The Xxxtentacion Effect [Editorial]

When I heard of the death of X, I broke my social media hiatus to see how the news was effecting everyone. I have learned from Bill Cosby, Chris Brown and R Kelly that when bad things happen to notorious abusers, black folks still weep. X like Chris, Bill and Kelly represents our relationship with black men. And Xxxtentacion dying in a drive by in broad daylight is a reminder that no matter the wealth, fame, or clout one gets does not make anyone immune from gun violence that plagues our black community. His fans and family that survived him that are currently mourning his death, I am committed into feeling more deeply with them.

I want to be clear that I by no means condone the vicious violence of this young man or am I a X sympathizer.

Xxxtentacion expressed his emotions in his music that he was unable to do in a healthy way in his interactions in his personal life. His music was his safe place where his creation released his pain and traumatic experiences that he took pride in sharing so others would not feel alone. When I look at the lyrics of Xxxtentacion’s music I understand that it is relatable to folks, young boys especially – that battle through the same emotions of feeling sadness and anger without knowing how to sort through it in a healthy way. I look to these as reminders of how much farther we have yet to go. If its not our personal relationship with unprocessed pain and emotions, it is our proximity to folks in our lives that experience it.

`Xxxtentacion music was relatable to so many folks for its emotional content.’

I work with young black boys that have similar life experiences as Xxxtentacion – mothers that feel more like older sisters, fathers that are barely existent, and grandparents, family members or foster parents that have had to take of care taker roles. I see how they let their relationship with their parents and the community that is still active in their lives shapes them into the men they are growing into. I see how their sadness that they are not allowed to feel into leads to frustration of not exploring these feelings of rejected which in turn morphs into anger that cannot be tamed.

I’m more concerned about the impact of X’s  life and the current wave of new rappers  have on our youth that look up to them as leading role models of success. Black children seeing young black men that look like their older cousins and on their social media platforms portray lives that are similar to their current day to day lives with the illusion of more money  inspire them to live their lives in the same manner.

As an adult I forget the impact that celebrities, musicians especially have on children. I grew up loving Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, and singers like that who inspired me to aim to define my own version of greatness.Today children look for the same.

It is our duty as adults to hold our youth’s idols accountable for their role they have on this new generation. Call them in more on their behaviors and call them out when their actions become problematic. X is dead, and all I have positively to say on his legacy creates a safe place for young male listeners to begin to explore their emotions. My hope is that we can let that door that has opened for boys to admit to feeling sadness and pain to us exploring more where this is coming from and introduce how to heal through their past traumas.

I am more focused on the future of our black community and how we are shaping the children that will become the leaders of that reality. I do not have the energy to imagine the possible future of Xxxtentacion  living a reformed life as a healed person in our community, I rather accept and learn from his tragic reality : X let the trauma of his childhood shape him into an unapologetically violent person which lead to his early death. He was aware of his transgressions and knew that much of it came from his troubled past which was why he felt the need to focus on the youth.

 “If worse thing comes to worst, and I f***ing die or some s*** and I’m not able to see out my dreams, I at least want to know that the kids perceived my message and were able to make something of themselves and able to take my message and use it and turn it into something positive and to at least have a good life.

 

“If I’m going to die or ever be a sacrifice, I want to make sure that my life made at least five million kids happy or they found some sort of answers or resolve in my life regardless of the negative around my name.” – Xxxtentacion, The Sun

Let us focus on raising our youth in healthy healing communities. Let’s focus on the women and femme survivors of the existing abusers in our own cities and communities- providing resources for access to safe havens, education on alternative interventions that do not require the police/law enforcement such as restorative justice and additional healing support. Let our black men work towards healing themselves and traumas while calling each other in when exhibiting toxic masculinity. This is the way we can at least begin to create our own sustainable community.

*resources :https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6566828/xxxtentacion-dead-rapper-predicted-own-death-video-miami-shooting/ 

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It’s Time We Get Honest About Suicide

I am two months away from my twenty fifth birthday, and I can honestly say I didn’t think I would live to see this. I tried more than once to end my time on this earth. At those times I lost all hope . I lost myself in memories that harmed my mind and body . I lived in a state of constant fear and pain , there was no escape. I did try to pray it away, I begged God to remove the thoughts from my head that I was better off dead- yet they persisted. I tried to lose myself in pleasure that had been weaponized against me, and found myself even more empty.

The night of my first attempt was on a Sunday, my sister and father were sitting on the living room floor in front of the couch I was laying on laughing at whatever movie we were watching. I got up dazed, walked to the kitchen, opened my medicine bottle for my chronic migraines and took fistfuls until the bottle was empty. When I went back to join my family I laid down relieved that this would be my last memory and completely okay with it. I woke up to an ambulance moving my body and my sister and mother in tears. I was angry that even at dying I failed. Even when trying to bring peace to my mind I brought on more chaos and destruction. I never forgot that feeling . Or the ones that followed . The doctors telling me that I should be thankful that I had parents and a family that loved me. The children that I met while admitted in the mental health facility that had similar stories to mine and the ones who struggled with different illness of the mind . I was sixteen. I rarely cried during that stay or the one after . I did have an awakening- literally when I woke up on the third day of being admitted. That if something inside me continued to fight this hard so that I might still wake up and live to see another day then maybe I am not worthless , maybe I do actually have a purpose. Life carried on and did bring me to that . Still now I struggle with cycles of depression and anxiety. Still now do I have to remind myself of who I was when I tried to end who I am: a con man . I had built a persona of myself that my parents , Family, and community saw that was actively healing through my trauma and following through with treatment plans , I was going to graduate and go off to college and I was building myself up as a spiritual person. My inner reality was different, I punished myself for not living up to the image I made for the people around me to the point where suicide was indeed the only way out. In my mind then I rationalize that if I die now they wouldn’t have to see me for who I really was : broken and scared, dirty and worthless, sad and hopeless. Post suicidal attempt, my life had shifted from my family and people around me pushing that I follow through with my treatment to being treated like a fragile infant. I felt the pressure of living, differently and for many years after I lived in that. I didn’t know how to switch out of survivor mode to living whole .

Even after successfully processing some of my most traumatic sexual abuse, I struggled with seeing worth in myself beyond what I was capable of creating or adding to life . I felt indebted for each breathe I took, each joy I felt, each life that came into mine that dared to love me. Somewhere in repaying those “debts” for enjoying life I lost myself again to causes and people (mostly men) that were just as harmful as my suicidal bouts . I had redesigned the image of myself and was wilting away in the body of it . So when I say I appreciate and love the community I made for myself it’s because they have saved my life. They saw me for me : That I was struggling and weak And strong And Resilient. That I am worthy and dignified and still imperfect. That I am love.

When we as a country and community talk about suicide know the battle is different for each person and know that it is important to view it as such . See people that are struggling, really SEE THEM and LOVE THEM. See past their social media persona or work persona, or what have you to who they are underneath it.

I’m telling y’all from experience It’s hard when going through it to ask for help , to pick up a phone and call a loved one or anyone when your own mind has convinced you that there isn’t a person that cares or loves you. Don’t wait to hear from folx that you already know have a history or struggle with depression or mental illness. Be the love they need and see them . Offer them help with caring for themselves (grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, etc.) or take them out to do something or just sit quietly with them. Be creative about how you show up and see them in their entirety. I’m telling you that alone can save a life.

Remembering Jose

On this day one year ago Jose Hernandez-Rossy was murdered by police officer Tedesco. Jose in death was crucified by media outlets whose platform feed the city lies about who he was and the actions leading to his untimely death. Jose was driving home enjoying the final break in our temper mental Buffalo seasons when he was stopped by the police. The traffic stopped turned violent when one officer reached into Jose’s car causing him to hit a street pole. Jose attempted to leave the scene by getting out of his car to run when he was shot and killed by officer Tedesco. That day and the ones that followed the media reported that he shot a police officer (which was false), that he had a criminal record, that he was smoking weed. The local media’s stance to discredit Jose, the victim of a heinous crime, that by 2017 had played out once in this city before in the case of Meech and dozens of time across this country was an eerie reminder of how American society treats the death of men of color as criminals first before human.

I saw him as human. I saw him in the face of his daughter who still didn’t understand why her father was not returning home as he always did. I saw him as a family man in videos that his cousins’ shared on their social media as they mourned their loss of him. I hear his humanity and his loving kindness in the stories from his brother- in- law of how he helped support him and his sister’s family. I see the strength of him live on in his sister and mother as they fight through a crooked judicial system with lawyers that have other agendas yet they still hold true to their convictions for justice. I have had my heart and soul break open with his family at the place of this death, as we held direct actions and in frustrating meetings.

One particular moment that stays burned in my mind and body’s memory was the day of his memorial at the site of where he was killed. I felt my body shake with sadness, anger, and grief and overwhelmed with hurt when I looked down to see my son crying beside me. Zaire cried because he too felt the overwhelming emotion of when the immediate family came to the pole on the corner of the street where Jose’s car initially crashed and the ground felt radiant of Jose’ blood that was still visible on parts of the street. There was a sad chaos in the street when his mother cried terribly before her body gave way and the male family members had to hold on to her. When the fire department and ambulance pulled up and Zaire began to cry more I decided that it was time for us to go. He asked me why he died and who killed him in the car ride home, I told him because of the color of his skin and by officers that said they were scared of him. My voice trembled as I said this as I felt guilt for exposing this harsh reality to my children. I let it hurt just enough before remembering that taking him and Kelila to Jose’s memorial did not make me a bad parent opening my children up to trauma. I am a parent that is exposing my children to their reality before they grapple with the horrors of it on their own but now with the tool to heal from it.

Now today a year later we will come together once again to remember the life of Jose. We still hold the rage from the not guilty verdict from the AG case in our bones as we reclaim this memorial site. Our emotions are raw on this day and we honor the unspoken power of them that has fueled us this far in our collective journey. My heart is still full despite the pain and I am sending out love in these words, in prayer, and in healing vibes to the survivors of state sanctioned violence.

20 Femme Rap/ Hip Hop artists You Need to be Listening to

Spring 2018 has already blessed us with new releases from Cardi B to Nicki Minaj to our beloved Janelle Monàe who are some of the biggest female rap artists/ lyricists in the Hip Hop game currently. Beyond the debate who is more talented amoung them, the Real question is what other femmes are out killing it in this genre? And as Scandals pop up each day, I have gotten tired of  trying to figure out if its still okay to listen to your problematic fave, so I ‘ve composed a list of some talented femme MCs out that are perfect for your spring to summer playlist!

Nitty Scott

New York City native, Nitty Scott is an Afro – Latina rapper / poet that infuses her cultural identity in the sound of her music. She uses her lyrics to promote femme empowerment using a fun sound you can’t help but move to. Listen Here!

Princess Nokia

Afro Latina rapper Princess Nokia has an underground cult following of her unique style that incorportates alternative music scene with hip hop. In her music she tells the stories of her youth and praises black women across the diaspora with catchy hooks. Give her latest EP a listen !

Cam & China

Cam & China are a black american femme duo that make what can best be described as femme trap. These two spit rhymes that validate black femmes and we can relate to that while incorporating the sounds we have all grown to love in trap. Give them a listen Here!

Junglepussy

Another New York City native on the list!  This sex positive femme raps about femme empowerment and self love for black women in lyrics that are as smooth as the beats she gives us to bounce our asses to. Listen to her latest single Trader Joe!

BbyMutha

BbyMutha is a Mother of four that does not let that piece of her idenity police her content of her artistry. She puts her experinces as a baby mother in her music that vaildates so many women like herself (myself included!) Don’t let that fool you though! She does not shy away from  speaking on  her sexuality explicitly  in her lyricism. Give her a Listen !

Sydanie

Mother and Tornoto native mixes Grunge sounds into her own style of reggeaton / hip hop. Her lyrical content reflect her experiences of being a black femme in the Black Diaspora and her feels that move her into her activism. Listen to her latest single Flirt!

DonMonique

DonMonique has already began to expand beyond her base and brand as a black fem trap rapper. With popular hits like “Pilates” and “Drown” DonMonique is the music will make you feel an even badder b*tch. Listen to her latest single 30 Block!

HopHop

Alabama native based out of Buffalo, NY Hop Hop uses classic Hip Hop flows for her new wave sound. Her music range from fun storytelling to addressing topics of racial tension, politics, and femme empowerment. Check out her latest single Scratch!

iRawniQ

This LA based raper puts the rawness of queerness into music by addressing sexuality and gender with iRawniQ unique sound of electro- Hip Hop. Listen Here!

Noname

Chi town native, Noname has gotten her acclaim in the local scene in beyond for her melodic voice and flow. Noname gives the perfect narrative for the bittersweet black experiences and the feels encompassing this, Give her listen Here!

Dreezy

Chicago native Dreezy has been holding down the hip hop scene with her confidence that drips all through her music. Her east coast flow and lyrics with some of the most enjoyable punchlines make for a great listen. Listen to Here!

Rico Nasty

D.C native Rico Nasty is a High energy freestyle/ rapper that has dubbed her own sound as sugar trap. In her music she incorporates her bold persona with 90’s pop culture and unapologetic blackness. Listen to her latest single Hit That !

Big Freedia

Although she is not new, I had to do an honoray mention to this Queen. Big Freedia reps New Orlean’s Bounce Music scene, a sub-genre composed of queer black folks that were not accepted into the Hip Hop community because of their idenity. Bounce fuses traditional rap with adlibs and House music to create this iconic sound that has made brief appearences in mainstream music (Beyonce Formation & Drake’s Nice for what ).Listen to her latest single Rent !

Kari Faux

“The hottest thing out of Little Rock” LA based rapper Kari Faux’s sweet voice over R&b and 90’s inspired beats is a vibe of its own. Her relatable lyrics about dating and millienial life will make you laugh and her music enjoyable, Listen Here.

Angel Haze

New York rapper Angel Haze uses her poetic experience in her music with her lyrics that encourage femme unity / empowerment with a rawness that will leave you reeling. Listen to her Here !

Audra the rapper

Self described as soulful ratchet uses electro sounds and hip hop beats in her high energy sound. Listen to her Here!

CupcakKe

Known by most for vuglarity, CupcakKe is a dymanic MC from Chi town that has made her rise to fame by her unapologetic reclaiming black sexuality. With hits like “Deep Throat” to  “Pedophile” CupcakKe uses her platform to normalize sexual positive for femmes while also highlight the sexual voilence in our communities. Listen to her latest single Quiz!

Leikeli47

This femme leaves much of herself to her listeners imagination , Leikeli47 use fun hooks and lyrics over different sounds that are great to hype yourself up with. Listen to her Music here!

Dai Burger

Another great turn up artists uses R&B/ pop music sounds into her music with lyrics that highlight femme experiences in high energy fun delivery. Listen Here!

Kamaiyah

Unapologetic femme rapper spits lyrics about being open sexually and being proud of her identity in her music that is also great to pregame and turn up to. Listen Here !

MaDamn Noire Reclaims the ‘Angry Black Woman’

On March 31st at the closing ceremony for FREE AGENT, MaDamn Noire strolled up to the stage with a white Barbie doll on a leash in tow. I was eager for the performance as I already knew that it would be the representation of MaDamn Noire frustration of whiteness. In preparation MaDamn Noire , Obsidian, Curtis Luvell, and I held a ritualistic ceremony where each of us gave a blessing over MaDamn Noire and her performance. I’ve come to love and cherish my relationship with each of these beauitful black femmes, we poured that love over her as a reminder that her life long dance career aligned with her knowing her fullness in her idenity that she was more than ready for this. It was scared, intimate and healing space that we held just for ourselves among the others preparing for the show.

As the music started so did she, MaDamn Noire was the embodiment of the rage black women feel and the liberation from letting it free not afraid of who may see. On the stage she moved fiercely with a sexiness that felt natural to the raw anger energy. Over the music and the crowd roaring their delight of consuming her vibrant dancing, her body screamed its disgust from the treatment that white folks have put her through. Challenging major Grace Jones vibes she bites then spit out the head of the Barbie in the face of a woman in the front row that sent the crowd into a louder uproar. In that moment my heart swelled with pride for her boldness and it ached for her sacrifice she had made performing this in a predominately white space.

Black folks in the audience knew that with each twirl MaDamn Noire swung that Barbie above her head represented what she really wanted to do after every unwarranted hair grab by a white woman that just wanted to feel it. Black folks knew that with each shake she gave that Barbie was for each time she was harassed by a white coworker that went unnoticed, for each condescending comment made to her face and every stereotype that had been nailed to her back. She danced for every slight and large injustice, mircoagression, and hidden racism that black femmes face daily that looks at us with thin lipped smiles and eyes that willingly go blind to black violence. She danced to communicate that we will not idly play along with your games. We will not entertain without forcing you to see what you have done to me, to my people, and our collective ancestors. We will disrupt all aspects to your lily lives as ours has been until you work to correct the harm that we are currently in.

She trotted off the stage and out the door giving the perfect end to the event. I felt joy of her releasing so much of the pain we suffer through, I felt her soul being free as she let her artistry channel who she was physically. I felt healed watching her reclaim what I had been told until now was some far off mythology of liberated black femme sexuality.

Photo cred. @pjeightyeight/instagram.com

How Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic Improved how I Masterbate

After returning home from BOLD’s National Gathering I spent the following week feeling deeply into the amazing power and joy of black people. BOLD, Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity, is a network of Black Organizers from across the country that bases it training in political education, somatic practices, and building conections across the country. Among the most cherished experiences that I had was the lunch conversation with Adrienne Maree Brown on Pleasure Activism. “Adrienne Maree Brown is author of Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds and the co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. She is a writer, social justice facilitator, pleasure activist, healer and doula living in Detroit.”(brief bio, Adrienne Maree Brown) . Being committed in healing journey and bridging the gap of what I desire to actually embodying in my activism drew me to Adrienne and also just me wanting to fangirl over one of my favorite black femmes in this movement.Adrienne suggested, and I suggest to y’all listening to the youtube video of Audre Lordre’s Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as power. In this speech and released publication Audre speaks to a deeply powerful energy that lies within femmes that has been demonized by patriarchal society. This has been done through suppression of our erotic selves within our oppression in a dominate male world and gaze, denying us power that in many ways and times while manipulate us for men to be on the receivingof it.Audre goes on to define eroticism as “the measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos and power of our deepest feelings, it is our internal sense of satisfaction that once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire … this depth of feeling and recognizing its power and self-respect we can require no less from ourselves”.(Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic I listened to this daily at work on my break as I took brisk laps around my school. I listened to her words to inspire and affirm my commitment to growing black folks through the resources of education for our collective liberation before returning to work. I feel the importance from the students I work with of my presence mattering, but struggle within feelings of obligation of service to other areas of my job. By feeling more into those areas of discomfort while looking for the pleasure of being in the current moment has improved my sense of fulfillment. With each passing day I felt that fullness deeper, amazed by it I wondered what that pleasure would feel like sexually in relation to myself . “the erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to any woman that .. Hasn’t succumbed to the belief that sensation is enough”- Audre Lorde, Uses of th Erotic: The Erotic as Power.Until this past week I used masturbation just to get myself off when experiencing sexual tension or frustration but, then I realized I had denied myself touch in a way that truly fulfills my needs. My sexual performance with partners has been more passionate in using ways that I know will best pique my own arousal in relation to heighten my partner’s experience.

Last month for the first time I used those same tricks and techniques in service of me: I played the music I like to hear, moved at the pace, rhythm that felt best to me and switched to the positions I wanted when needed accurately. I loved on myself in a way that up until then I still struggled with due to its taboo nature that was projected on to me. I still battled with shame attached to it from growing up in a conservative Christian household that ruled by sexual ignorance in hopes that would deaden any sexual exploration. For the first time I committed to being in the fullness of eroticism for me. I orgasmed from myself for the first time and felt love for myself differently, from the tender and caring lover that I had been complimented as by partners but never knew personally. I know now that this feeling was never given to me through any other person than me- that is empowering. It felt empowering to carry that joy of self into my job performance, into my creative writing process and embracing being in love with me. I felt a rare level of intimacy with myself that was both intoxicating and healing. The uses of eroticism in connection to self-love is radical AF and yet so necessary to femmes and folx across the gender spectrum just do to for ourselves, to discover more of our identity and seeing ourselves in our full dignity.

I Felt That Shit: The Power of Art & Uses in the Movement

In a dimmed room Eve rose from the front row with her poems in hand then began speaking. Her words bore life to worlds I never seen but through her knew, she shared who she was that was hidden beyond view of who stood before us of her childhood scars to her travels; then she read I don’t want my baby to be a hashtag. Her voice spoke the fear that I had never said aloud, the  joy and pain I have as I watch my son grow was hers too and the sobering knowledge of what this country can do. As her pace speed up saying what I had known to be true, tears swelled and wetted my cheeks by the way she had captured a black mother’s pain so beautifully. That was the first time I watched her perform a set, and the first set that I had seen in my adult life that had hit me so hard to inspire me to action. At nine months pregnant with a four year old and trump presidency on the horizon, I hungered even more to be the change I wanted to see, if not for myself for my family. Now as I reflect back on my origins to organizing I realize how important radical art was to becoming a part of this movement.

Art is one of the main uses of propaganda- in film, television, visual arts, music, theater and literature because of its undeniable power. When we interact with it, listen to, see it, we resonate with art on a level of shared experiences within the audience and artists.  Which is The purpose of art: to incite emotions- whether they are true or not doesn’t matter as long as the intended audience got the message and felt that shit.

Back when black folks first were “freed” from slavery, films like ‘Birth of a Nation’ were created to affirm the fear white Americans had towards black Americans and that in order to preserve the sanctity of white people that there was a need for the KKK. Moving forward Jim Crow the popular character of a minstrel show, a musical show of the 1830’s that featured white entertainers in blackface, became the slang term for the racist laws that kept the caste system functioning despite the end of slavery.

In the midst of this prominent misuse of art was the rise of black entertainers that portrayed their truth and reality in this country in what is now known as The Harlem Renaissance. Artists like Zora Neele Hurston reclaimed African American Language in their literature as a radical act of personifying black folks for generations to follow. Fast forward to the civil rights era Nina Simone, James Baldwin and Maya Angelou were popular artists that stand out for being vocal about their distrust of this country as black folks and their desire to be free through their art.

To now- Beyoncé shutting down the 2016 Super Bowl performance of Formation in Black Panther inspired regalia then later released visual album that incorporated the work of past and current black artists. Kendrick Lamar that same year used his Grammy performance to showcase that slavery never ended, but shape-shifted into the current prison system.

Their big names drew more attention to the calls of action of Black Live Matter/ Movement for Black Lives than the media had intended to cover. Black artists of the past and currently living understand the responsibility that their talent provides relief to their audience and is a preservation of their time period- the beliefs of that era, the shared feels and experiences with it.

To all my artists’ friends You Matter. Your work Matters. History will thank you for your contributions.

To honor y’all I will be starting an appreciation series dedicated to the talented black and brown artists that are killing shit and those who are working in the movement!