Essays

Lately.

The tragedies of this summer have left me sad and listless. While none of them have been personal, they all sure hit home. For starters, there was the largest mass shooting in modern American history in Orlando. Then, there were the multiple police-involved deaths from Baton Rouge to Minnesota to Dallas and then most recently Baltimore. Fire coming from all sides and different directions; continual violence when many of us are asking for the violence to stop, no matter who started it. It seems like every time I log onto Facebook or Instagram, another one has occurred (and it happened to me again as I wrote this).  It’s great that these events are being covered by the media, even though, of course, it would be preferable if senseless tragedies never happened.

Yet, with every article or social media post detailing a tragic event comes a treacherous comment section, exposing many folks’ true beliefs and intentions. Every time I scroll to the comments, I’m reminded why I shouldn’t. People questioning the humanity of others and never getting what’s so dangerous about their statements (“They are all a bunch of thugs and this one was no angel, hello did you see that shoplifting charge on his record??”). Others are bold in their bigotry (@ people who change #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter, simultaneously posting #BlueLivesMatter). How hard is it to see that some punishments don’t fit the crime and that trying to justify excessive force is just plain wrong? How hard is it to understand that #BlackLivesMatter really means Black lives matter too? How fair is it for people to believe that their opinion is enough to justify seeing some people as less than human? How dare people say that others are just too sensitive or offend easily when they don’t live this reality? These are the questions going through my head constantly and I’m not sure there are any answers. Some people are just more content with sticking to what ‘they believe in’ instead of educating themselves or attempting to step into the shoes of others.

It all just feels so heavy that even if I tried to lift the weight, it would just redistribute elsewhere. In addition, I haven’t been motivated. This is partially due to all of the feels I’ve felt and also from being on vacation. While the summer is a good time to wallow in laziness, it hasn’t been a particularly good kind of lazy…I keep questioning whether or not I accomplished anything. Now, with the school year approaching, is the time to re-shift my focus and maybe lift some of the weight for good. It’s going to take time and part of it begins with remembering that I can’t change the landscape of the whole world. I just have to start internally and work from there.

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Essays

Ceejai vs The ‘Real’ World: A Observation in Black Womanhood

Let me start by saying this: I am no fan of The Real World. I don’t think, even as a child, I’ve ever sat down and watched a lot of it, minus recaps and one infamous fighting scene. I’m not an avid watcher of MTV as a whole, except that one semester my freshman year. That being said, like the season of the Bad Girls Club with the Clermont twins in it, I decided to watch after seeing an overwhelming amount of videos and screencaps of the most endearing and supportive castmate, Ceejai.

Ceejai, a black girl from St. Louis who currently resides in Atlanta, is one of the several castmates chosen to live in an apartment with six other strangers for this season of the Real World: Go Big or Go Home. She’s much like a lot of other black girls her age, fun loving and supportive. Under any normal circumstances, Ceejai would probably remain as cool as cucumber. But after enduring racist remarks for weeks at the hands of her roommate, Ceejai reacted in a way that many of us find understandable. Here’s a video of the altercation that ensued after Jenna and her friend provoked Ceejai using racially motivated insults.

This stirred up feelings in me about black womanhood and the way confrontations are handled when you are a black woman. Here’s several things I noticed in that video.

  • There are constant neverending trials for black women, both microagressions and blatant. Ceejai was tested time and time again.
    • To be black in America is hard. To be a black woman in America (or in any Eurocentric society tbh) feels backcrushing. There are black women who are forced to prove their calm, to rise above all the noise and all the pointed spears to keep a self image that radiates competence, hard work and patience. Perpetuated by the trope of the “strong, independent black woman”, this image is extremely damaging to the psyche as there is no room left for mistakes or humanity. In the scene, Ceejai clearly walks away from the issue and tries to calm herself down to not seem ‘ratchet’, deflecting the fact that the angry response to that level of ignorance would probably be the common one.
  • Black women understand the game white supremacy plays and many times choose to rise above. 
    •  Constantly antagonized and clearly hurt by many of Jenna’s remarks, Ceejai either kept quiet about the astounding ignorance or confronted her directly.  Ceejai was patient, kind and understanding toward her roommate, even opting to keep her in the house after she failed a challenge. As a black woman, the first instinct is rarely to react but to explain or attempt to understand. There are many black women who are forced to endure various degrees of racism and for the sake of preservation, try to react in the calmest ways possible. It’s all too common.
  • Often times when black women are struggling to maintain composure, they are often alone without aid. 
    • Despite their best efforts, Ceejai was alone that night. Instead of aiding her and comforting her the same way she did for Dean, Ceejai was alone when she walked out the room. Not a single person followed or attempted to calm her down. In fact, the same black man she had comforted after his run in with Jenna sat RIGHT there, rather than intervening. Even though her roommates were clearly on her side, they could have both stopped antagonizing her with the comments made and had enough time to stop her from fighting. The two roommates I believe would have stopped her were not present at the time. But either way, Ceejai was alone. Black women should find comfort in their friends or allies, not more animosity.
  • Even though the action could have been perfectly justified, black women are almost always made out to be the aggressor, never the victim.
    • There is only so much a person can take. As a person with a shorter fuse, I can truly say Ceejai endured a lot prior to the altercation. First, Jenna provoked the argument with her, having clearly attacked Ceejai prior to the fight. Her racial remarks were one thing, her threats toward Ceejai were another. The moment she physically put hands on Ceejai should have resulted in her ejection. But it didn’t. The threats Jenna yelled at her should have gotten her ejected as well. But it didn’t. Ceejai was the victim of bigotry and violence but no one identified her as such because of her black womanhood, adding to the abuse she suffered. MTV and the producers took a different route, waiting for her to ‘pop’, in which case she FINALLY became the aggressor, backed into a corner after all the abuse. This is common in most White dominated environments. Any person would have cracked under the pressure of that abuse; Ceejai’s response was extreme but by no means wrong in that sort of situation.
  • Sometimes, blackness doesn’t equal complete support.
    • All skinfolk definitely ain’t your kinfolk. Ceejai was far from a loner in the house. She was also not alone in her blackness. Jenna actively antagonized Dean, the other black roommate so badly, he was drawn out his character. Ceejai saw his struggle and comforted him, in a way only black women can. She acknowledged his struggle to be seen as a human being, capable of being vulnerable and having human emotions. Yet in her time of need, he was as silent as a mouse. He should have risen to the occasion and aided Ceejai, either by calming her or separating her from the argument all together.
  • Black women are often forced to take the high road to act as ‘examples’ of an entire community while their abuser continues to taunt them with racial insults.
    • Ceejai said it herself; she explained, walked out, ignored and just flat out refused to bend to Jenna. Despite all that, Jenna still called her ratchet and let her friends tell her to ‘Go Pick Cotton’ and allowed them to call her ‘nappy headed’. Meanwhile, Ceejai realizes that she cannot react as that is not the person that she is and she doesn’t want to let down the image of the black woman. As black women, when we walk down the street, when we talk, when we laugh, we are simultaneously made to be role models, most times without our permission. If we speak in AAVE, we’re Sheneneh. Confrontional? Nene Leakes. Angry? Tiffany Pollard. Matronly? Mamie.  Ceejai knew her appearance on this show meant more than an appearance on a show and tried so hard to avoid becoming a ‘bad’ example. We can’t win for losing.

Do you have anything to add about the altercation between Ceejai and Jenna?

Comment below!

XOXO,

Dream

 

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Essays

FGOTM: Ivie Osaghae Pt 3

Part Three of our Fleurish Girl of the Month interview with Ivie Osaghae. Check out parts 1 & 2 too!

F: Super Taurus answer! So can you name five things that you are into right now?

I: Hmm. Taking the time to get dressed before school. Um, what’s next? Introspection. Really questioning what it is I want from my life outside of the professional or academic sense. Even though I don’t necessarily know what that is just yet, I have a better idea of that than my personal development. Introspection is allowing myself to feel and follow those emotions especially in terms of relationships. (…) Because when you don’t allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable to another person, then you potentially miss out on the greatness of who you are with that person and who that person is.

Introspection is allowing myself to feel and follow those emotions especially in terms of relationships. (…) Because when you don’t allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable to another person, then you potentially miss out on the greatness of who you are with that person and who that person is.

So, that’s two. Music. Going back to… I was never really into rap music and stuff. I’ve listened to it but it wasn’t really my forte so I really have been going back to what I really love. I personally really like Vampire Weekend. I think they’re an amazing band. I think it’s funny how iTunes classifies them as a Upper Westside or Upper East side soul music. Because they’re a bunch of white dudes making Afro beats and music and singing over it. Just going back to people that I listened to in high school that helped me feel like I was an individual. So Vampire Weekend, Santigold, AlunaGeorge but also listening to some newer people like Kali Uchis, more local artists like AriSoul… So just finding myself through my music again. Not necessary through anything that I create because I don’t make music but finding the soundtrack for my life through the music that I love. So that’s like three?

Being unapologetically me. For a long time, I allowed myself to be minimized by… It’s been mostly men in my life. Being afraid to stand up for something that I believe in… Standing firm in who I am and understanding my womanhood outside of, not even outside of, in all the spaces that we’re not allowed to be women, especially as black women. We really have not have emotions or not have an opinions because it will make this man appear inferior or it will push the wrong man away but it’s like, if he feels threatened by it, then we don’t need to be together anyway. I’ve been reflecting on past relationships and the guy that I was with before vs the guy that I’m with now. He would always say ‘Why are you being so difficult?’ In my head, I’m not being difficult but at the same time, I was being kinda emotionally defensive. So yes, there was some truth to that but at the time, that was just me speaking my opinion. I’m not going to be forcefully pushed into something that I’m not going to be. Whereas the guy that I’m with now is very much like ‘I appreciate this about you. Because that’s who you are and I would never try to change that about you because that’s not the person that I chose to be with.’ So introspection, being unapologetically me, surrounding myself with people that continue to motivate me and even though I don’t always appreciate what they say to me and don’t feel like having conversations on a super deep level half the time, what they say definitely resonates with me and makes me really evaluate my own life. Am I playing a supporting character in my story? Or am I the star of it? By being the star, am I helping other people along that journey? So that’s what I’m into. Being with people who push me to be a better person on all accounts, not just in my private life and in my professional life, in my emotional life, in my mental life… All of those things make a whole individual. the things that these people say make me a better person. It’s like trying to change our habits. That’s not all it is. You can change your habits but if you don’t change your pathology then you’re not going to change. You’re basically changing your clothes and not washing yourself.

Am I playing a supporting character in my story? Or am I the star of it? By being the star, am I helping other people along that journey?

F: Favorite city in the world? That you’ve been to and that you would like to go to?

I: I’ve been to a lot of places. Honduras. It’s not a city, it’s a country. Really, Central America. I really like Central America. Belize and Honduras. It’s a toss-up between both of those. Really if you stretch Central America and the Caribbean, that area of the world is very interesting. But Roatan, especially. Roatan is a black area of Honduras; it is very influenced by Garifunde culture. When you think of Honduras, you think of mostly traditional idea of what you may think a Hispanic person is.But the parts of those countries that I’ve seen is mostly black and so I’ve always been interested in how our lives are very much the same even though we’re separated by geography. But there’s also cultural difference that make them so unique. A place I’ve always wanted to go to is… Well, I’ve always wanted to go everywhere in Africa but that’s kinda like an obvious answer for me so I’ll try somewhere else. I’ve always wanted to go to Bali. Either Bali or Fuji. But Bali especially is older and untouched. I have a lot of places that I’ve been thankfully. I’m just so thankful to have gone because of my parents always took us on cruises. But they would always make sure that whenever we went on a cruise, we never did the tourist stuff. We went and found people that lived in these places and showed us around. Oh, I forgot St. Nieves. St. Nieves was really cool too. St. Nieves and St. Kitts. So beautiful. So untouched. Black sand beaches. Beautiful black people everywhere. But I want to go so many places in Africa. Actually, I think it might be unfair to ask me that question. (Laughter)

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Essays

#BlackGirlMagic

It was a month around the release of the first Fleurish1994 editorial when someone tumblr instant messaged me and said we had #blackgirlmagic. Previously, it didn’t occur to me that what we did was worthy of such a title; I just thought we were creative. But when she said it, it made all the sense in the world. We were black girls creating something beautiful and doing it well. That was our brand of black girl magic and we were ultra proud to carry the flag.

Fast forward to a few days ago when my timeline blew up due to a certain Elle magazine article. In the article, the author decided that the hashtag, while beautiful, was not an accurate depiction of the black woman’s experience for a number of reasons. Many people took to Twitter, Tumblr and other media outlets to refute the article.

Before I get into this, I want to point out that the author made some good points. For instance, black girls and women are not magical in the literal sense. We don’t shit glitter, we don’t heal twice as fast as other humans and we certainly don’t grant wishes. As most of the world believes that black people  do have superhero powers, it is important to debunk this. Second, black girls are human. We are human. We bleed the same, we cry the same, we hurt the same as anybody else.

That being said, Shante and I think that she not only missed the point and miffed off the subjects, she also used many false equalities to justify her point. Moreover, she didn’t actually write this to address the problems within the hashtag. Otherwise, she would have published it somewhere other black girls could have an open discussion about it. Instead, she ran to a white publication in an action that felt eerily reminiscent of someone airing out private laundry in a public place.

First off: We, as black girls, are magical. Not because we don’t have issues or challenges or obstacles both intrinsic and extrinsic but because in spite of those problems, we still manage to triumph. Even with all the burdens of life and barriers of victory, black girls stay winning.

Second: We can be magical beings and be human. The #blackgirlmagic hashtag is a safe place of black girl self love without the perversion of white supremacy. We don’t need to talk about the Magical Negro Effect there because all black girls understand that we are not literally magical. This argument doesn’t need articulating because it is not an issue for the crowd who subscribe to the term.

Third: Sandra Bland had black girl magic. As did the other black female victims of police brutality and abuse. So do black girls with disabilities. As do all black girls. Unfortunately, no one else sees it, therefore we must first recognize it in ourselves. Black girls are the best riders for black girls so at every chance at we must celebrate and optimize our glow. This hashtag is not to say that we don’t catch shit from the rest of the world; we all recognize that we do. We choose to celebrate the happiness and humanity in us. That’s what black girl magic is about.

Four: We are happy to be black girls doing awesome things, making awesome things and sharing them with awesome people. We are happy to see other black girls doing the same. We are happy to support other black girls doing things. That, in and of itself, is sheer magic. And that is the epitome of black girl magic.

-Dream M. (AKA a magical black girl)

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