Most of my work has now been published and can be found on the publications tab, but feel free to read through some of my old work below.
Here you can find some of my brief thoughts and earlier blog posts. Most of my writing is now available under the "Published Pieces" tab.
I wrote this piece a few months ago but felt like bringing it up again...
When people say that feminism isn’t needed in 2016, that feminists make things up to get attention because their crazy, or something along these lines, it sounds a lot like “global warming doesn’t exist” to me. In both instances people simply deny facts or misinterpret situations so severely that they are unable to see what is happening, and I become extremely concerned for their sanity as well as my own for constantly feeling the need to open their eyes. My most recent concern comes with the horrific ending to Janese Talton-Jackson’s life, may she rest in peace.
Janese, the 29-year-old mother of twin girls and a 1-year old son, was shot dead early Friday morning for ignoring a man’s advances at a bar. After expressing her disinterest, she was followed outside and shot in the chest. This story, on its own, is an absolute tragedy – a heartbreaking end to a journey, a continued reminder for the need to institute better gun control and mental health services, and it is also another example of the problems that result directly from patriarchy not only for women but also for men. However, the most tragic part about this story is that it is unfortunately not very unique. This is not the first time a woman has been assaulted for refusing a man’s advances, not even the first time a woman has been murdered for doing so. In the past two years alone, multiple examples come to mind.
In 2014 a teenage girl by the name of Maren Sanchez was shoved down stairs and stabbed to death by a male classmate after she rejected his invitation to prom. Maren was killed in Connecticut in April. In October of the same year, 27-year-old Mary Spears was shot and killed after she rejected a man’s advances at an event in Detroit. The man was allegedly reacting to the fact that Spears refused to give him her number and decided this was reason enough to take away a beautiful soul and the mother of three young boys. Months before the October tragedy, the nation was rocked by news of a deadly attack in Santa Barbara.
The UCSB incident took place on May 23rd when Elliot Rodger stabbed 3 men to death in his apartment before driving to a sorority house and shooting three female students. Rodger expressed his need to hurt “All of those beautiful girls [he] desired so much in [his] life, but can never have because they despise and loathe [him]” saying he would “destroy” them. There were also several examples in 2015 in Florida, South Carolina, and Texas just to name a few. In fact the problem has become so frequent that there is a tumblr page titled “When Women Refuse” to provide women a space to share their own stories of the assault they’ve been subject to after refusing advances.
So why is this happening? Why are women continuously abused, assaulted, or killed simply for turning men down? No, it’s not because we should be nicer about it and let them down easy, it’s not because we should just make up a number to keep the man satisfied, it’s not because of something we are wearing, it’s not even because we sometimes end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is happening because patriarchy is a thing – a thing that makes some men (not all of them but a large number) think they are entitled to power and control over women. It makes them think that if they cannot control women, that if they can’t get them to do what they (men) want them (women) to do, that something is so deeply wrong and needs to be corrected through any force necessary. It promotes a profound mental illness that causes many men to believe that violence is warranted when a woman simply chooses to not engage and go on with her life uninterrupted. This mental illness also makes many men think that women exist solely to please them and that we are all waiting around patiently for a man to come and show us some attention. And God forbid that when we get that attention we pass on it.
Patriarchy negatively affects men just as much as it affects women and it needs to be addressed. While I wish I had more space to expand on this here (I probably will through another piece at a later date) my main point is that people who ask for feminist discourse to be introduced early on, campaigns that work to equalize opportunities and representation for women, and organizations that raise awareness for gender equality are NOT making things up. There is a very serious need for people to face patriarchy head on and to challenge it. The loss of the many lives I mentioned here is just further reminder of this.
Although I for one am generally too sensitive to enjoy watching movies about slavery (because I feel like I get it without having to watch painful reenactments), I was looking forward to seeing Birth of a Nation. I always am in support of contributing to the success of films that tell our stories, that remind others of what we’ve been through, and that inspire hope when some days it seems to be running out, even if I personally struggle to get through them. However, as I’m sure you’ve already heard, Nate Parker, the producer and director of Birth of a Nation has recently received a surplus attention not for the film but for his involvement, along with two friends, in a rape that took place during his college years.
Hearing of this case, I find myself in a very familiar situation, one where I wish I could support a Black man and his talents because he does have much to be proud of but where I am left to say “but.” It’s happened many times before, for instance – “R Kelly is a great singer but he’s been accused of rape several times including cases involving minors,” “Dr. Dre is incredibly talented but he has beaten multiple women and scarred their lives forever,” “Floyd Mayweather has accomplished incredible feats but he is a perpetrator of domestic violence and battery against women,” “Bill Cosby could have been considered an icon but he raped dozens of women,” the list unfortunately goes on and on and on.
Just why? This shit is getting old and more disappointing every time. The disappointment is then worsened when such celebrities cannot own up to their mistakes and at least try to make things right when they have the opportunity to do so. For example, apologies from such men are virtually unheard of – they instead elect to let things pass and continue to get buried with time and they watch from the sidelines while their victims’ lives are destroyed. In these times, I call upon the words of writer Joan Morgan who puts all of these feelings into a paragraph from her book When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost so poignantly:
I love black men like I love no other. And I’m not talking about sex or aesthetics. I’m talking about loving ya’ll to be down for the drama – stomping anything that threatens your existence. Now only a fool loves that hard without asking the same in return. So yeah, I demand that Black men fight sexism with the same passion they battle racism. I want you to annihilate anything that endangers sistas’ welfare – including violence against women – because my survival walks hand in hand with yours. So, my brotha, if loving ya’ll fiercely and wanting it back makes me a feminist then I’m a feminist. So be it.
Sure, there are a lot of people out there who do awful things, especially men and men of all different races and walks of life, so why am I focusing on famous Black men? Well I’m glad you asked. I am doing so first, because I am tired of having to say “but” so often when it comes to Black male celebrities. Second, it is most disappointing for me when Black men contribute to the oppression of Black women. Third, I am infuriated by people who protect such famous Black men by saying that those who ask them to own up to their mistakes are standing in the way of Black success. Fourth, I really wish they hadn’t done what they did so that I could just be proud and partake in the celebration of further success for our community. Fifth, since they did do what they did, I want them to own up to it and stop running away, hiding behind their power. And finally, I want all Black men with aspirations to be famous to always do the right thing, to make us proud, and to allow us to not have to stand up and say “but.”
Here you can find some of my brief thoughts and earlier blog posts. Most of my writing is now available under the "Published Pieces" tab.
For those of you telling us that "violence is not the answer," most of us agree. So much so that we'd like to end the use of violence against our black bodies as well as the thought that we should silently endure it.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m making this blog post about my fella. Sorry if you think it’s corny or annoying, I’m doing it anyways because he deserves a shout-out every now and then. He’s a handsome guy, with a heart of gold, a great sense of humor, and… he’s a politician. He doesn’t always like to admit it, but he is and so I’ve decided to write about something I don’t often talk about. It is something I think you’ll find interesting, unique, and hopefully funny.
“12 things that happen when you date a politician” (DISCLAIMER – I’m not sure what it’s like to date any other politician so I’m really just speaking about him):
1) When he sleep-talks he instructs you to knock on doors and leave campaign flyers if they don’t answer. When you laugh or act confused he gets frustrated and says: “we still have 20 more houses to cover!”
2) If he leaves for trips and people ask you where he’s gone you just say “I have no idea, I lost track a long time ago. He’s probably giving some speech somewhere”
3) He reschedules Valentine’s day plans because he gets invited to attend a summit with the president of the United States
4) He’s late to dinner because he gets caught up organizing a community event for high schoolers
5) You find yourself strangely upset with the president and with high schoolers for taking him away from you
6) He makes you feel like the most interesting person in the world, but then when you attend events together you see that he has a way of doing this for everyone…
7) His arguing strategies are seriously superb. Tough luck if you get caught quoting something incorrectly, he always finds the technicalities in anything you say. “I thought you said I didn’t text back 3 times, now it’s 2? Well things really aren’t adding up here”
8) Whenever you’re around other people he’s the most energetic person in the world but when you get time alone he seems to always fall asleep
9) His reasons for not doing things that you’ve asked him to do are really good and so hard to criticize. “I didn’t clean up because I’m stressing out about the homicide rates…” Well how are you going to get mad now?
10) When you both have free time, you have no idea what’s going on.
11) A Saturday that doesn’t require knocking on doors is the best thing since the invention of ice cream
12) You know how much you mean to him because no matter how many meetings he has scheduled, how many phone calls he needs to respond to, how many people there are yelling at him for things that really don’t concern him at all - when you’re having a bad day he drops everything to take you out for some froyo and make sure you’re okay. And whenever you accomplish anything he shows you and the rest of the world that you’re a superstar and he’s your #1 fan.
I had planned to do an upbeat blog post today, something about TV shows that I love or one of those life advice pieces, but alas the hatred in this world has kept me from this once again. I feel a duty to honor the lives of Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, and Goddess Edwards instead. What do these three people have in common? They were women, they were black, they were transgender, and they were all murdered this month. And I want to add another commonality – you likely haven’t heard of them because their deaths have not received much attention from the media. Additionally, due to people disrespecting their gendered identities even in death, referring to them with male gendered pronouns, it can be nearly impossible to find accurate information. However, I still find it important to do what is in my power to do: speak their names, tell their stories, and shed light on members of our community who are often overlooked or subject to even worse forms of scrutiny and discrimination.
Lamia Beard was found horribly wounded by gunshot on the morning of January 17th when she was transported to a local hospital where she died of blood loss. She was 30 years old. In an interview with Alternet, Lamia’s sister described her as a loving person who just wanted people to accept her for who she was. The murder happened in Norfolk, Virginia. No suspects have been arrested.
Ty Underwood was fatally shot 9 days later on January 26th while driving. She was 24 years old and was murdered in North Tyler, Texas. According to Advocate.com “she had recently been accepted into and was planning to attend Kilgore College's nursing program in Longview.” No suspects have been arrested.
There is even less information on Ms. Edwards, who is being called Goddess Edwards by the online transgender community and (wrongfully) Sherman Edwards by WHAS 11, the local Louisville news station. She is reported to have died by a single gunshot wound to the chest on January 9th in Louisville, Kentucky. She was 20 years old. Henry Gleaves, the man alleged to have committed this crime is in custody and has been charged with murder. It took up until the 28th, 19 days after her death, for her identity to be acknowledged correctly because previous reports insisted on referring to her as a man.
Every single one of these stories is a tragedy. The lack of respect given to these victims by reporters who continue to misidentify them and the lack of outrage from communities of women, of black people, of anyone concerned with humanity gravely worsen the situation. With very little national attention, transgender victims (especially those of color) are forgotten while their cases grow cold and their murderers walk free. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs states: “Last year, at least 12 transgender women of color were murdered in what were all possibly acts of transphobic violence. Many of those murders have gone unsolved. NCAVP’s most recent report on LGBTQ violence reveals that 72 percent of anti-LGBT violence was directed against transgender women, 67 percent of whom were women of color.”
We need to raise awareness, have more conversations, and share their stories. We need to open our eyes and fully embrace the motto of #BlackLivesMatter by including our transgender sisters in the list of victims affected by hate crimes, injustices, gun violence, and inhumane brutality. Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, and Goddess Edwards - I will remember you. May you rest in power and peace.
For more information please see these articles:
I’m going to start by telling you what I’ve been telling everyone in my life: “If you haven’t seen “Selma,” you need to as soon as possible and make sure to take friends and family with you.” The film, directed by Ava DuVernay, is an honorable historical account that simultaneously shines light on contemporary issues of police brutality and civil rights violations in the US. I could go on and on about my love for this work of art but there is one thing that I feel the need to be very critical of. This is the minimum, or rather, complete lack of attention paid to Coretta Scott King’s numerous accomplishments. With a film directed by one incredibly accomplished black woman, I had hoped for her to see the importance of shining light on another.
This dismissal of King’s legacy was made most apparent during the closing scene when each character’s story beyond “Selma” is summarized briefly in a few sentences, and the attribution given to CSK is her work to make sure MLK day was instituted as a national holiday. Now, this is a HUGE accomplishment and one that took around 15 years to come to fruition, but if that’s what anyone thinks her legacy should amount to, they are sorely misinformed. And I want to spend a little time here informing them correctly.
Coretta Scott King was extremely accomplished well before she even met Dr. King. She was known as an artist for her beautiful singing and violin playing. She graduated from her high school as valedictorian in 1945 and went on to receive a BA in education and music from Antioch College. She then studied at the New England Conservatory of Music after being awarded an esteemed fellowship to do so. It was in Boston where she met Dr. King and before marrying him she achieved a second collegiate degree in voice and violin.
She was a civil rights activist in her own right who worked closely with her husband. According to biography.com, “Coretta took part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, journeyed to Ghana to mark that nation's independence in 1957, traveled to India on a pilgrimage in 1959 and worked to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, among other civil-rights-related work […] she worked as a public mediator and as a liaison to peace and justice organizations.”
When MLK was assassinated in 1968, CSK continued her important work. She became founder, president, and executive officer of the MLK Center for Non-Violent Social Change. She published her own column, was a regular commentator on CNN and published a memoir in 1969. She was also a huge activist for LGBT rights stating by advocating on this community’s behalf she was simply helping to build "the beloved community of Martin Luther King, Jr., where all people can live together in a spirit of trust and understanding, harmony, love and peace." Throughout all of this, she worked tirelessly to keep her husband’s legacy alive. Oh, and let’s not forget she was the mother of 4 children. Our beautiful queen passed away after an incredible life in 2006 at the age of 78.
So next time you think of Coretta Scott King, you should think of much more than her accomplishment of establishing an extremely important holiday and maintaining reverence for the great Dr. King. You should also think of the honor and respect she deserves for her other contributions, we should work just as tirelessly to keep her story alive as she did, and we do, for her husband. On a larger scale, when it comes to telling the stories of all the women who paved paths for us, we shouldn’t forget the roles they played working alongside their male counterparts but we should not let these overshadow their individual identities and stories.
I found information for this blog on the following sites:
To my West African sisters and brothers, this one is for you.
(It is also for anyone who has not taken the time to learn about the tragedy that is happening in Nigeria, or who heard about the thousands who have died and just didn’t care.)
The world has turned its eyes, mind, and heart towards Paris after a week of horrendous bloodshed resulting in the death of 17 innocent people from terrorist attacks. There are many angles through which to discuss the terrifying nature of the attacks and the reactions that followed around the world, ranging from concerns about freedom of speech, the isolation of Islamic people, and most of all the immense solidarity shown with Parisians. For illustration, The Guardian reported that up to 60 world leaders assembled in Paris to join an estimated 3.7 million others rallying in honor of the victims and heroes of the attacks. Among these leaders was the French president, François Hollande, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, Ibrahim Boubacar Këita, the president of Mali, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and David Cameron, the UK prime minister. The resounding message of their participation in the rally was “We are walking together, as one Europe, Africa, the Middle East against terrorism.”
This is a beautiful and important gesture for the world to see. I am comforted that so many stood together to honor the lives of each individual affected by the horror of terrorism in Europe. And I do not mean to take away from the victims in Paris by what I am about to say… but where the hell have people been for Nigeria? As media coverage focused primarily on Europe, Boko Haram - an Islamist militant goup, massacred 2000 Nigerians and almost no one was talking about it! How could this even be possible? Where was the solidarity for them? While it is true that there are different factors, which make reporting from Nigeria more dangerous than reporting from Paris, this should have been all the more reason for people to use their voices to inform others. There hasn’t even been any kind of talk around solidarity among world leaders to honor the victims of Boko Haram’s deadliest attack to date.
“We are walking together, as one Europe, Africa, the Middle East against terrorism” Oh really? Not if the terrorism results in the loss of African lives though apparently.
Social media solidarity can be important and is something that the 2000+ victims of the most recent Boko Haram attack deserved at the very least. However, I am not only calling for tweets and posts because (contrary to popular opinion) I do not believe this is enough to combat injustice. We can learn from the other times when the world decided to at least care about an African nation for a moment before abandoning their pain. For instance, you might remember the #BringBackOurGirls campaign from May 2014. This was one example of the media world uniting to stand in solidarity with Nigeria after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from their boarding school where they then kept them in camps and were reported to rape the girls routinely. At first, the campaign went viral but was gradually abandoned, just like so many others against grave injustices are. For anyone who was once interested enough to post about Bringing Back Our Girls in May, you should ask yourself if you even know what happened to them. Because American news outlets stopped reporting on the story as the trend of solidarity passed, I had to continually ask my parents living in Ghana for updates. FYI - In October of 2014, 6 months after the kidnapping, Al Jazeera reported that 57 girls had escaped while 219 remained in captivity.
The points I am attempting to make are many, but here are just a few: 1) if you stand in solidarity against terrorism and injustice, you should do so for all victims of such crimes giving them the same honor they each deserve, 2) you should stay informed on what’s going on in the world and not always rely on Western news sources to do so, 3) it is important to help spread your knowledge with those around you 4) it is crucial to stay committed to the fight against injustice, because those who bring injustice to the world are nothing if not committed themselves, and 5) don't let acts of violence fade from your memory because when you do you let the victims fade away as well.
If you would like to read more about the attacks in Nigeria, here are some useful pieces:
“Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression”
As a student pursuing a master’s in Gender Studies, I often find myself in conversations surrounding feminism and feminist theory. Most people seem to begin the dialogue with a challenge in attempts to show what is wrong with feminism and feminists. I’ve heard that feminists are crazy and that all they want is either to be like men or to destroy them, I’ve heard that people who study feminist theory are simply emotional and take things too personally to pose factual and objective information.
I also encounter those who quickly proclaim they are feminists yet don’t really know what that means to them, nor can they acknowledge that their feminism may be very different than another person’s. These people might say something like – “oh men, they have no place in feminist conversations because they just don’t understand” or “all women should have equal working rights, unless this makes me give up my own class privilege” (I’m paraphrasing here of course).
I think both standpoints are equally as harmful to a feminist movement, at least the one I consider myself to be a part of, one represented by the quote above. As I often do when in conversations concerning feminism, I want to bring in a few bell hooks quotes here that begin to address both those who just dismiss feminist theory and those who mindlessly pick it up, for both are simply misinformed.
In her book Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks writes: “When I talk about the feminism I know – up close and personal – [people] willingly listen, although when our conversations end, they are quick to tell me I am different, not like ‘real’ feminists who hate men, who are angry. I assure them I am as real and as radical a feminist as one can be, and if they dare to come closer to feminism they will see it is not how they have imagined it”
I use this quote because it is something I deeply relate to. There are too many people who dismiss feminist politics because they have accepted a mainstream representation of it that loses sight of its goal to end oppression on all levels. Feminist theorists themselves have often been unable to question their own levels of privilege especially those they hold over other women of lower classes or of different race groups. These transgressions are more than fair to critique but they are not reasons to dismiss ones commitment to end sexism and sexist exploitation. If people weren’t so quick to criticize feminism when they meet a feminist, they would provide themselves more room to grow and to see the diverse layers and history of feminist thought (as they are many).
In the same book, hooks continues to a different point: “A male who has divested of male privilege, who has embraced feminist politics, is a worthy comrade in struggle, in no way a threat to feminism, whereas a female who remains wedded to sexist thinking and behavior infiltrating feminist movement is a dangerous threat”
Again, this quote addresses a misunderstanding and one that is extremely dangerous. She explains to her readers that being feminist should not just become a fashionable trend; it is something that should cause a change in your lifestyle no matter what gender you identify with. Simply identifying as a woman does not mean you are automatically a feminist, especially if you participate in acts of oppression. And identifying as a man is not a reason to be excluded from a movement that desperately needs you in order to succeed. I believe it is crucial for those who identify as feminists to embrace this belief because each one of us represents a larger movement. One that often becomes vilified when infiltrated by those who wave the banner and are not willing to learn how they might improve in their own thinking.
This is solely a brief introduction to a general discussion of why more people should set aside their misunderstandings and learn for themselves how beneficial embracing informed feminism could be for themselves and society as a whole. bell hooks beautifully summarizes this by writing: “Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction” I hope you take these quotes and commentary as important food for thought in your next interaction with feminism and that you engage with future pieces concerning my choice to align with Black Feminism specifically. More on this soon…