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

‘Banning the Box’ Helps Prisoners Become People [via The Root]

prisonbars400.jpg.CROP.rtstory-large“Have you ever been found guilty of a felony?”

For too many people, that question is the difference between living a life of dignity and living a life of shame and bitterness. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe made a bold move Friday and signed an executive order to “ban the box.” Through this statewide initiative, state agencies and public employers can no longer disqualify job seekers if they have a criminal record. This makes it easier for the formerly incarcerated to find employment and rebuild their lives. It also, most importantly, brings us, as a nation, one step closer to humanity. Continue reading

[SISTER TRUTH] Leap of Faith

It’s been a over year since I quit my full-time job.

Leap of FaithI hated where I worked. I had just graduated from college, was unemployed for 6 months, and had finally landed a decent paying job that allowed me to pay rent and bills and student loans. But I hated it.

I went home emotionally drained every evening. I woke wanting to cry or play sick every morning. And I went into the office with knots in my stomach from the dread and anxiety of working in a high pressure, mechanical work environment for 10 hours every weekday.

So, after a year of smiling on the outside while dying on the inside, I up and left–right on the verge of a promotion. Not only did I leave the job, I left my apartment, my friends, and my city, and moved back to my hometown to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Continue reading

[SISTER TRUTH] Be Not Afraid

Nobody can predict the future.

This time last year, I was living with my mom, bartending half the week and spending the other half in Barnes and Noble applying to news and magazine jobs and writing for my blog just trying to make a living.

This time last year, my car had broken down, I was barely making any money, I had no idea how I was ever going to get out of Hampton and start the career I

This time last year, I could never have predicted everything that would happen in the next 365 days. I took some chances and opportunities and ended up in D.C., Las Vegas, New Orleans and now, New York City. I never knew whether each place would bring me to the people I wanted to meet or guarantee me the job I wanted but I took the chance. I stepped into the darkness and ended up in a better, brighter place. Continue reading