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

Depression Has Been Kicking My Ass for Over a Decade …

I don’t know about y’all but I was a timid kid. I was agreeable and I didn’t cause much trouble in school. I was labeled as a “good kid.” I got great remarks on my report card and praise from teachers. At home, I was either quiet or had spurts of talking too much. For as long as I can remember, maybe around age 7, I had spurts of sadness that lasted days or fits of irritability that lasted for days. Of course, growing up in my household, “there was no reason to be sad.” I was a child and children were supposed to have one emotion- happiness. I did my best to keep up with that, although I had my first thought of suicide when I was 8 years old. I thought about shoving a knife into my stomach- childish, I know but I didn’t tell anyone. I learned pretty quickly to not speak of those things; I learned to mask what I was feeling. I used to play with Barbie dolls, and oddly enough every time I played with them, I ended up mentioning something related to sadness or suicide. That was unintentional.

In school, I was labeled “weird” and “smart.” I was also accused of having an attitude problem because needless to say at times I was moody. Something was always wrong but I didn’t know what and I wasn’t sincerely being asked either. I just thought I was weird, like everyone said. As I grew into being a preteen and teen, my “weirdness” grew with me. In middle school, I was rather shy and hid myself. In high school, my 10th grade year in particular, I noticed something was way off. There were days when I felt extremely upset. I didn’t want to get out of bed and I just felt like I just couldn’t that day, whatever that was. I had teachers who were obnoxious, peers who were annoying, friends who I didn’t want to bogged down, and I’m sure there was some boy that was on my kind. My school work made me incredibly tense. I stressed everyday about something. I was asked, “how and why could someone your age could be stressed?” But by this time, I thought I as just going through teenage girl mood swings. I was pushing my “weirdness” and “sadness” to the back of my mind to pursue other things that made me feel happy for the moment. I graduated. I started college. The beginning of college was one of the hardest times in my life. I felt so miserable. I felt so drained before my classes even started. I was not enthused or anticipating this newfound journey. I watched as the girls bounced happily around the campus and there I was, watching them bounce around me. This was the second phase in my life when I started to randomly cry. The first time I ever cried randomly was when I was 6 years old.

Bouts of tears has become normal by the time I was in college and it was here that I became addicted to working. It was here that I realized something was off and it was here that I discovered therapy. After that moment, my spiral into therapy started but so did the spiral of my life. I learned after 2 therapists and 2.5 years that I was depressed. I have major depressive disorder and of course, it invited its friends: anxiety and a form of PTSD. I was surprised slightly. I had small glimpse of my life leading up to that moment, starting with childhood. That was in 2014-2015. Here I am now, on the brink of 25, still battling and still hoping. Hoping that when I have my highs, they last forever. A high is when I don’t have to nestle the sheets and cocoon myself in the morning. A high is making plans with my friends and following through with them. It’s making jokes, waking up on time, being somewhere in time. It’s going to the gym. It’s looking the mirror and smiling. It’s planning my outfits. It’s planning effective lessons- yes, I’m a teacher. It’s saying, “hey, my days wasn’t so bad after all.” It’s not feeling life the world and life is just happening around me. It’s a lot of things that don’t always happen.

So what does depression look like for me? It’s:

  • Forgetting
  • Being irritable
  • Not writing
  • Not reading anything
  • Wanting to stay in, all the time
  • Not doing my usual things
  • Extremely upset
  • Extremely sad
  • Waking up late
  • Waking up but not getting out of bed
  • Getting to work 15-20 minutes late
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Wanting to sleep all day
  • Crying
  • Not meal prepping
  • Not putting effort into my work or assignments
  • Not seeing my friends
  • Over eating
  • Not eating
  • Not talking
  • Crying after almost every conversation

Depression and the lows I have look like a lot for me. They can last for days, up to a week. Then comes the high. I envision myself as a scale. I’m trying to find balance but it’s very delicate. A lot of things throw off the balance. A lot of things are triggering.

I think about my battle with depression because a new decade is starting soon and I’m turning 25 next month. Depression has been kicking my ass for over a decade and I am tired. I don’t want to see myself as the confused, sad 7 year old I was. I want to move forward optimistically but also realistically. Living with depression is not easy. Living with anxiety or PTSD is not easy. It is not something that you can ignore- I did that all my life and it got worse. (I have stories about that. I’ll tell y’all that later. Whew). It’s not something that you can just “pray” away. (I am a Christian and understand the complexities of being a Black Christian. However, I am a realistic Christian.) It’s not something that you can smoke away- didn’t try that and I really don’t want to. You can’t drink it away- fell down that rabbit hole. And you can definitely not sex it away- no comment here.

So the question becomes, what’s am I going to go after being beat up for over a decade?

I have to remember to ground myself. But I also have to remember that in a way, I just started confronting these things. 2013 until now seems like a long time but it really isn’t when you’ve ignored the issues and the root causes for so many years.

Yes, depression and it’s friends have acted like lunch money bullies for most of my entire life. Yes, I have been stifled and made regretful but there are some lessons that came from this. So, I’ll be a work in progress for some time but that’s okay too. I’d like to apologize to my friends everyday, but I’m sure they would get tired of hearing , “I’m sorry for…”.

With a couple months left in the year and a birthday on the way, I am going to make strides try to alleviate stresses, triggers, and whatever else I can. I am going to work hard to focus on what make me happy and what makes me smile. It’ll be hard work but not as hard as living with depression for about 18 years.

Favorite Things about Summer Time in a Black Neighborhood

The sun is out but it’s 5pm. The vrrmm of the dirt bikes are passing by and sound of Lor Scoota is blasting from a car radio. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times. It’s the summer in Baltimore City. The weather has broke in the Black neighborhood and it’s the best feeling. I look forward to this time of year, when school is out and the nights are longer on the block. The only unfortunate thing are the bugs and the police circling the neighborhood. But there are so many things about summer time ova West that make me love my city and my neighborhood.

We all know the allure of the harbor and everything else downtown but it’s the little things that make me feel happiness and nostalgia. There is literally almost something for every one of the five senses. It’s how I know I am home and no matter how pretty or enjoyable other places are, home is always my favorite.

Best things about summer time in Baltimore:

The Smells

I won’t lie, the smells in the city can have you feeling nostalgic or feeling queasy. I live in West Baltimore and I have smelled everything from piss to fresh cut grass. But we won’t dwell on the pissy alleys. The smell that defines the season is the aroma of a chicken box with saltpeppaketchup- one word. It’s something about the way the grease combines with the fries and the ketchup. If you don’t smell that, you not in the true Baltimore. Somewhere someone is drinking a beer, no matter the time of day or place. The summer time heat will lead your nose to the scent of too much chlorine poured in a public pool. The kids jumping out with the smell of wet hair grease and old pipes from the pool. Of course, you can’t forget the one that makes your mother have bath water waiting for you as soon as you get in the house. Outside- “you smell like outside.” It’s like a combination of grass, dirt and metal. It’s hard to describe but everyone knows it as soon as they smell it.

The Sounds

The almost lullaby of a dirt bike followed by a police siren or helicopter. The sound of the bus pulling up or pulling off and someone cussing at the bus driver for leaving them.  The kids laughing and yelling obscenities about the shape of each other’s head. The snow ball machine grinding damn near solid blocks of ice or the sizzle of whatever on the grill. Summer wouldn’t be the same without hearing, “loud-out,” “diesel,” “body-oils,” or “CD’s or movies.” The cat calls and mating call of the average man in the city.  The “aye sweetheart,” or “’scuse me, can I talk to you for a minute?” The “How you doin’ ms. Lady?” or my other personal favorite, “I ain’t tryna waste ya time. I’m just tryna get to know you.” Hearing, “dummy, head-ass, whore,” maybe all in one sentence. It’s cook-out season which means cookout playlists. Music from our local rappers and K Swift club music. Summer time is cook-out time which means somewhere you will hear, “Before I Let Go,” “Follow me,” or a recent addition to the cook-out playlist. When the cook-out ends you can look forward to the pop of gunshots and the half launch of a firework.

The Taste

Obviously, we are in Baltimore, which means crabs. Crab cakes. Old bay! That’s a given. Chicken boxes- a given. Grilled to a crisp (with the blistering, crunchy black skin) hot dogs and hamburgers. The over sweet syrup of a sky blue snowball or the egg custard frozen cups.

The Sights

The murals on the walls from Pulaski, Payson, and Presbury. Baltimore has several artistic masterpieces on obscure buildings. If you riding too fast or blink at green light you might miss them. The parks full of kids on the rusty swings or playing tag. The sweat dripping off the brow of man caught up in an intense basketball game. A random dice game with crumbled dollars on the ground. A dancing yet lovable crackhead who attracts the laughs of pre-teens popping wheelies on mountain bikes. Kids are outside doing whatever for how ever long because there is no school tomorrow and they don’t have anything else to do. Rats, water bugs, and yes even the eye sore of a vacant house. Yes, an eyesore but it’s home.

The Feels

Summer time Baltimore is a whole vibe. The windows down; the music blasting; the sun out. Summer is where most of your laughs are made and a good portion of memories are created. Summer time brings out the best of Baltimore culture. The sights, sounds, and smells of the city all create a feeling that happens every summer. It’s nostalgic and fun. It’s sunsets at 7 pm and slapping mosquitoes away from you. It’s summer time in Baltimore.

 

 

A Word with Baltimore’s own Kotic Couture

This month we celebrate PRIDE.  Pride is more than the parade, the beads, and the bars. Pride is the people, the history and the culture. The city has few spaces and voices for queer Black people to be happy and together. There is an artist, creating a space every second Saturday for these voices and the people. Meet the artist restoring Baltimore music and creating a voice for Black queer people in the city. That artist is Kotic Couture, born Kyle Wilson. Couture is one of those people that defines style and pride in every sense of the word. Proud to be Black, proud to be a part of the LGBTQ community and overall proud of the journey to artistry. Couture is like a sermon on Sunday without paying tithes. They are a word, a vibe, and a mood wrapped all in one. Kotic started creating music for the love of music and to complete a bigger picture: opening the door for other artists who are gay, queer, non-binary, lesbian, or identify with those categories at all. The more Kotic succeeds, the more others can look to them as an example to defy odds.

A look at Kotic’s bold style.

Kotic got their humble beginnings on the Eastern Shore and made their way to Baltimore. Outgrowing subtle racism and homophobia and a town whose first LGBTQ parade will They came to Baltimore for the style, the culture, and followed the sounds of 92Q jams (which they grew up listening to). Couture started freestyling on the bus in middle school (think back to Myspace era) which is where the name comes from. The line, “Bitch, I’m chaotic,” became not only a Myspace name for the artist but a part of the glam of Kotic Couture. That and the Remy Ma song, “Fresh” where the line was, “This is couture hip-hop.” And that was the style, Kotic wanted to embody. To do Couture hip-hop. But they realized, “I can’t create my own style of hip-hop. So imma just take that name.” Thus, we have the birth of the fierce artist Kotic Couture. From the spelling of the name to the bold fashion and make-up, Couture brings genuine sound back to Baltimore. l this year to hosting version every second Saturday at the Crown, Couture has come a long way. As they put it, “I was made in the country but built in the city.”

They came to Baltimore for the style, the culture, and followed the sounds of 92Q jams (which they grew up listening to). Couture started freestyling on the bus in middle school (think back to Myspace era) which is where the name comes from. The line, “Bitch, I’m chaotic,” became not only a myspace name for the artist but a part of the glam of Kotic Couture. That and the Remy Ma song, “Fresh” where the line was, “This is couture hip-hop.” And that was the style, Kotic wanted to embody. To do Couture hip-hop. But they realized, “I can’t create my own style of hip-hop. So imma just take that name.” Thus, we have the birth of the fierce artist Kotic Couture. From the spelling of the name to the bold fashion and make-up, Couture brings genuine sound back to Baltimore. Songs ranging from hyped up-tempo like “Get Ya Life,” to heart-felt truths like “Diary of a dreamer.” Couture is essential what Baltimore music is missing, a queer outspoken artist. “As queer people or people in arts community, we are very hyperconscious of gender, gender presentation, and sexuality. You have outside entities where if that’s not a thing to them they don’t think like that. They see straight, gay, male, or female. So, when somebody sees me for the first time, [they’re like] okay that’s a gay man in make-up. They can be a little weirded out, they can be a little iffy. Another thing I’ve learned is move in between these communities and being myself.”

As we continue to recognize June as Pride month. We should appreciate the lessons taken from Kotic. Appreciate yourself, develop your style, and be upfront about who you are and what you want. They have a simple yet clear message, “I did a little tastemaker’s series with Big Improv. They interviewed me, and all their sketches were based off my answers. It was hilarious. But one of the questions the interviewers asked me was, ‘what is something hip-hop fans would be surprised to know about you?’ Well I don’t know if it’s apparent but I’m queer. In our culture, in hip-hop and Black popular culture, queer people are always a cliché. My mentor told me when I was younger, ‘don’t ever pigeon-hold yourself into being a gay artist but always be authentic and who you are because outside entities will use that and oh yeah we like your music but you’re strictly a gay artist so there is nothing we can do with that.’ I think it’s important to represent myself but it’s also important to show people as queer people we’re not monolithic like there are so many things we can do.”

Remember the people and experiences that make pride what it is. From the first frontiers of Stonewall to everyday extraordinary artists like Kotic. Baltimore has a large LGBTQ community which needs to be acknowledge, not vilified or demonized. Kotic gives our city what we need, a fearless artist, fashion forward, and unapologetically Black.

Catch them every second Saturday hosting Version at The Crown or stay plugged in with SoundCloud