Fancying myself a burgeoning writer, this is where I come to collect my words.
An artist with many mediums, I also create jewelry, curate a vintage shop and design for AllyElleCards .

Black Girl Season: Worthy of My own praise

There is a half joke, half empowerment movement on  the part of Twitter I inhabit called “black girl time/season” 

It’s Black women circling around, supporting and amplifying the works, art, success and accomplishments of other Black women. Because if we don’t do it for each other, we all know, it won’t get done. It’s a beautiful thing to see and be a part of. 

I, myself, go out of my own way to make sure my sisters know they and everything they do is valuable, necessary and important. 

But it just hit me recently, I don’t do the same for myself. 

Not too long ago, I saw some words on Instagram that caused a tiny tweak of pride. “Create the things you wish existed.” it commanded in blurry, over-filtered font. ‘I’ve done that, ’ I thought. I created a post around it showcasing the jewelry and cards I’ve made simply because I wished they existed. The moment of pride passed and I went about my day… Later, I saw the post had over 200+ notes. One stuck out, “I can’t wait for this to be me.”

Somewhere in the world there was a record scratch. 

Someone wanted to be me, to do something I’ve done and thought nothing of. For as long as I have been cognizant of my own existence, I’ve been aware of my many flaws and failings.  Last year I was a part of organizing CT’s largest immigration rally. I looked some of my lawmakers in the eye and “came out” as an unrecognized American, a term I made up and prefer to “illegal”. I told them to do better, to make way for me and my potential to the sound of applause and cheers of over 5,000 people.  I was immensely proud of myself and despite being afraid for me, many of the people in my life were as well. Not even a day later, I let my accomplishments be eclipsed by a small mistake, a C- on a test. I returned to my usual state of criticizing myself and worrying about my future. 

But that one little comment made me really look at myself.  ”I can’t wait for that to be me.”

I shouldn’t need to see my work through another’s eyes to see it praise worthy but that’s what it took. I realize I need to celebrate myself. I’ve done some amazing things.

When my parents’ savings plan fell through, I helped put myself through school, no financial aid. It is a momentous feat that I’m still working on. I broke ground at my school, helping revise my department’s Eurocentric class requirements. I won awards for my event planning and kept my grades up, all while working full time.

When I couldn’t find jewelry I wanted, I made it and built a business. When I couldn’t find the cards I wanted to send, I made those too and started yet another business.

I wanted to be published, so I did that. 

Every challenge put before me I conquered. And while I haven’t done everything I want to, I’m worthy of my own praise. 

Women, we find it so much easier to build others up than we do to celebrate ourselves. Black women are especially guilty. We’re taught from birth to care for the family and the collective. To do so humbly and quietly, expect no praise and give ourselves none. 

But we are a part of that collective. We deserve our own care and praise.  On Twitter, some of us have declared this year the beginning of Black girl season, a time of celebration for our special kind of magic. It’s the year I start unabashedly celebrating myself, too.

Every time we walk in the room, it’s Black girl time. We’re worthy of raising our own voices to sing our own praises.

#write2014: Notes to women who just need closure

Notes to women who just need closure

Put down why. Put down how.

These questions are lies, lies waiting to happen and lies about closure. You don’t need to know how they could have done it. And you don’t even want to know how. Do you really want to know about the yawning empty space where  love and consideration should have been? Do you want to know what selfish beast huddles behind eyes that you thought you were seeing a soul through?

You don’t. You want a retraction. An apology. These questions are pleas.

Please. Undo the thing you shouldn’t have done. Please.  Please, make the burden of your actions less heavy on me.

But asking “how could you?" will not do it for you. Asking "why?” will not do it for you.

Put them down.

 Don’t wonder how long she’s hated you. What you could have done to stop it. Don’t ask how long the affair has been going on, when he stopped loving you. 

Put those questions down. 

Put down your anger…and their stuff.

This isn’t to hurt them really, is it? It’s to make them sorry. To make them see your pain. But baby, they won’t. And this too is begging. Put it down. 

Put down the certainty that you can never feel that love again. Like ‘how’, like ‘why’, this feeling too is a lie.

Put down the fear you deserved it. You know you didn’t.

Put them down. 

Let this go. 

Let your lover go.

#write2014: For Black immigrant girls who said 2014 was their year…

For Black immigrant girls who said 2014 was their year, when having resolutions wasn’t enough.

- Lesli-Ann Lewis

      Like at least 500 million other people, I told myself “2014 is MY year!” And I meant it. Right before 2013 ended I got my visa and work permit so it looked like ALL MY PROBLEMS WERE SOLVED,FINALLY,JESUS. Exuberant I gathered my work permit, my visa and  driver’s license manual and set about the task of getting my life together.

FINALLY, JESUS. I was going to be a real, American adult. 

And then my life exploded in my face. I’ve been trying to gather back up the pieces but first I had to learn to sleep without bolting awake in fear. Once I stopped being afraid, more bad news. 

I decided something had to be done. 2014 was MY year. I said it, I wrote it down on paper, gotdamn it. I just needed to make a list. Lists fix everything. There are lists that help you manage how to grieve. I needed a list and an action plan. 

This is how adults handle things. And in 2014, MY year, I was going to finally be an adult. 

My action plan lead me to the Cold Shower Challenge. On it’s face it’s really stupid simple: take a very cold shower every morning. But the cold shower is to prepare you to do the uncomfortable things you’d need to do. Seeing as waking up was becoming an uncomfortable thing to do, I thought this would somehow make everything else seem easier. 

The morning I climbed in the shower, I’d received more bad news. Before the cold water hit me, I was already crying. I felt nothing. Desperate to make the challenge work, I made the water even colder. I couldn’t make it cold enough to hurt more than the words rolling around in my head. I washed my body feeling nothing, not even realizing I was learning something.

Getting out the shower I knew I was cold. I didn’t so much feel the towel on my skin as remember there should be a sensation. I lotion-ed myself, knowing the lotion should feel wet, knowing my skin should be cold to the touch but unable to process those feelings and what was going on within me. 

The next day when I tried to stay under the freezing water for the same length of time, I simply couldn’t. Present in my body, I could feel my fingers swell with frozen blood. I know it happened. Or started to happen…or something really close. I stumbled out of the shower, cursing my entire life.

At this point I’m being serious, I actually learned something from the challenge. A part of it was to see how you react to and face discomfort.

Originally, I thought I failed because I couldn’t physically feel anything but that day was about how I reacted to my emotional discomfort. 

I’m uncomfortable feeling anything unpleasant. Either I make jokes about it or I start to “fix” it. It took something real to make me realize I can’t do that. I can’t plug along like I’m not devastated and expect at some point for my heart to catch up. 

There are things I’m going to miss because of how much I hurt but there’s nothing I can do for that. I can’t fast forward to the healing process, I can’t run away from the pain. I have to feel this, let the discomfort and the tears and the anger and the breakdowns happen, While I’m still processing the pain, there will be no way for me to actually fully experience anything that’s happening outside of me.  And I have to be ok with that. Otherwise this will be another thing, I never got over, just another thing I put away and pretended was resolved. 

I realized in that shower, how powerful my state of mind is. How powerful everything going on inside me is. The cold will not touch me, the good will not find me until I work through this. Until I build myself again. It’s devastating and empowering to realize this.

I hate every moment of facing this pain. The blood-freezing, lung-squeezing, heart-stopping cold showers are easier. But this is the year I promised myself I’d start acting like an adult. 

2014 is  MY year…or something. 

International Blackness and the myth of immigrant privilege.

This post is mainly a reaction to this article but also the diaspora wars that continue to wage on Twitter and Tumblr asserting that I, as an immigrant Black woman, have privilege that American Blacks do not. 

The problem with the idea of “the privilege of international blackness” is that it gives White supremacy a nuanced gaze. It’s the same as assuming class, education level,  gender or age will soften the harsh ways in which we are seen by White supremacy. It’s false. 

To readily divide Black Americans and Black immigrants would first entail admitting there are cultures, languages and variances within Blackness. It would mean recognizing the richness of the diaspora, it would require the recognition of our humanity. It would challenge White supremacy itself by asserting us as capable of creating and curating cultures and languages. 

I’ve been in the US long enough, studied the history of this country enough to understand that Whiteness is defined by Blackness.It is the anti-thesis of Blackness. So if Whites have culture, history and language, Blacks cannot have it, too. This is why any cultural contributions by Blacks are stolen, mis-credited or disregarded.

For White supremacy to work , it needs this  caste of undesirables. Whiteness cannot be privileged without it. This means  that no matter what, a Black person is Black and therefore less than. Billionaire Oprah found this out. Black immigrants find this out when we migrate to the US and nobody gives a damn where you’re from as long as you  stay in your black-ass place. 

Americans are overall unaware of Black immigrants. We are not the face of the immigration debate, we are not asked about our backgrounds unless our mouths have not yet been trained to curl around Western words in the American way. We are Black first and then we have to introduce our otherness. 

But we all know how often people see our Blackness and their eyes glaze over. They know all they need to know. 

It is Black Americans who see the gradients, who can recognize me as foreign by my cheekbones and my nose. It’s always a Black person, yardie or Yankee, who asks “but where are you from FROM?” 

There are differences in the way  Black Americans and Black immigrants are treated, but it isn’t privilege. Consider the stereotypes you think of when you think of Africans, West Indians and Haitians. We’re backwards, poor, AIDS carriers, dumb. Understand that these stereotypes aren’t limited to a few silly people- it’s written into immigration law. 

Most degrees and certifications from places like Jamaica and Nigeria aren’t valid in the US. Ever spoke to an immigrant who told you they used to be a doctor/teacher/etc back in their country? That’s why.

The US banned Haitian migration on the premise of all Haitians being potential AIDS carriers. The US still stymies the flow of immigrants from primarily Black countries. 

To legally move to the US or bring a family member in we have to prove we/they won’t end up needing or eventually qualifying for any sort of assistance. And then the process is so cost- prohibitive many of us fall in and out of legal status. 

Alllll of this creates environments where Black immigrants are economically disadvantaged and in prime positions to be exploited. Conditional visas, anti-Black police and laws that  presupposition that we’re all criminals make reporting work exploitation and anything else extremely high risk and problematic for us.

In addition to Stop&Frisk, we have to deal with the Secure Communities Act. If a Black person gets stopped walking in an increasing number of states  and it’s discovered they don’t have a US ID on them, they’re facing deportation or indefinite detention. Without any rights.

This is us facing multiple systems of oppression. 

Now to link it back to Lupita:

The attention Lupita Nyong’o is receiving is on the same scale as Halle Berry when she won her Oscar and Kerry Washington when she first burst out as Olivia Pope. 

The discussion of Lupita’s “international Blackness” is happening within the Black community and it speaks to how Black Americans often perceive immigrants-especially Black immigrants- as a threat to their own fragile status. The post  escapedgoat  shared scratches at the surface of that thinly veiled resentment. 

The discussion we need to have isn’t why Lupita is receiving this much attention but why are Black Americans now pushing back against it and her “international Blackness”? 

#write2014: Mirrors and Joy

Jan. 31,2013

This will be a short post. I’m watching two beautiful brown women scream Ludacris lyrics at the top of their lungs and laughing while I type. I know they have their struggles and things they worry over but right now, they look like  the very embodiment of happiness. They’re dancing and free and I can’t stay away from this too long.

 I’ve been smiling and laughing for what feels like every waking moment since before my birthday .I’ve been very bad about writing the past few days because my partner snatched me away for a weekend getaway that snowballed into days of unmitigated joy (my sleeping hours are something completely different). 

Before I met these women I thought, my sexuality was a secret aside. Some quirk I had to reveal months in when it was necessary. “Hey, just so you know, I snore. Hey, just so you know I’m queer.” I’ve always had this partition between most women I befriended, afraid I’d gross them out, afraid if I got too close I’d repeat the moments in my childhood that taught me to only nurse attractions to men. I didn’t even know how alone I was. 

And then the moment when I sat in a house full of women like me. The ease I felt. How good it felt to say “my girlfriend, my woman.” and to hear other women say those same words.

They looked like me.

They loved like me.

Seeing women like me so apologetically themselves, so determined to be happy and loved, so secure in themselves has done wonders for my soul. It’s made my resolve to be happy that much stronger. 

#write2014: Day 23: What does it feel like to be a problem?

The woman problem. The sista problem. The feminist problem. The queer problem.

 If only, if only I wasn’t so myself my brothas could be kings and Gods. If I wasn’t so woman and determined to be human, maybe Black men could reach their goals. Maybe they wouldn’t go to jail so much. 

And they’d treat me right, if I could just give up a few things. Lust. Self-determination. Ambition. Self. 

I’m one of those women, these new 2014 women who won’t bow to every man.

I’m the Black problem. 

As in love with another woman as I am. How dare I? Close my legs to the Black man? Don’t I know this is why the Black race is in danger, now?  

 And after chastising me for hours I know you want to know what it feels like for me to be a problem. Do I feel shame? 

This is what it feels like to be a problem:

I woke up today and pulled my girlfriend in to me. Her skin really does feel like velvet. That isn’t a metaphor, it’s a fact. So, this morning, I touched every part of her while we were half asleep. Because I love the fuck out of velvet. And her hips swell up from her waist the way joy rises in your heart, unexpectedly. Welcomed. So I touched those, too. And her ass…My God. There are no things I can compare it to without cheapening it’s glory. But it’s the reason I’m the smaller one but want so often to be the big spoon. Sometimes I just lay on it. It’s like that. 

After that, I picked out the tea that moved me and sat down to respond to emails and take notes on custom orders. Because I own my own business. Being a feminist and all.  I spent all day choosing what **I** wanted to do..I chose to go out and see your fuck ass poetry cipher tonight. I choose to wear a Black- community-endangering dress and a big ass ring to emasculate all brothers who stepped near me. 

How does it feel to be a problem? The “independent woman” problem? The queer problem? The feminist problem?.

It feels like I’m finally fucking free.

#write2014 : On White America’s Obsession with Black Violence

(Write 2014, Day 22,) 

I’ve  recently read the saying “A cornered mouse will bite a cat.This does not reclassify the mouse as a predator or the cat as prey.” 

And you know what I instantly thought of? White America and it’s obsession with impending Black violence.  The cat who toys with and corners the mouse, receives a bite and yells, “THIS IS WHY THE MOUSE MUST BE HUNTED!”

White America, built on the blood and torture of Africans and indigenous peoples, fears violence and retribution. White America, responsible for the slow tortuous death of Black and brown people the world over as they squeeze us for more resources, monitors our every expression of resistance- our very existence-…waiting for the moment they can justify the hunt they’ve begun years ago. They have begun to obsess over this idea of Black violence, ignoring that simple fact: a cornered mouse will bite. This doesn’t and will never make the mouse the predator. 

#Write2014 Day 21: Grief and the Body

(Creative non-fiction, Jan 21, 2014) 

  Grief and the body are such strange things. 

I woke up this morning and found I’d been grieving in my sleep. I pulled myself up and stared out onto the snow, seeing nothing and feeling nothing but my heart’s new crack opening wide. For moments I inhaled and exhaled shallowly, afraid moving, afraid breathing too deeply, would finally kill me. I know  that it was simply heartache, emotional not physical but right then, I couldn’t tell the difference. I sat still as 8:30 dragged by, as 9;00 dragged by, trying to learn how to breathe with this new pain in my chest. 

Yesterday had been fun. I’d gone to bed at 4 am, thinking of all the beautiful souls who’d recently come into my life. I’d gone to bed, pulling my girlfriend’s warm body against mine, curling my legs around hers. I’d smiled at the way the moon lit up the curve of her neck. I’d kissed her freshly shaved head. I fell asleep rubbing my nose against it, reveling in the joy of this new feel. 

But my body remembered to grieve. In my sleep I turned away from her. My limbs went stiff with the memory of all I had lost for loving her. And I woke up tired from weeping in my dreams. 

So I sat until 10:15 dragged by, until 11:00 am dragged by and she woke up and smiled at me. 

11:45 am I teach my body to remember joy.