Janay Rice and the Burden of the Mule of the World

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Like the rest of the world, I have been following the Ray Rice incident since the video came across my news feed last week. I hate writing just to say I wrote something so I’ve silently watched all the thinkpieces, theories and arguments but now, I have to say something because I’ve noticed a theme in all of this. I wanted to give folks the benefit of the doubt but I’m realizing that giving too many people the benefit of the doubt allows them to find my oppression excusable. No, I wasn’t the one that got clocked in that elevator but I could be and so could any other woman I know. With that in mind, this coverage of the Ray Rice incident is frightening because almost all of it either trying to defend Ray’s actions or chastise Janay for staying.
Right before I started typing this post, a video clip of the Rices at their wedding surfaced with the caption “The video the media won’t show” with a series of hashtags affirming Ray behind it. This is one example of why Black women are so reluctant to report instances of wrongdoing at the hands of Black men. The person who posted that video insinuated that this hullabaloo is an example of the Black man being brought down by the media. No one should care about the woman that got punched in the face and dragged out of an elevator because no one wants to see another brotha in the system. Others brought up the Solange elevator incident to defend Ray because, according the misogynoir, the only way Jay-Z should have reacted was to mollywhop his sister-in-law. Black women are always lauded for being strong which is a blessing and a curse.
The community sees the Black woman’s strength as a virtue and excuse to brush off injustices. Black femininity has been attacked since we stepped foot on this soil. We did the same work as our male counterparts during enslavement regardless of whether or not we were sick or pregnant. When we weren’t working our bodies were being violated and objectified. We weren’t included in the feminist movement until women like Sojourner Truth and Maria Stewart made space for us. We have always been made to take bullshit and take it quietly from the world. We’re not able to be raped because we’re just sexual objects, hoes and thots anyway. That’s why Jada’s rape was able to be turned into a meme. We’re too strong to be beaten and sometimes we deserve it because we talk too much and too loud. If we’d just let the man be the man, we wouldn’t get socked in the mouth. If we’d just wear longer skirts and stop twerking, we wouldn’t get catcalled and sexually violated. We’re the reason so many Black men are in jail because our kids didn’t have no daddies or we called the police on their daddies. Everything is our fault and I’m sick of it. No woman should be blamed because the man and community that is supposed to love her beat her down. That includes Janay, Rihanna, Tina, your neighbor, your coworker and any other woman (or man) that suffers abuse at the hands of someone they love.
Stop wondering why she stayed and question why he thought punching her was the right response. Being Black and woman shouldn’t come with conditions.
“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere.
Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place!
And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me!
And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?
I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me!
And ain’t I a woman?”

– Sojourner Truth

 

For Simone Battle and Colored Girls Who Can’t See The Rainbow

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Simone Battle

I woke up to news that singer Simone Battle died at the tender age of 25. I didn’t know much about her outside of what various headlines told me but when I saw her face, a sense of dread came over me. She was beautiful, had a great career and to the public’s knowledge, no physical illnesses. A woman that young with those qualities doesn’t typically drop dead and my instincts knew that so they gave me a conclusion that I didn’t want. That aforementioned dread turned into despair as I started to see headlines with the words “of an apparent suicide” at the end that confirmed what my heart seemed to already know.

Simone Battle took her life.

Another young and successful Black woman died at her own hands.
Just like blogger Karyn Washington and countless others that tried to play the strong Black woman until they couldn’t take it anymore. There are millions of others that are still suffering silently from mental illness because they don’t want to be deemed weak or crazy.

Karyn Washington

I’m one of them and that’s why these deaths affect me so deeply.

I have been stuck in my house all day because hearing about Simone knocked the wind out of me. I’m not nearly as successful as she is yet she felt the need to take her life and I’m still here. I bust my ass as a food service worker, college has been an uphill battle and I’m broke but I’m still here. I wish I could give some inspirational nugget about why I’m still here and say I haven’t thought about suicide but I can’t. Hell, I can’t even say it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about it. Depression has a way of making the simplest things extremely difficult. For most people, getting up, brushing their teeth and taking a shower is instinctual. For someone with depression, it can be a small victory because at least you got the hell up.
Depression makes the future seem like a fantasy. You can tell someone that it will get better but depression says you’ll find some way to fuck up and make things worse. It can’t be prayed away and ignoring it will only work for so long. Next thing you know, you’ve been in bed all week and only get up when you have to piss or eat, that is, if you have an appetite. Society makes depression seem like a case of the sads or the blues but I’m here to tell you, that it makes life hard to live. Every time a prominent person takes their life, people start rambling about how we need to talk about mental illness for about a day and then the conversation tapers off until the next incident. If we’re going to talk about mental illness, we really need to talk about it. After we’re done talking, we need to act. Mental illness affects everyone differently and mental healthcare needs to cater to those differences. Everyone cannot afford to go to some swanky ass office in the white side of town for healthcare. I’m lucky if I can afford to get my monthly MARTA card and if I wasn’t on my mama’s insurance, getting my happy pills would be a chore.
Additionally, a person’s relationship with oppression makes them more or less susceptible to mental illness. If you are of color, non-heterosexual/cisgendered, low-income, not male or any combination of those, you’re more likely to be mentally ill. You’re also less likely to get adequate treatment for it. This is one of many reasons why I do this social justice shit despite some of my reservations because it is a life or death thing for me and millions of other people. Conversations about mental illness shouldn’t only happen when we are mourning someone. We have to keep having them or more people will die.

I don’t want it to be someone I know or me.

Existing While Black: Mike Brown and Why We Don’t Trust the Police

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Source: NewsOne/AP

A few months ago, a police officer that was on the scene of Tupac’s fatal shooting shared what is believed to be the rapper’s last words. When asked who shot him, Tupac said “fuck you” and died. On top of that, no one else was talking so his murder is still unsolved. There are thousands of other unsolved murders that could’ve been solved if someone spoke up. Still, people stay quiet. Some stay silent out of fear but there are others that refuse to talk because they don’t trust the people that are asking the questions. The “no snitching” movement has been a target of extensive criticism and blame for so-called Black-on-Black violence. But, in the wake of the latest deaths resulting from police brutality, I can’t blame folks for not speaking.
Black mistrust of the police isn’t restricted to not snitching to uphold some hood commandments. We don’t trust the police because they have yet to earn our trust. In the past few weeks, three stories of Black men being shot down like animals have hit the media including Mike Brown, an unarmed teen in Missouri who was shot ten times on yesterday. There was a press conference this morning where it was alleged that he was fighting with the police over a gun but eyewitness accounts refute that claim. Meanwhile, various publications are reporting that Eric Garner, who was killed by the NYPD a few weeks ago, didn’t have any intoxicants in his system as if that is relevant to his case. Not only were these men executed but their character is being assassinated to justify their murders.
People have been protesting Brown’s death since it happened even though police officers are staring them down while holding a dog’s leash because they’re tired.

We all are.

We’ve been tired since Emmett Til was killed. We’ve been tired since mobs were snatching Black men out of their houses and jail cells to be lynched while the police did nothing or participated in the lynchings. We were tired when Trayvon and Troy died. We get tired every time we’re harassed for walking down the street, chilling with friends in public or even standing outside of our houses. Existing while Black is a crime in this supposed land of the free. If you’re read as queer, especially if you’re trans, may the odds be in your favor because you can get in trouble for having condoms or just being different. Ask Cece McDonald or Monica Jones about that.
This lethargy and weariness of the police is a big issue because it keeps us from addressing some of the ills that happen in the Black community. Mistrust of the police is what keeps a lot of us from reporting abuse of Black women at the hands of Black men because no one wants to see another brotha in the system, even if he deserves it. This mistrust is why people are getting killed by the dozens in various cities with no end in sight. The police are supposed to serve and protect and they are doing their jobs to an extent. They exist to serve and protect the status quo and Black bodies, queer bodies, trans bodies and other marginalized bodies don’t fit.

 

Note: For on-the-ground coverage, follow reporter Brittany Noble on Twitter. She’s keeping up with everything via social media.

Too Many Names: For Trayvon Martin and Other Victims of the System

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Ashleigh L.A.:

As long as our brothers and sisters keep dying, I’ll keep updating this list.

Originally posted on Ashleigh, Not Ashley:

I have been sitting in my room figuring out what to say about the Trayvon Martin verdict. I am still at a loss and this probably won’t be the last time I address this issue this week but I feel like I just have to put something out there. I decided to pay tribute to Trayvon and countless other black bodies that have been swallowed by this legal system. Remember these names and remember their faces.

Michael Brown

His story.

More.

Eric Garner

His story.

John Crawford

His story.

Aiyana Stanley

Her story.

View original 151 more words

300 Words or Less: Fire and Fake Intellectuals

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I see stupid stuff go up and down my timeline on a daily basis. I typically ignore it but sometimes I get exposed to something that is so mind-numbingly idiotic that I get mad enough to write about it. Enter the following picture:

Y’all, this picture reaches so far that it is tickling Jesus in the ass. I am so sick of pseudo deep negroes making something out of nothing. The fire challenge and its equally dump fainting challenge are nothing more than stupid (mostly) teenage shenanigans. Kids, regardless of race, do stupid shit all the time. If you go to Youtube and search for prank videos, you will get millions of links to kids of various colors doing dumb stuff from jumping off roofs with skis and sticking fire crackers up their asses. Somehow, Black kids aren’t allowed to participate in adolescent foolishness without someone placing the advancement of Black people on their backs. To compare these internet challenges to the systematic abuse and murder of thousands is intellectually lazy at best and plain dumb at worse. To say this type of behavior is the reason we are relegated to second-class status in this society simplifies oppression and place the blame on the oppressed. There are plenty of valid reasons to criticize these photos and this ain’t one of them.
Let kids, Black ones included, be kids.

Hey Y’all! I’m still here and so is this blog!

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It has been long few weeks, y’all.

As I type, the space formerly known as my bedroom is in shambles as I prepare to move into my dwelling, affectionately known as Nappy Haus. Mind you, this is about 24 hours after crossed over to the better side of the Mason-Dixon line after spending four days in Boston for the NABJ Convention. I’m tired, overwhelmed and excited but I gotta keep it moving. I decided to take a break from these happenings because I just realized this blog will be 2 years old this month.

Two whole years.

I am so proud of this impending milestone because I have been at this blogging thing since I was 18 and this is the first one that stuck. This is the first one that felt right. I used to get embarrassed when people mentioned my other blogs to me offline because I didn’t believe what I was writing. I wrote just to say I wrote something. I was too busy trying to emulate other bloggers and my content suffered. Now, I am proud of Ashleigh Not Ashley becoming an offline nickname. I am proud of my content, including the blog posts that reflect opinions that I don’t have anymore. This blog is a testament of my growth and I have a bevy of plans and ideas that I can’t wait to share with all of you.

I want to thank everyone that reads my posts, comments and shares my articles. Because of you, this blog is sitting at over 56K views. I may not write every day or even every week but y’all keep coming back. Cheers to many more years!

8 Songs By Women Who Know They’re Awesome (Seizure Warning)

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Editor’s note: I placed a line break for the readers that might be sensitive to gifs. I use gifs in other pieces too but not to this extent. I’m trying to make this space more accessible for everyone. 

A couple of days ago, I read a BuzzFeed post in which the author slammed songs about women being beautiful because they don’t know or acknowledge their beauty. I’ve noticed this too and I could have written about it but I can also do a fun posts with pretty gifs. I decided on the latter because being serious all the time is no fun and I like experimenting with my content. Anywho, here’s a list of eight tracks where women proudly boast about their beauty and general awesomeness. I figured this would be a great way to thumb my nose at the idea that women have to be modest and understated about how they feel about themselves while men have no problem with aggressively reminding the world how awesome they think they are. This list is by no means extensive and I am fully aware that some of these songs have some problematic elements.

Let’s get into it:

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Help Me Get to #NABJ14

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My first convention in Philly. I was TOO excited.

I’m going to level with y’all: I need your help.

At the end of this month, I will be heading to Boston for the annual National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair. I’ve been to one every year since 2011 but this year is the first time I’ve felt like I’m clear about the trajectory of my career. As I said in my last blog post, I almost gave up on the media industry last year and a big part of that was a lack of direction. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I could barely come up with a topic for a blog post so coming up with a career path seemed impossible. On top of that, depression and anxiety made me doubt me and my abilities. I considered other “safe” careers because I was too scared of the uncertainty of my future. While my depression and anxiety still present some problems, I am feeling more optimistic about my purpose.

As I was experiencing conflicting views about my career, I dealt with similar feelings about my sexuality. Until September 2013, I intended to stay in the closet which meant stringing my then-boyfriend along and not letting on that I was queer. Then, I got tired. I got tired of lying and hiding. I was also tired of wasting my boyfriend’s time. So, I broke it off. My friends and family were shocked but I felt free. Soon after the break-up, people started outright questioning me about my sexuality and although I was single, I denied everything. Eventually, I got tired again. So, I started to come out little by little because contrary to popular belief, coming out is a process not an event. I started by telling my sisters and dropping hints on social media. A few months later, I told my mom and after knowing she accepted me, I stopped caring as much about what other people thought. My life improved and so did my writing. I started feeling more at ease about writing about queer issues because I was able to inject my own experiences into my post. Honestly, I think this blog is better because of that.

I said all of that to say this, I want to make this thing bigger. AnotA is my baby and I want to see it grow. I feel like going to NABJ with a plan and direction will help so if you feel it in your heart, please donate to help with my expenses. The donation money will only be a fraction of what I need but it will help me immensely. If you cannot donate, share this blog post and my donation page. Either way, I appreciate everyone whether you donate or not because there would be no AnotA without my readers.

 

Click here to donate.

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Maureen Taylor, Dodai Stewart Prove Diversity in Media is CRUCIAL

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Last year, I swore I was done with journalism. Despite dedicating the last eight years to this industry, I was ready to give it all up. I thought journalism had become another tool of the establishment. It seemed like everyone around me was more concerned about getting a job under some corporation’s masthead than storytelling. I understood that people had bills to pay but the lack of dreamers and risk-takers disappointed me. Sometimes, I still feel that disappointment but I digress.
Eventually, I wandered back to the dark side because, as cliché and corny as it sounds, I want to be the change I want to see in this world. I am also inspired by women like Zerlina Maxwell and Melissa Harris-Perry who do important work in media. Additionally, there have been a couple of incidents that show me that diversity in media is a worthy fight.

Last Monday, I logged onto Twitter to see blogger Luvvie Ajayi going off about Jezebel’s latest screw-up. If you haven’t heard by now, they have a new editor-in-chief, Emma Carmichael. There isn’t anything inherently special about this development except Carmichael, a 25-year-old editor from another publication, was chosen over Dodai Stewart, who has been deputy editor of Jezebel since it was founded in 2007. If you do the math that means Carmichael was in high school when Jezebel was founded. To add another layer to this story, Carmichael is white and Stewart is Black and for a publication that has been criticized for not being intersectional, this ain’t a good look. Carmichael must be pretty special to be an editor at 25 years old but I refuse to believe she was more qualified than Stewart. As a working class Black girl trying to make it into this industry, this is a slap in the face and yet another example of white feminism at work. They give good lip service but when it comes down to it, they only look out for their own and they ain’t worried about my or anyone else’s Black ass.

Emma Carmichael

A day later, I came across a video of Detroit-based activist Maureen Taylor going in a reporter that was sharing misleading information about the city’s water crisis. The reporter, a white man, was clearly biased against the thousands of poor people that have had their water shut off by the city for suspicious reasons. Meanwhile, there are more affluent entities that owe money, including the state of Michigan, that owe thousands of dollars but still have running water. Those facts seemed to be lost on the reporter who claimed these people cared more about their cable than their water.


Thankfully, Miss Maureen got him together in a way that only an older Black woman can. If you don’t believe me, just press play.

Incidents like these are what keep me writing. They are why AnotA is going to celebrate two years on the innanets in a month. It’s clear that people like me will only have space at the table if we conform so I say screw the table as I gather lumber to build my own. I’m sick of waiting for a chance. Hell, I’m sick of writing about this too.

I’m hoping some more of my melanated, queer, female and all of the above folk join me because we’re all we got.

Why We Mad: Columbusing The Natural Hair Movement and Other Marginalized Spaces

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I started writing a blog post last Friday about the Curly Nikki debacle but stopped midway because I felt like I would be beating a dead horse. I said this on Twitter and intended to leave it at that until a lady, from Switzerland, explained that knowledge that is presumably common might not be so and a lot of people might not know why people are up in arms about this situation. My first instinct was to write it off as white-splaining but I got to thinking and this thinking led to this blog post. I’m feeling charitable so I am going to let this be a teachable moment for people that might find themselves under fire for barging their way into a safe space. I think marginalized people feel protective of these spaces because of two reasons:

 

The world doesn’t validate “minorities” so we create our own affirming spaces.

Black people have been in the Western hemisphere for centuries and it has been a rough time. We have been subjected to ridicule, abuse and humiliation and anti-Blackness is international disease. We are still being fed an ideal that deems European features the most beautiful. Black women have done everything we can to fit this ideal even though our Africaness prevents us from truly reaching it. In addition to society, our family and community members influence our perceptions of ourselves. Men flip noodle when their woman cuts her hair and mama might hurl the “what are you going to DO with it” question at a cute twist-out or bomb ass fro. My own grandmother told me she preferred my hair the “other way” when I went natural. It’s real out here and natural hair spaces give Black women a break from Eurocentric foolishness. The same can be said of ball and drag culture for queer people of color, predominately Black organizations and so on. So, when a privileged person insists on being included, it is irritating. The world is already customized for certain people but their entitlement tells them it isn’t enough. They have to have everything and throw a tantrum when they don’t get it. Meanwhile, the lower classes are unable to get their break because they’re too busy trying to accommodate people. Curly Nikki can put anything she wants on her blog but she needs to remember who was there when she was trying to build her brand.

The privileged have appropriated and stolen from marginalized people for profit.

Proponents of Curly Nikki’s inclusiveness have argued that it could benefit the natural hair community. Outside of a few more product options, the mainstreaming of the natural hair movement hasn’t done much for Black women. Corporations hopped on the bandwagon and found a way to line the pockets. The wealth isn’t being fed into the Black community so we’re not the main benefactors but hey, at least our hair looks good.

There are plenty of other examples of this phenomenon. Madonna’s appropriation of ball culture via her hit Vogue didn’t do shit for the poor queer people of color that created voguing. The contributions and culture of the oppressed remain stigmatized until the ruling class takes it and claims it as their own. Black Twitter had to school Variety after they attributed the invention of rock music to Elvis Pressley. The internet even created a term, Columbusing, for people who discover something that wasn’t lost in the first place. Point is, we have a reason to be sensitive about our shit and it isn’t because of basic pettiness. For many of us, safe spaces keep us from being another casualty of this heavily prejudiced world.