Author Archive

now that i’m alone.

Speaking UpFirstly, I apologize for being a day late. Secondly, this is not a breakup post. (Although it could have been. Maybe one day I’ll have the energy to sum up my thoughts on the breakup.) This is an I’m-without-my-chosen-and-birth-family post. An I’m-learning-how-to-work-with-partial-allies post. An I’m-weary-with-this-school-thing post. Thirdly, the title comes from one of my favourite songs from ian kamau’s one day soon. Not at all related in content but felt fitting anyway.

Race doesn’t get talked about in my program. Maybe that’s not right. It’s probably more accurate to say that racism doesn’t get talked about. Or racism is talked about but nobody’s enacting it or benefiting from it. What this means is that in classes, I often feel anxiety anytime race is/could be mentioned because I know 1) it’s going to be avoided, 2)someone will say something problematic in such an indirect way that it’ll be hard to call it out in the moment or even talk to classmates after about it and call it what it was and/or 3)someone’s going to say some outright fucked up shit and I’ll have to deal with calling it out and/or the awkwardness of my classmates as they try to have conversations with me about what was said.

All 3 of these options happened in one class around one comment. First the extremely problematic thing was said by a lecturer. Then, in an attempt to show ‘solidarity’ with me (the black girl who so ‘bravely’ spoke about race in class *insert roll eyes*), I got cornered by a classmate who thanked me for my comment and launched into a heavily coded racist/classist tirade. Then there was the silence. The avoiding of the topic. The lecturer looking at me cautiously as they stuttered through any reference that they thought could potentially set me off.

The most surprising feeling that came up for me in this 3 week long process of awkward conversations, being taken aside in private to discuss things with the professors, having semi-cathartic conversations with three of the other non-white people in my class and venting to my core people elsewhere was loneliness. I was ready for the anger (I’m comfortable with getting heated when shit comes up). I was ready for the relief (it often feels like I’m just waiting for some shit to come up because it’s quite often barely seething below the surface; that ‘fight or flight’ stress mode is real). I was ready for the exhaustion (see the two previous feelings). I was not ready for the level of loneliness.

I was the one who spoke up. My old boss used to speak about the burden that a certain kind of political people of colour often are assigned/take on. Hearing these comments that support/come out of/are part of oppressive systems that have material, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical consequences for you and communities that you belong to. Being the only one who is willing to speak up about it because it’s real for you and other people either don’t notice or do not think it’s a big deal or do not speak up because they benefit from the system or are not in a place to/willing to work through the guilt/privilege/discomfort to verbalize it. Being the one who then has to teach people how not to be (as) racist/say (as) racist things.

I do not always have the energy to speak up. This is where allies would be useful. But I do not have many of those here. There are lots of reasons people don’t speak up individually, I’m not saying people who do not speak up are bad. (I think this is one of our fears when confronted with our privilege. That people are accusing us of being intentional assholes or inherently bad. Or at least that’s one of my fears when my middle-class, light-skinned, English-speaking, cisgender, straight privilege is made glaringly obvious.) I’m saying the sum of all those individual reasons is a collective excuse that reinforces silence instead of (professors) using a valuable opportunity (I hate calling painful/problematic stuff an opportunity but I think in what is clearly supposed to be a learning environment, it can be exactly that) to talk about things that I know people think but rarely feel that they can discuss.

So after all of this, I feel a lot of things. Tension in my shoulders. The desire to cry every few hours. Sad. Disappointed. Frustrated. Lonely. But it’s a reminder that while I’m in this physical space (and probably all others), my self care cannot be neglected. In this process, my self care looks like:

  1. reminding myself that it is not my job to explain shit to people
  2. reminding myself that people often suck (and not in the good way) and that has little to do with me
  3. unpacking with people i trust via phone/Skype/gchat
  4. being ok with the fact that every single friendship will not be able to provide everything. there will be friends who will not feel equipped to back you up on some stuff or will not feel it necessary. some friendships are limited but very real within those boundaries and that is ok

Any thoughts? Advice? Questions?

Wutliss Wednesdays

funny-how-i-dance-alone-in-public-club-cartoonFyah stirrers. It’s been one of those weeks. Or one of those months. Where the only solution is to come home. Turn off all the lights. Turn on some ridiculously wutliss dancehall. Turn it up at full volume. And wuk up by yourself. Maybe try a new headstands. Maybe test your splitting abilities. Maybe hurt yourself a little on one or two of the aforementioned activities. If it’s one of those weeks for you, maybe this is your playlist?

1. Kranium – Nobody has to know

I’m all about healthy, honest relationships. Despite this, there’s something bout a hornin/bitin/matey track that always gets me.

2. Busy Signal – Stamma

This is of the era when Busy Signal and Aidonia used to sing one pure amazing wutliss track after the other and hence held a special place in my heart.

3. Lady Saw & Beenie Man – Healing

Classic. That is all

 

Happy hump day, Fyah stirreres! Think of me as you wuk up alone!

Music Wednesdays!

music

This week’s selection is from the new albums on my listening rotation.

1. John Legend – Who Do We Think We Are

One of my favourite songs on the album. Despite the perspective the video (and my subsequent re-listening to the lyrics) presents, I will continue to maintain that this song is about the pseudo-arrogance of falling/growing/staying in love in the face of everything that’s wrong with this world and the number of times other people (and even you) have gotten it wrong.

2. Drake – Too Much ft Sampha

Probably my absolute favourite on the album. Maybe the one song I’m not ashamed to like. I enjoy Sampha a lot on this track; also I really think Drake is at his best when he’s in his vulnerable, reflective, personal storyteller persona.

3. Janelle Monae – Primetime ft Miguel

A pretty mainstream-sounding track from the album but I still love it (she reminds me a bit of Yahzarah on this song). I’m kinda looking forward to the video which is being released tomorrow.

Happy Hump Day!

Fyah spots – the music review edition

cartoon-kids-musicIt’s been a really long time since I’ve listened to new music. The idea of committing myself to listening to an album that I’m likely only to instantly like one track on, and maybe grow to like/love four or five more on repeated listens (if I’m lucky) has been really unappealing. What can I say? My downtime has been limited, I like to guarantee I’ll enjoy it – hence me re-watching Pride & Prejudice and The Wire rather than delving into Breaking Bad and seeing what all the fuss is about. This last two weeks, however, I’ve put three new albums on rotation for various reasons. And because I like forming an opinion of an album on my own then hearing other opinions on it so I can understand the music a little bit better or differently, I read reviews. I will use this opportunity to share my favourites.

  1. John Legend – Love in the Future. As usual, I did not like the first single. But because I am a huge John Legend fan (his first few albums he seemed to be doing a pretty great job of chronicling my relationships), I gave it a try anyway. And I LOVE it. I’ve agreed with a lot of the reviews I’ve read – some of the songs aren’t as strong as he has been lyrically, some of the tracks are particularly strong (Who Do We Think We Are, The Beginning…), the album very much reflects that he’s at a different place relationship-wise (and perhaps maturity-wise) – but the review that speaks most to me is Vibe’s review. The review does a wonderful job of reflecting on his career’s trajectory, acknowledging this as a great moment in that path, and still being honest about the fact that it probably wasn’t the best.
  2. Drake – Nothing was the Same. I have a complex relationship with Drake. I think he’s part wack, part talented, part straight guilty entertaining. This album is perhaps my favorite of his since the Heartbreak Drake mixtape. I feel guilty about enjoying him as much as I do and none of the reviews quite sum up how I feel about him and myself for liking him. But I do appreciate the Rolling Stone review that points out that one of the most appealing things about him is his flaws are his whole point (to a certain extent) and the Guardian review whose author was obviously poking fun at/challenging me directly when he says, “there’s nothing overly complex or profound here, but try to resist the charm.”
  3. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady. So this review says everything I felt listening to this album. I probably wouldn’t have committed to listening to it all were it not for the fact that I have tickets to see her next month and want to be able to get excited about/sing along to more than just Q.U.E.E.N.. I enjoy her but have never felt the need to do an in depth exploration of her work. I’m really glad I did, at least for this album. It was all over the place in a way that if anyone had described it I would have assumed it would have been a hot mess. But it’s a wonderful album. AND it features my loves Solange, Erykah Badu AND Esperanza Spalding? Yes please.

Fyah stirrers. I think you already know the albums I’ll be picking from for my music post on Wednesday.

Happy weekend!

loving old(er) people (part II) – repost

It’s just past the 2 year anniversary of my granny’s passing. In honour of that, I’m reposting a piece I shared last year to mark the anniversary.

granny helen is the grandparent i miss the most – she’s the one who i had the longest time with as an adult, and probably the one i’m most like (kind of prophetic of my parents to give me the middle name helen).  in honour of my granny, i’m sharing something i wrote the night she passed.

It’s 4am and I still can’t sleep. I’m sure if I told one of my more spiritual friends they’d tell me it’s because I’ve sensed her spirit leave or something.. I’m not quite as sensitive to other worldliness – even though now that I think about it, Granny kind of was (I always remember Mommy telling us about her smelling where someone had died in a room). It got even more acute when she was older, the last few years she’d been complaining about 


Granny was 92 and I’d never heard her talk about death. Despite health that hadn’t been great for the past 10 years and hadn’t been good for at least the past 4, I don’t think I’d heard my Granny talk about the possibility of dying. My sister and I joked that her childhood dream was to turn 100 and she was determined to fulfill it come hell or high water. I don’t know what was holding her with us, but I’m glad it held her this long.

all the people in the room even when it’s just me there. I always figured that washer 6th sense gaining another dimension. Maybe I’ll get that gift in old age.

Now I’m up and I know that people say you should celebrate a passing like this, better places and all that but I’m torn. Because I’m not sure that as unhappy as my Granny may have been, that she was the type to want us to celebrate her being gone. My Granny, like me in family spaces, loved the attention. So I’ll straddle a fairly thin line – I won’t celebrate her being “free”, I’ll celebrate her life. And I’ll miss her – I think Granny would love to be missed.

Celebrating my Granny means remembering how much she loved to laugh. I remember being young and showing her ridiculous gyrating dance moves and trying to get them to do them too just so I could make her laugh till she was unable to catch her breath for a few moments.

It means remembering her style. My Granny loved her red-haired updos, her red lipstick, brightly coloured clothes and her big necklaces. I will always remember whenever “company” came over she would demand that she be changed into a proper outfit, or dressing gown, put on her lipstick and a necklace so nobody could say she wasn’t stunning .

It means remembering that life doesn’t always go as we plan. Sometimes our bodies don’t work the way we want. Sometimes our mouths can’t say what our strong minds want them to. And so we have to take joy in things like random new food items we find at the supermarket, the scent of the perfume that someone gave us years ago, and the memories of an 80 year old granny trying to wuk up like her granddaughter when she can barely breathe through laughter.

in the words of derevolushunwidin “she was my granny and she was fierce”.

The Self Care Pledge Pt III

writing-2

“writing is dangerous b/c we are afraid of what the writing reveals: the fears, the angers, the strengths of a womon under a triple or quadruple oppression. Yet in that very act lies our survival b/c a womon who writes has power. And a womon with power is feared.” – gloria andzaldua

After months of avoiding writing, when I finally emailed my cousinsisters about being ready to come out of my creative coma. My sister replies to the email and as usual, the above quote was included in her email signature.It’s prefaced by some slightly delusional/wishful reimaginings of gloria anzaldua telling her this directly as though in conversation, but that’s beside the point. This time it spoke to me even more loudly than it usually does.

Writing for me means revisiting a relationship that was easy and beautiful in my revisionist retellings, and even worse it means revisiting the particularly painful breakup. It means unpacking the multitude of microaggressions that I encounter on a daily & weekly visit in a white hipster town and white hipster grad program. It means unpacking my privileges. It means work which means acknowledging that I’m not at my best and even at my mythical best that I will not be perfect. But as Ms Anzaldua ‘told’ my sister and is telling me, that means power. It also means healing. It’s a vital part of my self-care.

I’ve written about my self-care pledges in past posts. As I’ve just begun a new school year, this is a perfect time for me to once again sit down and commit to a/n (at least partial) self-care plan and to encourage you, fabulous fyah stirrers, to do the same.

1. I pledge to eat well daily. Good food is an essential part of my life. I’ve realised that often the only thing to get me through long days and boring classes is the thought that there is a tasty snack/lunch/dinner awaiting in my bag or the departmental fridge. Being prepared with food also lessens the chance of me being tempted to eat anything with gluten in it or spend money. So this commitment contributes to my emotional, academic and physical health. Nothing like actions that meet multiple objectives 🙂

2. I pledge to be creative weekly. This can be anything from writing, to making earrings, to painting. I’m not ready to commit to creative writing on a weekly basis (I’ve learned the key to successful pledges is baby steps!) but I am committed to working on re-claiming/building/discovering myself creatively.

3. I pledge to have a ‘me’ day monthly. I often underestimate the idea of being by myself. I am rarely not in conversation with someone whether in person, over gchat, on whatsapp or through text messages. I would like to practice being by myself. And unpacking. Similar to my monthly dates of the last pledge, this time allows for deeper unpacking.

Fyah stirrers, it’s good to be back as difficult as it can be sometimes. What can you promise yourself?

Fyah Fridays

Anyone who’s read my “about me” bit knows I used to be a writer. Or I am a writer. I am/was a writer who is no longer writing regularly. I’ve been struggling with that a lot over the past few years and have not yet found the discipline or confidence to work through it, so when I saw this Jay Smooth video, I realized the universe was talking to me. I probably have about 2000 little haters living in my head. Is this you too, fyah stirrers? How do you get through these creative blocks?

Since we’re on the topic of not writing and not doing work, I’ve discovered a new way of justifying procrastination. Short films! They’re self-contained like most movies so I don’t feel compelled to watch the next episode, and like sitcoms, they don’t take more than thirty minutes of my time. A couple of my favourite are Remigration, a film on a not-too-far in the future gentrified San Francisco that working class, poor people can no longer afford to live in, and The Door, a look at bonds between women with beautiful music by Goapele and others.

And a shout out to my home, St. Kitts, for one of its green energy initiatives. I especially like this article because of its reference to St. Kitts and Nevis’s government as “the government of Denzil Douglas”. With all the drama in St. Kitts’ politics these days, the description of the government as belonging to the Prime Minister seems, well, apt.

I hope everyone’s fully recovered from Trinidad carnival festivities. I try not to be a jealous person but if you were on the road playing mas’ while I was in the cold wet rain this week, I kind of hate you. But sending love anyway fyah stirrers!

 

Tag Cloud