When myth meets reality, and neither one offers protection, it is time for a rewrite.
By Alexis Haynie (Writer, Actor, Scholar)
My mother has mainly existed as a myth in my memory. Immortal and without flaw. A life too big to be confined by death. Strong. Driven. Living with sickle cell disease but never suffering from it, of course. She married my father. She separated from my father. She bought her own house and her own car. But even more important than being independent and battling a chronic illness—she birthed two daughters. Because every great myth needs a miraculous birth. The doctors, not to be mistaken for the daytime talk show hosts, warned her against childbirth. She didn’t listen.
She grew two humans in a body that was self-destructing because she knew her mission was to deliver the tiny humans into the world—even if it meant dying in the process. She knew she would never live to witness the trajectory of their lives and the fulfillment of their personal missions. Her death would come before her existence could concretize in their memories. But that would be enough. The myth would be enough.
OITNB: No spoilers here. No surprises. It's the same ol' song; We could sing along in harmony.
By Alexis Haynie (Writer, Actor, Scholar)
I knew, Episode 1. I knew. As soon as I heard "Let's start a race war...I'm bored." I knew. And yet? I sat through through the whoooooooole thing. I voluntarily let the stress and anxiety course through my veins, contort my muscles. You know what I was thinking? I'm going to write something about this. I'm going to process this in my body and its going to come out as some art that will help others process it. (Lex did that, so hopefully you ain't have to go through that) I was going to write one of those thinkpieces but without an invalidating question for a title (Is Water Wet? Is Donald Trump Racist?) Or I was going to write a poem. The kind of poem that made your heart stop and then made you so grateful you didn't die that you started to look at the world differently.
You know what I actually did? Cry. I just cried.
How do you process trauma when the injury is continually repackaged and sold to you? Reimagined and broadcast back to you? Trauma as generational as poverty, as wealth. It lingers.How do I kneed away the phantom bullets lodged in my shoulder blades? How do I breathe deeply enough to get air to the spirits still suffering forced oxygen deprivation? What yoga pose can I hold my body in to convince it that it is safe?
I don't have the answers right now, Sway. But I am searching for them. I know it's hard to resist the urge to bingewatch. So if you look up at the end of the season and you find yourself searching for answers (other than what comes next) then seek support. Trauma is often amplified in isolation.
ALEXIS HAYNIE is a college student, writer, and feminist, from Arlington, TX who moved to NYC in search of a word. She hopes to spend her entire life looking for it. EMAIL HER | FACEBOOK | TWITTER |
If you've been keeping up with the Kardashians, then you'll know all about the recent drama. But how clear are we about the questions it brings up? By Alexis Haynie (Writer)
"If she's 14, then I'm 14 too."
"Age ain't nothing but a number."
"It's about maturity."
I am not one to "keep up with the Kardashians." Honestly, I can't even match names with faces. But the best thing about "pop cultural controversy" is that it dredges up the slime of society. The controversy is like a deep cough that brings all this disgusting phlegm up to the surface.
If you need to fill yourself in on the Tyga/Kylie/Amber/Khole controversy you only need to do a quick Google search. (Here's a short article.)
Here's the meat of it, Tyga (25 years old) is reportedly dating Kylie (17 years old). Their relationship has been in the rumor mills since Kylie was 16. Tyga denies the relationship and blames "black culture" for being unable to see them as "friends." Jamilah Lemieux writes for Ebony, "Dear Tyga: Blacks and Whites Are Quite Clear on Friendships Between Grown Men and Little Girls."
The discourse around this is bringing up all sorts of pedophile-y support on behalf of Tyga that makes me question: how clear are we really?
Like, if you have to actually look up the legal statute to decide if someone is "old enough"--that should be the first sign. The misconception seems to center around the age of sexual consent. But grown men are not strictly attracted to young girls for their sexuality.
So what does attract grown men to teenage girls? I will be sharing my own narrative in hopes to expose some of the effects of these "relationships."
Nina Simone is definitely in the house of Creativity this week and during this full moon she has been blessing us with all sorts of artistic super powers. Tap into yours! By Alexis Haynie (Writer)
I hope you all have been taking advantage of this magical time and creating some magical work. We all dream therefore we are all artist. You just have to find your art form!
I stumbled across an interesting exhibit this week in York College's art gallery. If you happen to find yourself on campus at CUNY York College or at Jamaica Center for some reason, stop by York's Fine Arts Gallery to see Nicholas Fraser's installment We Are Creating A Secure Connection.
Are you an artist suffering from art withdrawal? Do you have the bad weather blues? Here is some art therapy to help you through. By Alexis Haynie (Writer)
"And like any artist with no art form, she was dangerous." -Sula, Toni Morrison, 1973
This has been a long winter for me. I fell into the habit of working 50 hour weeks. When I was not at work I was hibernating in my dark basement apartment attempting not to freeze to death before my next shift. I was battling depression, anxiety, and the flu.
Without art, I became a danger to myself.
My bookcase stared at me from across the room, mockingly. My various notebooks sat in wait above it, menacingly. I just didn't have the energy. Plus, it was way too cold to get out of bed for anything other than work.
Something had to be done to fend off this gloomy state I had found myself in. An art project.
I bought some poster board and went to my favorite novels for some magic spells to put up around my room, very much like the barrier spells on the glass that kept the evil spirits contained in the movie Thirteen Ghosts (2001).
If you haven't heard of Mallory Merk, it's probably a good thing. By Alexis Haynie (Writer)
The twitter-verse was all a buzz when a random white girl posted pictures wearing her hair in box braids. So what's the fuss? She isn't the first and she won't be the last. But when the offense that many black women and girls expressed was met with a slew of backlash--I felt the need to respond. The two main attacks were:
If black girls can wear blond weave, then white girls can wear braids.
It’s not about race, it’s just how she chose to express herself. She looks cute!
Basically, an "innocent" white girl was under "attack" and the masses flocked to save her. *overlydramaticeyeroll*
I chose to respond with poetry, because there's really no room for logic when it comes to white supremacy.
We Wear The Crowns
I cannot remember if my mother’s fingers ever ran through my hair as a child
There were no tender tugs at my tresses. No soothing scratching of my scalp.
No bo-bo snaps against my skull. No sink baptisms.
My mother was no kitchen beautician—she outsourced.
All I can remember is being surrounded for hours… and screaming.
Never being able to handle the excruciating pain of the intricate twisting of the sacrificial or manufactured hair into mine
Crying and screaming and pleading for my mother--who never showed up to save me.
My mother, who had indeed subjected me to the agonizing sorcery of
Three African women hunched over me, hair weaving witches, who chant sharply at me
Be Still Child! Don’t Move Your Head! Hush!
The ends of my braids burning like incense, melting like candle wax, and stiffening like corpses.
The Girl Screams Like She’s Dying!
They would tell my mother upon her arrival and ban me from ever returning.
I had been kicked out of more hair salons by the time I was 10
Than the number of times my classmates called my mother ghetto when they saw pictures of me
At 5, box braids cut perfectly into a bob, framing my smile, head tilted slightly
Because the added hair added pounds, weighing me down
And yet, I never flittered around more free and happy than when I saw my hair in the mirror after one of those salon sessions
That is until 15
When I had finally saved up enough money to buy my own weave and picked out the perfect shade—Red
Not just any red. The glossy kind they spray on sports cars. The shade of red that they make all the best flavors of candy with. Sweet and Shiny, but Fierce and Intense like fresh blood. I was ready.
I found the most wicked weaving witch around and sat awarkdly on the floor, listenting to her stories, feeling her delicate hands swiftly twist the strands into place
That it is until my father came home and roughly wrapped his fingers around my half finished braids
Snatched me up and asked me who did I think I was and where did I think I was going with that ghetto ass shit in my head.
Funny how I had never questioned this before-- who I was or where I could go
But it was clear that I couldn’t get far with my candy red micros so I settled for brown
The kind of brown close enough to blonde so it wasn’t boring but close enough to black that I could get away with it
and so I let the witch cast her spell
She laced magic into my locs, rendering me invincible
That is until I posted pictures to show my friends at 19 and they called me ratchet
I laughed uneasily in agreement. I mean, I was young and dumb.
That was a whole lotta hair on my big ol' head but I thought I was cute.
I used to think that ratchet was cute--but I learned better. You can’t be both.
Nina Simone once said, "It's not as simple, as talking jive – the daily struggle to stay alive. By Alexis Haynie (Writer)
I watched the protestors march past the windows of my workplace. The energy of the people radiated through the glass. I followed this energy when I got off work: the flashing lights, the whirring helicopters, and the powerful chants. I met the people and marched along the Westside Hwy.
Hands up, Don’t Shoot.
How do you spell racist? N-Y-P-D
No Justice, No Peace. Fuck These Racist Ass Police.
As I trailed along the end of the party, the lack of black faces confused me. The orders being shouted by various white people who seemed to be directing the march confused me even more. This confusion propelled me to travel to the front of the party to see who was leading this movement I was following. The cold began to seep through my jacket, although I had felt impervious to the elements at first. My knees were aching. My feet were numb. Where is the music? Certainly there should be music.
My Top Songs That Should Have Been Playing during the Protest:
We Don’t Care – Kanye West
They Don’t Give a Fuck about Us – Tupac
They Don’t Care About Us – Michael Jackson
Mississippi Goddamn – Nina Simone
Revolution – Nina Simone
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott Heron
As I compared white America's religious acceptance of The Hunger Games to their complete aversion to the Ferguson riots, a white woman in front of me turned and gave me the three-finger protest hand gesture of The Hunger Games series and one of those “You Can’t Say That” glares.
Where the fuck am I?
In front of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building where the march had come to an end. The crowd gathers around the base of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. statue and looks up to the “leaders” who give directions for the next days planned protest. Men up on a pedestal, what a surprise. The floor is open to speakers and I wait to hear something. Anything. I needed a word. All I got was a regurgitation of empty rhetoric. No one even seemed to be acknowledging what we were here for.
It seemed the march was an empty gesture fueled by empty rhetoric and empty chants.
I wanted to leave. But I couldn’t. I did not walk my ass all the way down to 125th for nothing. My friend encouraged me to speak. I had nothing prepared. I had no words to give. Only questions to ask.
Where were you two days ago?
Where were you when Zale Thompson was murdered?
Where will you be when there is more on the line than aching feet?
Immediately there was unrest amongst the crowd and vocalized dissent. I looked into a sea of silent white faces, some seated and some standing. Along the outskirts were black bodies who repeated my questions back to me, demanding answers just as I was.
There is space for non-black liberals, non-black revolutionaries, and non-black allies. But it is not at the front of the movement.
As I stepped down, there were shouts about “optimism” and “the rainbow coalition” and “unity” and shit. They just about held hands and started singing Kum-bah-ya.
It’s funny how black is never a part of the rainbow until the other colors try to take it and use it for some depth. They use the cries for black lives to back their own cries for social justice.
Any movement that attacks police brutality without addressing white supremacy/anti-black racism and patriarchy, is an empty one that only attempts to reform one aspect of oppression without actually combating it. Black people cannot afford empty movements. We are dying.
Black transwomen can be legally murdered in 49 states by means of the “trans-panic defense.” And yet when a someone spoke at the protest about transwomen who have been murdered blocks away from where we were standing, they were basically ignored by the crowd.
When I challenged anti-blackness, I was told “not to go there.”
Race is not a card. It is a reality. And those who benefit from racial oppression are the only ones privileged enough not to notice its constant reality.
Solidarity is important and necessary. But there is a way to align yourself with the struggle, without overrunning it. You don’t see black people running movements against anti-Semitism and you don’t hear non-Jewish people saying “my struggles are just like the Holocaust!” That is because “blackness” is expected be all encompassing and all accommodating. Take what you want, and leave what you don’t. Because black people are not valued as much as blackness, blackness is simply extracted while black identities are ignored and erased.
I was told I should appreciate the non-black people in attendance.
You do not deserve accolades for protesting genocide. And if you expect them, you need to reevaluate your position in the movement. You are not supposed to be “optimistic” when black bodies are gunned down and left rotting in the streets. Outrage is the human response. Protest is the citizen’s duty.
Solidarity: To stand with, not in front of, and not in spite of.
My Protest Playlist
Alexis Haynieis a college student, writer, and feminist, from Arlington, Tx who moved to NYC in search of a word. She hopes to spend her entire life looking for it. EMAIL HER | FACEBOOK | TWITTER |