We Must Resist the Terrorism

Denmark Vesey is one of my heroes. He was about resistance. He resisted the title of slave, freeing himself after winning a lottery. He educated and gave hope to other Africans to remember who they were, despite the harsh, enslaved conditions being experienced in South Carolina. He despised weakness and walked with agency. He united many enslaved and free Africans toward mutual goals of brother /sisterhood and self-determination, by any means necessary. Vesey organized a massive African uprising against slavery, white racism and oppression in 1822. He rejected our status as slaves, victims, and abominations. He was lynched and then shot for his efforts, along with many other brave Africans who rose up. Why am I talking about Denmark Vesey? He was one of the founders of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina that was attacked last night.

This historic place, deeply rooted in the upliftment and emancipation of African people in the Americas and the Caribbean, was the target of an intentional, premeditated, timely hate crime last night, the most recent of thousands of vile hateful events since Columbus sailed the ocean blue and invaded this nation. At this historic AME Church in South Carolina, nine African-Americans have been murdered by a young white male. This was intentional. This was not an isolated event of a lone white man, crazed and just confused. As many of these hate crimes are (though the media and power structures would like us to believe otherwise to keep us contained and controlled), this act was rooted in the history and fabric of this nation. This has been taught. This message of hate has been given loud and clear. This is a racist nation and those people who have been on the losing end of it already know it. It’s a privilege not to see it. We as “civilized” Americans want to believe otherwise and explain it all away because that feels more comfortable, more civil. However, to ever get to the root of these actions, we have to be honest. In less than 24 hours, I have already heard the media undertones of “Please don’t act a fool black folks. Please don’t rebel, uprise, and revolt. Please just see this as a gun issue. Please just see this as a mental illness issue. Please see this as an isolated event. Please continue staying in your place. Please allow the legacy of hate and terrorism towards and on black bodies continue as it has since we arrived in this nation. Please forget that it is 2015 and remember that we are post-racial now. Please remember it’s not all about race. Please just pray on it and wait for happiness and fair treatment in the afterlife because God will give you your just desserts.” No. No. No. I’m not listening to those distractions, to those outright lies, and to intentions to subdue my spirit and nullify my common sense. I have to tell you who I am. My spirit is rooted in resistance just like Denmark Vesey and the many others who came before and after him. Just because I may not walk with a gun doesn’t mean my mind and pen aren’t pulling the trigger on hate just like Nikki Giovanni and Claude McKay. I am fed up. “We” all are. I can assure you of that.

We must, all people in this great nation, see this recent terrorist act in South Carolina as emblematic of a larger, not isolated, issue that has been firmly established in America and no amount of MLK holidays will assuage this bitter, deplorable fact. We must begin holding our nation accountable and stop with the PC niceties and blanketing and “whitesplaining” and misdirection that only feed the beast of racism. We must communicate our hearts. We must be allowed to be human. We must be truthful about how this nation has been designed and who that keeps oppressed and who that keeps in power. We must see the complexity in it all. We must be willing to dismantle it. And we must do it together and in love, even when it hurts. We must ALL resist the institution of racism that gives birth to these “isolated” events. It’s all connected. If not, we will be exactly where we are – in pain, confused, angry, and divided. Rest in peace and power to the victims. I am praying and plotting. Pressed to the Wall Dying but Fighting Back, Tina

It’s Bigger Than Rachel

Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal has shaken up good old ‘Merica or at least her parents and brother have. The Dolezals decided to tell America that their daughter wasn’t an “authentic” black person. Which daughter you ask? The one who recently resigned as president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. The one who, with a quick google search, has become the butt of many silly jokes for her identifying as black or more accurately, as multiracial.

Now, passing is nothing new. Since we were forcefully brought to this country, many fair-skinned African-Americans have chosen to “pass” in order to gain access and privilege into an America that most African-Americans were violently denied. Therefore, the concept of passing is nothing novel, albeit sad that one would need to. However, there are a few things to consider with this recent Rachel debacle.

One, is Rachel really passing? How do we know that she isn’t part black (if we are going to keep playing the game that race is actually a real thing and not merely a social construct meant to elevate whiteness anyway)? The one drop rule instated by American whites went to great lengths to limit who could be considered white and surely there’s a drop in Rachel somewhere, as there is with most of us. Scientifically speaking, the first humanoid was discovered in Africa, so her DNA surely represents that in one of those millions of strands and just because people may have since moved to different climates doesn’t erase the roots. Second, whites in this country have been notorious for covering up their past black lineage to remain at the upper rungs of American society, so how do we know that her parents aren’t the delusional ones who are upset that Rachel is outing them by being her authentic self? We don’t know and until all of the facts come out, we won’t, so it’s all speculative and trivial Twitter fodder, except that she sued Howard University for discrimination, apparently.

Furthermore, there is indeed such a thing as identity. We can choose to identify in many nuanced ways. There has long been “white chocolate,” those individuals who feel culturally black though they may be perceived as white by others. This does not always mean cultural appropriation. I grew up with several friends like this and they weren’t trying to be black, they were just being what came naturally. Maybe this is Rachel, though I agree that if she indeed “lied,” then she has to be honest with herself and move forward authentically – whatever that means for her, not us. If she has lied, she must atone to those whose trust she’s violated and think about the dangerous cultural implications of her actions. And to be fair, she did not denounce or deny her whiteness. She included her black and Native American heritage. Can one not be all of the above in this multiracial, so called “post-racial” society in which we live (doesn’t the post racial thing make you giggle)?

And at the end of the day, isn’t it all perception? Who in the hell are you, are WE to tell someone else what group(s) they do or don’t belong to? I know that’s the power game that’s been our legacy, but it’s time to release the lever. It sounds like another way to be divisive and to keep people in their place and for others to remain in power. Yet another way to keep people in neat little boxes. Has Rachel killed or brutalized someone? Has she stolen millions and left people destitute? No. She is trying to better society by teaching and advocating for the civil and human rights of all people and trying desperately to live her life on her terms (even if in a warped or non-traditional manner – that’s if she lied). We aren’t even sure that she violated trust. All we know is what her parents have said (remind me why her parents outed her in such a public manner). Rachel just broke the unspoken code – you can’t use your white skin privilege to pass for black (or white) or to actually be black if you are perceived by wider society as white. And if you are perceived as a person of color, then you definitely can’t enter the tight knit of whiteness, says society. So, who’s pulling the strings which dictate racial stratification? Who’s making these grandiose decisions? Who’s continuing with this racial farce? And who really cares? There are much bigger problems in America than Rachel identifying as multiracial, whether she is to “us” or isn’t and since my class begins in minutes, I’m about to get back to solving those problems.

To blackness, to otherness, to a little crazy, and everything else, Tina

p.s. I can tell you if she’s white or not. If we are still talking about her next week, followed by book deals and a Lifetime movie, then she’s probably white. That’s how white privilege works – that we are forced to care enough to keep talking about her and that she benefits significantly even while being maligned/discredited.

p.s.s. Some of you Twitter folks need your own comedy show because you have brought tears of laughter with your ridiculousness around this so-called issue.

Why I Rage About It All


I grieve as Baltimore grieves and rages over the insistent maltreatment of poor, black and brown bodies as illustrated by the recent murder of Freddie Gray for running from a cop. I seethe as Rekia Boyd’s memory is disgraced by a non-guilty verdict by a reckless cop who shot an innocent woman. I ache at the loss of almost 5000 people as a result of an earthquake in Nepal. I press fingers to temples at the possibility of the Supreme Court stepping backwards today and the sad fact that same-sex couples have to justify their love to any damn body. I stress about the refugees and civil unrest in Syria. I fume about the recent NYT article that 1.5 million black men are missing as a result of incarceration or early death. And I am even more upset about the fact that many don’t even know that 64,000 black women have gone missing. Just gone. Vanished. Like my naiveté about how this country works. It makes me scream at times. In a 1962 interview for the Black World/Negro Digest, James Baldwin said, “…To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time.” I swear this is true for many of us who wear the mask and present so well to the world, and at the same time, are so Fannie Lou Hamer. It’s exhausting carrying the weight, carrying the weight of the anger. So what do we do about it?

Well, it depends, but I believe in protest. Active, relentless, quiet and large-scale protest. I am not into regulating how people should respond, activate their civil rights and/or fight for basic dignity and human rights. I personally think it takes a bit of all of it, at different times, to make it congeal, to make it better for the masses. I’m what you’d call a Tupac because “I’m not a killa, but don’t push me.” I’m a bit of a Mother Teresa because I also believe “We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion.” I’m definitely what you’d call an Assata Shakur because my heart says that “we need a r/evolution of the mind. we need a r/evolution of the heart. we need a r/evolution of the spirit. the power of the people is stronger than any weapon. a people’s r/evolution can’t be stopped. we need to be weapons of mass construction. weapons of mass love. it’s not enough just to change the system. we need to change ourselves. we have got to make this world user friendly. user friendly…. r/evolution is love.”

So, I try to break up the anger that boils and coils inside by smiling and laughing and talking to strangers so that they won’t be and hugging and writing and walking by the lake and supporting those who need it and praying. I look at hummingbird and cat videos on YouTube or try to find the good news on CNN, like the swearing in of Soror Loretta Lynch or like the President speaking up about Freddie Gray and political mobilization and saying this is important or news that Nigerian troops have rescued 200 women and 93 girls from Boko Haram camps. But it’s still hard. It’s hard for a few reasons.

The first is that I often feel helpless to change many of the horrific things going on in the world, so I try to focus on changing myself, my attitude and my priorities, instead. The second is that there’s too much horror to focus in on. Every day, it’s a another tragedy tearing at my soul – whether it’s the murder of a trans woman or a natural disaster or some friend on Facebook who can’t understand the intersectionality of it all and wonders why I care about one instead of the other – in that particular moment or why I don’t like the vitriol or heartless baggage they are spewing towards a certain group. I don’t have time to play oppression Olympics or who’s most wrong or evil today or who doesn’t deserve my love or sympathy. All of this shit is hard and all of it is painful – for someone. All of it impacts us all, whether we believe it or not. This shit is interconnected and universal. We are reflections of each other. Just look closer. A friend posted a quote which read, “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.” Just look closer. Peer in to see how it all relates at some point. It is deeply personal. So I’ll keep protesting, raging and creating awareness about various issues that come across my path.

I protest the nonsense and tragedy of this world by caring about it all, but not carrying it so much that it breaks my spirit. There’s too much work to be done – too many hugs to give, too many broken pieces to pick up, too many important decisions to be made, too much love to give – for me to stop now. I love the fake and the real ones. I love the hopeful and the apathists. I love the fucking furious and those at peace. I love the brilliant and the idiots alike. I’m an equal opportunist, raging lover of humans because we all fall on both ends of the spectrum at some point in our lives. Let’s ease up on and peer into each other.

I’ll end with another portion of Baldwin’s interview.  “…the first problem is how to control that rage so it won’t destroy you…. You have to decide that you can’t spend the rest of your life cursing out everyone who gets in your way…. It also demands a great deal of stepping outside a social situation in order to deal with it. And all the time you’re out of it you can’t help feeling a little guilty that you are not, as it were, on the firing line, tearing down the slums and doing all of these obviously needed things, which in fact, other people can do better than you because it is terribly true that a writer is extremely rare.” So, like Brother Baldwin, I’ll rage, but I’ll rage in love and light. I’ll rage and today, my choice of protest will be to write.

Cats & Roses: A Bathtub Tale


A vase of roses I’d received were making their way to a beautiful death, so to get more use out of them, I de-petaled, bagged and refrigerated them. I didn’t know if I’d make rose water, a rose parfum or a path for me to walk down my hallway, ala Coming to America. I had a list of tasks that I was determined to complete before the day was over which included working out, washing clothes, folding clothes, sweeping the floor, picking up the kid from improv class, grading a few papers, Bantu knotting my hair, reading something juicy, practicing my lines, and doing a little writing. Well, after an exhausting week of teaching and play rehearsal and a ridiculous Friday to-do list, I decided on using those fresh petals for a hot bath, accompanied by a sweet glass of wine.

As the water ran, my curious kitty jumped up to see what was going on in the tub. I was so amused that I grabbed my phone, snapped a photo and Facebooked the image. I view myself as a secret photog, so it would be a perfect addition to my collection. I took a much needed Epsom salt soak while re-reading a few of my favorite poems from Ladan Osman’s The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony. I sipped my cheap Italian red wine and read aloud bemusing lines like, “If I’m lying… May I die and find myself in a meek woman’s mouth” and “Is our love water I can’t drink?” It was a languorous event that I should indulge in much more often. It was a true blue Friday night chill fest. And I haven’t taken a chill pill in quite a while. I’ve been downright tense, high strung and in ‘get it all done’ mode. It felt good to etch out time for me. To force the issue. It was my attempt to slow my frenzied pace, be in the moment and take care of my precious soul.

After I did my hair and started on the toenail polishing part of my self-restoration attempt, I checked Facebook and saw several comments by male friends mentioning and cat-calling my husband on my “cat gazing into a rosy tub” post. I was confused. I asked why they were mentioning him on my post and one said, “I’m just giving him props for his Rico Suavetivity” (as if my husband had done something or was in the pic) and the other retorted, “Why do you think?” I said that I wasn’t sure.

However, I really wanted to respond, “I think you are being simple and over-reaching a bit. It’s a cat pic, asshats.” I wanted to rage about how incredibly irritated I was that taking a cat pic by a candlelit, rosy tub or worse, me taking a moment for me to relax had to turn into something about my husband being “suave” or underlying sexual/romantic connotations for my man. I wanted to quote parts of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” and rant about Valentine’s Day notions of romance being asinine, antiquated, sexist, and banal. I wanted to let them know that my wonderful husband was out lounging with his homies, taking some time for him. Likewise, I reveled in the private time I had just for me. We both value our individuality and support each other in doing what makes each other happy – with or without the other person around. And I wanted to tell them that my husband doesn’t need to throw old rose petals into a tub to seduce me.

Instead of sharing all of that and playing trivial FB ping pong over a damn cat pic, I decided to remain in chill, but focused mode and finish the last task on my checklist – writing this post. And with that, good night, my lovelies. Remember to put your needs in the rotation of your beautiful life. And keep posting cat pics.


The Relaxed One Who Stole Time for Her Glorious Self on a Friday Night and Still Got Every Task Done While the Cat Watched

Unite for What's Right


To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.  – James A. Baldwin

In the midst of my rage, I’m still able to see some beautiful acts of solidarity and resistance in light of so much ugliness in America. After the refusal of the (in)justice system to indict a Ferguson and NYC cop after using excessive force that resulted in the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner and after so much bullcrap reasoning for those heinous actions and shameful blaming of the deceased, there has been a massive and unexpected response. What I see is a critical mass forming. A critical mass of those who understand what institutionalized and systemic racism is and the insidious ways it affects and socializes us all. A critical mass of those who are also enraged about these injustices and see it as an American problem and not just a “black issue.” A critical mass of those who realize the intersectionality of it all and that all oppression is injurious. Like Martin Niemöller said, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” Oppression is oppression and we have to see it and act, even if we don’t think it impacts our day-to-day lives. And this is exactly what I’ve seen recently.

There have been mass protests and uprisings across the nation from Montana to Miami and everywhere along our borders and in between. There have been essays, letters and articles. There have been memes. There have been satirists railing. There have been fervent social media debates. More than debate, there has been a collective “calling out” on the racist commentary and worse, the silence or blatant ignorance about what’s going on in America right now. Audre Lorde tells us, “Your silence will not protect you.” To those acting immune to oppression, I’ve thankfully witnessed and overheard family members and FB friends saying things to their loved ones, colleagues and friends like, “Stand up.” “Speak out.” “Get your head out of the sand.” “Use your power.”  “Where’s your rage?” “I need to delete some people now that I see where they stand.” “Your high and mighty education and that fancy suit won’t protect you.” And this all makes me smile. It fills my heart and gives me strength in this fight for humanity. These have been poor folks standing tall. Black folks standing tall. LGBTQ folks standing tall. Latinos standing tall. Women folk standing tall. Rural folks standing tall. Asian folks standing tall. Religious folks standing tall. Educated folks standing tall. White folks standing tall. The activists and revolutionaries standing tall. Organizations standing tall. Athletes standing tall. The meek standing tall. Native Americans standing tall. Sororities and fraternities standing tall. Politicians standing tall. Multiracial folks standing tall. Police standing tall. Artists standing tall. Parents standing tall. The almighty youth standing tall. TOGETHER. And that UNITY is POWER. Pure power. Like Malcolm X taught us, “those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.” So I applaud and thank those who talk to their racist or classist or prejudiced or xenophobic or insensitive or clueless friends, family members, lovers, and associates. We tend to listen to those who look like us, act like us, work with us, break bread with us, or those whom we love. We must continue to do the work in our own back yards, tending to the weeds there, so that they don’t choke out and kill the rest of the flowers that are struggling to thrive or survive the elements.

So to those doing the demanding work and making difficult and sometimes painful, risky and scary choices in the name of positive change and social justice, I’d like to take a moment to say THANK YOU. I see you. I see US. I see the love through the rage and fear. The resistance is part of our DNA and our legacy. The change is real.

In solidarity & love, Tina

When It Gets Too Deep

It’s easy to get angry at the world right now. Or at a structurally racist and classist society (and yes, we do live in one) where blacks can be killed with impunity by anyone except us in order to “keep us in line.” Or at black folks who will march and protest when an “outsider” pulls the trigger, but act like Kermit talking about “that’s none of my business” or “snitches get stitches” when we kill our own. It’s genocide both ways and one is no excuse for the other.

It’s easy to point fingers at skittish cops or at whites who fear or hate blacks or at biased prosecutors and a sometimes unjust system or at our long, long history of oppression and colonization or at the state of our communities or at parents who don’t do enough to raise their children or at mayors who don’t invest in the children who need it the most or at clergy who can’t make the pain go away or at biased media coverage or at the “music” that gets air play and feeds on young minds or at Don Lemon for being a lemonhead or at Don Imus cuz’ I remember that nappy-headed hoes comment or at Guliani for being the Stop & Frisk clown he’s always been (and for people being shocked about his recent comments) or at President Obama who won’t wield his magic wand or at how many of us have drank the Kool-Aid, stains still left on our gullible mouths or at allies who stand quiet in these moments or at nut jobs who come out of the shadows and say how they really feel about “us” as if we didn’t know. History tells us this. And repeat. Hit rewind and repeat. It won’t change unless we all do.

It’d be easy to wild out on social media, on my blog or at the television – cussing, ranting, accusatory, and in pain. It’d be easy to go back to my job and get into arguments with folks who don’t see the privileges that exist and want to make everything logical with color, class and historical inequities magically erased from the equation. It’d be easy to retreat from those who don’t understand where I’m coming from and why “those” people are so furious. It’d be easy to delete. Block. Unfollow. Stop reading the comments under the article. Turn off the tube forever. But I won’t because that’s too simple and it won’t solve any of these problems. The issues that bring us to this precipice are complicated. Inextricably linked. Nuanced. Painful. Hard.

And my mama and daddy taught me when things get tough, to dig in. As Phife Dog said, “I ain’t a bully or a punk,” so I have to move closer to “solve” this. I have to move closer to listen more. I have to move closer to see more. I have to move closer to communicate better. It’s why I can’t do Facebook debates when shit gets real. I need connection. I need to remember that the person on the “other side” is human and not just a receptacle for my vitriol, fury and frustration. I have to move closer to retain my integrity. I have to move closer to remember that even in our ugliest moments, we are reflections of each other, so all those fingers that I point somehow lead back to me. Back to us.

My beloved Zaba told me to look in the mirror because then I’d be looking at the problem. That’s hard to do. But that’s exactly what needs to be done. When we absolve or recuse ourselves from the situation, we give a silent pass for us to pass the buck and lay blame on someone else’s doorstep. For someone else to clean up. Nope. Too easy. We are in this shit together and together, we will get out of it. There will be many suggestions and actions (like the uprisings in Ferguson) on how to solve the issues and we won’t always agree. And since there were many, many issues that got us all into this mess, I guess that’s about right that we’ll need varied solutions to get out of it. We’ll need to argue. To think tank. To cry. To commit. To break. To build. To unite. To scream. But always, always moving forward.

Yup. I have to move closer to do more. Be more. Hug more. Challenge more. Pray more. Believe more. Work more. Listen more than I talk. Educate more. Forgive more. Love more. Love me enough to love you. And so I shall.

Rest in peace and power to Mike Brown, Tony McCoy, Antonio Smith, Hadiya Pendleton, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Tamir Rice and all of the black men and women who have been murdered since we arrived in this country by violent force and who continue to be seen as 3/5ths – not only by perceived oppressors but by our own hands and hearts. It runs deep. I hope we can all unite, across superficial boundaries, and stand in pride and power. It will take all. Dead Prez said it’s bigger than hip-hop. It’s also bigger than black and white. Know that I see you, see it. The bigger picture. I love you. I value you. You are me. And we are all in this crazy shit together. Let’s build something sustainable and beautiful.

Got my shovel, Tina

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard


I was moved this evening. To my core. The Trust Theatre Ensemble performed a stage adaptation of Leslea Newman’s October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. It’s a collection of poems about the horrific night in 1998 when 21-year-old college student, Matthew Shepard, was brutally murdered in an anti-gay attack near Laramie, Wyoming.

The play, staged at the Theater Wit and directed by Lori Thompson, brought us to our knees. It was gut wrenching. It was riveting. Truthful. Elegant. Sobering. And so, so sad. The reality is that none of us want to see or experience bad things. It makes us uncomfortable. It makes us feel muddy and weepy inside. It makes us angry.

None of us want to think about what it must have been like for Matthew as he spent 18 hours tied to that fence, hoping someone would save him. We don’t want to think about the Texas black man, James Byrd Jr., who was dragged to death behind a pick up truck a few months earlier. But we must. We must remember and we must bear witness to the pain we cause one another in the name of hate or God or fear or anger or revenge or whatever drives us to harm and kill one another. We have to see what intolerance does to us as human beings.

Though it’s easier to look away, we have to see it to recognize it. We have to recognize it to address it. We have to address it in order to stop it. Stop the hate. Stop the mourning of mothers who have to bury their sons due to war, police brutality, gang violence, racism, xenophobia, suicide, transphobia, and homophobia. It’s all the same. The pain is the same. The tearing apart of lives is the same. The destruction of humanity by our very own hands is the same.

We are the same, despite our differences. So, together, let’s take a critical look at the ugly we have created. Let’s find our way back to the tenets of peace, acceptance and love. Let’s start now. Come on. Take a look.

The play runs at the Theatre Wit through October 12, 2014.