That Conversation, Week 3: Talking To Strangers

 

When I started school, we were constantly being taught not to talk to strangers. We were constantly taught not to get into stranger’s cars, take things from them, and to tell an adult if someone tried to bother us, to let an adult know. How similar these rules become when you cross from child to woman!

My girls are at the age now where I have to remind them to be aware of their surroundings. I have to tell of the trappings of moving through the world as a pretty girl. I have to make them aware, and unassuming all at once–and it troubles me. Especially when I take public transit, or am out in public. As a woman, I have the accouterments of the realm for assurance I won’t be bothered:  phone, book, sunglasses, earphones. When I was of the age where  I went out every weekend–and my Spanish was better I pretended I didn’t speak English.

It worked.

The goal was always to be safe, get home, or not be bothered. In this age of participation trophies, and continuous yeses, there is a certain ilk of young man that does not like to be told “no”. And in telling them this ancient word that is used to dispatch, they–like all evil spirits—seek to destroy what they cannot hope to possess.

There is a certain portion of the male persuasion whom cannot cope with rejection or being ignored.

They stalk in packs like wolves, waiting and looking for the weak or unassuming, seeing if they can seduced or devoured. When I was younger, my father would tell me if there were a group of men/boys inside a place (like a gas station)  to let him know, or he would come in with me.  Or, the scarier part as a girl between 12-15 is when I would have to pretend I wasn’t scared—when I was. At that age, I knew what sex was. What rape was. What being touched when I didn’t want to be was. I knew all of these things. And I didn’t want these things to happen to me.

Yet, because toxic masculinity is real, and toxic patriarchy makes weak men believe all women are possessions and property, this evil roux births rape culture. In such a world that has such people in it, daughters are sent out into it. As scary as this is, they cannot avoid such evils in the world. If we love them, we have to equip them for this as well. We have to be brave enough to tell these brilliant female children, they walk amongst wolves.

Now, I am a fan of women and girls being able to defend themselves. I am a fan of women and girls always knowing their surroundings, and being aware of who they are with and the places their feet tread. There are conversations I have had with my daughters as it relates being ladylike, clean, and dealing with law enforcement. This, however, is a conversation I dread; only having it in pieces. I have only had the strength to have it in pieces. How do you tell your daughter there are people in the world that don’t see her as a person, but property? How do you remind your daughter to stay close to you in parking lot where there is light, and close your door as soon as your get in without making her feel utterly terrified? Yet, I must. I do. I continue.

I cannot have them go into the world unknowing. I cannot allow them to be in a position where they fall prey simply because they were uninformed! Where or when they didn’t know what to do; how to get out; how to defuse a potentially dangerous situation with an equally dangerous person? How can I let the go out into the world and not recognize their gut feeling and intuition–so they don’t override it? No. I cannot be that lax, or naive. I equip them, piece by piece-for their own good. Even when they don’t know it yet.

In that, I remind them the world can be dark–but it’s better to have a flashlight.

That Conversation-Week 2: The Wisdom Of Better Men

(This is an intimate letter to the Kings that inhabit this Queedom. Read and share.)

Kings of this Queedom:

Toxic masculinity is described as follows:

noun. a cultural concept of manliness that glorifies stoicism, strength, virility, and dominance, and that is socially maladaptive or harmful to mental health: Men and women both suffer when toxic masculinity perpetuates expectations that are restrictive and traumatizing.

Let me make this appeal simple for the men of this Queendom:  I need you to raise better sons. I need you to understand being a man is more than phallus antics. It is more than killing bugs. It is more than sporting events, being physically strong and ‘being a man.’ I need you all to understand your sons need to be able to be attentive, perceptive, and be taught to care for women.

Let me say this again:  be taught to care for women. 

Caring for a woman is more than buying her things. It is more than providing orgasms, or masturbating with her body (oh, it’s a thing)! Caring for a woman means that you have to be able to be what she needs, provide support (outside of material things), and have some empathy.

I need you to understand the world is scary, and women don’t always have the ability to ensure they will be okay. With that, what I also must impress upon you is toxic masculinity is not what grows a relationship. You exerting control over a woman, claiming that it’s what men do, is not the healthiest space to be in.

I need you to be mindful of the women in your life whom need you. I need you to check the men in your life who demean women, whom participate in street harassment, or are unable to handle the most dangerous word a woman can say:  “No.” I need you all to understand your manhood, the idea of manhood, is not determined by what the world may think of you. I need you to understand your worth as a man is beyond the mastery of your emotions. The ability as a man to control your emotions, does not mean they do not exist.

Give your son, the young men in your life, permission to emote. To cry. To be human more than once! I want you to affirm your sons in the non-athletic things they do. Dearest Kings of this Queedom,  I want you to give your son the permission to possess all of their personhood. This means being able to be the young men whom will help shape the world. Let them cry, let them draw, let them play football and paint or play trumpet. Remind them that manhood is both collective and individualistic. Collective as they are not the only men in the world, and somethings are just common to the sex. Individualistic because they are, will be, unique to the world; such things are to be special.

What is needed now, what is needed for future generations of daughters is men (and women) whom are able to value all of their person; beyond sexual antics. I need the men of this Queendom to understand women are not possessions to hoard, or projects to critique, but people. I need you all to understand that as a man, you have the unique responsibility of instructing and modeling for your son, and instilling that model for your daughter.

She will need your strength to let her know what reasonable expectations of a partner. Your daughter will need your help to navigate these spaces that require her to be astute as well as charming. She will need your wisdom to set reasonable expectations, how to avoid crazy situations, and to know what love looks like.

Can you do that for her? For her sake, I pray you can.

For the sake of all the world, teach the Princes how to be Kings.

That Conversation, Week 1: The Ownership Of Me

 

The first time I was grabbed in public, I was about 8, 9 years old. This little boy grabbed my butt on a playground, and I didn’t know what to do. The touch felt wrong, and it was so quick I didn’t even know who it was.

Imagine that.

As a little Black girl, your body is in a state of policing–of constant policing. As a woman, your body is on this strange rack–always to be consumed, scrutinized and discarded. What I have admonished my daughters, and the women that follow me on any platform, is that you have ownership of yourself.

You have the right to your body, in all its function. In all its power. In all its space. You have the right to rest, rule and abide in whatever space you traverse. You own every step, all pacing, and every sentient step.

I have the right to go out into public and not be accosted, not be bothered–or even killed because I want to be left alone. Women are not public wares to be bartered, traded or sold. I have the right to go into public spaces and come out of them–unhurt.

People do not have to touch me to talk to me. No, I don’t have to smile to make you at ease. No, I am not taking out my headphones to talk to you. I have the right to be in a space, occupy it, and that be okay! My body, this vessel that I traverse the cosmos in–or public transit, the supermarket, the gas station–is mine. It is mine and I need to be able to move through the world without being bothered. Or attacked for not wanting to be in yours.

The public is not hunting ground for women. It is not the a meat market of fresh chattel femme flesh for the serving, drooling, starving male populace. The value of my life is not equated to my sex or its services to man–or any man for that matter. I am whole all by myself.

That is enough.

 

That Conversation (Overview)

For the grander overview, click here. 

Earlier this month, I spoke about the “That Conversation” on a Facebook Live. This miniseries as set up because, as a mother of daughters, I have a fear of my daughters going out into the world that desires to consistently devour them. The stories I have heard through the current social climate, as a mother –not just as a woman, scare me. Like most writers, I don’t sit well with fear and uncertainty. The antidote for this being to write. Write through this. Writing through this.

So, the topics will post every week, starting January 4, 2020. Here are the list of topics:

 

January 4, 2020 The Ownership of Me (Body Autonomy in Public Spaces)

January 11, 2020The Wisdom of Better Men (Men Holding Other Men Accountable)

January 18, 2020Talking To Strangers (Street Harassment & Personal Space In Public)

January 25, 2020Looking Back & Forward (The ‘Feminine Urban Legends’)

February 1, 2020What I Want Your Son To Know (Defusing Toxic Masculinity & Toxic Patriarchy)

 

There are certain conversations as women, as girls, are relevant and needed. Those conversations are beyond shoes, clothes and hair.

SABEM The Wrap Up- Feeling Like ‘Endgame’

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“Part of the journey is the end.”

-Anthony Edward ‘Tony’ Stark aka Iron-Man (Robert Downey, Jr.)

 

The Bible says, “Better is the end of a thing, than the beginning.” Here, I am inclined to agree. This part of my journey took twenty years. The guesstimation for a generation is about 20 years–18 is still considered and adult, legal and sentient. This portion of my life is over. I am now a dual-degreed and making my own way in the world. Radically believing in myself.

I had to fight the voices that come up with such celebration, wondering what other people would think of say. I had to remind myself these people do not matter! They will always have something to say. Partly because it’s me, the other part is people need something to talk about. Always. But I am in process of forgiving my own doubt, my own hesitations, or believing other people’s dream for my life rather than my own.

I understand what I am building, what I desire to do, will require tenacity, patience and care. I realize that there is a portion of me which will be out of step with the world around me; I will always have a tendency to see beyond what other people do. I had to become okay with a strange type of duality. I had to be okay with doing the practical and the magical!

The practical has the day job, pays bills, and is a bomb partner and spouse. The magical still dreams of making art, writing books, and sacrifices sleep to build the things she sees! The magical is so incredible that you will  chase after it–it is the pot of goal at the end of the rainbow. I am chasing the rainbow…and have caught one.

It is easy to go ahead and be angry, be mad, and lament for time lost. But, chose not to do that. I am choosing to celebrate today. I am choosing to make this a point of light and transition today. I am choosing to breathe deep and go forward. I will not entertain the madness of people who have no aspirations of their own. I will not feed in to the ideology of “You can’t eat with this degree.” I have found the thing my heart has longed to do, continues to do and needs to do.

The next stop, the next leg of the writer-teacher-scholar journey is graduate school. I am blessed to have started by professional network. I have a main mentor, whom looks like me. I have access to women whom can answer my questions, and point me towards organizations that I need to join or be aware of. I have been given opportunities to do what I have been graced to do–know to do. There is a power I have gleaned now which now allows me, frees me, to be both Alpha Femme, and a lady. This thing, this degree, is a polish. An addition to the uncovering of that which it is I want, and desire to do.

This is the end of a part, not the whole. The whole is still being revealed, still being shone, still processing–in sharper focus than it was before. The feeling of the insistent now, the restless now, is ebbing. It doesn’t gnaw as it did before. The bites aren’t as hard, my flesh not as fulfilling to the fears housed there. I am more the woman I was supposed be than I ever was. And now, right now, I can breathe deep. And wait for what’s next.

Something is already next.

I am a mother.

I am a writer.

I am a wife.

I am a creator.

I am a scholar.

I am an activist.

I am an oracle.

I am a teacher.

I am a warrior.

I am a survivor.

I am the mother of dragons–and I breathe fire.

Graduation 2019–Reflections

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To be read at my Graduation Dinner:

 

I believe there is a pattern to this life. It has taken me twenty-one years to arrive at this point. Twenty-one years ago today, I was a seventeen and in the first semester of my Senior year at Jennings Senior High School. By 11:00 AM the morning I was to commit my father to Christ and ground, I was clad in the same warrior black as my mother. And today, I am clad in that same warrior black, with the colors of my father:  like all heirs, the children of Kings wear when fathers are absent. It would be fitting that the same time my father was in funeral salon, in this final transition, so will I cross over.

In this ceremony, the emotions are not adequate to convey! This has been a journey which has tried and tested me as I had never thought. It has forced me to question which is greater—desire or comfort. This Bachelor’s degree is a culmination of what I wanted as 16-year-old girl. This is a key, a map, and a light to where I must go next. Today, I am taking the time to celebrate that which I have fought to possess! Something which other people believed I needed to get, and helped me to attain. The level of gratefulness that I have is immeasurable; tempered with humility.

These sixteen weeks, have been confirmation of everything I have wanted to do, and given hints at whom I will become. I have begun a professional network, gained a mentor, and become part of the esteemed International English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta.

I am now on the path to destiny.

                What has been shone to me in these sixteen weeks are these natural gifts of speech, language and thought are weapons of a formidable sort in the hands of an artist! Writing is an art and art is to be both worked out and manifested. My hope is that I honor all talents bestowed upon me and through me be a full satisfaction.

From the shores of a home I have never seen; from the soils of deltas, swamps and plantations; from grandparents barely educated, whom were wishing and pushing for better hope carried in the bellies of their children—I am aware this achievement has not been done alone. As this journey continues, I will not be alone.       

Today, I have surrendered to the air to ride it.

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Week 16-The Freed Self (The Final Of Finals Week)

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“Choose yourself. Choose yourself. Always bet on yourself.”

-Billy Porter, Tony Award Winning Actor

 

This week was my final week of my undergrad. It was bittersweet. It was amazing. It was a reminder there is more to be done. I found a job, I start the week of finals week, and I think I already hate it…

Why?

It’s not what I want to do, but it’s a ‘right now’ job. There are still bills to pay, children to feed and gas to put in my car to get back and forth. Yet, my heart is not there–and already planning for grad school. My next meetings with my professional next works. The books yet to write.

The brand I am building…

I have decided to pursue writing, to give my all to it–to do what will feed that need to create. There are a myriad of things before me to choose from, to develop. I have decided graduate school is what I want to pursue. I want to teach college courses. I want to hold space. I want to be a gatekeeper.

I will be a gatekeeper.

As my time at UM-St. Louis is ending, I am 1 final and 1 group activity from graduation. I am indeed almost there! My professional network is forming, expanding already. I am looking at Low-Res options for my MFA, or MA’s. I even have my thesis! I have waited so long to get to this point where I can say ‘almost’. Where I can say ‘I am almost there.’

‘I am almost there.’

There is no longer nebulous and foreign. It is no longer this place of mourning or regret or complete fury at its lack. I had to remind myself the job is not a career, not my trail or path anymore. I am no longer a nurse, nor do I have a desire to be one. I am a different type of caretaker.

This week when doing my review for Dr. Welch’s class, we played Are You Smarter Than A 15th Grader?–or take on Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? I wore my BLACK AUTHORS MATTER shirt I got from a Writing Coach called the LiteraryRevolutionary on Instagram. I said this before the review started:

“Okay, before we get started. I want to take a station break and remind you in the words of my girl Morgan Jenkins, the author of This Will Be My Undoing, and Medium editor who said, ‘If you only read White authors you are not well-read.’ So I want to remind you Black Authors Matter.”

I don’t think I would have had the boldness to do that had I not had this semester and personal writing experience to draw from. That act, amidst a sea of non-melaninated faces, was revolutionary. It was a reminder to be and remain visible–as both writer and teacher. The fear of not being successful at this–this writing, teaching, speaking–is over.

Abolished.

Ended.

Killed.

Dead.

I know that which I want to do, and the opinions of others are not a factor. Nor are they, will there be a problem. This semester has allowed me to radically believe in myself. In every gift. Every dream. Every talent.

This new space feels amazing…it is amazing.

The journey to get here is nothing short of miraculous. But, it is the miraculous things which require the most magic. Other things are handled, will be handled with this Black Girl Magic.

Oh! The world about to get all this Black Girl Magic–ready or not.

Ready or not–Here She Come.