It’s the Representation, for Me

Written By Breigh, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I know… it’s kinda wild that it’s 2021 and we’re still experiencing “firsts” in this country.  And now we have the FIRST Black Female Vice President in office! 

I just want to take the time out to reflect on my own personal moments where the beauty of representation influenced me in powerful ways and hopefully you can resonate with some of this. 

I think the first and most profound representation for me was my mother. You see, my parents divorced when I was still in diapers so I mostly just remember being raised by a single, Black mother. And she did not minimize or hide her independence and strength. 

While working full time at the post office, she came and sat with me for the entire school day on her off-days, enrolled me in every sport and extra-curricular you could think of (even figure skating), and did not miss ONE beat. 

Growing up around such a strong Black mama really helped me internalize what being a Black woman means– an embodiment of strength, independence, nurturance, sacrifice, connection and love. I’m so grateful to have had this representation at a really young age. 

I also have a creative as a father who played drums for a rock band for most of his life, so I was able to internalize a sense of fluidity and flexibility in my Blackness as well. 

But the reality is, that representation was still limited. 

I still went to a majority Black school with majority White teachers. I still competed in figure skating where I was the only little Black girl. I still could only count on one hand the amount of family members that pursued education beyond high school– let alone higher education. And when I turned on the television, I barely saw any characters that looked like me… (at least any that I liked anyways). 

But then, in middle and high school, I developed a friend group where their parents were lawyers and doctors and pilots and government officials and my worldview completely changed. Then there was That’s So Raven…

then there was Penny Proud… 

Then there was Oprah..

Then there was Beyonce…

Then there was Barack Obama. 

For me and how I’ve developed, each Black person that I’ve met or witnessed that is seemingly defying the odds of what this country allows us to be gives me permission to be better– to stop limiting myself. 

They teach us as children to “shoot for the stars” but what happens when you’ve never seen anyone who looks like you land on the moon? Or what happens when you’ve witnessed people who look like you attempt to shoot for the stars but get their gun stolen and then shot with it? 

There’s both so much fear and so much power in doing things that have never been done. I’ve been personally crippled and debilitated by that fear. 

But it’s the Kamalas and the Black Panthers and the nurturing Black mamas and the Black doctors and the Katherine Johnsons that keep me going– that keep me motivated… 

That keep me evolving. 

They help me know and see that I can’t limit myself to what this country wants me to be or who this country has painted my people out to be. That there’s more to me than what I see in the media or DON’T see in the media. 

I’ve seen so many people say “It’s not about the representation, it’s about the work” in reference to Kamala Harris and I think we’re minimizing the power of representation. 

Of COURSE it’s about the work. 

But the work is so much more powerful because of what she represents. 

Black women everywhere get to see a Black woman in one of the highest positions in this country and I have so much hope that this will ignite a movement of elevation for us. 

Because seeing is believing. 

And we need to believe in ourselves right now and forever more. 

Welcome to the White House, Madam Vice President. 

You’re the first, but we KNOW you won’t be the last. 

That’s the power of representation

– Breigh, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Damn, Where is the Wonder in the Woman?

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

I am a comic book fan! Have been since I was a little girl. I used to sneak up to the “attic” in our old house, open my dad’s comic book boxes and read until my heart was content. DC became a staple in my household. Needless to say I was excited to hear that DC was trying to make a comeback through live action films after Justice League. On December 25th, I curled up under my bob’s burgers blanket, got my glass of wine, made a charcuterie platter, and let my eyes well with excitement to watch Wonder Woman 1986 with my sister-friend. By minute 47 I was in utter disappointment and by the end of the movie I was actually angry. Wonder Woman, half Amazonian woman/half literal goddess, had been reduced to a common fairytale princess in need of rescue from her love-twisted story – foundationalized by her powers being defined by a man. And listen, it wasn’t that we didn’t like the fact that Steve Trevor came back to life. We just wanted him to be an ass-kicking side kick and not the plots center to Diana’s story.

To be fair, I had a similar reaction to the first movie as well. DC is known for creating slow-moving origin stories; this part didn’t bother me. I understood that she was “new” to the world in this plot and so could be considerably naive; this didn’t bother me either and the action was GREAT. However, Wonder Woman – Diana MF Prince, didn’t learn or accept her true power until the end of the movie when her beau was killed. Many people didn’t catch it, many people weren’t bothered by it. I allowed myself to be content. Fast forward to 2020 (1986) and you give us an entire movie with little action, a sorry plot, and once again a story line based on romantic love. This lasso wielding goddess became weak, lost her powers, and had to be convinced to “give up” her dead boyfriend that she knew for all of 5 days in another man’s body in order to defeat the Mayan God of trickery. The invisible plane (that I knew was coming and was excited to experience) came from a comedic relief scene where a man was the pilot. Wonder Woman, who was granted flight by another god, learned that she could fly in a love-drenched scene on her way to battle by remembering a quote that her partner said about a plane. Come on man! Did the writers of this movie ever even pick up a comic book? Who was this written for? BUT, that’s beside the point. 

The point my ladies and gents is this:

Why we always gotta have a man to define our powers?

I am a woman. I am strong, independent, graceful, and badass. I am allowed to be a woman all on my own. As little girls, we grow up being told in every form of media, books, poetry, that our roles in life are secondary and that we are designed to give birth, create family, and be content in life with these roles. Although men may not see this, it’s true. This movie is the perfect example. Watching this with another woman, all we could comment on was how disappointing it was to see the movie show a heroine, who is phenomenal in her own right, repeatedly defined in a story line by another man. The saddest part about this is the covert societal imprint that keeps getting washed into our brains over and over, so much so that we don’t even realize that we are willing pawns in this patriarchal scheme. Our messaging is constantly telling us that women’s roles need to be romanticised and that we are immoral for fighting against it. Our culture continues to spew these sometimes hurtful and harming lies that make it seem as though we as women cannot achieve the full joy of life without a partner, a family, or simply giving in. Wonder woman – the Amazonian warrior, crowned queen of the justice league, badass superhero was truthfully willing to give up her power for “love”. And, no one saw the hypocrisy? Barbara, or more accurately Cheetah, this amazing villain who they don’t give us enough of supposedly loses her humanity in a scene where she was almost harassed by the same man who tried to assault her not days earlier. And, no one saw the hypocrisy?

Movie writers, producers, creatives, here’s some advice – stop romanticizing women’s story lines. Romcoms and romantic novels are made for that. We will read or watch those if and when we choose! But we want movies that tell a story, that’s it. We want superheroes that beat odds and beat up bad people, that’s it. Every woman does not want to be reminded every time she watches a film that romantic love is needed in order to have a full life. That’s simply not true and in some cases actually damaging. Want to help us demolish the pains of patriarchy? Just write a story – DAS IT. We deserved an ass-kicking Wonder Woman from jump to end, period. We deserved all the glory of Carol Davers with the added bombshell Goddess worthy of gallantries that Diana Price embodies. Next time, give us a movie that shows us why girls run the world and why women are the first world wonders.

– Ca$h, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Black Folks Laugh at Tragedies to Survive

January 6, 2021 will forever go down in history as one of the most egregious, deleterious, and ignominious displays of white supremacy and tackiness. The attack on the Capitol due to the fallacious statements voter fraud over the 2020 presidential election was the United States of America on full display. The savagery we witnessed live was the epitome of what happens when white people see their power being stripped awey (*in my Zuri from Black Panther voice*). White supremacists be BIG MAD (typed it the way I meant to type it) when change is near because they believe they will no longer be in control. Well…good. It’s been time for a change.

One thing that most Black people in this country agreed on yesterday was that the display of filth had nothing to do with us (their anger and destruction that is) and we were happy to mind our business and drink our water. But the election had everything to do with us and every other marginalized group in society. Yesterday was the feature film of what happens when we use our right to vote. Voter suppression has been a long standing blemish in the U.S. purposely designed to keep us from having a voice and having agency in the decisions that directly impact us the most. Let’s be clear, Stacey Abrams and her team in Georgia deserve all of the flowers for helping get Black people out to vote in Georgia after the governor election was stolen from her in 2018. 

Not going to lie, while yesterday’s circus was one for the history books, – just like the whole year of 2020 – I still felt a sense of anger, fear, and sadness about what I watched. I remembered the peaceful protests this summer after Ahmad Aubery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and countless other unarmed Black people who had their lives taken or permanently altered and how law enforcement and the shitty 45th clown-in-chief handled the protests. Heavy riot gear, tear gas, rubber bullets, and lethal force were all brought out for peaceful protesters this summer. The entire world watched protesters beg the government and law enforcement to stop killing unarmed Black people, give us the right to vote, and charge & indict the police officers/civilians who committed these heinous crimes. The entire world watched inciters loot Targets and Walmarts and watched how law enforcement, state and federal government officials called actual Black Lives Matter activists everything but children of God. But yesterday, the entire world watched as domestic white terrorists destroy federal property, trespass and fight police all because of fraudulent accusations of election dishonesty…and they saw no consequences. This is what really had Black people pissed. No consequences but if these rioters and thugs were Black, they would have been shot down instantly. No one would have been able to get through police barricades and gates. 

Although Black people are used to experiencing tragedy at the hands of white supremacy in this country, it is in our nature to laugh to keep from crying. As you can see from the screenshot tweet that is the cover photo for this blog post, “Black people making a joke out of every serious event>>>>,” social media and Black Twitter has a field day with what was going on. We knew deep down how bad yesterday was but we still found a way to make light of the situation.

It’s what we do. Examples of us making jokes out of fucked up situations are as follows:

  1. Coronavirus Pandemic: Black people nicknamed it “Lil Rona,” “Rona,” and “the Rona.” When speaking of just the pandemic, Black people call the pandemic everything but a pandemic: “we’re in a pandemonium,” “they partying like we ain’t in a whole panoramic still,” “it’s a whole polaroid outside.”
  2. Stimulus checks: The first round of stimulus checks in 2020 was $1,200. This time, the checks were $600. Because the amount was significantly lower, Black people nicknamed it “Stimmy.”

These are just two instances of our humor but we’ve done much more. Yesterday was no different. The memes and GIFs were raining down from Black folks to provide us an alternate form of entertainment. 

Please note: WE DO NOT TAKE YESTERDAY’S THREATS OR THE THREATS ON THE LIVES OF THE DC COMMUNITY MEMBERS LIGHTLY. That is not what I am trying to say. We know that this situation is NOT a game and that the attack on this nation, Black folks, and other POCs should be taken seriously. And we do.

You may not understand why we use humor. Well, it’s a mechanism we’ve adapted across generations to survive. It’s our way of staying resilient when the world and society harms us. Without humor, I’m unsure how we would get through the tough times. Our humor during times of unrest isn’t taken lightly. This is how we support and show love to each other. It’s imperative to our longevity. We know how to come together as a collective for healing just like our ancestors had to do.

An interconnected community of people who understand your pain and struggle is why we as Black people will not succumb to the wombs white supremacy has left us with and why we haven’t since we were brought to this country.

So, keep laughing brothers, sisters, and non-binary Black folks. We need each other. It’s been inherently clear for centuries that we live in two different countries: One for the people and one for white supremacy.

As we once again figure out how to heal from this tragedy, check out this piece, “Let Freedom Reign” written by Ca$h, mindfulness practitioner and official contributor of The Crowned Series blog ❤

Let Freedom Reign

Let freedom reign.

Two Americas. One divide.

Two different experiences. One side.

Two constitutions. One brother.

Two races. White and other.

Two perceptions. Liberated and free.

Two Americas. You and Me.

Two Nations. First and colonized.

Two liberties. Justice and Justified.

Two voices. Shut up and privileged.

Two households. Verses and village.

Two Americas. Your truth and mine.

Two fights. Moral and unkind.

Two tears. One reflection in vain.

All the while shouting: Let freedom reign.

Tiara Cash

❤ Queen T and Ca$h, official contributor of The Crowned Series

 

Do You Want an Evolution?

Written By Breigh, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

This post is for my “new year, same me” folks. No shade, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t stay the same. We can’t move the same. Think the same. Be the same. 

I get it– the idea behind “new year, same me.” It’s this tendency and deep desire to have a sense of constancy… a sense of consistency. Because so much in the world around us is constantly changing, we desperately try to hold on to some sense of sameness. 

But truth is, as humans… we are meant to evolve.

You may recognize evolution as the concept some white guy came up with that told us we came from apes. I’m still pretty skeptical about that premise, but I think Charles Darwin was onto something. 

The theory of evolution is based on the idea that all species are related and gradually change over time. As humans, that is especially true… Let me give you an example. 

Aging. 

We go through so many phases of development and growth throughout our life– from a literal egg to a fully functioning, independent being with thoughts, opinions, body parts, and abilities. 

We know that we physically change and evolve, but why is it hard to grasp onto and accept that our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, personality, and ways of being evolve? What’s the luxury of staying the same? What’s the benefit? 

I think as a community, we’ve been socialized to prioritize “staying true” or “staying down” rather than prioritize growth. We hate to hear from someone that we’ve “switched up” or that we’re “too good” for things that we used to accept and tolerate. 

We’re so obsessed and fixated on feeling accepted that we stay stagnant– we stay stuck in the same thought patterns and behaviors because dealing with what’s familiar feels better than the uncertainty that lies ahead if you “switch up” or change. 

I remember writing in so many people’s yearbooks in high school “keep being you, don’t ever change.” What does that even mean? I quickly learned that my advice to my high school peers was not only ill-informed, but limiting. Yes, there may have been qualities about those people that I admired and wanted them to keep throughout their lives… but the very essence of that statement is not conducive to ultimate growth, enlightenment, and fulfillment.  

It’s perfectly okay, acceptable, and necessary for you to switch up. It’s perfectly okay, acceptable, necessary, and (scientifically supported) for you to evolve

But evolution doesn’t just happen. There’s some intentionality that comes with it. 

If your environment is the same, you will most likely move the same. 

If your thinking is the same, you will most likely move the same. 

So, we have to be intentional about being present with ourselves and realize when environments, thoughts, relationships, behaviors no longer serve us. Just because you’ve done something for a decade, doesn’t mean that you have to continue that for the rest of your life. 

Just because you’ve thought a certain way for most of your life, doesn’t mean that you have to think that way forever. When you gain new insight, information, or experience something differently that broadens your horizon, it’s okay to change your mind. 

This has been an extremely hard, but valuable lesson for me throughout my life. I’ve always felt this sense of pressure to be who and what people expect me to be because of how I’ve shown up historically. But in reality, people’s expectations of me are about them, not me. And people’s expectations of me are limiting. 

So, now the “you’ve switched up” is followed with less guilt and more gratitude. That’s a compliment to me and a reminder that I’m giving myself a chance to be better– to elevate. 

Stop fighting change. Stop fighting evolution. 

Because as we know, the world around us will continue to change and you don’t want to be left behind. 

Let’s go with the flow and evolve in 2021. 

Blessings to you in this new year. 

– Breigh, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

 

Moving Mindfully Through a Pandemic New Year

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

The New Year can serve as a symbolic ritual of shedding old habits, thoughts, and people, and moving into a newer space. We usually see mountains of posts and photos in our media feeds commemorating this parabolic transition shouting “new year, new me,” “summer body loading,” and “cutting people off.” I, in no way, am against people leading their minds with new affirmations into brave spaces. This is part of what I teach! However, this New Year symbolizes something deeply important that I hope we are all looking to remember as a part of our resolutions – resilience and care. As a practitioner, I hope to share some mindful ways of grounding, settling, and moving into 2021 with renewed spirit.

First and foremost, it is immensely important that I mention to you that if you are not in space to do anything but “be” as we make this transition, that is your divine right. No where in the handbook of life were we given a manuscript on how to survive multiple pandemics at the same time and thrive. I do believe that no matter what everyone’s current circumstances are, we as a people are built to be strong and buoyant. You will thrive and I am wishing that into your journey. But, if it’s not your time BAYBE I am affirming that! Rest. Sleep. Do nothing.

If you are looking to add some different ingredients to your resolution repretuare, here are 3 mindful suggestions to get you started:

  1. Sit STILL. This one is going to come as a shock for a lot of people, but the best way to ground yourself and begin fresh for the next chapter is to sit down, be still, and listen. Listen to your emotions. Allow yourself to be silent and in the dark. You will have revelations that you probably have never considered. They might be painful, and this okay! Healing starts with awareness. However, I guarantee you that if you allow yourself to listen to what you’ve been too “busy” to sit with, you will find some of the greatest business plans, inventions, art, and creativity that you hadn’t given yourself space to manifest. Which brings me to number 2. 
  2. What have you learned?: Take the time to jot down some thoughts of what you have learned this past year as a survivor. Are there any particular things that you never considered that were shown to you? Take those notes and create a vision board or journal about your learnings and how they can translate into what might come next for you! However (and this is important) do not try to take on too many things at once. Change comes moment by moment. It is a choice, and if we bog ourselves down with too many choices we become overwhelmed. Let your vision manifest by first seeing it and naming it. If that’s all you can do over these next few months that will be more than enough to get your vision moving.
  3. Listen to your body. Your body is a tool that was created so that you can be the best human being possible. It is jam packed with SO many antennas, languages, and physical “stimulus packages”. Our bodies are constantly trying to speak to us and give us signals as to what we need. When you’re hungry, you should eat. When your body is figgity, go on a walk or dance. When you’re sad, try reaching out to friends (as studies have shown that social relationships, especially now, are one of the most important components to our happiness). Let your community nourish you…The main lesson here is to connect with your body and allow it to show you what you need. We spend so much time trying to fix our bodies, by eating correctly or going to the gym. As a master of kinesiology, I would remiss to tell you those things aren’t important. However, as a human being who studies the body, mind, and spirit – what you need the most right now is to just give yourself the best possible platform to thrive. And, caring for your body by giving it what it needs can help you do that. So, my suggestion would be to stay away from weight or eating specific resolutions and instead just open your life goal this year to listen and be in touch with what your body needs.

My charge to you as we transition into this new year is to try these three things, if you have the capacity ,and see what comes from it. Take time to make this a part of your schedule over the next few weeks, watching yourself and giving your body, mind, and spirit time to make meaning of the past year, sit with things that come up, and settle into what will come. 

Much love to you all and Happy New Year!

– Ca$h, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Why Now?

Written By Aspen, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, I’ve been finding myself in my own head more than ever before. As is usually the case for me, I’ve been burying myself in tasks non-stop as a way to avoid the self-talk, but at times I occasionally slip up. As a result, I’ve been doing some planning of my future and despite coming a long way with getting comfortable with uncertainty, my need for control is what centers me when the uncertainty becomes just too…well, uncertain. The irony of it all is truly my planning of the future when the future itself is constantly changing. The truth of it all comes from my need to think about more tasks that I can take on in the future as a means of validating myself in an attempt to prove myself to none other than myself.

This is one of the many symptoms of my classic case of imposter syndrome and sadly, the more that people praise me (both professionally and personally), the deeper I dive into feeling like I am not the person they think I am and therefore am not deserving of this praise. This week alone, I can count six different occasions where people expressed their predictions that I will go far in life because people like me. As someone who is often told by close friends that I was once intimidating to them, I always chuckle a little inside when people tell me that they really like me. I’m very much like a pomegranate, frustratingly hard to crack but soft, sweet, and fragile once you finally get to the good part. So, while I am flattered at the notion of this validation on six separate occasions this week all I can wonder is: why? Why now? Why me? Is this genuine or am I just being told this as a way to pacify me when I accidentally spill too much about the future accomplishment I hope to one day reach?

Imposter syndrome comes and goes in waves and as I am sure that you can see, it just so happens to be hitting extra hard these days. Almost as if it’s fate, I came across an article about Black women facing increased feelings of imposter syndrome since the increased attention, both genuine and performative, towards Black people in response to centuries-old racial injustice in America gaining so much public attention this year. The article listed the newfound influx of validation feeling overwhelming as we try to parse through the constant praise to determine whether it is real or just another performance, especially when coming from non-Black people in our lives. The article described exactly how I’ve been feeling! It went on to list what the means for America that so many Black women are experiencing this but what it really boiled down to is that there is much work to be done for America and for Aspen. 

This week’s praise might stem from race-based guilt or it might truly be genuine that those around me find my personality and work ethic comforting and nice company. But I may never know which is which. So I need to find ways to talk myself out of this spiral created by Imposter syndrome. On my best day, I carry on with the hope that I can be an inspiration to those around me. I want to motivate others to be their best self and if I am successful in doing that then they must trust me. I then force myself to remember that this trust is built upon the foundation of my honest disposition and/or knowledge-based expertise. I have the charisma. I am reliable and hard-working. I have the degrees. I have the experience. If others see it, then I need to acknowledge it for myself even if that means telling myself over and over again. I have worked hard to achieve my prior accomplishments and I will continue to work hard to narrate the story that I want to tell about myself and my road ahead. 

– Aspen, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Back to School Bus Ran Me Over

Written By Cash, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I’m a scientist – by trade, but also just by my life patterns. I like to investigate everything that comes my way, but my absolute favorite form of research is “me-search.” It’s not often that you get to use yourself as a case study when exploring new topics! For this topic, however, I will be giving you all the inside scoop on what they don’t tell you about going back to school.

First, let’s set-up the methods and participation parameters of this “me-search.” I am a 30-year-old woman (who feels like she’s been 90 since she was born, but that’s another topic for another day!) I recently left a pretty successful full-time position where I was moving up in the academic ranks to go back to school and follow my life-dream of getting a PhD. So, now, here we are, in theory,

an old-ass, returning student, who also managed to move countries in the middle of a pandemic. 

These parameters come with a lot of good! But, there’s also many things that have shown up for me in this journey over the past few months. As a life-investigator, I thought it would be important to share just a few results from my “me-search” for anyone who is trying to replicate this personal study:

  1. Exhaustion – you will have double the exhaustion for doing the basic things. As a full-time salaried career woman I was BUSY (like, all the time). I rarely had time away from work, but absolutely enjoyed it. I remember being tired at the end of the day the way any person who worked 12 hours on a project would be. However, going back to school, the level of reading and thinking on this high intellectual level, I was tired after about 2 straight hours. And, when I say tired I don’t mean “I’m about to yawn tired”. I mean the type of exhaustion you feel after running a marathon and your cells are thrusting for energy to recuperate. I couldn’t believe it. The cool thing is, as I’m sure you know, you will get used to it! So remember, the exhaustion will come. But, it’s normal and eventually it won’t be so bad.
  2. Deeper appreciation – going back to school at this age and with the wisdom that I have gained over the last few years, I am so much more appreciative of the systems set up to help me succeed. I remember when I was in undergrad I was almost too cool to see the counselor. BAYBE, trust me I made an appointment DAY 1 when I got here. I forgot how amazing Universities are at creating supportive systems to help push college students to success. I am involved now with these methods of support in a way I hadn’t been in undergrad and graduate school. If you’re going back to school, take advantage of all the things (especially the free things) that are there for you.
  3. Imposter syndrome – is at an all time high – wooh. This one right here?… Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern that individuals experience where they doubt their abilities, talents, and accomplishments (so much so, that they might feel like a fraud in conversations or spaces). To be completely honest with you? I feel like I’m not supposed to be here on a daily basis. It’s just the way the system is set-up to make us feel. But, I want to share a life hack with you that has helped me to work through this mental block. Get a hobby or a job that you’re really good at. Choose something that someone might even call you an “expert” in. As egotistical as this might sound, having the balance of learning new things every day and coming back to something old that makes you feel whole helps to keep feelings of insecurity at bay. My further advice? Don’t mix those two worlds. Have a space where you are a life-student and a space you can go to when you need to fuel your confidence and give back to others. This dichotomous existence helps balance the imposter syndrome and it gives you a way to feel needed and supported when your mind might be telling you otherwise.
  4. Finally, if you are going back to school during this pandemic, find social outlets – I’m the type of person that can do anything alone, school included. I pride myself on being an introvert and a lone wolf, which suits my lifestyle very well. However, this type of isolation that we might feel during the pandemic is just different, and can be detrimental to our overall, long-term wellbeing. Personally, I needed to find “my people” in this new country who I knew were like-minded and could help me to focus on what was really important in my life. For me, this was a solidarity and social justice group at my University. Everytime I get the chance to be in communion with them, I know I am supporting myself and my journey, while intentionally serving others. This space has been instrumental in my own happiness while completing breathtakingly deep-rooted work to create more spaces of belonging and inclusivity.

In conclusion of this “me-search” case-study, I’ve found that going back to school has it’s difficulties and its perks, especially during a pandemic as an older student. However, it’s more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. Being the age and space that I am in now, I appreciate many more things involved in this journey then I believe I would have as a younger me. So, if you’re debating going back right now, do it. And, I hope these little reminders help to ground you, but also to be reminded that there are others out there supporting you as you embark on your own “me-search.”

Cash, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

 

Not Woke, Still Sleeping

Written By Aspen, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I recently began Hulu’s relatively new show Woke. The story follows main character Keef Knight as he ascends on a journey of “wokeness” following an aggressive incident with the police. Prior to the incident the character was one of very few Black cartoonists and was quite complacent and even disbelieving of the racial injustices around him.

Now I’m only about four episodes into the eight-episode first season but I’ve taken a pause to think more about the show. One thing that I’ve really struggled with is figuring out who the show’s target audience is. The main character is angry, traumatized, yet also invigorated as he navigates his experiences. However, the comedic influence of the show doesn’t always allow for those emotions to shine through. It’s almost as if the show creators didn’t want the main character to be too emotional. They didn’t want to offend anyone by sharing the raw emotion behind a Black man’s realization of racial inequality in the United States. So instead when things get too serious, they will glaze over it with a joke or a talking trashcan to emphasize the impact on the character without fully addressing it. Which really begs the question:

Who the hell is the show for?

The show also relies on a lot of stereotypes amongst the characters to get certain points across. For example, the main character has a well-meaning White hippie roommate who witnessed Keef’s experience with police and therefore tries to be supportive but also grows uncomfortable with some of Keef’s new “woke” tactics. Keef’s relationship with him also seems to serve as a staunch reminder of the ways actions are perceived when done by Black vs. White people. Most notably, the roommate is essentially selling cocaine and marketing it as an energy supplement. Additionally, Keef’s other roommate is a Black man who is courting women by pretending to be celebrities, thus fueling the idea that people think all Black people look alike. Given that the main characters are primarily men, there is also an interesting interface with women. The fact that the main character blew off a Black woman in the first episode when she tried to make him aware of his platform as one of few Black artists in his field only to then need her help when he was overwhelmed by his own awakening was….irritating, to say the least.  

Despite my criticism, I do appreciate the points that the show is attempting to draw attention towards. There is some good conversation to be had about the fact that the show intends to address gentrification, racial injustice particularly towards Black men, well-meaning White friends and family, interracial romatic and social interactions, and broader racial stereotypes. I appreciate the concept and the way the creators attempt to use comedy to address very serious topics, but it seems like these same creators have prioritized the sugarcoating of these issues in order to increase viewership and avoid offending anyone. However, I wonder if doing so has actually led to the show’s demise as it doesn’t seem to meet the needs of any one audience in a substantial way. Woke has so much potential but it really seems like the creators are still sleeping on this one. 

I’d love to hear what other people have to say about it. If you’ve watched it or are planning to start, let’s talk about it!

Aspen, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Vote or Die?

The year is 2004. An election year. Republican George W. Bush was up for reelection that year running against Democrat John Kerry. Wearing a tall white tee, that read “Vote Or Die”, Hip Hop mogul, Sean “Diddy” Combs appeared on a number of television shows encouraging young people between the ages of 18-24 to vote. He’s quoted here (https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2004/11/09/vote-or-die-well-they-did-vote/ba387147-3025-44ea-b287-7504fc10c37e/) saying that wearing the slogan on the shirt was a fashion statement and a way to make voting cool. He understood the importance of exercising your right to vote and that the power of our votes go beyond the federal elections. Elections matter on the local and state level as well. Bush won the election that year.

The year is 2020. What a shit show. From the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, to the COVID-19 Pandemic, to the heightened racial pandemic, to the death of Chadwick Boseman. 2020 dealt us a hand with no spades, jokers, or face cards to save us. This presidential election is probably the most critical out of any election the U.S. has had. The current white supremacist-in-chief is up for reelection in just three short weeks against former Vice President Joe Biden and his running-mate, Senator Kamala Harris, a Black and Desi identfiying woman. The current white supremacist-in-chief is the nasitiest, dirtiest, trashiest person ever. He’s up there with Adolf and Lucifer himself. Not only has he had a hand in killing over 211,000 Americans with the way he and his administration downplayed the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has now directed and starred in a satire Vaudeville play about contracting the virus himself. All a ploy to steal this election. He knew he was going to lose in November so he is doing everything in his power to stay. What’s wild is, his narcissism and his blatant hatred for everyone who isn’t rich and white, is still allowing him a running chance to win again. 

People, we’ve seen and heard the horrible things he says about immigrants, Black people, LGBTQ people, women, and other marginalized groups. He’s got children and families locked up at the border all while green-lighting illegal mass sterilizations on the women who are being held captive. He “claims” he’s done more for “African Americans” than “any other president in history” and yet, he won’t defund police departments that are systemically racist that murder Black people at higher rates than whites. Instead, he calls for more “law and order” and threatens states who want to defund their police department. He’s seated over 50s judges across the nation and all of them are white men. He’s selected a white woman new supreme court justice who wants to overturn Roe v Wade that protects women’s right to abortions. He’s the one who gave the American people $1,200 ONE TIME during this pandemic like that $1,200 one-time payment was enough. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their family members, homes, and so much more and he thought $1,200 was enough. 

HE GREEN LIGHTS WHITE SUPREMACIST ATTACKS ON PEOPLE OF COLOR!

He supports white terrorists on American soil. Justice for all doesn’t mean a damn thing when you don’t have money or white skin. And all he does is lie. If you choose to sit this election out, you are casting a vote for the white supremacist-in-chief. If you are undecided about who you are going to vote for, I urge you to do some research but really keep an open mind. No, Joe Biden is not the savior. He’s done horrible things (we’re looking at you ‘94 Crime Bill). But if we want stability back into our country and an opportunity to bring dollars back into our community and build some unity, he and Senator Harris are who we have and who we NEED. It is literally life and death at this point. I am terrified that if he wins again, it will be detrimental to Black people, LGBTQ community, women, and other people of color. 

This past Sunday, I went to a concealed carry class because I am scared for my life being a single Black woman in Florida. I feel that if the white supremacist-in-chief in wins again, white terror organization members are going to pour out into the streets. If they do, I need to be able to protect myself. Hell, even when Joe Biden wins, I feel like the same will happen. This election is life-or-death and the time is now to make the right decision and vote 45 out. I don’t see how anyone with morals can support him. We are past the point where you justify his “policies” being for you. Forget the policies, you really can vote for someone who can literally change the course of this nation with the click of his pen? He’s already wiped out anti-racism and diversity trainings that teach the true history of this country. He’s trying to save Columbus Day like Columbus didn’t cause genocide and the enslavement of Native people of this land. He’s the ringleader of terror. If you support him, how can you sleep at night knowing what he’s done, is doing, and will continue to do to harm marginalized communities.

When Joe Biden wins, that means Kamala will be 2nd in command, and we’re one step closer to having a Black woman lead this country and we all know things will get done when a Black woman is in charge. Vote Biden/Harris, and get some of your student loan debt paid down or forgiven. Vote Biden/Harris because this is what we need for the time being.

I’m urging all eligible people, please, check your registration deadlines, vote early, drop you mail-in ballots off at secure locations, vote early on Nov. 3rd. Do whatever you can to help save our lives. Help save us from the anti-Christ we have in office now.

VOTE OR DIE

AND FOR GOODNESS SAKES…DON’T VOTE FOR Kanye, either. Ugh!

❤ Queen T

Let’s Talk about Death, Baby.

Written By Breigh, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Yeah, I know. It got dark real fast… But honestly, this is something that’s been weighing heavy on my heart and mind for the past month. 

There’s been a lot of death going around these days. Whether it’s someone you know, like a close family or friend, a friend of a friend, a highly regarded celebrity. I’m sure you can name at least 3 people that you know who have died this year. 

I’ve always had a passive anxiety about losing someone close to me– there’s something a bit unbearable about the possibility of waking up one day and the person you adore and love being taken away from this Earth where you can never see or talk to them again. Throughout my life, I hadn’t really experienced or been exposed to death that much. It was always an older relative or a distant cousin– but no one super close. 

There was that one time I lost an elementary school friend and I took it real hard. Other than that, nothing crazy. 

Losing Kobe at the beginning of the year felt really close to home– he’s my husband’s favorite player and felt very much like someone we knew on an intimate level. I saw my husband cry and mourn the loss of this person whom he idolized and looked up to most of his life. 

Then, last month I lost my uncle– my mother’s brother. It was a semi-unexpected death and devastating to my entire family. When I found out he died, I was in the middle of class about to give a presentation. Then shortly after, Chadwick Boseman. Then my aunt-in-law. Then RBG.

My uncle was my second father. He lived directly across the street from us (like I could literally see his backyard from my front yard) and pretty much raised me throughout much of my childhood. 

My uncle was such a gem, too. He was a hard ass on the exterior but such a sensitive being on the inside. He would give me and my cousins money for each “A” we made on our report cards. He would take us to see Monster Jam and The Harlem Globetrotters every year. He bought us bikes for our birthdays and would even throw us on the front of his four-wheeler and drive us around town on occasions. 

I would have just as many (if not more) presents under the tree at his house for Christmas as I did at my own house. And if I ever needed anything, he was there in a heartbeat. 

When my uncle died, I experienced immense fear and anxiety… mostly for my family because I had no idea how we would handle this devastating loss. Most of my fear stemmed from the fact that I’ve never really seen my family navigate or discuss death and was skeptical about how we would get through this together. Another piece of that fear was for me… because I didn’t know how I would handle his death… how I would get through it. 

I tried to go through my history and find some sense of confidence that I would be okay– find a conversation that I’ve had with someone about death to provide some sense of understanding or comfort… but I found nothinG. i realized I couldn’t find anything because there was nothing there.

No one has ever had a conversation with me about death. And I’m not talking about the “what happens when you die conversation” but the “how do we navigate/make sense of this” conversation.

We don’t talk about it… at least in my family we don’t

We’ve been socialized to put our heads down and “be strong” through losing people because “that’s what ________ would want.” Although, if you’ve ever lost anyone, you would know that there are periods of the grief process where you don’t feel strong at all… where you feel like you’re the weakest, most vulnerable you’ve ever been. 

The fact that we don’t talk about death, grief, and loss enough is most surprising to me because we are all going to experience them one way or another… they are literally the most guaranteed, certain things– things will change and people will die. So, why is it so hard for people to talk about it when we all have to go through it?

There are specific support groups for people navigating grief and loss. But, if you ask me, the world should be a support group for grief and loss. There is a shared humanity in experiencing death, but people are so often left feeling alone and isolated in their experiences like no one else can relate to that pain. 

We can all relate to that pain. 

I am a firm believer that the more we talk about and communicate things, the less scary and mysterious they become. For me, death has always been this dark and confusing thing, this monster that I never wanted me or my family to encounter even though I knew it was inevitable that we would.

Throughout my own grieving process, I’ve found talking with others most helpful. Talking about the loved one I lost, talking about my feelings, talking about my fears, and letting someone else bear witness to my pain. The more I was able to feel my way through it, the less intense things felt for me. And I was only able to feel my way through it because the people around me allowed space for that. 

I guess I’m writing this as a way to break the ice and call out the elephant in the room, so to speak. In my time of intense grief, I searched so desperately for answers on how to navigate it and what it would look like. I often questioned if the way I was feeling was “normal” and if there was a better way to handle losing someone.

On top of grief, it doesn’t make sense to also feel alone and confused in your experience because, like I said, we’ve all either been through it or will go through it. So, let’s be more supportive of each other through our journeys of navigating death. Go beyond the usual “sorry for your loss” comment and get down in the trenches with people– it’s easier to get out with someone cheering you on and letting you know they’ve been down there before than it is if you have to figure it out alone.

Normalize talking about death. Normalize expressing pain. 

Because things will only remain dark until we shed light upon them. 

Be that light.

This post is dedicated to all of the ones we’ve lost. May they live in us and through us for as long as we are here.

Breigh, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series