Finding My Way Out of Limbo

Written By Aspen, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I recently found myself indulging in a newly released teen romance drama. The movie wasn’t exactly groundbreaking but ever since I watched, one quote stuck out to me: “Adults are just scared kids who were lucky to make it out of limbo alive”. The movie, although centered around young love, focuses on the trauma that we experience in adolescence and the ways we carry that with us over time. It poses the argument that society as a whole does not spend enough discussing the deep emotion that we are capable of experiencing in our youth. 

The quote stuck with me because I’m intrigued by the representation of our youth, particularly our teen years, as this “limbo” that we must fight our way out of to reach adulthood. Even though I’ve done a lot to live the dream of “adulting” I feel like there should have been some more fanfare into this idea of adulthood or at least a better marker. As a new dog mom, I certainly have some responsibility now. Plus, I also have a couple bills that certainly feel like an “adult” problem when I read those statements. But I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily started some life changing new chapter in my life, no matter how much I tell myself I should. 

So, I’ve given some more thought to this idea of limbo as a time marker these past few days. I connected this with the fact that I started regular therapy a few months ago. After hearing from several friends about how helpful it can be to just have someone to share with and unpack life happenings, I finally decided to give it a go. I realized that even though I’ve spent the past few years working jobs that at times require me to serve as a makeshift therapist of sorts, my advice is a hell of a lot easier to give than it is to take for myself. 

Despite being transparent when I do share, I am a rather private person. I’m largely an internal processor and I don’t like to share how I’m feeling or what I think because I don’t want to burden others. So I’m very calculated and intentional about when I share, how much, and with whom. I have spent so much of my life absorbing the feelings of those around me with very limited skills on safe release of those emotions and my own ones which have compounded over time.

Therapy is exactly that — a safe release. Therapy is me talking about myself, my experiences, and my reactions to those experiences almost nonstop and surprisingly, it’s quite refreshing. 

If I were to rate the experience, I say 100/10 recommend. The first few sessions consisted of me going through nearly an entire box of tissues as my therapist asked me about things that I 100% spent most of my adolescence repressing but it was probably for the best. She is very good at letting me talk and letting me come to my own conclusions. Several years of helping others means that the things my therapist tells me often confirm what I already know about myself, but sometimes taking action to put myself first means that I need to hear those things from someone else.

My parents still cringed and then brushed me off when I told them therapy could be really helpful to everyone in our immediate family to unpack years of pent up feelings. Mental health has always been a sore spot for them and they have thought of it as a way to “get better” when someone has a mental health concern. I don’t see it like that as I recognize that making regularly scheduled time for someone to listen to you in the good and the bad times can be somewhat cathartic in essence and you don’t necessarily have to wait to do that until you are in crisis. Nonetheless, I at least appreciate them considering the possibility, even if only for 60 seconds, and not trying to shut my suggestion down completely. Thankfully on the other hand, I’ve also had friends who are very excited for me and some who I have even referred because they are interested in also pursuing regular therapy.

After the thought that I’ve given it, I’ve decided that this concept of limbo goes hand in hand with our mental health. It doesn’t have to be this metaphorical battle that we claw our way out of in order to reach adulthood on the other side of the cave. In fact, many of us still might even be in limbo when we reach adulthood. I have found that talking to someone through the anxiety and stressors that I experience on a day to day basis, some of which I’ve known for most of my life and some that are new, can be very productive and liberating. It gives me hope that I one day move on from limbo, gradually and casually, in order to find myself in a place that I envision myself in the future.

After the thought that I’ve given it, I’ve decided that this concept of limbo goes hand in hand with our mental health. It doesn’t have to be this metaphorical battle that we claw our way out of in order to reach adulthood on the other side of the cave. In fact, many of us still might even be in limbo when we reach adulthood. I have found that talking to someone through the anxiety and stressors that I experience on a day to day basis, some of which I’ve known for most of my life and some that are new, can be very productive and liberating. It gives me hope that I one day move on from limbo, gradually and casually, in order to find myself in a place that I envision myself in the future.

Aspen, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Will to Survive

 

Written By Ca$h, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Now, ya’ll. I have some pretty big news that I had hoped to be sharing on the other side of some country lines… I’ve been accepted to study in Canada this fall as a student in Social Psychology. I’ve been planning this change in my life for months and have been counting down the days until this challenging, yet exciting transition would be happening.

Today, as of Wednesday September 2nd, none of the plans that I’ve been working on have gone the way they should have. I start classes on Monday and I am not in Canada.

Why am I sharing this? Well, this month’s blog post was going to be a beautiful rendition of transformation. I was going to touch on what change looks like and how will power, planning, and gracious grit go into life transitions. I was excited to talk about preparation and using mindful practices to make great decisions. Instead, I’m going to be touching on something quite different. Yet, as I am writing this I realize that much of the same characteristics are needed for both the joy that I expected and the reality that we are experiencing. 

Coronavirus happened to us. We all came across some sort of life pause or change. For me, this meant that the plans that I had created to make my transition as easy as possible were futile. This meant that the money that I had saved for the transition from a full-time mid-management position back to a student was used as a safety net. This meant that the months of gathering paperwork, supplies, and travel preparations were put on hold indefinitely. This meant paying for my condo and my uninhabited apartment at the same time. This meant moving my mindset from the will to achieve and having the will to survive.

The will to survive is not always what we see in the story lines. American media tells us that we as main characters in our own odyssey go on epic life quests that determine our resilience and our capacity for heroism. We are shown these extreme fight scenes, death, and life destruction that the main character must go through and survive in order to come out on the other side better. And in a way, we start to believe that the only time that we are allowed to be the hero of our survival story is by defeating some large ethereal quest that the universe has placed before us to make us stronger. 

In reality, life isn’t some epic story that has grandiose plots. Truthfully, it is just what it is. We go through a bunch of small things that tear us down all the time and too often we don’t acknowledge that sometimes the smallest things make the biggest breaks. Over the past few months, what I have realized from this time frame we are in is that life just sucks at times. There will be periods in our lives where we can’t overcome the obstacles to be our own heroes. Sometimes, it gets to a point where all the small things we endure put us in a position to decide that the only thing that we have to give the world today is this breath – is just another moment to be present. And truthfully – Why are we not celebrating that? 

When I had to change my mindset from achieving a grandiose goal to surviving for the current time being, I don’t mean that I gave up on joy, creativity or the beautiful things in life. I mean that I had to make a choice in what mattered to me right now. I had to sit back and think about what resilience really looked like. Was my happiness and worth tied to getting to Canada? Or, is just waking up to fight another day going to be good enough for me. That distinction is something that I am happy to be cultivating to carry on deeper into my life. In times where it seems that we don’t have the big things to celebrate – the joy of a move, the change of a job or career, the excitement of a relationship, can we just celebrate waking up? Can we just celebrate our breath? Can we celebrate our will to survive the next moment, hour, day? It won’t always be like this. We will have exciting goals that give us pieces of purpose. But, true grit, true resilience, and true joy really does come from finding the constants in the smallest forms of life. I hope today that this post just reminds you that whatever you did today – even if it’s just waking up, you are celebrated for!

Ca$h, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

 

Black Creativity: The Art of Survival

Introducing our newest writer: BREIGH!

Written By Breigh, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

In times like these (and I mean times that feel chaotic, hopeless, tragic, uncertain), I often find myself wondering: “How the hell are we going to make it through this?” 

Times are hard, y’all. But as I was watching the OG Kings of Comedy one night, I found the answers to all of life’s problems delivered to me through Steve Harvey. 

In his skit about the Titanic, he said: “If that movie would’ve been about Black people, wouldn’t have even been no movie!” 

And have you ever heard a truer statement in your life?

But seriously, it made me realize that no matter the situation, Black folks always find a way to make it through and out. I mean, come on now, imagine Black people on the Titanic. 

It’s because Black people are creative af. 

My definition of creativity is literally creating something out of nothing— or taking something good and making it great. Thinking outside of the box.

The evidence is painfully clear. We’re pros at it. 

Let me provide you with some receipts and you can use yourself as the subject of your own experience. 

Take for instance… struggle meals. Don’t act like you’re too above this and haven’t had to make gourmet ramen noodles numerous times in your life. Personally, I add a little soy sauce, vinegar, chop up some tomatoes…. Bussing. What about you? 

Oh, and my favorite creative expression from Black people is the infamous Fabuloso in a pot over the stove… 

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I feel bad for you. But I’ll explain so that you can  indulge in this greatness as well… 

So, instead of buying candles or some other smell-good device, Black people take fabuloso (the all-purpose cleaner) and simmer it in a pot over the stove. Ugh, I can smell it now. 

If I’m not driving my point home yet, think of hairstyles, clothes, cars, dances, art, music, food…. WE are creativity; creativity is US. 

For centuries, Black people have had to learn how to make something out of nothing which has allowed us the opportunity to continue to survive and thrive in this country and this world. Our ancestors literally created an Underground Railroad that wasn’t even a railroad… come on now!

And would literally have hidden messages about the Underground Railroad in the songs they sang right in front of their “masters.”– COME ON NOW! 

It’s been what has kept us afloat

It’s been what has kept us hopeful. 

It’s been what has kept us vibrant.

It’s been what has kept us alive.

So, today I challenge you to tap into that gift that you already have–That which was gifted to you from your ancestors.. And use it

Don’t just rest on your creativity when you are in survival mode and have no other options. Tap into it with each and every chance you get, because that’s what it’s going to take for you to thrive in this world. 

Proactively tapping into your creativity can look many different ways. For me, often times it looks like thinking through “similar” or “normal” circumstances with a lens of curiosity of if I should approach this differently than last time. “What would happen if I did A instead of B this time? I’ve always done B.” 

Another conversation I have with myself is: “I know A has never been done like this before, but I wonder if this will work.” 

But my favorite is: “People are always doing A, I’m going to do B and see what happens.”

Think outside of the box. 

The box that the world puts you in. 

The box that society puts you in…

The box that your family puts you in..

Your friends…

Shoot, even yourself. 

Think outside of all that and finesse your life like you finesse these men and these wigs. 

May your creative juices continue to flow and water the seeds to help you survive, grow and thrive in this life. 

Breigh, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I May Destroy You: A Whimsical Discussion of Society’s Darkest Topics

Written By Aspen, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

A few months ago while watching Insecure, I found myself constantly intrigued by the pre-show advertisements for the show that would be debuting in the next time slot. The show sounded scary and I hate to be scared but it was created by Michaela Coel. Coel has been one of my favorite actresses and creatives ever since I watched her show Chewing Gum (based on her stage show Chewing Gum Dreams), a British sitcom starring Coel as the main character Tracey Gordon who was endlessly forming schemes to try to lose her virginity. The show was hilarious to say the least and something that never lost its fun factor even on my third or fourth re-watch. Since then Michaela Coel has found herself in more serious work such as Black Earth Rising and Black Mirror but this latest work has the menacing title of I May Destroy You.

I decided to give it a try solely based on my love for Michaela Coel. I watched the first episode when it aired and it soon became clear that the show is centered on the reckoning and processing of a sexual assault incident experienced by the main character (played by Coel herself). Although I am not caught up on the show due to life, I am looking forward to watching the two episodes that I missed soon. Each episode that I have watched thus far tells a different story both, past and present, that adds more context to what you already know. It highlights the millennial experience through commentary about social media use and the often discussed concept of self care to address real-world topics including sexual assault, the debate around misreporting, masculinity and stigma surrounding sexual assault reporting amongst men, a shortage of resources and lack of justice for sexual assault survivors, and the range of emotions and reactions felt  not only by someone who has been sexually assaulted but also those they disclose to.   

The show is groundbreaking as it will make you laugh, cry, and question your own life experiences in a 30-minute block. Michaela Coel’s push to center people of color while also subtly emphasizing the ways that intersectionality plays a vital role in their experiences is beautifully interwoven. You soon realize that each of the characters is processing their own unique experience and the disclosure of the main character’s experience has a rippling effect on each of their own lives. It really highlights a sense of community and the different areas in life that we can find community and what that may mean in different contexts.

Coel’s work as an actor and creator continues to floor me and I look forward to seeing how the series continues to unfold over the next few weeks. Although some serious content warnings are warranted I highly recommend this show to anyone who is looking for a realistic approach to navigating some of these topic areas, many of which are still not discussed enough in our day to day.

Aspen, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

75 Pounds Later

 

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Give yourself grace

 

When COVID came and disrupted everything we’ve ever known, I found myself more isolated than ever. I was feeling the effects of living alone and feeling unmotivated at the beginning of quarantine. Usually when I’m feeling overwhelmed my body has a physical reaction. I either can’t sleep very well at night and lose my appetite or I want to stay in bed all day and eat everything. At the height of quarantine, I was the former. I was restless at night and all I consumed was a smoothie a day, a mango, and maybe something solid every day for two weeks. On top of that, I found myself destressing by working out for at least two hours every single day. Before I knew it, I was down 11 pounds in less than a month. I wasn’t trying to lose the weight, it just happened. I was officially the “smallest” I’ve ever been. Actually, the cover photo for this post is a visual of how small I was/am. 75 pounds later and it still feels weird that over the last 7 years, I lost this weight. I recognize that people can lose that much weight in a year’s time or less by my journey has been an up and downhill battle with depression, an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and self-esteem. This is not the first time I’ve written about my struggle with weight but I felt this piece was needed.

I see the difference in how my clothes fit because most things are too big. However, sometimes when I look in the mirror, I don’t see what other people see. I spend hours nitpicking at all the flaws I feel like I have. Oh, my stomach is flat, cool. But I don’t have a rounder butt. My thighs are still big. It’s the little things like that, that are not healthy at all. People always ask me how I lost the weight and tell me how great I look and I always tell them to practice self-love before going on a weight loss journey. Losing weight means nothing if you can’t give yourself grace and honor for the progress you’ve made. I want people who are looking to become healthier to really take the time to center themselves and fill themselves up with positive affirmations. And then believe it. No “body” is perfect. Even the woman we see on social media who we think has the perfect body doesn’t. But confidence and self-love is what those women really possess. And hell, they probably have imperfections they deal with that we don’t know about either.

I offer a few suggestions on losing weight the healthy way for those looking to start their journey. These are the things I did at the very beginning to jumpstart my weight loss 7 years ago. These are the things that worked for me. We are all different and our bodies react to things differently. Take these suggestions and make them your own. But remember to love on yourself first.

  1. Do your research:  It is important to research and talk to your doctor about ways to manage and lose weight. Don’t jump into trendy diets you see right away. Some diets in hindsight are not healthy and you can potentially gain the weight right back. When I first started losing weight, I started out on weight watchers. I figured that was an easy way for me to not “diet” but track and assign points to what I ate during the day. I also did not have to give up all of the foods I liked to eat. I only increased my intake of vegetables…I greatly disliked veggies. I also went cold turkey on drinking soda. That actually wasn’t hard at all. To this day, I don’t drink soda. I’ll maybe have a coke in a mixed alcoholic drink like 4 times a year…maybe. Even then, it makes my stomach hurt a bit. 
  2. DRINK. WATER. ALL. THE. TIME: I can’t tell you how many people I know (GROWN PEOPLE) who say they don’t drink water or don’t like water. Water is literally the key to losing weight. Water is actually all I drink. I don’t buy juice, I don’t ask for a lemonade at restaurants, I don’t stop to get a sweet drink if I’m traveling. I crave water lol and my body will let me know when I haven’t had enough. I typically drink a gallon a day. Some of you may not be there yet. Start out with a reusable water bottle and set a goal to drink that by a certain time of day. As you work on increasing your water intake, it will start to become second nature. Also, when you drink more water, you’re helping your digestion and more bowel movements and those aid in weight loss.
  3. Intermittent Fasting: My good friend Cash recommends intermittent fasting to jumpstart weight loss but she only recommends you do it for two weeks and then eat 6 small meals a day. When I intermittent fast, I don’t consume anything but water before noon and I try to ensure I only eat up until 7pm. (Some days it’s hard because I do binge eat when I’m sad). That is not me saying, eat for 7 hours straight. I’m saying to be mindful of what you’re eating and then do not consume anything after 7pm besides water.
  4. Eat until you’re full, not finished: We’ve heard our entire lives to finish everything on our plates. Sometimes, that can lead to overeating and one of the main causes for an unhealthy lifestyle. If you are a person who has to eat all of their food, put smaller portions on your plate
  5. Exercising: I excessively exercise. Everyone doesn’t have this kind of time or patience. It is important that if you are physically able, to get up and do some kind of physical activity during the day for 30 minutes. Maybe it’s yoga, or a walk, or a bike ride. Whatever it is, do it. If you can spend time binge watching a tv show, get down on the floor and do some crunches or do some at home workouts while you’re watching Hamilton or Black is King on Disney+. Whatever workouts you decide to do, make sure you stretch before and after. I have an unhealed knee injury from running 3 miles a day last year and I tore my meniscus. Even after I had surgery, my knee is not the same. I can no longer run and I often have swelling and popping around the knee area. It’s a horrible thing that I live with daily so please take care of your joints. Lastly, switch up your workouts sometimes. Find some new at home workouts on youtube or hit up a friend to give you different options.
  6. Find 2 things you love about your body: EVERY DAY. Look in the mirror and instead of looking at what you don’t like, make a conscious effort to highlight the things you do like about your body. And then talk to yourself about them. “Wow, my lips are really full and beautiful”. “Okay, thighs, y’all looking real juicy and sexy!” You have to pour into yourself and show yourself unconditional love before you expect others to pour into you and show you love. 

Understand that this is a journey. Trust me, it’s not an easy one. There will be times when you’re traveling and it’s difficult to stay in a routine because you want to try new things in new places. Just do it. And get back up on your routine when you get back home. Give yourself GRACE. The more you stick to it, the more it will be easy to get back up when you slip up.

 

❤ Queen T

 

To Most of The Boys I’ve Loved Before

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Written By Aspen, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

In a conversation with one of my dearest and most honest friends a few weeks ago, it was brought to my attention that I have a “type”. I called her upset by yet another series of interactions with a man who has expressed interest in me over the course of several years but has always rambled off a list of excuses when it came time to answer my questions regarding where we stand. It was a harsh reality that came to the forefront of my mind when she told me that I am constantly falling for men who are unconventionally attracted to me. A hard pill to swallow at the time, I’ve since gathered my thoughts and put them in this letter.

To All the Men Who Have Been Attracted to My Unconventional (read: Inner) Beauty:

 I start this letter by first saying thank you. You were put in my life at some point during these 25 (almost 26!) years and in those times we shared jokes, emotions, feelings, and adventures that I can’t possibly ever forget.

I try my best to keep a positive outlook on life and maintain the mindset that everything truly happens for a reason. So for most of you, those good time outweigh the bad ones. But even though I forgive you all for any of the bad times (and I hope you to do the same for me because I surely made mistakes too along my interpersonal journey), I cannot forget them. 

I cannot forget the way you told me that I should straighten my hair more because it looks so good “just like a white girl”.

Alternately, I cannot forget the way I was told that you like my natural curls more because it makes me looks more Black. (Ironically enough, that was the same man as the last comment – he jumped on the natural hair wave like the rest of us and swore he was woke after that).

I cannot forget the way you told me that I look best in the color black because “it’s slimming”– my body isn’t a funeral and I actually look great in yellow and blue.

 I cannot forget the times those of you decided to order for me so that I would eat something with less calories. Or the way that you would try to make me hate my own body by reminding me how many calories are in each item that I chose to consume.

 I cannot forget the way that you pushed me to work out with you or sign up for yet another gym membership under the guise that it would allow us to spend more time together. There is nothing inherently wrong with active dates – hell, I love a good hike or swim! But you didn’t do this because you cared about me or my health (which is not in jeopardy according to my doctor), you did it because you wanted to change me.

I cannot forget the way that you poked my stomach and chuckled while cuddling, only to follow up by telling me you’ve never dated any one before with extra meat on their bones.

 The list goes on and on but it always leads to the same end. I cannot forget the way that you went out of your way to tell me how much you’ve fallen in love with my personality — that way I cared for others, made you laugh, and lifted your spirits day in and day out even though you never ceased to break mine with the constant reminders that how I looked would never match the person you envisioned yourself with – someone with a flatter stomach, different skin, and different hair. So, until that changed you could only see me as a sister or best friend but never a romantic lover despite your repeated tipsy sexual advances that did nothing but confuse us both and which you adamantly decided to blame on the alcohol in order to convince yourself that you couldn’t possibly be attracted to someone who looks like me.

 And most importantly, I cannot forget the way all of you found solace in the emotional burden you placed on me. And for that, I not only have to forgive you but I also have to forgive myself for allowing each and everyone one of you to take advantage of my kindness and invalidate ALL that I had to offer.

And at the same time, I cannot be upset towards any of you for any longer as it pertains to these indiscretions or for envisioning yourself and your romantic future with someone who doesn’t look like me. But just like the many times I’ve challenged you in ways that foster your own growth during our time together, I challenge you one last time. I challenge you to figure out what contributes to your definition of beauty. If you are like most people, this mindset that you think you’ve created on your own is probably actually constructed by the media that you consume. While I no longer have interest in pursuing you romantically, I urge you to think critically about this as you continue to grow and engage with women (or honestly anyone really) particularly as it relates to harm that may be contributing to those you claim to care about. And in tandem, I will challenge myself. I will challenge myself to remember that I have agency. I do not have to fall silent and allow you to try to change me. And please not that when I say you, I mean the next you that stumbles into my life because men like you come by the dozen.

So, just as I began this letter, I end it by once again thanking you. Only this time, I thank you for failing to acknowledge that I am beautiful inside AND out, no matter how my body and mind grow, change, or even slim (I recently accidentally found out I really enjoy jogging when you aren’t trying to subliminally force me into doing  it!). Out of all of our interactions, it is your inaction that emboldens me to rationalize the idea that even though I haven’t met them yet, a person who doubtlessly recognizes this aforementioned FACT is somewhere out there waiting for me.

All The Best,

Aspen

Aspen, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

 

 

Black Women

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Written By Cash, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Black women deserve better. Respect Black women. Empower Black women. Invest in Black women. PAY Black women. Black women deserve to be uplifted because society wouldn’t be uplifted without us. We show the world what it means to be resilient. We fight hard, because we love hard.

Last Saturday, I was slated to speak at an event hosted by Kwamara Thompson on education with other phenomenal Black women was zoom bombed by racists. The creator and facilitator of this illustrious event did everything that she could to create a safe space for Black women to express and be free, both systematically with the zoom settings and in content. Yet, it was infiltrated by racists in an act of terror so vivid that I still have images of the content in my head. After this experience, I sat still on my couch for 30 minutes just trying to process how an event that was created to center voices of Black woman excellence with the intention of giving back and serving others could be looted in this way. I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand how sharing strategies in education and Black experiences in schools could be a threat. Why us? Why did they target this? It took 2 hours for me to get up and move around again. It wasn’t until then that I realized that this was by design. This system was built upon silencing Black women – especially when the content is geared toward uplift, education, or innovation. I realized that by being seen on this platform, I was a threat. I remembered the history that I was taught about enslavement in America and how if a person who was enslaved tried to learn to read they would be punished. I remembered that learning to write was against the law for my ancestors. I remembered that after emancipation and the construction of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the first thing that was burned down in the deep south were elementary schools. This was by design. 

So, then I picked myself up and we made plans to do it again!

Now, I want you to think about this from a programming stand-point: Imagine what it’s like being an 8-year-old, a time when your job is to be a kid – happy, playful, learning, sitting. You get sat down to watch a TV show about 4 little girls who looked just like you who were murdered during Bible study at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Imagine knowing that there was no justice and no peace for these families, only the scar of fear stemming from engaging in community one minute to losing everything the next for no reason. Imagine knowing that those four little girls were your age and that your father was four years old when this happened – so you felt it on a whole different level. Imagine at 8-years-old, thinking that their only jobs were to be happy, and playful, and to learn the world but to know that their lives were taken from them before they got the chance to grow up because of racism.

For years, I was afraid to go to any Black church out of fear that I, too, would be bombed in the basement. I was giving into programming from these hateful people that told me that I must fear the very places that were meant for peace, community, and solace. And yet, I remember that each time that I went to church I found home and safety in the arms of the people who were there. I found a voice. I found peace. Everything in my body and through my programming told me not to go – that I shouldn’t, yet my spirit prevailed and I showed up each Sunday with the confidence in something larger than myself. This is the very definition of resilience and grit.

This contrast, I believe, very deeply shows the duality of the Black woman’s existence. It reveals something that the world is afraid of. We are so mindfully aware of the threat against our safety in all cases for being both black and woman, but are so magical and divine that we find home in it. As a person who studies mindfulness and mediation and a practitioner of the work, I often say that Black women are some of the most mindful creatures on earth. Both, because we have had to be to survive but more so because of our innate ability to be in tune with everything we do, see, and hear with intentionality. We cook mindfully, we sing mindfully, we banter mindfully, we dance mindfully, we study mindfully, we engage in spirituality and prayer mindfully. We take the pain and hurt of others and transform it into movements, and marches, and books, and poems. Our very existence is challenged every day and we still find ways of thriving and giving back to the world with such joy. We were raised in this.

As a child, I was taught to be vigilant, strong, outspoken, but to know that the world was going to use all of those against me. I was taught to be open, loving, and caring but to know that in an instant I could be taken advantage of because of my body, melanin, and hair. And these lessons were not only gracefully given from my household, but painly experienced from society, the media, and the people around me. Looking back on my upbringing, my parents and village were phenomenal. I grew up in a very safe, loving, and comfortable environment. They all worked hard to give my sister-cousins and I space to grow authentically. They guided our spirits, yet were very intentional about letting us find our voice. They worked to shield us from the world by preparation, but also let us be kids and to find joy! And now in retrospect I understand that with all of the care, love, and lessons they couldn’t have forewarned that in 2020 we would be fighting on the mainstage just to be seen and heard in a world demanding for Black Lives to matter. That with our voices, the spaces we created for ourselves would be challenged at every turn. That being conscious and educated to the world would mean that we were a threat and would lead to even more mistreatment. They could not have begun to fathom that the world wouldn’t see us needing to be protected, comforted, treated in a way that uplifted our feminie essence, energy and intellect. But we see it. We feel it and we are determined to pick up our magic each time and yell “WE ARE HERE” anyway, because we are the very embodiment of “better”. We are showing up in every movement and space because we have the blueprint in our DNA of what it’s like to be all things amazing even when battered and bruised. In this era and the next, we will be listened to because our voice is the movement. We have something to say and that you need to hear. You can drop the mic or not, but know that when it’s our time to speak we will graciously take the mic and let the voice of liberation roll from hilltop to valley. And, it is because of this reason that we deserve better from you, the proverbial you – the societal you.

We are the uplifters of society because we know what it’s like to be programmed to fear and hate, but to rise because it is rooted in who we are. We invent. We educate. We inspire. We create. And, you are going to get this magic and divinity whether you open yourself up to it or not!

P.S. We don’t need your sorrys. We need your commitment. 

Cash, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

 

“What to the Slave is the 4th of July?” Part 2

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The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.

Here we are again. We’ve arrived at yet another anniversary of this nation’s birth 244 years ago. 244 years ago, your “founding fathers” Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and the boys declared that all men were created equal and whatnot. The United States of America was free from Britain’s tyrannous rule for the first time since colonizers took the land of the free and home of the brave from Native and Indiginous peoples. Citizens of this “new land” had the right to own property (including Africans and their descendants) and the freedom to be whoever and whatever they wanted.

Not my people, though. We were and still are in life-long bondage to the man. In different but similar ways, though.

We hold these truths to be self-evident …

Two years ago, I wrote “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?” part 1. You can access it here: https://thecrownedseries.com/?s=what+to+the+slave . In that blog post, I outlined the ways in which freedom does not ring for Black Americans the way it does for white folks. In the era of COVID, every time I go out in public and see someone with an American flag mask on their face I cringe. To me, the American flag is the equivalent to the Confederate Flag. How can people celebrate a country that keeps children and families locked in cages at the border, kills unarmed Black people, calls the police on unarmed Black people, has an overtly corrupt clown occupying the white house who threatens to rage war on anyone who defies him, gives its citizens $1,200 (maybe) for a stimulus check but gave millions of dollars to banks, and robs the American education system of pertinent funding for children and gives it to arm law enforcement. The list goes on.

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that still has yet to arrest, charge, and convict the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor in her bed while she slept with her boyfriend on March 13, 2020?

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that keeps its knee in our necks (rest in Heaven George Floyd) in every aspect of American society? Here’s a short list to name a few:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Employment opportunities
  • Home ownership
  • Business ownership
  • Bank Loans
  • Red lining
  • Gentrification
  • Employment and pay equity
  • Prison

This list is never ending. 

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that values going to bars without a mask on over changing the systemic racism embedded in our institutions of law enforcement? 

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that has anti-Blackness inside its DNA? 

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that would rather paint BLACK LIVES MATTER on a street than defund police departments?

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or country that gave us the Civil Rights Act of 1965 but in 2020, there’s still voter suppression in states like Georgia and Kentucky?

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or a country that still keeps Black folks in some of the lowest paid positions and expects us to “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps”?

How can we pledge allegiance to a “flag” or a country that blackballed Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the National Anthem but allowed armed protestors in Michigan to storm the capitol when they wanted outside to open back up because of COVID?

…that all men are created equal.

Nah,

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. 

While it is true, there is no other country that I’d rather live in because this is the only place I know, it is also true that this is a really shitty place to live sometimes as a Black person. Our homie Frederic Douglass told y’all this back in 1852 when he gave this famous speech. Read it here: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927t.html or listen to his descendants read it to you! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBe5qbnkqoM&feature=emb_share&fbclid=IwAR0UghtdUZD8J-dIskTE_YqGuYRpgYBbigNdzvV7BOPQI28tM1L5G47S60w

How sad it is to see that 168 years later, Douglass’ words still ring so true. He’d be disappointed at just how little progress the country has made. He’d be disappointed with how white Karens weaponize their white womanhood against Black lives on a daily basis because they can’t mind their own business. To be honest, I could see him giving another speech called “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July…continued” to tell America about itself once again. But this time instead of expressing his disappointment as “eloquently” as he did in the first speech, he’d probably just say, “Y’all still out here trippin’ and it’s pissin’ me off”. 

But fret not Black folks, I hope on Juneteenth last month, we celebrated just as hard as the closeted and out klan members are doing today. I hope we sprinkled all of our Black magic around this globe as our people were out there on the frontlines as medical workers and as activist calling for the justice of Black people. I pray we continue to celebrate. We have a right to be happy. We have a right to joy and I’ll be damned if I don’t find ways to keep my joy in this long fight. I pray that while I’m still alive, I’ll live to see the day when justice is really for all, when laws are stripped of the inequitable practices and rebuilt from the ground up, and when Black Lives Matter in all aspects of this country. 

Life. Liberty. Pursuit of Happiness.

So, what am I doing this July 4th? Minding my extra Black business and moving about the day like a regular day. Keeping six feet apart from strangers and checking my surroundings everywhere I go. Lastly, I’ll be spreading the magic I possess all around Tampa Bay.

❤ Queen T

 

The Revolution Will Be Televised

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What can I as a white person do to support during this time?

Tristen, I’m not sure what I can do as a white person during this time. I am angry at what I’m seeing.

I can’t tell you how many white people, specifically, white women, have been in the multiple DMs that I have over the last 5-days telling me they’re sorry or asking me how they can support Black folks during this time of civil unrest. And I’m done.

I’m done giving free advice to white folks about what they can do to help stop racism. Black folks have been telling you for centuries how to not be assholes and how to teach your children to not be the same. But now, that the country is literally on fire, you’re outraged. Newsflash, there’s historically always been civil unrest in the country when it comes to Black and white people. 

I capitalize the ‘B’ in ‘Black’ for a reason.

In 1971, Gil Scott-Heron released a spoken-word piece, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (listen here: https://youtu.be/qGaoXAwl9kw). This piece rhythmically operationalizes the ways in which “the revolution” won’t come to you in the news or on television broadcasts. The revolution would not be televised because the revolution was live. It was happening on the streets, in courtrooms, at the ballot, at the grocery stores, and more from Black people who were on the front lines fighting for justice and equity for themselves but also everyone. The Civil Rights Era of the 1950s-1970s was a stepping stone for all other movements that followed it  (the new “feminist” movement, LGBTQ+ movement, disability rights movement…). Scott-Heron calls attention to the way in which society cared about the things they put out in the media. During the Civil Rights Era, America was able to witness first-hand the abuse protestors faced at the hands of law enforcement and local government officials. America watched as protestors were water hosed on full blast and bitten by police K-9 units. America watched as innocent people were beaten with billy clubs by white officers in uniform and who would then take off that uniform at night and put on their other ones…white sheets and hoods and ride through neighborhoods burning down churches and bombing homes of Black activists.

But still. The revolution was live. 

Today, I argue, that the revolution WILL be televised and IS televised. The invention of social media has been a gift and a curse to the world. I thank social media for providing us space, like television, did in the ‘50s to the ‘70s, to witness the public lynching and blatant abuse of Black lives due to anti-Blackness and structural racism. Because of social media, the revolution is literally LIVE. How many Facebook Live murders of unarmed Black people? How many videos of white people calling the police on unarmed Black people have we seen because of social media? How many times has social media provided a platform for Black folks who are angry about what’s happening to speak out and call for action with no responses? 

HOW MANY TIMES DO POLICE AND WHITE VIGILANTES GET TO CONTINUE TO LIVE THEIR LIVES AFTER THEY TAKE A BLACK ONE?

We literally have all of the information we need in the palm of our hands and yet, white people, you dig in your pocket, find some audacity, and then ask a Black person who is grieving, how you can support us. You are now putting the labor on Black people to do the work for you, for free. When Google is free. When you have the free apps of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram on your iPhone or (ew) Android phone. The historical remnants of why asking a Black person to do the work for you is loud and clear. And you’re going to have to pay me from now on to continue to give you the answers. No longer will I respond, for free, to Facebook messages asking for information on how you can do better or feel better about what is going on. I will gladly send you the email to my business and we can discuss pricing information. Black women, especially, need to be paid more for the emotional, physical, and spiritual labor we’ve given this country since the beginning. 

 

The revolution is in front of you. The revolution is live.

 

The revolution is happening live, in front of you.

 

But not just on social media and television. 

The revolution is happening every time you hear a story in your work environments from a Black person who was microagressed or discriminated against in front of you and you sat and did nothing about it. You didn’t say anything about it to the white colleague who caused that harm. You sat and watched as the Black person was blamed for their own victimization.  

The revolution is happening every time you defend your white son in the principal’s office after he purposely caused harm to a Black student.

The revolution is happening every time you tell your white children or your Black friend that you “don’t see color”.

White women, the revolution is still happening when you decide that you don’t want to talk to your Black children about the Black side of their family because you don’t have a relationship with their Black father anymore. And you teach them to ultimately erase a part of their history…because you “don’t see color”.

The revolution was happening when we saw Rodney King be beaten by police officers in the 1990s and we saw no justice for him. 

The revolution was happening when you justified voting for the celebrity-in-chief because you “wanted to keep your money”.

The revolution is happening across this country as white people are being paid to start the riots at the protests to make Black people look like “savages”. (“I don’t give a damn about them burning down Target. Target should be on the streets with us calling for the justice that our people deserve” – Tamika D. Mallory).

The revolution is happening during COVID-19 work from home when your Black colleagues are still expected to show up to “work from home” with their video cameras on during meetings after another unarmed Black person was harassed or murdered on camera. 

The revolution was happening when an office full of white people and a white-presenting Latinx trans-man rallied together to label me as an angry, oversexualized, bully of a Black woman that ultimately led to my termination/resignation from a job two years ago.

So, no. You don’t get to continue to ask Black people how they can help you do better. You’ve had all the answers already, Sway. As this revolution continues to be televised, you figure out how you can be part of the solution.

❤ Queen T

Black men, Black women, Black Queer folx, Black Trans-men and women, Black gender non-conforming folx, Black skateboarders, Black folx who live in low-income neighborhoods, Black wealthy folx, Black essential workers, Black educators, etc. LIVES MATTER.

Respectability Politics Has Failed Us

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Written By Mesha, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Respectability politics has failed us.  Time and time again, when we see a slain black body across the internets, news screens, or social media, there is a counter-narrative that puts a justification of the murder. Sandra Bland should not have been talking back to the officer. Eric Garner should have had more sense than to sell loose squares on the corner. Trayvon Martin knows that the world doesn’t look at little Black boys as children.  Ahmaud Arbery shouldn’t have stopped (and as we find out, he didn’t stop, he was trapped). All of these slain Black bodies faced a terrorizing counter-narrative that takes away their right to live and justifies their deaths.  

But what happens when there are no justifications?  When we, as Black people, become the model, civilized citizens that white supremacy expects us to be, that America has decided for us is the only right way to live.  For the incident that occurred with Christian Cooper, he was just that.  He was the one who was the law-abiding citizen, asking for a fellow neighbor to do just take. Put your damn dog on a leash… in a public park… where leashes are required. I’ve been to Central Park a couple of times, just as beautiful as it is, it’s haunting. I think of Central Park 5 and even all of the SVU episodes knowing that being here, as a Black woman, I can be just as much of a criminal as I could be a victim.

But this ain’t even about me, personally. So, let me bag back and go over some basics.  I started out this by saying that respectability politics has failed us. And I’m sticking to it.  But let’s go over what respectability politics are.  Respectability politics are behaving, speaking, and portraying a life that is socially respectable to our hegemonic, white supremacist society. We’ve been encouraged to shame our loud cousins (the ones on the west side of any major city), get degrees and proudly exclaim “I’m Black and educated” as a banner of pride, to buy nice things that display our worth, to have the “voice” when talking to certain people, to think twice about how we wear our hair depending on what we got going on that week… all that right there, respectability politics. And the list can go on….          

For Christian Cooper, after people did their research and found out he’s a bird lover and graduated from Harvard, he surpassed any anti-Black rhetoric of just fucking with a White lady because he can… the criminalization of his character fallen short real quick. But that didn’t stop #CentralParkKaren from being Karen because anti-Blackness don’t give a damn about where you graduated from, what you do for a living, what your upbringing was because all anti-Blackness does is see a Black body and tries its hardest to erode, kill, and destroy it.  

My issue with Amy Cooper is that she clearly understands how the law is in her favor.  She’s quite aware that there is a volatile relationship with Black men and the police.  She’s quite aware of her pedestal as a white woman.  She’s quite aware that any angst that she has will be handled.  She’s quite aware of how dangerous she can be while simultaneously appear fragile.  And most importantly, she understood the power play of weaponizing her whiteness. There was absolutely nothing that Christian Cooper could have done differently. 

And praises to the most high that her plan to destroy his life because she felt discomfort did not succeed.

Someone mentioned or posted that “racism isn’t happening more often; it just being filmed more” resonated with me. I reflected back to about a decade or so ago and how we, as Black people, began to use social media as a mechanism to draw attention to racism and protest.  While social media does provide a voice, it now also gives a parallel filled with trauma. 

We watch a new violent act of racism at least once a week; it’s reshared, reposted, and retweeted countlessly. What we once used a tool of awareness has now become a tool trauma; we get to see public lynching every day. I argue that it has become a virtual weapon to make an example out of folks who appear to live out of white order and create fear for if we get to see life for another day.  Anything we do can be criminalized. We get to read the comments of white people and even some Black people and other people of color who finds a mean to justify injustice. We get to see the counter-narrative that is normalized through media outlets with no repercussions for its harm.

Per usual, I’m triggered, but I can’t find myself to be quiet as I have been before, or to only share quotes and partake in virtual protests can’t be what my resistance relies on.  I’ve decided to use my voice in a way that shares light on whatever situation that we face as a Black community.  I’m not saying that Christian Cooper has intentionally lived in a way to please white people deliberately. I don’t know him and don’t need to. But I do know that whiteness and power don’t have love for Black bodies, so we must find ways to enjoy our lives while we have them. We must love our Blackness even more than whiteness hates it. I’ll close with one of the greatest rappers alive verse, “Rich n****a, poor n***a, house n***a, field n***a… still n***a.”

Also, I know.. I couldn’t not see the murder of George Floyd. But at this moment, I have absolutely no words right now.

 

Mesha, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series