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

7 Lessons In Activism From Angela Davis

I felt really lost in the days leading up to and in the days following Trump’s inauguration. Between confirmation hearings, Make America Great Again hats, protests and Twitter trolls, I was overwhelmed with rage, sadness and profound disappointment so much so that I didn’t want to march or protest or even talk about the election. All I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and watch cartoons.

In times of intense emotional exhaustion, it’s helpful to look to my activist ancestors who have fought similar battles for guidance. Thankfully, I got to meet one of the baddest and boldest of the OG activists in person. Angela Davis, freedom fighter and boss Black Woman, graced DC with her presence during inauguration weekend. She stopped by our local hotspot, Busboys and Poets, for an intimate conversation with Melissa Harris-Perry about what we’re all feeling and what we all need to do. I was lucky and blessed enough to be in that crowded room to pick up all of the gems she was dropping. Here are 7 of my favorite quotes, the ones that shook me up and woke me up to take my place in the march toward a better future.

“We must place our bodies in front of the death chamber and render it impassable.”

Davis mentioned that the moment in her life when she felt the most fear was when she was facing a death sentence during one of her numerous times in jail. Her friend and comrade James Baldwin wrote to her and said “If they come for you in the morning, they’ll be coming for us that night.” Davis was comforted knowing her potential death would not be in vain. She was supported by numerous other activists. She was not and would not be alone. With this in mind, Davis was willing to face death to be on the right side of history.

The lesson here: Change cannot happen without risk. What are you willing to risk for equality and justice for all? Your job? Your home? Your life? Bravery is required for this movement but as Angela said: “Be afraid but don’t let that fear immobilize you.”

“What are you anyway? Are you Black or are you a woman? As if that is even a question that had any kind of logical answer!”

Davis looked back on a moment before the Women’s march when she was asked the questions above. Like her, I believe my Blackness defines my experience as a woman, my womanhood informs my experiences as a person of color. I cannot separate these parts of me and why should I? I represent the intersections that have yet to be prioritized in this feminism movement. But with the help of more Latina, more Native, more Queer, more Asian women standing firmly in their truth and their identities, maybe we can pave a way for a more inclusive fight for women in the future.

The lesson: Be you, the whole you. Asserting your humanity is not divisive. It’s necessary.

“The feminism that was evoked by the other candidate was an elite feminism. It was a white woman’s feminism. It was a feminism of those who have already reached the top and want to reach a little higher.”

Davis talked at length about the last presidential election and was critical of both candidates. After Hillary “clenched” her historic nomination, there was a lot of talk about shattering the glass ceiling. But I didn’t feel like I had broken through anything. There was nothing special to me about a white woman who’s had privilege and access most people could only dream of climbing the ladder and getting a promotion. While there are still Black, Latina and queer women who have yet to reach half of the heights that Hillary has scaled, we must understand that for most of us, the glass ceiling is still intact.

The lesson: Progress ain’t progress unless I’m bringing others with me.

“To be white doesn’t mean that you have to identify with white supremacy. It’s a choice.”

Davis said these words to inform white Americans that they don’t have to relate their skin color to racism. They can choose to fight against it and they have to work hard to do so. But it was also a reminder to me that I have allow them join that fight. I have a hard time trusting white allies and activists. While their intentions may be pure, in my imaginings, they always have an exit strategy. If things get too hard, dangerous, frustrating or hurtful, they can easily take their skin out of the game and return to a life of comfortable indifference in a way that I cannot. But I know it’s not the responsibility of the oppressed to end their own oppression. People of privilege must relinquish it willingly.

The lesson: I can’t control when people change. They have to change and grow on their own. Let people do what they can from where they are.

“It is really exciting to feel uncomfortable because that lets us know that regardless of the world we inhabit in this moment, there may be something totally different in the future.”

Davis said history is not about the past, it’s about our future. Over 50 years ago, the thought of a Black president was only a dream of a distant future. In order to make that dream come true, Black people had to secure their right to vote, their access to education and their right to mobility. This wasn’t easy and these social changes probably made many people–white and Black alike–feel very uncomfortable. But out of that discomfort grew a more equal nation with more freedoms and opportunities for all.

We’re on the horizon of another dream future but it requires this generation getting up and out of our comfort zones, interacting with different people, challenging our beliefs, expanding our networks and speaking freely. The lesson: Change happens outside of our comfort zones. Build a diverse community. We need each other.

“Building a movement is about creating a new consciousness.”

Davis mentioned to loud applause that we’re still living in the immediate aftermath of slavery. The end of slavery didn’t mean the end of struggle for Black Americans. The laws changed, but the racist thoughts and fears of most Americans stayed the same. Our culture only began to slowly change when we all changed our opinions about each other.

Now, we face a President who’s about to undo all of the progress we’ve made by feeding off of the archaic opinions of a few Americans. But we can fight against it the same way we fought against laws of the past: by moving forward in spite of them.

The lesson: Changing presidents, changing policies and changing laws won’t change anything until we change our minds.

“I try my best to be as radical as I can be.”

This weekend, my best friend listened to me explaining why I was so exhausted by the events of this inauguration weekend. She said to me, “You spend a lot of your time thinking about people and race issues. I don’t want it to overwhelm or consume you.” But after thinking listening to Angela speak I realize I am still overwhelmed. But not with sadness or anger. I’m overwhelmed with empowerment and encouragement. I have picked up the baton from the great freedom fighters like Angela Davis and John Lewis and more.

The lesson: I have to get up and try my best. Thankfully I have lessons from these greats to encourage me along the way.

Jolie and Angela Davis at her book signing.

Jolie and Angela Davis at her book signing.

I Shouldn’t Have To Learn Black History From A Movie


Build Presents Janelle Monae

This weekend, I had the opportunity to see Hidden Figures, a new biographical film following the lives of three Black women who helped John Glenn become the first man to orbit the earth. The film, which will be released nationwide on January 6, is as inspiring and fun to watch as everyone told me it would be. Friends and family strongly encouraged me to see the movie because it takes place in Hampton, Virginia, my hometown, a fact people thought I would appreciate. But it’s precisely because it takes place in Hampton that some parts of the movie were deeply unsettling for me. Spoilers inbound. Continue reading

How To Look Better In 2017

For me, the holiday season means a lot of trips to my mother’s house. And going to her house means getting all of the “crap” from my childhood bedroom out of her garage and putting it in my own damn house. Geeze, mom

After my latest dive through the garage of memories, I emerged with several boxes of photographs of myself, my family and my friends from my middle school and high school years.

As I pored over the photographic evidence of the most awkward years of my adolescence, I found one pic of myself that I could not stop staring at. It was a photo of me in a red dress. I immediately recognized the moment. It was junior year. I was 15. I was going to prom with my boyfriend at the time. I looked at myself and remembered everything I felt about that day. I remember feeling bloated, feeling my breasts were too big and saggy, like my dress showed off how weirdly my butt was shaped, like my hair wasn’t smooth and shiny enough and my skin was just…not pretty. Continue reading

Don’t Make America Scary Again

Campaign Signs by Getty ImagesSouthern Virginia is the country. Cotton fields, pork and chicken processing plants, wide open spaces with grazing cows and horses and one-lane dirt roads make up most of the scenery. This is where I spent a lot of my time growing up. This is where I spent my weekend, driving through Smithfield and Waverly on dirt paths lined with dead leaves, dead cotton and Trump-Pence campaign posters. It was honestly one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Continue reading

My Ancestors Require That I Rebel

justJolie at 'The Birth of a Nation' red carpet screening

justJolie at ‘The Birth of a Nation’ red carpet screening

Last week, three people touched my hair without my permission. Two of them were complete strangers. One of them I knew. All three were not Black and my reaction to each incident was exactly the same.

The first hair touching occurred in Baltimore on a Monday. I was waiting for a bus to New York in a gross-ass Greyhound station, looking at the TV monitors trying to distract myself from the sneezing, coughing, piss smells and various other scents and sounds typical of a gross ass Greyhound station. All of the TVs were showing  news reports of the then developing story of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma who was shot by a white police officer in the middle of the street. Continue reading

The Woman In Headphones And The Man Who Won’t Leave Her The F*@& Alone: A Fantasy Story.

It’s 7pm and you’re riding the subway home from work and it happens: You notice a girl sitting down looking at her mobile device wearing headphones… And a creepy guy standing 1.5 meters in front of her waving his ashy hand in her fucking face!

For a minute, you give the pair the benefit of the doubt. Maybe headphones girl knows this complete bag of douche.

But odds are she doesn’t and that is precisely why she’s wearing those obnoxious lime green headphones: To keep Creep McDouchebag from talking to her.

But like the Creep McDouchebag he is, he is selfishly ignoring her non-verbal requests for solitude and is now demanding that she remove her headphones using crude sign language.

He introduces himself as Dan and she replies that her name is Jessica. Odds are, Jessica isn’t her real name. But does Dan really give a fuck about Jessica’s* real name? He’s only known of Jessica’s* existence for 7 seconds and has already decided that he’s gotta harass her by any means necessary.

Jessica* tries to replace her lime green headphones snuggly back on her ears. There’s likely no music playing in them and probably never was. Unbeknownst to the Dans of the world, headphones of any shade of green are the perfect tools to shield women from unsolicited male conversations.

But Dan can’t be stopped that easily. Lacking the cognitive development to pick up on social cues, Dan proceeds to berate a clearly uncomfortable Jessica* with questions about where she’s headed this evening looking so sexy with that short skirt on. He might even throw in a “I bet you’re not used to being complemented by an attractive, confident, nice guy like me” when he sees blood rushing to her face and mistakes it as an embarrassed blush, and not the sheer panic that it actually is.

Jessica* responds as vaguely as she can and then turns her attention to her phone. She is likely texting her friend furiously to meet her outside her stop and walk her home. Ha! Foolish Jessica*. Doesn’t she know Dans aren’t deterred by women, their headphones, their friends or their basic sense of humanity?!

Pushy ass Dan then asks Jessica* if she’s texting her boyfriend. Jessica* briefly considers her answer. She could tell him she has a boyfriend, knowing Dan would immediately back off as he likely values the boundaries of an unseen, unknown man more than he values the wishes of the human woman right in front of him. But in a rush of courage, Jessica* decides she doesn’t have to lie or explain a goddamn thing to Dan. She tells him she just wants to listen to her music and enjoy her ride home.

At this simple request, Dan’s Mansplain Mode has been activated. God forbid he lets a woman gain too much confidence and control the direction of the conversation. Now he has to tell her why she should be flattered that he’s even showing interest in her. He has to explain how he couldn’t just let her get off the subway and go about her life without at least asking for her number first. He ask to ask why Jessica* is not interested in talking to him. Is it because some other man had hurt in the past? Does she actually have a boyfriend? Or is she just a stuck up bitch?

Jessica* is now faced with a choice. She summon the courage of our feminst/womanist ancestors and read Dan within an inch of his life and remind him that she was never interested in starting a conversation with his ashy, overly aggressive ass anyway. Or she could remember all the women who have been killed for asserting their humanity to street harassers and decide that getting home safely is more important than taking this opportunity to tell Dan about his life.

Jessica* chooses the latter. She stands as the train slows to a stop, moves near the train doors and jumps off immediately as the doors begin to close, leaving a poor, dumbfounded, lonely, douchey Dan looking after her through the glass as the train speeds ahead. Jessica* is Dan-free but she is still several blocks from home. She firmly places her lime green headphones on her head and walks confidently into a world of Creep McDouchebag Dans.

What I REALLY Want From Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Speaks at NABJNAHJ Joint Conference

This week, the best, brightest and Brownest of the media world descended on the nation’s capital and put the “chocolate” in Chocolate City at the 2016 NABJ/NAHJ Convention and Career Fair. It was a week of networking, professional growth, bomb-ass twistouts, crowded restaurants serving mumbo sauce and real talk among the like-minded writers, producers, students and dreamers trying to navigate this largely white male dominated field.

There were many peak-Black moments that happened throughout the week but perhaps the most unapologetically Black thing that happened also turned uncomfortably and unnecessarily awkward and it starred our Democratic Presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Black girls watching Hillary at BLACKGIRLSROCK!

Black girls watching Hillary at BLACKGIRLSROCK!

Now, Clinton has been widely criticized and accused of pandering to Black voters throughout the course of her campaign. Whether it’s claiming she keeps hot sauce in her bag (swag) on 105.1 FM’s The Breakfast Club, or crashing our Black girl magic party during BET’s BLACK GIRLS ROCK! awards ceremony. Her constant attempts to woo Brown voters have been met with memes, hashtags, and even a catchy remix to a popular song that’s not quite about a cuddly black and white bear.

So you may ask yourself, why would Hillary Clinton, a recipient of so much public ridicule, even show her face in a room full of Black and Brown masters of the very media that plays her time and time again? Well, what better way to prove you don’t pander to Brown people than by… pandering to Brown people?

Hillary tried it. Boyyy did she try it and I’ll give her an A for her effort. She attempted a little honestly by openly acknowledging that she knows her campaign is a big joke to most people (some of whom may have been in that auditorium) and that some people really don’t trust her very much blah blah blah…

But the peak Black moment of Hillary’s speech was actually brought to us by reporter Kevin Merida, who took advantage of a rare Clinton Q&A and asked her point blank to name the most meaningful conversation she’s ever had with an African America. *Cue the collective lean forward in our seats*

Now, I’m not going to argue about the merits of that question. It wasn’t the greatest question. It wasn’t a bad question. It was definitely a hard question. I don’t even think I can name my most meaningful conversation with a white person (It was probably that one time I met Hillary Swank…). What that question was was a trap. And man, did Hillary fall in it.

She could’ve said any number of things besides what she said. She could’ve played it cool with a shrug and said “IDK, maybe every time I talk to our President?” She could’ve even tried to be cute and said “How can pick just one? Every conversation about the Black experience is a meaningful learning experience to me. Your. Lives. Matter.” And left it at that corniness. *cue balloons*

But remember, she’s trying not to pander. So, Clinton drew her shoulders back and thought herself, “Well, fuck it. Lemme get real this time… Real awkward.” And she proceeded to enter into a cringe-worthy two-minute ramble about every Black person she’s ever been friends with in her entire life.

Hillary, it didn’t have to be this way. We didn’t need to know about your “crew” or your hip Black friend-curated Spotify playlist or your Black college bestie from back in the day. (Yes, she pulled out the “I have a Black best friend” card.) Child… Her calculated attempted to get through that question without pandering only led to more pandering.

Now I know what you must be thinking: Hillary, just can’t win, can she? When she plays it safe, people hate her. When she lets it all hang loose, people laugh at her. What do you people want??! Well, I—a young, black, broke and woke professional DC woman—will tell you what I want from our Democratic nominee for President.

What I really want is four more years of Obama. But I know I can’t have that and Hillary can’t be that. Hillary won’t be able to rap about the benefits of going to college or turning up with a turnip. She won’t be able to burst into Al Green or “Amazing Grace” at a moment’s notice. Pics of Hillary with Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar will be met with a swift side-eye. There will be no significance of a little Black boy visiting the White House and touching her blonde tresses. Hillary won’t be able to say that someone like Trayvon Martin looks like her.

What I want is some of her pie in the sky. Hillary is the first woman to be nominated for President. This is a big fucking deal and I’m super proud of her. But everyone is praising her for breaking through the glass ceiling and I’m just standing down here looking up at the big Hillary-shaped hole in the roof. Rich, straight white women always claim the glass ceiling is shattering and leave poor Brown women on the ground surrounded by glass dust.

A former First Lady with immense financial and social access getting the best job in the world don’t impress me much. Especially when too many Brown women are struggling to pay bills with the pay they get from the jobs they have. When they can’t fight redlining or poor schooling or deteriorating public transportation. They can’t battle for-profit policing or a crooked healthcare, justice and immigration system. They can’t see a brighter future beyond the glass ceiling, let alone break that thing.

What I really want is to never, EVER have to live through a Trump presidency. Hillary, you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be every Black person’s bestie. You don’t have to have Michelle Obama’s arms, hot sauce in your bag or Ava DuVernay direct your next campaign commercial starring Taraji P. Henson and Mary J. Blige. Whenever a candidate tries to reach out to the Black community, it will always feel like pandering, because too often, we never get to see the effects of their grand promises.

But Hillary, you don’t have to be a superhero and change all of that overnight. You just have to be a competent, kind, honest world leader who respects her country and ALL of it’s people. A president who truly wants to see us live our best, most liberated lives (and not build a wall). If you can do that, Hillary, #GirlIGuessI’mWithYou.

The New Hermione Is Literal Black Girl Magic

(NERD ALERT) I am a Harry Potter fan.

Growing up, I had very few/no friends. So I would spend my bus rides, lunch time and after school hours in the welcoming and exciting company of Harry Potter and the Hogwarts gang of magical, mischievous adolescents. From the age of 10 until well, now, I always preferred the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to my own reality and I did everything I could to be a part of the magic.

I would wait in costume at my local Borders (RIP) for my preordered copies of the books. I’d go to the midnight premier of all the films (also in costume). I have HP blankets, pajamas, t-shirts, sweaters, scarves, jewelry, underwear and more. I own all 7 books in both hardcopy and digital format and have re-read each of them countless times (rough estimate, at least 300 times total). I know the spells, my Hogwarts house, my wand core, my patronus, my Quidditch position.

I am THE Harry Potter fan.

Yet, as much as I love all things Harry Potter and as much joy as J.K. Rowling’s franchise has brought to my life, I always knew it wasn’t real. I knew I could never really be a part of that world. The only way I’d see myself in Hogwarts and kicking it with the golden trio is if I looked through the Mirror of Erised.

Until now.

Continue reading

Momma Can’t Save You

My mom has always tried her damnedest to raise me to err on the side of caution. When I started school, momma told me that if my teacher said something to me that was mean or if I was treated unfairly, never to talk back and to go to the main office when I got the chance and call her so she could handle it. When  I started growing breasts, she used to make me wear sweaters over my tank tops (sweaters. In JULY!) so I wouldn’t catch any unwanted attention from “nasty” men. When I started driving, mom made sure I remembered that if I ever got pulled over for my reckless driving habits, to drive to a well-lit public space before stopping so there will be witnesses should things escalate.

Woman Dead in Jail

Since seeing the Sandra Bland video, I’ve been asking myself what I would’ve done if I were in her shoes. In my mind, I hear my momma telling me, “That’s why I always tell you not to talk back to authority.” “Remember what I told you about police?” I hear my her warnings and I begin to think that if it were me, I wouldn’t have been dragged out of my car because I wouldn’t have said or done anything. Continue reading