Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Taking A Knee, Rising Above Hate

"Girl, sit down, shut up, and sing these songs for our entertainment”

“Boy, sit down (stand up), shut up, and take these concussions for our entertainment”

This seems to be the underlying connotation behind a plethora of angry and hate filled rants against artists and entertainers of color who have used their platform to peacefully protest and/or bring awareness to the current (and unbroken) tide of racial and social injustice. Beyoncé, a nationally recognized and acclaimed music artist and Black woman, addressed police brutality in her video “Formation” and during her Superbowl 2016 Halftime Performance. With raised fists, black leather, afro puffs, and more #BlackGirlMagic than one can handle, Beyoncé and her performers conveyed a powerful message on the football field. For me, the powerful fists in the air were reminiscent of the 1968 Olympics Black Power/Human Rights salute led by Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the medal ceremony.

Most recently, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem in protest of social injustices, police brutality, and transgressions against minorities and People of Color in the United States. While Kaepernick has received support (a large number being Veterans), he has received backlash and a barrage of hate in the form of being called the ‘N’ word and having many wish him injury, team termination, and even death. There is nothing patriotic in tearing down your fellow man with racist slurs and threats for peacefully protesting injustices, while simultaneously denying him or her rights the very Constitution one claims to adhere to and respect gives them. There are certain voices in this country that endure attempts to be silenced when they go against the status quo; a status quo created and perpetuated by a prejudice, patriarchal system. The angry focus (used as a distractive technique) is placed on the protest. However, it’s not the method that is the problem. The problem for many is the message, in and of itself, of racial and social injustice that motivated the call for action altogether.

It is interesting that both demonstrations this year took place in the realm of football. The NFL is considered "America's Sport", but it took 50 years from its inception for the first Black quarterback to be named a starter for an entire season, and in 2003 it had to establish the Rooney Rule to ensure minority coaches were considered for high-level coaching positions. I say the NFL is as good a platform as any to peacefully protest and raise awareness.

A protest against injustice can be one, single voice or it can be thousands lifting their voices; but in all things, the call for justice will never be drowned out by hate.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dating: Love in the Time of 'Two Strappin'

Dating today feels a lot like the scene in 22 Jump Street with the backpacks and whether Schmidt should one strap or two strap it at the new school. The majority of new generation, “hip” kids were two strappin’ it while Jenko was maintaining the one strap because that’s what he had always known to be the cool, customary way. He viewed succumbing to two straps as peer pressure. For me, personally, I feel like I’m trying to one strap it in a world slowly being taken over by two strappin’: I’m trying to hold onto and embark on an old fashioned notion of dating and courting in a dating world more and more overrun with swiping, messaging, hooking up, emotional unavailability, “ghosting”, commitment-phobia and d*ck pics. (And anyone trying to send those can keep them tightly locked away in their two strapped backpack.)

Guys used to call a girl up and make plans for a date and, you know, follow through. At this point I’ve been ghosted and stood up so many times, I’m not positive I don’t look like the Mr. Krabs meme…

Relationships weren’t just “situationships” struggling to get off the ground. If your connection, interests, future goals, and attraction are in line, doesn’t the natural progression lead to a committed relationship? Does anyone even ‘go steady’ anymore? I’m talking that sweet, Letterman jacket type of exclusivity. Hell, I’d settle for a man’s Members Only jacket. It blows my mind how many discouraged and frustrated love-longing people are just trying to stay afloat in this new generation of dating. If this is the Boss level in this crazy part of life, it’s doing a mighty fine job of being difficult as hell.

Online dating often opens single people up to the world, almost literally, which includes a plethora of potential love interests and no real effort necessarily has to be put into truly getting to know one specific person. While the ability to “date other people” has always been present, most people today never even get out of the “talking”/messaging stage. So much time is often wasted when one or both parties are, in reality, just waiting for the next best swipe. However, recently I took a small poll and found that many lucky hearts have found love and companionship through online dating. They honestly were just not sure how else to go about meeting someone else when many online dating websites allow you to narrow down your wants and aversions to the smallest detail.

Touché, online dating. One strap point for you.

It’s crazy that in a world where deep down everyone truly needs and wants companionship, a lot of people treat it like the Kryptonite of the universe. And while my old fashioned views may no longer be the popular way of dating, I refuse to settle and will hold onto them like a former popular jock with a one strapped backpack.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Hole In The World

For many, there is a hole in the world today.

The past few days have been incredibly heartbreaking, and while possessing a nightmare-like quality seemingly too horrific to be true, the tragedies and loss are very much real.

Early Sunday morning, 49 victims were slain, and 53 wounded, during a mass shooting at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, FL. The families and friends of the victims, along with the world, are in a state of shock that such evil and hate could exist inside of one individual to take the lives of so many. I realized today that many of my friends and acquaintances nearby had friends that were killed in Orlando. I cannot begin to fully comprehend the pain hundreds are feeling right now. I cried from my soul reading the last texts of Eddie Justice to his mother in his final moments. My heart broke and the tears flowed as I read the words of a son letting his mother know he loved her, as he also noted his imminent death. I can’t even begin to conceive of the frantic and horrified feeling Mina Justice felt in that moment knowing she couldn’t be with her child to protect him and shield him from the darkness of the world.  

Late Friday night Christina Grimmie was shot and killed by a crazed gunman while meeting with fans and signing autographs. Grimmie was a budding star with a dream, passion, talent and so much potential yet to be tapped. Her last video message to her fans was full of joy and excitement. Her life was senselessly taken while she was doing what made her happy and complete.

Today, a beautiful friend lost her husband. I truly wish I had the words that could take away the pain I can’t even begin to know.

Life is hard. Life is pain. Life is a gift. Life is short. So I will love. Hard. Even when it's not reciprocated, I will do my best to send immense light and love out into this cruel, hard world. To the grieving, the lonely, the heartbroken, and those who have lost hope: You are loved.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

'A Woman's Worth'

On my birthday a few years ago I was the victim of road rage. Some young, white male in a big truck that made obnoxiously loud noises was not happy that I’d needed to get over, in front of him, into what was apparently “his lane”. He proceeded to ride my bumper while honking, gesturing, taking pictures, and flipping me off. Things escalated when I realized he was following my turns and lane shifts for a few miles. I was shaken enough to call the police, to which I received the response of “well what did you do on the road to make him angry?” from a male officer. I was so taken aback and disturbed, on top of an already traumatic experience, that I literally had to look down at my phone to register that this was, in fact, reality. I wanted to sardonically respond that the officer must be a hit at domestic violence calls, but I knew better. And therein lies the problem: women having to practically walk on eggshells in society as to not disrupt the chord of patriarchal fragility. Sometimes women are able to walk away from the circumstances somewhat unscathed, and other times we are physically, mentally, and emotionally wounded and scarred by the actions and ramifications. This includes a lack of justice.

This morning I read the heart wrenching and vulnerable words of a Stanford rape victim. She had to witness her rapist, Brock Allen Turner, initially found guilty of three counts of sexual assault and facing 14 years in state prison, instead attain a lenient six month county jail and probation sentence from judge Aaron Persky because “he feared a longer sentence would have a ‘severe impact’” on this young, white male with Olympic aspirations. But isn’t experiencing the severe impact of jail time the point when talking about a predator rapist like Turner?

And you know what else? I’m sure the victim has aspirations too. Aspirations to not go through life unable to sleep, wondering what would have happened had the two cyclists not intervened. Aspirations of only sharing positive, uplifting news with her parents instead of bracing them for the news that she had been raped and violated by a stranger behind a dumpster. Aspirations of maintaining a clean bill of health instead of anxiously waiting for HIV and other STD results. Aspirations to not be raped and then subsequently poked and prodded both physically and metaphorically by doctors, nurses, and then opposing counsel. I could go on and on about the victim’s aspirations, trauma, and the severe impact this rape has had on her, but in the eyes of the judge and judicial system, which failed her, all of those things apparently paled in comparison to the well-being of the rapist.

I cried as I read the words of a daughter who tried to stay strong for her parents; a big sister who, despite her ordeal, was focused on her baby sister’s welfare; a girlfriend who didn’t want to break her boyfriend’s heart; a fellow woman who recognized that her assault probably saved other potential victims. I find it paradoxical that the same female bodies that bring life into the world can be viewed with so little regard, and often contempt.

Our bodies are not open season for rapists.
Our reproductive organs are not the details on legislation and laws to be passed by male government officials.
Our bodies, when violated, deserve more justice than a vandalized building or automobile.

I want to cry with this woman. I want to go kickboxing with this woman. I want to sit and drink tea with this woman in complete silence or complete belligerence. I want her to know that she is brave and that I am proud of her and am here for her. We may never meet, but I will always lift her up and wish her well.


Friday, March 11, 2016

'Under My Black Skin' ~Kimster G. (Original Poem 3/11/16)

'Under My Black Skin' ~Kimster G. (Original Poem 3/11/16)

Under my black skin what do you see?
A person, a label, a construct of me?

Appropriated and broken down like a diagram,
Love what I do but not who I am.

The air is thick and heavy with the permeation of hate.
In this surreal reality, what will it take to abate?

Profanities, insults and tear gas hurled,
Gasping for breath on the ground, in the fetal position curled.

Hated, loathed, denied our power,
We are entering into the darkest hour.

You loathe ‘Black Lives Matter’ because it shouts the truth,
Rather ignore the bodies of unarmed youth.

We lift every voice and sing from our lungs.
We're more than just stereotypes of hoodies and guns.

We say our lives matter, some refute it’s a joke.
On our own words of power we try not to choke.

It shouldn’t be difficult to evolve and progress,
But mobs at rallies show a penchant to regress.

If the calm is this condition’s final form,
We’re all in for one hell of a storm.

Under my black skin what do you see?
An equal, a fighter, the strength in me?


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Beyoncé: The Power of A Voice

You know you that B* when you cause all this conversation” ~Beyoncé, ‘Formation’ 

Truer words have never been spoken. A black woman having the “audacity” to use her platform as an artist in both video and performance to raise awareness and call attention to a climate of police brutality was met with seething fury. I’ve seen comment threads now calling Beyoncé every deplorable name under the sun. Interestingly enough, white male performers for decades have used their artistic platform in the same manner, long before Beyoncé, in the form of celebrating the Confederate flag (i.e. Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynrd, David Allan Coe, Hank Williams Jr, etc.) But the Confederate Flag was dismissed from being a symbol of hate and violence to simply a figure of history that deserved honorable mention. The Black Panther Party, however, when embodied in Beyonce’s performance, is dismissed from being advocates of Black Civil Rights, instead falling under the gross mischaracterization of being figures of hate, violence, and “reverse racism”. (A phrase used as a defensive deflection by those who benefit from a systemic advantage based on race, who desire to prove that People of Color don’t truly have it that bad and are not the only ones put at a disadvantage or targeted because of their race.)

Saturday Night Live aired a hilarious skit a week after the release of the “Formation” video entitled, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black”. The skit depicted the not so exaggerated reaction of whites to the “Formation” video, uncomfortable with Beyoncé touching on a history of systemic racism, displaying her blackness in all of its “Who Run the World? Girls!” glory. Most white people were comfortable when she was just singing about generic topics of love, single life and being a “naughty girl”, but the moment she addressed a relevant topic of systemic racism and police brutality (not anti-police, mind you), she was denigrated by certain members of society and is being boycotted by some police unions nationwide. The same unions I don’t recall protesting any of the various past KKK rallies across the country. The accusation is that her song “Formation” and performance advocated violence against police. The NYPD is even going as far as wanting Beyoncé to publically apologize for what they consider an “Anti-Cop performance” and go into detail about the real meaning.

The irony and hypocrisy is that those who are angered over what they view as a misrepresentation of the majority of police officers in the media, are the same ones who simultaneously bash the Black Lives Matter Movement as a hate group comprised of “thugs”, all while remaining deliberately obtuse to the true meaning of and need for Black Lives Matter. Deflections such as “All lives matter!” are cried and accusations of self-segregation are hurled into a conversation much larger than just Beyonce’s performance. But somehow opponents of her message are attempting to use her as a scapegoat for a negative social dynamic that has been present for decades. In fact, Senior Justice Writer Shaun King wrote a detailed and in-depth article about Blacks taking the heat for crimes against cops committed by whites. I feel like there are many waiting with bated breath to see what Beyonce’s personal response to all of this will be. Amid the police boycotts and uproar, outside of her upcoming, almost sold out Formation Tour and her charitable initiative #BeyGood fundraising for children suffering from the Flint Water Crisis, Beyoncé herself has been relatively quiet. Regardless of what happens next, I thank artists like Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar for raising their voices.