Category Archives: Culture

BLACK WOMEN: A BATTLEGROUND FOR OUR SOULS

“This brother here, myself and all of us were born with our hair like this, and we just wear it like this because it’s natural. The reason for it, you might say, is like a new awareness among Black people that their own natural physical appearance is beautiful and is pleasing to them. For so many years, we were told that only white people were beautiful–that only straight hair, light eyes, light skin was beautiful so Black women would try everything they could — straighten their hair, lighten their skin— to look as much like white women. This has changed because black people are aware. White people are aware of it too because white people now want natural wigs like this. Dig it. Isn’t it beautiful? Alright.”


Kathleen Cleaver, 1968

When you’re a Black Woman, you never truly feel like your body is yours. Your skin becomes the light of a riot, your body the playing field for political wars. Your ass is sexualized for White bodies, and your identity is a scapegoat for Black men. When you’re a Black woman your body is a secret for uncles to stare at, and aunties to demonize. When your a Black woman your features are for White Women to appropriate, and for society to make a mockery of. When you’re a Black woman, you become a very special type of tired. Your body becomes a temple for any colonizer to invade, so you teach yourself to hide your spirit where the sage flies high. When you’re a Black woman, the only safe place exists with our ancestors and the Orishas on a plane we still have yet to define. When you’re a Black woman, you learn an attitude. You learn a bitch face, a look of dissatisfaction, a mean mug, an aura of aggression. 

“Of course I’m mad, I’m as mad as I am Black. I’m as mad as I am Woman.” 

Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman, died December 29th, 1815, her stuffed body wasn’t buried until August 9th, 2002. Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey, while alive the world was told that ‘Black women don’t feel pain.’ Their bodies were used without consent, without anesthesia, to birth the “Father of Modern Gynecology.” Serena Williams, unarguably one of the most iconic athletics of our time, and frequently compared to a man or a monkey. Tell me how I’m supposed to love me when everything about me is under continuous critique. How am I not tempted to bleach my skin, and install a weave when nothing about this world is conducive to my external existence? Self-love is something that is difficult for anyone to possess. But ain’t it incompassionate to tell Black women to love ourselves, when since we touched foot on America our bodies became objects of labor, objectification, (sexual) abuse, and exploitation? How am I supposed to love me when it is because of my identity that society seems to hate me?

Regennia Johnson,December 7, 2016

“Her name is Tiarah Poyau. On Tuesday, September 6th, I found out a young Black woman who was my same age was fatally shot in the face for doing what I had just done the night before in Madrid, Spain. I was reminded what it meant to not only be a woman, but to be a woman of color, to be a Black woman who commands ownership of her body. To be vocal, resilient, and push back towards the objectification and entitlement over our bodies. I fought with the reality that as much as I want to go off on men who don’t understand NO or “I’m not interested”, by doing so, whether politely or not, I could be next on the list of women who died due to fragile masculinity. Rape culture, misogyny, racism, respectability politics, and extremely fragile masculinity are issues Black women experience differently than women of other races.”


Regennia Johnson, December 7, 2016

To be Black Woman is to be a constant fighter and advocate of your own humanity. To think for yourself, to transcend toxic tribal mentality. To be a Black Woman is to shatter expectations, and not concern yourself with stereotypes. To be a Black woman is to wear your hair blonde and nappy, or straight and colored like cotton-candy. To be a Black woman is to be your own freedom, your own serenity, your own divine being. To be a Black woman is to define your own strength, through sensitivity, through spirituality, through tears, through throwing heels, and clapping hands between your words. To be a Black woman is to be a multidimensional individual. To be a Black woman means being your own momma sometimes, it means finding that little Black girl inside of you and protecting her.

To me, to be a Black Woman, you must learn to be carefree.  Thank you for being, because of Y’all I am. 

Y’all hate Tiffany Haddish but Love Cardi because society wants Memes, not Black Lives

With the popularization of Black culture(s) and the increase of allies, I couldn’t help but notice (especially living in the Liberal bubble that is New York City), Y’all don’t really know about Black Culture(s). For many people, I think the lens they understand “Black culture” from is through the narratives of popular culture (via social media), and maybe an African American studies class they took once in college (bonus points if you minored in it). But when it actually comes to understanding Black culture(s), I still notice that most people fall short. The recent arrest of Arthur Posey, who is facing 2 charges of claiming false information of planned arson, because he expressed that he intends on “Blow the bathroom up,” goes to show that there’s a HUGE disconnect of cultural competency for Black people and our culture. Black women feel this frustration, because our bodies as where we have ideal physical features (large asses, thick lips, etc), we are literally reduced to those features.. That being said, our features are often looked down on, until White Women possess/appropriate those features.

From my perspective, this really speaks to society’s desire to capitalize on Blackness without taking the time (or interest) to really understand or appreciate it. I think this phenomenon explains why Cardi B is more accepted by society as opposed to Tiffany Haddish (obviously Colorism plays a role). Cardi B has gained her popularity in part because of talent, he ability to be relatable, and because she capitalized on being viral due to memes. Yes fam, before Cardi B was a famous rapper, she was on Love and Hip Hop and definitely gained more mainstream notability than her co-stars for her usage of facial expressions, relatable comedy, and catchphrases. Cardi B has been able to take an identity that people typically look down on, and inspire people who’ve never stepped foot in the Bronx to wish that’s where they hailed from (sorta). This being said, I highly doubt most of the suburb teens singing along to “Bodak Yellow” aspire to actually step foot in the Bronx to actually learn about Cardi’s upbringing. Cardi is only one example, however, of how non-Black people enjoy the commercialization of Black folks but don’t actually hold any interest in learning about Black people. Cause bet, If Tiffany Haddish rebranded herself to be more “meme’able,” you’d likely see a spike in her popularity and to some extent “worth” in society. 

This is not to say Tiffany Haddish isn’t worthy, she absolutely is! But when I say “worth,” I mean her value in the eyes of a society that cares more for memes/pop-culture and not Black lives. In a lot of ways, Cardi B fits exactly who people expect a Black/Latina girl from the Bronx to be like. Tiffany Haddish however, doesn’t really fit any stereotypes that non-White folks can relate to. They don’t understand her humor, nor do they aspire to. Understanding Tiffany Haddish’s comedy (or the comedy of many other Black people) involves actually knowing Black people (you must have more than one Black friend to relate) and understanding the pressures society puts on us. Racism (and I’d argue colorism) comes into play when you realize that White people (and probably many non-Black people of color) have a harder time feeling empathy for Black people than they do their own race. Cardi B may not be a White woman, but she is biracial/light skin and we see that Lighter Black woman are treated and regarded better than darker Black women. Considering the Black women that people idolize, may it be Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, or Cardi B, you’ll find that the common denominator is Light skin. 

When Black women are able to break into mainstream culture it’s typically because of their ability to fit into a very stereotypical idea of what it means to be a Black woman (slave roles, baby momma roles, angry Black women roles, etc). Examples of that are Tiffany Pollard and GloZell Green, who’ve both had their 5-seconds of meme-worthy fame. Noted by the blog What Whites Will Never Know:

They (GloZell Green) reinforced negative stereotypes and reinforcing what the media taught the mainstream about Black people.” 

I do acknowledge that this post is entirely based on my opinion, perhaps I am being too “sensitive” about the topic. However, my experiences as a Black woman have to lead me to this conclusion. Throughout my life, I’ve found that people’s ideas of me as a Black women are largely shaped by stereotypes, and the very thought of having to expand their perspective of my identity was considered to be ‘too much work.’ In a lot of cases I find that boys on dating apps just want to focus on my ass and ability to twerk. Schools and organizations would prefer to just order soul food and play a slave movie on Black history month. Society seems like they’d rather just prefer to say #BlackLivesMatter than actually having to understand what’s going on in our Black lives.

I am interested in hearing your opinions, what do y’all think?

What Being Sexually Assaulted at Afropunk Taught Me

I’m no stranger to unwanted touch, non-desired looks, and involuntary comments. I’m used to people having the impression that my body exists for their gaze, and no longer has value when they’ve finished with it. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about sexual assault, and given the world we live in, I doubt it will be the last. 

I attended Afropunk this past August, for the second year in a row. My first year wasn’t too amazing considering that the festival over-sold tickets, and due to the high quantity of people there were numerous jams and congestion at the festival. I’m someone who has social anxiety and I do tend to have panic attacks when I’m in large crowds, so I suffered from feeling severely triggered my first year there. My second year was a lot better in regards to congestion, there weren’t as many people so I was able to actually enjoy the festival without having a mental breakdown (haha). I was also joined by friends that I don’t get to see often and new faces that I hope I will be able to get to know better over time. For the most part, my Afropunk experience was pretty amazing. Between seeing Tyler the Creator, Erykah Badu, and ACTUALLY being able to eat all the vegan food I want, I was living on cloud-9.

This year there were only really three things that made me feel uncomfortable, and I’ve spent a significant amount of time on my own trying to process it. The first being the presence of so many non-black folks. I love seeing so many people celebrating Black culture and Black joy, on the other hand, I understand Afropunk to be a festival for Punk Black folks by Punk Black folks. Afropunk to me is a festival that celebrates the Black kids who were teased for being weird, or acting too “White.” Obviously, it’s not become a festival that is for ALL Black folks (which is a conversation for another post), but I can’t help but side-eye White folks in African print and Dashikis made in India. I can’t help but wonder if they put on my culture for the weekend, and consider it unprofessional for the rest of the year. I couldn’t help but feel like it was ironic that folks were wearing tribal face paint while taking selfies next to shirts that say “No Cultural Appropriation.” 

The second thing I realized out of relief actually. When I would attend other festivals I’d constantly feel uncomfortable because of all the kids running around trying to drink illegally, or asking me to buy them alcohol (awkward). Then I realized, the reason why there were more adults at Afropunk is that a lot of Black families might not be able to afford for their kids to go to a super expensive festival. Yeah, you can volunteer and get free passes, but I started to feel uncomfortable that Afropunk wasn’t really for Black people. It was becoming a festival for the Black middle/upper class. 16-year-old Monisha, no matter how much she’d be able to benefit from being there, couldn’t afford the ticket. 23-year-old Monisha gets to bask in the magic because now she has a bit more privilege to afford it. The third thing that bothered me about Afropunk was a situation I’ve had to force myself not to be numb to. A situation I’ve spent a great deal of talking about, and researching about.

At the end of the first day of Afropunk, I was rather intoxicated and exhausted. I walked away from my group of friends because I felt extremely weak, my feet were hurting because I was wearing wedges, and I wanted to find somewhere that wasn’t so crowded so I could sit down. I went to the 21+ section and found a bench to relax on until my feet could recover a bit. “Hey.” I turned to my right to see a slender, clean-cut White man with a moderately thin mustache on his face (think Porn-stache, because that’s ALL I could think of). “Hey” I replied, figuring that there was no harm in having an exchanged with this stranger. It started with small talk, he asked me how I liked the festival and I explained how I loved that there were so many diverse types of Black folks. I loved seeing LGBTQ people being able to express ourselves, and that this festival really felt like a safe space for me. He then cut me off and asked: “Do you identify as trans?” I wasn’t stupid, at this point I figured he was probably asking because he found me attractive. I do technically fall under the trans-umbrella, but I didn’t feel like I had to answer that question. I tried dancing around it and expressing avoiding the question, but he just kept asking. Eventually, I snapped and said, “If you’re asking if I have a penis, no I do not.” You’d think he’d get the hint that I was really annoyed and was no longer wanting to engage, but I guess he figured that was a pass to pursue (looking back I wish I knew how to better handle that question).

“Oh, I’m not a millennial you know.” I couldn’t help but rolled my eyes. “Being Trans isn’t anything new.” I can’t remember if I thought that or said it out loud; guys I was really gone. I’m the type that has one drink and I get drunk off of that, do imagine a day of day drinking under the sun. I don’t exactly remember the rest of what he was saying, but eventually, I just became more uncomfortable with him than I was my blisters. I do recall him trying to get me to stand up and spin around for him, but at that point, I was REALLY over it and told him “I’m going to go… To better watch the show.” I started to walk away, and he went in for a hug. It seemed harmless, so I returned it. He used that as an opportunity to pull me in close, to run his hands down my back, my butt. I started to push him away, and he attempted to kiss me goodbye. I didn’t want to make a scene, so I went in like I was going to give him the European/Latin American kiss on the cheek farewell. Then he held my shoulders and tried to force me to kiss his lips. It was a back and forth for about 30 seconds of him trying to force the kiss, and me trying to dodge it. Him expressing that I should take it, and then me pushing him away and quickly darting out of the 21+ section.

I didn’t consider this sexual assault when it happened. I just figured I was being groped, he was transphobic, I was uncomfortable, I didn’t want any of that, he was preying on me because I was intoxicated and alone. But I never considered it sexual assault. I originally laughed it off with my friends, joking you can’t trust those guys with Porn-Staches. I figured next year I’d just pay the extra charge to be VIP, then maybe I’d be safe from predators and anxiety attacks. It wasn’t until I started noticing other people critique Afropunk for ‘selling out.’ So many of my Black friends have expressed feeling like Afropunk is no longer for Black folks, that it’s just perpetuating the commodification of Black bodies. After enough time to process, I sorta feel that way too. I’m biased, what happened inevitably makes me look at things from a cynical perspective. But I kinda look back at Afropunk sorta feeling like it’s becoming like a zoo for Black folks and Black culture. I’m beginning to feel like it’s a place where people can oogle-oggle at the mythical “Black Magic,” and can enjoy dressing up like a Black person with cheaply made African print.

Ironically, I’ve never been assaulted, harassed, or made to feel unsafe at any other music festival until Afropunk.

I don’t blame anyone at Afropunk for the singular event, nor do I think they are responsible for vetting every person who enters the festival. I do think though, that this festival no longer serves the people that it was intended for. Afropunk was made for Black punks, it’s evolved to include all Black people. Now it’s evolved to include all people that take interested in Black people. Now it’s starting to feel like it’s becoming a festival for people who want to sample Blackness and Black people.

I’m not going to end this by undermining my opinion or excusing this. I am going to end this by pointing out that all things evolve, and by questioning what is Afropunk evolving into if it’s no longer serving the folks it was intended to serve? 

Damn, I’m a Pick-Me Ass Bitch

A “Pick Me Ass Bitch,” by definition is the “woman” who tries too hard to be liked (Men can be pick-mes, but this ain’t for them right now). She will compromise her independence, her self-esteem, and her self-respect for the opportunity to be chosen. Some examples of Pick-Mes are Phylicia Rashad, in the case of defending Bill Cosby’s rapist ass, and Erykah Badu arguing that Teenage girls need to ‘cover up’ so as not to distract male teachers. “Pick Mes” are women who are conditioned to internalize misogyny and changes their behavior to fit the narratives of a sexist society. Growing up in the rural South, I was surrounded by religious propaganda that conditioned me to internalize self-hate. Statements like “Don’t be easy” and “Boys don’t want a woman who has been used” were the main motivation for me wanting to be a virgin till marriage. I felt as though that’s how I would gain a man who respected me, by being “worthy” of “respect.”

Then I was raped… I found that living in a world where I internalized misogyny became difficult for me; how was I supposed to heal when in the back of my head, I felt as though my value had decreased. On one hand, I believed it wasn’t my fault, I was completely covered up, I wasn’t a “whore.” But in the back of my head I remembered the details, I had “no business being intoxicated,” why was I even at a boy’s home? I faced a rude awakening that existing as a woman, as my own woman, meant existing outside of other people’s expectations of me.

Now as a grown ass woman living in New York, surrounded by people who are “sex-positive,” I feel as though I am still unpacking my pick-me ways. Yes, my environment has changed, the narrative has changed, but I still found myself performing the same song & dance. For most of my life, I’ve had issues with my self-esteem, and finding “self-validation.” For as long as I could remember I would talk to my friends about every single thought, feeling, emotion, and response. I’d look at them as my stamp of approval, the people to prove I wasn’t crazy. When I dated men, I tried so hard to not fit into the “crazy” or “jaded” archetype.

In my last relationship, I think I went in with the subconscious thought that it was my job to compromise who I was. I had committed to him, so I had to be comfortable with the fact that he wasn’t comfortable with me showing too much flesh. I had made a commitment to him, so I get why he wouldn’t want me to be friends with males I’ve had sex with. He was my man, so I had to be understanding of why he was uncomfortable with my sex worker past. I felt like I owed him countless explanations, I owed him undeserved vulnerability, and that I owed it to him to shrink myself. But damn Y’all, I gave that man an inch and he took a WHOLE mile. When I cut my hair, he told me I looked like a man and expressed an issue with the fact that I didn’t “consult” him first. When I had sex with someone else after he broke up with me, he expressed he didn’t understand how I could be so ‘easy’ if I had been raped. The micromanagement only increased over time, and I was punished for standing up for myself or confiding in my friends and family.

Now, I’m at a very similar place as I was when I was 18, trying to figure out how to heal. After I left him I internalize his messages: “Good luck finding someone that will deal with you.” He made me feel like because of who I am and who I was that I had something to be ashamed of. The next guy I dated I found myself trying to do everything to appease him. He was surprised when I wore a crop top, so I changed it (even though he said it was fine). I kept my past hidden from him, “He doesn’t need to know the ‘dirty’ parts of you that made you who you are.” Eventually, when it came time to commit, I truly don’t think I was ready. But so many of my friends seemed happy with him, and I figured that I was stupid for dating so many “bad guys” that why shouldn’t I give a “nice guy” a chance? Then very shortly after he asked me for a relationship, he ghosted me. Immediately I blamed myself. I figured it was because of the times I was too annoying, too affectionate, too attentive, too me.

I felt destroyed, I felt like my ex was right. I wasn’t able to keep him, and I wasn’t able to keep the next guy. I didn’t begin to snap out of my funk until I realized that it’s really hard to mess up the “right thing.” That no guy who REALLY likes you sits at home and thinks: “Damn, shawty type bad and I deadass like her, but, she was too affectionate, so I ghosted.” Maybe men don’t prefer the affectionate type, but a person who is invested in and values you won’t just ghost you. Once I accepted that I realized that being ghosted hurt not because I really liked him, but because just like he was probably using me to validate himself, I was doing the same. I allowed myself to commit when I wasn’t ready and almost agreed to a situation I felt tricked into (that’s another story) because I was seeking validation that I could keep a man. I wanted to feel worthy, and I wanted to believe that I was able to pick a “good guy.”

Y’all, just like 18-year-old Monisha had to do, 23-year old Monisha is working to undo her pick-me programming. Very shortly after I was raped, a man told me that if I had a dominant man in my life that I probably wouldn’t have been in that situation. I don’t think I’ve talked about how I internalized that things that happened to me were my fault. I don’t think I’ve owned up to the fact that in some cases I date men who are more “traditional” because I lack the self-esteem to combat my internal feelings of incompetence. I think I still have a lot of “pick-me” in me because I’m scared Y’all. I’m scared of being alone, I’m scared that I won’t have to protect myself, I’m scared that I’ll always have to be a “Strong Black Woman.”
When I have daughters, I hope I can raise them to have more faith in themselves than I did. Cause nothing for nothing, I don’t want to raise daughters, I need to raise women. I need to raise girls who don’t internalize that they are incapable of being their own person, I need to raise myself to internalize that I am cable of being my own person. It’s a process, I am healing, I am transforming.

An Ode To Black Kids Who Had To Be Black In UnBlack Spaces

For most of my life, and even now, I’ve lived in very White spaces. My early memories are seeing cartoons that reflected faces of my friends, and I having to explain the purpose of the Proud Family existing and being so Black with only one White girl. I’ve been told not to color in the lines of paintings with black skin, pink, purple, and polka-dotted would have to do. I remember how hard it’s always been to find products for my hair; so I’ve learned to make them. I remember how difficult it was to celebrate my skin; so now I gravitate to other melanin-ated beings like myself.

From childhood to adulthood it hasn’t gotten much easier, it’s the same issues but different language. I’d have to explain my existence on White campuses, arguing that I did go there; No I don’t play any sports (nor am I extremely smart). I’ve learned to hold my tongue, to code switch, to identify fake friends and fake people. I’ve memorized exactly why you ain’t about to say the “n” word if you ain’t lived an “n” word life and a rebuttal for every lame retort back in the book. I’ve found Black joy with Black bodies who were having the same Black experience as me. I’ve found “Moonlight”, “Dear White People”, “Get Out”, and “She’s Gotta Have It.” When White Kids say “Frank Sinatra” I scream “DIANA ROSS BBY!”When White kids take “YASSS,” I’ve already moved to “Okay ____,” and “I see you ____,” with a little “YOU BETTA,” and let us not forget “F*** IT UP!!” Needless to say, I didn’t have double-dutch as a child, but I sure as hell have dominos (someone please teach me spades).

I’ve learned to survive micro-aggression, cultural appropriation, police brutality, racial fetishization, and the gaslighting of my Black feelings. I’ve learned how to swing my Black hips, and let Ebonics and patios flow off my Black lips. Loving myself, all of myself, Blackness included, has been the most difficult thing for me in a world that taught me that I shouldn’t point out race. In a world that tried to be colorblind to my existence, that tried the White out my life.

Loving myself, loving my Blackness, as where it is still a struggle together, has been the most revolutionary act of defiance.

As where people try to understand my struggle, our struggle, the Black struggle, I found solidarity. I found AfroPunk, Poetry Slams, and Black Lives Matter. I’ve found myself in spaces and people who get it (or are a lot more likely to). So with that, I leave a message to my younger self:

“You are out there, you exist, give it time, and you’ll see yourself.”