Black Girl with Glasses feat. Tamra

 

 

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Rochester Singer/Songwriter Tamra discusses her album Big Hair, the self-empowerment of women, much more.  Features the song “Neon Cloud” from Big Hair.

 

 

Black Girl With Glasses Feat. Tamra Simone

Transcription by Noelle Ware

Meeka: Good afternoon, everyone! This is Meeka and you are listening to Black Girl With Glasses on SoundCloud.

[Intro music plays]

Meeka: Today’s guest is a singer-songwriter here in Rochester, and she recently released her first LP, Big Hair. So, please give a warm welcome to Tamra Simone!

Tamra: [Laugh] Hey!

Meeka: Hey, what’s going on? It’s been awhile since we talked! How you doing?

Tamra: I’ve been doing good! I’ve just been enjoying myself, enjoying this beautiful weather here in Rochester, New York, and getting ready for my show that’s coming up on June 17th, so I’m excited.

Meeka: So, tell me a little bit about your show!

Tamra: Well, I was inspired- I love Frida Kahlo, who is a Mexican painter, and she went through a lot with her health and with her relationships with her boyfriend and her husband. So, I was reading some of her autobiography and I kept seeing- I went to Madrid and I kept seeing stuff about Frida Kahlo and I was like, “You know what? I’m going to do a Frida Kahlo inspired show.” And I want to do acoustic guitar with some harmonies and me singing songs that have to do with heartbreak or even just victory out of heartbreak just for Frida. She went through a lot with her husband. I’m doing an acoustic soul show in honor of Frida Kahlo and it’s going to be June 17th.

Tamra: I have some great musicians and vocalists who are going to be joining me. I have Charles Emanuel, who’s an amazing guitarist and singer who’s going to be opening up, and Carson Argenna who was in a vocal competition with me in February, and he was so good! I thought he was such a great competitor, his voice was amazing, so I just wanted to invite him on the show. So, I’ll be singing and those two guys will be singing.

Tamra: And I have my coach, Mike Gladstone who is going to be accompanying me on the guitar and stuff like that. It’s going to be great! It’s going to be at Gallery 74, the show starts promptly at 9 o’clock. I’m going to have some vendors there and it’s just going to be a great night of music and soul.

Meeka: Awesome! So, for one, I just want to give people a bit of a history as far as Tamra and myself. We actually used to work together and I found out she was a performer after I left my workplace. In fact, I ended up seeing you liv a couple of times. So, you’re an awesome performer! I’m actually very honored that we’re having this interview right now, seriously.

Tamra: Thank you, thank you! [Laugh]

Meeka: And I will admit as well outside of work, I didn’t know that much about you. So please, for myself and for the audience, tell a little bit about yourself.

Tamra: Alright, well I grew up in Rochester, New York. I started singing in the churches I grew up in. I grew up in Pentecostal churches, which was all about singing with the motion and you sing to make people feel. You don’t sing just to sound beautiful, you sing to get people to feel the Holy Spirit, I guess. So, I grew up singing in the church but I really started taking it seriously after I got out of college, because I used to sing in college to make money. They had these contests all the time, so I would enter these contests and I would win them all and I would win all these cash prizes. So, I was singing not because I loved to sing, but because it was giving me money.

Tamra: But, I came back to Rochester after college and I started going to these open mic sessions and stuff that my church was hosting, and I would do freestyling singing. It was something that was just very therapeutic and it was just something that I really enjoyed doing. Before I was just performing and doing it because that’s what I loved. I went to a performing arts high school, so I loved performing but this was the first time that I was performing and using it as therapy or using it as a way to help other people. So, I started a band in 2009 that was a socially conscious driven band, singing songs of freedom and justice and stuff like that, and empowerment of women.

Tamra: Then, in 2013, I ended up going solo after a lot of the band members ended up moving or they just didn’t have the time anymore. So, I just started doing my own solo thing for these past few years: 2013 til now. I’ve just been singing ever since. I’ve been doing local shows, I’ve been performing in New York City, I’ve performed around the world, in the continent Africa, Europe, and Spain. Just different places that my voice has taken me and I’m really blessed to sing and to perform all around the world, not just in Rochester.

Meeka: We’ll definitely talk about that in a minute, as far as you travelling around the world to perform. But, I noticed that you cover a lot of Bob Marley. And I remember you doing an entire tribute to Bob Marley the first time I saw you perform. What draws you to his music in particular?

Tamra: What definitely draws me to his music is… The cool thing about Bob Marley is that he was able to sing songs about God, he was able to sing songs about love and peace, and that’s what draws me to him. He wasn’t a one-trick pony, he had messages and perspectives from different angles and they were accepted. And, as we know, a lot of his stuff is mainstream today. So being able to shout, “Jah Rastafari” on stage to people, because it was very religious, I think that I can relate to that. I grew up in a very religious home and I still am a huge believer in faith and God, so being able to be an artist that wasn’t afraid to do that and expose people to his Rastafarian religion, but still being able to be mainstream, and also being able to sing songs about justice, that’s very appealing to me.

Tamra: That’s kind of the direction of where I’m going, just making sure that my music is speaking towards the spiritual realm, the freedom of oppressed people, and love. Those are the three elements that are so important to living a great life to me: justice, love, and spirituality. So, I think those three elements have always drawn me to Bob Marley. And reggae music is so cool and chill and his voice is amazing, so that’s what really draws me to him, just his love of his religion and I love that because that’s how I feel about mine too.

Meeka; So, I’m wondering, because you talk a little bit about your faith and your practice, and I was wondering, how are you able to mesh your spirituality and your political ideologies into your music. Because, I know that a lot of people who consider themselves leftists, they either do one or the other, they don’t do both. So, I was wondering, how are you able to combine or fuse your spirituality with your politics?

Tamra: Yeah, I think the thing about religion is that- and what I believe is that it has to be- religion is all about speaking life. Because life is in the power of the tongue. So, with my lyrics, with my words, I’m always speaking life. I’m speaking life, about people being beautiful and wonderfully made, like God doesn’t make any mistakes on anyone. In my opinion, God created us the way we’re supposed to be, no matter if the world doesn’t like it or not. And that is speaking truth and that’s speaking from the God in a perspective that I know.

Tamra: And also, being able to use my faith in my music is also just using it to get through to music, because it’s a tough, tough battle to be out here trying to become a star in a lot of ways, or trying to make your name known or to be able to get through to trying to make an album, because there’s so much that goes into it, and it’s exhausting. Especially when music isn’t the only thing that’s paying your bills. Or you have a job, a full-time job and then go home, and then go to the studio and it’s exhausting.

Tamra: So, being able to use my faith to get me through, to keep me strong when it’s tough, when the times get rough, it just helps to have a spiritual background to get you through times where you do want to give up and know that you’re not alone. And that there is something bigger than ourselves that is going to help us through in times where we want to give up. So, I think those are things and ways that I incorporate my spirituality, and even with justice, just knowing that the God I serve is about knowing truth and all about helping the oppressed and freeing the oppressed through words and through action. Those elements, you’ll hear in my songs and through my music.

Meeka: So, I was wondering, do you still perform in the church? Or did you say to yourself, “That’s one platform I used to help me, but now it’s time for me to spread my wings in the world,”?

Tamra: Yeah, I don’t currently sing in the church, but I used to. I did for most of my life. I think, for me, I honestly don’t have a church home that I’m at, at this moment. So, it just doesn’t allow me to sing at any church right now. But, the thing about it, there’s people who never walk inside of a church. They’ll never walk inside of a church building because they don’t feel like that’s where they belong, or they don’t feel like that’s where they’ll be accepted. So, to get out of the church while being able to sing songs that will help heal people, that will help empower people that might never step foot into a church hall but may step into a poetry reading or a coffee house, or concert hall- those people still need to hear positive stuff. So, that’s kind of how I’m taking it.

Tamra: I believe that religion is outside of temples and different things anyway. That’s where most of the work happens, it’s outside of that. So, anyways, that’s where I feel happy that I can, after a show, get a message on Facebook or someone coming to me and saying, “Hey, I was really feeling down and hearing your empowering song or encouraging song really helped me through what I was going through at that moment and it helped to free me at that time.” So, I’m thankful that while that person may not have been at a church service, at least that person was able to hear me sing at a concert.

Meeka: So, as far as music [clears throat] excuse me, as far as performers, who are your influences and why?

Tamra: I would definitely have to say that my number one influence is James Brown. My grandmother was obsessed with James Brown, so I heard him a lot. So, the soul that he brings to his music, I heard him before I saw him. I remember hearing him sing and I’m like, “Oh my God, he’s feeling what he’s singing. He’s not just sounding beautiful, he’s feeling it!” And then when you see James Brown perform, you’re seeing him come alive. You’re seeing him improv onstage, you’re seeing him collaborate and direct his band and sing at the same time. So, James Brown would definitely be my number one influence.

Tamra: A lot of male singers are my influence when it comes to singing and musicianship. Probably because, when a man sings about his emotions, it’s coming from, to me, a deeper place, because men aren’t supposed to be singing about emotions traditionally. So, if a man is singing about that, it comes from a place- I end up taking and studying male singers like Sam Cooke and James Brown and Bill Withers and Al Green, different people like that, I intake and go, “Wow, their emotions are just out of this world,” through their music.

Tamra: Because emotion and music go together, and I think he’s definitely- those guys are definitely huge inspirations. Ella Fitzgerald in the jazz world, she was amazing. Today’s people, Janelle Monae, India.Arie is a huge inspiration as well, and of course Lauryn Hill, those type of artists. And of course, all of the cool RnB artists of the 90’s. They definitely have a role in how I sing and how I articulate certain things.

Meeka: Yeah, I’ve noticed that you are a huge- just based on what you’re saying, a lot of the artists you are influenced by, or admire or are influenced by are from the old days. Like the 1930’s and 40’s and so on. And I feel the same way. At the time, there was a lot going on and in order for them to tell the story, they had to be emotional. And that’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of the oldies. A lot of songs that were written, not only were they filled with emotion, but they had the story element to them.

Tamra: Right, right.

Meeka: And that’s very well-missing in songs or music. You have to dig deep in order to get right to any sort of music that has a story to it. So, I completely agree. So, I was wondering, when did you realize that being a performer was something that you wanted to do?

Tamra: I’ve always, since I could remember, I was always really quiet growing up, but there was this thing in me where I understood performing, I got it. It was just a natural thing that always I just really took to. So, when I had the opportunities to perform in church plays or at church or at school, those things interest me, from the beginning. I never remember not wanting to be a part of the art, but I was always so scared to do it, and I would have stage fright, but I would get through it because I wanted to do good and I wanted to show people how talented I was. So, my whole life, I’ve always loved being a performer.

Tamra: I went to the Schooling Arts for Theatre for high school and I graduated and I was actually voted best actress of my senior class. It was just something that was always in me and I love it, that’s where I feel at home. You just totally lose control and everything is just left to destiny. It’s left to God, it’s left to the universe, for whatever comes out your mouth- if you remember the lines or you don’t remember the words, and you have to be spontaneous and think on the spot. And I think my psyche loves that, in a way.

Tamra: You know, it can be nerve-wracking, so performing is like- it’s annoying to rehearse and to go through all of the trying times to get to that stage, but it’s the best feeling that’s where I’m the happiest, that’s where I’m the most free, I feel the most authentic, and real, and nothing else is on my mind, but what I’m doing at that moment. That’s when I feel like I’m really living in the moment. Other than that, my mind is everywhere. When I’m performing, I feel like I’m there, I’m nowhere else. My mind’s not thinking of nothing else, I’m in the moment. So, I’ve always wanted to perform in some type of way through acting or singing or dance, even though I’m not that good of a dancer [Laugh].

Tamra: So yeah, but I love performing. And it’s not just to perform to show everybody how great I am, or to be like, “Yeah, I’m the best!” It’s performing because I’m an artist and I love to put myself out there to be vulnerable enough to share who I am and to be authentic and be who I am and be who I’m supposed to be, which can hopefully encourage other people to do the same, to be authentic, to be who they are meant to be. I feel like everyone knows who they are supposed to be, but the world confuses them. When you look back when you were a little girl or little boy and you hear and you know what you’re really into, that’s who you’re supposed to be, before the world changed you. So, performing has always been with me ever since I can remember. Even if it was in the house in front of family or at the family reunion.

Meeka: So, speaking of family, by day you’re a teacher. And I noticed that you, just based on what I’ve seen when I was working there, I noticed that everything you came to empowered your students. Having them stand in a circle, and do a self-empowerment chant. So, is self-empowerment the overall message behind your music? How do you teach your students to use music to empower themselves?

Tamra: I actually- my intention for being a teacher is only one thing: and it’s to expose my children to things that are going to spark something in them good. Good things in them. So, recently we did a music lesson and I played, “I Am Not My Hair” because I had a couple of kids who kept picking at people’s hair because it was so-called nappy or whatever. So, I used that as a moment, and I didn’t put them down. I didn’t even correct them at the moment, I just did a lesson plan about hair and about color and about different things that had to do with how you look.

Tamra: So, we listened to India.Arie’s I am not my hair, and the kids, after we listened to it, they were able to pick out some of the lessons out of that song. What was India.Arie trying to say in that song, what were some points that she made. And they were able to do that through her lyrics because I was like, music can help you love yourself. Music can do all types of great things, it can make you mad, it can make you sad, it can inspire, so I wanted them to understand that lyrics can have power to change how you feel about yourself.

Tamra: And now, it’s so cool, they’re like, “Can you play that song again? Can you play ‘I Am Not My Hair’ again?” This little girl with really, you know, coarse afro hair, she wants me to play that all the time. And I could tell that that did something for her. And that’s all I want. I’m not there to just tell kids what to do. I’m there to be an example and to fill in wherever I see any cracks, to help fill those cracks in so the children can be better, you know? So, my teaching is used to inspire not just when you get old, you gotta get this work done. I use it as a time to create teachable moments that hopefully last forever for my kids.

Meeka: Thank you so much! We are 30 minutes past an hour, so it’s time for our music break. Here’s Neon Cloud by Tamra.

[‘Neon Cloud’ by Tamra plays]

Meeka: And we’re back! This is Meeka and you’re listening to Black Girl With Glasses on SoundCloud. This week, we now have Tamra, who is a performer here in Rochester. A Singer, songwriter, and she has been around the world performing. She’s also out here empowering children, which is an awesome thing. WE talked about your life as a performer, we talked about your influences on the kids you work for, and that’s empowering to me. Especially since the children in your classroom, they hear that one song and that empowers them. Thank you for that, especially since I used to work with children, thank you for that. People with natural hair, kids with natural hair need that. So, let’s now talk about your album, Big Hair. What was the inspiration for that album?

Tamra: I was asked to write a song for this natural hair event that was going to bring women all over Western Europe together for a hair show, all these vendors and stuff like that. They were like, “Hey, it’s called the Big Hair event, can you write a song for it to sing?” So, I’m like, “Yeah, sure.” So, I write the song and I was like, “Man, I kind of want to do an album so the whole concept of Big Hair is not just about natural hair, it’s not about hair it all.” It’s the concept of being who you’re supposed to be, being comfortable with who that is, and being authentic in who you are in every setting. Because, it takes a lot of courage to have big hair.

Tamra: Imagine somebody with big hair and they walk in, it takes a lot of courage to walk in with a big afro or a big teased out hairstyle, or to walk down a street or to walk into a board room or to walk into anything. So that’s the concept of being able to have confidence in who you are, no matter where you are, and to empower people to be unapologetically who they are. And if they don’t know who they are, to find that person and to be it, because the world needs individuals to be themselves. So, the whole Big Hair concept of the album, all of the songs have to do with that: loving who you are and being who you’re supposed to be.

Meeka: So, I noticed that a couple of songs I believe you are performing with your partner.

Tamra: Yes! Yes, yes. So, he-

Meeka: Yeah, oh I’m sorry, I’m sorry!

Tamra: Nah, I was just saying, Chalil used to be my manager and he used to be my husband. So, he was a huge inspiration on a lot of the songs when it came to us sitting down and coming up with concepts of what we wanted to write. I think he’s on 1, 2, 3 of the songs on the EP? So, he was a big deal in this album. He was a huge inspiration on helping me to be an artist, and to push forward. A lot of times I’ll be like, “I’m too scared to do stuff!” and he’d be like, “Come on, you can do it! I believe in you, I believe in you!” So, he’s a huge encourager of my music and keeping pushing me along. He’s believed in me since the beginning, so I’m very thankful for him.

Meeka: Are you still working with each other as far as collaboration?

Tamra: Yes, well not at this moment in time, but he is somebody who I would reach out to if I had any questions or if I wanted to collaborate on something. He’s an awesome MC, a great rapper, so I wouldn’t mind having him on some more stuff.

Meeka: Alright! So, what is your favorite song on the album?

Tamra: I would have to say “Neon Cloud,” the one that you guys heard, because it was- I wrote it when I was in Senegal, West Africa. I was performing and after I performed, I went on the beach and the sun was setting and all of the clouds were neon. They were pink and they were yellow and blue and I was so happy, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is just amazing!” And I just wrote the song right there on the beach on my phone, came up with the melody. So, it was just really one of my favorite songs that I have ever written and no matter where I’m at in my life, it is so relevant.

Tamra: It teaches you- the song is about knowing who you are, obviously, but also being content wherever you are in your life. Not content in the way where you would just stay there, but being proud of where you came from and knowing that you still have time to grow, and that you’ll just keep going higher and higher and higher in life. So that’s definitely my favorite song. It’s actually the most played song on Spotify and it’s the most purchased song off of iTunes, so I feel like a lot of people relate to it. So, it’s definitely my favorite song.

Meeka: Nice! So, tell me about your travels as far performing and different places all over the world. Earlier in the program, you said you traveled to Africa, you traveled to Spain, and all kinds of places. So please, how did that happen and tell us more about that.

Tamra: Mm-hm. So, I’ve been to the continent of Africa many times because I said that I would never leave the US to go anywhere else except to go to the continent of Africa first. I said if I ever left the US, the first place I would go is to the continent of Africa. Because of course of the Black history and knowing our ancestors and where we come from. I just felt like it was disrespectful to go to any other place other than Africa first. So, I ended up going my senior year of high school, and I ended up connecting with people out there while I was out there, and I kept in touch.

Tamra: So, as my music career started going up, my friends in Senegal on Facebook said, “Hey, we want you to perform.” So, I performed for a women’s empowerment conference out there. It was a 7-Day, women from all over the world were there. Akon, the rapper, he was a huge ambassador fir it, he helped fund it. And he was like, “Women are of course the future.” The future is feminine was the main thing. So, in 2014, I was able to go out there and just perform. People who didn’t even know English were saying, “Oh my gosh, I love you, I love your songs, I love your voice!” So, it was really cool to be out there. And I ended up winning a contest to go to Madrid and sing.

Tamra: I entered a contest through this music site and out of a whole bunch of people, I got picked along with three other acts to go out and perform in Madrid for this industry party that is in Europe. And it was amazing! And they loved me! So, then they called- so I ended up going to Madrid with that one gig but then all these people saw me and were like, “Hey, how long are you staying, can you perform at my venue or can you perform here?” So, I ended up performing at three different gigs other than the one I was called to do. So, I ended up performing out there and then recently, in May, I just was there for two weeks and I performed out there at different venues that wanted to hire me to come out there and perform.

Tamra: So, it’s been great! And just to be able to connect with people from all different walks of life that can connect with your music. Even though it was just like, my intention is always- when I’m writing I’m writing from a Black American girl perspective. So, when I’m thinking, when I’m writing, it’s for Black women. So, it’s very intentional and being able to see other people being able connect to that is really really cool. So, I love it!

Meeka: Cool, cool! So, what was your favorite place to travel and perform in?

Tamra: I would have to say- ah, it’s so tough because Madrid is such an amazing place. I would have to say West Africa, Ghana, Senegal was my favorite, because it’s, you know, it’s my culture, it’s my people. So, when you look at them, you see yourself and they love the hip hop flair, they love the jazz flair in my music, they get it. So, it would definitely have to be that. And I felt most at home in West Africa than I even feel in my own home town. So, I would definitely have to say Senegal.

Meeka: So, do you plan on traveling any time soon to- Let me take that back. Do you plan on doing an international tour to promote Big Hair or just to promote in general?

Tamra: I perform in New York a lot, I have a good fan base out there, so I have some big gigs coming up out there, some in D.C. I don’t have- in December of this year, I’m planning on going to South Africa and I have some gigs that might be lined up, so I don’t know yet, but that’s the hope. Just promoting Big Hair, and the biggest thing about Big Hair, Big Hair is an EP, it has just 5 songs on it, it’s small. You know, as an artist just starting out, it’s the best thing to do because it doesn’t cost a lot of money to put out and it’s something that you can offer your fans when you have your shows.

Tamra: So, when I have my shows, I have my CD’s that people can purchase right there, so it’s good to have a show and I can be like, “Hey, I have a CD, if anybody wants more of Tamra!” And it’s another way to connect with people and for people to have something that’s you. So, it’s good! I’m just continuously travelling and I have some gigs in Rochester coming up, July 15th I’m doing the Rochester Music Fest. Opening up for Arrested Development and Bobby Brown and then I’m also doing the African American Festival in August, so it should be great!

Meeka: So, I was wondering, while you’re promoting Big Hair, have you been inspired to write new material as well?

Tamra: Yeah, yeah, I’ve experienced a lot when Big Hair was released. I’ve experienced a big break-up with something I was in for 10 years, so that’s caused a lot of writing. And a lot of self-reflection, so when you lose someone or break up with someone that you were with for a long time, you do a lot of self-reflection and you have to redefine yourself because you’re not connected to that person anymore. Especially when you’re married and not connected to them. So, it’s like, “Okay, this is who just Tamra is.” You know, not just Tamra and her spouse. So, I’m just writing things that kind of go along with that and stuff. So, I’ve been writing a lot of good stuff, a lot of reggae inspired stuff. My next album will definitely have a lot of reggae energy to it, a lot of Caribbean energy.

Meeka: So, I was wondering, what words of wisdom do you have for women who are going through what you’re going through now, especially if you’re an artist. What words of wisdom do you have for them? Because I can only imagine what it’s like to lose somebody you have loved and spent a whole decade with. So, what do you say and how did you cope outside of writing as well? Or how do you take care of yourself, rather, outside of writing?

Tamra: Yeah, the thing that’s- break ups and stuff like that is that there is the feeling of losing someone, even when you lose someone- it’s like a death. Even when you lose someone when they die, it’s stages. You’ve got to let yourself feel those stages, don’t try to be a super woman, don’t try to be, “I’m a strong woman,” like feel those things. Be a beautiful human being, lean on any spiritual connections you have, and to keep people, family and friends around that WANT to see you do great and want to see you get out of it and to come out on top. And that’s the cool thing about when you are at your low, the only place that you can go is up high. But thank God for that! And it’s tough, but everyone is stronger than they think.

Tamra: And all these things that happen to us out of nowhere or things that we experience is always supposed to be, like Maya Angelou said, to be a rainbow for somebody else’s cloud. So, even though I went through this, when someone else goes through this, I hope to be, and I hope my music to be, the rainbow in their cloud to help them get out of that pain and to help to heal some of that pain and to release it, because it is painful. And I’m just thankful for music. I don’t know how I can go through life without it, I don’t know how I can go through break-ups and deaths and loss of friendships and loss of jobs and money without music. And Donald Trump being our president [Laugh] I don’t know how I’m going to get through that without music.

Tamra: So just, you know, finding things and like I was saying before with spirituality, there’s life and death in the tongue. And if you feed yourself life music, music that’s going to give you life not music that’s going to say, “I hate you” but really feed yourself music and people who are going to speak life over you is the best tool to get you through things. Because I don’t know what I would do if all the songs that I listen to was all about hating some guy and bashing his car with a bat, you know?

Meeka: [Laugh]

Tamra: That doesn’t lead to healing, that’s going to cause more anger [Laugh].

Meeka: So, and I’m glad you mentioned our administration. I was wondering whether or not you’ve written any songs or were inspired in any way by our current political climate or the actions of our current administration.

Tamra: Oh, yes. Yes, I have. That’s- you will definitely hear that one. I wrote a song to Donald Trump actually. But then I wrote- the song is to Donald Trump, but the song is also to the world to keep hope and to know that there is light at the end of the darkness of the Donald Trump era. So, we’re going to get through it and we’re going to come out as better, and we’re going to come out stronger because we’re going to be out here fighting for our rights instead of sitting here waiting for people to fight it for us. So, I’m excited for people to hear that song.

Meeka: Yeah, I’m very excited about it too! I’m actually very excited about this album coming out, when is it going to drop?

Tamra: Well, I don’t have a release date yet, I’m still kind of writing stuff and I wrote this amazing song with my friend, Mark, co-wrote this song called “I See the Light” which I’m so excited. And it talks about how I was really depressed about my divorce and all that kind of stuff, but how I’m in a good place now and it’s real light hearted. It’s a deep concept, but it’s real light-hearted. I’m excited just to keep writing and to keep being authentic and I don’t have a date yet until I know that, “Okay, I got what I need out.” Record it, then put a date out after recording. Because the one before, I made a date and then I kind of rushed- I feel like I rushed to get things done. But now I’m just going to write, record, wait til everything is perfect, lay it all out and then put a release date. So, that’s what I learned to do next time [Chuckle].

Meeka: Cool, cool. And I was wondering, was there anything you’d like to add? Especially, do you have any words of wisdom for those who are wanting to break out in the music career?

Tamra: I would say to understand, why do you want to do it? Like what is your purpose? Why does the music world need you? Because you’ve got to have a purpose. It’s kind of like when you apply for a job and they’re like, “Why does this company need you?” or “What would you add to the company?” And it’s kind o the same thing. Like are you just willing to because people say you can sing really well or what are your intentions? And why are you doing it? Once you learn why you are doing it, learn your intention and go from there. Your intention is what’s going to be guiding you the whole time. So, my intention is to spread love and empower women and when I want to give up.

Tamra: I’m like, “Nope, Tam, you can’t give up because you’ve got more women to inspire. It’s not about you and how you feel. You need to get out there, you need to sing. Get your behind up, and stop moping around and do what you need to do.” So, you have to have an intention because this industry and this music scene is not nice. It’s not a nice world. The art is not nice, it’s very tough and it’s very clique-ish. And if you’re like me, you don’t kiss butt and you know your worth, and you don’t need to kiss people’s butt to be validated. You want to make your music speak for itself and your performing speak for itself. Especially coming from an acting background, I see the difference between the acting world and the singing world.

Tamra: The acting people are a lot nicer, the music world is a lot more cutthroat and it’s not a nice place sometimes. So, you just got to be ready to deal with mean people, and also be ready just to give up sometimes, but just knowing that you have talent and you have a gift that you have to pursue. So, that would be my advice.

Meeka: Alright! Thank you so much for that. It gives me a lot of things to think about as far as my own writing and just, you know, thinking about what I’m here for. So, thank you for answering that question [Laugh] for lack of better words.

Tamra: No problem!

Meeka: So, it looks like we are out of time. Thank you so much, Tamra, for joining me! This was amazing, like I’m not even joking around. So, if you want to know more about Tamra and her work, y’all can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. You can also visit tamramusic.com for more information, and purchase Big Hair on iTunes and listen to it on Spotify. And if y’all like this episode, you can follow Black Girl With Glasses here on SoundCloud. You can also follow me or Black Girl With Glasses on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and WordPress. The deaf and hard of hearing can visit www.blackgirlwithglasses.com to read the transcript for today’s episode. Until next time, love, peace, and fake chicken grease! See ya!

Black Girl with Glasses feat. Erick and Naionna

 

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On this episode, fellow authors Naionna Laurice and Erick A Myrthil discuss their individual works and the 3rd Rochester Black Authors Expo. Naionna also reads three of her poems.

 

Black Girl With Glasses Featuring Naionna Laurice and Erick Myrthil Transcription

Transcribed by Noelle Ware

 

Meeka: Good Evening everyone! This is Meeka and you are listening to Black Girl With Glasses on SoundCloud!

[Intro music plays]

Meeka: Tonight, we have not one, but TWO guests on the show. Both will be featuring their work at the third annual Rochester Black Authors Expo, So please give a warm welcome to Naionna Laurice and Erick Myrthil!

Erick: Hello!

Naionna: Hey!

Meeka: Hey! How are you two doing, how has your week been?

Naionna: Pretty good.

Erick: It’s going alright.

Naionna: I mean you can’t complain, we have some big things going up, so I’m excited!

Erick: Yeah, yeah. It’s been an exciting seven days!

Meeka: Right, so we do have a big day ahead of us with the Expo coming up, so there’s a lot of work going on and a lot of last minute stuff that’s going on right now. So how far are you as far as getting prepared and being prepared?

Erick: So far, with the book I was going to present? I’m not presenting it anymore. But, I’m going to be giving information about it and it will be released after the Expo. Then I’ll be releasing it sometime this fall with The Boogieman and the Orange Bottle so it will be a double novel. Then by the next Expo, I’ll have the audiobooks for both of those. So, I’ll be releasing both books with both audiobooks.

Meeka: Okay, so you’re pretty much doing everything ahead of time so you’ll be ready for next year.

Erick: Yeah, because I fell short this year having to take that knee to get my health together.

Meeka: Good luck with that! So, what about you Naionna? I know that we were talking about you and about your book and hoping that the order gets in on time?

Naionna: Yeah, I actually had the placement ordered tonight to make sure that my books are actually here by the fourth. And I was making some last-minute touch-ups, I had done my book release party back in February and the first time around, I had some rough times with the printer. So, I went with a local printer this time around and I edited some things. It’s actually not a novel, mine’s actually a poetry book. I didn’t go by my first name, which is Naionna, I went by the name VeNus.

Naionna: I wrote for women in particular and I wrote a lot of poems that were more-so based on women’s experiences. So, I took a lot of stuff that I got inside of it from different women and wrote it down and took notes and meditated on it and thought, “If I was in their position, how would I react?” And I turned it into a bunch of poems. That’s actually how I came up with the concept for this book. I wasn’t speaking just for myself, so I didn’t want to write the book just based on one vision and one mindsight. So, I’m kind of excited, it’s my first time putting myself out there. Everybody will see this books for the first time so it’s kind of nerve-wrecking, but I’m kind of just pumped for the turn out and getting to mingle and meet everybody [laugh].

Meeka: Alright, so I was wondering, how did you two decide to become authors? Who and what encouraged you to tell your stories to the community and to the world?

Erick: I’ve had a story for…that’s 13 years now? The story for TEAMS actually started in 2004? It was a building story up until 2012. The event that happened in 2012 told me, “Stop here and you can write about it.” So, it’s basically me documenting everything that happened from 2004 to 2012. And the way I wrote it was that it starts that day in 2012 and then I jump back to 2004 and write back up to that day in 2012.

Meeka: How about you Nai…? I’m sorry!

Naionna: It’s Naionna, I know my name is so hard to pronounce, it’s okay! Actually, I didn’t decide to write the book until about a year and a half ago, almost two years. I have been writing since I was maybe 12, I started writing poetry back in Elementary and then going to High School it was just a little hobby. And then about, I want to say late 2013, my grandmother used to tell me, “If you want your allowance money, you know your monthly check? You got to write a poem for me!” And I used to think it was a joke, but she was serious. So, I started getting some practice in by writing a poem to get some allowance money. And this was back when I was in college, so she used to help me out a lot. So, I could turn my work into a book and I was kind of shocked like, “Oh I wrote a book, but I probably won’t publish it.” When I started getting people to read my work on Instagram, that’s what gave me the push to actually publish the book. And I started to realize that people actually like this shit that I’m talking about, so maybe it’s worth putting out there. So, I actually started connecting with a few poets in Rochester and getting a little experience and doing some spoken word shows and I came up with All Hail! [laugh]

Meeka: Nice, nice! So, now tell your folks what your individual pieces are and your novels and y0our books of poetry.

Erick: Okay, mine is a personal narrative. It’s 26-year-old me talking to young me, getting him ready. Basically, I’m talking to younger me, telling him, “This is going to happen, it’s going to go this way, but don’t worry, it’ll get better.” Then the next year comes and, “This is going to happen on top of what happened this year, but don’t worry, it gets better.” Then I go into a slump for, I want to say a three to four-year period, and I’m actually talking to myself in a different kind of voice now. Saying, “Oh my God, you’re in this, it doesn’t look good, but don’t give up, it gets better.” Then the event that happened in 2012, it should have been what pushed me over, but I found a new calling and I found myself again. What happened in 2012 actually pulled me up and out of what I was in.

Naionna: So, this is all based on your life.

Erick: Yeah, it’s a memoir, basically. And it’s just me guiding young me out of adolescence basically, yeah.

Meeka: Now, what about you Naionna? Is it a collection of poems based on what you’ve been going through?

Naionna: It is a collection of poems not just based on what I’ve gone through. A lot of other women will be able to relate to it, some guys might read some of the poems and just get some inside on how the New Age Woman, as which I call it, how they think and how they go about making tough decisions in relationships and in their job and in their personal life, whatever it may be. I just wrote from, you know, the women I grew up around and women that affected me. I wrote from our perspective and I wrote on, you know, what we feel and what we’ve gone through. Some of it is fun, some of it is emotional, some of it is sexual.

Naionna: I give a little bit of everything, I didn’t want the book to be one-sided all the way through. So, it is a collection of poems just for you to get an eye-opener on what I write about. It’s not just one topic, it’s not just one feel, so I kind of threw it out there and said, “Well I’m going to do a collection of poems I wrote over the years, some newer, some older.” And see what they think. And I think it’s a great book, I think a lot of people could learn something from it so I’m just excited for the reviews, to her some prospects and interests.

Meeka: So, now Erick, you talked a bit about your writing process on the Bonfire Talks, which is a radio show on WAYO 104.3 FM here in Rochester, New York. For folks who don’t know, it’s a local radio station here in Rochester. So, you talk about how the lack of sleep played a part in your writing. Do you do the majority of your writing at night?

Erick: Yes, very much so, when nothing but my thoughts are in my head. I like to write in a dark room, preferably with music on or the TV playing low. And with that, I find that my most creative is at that moment.

Meeka: And what about you, Naionna? What is your writing process?

Naionna: It comes sporadically. Sometimes I could be in the middle of a drive to work, sometimes it could just be late at night when I get off of an evening shift and I’m in bed and, you know, one of those restless nights where I could just jot things down. But I’ve had times where I’ve had to pull over and park and type a poem on my phone if it comes to me, so it’s random. But I try to spend most of my time writing right before bed, just to get last minute thoughts down. It may not make sense to me at the moment, but then I have it tomorrow morning. I can look at it with fresh eyes and it may come out to be something spectacular. It depends, but a lot of times, it’s just sporadic. I never know when I’m going to spark my interest on a certain poem or a certain topic and I just can’t force myself to write.

Naionna: A lot of people get that time where they say, “I’m going to designate three hours and I’m going to write today.” It doesn’t usually work that way for me. Sometimes it takes a time. I can sit down and say, “Okay, I’m going to try to write a poem.” And then once I get into it, I lose everything. And then I’ll say, “Well okay, maybe I’ll start back tomorrow.” Some things work better for others, but now with the way that I write and how my mood shifts so much, I never know when I’m going to take time to jot things down. Sometimes I won’t even write for two or three weeks at a time. I mean, I guess it just depends on the person, but with me, I’m just random [laugh].

Meeka: Alright, so, I was wondering have y’all ever performed any of your writing or showed them to other people. If so, what was the feedback?

Erick: Okay, when I was writing TEAMS, I actually opened it up to six people. All featured in it, but later on I had to change their names, but they said, “Wow, we didn’t know you were that in touch and you’re really putting yourself out there.” And it was after I read it back when I was revising it for the first time. And I said, “Wow I really strip myself naked and I tell all.” And it’s not even a matter of I’m putting all my business out there, that person doesn’t exist anymore. But, I didn’t even realize I was that much in touch with everything I was going through while I was going through it until I wrote it down. And it give me some kind of closure actually in that area of my life.

Meeka: What about you, Naionna? When your grandmother read your poems or other people have read your work for the first time, how did they react to it?

Naionna: I think my grandmother always says nice things because she’s my grandmother and she thinks she’s supposed to. My mother is actually the woman who I go and show her everything and I have her read through everything as soon as I’m done. She’ll make punctuation errors, she’ll tell me, “Maybe you should change this to that.” And she’s my go-to when it comes to my writing. She pretty much kind of helps me make sense of everything. So, when she reads it, her reaction sometimes surprises me. She’s actually kind of shocked that I’ve written some of the things that I say. And a lot of the times, she makes me a better writer. I’ve done spoken word showings, I think I’ve done four in total. And there’s a few I just read off to people when they ask.

Naionna: I know a lot of the time when I do the spoken word and I get put on the spot in the beginning, I’m nervous, but going into it I transform into that other person and I can read and I can perform these poems well. It draws the audience in and sometimes I get some jaw-droppers and some people are a little blown own off by some of the things that I say. It’s always fun to see the reactions of the crowd. It’s always fun to mess with them and include them in on it and sometimes even just, you know, getting off the stage and getting into the part of performing, walking around.

Naionna: Whatever I can do to make everybody focus on me and what I’m saying, to get them more entertained and more involved, I do it. I just go all out into it! So, starting off the back and first performing, it was a little rough. It was a kind of not my thing, I never thought I’d like my voice, I think about a year is around when I started getting comfortable with it. I kind of want to do more, maybe competitions in the future [laugh].

Meeka: It’s interesting that you mentioned that you were doing a lot of spoken word. Where have you performed, have you performed here in Rochester?

Naionna: Yes.

Meeka: So, where did you exactly perform and how long have you been doing that?

Naionna: I did Plush Nightclub when they used to have open mic nights a couple years ago.

Erick: A year ago [laugh].

Naionna: Yeah, I did the Loving Cup about a couple months ago. Of course I did put spoken word at my book release party bac in February. I did a couple at Boulder, in Javas, a long time ago. Not even a year ago, a couple months back. I just had to go around the city. Whenever I see a spoken word flyer, if I can make it, I definitely show up. There’s even private events that I’ve done, so that’s actually been a lot of fun. I’ve wrote poems specifically for people who wanted something for their partner and their poem performed. So, it’s been fun! It’s been a whirlwind of experiences, so I wasn’t prepared for it for my work. But I definitely want to do more so I can just get more comfortable and confident with it.

Meeka: Now as far as you, Erick, have you done any type of open mics or spoken word pertaining to your memoir? And if so, where have you gone? I know you have been advertising going on a series of radio shows to talk about your work, but I was wondering whether or not you had actually performed it for an audience or read it.

Erick: Actually, when I first got it written- because I finished it in three and a half months back in 2015. It’s been sitting in my phone ever since. I actually read a couple of chapters at- there was a book signing for someone local, I actually read at his- I don’t even think he’s here anymore, he moved to New York City, I believe. And one of the people there was actually impressed with it. And he’s the one who got me into that path of presenting at last year’s Expo, going to find someone to publish it. And that’s why I linked up with Sabrina at Push Publishing and we started to pull it from what it is and just tried to get it together to where it can be released. But as far as presenting it as a finished body of work, no I haven’t yet, but that’s all coming, probably this fall.

Meeka: So, can you talk a little bit about- I know you were talking about TEAMS, but you also wanted to talk about your other book. Could you tell the audience about that one and what the process was? How did you come up with the title and things of that nature?

Erick: Oh, okay. The Boogieman and the Orange Bottle is going to deal with prescription drug dependency, prescription drug abuse, prescription drug use, the pharmaceutical industry, doctors, people who are unwillingly becoming dependent on them, which was my situation. I got the concept from the beginning of this year when I decided to get off of prescription sleeping pills. And it became The Boogieman and the Orange Bottle when I seen the struggle it was and the hold it had on me. All the withdrawal side-effects, the vomiting, the negative thoughts- and when I tell you I’m an upbeat person, the thoughts in my head were just something that a straight-minded me would not have allowed.

Erick: It really was a battle and somewhere on the front page I’m going to put The Boogieman and the Orange Bottle: A Love Story As Told By TEAMS, that’s going to be the actual title. On the back, I’m just going to have simply, “You’ve seen me go through hell, now watch me walk up out of it.” That’s actually going to be the last page of the book, that’s the back of it.

Meeka: So you’re definitely going to print an excerpt for The Boogieman and the Bottle into the book your publishing now, TEAMS?

Erick: Yes.

Meeka: Okay! That’s a dope idea, to tell you the truth. I know that lot of authors are now doing that.

Naionna: Mmhm, like a sneak peek.

Meeka: Yeah, it’s like a sneak peek. A lot of major novels are doing that. I know that Twilight did it. Uh, I forgot what the other one was…

Erick: Goosebumps used to do it, if I’m not mistaken.

Meeka: Who’s this?

Erick: The Goosebumps series? I believe they did it.

Meeka: Yeah, so I feel like that’s a good move. Especially since it gets people anticipated for the novel that you have. It’s going to get people pumped up for your novel and wanting to know about you as an author and writer. So I was wondering, speaking of that, there are many famous authors that say to be a good writer, you also have to read. So who are your literary influences and why?

Erick: Alex Haley, Carter G. Woodson, uh, who’s the one that wrote They Came Before Columbus? That’s the one I’m reading right now. I can’t remember his name, but I’m actually kind of fascinated by him. I read all three of Daymond John’s books, the FUBU founder? And that’s actually what made me start my own company. I read a lot of Build Your Brand books. So, I’ve read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I’ve read the Seven Steps of Highly Successful People, I actually read Nigger by Dick Gregory. And that was fascinating, the fact that until he said he was 14 years old, he thought his first name was “Nigger.”

Meeka: Oh wow…

Erick: Yeah, and that was a great read, I actually enjoyed reading that one. I’m going to read it again sometime this year, I’m going to take it back on my feet. What else did I read recently? I’ve said I’ve read the Miseducation of the Negro, right?

Meeka: I don’t believe you did.

Erick: Okay, yeah, I read the Miseducation of the Negro, I think that’s the last book I read last year by Carter G. Woodson? And I’m actually going to try to buy his series, it’s six books. I like his narrative on how he explains how Blacks have been undereducated in the structure and the way they broke us down, so I want to read that whole series and get more from it.

Meeka: Right, so what about you, Naionna? Who are your literary influences or influences in general and why that is?

Naionna: I would have to say, starting off, I’ve been reading Nikki Giovanni for a long time. I’ve read a lot of her books and one in particular that I continuously read is Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgment. And I’ve also read- you know everybody reads Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and there’s a newer poet Chidozie who wrote a book called What She Feels, he goes by the Poetic Style on Instagram. That’s actually a very popular book, I’ve been reading that one a lot lately. It’s so easy for me to pick up a book and read it in two hours, sometimes even less. I fly through pages drastically. So, currently what I’ve been doing is checking out a lot of Instagram poets and checking out their work. I’ve seen so many dope people get discovered through Instagram Poetry and posting little snips of their poems and I’ve actually been practicing dong that and networking with a lot of others to just put my stuff on blast and share others’ work.

Naionna: I mean, getting familiar with the poetry community outside of Rochester just on social media and that has been my thing lately, just connecting with amazing writers that I wouldn’t have discovered if it wasn’t for Instagram. I’m always going to read Nikki Giovanni, and I’m always going to read Langston Hughes and I’m always going to read people like that. I read a lot of urban books here and there, just random things, whatever. I read things about money management, marketing techniques.

Naionna: I’m a weirdo [laugh] when it comes to my interests. But when it’s based on my book All Hail, when I was trying to get my help, I stood by Nikki Giovanni and that helped me get through and put my work together. I studied some of her formatting and stuff like that and I think she’s my top favorite. [laugh] Yeah between her and Langston Hughes and actually, oh my God, Tupac! Oh my God! Yes, Tupac!

Erick: Tupac for poetry?

Naionna: Yes! So, I read that about four or five times and loved it every single time. It’s just one of those things, I can read novels and I can read a lot of things, but poetry has my heart. I will read poetry books all day from anybody, I don’t care! [laugh]

Meeka: Right, and it’s really interesting that you talk about Instagram because I didn’t know that they had poetry on Instagram. So, I think a lot of people when they talk about discovering artists and things like that, the first thing that pops into my mind is YouTube or Facebook or Tumblr, rather.

Erick: Social media in general [laughs].

Meeka: Yeah, media in general, but Instagram because you don’t have a lot of time to talk. You know, you only get a few seconds to speak, so I was wondering how do you actually go through that process of recording your work on Instagram and how do other people do it?

Naionna: I know a few poets that set cameras and pre-record and edit it down through different apps or a YouTube person will edit it and they’ll just share the link on Instagram in the bios or they can post the video actually if they save it to the phone. Instagram gives you 12 minutes now for videos, so sometimes they can get a minute worth of their poem on their Instagram page. It’s a lot of different apps they’re using currently for that and some are more complicated than others.

Naionna: Me, so far, I haven’t done any video poems that I wanted to share. I haven’t tried my editing skills yet, I’m not the perfect person for that, I may have to pay somebody to do that in the future.  But I have practiced recording Instagram videos just so I can see my progress from now and later on in the future, and that’s really how people are doing it. They’re recording it with their own personal cameras or even on their iPhone or iPads and they’re using these apps to break down and edit them and add whatever they want to it and slideshows. They’ll put them on Instagram and upload them through the apps.

Naionna: Now that they have the slideshow technique, they can do more than one video, or more than one quote for their poem. Right now, I only use Pic Stitch and a lot of photo apps like that to put my quotes and my poems together and I put them on my All Hail VeNus Instagram page to share and people can read them. That has gotten me a lot of exposure, I’ve received a lot of emails and stuff like that from people who actually read my work, and it’s fun when you get people with fresh eyes, other poets from across the world to look at your work and comment on it and give you feedback and whatever!

Naionna: It’s a great experience. I’m not comfortable completely in front of the camera to put myself completely out there like that when I record, but me putting in quotes and stuff like that on Pic Stitch, that’s what I’m doing right now and it’s working for me, so I think I’ll continue with that.

Meeka: That’s cool, because I feel like I’ve said before, I’ve never heard of that at all. I’ve heard of people putting their music on their and using other forms of media, but all the apps your talking about as far as Pic Stitch and stuff, I’ve never heard of that and it’s very fascinating!  To tell you the truth, I’m also very weird around the camera when it comes to me speaking. I don’t know if this is a problem for you or if this is true for you, but I know that when I’m reading on stage I’m perfectly fine.

Naionna: Yes!

Meeka: But when I’m on video, I don’t have an audience to interact with so I get nervous as far as stuttering, is that the same for you?

Erick: Oh, I-

Naionna: I stutter a lot! [laughs] No you’re fine! I was just thinking because when you said that I was thinking- you took me to a flashback like oh my God! Yes, on stage it’s like whatever you’re natural and everything is closed, but then when you get in front of the camera it’s like this is going to be recorded! They can watch this and play this back a thousand times if they want to, and I think the nerves settle in and you start overthinking what’s you’re doing in front of the camera.

Naionna: Your mind goes way left and you’re like “Okay, bring it back, bring it together.” And then when you rewatch yourself there’s little things like “Oh, I don’t like what I did and I don’t like what I said here and I don’t like my voice.” And the comfort level decreases and I’m like I don’t even know if I want to share this video anymore! [Laughs]

Erick: I know for me, at least, I can talk in front of 100,000 people and it won’t bother me. It’s the small crowds, the ones that can talk back and I can hear them and know who’s talking to me? That’s like I’m on TV And I’m being recorded and I don’t know what to do with my hands.

Naionna: [Laughs] I hear that a lot!

Erick: I’m serious, it’s like I’ll put them in front of me, but sometimes during the interview they’ll start rising, and I won’t do it, it’ll just do it on its own! And I’ve learned, now that I’ve been on TV twice doing work for the Expo, I put them under the desk and that’s working. I know for previous times on TV or interviews on shows and stuff, I actually interviewed with a TV station about a year and a half ago and on camera, my hands just started rising.

Naionna: So, is it like your hands rise or you’re just talking with your hands?

Erick: No, I really don’t know what to do with them! So, I just learned to keep them under the desk so they don’t go anywhere.

Naionna: [Laughs] Oh, okay!

Meeka: It’s really weird- it’s not weird at all, I also talk with my hands. In fact, I find myself being more comfortable if I’m animated when I’m talking because if not, I feel out of sorts, you know what I mean? And I’m the type of person that can’t stand still or stay still at all. So, when I’m not moving my hands or moving some part of my body, I feel very stifled. You know, like something’s wrong. I feel like if that’s what you like to do and that’s part of who you are as far as speaking with your hands and stuff, by all means do that!

Meeka: Especially- we were at the Expo meeting, what was it last night? And they talked about if that’s part of your personality and that’s part of what you’re doing as a writer if you speak with your hands- and the folks who were saying this, they were actually talking about your overall image. Yes, that’s what it is, your overall image. Everything from the table to your own body. So if that’s something you want to do and that’s part of who you are as a writer and who you are as a person, by all means go ahead and do that. Don’t sit on your hands or anything unless you’re talking about slapping somebody or something, you know what I mean?

Erick: Right.

Meeka: It’s really fascinating how when it comes to video, it’s something completely different because we’re looking at ourselves. We’re looking at ourselves and we’re very self-conscious and we’re our own worst critic. So, other people looking at us is completely different, especially if we’re in our element and performing, so I find that to be very fascinating.

Naionna: Yeah, definitely, definitely.

Meeka: So, it is 7:30, 30 minutes past the hour, so it’s time for our music break. Here’s Cynical Plans by the Passion Hifi.

[Music break from the Passion Hifi, a group that produces hip-hop beats and instrumentals]

Meeka: And we’re back! You’re listening to Black Girl With Glasses on SoundCloud. I’m here with author Naionna Laurice, Erick Myrthil had to step out. So now that we talked about your writing career, your influences, let’s change the subject to speak on and talk about the Rochester Black Authors Expo, which is on May 6, which is coming up in about 3 days I believe. So how did you prepare for the event?

Naionna: [Sigh] It took a lot. I actually just went and got some shirts made, some business cards made, some bookmarks made, a couple of things just to have on my table to support the book and the brand. My logo says All Hail VeNus, so I wanted to make sure that I had those things bookmarked on the things on my table so it would reflect everything that has to do with All Hail, my poetry book, so just a couple of things like that. I got the t-shirts done earlier this week, I actually just picked up my bookmarks and my business cards today, those came out really really well, so I am happy about that.

Naionna: I’m still waiting on my books, so it makes me a little bit nervous, but if my books are there I’ll be happy. If they’re here on time, I’ll be happy! That’s really been my main focus, it just depends on printing and everything, but I will say I probably could have done things a little bit sooner, but it’s a lot. But I’m working on it, I’m getting prepared, I’m excited, I’m promoting, I’m tagging, whatever I can do to get the word out.

Meeka: So I was wondering, because that’s a lot of material that you have for your table. So in general, how long did it take you to prepare for that and how much did it cost you overall?

Naionna: The t-shirts really were the easiest thing to do I bought the t-shirts from Joanne Fabrics and I went ahead and took them right to the guy who was going to put my logo on them. The logo was made a year prior, so that wasn’t something that I had to worry about, I just had to worry about getting them on the t-shirts. I used Microsoft Word and I used someone that is really great with logo designing to help with the business cards and printing them out right at Staples. Depending on how much the t-shirts and how much you sell them for, it depends on each person, but I sell me t-shirts for $20. So, averaging, it cost me about 13 bucks just to get the shirts printed and the costs of the shirts in total, so I make a little profit. Then the cost for the bookmarks and business cards was a little pricey.

Naionna: I spent altogether a little over 200 bucks for both, and for books I spent a little over $400. So, I mean it is pricey, doing it all at one time was a little overwhelming. But trying to spread it out, like doing things maybe a couple months ahead of time or say, “I’m going to get these done, get my bookmarks done earlier.”  It wouldn’t have been such a hassle, but I felt that I was more pressured by rushing to get it all done by balancing this by getting prepared for the Black Author Expo and dealing with daily life. So, it was tough, I Can say that, but I’m still working on it!

Meeka: So how did you even find out about the Expo?

Naionna: I met Corey Lanksky through Facebook actually. Someone tagged me in his post asking if anybody wanted to be represented at the Black Author Expo. And I was kind of nervous starting off, I didn’t have my books printed yet, I was still going through final touches with the book, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to put myself out on such a serious platform with my first book. And since it’s going to be everybody’s first time reading the book, purchasing the book and everything, I am a little nervous.

Naionna: But I met up with him, he gave me some really great advice about marketing and promotion and just getting the inside on what the Black Author Expo was about. I got so, so excited just to see where he came from, his story, his book, and just hearing about some of the other great authors, I felt like it was a great opportunity to branch out to, to learn something, to network with other people. So, I just took a chance on it, and I don’t regret it. You know, I’m excited to take new steps and new ventures and I’m just all for it at this point.

Meeka: So, in the first part of the interview you were talking about how you were on Instagram and connecting with other poets and things of that nature. So, you have a little bit of experience but, if I’m not mistaken, this is your first Expo. So, has it sunken in that you as a local poet and author will be sharing your work with the general public at an Expo?

Naionna: I think it sinks in when the book is in my hand. When I did the first write up, I was like “Oh I wrote a book, so when I get the print and I see it all come together it’s going to be like: Oh crap! I actually have to sell these things!” So, that’s like- I’m waiting for that moment. Now I’m just praying and hoping that everything works out, that I love the outcome, that I love the edit, that I love everything, and it’s my first time releasing in print, so I’m just a little bit of nerves.

Naionna: It’s hit home that I actually wrote the book and that I actually came up with this vision and it came to life. And I thought that, “Oh well even if you’re not 100% prepared for the Expo, you did this, be proud of yourself. And Still you could share these books with people, there’s next year, whatever.” But, you know I’m happy. I’m just a little nervous, if anything.

Meeka: So, outside of the Expo, what steps are you taking to promote your brand?

Naionna: I actually just started meeting up with a videographer to do small clips and stuff for my website to help promote the book, whether their video skits and all. I’ve mentioned before that I wasn’t 100% comfortable with my voice, so I’m just branching out and I’ve been a little bit of spoken word wherever I can: Cafes and events, whatever I can get into if I have the time off. I’ll go and do some spoken word poetry.  I also use social media to make Pic Stitch my poems together, I use hashtags and whatever.

Naionna: I forgot to mention that hashtags have been my key factor into getting people to notice my poetry and I didn’t really know about that until someone had to tell me. Like, “You know you got to hashtag whatever it is you’re promoting and use as many as you can.” I think you get up to 30 hashtags per caption. It draws people who look up those hashtags in to see your work even if they’re not your friend. So that has helped me gain a lot of attention through my work using Instagram and hashtags and those Pic Stitch quotes for my poetry, that has helped me a lot. And I also have my website All Hail VeNus, which I’m supposed to be updating really soon and I’ll have a little blog on there, hopefully, that I’ll be starting.

Naionna: So, it’s a few things that I’m working on, but promo and consistency have got to be key if you’re going to be doing anything, especially if comes to writing a book, you know you’ve got to be persistent and believe in yourself, that’s what I’m trying to do. Try to stay motivated, try to stay positive and get the work done.

Meeka: That’s a lot. It looks like you’re doing a lot and you’re working a 9-5 as well. This may seem like a weird question, but what do you do to practice self-care? The reason why I ask is because, as a creative, you’re putting a lot of yourself out there, you’re putting all of yourself out there into your work. Sometimes it does take a toll on your spirit when you’re not taking care of yourself and it can be draining. So, what do you do to take care of yourself?

Naionna: It definitely is a draining process. I have to get myself balance and I have to get myself a schedule and deadlines. I have to write these things down and say, “Okay, this is something that I want to do.” And, you know, set up a deadline or a time frame of when I can get it done. You know, sometimes with my work schedule, things are not likely to happen always when I want them to, so writing it down and getting a clear vision of it so I know how to make certain decisions financially, you know making a video or putting out a poem may be cheaper than other things so I take my time. But when I’m not exactly working on my book or my poetry, just spending a day at home, winding down, clearing my head, turning off my phone and things I have to do in order to keep my brain from being overwhelmed.

Naionna: Sometimes just a small trip, sometimes you need to get away for a few days or whatever. But some things like that, just taking time for myself to mentally shut myself out from everything else in my life. Maybe a day, just to bring at all back together so I can refocus the day after kind of helps. So, when I take time away from work and time away from family just to focus on relaxing for me, even a bubble bath, that keeps me grounded.

Naionna: And that list, getting some structure on what it is I want to do and how I’m going to go about it, creating a plan and sticking to that plan has helped me a lot. It’s when I divert or go off or slack off is when things spiral out of control. So as long as I balance out my job and take time for myself, I also keep that plan and place, I’m pretty well grounded. It doesn’t always happen as smooth as I’d like it to, but some days are better than others and I think that’s with anybody.

Meeka: So I was wondering if you could read a couple of your poems.

Naionna: Sure, sure! I can, actually I can do a poem or two. So, I’ll go ahead and do my favorite poem that I wrote on my way to work- I typed this up on my phone. This is just something that I wanted to use that I felt like a lot of women could relate to. It was very personal, very touchy to me, so I wrote this particularly for women like myself.

[Naionna reads an excerpt from her book, AllHail.]

Naionna: I loved today like I didn’t love yesterday

I loved today like I’ve never loved before

I loved with morals

I loved with strength

With discipline

I did not hesitate

Or argue

I didn’t send a text for reassurance or approval from girl friends with just as much eternal damage as me, if not more

I fucking loved!

I don’t know if it was the continuous failed sexlationships, fake turned relationships

That made me come to realization

Realizing what I needed and no longer needed

No longer needing to waste my time.

Feel…

Relieved…

Renewed…

Fresh as a curious virgin…

Even though we know that’s furthest from the truth….

Any-who!

I’m tryna tell ya’ll I loved

I woke up with a new attitude!

New hair do !

Cotton panties with the bra to match too…

you know how you do,

When it feels so right

Life!

So looking just as good as you feeling

Down to the undies

Made a difference in your day

I screamed with happiness !

I glowed with confidence !

All because I finally figured out how to love

Accepting flaws and all,

Perfecting my imperfections,

Using my brain before my body,

I loved

Myself.

 

Meeka: I love that. That’s a really good poem! It just like… When I hear it, it’s as if I feel like you exude confidence and you finally realized that it’s okay to love yourself and you love everything from your undergarments-

 

Naionna: [laughs]

 

Meeka: To your entire spirit. And so I think a lot of Black women need to hear that type of message because we are always told that we are not good enough. You are not enough if you’re a woman with dark skin. You’re not only not good enough, you’re not pretty enough either. You’re just not enough. So that type of poem, your poem, will resonate with a lot of women, especially if they’re anting to experience self-esteem.

 

Naionna: And I feel like I’m not the only person that sometimes nitpicks things about themselves. And I know we have close friends and family that may suffer from depression and sometimes are insecure. I’ve been through it time and time again, so I wrote this also like a healing, as a breakthrough from everything you’ve ever brought about yourself. I wanted people to look at themselves in a completely different light. And say, you know, “I may be this, I may be that, I may be dark, I may have pimples on my face,” or whatever.

 

Naionna: But just to love yourself and accept who you are no matter what it is about you, it’s got to resonate some kind of power inside. I felt like at that moment, I was like, “Oh pull over! You realize it, you get it now! Pull over and write this down. And I had no idea that the poem was going to be so in depth and so emotional. I had to tell myself every time, “When you read it, don’t get worked up! Don’t bring yourself back to that place.” But it is a very personal poem and it is very relatable, so I was like, “I got to share this one.” [Laughs] Yeah but I have a few that are, you know, not always as emotional. Some are a little crazy.

 

Meeka: Do you have a crazy one?

 

Naionna: Yeah, I think I have something that I- I have a few poems. Some are sexual and depending on the audience, I don’t always go there. But I do have a few. Ill actually do two more, I’ll do a smaller one and then I’ll do another one. This one actually is kind of… It has a lot of metaphors, but it’s a really short poem. And I actually wrote this one a year and a half ago. It goes like this:

 

[Naionna reads another excerpt from her poetry book]

 

Can I stroke your ego for a moment?

Feeding you compliments as if supplements of love and promises were on a spoon..

I cum…..

Closer to you

Wrapping my emotions around your neck Choking you with my excitement

Letting my words flow to your heart.

You swallowed thoughts of our future together

Ingesting the stimulation of our conversation

I could tell you were hungry for the shit I was professing…

Engrossed in my refreshments

To be Mind Fucked by the BEST

You now gain relevance…

 

Naionna: Now I have different, I don’t know, moods. I feel like they’re never going to flow one way or another. You never going to read the book and it’s going to be one tone, I’m always going to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions and I wanted the book to represent that because no woman is going to be one way all of the time. We switch it up, we are emotional creatures, so I wanted the book to represent every kind of emotion and just go in for the gutter. Some of it is more deep, some of it is more subtle, some of it you just got to read again. So you just- no, no, no. So yeah, I’ll do just one more. I’ll do one more. I think I might have shared this one before. Okay, here we go.

[Naionna reads another excerpt from her poetry book, AllHail]

The streetlight cascading over ya brown sugah cinnamon swirl,

sweeter than I thought you’d be.

Relaxed, deep breaths satisfy the cool side of my pillow

Tenderness soaks my sheets

Delightfully enough to devour ..

If only for an hour

I wouldn’t mind another taste…

Deja’ Vu gets me..

I’ve been here before

With caramel mochas and vanilla chai’s

A few decadent treats to satisfy my high..

Undoubtedly no one could handle my honey pie

So I’d clean up the mess

Left between my thighs

And gon’ about my way ..

Cuz time nor man could replace

The imprint you left on me.

Nor impact my womb and build more to me.

Time heals all wounds

But that baby wasn’t born to be

Beautiful like her mother,

Cuz her father ran away with the fantasies of a family.

And all I was left with was the memories..

The candle light burning daggers thru me..

Heating up the past, as I throw back this Hennessy..

I wish I was built for this

Love lasts, and forever shit ..

But with love I came last …

and a future with you wasn’t present tense..

 

Meeka: Oh, wow…

Naionna: And that’s a tough one, sometimes, to read out loud. Because that’s a true story. It’s so hard, like you lay down with someone and you get an emotional connection with them and you hope for that future and you hope for that family. Sometimes, you know, that whole vision can get snatched from you in the blink of a moment and it takes a lot to grow out of that pain. So, when I wrote this, this is actually really personal. This is something that I had gone through and there are so many women who have gone through similar situations.

Naionna: And one lady came to me and wrote me on Facebook I think the day after my release party in February. She was like, “That poem you did? It really touched me.” And I was like, “Okay,” you know. She was like, “A lot of people don’t know, but I went through and suffered a miscarriage that same week.” And she came out to that release party not knowing what I was going to speak about and I wrote that poem, and it touched her. It’s stuff like that that makes you want to keep writing and putting yourself out there because you never know who it’s going to hit home to or who it’s going to reflect on. And the fact that she loved that poem and she went home and it was on her mind, and she reached out to me on Facebook, I was like, “Oh my God, I got a mission, yo!”

Naionna: I’m like, I can’t believe that somebody actually took what I said and it touched them in that way where they had to reach back out. They had to let me know and I don’t get feedback like that all the time, so when it happens I’m really excited. You know, when you start hearing feedback from your work and people like and people love and want to hear more of it, it motivates you. And she motivated me a lot after that conversation. I just- I wrote like three or four poems after we got off the phone.

Meeka: Wow! So, thank you so much for reading those, those are very beautiful poems and they are very real. I love the realism in those because you come from a very personal place and a lot of people resonate with that and that’s good poetry. That’s good writing in general.

Naionna: Oh, thank you!

Meeka: Yeah to me. Because when people resonate with what you’re saying and see themselves in your words? To me, that is good poetry. So, you’re awesome!

Naionna: Oh, thank you. It took time, I mean writing 6 or 7 years and not sharing any of it and putting myself out there in 2 years, it took a lot. I’m gaining my confidence slowly, I feel like overtime, you get more confident and it’ll show and people will see it in your work, but to hear that you enjoyed it makes me feel a lot better about putting the book out there! [laugh] Putting it out there and getting prepared for this Black Author Expo, I’m nervous, but I’m pumped, excited, so let’s go!

Meeka: So, I have one more question and then we are done for tonight, but what words of wisdom do you have for aspiring authors and poets?

Naionna: For aspiring authors and poets, for people who write, period… First, know what you want to write about. Know who your target audience is. Whatever your passion is, I say figure out what your passion is and then put it on paper. A lot of times, people try to make their writing similar to someone else’s. They’re too focused on what everybody else is doing that they’re not comfortable with what they’re putting down on paper.  So one, figure out what your passion is and put your all into it and have someone go back in and redo your work.

Naionna: You know, read it over a couple of times, have them read it aloud to you, so then you can see how they might hear it versus how you might hear it. And that helps a lot, especially when it comes to editing and putting books out there or performing your poetry. You definitely want to try to put your work out there and let someone else hear it beforehand. It may seem all good to you and you know your work, you know how you want it to sound. So, when you’re reading it to yourself, everything is flowing, but then you might read it out to someone else, they may miss something or maybe may not understand it.

Naionna: So, know your passion, know your writing, and have someone look at it, have someone read it, and just be dedicated to it. If you have a good time writing and you feel like you got a niche, definitely stick to it because when you write something down and throw it away, you never know who it could touch or who it could reach out to. So, I would definitely say if you’re passionate about it, keep going for it. Even if it’s just a little blog or Facebook post, write! Put it out there, I mean you never know.

Naionna: I did it, I took a chance, and I’m excited and I don’t regret any of it, especially the process. It’s learning experience, I’ve enjoyed it and the fact that I self-published on my own, that says a lot, especially to me. So, I would just let anybody know if you’re worried about writing and it’s something you want to do, it’s not hard, it’s not something that takes brain surgery to figure out, you got it! So, stay passionate, stay persistent and write! Write! Never stop writing.

Meeka: Well, on that note, that’s all the time we have. Thank you, Erick and Naionna, for joining me tonight.  You can follow both of them on Facebook if you want to know more about them and their work.  You can also meet them at the 3rd Annual Rochester Black Author Expo on May 6th at the Wilson Foundation Academy located at 200 Genesee Street.  It’s from 11 am to 5 pm, family friendly, and free to the public. And lastly, follow Black Girl with Glasses here on SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress.  The deaf and hard of hearing can read the   by clicking on the WordPress link in the description. Until next time—love, peace and fake chicken grease!

Naionna: Thank you!

[Music Outro]

 

 

 

 

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!

16178963_242287372880848_4319147297228263194_o
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]

 

 

 

 

 

Change of Plans: Introducing The Black Girl with Glasses Podcast on SoundCloud

Hey all,

After much thought, I’ve decided not to write any more articles.  Due to my work schedule and other projects going on, I find that I do not have the time to write opinion pieces.  I also found that I don’t really enjoy doing it, either.  However, I DO love interviewing Black activists who are doing the most to empower their individual communities.  So I’ve created the Black Girl with Glasses podcast on SoundCloud!

Besides the series being less time consuming, I get to connect with Black folks throughout the country to discuss various topics pertaining to us!  The episodes are posted every first and third Sunday of each month.  So far, there are three episodes posted and there are more in the works.  I’ll post them (and other episodes) on this here blog site just to keep it active.  I’ll also be posting the transcripts with the episodes as well so the deaf and hard of hearing can enjoy them the BGwG podcast as well.

Thanks so much for your support!  I hope you enjoy the series.

Love, peace, and fake chicken grease,

Meeka

Beyond the Sunken Place: Get Out and the Realities Regarding the Black Body

 

 

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Chris Washington (played by Daniel Kaluuya) in the Sunken Place

 

When I heard about Jordon Peele’s Get Out in 2016, I seriously thought it was a satire.

It was natural for me to go there, considering that Peele is known for his comedy work on shows like Mad TV and the hit television series Key and Peele.  But then I begin seeing the think pieces about the film funnel through my News Feed, thought-provoking commentary dissecting every moment, character, and the symbolism interwoven throughout the storyline.  On top of being hailed as a cinematic masterpiece, Get Out seemed to have the majority of my squad shook. Its authentic illustration of Black life exacerbates a deep-seeded resentment many of us have towards White Liberalism and the colorblindness that it accompanies.

But when I finally see Get Out, I am not only shaken, but triggered by the manipulation and trauma the Armitage clan inflict upon Chris Washington (played by Daniel Kaluuya).   For nearly a week, my mind ruminates on the film’s symbolism regarding slavery and the treatment of Black people.  But I especially pay attention to how the bodies of the Black characters are treated and utilized by the White people in this unidentified neighborhood. Human trafficking, organ harvesting, and even the sexualization of the Black body is evident throughout the entire film.  In fact, I notice that:

  • Black bodies are categorized as superhuman.

Throughout the entire film, the bodies of the Black folks are characterized as superhuman.  For instance, Rose’s father Dean and brother Jeremy comment on Chris’s physical strength by not only asking about his supposed involvement in sports, but refer to him as a beast.  Jeremy actually challenges the main character to a wrestling match during dinner before attempting to place him in a head lock.  At the family’s annual gathering, the White attendees touch Chris without his consent while asking invasive questions regarding his physical state.

This behavior towards Chris is reflective of the reality Black men and women have experienced historically.  Black men and women—particularly dark-skinned ones—have been described as subhuman, animalistic, violent, uneducated, unattractive.  At the same time, their bodies are deemed physically superior to that of Whites to the point of possessing a high pain tolerance and supernatural strength.   Perhaps this is sole reason why, during the Slave era, Black Africans are considered suitable for chattel slavery by White plantation owners due to the belief that they could withstand the back-breaking labor. Even in the 21st Century, the body of Black men and women are utilized to generate profit for White capitalists. Whether it be through the sports industry or human services profession, the bodies of Black people are deemed stronger than that of White folks (“hired help” Walter and Georgina are prime examples of this).  Perhaps this is why Rose and her family target people with a darker complexion.

  • The sexualization/fetishization of Black bodies.

More than once, the bodies of the Black characters are sexualized and fetishized in some manner. Towards of the end of Get Out, viewers discover that Rose Armitage use sex and the idea of intimacy to lure her victims to her parents’ home.  As mentioned previously, Chris is inundated with inappropriate questions about his body and strength as complete strangers touch him without consent.  In one scene, an older White woman squeezes and caresses his bicep while asking him “Is it true what they say about Black men?”  She was obviously referring to his size of his genitals, insinuating that he’s “big,” so to speak.

In the real world, they not only perpetuate the stereotype that all Black men have big dicks, but that is this the main reason why many White women would even consider being intimate with them.  I don’t have enough limbs to count the many memes and comments made about that particular physical attribute on Black men—as if their worth is tucked inside their pants. This ideology is nothing new as Black men are categorized as animalistic—one of many stereotypes introduced through scientific racism. The unfortunate part is that many Black men internalized those messages about their bodies over time. At one point, Chris jokes with Rose about being regarded as a beast by her father—referring to being pleasurable in bed.

Logan King (formally known as Andre Hayworth), the young Black man who is abducted during the opening scene of Get Out, is another example of the sexualization of the Black male body.  He appears as a guest of an older White woman whose behavior towards him suggests that she is utilizing him as a sex slave.  Rod Williams, Chris’s best friend and comic relief, mentions the possibility a few times to Chris while warning him of imminent danger. The suspicion regarding Logan is nowhere near surprising:  Human trafficking of Black people—women especially—has often been a problem in the United States and internationally.  Many are either taken from their homes or leave voluntarily in hopes of obtaining better opportunities.  Unfortunately, these folks are often forced into sex, domestic, or other variations of labor.

Speaking of bodies, those belonging of Black women are often fetishized/sexualized by many White men as their perceptions of us are also skewed.  Sex with a Black woman (a dark-skinned woman especially) is considered exotic and erotic, a phenomenon that is deemed impious, yet intriguing as if our vaginas are somehow dissimilar to that of White women.  This type of mentality is steeped in the racism and colorism that tends to go unchecked even among our own people.

  • The mistreatment of the Black body/mind among many medical and mental health professionals.

Get Out highlights how the mental health and medical profession either disregards the emotional wellbeing of Black people or utilize parts of our bodies for profit.  Though there is an increasing number of us seeking professional help, there are still many of us who refuse to deal with therapists and medical doctors.  The distrust from the Black community is extremely real and stems from a history of nonconsensual medical experimentations on impoverished Black people.

In the case of Get Out, organ harvesting is the purpose behind the Armitage family’s annual gathering. Jeremy and Dean remove certain organs of Black bodies to either implant them into White bodies or steal the Black body to insert into it the brain of an Armitage family member. This again reflects reality as Black people are often abducted and murdered for organs that are then sold through the black market.  In 2014, for instance, the body of 24-year-old Ryan Singleton was found in a California desert with his organs removed.  The death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson is hauntingly similar—his demise gruesome.  Many of these cases involving organ harvesting become cold cases that receive minimal media coverage. The entire concept of people being kidnapped and murdered for their organs is dismissed as a conspiracy theory concocted by hoteps.  However, the stories of Black bodies being violated by medical facilities is historical fact (i.e. The Tuskegee experiment, Henrietta Lacks, the creation of gynecology).  So it would not be surprising if these so-called conspiracy theories are revealed to be true.

In regards to the mental health profession, there are various reasons why the majority of Black folks decline assistance from those in the field.  Besides the stigma associated with a having a diagnosis, there is the fear of disclosing their deepest fears to a complete stranger—especially if that person is White.  Missy is a psychiatrist who uses her skill as a hypnotist to control Chris, Georgina, Walter, and Logan, robbing all four of them of their emotional/physical autonomy and ability to consent. Though Chris denies her services initially (I’m assuming it’s because he does not trust this White women with whom he has no connection), she deceives him anyway by hypnotizing him under the guise of wanting to converse with him.  Just based on his reaction to what is called the Sunken Place, however, the main character rarely discloses his deepest trauma.  Many of us do not in real life, in fear of having those same devastating experiences used to emotionally and mentally control us. Chris’s trauma is utilized as a weapon against him, his body paralyzed and controlled whenever Missy taps her spoon against a tea cup.

Yet there is the difference between Chris and the other Black characters trapped by the Armitages. While Georgina, Logan, and Walter represent the ones who remain controlled by White supremacy, Chris represents every Black person who resists it and regains regaining his physical autonomy.  Chris speaks up and is in-tuned to the racism surrounding him, taking note of the strangeness of the people.  And though bamboozled to a certain extent, he eventually regains control of his own body and mind, thus reclaiming his overall freedom.

 

 

What Black Lives Matter Means:  Rochester’s Black Lives Matter at School and The Importance of Education

blm-at-school
Courtesy of WHEC Rochester

 

 

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.
—George Washington Carver

 

On February 17, 2017, history unfolded in schools throughout the Rochester City School District when students were introduced to Black Lives Matter at School, an educational initiative dedicated to generating discussions about Black lives.

BLM at School was the social justice brainchild of parent/activist Mahreen Mustafa George, local organizer Afro-Latinx Queen, Rochester city activists, and teachers.  “I got involved after our varsity boys’ soccer team took a knee during the playing of the national anthem during one of their games,” explained George, whose children are RCSD students. “A few weeks later, schools and educators in Seattle Public schools took steps to affirm and understand that Black Lives Matter and they garnered national news coverage. Myself and the other founding members talked about this action and it led to us saying that we needed to sit down together and see if we could do something similar here in the RCSD, given that our community was already taking part in actions supporting racial justice.”

“BLM at School,” stated Afro Latinx Queen, “is about having the opportunity to have difficult conversations in the classroom and guiding the dialogue for it to be more productive and not traumatizing for either party and learning about restorative practice.”

The organizers reached out to schools such as World of Inquiry School to introduce BLM at School into the classrooms.  Teachers, parents, community members, and even former students participated in this initiative, using peace circles to connect with pupils about a wide range of topics pertaining to Black empowerment. Those involved also had the opportunity to discuss oppression, how it affects people of color, and solutions to eradicate it.   In the Black Lives Matter at School Facebook group, participants proudly uploaded footage of students actively listening, engaging with one another and the volunteers while discussing the politics affecting Black people regularly.

The BLM at School committee studied various resources and curriculums, including the BLM at School Week in Philadelphia.  In early 2017, many teachers in the city’s schools incorporated activities into their lessons throughout the week, introducing everything from “science lessons about the biology of skin color for high schoolers” to “The Revolution Is Always Now” coloring pages for very young students.”  Unlike the initiative here in Rochester, the one in Philly was neither sponsored by the school district.  However, it opened the door for a much-needed discussion about the importance of Black liberation.

As groundbreaking (and well meaning) as BLM at School is, it was also considered controversial.  Like any incentive focused on social justice, BLM at School experienced some resistance from some educators, administrators, and even the members of the Rochester community.  Many White parents expressed their concerns or overall distain about BLM at School, arguing that 1) it was associated with the national movement and 2) that the event itself would promote violence—particularly against law enforcement.  It was furthermore considered divisive by alienating White people, who proposed an “All Lives Matter at School” Day.

And while a cluster of city schools openly embraced BLM at School, there were some who did not.  In fact, one school was so resistant to the activity that threatened the educational future of its students.  Brenda Pacheco, principal of Rochester’s School of the Arts, issued a statement threatening to suspend students who participated in a planned walk-out.  When the notification reached social media, members of the community inundated the school’s administration with emails, phone calls, and resistance.  Meanwhile, SOTA students exercised their right to peacefully protest by walking out minutes before dismissal, chanting alongside supportive community organizers.

As I watch the protest live on social media, I realized that the crux of the Black Lives Matter at School was to emphasize the importance of education.  The majority of schools in the United States do not properly teach the history of Black people or non-Black people of color.  In fact, students will more likely read some skewed version of how Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation.  Black students are rarely exposed to their own history, identity, and culture in the classroom, this exclusion of information deliberate on the part of the administration.

And the authority figures in urban school further play a significant role in how Black children view themselves.  It is no coincidence that most of the educators in city schools are White and uneducated about the systematic oppression inflicted upon the Black students they teach.  Many of these students reside in impoverished neighborhoods and live in unhealthy environments, not learning the coping skills necessary to overcome adversity—let alone their own history.  While struggling with adversity in their immediate environment, these students enter the classroom to consume information about people dissimilar to them.

Contributing to the disconnect is that these White educators often dismiss the intellect of their Black students.  White educators who do so compare these children to that of their White counterparts—possibly due to scientific racism.  Conversely, studies have shown that Black students benefit from engaging with Black teachers because the latter understands them and will more likely recognize their potential.

“A lot of our children of color are misunderstood,” explained Afro Latinx Queen, “mostly due to staff not knowing how to deal with our kids because they are uneducated about trauma within our communities. Instead they turn to feelings such as intimidation or fear.”

This is why I firmly believe that personal/political and even spiritual empowerment is the crux of systematic change.  When members of a disenfranchised group acknowledge their worth, they will employ every source within themselves to resist anyone, anything that states otherwise.  The SOTA students were educated enough to acknowledge the bullshit Pacheco tried to pull on them.  By studying on their own, researching Black Lives Matter and the incident that spearheaded the movement to begin with—on top of internalizing their own significance, they practiced their right to state that they mattered by engaging in civil disobedience.  But most importantly, these students also need supporters in the community to validate their efforts in regards to achieving empowerment.  It is paramount for educators, community members, parents, and even former students to collaborate with one another to ensure that BLM at School continues to thrive in the RCSD.

Black Lives Matter at School, to me, is an initiative that was a long time coming.  Black children need to know the accomplishments of their elders and contemporaries.  Because if our children knew their history, they will then become educated.  They would then inquire about the structure of their surroundings and who truly benefits.  And, once realizing the truth, the pupils become empowered to the point of wanting to challenge the various industrial complexes that oppress them.

The Revolution Will Be Revolutionized

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, it’s quite evident that the world is going to Hell in huge plastic totes.

Political disasters are bombarding people simultaneously: the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the appointment of Betsy DeVos, the defunding of more than seventeen federal programs that greatly benefit the working class, and most recently the immigration ban that prevents even documented immigrants and refugees from returning to the United States for 90 days. While anti-Trump protestors target the newly appointed president, it is later revealed that Chief Strategist/Ex-Nazi Promoter Steven Bannon is the co-author of these executive orders.

The Left responds in drones, protesting major airlines while taxis driven by immigrants refuse to provide services in solidarity.  Most of us crowded the streets with signs, posted articles on our blogs and updates on our statuses.  When Uber CEO Travis Kalanick becomes a member of Trump’s Advisory Council, the response is a boycott that costs the transportation company millions, making Kalanick drop out of the council.  The resistance is powerful, beautiful to witness and—in some cases—be a part of.

Yet while reading updates about the immigration ban resistance on my computer screen, I’ve become increasingly numb and irritable, mentally and emotionally shutting down when scrolling down my newsfeed.  Eventually, I’d exit out of my browser, feeling psychologically jarred by statues about the Islamophobic executive orders Trump placed into motion with a stroke of a pen. I’ve since reduced my Facebook usage by only using it to either schedule social outings, post a few articles, or to write a status.

Another reason is the infighting among Leftists in all factions. The debates between and vague statuses about radicals, liberals, Democrats, Anarchists, and Socialists have become increasingly acidic.  Though I blame this behavior on Call-out culture and intellectual elitism, I also believe that elevating uncertainties for the world’s future triggers the recent disputes.  The intensity of the drama unfolding on my Facebook feed has affected my writing to a certain extent.  I was a day away from completing an article about the Liberal/Radical divide, but had difficulty even looking at it.

It has taken me distancing myself from social media to realize the reason behind my reaction:  we Leftists remain discordant towards one another, the distrust elevating to near-critical levels. Many of us can’t even have a political discussion on social media (or in person) without it resorting to a battle of wills. And this petty shit needs to cease effective immediately—especially if we are to revolutionize this world.

Because let’s be real:  To obtain political power, we must realize that none of us has the Ultimate Answer to dismantle this system.  This requires all Leftists to thoroughly evaluate, question, and challenge their assumptions and ideologies about one another.  Are all Democrats or Liberals unwilling to distance themselves from their privilege?  Are most of them White people who only chant “Black Lives Matter” to earn ally points?  Is it accurate for Leftists who believe in the system to brand Anarchists or other radicals as violent towards entire establishments?  In fact, from where did these stereotypes derive and what purpose do they serve other than to cause unnecessary division?

The mainstream and some independent media outlets play a role publicizing the detrimental assumptions about Leftists.  They observe the actions of certain factions, magnify it, and report on the dramatic moments exclusively.  We verify these generalizations by using some of our personal interactions with one another as evidence.  This is the reason why radical groups like the Black Bloc are considered destructive while Liberals and Democrats are deemed spineless.  When focusing on differences, we Leftists fail to establish the trust necessary to collaborate on innovative tactics to resist oppressive industrial complexes.

Forming trust among each other also involves inner reflection and the ability to accept constructive criticism.  I remember the backlash people of color and/or transwomen received after critiquing the National Women’s March. The former rightfully argue that the nationwide campaign have excluded them by adhering to White cis-female feminism.  Instead of hearing them out, many of the participants (mostly White women) accuse these marginalized demographics of divisiveness—a tactic often used to silence.  Even here in Rochester, organizers of the Solidarity March have come under scrutiny when one of them gave a shout out to the city’s police department. Some of the commentators (White folks) defend this status, stating that the cops have provided services worth noting.

Journalist Jake Fuentes writes “stop believing that protests alone do much good. Protests galvanize groups and display strong opposition, but they’re not sufficient. Not only are they relatively ineffective at changing policy, they’re also falsely cathartic to those protesting. Protesters get all kinds of feel-good that they’re among fellow believers and standing up for what’s right, and they go home feeling like they’ve done their part. Even if protesters gain mild, symbolic concessions, the fact that their anger has an outlet is useful to the other side. Do protest, but be very wary of going home feeling like you’ve done your job. You haven’t.”

Though he is referring to those protesting the immigration ban, his statement is very fitting for those who support oppressive organizations.  What some of the Solidarity March folks don’t understand is that their Whiteness protects them from being harassed and/or murdered by law enforcement during a peaceful demonstration.  Unlike Black and non-Black activists (and even our White accomplices), many of the participants will return home safely with the feeling of accomplishment and without the fear of police brutality. So if these particular individuals feel too obligated to study the history of law enforcement and the mistrust towards this industrial complex, they are not worth fucking with.

However, not all liberals (regardless of ethnicity) aren’t blinded by the system and second-wave feminism.  In fact, many of us radical Leftists fail to recognize the Liberals that are down for what we do.  These folks who attend our rallies or organizational meetings, but cannot devote themselves fully for whatever reason.  These are also the ones who check their White friends (without the hope to earn cookies), incorporate intersectionality into their political and personal work.  In fact, some of them have agreed with the radicals who’ve confronted the Liberals and Democrats thanking the police on the Solidarity March page.  So if we are staunchly against working alongside these radicalized liberals, we have to ask ourselves why and what is hindering our ability to do so.

Trust also involves the acceptance of non-traditional forms of activism such as online, radio, and literary activism, slam poetry—among others.  Many Leftists (regardless of age or generation) often dismiss non-traditional activism because it doesn’t involve able-bodied direct action.  “Please stop acting like social media activists ain’t shit,” states online activist/Ratchet Feminist Fiyah Angelou.  “Those are the ones that give your movements additional momentum. They use their platforms to support you and in return you foolishly minimize their contributions. These are the ones that share your shit and encourage people to be active in this movement these folks keep your street activism relevant. Stop that ableist shit!! The revolution will be accessible. The revolution will be revolutionized!!”

Angelou is absolutely correct in her assessment regarding non-traditional activism.  Many activists with hectic work/school schedules, family duties, issues with trauma and/or disabled cannot (or will not) engage in direct action.  They instead exercise other means to remain involved in their communities as well as the general population.  Activists such as Love Life of An Asian Guy, AO Anderson, and Fiyah Angelou use their Facebook pages to serve as a platform to educate and engage their audiences. To completely disregard the influence of non-traditional activism by deeming it a waste of effort is not only insulting but ableist.

Why am I writing this?  Because, as a Black Radical, I’m wanting my fellow Leftists to pull themselves together and function as a collective juggernaut. I want us to become more radicalized—if not shove our ideological differences aside to shut down the government and the industrial complexes employed by it.  And from where I’m sitting, we Leftists really don’t have much of a choice.