Category Archives: Editorial

How I Learned to Take Ownership of My Mental Health

This piece will contain explict content about living with mental illness and self harm. This is my warning, to you as a reader, that this content may be triggering.

I have a testimony I want to share with y’all about depression and suicidality.

The week of my 26th birthday, I made the difficult desison to receive a mental health check up that resulted in a 10-day in-patient hospital stay to treat my mental state. It was at this time I was diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder and Suicidality.  Suicidality is a condition that when triggered results in a person having obessive complusive thoughts of self harm and suicide. These are conditions I have lived with for all of my adult life that have gone untreated by medical professionals due to my own fear.

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To understand my fear of medicine and medical facilitates, we have to time travel back to my youth. When I was sixteen healing for the first time from sexual trauma, I made two attempts on my life that resulted in me being heavily medicated for a time on antidepressants. Now, at sixteen my brain was not fully developed. The medication I was being prescribed intended purpose was to stablize my moods, and treat my suicidality. Yet the side effects made me feel numb and like a shell of a person. This experience with medication was traumatizing to me. I developed a fear in my adult life of receiving medical attention for the depression and suicidality. For a long time I self medicated with smoking weed and eating edibles to mellow out my intense mood swings and quiet the thoughts of self harm when they got too loud.

I spent my birthday alone in bed sick with a viral infection trying to get to soothe myself with a blunt when I realized that living in this way did not feel useful or helpful anymore. I am grateful for the relief weed gave me intermediately and for the awareness that I was in need of something more. Getting admitted to the hospital felt scary and embarrassing. I admitted to my mother that I felt weak and incompetent. She, like all great mothers, reminded me there is No Shame in receiving mental health help- in fact it required a considerable amount of strength. She was right. It will be one week since my release and going on three weeks since I have been on mediciation treating my mental state.

Within the first twenty four hours I felt the first wave of mental clarity – it was Ah- Mazing ! The relief of being on antidepressant and antipsychotic does come with a cost. Due to my weight and biological make up I have felt all the the side effects at one time or another intensely. After completing simple task like cooking a meal, washing dishes, or bathing my children I feel completely wiped out physically. I get dizzy and this interferes with daily life as well.

In the span of the past few weeks my life has shifted. I learned the importance of priortizing my own care. Being hospitalized I was forced to sit my busy ass down and face the darkness within myself. I have been trying to distract myself with organizing, performing and other community based activities than face the reality that I am lonely.  And that loneliness is a direct result of when I self isolate when sad. I have for a long while found comfort in retreating inward, and for a time that was what was safest to do. At this current moment in my life I have had to sit with how not being expansive, and projecting my fears is actually limiting myself.  I am leaning into challenging myself to expand my comfort zone by sharing my story with y’all.

Healing is messy work. It requires that we be present while doing it. There is no right or wrong way- but there is trial and error to see what is best useful for you. Let my testimony inspire you to take charge of your mental health wellness. I invite you to stop for a moment and Breathe with me. Give yourself a gentle loving touch and say this with me :

(while you breathe in) I am Grateful for the Gift that is this Day .

(while you breathe out) I release all my shame to be transformed into compassion. 

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An Ode to Black Womxn & Reclaiming of our Sexuality

I have been blessed to be able to document and share with y’all my journey of finding and intetgating Pleasure in my life – Especially as we are living in a moment in time where black womxn are defining our own expression of sexuality and dictation of autonomy. For me, Reclaiming my erotic sensual self has been essential in my pursuit for liberation. I understand now, more than ever, that many of my life’s experiences with sex, sexuality and gender are directly linked to the oppression I, as a black womxn feel- and know that this isn’t limited to just Me.

Combahee River Collective 1977, Instagram: @sanyuestelle

For the generations before me, categories for black womxn sex workers and queer folx were crafted in such a way that they carried the brunt of our people’s trauma and abuse. Abuse from white people who hated them because of the color of their skin. Abuse from the black community who hated them because of their queerness and the hatred of both groups for them being women.

Since before my conception, my genders’ expression of sexuality had long been demonized in such a way that when I began to explore those parts of myself in adolence, I became apart of a bastardized group of people in my society: Ones degraded with names such as “fast“, “slut“, “whore“, “hoe“, and “thot“. Ones who can quickly and quietly be disposed of when sex becomes more than an “immorality”, to out right violence (from those who hold measurable power due to white superimist patriarchy) on our bodies.

It’s important to know that when society mastered how to reduce myself and my black femme/ womxn to sexual objects with no agency is when all unjust power dynamics were born. And while learning how to live between the thrawls of being fuckable or not, there is never in a black girl’s childhood, adolence, or budding womxnhood told that sex can be pleasurable for us. That sex can be healing for us. That sex can be integrated in our magic.

Due to that ignorance, some sister womxn go considerable lengths to distance themselves from eroticism, to avoid being outcasted with the other sexual deviants. That fear of embracing one’s sexuality and gender influences them to deaden parts of their bodies and kill off the sacred parts of their souls, in hope that, in this dilapidated state they will attract love and protection from Men. Men who, ironically in the covers of darkness, secretly seek out the womxn called “whore”, the man called “queer” , and the person who’s gender can’t be named in binary terms.

It’s these sister womxn (who have been nicknamed “pickme’s”) when finds out of these other love affairs, becomes aware that deadening herself did not bring what patriarchy promised her- she did not get the abundance of joy, wealth and family or a great man, but a poorly orchestrated facade in addition to her lived experiences from state sanction oppression.

Misogynoir defined, instagram: @iheartericka

Here’s where the cycle of oppression perpetuates itself: Pick me’s, these sisters that find themselves trapped by the lies of patartichy while also feeling into the loss of her erotic self – becomes bitter towards those who haven’t, and blames her sisterfolk for daring to live outside of the great Lie. This is dangerous, because when womxn despise or hate other womxn for exploring their erotic sensual selves, it opens the way for apathy. They become apathetic toward the ostracized girl and womxn who becomes pregnant in need of assistance when the man has gone absent. Apathetic to the survivors of sexual assault and abuse to the point of implying that the punishment to sexual exploration is to be met with Rape and assault. In their apathy they become complicit agents to the same forces that oppress and harm them.

When you support known abusers, when you stay silent when you know abuse is happening, or go as far as finding fault in the survivor’s of Abuse- you are a part of the problem.

I know after generations of being sexual objectified and oppressed by society through a form of osmosis we pass down from one generation to the next how to navigate and adapt to a world that denies us survival and autonomy. In the process of this we internalize a form of self hate so deep that can only be healed with tender love and acceptance. And in this healing, that erotic sensual self that was believed to be dead, is given the opportunity to live within her again.

Be Sex Positive, Instagram: @recipsforselflove

Being a womxn or femme doesn’t mean we all must have the same relationship to sex, sexuality or gender in order to gain our collective liberation. In fact all of these exist not in binary terms, but on a spectrum that grants us freedom to live comfortably wherever we fall in relation to each other.We do however, have to have the same understanding and acceptance to join ourselves in the united efforts to dismantle systems that are in place to oppress us. So that when the dust settles, we may be able to determine our own systems of power and justice for the protection of generations of young black girls and womxn to take and follow when we are long gone.

How I Overcame the Myth of Singleness

Soon I will be celebrating my second year of singleness! In this time I have enjoyed this opportunity of discovering parts of myself: articulating the ways in which I give and accept love, accepting my sexuality, to exploring more of my political identity. In this past year I have become enthralled with Audre Lorde- mostly due to how deeply I identify with her.

Audre Lorde, a queer black woman writer and mother of two, dissected society through her experiences in her literature. She often created terms for the systematic forces that have long gone unnamed like “mythical norms”.

“Somewhere, on the edge of consciousness, there is what I call a mythical norm, which each one of us within our hearts knows “that is not me.” In america, this norm is usually defined as white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, christian, and financially secure. It is with this mythical norm that the trappings of power reside within this society.” (Audre Lorde, sister outsider)

As a practice while I explore where my political identity lie as a feminist or womanist; both or neither- I view society through the lens of mythical norms that I encounter, seeing the intersection of my privilege and oppression.

Everyday I enter the world I am treated differently depending on what I wear, on how I speak and who is with me.Wheather I am alone or with my children, there is a stigma attached to the stares from strangers that is constant: that I am lacking or missing something since a man is not present.

In our society women’s  worth and value are linked to our relationship with men. As young girls and women we are conditioned to believe that whatever treatment we can sustain and how much labor we can give men determines our value or strength. Our worth then depends on our relationships that we have with them – as romantic partners, in the workplace, in friend circles, etc… Subconsciously in the minds of most, women are still seen and judged in this regard.

When I became pregnant at eight-teen I dealt with the prejudices that people within my religious and general community projected onto me. Since I defied the expectation of preserving myself for a man in marriage by exploring my sexuality and using my body for my own pleasure in my youth, my son was a punishment fitting of my moral crime. I internalized for a long time feelings of worthiness and dutifully responsibility attached to this identity.

Over these past two years, I since discovered the power of my self-worth and know those myths of worthlessness I had internalized are untrue. I, like everyone else have inheritable worth. I am deserving of the love I give myself and those around me. I am deserving of all those who love me. I exercise my power by asserting my wants, my need, my desires for a potential relationship and not accepting less than that. I maybe alone in single statues, but I am not lacking or lonely.

Here’s a list of a few tips that have helped me along this journey that I want to pass along to y’all :

  • Be in relationship with you : set a side time to do things that bring you joy- whether that be things you already enjoy and experiment with new things you’ve never tried before.
  • Learn your love language: do you know how you accept love that makes you feel whole ? Do you know how you enjoy giving love to others? – take the time to write that down, or discover it if you don’t know.
  • Honor your commitments : set scheduled time for self care and follow through. Care for yourself in specific ways – clean your house, tackle your insecurities, go to bed at a set time, eat and drink what will keep your body whole, healed, and healthy.

My femme singleness is just one of the many intersecting pieces of my identity. Being black, queer, a mother, and non-Monogamous add layers of confusion to the outside world. Me being something that is different from what has been defined as normal means living in a state of nothingness constantly subjected to all forms of unjust violence. I am rarely extended the protection or care from folks that are not woman, or black/ of color, or queer, or poor.

There are many folx that exist with me at the intersection of multiple identities. We empower ourselves and each other through love and affirmations. By imagining a world where we are not governed by mythical norms that oppress us and using our power to create them.

The Sweetness of Life

Over my posting hiatus I dedicated my time to reflecting on my life’s experiences, wrote fiercely, and had the opportunity to perform in shows that aligned with my core beliefs as a queer black femme dedicated to the liberation from oppressive systems. I was literally riding this high celebrating when I was attacked and violated by a stranger. The days and now weeks that have followed since this incident have tested my abilities that I have written about in the past : loving myself and my spirituality. In the wake of the trauma I was cared for by the women and femme folk that I am blessed to call my community. This experience has inspired me to write again in a public space about the transformative power of love, survival and sisterhood.

I woke up completely sore trying to shake the feeling of a night terror that clings on after sleep. Without moving I looked at the disheveled state of my room, house then down at my body that confirmed what I had feared to be true. Still in shock, I reached out to two of my close friends one of which before leaving the club we were at the night before told me to let her know when I had made it home safe, which was not the case. At some point in my drunkness I accidentally called two more of my friends, one who called me the next day and I told her what happened. I am extremely thankful at how quickly everyone moved into action to guide me into a recovery process that I am currently still undergoing.

Over the next two weeks I spent time sharing living spaces with friends as I still felt unsafe in my apartment. Among themselves they organized their availability to when they could be present with me when I was fearful of being alone. Each friend I stayed with and supported me during this time poured their loving energy into me as I began this new phase of my healing journey. They each passed along to me essentials for thriving through healing that I had forgotten in the wake of the most recent incident.  

Natasha and Ebony reminded me of the importance and simplicity of self care and spiritual balance. They both had their own unique takeNatasha reminded me to trust and return to my body through affirmations like ‘my body is doing what it knows to keep itself safe’, taking me to the hospital, and pushing me to take time to sit and rest. Ebony reminded me the importance of my connection to nature by going on walks and spending time with me in the park. The warmth of Shaketa and Zoe’s support reminded me of the feelings of my family that I longed so much for that is absent in my life and restored that love inside of me. Jayden restored my hope of my future self, that the care I dedicate now does extend to the me of tomorrow and thereafter. Eve and Rachel reminded me that coping can be unorthodox even messy, but writing will always be healing.

‘my body is doing what it knows to keep itself safe’

So many more of my dear friends imparted their love,wisdom and magic  that has nourished my soul. They all collective came together at my home to celebrate my twenty fifth solar return. With sage, paleo santo, candles we set intentions and reclaimed my space. Before bed that night I did a separate ritual where I reflected on my life’s course. I can honestly say I love my life.I cherish the experiences I have had and am excited for my future.

Coming forward with this new chapter of my story is a struggle. Grappling with flashbacks, triggers and unhealthy habits is harder than I remembered. I get angry and frustrated with myself for not progressing at a rate I aspire to in my mind. But each day I have to accept the fact that these wounds are fresh and new – I have to be gentle with myself.

If any of this resonates with you- if you are overcoming a trauma, a hardship of any form let me remind you of this: patience is key on this journey.

Love and self compassion will restore and recharge you continually.

When fear feels larger than life itself, shrink it by connecting with someone who genuinely cares for and loves you.

You are not alone in your battle for reclaiming your birthright of a peaceful liberated life. I hope my posts will remind you of this as I recount pieces of my own journey.

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!