Tag Archives: art

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 best 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, and even though I’m a day older in many ways I look up to her. 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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Hold my candor.

“There can never be another like you
You’re the only one in my eyes
And if you try to leave, I’m gone find you
Running through the back of my mind

I will search high and low, just to find you
Even though should’ve never found you
And I love what you’ve got on me baby
Can’t let you go, won’t let you go

Never try to hurt you or harm you
Well whenever you’re around
I am sometimes a little bit different, to please you
You’re the only one on my mind

I will search high and low, just to find you
Even though should’ve never found you
And I love what you’ve got on me baby
Can’t let you go, won’t let you go”    – Ro James ‘Ga$’

Every once in a while I discover a song that makes me feel present in life. I don’t mean to suggest I’m not aware of my existence in the world, I think I’m just numb to it. I recorded the video below as part of a Snapchat story. I’d gone for my usual late night workout, returned to shower and get ready to sleep. This was one of the songs I’d included on my playlist for the night and it just did it for me. Kept my energy up and broke the monotony of the exercises. Normally working out at night is the perfect lullaby. I feel a rush of endorphins, take big gulps of fresher air and I get to make up stories in my head- alternative realities that are easier to digest than truth. It’s like running away physically without really travelling anywhere at all. Living a life so foreign from that which you are resigned.

This song- it’s the way it made me feel. It was this sudden realization that some people get to present themselves on their terms to the world. They get to record their emotions and package their expression for scrutiny, having resolved that a combination of lyrics and melody are enough because they say so. So even if it’s rejected or ripped apart, it’s still there, it still makes it out onto the surface. It feels good to feel something- that’s the only reason why I’m smiling here. I felt something.

Writing is my whole life. Lately I’ve been lamenting that because it is not as in love with me as I need it to be, and I am trapped in its insecurity. I told this to someone I thought would understand a few months back. I told him I needed to write to live. I told him that the black community is failing itself by not supporting a record of our time with the necessary investment in our own stories, by our own storytellers. He tried to come back with different suggestions all of which did nothing to address the lack of readership and the inadequate representation of the black man and woman in literature. Then he stopped. He was turned off by my words and complaints, and I imagine reduced me to nothing more than, perhaps, an entitled, negative curmudgeon. And soon our conversations turned to silence on one end, and soon I stopped trying all together to redeem myself. Now I wonder why I tried at all. I didn’t lie, the black community has a poor readership. There is gross misrepresentation and underrepresentation of black people in literature. I have every reason to hurt over this. I don’t care how many black women have influenced his reaction to my lamentations, I’m done apologizing to black men for feeling deeply about things that affect our community negatively. These past two weeks in particular I’ve been dealing with the redundancies of chauvinistic, uncreative black men who think they have all the answers, but can’t provide any actual solutions to a very real problem that claims the lives of many. Apparently, my approach in their eyes is wrong, but their approach doesn’t exist altogether. So what then? Silence does not a cure make.

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I think when I hear certain songs, I envy their place in time and their unapologetic candor. I envy that 3 minutes and 20 seconds of song is enough to evoke emotion and answer pleas for euphoria. There is no point to a life that isn’t also poetic deliverance. Life is fucking hard- art is the only depiction worth living in my opinion.

Wisdom is not the free gift with purchase of age, wrinkles are.

(P.S: the iTunes version, which I have, has a better chorus in my opinion)

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I Made Savory Love to Plastic

“If you consider a woman less pure after you’ve touched her, maybe you should take a look at your hands.” – Kaija Sabbah

The day started with me calling the eldest of my sister’s to let her know my vagina was about to meet a foreigner.

“Good luck, dude.” She responded.

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I was scheduled to have a physical exam and prior to this doctor’s visit I had not disclosed any details about my sexual activity or lack thereof to the nurses and techs on duty. Once blood tests, blood pressure checks, an ACG exam, weight and height measurements were behind me, a straight-faced lady called my name and beckoned me to follow her into a room at the end of the hall. She shut the door behind me and asked if I’d ever had a pap smear before. I smiled timidly and shook my head, identifying a spot for my handbag while I moved to occupy the space next to her.

“Oh no.” She exhaled, evidently disappointed.

I panicked. “Um, is that bad? I’ve never had penetrative sex, so I guess my gynaecologist has never brought it up.”

“You haven’t had sexual intercourse?”

“No.”

“Then we can’t do this.”

“Why not? I thought it was part of the physical?”

“It won’t work if you haven’t had sex.”

“How come?”

She stood up and pulled out a packaged plastic speculum from a supply pocket and showed it to me. “This is what I will have to insert inside you. If you haven’t had sex you’ll be in a lot of pain.”

I glanced at the instrument and diverted my eyes back to her.

“I’ve tried with virgins that have insisted on getting it done and they can never go through with it because of the pain.”

“You just have to stick it in to see?”

“Well, I have to insert this and then squeeze on these ends to open you up so I can get to your cervix. Look, if you think you can get it in we can do it. But you’ll have to insert it yourself because I don’t want to hurt you.”

I paused to contemplate her suggestion.

“You think you can get this in?”

I looked at the apparatus again. “I can try.”

She ushered me over to the bed and asked me to strip off from the waist down while she lubricated the speculum. I got into the lithotomy position (lying on my back with my legs raised), admittedly unsure of where to rest my feet- resulting in my ridiculous search for stowed away stirrups on the sides of the bed.

“Ready?”

“Uh. Hmm? Yes!” I wasn’t. She knew it. I knew it.

“Your feet need to be together.”

“What?” How am I supposed to reach my vagina with my legs together?

“Your feet need to be together and then you spread your knees like this.” She made her instructions clearer as she pushed my knees apart.

“Right.” I tried to sound confident in my new position.

“Here you go.” She placed the speculum in my hands. “Let me know when you have it in. I’ll wait behind the curtain.”

I nodded obediently.

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“unknown.pleasures.” by Ludo

You can do this. The chanting had begun in my head. I was uncomfortable laying the way she’d left me and I thought to ask her if I could stand up and try to insert it like I would a tampon with an applicator. Wait, let’s think this through. No that wouldn’t work. Unless? No, there’s no way she’d agree to try look up at my cervix from the ground. Would she? No. No.

“Is it in yet?” She called out, brining me back to reality.

“Can we lubricate the tip? I don’t think it’s slippery enough. It won’t go in.”

“I already did. A lot is on there.”

“Lemme try again.” The room was silent for a few more seconds. “Wait I think I’ve- ouch!” To say I felt like a rotisserie chicken trying to figure out where my stuffing goes does well to describe how oxymoronic the whole ordeal seemed at the time.

“Anything?”

“How much of it needs to go in?”

“You need to feel like you’ve hit a wall, that’s your cervix, that’s what I need to see. Push till that.”

I took a deep breath, tried to relax my muscles and pushed till I felt the foreign object creep up my vaginal canal. I called out to the lady in attendance to offer a progress report.

“How did you manage to get it in if you don’t have sex?” She sounded sceptical.

“I don’t know? I wear tampons. I did ballet for a long time. I tried to relax. I mean- Could be any number of activities. I think.” Apparently I’d employed rambling as a defence mechanism, trying to substantiate my departure from what was supposed to be an impossible feat for virgins. Before I could enquire as to what she was insinuating, she’d pushed the curtain back and started to direct my fingertips to the ends of the speculum.

“Squeeze at your own pace and I’ll tell you when I’m able to see.”

“Okay.”

It was excruciating. I had barely pinched the ends when shocks of pain raced through the lower half of my body. It felt like needles clawing through my abdomen and legs. I tried to maintain a somewhat calm demeanor before finally conceding defeat.

“I can’t do it. It’s too painful.”

“You’ve done well to get it in. Hold on, let me try now.”

I boldly resigned the task to her, laying back in effort to focus my thoughts elsewhere.

“Nope! Can’t do it. Pull it out, please.”

So, why did I go through all of this? Penetrative sex is not the only way to catch STD’s/STI’s. Some are spread through oral sex, handgenital sexual contact (e.g HPV) and even kissing. While this may not be a novice realization, it is something I want to take more seriously. I don’t want to be careless with my body or make the kinds of mistakes that could lead to irreparable damage, or psychological pain. We’re living in times when love and sexual activity are seemingly interchangeable, and while everyone is entitled to govern themselves sexually, I think it’s dangerous to assume everyone is being as vigilant and careful with their own physical beings, as you might be with yours.

Russell Brand said something in an interview once that has stuck with me: Be careful with your soul, be careful with yourself.

I didn’t do this for the PSA on unprotected sexual activity. I did it because I am a woman. In a world where women’s vaginas and uteri have been regulated by state law; subjected to public ridicule; and reduced to sport umpired by men, I feel women have no choice but to demonstrate the respect our bodies warrant. At the very least to appreciate the power of our sexuality complemented by the delicate nature of our mortality.

Someone loves you.

Platonically. Romantically.

Take care.

P.S. Props to all the women out there keeping their cervixes clean. You’re my heroines today!

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