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Inventory

girl on stairs

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

Black Girl Lost

 

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I look at the pictures

I see

afro puff pigtails: her innocence, her take-over-the-world attitude

tucked in some overall denim blues and Reebok classic shoes

a little black girl in her own little black girl world

she is confident

she is fearless

she is loved

but time has passed and so has she

rest In peace little black girl

rest eternally

I look at the woman before me

I see

her weary big brown eyes with lines

aged with disappointment and distrust

her too tight dress because tight isn’t tight enough

her half smile, her crooked mask

so crooked, it’s falling

she’s falling

fast

she is vulnerable

she is doubtful

but she is still loved

the mirror uncovers the lies

she tries and she tries

to cover up

but her dress is too small and her mask

too big

unveiling for all to see

the things she wish she could’ve hid

she longs for her

the little girl

the little kid

and her Afro puff pigtail attitude

as her mind suffocates from her grown lady wig

oh how we play pretend

when the grown woman wants to be a little girl again

this grown woman, playing with real life and make-up and men

can’t wait to grow up and be a kid

again

Learning to Cope with Blackness by Mariah Williams

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I felt heavy most days I went to work. Being Black in corporate America requires one to wear a cloak of confidence and protection just to make it through the day, even the simplest of tasks. The idea of double consciousness has always weighed pretty heavily on me, especially because I’ve routinely been immersed in hegemonic White spaces where the smile I wore did not always reflect what I was thinking or feeling on the inside. I learned at an early age that many people within these spaces, both Black and White, were not always willing to talk about the messiness of race, class and gender, and would rather avoid the uneasiness those topics aroused altogether. I also learned that getting my daily dose of pro-Black conversation would have to come from Black co-workers at Happy Hours or group chats with close friends and not from the workplace.

The fact is, I’m Black, and I state that proudly. But, at any given point in my life, I could walk down the street, be perceived as a threat, wear the wrong clothes, make a sudden movement and my life could be in jeopardy. My White co-workers didn’t see that. To them, I was the articulate Black girl, the one who did well for herself despite being raised by a single mother. To them, I failed to represent the stereotypes of Blackness in this country. I was safe to them, but unfortunately, the privilege their white skin afforded them would always be a threat to me and those who looked like me.

I’ve always had a good understanding of the game I had to play to be successful, but as any Black person knows, it’s beyond tiring, and on days where I wake up to yet another Black body being gunned down by law enforcement, I feel heavy. Extremely heavy. And as much as I hate to admit it, hopeless. Not because I don’t think things will change or because I take the work of my ancestral freedom fighters for granted, but because I am preparing to walk into a place where my co-workers will talk about arbitrary news events to spark conversation or a local bar they visited, and make no mention of what’s happening to Black people in this country, people who look exactly like me. I realize it’s probably naïve of me to expect them to say anything and I don’t really know why I’m surprised, but it’s still an awful feeling to be silenced and to go unseen, to be expected to deal with conditions most people would find unbearable. But, I bite my tongue, because that’s what we are taught to do.

Instead, I want to call out and say the reason for my absence is simple: tired from being Black. I’d say, “I’ll see you all when America starts to acknowledge and value my humanity”.  Truth is, I’d probably never go back if I had to wait on that.

I struggle with juggling the two worlds, even after 24 years of doing it. I imagine that most Black people do. Be it in corporate America or predominantly White universities, the feeling of otherness pulls us down like an anchor. Luckily, I have friends and family outside of work who get it and who are willing to be my soundboard whenever I need it, but I imagine there are people who have no such thing, who have no way of filling their cups back up after long days of feigned smiles and exaggerated laughter with co-workers who are oblivious to what their White privilege affords them.

I don’t pretend to have the solution to how spaces marred by White hegemony can work to acknowledge the experiences of being “the other.”

I simply know that I’m am tired of feeling drained from the battle that comes from being Black in this country and being forced to endure, to get over it and to let it go.

For those of us who have felt trapped in a world where we are unseen and unheard and sometimes even pretend to be someone we are not because we can’t talk about the ties we have to people like Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice, I encourage us to seek out where we can find these communities. The reality is, our workplaces are unlikely to change in the ways we need them to, or if they do, they will adopt the superficial front of diversity and inclusion that most places do these days. Even though they will promote being open, there will never truly be a space to express the realities of the “other” experience.

Breaking the vicious cycle of otherness and lessening the load hegemony brings is a riddle I’ve not yet solved, but I will continue to seek outlets to make this Black life I’m living a bit easier, and I encourage others to do the same.


pictureMariah Williams is a graduate student at VCU pursing a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning. She enjoys reading, writing and is passionate about social justice issues within the Black community. She loves her Black and  her magic and wants to become an urban planner who works with women of color to develop cultural and inclusive spaces within neighborhoods and cities.

I Had to Remind Myself

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I had to remind myself

 

Who

I

Am

 

You have to do that sometimes

You have to do that when

The world knocks you down

to your feet and

Knocks the wind out of you

As if you don’t deserve to breathe

 

It stole my soul

Temporarily

Missing: Myself

Last Seen: Forgetting

Who the fuck she was

 

My search started with a mirror

I was so scared and it was so clear

I knew

Better.

I knew that I was

Better

Than I gave myself credit for.

 

I had to remind myself

 

Who

I

Am

 

I had to rescind the transaction

After I sold myself out

You have to do that sometimes

You have to do that when

Counterfeit money gets caught up in

Your register

 

I died

and then I was revived when

The mirror told me

 

Who the fuck I am

Help a Sista Help a Sista

“Unfortunately, history has shown us that [sisterhood] must be learned, when it should be natural.” — Josephine Baker

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Jendayi Johnson

 

Today, my mom and I ran into a man at the mall. In conversation, he brought  up his daughter. His face lit up when he spoke of her.

My face lit up when his face lit up. I was loving this father’s love.

“She just finished up at University of Virginia and now she’s headed to New York for graduate school.” Jendayi Johnson, his daughter, is headed to Columbia in the fall to study speech-language pathology. Her studies have been inspired by her grandmother, who suffered a stroke and lost most of her speaking ability.

While the doctor was claiming defeat, alleging that Jendayi’s grandmother may never speak again, the speech pathologist was working to prove otherwise. After months of working with the speech pathologist, Jendayi’s grandmother was speaking whole sentences.

How sweet a feeling it is when we prove doubt and defeat wrong.

Unfortunately, Jendayi herself has dealt with a great deal of doubt from others and even from herself. “When I was accepted into college, I was told that I only got in because I was Black,” she explained on her Just Jobs scholarship page. She went on to talk about overheard conversations demeaning Black students and minimizing the validity of their accomplishments. After internalizing all of this, she, like many students, developed Impostor Syndrome, or an inability to accept personal success and achievement. People who experience Impostor Syndrome often fear that they should not be where they are in life and aren’t as capable as their peers.

It’s easy to feel like an impostor as a black woman in higher education. In many spaces of higher education, we are limited or even non-existent. Nonetheless, our presence in these spaces is needed and well overdue. Many black women miss opportunities for higher education, not because we are incapable, but rather, because we are unsupported.

Sisterhood.

Its when I reached out to a UVA student via Facebook when I first got accepted into my master’s program and she took time out her busy schedule to talk to me before I even got there, came over and gave me a 3 hour pep talk the night I moved to Charlottesville and afterwards, became a lifelong friend and role model.

Its when a dean at my undergraduate alma mater, University of Richmond, supported me when I was threatened and had property vandalized for the words I wrote in the school newspaper, from the moment it happened to the police hearing, which she attended with me. She continued to support me well after it was all said and done.

Its when a retired philanthropist decided to sow seeds through me and pay for me to travel in order to work with marginalized girls throughout Virginia and beyond before ever meeting me in person.

There were way more than three black women who helped pave the way for me. Now, its Jendayi’s turn. She needs way more than that to help support her vision as well.

“Receiving my degree will allow me to prove everyone that thought that I didn’t have the ability to succeed wrong. More importantly, it would be the first step of many towards achieving my goal of fortifying my clients’ abilities to communicate their thoughts, opinions, and desires and continuing on the trajectory that other Black scholars that came before me created,” Jendayi asserted.

Black people are crabs in a barrel.

Black women never support each other.

Our community is tainted by these false stereotypes.

Jendayi wants to prove the naysayers wrong by helping others do the same.

My momma and I told her daddy that he ran into the right people today. Help me follow through.

Help a sista help a sista and vote for this young queen to win a scholarship so she can go on to Columbia and really show out and show and prove.

Because sisterhood should be natural.

(Its extremely easy to vote. From what I was told, clicking the heart above the comments section counts as a vote. Also, leaving comments on the page and sharing her page on Facebook also helps to convince the judges. You have until Friday, 7/ 15/2016 to vote.)