The Great Divide

police lives matter, Black lives matter, Black Pride, Blue Lives Matter, race relations, racism, Institutionalized racism

A local police officer in my area died recently and it was a terribly tragic story. He was a war veteran, a husband, a father of two young children…it was the kind of story that makes your heart wrench. I felt for those involved when I first heard about it. I thought, “How sad!” ” What a shame!” “Those poor children!” It was a senseless loss of life. I hate senseless loss, and this one from some lunatic who got a hold of the officer’s gun. It was just such a shame.

As the days went on, I saw the expected outpouring of sadness, shock and condolences in my community. It seemed I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the color blue, flags, ribbons, charities, so many acts of remembrance and honor for this man. He deserved every bit and more. I knew this…but in my spirit, something was becoming unsettled. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I began to feel resentful of the concern and support I was seeing. Then I turned around and felt incredibly guilty about that resentment. As much as I tried to perish the thought, I couldn’t help wondering, as I looked at a “Blue Lives Matter” sign, why does no one in my community seem to give a crap when one of MY people is murdered senselessly?

Now, maybe to some readers that might seem petty. “This man died tragically in service. Why do you feel the need to bring up some kind of ‘Black Lives Matter’ agenda?” I imagine them saying. Well…because it applies. People act like there’s this Great Divide when it comes to Black people dying on the streets. As if, we had it coming while everyone else is an unfortunate victim. It’s the classic “Us” vs. “Them” mentality. But if I’ve learned anything from the past few days, its that we’re not at all different. We all feel and hurt the same, and if that much is true, then why are we being treated differently? The hard truth is, in my mostly White, slightly more conservative area, #BlackLivesMatter is met with indifference and sometimes even with aggression. I could very easily imagine some vandalism issues if a Black Lives Matter sign or Black Pride fist had been hung in solidarity following the deaths of Eric Garner and the like. One woman went on and on to me about this officer’s death and I sat there in silence because I couldn’t help but remember her own silence about Trayvon Martin and her discomfort when I brought up how sad it was, as if she didn’t want to speak her mind on the subject. I know many people like this, people who are outraged by one scenario but not the other. My question, and that of many others, is WHY?!

My community was so affected by the recent death of this officer because they felt a common connection to him. It was one of their own. Their protector, a local man at that, was lost and it was violently unfair. Is it hard to understand then, how I, as a Black woman, feel that same connection and that same sadness when I see an unarmed Black man gunned down on the street? When I read stories of Black children threatened with guns to their heads by the same police who are supposed to protect them? More to the point, if I as a Black woman can feel sadness and sympathy for this poor officer’s tragedy….why can’t some of my neighbors and the rest of the “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” advocates around this country, have that same sympathy for my people? Why is it ok to so many that we are disproportionately incarcerated and even killed on the streets in staggering numbers? Why, in 2018, do people of color still have to remind so many White people that we are one of you too? that we MATTER?

Black Lives Matter was started to bring light to police brutality and fight for change and against racial bias in our criminal justice system. “Police/Blue Lives Matter” was only created to be a counterargument to the former. There is no difference in loss between Black or White, Officer or Civilian, and this divide we’ve created is imaginary. Wrong is wrong, justice is justice, love is LOVE and we are all humans, first and foremost.  I am not angry at my community’s love and support for the fallen officer. I’m proud of them. It proves they are more than capable of solidarity and empathy. I’m angry that I don’t see that same love all across the board. It’s the overwhelming failure in understanding, the lack of humanity, the insane disconnect in this nation that’s agonizingly painful for me to experience daily. If you have a Police Lives Matter bumper sticker, why not a Black Lives Matter one right beside it? One is ok, but not the other. That is my issue in a nutshell. That officer should not have lost his life that day….and guess what? Trayvon Martin shouldn’t have died either. Philando Castile should not have died. Nia Wilson should not have died and Tamir Rice most certainly should not have died. Rest in Peace and God Bless Them All.

**Further Information: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/admist-the-escalating-racial-relations-in-america-it-doesnt-have-to-be-blue-lives-vs-black-lives
***Image taken from http://www.theodysseyonline.com

A Passing Friend

For Fourteen Years Nothing Had Changed.
Fourteen years, and it all stayed the same.
For fourteen years she had been my friend.
Through the good and the bad,
Through the tears and the laughs,
For fourteen years, I never thought it would end.

We Were Always Happy, Always joyful, Always Gay.
When I was lost and couldn’t find my way,
I knew there was no need to fray.
She’d let me know it was okay,
then she would always tell me,
“The world will go on whirling and twirling anyway. Just hold on ’til another day.”
…or something to that effect, for I didn’t listen anyway.

We Planned For The Future But Remembered The Past.
The years went by; they came then they left.
We were always happy,
Always joyful.
And the world kept on twirling.
But soon things would begin to change…

I Saw Her With That Look In Her Eyes.
I saw her look so distant.
I saw her so far gone.
Then she’d start to smile and she’d laugh at me when I’d ask her what was wrong.
Some days she was happy.
She’d be joyful, she’d be gay.
Other days she was so sad,
Depressed, seemed astray.
Sometimes she would cry.
I’d ask her why and she’d tell me a lie,
Say, “…Wasn’t important, besides, the world will go on anyway until the day I’ve died.”
…or something to that effect, for I wasn’t listening anyway.

So The Years Went By,
Some days good, some days bad.
She’d be happy, she’d be sad…but she was right.
The world kept spinning, kept whirling.
It kept on twirling.

Some More Years Went By And My Friend Was Not My Friend.
She would drown her days in sobs and cries.
I didn’t ask her why.
I didn’t listen to the cries.
She knew that I  would wonder but she knew I didn’t care.
All these years, all her crying!
How could I continue to care?
but then, one day…
she took her life.

it stopped going, stopped spinning…

slowed its whirling and its twirling.

Then My World Stopped.

I wrote this poem when I was 13 years old and it mostly came out of my ongoing struggle with major depression. It was meant to be a fictional scenario from the perspective of my best friend in the event of my suicide, which at the time seemed like an inevitable future. It’s interesting to look back and see how even at such a young age, I was already struggling so much. Life is simply unfair sometimes. Suicide and mental health issues once again became a hot topic with the recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Hot topics, especially those of such a sad nature, have a shelf life, and as I see the conversation begin to phase out again I ask only this…please cherish the important people in your life. Hold them close and always, ALWAYS care for them! We never know how long we may be together. I simply ask that we all challenge ourselves to Love Better.

-Risa

Cowardice

She was born with a mighty battle axe,
Divine power bestowed by omnipotent hands.
But like a moth to the flame, she abandons her claim,
Knowing that future is left behind her.

There is no way to mend this rift.
She’s fallen prey to the ball and chain of greed and lies.
As her footsteps begin to fail, her feet become anchored.
Her courage dies, and she releases painful sighs
at her loss of valor.

Yet still no sense of virtue or empathy will force her submission.
While the innocents suffer, she will turn a blind eye,
feigning their screams rest far beneath her.

-Risa

Yourself Last

If God descended from heaven on high and he offered me the world,
I would try to give it back and turn away,
unaccepting of what I don’t deserve.

If God appeared to me in my sorrows to grant my deepest desires,
I would say, “I cannot take so much from you,
not while desperate others plead, ‘…in Jesus’ name’.”

Trust, I am no angel nor a saint.
I’m not Mary so Full of Grace.
Yet, SELF at times is far less paramount
When those around you are in dire straits.

-Risa

Fav Song of the Week 7/3/2018

The voice of a generation has done it again. When I heard this single I was reminded of why Christina has always been my favorite artist. Although I’m not the biggest fan of the video itself, the words of this song are undeniably powerful and inspiring. It rang true to my soul the moment I heard it. I wasn’t made to #FallinLine either.

Only Black Girl 02/2018

I’m naturally a very quiet person, especially at work. Is this why people feel the need to come at me with their bull****? Is it because I’m shy? Is it because I’m the only Brown person here? A combination of both? Didn’t your mother ever teach you “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? These are the questions I have after my White co-worker, who we’ll call “Bob” TRIED IT.

I woke up in one of those rare “happy for no reason” moods. I felt well rested and ready for the day. It was warm but not too hot out. The sun was shining through clouds, casting the most perfect light on my copper skin tones. I almost wanted to skip to work singing with the birds as the slightest breeze flowed through my curly fro. I looked fly, free, and was walking on sunshine. 😁

I get to work and start going about my business, laughing and chatting with some co-workers, procrastinating the morning away. I don’t even notice “Bob” in the corner watching my moves. He walks over and interrupts my pleasant conversation with someone else…

“hmm,”….. “I don’t think I really like your hair like that.” he says smiling…..

PAUSE!

Now, the problem with being the only Black woman in a majority White office is sometimes you have to tiptoe around people’s feelings rather than saying it like it is, which is your normal method of operation. You see, Bob/Becky can be as politically incorrect and downright inappropriate as they want but as a Black woman, if I want to keep my job, I have to hold back. Despite being the one insulted, I have to cater to his feelings. I can’t curse or yell at how angry it makes me that even in the 21st century my own natural hair is still seen as unattractive or unacceptable. I can’t even tear up at the fact that this man has the audacity to tell me to my face, in a place of work, that he doesn’t like my God-given hair. I have to craft a subtle response to his White privilege all to avoid being the stereotypical and universally dreaded “angry Black woman”. I wish I was braver. I wish I didn’t care. I really wish I didn’t allow people like this to ruin my day. I wish I could tell him everything wrong with what he said without risking my boss’s bad side. But, my boss already isn’t fond of the Only Black Girl and I have bills to pay. We have to choose our battles carefully…

So, lets become Becky. Like, “let me sound totally sweet while being totally rude when I should be totally minding my own damn business because, although natural Black hair gives me the uncontrollable urge to share my opinion,  you rocking a curly fro this morning has 0 impact on my life! *insert innocent giggle here*.” Sigh, 😒.

…Take a deep breath. One more. Don’t yell. Channel inner Becky….

GO!

Ending the long awkward silence and uncomfortable glaring, I smirk. “Oh really?” I shrug. “Well, it’s just my natural hair. That’s just how it grows out of my head. I mean…at least I have hair, right!?” I giggle innocently, looking up at Bob’s shiny balding crown of glory and walk back to my damn office. My job is safe….today anyway.

20 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Leaving the Church

makiah-isms

IMG_0196 My unapologetic, Black self. 2016.

I haven’t been to church in over a year now, and I’ve been pondering how I should address what I’ve discovered along the way. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably could’ve never guessed that I would end up here. I never imagined that I could exist outside the Church I once held so dear. But due to the routine state-sanctioned violence that is being inflicted on my people, and the inadequate response from the church (among other things), I have decided to remove myself entirely from a system that claims to value my soul, but fails to show up for my Black body. I’ll probably end up writing a book about this one day, but in the meantime, here are 20 things I’ve learned since leaving the church:

  1. God is not a man.
  2. There is no pre-determined path called “God’s will”…

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