Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Out of Dodge (Before)

I got my IUD yesterday. It was not a life-changing experience by any means (excluding knowing a different kind of pain that comes with having a wire pushed into your uterus), but as a way to remember when to have it taken out, I'd like to commemorate it. This is also following a big change in my life (moving + grad school + etc), so this will materialize as an annual personal statement.
Writing a personal mission statement is empowering. It allows you to have control of who you want to be and who you currently are. Picking words that create your core values is apart of this too.I have five - ten words that I know are who I am. This is a great habit to form, you can update it as you grow and change, I try to do at least one a year. Words are incredibly powerful and what words you speak/write over you have an incredible effect on your cells. This video shows the effects of intention, emotion and spoken word have over us on a cellular level. It’s one of my favorites, especially when I need a reminder to be kinder to myself. 

I'm 23 years old, and I'm secure in my personhood. My non-negotiables are never negotiable, and if I don't have to struggle, I'm not going to. By the first anniversary of my IUD, I will be ten pounds lighter, have my Portuguese grammar on lock, will have taken my anti-depressants consistently, and be hydrated an entire year. I will be surrounded by the things I love, and will not be too concerned with looking like I don't know everything, because I don't know everything. I will leave my apartment everyday, and communicate with my father 365/year. My rewards are Sailor Moon merchandise. Swimming, tortas, bright colors, and laughter will be in my future. Success is my future.

Signed,
Cassandra

Monday, June 29, 2015

"Your racism isn't even interesting:" Refusing to play Emotional Mammy™

Source: my photo.
Life is too short to be consumed by angst and nonsense. It is too short to be routinely frustrated by people you could feasibly cut out of your life. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so I better make my time worthwhile – my time is valuable and mine.

I have chosen not to forgive racist trespasses – that mask themselves as clueless microaggressions – of those who will not make amends. I don’t mean the Dylan Roofs or confederate sympathizers; they have never occupied real space in my world except as university press fodder or media terrorism when white nationalism materializes into violence. Rather, I mean the everyday, unintentional racists: white liberals.

Acknowledging them in my own space, when I am claiming that they are no longer deserving of my space, is already fatiguing. It’s not that I can’t handle the “inevitable” fuck-ups; I don’t have to “handle” anything that is a waste of time.

I am a forgiving person. I think I have a lot of tolerance for mistakes, and in many causes, I do not rule out intent, even as I care more about impact.

But I am tired of excusing those I’m supposed to call allies or friend of their behavior. When asking for forgiveness, the wrongdoer typically makes clear that they will do whatever it takes to rectify the mistake. Forgiveness is not a hand-out or ticket; it’s a privilege that must be earned. I have bestowed forgiveness on those who I believed actually wanted to make amends; they just wanted a three-month “angry free” pass.

The everyday white racists are ahistorical, clueless, and lazy. Their behavior is normalized because they are the beneficiaries of institutional racism. They do like people of color, especially black people as consumable material objects, but very rarely as fellow beings. Only when that person of color has proximity to whiteness in some way (via wealth, shared ideology or interests, whatever) they become “human-lite.” Then when it comes down to personal needs, also known as the benefits of whiteness, is this recognition abandoned.

As black people in the US, we are chastised for not “readily believing in the power of white liberal allies.” They have a lot of institutional power, and are on “our side.” But does not actively hating someone and freaking out about a Beyonce song only because it resonates to you as a white feminist actually being on “our side?” While we are on the front lines sacrificing ourselves for liberation, is having them make facebook posts in support but not donate to our jail funds allyship? They are on “our side,” but they never do any work.

Maybe it’s unintentional. Maybe they are unable to do anything without me saying lullabies interspersed with plees for survival, like a Mammy. It used to be a conundrum for me, and a great source of anger and betrayal. Why is it that the person who claims to love and care for me is violent to my being as a black woman? Why does she always hurt me? And why am I supposed to forgive her.

I'm not going to dwell on this young man. I don't harborsort of dark feelings about him; I almost pity him, because his racism isn'teven interesting; it's just blunt and sad.” Roxane Gay was speaking about the Charleston terrorist, but the paragraph sticks out to me. It’s not worth my time to dwell on why my “natural allies” are not actually my natural allies. I don’t have to give it the time of day, except maybe in a seminar paper. I don’t need to be frustrated with these people, or even acknowledge. Their racism isn’t even interesting to inhabit my personal life. There is no time.

So I will not forgive their mistakes. I will not dwell on it. I will just cut them out of my life, no questions asked. You don't need to wait for a milestone to be respectable enough to do it. Just do it. What do you value? Your life, or undue stress?


I cut 240 individuals from my space. Two made a scene, and one asked for forgiveness by saying "the right words." But it's not enough. Forgiveness without the will to make amends and face consequences is not accountability; it is continuing a cycle of abuse.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Warmth: Björk's "Post"


whereas 'debut' was like the greatest hits of ten years, 'post' was like the last two years. for me, all the songs on the album are like saying, 'listen, this is how i'm doing,' and that's why i called the record 'post', because i always address my songs back in my head to iceland in a letter. because it was such a big jump for me to move away from all my relatives, all my friends, everything i know.
Björk represents a lot of things to me. I remember on her website (the old one, in the about&about section) when reflecting on Kate Bush, she had mentioned that Bush's music had a nostalgic quality to them. While she had not really listened to Bush's records much, she would always have appreciation for their genius, as well as the strength they held during her adolescence. Similarly, Björk's records held the same nostalgic strength, particularly during my teenage years, and I always reflect on them with excitement (before I reset my last.fm track meter, I was listed as having listened to Björk over 12000 times).
Source: 12 inch
My first Björk album was Post. I came to it by way of hearing a live version of "Isobel" on a blog's flash animation probably in 2005 or 2006. I purchased the album version from iTunes, and tried to borrow Post from my public library; However, the only Björk album my library location had was Medúlla. While Medúlla definitely has a place in my heart, I was so set on getting Post that I scrambled as much couch money as I could to get an iTunes card to purchase it off the net. Before I reset my last.fm charts, it was my most played album and "Isobel" was my most played song.


When viewing images from the Post era, you get a sense that everything is new, exciting, and fresh in her career: a new milestone. Currently, I'm feeling the same way - something is on the tip of becoming new, fresh, and exciting for me - a new chapter in my life. Post's sense of renewal also reminds me of spring, and I'm really craving an exit from winter, which is equated to death and silence in my mind. 

Post is my favorite album, design-wise. It feels so warm, fluid, and cheerful. The color scheme, also used on Cibo Matto's Viva! La Woman, reinforces those themes. Post is self-actualized: it explicitly and boldly captures Björk's personality within the album. If Debut is a rookie watercolor painting, and Homogenic is more modern art, but with a computer (think vector art), then Post's essence of renewal, warmth, and defined youth is captured through solid paint colors, or oil and colored pencils. 

I'm looking forward to a warm and vibrant year.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

#FFC726

Source: "Celebration of Blackness" series, Carl Pope, 2002.

I have no New Year's Resolution's for 2015. I dislike like the nature of resolution lists; not because self-improvement is bad, but there is not enough focus on what already exists within the self that is positive. Additionally, the good stuff that already exists within the self is not emphasized as something that can be strengthened.

This does not mean that I have not reflected over 2014: I tend to recurrently think of each day, or the past day, or the past years. These are the things that were true this year:
  1. I am enough.
  2. I am more than enough: I am excellence.
  3. You should form and build community with loving, affirming, and accountable individuals.
  4. That beloved community concept is key to social change.
  5. There is no such thing as a safe space.
  6. Despite #5, #3 must always happen, or we will despair and die.
  7. From #3, we find mentors and models who encourage others to cultivate their own voices.
  8. Optimal health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social) is imperative.
  9. Kindness should be valued; but to be "well-meaning" should never be an escape from accountability.
  10. Discontinue anything or any relationship that impedes #1-9. Leave whatever impedes #1-9 behind.
    1. Exhibit A:
Also true this year:
"If you think you're going to die to struggle or cannot do the activism, just survive it. It's not your fault." - Melissa Harris Perry, 2014 Jana Mackey Distinguished Lecture Series
"I've learned three things. I tell everybody that I never used these words much but now I am happy to use them pretty much all the time. One is ‘no.’ The other one is ‘shut up.’ And the last one is ‘get out!’ Now that I have that arsenal, I could go forth. (laughs.)" - Toni Morrison
"Informalize a formal process."
 "The more you speak, the stronger your voice becomes."




There was a lot of light, love, and joy this year, and trumped the murkiness, loneliness, and pain I experienced. Light, love, and joy will always win, and will be my lighthouse for the following years, because I will build upon that.



Saturday, August 23, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Vibrancy

Illustration by lesueurpeas.
I'm interested to what allows me to believe I'm breathing and alive. As a result, I think of my life in colors now. I'm drawn to bright color palettes and colors that bounce off my skin. I'm interested in eating what I enjoy, and being conscious about mental health and what unsettles me. I don't want to be around people who remind me of basic colors, especially beige. Beige signifies stagnancy.

I'm alive, and I live to live.

Interests: bright colors, fruits, hoop earrings, colorful big earrings, Björk's Post album booklet design, my boyfriend, nachos, being a historian, finishing grad school applications, being a boss, "ain't nobody's business but mine*," Sailor Moon Crystal, Samurai Champloo, Hulu Plus, eighties mahou shoujo themes in Sailor Moon (Season 1), Tsukino Usagi's adolescent, weaponized girl's adolescence in Sailor Moon, my waxed legs, Bahia, being a magical girl.













* The original line is "Ain't nobody's business but mine and my baby's."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Possibilities & Personhood: Selfies, Women of Color, and Healing from White Supremacy

“We’re so erased. …If you’re a person of color, if you’re a woman, if you’re from a poor family, if you’re from a rural family, if you’re from a family who worked like dogs and never got any respect or a share of the profits - you know that 99 percent of your stories ain’t been told. 
In any fucking medium. And yet we still have to be taught to look, and to tell our stories. …Despite the utter absence of us, it’s still an internal revolution to say wait a minute, we are not only worthy of great art, but the source of great art.” - Junot Díaz
I don't take selfies; or at least, I haven't done it on a normal basis. I posted an "ugly Xmas sweater" look on Christmas Eve on facebook once. I posted a photo of how cute I looked for a Carnaval bloco, too. I own an instagram, a tumblr, a twitter, and facebook account, and I rarely post selfies. But I am friends with those who do. All of them are women of color, especially black women. I love selfies, and they are essential, because I see me.

I.
I am often told by many black Americans (whose ancestors arrived centuries earlier) that I am incredibly lucky to have immigrant parents: to know how sweet it is to be in close proximity to a well-defined ethnic group. Accordingly, it is a privilege to know what your direct lineage is. This has been said to me despite not being able to visit West Africa until I was 21. This has been said to me despite being acculturated into American blackness, by my parents choice. 

Jollof rice, highlife, and Twi did not prevent my predominantly white neighborhood from swallowing me into invisibility. Seeing my parents did not prevent me from being unable to see my own reflection, even when I looked in the mirror. Seeing family members did not prevent me from being unable to fantasize myself in dream worlds as a child without viewing myself as a white girl.

Here is evidence that being erased, even when you exist, is psychologically damaging. When I was a child, I believed so many career paths and opportunities were closed off to me because I didn't see any black woman, who I'd eventually become, doing those occupations. When I was a child, I believed fun without fear wasn't for black girls: zip-lining, swimming at friend's pools, buying Spice Girl dolls. Even venturing from these ideas was coined as "being white" - i.e., even when was viewed as trying to assimilate into whiteness, whereas they may have just liked something for the sake of it, was still seen as being an "other." I didn't deserve my grades as being a smart and clever black girl: I received those grades, according to classmates, for trying to assimilate into whiteness. Being "smart" is "being white," apparently.
Sometimes, I didn't even (subconsciously) want to be acceptable (re: white, but I'd never have admitted it). It seemed like Japanese and Chinese girls would always be considered cute, smart, playful, w/e. I had to learn that I tokenized them and I had learned that from white people. I also had to learn that I longed to be them because they were not touched by blackness. Likewise, I didn't understand that my childhood attraction to Anglo or East Asian dudes was another way of leaving blackness.
When I was a child, I didn't think black girls were pretty, even though I didn't really think of our multitudes and variations; but I knew a certain kind of black girl would be viewed as pretty, worthy of (an albeit, compromised and tokenized kind of) respect. I also knew I would never be that girl: I was was darker, very African looking, had the hair that had to be straightened, and didn't sound bougie or like I had a white parent. 
I had learned that I had no power, and carried that with me until I was 17.

II.
My curiosity, bravery, and will saved me from suffocating in that psychological violence. I had to learn how to unlearn, how to vomit out the toxic stuff - how to survive with whatever was left of me, and to rebuild myself. Studying history, studying the history of black people in the United States was, and continues to be, a solution to healing. I unlearned shame by learning the context of that shame. I learned pride, survival tools, and closure - this is why I am investing my time into it as my life's work.

But that wasn't necessarily enough. Sure, I'm seeing successes and gains and the strength and power my predecessors had in the past - but the present is just as important as the past. This Cassie was growing, definitely, but still empty.
I had moved from feeling invisible, to sort of visible, to okay: I could admit that I was pretty sometimes, but I was just existing. Makeup was not exciting to me, I still felt limited in what I could wear, and what was available didn't look flattering on me. It got a little better over the years: sometimes, I was really feeling myself.

Because of tumblr.

III.
There a countless people who are quick to dismiss tumblr as a black hole; sometimes, I am one of those people. There are many things about it that I really dislike/I find problematic. But even as the site is difficult, it can be affirming too. It was here that I came into community with girls just like me.

You cannot underestimate it: the feeling of being connected. Of seeing other girls have the same experiences as you, the same problems. Similar interests, dislikes, pains and sorrows, joys, illnesses and disorders and traumas. But all different voices, all different versions of yourself, even when you are all black. There is an intimacy in finally having access to those voices, after being starved almost two decades for this.

It is not only affirming to see words, but pictures too. The people I followed posted so many pictures of the girls and women, mostly black, often women of color, and rarely white. Women of color, doing everything: writing, dancing, singing, teaching, screaming, smiling, crying, numb, exuberant, living, and dying.
They also posted themselves doing the same things; but every photo was different and varied. Personal and impersonal. Neutral, normal, valid; when I was a child, those words were reserved for white girls. Why was I so attached and giddy and proud over these simple selfies?
I don't feel affirmed just seeing any picture of a black person, especially if it's chosen to be in the image of/approximation to whiteness. Are you capturing a kind of solidarity or community with me? Are you owning your humanity in the photo? Do you have control over the photo? And are you free in that control?

99% of the time, yes. It's not designated for white consumption; it's not even about my consumption - it's about the picture being theirs and whatever they would like to do with it. It signifies humanity and personhood; away from whiteness and independent of whiteness. The possibility of being possible on one's own terms.

That makes me feel more my own. To honor myself, dress up, smile, speak up, and do the things that I wish to do. To contribute to a community of possibilities, in a world that tells me the possibilities of love, pleasure, happiness, desire, success, and a prism of emotions is not allowed to me. Imagine if I had that as a troubled girl, with her issues invisible because the world was normalized and she didn't exist. 
This is why the majority of the people I follow are black girls and women of color. This is why they paint my pinterest boards. This is why I am studying abroad in the blackest part of Brazil. To reinforce possibility instead of closed doors. To reinforce my personhood.

That's why I'm behind selfies, because they are indeed healing. 
Maybe I'll be taking them more often.