BGwG Feat. Fiyah Angelou

This week, BGwG is celebrating #BlackExcellence with Womanist and Online Activist Fiyah Angelou. She’ll be discussing activism, spiritual practices, and much more. You can follow her on Facebook and on watch her YouTube series, A Penny for Your Thots.

Love, peace, and fake chicken grease!

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Activist Fiyah Angelou

 

Black Girl With Glasses- Fiyah Angelou Transcription

Transcribed by Noelle Ware

 

[0:00] Meeka: Good evening everyone, this is Meeka and you’re listening to Black Girl with Glasses on Soundcloud!

[00:05] [intro music]

[00:29] Meeka: So, I’ve pretty much made it to where we’re going to be on Soundcloud from now on. I enjoy this, so this is what we’re gonna do! This is where we’re going to have our Black Excellence series as well. Tonight, I’m celebrating Black Excellence with someone I truly respect and admire.  She’s a single mother, Ratchet Feminist, Womanist, Poet, Heaux, online activist, witch, and handful of other titles.  She’s also a voice of healing for over 9,000 followers on Facebook.  Y’all, I’m referring to the one and only Fiyah Angelou!

[01:08] Fiyah: Thank you so much! That was such a nice entrance! [laughs] I love it!

[01:17] Meeka: Guys, I like- Pretty much every word was true. Seriously. I started following you on Facebook when you had this entire status on why you were a Ratchet Feminist and I was here for it. I seriously was! I still am. Simply because it was the truth. And we’ll definitely get back to that in a little bit.

[01:42] Fiyah: Okay!

[01:44] Meeka: Before we get started, how have you been doing? How has your evening been going so far?

[01:48] Fiyah: So far, so good! It’s a nice Sunday evening.

[01:52] Meeka: Right?

[01:53] Fiyah: Real nice.

[01:55] Meeka: Oh! And Happy Belated Birthday!

[01:58] Fiyah: Thank you! Thank you so much!

[02:01] Meeka: What did you end up doing on your birthday?

[02:05] Fiyah: I really didn’t do much ON my birthday. I just rested a lot, you know I had a lot of gratitude, I turned 36. I just reflected on my life a lot and I just really enjoyed just being with myself, you know?

[02:25] Meeka: Right, right, right.

[02:26] Fiyah: I just really enjoyed it and that’s what I did.

[02:30] Meeka: Is that what you usually do on your birthday? Just sit back and reflect?

[02:34] Fiyah: No, it’s not usually what I do. Usually I try to make plans and they fall through because March is a cold month and sometimes that’s just not a… March 1st is just not a day that folks in Detroit feel like getting out. So, a lot of times I just end up not doing anything on my birthday just for that reason, but I’ve never been as reflective as I was last night.

[03:04] Meeka: Word, word, that’s really cool. If you don’t mind me asking, what did you reflect on on the day of your birthday? You probably said it and I didn’t catch it, but…

[03:19] Fiyah: No, I don’t know that I did. I just know that I reflected on my childhood a great deal and, like, really wanted to think about what I was healed from, even though I feel like I could recall certain things? Am I healed from that thing. And just being able to sort through what I had healed and what I had not healed and what were some of the things that I wanted to work. What are some of the things that I want to keep secret to myself, you know? I don’t really ask too many questions about what I should be doing right now or compare myself to other people my age, I just did that reflection. I thought about my current life and what I wanted to manifest. I thought about those things, I thought about writing a book! So yeah, just a lot of things. I want to be more in a position to connect with people.

[04:44] Meeka: Yeah.

[04:45] Fiyah: Like for real, for real, I would love to be able to visit with followers. It’s just something I would like to be able to do. So that was one of my things that I was setting intentions for for the rest of the year and 2018, like “Go visit those folks!”

[05:08] Meeka: Right, right! And you answered this question to  a certain extent, but before we get to your online activism and your current followers and your relationship with those followers, tell me a little bit about you and your personal journey. Like what lead you to become Fiyah Angelou?

[05:37] Fiyah: I became Fiyah Angelou after years of being referred to by my stage name and pen name, Numi. And that identity was just not who I was.

[05:57] Meeka: Right, right!

[5:58] Fiyah: It was not who I was anymore and I wanted something that said that I was angry, I was fiery, but I was poetic. And so, that’s why I just went with Fiyah Angelou as an actual name, but the journey was just regaining my voice after years of abusive relationships, just not caring for myself properly, not speaking my truth, not speaking up for myself, not increasing my knowledge based on what I wanted to know, like what I genuinely was interested in. I got back on Facebook and I pretty much just started practicing talking again. Like having my own thoughts and own opinions after being controlled for so long. And sitting down and going “What do I really believe?” And yeah, that’s where it came from. I just started saying what I really believe and it resonated with people.

[07:21] Meeka: I know that it resonated with me too because- and I’m glad that you said what you said because even I fight this stereotype that Black women are supposed to be a certain way.

[07:38] Fiyah: Right.

[07:39] Meeka: Black women are supposed to be strong all day every day, we are supposed to be the first to cuss somebody out when they something wrong to us. And it’s not like that for everyone. I know that when I grew up, I wasn’t like that either. I came from an abusive situation as well, not with a partner but with family members. I was told that, you know, my voice did not count, my opinion did not count, and I also had to find my own voice. So it’s really refreshing to hear another Black woman saying that she went through those same struggles as far as finding her identity and her voice and going through the journey of doing that and slowly but surely coming into her own because of it, or their own because of it.

[08:36] Fiyah: Exactly, exactly. Because most of who I was, or who I was socialized to be was a series of roles. You know? Like we all have roles that we play in life, but there’re were all of these responsibilities attached to the roles that I was supposed to play. I was supposed to acquire these roles and fulfill the duties of these roles, you know. So rather than focusing on what I really wanted to do, “Oh, I need to focus on how to be a good woman, how to submit to a man, how to keep a man.” You know, all of these types of things rather than, you know, growing for my own individual sake.

[09:39] Meeka: Right, right. So, speaking of your voice, you refer to yourself rather as a “Ratchet Feminist.”

[09:50] Fiyah: Yes.

[09:51] Meeka: So, yeah, tell us what that is! What is Ratchet Feminism, and what does that entail for you? How is it different from other types of feminism?

[10:03] Fiyah: Okay, I didn’t make up the term. I don’t remember where I first saw the term, where I first encountered the term. But when I did encounter the term,  I went, “I don’t know what THIS person means by it.”  But I know to me, this means feminism that centers Black non-males that are not protected, not respected, thrown to the side because of who they are. Which is what happens to all Black bodies, all Black bodies are marginalized, but Black folks- and I mean this is no different than other cultural groups, but Black folks have accepted this arbitrary list of respectability requirements that we don’t- we discourage our men from having to follow them in order to stay alive.

[11:11] Fiyah: But yet, women are encouraged to follow them and we’re still being killed and the justification for that for when we’re killed, when we’re raped, when we’re abused, when we need resources is, “Well, she ratchet. She a ho, she dumb, she’s been with a lot of men, so she doesn’t have value. She’s fat, she’s Black.” You know, all of those kinds of things that I didn’t hear people talking about in feminism. I heard people, I mean… There were a lot of great things in feminism that people were uplifting like equal pay, women’s access to education, and these types of things. But we never went so deep into oppression to really look and go “Look at all these intersections that don’t nobody really care about. Like the people that we don’t care about even don’t care about these people.” And that’s what Ratchet Feminism is to me.

[12:27] Meeka: Right, yeah in fact when we were talking earlier, I was actually referring to a post you did about Ratchet Feminism and the type of women that are to be protected under that umbrella like trans women, sex workers-

[12:50] Fiyah: Yes, exactly.

[12:51] Meeka: Women who, you know, smoke weed either to treat a mental illness or treat another physical illness, women with five kids, women who don’t want to have kids-

[13:07] Fiyah: Right!

[13:08] Meeka: And I appreciate that because even in radical circles, in Black radical circles, women have to look and act a certain way in order to be seen as respectable. And not everyone has an afro, and not everybody wants to be in that garb and not everybody wants to do all that. And so, not everyone CAN do that. Because maybe they don’t have a connection to Africa or want that. They’re in the here and now, so those women do need to be protected because they’re not being protected for whatever reason in our circles. You know, I know what the reason is, it’s respectability and that’s unfortunate. It’s not inclusive.

[14:03] Fiyah: Right. And misogynoir goes way back, this hatred for Black women goes WAY back. And another thing I want to bring to light is this idea that even the Black women we try to throw away? They still have value, they still have a voice. We are often taking up space that we shouldn’t be, because these people can give their own narratives if we would all shut the fuck up, you know?

[14:42] Meeka: Mmhm.

[14:45] Fiyah: And let’s really be honest about our history as a people. You know a lot of times, I encounter people- When I encounter disagreements or debates on Facebook, it’s usually around this idea of this utopic, nuclear Black family that supposedly ever existed. And how we forget that women have always upheld the community and not just straight women. Not just attractive women. Not just women with degrees. Sometimes people were misgendered at birth and they function in our society- I mean they functioned in our community as women leaders. Or they functioned so well in our community that we didn’t even question who or what they were or who or what they are, you know, using that language that we would have used back in the day.

[15:58] Fiyah: They did for us. They saved us. They put food on the table. They marched in all of these movements, they organized a lot of these movements, they’ve written the speeches, they’ve provided housing for activists, they’ve provided food for activists. And these are, a lot of times, the biggest assistance- I said this a few weeks ago: One of the main stays, one of the main things that keeps the hood alive is the Heaux. You know, with her nurturing, with her resources, with her ability to identify and get resources, to tell you where to go to get something when you don’t have it? That type of thing? We need to start acknowledging those women, because they don’t get it.

[17:00] Fiyah: I also want to speak about Black women with disabilities, like, they get no space. And Black women with neurological disabilities we don’t get to hear from. And the abuse that we’re enduring, we need to hear from them as well.

[17:25] Meeka: Right.

[17:25] Fiyah: Their stories matter, but all of the groups on top are silencing them. So Ratchet Feminism seeks to say, “Hey girl, you can sit with us.” You know? “You can sit with us and it might take you a minute before you feel like telling us your story, or telling us all of the stuff you sick of. But when you ready to go off, go off,  if you don’t want to go off, just write it down on a piece of paper, whatever you want to do! We here, we here for you. You are a part of this and you matter.”

[17:56] Fiyah: And it’s funny because when I wrote that, it was just a regular night. I just wrote it! And there were a lot of things that I didn’t include that I would have included if I knew that it would become what it became. Because I went to bed and I woke up and it had like 5,000 shares and I had like four or five hundred comments. And I had a inbox full of hate male [laughs] and love mail. So, I had no idea that so many people would resonate with it.

[18:41] Meeka: Right. And I think that people resonated with it because, as I said before, it was a truth. And I feel like a lot of feminists in general in the Black community do not speak up for those people. They don’t give no shed of attention to those people or individuals because they are deemed in their mind, as useless. Like what can they do to further the movement when all they’re going to do is, [clears throat] excuse me, you know hinder in some way, shape, or form.

[19:14] Meeka: And they’ll say that about women in general anyway. But it seems like anybody who doesn’t have a degree or doesn’t look a certain way or act a certain way is a detriment to the movement, and that’s what causes a lot of schism. And that’s what causes a lot of self-esteem issues too, when you’re a Black woman and you are seen as- you’re basically seen as someone who needs to be put to the side for a whole particular movement that does not include you.

[19:45] Fiyah: Right!

[19:45] Meeka: So it felt really- I think it feels really refreshing. It’s very refreshing to have someone, you know, basically speak up for you and speak up for people who don’t speak up for those particular folks. So that’s one of the reasons I appreciate it because I fall under the category of having a mental illness and a learning disability. So, it’s like… Who speaks up for people like me, especially if I were to be at the point where I don’t understand something and you expect me to be part of this revolution, but what is the revolution going to be like without someone like me?

[20:34] Fiyah: Exactly.

[20:35] Meeka: Right, so I really do appreciate that particular post and I think that a lot of folks did. I was wondering, when you said something about a book. Are you going to be focusing on Ratchet Feminism? Or are you going to be focusing on fiction, non-fiction, or politics in general?

[20:58] Fiyah: I think it’ll be like all of that mashed into one. The book is called The Black Woman is God and She has a Junk Drawer. So the concept is like God has- we all have a junk drawer in our house right?

[21:16] Meeka: Yes.

[21:17] Fiyah: There’s stuff we just toss into it. So, it’ll be broken down into categories of like organic and metaphysical things that God has just like tossed in the junk drawer. And it’ll be examples of relating that to things that we experience as humans. Yeah, so I don’t know.

[21:42] Meeka: Alright, I’m looking forward to it! It sounds awesome, though.

[21:47] Fiyah: So it’ll just be a little bit of everything. Probably some character sketches and just pieces of… pieces that I’ve written and just throwing out feelers for what the next thing can look like.

[22:09] Meeka: Right. And so speaking of that, I love how you promote- and you talk about like, how the Heauxs made the hood and especially when it comes to community and basically helping out that community and helping it thrive in some way. And we talked about respectability politics and how we have this notion that- a lot of us have this notion about how women and young girls need to act or whatnot. So what made you embrace that Thot culture or Heaux culture? Is it respectability politics or was it something else entirely?

[22:54] Fiyah: I would say it was because of the respectability politics and how visible it was because of social media and I felt like it was a good time to have a conversation about it and go, “Hey these women really do exist.” Like, they are people, you know? They, the people you praise, why do we worship pimp culture in the Black community, but yet Heauxs are looked down upon? It doesn’t make sense.

[23:29] Fiyah: And I know plenty of Heauxs, self included, that have put money in a Black man’s hand, for him to get on, for him to go buy some dope so he can sell it, or him to do whatever. And us lying to police, lying to friends, lying to family, like doing all of these things to protect and cover fort he Black man, and they won’t do the same for us. So, I felt like it needed to be addressed like we’re not being fair here in Thot culture that even in your attempt to… [sigh] Men still benefit the most form this. You know? [chuckles] They still benefit the most from this! So it’s like, you’re really putting down women who, if it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t have a place to stay. Like, okay. I get it. I get it.

[24:40] Meeka: Right. So it’s like… you know what this reminded me of? Your comment about pimp culture? It reminds me of the 1970’s when they had the Blacksploitation films?

[24:52] Fiyah: Right.

[24:54] Meeka: And how a lot of the men in those films, the main character like Super Fly, Shaft, Black Dynamite, all those people were seen as heroes to their community even though they were out here with prostitutes on the street and whatnot. But the moment women had that same type of power or that same type of attention, or like fame in the community that those men had, all of the sudden there was an issue and a problem.

[24:58] Fiyah: Right! Right!

[25:32] Meeka: They were always prone to- like they were always a victim of violence in some way, shape or form. And so, I guess like, what is your experience, your personal experience with Thot culture or Heaux culture? Did you also feel that way in your community, you felt like men should not have had that fame in the community? Did you feel like there was a double standard?

[26:03] Fiyah: Oh yeah, I definitely fell like it was a double standard. And I mean, not to say that, you know they should or shouldn’t, but when it comes to their arbitrary list of things that just gets thrown together and when it comes to men, we tend to ignore or overlook certain things even if they don’t fit the respectability criteria because we can excuse it. So if we know that that man had sex with a minor, well we can’t have that kind of behavior, so how do we address that as a community?

[26:41] Fiyah: Well certainly, it wasn’t his fault. Her mother was not watching her well enough. She was- she was fast, all of these thing because when we talk about Thot culture, we also have to talk about fast-tailed girls. Girls that are sexualized at a early age. Girls that are, like, preyed on from youth and they act out very sexually as young women and are somehow seen as responsible for that. And we’re not looking for, or holding the men accountable who damage and continue to damage our children. So all of that together, you know… Seeing us hold toxic men accountable and seeing women and children be destroyed by this.

[27:37] Meeka: Right. Well, it is 27 minutes past the hour and I think it’s time for a music break because you said a lot. You said a lot that had me thinking, so we are going to be listening to The Passion HiFi.

[27:57] [Music from The Passion HiFi, a group that produces Rap and Hip-Hop beats/instrumentals plays]

[30:53] Meeka: And we are back and you are listening to Black Girl With Glasses on Soundcloud. I am here with Fiyah Angelou and so far we have had some awesome conversations about Heaux Culture, Ratchet Feminism, the Black community, respectability politics, and Fiyah in general. So, before the break we were talking about Ratchet Feminism, and it seems that you do a bulk of your activism online, which I appreciate because a lot of folks tend to sleep on alternative forms of activism.

[31:26] Fiyah: Right.

[31:27] Meeka: So, who or what inspired you to become an online activist?

[31:35] Fiyah: Well, I didn’t even know for al one time that it was online activism [chuckles]. For a long time it was just- I was just talking. Like I said I was just saying things that I believe. But it was other, like, really dope, really really dope films out there and yeah. Like AO Anderson and Aisha B, and I could go on. Rachel Chance, JL Anastasia, like these women writing incredible things and they inspire me, you know? And I learn from them. Sometimes I find myself involved with the wrong feminists, the wrong feminist communities. I figured out through trial and error like, okay, that that’s not the brand of Black Feminism that you want tone messing with, so get from over there.

[32:28] Meeka: Right.

[32:40] Fiyah: But yeah, I learned a lot through that process though, because I learned all of the counterarguments for my arguments [laughs] that way. And I loved how those women I looked up to used a blend of their obvious, tremendous writing skill, right?  And then making a call to actions and making their call to action unapologetically.

[33:20]  Fiyah: Maybe using cuss words, maybe using sexual innuendos or sex flat out, whatever the case may be. And people got with that. And I knew writers and bloggers on Facebook who were super eloquent, you know, really really dot every ‘i’ cross every ’t’ kind of writers, but I was like, “Well, I’m just gonna be myself and I’m just gonna talk as the girl who is on Facebook that got some shit to say and this is how I’m gonna say it.”

[34:15] Fiyah: So yeah, they inspire me a lot. And I just started saying what I want to say again, blending it with humor whenever I can because I don’t think we should be morbidly serious about this. We need joy. We need self-care. So I try to include all of those things on my platform as well.

[34:42] Meeka: Right, like, you mentioned AO Anderson and she is dope, like I love her so much! Like I admire her greatly as well and I followed her, what, sometime last year? Just I don’t know. I think I started following her- I found her on a former friend’s Facebook page.

[35:09] Fiyah: Uh-huh.

[35:10] Meeka: And she was like- she said something about how are men- how are women supposed to be a certain way for a man when his dick smells like broken promises and I was like [laugh]. I was like, yes! She is everything to me and I’m going to follow her. I’ve been like, on her page ever since and she’s doing a lot of good shit for her community.

[35:40] Fiyah: Absolutely!

[35:42] Meeka: Yeah, I’m like, my eye is on her at all times.

[35:45] Fiyah: Absolutely, absolutely. She is a good one to watch. I love her!

[35:50] Meeka: I know, right? I know, and she also has that bit of humor that you talk about too. Like she talks about serious matters, but she does it with a sense of humor. And you don’t know whether to laugh or to- but you laugh anyway because of the way she said it!

[36:11] Fiyah: [Laughs] And she’s beautiful!

[36:13] Meeka: Yeeees!

[36:15] Fiyah: She is beautiful aesthetically to look at, and I can sense that she has a beautiful spirit and yeah. She’s definitely big things.

[36:30] Meeka: Word.

[36:31] Fiyah: Big, big things.

[36:34] Meeka: So let’s switch up the topics a little bit. Because besides being an activist, you’re also very open about your spiritual practices.

[36:44] Fiyah: Right.

[36:44] Meeka: You’re a Witch, you’re a Healer, you’re an Oracle. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know a lot of Black folks who are open about that because of the trauma that comes with Christianity and all that. So I would like to know about your practice and what led you to become a Witch, and a Healer, and an Oracle.

[37:06] Fiyah: Okay. There were some abilities that I just had as child and there was always something pretty mystical happening around me- something pretty supernatural that I couldn’t explain. I grew up, my dad was basically an atheist, like God just wasn’t something we talked about at all. My mother was raised by a reverend and a reverend’s wife, a first lady.

[37:44] Fiyah: And she still had her own, like, form of spirituality so… And my grandmother would take me to church, Baptist church. She’d take me to church and I wanted to feel what those people said they felt and what they looked like they felt when they shouted and when they danced and I wanted to feel that, but I just couldn’t believe what they were talking about. And I just had too many questions and nobody could answer them and then I was so confused just to how people would bank their soul on this and wouldn’t even bother to read the whole book! Like you ain’t even read this whole book, and you saying rolling with this?

[38:30] Meeka: Right.

[38:31] Fiyah: I think you need to read the fine print. I think that made me a little more open, so I played around with a couple different things because I think my spiritual side is so heavy that it makes me want to connect with other people? And religion seems like a good way to do that, but nothing really fit, so yeah. I rediscovered some Witch abilities. I study Witchcraft whenever I can, nothing major. I like little house spells and different things like that.

[39:17] Fiyah: And just learning about magic and returning to that, because you’re right. Black people are so afraid of that because  we’re so separated from it. But I just felt myself as I was doing this work as an activist like in the community. I’m form Detroit and Detroit has always been an activist oriented place. We’re coming up on the fiftieth- this IS the fiftieth anniversary of the riots in Detroit.

[39:45] Fiyah: And as we approach this, I just felt this real connection to return to some of the things that my ancestors did. Like, you know, this colonized stuff is not working for me, it’s just not. So I started looking into West African religions. The deities are… [laughs] I like studying African religion, especially Wet African religion because the deities are so accessible. Sometimes they’re quite demanding, like all gods are, right?

[40:34] Meeka: Mmhm.

[40:36] Fiyah: But ancestor connection is something that is very important and I am really sorry that Black people got so… ‘Cause that’s one of our main sources of protection and I think that’s one of the main things that is stopping us from seeing the level of abundance that we would like to see.  Because not only are we dealing with family trauma, you know, and inherited trauma from slavery. We have these unhealed situations that take place with our ancestors. [Laughs] And sometimes we have to figure out a way to send healing where they need it and… so yeah.

[41:27]  Fiyah: That’s why- and it’s been successful for me, it’s been comforting for me in times when it was rough. Last year, I was arrested in Detroit during a protest with Black Lives Matter and just being reminded of ancestors intentionally being arrested to move things along, it really made me feel connected.

[42:02] Meeka: Yeah. It’s really cool that you feel connected to your ancestors and the fact that you went back to your roots as far as your spirituality. I feel that many of us need to do that.

[42:18] Fiyah: Oh yeah.

[42:20] Meeka: I’m sorry?

[42:21] Fiyah: Oh, I was just agreeing with you, I’m like “Oh yeah!”

[42:23] Meeka: Yeah, we definitely- I think that it would promote healing, a lot of personal spiritual power. I think that we have lost- a lot of us don’t feel as if we are powerful enough to change the world through spirituality. I feel like even on a political level, I feel like spirituality will play a- AFRICAN spirituality will play a huge part in us being victorious.

[42:55] Fiyah: Oh, absolutely! You hit the nail on the head. I think that’s why so many people are coming back to it. You know that term, “woke?”

[43:05] Meeka: Yes.

[43:07] Fiyah: I guess it could mean a ton of things that you can awake from. And, yeah, a lot of people are waking up or remembering. I used to read a lot of metaphysical things that would tell me that our spirits are sent to earth with a purpose, but we are told before we get here that we will forget these things because Earth is so full of distractions. The human body, like existing in the human body is so distracting that even your astral duties, your fate, your destiny, you might not make it because it’s so loud here. So, having an opportunity to wake up and remember like, “Oh, you know, I can just talk to her. I could talk to that aunt that’s been gone for five years, there’s just a way that I have to do it.” And I can’t worry about looking weird or looking strange when I do this. It’s my roots. And I think it helps us love ourself too.

[44:31] Meeka: Yeah. I truly believe that. I know that since I’ve practiced a ton of religions- I grew up a Christian and from Christianity, cause I did not connect to that whatsoever. I couldn’t, for whatever reason.

[44:47] Fiyah: Yeah.

[44:48] Meeka: For whatever reason, I could not. I jumped from spirituality or like- yeah, spiritualism to a whole lot of other things. And then I was a Nichiren Buddhist at one point, I practiced that for three years and then I was recently… I pretty much decided that I needed something to connect to my ancestors and I think that once I started, the more research I did on Black lives, then it just seemed to me like- I’m sorry I’m being distracted because people are like, I hate that[laughs]-

[45:35] Fiyah: Nah, you good!

[45:37] Meeka: People are distracting me because I’m getting like a couple messages and I’m like “Come on y’all.” But I kind of feel like the more I learned about my own people, the more I realized, “Look, this other stuff is not working because I don’t have a connection to it.”

[45:56] Fiyah: Right, it’s not for you.

[45:57] Meeka: Yeah, it’s not- and I also had experiences as a kid and I didn’t know what to do with those experiences and I’m very wary of metaphysics. Like white metaphysical practitioners?

[46:12] Fiyah: [laughs] Right! Right! Right!

[46:19] Meeka: Because they’re very, what I’ve noticed, is that a lot of them are very passive aggressive. Very passive aggressive, saying that they’re spiritual when they’re not. Very angry people, and they don’t know- there’s no intersectionality in what they’re doing. And so, I’m like I can’t deal with those folks at all. I’m not gonna smile and say “Namaste” when you’re making fun of Asian people. You know?

[46:48] Fiyah: [chuckles] Right, right!

[46:50] Meeka: So, I decided, “Look, I want to practice Hoodoo.” [Laughs] I want to practice that and so far I feel like that’s the best fit for me. Because for one, it will help me give readings or it works for my personality overall. So it’s just like, yo I understand where you’re coming from.

[47:21] Fiyah: Yeah, you know. I enjoy those kind of connections you get to make with people too, through African religions. Like, it’s no set thing that everybody has to do every day to be seen as good in the eyes of Sky Daddy, you know. There’s not that. Now there are some traditions and rituals that are strictly adhered to, but those rituals only last a period of time and then after that we all have our individual instructions from our higher power or our higher powers or higher self. So, there’s some things we come together as a community and we can heal each other and we can sing and we can dance and we can eat together and we can do this with ritual and thought. And then we have to go back and say, “Well, yeah,  I’M supposed to be doing THIS.”

[48:26] Meeka: Right.

[48:28] Fiyah: You know? So, yeah, I like that too because I feel more accountability. Like again, [chuckles] intersectional pieces like you know with religion. So like everybody just gotta do this? [Laughs] Right? Like you not gonna take into account anything about my situation, we just GOTTA do this? Whereas when I started talking to Orishas, they KNEW. You know?

[48:59] Meeka: Mmhm.

[49:00] Fiyah: Like they knew if I had money for a thing or not and they approached as such. And they gave reasonable tasks to do. Tasks that were logical, tasks that made sense, like “Oh yeah, it does make sense to get from here to there I would do that.” But my humanness stops me from doing that which my ancestors are shaking their head at.

[49:39] Meeka: Right, right. Speaking of that, I know you do the occasional videos that promote self-care and healing. And so I remember myself watching a video that you did on meditation and how busy people can do meditation. Especially if they have a full house. So I was wondering how often you do those videos and how can folks find them if they don’t have a Facebook page?

[50:15] Fiyah: Okay. I’m putting them on Youtube and I’m putting them on Youtube if they’re- so after I do them live on Facebook, which I usually do Meditation Mondays or Mental Health Mondays, something like that, I pull it off there and then I put it on the Youtube Channel. And The Youtube Channel is A Penny for Your Thots. And it’s just different random videos on there. There’s some chanting for folks that might want to do some chanting. I hope to just fill it up with a variety of modalities that people can use to heal and chill. So, yeah. That’s definitely what I’ll use that Youtube Channel for.

[51:10] Meeka: So it’s called a Penny for Your Thots?

[51:12] Fiyah: A Penny for Your Thots! [Chuckles]

[51:14] Meeka: I just wanted to make sure that I got that right! So, on top of all you do, you’re also a mother of teens.

[51:24] Fiyah: Mmhm.

[51:25] Meeka: So what are your experiences as a single mother, especially since you’re so active in your community?

[51:32] Fiyah: I think… I… My experiences as a single mother are similar to almost every other, you know, Black woman, period. We struggle, went through stuff, I was young, I made bad choices, all of that. And there was like, it was one day I was getting ready to go out on a date or something. And my daughter said, “Well I hope you don’t get a boyfriend.” And I said, “Why you say that?” And she was like “Because I like you better when you don’t have one.”

[52:11] Fiyah: And I thought about what she meant by that. You know, about the way that the men in our life- the way that they come into our home and disrupted even the way me and my children interact you know, it was at that moment I decided, “We aren’t broken.” We not a broken family. I’m not a single mother, I’m a single parent. And I’m doing parenting by myself and this is what it looks like for me. So, with that being sad, it helped me not feel as guilty about time spent away. Me and my kids have real conversations about the work that I’m doing and on their levels, they’re already finding their, you know, social activist niche, you know, already. So yeah, I do what I can, I do a lot of organizing, I do a lot of planning. Sometimes I don’t get to attend events that I plan, but I do plan them [laughs]. And like I said, my kids, we’re good with it. We find balance.

[53:35] Meeka: That’s cool. So, as I said earlier, you do act as a voice of healing for Black women. And there was one status that stuck out to me and I would like to read it if that’s okay.

[53:54] Fiyah: Oh please do! Because I’m so curious!

[53:57] Meeka: Okay so, here it is right here. And I saved it because I wanted to- that’s why I liked it. I mean, I liked that status so much that I saved it. So it’s, “Breathe in Black, femme love. Breathe out misogynoir. Breathe in love. It’s okay to love her. Breathe out fear. Breathe in love. Breathe out fear. Focus on your breathing to the best of your ability. Breathe in as if you are pulling in air from the soles of your feet. Fill up with as much of the air as you can hold for a few seconds, and release. Do this a few more times. Then breathe normally, focusing on the rhythm of your breath.

[54:54] Meeka: Don’t try to change the way that you breathe. Simply think while you breathe. Release all that does not serve you: The anti-Blackness. Ageism. Misogynoir. Self-Hate. Breathe it out and take in love. Momentum. Power. You are enough. You are everything. Everything is you. Everything is made of matter. YOU are everything that matters. Breathe. Relax your scalp. Release any tension in your forehead, jaw or neck. Relax your face. Your shoulders, chest, tummy, thighs, knees, shins, ankles, and toes. Remember your hips. Relax and open your hips. Relax your back and move your back as comfortably as you can. Breathe, affirm yourself. Name one thing you will do tomorrow to love yourself. If you ever feel stuck, remember to breathe.” So, what prompted you to write that particular post?

[56:22] Fiyah: [Deep sigh] I wrote that during the Grammy’s and in the aftermath when people had so much to say about Beyoncé’s performance. And I just saw all of this anti-Blackness and toxic, gross stuff just going back and forth. Like people not being able to sort out between… Oh, no. Like, I guess people not really being able to figure out wha their problem is with that woman anymore, even if they’re not a fan. Like, is the real issue here that this Black woman has gotten TOO successful?

[57:11] Meeka: Mmhm.

[57:13] Fiyah: There is a point where we get too successful for Black people to even still want to deal with us. And then, again, I know there is the piece of “Oh, she’s objectifying herself, blah blah blah blah blah.” So, I just thought everybody needed to breathe! [laughs]

[57:32] Meeka: Right, right.

[57:34] Fiyah: And I wanted to say to Black women, when I said “It’s okay to love her,” I meant, “It’s okay to love yourself.” And it’s okay to love Beyoncé too. Like she’s a Black woman, and she’s very privileged, but it’s okay to love her! [Chuckles] It’s who she is! It does not change your character or anything like that. We need to be publicly loving this Black women. And there are many others too. So anyway, I just wanted people to have- I planned on recording that as a guided meditation. Just something quick, like you said, for busy people. Something you can do right before bed or first thing in the morning, you can do it while you’re cooking dinner, whatever. Yeah, so I just wanted to play around with it and see how a body scan felt and tying in getting in touch with our subconscious in that way through meditation and taking that time to add that to our programming. Like, while you meditate, don’t be afraid to look at some of your programming that might pop up.

[59:00] Meeka: Right. Because people are always jumping on Beyoncé, basically saying that for whatever reason, she can not be trusted or she can not be loved because of her privilege. And because of her politics or her capitalizing on Black politics, which may or may not be true. We don’t even know! all we know is that she is coming into her own, especially as a performer. And we can’t even appreciate that without analyzing it and that’s my problem. And this is just me- this is my problem with a lot of activism these days. Leftist activism, radical activism. And every- there was this argument about that particular Grammy performance being a distraction. You know, Beyoncé being considered a distraction few times. And it’s just like, why can we not love her as a performer? Why can we not do that, you know what I mean? I have nothing against Beyoncé, I don’t know this lady.

[1:00:16] Fiyah: Right.

[1:00:16] Meeka: I don’t know her as a person and neither do you, you know, and neither does anybody besides the people that are close to her. And so, for anyone to come at her sideways simply because else is herself and being herself and can perform her ass off, it does not make any sense for y’all to go after her like that. Like I truly believe that- Sometimes I’m like, are you really angry at Beyoncé because you don’t think she’s Black enough or do you really want her money or is there some type of hate that’s going on? Like…

[1:00:52] Fiyah: I think that the hate that goes on is seeing Black women openly celebrate another Black woman and being like, unapologetic about it. And I don’t know if this is anything new, maybe because of social media? I don’t know if negroes was acting like this when Aretha Franklin was hot. Was this how y’all are treating y’all legends now? So when we look back at this, and will folks really be honest about how shitty they were to her, but… You know, I like that I see women of all textures, shapes and sizes and everything saying that they love Beyoncé and that they love this song, and dancing, and moving their bodies, and, you know, she has people feeling like they can love themselves! And they are! So I’m here for that. And that’s why I was saying it’s okay. It’s okay to watch us cheer for each other. It really is. It’s okay that she- she’s doing things you wouldn’t quote, unquote “Let your wife do.”

[1:02:16] Fiyah: But it only goes to show the success a Black woman can have when she has a man that is not afraid of her talent. And that’s the downfall for so many- and I don’t mean just at the celebrity level. I mean even at a Blue Collar level. You know, middle class, whatever, that men can get very threatened by your potential and your power, and will sabotage that. I mean, what is it like to go home to someone like that every day [chuckles].

[1:03:04] Meeka: Right.

[1:03:05] Fiyah: How do you- How do you deal with that? Like, you are the greatest entertainer in the world and you, you know like- I don’t know. I don’t know how you make sense of that. But yeah, I wanted Black people to chill, love their Black girl, love her Black family, and we don’t have too many situations where we’re seeing- not to be hetero-centric, but where we’re seeing [] [] Black men openly love and support Black women. So yeah, I’m here for that too. I think that’s important. And I don’t think it makes me any less of a feminist to think that that’s important. Because that’s what some people feel like will make them happy. But there’s a safe and healthy way to do that. You don’t have to force it. And I just want women to know that.

[1:04:06] Meeka: So, speaking of artists, I did not know until now that you were a poet.

[1:04:13] Fiyah: Yeah! I’m a poetry reader.

[1:04:17] Meeka: So, would you mind reading one of your pieces?

[1:04:23] Fiyah: Hmmm… I don’t have anything handy. I’ll get to it! I’ll get to it. I’ll get you before we go. So, ask me something else [chuckles].

[1:04:39] Meeka: So, I was wondering what inspired you to become a poet, or a writer in general. Was it because you wanted to have a voice and sue that, and use writing as a way to connect with other people?

[1:04:58] Fiyah: As soon as I could write, I started writing stories. I always told stories, I had a very vivid imagination so as soon as I learned how to write, I wrote. And as soon as I learned how to read, I read everything- I read everything I could get my hands on. I read cereal boxes. I read file books. Seriously, phone books! I would read the ads, I would just flip through and read the ads,  I would read dictionaries! I would rad anything I could get my hands on. So on the occasion I could get a good book, I would fly through it. And when I needed to write something, like in school, I didn’t… I had fun! Because it seemed like I was doing what those people were doing, like in the books.

[1:05:51] Meeka: Mmhm.

[1:05:52] Fiyah: I felt like I could do the same things so I started doing that. And we had a family reunion and one of the entertainers there was a poet. And I must have been about, hmm… eight or nine. And that was my first time seeing spoken-word poetry. and I looked and I said, “I can do that.” And so, it’s been that ever since.

[1:06:20] Meeka: That’s cool! And so, who was your favorite writer?

[1:06:27] Fiyah: Um… My favorite writer is definitely Octavia E. Butler. I talk about her all the time [laughs].

[1:06:40] Meeka: Yeah, she’s a genius.

[1:06:44] Fiyah: You know, gone too soon. This would be a really good point in history to have her guidance and her support. Someone gave me one of her books years ago, a book called Fledgling. and I just couldn’t stop. I ate it up. And after that I had to have the next one, and the next one, and the next one. So I found myself reading her books over and over again. They’re perfection. She- She’s one of my favorite writers.

[1:07:20] Meeka: Yes. I started reading her novels actually last year, a couple years ago I read the Parable series. And I was like “Oh my God!” Because before I read her work, cause I’m a science fiction fan and I’m a science fiction author myself.

[1:07:46] Fiyah: Okay.

[1:07:48] Meeka: And I felt like a lot of the science fiction I was reading and watching wasn’t political enough for me or it didn’t speak to my experience. And for seem reason I just felt like, it just wasn’t realistic enough for me to connect with it. And then I read her- I read the Parable series and I was like, I’ve never seen this type of science fiction before where you can actually talk about Black politics.

[1:08:23] Meeka: You can talk about Black politics and actually have it be so real and very raw. And I connected with her work right away. and so since then, I’ve been trying to find a lot of other Black science fiction authors similar to her. Because I felt like I didn’t want to read anything else. And I’ve yet to find anything, so I’m constantly looking. I’m constantly looking for- because what I’ve noticed with Black science fiction, I don’t know whether or not you’re familiar with this particular anthology, but it’s called Black Matter: Reading the Bones?

[1:09:09] Fiyah: Mmhm.

[1:09:10] Meeka: I highly recommend it. It’s nothing but Black diaspora stories and science fiction written by Black authors. It’s a whole ‘nother field. It’s a whole ‘nother field to it. And I could connect with it because it talks about our daily struggles and how we use science fiction- well how we use science in general to overcome adversity. And so, I was like, this is the type of stuff I want to write from now on.

[1:09:45] Fiyah: Right, right. And you know, I was in your same position when I had read all of octavia’s stuff, even when they released some of her notes from trying to write Parable of the Trickster. She was trying to write more, but she felt like the medication that they had her on was blocking her creativity, so she gave up. But you know, they shared those notes, I read that. And I was, I was in the same position going. “I want to read some more science fiction like that, though.” Where all this in there: gender issues is in here, economic issues are in here. Oh, and it’s the future and Black people are in the future. So there’s a writer she endorsed named Nalo Hopkinson. And I read a book by Nalo Hopkinson called Brown Girl in the Ring, which is dystopian, futuristic, takes place in Toronto, I believe. And it’s about a Black girl that uses Witchcraft to get some control back over their community.

[1:11:09] Meeka: Is it Black Girl in the Wing or Black Girl in the Ring?

[1:11:12] Fiyah: In the- I’m sorry, Brown Girl in the Ring. Brown Girl in the Ring.

[1:11:18] Meeka: Oh, okay.

[1:11:20] Fiyah: And it’s by Nalo Hopkinson and yeah, it’s really dope.

[1:11:27] Meeka: I’m definitely going to look for that.

[1:11:29] Fiyah: Mmhm. Yeah, but once I found out Octavia Butler endorsed her, II was like “Oh, okay! I know where I’m going from here.” So, I’ve been reading her stuff and.. doing a lot of reading actually.

[1:11:50] Meeka: Right, right. So, unless you have a poem, we are going to end this segment.

[1:11:57] Fiyah: Okay, alright. I didn’t have a poem, I’m sorry! I wasn’t prepared.

[1:12:03] Meeka: Please don’t worry about it! We have next time.So that’s basically all the time we have, everybody, so thank you, Fiyah, for joining me tonight! I’m very honored to have you.

[1:12:17] Fiyah: Thank you!

[1:12:18] Meeka: Yeah, very honored to have you! And you can follow her on Facebook and you can follow her on Youtube. To get some wisdom in your life, check out Penny for Your Thots [laughs].

[1:12:33] Fiyah: [Laughs]

[1:12:35] Meeka: And you can also follow Black Girl With Glasses here on Soundcloud, Facebook, and Twitter. So, until next time, love, peace, and fake chicken grease! See ya!

[1:12:49] Fiyah: That was awesome! Bye!

[1:12:50] Meeka: Bye!

[1:12:52] Fiyah: That was cool!

[1:12:53] Meeka: Yeah it was!

[1:12:55][Outro Music]

 

 

 

 

 

Violence in Radical Clothing: Sexual Misconduct Towards Black Women Within Radical Organizations

“In the end anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing:  anti-humanism.”

—Shirley Chisholm

Chicago’s Black Youth Project 100 Co-Chair and Organizer Malcolm London stepped down after his arrest for aggravated assault.

While his supporters consider him a hero for his work within the community, others conveyed a completely different narrative.  A woman identified as “Kyra” wrote an open letter to the BYP 100 organization and Chicago activists about how London sexually assaulted her and his reaction when confronted.  Though the letter itself was composed in 2015, the offense itself occurred three years prior.  Kyra only came forward when her newsfeed was “bombarded with images of the person who harmed me accompanied by descriptions of him as a hero and upstanding human” which “was nothing short of traumatizing.”

Unfortunately, Kyra’s experience with London and the retraumatization she endured is nothing new.  Sexual misconduct towards women within the Black radical community is prevalent, but rarely discussed.  Prominent Black male organizers like London often receive protection from the organization while the victims are encouraged to remain silent to “help the movement.”  Meanwhile, the male leader targets yet another innocent woman member of the organization with the knowledge that they will not be held accountable for their crimes.

So why do organizations such as BYP 100 work diligently to defend these predators?  For one, respectability politics plays a significant role. Young men like London present themselves appropriately enough to establish trust within the community.  They don’t patrol the streets with pants sagging, spewing street slang (which is perfectly fine if they did).  These charismatic personalities package themselves as quintessential Black male radicals: their speaking voices woven with articulation and queer feminist vocabulary as they speak highly of Black women.  They are the hype men at marches who always volunteer their time and bodies for an arrest, the sensitive professors who quote Assata Shakur like they’re free-styling.

These men exude superstardom while doing the work necessary to promote the organization’s mission through the mainstream media, a tool needed to attract potential White allies. Besides White demonstrators reducing the White demonstrators reduce the likelihood of Black deaths at protests, the participation of White folks makes the organization look “less threatening” to the White community in general.  The beloved Black leader is essential for recruitment, so any controversy regarding sexual assault reflects poorly on the organization.

The organization’s disregard for the safety of Black women also perpetuates anti-Black Woman ideologies.  In his autobiography, late Black Panther Party member Elderidge Cleaver speaks candidly about his hatred for Black women and how he sexually assaulted them.  He admitted that he and other members of the BPP dated light skinned women primarily because of their resemblance to Whiteness.  Regardless of their complexion, the female members were  berated into silence about the mistreatment they endured while forced to promote “Black Unity.”  The abuse wasn’t even disclosed until years after the original party was disbanded.

This brings me to the conclusion that these male-dominated organizations resent Black women. Though we’re branded as a detriment to the Black community, these organizations recognize that female presentation is also crucial to pushing their political agenda.   So in hopes to recruit Black women, the Black male leader is used to promote the illusion of a safe environment.

“The worst part of it all,” points out Vichina Austin when critiquing the Chicago-based organization, “is that BYP uses feminist/womanist language in order to attract Black women to their “movement”. This not only creates hunting ground for predators like Malcolm London and Timothy Bradford, but teaches them the language so that they become master manipulators. And this is the same language that they “re-teach” during these “restorative justice” processes.”

They impress us with Black Womanist ideologies, befriending many of us though something seems a little off about them.  Unbeknownst to us, they are lowkey grooming what they consider the most vulnerable demographic, earning our trust and secrets to seem dissimilar from the cis-heteronomative Black men who normally hate us.  In actuality, however, these so-called worshipers of Black women are just basic ass misogynists who studied the right literature and followed the right feminist bloggers.

Whenever Black women are victimized by a male member (a leader especially), the organization (and its members) encourages the female victim to remain silent for the sake of the movement. When she refuses, she is met with the burden of proof and receives no support from the organization.  “BYP hasn’t stopped at using a rapist as the face of their organization,” Austin continues. “When several women came forward about another abuser and BYP member, Timothy Bradford, the so-called pro-Black organization was (and still is) silent. Recently, another woman came forward about being abused by this person, and still no word from BYP or their chair, Charlene Carruthers.”

Bradford (a.k.a. Phade Wayze) is a prominent organizer/activist in the Chicago area—one known for his knowledge of Black history and African politics.  According to his victims (or people put off by him), he employed his intelligence to befriend fellow female activists, only to eventually sexually abuse them.  Unfortunately, two of those women are friends of mine who trusted him enough to consider him a brother and comrade, so even when I write these words I’m thinking about all the various ways he will catch these hands.

But I digress.

The fucked up (and unsurprising) part involves the army of Bradford Bots that shot from all corners to defend him.  This squad placed the burden of proof on the victims, questioning their motives, credibility, and even the validity of the evidence presented.  In turn, the latter is defending themselves on social media and through private messages, becoming more triggered by the backlash received from semi-complete strangers.  Luckily, these wonderful, strong survivors also have supporters who go to bat for them at the drop of a hot.  But that’s only if they are brave enough to disclose, given the statistics.

What’s even more traumatizing is that the severity of the male perpetrator’s manipulation is unrecognized until they’ve gained access to our houses, our thoughts, and in some cases, our bodies.  Because most women within the radical community are trauma survivors, we blame ourselves for “falling” for the bullshit again or disregarding our intuition.  However, it is not our fault that these men adhere to White supremacist standards regarding women.  Nor is it our fault that these organizations have a house slave mentality, kissing the boots of a demographic that ain’t paying attention in the first place.  By placing their reputation above women victimized by their leaders, organizations like BYP 100 are no different from the Catholic churches that transferred priests who targeted innocent children.

In Dear Sister, Disability Justice Activist Mia Mingus writes, “Many of us envision the kind of coordinated community capacity that could hold healing circles and develop safety plans for survivors; work to build deeper emotional capacity and educate community members so that they can confidently intervene in instances of violence and support each other to do so; and train folks in accountability processes and healing for people who have caused harm or perpetuated violence, who oftentimes have been victims of violence themselves…for example, not just the healing and safety of survivors, but also accountability, knowing the very real history we have of responses to violence that have resulted in harmful legislation and criminalization.”

We envision Black-operated organizations being a safe space for all Black people—especially women and gender non-conforming people. For those who’ve experience various forms of trauma and discrimination simply for having the audacity to speak.  But the reality is that organizations like BYP 100, the former Black Panther Party, and Black Lives Matter tend to support violent Black male leaders who aren’t trying to hold themselves accountable.  As a result, these violent predators are given permission to utilize their political power and popularity to victimize Black female/gender non-conforming radicals.

If that’s the case, what will it take for them to do so?  What would make them stop protecting predatory Black men disguised as leaders simply to keep up appearances?  Shaming Black women into silence backfires (and rightfully so) as they turn to social media to put on blast these men and the organizations harboring them.  Black women risk their lives for the Black community at large. That fact alone is why we are owed a safe space that guarantees protection and support from violent males in radical clothing.

 

 

 

 

The Same Fight: The Parallels Between Standing Rock and the Flint Water Crisis

 

About a couple of weeks ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I suddenly stopped on this:

Flint Water Crisis.PNG

Right next to it was the question “Why aren’t we talking about this anymore?”

This was a reasonable questioning considering the consequences of the city government’s negligence.  Michigan Governor Rick Snyder issued an apology promising to provide a solution, but a significant amount of damage had already occurred. Even after a state of emergency was declared on both the state and federal level, Michigan state officials attempted to block efforts to switch the water supply from the Flint River.  Though they switched the water back to the Huron River this year, Flint residents still reside without suitable drinking water. They continuously rely on bottled water for basic necessities like showering and cooking.

Unsurprisingly, the tribulations inflicted upon the citizens of Flint greatly resembled that of the water protectors at the Standing Rock.  Since April 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protested the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The tribe argued the pipeline threatened to pollute the reservation’s water supply and ancient burial grounds.  Despite possessing an 1891 treaty, the United States Army Corps of Engineers planned to construct a pipeline in Lake Oahe.  What followed was #NoDAPL, a grassroots movement resisting the government’s efforts to damage the reservation’s only water source.

The more I researched the demonstration in Standing Rock and #NoDAPL, the more I discovered that the parallels with the Flint Water crisis was uncanny:

 

  • Capitalism involving a basic necessity

Capitalism was the foundation of the initiatives that affected both areas and its use of water.  In Flint, city government officials claimed Flint could no longer afford to purchase water from Detroit Water and Sewer Department.  Thus, to save $5 million over less than two years, the water supply was switched from Huron Lake to the heavily polluted Flint River, knowing it was contaminated with high levels of lead.  The irony was that the city ended up spending more money in the long run:  Governor Snyder sent $28 million to Flint for supplies, medical expenses, and infrastructure upgrades.  He also budgeted an additional $30 million to the city of Flint towards bill credits and local businesses. The City government officials also had to hire attorneys to combat the ongoing lawsuit pending against them.

As far as Standing Rock, the pipeline was nearly completed when the efforts were halted by the Sioux tribe, neighboring Native tribes, and protesters.  Though the Energy Transfer Partners and federal government officials claimed the supposed quality of the DAPL, history showed otherwise.  Numerous publications reported that these oil pipelines tended to burst and pollute the water source, leaving the water completely unusable.  In fact, The Huffington Post reported that the North Dakota oil pipeline exploded, leaking approximately 150 miles into the Ash Coulee Creek near Belfield.

 

  • Intentional Exclusion of the Citizens

In both controversies, the marginalized groups affected were deliberately excluded from the decision-making process.  The folks in Flint received no notification from city officials about the termination of Detroit Water and Sewer Department’s services, the change in water source, or the circumstances leading to their erroneous decision.  If anything, it wasn’t until brown water rushed from the tap that residents suspected that something was amiss. Despite outcry from the residents, Governor Snider and city officials insisted for two years that the water was safe to consume. Yet that was untrue and they were forced to admit that Flint River was contaminated. The City of Flint is predominately Black, so accusations of environmental racism soon surfaced. Considering the absence of urgency displayed and the assumption that the impoverished neighborhoods lacked the inner resources to protest, it is safe to conclude that this would have never gone down in the suburbs.

Historical, generational, and environmental oppression was prevalent throughout Standing Rock.  Not only were the Sioux tribal leaders unaware of the pipeline’s construction, but the tribe’s 1891 Treaty was violated courtesy of the state and federal government.  When the Sioux tribe filed a suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July, it was denied in September.  Unfortunately, the disregard of Native voices, their culture, and overall identity is all too normalized.  The Standing Rock Sioux reservation itself had been the result of an 1889 treaty violation. During the same period, tribal spiritual practices were under attack as government sanctioned security attempted to arrest those performing cleansing rituals on reservation property.  In the early 20th Century, Native children were abducted from their homes and forced to adopt Christian European conventions.  The list of atrocities against the Natives is extensive and rooted in White superiority—as is the history of racism and systematic oppression against Black people in regards to commodities.

 

  • Government involvement (or lack thereof)

The Flint water crisis and Standing Rock was supported by the federal government and that of their individual states.  As previously mentioned, city government officials made the decisions regarding the water supply switch.  Yet when investigators sent the Environmental Protection Agency reports on the Flint River’s contamination levels, the federal agency dismissed the results by declaring the water suitable for consumption. It took the controversy reaching a critical point and the mainstream media for the Obama Administration to finally intervene.  And it wasn’t like the federal and local government were oblivious the entire time.  Four government officials—including one from the Environmental Protection Agency—lost their employment due to their mishandling of the crisis.

In regards to Standing Rock, not only was the DAPL approved by the local government, but overseen by federal government factions such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.  The Army Corps of Engineers greenlighted the pipeline project and attempted to disregard the sovereignty of the Sioux tribe.  Meanwhile, the Obama Administration did nothing to cease the Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts, only intervening (to some degree) when physical safety of water protectors became jeopardized.

 

  • Violation of human rights

The human violations in both areas were considered two of the worst my generation had ever witnessed, resembling dystopian short films.

In Flint, generations of children under the age of five were unknowingly poisoned with lead, which caused significant neurocognitive damage.  Due to the high levels of lead in the Flint River, approximately 6,000 to 12,000 children tested positive for high levels of lead poisoning.  In addition, ten people lost their lives to Legionnaires’ Disease while 77 were affected.  Citizens were denied assess even to contaminated water due to their justifiable refusal to pay the water bill.  Both a local and federal state of emergency was declared, but only after the mainstream and independent media highlighted the controversy. Though they switched the water supply back to Huron Lake two years later, the residents still alleged that the water was unsafe.

In Standing Rock, water protectors were mauled by security attack dogs, shot with rubber bullets, tear gas bombs, bulldozers, and long range acoustic devices that potentially damaged the hearing of some of the demonstrators.  The brutality resulted in many water protectors getting seriously injured, causing permanent physical damage in some instances:  Protestor Sophia Wilansky’s left arm was amputated after she was shot with a concussion grenade.  Standing Rock frontliner Vanessa Dondun (also known as Sioux Z) permanently lost sight in her right eye after a tear gas container struck her in the face.  Were it not for the Facebook Live feeds or independent news blog publications, the inhumanity inflicted upon tribal members and protectors would had gone unreported.

 

The Flint water crisis and the North Dakota pipeline are examples of what occurs when the government disregards the people.  The industrial complexes supposedly designed to enforce democracy chose to negate complete accountability for the well-being of those harmed until the situation reached a critical point.  Meanwhile, the citizens affected were either gaslighted into believing the poison destroying their bodies was imaginary or severely brutalized for resisting.  Similar resistance campaigns like the Civil Rights Movement, the Chicano Movement, the Red Power Movement and many others were spearheaded by people of color forced to protect their honor, right to basic needs, and to simply exist. Be that as it may, these efforts also made us resilient freedom fighters ready to defend what rightfully belonged to marginalized people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her Word Against His:  How the Azealia Banks’ Past is Being Used Against Her

 

When I initially heard about Azealia Banks/Russel Crowe controversy on Facebook, the thought that popped in my head was What the fuck did she do now?

According to TMZ, actor Russel Crowe was forced to remove the 25-year-old rapper from his private party after she threatened physical violence. But Banks’s tweet told a whole account of that night when she stated that the actor choked her, called a her a n****r, and spat on her as he threw her out of the hotel room.  She has since deleted the status, but it sparked a plethora of online discussions about what transpired that night.

Black folks were somewhat polarized about the alleged attack on Banks. There were folks argued that Banks was lying and, due to her offensive language against members of the LGBTIQA community and dark Black women, she was undeserving of sympathy.  But then I and other commentators felt the complete opposite.  As I much as I don’t care for Banks, I truly believe that she was victim of violence and White superiority in this case. Not only that, but that her mental illness and past transgressions are being used against her.

I’ve come to that conclusion while reading the witnesses’ account.  They claimed the trouble was initiated when Banks laughed at Crowe’s music selection and called him an “old White man.”  When a female guest told her to settle down, Banks allegedly responded “You would love it if I broke my glass, stabbed you guys in the throat, and blood would squirt everywhere,” before reaching for glass and drawing it back. Though Crowe supposedly remained calm, it was her violent gesture that prompted him to throw her out of his party.

Now, Banks is notorious for launching verbal assaults at dark-skinned femmes and fellow artists via Twitter. But she had yet to go beyond this form of abuse because, believe it or not, Banks is aware of her limitations as a Black woman.   I can’t even imagine her getting irate to the point of shanking someone in the neck…at an all White gathering. So, to me, the witness’s assessment of Banks was out of character and unrealistic.

So is her lying on a random White celebrity. In the past, Banks often expressed frustration, infuriation, and even oppressive slurs describing disenfranchised groups on her social media account.  She promoted lightening her skin and her ideologies regarding shadeism.  But not once had the artist fabricated entire experiences to portray herself as a victim of violence. She had never fixed her fingers to accuse anyone of harming her unless an altercation actually occurred.  And if she were lying, why would she file a police report on Crowe—risking what little social capital she has left? Falsifying a case against Crowe will be a detriment to Banks because of her past behavior.

Meanwhile, Crowe’s history of inflicting physical violence at random was rarely mentioned in regards to this latest controversy. Though him attacking Banks for knocking on his Muzak playlist wouldn’t surprise me, I’m bothered by the fact that his false sense of entitlement encouraged him to dehumanize this young Black woman.  He used his White privilege and superiority to encourage his other guests to weave an outlandish tale about this “mentally unstable” woman threatening to stab him, knowing that the press would believe him. In Crowe’s mind, no one will question (or challenge) the story because his skin color allows him to avoid personal responsibility and accountability. And due to Banks’ past behavior and mental illness, it was basically her word against his.

And unfortunately, the actor was right.

Those not taking the time to analyze the situation quickly dismissed Banks’ accusation, forgetting that the White-dominated media employed the “Crazy Black woman” stereotype to discredit her.  Online commentators (mostly Black folks) used her history of mental and emotional instability to determine that she must’ve done something to provoke the attack. I’m not surprised, though, because whenever Black women are assaulted, our behavior is the reason behind the provocation.  In the case of Banks, it was RZA (who invited Banks to the party) who claimed that she was acting out, which is why she was tossed from the party.

Long story short, Azealia Banks’s past behavior and mental illness is being used against her. Crowe put his hands on her and everyone at the party knows he did. But due to her past actions and political ideologies, no one (RZA included) isn’t even attempting to come forward and tell the truth.

Granted, I’m not a Banks fan. Until she was banned from Twitter, she continuously went after people for little to know reason with no desire to hold herself accountable. But she doesn’t deserve to be attacked, called a n****r, choked, and spat on. What happened to her isn’t about “karma” coming back at her tenfold. What happened is that a violent, racist, ego-maniacal White man using his privilege and social status to dehumanize a Black woman for “not knowing her place.”

Let’s be real.

Feeding the Monster: How Lena Dunham Manipulated the Black Media

 

Last week, my newsfeed was flooded with articles about Lena Dunham’s latest fuckery.
In her Lenny Letters, the actress and author accused New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. of completely ignoring her at the Met Gala. Pouring her sexual frustrations to fellow White Feminist BFF Amy Schumer, Dunham wrote:

lena-dunham

While reading that letter, I immediately noticed her accusation derived from an encounter with Beckham that actually never occurred. The assumption that the athlete considered her a “dog” “child” and an “unfuckable It wearing a tux” was all a figment of Dunham’s imagination interwoven with deep-seeded insecurities.  Dunham’s foolishness was the hot topic throughout the Black media. For at least a week or longer, Black feminist journalists and bloggers composed extensive thinkpieces about her, her White feminist ideologies, how they perpetuate racism as she used them to play the helpless White female victim. Online activists dragged her for filth for being uneducated about the history of Black men and boys losing their lives due to false accusations made by White women.

I myself followed the controversy and even recorded an opinion video about it on YouTube. To be honest, I usually don’t fuck with Dunham because her creepy antics make my entire spirit break out into hives. Like, for real, my stomach cramped the entire time I wrote this piece. But the nonsense she pulled this past week exposed her lack of sincerity and usual tactics to gain exposure from the media—this time it being the Black media.

When Blavity posted an article argued that Dunham’s apology should matter (regardless of her intentions), I was too through and so were a few others. Quite frankly, it doesn’t and it never will. This past debacle was not the first time Dunham did or said something out of pocket. Fact, if y’all examine her relationship with the media, y’all notice a disturbing yet consistent pattern:

  1. Dunham does/says something she ain’t got no business saying/doing
  2. People catch Dunham doing something she ain’t got no business saying/doing
  3. She posts a “Sorry for fucking up/it was just a joke” type of statement on one of her websites
  4. Said statement is then redistributed by various media outlets,
  5. Articles about Dunham oversaturate the media for a certain period
  6. Media attention dies down
  7. Dunham gets bored and does/says something stupid
  8. Repeat

This sequence alone is one of many reasons Dunham’s apology to Beckham means nothing to me. She clearly thrives on negative publicity because her mediocrity doesn’t generate the public’s interest. Therefore, she resorts to starting some unnecessary bullshit. Think about it: Since the debut of her HBO hit, “Girls,” Dunham was featured on the cover of magazines, newspaper articles, feminist blogs hailing her as the “New Face of Feminism.” In exchange, she gobbled up the attention while using her fame as an opportunity to promote her definition of feminism, body politics, male privilege, and the right for women to embrace their weirdness. Her Euro-centric rhetoric soon earned her the admiration of young White women and second wave feminists. She eventually befriended Taylor Swift and Amy Schumer and the three joined forces to form the Becky Squad.

After a while, though, the media’s interest slowly began waning and eventually it traveled on the next shiny. And like most attention mongers, Dunham discovered a logical solution to her dilemma: Controversy.

And plenty of it.

Hence the circuses involving her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl and other exhibitions of inappropriate behavior—the infamous Odell Beckham Lenny Letter included.

To be honest, this recent stunt was the worst Dunham pulled in a good while. Considering the social climate involving racism and Black liberation, it was only fair for Black journalists to drag her all up and down these streets. But by directing all this attention on Dunham, I also wonder if we did our outlets and target audience a great disservice. She was the topic of discussion for an entire week, which was more than enough time. And since drama is her life’s blood, Black media publications unknowingly supplied Dunham with the negative, yet bountiful attention she survives on. Please note that I’m not saying that we shouldn’t express outrage when one of our own is disrespected. I’m only pointing out that, by focusing on her for as long as we have, we literally deprived well-deserving Black folks of media exposure from which they could’ve benefited.

Long story short, Dunham is a delusional, mediocre, self-centered, mayo-skinned, Euro-centric, attention-seeking parasite constantly feeding off self-inflicted drama. An emotional manipulator who attempts to mask her racism with humor and forced quirkiness. When called out on her bullshit by those who know better, Dunham immediately composes some half-baked, self-absorbed apology statement for the world to swallow. In reality, she has no intention of checking her privilege, let alone hold herself accountable for her disturbing behavior.  She really deserves nothing else from us–extended periods of media from Black journalists.

That’s why I cease feeding the monster that is Lena Dunham after this article. She’s doing nothing to earn redemption from those she’s harmed (her sister Grace especially) and had attempted to dehumanize people of color more than once. She influences Schumer and Swift to use their fame to present themselves as targets for angry Black men. So for me to throw any additional attention towards that human waste of everything would deplete my time, energy, and intelligence. And if we all stop paying attention to her, then maybe she’ll wither and disappear.
And rightfully so.