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I wanna go home.

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When someone you love, loves.

Long distance love is hard. It’s caring for people in ways you can’t ask to be thanked for and making peace with how much their absence will affect your joy. It’s finding the familiar in all the stages you’ve missed—a constant that makes it so that there is, hopefully, always space for you, even when their lives are so different and their behaviors so unrecognizable. It’s meeting their new loves, learning their new habits and accepting the new order of priorities they have chosen to acknowledge.

I have known and loved my friend Jay for over 15 years and going to India for her wedding was the first time we have seen each other in 12. She continues to laugh like she invented funny and the sincerity of her affections is still so precious. Most notably different? Her joy is abounding and it shows in how confident she is when music compels her to move. If ever she was stunned by the magnificence of the rainbow, I am almost certain it too has been arrested by the splendor of her worth.

I figure the pictures might do a better job summarizing the experience:

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At the end of Hindu weddings, the bride and groom are escorted out by their friends and family. It is at this point that the bride has to say goodbye to her immediate family and close relatives as she now belongs with her in-laws. I am told it is emotional for everyone; spectators and those close enough to feel the change in dynamic. Indeed as I stopped, camera-in-hand and surrounded by strangers brushing tears from their cheeks, I witnessed Jay weep as her arms found the warmth that raised her, holding tightly for the last time. It was a beautiful moment and one I feel fortunate enough to have been present for. I watched as her father took off his glasses to subtly wipe tears from his eyes and as her sister savored her embrace to steal as much time as she could manage. I watched as her mother smiled bravely, and wondered where she sourced her comfort and strength. It scared me to think that I have loved her so long and not once in the entire wedding did I need to fight back tears or summon the strength to keep it together. I say ‘scared’ because it made me question whether we are still as close as I’d imagined. I thought perhaps the distance did in fact have an adverse effect. Why wasn’t I as emotional as everyone else?

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Alas, as I packed my clothes in preparation for my flight, it dawned on me that in truth our teenagehood had been bought out by her new reality. We probably won’t ever have another sleepover where we laugh at nothing on the living room floor of her parents’ house in the dark. I won’t get to play pranks on her with the help of my sister when she’s spending the night at mine. Even those things that for so long have been impossible with continents between us—even those we will no longer be able to do should our continents meet. That sense of loss her family and some of her friends felt, the one I struggled to connect with during the wedding, well it finally hit home. She belongs to something I am in no way entitled to. The dynamic of our friendship will change yet again and hopefully that familiarity that has bonded us all these years, will survive the changes.

So in the wake of my realisation and subsequent heartache, I will celebrate her joy and wish her and the truest love of her life a partnership that finds its rhythm in the chaos of every beat they are yet to encounter. May the songs of his soul keep her dancing and the light of her warmth be his home.

 

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Body Smile

Now that you know
You were better than I was ready for
It’s not like before, no
Tonight I’m making up for it all
For every time I let you cry
I will make your whole body smile

Timing’s a funny thing. We get it wrong and the encounter—the words, the fumbling, the flavors, the weather—the whole exchange is tragedy written and assembled for lamentation. All this when regret doesn’t offer much of a beat to dance or even stomp to. This song says otherwise, it sings into existence a man who voluntarily offers a parable of his shortcomings and yet goes on to imagine a love that has waited patiently for his decency. I wonder how many people would be persuaded by a dry plea. How many women would find favor with a man of no lyrical capacity, one who has simply and finally grown up but does not possess the ability communicate this so it sounds like candy? That’s the thing about music, the entire story wraps up in under five minutes. Real life is so messy, so horribly maintained. It’s just not as beautiful or as easily mended.

I hope you like the song, I’ve been playing it constantly for the past few weeks since DVSN’s new album dropped. It is quite simply a fantastic euphoria!

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Charles Bradley isn’t dead!

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As more professional athletes begin to ‘take a knee’ for racial equality and the right to peaceful protest permitted by the American constitution, it seems almost fitting that we are forced to recognize the immortal words of the Screaming Eagle of Soul. For even in passing Charles Bradley arrests the skies with powerful volume:

This world
Is going up in flames
And nobody
Wanna take the blame
Don’t tell me
How to live my life
When you
Never felt the pain

I can’t turn my head away
Seeing all these things
The world
Is burning up in flames
And nobody
Wanna take the blame

These lyrics belong to the song ‘The World (Is Going Up In Flames)’ and indeed for much of America’s black community, this soulful lamentation may well go beyond melody. An acknowledgment of even the most recent history forces a confrontation of what is, arguably, racial inequality that has cruelly rendered many black men and women residents of the heavens or overrepresented in prisons. Black athletes, activists, lawyers, educators, politicians, artists and their allies are employing diverse gestures to confront the same struggle as those who precede them. A hard earned equality as of yet unknown. This, often to the detriment of their future employability.

One cannot escape the irony of the cancerous systems crippling the African-American community and the timing of President Trump’s most recent controversial statement delivered a day before Bradley’s passing from cancer. However, one cannot ignore the capacity of the choir conducted by the creators of today’s protest songs. The ones that record a vocal account of the pain people of color have been subjected to, and the necessary quest for accountability, remedy and justice.

This week in particular, a resurrection of celebrated images of Tommy Smith, John Carlos, Peter Norman and Muhammad Ali are being widely shared beside those of Colin Kaepernick, Steph Curry and Bruce Maxwell—to name a few. Additionally, a large number of NFL players on Sunday knelt in peaceful opposition to the divisive words of their president; provoking the expansion of picture frames by claiming a seat among proponents of freedom. In the immortal words of Bradley, they are in fact refusing to turn their heads away. There is real triumph in unity—in accepting responsibility for your fellow human beings’ welfare because it is the right thing to do even when you are granted an alternative existence.

Bradley may no longer grace the musical stage with his physical presence but I like to think he is demonstrating still in his own way. By virtue of this alone, he continues to live boldly.

My soul is bleeding.

Here’s to an American Eagle! My how you soar.

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Isn’t she radiant!

I don’t love this world at all but there are aspects of it that just sing melodies of love and light. Pictures on the walls of an unsettling monotony with smiling faces that become the very stars from which I source my comfort. Vika, my beautiful friend has been through the a lot this year and yet she still radiates a hope and greatness many of us will never own. She is still such a source of comfort even in her wear. I am so proud of her independence and all that she has accomplished thus far on this earth. Here’s to the love, friendship and support we share— the happiest of birthday’s to my gorgeous one!

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Feel Good Drag

Instagram: @she_her_and_them

When I don’t workout at night something happens to me. I manage to reduce my entire existence to bad moments and poor remarks. I see the faces of people I wish I’d never met and I notice the tangible and intangible scarring inflicted on my person. I see my demons a little clearer and the color of their eyes isn’t black like my hair but it’s a color I’ve seen before in people I know—in people I love. It’s like an awkward paranoia that arrests me, I suddenly wonder what side the bullet will come from and whether I’ll recognize the scent of my own demise, or if perhaps I will know instead the sound of God’s gavel.

I yelled at someone tonight. He fucked up and I ended up having to monetarily pay for his fuck-up. It didn’t make me feel better though. I didn’t feel more powerful having admonished him while he stood feebly. I felt wicked as I looked into his sorry eyes and still refused to relent before driving off infuriated. Everything and everyone got in the way today, and by the time life and all its mishaps had finished obstructing my path, not enough time remained for me to go workout and not enough strength was left for me to survive it anyway.

It isn’t so much the physical activity I’m addicted to, it’s the feel good drag. The idea that running nowhere at all is still running. Friendship is fleeting, love is a choice and happiness is a myth. Running—running is real. I get to go beyond the prison walls. Moving away from that which is torturous and consuming for an hour or so where the only pain I feel I have chosen to inflict on myself.

I hate this air, this life that is nothing but a series of humans hurting humans to forget what it’s like to be hurt. This projection of wasted feeling staining the walls of regret. The rough road pickled with menacing nails puncturing tires.

I think God is playing a cruel game and I can’t quite seem to find the edge of the board.

One day.

One fine day.

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International Women’s Day

“The women of my grandmother’s generation in my home town trained their daughters for womanhood. They taught them to give respect and to demand respect. They taught their daughters how to churn butter; how to use elbow grease. They taught their daughters to respect the strength of their bodies, to lift boulders and how to kill a hog; what to do for colic, how to break a fever and how to make a poultice, patchwork quilts, plait hair and how to hum and sing. They taught their daughters to take care, to take charge and to take responsibility. They would not tolerate a “lazy heifer” or a “gal with her head in the clouds.” Their daughters had to learn how to get their lessons, how to survive, how to be strong. The women of my grandmother’s generation were the glue that held family and the community together. They were the backbone of the church. And of the school. They regarded outside institutions with dislike and distrust. They were determined that their children should survive and they were committed to a better future.

I think about my sisters in the movement. I remember the days when, draped in African garb, we rejected our foremothers and ourselves as castrators. We did penance for robbing the brother of his manhood, as if we were the oppressor. I remember the days of the Panther Party when we were “moderately liberated.” When we were allowed to wear pants and expected to pick up the gun. The days when we gave doe-eyed looks to our leaders. The days when we worked like dogs and struggled desperately for the respect which they struggled desperately not to give us. I remember the black history classes that did mention women and the posters of our “leaders” where women were conspicuously absent We visited our sisters who bore the complete responsibility of the children while the Brotha was doing his thing. Or had moved on to bigger and better things.” – Assata Shakur

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“DSC_5153” by Trishhhh 

I don’t believe that men will liberate women from patriarchal institution any more than I believe the wealthy will save the poor, or the capitalist will marry the communist. I believe a woman’s best shot at a decent life has at some point rested in the calloused hands of a woman before her. The excerpt above is from a piece of writing by Assata Shakur, a civil rights activist who was a member of the Black Liberation Movement and Black Panther Party in the 1960s. Here she so aptly revisits a narrative known to many a black woman. We have seen our mother’s cook for their communities, singlehandedly raise their children, support their husband’s and neglect themselves in favor of duty. The black woman has known sacrifice, abandonment and struggle. We have been rejected by the world, endured denigration of our aesthetic and abilities- an article in Psychology Today went as far as to declare that black women are objectively less attractive than other races of women. Worse still, several other polls and studies do not vie from this conclusion. This being one of the more trivial examples of how we are viewed in this world. However, there will be no greater adversary we face than ourselves.

When we look more specifically at women in developing countries, we cannot ignore the injustices subjected to those who can ill-afford what should be basic human rights. Sexual and reproductive rights, for instance, have been referred to by some feminist theories as the site at which men are most oppressive and women most oppressed. Our bodies have literally been turned into consumer goods for sale to the highest bidder; be it private healthcare agencies, corporations or marketing firms. It is so ironic that somehow the only people who are demonized for the sale of women’s bodies are women. The way we dress cannot be too provocative though we cannot be too prudent. We cannot express our sexuality or admit to a desire for, or enjoyment of sexual encounters at the risk of being called promiscuous hoes. Perhaps worse still, women are known to endorse the demoralization of other women.

Let’s not forget that Maya Angelou was a prostitute. Billie Holiday was a heroin addict. Leymah Gbowee was an alcoholic. And yet here we have a writer, a singer and a nobel peace prize laureate that we openly and excitedly celebrate for their contributions to literature, music and peace. What have they taught us? That we have no business telling women who they are. Too many have shown up, transgressions in hand and holes in the soles of their feet ready and willing to redefine their narrative against the script written by patriarchs.

We have so much work to do. This world is cursed with indiscretion. In some countries, there is forced sterilisation for HIV positive women and restrictive abortion laws for women confronting unwanted pregnancies. The same work as male counterparts for unequal pay. Underrepresentation of women in governance. Misrepresentation of women in industry. International Women’s Day. A day some of us show appreciation for our mother’s, their mother’s, our siblings, aunties and daughter’s. We acknowledge the women we love who have contributed to our growth as individuals and the one’s this world has elected to remember. But we cannot forget to praise those who are different, who broaden the scope of our travels. Those prostitutes who will write, those alcoholics who will organize and those singers who will drive our anthems of egalitarianism! There are no hoes, no bitches-only flavors of awesome dressed how they please.

“The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” -Dante Alighieri

The celebration of women on this day, at present, seems to be no more than another opportunity to acknowledge that women exist. That we were all expelled from some woman’s womb. That too many of us are still silently acquiescing to our own gender-specific, sexist roles. It is as though we have forgotten that there was a time women were not allowed to vote. Women were not allowed to study. Women were not allowed to work. Men legally had to give their wives permission to undergo tubal ligations. Women could not legally own property. This did not change because men decided women deserved better. It changed because women decided they deserved better.

Tell me, have we stopped deserving better?

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