5 Black Queer Poets You Need on Your Bookshelf

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By L.G. Parker

For black and queer persons alike, much of the realities of our lives are considered “made up” by those who don’t and won’t understand us. Black, queer poets have access to new ways of approaching language as a result of this reality. As self proclaimed black lesbian warrior poet Audre Lorde said in her famous essay “Poetry Is Not A Luxury,” poetry  “forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”

These writers have used language to move American Letters, the public imaginary, and all who are touched by their work toward a tangible action unlike anything that came before them. You need them on your bookshelf.

 

 1. R. Erica Doyle – proxy (Belladonna Press, 2013)

Proxy is an unrequited love story in prose poems, where the landscape of the beloved body becomes the windows of New York City, the deserts of North Africa, and the mangroves of the Caribbean. PROXY is a conversation with the calculus, plotting and space against the infinite capacities of desire.

2. Bettina Judd – Patient. (Black Lawrence Press, 2014)

Patient. explores black women’s trauma in medical settings by greeting and conversing with the ghosts of Anarcha Westcott, Betsey Harris, Lucy Zimmerman, Joice Heth, Saartjie Baartman, and Henrietta Lacks.

 3. L. Lamar Wilson –  Sacrilegion (Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series, 2013)

Wilson’s debut collection is rich with the spiritual traditions of his Southern home. Each poem beautifully assaults and inserts the reader intro an urgent conversation about racism, homophobia, and being differently abled.

 4. Rickey Laurentiis – Boy with Thorn (Pitt Poetry Series, 2015)

In a landscape at once the brutal American South as it is the brutal mind, Boy with Thorn interrogates the genesis of all poetic creation—the imagination itself, questioning what role it plays in both our fascinations with and repulsion from a national history of racial and sexual violence. The personal and political crash into one language here, gothic as it is supple, meditating on visual art and myth, to desire, the practice of lynching and Hurricane Katrina. Always at its center, though, is the poet himself—confessing a double song of pleasure and inevitable pain.

5. Danez Smith – [insert] boy (Yes Yes Books, 2014)

Smith delivers, through a series of elegies for the black boy that is you, your brother, and cousins n’nem, a collection of poems that insist on and explore desire, the body, and how to say hallelujah anyhow.

L.G. Parker is a poet and writer living in Richmond, VA. She is a Callaloo fellow and regular contributor to Elixher Magazine, Blavity, and the Black Youth Project.

 

 

Activist Bree Newsome Takes Down Confederate Flag

This morning, activist Bree Newsome scaled the flagpole in front of the South Carolina Statehouse and removed the Confederate flag.

“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality,” Newsome said in a statement.

You can donate to Bree’s bail fund here.

Photo: Bree Newsome/Twitter

 

Dope: The 21st Century Hood Comedy

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By Jayy Dodd

It may seem like White kids have had a closed market on teen comedies that combine relatable angst, beautiful love interests, and witty dialogue, but Dope (2015) was just like nah. Director Rick Famuyiwa, of The Wood and Brown Sugar fame, used his upbringing in Inglewood, CA (my hometown, what what 310) to locate this coming of age tale of Malcolm and his friends senior year of college. Dope follows Malcolm, Diggy and Jib, three Black hipsters navigating their suburban LA neighborhood often misrepresented as hopeless. After comically getting linked up with some gangsters, Malcolm and the squad have to, in the words of the prophet Future, move that dope.

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However, Dope is more than just another heartfelt, slapstick, teen comedy. The star power on screen aside, the film is unapologetically Black in a time when Blackness and Black kids are under attack. From the aesthetic, to the music, Dope presents Black millennials as possible and nuanced and important. Each character was given depth and development; so little felt cliché. Even the clearly comedic bit parts were clever and well played.

While, Shameik Moore, who plays Malcolm is undoubtedly a star, his best friend, played by Kiersey Clemons, was a true joy to watch. Diggy, the Black masc-presenting lesbian, was never just regulated as one of the boys. Her friend defended her endlessly and supported her clapbacks throughout the film. The film even addressed the respectability politics of many Black churches, as a fruitless effort that Diggy just breezed through.

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Like all favs, this film too has be complicated and of course the one white character had to show his ass. During their dope moving scheme, the squad enlists the support of a stoner-hacker played by Workaholics’ Blake Anderson. For whatever reason (whiteness), his character is compelled to say “nigga”. Despite all the other things he offers the squad, he keeps coming back to it, even having a conversation with another white dude in the film about it. Obviously it was comical (Diggy literally whooped him upside the head twice in the movie for it), it’s annoying when Black art has to allow that sort of space. Still, Dope carried on and not even annoying white boys could bring it down.

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In the canon of Friday, Don’t Be A Menace, and Boyz in the Hood, Dope is a love letter to Black Los Angeles. The film encapsulates the urgency for Black artists to speak on Black life in our languages and icons. Black kids need to see themselves as inherently worth the space to self-express, they need to claim their worlds as real and relevant. Dope is more than just visibility, it is humor and heart and arguably the next great hood movie.

Jayy Dodd is a writer and performance artist based in Boston, originally from Los Angeles. After recently graduating Tufts University, Jay has organized vigils and protests locally for Black Lives Matter: Boston. When not in the streets, Jay has contributed to Huffington Post and is currently a contributing writer for VSNotebook.com, based in London. Jay Dodd is active on social media celebrating Blackness, interrogating masculinity, and complicating queerness. His poetic and performance work speaks to queer Black masculinity and afrofuturism.

The #GoHomeDeray Hashtag Proves Hate For Black Activism Runs Deep

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Following the massacre of nine Black congregants at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last Wednesday, public displays of support have come from a range of individuals. Diverse groups of people from the area and other states have looked on at Charleston during this difficult time with a common sense of empathy and disgust for the actions by killer and White Supremacist, Dylann Root (21). But, even amidst an almost unified response to the Emanuel AME Church massacre, Twitter trolls conjured up a hashtag called “#GoHomeDeray.” Its purpose was simply to target, silence, and exclude social justice activist, writer, and speaker, DeRay McKesson, from continuing the very important work of supporting the families affected by Roof’s killing spree in Charleston last week.

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Like McKesson, I was surprised to see that the hashtag was trending. It was an especially egregious display of White Supremacy because the folks on Twitter championing the tag were insinuating that McKesson’s presence in Charleston would somehow worsen the issues facing that city. Since many Whites see protesting as inherently criminal and violent (sometimes even more so than actual violence against actual Black people), they were concerned that McKesson might “agitate” racial tensions in Charleston. They were, in essence, conflating the massacre that happened just a few days earlier, with the very important work  of advocating, giving voice to, and working with a community which has been ravaged by unprovoked, targetted violence.

Many Twitter users expressed concern over the use of this hashtag noting that it was yet another display of racial hatred and disregard for the nine lives which were lost last week.

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Some Twitter users expressed thanks and appreciation for McKesson, aware that the #GoHomeDeray hashtag was unfairly diminishing the work he has been doing since we first saw him in Ferguson, MO last year following the murder of Michael Brown.
PiaGlenn6 Reagan10 VWG9McKesson was also interviewed about his thoughts on the hashtag.

When asked about his presence in Charleston, McKesson said, “I wouldn’t be here if those nine people had not been killed.” He went on, “Racism is alive and well in places like South Carolina, and in towns across America. So I’m here in solidarity like many other people who’ve come to express their sympathy for the victims, and to figure out how we fight systems of oppression that continue to kill people.”

And, it is important that he continue to empower these communities through his work and activism. That predominantly White trolls on Twitter have sought to stifle that says that he, and those of us who also engage in this work, have quite a bit more to do.

Photo Credit: DeRay McKesson/Facebook/Twitter

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.

 

8 Things Black Folk Don’t Have to Do in Light of the AME Massacre

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By Arielle Newton

 

1. Justify or police our rage.

We have the right to feel and express our rage in a manner we deem appropriate. My only ask is that Black folk aren’t harmed by other Black folk.

2. Apologize for our trauma or anger.

We do not need to further relinquish what little power we have. To anyone.

3. Stay informed of every update or development.

The triggers are real. If constantly being plugged in to this tragedy is causing mental, emotional, physical, and/or spiritual angst, it’s okay to power down and step back. Personally, I have not hate-watched any news coverage because I do not feel compelled to pad the pockets of white supremacist propaganda.

4. Explain ourselves to anyone — especially white folk.

Explanations given to those who don’t agree or understand your analysis takes up entirely too much emotional space. Especially when these explanations are given to white people who are comfortable benefiting from a system that literally hates us.

5. Include or involve the feelings of white folk in our responses.

The last thing on our minds should be how white people will respond to our expressions. If anything, they need to be concerned about how their expressions are received by us. We aren’t obligated to hold white hate, denialism, and guilt.

6. Give up space.

Space is yours to take. Especially if you’re from the most marginalized corners of Blackness.

7. Be peaceful.

Peace is a subjective, shallow term that upholds the status quo. Being “peaceful” — especially when mandated by the agents of white supremacy — is coded language which tells us to stay quiet, assimilate, and internalize our oppression. We are not obligated to be or remain peaceful when “peace” only exists to solidify racism.

8. Forgive.

Forgiveness does not make us more profound or conscious than our oppressors. This beast that was invited into Black space and murdered these gracious host does not deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness is not justice. Forgiveness — especially since we have not yet had room to decompress or process —  is at best, an impediment and at worst, a distraction.

Photo: Black Millennials/Screenshot

Arielle Newton is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Black Millennials

There Wasn’t a Shooting in Charleston

By Arielle Newton

There was a shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal. There was a shooting, a massacre, and a tragedy at AME.

Calling it anything else — especially a #CharlestonShooting is a function of white supremacy. The erasure, the inability or unwillingness to name how a white twenty-something shooter specifically targeted this central and iconic locale is violent.

At around 9pm, a white shooter unleashed racist hell on the Emanuel AME during a bible study. At least 9 people were assassinated, including State Senator Clementa Pinckney who served as the church’s pastor. Although little is known at the moment, I strongly doubt this racist anti-Black act of violence was random or spontaneous. The Emanuel AME, preciously nicknamed “Mother AME,” was established and unofficially organized in 1787. By 1822, one founder, Denmark Vesey — a former slave from the Virgin Islands — planned a slave revolt from this specific location. The revolt failed because George Wilson enslaved physically, economically, socially, and mentally, tipped off his white master. The aftermath was devastatingly structural; the white power structure soon implemented stricter laws, codes, and racist socio-cultural principles to prevent future revolt. Mother AME was burned down. Vesey and 36 others were hanged. The righteous coup was planned for July. And that’s why this deranged racist shooter targeted this location. That’s why before his deadly racist rampage, he staked out AME’s members and developed a rapport them. “Allegedly.”

 

So no. This isn’t just a #CharlestonShooting. This was a strategic racist attack festered, smeared, and drenched in anti-Blackness. Dominant media narratives will suggest otherwise. Don’t let them. Name this massacre appropriately.

 

#AMEShooting #AMETerrorism #AMEMassacre. So much more than a Charleston shooting.

Arielle Newton is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Black Millennials

#BlackKidsMatter: Police in Ohio Fractured Ribs, Jaw of 12-year-old Black Girl at a Local Pool

ohio-cop-pool-arrestIt has only been a few weeks since video footage emerged of a pool party in McKinney, Texas where Black teens were violently apprehended, intimidated, and brutalized by White police officers and community residents. While some would like to believe that these incidents are few and far in between, the truth is, they happen every day. This time, a 12-year-old girl, reportedly, suffered broken ribs and a fractured jaw.

According to the Daily Beast, Krystal Dixon dropped off her children, nieces, and nephews at a local pool in Fairfield, Ohio. She quickly received a phone call indicating that one of the children did not have their swimsuit. Apparently, the child, her nephew, proceeded to swim in the community pool anyway. She agreed to bring the swimwear back to the child. However, reports indicate that the issue escalated to the point that staff members at the Fairfield Aquatic Center asked the family to leave. When Dixon returned to collect the children, she says that police officers began to pursue them, taking out their handcuffs. At this point, what seemed like a minor issue turned into a serious altercation of violence and physical confrontation.

Soon, police officers used pepper spray on the tweens and teens and slammed a 12-year-old girl against a police vehicle. The Black teens can be seen crying on camera after being pepper sprayed, screaming for the police officers to stop grabbing and pulling them. Krystal Dixon is six months pregnant. It is clear from the video that she is with child. However, that still wasn’t reason enough for police officers to treat her with respect and civility. Dixon believes the officers used more force than necessary especially since the family was neither armed nor violent.

The police authorities offer a different perspective of the events that day. They claim that the teenagers refused to leave. Not only that, they say the kids became “verbally aggresive and belligerent.” They have even indicated that the 12-year-old girl physically assaulted an officer. Unsurprisingly, Fairfield Police officers deny any wrongdoing. They disagree with the family’s claims of excessive force and are standing by the actions in the footage. Some of the other patrons at the pool are standing in support of the police. However, pool staff members and local religious leaders suggest the arrests were race related.

Like the McKinney incident, there were civilian White males who got involved with the police brutality against the Black teens in the video. This suggests that, somehow, there is an unwritten rule in modern law enforcement that random White men have jurisdiction in arrests of Black kids, especially Black girls. How these men are permitted to physically touch the bodies of Black children with impunity is mind-boggling. Eerily, cops don’t even seem the least bit concerned with these White men inserting themselves in police business.

Besides being entirely enraging, this video highlights how public spaces in the United States are continually policed. Not only are officers ready at all moments to persecute young Black people, pool staff members and patrons seem more than obliged to assist in reprimanding and eliminating young Black people no matter how small the offense. For young Black people, merely existing in public could result in public humiliation, isolation, or, worse, death.

While it is great news that no one was killed in this event, it still shows how fragile Black life is in this country. And, it proves we have so much more work to do to ensure that #BlackKidsMatter in all public spaces.

Photo Credit: Youtube

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.