A Love Letter to Rachel Jeantel

Dear Rachel,

I love you. Really. I know we have never met (and may never meet), but you have inspired what I believe is the most essential human element necessary to inspire change in the world, truth. You lived in your truth on that witness stand—no matter how painful, uncomfortable, or hard that truth may be. You stood your ground (no pun intended), and were honest about your history and fear, and I want you to know that I heard you loud and clear, and I believe you.

I need you to know that you are brilliant and gifted and courageous beyond measure. You are a true protector of justice, because truth like yours doesn’t come easily, but it is mighty and powerful. Your voice matters. I loved when you asked the prosecutor, “Are. You. Listening?!” because both you and I know that he wasn’t. This world ain’t never really trying to hear Black girls like us, which is why you asking the question made so important.

I cannot understand your pain in this moment, but I know that pain is very real and deep. I urge you, sister to sister, to seek help by all available sources of support: spiritual, familial, and medical—but also to keep telling your truth in your way.

In solidarity,

Samantha

A Love Poem to My Hair

I salute you in all of your nappy glorious wonder

You are a wild, loose, crazy, beautiful thing

You are the rough and tumble bush between my finger tips that smells of coconut oil and shea butter, heaven and history

Attacks have been heaped against me

from honorable church-going

straight-lace

straight haired

Brown-woman-bodies

They say you an affront to all that is good and holy in this world.

Abominable.

Unpresentable.

 Unfeminine.

Ugly.

Nappy.

African.

Bad.

Messy.

She.

Aint.

Neva.

Gone.

Get.

A.

Job/Wife/Promotion/Friend/House/Penny to ha name.

Wit.

That.

Mess.

On.

Her.

Head. 

But I do not listen.

I tilt my head back and laugh, and run my fingers through you, and love you even more. 

An Open Letter To Hair Flair, makers of CurlFormers

Dear Hair Flair,

I’m writing you at 4:16am because…well…there are currently 46 CurlFormers on my head and my attempt to sleep in them has proved futile. My insomnia induced internet-browsing, and in an attempt for styling inspiration, I visited www.curlformers.com . Much to my chagrin, there were no kinky-curly (natural) haired sisters anywhere on your site. This is disappointing for a plethora of reasons, the least of which is your blog post linking to a NaturallyCurly.com piece about CurlFormers while completely negating that NaturallyCurly.com is a primary reference for many Black and brown women with kinky and curly hair. You even went so far as to have two white women pictured on the blog post, which seemed like a slap-in-the-face given the source you were using.

I was introduced to your product via YouTube through fellow curlies Naptrual85, NikkiMae2003, Br0nzeqt, and LaurenMechelle, and was instantly smitten with the lure of luscious, smooth, heatless curls that didn’t require a cosmetology degree and several hours to create. Since I’ve used CurlFormers, I haven’t been disappointed. I’ve even recommended them to several naturalistas who have asked me about products I like. The thing about kinky-curly women is that we tend to swear by hair products with a sincerity so grave that when we recommend a product, it’s likely we would lay down our best dress and flyest shoes in its defense.

We kinky-curly haired women are a part of a shifting tide when it comes to defining beauty. That tide is largely pressed back upon by industries, like yours, who refuse to show us at all  in our multifaceted, multi-textural glory. Sure, silky-smooth straight hair is fun to play with and plays into the limp-to-va-va-va-voom trope, but providing perfect curls from kinks is a daring feat that your product pulls off quite well. Why not showcase that? Why not diversify your models with people who are just as (if not more) likely to buy CurlFormers rather than have the one obligatory Black girl with a perm buried deep in your photo archive? Why not show the world what your product can really do?

If you ask me, you’re missing out on a great marketing opportunity, and you’re isolating the folks who are singing CurlFormers praises to the high-heavens: Black and brown, kinky and curly natural-haired women. You should probably do something about that.

Yours in Kinks, Coils, and Curls,

Samantha

we need a little glamour & glamour arrives: Virtual Mourning: A Eulogy For Someone We Never Knew

videodrag:




When Mark died— or when it really sunk in and I truly believed that Mark had died— the first thought I had was that it threw my theory about queer virtuality right out the window.


Mark was a caustic and alluring presence on Tumblr. Tumblr is a blog platform…

(via francesetherealgumm)

ryking:

CHART: How The 1934 Recovery Benefited The 99 Percent, While 2010′s Benefited The Rich

In 2010, as the nation slowly ground its way from Great Recession to recovery, 93 percent of national income gains went to the richest 1 percent of Americans. As Reuters’s David Cay Johnston pointed out today, this makes the 2010 recovery quite different from the recovery that followed the Great Depression, as then, income gains were widely shared by the population, not concentrated at the very top…

ryking:

CHART: How The 1934 Recovery Benefited The 99 Percent, While 2010′s Benefited The Rich

In 2010, as the nation slowly ground its way from Great Recession to recovery, 93 percent of national income gains went to the richest 1 percent of Americans. As Reuters’s David Cay Johnston pointed out today, this makes the 2010 recovery quite different from the recovery that followed the Great Depression, as then, income gains were widely shared by the population, not concentrated at the very top…

(Source: diadoumenos)

Excusing Racism and Murder

On March 15, 2012, Robert Zimmerman wrote a letter to the Orlando Sentinel attempting to clarify what he felt was an unfair media characterization of his son, George Zimmerman -who admitted to stalking and killing Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black boy armed with Skittles and iced tea in Sanford, FL on February 26, 2012. Robert Zimmerman wrote, “The portrayal of George Zimmerman in the media, as well as the series of events that lead to the tragic shooting are false and extremely misleading….George is a Spanish speaking minority with many black family members and friends.”

Oddly enough, the first and most deliberate argument Robert Zimmerman makes on his son’s behalf is that a racial minority can neither be guilty of being racist (inherently or situationally) nor committing a racially-motivated crime. This, however, is a complete lie. White privilege does not denote that only “fully” white people can be the recipient of the increased social value and privilege that is inextricably linked with white identity. Someone only need be perceived as white to enjoy such privilege. For example, Christina Aguilera, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Nicole Ritchie, Jennifer Beals, etc. all have access to some white privilege because of their perceived whiteness although they are bi/multi-racial.

Although Zimmerman is not white, it does not mean he has not ingested racist social conditioning that conveys Blacks as suspicious, criminal, and less socially valuable. Likewise, as my friend Jeshawna Wholley has stated on several occasions, the preposterous excuse that a person-of-color cannot be guilty of a hate crime against another person-of-color is “…both dangerous and ridiculous.”  

The “I’m not racist because I know Black people” argument is also completely absurd. Today’s post-Jim Crow racism does not operate in the segregationist, isolationist way that it once did. Many people who are inherently and/or situationally racist know (and like) people of different racial/ethnic groups. Racism cannot (and should not) be reduced to who you know because it (racism) speaks to a set of systemic, inherent, and manifest prejudices towards non-white people coupled with white people’s collective power. That said, racially-motivated injustice can be perpetrated against any non-white person by any other person (white or non-white).

The inherent nature of Black criminality (as referenced in everything from Birth of A Nation to Troy Davis) is a fictitious stereotype created by white people, and any other racial group can ingest that stereotype and enforce it accordingly.  In the case of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman perceived Trayvon to be suspicious because he was Black, male, and walking too slowly in an affluent community; his subsequent actions in following, confronting, and shooting Mr. Martin were manifestations of his acceptance and enforcement of the Criminal Black Man stereotype.

The problem with Robert Zimmerman’s shoddy, stupid defense of his son is that it lacks facts that George Zimmerman admitted himself (like he followed Trayvon Martin and defied the 911-operator’s order not to follow or approach Trayvon) and the critical thought necessary to understand that even if George wasn’t an active member of the KKK, his killing (and the subsequent police response to his killing) has “BLACK PEOPLE AIN’T SHIT” written all over it.

There is no excuse for Trayvon Martin’s murder; there is no excuse for George Zimmerman’s protection by police and legislation; and there is no excuse as to why Mr. Robert Zimmerman feels compelled to appeal the case of his son, a police assaulting, child-killing, “loose cannon”, to a public audience. We are not interested in excuses. We only want justice for Trayvon Martin, his family, and the millions of Black men and boys who are likely to end up like Trayvon if George Zimmerman is brought to the full measure of justice immediately. 

An Open Letter to Roland Martin

An Open Letter to Roland Martin

Dear Roland,

I am not a gay man, thus I have never had my manhood checked, demeaned, or questioned in spaces reserved for hyper-masculine bravado. I will never understand how it feels to be consistently otherized for not being a “real bruh”, as if masculinity is rigid and absolute, and anyone who deviates from your concept of masculinity somehow deserves to be forcibly expelled from the fraternity of manhood. This realization aside, I come to you as an ally of gay men, especially Black gay men who have had their own tumultuous past with heterosexism, homophobia, hyper-masculinity, and hatred, and I am tired of your shit.

Sit down, grab some tea, and let’s discuss a few things. First, there is no such thing as a “real bruh.” Neither manhood nor masculinity are defined by someone’s desire, or lack thereof, to buy David Beckham’s underwear from H&M, watch sports, and/or climb the top of Mt. Everest. This thinking, undoubtedly enforced and reinforced by some skewed ideology rooted in Black hyper-masculinity, is literally killing the very Black men you proclaim to care about. Men, especially young, Black men, are being murdered or taking their own lives because sentiments, like the ones you expressed on Twitter, have ostracized and expelled them from their own families and communities. The prevailing thought is that because they aren’t “real bruhs,” they are somehow less valuable than their peers, and aren’t worth saving. Consider, for example, Carl J. Walker-Hoover, an eleven year-old boy who committed suicide because of anti-gay bullying. His being construed as effeminate, or not a “real bruh” contributed to his demise, and he is not an isolated case. In What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, your late fraternity brother E. Lynn Harris spoke of how his experiences being otherized as a, “…Black, gay man who was living in a world that had a problem with both,” led him to attempt suicide. So, when Kenyon Farrow, Joey Gaskins, and others called you out on how your words were damaging and homophobic, they were spot-on.

This brings me to my next point, gay men, lesbians, transgender folk, or any other oppressed minority, are NEVER wrong when they point out your privilege and/or hurtful words. I’ll say it again; THEY ARE ALWAYS RIGHT.  As oppressed people, we dictate when what you’re saying is homophobic, transphobic, or generally problematic, you don’t. As a straight man, you do not get to define what homophobia looks like, sounds like, or feels like. Why? Because I said so. You have never and will never have to grapple with the harsh reality of negotiating your identity as a Black gay man, and that, in-and-of-itself, disqualifies any opinions you may have on delineating homophobic actions, statements, or stances. Capisce?

Finally (for now), you were wrong, and you should apologize. The defenses you concocted for at best, a poorly-executed joke were ridiculous. You insulted and offended an entire group of people, mainly the Black, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans-folk who came after you with razor blades and lemon juice for insulting our community. You proposed violence against men who do not fit your concept of “real bruh-ness,” and you can claim hyperbole until you are blue-in-the-face, but the threat of violence remains all-too-real in Black gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities. There is always the fear of a hate crime waiting-to-happen when your sexual orientation or gender identity/expression falls outside of the confines of “acceptable” societal norms. Your statements have consequences that you will never understand; I don’t expect you to, but I hope this letter prompts you to do the right thing, apologize.  

I pray this letter finds you less defensive than you were yesterday. More importantly, I hope you understand that homophobic and transphobic verbiage, even in jest, will not fly, ever. As my momma likes to say, I hope we don’t have to have this conversation again.

 

Yours in the spirit of collective consciousness,

Samantha Master

Samantha Master is a student at Morgan State University, and the former Community Service and Outreach Coordinator for Rainbow Soul, Morgan’s queer student alliance. She is currently a writer for the Trans People of Color Coalition. 

(Source: occupiedmuslim)

iragray:

I am by no means an artist, but I sometimes have a difficult time explaining what gender is. So, I’ll draw something like this out (for those of you with readers, not to worry, I’ll explain). I’ll draw a sort of before and after, except it’s status quo teaching versus the truth. 
The first part will show something like a straight line. It’s a scale. You can only occupy one part of the line at a time, and oh, your little nob doesn’t move. 
The second part shows a bunch of little amoeba type things. These blobs are genders. I draw squiggly lines around them to show that they can move. What it is to be a man, for example, changes throughout time and space on a macro level. On a micro level, gender definitions change from individual to individual. Then, I draw other amoebas. When I have a lot of room, I’ll draw at least ten different amoebas. I make sure to have some coming off the sides to signify that gender doesn’t end there. Gender is endless. 
In this example, I drew red stars saying something along the lines of “you are here,” “or here,” “you’re in two places at once,” and so on.
I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback when explaining gender this way. I also want to mention that in the first part, gender is basically “penis”-having and “vagina”-having. In the second part, body parts are not mentioned once. Why? Because they have nothing to do with gender in the first place.

iragray:

I am by no means an artist, but I sometimes have a difficult time explaining what gender is. So, I’ll draw something like this out (for those of you with readers, not to worry, I’ll explain). I’ll draw a sort of before and after, except it’s status quo teaching versus the truth. 

The first part will show something like a straight line. It’s a scale. You can only occupy one part of the line at a time, and oh, your little nob doesn’t move. 

The second part shows a bunch of little amoeba type things. These blobs are genders. I draw squiggly lines around them to show that they can move. What it is to be a man, for example, changes throughout time and space on a macro level. On a micro level, gender definitions change from individual to individual. Then, I draw other amoebas. When I have a lot of room, I’ll draw at least ten different amoebas. I make sure to have some coming off the sides to signify that gender doesn’t end there. Gender is endless. 

In this example, I drew red stars saying something along the lines of “you are here,” “or here,” “you’re in two places at once,” and so on.

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback when explaining gender this way. I also want to mention that in the first part, gender is basically “penis”-having and “vagina”-having. In the second part, body parts are not mentioned once. Why? Because they have nothing to do with gender in the first place.

(via iragray)

Invisible teachers.

There are certain times in life where people or circumstances inspire poetry. There’s a group of people who I have never met who have engaged me in conversations, bestowed upon me kernels of wisdom, acted as sounding boards, story boards, and idea charts. I just want to let you know that your words/times/ears/eyes are appreciated, and in a lot of ways, you enrich my life and knowledge base in more ways that I could’ve imagined. Thank you. 


I love you, 

Although I have not met you,

And I will never see your eyes light up

With the joy of seeing your student,

Indelibly drowned in recommended reading

Given out over Twitter timelines and Facebook status updates

making connections of the dots you have laid out, patiently and poignantly.

I will never raise my hand in your class,

and blurt out excitedly before being called upon

My thoughts on patriarchy’s influence

On crushing third-gendered communities.

On racism and hegemony

Anti-oppressionist theory,

And how to save the world, one cookie at a time.

But I love you.

I love you like

the student loves the teacher

Who does not insult her knowledge, but challenges her to think more critically.

I love you.

like the well-worn, yellow-edge pages of the books that I read

at least once yearly,

because I learn something new each time

I pick them up.

I live for you, through you

To reaffirm that knowledge is power

And the power harnessed through our collective knowledge

Experience

Passion

Willingness

to reach out to the lowliest among us and

each one teach one can

indeed

save the world.