is a day I’ve seen more and more Black people embrace over July 4th. This is a day where the last of our people were in chains…per se. It’s a time where the jerk chicken is on the grill and the music is loud in a park somewhere. We come together to celebrate our independence and our liberation. Juneteeth is Tuesday, June 19, 2018. I encourage you to go out and celebrate you…us.

 

❤ Queen T

We’ve All Been Meghan Markle

I am everywhere but I am nowhere.

I didn’t need the Oprah CBS special interview with the former Duchess, Meghan Markle and former Prince, Harry to know and understand that Meghan Markle was at the center of a tangled web called racism and sexism. You see, Meghan is just like me. She’s just like you. She’s a Black woman (of mixed race) who experienced insurmountable discrimination, microaggressions, and prejudice that many of us have a hard time explaining for a few reasons. The first, is that it’s very hard to name it and pinpoint it. Especially if you haven’t been versed in the hidden messages of racism and sexism but also because microaggressions and bias happen so subtly, that it goes over your head. The second reason is the fear of retaliation. We never know what will happen to us if we report the harm that’s been done to us. And finally, we often are not believed when we report these erroneous experiences. Meghan wasn’t believed when she was going through it and after the interview, many still don’t believe her. 

I am everywhere but I am nowhere.

When you’re a Black woman in an all white space (or any space, if we’re being honest) you are highly visible and invisible at the same time. It’s fascinating really. Researchers Hodges & Welch (2017) would call this concept “a fly in buttermilk.” We easily stand out. As a diversity and inclusion practitioner, I teach my clients about implicit biases all of the time. One of the things we talk about in my sessions is about how easy it is for biases to form and show up in our daily lives. For example, if you have the same type of people in one space and bring in someone who identifies differently, you will begin to say, do, and make biased decisions about that one person. Meghan was the first Black person to enter into the Royal Family in England. For centuries, this family has maintained their “pure” whiteness and have been the example of what royalty should look like. Meghan, was not their idea of a royal. She may be of mixed race, but what have we learned in the U.S. when it comes to Blackness? If you have one drop of Black blood…you know the rest. And anti-Blackness isn’t confined to the U.S. Anti-Blackness is deeply rooted in Europe and European practices. Hell, do we need to take a journey down history lane about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, global capitalism, and white supremacy? 

But for Black women, the discrimination against us is different. We aren’t just marginalized because we are Black or because we are a woman. We get the brunt of both of those simultaneously and it’s hard to name the oppression we face. Like Meghan, I’ve been in plenty of predominantly white spaces where I was the only Black person and Black woman and was at the forefront of all of the horrific biases. I’ve been lied on. I’ve been told that I was always angry. Colleagues would CC my supervisor on emails all of the time. I’ve been criticized for how I wear my hair. I’ve been told I was hard to work with and not a team player. I’ve been asked to do extra amounts of work for no extra pay. I’ve been offered low paying wages for jobs even though, at the time, I had two degrees. The list goes on. I remember how hard it was to finally get the courage to report what was happening to me to human resources at one particular job. And I remember not getting any support. I remember not being believed. I remember the pain and anxiety I felt about returning to a hostile work environment. When Meghan and Harry spoke about not receiving support, all of those painful memories flooded back to me. 

I am everywhere but I am nowhere.

Do you know what it’s like to constantly have to shrink yourself down? To know that you’re Black but try hard to not “show” that you’re Black? It got to the point where Meghan didn’t want to live anymore. Do you know what it’s like to get to that point because of the blatant and covert racism and sexism others are inflicting on you? Do you know what it’s like to feel like “you’re everywhere but nowhere” at the same time? For many Black women, this is our story. While we may not be married into “royal blood,” we’ve been socialized to shrink ourselves down and not draw too much attention to ourselves. We’ve been told to just be quiet or we’ve been silenced in our work spaces or even home lives for the sake of not disrupting too much of the norm. 

But the reality is, the world cannot exist or operate without Black women. We are the standard. We are what everyone wants to be and emulate. The way you dress, they way you have to tan to get dark, the style of music you like, the best food you’ve had in your life, the beauty you wish you possessed all comes from Black women. And more! Meghan brought some life into that royal family and the way the world embraced her, I’m sure brought up some jealousy from members of the royal family and staff. They drove her and Harry away, not the other way around. And it was disheartening to hear that they were willing to stay in the family despite the egregious things happening to Meghan. How often have we as Black women sacrificed our dignity and stayed in situations that were bad for our mental health? We do it in relationships and our work environments and other areas of our lives.

And for the folks saying “she knew what she was getting into when she married a white man…married into the royal family…etc. etc.” y’all can be quiet. The victim blaming has to stop. 

This isn’t a piece to give you some call to action on how to support Black women and check your racial biases, I’ve given you plenty of that advice over the years. You figure out how to do the work.

I see you, Meghan. I believe you. It’s happened to me, too. Don’t ever dim your light for anyone ever again.

❤ Queen T

 

Vote or Die?

The year is 2004. An election year. Republican George W. Bush was up for reelection that year running against Democrat John Kerry. Wearing a tall white tee, that read “Vote Or Die”, Hip Hop mogul, Sean “Diddy” Combs appeared on a number of television shows encouraging young people between the ages of 18-24 to vote. He’s quoted here (https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2004/11/09/vote-or-die-well-they-did-vote/ba387147-3025-44ea-b287-7504fc10c37e/) saying that wearing the slogan on the shirt was a fashion statement and a way to make voting cool. He understood the importance of exercising your right to vote and that the power of our votes go beyond the federal elections. Elections matter on the local and state level as well. Bush won the election that year.

The year is 2020. What a shit show. From the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, to the COVID-19 Pandemic, to the heightened racial pandemic, to the death of Chadwick Boseman. 2020 dealt us a hand with no spades, jokers, or face cards to save us. This presidential election is probably the most critical out of any election the U.S. has had. The current white supremacist-in-chief is up for reelection in just three short weeks against former Vice President Joe Biden and his running-mate, Senator Kamala Harris, a Black and Desi identfiying woman. The current white supremacist-in-chief is the nasitiest, dirtiest, trashiest person ever. He’s up there with Adolf and Lucifer himself. Not only has he had a hand in killing over 211,000 Americans with the way he and his administration downplayed the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has now directed and starred in a satire Vaudeville play about contracting the virus himself. All a ploy to steal this election. He knew he was going to lose in November so he is doing everything in his power to stay. What’s wild is, his narcissism and his blatant hatred for everyone who isn’t rich and white, is still allowing him a running chance to win again. 

People, we’ve seen and heard the horrible things he says about immigrants, Black people, LGBTQ people, women, and other marginalized groups. He’s got children and families locked up at the border all while green-lighting illegal mass sterilizations on the women who are being held captive. He “claims” he’s done more for “African Americans” than “any other president in history” and yet, he won’t defund police departments that are systemically racist that murder Black people at higher rates than whites. Instead, he calls for more “law and order” and threatens states who want to defund their police department. He’s seated over 50s judges across the nation and all of them are white men. He’s selected a white woman new supreme court justice who wants to overturn Roe v Wade that protects women’s right to abortions. He’s the one who gave the American people $1,200 ONE TIME during this pandemic like that $1,200 one-time payment was enough. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their family members, homes, and so much more and he thought $1,200 was enough. 

HE GREEN LIGHTS WHITE SUPREMACIST ATTACKS ON PEOPLE OF COLOR!

He supports white terrorists on American soil. Justice for all doesn’t mean a damn thing when you don’t have money or white skin. And all he does is lie. If you choose to sit this election out, you are casting a vote for the white supremacist-in-chief. If you are undecided about who you are going to vote for, I urge you to do some research but really keep an open mind. No, Joe Biden is not the savior. He’s done horrible things (we’re looking at you ‘94 Crime Bill). But if we want stability back into our country and an opportunity to bring dollars back into our community and build some unity, he and Senator Harris are who we have and who we NEED. It is literally life and death at this point. I am terrified that if he wins again, it will be detrimental to Black people, LGBTQ community, women, and other people of color. 

This past Sunday, I went to a concealed carry class because I am scared for my life being a single Black woman in Florida. I feel that if the white supremacist-in-chief in wins again, white terror organization members are going to pour out into the streets. If they do, I need to be able to protect myself. Hell, even when Joe Biden wins, I feel like the same will happen. This election is life-or-death and the time is now to make the right decision and vote 45 out. I don’t see how anyone with morals can support him. We are past the point where you justify his “policies” being for you. Forget the policies, you really can vote for someone who can literally change the course of this nation with the click of his pen? He’s already wiped out anti-racism and diversity trainings that teach the true history of this country. He’s trying to save Columbus Day like Columbus didn’t cause genocide and the enslavement of Native people of this land. He’s the ringleader of terror. If you support him, how can you sleep at night knowing what he’s done, is doing, and will continue to do to harm marginalized communities.

When Joe Biden wins, that means Kamala will be 2nd in command, and we’re one step closer to having a Black woman lead this country and we all know things will get done when a Black woman is in charge. Vote Biden/Harris, and get some of your student loan debt paid down or forgiven. Vote Biden/Harris because this is what we need for the time being.

I’m urging all eligible people, please, check your registration deadlines, vote early, drop you mail-in ballots off at secure locations, vote early on Nov. 3rd. Do whatever you can to help save our lives. Help save us from the anti-Christ we have in office now.

VOTE OR DIE

AND FOR GOODNESS SAKES…DON’T VOTE FOR Kanye, either. Ugh!

❤ Queen T

Black Women

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Written By Cash, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Black women deserve better. Respect Black women. Empower Black women. Invest in Black women. PAY Black women. Black women deserve to be uplifted because society wouldn’t be uplifted without us. We show the world what it means to be resilient. We fight hard, because we love hard.

Last Saturday, I was slated to speak at an event hosted by Kwamara Thompson on education with other phenomenal Black women was zoom bombed by racists. The creator and facilitator of this illustrious event did everything that she could to create a safe space for Black women to express and be free, both systematically with the zoom settings and in content. Yet, it was infiltrated by racists in an act of terror so vivid that I still have images of the content in my head. After this experience, I sat still on my couch for 30 minutes just trying to process how an event that was created to center voices of Black woman excellence with the intention of giving back and serving others could be looted in this way. I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand how sharing strategies in education and Black experiences in schools could be a threat. Why us? Why did they target this? It took 2 hours for me to get up and move around again. It wasn’t until then that I realized that this was by design. This system was built upon silencing Black women – especially when the content is geared toward uplift, education, or innovation. I realized that by being seen on this platform, I was a threat. I remembered the history that I was taught about enslavement in America and how if a person who was enslaved tried to learn to read they would be punished. I remembered that learning to write was against the law for my ancestors. I remembered that after emancipation and the construction of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the first thing that was burned down in the deep south were elementary schools. This was by design. 

So, then I picked myself up and we made plans to do it again!

Now, I want you to think about this from a programming stand-point: Imagine what it’s like being an 8-year-old, a time when your job is to be a kid – happy, playful, learning, sitting. You get sat down to watch a TV show about 4 little girls who looked just like you who were murdered during Bible study at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Imagine knowing that there was no justice and no peace for these families, only the scar of fear stemming from engaging in community one minute to losing everything the next for no reason. Imagine knowing that those four little girls were your age and that your father was four years old when this happened – so you felt it on a whole different level. Imagine at 8-years-old, thinking that their only jobs were to be happy, and playful, and to learn the world but to know that their lives were taken from them before they got the chance to grow up because of racism.

For years, I was afraid to go to any Black church out of fear that I, too, would be bombed in the basement. I was giving into programming from these hateful people that told me that I must fear the very places that were meant for peace, community, and solace. And yet, I remember that each time that I went to church I found home and safety in the arms of the people who were there. I found a voice. I found peace. Everything in my body and through my programming told me not to go – that I shouldn’t, yet my spirit prevailed and I showed up each Sunday with the confidence in something larger than myself. This is the very definition of resilience and grit.

This contrast, I believe, very deeply shows the duality of the Black woman’s existence. It reveals something that the world is afraid of. We are so mindfully aware of the threat against our safety in all cases for being both black and woman, but are so magical and divine that we find home in it. As a person who studies mindfulness and mediation and a practitioner of the work, I often say that Black women are some of the most mindful creatures on earth. Both, because we have had to be to survive but more so because of our innate ability to be in tune with everything we do, see, and hear with intentionality. We cook mindfully, we sing mindfully, we banter mindfully, we dance mindfully, we study mindfully, we engage in spirituality and prayer mindfully. We take the pain and hurt of others and transform it into movements, and marches, and books, and poems. Our very existence is challenged every day and we still find ways of thriving and giving back to the world with such joy. We were raised in this.

As a child, I was taught to be vigilant, strong, outspoken, but to know that the world was going to use all of those against me. I was taught to be open, loving, and caring but to know that in an instant I could be taken advantage of because of my body, melanin, and hair. And these lessons were not only gracefully given from my household, but painly experienced from society, the media, and the people around me. Looking back on my upbringing, my parents and village were phenomenal. I grew up in a very safe, loving, and comfortable environment. They all worked hard to give my sister-cousins and I space to grow authentically. They guided our spirits, yet were very intentional about letting us find our voice. They worked to shield us from the world by preparation, but also let us be kids and to find joy! And now in retrospect I understand that with all of the care, love, and lessons they couldn’t have forewarned that in 2020 we would be fighting on the mainstage just to be seen and heard in a world demanding for Black Lives to matter. That with our voices, the spaces we created for ourselves would be challenged at every turn. That being conscious and educated to the world would mean that we were a threat and would lead to even more mistreatment. They could not have begun to fathom that the world wouldn’t see us needing to be protected, comforted, treated in a way that uplifted our feminie essence, energy and intellect. But we see it. We feel it and we are determined to pick up our magic each time and yell “WE ARE HERE” anyway, because we are the very embodiment of “better”. We are showing up in every movement and space because we have the blueprint in our DNA of what it’s like to be all things amazing even when battered and bruised. In this era and the next, we will be listened to because our voice is the movement. We have something to say and that you need to hear. You can drop the mic or not, but know that when it’s our time to speak we will graciously take the mic and let the voice of liberation roll from hilltop to valley. And, it is because of this reason that we deserve better from you, the proverbial you – the societal you.

We are the uplifters of society because we know what it’s like to be programmed to fear and hate, but to rise because it is rooted in who we are. We invent. We educate. We inspire. We create. And, you are going to get this magic and divinity whether you open yourself up to it or not!

P.S. We don’t need your sorrys. We need your commitment. 

Cash, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

 

“I’m so Ugly”: A Black Girl’s Nightmare

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“The most disrespected person in America, is the Black woman.” – Malcolm X.

A common theme of the blog posts I write, is my ability to share vulnerable and personal experiences that I’ve had in my life. Last time I wrote about being a dark skinned Black girl, it was a letter to myself addressing the trauma being dark skinned has caused me throughout my life (I posted it on an external blog and I can’t remember where it is at this time).

Reminiscing on that trauma happens often when I think about how my niece sees herself as a dark skinned girl. She goes out in the summertime in jeans and long sleeve shirts or talks about how she doesn’t want to be in the sun too long because she doesn’t want to get darker. But as a 30-year-old woman, I’ve accepted my dark skin as an integral part of my identity. I love the way my skin makes colors like yellow and lime green dance in the sunlight. Diving into communities of other Black folx in my transition into adulthood in college made me love being dark skinned even more. It made me see Blackness differently.

But last week, a viral video of a beautiful, little, dark skinned, Black girl getting her locs retwisted surfaced. In the video, the little girl, Ariyonna, calls herself ugly and her hair stylist immediately stops and tells her not to say things like that. The stylist immediately began to tell Ariyonna how beautiful she is. Ariyonna started to cry and as did I. I felt every inch of that pain and that emotional turmoil that I felt most of my life growing up. I, too, felt ugly as a Black girl. 

I hated going to school and the kids I went to school with, reminded me daily that I was ugly and undesirable. Some names I was called were so harsh that to this day, I still can’t bring myself to say out loud or type. That sense of humiliation finds a way to creep back up. 

While I cried for Ariyonna’s pain, my pain, and the pain of other dark skinned girls, I also cried out of anger. I was angry that in 2020, someone probably told little Ariyonna that she was ugly. I was angry that in 2020, we still don’t see ourselves represented in mainstream media. We have the Lupitas and the Viola Davises here and there but beauty is still being defined by a Kardashian/Jenner (who spend all their money to make themselves look Black) or a Black couple of T.V. that has a dark skinned man with a light skinned woman. Taking in all of these unconscious messages can tell our subconscious that we aren’t beautiful or can tell us that we are not deserving of love. Hell, I even had a Black man tell me one day that he “normally doesn’t entertain Black women” but for me, he would “make an exception”. Finally, I was angry that in 2020, I still felt the sting. I thought I healed from it all. I thought I forgave the people who said anything horrible about me in the past. But I still feel it. Reflecting on all this now, reminded me that I felt it months ago when folx on social media said Ari Lennox looked like a “dog”. 

Colorism and the experiences of being a Black woman in general have been part of our history since slavery. Societal standards of beauty and privilege go beyond the borders of America and extend into every facet of the human experience on every continent and in every country. We’ve been socialized to believe that white people and lighter skinned people are the superior beings and we must all look that way to be beautiful. As much as I try to debunk this ideology, it continues to be the norm in our culture. Social media has given internet thugs and shitty people access to be shitty people to others they don’t even know. Psychologically, it takes a toll on our mental well-being. We hear statements from Black men like “I want to have mixed babies…” “I prefer white women/Latinx women so my kids can have ‘good’ hair…” while beautiful Black women are pushed to the side and ignored.

But no more. Begin speaking LIFE into your Black women and young Black girls. We experience some of the most horrendous attacks on our looks and our character than anyone. No one can me that they’ve experienced worse situations than Black women. We are expected to accept that we aren’t beautiful as fact and we carry this with us internally. For me, it’s been a constant struggle but I recognize the beauty I possess. I see the beauty in my niece and other Ariyonnas around the world. Black girl. Black woman. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.

❤ Queen T

Invisible Pain

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Written By Vica., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Well, you don’t LOOK sick. It’s probably not even that bad.

Living with an illness that isn’t explicit to the eye can be quite challenging, especially when people start to doubt the pain you’re in. It’s like a slap in the face because it took all your strength to even get out of bed that day. For someone to dismiss your pain just because you carry it well. This is something I have had to deal with for many years. I have so many back issues and injuries that it’s hard to even recount a time where I was just “me”. 

Live your truth.

Since I don’t wear a cast or am missing an extremity people like to pretend that nothing is wrong. Yes, I am fortunate that what I have to deal with isn’t as extreme as what others go through, but does that diminish my experience? The notion of “Well at least you’re not… or at least you can…” undermines one’s struggle. I recall my senior of High School when I missed 66 days of school. Of course, they were all excused but I had teachers and even friends make implicit remarks questioning if I was really sick. One of my classes laughed when I came back and said they thought I had died (which is soooo not funny). It’s important that people realize this and think twice before they make comments regarding someone else’s health. 

Moving Forward.

Because of this, I often downplay my pain and brush it off as nothing to make other people more comfortable. I recognized this and realized that it is deleterious to my health and am actively trying to break that habit. Sacrificing my well-being for those who don’t really care is not in the cards for me in 2020, nor the rest of my life for that matter.

A History.

Unfortunately, the denial of truth is often felt in the medical field as well. I can’t even count how many doctors I have visited and how many times they told me there was nothing wrong. I even had an MRI done in 2016 with results indicating a herniated disk and other ailments and the “treatment” suggested by a physician was to take 2 Motrin. This attitude can be expressed towards all patients but is undeniably present in Black patients. Racial bias in the assessment and treatment of pain is something that stems from false “scientific” evidence made by doctors during the slave trade. They proposed that the Black race or “Negroids” were a different breed of human and felt little to no pain compared to the “caucasoids” or white race. This “science of race” was obviously a means to justify the inhumane treatment of Africans. In fact, a great deal of medical advancements were made because of the experiments carried out on enslaved Africans. Although this view is no longer revered as true, the effects are still felt to this day. A lot of people remain undiagnosed or even end up irreparable damage or death because of the disbelief. It’s way past time for a total change to be had.

Be kind.

The global skepticism of pain isn’t exclusive to physical health but applies to mental as well. Many people struggle every day with anxiety and depression and still make look “fine”. But the mask they wear on the outside covers the true pain felt on the inside. Keeping this in mind, ask your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers, if they’re doing okay regardless if they look fine. Remember, it costs nothing to be nice. Set an example. One small act can inspire many. 

Vica, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Queen and Slim: A Film About Black Love OR Black Trauma?

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** Spoilers **

As soon as I heard the shot, saw the bullet pierce Queen’s chest, and watched her body hit the ground, hot tears instantly filled my eyes.

Like many Americans, I saw the movie Queen and Slim by writer/actress/producer genius, Lena Waithe over the Thanksgiving holiday break. I anticipated nothing but great visuals and story lines from the first time I saw the trailer for the movie. Two dark skinned Black leading characters was what sold me from the start. It was an opportunity to see myself on screen. It was the Black love story we rarely see. Most of the Black love stories we see on TV and film star a dark skinned Black woman with a white man or a dark skinned Black man with a light skinned Black woman. It’s rare that you see the two intertwine. But this was IT.

This movie gave us a perspective about love that we often don’t think about. It’s hard to imagine falling in love with someone in the span of six days after meeting on Tinder. Outside of them deciding to run for their lives, the idea of staying alive and protecting each other turned into an opportunity to have a deeper connection. I saw two people that had no other choice but to bond despite their differences. When they met, Queen was a successful lawyer, and Slim was a guy who worked in retail. If the unfortunate traffic stop never happened, would it have been likely that Queen and Slim would have continued to date? Maybe not. Queen didn’t seem interested in him at all until they decided to run. From my perspective, she looked at him as if he was beneath her…or not her equal. This is a common thing I’ve noticed in my time on the dating scene. It’s hard to find a man that is on the same career path as you or your “equal”, especially now. However, I do believe that if true love is there, both people in the relationship should figure out how to make it work no matter who makes more money or who has the most “ideal” career. The two never got a chance to explore that and because of their situation, their jobs didn’t matter. All that mattered was protecting each other at all costs.

I felt their connection grow as the movie progressed. Despite my undying love for the two, I heard some rumbles from folks about their opposition for seeing the movie. Their reasoning was the visuals of Black trauma continued to be played out on screen. What is “Black Trauma”? My definition of it is when violence against Blacks is constantly portrayed on screen for profit. We continue to see the same type of movies: Blacks being killed by the police, slavery, etc. where we are victims. One person I talked to said they would rather have seen a movie about Black perseverance (like Black Panther or Harriet *even though there was controversy about Harriet*) where we win. He decided against seeing Queen and Slim because he figured they would either die at the hands of the police at the end or they would end up in jail. And of course if you’ve seen the movie, they died. I mean, I felt their deaths in my soul. As soon as I heard the shot, saw the bullet pierce Queen’s chest, and watched her body hit the ground, hot tears instantly filled my eyes.

Now, I personally love Lena Waithe’s work. I don’t think she was trying to exploit Black trauma because she is always about Black folks no matter what. But it doesn’t hurt to ask the question, are the majority of the movies and television shows about Blackness centered around their trauma? For example, I just began watching the show All American about a Black kid growing up in Crenshaw in Los Angeles and the gang violence in his neighborhood. We know that in real life, things like this happen, but I wonder if there was a different story line, if the show would even be successful.

I will admit, it was hard watching the interaction of Queen and Slim with the white police officer. We see this so much in our society in how the police treat us and in my opinion, we are beginning to become numb to it. Was there another way we could have engaged with Black love without the police brutality and Queen and Slim’s deaths at the end? I’m sure there was but this is how Waithe decided to connect their love. 

I do hope that we as Black folks know that our love can exist without the violence and the emotional trauma we often face.

❤ Queen T

 

 

The New Normal

Processed with RNI Films. Preset 'Agfa Optima 200 v.2'

Written By Mesha G., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I’ve been doing a great job of exclaiming to everyone that I recently started going to therapy.  This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while doing but something just sparked and I was ready to dive in and do it.  It’s probably one of the best decisions that I’ve made for myself. I’m taking the initiative and doing this for me to unpack much that I’ve suppressed for an incredibly long time.  Also working on a Ph.D with a research topic that is embedded in who I am can cause the need for therapy alone. 

Seeing that I have more than enough reasons to start, I want to focus on what took so long to begin.  I understand why black people believe that therapy is only for white people. This myth is one that guides so many to believe that speaking to an objective person is a bad idea. Again, all a myth. But we as black people are used to living in distrustful worlds where we don’t tell folks our business…or better yet, hear “what goes on in this house, stays in this house.” For very good reasons, black people have tried to protect their families from the cruelities of the world we’ve experienced as a group of people for generations.

Therapy has allowed me to be in a space to heal on a level that gives me autonomy for my life.  Considering that black people have always been controlled at some level of capacity in America, allowing us to go to therapy in masses, would set an insurmountable amount of discourse for power structures.  Allowing me to heal from traumas I’ve experienced AND my foremothers? MAN! And before anyone says that slavery is over and black people control shit, we can barely be in our own homes without getting shot.  

The most disheartening part of beginning the process was actually beginning.  I say this because for a while I’ve lightly researched; I’d go on a website here and there or inquire with my insurance to know what was available.  I wanted a black woman as a therapist and I wasn’t settling for anything else. However, considering a few things: 1. I have insurance 2. I’m aware of what’s available and have the resources to navigate all that shit 3. I’m proactively choosing this to one day not really be ready to cut a bitch like I say I am all.thee.time. So, I came in knowing, ready, and all the way prepared. But there weren’t any and I mean any black female therapist that accepted insurance.  And supposedly I got pretty good insurance but my ass pays out of pocket for all this. 

I want to call this out because THIS is why black people don’t go to therapy, at least in places like the great state of Wisconsin.  Newer generations have been trying to break generational curses in all kinds of ways so I don’t necessarily buy completely the black myth of why we believe black people don’t go.  I do know that finances will definitely be a reason to not go, even when you have the money. I definitely didn’t want to pay for this but I knew that my self-care journey needs more depth than getting my nails done. 

Imagine if there was a world that existed where misguided anger and frustration has a place to be worked out.  A place where insecurities could be discussed. For self discovery to happen. Rather than over diagnosed ADHD prescriptions, being called the angry black person or excessive criminal punishment… hell even death. This particular post of mine this month is more of a call to action rather than just sharing a story time of what’s going on in my life.  It’s time to normalize therapy.

 Mesha G., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

 

 

 

When They See Us – More Than a Horror Series

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Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron Mccray

*I want to start this post by saying that if you are not mentally ready to watch this show, take your time. Oprah’s interview with the cast and the men is up on Netflix and is only an hour long and is easier to process*

I’m positive many of you have either watched the Netflix series When They See Us or you’ve read an article about it because you weren’t ready to watch an actual reality play out. Wherever you are on the spectrum, I’m with you.

Surprisingly, I watched all four episodes in one sitting. Reflecting back on the emotions I felt while watching it do not compare to the emotional trauma the actual men in this case faced as young boys. I remember being about 30 minutes into the first episode and pressing pause because I felt my skin turn hot, my palms start to sweat, and my tear ducts going into overdrive. I had to mentally prepare myself for the rollercoaster Ava Duvernay was about to take me on.

Prior to watching When They See Us, I was already pretty familiar with the story of the “Central Park 5”, now known as the “Exonerated 5”. I remember hearing about them when I was younger but in 2016 I watched Ava Duvernay’s documentary, 13th, on Netflix. 13th focused on the 13th Amendment and how it was created to supposedly abolish slavery. The catch to that amendment is, slavery can still be legal if a person is incarcerated. In 13th, Duvernay, highlights the story of the Exonerated 5 and how America’s current president, 45 (I refuse to say or type his name still), spent thousands of dollars on an ad calling for the death penalty of Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Kevin Richardson, the falsely accused boys/men of the rape of a 28-year-old white woman.

It wasn’t until I watched When They See Us when I began to really understand what happened 30 years ago. I sat with this for a while. April 19, 1989 was about 6 months before I was born. It’s wild that 30 years later, shit like this still happens everyday. I think about all of the Black and brown men and women who are in prison now for crimes they didn’t commit. The prison system in our country is designed to eliminate us. I’m convinced. And the unjust justice system continues to be stagnant.

My heart cries and breaks every time I hear stories like these. I saw people posting articles about When They See Us being a horror film/series for Black and brown people but it’s more than that. The emotional, mental, and physical abuse that we as people of color face on a daily basis is a real life horror. Even in today’s time where we have camera phones and social media to expose the corrupt unjust justice system and police, we are still somehow villainized. “She shouldn’t have talked back.” “It looked like he was reaching for a gun.” “He was in the park.” It’s the same cycle of false accusations that we’ve seen for hundreds of years in this country.

The last point I want to make is the dynamics between white women and Black men.  The institution of slavery has labeled Black men as predators to white women. We’ve seen countless images of white women running from Black men in fear for their lives. We’ve heard a number of stories of white women lying on Black men that has gotten Black men put in jail and/or lynched (*coughEmmettTillcough*). The story of the Exonerated 5 is an example of this dynamic. We witnessed five innocent children be labeled as sexual predators because of the vicious attack on a white woman. No DNA matched either boy; their confessions were coerced in the forms of threats, violence, and police telling them what to say; and the actual rapist confessed. Yet, the city of New York has not apologized; Linda Fairstein, the lead detective in this case, still refuses to admit wrongdoing; and these men are emotionally scarred for life. White women have had a say in the demise of our Black men since the beginning of time and find a way to turn victim when they are called out on their bullshit. Linda Fairstein, for example, is losing all of her endorsements and positions since this documentary aired and deems it unfair. She got to spend her life making millions of dollars and living the American dream while these boys were criminalized in the media, abused, lied on, and in prison. And that ladies and gents is white privilege.

America. We have to do better. To Korey, Yusef, Kevin, Antron, and Raymond and all the other Black and brown people in this country, I see you.

❤ Queen T