Free At Last

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A club flyer for a MLK weekend party

On this day, Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 88 years old. I wrote this piece a few years back, but decided to re-post it, as its relevance still stands. 

On this day (January 15th) in 1929, one of our country’s  (and the world’s) greatest leaders was born. In 1963 at the March on Washington, he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most (if not, THE most) powerful, most eloquent speeches known to man. King went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his peaceful efforts against US racism in 1964.

Among his most notable achievements — the things we (hopefully) learn about in schooling and in other outlets — are the turmoil, the setbacks and the degradation King and his contemporaries faced in a nation where their influence, their ideas, their livelihoods and their color were viewed with pure hate. All in the name of equality.

And here we are today — we as black folk can vote, we can use whatever restroom we want, drink from whichever water fountain we want, we can now attend the universities that were built by the blood, sweet and tears of our own enslaved ancestors — the same universities we were institutionally excluded from for much of the 20th century…you get the point. Things aren’t perfect, but we as a people have come a long way — all because of the sacrifices of King and others before us.

And how do we pay them back? Oh, by editing their pictures into club flyers, of course.

You may be thinking — “Lighten up, its not that bad,” or perhaps, “It’s just a joke, its not that serious.” But when we make these flyers, when we share them and use them to promote events — it becomes a little more damaging than a paper and a laugh. “FREE AT LAST,” reads the top of the flyer posted above. But what I’d like to ask everyone reading this is — Who is really free?

During slavery, blacks were degraded to the utmost degree — slaves that were talented were mocked and made to feel less than; slaves that were disadvantaged in some way or couldn’t perform as well as others were humiliated by slave owners as well, often given names of powerful Greek gods and goddesses, as a sarcastic gesture to poke fun at their powerlessness. Slave women were raped on a daily basis, sexually exploited and denied any sexual freedom at the hands of this very nation. Black bodies were deemed worthless and were put on display in slave auctions and other “events,” stripping slaves of their clothes…and their dignities.

I ask you again, WHO is really free?

In this flyer here (and in many, many others), King is “adorned” with a crown, gold chains and gold rings. Are we celebrating an African-American hero? Or are we making a mockery of this civil rights pioneer for our own “gains,” just as the slave owners did back in the day? It would be just like the actions of the slave owners, but in this instance, our own gains (promoting said party while promoting degradation of our men and women) are also our own losses (promoting said party while promoting degradation of our men and women). Damn, at least the slave owners even had enough sense about them to better themselves in the process.

Excuse my language and excuse my disgust. But this is an all time low for us, ya’ll.

I like to party. I like to joke. But I love my dignity 10 fold more than the former. Can we put a crown and some gold rings on that?

Free at last? More like last to be free.

Inventory

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Have you taken inventory lately?

Of what’s real

Of what’s fake

Of what shoulda never been up in there in the first damn place?

I speak not just of things

People is inventory too

Real ones be out of stock

like a shirt

like a shoe

Sometimes you gotta clean house first

Give some shit the boot

Throw out an old thing or two

Like that fling that never ever really

Flew or

Those new friends that be too-new-to-be-true friends or

Your own folk, kin

The kin that never was even yo friend

When the inventory is low

It’s time to reorder, time to replenish

All of your self  and all of your shit

No more junk, no more shit that don’t last

That load don’t get no lighter ’til you take out that trash

Dear Black Women by Yinde Newby

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Dear Black Women,

“There’s so much darkness in the world, but I see beauty left in you girl.” – Justin Timberlake

Dear Black Women,

No I didn’t forget about you. How can I forget about the mother of us all? The strongest, most resilient, beings there are. Black Women, you are magic, I don’t know why we are often forgotten about, why our news never seem to get media coverage. They don’t record our death rates, we don’t know that we are murdered 3 times more than white women are.

They are literally killing us and no one’s keeping up. Sandra Bland, Kory Gaines, Tanisha Anderson, Miriam Carey, Yvette Smith, Shelly Frey, Darnisha Harris, Malissa Williams, Alesia Thomas just to name a few have all been killed by/in police custody.

They tried to get us to believe that our stories weren’t worth covering, that Black women aren’t dying at the same rate as Black males, that we have nothing to worry about, that we should just march quietly and hold signs of our fallen brothers, but who marches for us? Who fights for us? Who spreads the word about us? Women have been carrying the world on their back for years, who’s going to carry us?

Then they call us bitter, we’re bitter and Black because fathers failed to do their jobs, and defined the term inferior and unworthy before we even had a chance to spell it. Because countless men use, belittle, defame, and bash us, we’re bitter because we’re hurt. Because there are a lot of wounds no one has tried to heal, because so many people thought of our bodies as something to glorify but won’t stick around long enough to know the soul inside.

Black women, we aren’t bitter, we aren’t angry, we aren’t ghetto, we aren’t too independent. We’re fighters, mothers, supporters, ambitious, worthy, sometimes fathers, multi-talented, courageous, inspiring, uplifting, and powerful. We don’t conform to the rules of society. No, we won’t cut our dreads, and heat-damage our natural hair to conform to European standards.

No, we don’t have to go natural to get in touch with our roots, and sing to Erykah Badu just to prove we are woke.They want us to fit this image like we shrink on command; they weren’t told that Black women don’t have to bend or change to make other people happy. We’re brilliant whether you see it or not. This world has tried to shake us, break us, eliminate the right for us to vote, make us believe that men won’t want us if we aren’t light skin, 5’5, with a fat ass and long hair.

But who says that we will want them? They tried to separate us in teams, #teamlightskin , #teamdarkskin. Making our babies feel unwanted before they reach the age of 10. Everyone wanted North but no one thought Blue Ivy was cute. They’ve been separating us since house slaves and field slaves. Having us believe that one shade is more powerful than the other just to divide us, but to them when we apply for a job we’re still Black , when we go ask for a loan we are still Black, when we need a cosigner for our business, we are still Black.

They’ve separated us from our sisters long before we could even form a bond with another. Looking down, judging, hating, stealing men all because we were brought up on the ideology of no one wanting us so we have to take. That isn’t true, you can love and wish your sister well without tarnishing your own success. Her blessing never took from yours, we have to build and come together because Black women, we have choices, we have preferences, we don’t need to fit anyone’s guideline, they need to fit ours.

No we don’t only cook, clean, and raise children. We are hustlers, go-getters, bosses, Bill Gates in the making. The power of Black women is that we don’t give up, no matter how many people don’t believe in us, don’t want us, or don’t appreciate us it’s in our nature to bounce back. We are queens, we wear crowns over here, there’s no typical image of what a Black women looks like, because we are versatile and interchangeable.

We are unique, there’s no one like us. Our melanin oozes down our being, we demand attention when we walk in the room. There are Dr. Miamis because people want to photocopy our look; they say we are too dark and too thick but we have people who are using foundation that is way darker than their skin.

We have people putting injections in places injections aren’t supposed to be, just to look like us, and they say that we aren’t game changers, that we aren’t innovative, when we have a whole world flocking towards us just to get the recipe.

No matter how many Black men you date, how many Black  friends you have, how much Black slang you know, how many boxer braids you rock, how sharp your contour line is, how overdrawn your lips are, how tan you make your skin, how “down” you try to be, you can never be a Black woman; Black women are unique. I love you, Black women, even if they don’t love you, or appreciate your complexion — you set the foundation for all things great.

Many won’t understand, many will complain, but there’s something about being a Black woman that can’t be changed.

Love your sister, Yinde


unnamed-5Yinde Newby is a guest writer for theblackertheberry.org. She is a junior journalism & communications major and English minor on the pre-law track at Hampton University. She is a lifestyle blogger, social activist, lover of all things Black, and a hopeless romantic with a dream to change this broken justice system. She believes that mass incarceration has taken over the Black race and she plans to change that by eventually becoming a district attorney. There’s no limit to the work she wants to do, and she believes that she’s living out her purpose according to God’s plan — she won’t stop until she knows she has touched or changed someone’s life. She says “Writing is what I do and who I am! It keeps me sane and relatable. I have things to share, stuff to speak on, testimonies to tell and I do that with my writing. I just want to elevate and uplift the most slept on race.”

The Friend in the Family by Fantasia Alston

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There was this friend in the family

Who always came around

He’d make the kids smile

Whenever they began to frown

He was so damn cool

He was so damn nice

He was so damn handsome

And oh so polite

One day this friend in the family

Gave me a wink

I was in so much shock

I could barely think

Am I going crazy?

That might be so

Fantasia, calm down

It was nothing, let it go

This friend in the family started giving me money

Buying me candy

And calling me honey

I had no guidance

So naive and lost

Wanting to make a friend

No matter the cost

“He wouldn’t hurt a fly”

That’s what everyone would say

But this friend in the family

Tried to rape me one day.



I became a recluse

Always stayed inside

Because on that very tumultuous day

A part of me died

A few cousins took notice

Asked what was wrong

But I kept saying “nothing”

While pretending to be strong

The more time passed

The weaker I became

His presence around my family

Was driving me insane

Who would be next

If he couldn’t get to me

A predator like him

Shouldn’t be free

I finally spoke up

Told my cousins about that day

They were definitely in shock

But brushed what happened away

Acted as if it never happened

So he still came around

The very few I trusted

Had certainly let me down

I guess it wasn’t a big deal

Maybe I should be more vibrant

And when he sexually assaults me again

I should just remain silent.


unnamedFantasia Alston is a guest writer for theblackertheberry.org. She is a 22 year old free spirit  and visionary who spends most of her time  writing poetry, reading (preferably mystery books), and doing whatever she can to help better the community, whether it be volunteering at the nearest homeless shelter or picking up any litter found on the solid surface of the Earth. She also enjoys painting whatever comes to mind, cooking, meditating,  and taking long walks to nowhere.  She currently resides in Columbia, SC. She is a writer for #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE, an organization that supports and empowers girls and women to stay in school. Learn more about her and her work here. Follow her on instagram here.

Trigger Warnings and Crooked Triggers

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I’m writing in a space where I’m the minority. Figuratively and literally.

I’m overhearing a conversation about trigger warnings or warnings before sensitive topics. A girl shares with her friends her disdain for her black African-American history professor. “She showed us pictures of lynchings with no trigger warnings,” she disgustingly exclaimed. She then equated this with this professor’s ability to teach. “I was like ‘you’re an educator, you should know that people are going to react differently to different things.'” She then advised everyone around her to not take her class.

I’m sitting here as my stomach is flipping and flopping. I want to scream but nothing is coming out of my mouth.

Trigger warnings. Masks. Excuses. Bullshit. Or whatever you want to call them. I want to call it what it is and enlighten them all. But then I’d be playing the victim, as folk say.

Because she’s the victim — or at least that’s what she wants to believe.

If the recent police murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and countless others ever since weren’t recorded, shared on social media and exposed to the public at-large, these unjust killings would have gone virtually unnoticed.

Did these victims of police brutality get a warning before they were shot to death by the very people who are supposed to protect them? Did Philando Castile’s preschool-aged daughter get a warning, letting her know that she would sit in the backseat of the family car while watching the passenger seat change colors as her father’s blood slowly stained it red, by way of a crooked, lethal trigger? Did she know ahead of time that she would carry the burden of consoling her mother, sitting in a precinct for 15 hours with no food and no water?

To be warned is to be privileged, and privilege does not exist in true victimhood.

“People have mental illnesses and traumatic experiences,” she said. “Why can’t they get permission to skip the class?” She asked.

Mental illness. If you were a person, I would feel the most sorry for you. Your name is misused and abused. People who suffer with you are being overlooked and people who want to overlook racial history use your name in vain as a beard to hide their deep-seated fear of the truth.

When I write about race, I am complaining.

When I speak about race, I am angry.

When she avoids addressing the ugly truth of the Jim Crow South and lynchings and race, she’s standing up for people.

God bless the black woman educator. I am she. She is me. A black woman who has worked her ass off to be finally granted the ultimate privilege of teaching as a student (granted, under an assistantship) at a university. A black woman who is employed to enlighten young scholars of all ages, colors and hues. A black woman who has more than likely fought through the wraths of racism, sexism, hateration, micro-aggressions and everything else in between on her way to the top.

God bless the victims of police murders and other unjust, racially-charged crimes against humanity. No trigger warning could ever stop a crooked trigger.

God bless those that suffer from mental illness. I pray that you feel as comfortable as possible no matter where you are or where you happen to go. If you know me, you know my mother is a therapist and if you’re suffering, I extend my hand to you with her services. But this isn’t about mental illness.

I want to talk about masks.

I don’t like them. I want to rip them off. All of them. I want the tape affixed to the masks to pull all the little hairs off the faces of the hidden. And I want it to sting, like nothing ever felt before.

This girl. She wants the mask to stay on. She wants to marry it and live happily ever after with it, ’til death do they part. This is the same girl that felt so compelled to prove to me how “down” for black folk she is when I first met her.

“My friends told me not to move here because they’re so many black people but I thought that was awesome.”

“A lot of the time I’m the only white person in my classes but that’s fine, really.”

“Where I used to live, there were white people everywhere and I just couldn’t take the lack of diversity.”

But she doesn’t want to address the plight of the people she claims to love so much?

She’s not alone. The masks are permanently congealed to the faces of many.

To the true victims: Don’t be weary and don’t be still.

But know.

Know your history. Know your right to know your history. Black people were slaves. Black people were lynched. Black people were systematically degraded by the rule of the law. Nobody can change the past. Too many people are doing too much to undo. Fight it. Always fight it in your own way. When I fight, I write.

And when the past constantly taunts the present by way of the school to prison pipeline, police brutality, racial profiling, a widening achievement gap and endless covert discriminatory tactics woven into the thread of the nation, you have no choice but to face history head on. It is your duty —

when you are a victim.

We are in a space where everybody wants to play the victim, but most are far too fragile for this line of work.

 

Still, You’re Loved by Fantasia Alston

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I was praised

For rocking my fro

Applying essential oils

That made my skin glow

I was praised

for dating within

because I couldn’t possibly love myself

If I were into white men

I was praised

For my fulfilling physique

Curves caught the attention of many

Who were reluctant to speak

But she was condemned

Her hair was relaxed

She might’ve been accepted

Had it flown down her back

She was condemned

For dating outside her race

“How could she love the enemy?”

It was a slap in the black man’s face

She was condemned

For being too petite

Lacking the assets of her counterparts

Most were sure she didn’t eat

Even if her self love wasn’t instilled

I loved her so

How can bashing my own

Cause her to grow

Who am I to judge her being

Because of what she wears

Who she chooses to date

Or how she manipulates her hair

To me she’s a queen

A sister I must protect

No need to know her personally

To treat her with the utmost respect

The resiliency in our blackness is otherworldly

The uniqueness is here to stay

Our preferences don’t dim each other’s light

I wish we could all see it that way.


unnamedFantasia Alston is a guest writer for theblackertheberry.org. She is a 22 year old free spirit  and visionary who spends most of her time  writing poetry, reading (preferably mystery books), and doing whatever she can to help better the community, whether it be volunteering at the nearest homeless shelter or picking up any litter found on the solid surface of the Earth. She also enjoys painting whatever comes to mind, cooking, meditating,  and taking long walks to nowhere.  She currently resides in Columbia, SC. She is a writer for #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE, an organization that supports and empowers girls and women to stay in school. Learn more about her and her work here. Follow her on instagram here.

For the Ones that Ain’t Here

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His notebook was his canvas

He painted such a beautiful world

Such an artist

Drawing with his words and with his verbs

Not quite like the chalk drawing that outlined his body in the crime scene on the street curb

When his momma heard

She screamed and

She fell to her knees and

Called on Jesus

Then with God she begged and she pleaded

Not for her son and

Not for her self

But she prayed for the world and all that it needed

Defeated by

The laws of the hood

The politics of the block

Life on the corner and

This street and that set law and order

Momma said do good and

Momma said live right and

Momma said say your prayers every day and every night

But Momma didn’t tell him about the wrong side of town or

How to act or a plan of attack for

When the goons come around

He passed and some weeks passed too

And then one night all of sudden and out the blue

Momma took his notebook out of his room and

She flipped through the pages and she looked to the moon

Then she apologized for speaking too soon and

For letting her son believe the world was so beautiful