Shea butter on my face
Keepin up with the race
to find myself
before I find myself underground.
I turn around
and see my face lookin back at me
I ask myself the question
what have you done?
Learn and in turn
dare to share
There’s always time to spare
to wear my heart on my sleeve.
Shea butter on my hands
tryin to over stand
where I take a stand
Puttin thoughts n words into action
Less reactions more interactions
will bring me satisfaction
This I know because I begin to glow.
Shea butter on my ashy brown skin
Lettin it seep in
Deep penetrations cause motivations
infatuations as to who’s within
Smoothin out the wrinkles as my skin drinks it all in
Quenchin my thirst
puttin me first.
Shea butter all over my brown skin
through the thick and thin
Parts of me
In every fold and crevice
In every wrinkle and blemish
relief from within.
Replenished shiny brown hues
Give me clues as to who’s
How I choose
Joanie Jonez is a Mama, wife, artist, blogger, healer, teacher, warrior, lover and light. A creative being who’s artistic philosophy pushes art in all forms as a healing tool.
By Lindsay Bess
There she was, in the kitchen, cake knife in hand and his hair in the other. She had almost caught him, but he was still loose. Running through her place and bolting from hiding spot to crevice like a rat caught in the light.
He was a rat though. Steve ratted her out like she was front-page news and he was the paperboy. He told them everything. He showed them pictures, called her all type of names and stuff. She was his oldest and most recent, his last exploit, and she had been lured by him for the last time. She knew she was a dummy. She felt sick that she could have let his slithery tongue lap her into him. But she did, and so it goes. She had had enough, and her anger got the better of her.
Years ago he had started by making a few irregular visits, but those were planned. Then he would drop in periodically, without notice. Eventually he called less and less until she only heard from him about once a month, with zero to one visits statistically. He had a girl? He had a family? Was he married/gay/involved/a hustler or any other possibility that purposely took his time away from her? No. He just didn’t care. She wasn’t worth it anymore. He was bored, she was getting crazy, and he could see her getting too clingy and fat from the KFC he always brought her (not ‘cause she asked, mind you). He couldn’t shake her, but he couldn’t resist the idea of an open door, even if the door was loose, falling off hinges and wide open (in his mind). He told her she wasn’t his type, but she forgave him. She told him she loved him and he answered “but I don’t love you…”
She only hoped she could change his mind.
She wrote him letters and emails and texts and fb/ig/tw notes that he never responded to, but never took down. It was clear, public, that she loved him, and she thought that his silence was compliance, but it wasn’t. He had grown to really not like her but the convenience of Layla was just too tempting. Each time he tried to let go he weighed his options, and since there weren’t many, there she remained. Not that he wasn’t cute – he was – but he was shy and lazy, and yearned for the Canadian convenience of a girl that operated like Ontario Works: you know, never enough but better than nothing?
She had recently learned this. She had overheard at McDonald’s a girl who she knew he was trying to get with (because he talked about these things – he knew she wasn’t going anywhere). The girl? Let’s call her April, because she was the spring in his step, and the buds to the trees he smoked. April knew Layla was his go-to, and saw her sitting alone waiting for her special order filet. April was with 2 other females who shall remain nameless because they don’t matter. She started saying, loud and proud and without looking over at Layla,
“…and you know that girl Lay-bed? Man she’s so dry…she fully f***s for chicken!”
“HAHAHAAAAA pfffft!!!!!! Haha! So lame!”
“She’s so cheap! How do you know she doesn’t just f*** for free?”
“He told me himself! All he has to do is bring her a Twoonie Tuesday meal and she’s hot hahaha!”
Layla went all shades of magenta, and the girls collected their shakes and left, blurting out fake, high pitched laughs and secret side eyes.
She felt sick. She felt so embarrassed, more than ever before. Being with him was humiliating! But she wanted to forgive him, because she knew he was a good guy inside and she wasn’t sure if she’d ever get another man, ever.
At least he told me he loves my body…that’s sweet and he wouldn’t say it if he didn’t mean it, right? But then…he said that…I f***ed for chicken? How could he be such an asshole?!
After all these years…how could he say that?! Fine, I’m going to ask him. Maybe it wasn’t really him they were talking about – I mean, there are other Steve’s around. But…they said Lay-bed…which meant Lay-LA. And it probably also means he talked about me to other girls too who probably laughed at me…he’s such a user. What an asshole! What a jerk! I can’t believe I let him do this to me! I’m so stupid! Oh my God, what’s wrong with me?!
He finally paid her a visit, after not calling, texting, whatever, for two weeks. He walked in, like usual, and sat on her futon.
“Are you talking to that girl April about me?” she asked quietly, hoping to not offend him.
Anger. “What? Why?!”
Silence for a moment…
“Because I…” and she told him what had happened at McDonald’s two weeks previous.
“Why do you assume they’re talking about YOU? Just because they say Lay in the name they called out, so it’s you? C’mon man, please, that could be anyone.” He shamed her into thinking she was as stupid as she already thought she was, and it worked, for a second.
And then he tried to kiss her.
She turned away, for the first time ever feeling like kissing him would not be a good idea. She was still mad, although she usually hid her emotions.
“Why don’t you let me kiss you?” he asked softly, pulling her chin over to his. She turned even further away thinking that he might apologize or probe a little more about the situation that seemed to hurt her so much. But he didn’t. He was now the upset one.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked, a little more agitated now.
“What’s wrong with you?” Tears started flowing. “Why don’t you ever just be nice to me?!”
HUGE SIGH and then…”What the f***, I’m nice to you! I’m never mean. Tell me ONE mean thing I have ever said to you?”
The hairs on the nape of Layla’s neck started to rise and she started to shake. She knew this was an unfair question but she didn’t know how to answer it.
High pitched and desperate, she said, “But you always talk about all these girls, like April, and you never want to be with me. Like BE with me. It’s like you only want sex!”
“So, what, you don’t like honesty? I’m telling you because I see you as a friend, and I want to talk to you about it. What’s the big deal?!”
“The big deal is that YOU’RE USING ME! And I hate it!” and she swatted at him with a heavy hand.
He fell to the floor. She didn’t think she had hit him that hard.
“What the f*** is wrong with you, f***ing crazy b****!”
“Wait, I didn’t mean to hit you so hard, I swear!” Layla pled with him.
Getting up off the floor and rolling his eyes, “ok buddy.” He started walking over towards the door and said something about never coming back and that he was done with girls like her. But she was raging. Something had been turned on inside of her that she couldn’t turn off. She couldn’t think of the right answers to his insipid dialogue but she knew he would only try to walk back in later without having to answer to any of her accusations.
“WHY DO YOU TREAT ME LIKE I’M STUPID?!!” she screamed, her hazel eyes turning bright green.
“F***in CALM DOWN. No offense, but are you on your period? Cuz you look f***in crazy right now.”
She ran past him to the door, locked it and her eyes darted in and out of the tiny kitchen in her apartment. She wanted something sharp; anything that looked scary.
He was pissed. “Yo, MOVE GUY! It’s not like I can’t unlock the friggin door!”
As he leaned in to reach for the handle she snatched something from the kitchen and grabbed the only thing she thought she could pierce – his hair. With a cake knife she tried to saw the piece of hair in her hand but ended up yanking off a whole chunk – not because of the knife though. She felt her eyes grow bluer, hotter, and rage tingled through her entire body. She had had enough, and the absolute force of which she was moving became too supernatural and overpowering for his weak, weed-head string-bean body – so he ran. He ran and she followed, but he lost her somewhere. So she went back to ground zero.
There she was, in the kitchen, cake knife in hand and his hair in the other. She had almost caught him, but he was still loose.
She was scary looking, because he had never seen her angry, ever. He could also be as powerful if he hadn’t felt so much pride and guilt all at once. Layla was only obeying the anger – after years of the BS, she could now get hers. Yes, revenge! To make him beg for mercy and a second chance out loud like she had done silently more times than she could count.
Layla heard Steve in the bedroom, and quietly walked across the parquet floors with her fist clenched so tight that her palm bled. She looked like the hulk, though her eyes were the only things that changed colour. They were now a yellow-orange, and the hair that had warned her of this had now protruded to the point of being visible, pointed scales on the back of her neck.
“I promise I’ll be nicer Layla!” Steve said in desperation. “You’re right, I was a jerk and I should have known better! C’mon now, don’t (smack!) hit me anymore! I won’t hurt (oof!) you anymore, I promise!”
He was backing up over the bed and over to the window, where his bleeding bald patch reflected in the glass.
Glass. Glass is a good weapon. Glass cuts deep. Not as deep as heartbreak, but that’s fine. She couldn’t reach his heart anyway.
She bounded for him over the bed, faster than he could slip away, and pushed him up by the chin through the window. As she did, and as the glass shattered, sprayed, dripped and fell, the power she had kept covered up for fear of offending others lept out.
Layla flung Steve and herself heads first through the window, eleven floors down, to rest in the parking lot below. They would never hurt or be hurt by each other again.
*sometimes I mess around with the pen*
Woke up early this morning rolled a ting and started reflecting, my normal Sunday morning routine and the only time I wake up early to do absolutely nothing in the AM.
I’ve been in a J.Cole mood lately so I took it back to Friday Night Lights, one of his first mixtapes released in 2010. I respect the sample he used on Best Friend (he sampled Best Friends Ft Aaliyah off Missy Elliot’s first album Supa Dupa Fly. Side note: I’m a ride or die Aaliyah fan).
It had me reminiscing about the 1990’s; I had to take a trip.
I ended up listening to Missy Elliot’s Supa Dupa Fly album and got as far as Under Construction. (One time for the creativity in Missy’s music videos!!! From the plastic garbage bag in The Rain video to the Tetris like flashing lights, black lipstick and bejeweled encrusted face in She’s a Bitch video.. It’s originality at its very best!)
It’s funny how music can take you back to a specific moment in time. For me I was reminded of how much of myself I hid under the guise of being a tomboy (which I was). I always had the sweats on with my favorite navy blue hoodie, (I’m wearing my hoodie now as I type this), sporting a durag and my hair braided back. I went to a high school where I had to wear a uniform and on civies days (this is when we got to wear our own clothes). I would regularly opt out of wearing the v neck top my friends would be eager to rock and maybe throw on a T-shirt instead.
I just never wanted to expose too much.
The only time I felt comfortable is when I played sports, especially basketball, tennis and track & field. I was my sexiest when I ran track tho. (If you ran track you know what I’m talking about tee hee). I would flaunt my sexy legs…but I was still hidden even if they were exposed.
My demons had me tripping like the movie Revolver. On a good day they know how to play with me. I just didn’t believe in my sexy. I guess having grown men desire me at a young age fucked up my mental. It’s probably one of the reasons why I’m a late bloomer.
Fast forward to now…. I roar and shake my mane in victory I don’t run from the truth of my beauty inside and out!!!!
I’ve come a long way from wearing du-rags and sneakers to clubs
Love for I saw me BE!
Growing up hiding my body,
not wanting to claim me…
I look in the mirror now
and see all the things I love,
and accept about mine…
My patchy golden skin tone
My tiger stripes
My water for chocolate brown eyes
My beautiful mind
I dare myself to take longer looks in the mirror when I get the chance and when I do I roar loudly with pride!
Before I leave here’s the link for the Friday Night Lights mixtape:
By Hannah K. Moore
The complexity of violations against the sexual and reproductive rights of black women is even more complex in the context of prison. The violations connected to women’s prisons remain obscured by the social invisibility of the prison system (Davis, 2001). In the context of California State prisons there has been a long and complex history in relation to sterilization violations. This complex web consists of actors such as the prison industrial complex, the eugenics movement, state laws in California and built into all of it is racism; the underlining factor.
”Today, the state of California alone has more women in prison than it had in all of the United States in 1970 ” (Davis, 2001).
In addition to being the leader in the construction of prisons in the country, California was also the leader of the Eugenics movement. In fact, in the 1930’s Nazi Germany consulted with the head of the eugenics movement in California to develop their eugenics process (Johnson, 2013).
The prison industrial complex is understood as the powerful system which connects the privatization of prisons, with laws, and policies.
”The proliferation of prisons and prisoners is more clearly linked to structures and political and economic ideologies larger than the individual criminal conduct and efforts to curb crime ” (Davis, 2001).
Between 1981-1989 President Reagan’s response to the resistance by taxpayers to continue to fund the prison system combined with his ‘tough on crime’ policies made this complex and economic system become an intricate part of the economic political system of the US. It privileged the profitability of punishment at the expense of human formation and transformation (Davis, 2001). At a time when social services, which historically worked to support communities in need, was being eliminated and resources for health and education were diminishing, prison was the default (Davis, 2001) .Prisons began to receive more resources than others services, and in 1995, the prison budget was more than that of education in the state of California (Davis, 2001). With the growth of prisons, so grew the war on drugs. Black and Latino communities were most affected by this paradigm shift. To understand why, we have to understand how the prison system is inherently directed by and based in racism. Black people in the United States only make up 14% of the general population but have comprised 80% of the prison population over the last 10 years. As a result various scholars have written on the role of race and racism in prison system (Alexander, 2010). It is important to note though that racism in the prison system cannot be disconnected from gender. All prison practices differ with respect to the intersection of race, gender and sexuality (Davis, 2001). Black women in the U.S. are highly affected by this system and have an increased likelihood to be in the prison system; they make up the majority of the population of women’s prisons (Davis, 2001). Statistically a black woman in the United States is 8 times more likely to be found in prison than a white woman (Davis, 2001).
“Black women make up the largest percentage of the prison population (48%), and 35% in federal detention centers, even if they are only approximately 13% of the general population’’ (Davis, 2001).
The history of sterilization in the US is a deep and extensive one. In the United States, California has a more particular story yet. Being the leader of the Eugenics Movement, California had mandatory sterilization laws which were historically driven by the racist origins of the Eugenics Movement. The eugenics movement was proposed by white supremacy as “scientific evidence” for the inferiority of “other races”.
In early 1900 one of the first mandatory sterilization laws was created, enforcing the sterilization of
” …… minority groups, the poor, the disabled, the mentally ill and criminals who were identified as inferior and sterilized to prevent further spread of their genes” (Johnson, Female Inmates Sterilized in California Prisons without approval, 2013).
This movement and its actions were so strong that between 1909 and 1964 about 20,000 men and women in the State of California were sterilized (Johnson, Female Inmates Sterilized in California Prisons without approval, 2013). This movement of sterilization caught international attention and in 1903 Germany consulted California to adopt the practices of sterilization (Johnson, Female Inmates Sterilized in California Prisons without approval, 2013). The base of eugenics was in the sciences; this gave more meaning to the power of the movement. In 1909, the state of California considered connecting the sciences with social problems and created the third sterilization law in the country. This law granted the doctors of nursing homes and prison authorities to “Asexualize” a ‘sick’ person, where such a measure would improve their physical, moral, mental condition” (Alexandra Minna Stern, 2005). Due to its basis in science, sterilization was utilized as a ‘solution’ for many years. In the state of California sterilization was not considered punishment, but a strategy of public health (Alexandra Minna Stern, 2005). The Eugenics movement proposed sterilization as a tool to strengthen the state.
It is in this context of the prison industrial complex and sterilization with roots based in the Eugenics Movement, where we find the violations against black women in prison in California. These violations against black women in prison manifest in various forms:
” Medical malpractice, sexual abuse, lack of reproductive control, loss of parental rights, the denial of legal rights and remedies, the devastating effects of isolation and of course, arbitrary discipline ” (Davis, 2001).
The invisibility of being in prison furthers the invisibility of being black and female, which politically allows for more opportunities of violation.
California has a strong history with sterilization, and it continues to be practiced in prisons. Sterilization is currently illegal, by law, state officials banned the practice in 1979 (Johnson, Female Inmates Sterilized in California Prisons without approval, 2013) however violations continue to occur. Between 2006 and 2010 almost 150 women were sterilized in women’s prisons in California without state authorization (Johnson, California was sterilizing its female prisoners the late the 2010, 2013). The context of these illegal sterilizations in prisons is one of coercion. In a report made by the investigative journalism center in California in 2012, various interviews with women who had been sterilized were uncovered. In an interview with a black woman prisoner, she stated that when she was pregnant and at the time of giving birth, a prison doctor chose that vulnerable moment to suggest sterilization for her (Johnson, Female Inmates in Sterilized California Prisons without approval, 2013). In an interview with the doctor in one of the women’s prisons in California, he justified the sterilizations saying that
“Sterilization is cheaper than what the state would spend on welfare for unwanted children” (Johnson , Female Inmates Sterilized in California Prisons without approval, 2013).
His statement enforces the American myth that black women only have children to receive state money (Hancock, 2004).
Illegally coerced sterilization of black women in prisons in California continues behind the veil of bureaucracy based in a history of Eugenics and institutionally racist practices. Violations are being revealed by organizations allied with women in prison situations; however the power of the prisons system requires great pressure to end such violations.
“Any imposition on reproductive rights is an injustice against the welfare of households, the rights of women, children and grandchildren, or the promise of the future “(Davis, 2001).
For resources or more information or how you can support the movement to end illegal sterilization
- 1400 65th St., Suite 200Emeryville, CA 94608
- Phone 510-809-3160 (main line)
- Fax 510-652-1792
- 1322 Webster St, Suite 210 Oakland CA 94612
- Phone 510-839-7654
- Fax 510 -839-7615
Alexander, M. (n.d.). (2010) The New Jim Crow.
Alexandra Minna Stern, P. (2005). Sterilized in the name of public health. American Journal of Public Health.
Crenshaw, K. (n.d.). Documento Para O Econtro de especialistas em aspects da discriminacao racial relativos ao genero.
Davis, C. S. (2001). Race, Gender andthe prison industrial complex California and Beyond. Meridians, 1-25.
Hancock, A.-M. (2004). The Politics of Disgust: The Public Identity of the Welfare Queen. New York: NYU Press.
Johnson, C. (2013, Nov). California was sterilizing its female prisoners as late as 2010. The Guardian.
Johnson, C. (2013). Female Inmates Steralized in California Prisons without approval. Center for Investigative Reporting.
Hannah K. Moore | Core Writer
We take a deep breath and then
We take a leap of faith and then
This is the time when our magic is revealed and the fire within burns at it’s fiercest!
Light and warmth envelop us like a blanket of comfort and love.
The exhale enables us to fly and discover places that we have never seen before.
Places within ourselves.
The exhale is where we are at our most free, our most vulnerable, naked and raw.
Our essence begins to unfold and this is the time when we can finally let go!
Nothing holds us back.
No more waiting to exhale, the time is now to soar, to discover who you were meant to be, to shine your light, to live your truth!
By Amoye Henry
Love has saved the day, like she always does. This is a love letter to my mother and this is for all mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, friends and caregivers. Happy International Women’s Month, may we infinitely love and recognize each other outside of the boundaries of one day, month and lifetime.
Mother: A human being who is instinctually and intuitively connected to our highest source of existence through her power, patience and constant ability to give, despite at times having nothing more than her love to offer.
The generations of people I see around me, especially in my circles of friends are building, expanding, investing and creating the reality we want to not only live in, but the world we want to thrive in. It is not easy but we do it because we are trying to leave this world with a legacy. Often times, we are ridiculed for being “too strong,” “too opinionated,” “too aggressive,” “too demanding,” yet are we not expected to live in a world that requires we armour ourselves with such characteristics to survive? Unreasonable conditions result in drastic efforts to maintain our humanity. To outsiders, we may appear to be void of “softness” and “lack femininity”, be deemed “less lovable” and capable of doing it all on our own, but we cannot. Much of the “black community” and its emphasis on ‘revolution’ is reliant on the strength and will of our women, primarily our mothers.
Our mothers are builders, self-sacrificing agents of change and visionaries.
They are women who put it all on the line relentlessly to ensure we could be here today with the opportunities we have.
Women who build us, so we could build others…
Who would builds her?
Who builds the builders and who heals the healers?
We love them through it all and understand their baggage is our baggage. We internalize the idea that their pressures relate to us and their choices result in our lived experiences. No matter how angry they make us, we love them.
In over a quarter century of being on earth, I have only seen my mother cry once. It happened upon receiving news that my younger brother, who at 17 was diagnosed with a rare autosomal recessive disorder. The news of a prognosis with a suggested death sentence of “12 months”, (which he has survived by almost 10 years, Thanks to Universal God) traveled to every Allen/Henry member from every corner of the earth, each one displaying no short of the emotion, broken.
Our entire family was devastated.
I called out sick for weeks off work, missed weeks of classes at the University where I was enrolled. My other siblings cried in disbelief and worry, my grandparents took days off, my father and his family were stunned…
My Mom was still.
No mother wants to receive news that they may outlive their own child and for this, my mother stood still to process it all, while shedding few tears. Even though she had every reason to give up and falter, to cry out towards the heavens in despair, she was still, trustful, faithful and powerful in her stillness. Bills had to get paid, and her son had almost died, but she would be by his hospital bed every day and still to this day is in the emergency room with every relapse of his illness.
She has been through so much.
How much more can she handle?
Throughout the years of my childhood, I never saw my mother in breakdown mode. She could never be found in her bedroom crying or thinking about her life and the decisions of the past. I believe now that she likely went through her own set of traumas, but she would never allowed us to see her in this light, for reasons I think I can understand. In just her early-mid twenties, she was a new immigrant, student, career woman with not two but three jobs, a supportive partner fighting to hold onto a failing marriage, a warrior raising three children (four in 2000 when my sister was born) living in a structurally neglected but regularly patrolled rent controlled housing community. When the soundtrack of our lives were the sounds of gunshots, when coming home late from school/work meant walking through the block to catcalls from aggressive borderline pervert-aged men – she pressed on, earning her academic accreditations, saving every penny and pursuing all the actions she could to move us out and on up into a community and home she could call her very own. I feel she was so conscious about her movements and vision for her life because she had us looking on. Every man she ever had, every family member (with the exception of my grandparents) had failed her and she was left with God and her deepest, most sincere desire to succeed and breathe with ease knowing she was responsible for her life’s outcomes.
My childhood/adolescent life while beautiful, was plagued by horrible experiences with many, including my mother. We could never see eye to eye. A woman who had limited chances to be at home because of her work and school schedules and a determined daughter who thought she would have a better life than her mother because she read books, travelled and always had an entrepreneurial spirit. This daughter, unlike her mother, had no time to be birthing ungrateful children who would eventually abandon her when she needed them the most. She would never be caught dead waiting on a man for anything, nor would she be stuck with the “single black mother” label…
I looked down on my Mommy.
In my mind, she wasn’t this cerebral, self-made boss. I made her out to be this woman that I would never be… I would never let “society” be right about this black woman I was becoming.
How wrong I was.
Today, I wish I was ¼ the woman my mother is today. You see, I realize now that layered beneath her “nagging” was divine wisdom and underneath the veneers of anger, exhaustion and disappointment was unreciprocated love and ride-or-die loyalty. In spite of this, she pressed on, never holding anything against me, recognizing my naivety and the growth to come within me.
In a world where black women are raised to be strong and taught to neglect feelings of weakness and vulnerability, in a world that liquidates and delegitimizes black girl and black women’s innocence and defenselessness, in a world that teaches us to be these robust indomitable caricatures…
when do we get to just be?
“I’m still learning the parts of me that no one claps for” – Rudy Francisco.
Dealing with generational pain that manifests itself as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) can feel defeating. As a people, many of us live in an oppressive system of racism, white privilege, micro aggressions, constant media and judicial erasure, resulting in internalized rage, fatigue, distress, mistrust and suspicion amongst our own kind; broken families, broken relationships, distant parent-child bonds, black-on-black violence and economic disparity. It is not rare to find that a lot of us may be dealing with undiagnosed and undertreated mental illnesses and/or disorders. Our spiritual intuition tells us we will be okay, but our mother’s prayers are likely what protect and guide us. When society and everything around us encourage insecurity and self-doubt, I’m learning to love the parts of me that no one claps for, because my Mom loved them, and now this love within is big enough to return all my love to her.
If I could go back and speak to the heart of a teenaged Amoye, I would tell her; no matter what the world tells you and how grown you feel, your mom is right 90% of the time. And though our mothers themselves are not without error, and also need to listen to us and trust in us– listen to her, tread lightly, heed her warnings and admire her for having the patience to be a mom. Be still in your moments of irritation, but move through them with gratitude when the time comes because love literally saves the day, and life is about making every day count.
Learning to love my mother has helped me to learn how to love myself. It wasn’t always this way and approaching my 30’s I am starting to see that everything happens in its time. Thank you mommy for being a G, birthing me in your youth, never giving up on me, fighting with and for me…and helping me to expand so I could turn my dreams into the reality you have dreamt about. You make me so proud. You deserve so much more than the words on this page and the treatment you receive from life regularly. You are an oracle, a source of light and a pillar of magic to all of your children. We’re grateful and honoured to share the genealogy we have because of you. I love you.
My first Ride-or-Die. ❤
A song to inspire all the mothers out there:
Loving you is the very essence of being in the arm’s of heaven. – Yahzarah, Soul singer.
Amoye is a passionate, creative, hard working project pilot who takes pride in building and cultivating relationships, both professional and personal. She is resourceful, supportive and a natural born achiever who inspires and is inspired by art and life. She takes temporary breathers from social media to enjoy her own little world, but when she’s part of the matrix you can find her on FB “Bronzey Amoye” on IG/Twitter as@Legallybronze
(Words by @Tammy Soulful)
in your presence
From the feeling
Trapped in vain
found a queen
to fly serene
with our hearts
From being apart
of staying together
Fear of losing one another
We ride together
We write together
that this will be
Ms Write. Born with the talent, Ms Write has become an extraordinary professional writer – using her words to inspire, motivate, provoke thoughts, touch hearts and leave a positive impact on peoples’ lives. She has an eclectic set of skills in writing, such as poetry, academic, professional, fiction, non-fiction and more.
“This poem is for the pretty girls
With pretty complexes which are pretty complex pulled into mix up
Pretty fast and before they knew it became known as being pretty and fast
A poem for all the girls who are prejudged with assumptions because of their ass by assholes who pretend they didn’t just pre cum at the sight of her but can’t even ejaculate a pretty decent greeting besides pssssssstttttt Really though? Like whatever happened to good evening?” – The Tribute
Starting in high school, as early as grade 9 from what I recall, the above-mentioned pretty girl was I. These lines perfectly describe my downward descent in what was to be a very rocky ride along relationship road (thank God I drove 4x4s and always wore my seat belt!) Much of the “mix up” I was constantly pulled into had to do with my relationships (both sexual and those that were not but were perceived to be sexual) with men; boys really when I think of them now. And when I reflect back to this time in my life, a time when my self-esteem was taking a nasty nosedive and I was starting to go through real depressive episodes (although back then I didn’t know I had depression) I realized that the one thing I had absolutely no idea about was consent.
When I say I had no idea about it, I really mean I had no idea about the many layers and forms consent in regards to my body came in. The only obvious form of consent that I knew of was if I said no to sex when asked than that should be respected (otherwise he was about to catch a case). But I didn’t realize how much power I had in practicing consent. I was a girl who wanted to be liked, (needed to be liked really), by the opposite sex. And so from as early as grade 9 I learned to sacrifice my power of consent in exchange for what I thought was love from boys.
For me letting go of consent didn’t just happen the first time I had sex, even though I didn’t really want to and knew I wasn’t ready. It started way before that. I let go of consent when boys who were only interested in my body would feel on my legs in the chapel at school (Catholic schools and kilts are a bad combo). I let go of consent when boys demanded my number and I gave it freely, even when I didn’t want to, for fear of being labeled a bitch or undesirable. I let go of consent even in the way I allowed boys to speak to me and speak about me.
As women, we lose consent to our bodies constantly. The ability to control how we are perceived, looked at, admired, talked to and approached is very limited sometimes. And there are examples of times where exercising our right to consent is dangerous, even deadly as was the case of Mary Spears from Detroit, who was shot and killed because she rejected a mans advances. But I write this article to encourage, particularly the young girls and the girls who struggle to see their true worth, to take back the power over our bodies. Here are few ways we can do so.
1. Say No…If you don’t want to be touched
Your body is your property, no one else’s. No one has the right to touch you in any way you deem as an invasion of your personal space. This includes even the little things like when a guy grabs your hand in the party, or someone wants to touch your hair because your curls are just so damn “exotic.” (As someone with curls this is a personal pet peeve).
2. Say No…at any point during sexual intimacy
You can say no at any point you don’t feel comfortable. This means before sex (including foreplay) and anytime during sex. Even if he slid it in just once and in your head your just like oh hell nah…he needs to respect that decision because a case of blue balls never outweighs a case of rape.
3. Say No…to any advances that make you feel uncomfortable
I had so much trouble with this as a younger woman, so I empathize with those who still do. You do not, I repeat, you do not, have to give anyone your phone number, Facebook profile, Twitter handle, Instagram account, or any other piece of personal information just because they ask. If they keep on pressuring you once you’ve made it clear that you are not interested, just know that kind of persistence is not cute nor is it romantic; its just controlling, scary and a red flag should pop up immediately. I know how it is as a young girl looking for love, but as they say there are plenty of fish in the sea, so beware of these sharks pressin’ you for your information.
This one also includes street harassment. You have a right to ignore any unwanted advances that make you feel uncomfortable when you are on road. Everything from “Good Morning” to one of my personal favorites… pssssssst! (insert kiss teet here)
Consent is just another word for permission. I want you to think about the things you would and would not permit in regards to the way in which people interact with you and your body and really try to start implementing that in your every day life. Saying no, especially when you have low self-esteem, is really hard. But practice makes perfect so take every opportunity to assert the power of consent when possible.
Of all the people we Ride or Die for on a regular, we need to put ourselves on the top of that list. So if you’re to down to start taking off earrings and getting ready to Vaseline up when you see some lame getting in your homegirls personal space, be ready to exercise that same fighting spirit when it comes to yourself and the way others interact with you and your body. Just remember, all you gotta do is say no.
Ride or Die. I only heard this phrase about a year and a half ago and it has stuck in my mind, turning it over and over, questioning, and wondering. I have read the stories of other women, saw their pictures not being able to identify to what they talked about. As I continued to ask, to read and look more profoundly into their eyes I saw myself. I am a Ride or Die woman. Also I have come to see that I come from a line of Ride or Die women. In order to share my story I must share the stories of the women before me. I must try to convey in few simple words lives filled of self-sacrifice for the love of their families, their husbands and even their land.
I must start way back, with my grandmothers. The ones that lost their husbands in the war, who searched for their bodies and memories only to find dust. The ones that lived in extreme poverty but did all they could to not let their children feel it. That worked as servants in order to provide fresh food, whose hands calloused by the weight of their chores, yet they never complained. They lived to ensure the survival of their children.
I must talk about my grandmothers. The ones that embodied the word forgiveness and whose love for something greater than themselves forgave over and over again the dark moments of their husbands. The love and strength that forgave the addictions to alcohol and other woman. The love that ensured their home was always warm and that all who received their long and tight embrace felt nurtured, cared for, important. The care to remember every birthday, to listen with a fully present heart, to hold it all together even when others did not. This same love they extended to their land, their little corners of paradise on this earth which they treated as the most sacred temple, and to which they kept on coming back to after having to flee it several times due to too many wars. The land on which they passed away.
Finally, I must talk about my own mother. A woman who in her quiet moments may think of things she would have loved to have done, other jobs she would have loved to have excelled in, but every day when she wakes up she only has one thing on her mind, her family. Making a living doing what we love is a privilege that she never had a chance to experience, yet her love and her happiness is found in the lives of her daughters and the quiet happiness in knowing that all she has done has allowed us to be who we are. So much of her life has been lived in order to shape ours, that now that we are older and stand on our own I can see her returning to herself and with the same grace, patience and love give herself every day moments that are just for her.
In the end, looking back I have come to see that much like all the women before me I have stood in that spirit of Ride and Die by men, friends, causes, ideas, businesses and people. But also looking back I have come to see that the biggest lesson of standing beside something or someone in such a way requires one to stand next to themselves first. To stand firm and unapologetically in who I am as a woman and in the love that I am and want to share, my way. Ride or Die.
Snjezana Pruginic is a socially focused and spiritually centered idea strategist, coach and consultant, peace and wellness educator and a multidisciplinary storyteller.
[Note from the Editor: This is Part 2.5 in a series by Nylda Gallardo-Lopez aka Lady Noyz entitled “I Used to Love H.I.M.” The B-Girl Document.” To read Part 1, please click HERE. To read Part 2, please click HERE]
“…born alone, die alone no crew to keep my crown or throne…” *
My propensity for chaos makes my skin crawl.
Life becomes too stable
I had become accustomed to gutter lows or altitude choking highs
I’ve had to condition myself to accept that the in between is where I need to be;
as a mother, and role model.
Its a war goin on inside.
For most of my life I haven’t felt like i belonged in Canada.
I am too intense…too purpose-driven for a society that is largely superficial.
From my earliest memories as a child I was told about Allende’s Chile that ceased to exist that September 11th 1973, and would fatefully move my parents across the hemisphere, away from their families, home and anything familiar to them.
For a long time, I mentally existed between these two worlds.
I was perpetually wading in an ocean of questions and anxiety.
I was always searching for what I could do here that would start to chip away at my need to be part of something bigger…something meaningful…
I found that world in Hip Hop in the b-boy community.
For the most part.
“…the fiend of hip-hop has got me stuck like a crack pipe…” *
Later when that same world that had once seemed to be heaven sent became my hell, I would have to start all over…flailing around trying to fill that void and be a single mother. All I had ever done was b-girl . I had never even held a baby.
I can definitively say this would be a stage that would become the beginning of a rock bottom spiral…and transcendence all at once. One of my many Jean Grae to Phoenix moments…
Everything about my parents’ journey rang even more true for me during my pregnancy; their pain, their sacrifices, their ideals and integrity.
“…if I ain’t ill than that’s your fukin opinion, and your entitled to it…jus know I’m that CO2 mixed with that lighter fluid…” – Tona, Buttered Chicken
My innate nature is one of reckless abandon.
I start to imagine scenarios that will feed my need for that rush…
a dance class, a jam to go to, a night with no strings…
Can a sweat out at the gym ease the itch?
Calisthetics until my muscles shake like i’m in a concrete cell…
“…the mind activation, react like I’m facing time…” *
…medicate myself so that hum of my senses slows down and a slight calm washes in…
I don’t like my options.
So, I write.
Having begun this process of documenting what love has been and continues to be to me, has been HEAVY.
Heavy, and light at the same time.
Each time a memory goes down on paper, or through my fingers stroking keys, it takes me right back to those times.
“…I’m writing for my life, every muthafukin night and that’s just part of the process…” +
Full spectrum nostalgia…
taste the smokey air and cheap malt liquor…
feel the debilatating pain,
and the all encompassing love.
With as much gusto that i started writing these memoirs…there are times of even more hesitation and self doubt.
This is a foreign world; this expressing myself with words.
But, for better or worse , I am committed to this project and in true ride or die steez imma see it thru.
There will be plenty more chapters, a plethora of nameless drivers that i went over the cliff with…etc, muthafukin etc.
My initial defensiveness didn’t come from not being taken seriously at first. It came from the real crime; that I wasn’t loved and respected as a sister and comrade in the movement.
Empathy is one of my strongest qualities. I have watched how our men are devalued, oppressed and conditioned by a society that views them as criminals. This insight for me has always been a driving force in my choice in men. Similar energies gravitate to each other and I found similar wounded creatures.
Our artforms expose our pain.
“..just another day in my reformed life, my unreformed mic…” +
We aren’t always victims in this game; we consent; we teach people how to treat us.
Women, especially women of colour have less access to power, material wealth, protection, and so have historically used sex as the bartering chip to gain access. This imbalance of sexes isn’t about hip hop. It is something that has been passed down from our respective nationalistic cultures. Latin America still remains one of the most sexist and misogynist places on the globe. I have lived this truth. I can be grateful for Toronto, in this respect. I would not have been able to make the gains I have here, back home.
What has been a suprising result in all this is that when these memories come down and out to the universe; they lose their power over me. If i had known 20 years ago that gettin this shit out would release the pressure, I would’ve started this a lot earlier.
There has been talk of it. The books or the encyclopedias of what my life has been, but it didn’t happen until now for a reason. I know that if I had chosen to document my life any sooner it would have presented itself in a very different tone.
“…..im tired of swingin on these ni**as, most of the ni**as can’t even fight…” +
Grimey has always been my go to place.
I can throw down.
I do not play.
Underlying this anger and bravado is a distinctly vulnerable place that I am only recently comfortable with showing.
Getting to this stage in my life has been hard ass work, with a supremely conscious effort.
My reality was that I was running on fumes never having really processed some of the very significant events in my life.
This is a process I have only chipped away at.
Real simple, that process to me; is called growing the fuk up.
“A poet’s mission is to make words do more work than they normally do, to make them work on more than one level” – Jay-Z, Decoded
The power in our stories is monumental. Something I have been unknowingly carrying on by living by the code of my culture. An understanding that really started to make sense to me in the last decade of my life.
On the b-side of the record for me, letting my reality play out to y’all has released the weight I was feeling holding on to them.
It’s like, “yo, here! take this shit and do what you want with it, but now its ours to share.”
Maybe not my direct experience, but exactly what it is: a story.
It’s no longer a feeling.
It is no longer a chip on my shoulder.
It is no longer anything I am gonna continue to recycle.
My word is bond…
is a beautiful thing.
And that some days it gets really fukin tiring being the bigger person; being the only one that remembers that my actions affect another human being. I continue to swallow huge heaps of pride and double standards as a woman and mother. My main peace of mind being that my child knows the truth, and respects and appreciates my hustle.
My parents have also seen firsthand what I have dealt with; they have been our ride or die’s, our safety net when my limitations and mental sanity got the best of me.
I wanted to get pregnant at 18.
My son was in no way a mistake or accident.
I gave up a baby at 16 years old. I let the reality of my life and the 2 men that were the could-have-been fathers at that point, scare me into a decision that has haunted me ever since.
My shame and regret has fueled my creative pain; fed my addictive behavior; bled out my fear to be loved. My loss then evolved into a greater need to be that mother, but those skeletons never stopped screaming and those scars never healed…
“I can’t keep runnin, I just gotta keep keen and cunnin’…” Pharcyde- Runnin
I had to learn to accept that all the travelling I had been doing, battling, doing shows, was a way of running from myself. Being a mother really hindered one of my best coping mechanisms. No more being gone til November.
In all my years of studying and immersing myself in the culture, in the reality that in anything worth living or dying for, you have to know where you came from before you can productively advance.
So, I continue reliving this herstory.
“…in the midst of all my success and failure, I’m just out here struggling, I guess that’s what happens in rappin when you’re in your muthafukin phryme…” +
The original formative stage of Hip Hop was less about leaving the ghetto and more about uplifting the environment and individuals within
I have had to find new possibilities within my city, within the six that holds my life’s stories in its subway’s veins and arteries.
I have allowed myself to fall in love all over, and over again.
“…my strength, my son, the star will be my resurrection, born in correction, all the wrong shit I did, he’ll lead a right direction…
…it’s mine, its mine, its mine, its mine…who’s world is this..”*
* quotes from Nas’ “The World Is Yours”
+quotes from Royce Da 5″9 & Dj Premier album “Phryme”
By Alicia Bunyan-Sampson | @queenjsampson
[Trigger warning: this poem deals with the subject of abortion]
the man in the suit entered the cube.
there were four women standing naked against the brick walls
and a child dangling from the flickering light on the ceiling
whose life is this?
‘ not mine ‘ the first women answered.
as she returned to him the small bits of happiness crumpled up in her pocket
she had stolen it from the smiling women next to her.
whose life is this?
the smiling women began to speak.
my love has always kept me trapped
trapped in my smiles
prisoner inside the empty walls of others
told daily that I would one day be touched.
what’s it like to be touched?
have you ever been touched before?
what does it feel like?
whose life is this?
the faceless women began to speak
when I had sex with him
i didn’t like it
she spoke slowly as she painted the floor with the blood pouring from her legs.
but I liked him
he made me laugh
and he thought I was pretty
I think after the first year
I learned to like some parts
how he kissed me
how attentive he was
he would always find new ways to make me feel special.
whose life is this?
the first women was mesmerized by the sleeping girl across from her
she was still in the beds they had given us
she wished she was her.
the sleep was the best part
it was not what she had given or allowed them to take that haunted them
but the memory
and what it meant.
she was blissfully unaware of the punishment and shame she would receive for her choices.
punishment so severe that she would quickly regret a choice that she believed in so deeply.
whose life is this?
the faceless women began to speak again
special means smart
special means more
special means prepared
so when my stomach began to grow
and I began to stumble
i did not feel special
so i had to terminate
and that is when the war began
the faceless women licked her fingers
i was now unclean
he hated me
and I hated me for making him hate me
we fell apart
this war was long.
whose life is this?
the child dangling from the flickering light stared intensely at the man in the suit
the man smiled and left the cube.
[Note from the Editor: Shout out to DJ Fingerprintz for making this playlist exclusively for The Ride or Die Project and much love to our Core Contributor Lady Noyz for arranging this link with her big bro!]
DJ Fingrprintz’s Lance Romance Playlist – No Requests…Gator Never Been ‘Bout No Requests…
The full playlist can be found here:
[This article was originally published on Lelu’s blog]
I think I am destined to fall in love with every human I meet. And yes, one can also fall into platonic love. That first obvious dawning of brilliant light inside their soul, similar to yours but unique at the same time. Witnessing their love for those around them and feeling utter delight when they extend that same love to you. They are bright, shiny, full of contagious new life, it’s only been three months but you would be their emergency contact and more in a heartbeat if need be. You were unaware there was room in your life for the unknown yet here they are, feeding parts of your soul with astounding precision and a vibrancy that leaves you captivated with each interaction. You had no idea there was even free space in your soul to fill. But they knew because they saw your naked spot and started coloring. All of this can take place inside a conversation. And on the rare occasion, inside a moment of eye contact. I live for this first step in the process of human interaction. It is one of my favorite things about being human.
From the start my love was strong, constant, unyielding. I made my first friend at the tender young age of five and I remember wanting nothing more than to be her friend forever. And so it was with everyone who entered my life thereafter. The trials never mattered to me. We were born to water each other’s hearts the best way we knew how. We were good at this. We kept us alive. From an early age I was prepared for many things: my baby teeth falling out, the knowledge that my schoolwork became more challenging with every grade, my crimson wave. What I was not prepared for however was the idea that loved ones were often temporary. My first experience with letting go happened during my first year attending a real school in Gr.11. Re-occurring bouts of social drama ended a friendship I had treasured for most of my life. Meanwhile I was in the midst of a rebirth. Graduating high school. Exiting my teen years. Why couldn’t I take her with me? I secretly mourned her absence for the next three years, reaching out whenever I could, feebly grasping at substance I could no longer find. Losing a good friend feels like a death of sorts, and for years I felt embarrassed at the thought of voicing those feelings, so I pushed them away. I hail from a family of lone wolves. My parental vessels journeyed from two different parts of the globe to fall in love and birth me. The friends they kept were few but worthy. I hopefully looked forward to that part of my life, however I was still not well-versed in the art of letting go. And so I pushed those feelings far away in hopes they would never find me. But they returned, this time with lessons.
My life is knit from a painfully long series of rebirths that have opened the floodgates to new acquaintances, family and friends. From being home schooled until mid-high school, to attaining my music teacher certificate at 16 years old, to my first serious relationship, to a jarring few years at university, to emerging into the Toronto art scene as a visual artist, to becoming an active member of the city’s artist community via The Remix Project, to experiencing my father’s swift exit from this world and all it came with, to discovering and marrying my soul-mate, and to eventually landing a job position I was proud to claim, my rebirths have spanned the boundaries of time and space. I have prepared for many chapters and entered many doorways, each with the genuine but borderline naive hope that these would finally be the humans I would be allowed to take with me through this world and the next. Wishful thinking perhaps, but a very possible reality in my eyes. I loved earnestly and passionately, utilizing resilient effort during the high points if not more during the lows, but even when separations occurred a heads-up was rarely on the table. I have lived on this planet for almost a quarter of a century, and have only recently gained closure as to the why of all the comings and goings that once seemed so mysteriously alarming at times.
Here is a list of my personal findings regarding why ourselves and others may fall short of our human connections. I additionally combined these with some pointers that may guide those looking to expand their human connection skills.
- Love without expectation. This can be trying and painful to learn, but will save you mounds of heartache once mastered.
- Many humans are simply not capable of feeling deeply. Their life experiences up to this point may not have nurtured their ability to feel beyond the surface, and they are simply unaware of how necessary this trait is in the grand scheme of relationships. If you are a vulnerable soul, a natural softy, celebrate that fact and use it to your advantage. You have the ability to connect with everyone you touch in an intimate way that very few can.
- Before the age of 25, and sometimes after it, most humans are still learning themselves, therefore many friendships/relationships during these years can be temporary. Being an old soul, this one would’ve helped me immensely had I realized it. Don’t expect timeless love from age mates during these years. At this point in life, most humans are still shuffling their priorities through a balancing scale.
- Most humans are seasons. Someone you need in one season may not necessarily be who you need in your next season. If you look back on your life you may find that you were sent exactly who you needed for your various life phases. Isn’t it amazing how that works?
- You can feel the world for someone who does not understand your love language, and who may never care enough to learn your love language = not everyone who likes you will know how to love you. So it goes. Rid yourself of all emotional blinders and don’t expect an equal partnership, unless of course you encounter the rare occasion where they are willing to learn how to love you. Protect your heart.
- Not everyone who likes you will stay. This is okay. Most of the time this one will have nothing to do with you. Circumstances beyond your control may be fluctuating very differently in their life that cause them to drift and/or leave. My father’s death gave me my first real understanding of this concept.
- Some humans are simply not a good fit for you (anymore). Whether they no longer benefit your growth, or they repetitively exhibit destructive behavior patterns/personality handicaps that they refuse to acknowledge and work on, it may be time to lovingly sever the umbilical cord and keep stepping. These can be the most difficult type of humans to let go of because they’ve been around for a while and are usually unaware of all the heart trauma you’ve put up with on account of them.
- Coping mechanisms for letting go may include: keeping ex-loved ones at arm’s length in reality and on social media, listening to specific albums and songs that remind you what it’s like to be in their presence again (which can help to make you more comfortable with the fact that they’re gone), and venting to a highly trusted confidant about the fact that you’re not coping with letting go as well as you’d like to. Heal up buttercup, take your time. You can and will love again. The world needs you to.
- Some humans (ourselves included) need space to grow apart from you and the regular crowd. This is okay. Love them enough to let them go. They may return to you all the better for it.
- One of my absolute favorite quotes by the great Maya Angelou: Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time. Love smart, love sensibly. Let the idea of love remain trustworthy.
- True love works for us, not against us. Let no confused spirit, no trifling simpleton, no wayward human tarnish this God-filled gift. True love is a gift to be given freely to all who thirst for it. Ask about it.
And there lies my personal account of a sensitive soul, letting go, and all the beautiful, melancholy mishmash that accompanies this glorious human connection we are constantly wound up in. It was vital that I arrive at a place of serenity and gratitude for everyone I’ve loved, lost, and found again in order to share the truths mentioned here. I eventually embraced my heart’s title of over-lover and pegged a tribe worthy of all the appreciation I shower them with. When newly acquired acquaintances are a darn near perfect fit for my heart it still gets attached (unbeknownst to me), except these days I never regret it and any lingering separation pain doesn’t ail me like it used to. I’m no longer afraid of change. I’m no longer afraid of letting go. I’m no longer afraid of the unknown. All the humans that accompanied the many seasons of my life helped shape the mind and soul of this letter you now read. And that concept, in and of itself, is a wondrous thing.
Dear Recovering Undercover Over-Lover,
We are our own kind.