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Story Time: The Price of Being Conscious

It’s a strange thing being “conscious.” I don’t generally consider myself conscious becauseof the connotation. For example, I was trying to decide whether I was going to address the Trans Allyanti trans issue or the Lemonade mini movie–which I still haven’t seen. Initially, I decided on the trans issue because going out of my way to give any performer my attention… it just isn’t that important. The trans issue, on the other hand, I haven’t addressed beyond my disgust over the new Miss Jenner’s claiming the woman of the year award. Yesterday, I had an epiphany: the trans issue doesn’t need my voice. Of course the issue is important, I simply feel like especially because I have that bias as it pertains to one having been born a woman and having to suffer the several indignities that come with going through puberty as an adolescent girl, I feel like speaking from my perspective isn’t where it should be. I remember a little over a year ago when the Geek Street Radio crew were preparing to do an episode addressing LGBTQ* issues. We didn’t have enough representation and I felt uncomfortable being listed as a primary speaker. It’s like when white people speak on the Black experience. Even as allies, they’re speaking from a place of privilege and haven’t had to deal with the indignities that come with being Black. The same reason Black people are often offended by White people who appoint themselves champions of the Black community. I didn’t want to be one of those… and I still don’t.

Here’s what I will say: The issue is important. Trans gendered people deserve the same dignities and rights as cisgengered people.Trans No One Cared Creating legislation that makes it easy for ignorant people to discriminate against transgender men and women is in direct opposition to the values that are supposed to be dear to the hearts and minds of all Americans. It’s unconstitutional and shouldn’t be allowed to stand. Once upon a time Black people were legally considered less than human. We’re still fighting for our equal rights, so what’s adding one more set of people to the list of communities requiring equal recognition under the law? How I… how any of us feels about people who diverge from the accepted norm is irrelevant.

In separate but related news…

I imagine that people who don’t care about anything are that kind of happy that everyone is hoping to acquire. The more I learn, the longer I live, the more I experience stuff, the further from happiness I feel myself getting. I honestly don’t understand how people manage to see other people’s struggle. I can’t see people dealing with injustice without at least wanting to join the protest. I want to be one of those people who can just live life completely unaffected by the suffering of others. I guess some things simply weren’t meant to be. I’ll just be one of those caring people who gets angry and impassioned on other’s behalf. It’s why I Do More & Require Better.

Story Time: Hood Mentality

It’s been a long time since I lived in the hood. Even when I lived in the hood, it wasn’t theG.Ma's House kind of hood that I had to look around and feel some kind of way about. I lived in an area of Brooklyn with mostly Caribbean home owners. They took pride in what was theirs; swept the sidewalks in front of their stoops, picked up litter and trash, made sure the block was clean after the garbage truck passed. The area I went to school in on the other hand was a different story. The common theme–the mentality–was “no one cares.” It’s the hood. It’s supposed to be dirty. People occasionally complained about how infrequently the garbage was collected or how the so-called street sweepers only wished the dirt around, but they never seemed to care enough to not drop trash on the ground in the first place.

I wish this was going to be one of those simple pieces where I point my finger at an issue, give a brief history lesson, and provide a clean solution. Unfortunately, this is one of those times where the issue goes so much deeper than simply “clean it up.” There’s something about the hood mentality that makes everything about being from the hood the kind of struggle that even hood people don’t really understand. It’s goes Aristotle and Kant deep. It’s knowing that the hood is set up to keep people down, thinking you’re beating the system because you’re “living well” in the hood, then seeing how people live outside the hood and having one of those #awkwardmomentwhen. It’s trying to describe how deep it is only to find that Words Don’t Do It Justice. Let’s see if I can put this into perspective.

ChevronI stopped for gas at a Chevron the other night. I knew I was in the hood, and as such I was appropriately cautious and carefully observed my surroundings. I was with friends, one of whom is an equally–if not more so–hood smart young man. He pumped the gas, I surveilled. There was a woman begging at the door to the convenience store and one or two other gas station patrons. What was I most bothered by? That all but 2 pumps were fully functional. It’s the hood. There are supposed to be poor people, drug addicts, and cantankerous arguing patrons. What I don’t accept is that a multi million dollar corporation would allow it’s gas pumps to remain in disrepair or be left empty for more than a few hours. East Point, GA is no less worthy of services than Buckhead. Corporations shouldn’t be allowed to treat their patrons differently just because of a zip code. I’ll go deeper.

When I mentioned that I was irritated, my friend assumed that it was because of the Homeless at Chevronbeggar by the door asking him for change repeatedly. I don’t think I explained then, but I’m not generally bothered by people begging. A closed mouth won’t get fed, whether what the body needs is a meal, a roof, or their favorite chemical alterant. I’d rather her be begging than out stealing or hurting herself for what she needs. I don’t know what circumstances lead her–or any other person–to that position, but it probably wasn’t part of their life’s plan. I have a hard time believing that anyone grows up striving to be homeless, a drug addict, or mentally ill. It happens, but I highly doubt that it was planned. I also wasn’t bothered by being in the hood. I come from a hood that probably isn’t very different from the hoods of Georgia, or any other hood for that matter. When I did explain that I was upset about the state of the gas station, his first reaction was to remind me that the hood mentality dictates that the people who live there don’t consider themselves to be worthy of “nice things.”

So here’s the thing: it’s hard to believe that you’re deserving of things like a fully functioning gas station when everything in the social construct tells you that because you didn’t get the good job you were told you’d get after college or after serving in whichever branch of the Armed Forces… because the job you did get barely pays enough to keep a roof over your head which also means your income is low and thus a you’re in a low tax bracket. Less tax contribution–by means of property taxes, not income–means less service (i.e. road maintenance, garbage collection, public school funding, etc.) The lesser services means the hood children don’t have access to the same standard of education that other children in more affluent neighborhoods do; larger class sizes taught by underpaid, stressed out, inattentive teachers… and even if the children get into college, the cycle often continues. But wait! There’s more. What happens to the kids who don’t make it into college? What happens to a child who has one or two working parents who are too busy trying to make ends meet and keep the utilities on? What happens to the kids who basically have to raise themselves because the adults in their lives are absent? What happens to the kid who only gets attention when they act out? What happens to the kid who gets convinced that his life isn’t valuable? What happens?

No one cares.

Do More. Require Better.

The Letter Series: Religious Bullies, Keep Your Jesus.

Let me start by saying that I do not claim any particular religious faith as my own, nor to I particularly approve of any organized religion. I wouldn’t consider myself to be an atheist, as even that requires an acceptance of theism that I am not willing to participate in. I don’t have anything against folks who have accepted a deity or follow a specific religious doctrine, Like Jesus Bull Shitit simply isn’t for me. Now that we have that out of the way, you’ll understand a little better why I’m particularly annoyed by folks who are religious insisting that scrolling passed a picture of Jesus will guarantee my seat in hell, or that clicking “Like” on a post will bring blessings unfathomable.

People, the last time I checked, Blessings, come from God, not clicks. Your daring me to scroll isn’t helping to improve my perspective as far as your religion is concerned. Neither is your challenging my love for Jesus. Guess what: while I think that if he existed he was a good man, I don’t accept him or any other man as my “Lord and Savior.” I don’t think my dressing a certain way will please or displease Allah, because if he’s as omnipotent as you want me to believe, he even sees me naked in the shower. There’s nothing about me, my thoughts, my feelings, and most importantly my beliefs that he doesn’t know without me having to anything. Thus, if he is omnipotent, I can scroll passed with Jesus as my savior, or click as a blaspheming sinner and be fine either way. That click, comment, or share isn’t about Jesus, it’s about you; its about making you and others like you feel better about your faith.

Dear Religious Bullies,

Here’s a thought: if your faith was as strong as you want people on social media to believe it is, you wouldn’t need support from social media… the same way I think God doesn’t need our support… wait, let me explain.

I believe that if the Gods (yes, all of them) do exist, their power waxes and wanes with the strength of the faith of their believers. So of course, if I am being honest, God doesn’t require our support, God requires believers. I imagine it’s like they’re all singing that song…

They need us to need them… because Gods forbid we find our way through this life… andTo Hell with Them apparently through social media without them. Gods forbid we learn to have faith in ourselves and each other. I grew up hearing “Si Dios quiere” from my elders at the end of almost every sentence. “I’ll see you tomorrow… if God allows.” “If God allows, you’ll have a good day.” God doesn’t like ugly. As if an omniscient being really sits around plotting, planning, and paying attention to our petty human Facebook posts. Or who we’re friends with. Or who we share our beds with. Or who we sell flowers to… who’s bathroom we use. There are people starving, wars being fought, and you religious types think using your twisted understanding of a book written by men to treat God’s other children with scorn. But I guess you only have to follow the teachings you like right? “Love thy neighbor” came with a footnote that explained all the times you didn’t have to love thy neighbor. Somewhere in The Book it says “If you don’t click Like and share, you’ll go to hell.”

You’re all bullies. You need to take the time to learn the teachings of your so-called Savior. Maybe then I’ll take your religions seriously… because you followers, you make me laugh with your feigned piety. Keep your Jesus. I think the “real” one would take issue with his name being used in vain… or something along those lines. In short

Do More. Require Better.

Indignantly defiant,

Reign

Story Time: Reign Writes – Me As A Writer

ShadowShadow Bolt Reigns, my adventurous puppy, gives me something other than myself to focus on. He forces me out of my head and away from the things that keep me mired in negativity. He nudges whatever he can reach, jumps onto my lap, tap dances on my back or chest (ouch!), and licks my face until I get up to fill whichever need he has, which sometimes is just a few moments of attention. Even now as I write this piece, it’s as if he’s thinking “She writes, therefore I must nudge.” All he’s doing is what comes to him naturally. He’s probably just being completely self-centered without a single thought of my actual feelings or my needs, but he has saved my life and my psyche at least once a week ever since the day he showed up in my life. He’s the  reason I’m still here to talk to you. He keeps me Doing More because he Requires my best.

On any given day, I have at least 5 pieces in progress. I start writing, I lose my thought, I go off on tangents, and end up either deleting whole chunks of text or copying and pasting into new pieces to be worked on when my mind finds its way back to a steady train of thought. This is my version of writer’s block. I have so much to say about so many things; police abuse of power, the attack in Pakistan, the attacks everywhere, being Black in a world that seems to hate Black people, depression, my depression, my family, my friends, the media, the election, the American people, lies and liars, my desperate wish that superheroes were real… so much and so many things I want to talk about, and I can’t Do any of It Justice because the Words are all there at the same time.

Right now, I’m mostly bothered by the way circumstances have changed me. I never wanted to see things through colored lenses. In spite of the kids making fun of my dark skin, the little white boys in Virginia who called me a nigger, the kids in Costa Rica calling me “elote negra” which I didn’t actually understand at the time, but I knew it wasn’t meant as a compliment… the scary big girl in my first predominantly black school saying that I wasn’t special; that I was “just anotha nigga like the rest of us” I’ve always wanted to believe in the bigger picture. You know, the one that sees that the reason the system is set up this way is because it works better for the top 10% if the rest of us are busy fighting and disagreeing with each other, we aren’t paying attention to them screwing us over with crappy wages, the ever-increasing cost of living, and the never-ending list of drugs and products meant to mask the symptoms of the very curable diseases they infected us with.

I just heard a great line–one of many–on Jerry McGuire:

First class is what’s wrong buddy. It used to mean a better meal, now it means a better life.

Have you seen that commercial with Jennifer Aniston?

For me, its a picture of everything that’s wrong with the world. This rich white lady’s Greedy whonightmare is flying on a plane that doesn’t have a shower or bar, while the rest of us are worrying about jobs that we might lose if we take a vacation, and that’s if the job pays enough to afford more than a staycation. I’ve never been a fan of Jennifer Aniston, and this ad, while it might be just another job for her, does nothing to sway my favor. The disconnect between the rich and the poor is beyond vast, and so much deeper than skin… but the tools of division are strong; too strong to ignore. So now I see things through my brown eyes. I experience the world through my skin, through my gender, through my heterosexual privilege. I see the biases. I see the isms. I see the media ignoring dead Pakistanis. I see a reality TV star using the fear and insecurities of ignorant Americans to ensure viewership for his next show. I see it all, and am overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of how well it is working.

I want to talk about it all, but I can barely focus on just one thing because it’s all connected. I feel like I’m not doing the other issues justice by not addressing all of them. It’s like I’m betraying my on mantra by only taking one issue at a time. I want to Do More and Require Better of my writing, and myself, because limiting myself to a world painted various shades of brown and white isn’t enough… and I’m still tired of the black perspective. The world is a big colorful place, and there’s a lot more wrong with it than race relations. I just wish I could Say more too.

Do More. Require Better. It’s not just about you. It’s about me and everything I do here too.

Fear: A Great Motivator

Fear. False Evidence Appearing Real. I’m afraid for the future. I’m afraid of the kinds of changes we’re going through. I’m afraid I’m never going to get Shadow obedience trained. I’m afraid that the Zombie Apocalypse is going to be a real thing and that too many stupid people will survive because all the smart people are going about their lives unwilling to consider the possibilities. I’m afraid I’ll never achieve this “together” level that I’m supposed to be getting life. I’m afraid that I’ll never be satisfied. I’m afraid of being afraid.

The bombings in Brussels yesterday changed the color of this piece. See, the thing about Media Loves Isisterrorists and terrorism is that it’s primary purpose is to strike fear into the hearts of men. So as afraid as I am of so many things, when these attacks happen, my defiant nature kicks in and instead of staying afraid, I want to prove to those people that their antics didn’t work on me. I want to take a train blindfolded with my headphones on and sit right next to a suspicious bag. I want to fly out to Afghanistan with all of my femininity and girldom wearing a tank top, form fitting jeans, and flip flops, rent a car and drive through residential areas blasting old Beatles, Michael Jackson, and whichever local revolutionary underground rapper they’d want to silence. I want to tell the TSA and the NSA and the alphabet soup of agencies to find new jobs because their services are no longer needed and we won’t be letting acts of terrorism direct how we live our lives and treat our people. Much like how my negative experiences with racists hasn’t made me hate white people, I refuse to let these extremists scare me out of living. The only fear I have now is of being fearful… and zombies… because F*ck zombies.

I feel like the suggestions of adding security checks before people even get to the airport plays right into their agenda… Whoever “they” really are. I remember the scenes in Swordfish with John Travolta’s character explaining how  perpetrating acts of Fear... and Spidersterrorism is important ad necessary to the world… or at least maintaining the American way of life. He justifies killing tens, hundreds and thousands of children in the name of maintaining the American status quo. The objective is to keep people afraid to keep us in line. Fear: a Great motivator. Have you ever heard someone say “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” but then they turn around and freak out over a spider? That’s what is being done to us. Drumpf is out there pointing at imaginary spiders. The terrorists are out there breeding wolf spiders, sending them to highly populated areas, and detonating their egg sacks and dispersing thousands of tiny spiders like miniature eight-legged fear bombs. They spread all kinds of fear for all kinds of reasons and we give in to it. They do it to keep us in line, they do it to keep us distracted, they do it to get us to let them do things to us that we’d otherwise revolt for. They’ve been doing it for centuries. The Romans did it with public executions. Slave owners did it to their “white” slaves. Bush did it with his infamous, imaginary “weapons of mass destruction”… and we the people fall for it every time. We the people ignore the voices of reason in our heads and give into the proverbial spiders. Every. Time.

Supposedly, the worst thing that could happen is death. Last time I checked, all of the religious sects Underdoghave happy places to go for the good people and unpleasant places to go for the bad ones. Well, if they’re right, and I’m considered good, what do we have to worry about? If I’m considered bad, with all there is to be afraid of here, going to any version of hell would be just like being here, so what are we afraid of? And if I’m right, and heaven and hell are created here on earth, then death might just be a welcomed release from all the damn stress, anxiety, and of course: fear. Further, to put the icing on the proverbial cake, death is the great equalizer; it will happen to all of us eventually… so get scared for wha?

I’m choosing to ignore my fear in favor of hope. Bravery is being afraid and choosing to act anyway. Let’s be brave. Let’s #feeltheBern. Let’s protect the future by doing what we need to do today to protect it. Let’s vote so the fear mongers of the world don’t get to lead us into another unnecessary war here or abroad. Let’s stand together again in favor of continuing to effect the change we believed in when we voted for Obama. Send me links and ideas to get Shadow to o back to being the obedient little pup-panion that’s I’ve come to depend on. Let’s pay attention to all of the possibilities… Let’s not allow ourselves to become like zombies; mindlessly dragging ourselves around giving in to our baser instincts and our penchant for instant gratification. I know that if we can do these things, we’ll all have a better chance at achieving that “together” thing that we have all claimed to be working towards and that even if I am never satisfied, I might at least be able to get close.

…oh, and let’s Do More & Require Better.

Story Time: Handling Depression, A Personal Note

Some of the first movies I remember watching as a child were Lord of the Flies, The Power of One, Sarafina… and my least favorite of all, Roots. Add to that the Women of Brewster place and The Color Purple, and you might think you have an idea about the direction I’m going with this, but I assure you, you’re probably way off. I’ve been programmed, and for the most part, the programming has worked. I believe in fighting for the greater good and doing for others for the sole purpose of doing the right thing. Unfortunately, my programming has come at a great price; all I can ever see are battles that need fighting, suffering, pain, strife, and all the unpleasantness that this world has to offer. My programming set the framework for depression. In spite of my beliefs and unimaginable capacity for caring, hope, and faith that things can get better, I just don’t actually see it. For me, the world is a sad, scary, painful place to be. In short: I have an uncharacteristically negative outlook for someone who believes so much in the greater good.

Wanna know something you probably won’t believe? When I lived alone, I only watched the evening news on Mondays so I could see the 5-day forecast. Otherwise, it was either entertainment or studying… whichever project would fill my time, build my skills, and lift my spirits. The thought was: There’s only ever bad news.

The day I started writing this–November 21st, 2014–I snapped at my mother. I knew I hurt her, but I just couldn’t let her say anything else. I was just so far from being in a frame of mind where I could parse or compartmentalize information. See, she was about to tell me about yet another serial killer; one more piece of bad news to take root in my mind and add to the already fertile breeding ground for more sadness. I was beyond tired of it, and I really couldn’t take much more. My depression had me in a choke hold. It was as if my mental garden had been overrun with negativity plants choking out the positive ones. All of the nutrients and fuel that could have been used to fertilize whichever remaining positive fruit-bearing plants was going to the negative ones. I’m stuck in a battle with myself; between my true nature, and the nature of my mind.

The worst part of this is that I’m not the only one who has these kinds of thoughts and feelings. While some people might think “at least you aren’t alone.” I wish I was. I wish I was the only one on the planet feeling this way because it would at least mean that other people were happy… or at least not the kind of unhappy that I am. It would mean that there would be one less battle that needed fighting, one fewer group of people that needed defending… one less thing for me to watch other people suffer through. I think that last part is the had part for everyone to deal with.

In the last year and change, I’ve acknowledged my depression publicly and taken steps toward mental health. This process has required discussions with people who have been supportive and understanding, and many more who in fairness might have thought they were being helpful, but in fact were really not.  They did the silver lining thing…

The Power of Empathy! Everyone should watch this and take note 🙂 It’s not so much about sympathizing with people and making them feel better with things or with stories to please their ego. It’s about getting to the core of things with people. Connecting with them, feeling what they are feeling, relating to them and bringing no judgement into the situation at all. Next time you are the ear that listens, provide words that don’t fulfill an ego/mind story and see how much of a difference it makes for the other person. 🙂

Posted by Collective Evolution on Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Something I found to be particularly difficult on my worst days: I couldn’t think of my having survived another day as a good thing. So when she said “Everyone doesn’t have it easy… At least you aren’t homeless or sick” I couldn’t help but wish for sickness to suddenly take over my body and take me off this plane, hopefully in such a way that my family could profit from my demise. In the middle of a conversation I was fantasizing about my own death. The possibility of dying gave me hope. I highly doubt this was anyone who was there for that conversation’s intent, but it became the reason I wouldn’t give up… because giving up would mean not being put in any situations to get a gainful kind of sick or have any unfortunate accidents that would allow my death to accomplish what I couldn’t in life. Because: silver lining.

So what’s this really all about? Its about understanding that depression is a lot of things with a lot of causes and can’t necessarily be Anxiety Realitysolved with a positive thought and a hug. If you’re in a position to help someone who is depressed, the best thing you can do is listen and acknowledge their struggle. Especially if you have experience with depression in your own life, your success story might help, but it might also not. Your frustration with not being able to “fix” your friend pales in comparison to how the  depression is making them feel. If a depressed person trusts you with their struggle, their feelings, their anxiety, their fears, their willingness to end it all, then you have been trusted with that person’s life and how you treat them and everything they have trusted you with is a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You’ve been given a great power, and thus a great responsibility. If you aren’t up to the task, then be honest: say that you don’t know what to say, that you wish there was something you could do to help…. say nothing at all and just be there.  You never really know how deep in the darkness a person is, or what that person would be willing to do to solve the problem for themselves. Acknowledge and validate their feelings. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you, the feelings are real to them. They don’t need another voice echoing the insecurities already ricocheting off the walls of their mind. I know I’ve never forgotten the hurtful things that were said to me, and I’ve struggled to let go of the hurtful things I imagined. Depression makes reality hard to deal with.

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Do More. Require Better.

The WRATH of Ruthless: On birthdays, I double up

Two that’s right TWO episodes of The Wrath of Ruthless podcast. First up, an episode on Trump, Journalists, Clinton, the nanny state, and film.

 

Second

An episode on Blackface, gay rumors, and identity culture.

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Click the photo to go straight to the store!