Facts and Opinions

To Kill A Mockingbird Come to Life: The Central Park Five

WARNING: I GET MAD AS HELL IN THIS POST AND KIND OF GO ALL OVER THE PLACE

 

My younger brother is about to turn seventeen in July. He is 5’6, has this beautiful mocha skin tone, a full fledged beard, and the biggest heart. He truly is the sweetest kid I’ve ever known. He is damn near good at everything he decides to invest his time in. He can play the guitar in a few months better than some can in decades. He is a genius when it comes to math…and then there’s his sister, who gets confused adding 2+2 (I think the answer is 4). He can spend his whole day on the computer, creating virtual realities. He runs track, and he’s fast too. He is one of the smartest and most talented people I have ever met. I am very blessed to call him my brother.

My brother also is one of the most innocent people I have ever come across. He really doesn’t mean any harm by anything he does. He thinks that everyone in the world is good, and although I believe that everyone CAN be good, sometimes people don’t like to go that route. My brother looks like a grown man. He has a stern face and muscular build. The color of his skin represents the history that has flowed through our family for decades. It’s the skin color that my Father has, and that his Father had. When I look at my brother, I see hope. I see love. I see the future. I see a young man who doesn’t care what anyone says because he is genuinely, authentically him. I wish I had that confidence. But when “they” see him…when “they” see him…they don’t see any of that.

When “they” see him they see contempt. They see a threat; a breach of safety. They see a criminal. That sweet kid that used to cry when butterflies would flutter around him is instantly seen as less than human. After contemplating whether I had the mental strength to go through something like this, I decided to watch When They See Us. This four part series is about the Central Park Five, five young men who were falsely accused of raping a woman back in 1989. (photo above left to right) Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise had their youth stolen from them because the New York Police Department wanted to focus on ruining their lives instead of actually focusing on the actual person who raped Patricia Meili, and murdered Lourdes Gonzalez prior to that attack. This series made me angry. The way that the trial went, the way that Linda Fairstein was so adamant on persecuting these young men. The fact that the evidence was a clear indication that they did NOT do it! The fact that they all had hopes and dreams, only to be shot down by being put behind those bars. This series made me grit my teeth in aggravation. This series made me bite back tears. (SPOILER) The scene where Korey (there are multiple spellings on the internet) receives a Chia Pet after wishing for one made me practically lose it. What that poor man endured I couldn’t even imagine; all of them.

Young black boys have been forced to grow up quickly in the eyes of the law. They’re seen as adults in elementary school. The preconceived notions that plague black boys, and black people in general are killing them because people are too stupid to realize that they are human beings too. I guarantee that if they were five white boys, their DNA would have been tested and immediately after they found out that nothing was a match, they would have back at home listening to their Walkman’s in their bedrooms. Let me remind you that NOTHING MATCHED THE DNA ON PATRICIA MEILI!!! There was no blood or skin on her that matched any of the boys. Nothing. They should have been able to go home right then and there. In a VladTV interview, Yusef Salaam says that the police were trying to plant some of the boy’s DNA on the crime scene. I believe they took Kevin and Korey to the scene of the crime. Korey is told by one of the officers that his shoe is untied. While trying to tie his shoe, one of the officers tries to make him fall over into the scene, attempting to collect evidence on him. 

Imagine the psychological damage that this has done to these men. Something as simple as going to Central Park with friends turns into seven to thirteen years in jail. Imagine being thrown in jail for something that you did not do; being ridiculed and isolated by family and friends because the justice system that is supposed to bring the truth to light is automatically treating you like the culprit all because your melanin is more apparent than most. What made me upset is Antron McCray’s Dad. Granted, his Father probably wasn’t properly told how to deal with the police, so I won’t completely blame him for practically leading his son astray, but the fact that he just started bowing out of his son’s life when things started to get rough in unacceptable to me. Then, as soon as Antron gets out, he has to basically repair that relationship that he has with his Father because now he doesn’t know how much time he has left with him. Antron probably felt betrayed by his Father. My own Dad is bailing out on me, your own flesh and blood; a person who helped give you life. A video by Calvin Michaels goes a little more in depth as to how that might have affected Antron, as well as the rest of the psychological trauma that these guys have been through.

You have people tuning into this case, judging your every move. These young men had their numbers and addresses revealed to the public. They were threatened; people wishing for their deaths as well as the deaths of their family members. People associated with these five were also ostracized, losing things like their social status, their jobs…and their sanity. Think about what they endured locked up. Being accused of rape and robbery is certainly not something that people take lightly. Think about how the man who took out $85,000 for an ad calling to reinstate the death penalty against these innocent young men is president; leader of the free world. On Twitter in the year of 2013, eleven years after these men were exonerated, Donald Trump was still blabbing about how the Central Park Five were guilty. Now if that isn’t blatant racism, I don’t know what is. Let them be little blonde haired blue eyed boys, he would have been saying something a little different; boys will be boys, or crap like that. Think about when they were freed. You think the psychological turmoil stopped there, oh no. The things that they went through probably haunt them to this day.

I want to focus a little bit more on Korey Wise. Each young man has all my respect, but Korey Wise…let me tell you something. The men were exonerated and given $40 million to divide, but Mr. Wise should have gotten $40 million just for himself. First off, he went down to the police station to support his friend Yusef. I know he didn’t expect things to turn out this way; none of them did. Because Wise was sixteen, he didn’t have to be accompanied by an adult, which gave the interrogator free reign to ask whatever he wanted, however he wanted. This young man already had a learning disability as well as hearing issues, so I honestly think that’s the reason why they gave it to him the worst. He was beaten up the most by the authorities, being physically hit and yelled at by detectives. He was tried as an adult at the age of sixteen and sent to Riker’s Island, the infamous prison in New York City. A sixteen year old kid in a world that he never should have experienced. He spent more than a decade in prison. He begged to be in solitary confinement. When you’re in solitary confinement, you have no outside interaction. Being in complete isolation for long periods of time can make you lose your mind. But would you rather stay completely hidden from most of society, or would you like to be targeted by other inmates and made to be their play thing? At a young age, Korey Wise had to make that decision. One thing that Calvin Michaels caught on to that I did as well in the movie is the police officer that was around before he asked for solitary; the one that would always say, “I’ll let you know if you can do something for me” or something like that. I think he was sexually abused, but since I don’t know for sure, I’ll just leave it at that. His sister was murdered while he was in prison too, we can’t forget about her (a wonderful performance by Isis King playing Marci Wise). Her being disrespected as a trans woman is one thing, but being killed crushed Korey. He wasn’t able to be there during her last days. As her brother, I’m sure that he was somewhat of a protector, and I hope he didn’t blame himself for what happened to her. Out of the settlement, Korey was given the highest amount of money at $12.2 million. 

Most of these men have children. The fear that they have for their sons is genuine and real because they have went through any man of color’s worst nightmare. I am not a licensed mental health professional yet, but I’m sure that these men still are affected by these incidents. PTSD from the violence that they were subjected to in prison, maybe anxiety and depression from the taunts that people threw at them. The mind doesn’t fully finish forming until your mid twenties, do you think that this helped a healthy brain development? Being told that you’re a monster? Being abused by the system?

It took me three days to try and sit through Ava Duvernay’s masterpiece, and I can honestly say that I am ashamed at the fact that I really didn’t know much about the Central Park Five. It’s crazy to think that this happened in 1989. Isn’t it insane that this situation could very well happen now? Isn’t it insane that black people are treated this way still in 2019? I am fearful for my brother. He takes the bus to and from school. It terrifies me thinking that one day I will hear that my brother is in jail, or that he was shot by a police officer because his cellphone fell out of his pocket. Like the end of the first episode states, “when will we be boys?” My brother has been told how to act around the police and warned about the dangers of the police ever since he was the age of four. Don’t wear that because you might be seen as a threat. Try to smile more because a police officer might find you threatening if you don’t. Just do what the police officer tells you. As soon as you’re pulled over, put your hands on the steering wheel and don’t move them. We don’t want you to get killed. School for my brother will be coming to a close soon, and I’m sure he will want to go out and see the sights that Chicago has to offer. I’m afraid that one day he’ll walk out of the house, only to never walk back in again. When will my brother just be seen as a boy? Has he ever been one?

Calvin Michael’s Video:

I highly recommend you watch it

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Facts and Opinions

The Real Life Handmaid’s Tale

I was sitting on the edge of my bath tub. I stared down at my knees and glanced up at the clock. Those three minutes seemed like three days. I had just taken a pregnancy test. I was going through the previous events that happened to me. I have told this story many times (if you really want to hear about it, it’s the first post that I’ve ever written on here). My first sexual experience was not consensual. Despite the person not necessarily going deep enough to consider what he did as penetrative, I was freaked out by the whole experience. My period was late, and the first thing that came to my mind was…oh shoot…I’m pregnant. I have since educated myself and now know the ins and outs of sex more so. I now realize that it would have been a tad hard for me to get pregnant. But I was eighteen, a freshman in college, and a complete and utter mess. I had a friend of mine buy a pack of pregnancy tests, and even though I told him that he didn’t need to stay to wait for the results, but he wanted to. He was a huge support system and I owe him the world for that. Three minutes were up. I said a quick prayer, and picked up the test. It came out negative. I was not expecting. When I tell you I had never praised the Lord as hard as I did that day! I ran down the stairs and told my friend the news. A difficult situation went over my head…but what if it hadn’t?

What if I was pregnant? What if this guy had gone deep enough? During the current abortion ban that’s going on, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Georgia’s governor signed something called a “Heartbeat” bill recently. This bill indicates that whenever the doctor is able to detect a heartbeat, an abortion is no longer able to be performed. Women typically don’t know their pregnant until after six weeks after conception. How fair is that? And there are no exemptions….none. Incest, rape, pre-existing conditions…none. According to a few sources, a young girl in Ohio is pregnant at eleven years old. This child…emphasis on child…was taken advantage of, and now because of something that she didn’t ask for, she may have to carry out the pregnancy to term if she stays where she is. How stupid is that? Ohio isn’t the only place that reckons that this ban is a good idea for their people. Alabama, Missouri, Ohio, and Georgia are the states that have passed this legislation to ban abortions. People have babies at the age of eighteen all the time, but having a child during those circumstances would have been a disaster. I had just gone through something quite traumatic. I had just started experiencing a real taste of independence. My college career had just started. Mentally I was not ready to bring a child into this world. I live in a state that is more so liberal leaning, so abortion is still considered a fundamental right.

Imagine if abortions became obsolete. Imagine that any person who was pregnant who didn’t want to be, whether it be health reasons, rape, or just because you slipped up, would be turned away from having an abortion. If they try to get an abortion, they will face serious legal trouble. I really don’t think that legislators are thinking about this logically. Abortion may be banned, but that does not mean that it will never happen again. Ever heard of wire hangers? That method is going to become popular again. Women will resort to going to the black market to buy drugs to induce abortions. Women will be frantically searching natural home method abortions, and wonder why they are still pregnant weeks later. There will be more babies that are put into the foster system. The foster system can be quite corrupt and mentally damaging towards the children that are suffering through it. This means more children going through neglect and abuse. What if the woman who is pregnant is trying to leave domestic violence situation? Women would probably be more likely to stay in those relationships. Not to mention the psychological turmoil it would take on these women. Depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts would skyrocket.

This is scary. The fact that women (and especially women of color) aren’t seemingly seen as human beings with minds of their own is surprising only because of where we are at. Women are doctors, lawyers, business owners, whatever…and they’re still seen like all they are good for is staying in the kitchen bare foot and pregnant. This is just pure hatred towards women. Old, white, cisgendered men can not tell me what to do with my body….point blank period.

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Facts and Opinions

What My Anxiety Looks Like

*this post keeps deleting itself…and I have no idea why….but here it is!*

It was a whirlwind; a tornado of conflict. I was fine one minute…not the next. I was sitting in the front of my classroom trying to focus on a Sigmund Freud documentary in my Theories of Personality class. My heart was racing, my mind was wandering, and I was sweating from my palms. The room was shrinking as my breaths became more labored. I felt as if I sat in that chair any longer, I would have fell through the tile. I grabbed my bag, a cute tote bag that I collected during my trip to New York (a story that I will tell soon), dropped my phone on the floor, and fled what felt like a near death situation. I remember sobbing and wailing in the Psychology office, sniffling on the shirt of the woman who had been behind the desk. I felt pitiful. This lady probably thought that I was insane, but she was in the Psychology office, so I’m assuming that she was a little more equipped than someone from say the Biology department. I was shaking like I was struck with hypothermia. This was a side swipe; it hit me out of nowhere. What happened? What was that? That, my friends, was an anxiety attack, and the largest one that I had by far. I’ve heard people detail their episodes and they sounded like nightmares; something straight out of a horror film. Over the course of about a year and a half, my anxiety had skyrocketed. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m forcing myself to heal in a toxic environment, or because I’m piling too much on my plate…or a mixture of both.

Anxiety is commonly caused by external and environmental factors. In my case, an act of trauma on a college campus. An anxiety attack can spur anywhere at anytime. It’s also very common too. According to DoSomething.org, around ten percent of teenagers and forty percent of adults suffer from anxiety. I’m not good at math, so bare with me, but that’s more than three million cases. Anxiety is very much so treatable, but around two-thirds of the population There are so many different types of anxiety: GAD (generalized personality disorder, social anxiety, panic disorders, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), agoraphobia, specific phobias, and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Because I am not a licensed professional, here are some definitions of each one according to Beyond Blue (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/types-of-anxiety):

Generalized Personality Disorder:

A person feels anxious on most days, worrying about lots of different things, for a period of six months or more.

Social Anxiety:

A person has an intense fear of being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as speaking publicly, eating in public, being assertive at work or making small talk.

Panic Disorders:

A person has panic attacks, which are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. Someone having a panic attack may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration. Sometimes, people experiencing a panic attack think they are having a heart attack or are about to die. If a person has recurrent panic attacks or persistently fears having one for more than a month, they’re said to have panic disorder.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD;

This can happen after a person experiences a traumatic event (e.g. war, assault, accident, disaster). Symptoms can include difficulty relaxing, upsetting dreams or flashbacks of the event, and avoidance of anything related to the event. PTSD is diagnosed when a person has symptoms for at least a month.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD:

A person has ongoing unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. Although the person may acknowledge these thoughts as silly, they often try to relieve their anxiety by carrying out certain behaviors or rituals. For example, a fear of germs and contamination can lead to constant washing of hands and clothes.

I will try my best to define agoraphobia and specific disorders. I use to think that agoraphobia was just being afraid of going outside, but it is a bit more intricate. Wide open spaces can trigger some type of anxiety. I would assume because you’re worried something may happen to you and you have no one to alert…but I am not a professional I wouldn’t know. Some people are startled by large crowds, or being in an enclosed space. Panic attacks and agoraphobia may go hand and hand, especially if a panic attack ensues in a public space. Specific phobias are phobias on one particular thing. For instance, my Mother is deathly afraid of snakes. Small snakes, big snakes, poisonous snakes, non-poisonous snakes…it doesn’t matter. I think it started when she was a child and saw a garden snake in her backyard. When my Grandmother was pregnant with her, a snake slithered across her foot, so I thought that was rather interesting that she developed this phobia. My friend will have a conniption fit if she sees any type of insect, even a ladybug. I remember I use to terrorize her when we were younger with cicadas that I found around my house when she came over. I didn’t think about the severity of it all, I was seven. Thankfully, cicadas don’t come back until I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’m pretty sure I have grown from that sense of immaturity. Sorry girl, I love you though. These phobias can be compartmentalized into different categories, some common ones are: situations, animals (like my Mother and my friend), natural disasters, injury, and miscellaneous like clowns or vomiting.

I think as a person, it is normal to worry, but over time, I can clearly see that it is becoming quite intrusive in my life. During the end of my freshman year and my sophomore year, my anxiety was through the roof. One thing that I was really nervous about was walking to the dining hall to get food. My dorm was literally a hop, skip, and a jump away from the dining hall, and I would not go because I was afraid of people seeing me outside. I lost a lot of weight around that time. Now, it has subsided a little bit, but there still is a surge of uncertainty when I leave my house. I can’t really pinpoint what I’m worried about, but I get those butterflies in my stomach that fly up through my throat.

To help calm these nerves down, I have tried carrying notebooks around with me (you can learn more about that with my Guide to Journaling post). I also take deep breaths, or I try to focus my thoughts on a particular scene that I made up in my head. I always like the one where I’m wandering around Paris around the Louvre. The sky is infused with purple, pink, and a hint of blue. I’m in nice clothing and I’m exploring the city, eating macaroons and living freely. See? That’s a nice image to picture in your head right? Sometimes that’s not all you can do though. Trust me, if we could dream about out our fantasies as a way to aid anxiety, people wouldn’t need to be prescribed medication. However, medication is a way to get a bit of solace. There are also natural remedies. I have heard that incense and scents like lavender help calm the body down. Some people carry around crystals (and I actually have a few which I may do a post on one day). The same friend that I terrorized with cicadas actually offered me some CBD oil that her mom had bought her. I plan on trying it out quite soon, so maybe I’ll do a review on it later.

Whatever way works. there is a way to ease anxiety. One way may not work for everyone. Anxiety can get better over time, and it can also get worse. It depends on the person. There is a way to heal of course, but it may take some time to find the right method. There is a way to manage it.

 

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A Few Of My Favorite Things

October/November Favorites: What I Was Obsessed With

October and November were here one day and then gone the next it seems like. October was definitely a noteworthy month, as it is every year to me. Although I am a June baby (Geminis represent!) October has to be one of my favorite months out of the year. The weather begins to transform from balmy, sweltering heat to the crisp, cool air that is…Fall! November I always see as a month of togetherness.

I wanted to do something different with this post. Although these months came with a lot of stress, it came with a lot of growth…as well as some enjoying some of the events and festivities that the emergence of the season brought. Within October, I wanted to pinpoint the items that helped ease some of my stress throughout this month, as well as give me a little bit of self care.

1. Vera Bradley Iconic Glenna Satchel

Walking around on campus with this on my shoulder instantly brightens up the atmosphere around me. Even though it looks more spring like, on rainy dreary days it lightens and brings life to your mood. Stuffing a five section binder, a notebook, and a planner inside probably stretches the maximum capacity for what fits in the bag, but I do it anyways. What can I say, I’m stubborn.

Price: $88.00 (mine was on sale for $69.00)

2. Ban.do 2018-2019 planner

I bought this in October even though I really needed it when the school year began in August. This planner has gotten me and my life together. The planner comes with stickers and is full of positive affirmations and confidence boosters. I have a hectic schedule, and being greeted with a nice message can brighten up my day even if it’s just for a little while. I write my school work, homework, events, work, and appointments in there. My planner is so important to me, my life is in there!

Price: $20.00 (I got it on sale for $18)

3. Grace Eleyae Satin Lined Beanies

Grace-Eleyae-slap-c(photo not taken by me)

This is perfect for the natural haired people out there. I love the look of beanies, but the ones that I had would pull my hair and wear away at my edges. The satin lined beanie was a brilliant idea for people who want to be stylish and warm while preserving their natural curls. I have a black and a grey one. It’s perfect for a fall look. The other day, I had just gotten my box braids done. I slapped the black beanie cap on my head with a burgundy shirt, dark blue jeans, and black combat like boots. I felt like the embodiment of Fall itself. I am very happy with my purchases!

Price: $24.00 (I bought them on sale buy one get one free)

4. AYM Vivi Long Sleeve Top

AYM_vivi_mini_two_piece_set_with_long_sleeve_top-3_800x (photo not taken by me; in black )

People will always ask me, “why are you wearing that shirt again?” I always give them the same answer… because I love this top! I bought this shirt back when the boutique was still called Boom Boom the Label, and I have been waiting patiently for the weather to fall to colder temperatures so I can wear this beautiful article of clothing. Yes, it is just a plain black shirt, but not to me. It is sturdy and soft; it’s breathable. It is sleek and sexy. The neckline plunges, but it gives off tasteful cleavage. I can dress it up with a skirt and some heels, or dress it down with a pair of jeans and some Converse. I absolutely adore this top. I have it in black, but you can also get it in four other colors (nude tan, pine green, ivory white, and blush pink).

Price: $35.00

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Journaling

Self Care Isn’t Just Pedicures and Bath Bombs

Disclaimer: these are my opinions, as well as my own personal experiences

Self care is an art form. Being able to find something that can make you forget about the worries that you were stressing about can be a major release and relief on someone’s mental, spiritual, and even physical self. Everyone goes through something, no matter how trivial and no matter how ridiculous.

Life interrupts people in many different ways, and most times we don’t have the time to prepare for them. During this week, almost all of my homework assignments deleted itself due to a malfunction that occurred on my computer. I had three projects due at 11:59 that night. As I searched through the countless files on my Dell, I began to cry. Actually no, it didn’t start off as crying. It began as laughter. I was laughing at the fact this would have to happen the day everything had to be due. Then, the laughter turned hysterical, as if someone had told me one of the funniest jokes that I had ever heard. Tears began to stream down my face as they rolled in between my computer keys. The laughs became muffled, and then they turned into sobs. All of my hard work was lost. It’s okay to cry; crying is self care by itself. But, at some point, you’re gonna have to wipe away your tears and move forward.

I ended up missing my classes, sitting down on my couch, and redoing all my homework to the best of my ability. For hours I typed. My fingers ached and my eyes began to fall, but eventually…I got my work done. On top of that, I had work to go to, and then a meeting right after that. I was a mess dragging myself back into my apartment. I threw my bags down and nearly sunk to the floor from the exhaustion that I felt. I needed to recharge. I needed to refuel. I ran a shower at around 8:30 pm, sat my phone down on the bathroom sink as it played Mama’s Gun, and sang to my hearts content. The walls were thin, so I’m pretty sure the people next to me could hear me tell the bag lady to pack lightly. After that, I read a chapter from a book I had bought the semester prior at a book store in town. I meditated, and then pulled out my notebook to manifest how I wanted the rest of the week to go. I needed that time to wind down and gather myself together. That helped me, but for that time being.

Various ways on how to indulge in self care:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.goodtherapy.org/blog/134-activities-to-add-to-your-self-care-plan/amp/

Meditation, yoga, cooking…all those things can be essential to your self care routine, but that’s not all self care is. Self care can be bubble baths with rose petals in the water or getting your nails painted or even just taking a nap, but this will only get you so far. Not to go into great detail, but my second semester my freshman year was probably one of the hardest times of my life. I’m not talking about slight fatigue or exhaustion…I didn’t know if I wanted to live anymore. It’s still touchy to talk about, so I’ll leave it at that, but just know that during that time, how I was coping was not the way I should have. Watching Netflix wasn’t going to save me from wanting to take my life (no matter how good the first season of Stranger Things was). I understand missing a day of class to calm yourself, but I would miss weeks! When the pain gets to be too much, buying yourself some Chick-fil-A isn’t going to just make all the trauma and suffering magically disappear. If it did, I’d be wolfing down waffle fries as we speak. You need to differentiate when self care is appropriate, and when self help needs to take the reigns.

Healing comes in many professional forms if you can afford them (a topic that I will discuss at a later date). There are mental health counselors, psychologists, social workers and so on and so forth. If need be, psychiatrists; they’re equipped to prescribe medication for more serious cases. If I had pinpointed my change in behavior and had actually gotten some help earlier on, I might have been able to avoid the turmoil that came afterwards, or at least deal with it better. There are things that I will never be able to forget, but there will always be a way to heal somehow.

I ended up going to therapy over the summer. I am not going to lie, I did not want to do it…at all! Thinking about it, it’s somewhat hypocritical. I want others to get the help they need and deserve, but I didn’t want it for myself. I was scared. I was scared of being told that there might actually be something wrong with me. It’s intimidating at first. It took me some getting used to. The counselors even told me that I engaged in a lot of self care, but that my actual healing process seemed to be lackluster. I didn’t put in any importance or effort on the progress I wanted to make in the long run, I kept relying on temporary fixes to numb me.

Every day, I would sit down and listen to people share their stories. I’d sit back and think about why I’m here and would ask myself if this was necessary. I would go through the CBT and DBT exercises and worksheets while reciting positive affirmation mantras. I would engage in conversation when the physicians wanted to go into one on one sessions. It seemed extraneous, but as each morning came, I grew to realize what the purpose of this was and why I needed to be here.

Am I fully healed? No. Will I ever stop partaking in the act of self care? Absolutely not. It’s become a vital part of me not dropping out of college. With what I have learned, I know that it’s okay to take some time and do something special for yourself, but you’re doing a real disservice if you ignore what’s really bothering you. Everyone deserves to heal.

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Facts and Opinions

Gas Lighting and the Black Community: No…You’re Not Crazy

“Why are you making it a race thing?” “It’s not always about race!” “It’s all in your head.” Usually, when a person has to assure another that something isn’t about race…it is about race. We are living in a racially charged environment during this new Trump era, where two differing political opinions can create a mental detonation. Yes We Can and the presidential election of the first president of black descent in 2008 glossed over the fact that racism is still very much alive and thriving. I will say, Donald J. Trump is not my favorite person; he never will be, and I am not the fondest of people who agree with his ideologies. However, I will have to give him credit where credit is due. He exposed the racists in America! As people of color were a tad more relaxed during President Obama’s….sorry, former president Barack Obama’s presidency, they are on their pins and needles now more than ever before. I mean, out of 200 to 230 million registered voters, around 46.1% of votes went to Trump. To me, and plenty of others, that’s more than enough. That many people approve of what he believes in. That many people are against me and my basic human rights.

The black community is not a meek community. When an injustice occurs, they are right there on the front lines, giving their time, protesting the wrong doings of the government, and making it known that they will not take the disrespect that their community has endured for far too long. Being a person of color in America has it’s disadvantages, and no one can tell me otherwise. As a black woman from the city of Chicago, I am instantly seen as some ghetto, ratchet hood rat. I am seen as unintelligent and improper; un-ladylike. No, I do not sell drugs, and I do not know anyone who does. I have never met Chief Keef…no, I cannot give him your mixtape. I have not been shot at, nor have I fired a gun off myself. I don’t have sickle cell believe it or not. Those were all things that I have had to tell my non-poc counterparts. I decided to ignore it and grit my teeth, but now being older I wish I hadn’t. If I could go back to the conversation all over again, I would read them on the blatant stereotypes that conjured up as facts to depict the black race.

I was just reading about Serena Williams and her incident at the U.S Open. I watched the video, I saw what went on. Serena was mad! And rightfully so! Serena Williams is arguably one of the best athletes in the world right now. She’s confident in what she does; she knows she’s good. She has overcome a lot of adversity and ridicule, only to come out on top at the end. When she was being accused of cheating by the umpire appointed during the game, her response was warranted. I’m sure that if you were being arraigned for some type of cheating, you would not take it with a smile and a grain of salt. You’d be pissed! When Serena confronted the umpire on what he had done, now she’s seen as irate. The umpire’s call has nothing to do with her being a black woman, right? But when the majority white male tennis players curse at the umpire, throw their rackets down and spit, they’re deemed passionate and driven. Serena didn’t even do all of that! And she’s still being portrayed as this angry black woman. Soon after, Mark Knight, an Australian illustrator, drew a cartoon about the incident. A blind person could see that the comic was racist. The way he drew Serena reminded me of a Jim Crow era caricature. She looked like a mammy; jumping up and down on the tennis court with a pacifier laying next to her. Why was she so exaggerated? The umpire in the comic looked fine, and Naomi Osaka (her opponent), looked like a white woman! They basically white washed her to make Serena look like a brute. When confronted about his art, Knight claimed that it “wasn’t about race” and that “people are becoming crazy.”

That, my friends, is called gas lighting. Gas lighting is the manipulation of a person into questioning their own sanity. When it comes to the black community, in terms of racial inequality, it’s not a rarity to be questioned on how we feel or how we’re treated. When a person has a privilege, I assume it would be hard to put yourself in another person’s shoes. It may be difficult to realize that other human beings do not get the same treatment. Being seen as the “right” kind of American might come with a set of rose colored glasses. That’s one of the biggest arguments that I’ve ever been in is explaining why white privilege exists. I brought up the fact that due to stereotypes and notions that have already been established about the black community, white people are seen as better equipped than a black person. She retorted with the fact that she once lived in a trailer and struggled financially, claiming that she did not have white privilege because money was tight for her and her family at one point. White privilege knows no class. If you’re white, in America, and practically any place that has people of color, you’re alright. That was not the only time that black issues were questioned into actually existing, and I had the honor of being in the midst of it all. Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter. Remember that debate? Ignorance was exposed when more and more people began to side with ALM, saying that all lives are cherished and valued. Do I agree that they should all be cherished and valued? Yes. In this political climate, are all lives being treated that way? No. Absolutely not. I have gotten into a few verbal wars about Black Lives Matter, dispelling the myth that it is a terrorist group, and that it’s a hate organization towards other races. “If you don’t believe that all lives don’t matter, then you’re racist!” one girl said in one of my political science classes. I was shocked. This girl has also said previously that trans-gendered people were mentally ill, so I knew that we would never ever get along. BLM focuses on the issues that black people face on a day to day basis. It has never wished death upon other races of people, and if people within the movement have, then they are not true BLM followers. They want equality, not superiority.

Another instance that happened to me was during my freshman year of college. I was apart of my college choir. Attending a PWI (predominantly white institution), it’s not odd to be the only black person in the class, or one of the token few. It was me and four other black people in the choir. One of the pieces that we were given was titled, Death Is Gonna Lay Its Cold Icy Hands On Me. The fact that a chorus of 85% white people is singing a Negro spiritual irked me very much so, but the fact that they completely disregarded what the song is about was icing on the cake. One of the directors stated that he wanted us to sound “sexy” as we sang about slaves being afraid that they would die fleeing to freedom. That was terribly insensitive of them.  One of the other black girls in the group began to cry because it affected her so much. My friend and I approached the director about it, and how continuing to sing the song was not a good idea. He instantly tried to relate it to himself, saying that he was made fun of as a child because he was Catholic. Nice try, but you can hide a religion, it’s a bit harder to hide your race. I am not saying that you should hide your religion, but it would be easier for me to hide the fact that I’m a Christian than hide the fact that I’m black. Our plight fell on deaf ears. On the day of the concert, my and I closed our books and refused to sing in protest.

Those are just a few times that I came in contact with gas lighting, and I’ll probably come in contact with it. My Health Matters writer Dennis R. Upkins gave a few more examples of gas lighting that he’s heard. “The reality is whenever you’re a person of color speaking out against racism and white supremacy, it’s a safe bet that you will be on the receiving end of gaslighting” says Upkins. And I completely agree with him. It’s funny how non-poc people think that they know people of color better than people of color know themselves, huh?

Gas lighting is being told that you’re being rude when telling a white person that you don’t want them touching your box braids that are still sore. Gas lighting is saying that white people get killed by police more often that black people, when there are less black people in America, and their percentage of police brutality deaths are a larger population. Gas lighting is saying that Michael Brown being gunned down in the middle of the street was justifiable because he was a big, menacing looking guy. Gas lighting is neoliberal multiculturalism. It’s thinking that black people are complaining and not putting effort into the things that they do. Gas lighting is all around us. Stay strong and stay aware…and no….YOU ARE NOT CRAZY!

Where I found some of my sources:

Federal Elections 2016:

https://transition.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2016/federalelections2016.pdf

https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/30441531/Roberts___Carter_Andrews_-_Gaslighting_of_African_American_teachers.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1537199931&Signature=Ti3zs%2FF4tK2PhqNaJP6I135IjHw%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DA_critical_race_analysis_of_the_gaslight.pdf

https://mental-health-matters.com/denying-racism-and-other-forms-of-gaslighting/

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Facts and Opinions

Nike Up in Flames: Wasting Money in Protest of Preserving Lives

The company Nike is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. For thirty years, we’ve been lacing up their sneakers, pulling up their jogging shorts, and dressing ourselves up in the apparel and using the products of the brand. I have a pair of their gym shoes in my closet right now, as well as a pair of Nike sweatpants that I love to change into after a hard day of classes. Thirty years is a big accomplishment, so of course Nike wanted to do something special for this anniversary. What else than to do a campaign to commemorate the business being in existence for so long? Usually with a campaign, there’s always a face. Someone to represent the brand and all that it stands for. I don’t know anything about sports, but I know that there are countless sports players Nike could have chosen. Lebron James; arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. They could have gotten Laker’s wonder boy Lonzo Ball, or Lord forbid his Father. They could have gotten really anyone who has made news this year, but who would be appropriate to ring in Nike’s thirtieth year?

On Monday afternoon, former San Francisco 49er’s player Colin Kaepernick posted on his Twitter the ad that started a whirlwind of controversy, as if Kaepernick hasn’t had enough of it already. Nike had chosen him to be the face of the campaign.

fine ass woke ass brotha

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” is displayed in white words in front of a black and white image of Kaepernick gazing into the audience’s eyes. The picture is simple, and so is the quote. This quote is very compatible with what Colin is about.

In August 2016, Kaepernick was seen sitting down during the National Anthem. After being asked why he did what he did, he states, ” I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Even after that incident, the NFL released a statement recognizing that not all people want to participate in the National Anthem, and have the right not to. Kaepernick sitting out during the National Anthem, turned into him kneeling to show respect for the people of color who have fought and died for this country. He didn’t even have to do that! This began a grand controversy. Kaepernick continued to take a knee, and people began to impose their opinion on the situation.

More athletes began to follow suit, showing their support for Kaepernick’s plea, as well as what he stands for. During the National Anthem, Kaepernick’s former teammate Eric Reid joined him in his September 1st. Former Seattle Seahawk player Jeremy Lane sits out while everyone else stood for the Star Spangled Banner. From then on, other football players, basketball players, soccer players, even cheerleaders protested in solidarity with Kaepernick. It quickly spread to other walks of life. Students in marching bands were kneeling. Children would stay seated during the National Anthem when they would recite it in their schools. I went to a city school board meeting in the city of Charleston, Illinois, and when everyone stood for the National Anthem, I sat down and stared right at the mayor of the city. Savagery, right? I know, but this isn’t about me. With the support that was given to Kaepernick, the backlash was just as fast, if not more swift.

As of now, people are grabbing their Nike apparel and burning them. Literally igniting a fire on them. A video that I saw was of a man spraying lighter fluid on his white and black Nike sneakers and setting them ablaze. People are destroying their merchandise to try and stick it to Nike and Colin Kaepernick. Now, is Nike the most unproblematic company out there…no, but complaining over who they chose as the face of their 30th anniversary campaign really isn’t as important as people claim it is. I’ve been scrolling through my Twitter feed, and there is a mix of support and contempt. I was able to catch Trump’s Twitter comment, claiming that the stock and sales in Nike were dropping just like the ratings of the NFL.

Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!
8:39 AM – Sep 5, 2018

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump

If you can’t tell, Trump is not a big fan of Colin Kaepernick. I mean, he’s not a fan of people of color period, but he really has a problem with people who are against his policies. Trump, I will say, had a point. Nike shares were down about three percent Tuesday, but they are back up again today. With the numbers being shown, his WAY DOWN implication was highly exaggerated. So, as you may guess, Trump’s followers were not so happy with Colin’s stance either. And so Trump and his army spewed hatred and filth towards Colin, the NFL, any person who has kneeled to protest gun violence and police brutality, and anyone who agrees and stands with what Colin is doing. The main reason why people are upset with kneeling during the National Anthem is because they feel that it disrespects America, the people who fought for the country, and freedom, because that’s what America is supposed to be…the land of the free (that can be said easier for certain demographics more than others). In my opinion, that is further from the truth.

My Dad was a U.S Military Captain. He served in the military ever since he was eighteen years old. He was drafted in the Iraq-Afghanistan War and was stationed over there for three years. As a black man in America, my Dad has been pulled over the color of his skin. He’s been pulled over because he drives a Cadillac Escalade and, well, I guess black people can’t have those huh? He’s been spit on and called nigger and was told to go back to Africa by racists as he walked through certain areas of Illinois. But my Dad, an army veteran, and many other people’s family members, fought for the right for you to be able to stand during the National Anthem, but they also fought for the right to kneel. America is so free right, why aren’t people free to kneel? Kneeling not only respects someone like my Father and the brave, heroic efforts that he has made, but to acknowledge the fact that as a black man in America that American flag at first did not represent you, and until people of color are treated like human beings, it still doesn’t. That flag represents slavery. “That flag represents the pain and the turmoil that people of color have faced and will continue to face. American history for people of color hasn’t been that great to us. I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America. And to the Republic, for which it stands. One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Liberty and justice for all huh? That’s a stretch. Was there liberty and justice for Trayvon Martin, or Eric Garner, or Freddie Gray, or Sandra Bland, or Aiyana Jones, or Tamir Rice, or all the other countless black and brown people in America who have been gunned down, attacked, or penalized for being people.

Let’s go over the Star Spangled Banner quickly shall we. Everyone knows (or thinks they know) the first part: oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, so on and so forth. Everyone usually recites the first stanza, but there are actually three more. I want to focus on the third stanza more so:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

First of all, Francis Scott Key (the writer of The National Anthem) was a defender of slavery. Let’s just put that out there. Slaves? Loved them, or having them I should say. He believed that black people were “inferior” and were untrustworthy. He was an attorney, and overthrew many cases created by abolitionists. You can read right there in the stanza posted above. “No refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” When I read that part, the thought that no matter what any slave does, they are going to die. They cannot be saved. Dr. Jason Johnson, a MSNBC contributor and The Root writer and political editor, confirmed my suspicion. In his Root article Star Spangled Bigotry: The Hidden Racist History of the National Anthem. With this article, he exposes Francis Scott Key and his background and his beliefs. He was opposed to the Colonial Marines, a battalion of runaway slaves who joined the British Royal Army in exchange for freedom. At the Battle of Bladenburg, Key’s was serving as a lieutenant. When him as his troops ran into a group of Colonial Marines, they were taken to a woodshed. He ran back home to Georgetown. The British troops then began to burn the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building and the White House. Key was not happy. Weeks later, in September of 1815, Key was on a British ship pleading for his friend, William Beanes, to be released. While on this boat, he was able to witness the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore. This is when the third stanza of the Star Spangled Banner was written. This stanza is basically threatening the former black slaves that were with the British army in exchange for their freedom. The National Anthem never counted people of color.

To summarize basically everything I said in this article, burning your shoes, cutting the checks out of your shorts and throwing away your Nike water bottles won’t really do much. Nike knows what they’re doing with choosing Colin Kaepernick. Him and his protest are making a lot of prejudice and racist people uncomfortable, and this new campaign is definitely adding fuel to the fire.

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