4.July – { “…with liberty and justice for all.”‎ } by Tina Nagbare

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Happy 4th of July folks.

I only say Happy 4th, you won’t catch me using its formal name – as a form of silent protest. You see, “Independence Day” doesn’t really mean much to Black Americans because it is a reminder that while the Founding Fathers were signing a document that states,

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

… their property was being tended to by slaves who were likely suffering from PTSD after somehow surviving (1) having their own liberty snatched from them as they were dragged from their homes, (2) being carelessly and viciously separated from their families, and (2) ‎the horrors of The Middle PassageAwkward And don’t even get me started on what this holiday must represent for Native Americans… But there I go “making everything about race” again… So today I along with my fellow Blacks will go ahead and take this “vacation” day in honor of our ancestors and use it as an excuse to eat, drink, & be merry. (See how I managed to end that on a happier note?)

Since the 4th doesn’t mean much more than the occasional 3 day weekend to me, I use it to binge watch TV shows and movies. And currently I’m working on getting through “Orange Is The New Black”. No, not season 3 – the whole series. I know, I know – I’m late to the movement, but I don’t have Netflix because I chose cable. (Respect my freedom of choice, thanks.) In the past few weeks I’ve made it through Season 1 and am now pushing my way through Season 2.

Initially, I said I was going to stop after Season 1‎. Why would I do such a foolish thing? Because I don’t enjoy the show; I don’t hate it – I just don’t enjoy it. It’s not a bad show, it has solid storylines and character development, but honestly – Piper is annoying AF. Like….#bruh…. she really annoys me (shoutout to Taylor Shilling by the way for her amazing acting… because I think I hate her in real life and that means that she is acting the s**t out of that role). Anyway, Season 1 ended on a cliff hanger and I needed to see what happened and then the Season 2 Premiere made me realize 2 things:

 

  1. I legit cannot stand Piper. How could she NOT see Alex was setting her up again?!? You chose to trust HER?!? The same “her” that snitched on you and got you thrown in jail over an 8yr beef then promptly lied to you about said snitching followed y some self-righteous speech when you called her on it. I mean, this isn’t street smarts is it? Isn’t it common sense to NOT trust a person like that? (The show has been out for about 3yrs so eff you and your spoiler alert complaints.)
  2. This show is depressing AF which is why I *have* to watch it. Though dramatized for our enjoyment, we should all understand that at least 80% of what we see on this show is a true representation of our prison system and how it works. I’m watching how these prisoners are treated & how their humanity is disregarded and I am horrified. Mind you, I’ve read up on America’s justice and prison systems so I heard how bad it can be…..  and this is a women’s prison…. a minimum-securityone… in upstate NY. I don’t even want to imagine what a day at Rikers might look like in comparison. And then learning their backstories…. Depressing AF.
  • I mean look at Taystee – who ended up in prison despite all of her efforts to live on the straight and narrow why because she grew up trapped in the system (orphaned) and just wanted stability and a family. AND THEN when she was granted parole she ended up right back in prison basically on a technicality and since she had nowhere to sleep (remember: orphan) prison actually seemed like the better option.
  • Or Watson who is serving years because she basically started dating the wrong guy and he convinced her to do something stupid.
  • And Piper who even with her privilege is in prison though she never saw her day in court because a DA scared her into taking a plea bargain deal.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t have been held accountable for their actions, but this show reminds me that sometimes “convicts” are just people who made a bad choice AND got caught. They are still people. Needless to say, I’ve even more critical of our “justice” system now and I didn’t even know that was possible.

‎And then I wonder how many of you are watching this show simply for entertainment and not as a critique on our society. I mean this was one of author’s goals in writing her story – to raise awareness on what happens behind bars and get more people interested in prison reform. Much in the same way The Wire (one of THE best shows to ever be on television) was meant to show us how our institutions repeatedly fail those living in poverty and in doing so promote the violence they claim to be working to prevent. Piper has since become a prison reform advocate… have you?

But then I recall all of the popular, public commentary as Baltimore was burning. So many of you (including those loyal watchers of The Wire) were shocked and confused at the response of Baltimore’s citizens who were beyond tired of being oppressed… despite watching for 5 seasons on HBO. Because you fell in love with the show’s characters, but forgot about the people those characters represent. These shows aren’t just entertainment and just because you can pause, fast forward, and rewind at your leisure that doesn’t mean that the story ends when you hit stop or when the season is over. These stories represent someone’s lived experiences.‎ When you watch them you should enjoy it and be entertained, but don’t let that distract you from the true message. Our country feels chaotic right now because too many people do not have liberty or justice and this is not how our country is supposed to work. At least not according to our Founding Fathers.

And THAT is why this show is so damned depressing and painful for me to watch, but it is also why I MUST watch it. Because as a citizen of this nation I have the right to celebrate its successes AND critique/challenge its failures and then demand that we do better. That is what a true and responsible ‎patriot would do… expect their country to live up to its founding principles and be the best we believe it can be. And so… as we celebrate in our own way today, we should also take time to reflect on what it will take to make sure we each have the courage to be that kind of patriot.

Enjoy your 4th.

3.July – { “Beyonce Better Have My Money” a ballad by Robyn Fenty }

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So…I get a text from Tina – and all it says is “You’re welcome” – and it has a Youtube link with it.  Now most of the time Tina puts me on to stuff that she knows I’m a stan for.  She doesn’t listen to me when I try to put her on though…

*coughs while saying “GAME OF THRONES”

I click the link and Rihanna’s video comes on…my final thought on the video was “bruh”

Now I have this ongoing thought about how Bey switched her MO a little bit towards the bad side attempting to resemble the persona of Rihanna.  Think about it for a second.  Rihanna has been with Jay since she was like 5 years old, you gotta know that Rih has a special place in Jay’s mind (and possibly heart) that Bey hasn’t conquered.  How else would you explain Bey’s self-titled album with songs like “partition” and singing about being drunk- some may look at it as her maturation surfacing, her being comfy with her sensuality within the construct of her marriage.  I say she’s reaching.  Everyone knows who the original and real bad-girl is; Robyn Fenty.

From 2007’s “Good Girl Gone Bad” to “Disturbia“…to “S&M” to cake cake cake cake cake cake…to her showing up to award shows nakey (yes nakey) ……all the way to #BBHMM and the video, where you got a look at slight genius resting in her macabre art.  The girls body was swinging from the ceiling, and Rih slightly moved her head while she was on the phone as if she was irritated by said swinging body.  And the end, where’s she’s once again nakey in a chest full of money, with money on her chest – to the final shot with Beyonce’s blood on her face.

Robyn won.

– Kenneth.

2.July – { :: A Daily Reminder on Microaggressions :: } by Tina Nagbare

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Happy 2nd half of 2015!

On behalf of the {blog.squad}, I apologize for our silence. We haven’t been blogging, but we’ve been in these social media streets (and sometimes the real ones) fighting the good fight for social justice and educating folks – sometimes against their will. #shrug Plus, we have grown up jobs and yall don’t pay us – so we’ll write when we want. No excuses, just….. life. But here we are! We’re back & we missed you too 🙂

I’m going to start us off light as we get re-acclimated with each other….

:: Me eavesdropping at the car wash ::

African-American (AfAm) Man: “Aye Man! You African or something?!?” (with a voice volume that is 3 notches higher than anyone needed it to be to a Black man dressed in traditional attire)

African Man (with a solid African accent): “Yes, I am.”

AfAm Man: “Where you from?”

African Man: “South Africa.” (obviously already annoyed with this conversation)

AfAm Man: “Oh! Where the white people are from!….” (with confidence… he said this with joy and confidence)

:: Me *extreme side-eye & a deep sigh* ::

AfAm Man: “….I was gonna say man, I thought you was from Ghana or something.”

African Man: *forced polite smile*

:: Me: *thinks* “How TF do you know what Ghanaians vs. South Africans ‘look like’?” ::

AfAm Man: (still un-necessarily loud) “… nah ‘cause I was gonna say you look like that man… Nelson Mandela. That’s a compliment right?!?”

:: Me: *fights urge to flip table* (PS: the African man bears about a 10% resemblance to Nelson Mandela) ::

African Man: “Thank you *another forced smile…*… by the way there’s not just white people in South Africa…”

:: Me: *(fed up) exits gas station* :: 

Ladies & Gentlemen, what we have here is a lesson on microaggression. (Author’s Note: It’s important here to remember there are at least 4 recognized levels of microaggression: microassault, microinsult, microinvalidation, microrape. You’re welcome.) I see the wonder and confusion in your face and Yes, microaggressions aren’t just about race, they can be in reference to gender, culture, religion, etc., etc. AND MOST IMPORTANLY no one gets a pass. I don’t care if you are a member of an oppressed group or not. So let me give you the 2 things that stuck out to me in this moment.

  1. I wonder if African Americans understand how annoying and frustrating this is for you to see an African dressed in traditional attire and then begin to make assumptions about us (Nationality, etc.). The African-American had no ill intent, he was attempting to be cordial and nice & foster a sense of community while paying a compliment, however saying that that man looked like Nelson Mandela was the African equivalent to “all Black people look alike”.
  1. His assumption was even more annoying because it was based on (a) apparently NO knowledge of where Nelson Mandela is from or (b) any knowledge of the continent of Africa period. Saying to a Black South African that you know South Africa as ‘where the white people come from’ is infuriating because you are sharing that your entire knowledge of the country is based on the worst lived experience for Black South Africans (apartheid), which no one wants a reminder of. [PS: Like pretty much EVERY country in Africa the original inhabitants were Black (i.e. before colonization / when White Europeans attempted to rape and destroy an entire continent because… they wanted to).] Iwas pissed at that comment and I’m not even South African. #solidarity

Seriously, it was hard to silently struggle and cope with my fellow African in this moment. It was painful to watch my fellow African have to smile and push through that interaction with grace the same way African-Americans complain about pushing through microaggressions with White people and to watch my fellow African-American continue to dig that hole deeper and deeper. I know *should* have said something, but I was seriously in shock at what was happening and I couldn’t find any words. It was like watching an accident happen in slow motion and not being able to stop it. Personally, I’d hit my limit and chose to exit the conversation and in doing so I missed an opportunity to educate and help the interaction end on a positive note. And as an activist I know better because I know how important it is to “Say Something,” I disappointed myself.

And I’ll acknowledge that I *could* be reaching – it may not be a microaggression, but at the VERY LEAST it was insensitive because I can assure you that interaction was NOT a positive experience for the African man. Sadly, that AfAm man lacked complete awareness of social cues and the ability to read body language so he didn’t even know what he was doing. Either way, it is a nice reminder that we ALL need to be more conscious of this things that come out of our mouths. Because I know that AfAm man walked away from that conversation excited and the African man walked away probably thinking something unkind about AfAms. #SMH

…another blow to African / African-American relations. L

2.July – { The Art of Race }

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This should be an interesting write.

So……I’m in SEATAC Airport (Seattle-Tacoma) and I have my boarding passes and I head towards the brilliance of our country, known as TSA, to go through security check.  The line was ridiculously long…and if you know anything about me, you know that I don’t do lines (and I’m not talmbout cocaine……well I don’t do cocaine either – YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!)  So I pray to “line-diminishing” Jesus for decrease in this stupid line and BANG! A dumpy man came my way and told me I could walk 100 yards the other way and there was another TSA check-point.  I picked my garment bag up and walked briskly to the other side.

When I got over there, there was one line that separated into two lines.  Typically these lines are separated by whether or not you have TSA “pre-check”..not these lines.  There was a woman at the end of the single line telling some people to go right, and others to go left – we’ll call her the “gate-keeper”.  The gate-keeper told me to go right so I walked over and stood patiently.  As I looked around, I began to notice something…One of the weird things i do is view the world in numbers and colors.  Meaning, I count things almost automatically, I look for symmetry in structure and landscapes and everything is always  moving art, a living canvas.  With this in mind as i stood around to observe I noticed a nice long stream of beautiful brown of various tones and depth.  Then I noticed another beautiful stream of lilly white and privilege. I felt like the Jean-Michel Basquiat of race.  I rubbed my eyes, because surely the gate-keeper wasn’t putting people of color in one line, and whites in the other.  But that’s exactly what she was doing!  Save a few, approximately 95% of the people in either line were either a POC …or in the other line…white, please remember, that i count everything all the time, so although the percentage might be a rough estimate, I did my due diligence in getting a rough but really close estimate.

I tried to be reasonable, I really did, and I thought to myself “well whats the deal here? doesn’t really matter – they’re just lines”

THEN THIS HAPPENED! – the white line went straight to the x-ray scanners and etc.  The POC line? Oh, we got our palms scanned for bomb residue. HA! – GET OUT!…that was SO overt, its as if they weren’t even trying to hide it! And to add insult, everyone that had something covering their head, resembling anything close to, or actually representing the Muslim faith was in the POC/possible bomber line.  The look of frustration on their face spoke of them being used to this type of treatment.

I scoffed, took my shoes off – displaying my red socks with ninjas all over them…and proceeded to my gate, and eventually to the plane where I made no eye contact with people – because seeing the look on people’s faces when they realize they have to sit next  to the black guy….just hurts.

– Kenneth

30.Jun – { Storm }

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Don’t befriend me unless you’re ready to love a storm.  If rain requires an umbrella, and you can’t stand and be uncomfortably soaked – then don’t ask for my name.  Don’t call me if you want nice.  Uncontrollably, my voice will thunder roll right into your ear…and if you don’t understand what I’m saying then take shelter.  From most things I run…my defense is to escape…so when Im running – will you be my storm chaser?  My presence might ruin your day.  Is that ok?

The results of my thoughts are a complete and beautiful chaos…but imagine what’s really in the stratosphere of my mind.  Narcoleptic Insomniac disassociated from many in an extroverted manner.  A loner with a lot of acquaintances – a melancholy funny guy – an optimistic cynic…a walking conflict that’s confident in all of his moves, and unsure about everything…all at the same damn time.  The perfect storm, flawed in all of my existence…and i would be pleased to meet you.

How well do you know yourself?  Are you aware of who you are, and how you affect others?  positively and negatively? Is your skin thick enough to find out? Or are you too much of a coward to come to grips of how others see you (that love you) and make sharp comparisons to how you see yourself?

– Kenneth