We Gon Be Alright:  What to Do Now That Trump is President

 

It happened.

On Tuesday, November 8, Donald J. Trump was declared the President of the United States of America.  Though Hillary Clinton dominated the popular vote, the electoral college handed Trump the White House.  And, of course, nearly the entire world is confused, shocked, livid, and understandably terrified.

Unfortunately, I predicted this in a Facebook status a few months prior—before the election was a complete circus.  Granted, the status was a semi-political science fiction narrative, but there was also an element of truth.  Even legendary science fiction genius Octavia E. Butler foresaw an oppressive American government in her Parable series. In The Parables of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents, the Earthseed community (and others who are considered heathens) are targeted, traumatized, and even murdered by the supporters of the President Andrew Steele Jarret.

Like the fictional presidential candidate, Trump promised to “Make America Great Again” for White citizens while scapegoating the disenfranchised groups.  Black folks and non-Black people of color, women, the undocumented, the disabled, LGBTIQAs, Muslims, immigrants and refugees were immediately fell under the scrutiny of racist White people who feared having resources snatched from them.  Young women and girls were traumatized after finding out that Trump openly admitted to sexually assaulting women and young girls.  And like that of Jarret’s, Trump’s followers resorted to violence against non-White, non-Christian folks,  becoming increasing audacious as the months passed.

These facts alone are some of the reasons why people were so devastated about this man’s victory.  Why non-voters and third-party voters are feeling the wrath of those who voted for Clinton.  And why people are drawing lines in the sand, taking to social media to force Trump supporters off their Facebook pages due to his (supposed) anti-LGBTIQA rhetoric.

In the mist of the post-Election chaos, there was a glimmer of hope in Rochester that week.  On Thursday, November 10, I and many others in Rochester had the opportunity to meet Dr. Angela Davis, former Black Panther Party member, author, and professor.  Courtesy of MJS Productions, Dr. Davis blessed the entire East High School Auditorium with her kindness, wisdom, poise, and respect.  She not only critiqued the 2016 election, but understood that the government system (and the current party structure) never represented the people—the oppressed groups in particular.

“We have to reimagine politics,” she proposed, “to imagine a political party that represents the oppressed.”  She further emphasized that those who choose to participate in the voting process to work towards a multi-party system and a party that incorporates intersectional feminist politics.

I walked away from the event energized and validated as a literary activist and Radical in regards to my misgivings about this election.  A non-registered voter for eight years, I wasn’t going to have anyone place the blame on me simply because I didn’t hand Clinton a struggle vote.  Dr. Davis’s suggestion to reimagine politics resonated with me; another world is possible, but many of us seem hesitant to even envision themselves dismantling the current system to create a new one.  So I wondered what actions Radicals and liberals—especially comrades of color—can take from this moment forward. What can marginalized groups do to combat a fascist government at this point?

For starters, we (meaning Radicals) need to check those scapegoating non-voters and third-party voters.  We are not the reason why Trump won and Clinton has yet to represent anyone but corporate America.  And let’s not forget that the majority voted for Senator Bernie Sanders, who could have easily won the Presidency had the Democratic National Committee not sabotaged his campaign. The DNC’s intervention and the non-existence of true democracy left a bad taste in the month of many of his supporters, so their decision to Netflix and chill on Election Day is understandable. Also, voters pointing the fingers at those who refused to support Clinton are ultimately blaming the latter for the hate crimes erupting throughout the country.  What they don’t understand, however, is that these post-election assaults against marginalized groups would have occurred regardless of who moved into the White House.

Which is why I also urge Liberals and Radicals to genuinely recognize each other’s political efforts—especially those who choose not to vote or vote for a third-party candidate. The latter uses direct action, literally activism, online activism, protesting, and other effective, peaceful tactics.  Our initiatives are just as important as the Liberal’s right to vote, their trips to their state capitals, or petitions to their local representatives.  One of the many reasons why the Leftist contingent isn’t a political juggernaut is because of the division among us.  As we fight over ideologies and the corniness of John Lennon quotes, the Ult-Right disregard their differences to execute their oppressive agendas.  With so much at stake this time around, it is the duty of us Leftists to collectively organize, strategize, and implement our initiatives without hesitation.

In addition, we need to educate ourselves and each other on government laws so we are equipped with the knowledge to protect ourselves legally.  What I’ve learned as an activist and writer is that education is paramount to fight for one’s liberation.  In fact, education is the very foundation of our freedom and oppressors acknowledge this.  So, the more we Leftists know the more strategic our contingent can be as we organize.   I have comrades who are often recommending literature such as The Privacy Law and the USA Patriot Act and The New Jim Crow.  Folks can also Google information about protections against unlawful arrests, state and national anti-discrimination laws, how to shield your personal information from government officials and so forth.  If one cannot afford certain books, PDF versions are often available via the interwebs.

While organizing, we have got to learn how to protect ourselves physically, mentally, financially, and spiritually.  Trump’s victory granted racists the permission to traumatize/dehumanize at will, attacking the marginalized online and in public with impunity.  Assaults against Muslims have increased since Trump’s win while Black folks, children of immigrants and/or undocumented adults, women, and others face harassment through social media.  Therefore, we must take initiatives to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and those being targeted.  I plan on investing in various forms of self-defense because, as a Black woman, I’m more likely have a White Supremacist mistakenly run up on me.  Knowing that, I need to take all kinds of precautions.

And due to the elevating brutality and need for significant changes within the political system, we Leftists need to heavily lean on one another.  This is not the time to fight over tactics, political ideologies, and which organization possesses the most knowledge.  This is also not the time to place minorities in the position to wipe away White Liberals or give in to White guilt.  We’re now required to respect one another, for allies to listen to the pain, struggles, and solutions of the groups who are greatly affected by the outcome of this shit show.  Members of marginalized groups also need the space to support one another.  I went to a Building Leadership and Community Knowledge (B.L.A.C.K.) meeting on Friday night and I felt nothing but love, validation, and liberation at that moment.  I didn’t have to explain myself, my views on the election, or why I didn’t vote.  I was surrounded by Black people who heard my frustrations while allowing me to support them in return.  I needed that.  Now imagine if everyone had a squad such as mine.

The election triggered an arousal in people politically, forcing many to recognize that the current system is not only broken, but needs to be completely bulldozed and rebuilt.  Conversely, strong radical movements such as Black Lives Matter play an important part in pushing for the reimagining of political system that supports the social, physical, spiritual, and even nutritional concerns of its citizens—especially the disenfranchised.

 

Center of Attention

 

“Center of Attention” is a piece I submitted to the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology.  However, I don’t believe it was chosen and maybe that’s a good thing.  So I submitted it to the local B.L.A.C.K. (Building Leadership and Community Knowledge) newsletter Uhuru.  So will be published in the upcoming edition.  But I also wanted to publish it here for all the bigger people (regardless of gender) who are struggling with body image.  This piece is for y’all.

 

As a child, I loved summer.

No—I craved it.  For me, that meant homework, teachers, and early morning risings to board the pencil yellow bus were a distant memory for three months.  Until August, freedom was a luxury I savored for the most part—especially when I was permitted open space in the field behind my grandmother’s back yard.

The field was my go-to spot in the 1980s back home in Springfield, Illinois, where I was born, raised, and allowed to play as long as I was monitored by the older children.  When them, I played baseball, Tag, Track and Field in this area, my feet feeling the soft blades of grass between my toes.  It was one of the few places where my body wasn’t usually the focal point of negative attention.

You see, I was a fat Black girl—the only one in my immediate family—and I was often reminded of this.  Whenever I’d stuff food in my little mouth, family members stared at me with unspoken disgust.  My plump limbs were the punchlines for a variety of fat jokes made by cousins who displayed ill intent towards me.  When school was in session, I was called everything from “Hippo” to “The Ugliest Girl in School” both on the playground and the bus.  I also earned the reputation of eating more than my fair share of food during the lunch period.

It didn’t help matters that I was sexually abused by my aunt, who was a few years older than me.  Though she herself possessed a rotund frame, she made it a ritual to criticize me and my body because it didn’t resemble that of a cousin known for her physical attractiveness.  There were times when I studied my body while standing in front of the mirror, tilting my head to the side slightly and struggling to discover whatever flaw I had so I can rid myself of it.  I did this every day for as long as I remember, the little version of me not understanding what the problem was.  Why my body was such a flaw to everyone else.

As I grew older, I began covering my body with pairs of jeans and t-shirts—regardless of how much sweat dampened my forehead and everywhere else.  Never again did I wear a tank top or swimsuit outside of my grandmother’s backyard.  I wouldn’t dare to—especially with my cousins in town.  At this time, I was fat and enduring middle school, so my body was not only ridiculed but physically assaulted by peers on a regular basis.  On top of that, it produced a foul older because it harbored a bacterial infection I didn’t realize I even had.  I thought it was the result of taking cold showers instead of the hot ones my family couldn’t afford to pay for.  It took a gynecology visit to discover the truth, but until then I fantasized about having a body similar to the popular and much thinner girls.  I no longer wanted the extra layers clinging onto my bones.  I wanted it gone.

So when Spring drifted into summer, I didn’t enjoy it anymore.  I found myself hiding in my room, not wanting nothing to do with the outside world.  When I did engage in a summer activity, it was in shorts and t-shirt and even that was short-lived.  Eventually, the shorts were replaced by jeans that screened my growing thighs. There were periods where I was thin enough for people to notice—men especially.  But the weight eventually crept back on, despite the many times I stuck tooth brushes and writing utensils down my throat, the number of meals I forfeited, and the amounts of empty carbs I eliminated.

I carried decades’ worth of taunts within me well into my twenties and early-thirties, covering up my massive arms beneath thin cardigans, my legs with blue jeans or leggings.  The toxicity of the self-hatred I felt clung onto every muscle and layer of fat stored in my body.  There were periods when I wished I were a different person in another life.  With another body.

Fast forward to 27 years old and living in Rochester, New York.

I am over 200 pounds (though you wouldn’t think so just by setting your eyes on me). As I said before, I carried years of body-shaming messages within me, on my shoulders, and back.  In my mind.  I was still wearing autumn wardrobe throughout the summer, uncomfortable due the humidity, yet safe from taunts pertaining to my body.

One day, I was in the Downtown Rochester area, heading towards the Family Dollar to purchase something I needed.  I was wearing a cardigan over my black tank top as my tongue licked away the beads of sweat moistening my upper lip. The humidity was oppressive to say very least—so much so that even the shade failed to emit relief.  The only thought occupying my mind was getting to the store so I can enjoy the breeze of an air conditioner.

I was actually a few steps away from the Family Dollar’s entrance when I heard someone ask “Aren’t you hot?”

I slowed my pace until I came to a complete stop, looking for the owner of the voice I believed was addressing me. My attention settled on an older woman with sepia shaded skin standing at the convenient store next to my destination.  She stared back at me, confusion wrinkling her face as if she had never seen anyone like me.  Here we go, I assumed.

“A little,” I said, downplaying my discomfort with a shy smile. “I don’t like the way my arms look, though.”

The stranger’s expression on her face softened slightly as she sucked on her teeth.  “Girl, it’s eighty degrees!  It’s too hot to care about what your arms look like.”  She then walked away, leaving me to look on with a quiet shock at her level of bluntness.

Yet she was right.  According to the weather report, the highest temperature was going to be about eighty degrees—possibly much more so with the humidity.  Plus, the dryness of my lips indicated that I was becoming dehydrated and needed something to drink soon.  And my sweating wasn’t helping matters.  Reluctantly, I peeled off my cardigan and gave permission the sun to touch my arms. I swept my gaze around the open streets and sidewalks to catch any condescending stares from on-lookers, all the while clinging onto my cotton armor in case I had to hide again.  But the strangers only walked past me, solely focused on their own destinations and not paying me any mind.  If anything, I was an afterthought they avoided not out of disgust but because I stood in the middle of the sidewalk like a fool.

After my visit to Family Dollar, I started towards the St. Paul Street bus booth to board the next city bus heading home, water in hand, when I caught my reflection in a shop window.  I stopped and examined my frame—truly studied curvaceous hips, my thighs, my circular belly as I rested my hand on its center.  And then my eyes shifted to my arms—my untoned limbs constructed to cradle weeping children, embrace friends announcing the greatest achievement or most debilitating disappointment, arms associated with hands often prepared to either comfort or defend. I immediately noticed how the warmth brightened my skin, bringing out hints of orche and sun-kissed orange as a golden shimmer enhanced the beauty that is my melanin.

It’s too hot to care about what your arms look like.

The woman’s message seeped into my mind, into my spirit as my reflection and I admired one another, drinking in the attention we both craved and now received. This is my body, I thought as the toxicity of childhood derision bled from my pores and into an invisible pool at my sneakered feet before disappearing into the concreate. My body belonged to me and not the ones who critiqued it, mocked it, or used it for their own selfish gratification. These curves, these breasts, feet, hands, neck, stomach, and the inner workings orchestrated to preserve my existence and despite its imperfections and build, are mine.

And they are beautiful.