[HuffPost] Are You Asking Me To Talk The ‘Right’ Way Or The ‘White’ Way?

Hand raised in class

As a child, whenever I raised my hand in class and asked, “Can I sharpen my pencil?” “Can I go to the nurse?” “Can I go to the bathroom?” I was always met with the same dry, sarcastic response followed by an expectant stare from my instructor:

“I don’t know. Can you?

It’s not that my teachers were denying me permission. They were waiting for me to ask the “right” way. According to what I was taught in all of my primary school English classes, I was supposed to say “May I,” not “Can I,” and I wouldn’t get anywhere in the classroom (or in life) until I learned the difference.

I suppose that my teachers, by staring at me while I held my bladder and my hand in the air, thought they were teaching me a valuable lesson on grammar and communication. What they were really providing was a much more valuable lesson on white supremacy, microaggressions and respectability politics, all before lunchtime.

We’re all taught “proper” English from the first day we step into the classroom. Our version of words like “betta,” “sayin’” and “turnt” must, we’re told, become the more socially acceptable “better,” “saying” and “turned.”

We’re scolded for using the habitual “be” when we say things like “we be hangin’ out.” We’re assigned books by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathaniel Hawthorne and George Orwell and told to start speaking like the majority-white authors we read in school.

Everyone ― black, brown and white ― is taught that one way of speaking is better than the other, and we carry this notion throughout our lives. As an editor, I enforce these rules of speech myself when reading and correcting other people’s work.

But there’s a thin line between the “right” way of speaking and the white way.

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[HuffPost] Big Freedia: My Voice Is All I Need To Break Barriers

Big Freedia

Big Freedia did not come to play with you hoes, as she’d say. She came to break barriers and make noise and live out loud. Really loud.

You may have heard her booming vocals on hit songs like Beyoncé’s black girl anthem, “Formation,” or Drake’s new summer single, “Nice for What,” but she’s way more than a disembodied voice on a track. She’s the reigning queen of New Orleans bounce music with hit songs of her own like “Excuse,” “Drop” and “Rent.”

And believe it or not, Queen Bey and Champagne Papi are just the tip of the iceberg for Big Freedia. With her EP “3rd Ward Bounce” dropping at the beginning of this month and her world tour kicking off soon, she’s just getting started.

Big Freedia has overcome violence, adversity and the tragic loss of her greatest cheerleaders and has proved she’s an unstoppable force of positivity and pride. She is on a mission to increase LGBTQ visibility, to challenge stereotypes about queer artists and to encourage everyone who hears her voice to live their best life and shake their ass while doing it.

Read more at HuffPost.com

[HuffPost] Are Black Americans Allowed In Wakanda?

Isabella Carapella/HuffPost

Isabella Carapella/HuffPost

Warning: This piece contains spoilers.

I didn’t like “Black Panther” at first. In fact, the first time I watched the movie, I left the theater pissed off and confused about my place in the world. But I soon came to realize (after three more viewings) that my discomfort was actually the whole point of the movie.

In the hype leading up to the premiere, I was promised a groundbreaking cultural phenomenon and I wasn’t entirely disappointed. I laughed at all the quippy one-liners. I lusted after Michael B(ae) Jordan and Chadwick “I Can Play Any Historical Figure” Boseman. I stanned for Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira and newcomer Letitia Wright. I danced in my seat to the Afrobeat. I gawked at the lush sets and beautiful costumes. And I marveled at the glorious fictional nation of Wakanda.

I actually went to sleep that night and dreamed of Wakanda, a utopia filled with natural beauty and technological advancements. I imagined myself as a warrior flying around in hover planes while rocking Kimoyo beads and all the other awesome tech from the movie while just being black and free.

But when I woke up, my excitement was extinguished by a sense of dread and disappointment. I know it’s not a real place, but if Wakanda were real, would its people actually let my black ass in? According to every Wakandan in this movie, not likely.

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That Time I Hated Rihanna But Loved Respectability Politics

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There are moments when I look back at my past self and I’m immediately filled with face-reddening, knee-buckling, I wish I could time travel just so I can go back and slap myself embarrassment.

Like that time when I threw up on a boy I liked in McDonalds. Or that time during freshman year when the tail of my skirt got caught in my bookbag and my ass was exposed as I walked across the busiest part of campus. Or that time during senior year when I threw up on a different boy I liked.

There was also a sad time in my life where I didn’t like Rihanna or her music. Forgive me. And brace yourself for a cringe-worthy story. *sighhhhh* Continue reading

5 Lessons In Resistance Explained By Harry Potter

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Happy Epilogue Day! This day, September 1, 2017 marks 19 years since the Golden Trio defeated Voldemort, went on with their lives, got old and fat and happy and had children of their own with terrible names who they took to Hogwarts. Today, Harry Potter fans across the country celebrate the happy little ending JK Rowling wrote at the end of the last book in the Harry Potter series.

Nineteen years prior to the epilogue we celebrate today, the Wizarding World was a different, dark place. Harry Potter and the Hogwarts crew were going through a time very similar to what we’re going through as a nation right now, with a strange looking evil man using power, intimidation and a clan of mindless, violent followers to disenfranchise the vulnerable and change the dynamics of our country.

As I look back over the last 20 years of Harry Potter, I’m wondering if Joanne knew how her beloved childhood books would provide clues as to how we can defeat the evil in the real world.

Harry Potter Explains Why (some) People Can’t Be Trusted

I was rereading the first books and found myself thinking “Hm, does Professor Quirrell MirrorOfErised_PM_B1C17M1_QuirrellAndHarryInFrontOfTheMirrorOfErised_Momentremind anyone else of the ‘alt-right?’” No? Just me? Okay then, let me explain.

On the surface, Professor Quirrell seemed pretty normal. Unassuming, downright forgettable. But he had another side. An evil, power hungry, prejudice side, that he kept hidden until the right moment when he had nothing to lose. Like Quirrell, white America has two faces. We saw the evil ugly side pop up occasionally when neo-Nazis marched on Charlottesville. And we see it when people cry All Lives or Blue Lives Matter after an innocent Black person is killed by law enforcement.

Quirrell said it himself, who would suspect him? The shy, harmless guy who just stuck to the rules and did his job without incident (unless you count the troll)? But it’s exactly the Quirrells and white guys in khakis with tiki torches who we need to look out for, walking among us like normal when all the while, there’s unspeakable evil and prejudice in the back of their minds.

Professor Quirrell is a fictional character in a fictional series but the reality is many of our white and non-Black family, friends and coworkers are walking around with two faces. A lot of them show their true colors on Facebook posts. A bunch of them showed their true colors after this election. Some of them showed their true colors in Charlottesville and other “alt-right” rallies throughout the country. All of them are more emboldened by a Dark orange Lord of Twitter. Quirrell and eventually Pettigrew, Barty Crouch Jr., and other seemingly “good guys” became who they were because they were weak and allowed hate to take over. Now is the time to be strong.

Harry Potter Explains How Ending Racism Is Everyone’s Responsibility

And I already know someone is reading this and immediately thinking “Not every white person is a Professor Quirrell in sheep’s clothing and that this is not the Hogwarts–I mean, America–they know.” And I know that, too. Just because a few people want to carry on the racism and cruel legacy of the Confederacy doesn’t mean all white people do. In the same way, just because one of the professors was out in the woods murdering unicorns and plotting for the death of all Muggle-borns doesn’t mean they all were. In fact, all most all of the other teachers throughout the books put forth considerable effort to protect Harry, the stone and all of the vulnerable people.

Because that’s what you do when you’re in a position of power. White Americans and whites people around the world are also in unique positions to be allies for people with less power and privilege than they have. They must recognize that it’s as much their responsibility as it is the responsibility of marginalized people to make the world a better, more just place. I mean, you didn’t see Professor McGonagall out at the Battle of Hogwarts with a #ThisIsNotUs or #NotAllWizards sign. No, she was on the front lines doing the fighting for what’s right like the badass she is. If you don’t want to be associated with the Death Eaters of the world, do everything you can to disassociate.

Harry Potter Explains How To Be An Ally

I hated Ron. I truly did. He was annoying and petty and insecure. But he was loyal to Harry and did what he had to do to keep Harry alive. He supported Harry even when he didn’t understand what was happening to him. Even when he couldn’t relate to whatever scar-burning nonsense Harry was going through, Ron always believed him, defended him and stood by his side. Allies can take a lesson from Ron and do the same for the marginalized groups they support. Believing us when we say Black Lives Matter, defending trans people who are fighting for the right to use the bathroom, standing up for a woman being harassed on the street.

Often, being an ally will mean checking the people you love when they mean to harm someone you’ve decided to be loyal to. Ron did this in book five when he shut down Seamus for trying to come for Harry. Neville did it in book one when he stood up to the Golden Trio to preserve the standing of Gryffindor. As Dumbledore tells us toward the end of the first book, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, and far more to stand up to your friends.” Who among your friends and family needs to be checked?

Harry Potter Explains Why Equality Is Good For Everyone

I always felt like Dudley Dursley was the embodiment of privilege and supremacy. He controlled everything in his life, whether or not it was his to control. Any attempt to treat Harry equally (even just barely, like giving Harry Dudley’s junky and abandoned second bedroom), Dudley viewed as oppression and as stripping away his own autonomy and happiness. A lot of Americans view attempts at equality the same way. We can see this when they scream “All Lives Matter” at Black Lives Matter protests. Or when they push through restrictive laws and bills when a trans person simply wants to serve their country.

Dudley eventually let go of his childish selfishness and notions of being oppressed when he realized there were more important things to worry about like staying safe with his family. Because if Voldemort can come for Harry, he can come for any and every body. Maybe there’s hope that white people will soon come to the same realization. I mean, it took Dudley 7 books. Better late than never, I guess…

Harry Potter Explains The Power In Resistance

#Resist is a new hashtag and a movement following the inauguration of Donald Trump. And while the effort may seem small, throughout the books we see how small revolutions end up making big waves in the Wizarding World.

When Hogwarts was taken over by an evil dictator protege of Voldemort, Dolores Umbridge, Harry, Ron, Hermione and their classmates banded together to educate themselves and fight back against her oppressive policies. Even though it was just a small, secret school group, they retained the lessons they learned in resistance and when the real Battle of Hogwarts began, they banded together on the right side.

Even small steps to learn more about history, each other and ourselves helps arm us for the long fight down the road against systems we may need to dismantle to reach equality.

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I know Harry Potter is just a fictional book series. There are no wands and spells in the real world that we can actually use to defeat our version of the Death Eaters and try to start over in peace and understanding. But the reason Harry Potter is so great and will continue to be essential reading is because the series gives hope of what a future and humanity can look like when we get rid of people and policies that would harm us and put forth an effort toward equality.

Where will we be in 19 years? Still dealing with the ramifications of 45’s determination to divide the nation, or will we be able to look back on a time when we decided to be brave and tackle discrimination and fear-mongering head on and be proud of the part we played to take down darkness and make way for a marvelous, magical new day? Will there ever be a time in my generation, when I have my own kids (*knock on wood*) that I’ll take to their first day of school, when I can look out and ahead and say “All Is Well?”

#UnapologeticallyResisting (and reading)

Trump Is The Trash Boyfriend America Never Should’ve Dated

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 12.39.18 PMHey America. We need to talk about your man Donald.

It’s not a secret that I don’t like him. Hell, most people we know don’t like him. Most of us are kind of confused about how you got stuck with him in the first place. Trust me girl, I don’t want to have to keep talking to you about this. In fact, my day is infinitely better when I don’t have to hear from him and I can pretend he doesn’t exist. But here we are.

America, you’re beautiful. You’re better than this. Yeah, I know you’ve had some shitty ass men in your life in the past. I don’t know why you’re still not ready to give a woman a shot but I still thought you were making progress. You were even in a pretty decent relationship with a guy named Barry just a few months ago. What happened to him? How did you go from that to… this? How could you let this walking orange muffin top undo all of the growth you’ve achieved?

He’s not even cute. And his friends suck. He doesn’t even treat you well physically. When you get sick from constant global warming, he doesn’t take care of you. In fact, he blatantly ignores you and some of his dumb cronies even tell you you’re crazy and a liar!

But the gag is, he’s a liar! He lies constantly and consistently proves how grossly misinformed he is. He comes from a family of liars so it must come naturally, I guess. But you know this is not okay, America. I know, deep down, you know.

Your man is a child. He’s always subtweeting in the middle of the night and bitching and starting arguments on Twitter or screaming at the media on TV. Girl, who does that? It’s annoying and embarrassing.

How can you trust him? He’s picking fights with your friends and making friends with your enemies. Isn’t he supposed to love and support you, America, above all others? And I don’t think I have to go over his trifling and downright dangerous history with women. Is he still out here grabbing pussy behind your back, boo?

Plus he’s hurting the people I love who I wish you loved too. He’s tearing apart Latino families, he’s allowing Native American land to be poisoned. He’s harassing and insulting women and disabled people. He’s taking away rights from gay and trans people. He’s encouraging the abuse of Black people and Muslims and Mexicans. Is there anyone he hasn’t offended? Did I mention all of this happened in the 8 months since you let him take over? It’s not going to get better, sis.

Did you hear about what he did today? He wants to take away Affirmative Action and make it harder for people who don’t speak english to immigrate. I’m not surprised. Of course he wants to take away more rights less than a week after trying to take away health care from millions of the people in your life. He’s always taking away something. What does he give to you, America? What has he done for you lately besides waste all of your money on his pipe dream of a wall? Is he ever going to gift you his tax returns like he promised?

I only say all this because I love you and I want you to do better. I’ve wanted you to do better for a while now, my whole life actually and girl, this ain’t it. Don’t let this man take you backwards.

Ya mans is trash, America. Get rid of him.

America Wants Us To Let It Go And That’s Exactly Why We Can’t

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Philando Castile’s murderer was acquitted yesterday. When a disappointing, yet predictable ruling like this happens, the Black community goes through the same pattern of emotions: Shocked (but not surprised), saddened, outraged, tired.

Then we go to work. We physically and metaphorically come together as a community and respond to another blow of injustice. We gather in prayer, we gather on the streets, we gather on Facebook and Twitter. Because we must do something. We can’t let injustice slide. We must stand up for our right to exist.

But year after year, shooting after shooting, hashtag after hashtag, I’m starting to think no matter what we do or how often we do it, there’s nothing we actually can do to make that will make Black lives matter. I’m sometimes tempted to just give up this exhausting fight, accept the way things are and let it go.

And that’s just what they want us to do: Let it go. Continue reading

I Laugh At This Administration And I Don’t Feel Bad About It.

In case you didn’t know or couldn’t guess, the nation’s capital is a pretty depressing place to be these days. Everyday, I commute to Washington DC for work. I sit on the train and navigate sidewalks crowded with dejected Washingtonians wearing faces that seem to be in mourning for our country. And I get it. Personally, I’d rather be anywhere else than DC but daily I dutifully make my way to my office which has the real estate misfortune to share a block with the home of President Trump, arguably to source of this nationwide melancholy.18740303_10155382544587460_7645837971625410423_n

However, Trump happened to be the source of some much needed comedy yesterday. He took to Twitter to complain about something or the other but his would-be ridiculous rant was marred by a more ridiculous typo that sent the Internet into a whirlwind of memes, gifs and retweets at the president’s expense. By midday, I’d seen so many #Covfefe tags I could hardly breath for laughing.

Unfortunately, #covfefe wasn’t all that went down in the world yesterday. That day also brought with it a tragic car bombing in Kabul that killed at least 80 people. And once again, we found ourselves submerged in a sea of sadness for the state of the world. And #covfefe didn’t seem to matter too much in the grand scheme of government problems. After all, it became obvious that there were more important things happening on our planet that deserve to go as viral as Trump’s typo. Right? Continue reading

8 Literary Heroines Of Color Little Jolie Needed In Her Life

I used to pretend I was a white girl. Not on purpose! And definitely not in public. Just in my imagination, when I channeled the most relatable, bad-ass and inspirational characters from my favorite books.

I’d walk through the halls of school as Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter, duh). I’d solve problems and create solutions like Violet Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’d love and care for my family and even twist my hair like Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie.

These characters are awesome, complex and important but damnit, I’m Black! I can never be like exactly like these girls. There have to be some equally awesome, complex and important characters of color out there, right?

After combing through my memory and my bookshelf, I rediscovered eight heroines of color that Little Jolie should’ve known more about but who Grown ass Jolie can still channel as I navigate the world as a bookish Black Girl. Continue reading

I Shouldn’t Have To Say This But It’s Okay To Be Sad, Okay?

Let’s talk about depression and anxiety. 

When my nephew was a itty bitty baby, he cried a lot. Almost always. Mostly for no reason at all except that he wanted attention which I guess, as a baby, he’s entitled to. In my attempt to be a Cool Auntie and a responsible older person, when he had his crying episodes I’d try to make him laugh. I’d dance, sing, make weird voices and silly faces, pick him up and spin him around… I’d do anything I could think to do to turn his little frown upside down. Because that’s what a caring person does when they see a sad baby: They try to make that baby happy.

This simplistic logic may have worked for an infant yet I still find myself applying the same strategies to my sad, anxious and depressed peers: If I can just get you to smile, I’ll have fixed all of your problems and have proven myself to be the caring-est person you know. But it’s not that easy nor should it be. As we transition into our adulthood, our triggers are going to become more complex and our solutions need to go deeper than just forcing smiles on our faces. Continue reading