August 22, 2014

Blog in the Round: Celebrating Authors!

Literary event organizer extraordinaire and published author Raquel Penzo has asked me to participate in Blog in the Round. What is that you ask? It’s a way for you and me to get to know authors and find out what they are working on. Raquel was asked by Nina Foxx, who was asked by her friend and author Melissa Monteilh, who was asked by KL Brady, who was asked by Trice Hickman. I’m supposed to answer four questions about my writing process, and then pass it on to other authors.

What am I writing/working on?
The biggest project for me this year has been producing content for my blog and attending more literary events. I am slowing getting on a bi-monthly poetry schedule to enter contests and have published. Kind of like that anthology business I was in earlier this year! ;)

How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?
Well first of what is my genre? I would put my site in the creative non-fiction category because it's all me with some research and essence of Zora. A lot of people want to write about and to millinials -what we're thinking, what we're buying,  and where we're moving to. However, very rarely is the spotlight put on us to tell our own stories. Along with being a young Black woman having the nerve to write, I also tackle feminist issues from a hybrid perspective of traditional Southern and "Big City."

Why do I write what I do?
I have always had a passionate curiosity about the world. When I realized that this was something I shared with the brilliant and wordly author Zora Neal Hurston, it changed my concept of what writing was and the power it held. Writing did not have to be stuffy,  or go in perfect chronological order. Writing can be real, it can breathe, and it can bring people together. My hope is that I bring people together, that they read what I write from my collective experiences and know someone else felt it, and it's OK. I write to start conversations because the world shrinks everytime two people talk.

How does my writing process work?
My process often starts with personal reflection. I think about my day, my week, my month, and then move out. The biggest secret about being unique is that no one is. Somewhere, on some farm, some guy thinks he's the first person ever to fall in love with a donkey. Then at some point that guy gets slapped with a sad nope. What is unusual though is the bravey and courage it takes to be vulnerable and sometimes state the unpopular opinion. In putting my stories to paper, I don't imagine the most ridiculous story I can tell, but rather what was significant about something as simple as getting dressed and going to work. I often scribble my ideas or themes out on post-its or my tablet then flesh them out starting with the end; meaning I try to narrow down what the take-away should be before I finish filling it the Who/What and all that jazz. Oh, then lots of editing. I try to step away, come back, then edit some more. There isn't really a routine to this, for better and for worse.

Who’s next? I will be passing the torch to Fifi Buchanan. Visit her blog today!

August 6, 2014

Being a Black Woman is a Messy Business

There has been a tremendous amount of news, with regard to my subject matter, over the past 2 weeks. We had booty business, domestic violence business, reproductive rights business, and work/life balance business- just to name a few. Then! As though, there weren't enough thought pieces on BeyoncĂ©, she released a remix to her "fierce and femme" song Flawless, which features some raunchy ass lyrics from Nicki Minaj. Gahhdam! It was a lot.

Now, I could tackle each news bit and try to write an epic thought piece, (which some awesome people already did), or I could tell you about an "old friend" meet up I had last weekend that seems to pull it all together. You see, I'm about to shock and awe. You ready? Black women are whole people. **Boom** You know how a human being has a range of emotions and has different situations and circumstances that can influence their actions and emotions? Yeah, Black women have ALL OF THAT, and it gets complicated because of melanin. Blackness, in the limited mainstream view, means that our emotions are reduced down to about two: anger and lust, our pain is nearly invisible, and our value is tied to our sexuality/sexual prowess. It means that our accomplishments and complexities are often erased.


Being a Black woman is a messy business. How do you assert agency over an ass that historically has not been yours? How do you decide when to speak proper English or drop 'G's? How do you condemn rappers for making music for strippers without shaming strippers or how low-income women get money? How do you celebrate with your White counterparts when some of them refuse to acknowledge your place in the movement? When do you ignore micro-aggressions just to keep the peace? If Black women always seem "angry" it is because we are constantly at odds- with our brothers, with our sisters, with the world, and with ourselves. In a piece for The Root, I talked about the intersectionality of race and class- adding gender makes it harder still.

Ok Erin, we get it, Black women got extra problems what's your point?

- Messy is everything: breakdowns and orgasms.

- Don't ever try to ignore or manslpain a mess,

       which leads me to...

Catching up with my "old friend" in a bar on the upper East side meant that we were the only two Black people in the bar. Common to most "hip" bars though, the music was all the pop, twerk goodness one could dare to dream of (insert tidbits of sarcasm here). A few drinks in, while dancing, my friend felt the need to tell me he wouldn't go home with anyone else (see: any of the White girls in the bar) because I got "dat ass." Pause. I wasn't that drunk. I stopped dancing and I was annoyed. Now did I read a bell hooks essay from memory and tell him to f*ck off? No. He quickly corrected himself about what he "meant," and the DJ started to play some ol' school Michael. See how Jesus fixes things?

Now while my "old friend" may have been trying to say that he loves everything about Black women, including our shape. What he actually said was: I love Black women because of the sexy shape, in spite of all that other crazy you've picked up dealing with nonsense and f*ckery, and if you didn't have that you might not be of any use to me at all. *Sigh. It's problematic at best, but all that crazy though? All that crazy, and all that love, and all that ass, is ALL ME. It's all Nicki, it's all Michelle, it's all Laila, it's all Audre, it's all of us. A whole person. A whole person worth loving. We will not be ignored and we will not go away. The next time you question, judge, or compliment a Black woman, check yourself. Are you seeing their Blackness in the limited sense or in layers? Because in a perfect world I would get a raise to combat my hair struggles (layers), instead a fool asking me if I've had a haircut for the 3rd time that month (limited).

If you know something, say something. Black women are people too. :)

From the Author

If any of this speaks to you let me know! If you think I'm blowing smoke, you can let me know too! Feel free to leave a messy situation in the comments. Personal and work stories welcome.

ALSO

"Old friend" = That guy you went on a date with once, then hits you up a millinia later to catch up and see how you are. You agree to said catching up because you can't remember if he was whack or not. He usually was, and still is. See what I mean, messy. ;)

July 21, 2014

6 Take-aways from the #YouOKSis Twitter Chat

Earlier this month there was an amazing Twitter chat on the subject of street harassment. Pause.

Street Harassment
"Unwelcome words and actions by unknown persons in public places which are motivated by gender and invade a person’s physical and emotional space in a disrespectful, creepy, startling, scary, or insulting way." -stopstreetharassment.org

This important Twitter chat was lead by the charge of activist and blogger @feministajones. Women shared their stories and discussed prevention and intervention tactics to help end street harassment. While the conversation was productive and encouraging overall, you can't have a conversation without the trolls. Event though they are never invited, they somehow manage to find vulnerable situations and attempt to hulk smash all of the feel good and kumbaya taking place. In case you missed this conversation, I included a few key takeaways below, so we can continue to grow and put this ridiculous practice to bed.

6) A lot of women experience street harassment everyday. A lot. In fact, 65 percent of women in the United States reported being harassed in the street by men according to a study by Stop Street Harassment. Even more alarming was the average AGE at which women most women said that they had their first street harassment encounter. Why would a grown man think it's OK to "compliment" the body of a 12 year old? We have to speak up and protect our girls. They are worth more than a creepy leer on their way to school.

4) Speaking of compliments... Men have no idea how to talk to women they don't know, or the definition of compliment. In fact, the mere mention of street harassment is often met with ridicule.



3) Some women experience street assault, like 41%. In what world is it OK for someone to physically assault someone for walking way? Oh that's right, the one that sends rape threats to women speaking out about rape.

2) Women have gotten really creative in avoiding/dealing with Street harassment. While I saved some of the tips, and even found this awesome website, this is really ridiculous. A woman walking down the street IS NOT an invitation. An actual invitation would be more like, "Excuse me, I want to respect your space by staying in my damn lane. Over here. Away from you. Without speaking."

1) We are our greatest ally. While there were a few men (like 4) who respected the twitter chat and saw its significance. Most men and a few women didn't understand why a woman would be complaining about attention from a man ever. Every person deserves to feel safe,  and no one understands that a woman's safety isn't promised like another woman. By simply asking a woman "You OK Sis?" in these situations we can empower each other, and take a stand.


This conversation did not end with the Twitter chat. Join the movement and let me know how you combat street harassment @herdiamondback!