Dear World,

Black women deserve happiness and to live as much as anyone else. Recently, Breonna Taylor was murdered by police and Oluwatoyin Salau was sexually assaulted and murdered. She was know as Toyin and protested passionately for Black lives. Breonna was an award winning EMT- a highly physical job. There was another woman put in a dumpster. Another women was killed by her partner. Another woman stalked by an old partner. Another woman physically assaulted because she denied advances in the street. Another women tone “checked.” Another woman cat called. Another woman called a bitch. Another woman called a hoe. Another woman fat shamed. The list is infinite if the transgressions against Black women. We exist in world where racism is steadily chasing behind us while sexism is waiting at the sanctuary.

What is the value of a Black woman’s life aside from being a man’s peace? Where is the justice and passions for Black women who put themselves last and the world first? Where is the warmth and cuddle for a tired, head hung low Black woman? Who will protect me from the dangers of the works without trying to censor me in some way? How can I live my life freely? Am I not valuable unless I’m doing something that is valued by another person?

Existing in this body, in this space, in this time is not easy for a woman like me. For Black women, existence is not easy or valued. Our existence is expected because we have to be “strong.” We have to be a pillar. But my dear world, we are tired. We are weary and quite frankly, sometimes we get scared. My existence shouldn’t come at a price, loophole or conditions defined by patriarchy (which Black people have adopted and use against certain members of our community).

We deserve to be happy, joyous, carefree, and most of all, we deserve to live too. We are tired of being defined by stereotypes or tropes or pain. Let us define ourselves. Let us live the best way we see fit. Black women don’t have to fit your criteria for womanhood or Blackness to be deemed valuable enough to live.

This is an open letter to the many people who see through us or past us. I am the “ratchet Black women.” I am the Black women with long nails and lace fronts. I am the Black women who love anime. I am the women who love to create. I am the Black women who listen to Erykah Badu. I am the Black women who listen to Beyoncé. I am the Black women who studied tirelessly to graduate college. I am the Black women who come home from work with aching feet. I am the Black women who love thee Stallion and proudly stick their tongues out while they dance. They are me and I am them.

Black girl magic doesn’t just mean letters from the divine nine or a graduation cap. Black girl magic encompasses the girls from around the way, the girls with flowers in their Afros, girls in college, girls who love other girls, trans girls. Please let us live and see us for who we are and not what we can do for you.

Sincerely,

A tired Black girl who became a woman.

A Dream or a Nightmare ?

By Donovan Peterson

The local governments of New York and Rhode Island competed to be the capital of the North American slave trade and by the early 1800’s, Newport and Rhode Island outpaced New York to be the top slave suppliers

That is just to say; racism was never purely a Southern issue. And I say this because I know that it makes white liberals feel a bit better if they can pawn slavery on rednecks in the Appalachia with character defects. While they aren’t necessarily wrong, this characterization is a misrepresentation at worst and a deflection at best. If a racist threatens to hang me, I will know my enemy; confirm him. Act accordingly. But silence among friends in the face of tyranny is both deafening and complicit. And confusing.

Racism in fact permeates just about every facet of society. I don’t understand what else anyone would expect after a society is built on slave labor and native land. It doesn’t go away magically after 400 years with a stroke of a feather pen and it doesn’t just stay in the South like mullets and hot chicken. Human minds and values were corrupted. A 250 year machine was constructed that stole lives from birth to death and decimated generations. That’s not 90 second rice.

I believe this why W.E.B Dubois coined a term “double consciousness”.

If you’d like an explanation, you probably have one of those supercomputer things in your fucking pocket that could help. But seriously, the knowledge of my history combined with seeing what feels tantamount to black murder porn several times over the past few years…it makes sense to say that being black in America has caused me irreversible mental anguish and sadness. It’s become an impossible task to compartmentalize it all, but at the same time I’m grateful and proud to be black and to be a small part of the mad man sort of resilience it takes to have some respect for yourself in a country that recently figured out that your people were indeed human beings not too long ago.

Black people have always expressed pain through music or art.

As a gesture of both this sadness and love that I feel; I asked my friends to come and say what they felt on a mic. One of my friends lost his freedom the day after he laid down his verse and I knew this was urgent. For us; there is no refuge. There is no choice. There is no South, East, West or North. There is no taking a uniform off. There is no silence. There is only continued struggle. There is only total liberation.

Click here to hear the contribution.

Donovan is a guest writer who currently resides from Baltimore. Although his beginnings are not in the city, he embodies the Baltimore spirit and drive. He is an artist, cat enthusiast, and writer for medium. He

Eight Years Later, We Have Another Black Body

I was a senior in high school in 2012. This was also the year every senior in high school watched Trayvon Martin’s murderer walk innocently out of a courtroom. We all watched the trial diligently. My friends and I just knew that he would be guilty and he would go to jail. Eight years later, I am still shocked by the verdict but somehow Black bodies are still being publicly executed. Black bodies are still being disregarded because they are Black.

The year every senior watch the mockery of justice.

At that time, I was 17 and the not guilty verdict turned my entire world upside down and inside out. I knew racism existed but I didn’t know just how deeply it was engrained into American culture. AntiBlackness is not a new phenomenon that suddenly swept the nation. It happens on a grand scale and especially in small circumstances. Looking back on my high school experience, there were several examples of antiBlackness and racism from classmates and teachers. I had a government teacher tell me to think of slavery as a “business venture.” A middle aged, balding white man who strongly resembled Lord Voldemort told a room full of Black students to not condemn slavery but consider it from a different perspective. “Consider it a great business that benefited the American economy.” Another history teacher decided to ask me how much of my box braids was actually my real hair. Never had he asked a white girl this question. Never had he picked of a lock of a white girl’s hair and examined it.

When Trayvon Martin died, I revisited the moments in my head. I had revisited the lessons on slavery, the murmurs from white kids who separated themselves from the Black kids, other non Black POC students smirking with glee when Black girls feened for their long silky hair, or white boys who found Black girls physically attractive but couldn’t take them home. All those moments added up in my head to just how society viewed Blackness and Black bodies. We weren’t just peers or children. We were Black boys and girls who became Black women and men who would be seen as a threat.

Trayvon Martin was seen as threat before he even entered the neighborhood of George Zimmerman. A 17 year old loving his life without regard for whiteness. A threat. A young Black boy freely walking without fears a threat. A young Black boy existing in his own space that didn’t serve whiteness in that moment. A threat. A young Black boy becomes dangerous when he puts on a hoodie because of the value whiteness has placed upon us. A Black body should be visible. A Black body needs to be announced; they need to see Blackness coming their way to determine what value they want to place on it. A hoodie becomes a shield and stereotype for Black boys.

Zimmerman was described as a white Hispanic. A term used to pacify his crime. His proximity to whiteness allows him access to innocence while being Hispanic condemns him. However, when your identity is associated with whiteness, you seem to have more leeway in a society that devalues Blackness and upholds and uplifts whiteness. You also have the keys to be just the right amount of racist. So racist that you can kill a child in cold blood.

After the murder, of course protests sparked around the nation. T-shirts and memorials all over to raise awareness. Even President Obama said, “if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” Yet somehow, after Trayvon was the unofficial sacrificial lamb to the Black Lives Matter movement (hence the Emmett Till comparisons), we still have Black bodies being brutalized. We still have public executions to keep our Black bodies from being as threatening as possible. The question is why?

Why is Blackness still a threat? Why is the value of the Black body not attached to the value of the things whiteness can take from it? Why does racism and antiBlackness still burdened the lives of Black people?

Racism is tightly woven into American culture. From the time European immigrants stepped on the shores of this land, they have done nothing but assault and erase people of color. They created laws that would uphold their ideals and power. Created loopholes in official documents that would allow racism to fester and spread. Span for hundreds of years and reinvent itself through various systems and vocabulary.

Before Trayvon was Rodney. After Trayvon was Sandra, Eric, Tamir, Freddie, Korryn, Philando, and many more. In the year 2020, eight years after my senior year and the death of Trayvon Martin, we have a slew of Black bodies being assaulted and brutalized. Obviously, we need change and we need justice. We need to redefine justice and how it is executed. We need a reform in policing, and most of all we need a shift in mindset, which is the hardest thing to do in a country that determines the value of your body based on what it can offer- including the satisfaction of invoking terror upon you- and what you look like. That is the hardest part. Accuracy in history and culture can create a shift. Representation and decriminalizing minuscule things associated with Blackness, like wearing a hoodie per say can create a shift.

As Dr. Angela Y. Davis once said, “we have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.” This is the key to prevent Black youth from seeing more Black bodies lifeless in their lifetime.

Get Flynanced with The Queen of Travel

Yes the Corona Virus has us all in doors and waiting for better days but now is a time for you to think of future travel plans. Yes, travel plans for when we can all go outside and to the airport. With being home, hopefully you’ve been able to save some extra cash that you can put in the travel jar. facing-my-debt-1

Even though plane tickets and hotels cost money, there is one woman who travels at the same rate some of us change our underwear- for all of us that should be daily. At any rate, Cinneah is the queen of travel. She was born and raised ova West but currently resides in New York. Cinn attended Barnard College where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Africana Studies and a Master of Science degree in Management from Wake Forest University School of Business.

She traveled to 25 countries by her 25th birthday. Her new goal is 40 countries by age 30. Aside from her travel expertise she is a Product Developer for American Express and founder of Flynanced – a blog exploring travel and generating wealth. Cinneah believes you don’t have to put your travel aspirations on hold to reach your financial goals. She says, ” I am passionate about making travel, innovation, and personal finance inclusive for the historically underrepresented.” She also volunteers as a Board member for the Black Alumni Council of Columbia University. Her passion for traveling started at a young age. The first five countries she visited were with her parents. (Shout-out to mom and dad, please!)

We at OWS were intrigued with her stories, photos, and mission. We had the pleasure of interviewing the queen of travel for her tips and tricks for not using money as an excuse not to travel. We also picked her brain about her favorite places. Read our exclusive Q&A below:

OWS: When\ how did you start traveling?                                                                                    Cinneah: I am blessed that my family had the resources to take me on vacations as a child. In fact, the first 5 countries I visited were with my parents. Those experiences coupled with more educational experiences in middle school (People to People Student Ambassador) and high school (Elijah Cummings Youth Program Fellow) ignited a passion for travel in me.

OWS: Why did you take the 25 before 25 initiative?                                                                Cinneah: I decided as a senior in college that I wanted to set an ambitious travel goal. At that point, I had been blogging (mostly to my family readers) about my travels with study abroad and other trips during college. Again, the generosity of my parents especially my mother helped me cross this goal. For my college graduation gift, my mother sent me on a month long trip around Europe with EF College Break. I was able to visit 9 countries, which helped accelerate my progress. So by 22, I’d been to 20 countries. From there, reaching 5 more countries felt within reach. I am blessed to say I surpassed my goal by my 25th birthday.

OWS: How do plan your trips? How do you decide where to go?
Cinneah: I love to travel with my close friends so most of the trips I’ve planned post-college have been based on our shared interests. For example, Cuba (country #22) ended up being a girls’ trip with friends of mine from college and back home. We all wanted to experience Havana and decided to go before we all were bogged down by school and work. Beyond that, I keep a mental list of places I want to visit and jump at the opportunity to do so when the right deal and options present themselves.
OWS: What advice do you have for someone who wants to travel but believes they can’t afford it?
Cinneah: First, I recommend really assessing your financial situation. Log into all your bank and credit card accounts and review your last month’s statements. Start by answering these questions: How much did you earn last month? How much did your absolute necessary expenses cost you, like housing, transportation, utilities? How much did you actually spend? What was the difference? This exercise usually reveals that many of us are not spending our money intentionally and we may be wasting money on things and conveniences that aren’t actually bringing joy into our lives. If you’re struggling with budgeting your money, check out my very first blog post: https://flynanced.com/how-to-budget-101/
OWS: What financial tips do you have for planning and saving for a trip?                       Cinneah: My biggest tip is to create a travel fund, which is a savings account you use specifically for travel. For me, I set up a direct deposit from my paychecks right into my travel fund. Since it’s automated, I don’t even have to think about it! I share how to get started with your own travel fund on my blog: https://flynanced.com/afford-to-travel-the-world/ From there, I focus on finding the best deals to save me even more money. I shared my favorite sites for finding airline flight deals on my blog: https://flynanced.com/plan-your-next-trip-in-three-easy-steps/  
OWS: When are the best times to travel?
Cinneah: The best times to travel are when you can afford to do so without accruing unnecessary debt. Period. Credit cards, especially travel rewards cards, can be amazing tools to help you reach your travel goals faster but not if you can’t afford to pay off your balance. Beyond that, I believe the best times to travel are when your lifestyle can support them. Do you work full time with vacation time? Use your days to travel. Are you in school with breaks at the end of the semester? Plan a trip over one of the holidays.
OWS: What is the perfect packing list? What should every packing list have?
Cinneah: My essential packing list is a mix of items for comfort and convenience. I never go anywhere without a good neck pillow and eye mask for naps on planes, trains, and anything in between. If traveling internationally to a country with different plugs, I recommend bringing a plug converter so you can charge your devices. Packing cubes have been a recent life saver to fit more stuff into my suitcases. Most importantly, I urge all travelers to invest in Global Entry status. For a one time fee, you’re afforded years of expedited security clearance with TSA Pre-Check (all U.S. travel) and Global Entry (returning to U.S.) every time you fly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve breezed past hundreds of people waiting in long security or customs lines because of this benefit!
OWS: Why travel? What are the benefits?
Cinneah: I travel to satisfy my appetite for adventure, to connect with like-minded people, and to appreciate the beauty of this planet we all call home.
OWS: How long do you usually stay in each place?
Cinneah: The longest I’ve stayed in a single city is five weeks and the shortest is five hours – it really all depends on the nature of the specific trip. I prefer to stay at least a week in far away places with flight times over 6 hours so my body can get adjusted to any time and climate differences.
OWS: What country was your favorite and why?
Cinneah: It’s hard for me to pick my favorite country because I’ve had incredible experiences in so many different parts of the world. I’ll say some of my favorite cities to visit have been Paris (because of its iconic charm), Cartagena (because of the vibrant Afro-colombian culture), Tokyo (because of the food and technology), and Cape Town (because of its stunning natural beauty).
OWS: How do you feel before and after you visit a place? What do you take/ get from each place?
Cinneah: Before I visit a place for the first time, I am filled with anticipation on what I’ll see, experience, and eat. I try to stray off the beaten path a bit in each place I visit. I love to wander and find where the locals hang so I can have a better appreciation for a place beyond the tourist traps.
OWS: What places are next and why?
Cinneah: In 2020, I am excited to get back to the Motherland of Africa by way of Morocco. This country has been on my mind for some time now so I am excited to experience my first place in Northern Africa.
OWS: Tell us anything else you want us to know about you or traveling.
Cinneah: Traveling isn’t just about catching flights overseas, it can also be exploring more U.S. cities as well. While people are usually impressed by my country count, I am also blessed to say I’ve visited most of the big cities across the country. Don’t miss out on experiencing adventure in your own backyard because you’re only fixated on flying internationally.
Flynanced does more than gives us all the tips and tricks for travel. Cinneah is an example of living your passions. She is traveling and spreading her knowledge of financial literacy. Cinneah encourages and inspires us all to explore the world, whether that is your neighboring state or neighboring country.  So save some Corona cash and plan your next trip.
*Photos taken from Fylnanced.com

Sickness, Suicide, & Sensuality …

In my adult life, I have become what seems like a grocery list of mental/emotional issues. everyday is a new adventure down the rabbit hole of what has become me. everyday is a new endeavor managing and evading side effects of mental illness. with that being said, the last two weeks of February were the absolute hardest. Mercury was in retrograde, I was full of phlegm, and having a major depressive episode. It was the worst I have  had in a long time, almost resulting in suicide. I laid in my bed, tears falling, throat sore, and soul hurt. In thought long and hard about the reasons why my life just wasn’t worth it anymore. I thought about how easy it would be for people to move on if I died.

I’ve had this feeling before, where everything would be better if I wasn’t. I’ve teetered the line between life & death before but I haven’t since 2015. I called that progress until Feb. 2020. Maybe it was the flu, dealing with other people children daily, and the constant worry about the future. Either way, I was going through the blues. The surprising thing that kept me somewhat steady was an upcoming Vixen Camp.

Vixen Camp is a class or more like a series of classes exploring sensuality and manifestation through body movement. The instructor, Ciera Adair is a vibrant sunburst with a soothing aura. Ciera has crafted a traveling dance company that promotes getting to know the body, redefining sensuality, and using the power of movement to manifest.

The class started with Adair explaining that choreography wasn’t important-step by step to the “T”. She said, “Y’all know I don’t give a fuck about choreography.” The important thing was doing what felt right to the body, my body was important, for once my body mattered. The movement, the wants of what my body needed was important. The room was dimly lit with a single spotlight. We began with simple movement. Our bodies were getting used to the space. This was a constant theme throughout the entire class as well as be present in the moment. Two things I am rarely ever able to do. The class lasted about two hours.

From the moment I agreed to go, I was biting my nails and gulping hard because I have the sensuality of a rotten dragon fruit and trauma related to my body. For years, I neglected understanding my body and how it relates to my feelings/ mental-emotional issues. Vixen camp brought that to the forefront of my mind but in a subtle and delicate way.I spent time in the class slowly chipping away at a shell that has been built. The class challenged me to move- from simply walking with my chest out to a backwards twerk move on the floor. Adair said something about sensuality- “it’s not super femme.”It doesn’t have to be sexual or for other people. She said, “We dance for ourselves. I’m no t here to show you how to dance for a man. You dance for you.”

In the two hours I spent I learned to move to music, spoken word (surprise performance from the Jennifer Eden), and to let my guard down. I gained a small appreciation for my body and doing what feels right for my body in the moment. It was a therapeutic experience for me. I felt re-balanced afterwards. It helped me think differently. It helped in anchoring my depression and anticipating opportunities to come. I am anticipating taking another class but I’d have to be alive for that. At the end of the previous month, I was sick, suicidal, and searching for happiness. On the last Friday of the month, I regained my strength, my energy, and a new curiosity for life. Whether or not you have depression or body issues, I would suggest taking a workshop. It’s fun, restorative, and gets you in touch with your body.

Catch Vixen Camp updates and Ciera’s adventures on Instagram.

 

Routine we practiced, ^^ above.

 

*Photos and Videos courtesy of Ciera Adair.