These blog posts are for the weather deniers who never check the weather before walking outside. Luckily, meteorology is one of my muses and my co-workers supported my condensed weather updates for NYC so much, I decided to share them. You're welcome.
Precipitation is Coming!
1. Two Storms headed our way
Yes, two. I already know what you're asking: Snow or rain? It is hard to predict. I would prepare for both. The first storm, is going to be relatively quick in its travel, coming in late evening Thursday into Friday. Expect a mix of both snow and rain for your commute Friday morning.
Storm #2 has a name, Harper, and comes to us all the way from the West Coast traveling cross-country with an abundance of snow, ice, and traffic jams! Harper will be with us Saturday afternoon through Sunday with a mixture of snow and rain. But once we hit Sunday night...
2. The Polar Vortex Awakens...
For those of you who don't care to know but are going to know anyway... The Polar Vortex is a cone of low pressure over the North Pole that traps the arctic air where it is most appreciated... over the North Pole... Unfortunately for all of us, that vortex broke and that arctic air is leaking out and coming right for us, which is why the Sunday night low will be a whopping 7 degrees. Monday? The high will be 18 degrees. That is without the windchill. With the windchill, we are looking at temperatures possibly in the negatives. But do not fret, the arctic blast will pass and we will be back to normal cold by Tuesday (hopefully).
Moral of the story:
Now is the time to dress accordingly.
These temperatures are nothing to mess with.
If you got the gear, wear it!. If you don't, get some!
This condensed weather report is informed by me always researching weather updates, trends, and news on the Weather Channel. I am only a meteorologist in spirit. Check with the Weather Channel or your local weatherperson (my favorite is Pix11's Byron Miranda) if you want to double check my work.
Some movies reach beyond your need to escape, rest, or just zone out. Some movies tap into something personal, making you pay attention, sit up, and check in with yourself. It’s unexpected and almost intrusive. You’re in a movie theatre or at home and all of a sudden you are hit with a realization regarding yourself or your humanity that you forgot in the hustle and bustle of the days, months, or years. Movies (and art) like this create space for you that you had no idea you needed, and you become shocked by the vulnerability. Movies only sometimes surprise me like this. Moana was the last movie that had me in a theater with tears in my eyes because I too am a raging volcano earth-quaking for a more gentle approach to what it means to be a (Black) woman in this world (I know I wasn’t the only one!).
Netflix’s Bird Box, based off of the book by Josh Malerman, was another surprise. What drew me to watch it was the memes on Instagram I didn’t get and my two favorite things: psychological thrillers and apocalypse movies. That is all I expected to engage with when it started. However, once it was over, I found myself sitting in an inspiring comfort with an affirmation that fear doesn’t have to win this year.
Say what you will about the writing, acting, or the fact that Machine Gun Kelly and his boo are never mentioned again after stealing the car, Bird Box encapsulates FEAR in its most elusive form:
If that is not a perfect personification of fear at its worst! And I’ve known that formless entity for a while now. It snuck up on me when I changed jobs a few years ago. I locked eyes with Fear and my days hazily passed over me with all the failure that was sure to ensue because I dared to dream of a life in New York City where I was thriving in my mission to create sustainable change in education through art. Some days, in my bed, in the dark, and unemployed, I was convinced that in a matter of minutes I was going to be homeless and on the street. No one-I mean NO ONE could convince me otherwise. I was a zombie like the rest of them. Just like in Bird Box. Hypnotized by the fear. And Sometimes fear wins. The entity completely consumes us or our loved ones and we are out of reach. Bird Box wasted no time reminding me how that felt. However, at the same moment, the movie personified what it looks like when you tell fear to STFU. Malorie (Sandra Bullock) in the forest with the entity closing in and the voices begging her to look, while her children are separated from her. She yells: You will not take my children.
That is the mood I want to bring into 2019.
Fear is not going to take anything dear and precious from me this year. Fear is not going to convince me that my world is over if I take one more step. Although I may not be able to eradicate fear indefinitely, I can enhance my voice to confirm my truth (some call it faith, love, God, the Divine, etc.), which is not based in fear. I will be able to see what is on the other side of fear this year. It has been my experience that when I make decisions and walk forward in spite of fear, I am met with something that enhances my life and purpose beyond my expectation, which is the exact opposite of what fear convinces us is going to happen.
Like I said, I was just trying to watch a movie about the end of the world and understand what all the memes were about. I was not trying to be inspired to confront my fears this year and be fearless. But that is what happened. Hence, this year I will keep the blindfold on when fear tries to convince me to not move forward in my career, love, goals, and dreams. I will not keep my mouth shut when claiming what is for me. I will listen to my intuition and the voice I know is connected to my truth. I will nourish that voice so that it is louder than the entity and I will keep goin. I do not expect to always be invincible in the face of fear, but rather empowered to live and thrive despite it.
Make no mistake, there is a lot that one could be afraid of going into 2019, especially as a person of color or a member of any other marginalized community forced to convince the world of your humanity. Be warned, the entity can take the form of a country trying to suffocate us; trying to convince us that there is no hope and nothing we can do; trying to distract us with pursuits of the absolute right and righteous way to pursue a just world, instead of forging that world for ourselves. Fear will try to convince us to wait our turn, to believe in fear itself to keep us safe in the interim and pretend we are comfortable the way things are now. I think I speak for all of us when I say:
Fear, you can STFU.
By Tayllor Johnson
Photography by Ademola Davis
There is not going to be a 30-day yoga challenge at the end of this. No juice cleanses. No listicle of best places to buy sage or Groupon deals for spa treatments. No meditation social media accounts to follow. The rising heart rate, the shaking hands, the tears just waiting–no begging to be released, the clenched fist, and the gritting teeth are going to sit in these pages, just as they are; because they have been hidden in too many of us for too long.
I do not remember when it started; when I realized that I was angry. It was only recently that I have found anger bubble up and make herself known in my everyday life. One night after a long day at work, I came home, kicked off my shoes, and leaned on my bed checking my messages and peeking at my Instagram explore page, like I usually do. And what was once nothing but puppies, nature posts, and some celeb gossip became a flood of a real fights caught on camera or a reality TV smack down carefully captured at the first hit. Since when was my explore page so violent? I asked myself. And without thinking I clicked on the 60 second fight: “Moniece Slaughter vs. Princess” and the spiral into projected anger began. Video after video–there was something about these brawls that I identified with. There was a part of me that wanted to release and snap too, but at who and for what? These Instagram algorithms were telling an alarming story of where my anger was going and how much I had.
The list of things to be angry about as a Black woman living in America could go on and on and on… This is not new news. Our bodies, identities, wallets, and culture are constantly under attack by legislation, White Supremacists, Homophobes, Transphobes, Colonizers, and sometimes the people closest to us. We spend as much of our time, as Black woman, fighting for space as we do trying to enjoying it. Then we spend energy in that same space looking to heal from a country founded on our blood and bones and hungry for more. Add patriarchy coming for our womynhood or our vaginas and ovaries... we start to search for a space to recharge if nothing else. For some of us, it is not as simple as just being “home” or getting coffee with a friend. If you are like me, 3 jobs and working on a Master’s degree, space and time become a complicated relationship and finding a place to exhale within it all can feel like an impossible task. Yes, the fatigue is 4-dimensional, from all angles and sides. Some of us choose to take that fatigue and fight. Then we are met with erasure within our successes, as if we never started that movement, offered that thought, or contributed to America and its history in any way. Yes, we are angry, and frustrated and hurt and determined and another word that has yet to be discovered.
What puzzled me most about my anger was that I hadn’t gotten a chance to know it until now, at 24 living in one of the least patient cities in the world. It became important to me that I know what my anger looked like and sounded like before it revealed itself outside of my control and I too became a 60-second video. My mentor warned me years before: “If you do not access your anger and release it, you will hurt someone.” And if any city was going to unlock my anger, it was going to be NYC. Anger and frustration are not strangers here. In Los Angeles, my hometown, I can only assume their anger and angst are locked in their cars with them, so I never got the chance to engage with millions of souls in a rush. Living in New York, you either witness rage or you are tempted into it. There was a moment when my partner got into an altercation with a woman on a packed train and something in me snapped, as she continued to yell obscenities at him. I found myself shouting back: “YOU ARE IRRELEVANT! WE ALL WANT TO GO HOME. SHUT THE F*CK UP!” I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth and the words that kept wanting to spew out. Yes, if there was any time to become friends with my anger and articulate her on my own terms, it is here and now.
My anger is historical, political, personal, and spiritual. My anger is quiet but fierce; she comes from trauma; she is fueled by patriarchy and White supremacy; she is fed by the fear that America will succeed in killing me, my family, and my people. My anger is human. But when you are Black, it is more often than not a caricature to feed an idea. It becomes entertainment for the masses or propaganda to feed the fear that Black is unpredictable, uncivilized, and wild so we should shoot first, make excuses later. A Black person moves and the world flinches like we are walking land mines. Black women have not been given the opportunity to articulate their existence in their own words either. We are told we are “too much”; that we need to calm down and then, right before our eyes, our Womanhood is being commodified and monetized in mass media under drama, violence, ghetto, ratchet, urban, or worst.
There is an inflation of content in mass media focused on WOC on WOC violence. America, we know, is fascinated with violence like a child exploring a new toy. Except in America’s case, this toy is centuries old. However, when it comes to women, violence becomes an assumed default, which makes it easy to turn it into comedy and entertainment without engaging with the repercussions of violence itself. We call it Reality TV, we call it a high school fight, middle school fight, and occasionally we call it an untimely death. It was once my passion to vilify reality shows as the problem, but nothing is ever that simple. Reality TV meets a need and supplies a demand. If that demand is exploitation of women of color, it is a choice companies, artists, and CEO’s alike are making to meet it. The question of who’s to blame is not as urgent to me as the question of why the reality TV phenomenon exists in the first place. In exploring my anger, I had to separate what was being dictated and projected onto me as “angry Black woman” from what my anger meant.
It was epiphany upon epiphany and I couldn’t stop talking about it. I didn’t realize how few Black women speak their anger out loud. The confusion on my friend’s faces when I brought it up: “So what do y’all feel about anger as Black woman?” Slowly ideas where being thrown over wine glasses; experiences and questions about how to live with our anger, express it, and explore its roots. If only our #BlackGirlJoy could have as much healing space as our #BlackGirlAnger. Maybe then our language around anger can be truly ours. We will no longer be playing tug of war with our existence in isolation. We will begin to write and speak our own narratives. We will get to claim our anger and our joy for ourselves and maybe it won’t seem so scary anymore.
It is tiring to continue to counter the blows (metaphorical and physical) of the same stereotypes. We are multifaceted and complex beings. Sometimes we aren’t happy. Sometimes we don’t want to smile. Sometimes we don’t get along with each other. Sometimes we too need support and need to be held accountable by our peers and community. I found that in articulating my experience as a Black woman by using the language of the oppressor, I am unconsciously entertaining him in trying to prove him wrong. Not anymore. My existence doesn’t fit in a “they said so I’m responding” model. It is now an “I said” model. Period. End of discussion. With Trump ripping the façade from the “American Dream” and the global consequences of that realization some of us are waking up and reclaiming our time. We are reclaiming our time and our representation of our experiences on TV, movies, sports, politics, and in forms of resistance. The inspiration is contagious. In the same breath, I wonder what it would look like to have these conversations go viral, without the input of the oppressor.
My anger, as she exists today, is still a mystery in many ways. As I said in the beginning, I do not have any answers on how to engage and express uncomfortable feelings while our humanity is at stake. All I have is a willingness to start a conversation. Community is my alternative to engaging with oppressive alternative facts regarding my existence. As I get to know myself and let my identity stretch, it will continue to change and require my attention and care. However, that is no longer an experience between just me, my phone, and the oppressive systems that feed those outlets. Now it can be me and the other Black women who choose to speak their truth, however she reveals herself, unapologetically.
An Angry Conversation in Pictures
HUGE THANK YOU to the following people for taking the time and energy to be on this journey with me:
Ademola Davis See Bio
Jaba Dey a Bengali women living and working in NYC, and is taking the experience of being a brown immigrant in America one day at time
Q Hailey a creative spirit dedicated to justice and freedom that is both physical and spiritual
Ademola Davis (Ade) is a poet, writer, performer, singer/songwriter, photographer, videographer, and artistic force creating and educating in NYC. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Ade's passion for the artistic form and investing in its boundaries and possibilities goes above and beyond the traditional and expected. Instagram: @theprincepoet FB: @PrincePoet
"As a poet, my poetry is in my writing, singing, acting, whatever I can put myself into, my poetry is in. As a Creator, I'm still a poet"
When I sat down with one student on the first Saturday, I was not sure what I was to learn or if the workshops would continue with numbers like these. But there is an inspiring moment in one grain of sand if you consider the millions of things it is made of and how far it has come. One student became two then two became five and all were already full vessels of creativity, dreams, and ideas… not all devoted to poetry. I had my work cut out for me. However, the moment that took my breath away did not happen when the students were offering their own writing prompts; not when they were taking to line breaks with the same urgency as the Dunkin Donuts I brought for them; not when they inspired me to write a love poem to Dunkin Donuts confessing how much I can’t stand their hot chocolate; not even when they decided they wanted to perform the group piece I helped them create at the eighth-grade graduation on their own. It was during our morning practices that I was reminded of one of the many benefits to performing your story in real time.
“We need to practice more.”
“I think she’s going too fast, she should slow down”
“Yeah she’s going too fast. You need to slow down! You're getting too distracted. Can we go again? More energy!”
“Can we add Danny to the piece? He missed one day but he’s been to every class. He should be a part of it too.”
“I don’t need paper. Let’s all have it memorized!”
It was as if I wasn’t even there! My mouth hung open as they bickered and workshopped their own group piece. My presence was nothing more than, “Do you all feel that you’re ready?” and then they would be off again performing and talking it through. Poetry performance offers a rare opportunity for young people not only to see themselves on the written page but also to claim their voices in the open air. What’s more is that when poetry is being performed, rarely is it in a vacuum, alone. When poetry meets community–be it at the Nuyorican Poets Café on a Friday night or a lively group of five students on a Saturday morning–your words are in the care of an audience. Individuals feel supported to take risks, to trust, and to speak their mind. These five students were not all fans of poetry nor performance. Some of these students could barely be heard when they first introduced their name, but when it came to performing at the graduation, I was looking at young people who wanted the stage, who wanted to do their best, who wanted to work together, and who after having a successful performance, wanted to do it again.
This. This is why I want to do this for the rest of my life. To see those students take off and claim their work and their identity in an art form they had no prior experience in. To see them owning their words, taught me just how much I have gained myself, as a poet. From the moment that I was put in a spoken word class until now, my story has always had a home on the page and a separate vacation home within the hearts of artists and audiences who are open to hearing me. These five students now had an example, a tangible experience, that couldn’t be taken away from them: an entire auditorium open and ready to hear and accept their voices. It was amazing to see them after they got off stage, invigorated ready to “go on tour”. The arts, it’s contagious. Performance means power and poetry means freedom. When you let them loose in a room, anything can happen.
1. Sisterhood is a Community Organization
2. Sisterhood is fluid
3. Sisterhood is unity AND individuality
4. Healing is mandatory
5. More safe spaces, more safe spaces!
Stay tuned for it!
DAMN. was a portal into the world of a Black man, his certainty, uncertainty, fear, reflections, and determination. His album brings a humanity to the celebrity. In a country that praises and worships the lives, the wallets, and the scandal of celebrities and stars, I forget that these people are people. Their art is a result of their humanity. These influencers do not exist solely for their audience. That is why Beyoncé’s Lemonade struck me to my core. She ceased to be a brand, a face, a single—she was a complete process. DAMN. is Kendrick Lamar’s human process. Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. is a labor of love for Kendrick Lamar. After listening to tracks like “FEEL.” and “GOD.” it sounded like he wrote these songs/poems because he needed to; and like many artists, the act of sharing is just as healing as creating it.
The shock value of my success put bolts in me
All this money, is God playin’ a joke on me?
Is it for the moment, and will he see me as Job?
Take it from me and leave me worse than I was before?
As a 24-year-old who wants to start her own business, write a book, and step into my own calling of using poetry and performance as an empowerment tool for voiceless communities, the song “FEAR.” moved me. I can’t be the only one who is afraid of success, and just as afraid of failure. Kendrick Lamar reminded me that no matter the checks, followers, or rewards we all have or will be at that crossroads. I have asked myself similar questions on my own journey. Any milestone that pushes me closer to reach my potential is met with resistance; a timid voice whispers and questions: Is this possible? Or is it all just another universal test only to start from the beginning again in a few years? The higher I go, the farther I have to fall. How Kendrick must feel! From his first mixtape in 2004, Youngest Head Nigga in Charge (Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year) to being called the greatest rapper of all time. I could almost taste the anxiety, the questions, the fatigue in DAMN. I could only imagine, the money is coming in, the workload is increasing, advice is flooding in from everywhere, and the world is looking to him, fans leaning on him to continue to climb, to create! I too would go to my pen and paper like I always do, purging the secret questions, revelations, resentments, declaration, writing desperately toward that inner silence.
Lamar created a human experience in DAMN. He reminded me as a poet and activist that the foggy moments, the silences in between our revelations, success, and failures are just as beautiful, just as valid and telling and universal. After listening to the whole album, I wanted to give Kendrick a huge hug and say thank you, from one Los Angeles native to another. The job of an artist is to dig and dig deep within; to find the piece that pushes us even deeper and to share that work in order to connect to the depth in someone else. And we need that right about now. When I watched the news of the Manchester bombing, picture after picture being released of deceased young people, when I read about the impending threat to my healthcare rights as a woman, when I get a notification about another toxic tweet or another tragedy so far away I can barely fathom; when I consider the rise in violence against Black bodies, Muslim bodies, Trans Bodies, Our Bodies; when I walk down the street and have to maneuver my body so that I am not touched or followed or worst, I can’t help but think damn. It is a state of being, that damn. It’s that sigh when you’re a woman and you get home safe after a fun night, it’s that tension in the muscles when the police keep cruising past you. Kendrick’s DAMN. is not only a confirmation of what that damn can do to the spirit, it is a powerful reminder that we are not alone in feeling it and that is possible to use that damn and repurpose it, as much of the country and the world has done throughout history at the beginning of every revolution.
What Kendall and Kendrick have in common is a complex existence made plain. A world of action, resistance, intersectionality, and violence are too heartbreaking, inspiring, tiring, historical, and urgent to be solved by one White face and a Pepsi. My heart dropped watching the commercial portray a protest of many diverse faces joined together for “peace,” only to see the focus put on Kendall Jenner confidently walking through the crowd to give a police officer a Pepsi as the crowd celebrates. I was not sure what they are celebrating. Immediately I was reminded of the images of protesters in Ferguson with milk tears running down their faces and bandanas around their mouths. I was reminded of the gas masks and pepper spray, dogs and water hoses. My mind was brought back to the historic footage of my home city, Los Angeles, being burned alive in 1965 and the clip that I will never get to un-see: A Black protester passed out on a Los Angeles curb, beaten, with soiled pants, still being frisked by a police officer, surrounded. This attempt at a commercial hurt. The art of protesting was now a marketing tool, when for so many, including me, it is part of a necessary strategy to fight for our lives and our rights. The many times I put my safety on the line to speak up; the many times I was too afraid to. I do not get a check for showing up for my people and the people I support. My drive, my protest, is mandatory to thrive in this country and thanks to the infinite table with infinite seats in social media, Pepsi and Kendall Jenner got to take a seat. They both get the chance to learn about responsibility and we, The People, get the chance to hold them accountable. The conversation is not limited to anyone and neither is the critique. Social media can make very complicated matters easy to digest and Pepsi was fooled. Fighting injustice is nowhere near two minutes long. It’s more like a 400-year battle, give and take a few hundred years depending on how you identify. I am grateful for Black Twitter and social media for consistently offering the opportunity to keep companies, public figures, and Presidents in check.
Kendrick Lamar is no exception to critical commentary either, no matter how beloved. His single, “Humble” ignited a tidal wave of debate regarding his misogyny, internalized racism, and sexism embedded in his lyrics, specifically:
I’m so fuckin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop
Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor
Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks
I was not sure what to expect when my friend pulled up the music video for me to see. The Kendrick Lamar in “Humble” was indeed a different Kendrick. He was still from L.A., a force of nature rhythmically and lyrically. But… there was something that changed; a switch was turned on. His face even looked different. What I saw in “Humble” was a battle between two different parts of one man. On the one hand, I saw a young Black man who definitely sounded similar to almost every other rapper, flaunting money, sex, and exclaiming “I’m the best!” Then I heard a chorus that called for humility, for a sit-down, a bowed head, and a shut mouth. I saw a question within the imagery: Who could Kendrick be? Would he be allowed to be a humble Black man? Would he be allowed as a Black man to celebrate and flaunt his success? Who can Kendrick Lamar be? I saw a juxtaposition of Black and White in what Kendrick Lamar was wearing in the video. I saw a Black man at the last supper with in a zip-up jacket with other Black men having a good time. Is that even allowed? I saw Kendrick Lamar in clergy attire. I saw an illustrated battle of images–of types of manhood. Did I like the line: “Get the fuck off my dick, that ain’t right” when I know how toxic hip-hop has been and is toward the LGBTQ community? No. Did I appreciate the amount of times bitch was said in the song? No. Did I like that he expressed wanting to see women without Photoshop and stretchmarks? Yes, as a person who has never tried contouring and has many, many, many stretch marks, I found it refreshing because the song seemed more like an inner battle than a commentary or press release for or against a cause. We all had a seat at the table of “Humble”, to see it, to offer a perspective, but we are mere observers of a narrative that seemed to me, quite personal, and I am more inclined to observe Kendrick Lamar’s evolution—as messy as it may be as he navigates his career—than I am to be called a “boujee” bitch with no hair and a fat ass with no value, as I am referred to and represented as throughout the Industry, which rarely leads to debates like the one “Humble” ignited.
I think it is easy and comfortable to offer critique to public figures and celebrities who are developing their consciousness for the world to see and through their artwork. Beyoncé is one of the prime examples when she co-opted the word “Feminist” for her Beyoncé Tour. Some were outraged and expressed that she was not a true feminist because of one reason or another. All I could think was: Am I even a true feminist when compared to the expectation of the “woke”? I did go to an all-women’s college and took gender studies and feminist theory. Was it enough? My evolution as a feminist, activist, and woman has been a process where I can control the audience. Celebrities and world-renown artist do not have that luxury. When Kendrick Lamar is expressing two sides of his identity and career or Beyoncé considers the women’s movement, I am less compelled to assess their artwork outside of what it is, art. My poems do not always speak to a movement cause; sometimes my poems are a prayer, a riverbed, a plea, or an apology to the unspoken and private. I am more interested in those voices hiding under rocks with their misogyny, their sexism, their racism, their homophobia, their transphobia, their -isms. They seem to get passes too often because we are comfortable. Those are the folks I want to especially invite to the table. Companies like Pepsi, and privileged folks Kendall Jenner do not have to think twice about the reality they are playing. Sexist and toxic figures like Bill O’Reilly and President Trump are also invited. Those are the people I’d like to open a chair for, ask them to take a seat because the world is watching….
The cyber community, like any other community, will not always agree, and I have learned with hashtag after hashtag, that is going to continue to be the case. There are going to be people who will never listen to Kendrick Lamar again and the #BoycottPepsi hashtag is already trending and taking on a life of its own. The conversations will continue to evolve like technology and humans have done. Social media represents the social consciousness in all its messiness, comedic genius, compassion, and power. In those spaces, easy definitions among the millions of perspectives are hard to find but it does not matter what time I sign off or sign in, I can always find love, justice, hope, and understanding in some corner of the cyber-sphere. We, as The People, still choose to show up to the table, not only to fight, resist, laugh, cry, feel, but also to connect. And we will continue to show up, I will show up, because it’s my responsibility and privilege to connect to a global community that is never silenced.
Sound. The silence in this film defined the pivotal, not unlike how silence works in our own lives. It was uncomfortable. I wanted, craved, silently squirmed in my partner’s arms waiting for dialogue in certain moments–but nothing came. Silence. It immediately made me reflect on how silence and sound accentuated life lessons and relationships. In seventh grade, when being ran from because I had two mothers and my friends were going to catch the “gay”, I just watched them and said nothing. Their laughs faded, their footsteps became mute. That is when I realized that friendship and trust were things I still had to grow towards, and I didn’t know how. When I was called a nigger in the third grade after school by a White boy, I said nothing. I just looked at him and realized race was not something that could burn off like the Los Angeles fog. I was a Black girl, and according to this boy, a nigger. Having a secret on my tongue and letting it twirl around in my mouth while my mother waits. These moments defined curves, ebbs, and flow in my growth. Moonlight’s freedom with sound and the deliberate elimination of sound reminded me how important those lessons, epiphanies, trials were. I was not a Black man appreciating a Black man story. I was a Black woman witnessing a human story, as told through the journey of one Black man.
Although tears did flow, I was not sad at the conclusion of the film, in the same way a poem might remind one of heartbreak and beauty simultaneously. Chiron’s story is a window into a childhood reality all too common to families of color, and families surviving in poverty. However, what Barry Jenkins, director and screenwriter, was able to portray was the hope, the light, and the truth that guide us, as people, as we grow and navigate these trials. Chiron found his truth and his safety in the ocean, just like me. It’s at the shore, with my feet being kissed by the waves; the sound of them crashing; knowing they will always crash forever, whether I am at the shore’s edge or not, whether I am afraid or not; wherever I am the ocean has always been my truth. The main character always had the ocean to bring him back to his truth. What’s more, is that we never get an answer for what his truth is, be it his sexuality, his aspirations… Again, “Moonlight” was asking me to reflect on where my truth has revealed itself throughout my life. My truth has shown up at Prospect Park, Central Park, on the Portland Coast, Venice Beach, in the first tulip of the season in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn; my truth has always shown up and brought me back, no matter how far I strayed. The tears appeared and fell down my cheeks on the way home out of gratitude because, much like Chiron’s experience in “Moonlight”, I get to grow in silence and in sound and in truth. Chiron was able to find his truth and it gave me hope that I can too, even when I forget it. As a young Black woman in her 20’s who’s watching the country lose its truth and suffers in silence, I needed a reminder that truth always wins, however it reveals itself, be it through the ocean turning over on itself to inspire a boy to become his own man, or a poet putting pen to paper, or “Moonlight” being recognized for the poem and epiphany that it is. Truth always wins and so did “Moonlight”.
Yet, behind liking every funny meme mocking the election, the late-night show sketches, and tweets, I considered this a serious issue. I was scared that this toxic punchline would become the bottom line. I was not willing to stamp an LOL on his campaign just yet. It wasn’t his appearance, lack of experience, or disregard for women, disabled folks, queer folks, refugees, the original borders to Mexico, Black folks, Brown folks and immigrants that unsettled me. It was the fact that thousands upon thousands of others agreed with him. One rotten tree is a rotten tree, but a forest infested against humanity is an environmental issue.
I thought my scariest day was the day after the election. After watching SpongeBob Squarepants to keep my mind off of the results frenzy and tossing and turning all night, I still wasn’t prepared. When I asked my roommate that morning what the result was, she responded by silently pouring her tea and letting the tears fall down her face. I followed suit. I felt betrayed, yet not extremely caught by surprise. This is the America that I heard whispers about for as long as I identified as an activist. The true face of America revealed himself, I was told. It was a matter of time.
But this was supposed to be my home, my Black brothers’ home, both of my moms’ home too. Where are we going to go, while rich, straight White men retaliate against America’s true face? I couldn’t bring myself to call back home considering that one week ago I sat with both of my moms and little brother voting. My little brother called to ask me who I was voting for the night before the election. I told him. He responded in the softest and most angelic voice, “Okay. I was just asking. Some people are voting for Trump but he’s not nice.” It occurred to me that morning that I didn’t have a hiding spot big enough to keep the people I love safe. So, I cried. That is when the spiritual, mental, and sometimes physical paralysis started.
I thought that I would bounce back relatively quickly. The birds in Brooklyn still sang about something. The people on the subway didn’t look anymore spaced out than usual. Maybe Trump’s lack of experience will make him the loudest, orange-colored, clueless dog with no teeth to be let into the White House. He will fumble through policy after policy and by the end of his term be as confused as he looked when shadowing Barack Obama, a couple days after being inaugurated. I was quickly reminded of the cunning nature of White Supremacy. The House of Representatives. The Senate. Both supporting the rhetoric and proposed policies of Donald Trump. I was reminded about the Electoral College, which places the bulk of the future in the hands of the unknown.
I started to blame the media for distracting me for almost a year with presidential debates that became yelling matches and gossip passing for news. Then I remembered, when did I ever depend on mass media to educate me fully on my country, or any country for that matter? When I was in the United Kingdom, studying abroad, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was escalating. I was in a pub with friends watching the news as footage of the border was playing and the soldiers stood nose-to-nose with automatic weapons. I was terrified listening to the updates, the tensions rising, the sanctions and embargoes flying across borders. I began to wonder how I would react to this situation if I was at home in the U.S. My guess is that I would not react at all. The severity of this situation could easily be buried under almost anything else that would be considered news. My education in America is a constant re-education. This was yet another example where I need to look backwards and sift through my “lessons” to find the truth. Electoral College. Popular Vote. Laws that negate both of these opportunities for Black and Brown folks. I knew it was time to act; to prepare; to heal. But I still was not ready.
On January 20, 2017, I still was stunted. Protests happened all over the country, pictures and comments with pink p****y hats. Women of all shades, children, and men joined together. I was at home thinking about the many times I lost my voice in protest, feet aching, nudged in the breast by White men, yelled at, and watched. I was tired. And I did not do half of what my sisters did. If I am tired now, I can’t imagine what they are. We have fought for our existence for as long as we have been Black women. We are activist from the womb; born from the generation of activists before us and before that.
Yes, I was tired. There were no hats made or CNN coverage celebrating the battles we fought so far as Black women. After all the fighting, studying, learning, planning, courageous conversations, Donald Trump was still inaugurated, and we were still unsafe. I did not know where to go to next. White Supremacy now has one more face to operate from and it was the President’s. I asked my friend, an activist out of Oakland, in town on business, what to do now. Do I need to invest in a bunker? A gun? A one-way ticket? I do not remember her exact answer, but I do remember her asking while holding her Black son on her hip that I sit next her and read through Trump’s plan for the first 100 days of his presidency. I was horrified and I think that was her point. Not to scare me but to wake me up. I can’t fight and resist with my eyes closed. I have to acknowledge unacceptable behavior and its existence before I can prepare to push back.
Yes, it took me a couple months. I cried, I talked, I resented people, places and things, I was still. I was forced to be present through this spiritually and physically for if I tried to force it, I would add nothing to the cause. Today, Trump is still keeping his promise to wage war on America’s citizens masking it as genius, machismo, and loyalty to his country, just like yesterday. It has not been a month, and he has declared war on my body, my family, and people that I love. But what he and his administration do not know is that in his eagerness to destroy and conquer, he ignited an urgency that will bring people together to do the work. What he is not prepared for are the meetings that are not happening on the streets; the messages that are not being written on posters and picket signs and Facebook, but whispered in living rooms and kitchens and basements all over the country. I am going to a part of the solution and resolution to fight and deconstruct an America that has disappointed me for 23 years. I am still tired but not tired enough. By any means necessary … I am ready.
Tayllor Johnson currently resides in New York City where she has begun her journey into Poet. Passion. Period. In between those learning moments, she sometimes has just enough time to jot a few lines...