No Justice, No Peace

November 25, 2014

“Millions of tears have fallen for black sons, brothers, lovers, and friends whose assailants took or maimed their lives and then simply went on their way.”
― AberjhaniIlluminated Corners: Collected Essays and Articles Volume I.

“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.I Have A Dream

I, too, dream of the same thing, Dr. King.

I hope you will join me in taking some time to reflect, to hurt, to sting, to roar, to let this lack of an indictment gut you the way that it should. I have opted not to post any new content for the remainder of the week. Erica and I have also chosen to postpone tonight’s Twitter chat to next Wednesday, December 3, still at 8 p.m. EST.

R.I.P. Michael Brown. An artist, a revolutionary, a trailblazer, a game-changer that this world never got a chance to fully know. I will continue to pray, hope and wish with my tiny beating heart that one day America elects to value black bodies in a way it keeps failing to do.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Chronicles Of The Overachieving Black Girl

November 24, 2014

overachiever 2

Six Fridays ago, I arrived at my apartment door and found what is now one of my most coveted possessions: the complete season of Daria on DVD. I used the Amazon gift card my sister gave me for my birthday to purchase the set and spent the next few nights binging on the first two seasons. The binge watching continued during the subsequent weeks. I discovered a newfound appreciation for the wit and sharp writing of a show that I couldn’t exactly understand during its run in the late 90s when I was wearing pigtails and hitting up Ms. Donahoe’s fifth grade class.

I love many of the characters on the show (my favorite is Daria’s best friend Jane Lane because she is a cynical asshole, but she’s also artistic and much more well-adjusted than Daria.)  But, another character who resonated with me was Jodie Landon, the only black recurring character aside from her boyfriend Mack Mackenzie. Jodie is smart, likable and over-extended when it comes to her extracurricular activities. Watching the episodes where Jodie appears reminds me on some level of my own high school experience, one that also took place at a predominantly white school. I understand Jodie because I was one of those black girls who knew people and they knew me, but I wasn’t in any popular inner circle. I wasn’t exactly overextended when it came to extracurriculars, but I worked pretty hard and did well enough to join the world of college and, later, student loan debt.

Jodie could be considered an overachiever. The same could be said for Olivia Pope. Or Annalise Keating. Or Michaela Pratt. (And if at least one of these names does not ring a bell, I’m going to question our friendship.) These are all fictional black characters whose ambition and zeal resonate in good and bad ways with the black female audiences who consume them. But, when it comes to being a black woman, I don’t know if overachiever is even an accurate term. Often times, it feels like what the rest of the world considers an overachievement is just a basic achievement in my book. Maybe we’re all kind of like Olivia and our parents are all kind of like Rowan:

Rowan: Did I not raise you for better? How many times have I told you? You have to be what?

Olivia: Twice as good.

Rowan: You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have.

I don’t know if I ever directly heard the phrase “twice as good” in my household, but I know that fucking up was not an option. Bad grades weren’t an option. Slacking off wasn’t an option, at least not if you wanted to live to see your eighteenth birthday. My mom wasn’t in the PTA. She didn’t chaperone field trips. But, she drilled me before spelling tests and asked to see every report card that made its way through that front door. My sister and I did not have permission to entertain mediocrity. Now, I appreciate both of my parents for that lack of permission. So, who knows if I’m insanely intrinsically motivated or if I’m just conditioned to do things well and right. I don’t know and I don’t quite care.

I’ve called myself an overachiever before. So have many others. But, now, I would like to settle in the comfort of knowing that I do things well and I am damn good at what I do. I am not over-anything. I am achieving. I’m accomplishing. I’m learning from mistakes and resetting my sails. I’m bouncing back. I’m showing up. I am doing the work. I am putting my head down and doing the motherfucking work. If those things are considered overachieving, I damn sure do not want to know what “achieving” is.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Feature: Ariel of Revolutionary In Pink Pumps

November 18, 2014

 

Editor’s Note: I stumbled upon Revolutionary In Pink Pumps by happenstance one day on Twitter, but the concept immediately struck me as something unique, bold, brave and beautiful. Ariel, the woman at the helm of Revolutionary In Pink Pumps, is the kind of person who strikes you as wise beyond her years. She tackles issues such as race, body image and culture with poise, guts and deftness. After starting the blog as a hybrid of fashion and social issues, the space has evolved in conjunction with Ariel. Read more about her journey as a writer, goals for the blog and why she calls herself an “accidental feminist.” Meet Ariel. 

Age: 22

Location: NJ/ NYC Metro Area

How did you come up with the name Revolutionary in Pink Pumps? What does that name represent for you?
When I started the blog I had two big passions, fashion/style and culture/society. I wanted the blog to stand out from all the fashion blogs so I thought that the title would show that I encompassed both fashion and social commentary. As the blog developed I lost the fashion aspect of it, because I cared so much more about the lifestyle and social commentary aspect. Revolutionary in Pink Pumps has grown to showcase that wanting to be involved in societal discussion doesn’t mean you burn bras and picket MAC counters. The blog tag line is “Glitter, Heels, & Social Revolution” because I can’t imagine my life without all three and I want people to know that they do not have to exist separately. I’ve presented academic papers on Black women in media in gold-heeled DVF pumps.

 You tackle topics such as race, body image and culture on your blog. What empowers you to write about these topics in such a powerful way?
The most important thing to when I tackle a topic is that I know what I am talking about. Anything I write is typically based off of experience, or the opinion that I give on a topic is based off of my experience. If something doesn’t move me or relate to me I typically won’t write about it, not because it isn’t important but because I recognize that someone else can probably give it a better voice than I can. I grew up in the midst of an ongoing conversation about race and culture, because I was consistently the only Black face in a lot of my settings so I feel comfortable discussing race and culture. As someone who has battled and overcome an eating disorder, I feel like body image is so important and should be discussed more. People don’t realize that race and body image even cross over into each other. I remember reading teen magazines and wishing that my voice was represented, that my issues were talked about, and they never were; so I write for all the brown girls like me who didn’t have a space growing up. Knowing that what I write relates to someone reading it reminds me that I should keep writing.

What are your upcoming goals for Revolutionary in Pink Pumps?
Right now I think visibility is my biggest goal. I want to increase people’s interest in topics and find my niche, since I hang in the balance of a few niches. Once I’ve got a concrete audience I want to start developing a few series for the blog and maybe expand, I want to know what else people want to know.

ariel for twenties unscripted

Who are some of the bloggers and writers you follow and consider revolutionary?

The Black Collegian 

Mixed Fat Chick 

The Haitian American 

Jezebel

In Her Shoes 

For Harriet 

There are a ton, honestly  can’t even keep a list, I typically just add articles I like to my news app and let it do the work for me. I also read a lot of news Black news outlets. I also love to use Instagram to discover new content, it’s like a blog all its own.

You’ve mentioned before that you do not consider yourself a feminist. In what ways has society made it difficult to assert the “feminist” label?
I like to consider myself an “accidental feminist”, I’m in the midst of defining that myself at the moment, via a blog post, but I think that because feminism has always been somewhat of a counterculture, society has made those who align with it very much the ‘other’. Feminism has so many definitions from so many different outlets and lately it’s gone from the “othering” to an everyday word. It’s kind of like love, I don’t think it should be tossed around as loosely as it has been. All of the sudden because someone claimed that Beyonce is a feminist, every girl wants to slap on a t-shirt that says ‘”This is what a feminist looks like.” And while I think it’s great that feminism is gaining a viable visibility, I think it’s really important for people to be educated about what they’re claiming to be. If you can’t tell me anything about bell hooks I feel as if maybe you should tuck your feminist shirt away until you can find the nearest library.

On your blog, you’ve said, “The goal of this blog is not to tell you you’re wrong or change your belief, it is in fact to give you a different perspective.” How do you deal with Internet trolls or people who approach you with comments that are not constructive?
I don’t think that you can be a writer without having tough skin. When you put your opinion out there you’re open to some hurtful stuff and I’ve had a few trolls who really tried to come for my neck. Trolls love confrontation; I don’t. Everything is case-by-case for me but more often than not I’ll respond with facts. I don’t like to drag anything personal into a battle with trolls, because then it becomes a back and forth of “yo mama” proportion. If they’re nasty about my writing or the context of the blog, I simply thank them for taking their time to sit and read it, let them know they’re entitled to their opinion, and if it fits, then I throw in some facts from the piece or the blog to kind of shut down their snark.

What are some of the Revolutionary in Pink Pumps posts that most reflect your brand as a blogger?

Why Sharing Jill Scott’s Nudes Is A Violation of Every Black Female Body

The Beauty Salon Taught Me Self Hate

Diary of a Fat Fat Shamer: The Breakthrough

From A “Strong Black Woman Who Don’t Need No Man”

What keeps you inspired?
Sometimes I’m convinced that the only ones reading my blog are my friends and relatives and while I love them, I know they already understand a lot of what I’m trying to put out in the air. Sometimes I think it won’t matter if I blog this week or not, but honestly I can’t keep my mouth shut. There are too many things I see happening that I can’t chime in on and bring light to. We miss a lot, because mainstream ignores a lot and even if my post only reaches 10 people, I recognize that it may be 10 people who never would have known about something before the post. When I don’t feel like writing I remember what it felt like to cruise media and not see myself in anything as a young brown girl and remember that I write to try to contribute to the space for faces like mine.

arielAriel is a college graduate with a bachelors degree in English/Journalism and Professional Writing and a concentration in African American studies. Her writing experience spans past editorial work in publications and encompasses PR work, administrative writing and social media use. She has experience writing lifestyle, events, food, fashion, beauty, and social/racial commentary, but is most often found on her personal blog Revolutionary In Pink Pumps. Follow Ariel at @RevInPinkPumps

We Are Not Born With Thick Skin.

November 17, 2014

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What I wrote on Friday, May 2 “Getting Published In Thought Catalog: Don’t Read The Comments” is one of my most-read posts in 2014. But, it was May 1, the day I got published in Thought Catalog that is much more important. I won’t recount how it felt to have my submission picked up or the adrenaline rush of seeing the byline. Instead, this is about the knot my stomach coiled into once the nasty comments started pouring in, once I realized that not everyone would be a fan of my work nor is kindness highly valued in the Internet abyss. This is about that evening when I could barely eat, when every moment my mind had a free minute, it bounced back to being called a “naive fuck.” This is about a lesson in growing thick skin.

Last week Nik of A Tale of Two Biddies and We Are Womanhood proposed a simple but loaded question to a few bloggers: “How do you deal with shade/haters?” I noticed the common thread in most of the responses to her question was about ignoring negativity, letting it roll off your back and not devoting much attention to it. I responded by saying I learned how to stop “fighting air,” a phrase my sister and I coined to describe all of the fruitless energy I exerted this year on situations and quibbles that just weren’t that serious.

But, a few hours later I considered Nik’s question more and tweeted that “I want us to stop pretending that we’ve known how to shrug off negativity since we came out the womb. Being able to do that takes time…you grow thick skin. It takes time. It takes some breakdowns. Few of us are just born with it.”

I don’t think it’s enough to tell anyone to just ignore anything. I certainly don’t think it’s enough to tell writers, artists and creators to just ignore negativity because what we do is so intimate. It’s vulnerable. It takes guts and heart and a rare form of courage. So, no, you can’t just ignore it when people attempt to dismantle your craft, the thing you have built with your very own hands  and heart. “Just ignore it” is a very reductive and unrealistic way to deal with antagonism. Because this writing shit, it’s personal.

Instead, I say give yourself the room and space to get mad as all hell. Let the trolls piss you off. Let the negative comments eat away at the pit in the middle of your stomach. Get mad. Skip dinner because you’re too angry to eat. Gchat ad nauseum about how much you hate the Internet. Get upset. Let the rage burgeon into red hot pools of lava.

And, then let the room get smaller. Let the space shrink. Don’t give yourself as much permission to be livid with total strangers who don’t understand your craft and probably never will. Focus on the task at hand—creating dope shit that moves the world in ways it has yet to see, feel or experience. When someone compliments your work or says you’ve inspired them, read those messages two, three, four times over. Let those messages leave a mark on you. Don’t give misery the company it covets. Do not pull up a chair next to it and sit down for a drink. There are too many other people in this place who will love you if you let them.

Then, close the door to the room entirely. Abandon that space that says you aren’t shit because of what a bottom feeder trolling the comments section said. Walk away. Vacate the room completely. Let your skin grow thick enough that you are still authentic, but also immune to the stew of hatred, jealousy and disdain others want to project onto you. Don’t try to be so impenetrable that you lose your humanity. But, don’t let anyone else strip you of that same humanity because of their own fuckedupness.

We are not born with thick skin. We have to earn our stripes. We have to pay our dues. We only have the thick skin after we’ve had our backs broken, our spirits cracked, our words misconstrued, our intellect questioned, our craft tampered with. We let it suck. We let it hurt. We feel it deep in the roots of everything we know. And, we let our skin grow thicker with each dagger aimed at us until ignoring it no longer seems reductive. Until ignoring it no longer seems unrealistic. Until ignoring it is a means of survival, a mechanism for self-preservation.

A few weeks ago, in response to a guest post I published on Twenties Unscripted (not even my own post, a guest post), someone left a comment calling me a “dumb nigger.” I joked about it with the guest writer. Then I trashed the comment and continued on with the day. Now, I know better than to exert any energy on someone without enough decency to leave his or her real name and email address on a comment. Now, I have the thick skin.

Xoxo,
Tyece