i like to write. i like to read. i want to be an artist in my craft. i want to make the words jump off the page and grab you. i want them to dance in front of you and make you feel. i want to write more than about policy. i want to be dynamic. my first publication is set to come out in the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy this spring and i feel a little weird about it. i am happy. but i feel like this puts more pressure on me to hone my craft not just with research writing but with writing about our community in a real way and in sharing culture with the community. my writings are for my sisters, for my lovers, for my friends those that need to be nourished. publications are motivators.
It’s August and my vibe has been mainly neo-soul, hip-hop and r&b. I go through ebbs and flows of music styles and albums that stay on repeat – right now its Jhene Aiko’s Souled Out. In late June, I went back home to the City of Angels and had a cool two week visit where I caught up with old friends, family, and visited my old stomping grounds.
It was around 2 a.m. in Santa Monica when a few old friends met a few new friends. We danced at the beach and then proceeded to take a dip in the ocean [we may or may not have been drinking heavily at a nearby bar.] Shortly, after our late night dip we arrived at my friends apartment. We talked music everything from Miles Davis to Jay-Z.
One of the homies said we had to peep this up-and-coming artist, named Dae Zhen. Turns out Dae Zhen is the homies younger brother. I was skeptical at first. LA is like a breeding ground for wack artists trying to make a name for themselves. But, at 3 a.m. while kicking it on the sofa craving some pizza, ’94 played on the screen, I heard this sound and saw that face and asked to hear more.
A few weeks later when I returned to DC, I decided I had to listen some more – so I did. I have even incorporated Dae Zhen’s music into some of my playlist’s and sent his tracks around to friends. I downloaded his albums and have officially become a fan.
His sound is one that is smooth, deep, witty and soulful. Somewhere between Childish Gambino, J. Cole, with a 90’s hip hop vibe. It is hard to believe that he is only 22. His first album – Women and Wordplay – is a great primer into the world of his sound. He has recently dropped another album called Dipset which is just as addicting.
After about a month of consuming everything that he has put out. I can say I fully co-sign his sound – its everything you want to hear this summer.
It wasn’t until I went to college that I attempted to articulate inequality. It was a process of over five years at the university in undergraduate and graduate school, I grew my analysis and critiques of planning and policy and asked questions about what the previous generations of decision makers created for my community and for communities of color across the U.S.
One of the pieces of work that helped me articulate these ideas was Marginality as a Site of Resistance by bell hooks. It taught me how to envision the space of marginality as a place of resistance.
Historically, people of color have faced discrimination in many ways, which has created a racial and economic divide. The history of this country that led to the marginalization of people of color started with slavery and lynching and transformed to police brutality and segregation then to redlining and predatory home lending thus, establishing a foundation of inequality in the United States.
However, bell hooks envisions this discrimination and marginality not as deprivation but as a site of radical possibility – a space for resistance. This space can be the central location for creating a counterhegemonic discourse. A space for transforming out world.
She asserts that marginality is something those that are oppressed should not lose, or give up but cling to because it nourishes our capacity to resist and to imagine alternatives a new and better world.
This marginality comes from lived experiences. Even if you move out of the “hood” those experiences follow you and informs the way you see the world.
I have chosen to follow a path that places me at the center of the political world in our country – Washington D.C. – the so called “belly of the beast” among radical circles. Folks in those circles have questioned my progressive street cred especially because of the connections to political institutions I have made.
However, my identity is one that lies in the margins. There are layers of complexity to my identity. I am a woman but I am also Chicana. I have been educated formally in a university and also by life experience that has taught me how to persist and resist.
With life in the margins there exists a counter language, a resistance that is sustained by the remembrance of the past. For me, that past is a collective past. It is the trauma and violence that we as a community have collectively sustained. It is from this pain that the collective foundation of hope has been built. This collective hope needs to be sustained by future generations.
Raising the consciousness of hope is crucial for oppressed, exploited and colonized people. We as marginalized people should speak as our own liberators.
When we as a marginalized people imagine a new world and ask questions about how to deal with these confusions and contradictions in society we are really addressing how to evolve a new kind of world of consciousness that is transformative and synthesizing.
It is freeing. So in the words of Mos Def let’s get free.
It never fails people always go in 3’s. This year, the world lost three soulful people who had a great impact on the music industry.
Don Cornelius of Soul Train, Etta James and Whitney Houston.
A friend of mine shared with me this blog post and commentary on the Whitney Houston’s death. This post is a window into the black woman’s experience in the U.S.
Tonight I am thinking about the fifteen years of ridicule the world put Whitney Houston through. I am thinking of the girl with the golden voice, the “good girl,” who was only worthy of love and respect as long as she maintained the image of herself that we demanded, as long as she didn’t smoke crack or fuck (or God forbid, marry) nasty black boys, as long as she was a credit to her race, as long as she looked and sounded like the best of us, whatever that means. I wonder if she thought, at 25 or so, when she was on top of the world, that the world’s love for her was real love. I wonder if she imagined that, if she stumbled, the world, in its love, would scramble to break her fall, to lift her up again, instead of piling shit on top of her and laughing.
I remember watching an interview with Bobby Brown a few years ago in which he lamented people’s reactions to his and Whitney’s troubles, lamented the fact that instead of wanting them to overcome their difficulties, everybody just seemed to want to shit on them more. If you think we’re in trouble, “pray for us to be better” he said. I don’t think anyone was listening.
I wonder about Whitney’s life. I wonder what traumas and abuses she suffered that drugs helped her to forget, at least for a little while here and there. I wonder how many times, as a black woman in the entertainment industry, she was told that she was too black, that the albums wouldn’t sell as well if she wasn’t appealing enough to white people. I remember reading that after they made “The Bodyguard” they had her do all the lines over again, and dubbed them, because they didn’t think she spoke well enough to be convincing as someone Kevin Costner would fall for. I wonder how many times shit like that happened. I wonder if she was told to stay skinny at any cost, to keep her slender ass from becoming a big black booty. I wonder how often she was advised to speak with less attitude and appear more humble because everybody hates an uppity black bitch. I wonder what being Clive Davis’ anointed favorite required of Whitney’s soul.
I think Whitney Houston was dangerous. She was fierce. We are all human and we all suffer in different ways. The important thing is how we navigate that suffering. I found CeCe Winans’ statement to be fitting.
“I have no words to express how I feel. Whitney was not just a friend but a sister and I am going to miss her voice, her humor but mostly her friendship. She was undoubtedly one of the greatest singers of all time but she was also a great person. Please keep her family in prayer and the best way to honor her is to be reminded that tomorrow is not promised to any of us so love God and love each other.”
I thought it very appropriate to make this post during the month of February to hype LOVE.
A friend recently, recommended the book The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. The book is centered around ideas of beauty and the internalized racism that women of color often face. The main character often wishes she had blue eyes because then she would be loved. Women of color face judgement about their bodies, shade of their skin, and texture of their hair. The intersections of race and gender play out in so many ways. One place is in romantic relationships.
In my current romantic relationship, I have been witnessing my own self hatred. I have noticed how it can dangerously change love to abuse. I am not saying I am in an abusive relationship but I am saying that insecurities that are reinforced by colonization and internalized racism are connected to self-esteem and mental health. And then, into your relationships.
Patriarchy is detrimental to relationships not just romantic relationships but familial relationships, friendships, and social interactions. I have heard my own male friends talk about the lack of affection that they have received from their fathers as a result of patriarchy and ideas of what a real man should be. Many of them have said that hugs were rare or non-existent and that they never really knew if their fathers loved them. Men taught to be dominate, aggressive, emotionally suppressed and sometimes violent are all results of patriarchy. It does not allow men to connect with their emotions or connect with others around them.
Everyone needs to be nurtured, loved and affirmed. We as a community, we as humans, should love each other and care for each other. That is one of the most revolutionary things we can do- to put others before ourselves and open to affirming your partner, children, friends, and family to be themselves. No matter who they are or what they believe in.
The MARRIAGE CREED
• COMFORT EACH OTHER…Provide a refuge and sanctuary for each other from the chill winds of the world. Your marriage is a hearth, from whence comes the peace, harmony, and warmth of soul and spirit.
• CARESS AS YOU WOULD BE CARESSED…Warm your loved one’s body with your healing touch. Remember that as babies can die with lack of touching, so marriages can wither from lack of closeness.
• BE A FRIEND AND PARTNER…Friendship can be a peaceful island, separate and apart, in a world of turmoil and strife. Reflect upon the tranquility of the many future years you can share with a true friend and beware of becoming battling enemies under the same roof.
• BE OPEN WITH ONE ANOTHER…Bind not yourselves in the secretness that causes suspicion and doubt. Trust and reveal yourselves to each other, even as the budding rose opens to reveal its fragrance and beauty. REALLY LISTEN…and hear not only words, but also the non‐language of tone, mood, and expression. Learn to listen in order to understand rather than listening to argue.
• RESPECT EACH OTHER’S RIGHTS…Remember that each is a person of flesh and blood, entitled to his or her own choices and mistakes. Each owns himself and has the right to equality.
• ALLOW FOR INDIVIDUALITY…Seek not to create for each other a new mold that can only fit with much discomfort and pain. Accept the other as he or she is, just as you would have yourself accepted.
• GIVE MUTUAL APPROVAL…Remember, criticism divides while compliments encourage confidence in the other. Hasten not to point out the other’s mistakes, for each will soon discover his own.
• CHERISH YOUR UNION…Let no one come between your togetherness…not child, not friend, not worldly goods. Yet maintain enough separateness to allow each other his or her own uniqueness.
• LOVE ONE ANOTHER…Love is your river of life‐‐‐your eternal
I believe in unconditional love. I believe that it can exist and it can be healthy. Love yourself, first then loving your community, partner, and family will come easy.
It was Saturday morning and my body was ready to rise. Not needing anything more than a gentle nudge from Daniel with the backlight of his iPhone in front of my eyes. “Call your mom,” he said as he showed me a text from my sister. It read, “Can you please have my sister call my mom thanks :).”
It must have happened I thought to myself. I got up with such ease it was scary. I usually drudge and drag out of bed. I grabbed my Hello Kitty cased iPhone and slipped quietly into the bathroom and closed the door behind me. I called my mother but no one answered. So, I sat on the edge of the tub and waited.
A few seconds later she called me back. I picked up the phone. My mom hesitated to tell me but there it finally was, “your Uncle Danny passed this morning.”
“Hello, are you okay?” she said.
“I am fine, mom. How are you?”
The conversation continued. I thought I am never where I am supposed to be. I wanted to be home. I wanted to be around the hugs, cries, and laughter that always follows a death in our family. But, I wasn’t I was in the bathroom of the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas. Far from being in the kitchen of my house or my Grandma’s living room.
As I get older, I realize being a woman in my family means your always JUST ok. Well, even if you’re not you have to be OK. The women in my family are the strength, the backbone, and the trunk of my family tree.
Thinking through this loss I can’t help but think of why all the men have died in my family. It started with Uncle Pachie, then Grandpa, then Uncle Tommy, then my Dad, and lastly, Uncle Danny. My mom still has her sisters- all 5 of them.
This loss made me angry and very aware of the way inequalities affect the quality of life for men of color. For my family, it has been the drug and alcohol abuse that has worn the men in my family thin. Worn down their hearts, their lungs, their kidneys, their livers, given them disease and pain. I constantly wonder where the emotional pain came from, when in our family did it start? and why did they need to use?
The women behind them have stayed strong, supporting them, caring for them, and continuously being the rock. These effects are the results of social inequities, lack of education, and a missing sense of empowerment. Lost opportunities, misdirected and blurred vision – the smoking mirror- Who taught us to hate ourselves? To numb the pain, to self medicate?
But, I also see the beauty in the pain. And I can’t help but to be proud. Proud to be in the family that continues to have a legacy of strong women. My father used to tell me, “Your mother is so strong.” I see it now. I see it, clearly the privilege, responsibility, and honor of being a woman. And not just any woman a strong woman. There is nothing else I could be. I didn’t have a choice. I was born into a family of strong women. Women that don’t just care for themselves but care for their husbands, father, children, grandchildren and community.
I have seen the pain and anguish on their faces. I know they cry in the stillness of the night. But I know the creator gives them strength. That Tonatzin herself looks down and blesses them. I am proud to be a woman, a chicana, because I know that strength runs through my veins. I know who I am and what I want to be. I know I am blessed.
RIP Uncle Danny.
She’s hilarious. I am 50 pages into the book after just one night of reading. It has made me chuckle, tear up, and reflect on my own identity, experiences, and love for writing. It reminded me of why I started this blog and inspired me to want to write more and share more of my narrative.
It has reminded me that I am not the only one out there with a story to share and that my writing can be just as quarky and off beat as I am. I can use Spanglish and I need to remember – remember my past and dream about my future.
Thank you Michelle Serros for being an inspiration.