Happy Birthday, Maya

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Maya Angelou

When I was 9 years old, my dad took me to Bookmans Flagstaff, AZ, the one whose roof caved in that one winter because of the heavy snowfall. It was my favorite place to hang out as a kid, a close second to the library at Christensen Elementary. My librarians used to let me relax in the big windows during lunch time, even though they didn’t have to. I remember writing stories when I was in head-start at Siler Homes, when I hit first grade, but it wasn’t until I heard a poem read by my third grade student teacher that I realized a real thirst for poetry. Mz. Mac, long black hair, piercings, chains hanging off her well-put-together-teacherly belt loops, and the best handwriting I had ever seen, the aura that I was admiring as queer before that word made sense to me, Mz. Mac read from a compilation poetry book, and I knew something was being born inside of me.

My dad took me to Bookmans that weekend and as he sat talking to the video game dudes in the corner, I browsed sections I had never realized existed before. When I found the poetry section mixed in with the rest of the adult books, it all seemed so much bigger than I expected. I grabbed a step stool and read the names of writers I had never heard of. Where do it start?! How can I tell what one book is going to be about?! What even IS poetry?! I could taste it. An employee walked by me and asked if he could help me out with finding a book. I told him, “I’m looking for a poetry book but I don’t know who to choose.” He said, “Here, try this one. Let’s start with the A’s, and if you don’t like it, bring it back and I’ll find you another. She’s one of the best poets around.” He handed me Maya Angelou’s Complete Collected Poems. He didn’t redirect me to the children’s section, he didn’t ask me how old I was. He just helped me out with a book in the section I was looking through. I am forever grateful to you, Bookmans employee.  Our interaction was a piece of the puzzle that is my life. I hopped off the stool and told my dad I was ready to go. I read the entire book on the drive home. Then I read it two more times when I got there.
19 years later, I’ve read it hundreds of times. So much in fact, that people have gifted me with numerous other copies because my original is so tattered and wrecked. After this exposure, I couldn’t get enough poetry, so I bought more of her books, checked them out at the Downtown Library, found more poets, all because of Maya.
I celebrate Maya Angelou today and everyday. I am reminded of the power of words. I am inspired by her entire life story, her strength, her love, her deep connection to humanity, her honesty. Maya Angelou was a poet, singer, actor, performer, director, sex worker, civil rights activist. Every part of her existence has shaped her writing and remembered brilliance, and it’s a shame to ignore any of it. She has molded me in many ways as a writer, and as a person. When I read her work, I am instantly taken back to being 9 years old, I am instantly reminded to live in the present. I am forever growing.
And I can honestly say I owe in large part, to a woman I never met, but influenced the way my pencil touched a paper, my undying love for poetry and the written word, to her.
Thank you.
-a story, a freewrite
maya me

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, my first love

Disrupting Paranoia

The following includes emotionally sensitive content for anyone else who may experience intense paranoia. I do not claim to be a health care provider nor do I have any medical expertise.

cw: sexual abuse, physical abuse.

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Stress / paranoia monster drawn on a sticky note by John Keen. Keen is inspired by childhood nightmares, literature, & folklore.

I’m sitting in a cafe at an hour I wouldn’t usually be awake, maybe it’s 6 in the morning, maybe it’s 11 at night.

I never wear headphones while walking in public. I try and keep my hands free of carrying too many objects. I sit with my back up against walls so I can see everything around me.

I get off of work at 8 p.m., one night I may sit at the bar and have a glass of wine before going home, one night I might go straight home holding my keys between my fingers the entire way there, one night I might go to Walmart and walk around with my hands in my pockets, my keys still laced between my fingers. Just in case someone has memorized my work schedule, just in case someone saw me getting into my car, I drive for 40 more minutes in random directions before pulling into my driveway.

I check and double check that my doors are locked, that my windows are locked, that my closets and showers and cabinets are void of anybody. I hear voices and sounds downstairs. I hear clicks, I hear knocks. I get up out of bed and check the doors just one more time. I have paranoid personality disorder.

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John Keen, creating works that feel bigger than I am, creating images that speak to my fears yet comfort me at the same time.

A clinical definition of paranoia is:
“Paranoia involves intense anxious or fearful feelings and thoughts often related to persecution, threat, or conspiracy. Paranoia occurs in many mental disorders, but is most often present in psychotic disorders. Paranoia can become delusions, when irrational thoughts and beliefs become so fixed that nothing (including contrary evidence) can convince a person that what they think or feel is not true. When a person has paranoia or delusions, but no other symptoms (like hearing or seeing things that aren’t there) they might have what is called delusional disorder. Because only thoughts are impacted, a person with delusional disorder can usually work and function in everyday life, however, their lives may be limited and isolated.”

Some of my earliest memories of being a paranoid child were often times brushed off as me being a wallflower or an introvert. When other kids would jump right into playing a game or running off into the wild with blatant disregard, I chose to stay back for a moment, collecting thoughts and images, essentially taking inventory of my surroundings. I wouldn’t jump into something too fast, I always contemplated my safety, my well-being, my survival first. This isn’t to say I didn’t have fun as a child, I definitely did. Though my disposition well-outweighed my years. My parents were always complimented on how “polite” and “grown-up” I was, even at the ripe young age of 5. I was always complimented on my ability to hold conversations with adults, on my capacity to listen, on my intelligence. Essentially on how well-behaved I was. I’m not sure I was as well-behaved as I remember strangers telling me, as much as I was watching the way their hands moved, as much as I was listening to intonation in their voices, as much as I was aware of the where I was in proximity to someone safe, or a safe getaway. When I look back now, much of this quiet demeanor as a kid was my paranoia and my response to a world that terrified me.

I am very similar to this child today. I intake my surroundings like my life depends on it, and it does. I have never been to a therapist for any delusions, hallucinations, or paranoia. I have had this strong opinion that in my past that there was nothing a therapist could do to help rid me of these experiences. And I’m not sure I would trust the person if they tried; too much of my survival relies on my awareness. And too many of my hallucinations have been made manifest in otherworldly spirits, ghosts, the paranormal.

I intake my surroundings like my life depends on it, and it does. When I say this, I mean it. There have been moments in my life that my heightened awareness has kept me and the ones I love from immediate harm, imminent death, rape, murder.

Am I crazy or was it crazy making? Am I validated in my fears or am I overreacting? Do / did my family, friends, loved ones, undermine so many of my experiences that I never got a chance to work through my emotions?

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More John Keen, sticky note artist.

As a queer person of color, I have very real reasons to fear the world around me. I have very real reasons to adore the hell out of it as well, but that isn’t typically the voice speaking to me when I’m trying to save myself from what seems like life or death situations.
Without going into too much detail, I have experienced sexual abuse and trauma.
I have experienced physical abuse void of sexual abuse.
I have been on the receiving end of verbal homophobia turned physically violent which in turn becomes emotional violence.
I am within the greater experience of institutionalized racism.
I am within the greater experience of classist racism.
Because of these experiences, I have a very real desire to keep myself safe from all of these outside forces attempting to eradicate me. These are the very real and evident experiences that I believe have contributed to why I am the way that I am. But it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

I’m at home watching Finding Dory, it’s my day off, it’s 2p.m. I hear a car pass by the house. I hear another car pass by the house. I hear another car pass, but in my mind, it’s the same car. It’s the same person. They can see inside the one window to my house that is open. My coat is hanging up on the wall in direct sight of the passing car. That person knows what my coat looks like. That person is memorizing the way I dress, so they know what I look like when I walk to work, memorizing the time I leave the house, when my partner is gone. That person in the car is plotting to break into my house maybe tonight, maybe right now while no one is home, maybe in one year when they know my guard is down. That person is plotting to murder me. I’ve missed 45 minutes of the movie, suspended in time, frozen in fear of so much glass around me. Why do all of the windows have to be made out of glass? Why does my front door only have one simple lock? Why are there so many cupboards and corners? Do my neighbors notice the car? Do my neighbors know the person in the car? Are my neighbors in on it, too? I start the movie over, I eat a snack, I drink some water, I’m okay for the hour and a half of the movie and I cry. I’m not sure for what reason.

This is a typical moment in life for me. Common, typical, but not every day. Some days are better than others. Some days it’s aliens. It’s the never-knowing what other life forms are surrounding us and I am comforted by this thought. Some days it’s spirits, meeting and getting to know them, setting my boundaries with them, being respected, and I am comforted by this thought.

I still read short horror stories. I still watch Unsolved Mysteries. I still listen to true crime podcasts. I still engulf myself in conspiracy theories. I still allow myself to be consumed by horror movies, and art designed to evoke terrified emotions. Why? My parents used to take my sisters and I to Hollywood Video when we were kids. We were allowed two different movies between the three of us. When it was my turn to pick (or G and I would pair up and get one and let R get her own), we would always turn to the horror section. I watched so many horror flicks as a child I probably went through their entire collection. But why was I drawn to these things? I was an anxious child to begin with. Why go as far to make myself even more anxious? Because horror films and stories and art create a different kind of anxiety. It’s more or less outside of myself, it’s giving me a real reason to be scared, because the cinematic panic has left me with a connection to the story, and less of a connection to my actual life. I find extreme comfort in overcoming an awakened terror if I watch a horror movie before going to bed or resting for the night. This is a slippery slope. I might get so caught up, or too desperately want to connect the story to my life outside of stories that the lines are blurred, and I can’t tell which is true and which is fiction. Was something following me last night or was it part of a story I read ten years ago? (This usually happens with true crime stories, or true crime creative non-fiction.)

I am still learning more about this jumble of crazy that is my brain. I’m still actively doing things to grow and grasp what is happening. I’m still attempting to let people in, creating moments with true vulnerability. But every day is a new challenge or the same challenge. I was thinking of ways my friends and loved ones can help me in every day conversation, things to say, things to do, things to be aware of. I often times feel like I’m being judged negatively, like what I say seems so outta this world, so grandiose, so theatrical! that I am hard to believe. I don’t always need to be believed, but I often times need a form of validation for what I am experiencing or else I recluse even when I try not to.

So, here are some examples of things anyone can do around and towards friends that may have paranoid personality disorder. I’m not a doctor, I don’t claim to be a health care provider.

  • Never say, “You are overreacting.” Just don’t, it’s a good solid plan for everyone.
  • Avoid arguing with the person. It’s nice to be heard, but don’t argue. For example, if I mention I feel like that person in the car doing circles around my block is coming to get me, don’t get combative or just straight up say it’s not true.
  • Avoid affirming the paranoia. I remember sometime last year, there was a crew of four people who pulled up in front of my house and started taking photos. They stayed parked there for at least 10 minutes, and I must have been feeling bold because I went outside with a shovel to turn my compost and said to them, “What are you taking pictures of?” In my mind, they now had a clear visual of my face but I also had a shovel, so I felt safer. They said they were taking pictures of butterflies and drove away. I told a few friends about it immediately and not one of them argued with me, but they definitely avoided affirming my wild thoughts about what the people’s intentions were. One of my friends used humor, “Go out there with a spray bottle and start spraying them!” Another friend asked me if my partner was home with me and made sure I felt safe. Another validated my emotions, expressing that it was an unnerving situation, but that I was safe and they would come over if they needed me. These are all great ways of avoiding affirmation.
  • Ask more questions. Sometimes it feels good to talk about it, especially in the heat of the moment.
  • Change scenery. A lot of the time, the paranoia is directly linked with my surroundings. Example: A friend of mine once asked me to go to a Crystal Castles show with them. (I didn’t go.) Alice Glass is a goddamn inspiration in so many ways, her style???? Bitchhhh. There’s one track that puts me in complete and utter chaos mode, and every time I hear it, I feel as if I’m going to die. Maybe it’s connected to an experience in my past and the song was playing in the background, who knows. But every time I hear it, I ask to have it turned off. Sometimes, if it’s too dark and I start to have a panic attack or I see something or someone following me, I force myself to go somewhere better lit, or around more people who I trust.
  • Give positive affirmations. Even though they don’t always work, it’s nice to have verbal reminders, and physical reminders that things are okay. I like these examples: “Even though I feel scared, I’m not really in any danger.” Or, “Hallucinations are scary. Disassociation is scary. Paranoia is scary. Anxiety is scary. Delusions are scary. Mental illness is really fucking scary, and I’m proud of you just for living it.” I’m in the midst of creating affirming messages for my home, because of being so reclusive, I don’t hear friends voices as much as I’d like to. (Baby steps.)
  • Create (or support) healthy habits. Basically we all need good rest, food, water, etc. But just the other day a friend asked me to go to a yoga class with them. Just being in public is often times a stressor, but if I’m with a person I love and trust, doing something with my body, moving, creating healthy circulation, breathing, and making a habit out of things like that (class or not), it will be better in the long run. Creating a habit is pretty hard for me, especially if they are habits that require ritual times. If I want to do a yoga class, or go out running, or go for a hike, I refuse to go at the same time of day every day. Creating a strict schedule but avoiding strict timelines is hard, it’s something I’m still trying to work on.
  • Prepare for crisis situations. I still don’t know what the fuck this looks like but I read on it. Friends of mine do a crisis plan, and that seems to help. But if I already know what’s on the plan, and I already know what is coming, I have adapted my mind to what I know is coming and it doesn’t help. So, I’m finding new ways to create these type of plans.

I’m not asking friends and family to do these types of things for me. I’m not even really sure if I’m bringing complete awareness to this. This is one of the first times I’ve ever really publicly shared this part of myself and I feel scatterbrained. I’m not sure if it’s helping. Because at this point it’s public information now.

But I want to disrupt the public’s belief about paranoid individuals. We may be out of touch with reality often times. We may not always trust the words you say to us. We are always on our guard, it makes our muscles tense, and our brains tired. We sleep a lot or not at all. We thrive with schedules deviant of the norm. We are obsessed with our safety. Sometimes we use drugs and alcohol heavily, sometimes not at all. What better way to make sure you’re aware all hours of the day if you’re: constantly awake and blasted for it, or constantly sober for it? We’re intricate. We don’t always know what is real and what is not. But we’re learning. I’m learning. And I want to be better. I want my muscles to relax. I want my family and friends to feel comfortable with me. I want to breathe easy.

I just heard a phone ring that wasn’t mine. It was in close proximity to me. Is someone on a walk outside my window, or are they hiding in my bushes? I’m walking to work soon. It’s late morning but people are kidnapped in broad daylight all the time. I remember my ancestors. I am safe with the help of them. I never walk with headphones in. I try and keep my hands free of carrying too many objects. I’m safe.

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John Keen

All artwork featured is by John Keen. Every time I see his work, I feel a deep connection with the way it feels to experience paranoia.

My mother’s hands

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Phoenix, AZ, auntie Pita & uncle Sixto’s house, circa 1992

Mama used to tell me this story about when I was a baby, under two years old most likely. I woke up from sleep in the middle of the night and would not stop crying. I was my parent’s first born, so naturally they were attempting new things daily. This night, they tried everything from bottles of milk, pacifiers, stories, cuddles, singing, rocking, music, moving from one room to another, until they decided to take me on a drive. It wasn’t until my mama took my hand in the car, from the passenger’s seat to my car seat in the back, and started softly caressing the tips of my fingers did I stop crying and finally rest.

They say physical touch is one of the single most important aspects of baby-raising. A language made physical, the brilliance of infant brains and brilliance of infant bodies are made stronger through touch. Aside from the rise of oxytocin, a hormone released during (but not limited to) cuddling and physical contact, the histories communicated through touch is unique. Further more, endemic knowledge of brown mxthers is unparalleled, influencing future generations through a multitude of expressions.

Throughout my childhood up until I was a teenager and before I moved out of her house, this was a ritual my mom and I would do. We would relax at home and watch movies with my two younger sisters on weekends while my dad was at work or out of town and she would take my hand in her’s, lacing histories into me through tenderness. When we were walking together in public places, unknowingly or not, she would trace circles around my fingertips and I was immediately calmed. Between our busy schedules, after Sunday housework, during late-night conversations in her bed while some Lifetime movie played in the background, this was a gift she gave me.

It’s no wonder I became a writer, the weaving of stories through fingertips seems more native to me than anything.

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Me, mom, & dad, probably age 1.5, but my mom’s style is fire

There are undervalued and underappreciated acts that black and brown womxn do daily for the survival of their loved ones and the families they build. It’s often times less about coming to new conclusions with these acts and more about tapping into deep-rooted histories. We learn through story-telling, through traditions, through reworking traditions, through acts of love. We survive and we thrive through going against the grain. My mother was instilling and rebuilding these traditions of survival within me, unspoken resiliency.

The fact that I am alive today is in part to my mother’s courage in the face of colonial politics. Assimilation and violent imperialism has played its part in our lives but that is for another day. Today is about appreciation, about hands, about comfort, about strength.

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December 1990, my first Christmas

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The creek, baby days

Hands, for me, are often times an incredible depiction of someone’s authenticity. I was fortunate to be born with typical body parts for a human baby: two legs and ten toes, two arms and ten fingers, all my organs were healthy and working, I had a full head of black black hair, I was born a day late. (Sorry For Making You Wait, Mama, & Sorry For Trying To Come Too Early: The Saga.) But hands have always been the portal to souls, touch, a gateway to spirit, growth by means of the non-verbal.

I’ll say it again: The fact that I am alive today is in part to my mother and her intelligence. This wisdom and celebration of matriarchs and femmes in black and brown communities is the reason for the survival of our people. It is deeper than biology. There are vital roles played, relationships that span through time and space and generations. I would not be around to tell my stories today if it weren’t for the mujerxs in my life. To that baby in the back seat screaming her lungs out, we hear you, and we urge you to keep screaming. To the mama in the front seat thinking too hard about how to comfort, we see you, and we know you have infinite knowledge within your bones. To the ancestors in our histories passing knowledge down through traumas and wisdoms, we feel you, and we know you will continue to guide us.

To my mother’s hands, you saved me.

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Flintstone’s Bedrock City, Williams, AZ, circa 1993 probably

27 things I learned at 27

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greenwich villiage, new york city, my birthday, january 2017

1 – eat; after years of self-deprecating behaviors, it’s best to eat

2 – take pictures. take pictures of everything. take pictures of your friends, of all of your loved ones, of your cats, of yourself, of the earth, of your music, of your art, of art, of art, of art. keep taking pictures until you swallow the void that is meant to suck you dry.

3 – you’re going to break things. you don’t always have to put them back together, sometimes you have to sweep the pieces to the gutters and hope the rain washes away any memories you may be holding onto.

4 – lay out in the sun – and sweat – remind yourself that crying isn’t the only way to cleanse your body.

5 – support your sweeties in their art. show them that you love and appreciate them in all their glory. hang their creations around your home. foster living memorials in the crevasses of the most intimate places in your life.

6 – you will read more books. you will find solace in the confines of printed pages, you will be five years old again, you will be ten years old again, you will be 13 and you will remember the peace reading brought to you. you will read more books.

7 – family is forever being created.

8 – wake yourself up early at least once a month to watch a sunrise – stay up throughout the night to see the sky shift from purple black to blue and grey to the colors of the sunrise. remind yourself there is rebirth in new days.

9 – braid your friends hair. there are deep connections rooted in locks, there are stories to be told and you’ll read every single one when your fingers weave through their histories.

10 – you’re a brat. you’re getting better, you’re learning still, but this is something you will never grow out of. accept it.

11 – as a child, travel never came easy. it was rare you made it out of the confines of your hometown, sometimes a few miles down the hill, you even crossed the california border two or three times, but your desire to travel became greater with age. travel. when you can save up enough money (cuz god knows shit ain’t cheap) travel. meet new people. experience a new world. and forgive your ten year old self for not knowing what you know now.

12 – when your loved ones are threatened in bathroom stalls, when they are targeted thru anti-trans violence, show up with molotov cocktails and never let them down.

13 – your blankets are underrated. bring them with you. the weight they offer is unconditional. use them every day.

14 – “if we carry intergenerational trauma, then we also carry intergenerational wisdom.” -kazu haga

15 – rest. lay in bed for as long as you want. lay in hammocks in your backyard or across the world. receive body work and physical touch. be kind to yourself and to your body, write with lipstick on your mirror that you are more than your ability to produce. rest.

16 – never underestimate the power of a homemade cake or a loaf of bread. gift these to your friends. nurture them with your genius. feed them.

17 – touch yourself. be intimate with your body. seduce yourself. do research in and of yourself, leave no part of your body, mind, or spirit untouched.

18 – white anarchism is out of my sphere. the common narrative focuses around white voices in anarchist circles (especially here in our tiny town of bullshit) and i have no desire to be part of it. there is a spiritual connection i have with governmental reform and abolition, but the mainstream narrative is not it. here’s to learning and creating more sustainable and browner histories.

19 – ain’t no president in the history of colonial america claimed “mine.”

20 – surviving abuse has come in many forms: from a full eight hours of sleep uninterrupted, to being choked during sex without any triggers. from holding down a meal, to paying my bills on time. every day is different, and you have to forgive yourself for the days you fall back into old tricks; be patient, be strong, be vulnerable.

21 – we live in a working society where black & brown queer & trans femmes have to be twice as better than everyone else to succeed monetarily. the amount of microagressions we endure on a daily basis would blow the minds of the privileged if they could experience what we do. the amount of abuse we take is unacceptable. the amount of income we lose through unfair boundaries and advantages of the privileged is unethical. we are the best because we have to be. i see you. i see you. i see you.

22 – love hard, love like white hot light, love until you are free, love until you can promise yourself you are free.

23 – like the great prophet aaliyah once said, “if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.”

24 – stonewall was a riot. never stop reminding people.

25 – dance until your bones ache, do what you can with the motion you still have, carve your space into the homes and clubs in which you move. if it doesn’t sound like missy elliot put the party on, don’t waste your time.

26 – you don’t need alcohol to feel something. you don’t need alcohol to refuse to feel something. stop disassociating. it’s time to feel, it’s time to relearn how to do everything in your life sober again. it’s time for you to really live.

27 – take your own advice sometimes. you were living then, you are living now. everything you’ve done consciously or unconsciously has gotten you to this point. be more vocal with yourself and take to heart your true intentions. don’t be afraid to teach yourself, don’t be afraid to learn from others. you are living, revel in yourself. happy birthday to you, you’re still here.

Eartha Kitt, my audience, & you

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It took me ten years to realize that Madame Zeroni was in fact, radical activist, femme legend, Eartha Kitt. I remember watching Holes with my sisters and thinking, “This womxn is the power I want to encompass during this lifetime,” and I wasn’t really sure why. Eartha Mae, activist, singer, actress, dancer, performer has and will forever be a heroine to me. Born on a plantation, conceived by rape by the owner’s son, Eartha was disowned by nearly every person in her family for being born a scarlet letter child. She grew up abused, physically, sexually, emotionally, spiritually, and fought tooth and nail to succeed in as many aspects of her life as she could.

On January 18, 1968, (one day after her birthday) Eartha was invited to the white house by president at the time, Lyndon B. Johnson. First lady, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, asked Eartha her thoughts on the basic problems of the young people at the time. Eartha worked very closely with youth organizations around the world and responded with very real struggles these kids were experiencing day-by-day, pointing out how much anger there is among the American people. She continued by asking Johnson what they were going to do about drafting the young black kids of America overseas to get shot, saying “Vietnam is the main reason we are having trouble with the youth of America. It is a war without explanation or reason.” With no valid response, and probably the feelings of inadequacies because they thought they were doing just fine planting flowers along the highway, (eye-roll) the president & his lil lady along with the whole slue of white folks in the white house freaked the fuck out, claiming she was an “enemy” to himself and his successors. Eartha began to get death threats as the news spread, the president called the FBI and the CIA, eventually blacklisting her from the United States. In her CIA dossier, it states she was a “sadistic sex nymphomaniac,” as if that were a bad thing. She spent many years trying to figure out why clubs she had worked at previously would not hire her again. Her survival depended on her ability to make money, and through the false accusations of the US president, she lost vital lucrative years — which translates to this: the violence and harm done to her could have cost her her life, and in many ways cost her her years.

A friend of mine recently asked me where I was sharing all of my poetry nowadays. I used to run a tumblr blog under a creative commons attribution, which I think meant I owned all of the original work I published, but who can really know in the cyber ether. I told them it had been over five years since I truly wrote anything besides, “Diet coke, Mai Thai, Mic Drop, cheesecake.” I feel like when I was younger and a teacher, I had a little more time to be immersed in my depression, and a little less money to be comfortable. The trade-off after transferring to the service industry, I realized I had a little more money to pay my bills, and a little less breathing room to write. I am still equally as depressed. But this world is all about its pushes and pulls, its balancing acts, its figuring out if you are deserving of space in which to carve yourself into, isn’t it? No, not always. But I’ve realized that if I don’t start to write again, I’ll continue to feel as if my life ended at age 22, and as often as I’ve thought about life ending scenarios, I’m not ready to go yet.

So, what does it mean to come back to writing after what seems like lifetimes wasted? It feels like forgetting that slant rhyme is in everything, like headstones are human, like we all need to sleep eventually. It feels like I keep buying my favorite kind of pen just to leave it in my back pocket till the ink leaks out. It feels like attempting to connect to a community I don’t always remember, to detach, to disassociate, to fuck, to breath, to live, to heal.

Eartha was asked to apologize for her words. By asking this, they were asking her to apologize for her existence. They were attempting to shove her into an easily consumable box, framing her as an illegitimate black woman, stealing her right to her own narrative. She was asked to apologize even after the truth came out that she was right, where the Johnsons fabricated lies to demolish her life, she was the one being asked to apologize. She didn’t. She continued to flourish. And in a later interview about that mid-January day in the white house when Eartha laid down the truth, she was told it was a very embarrassing moment for the first lady, and was asked if she had any regrets.

She said,
“No, I don’t have any regrets about it at all. Why should I be upset that she was embarrassed?”

Why should I be upset that you were embarrassed? More times than I can count I’ve been asked to bite my tongue, I’ve been asked to apologize for my existence, I’ve been told my existence depends on it. Not anymore.

So, who am I writing for, who is my audience, who am I fighting for?
I’m here for brown folx, black folx, indigenous folx, for strippers, for dancers, for full-service sex workers, folx with disabilities and folx with chronic illness, folx living with mental illness and folx with no access to health care, queer folx, transgender and genderqueer folx, nonbinary folx and gender-varient folx, fat folx and folx with eating disorders, folx with body dysphoria and folx with no self-worth, immigrants, folx living within the confines of the prison industrial complex, people living in poverty, the houseless, the queer youth. I’m writing with and for the folx on the margins of society. I’m writing with and for myself at age 4. I’m writing with and for my abused sister at age 7. I’m writing with and for my pregnant sister at age 18, and for the little human I help raise. I’m writing with and for my colonized mother at age 52. I’m writing with and for my ancestors, may they speak through me and grace me with endless wisdom. I’m writing against the common social narrative, I’m killing the liberal white embodiment of the modern day KKK, I’m creating healing spaces for the queers who are still alive today, for the ones we lost. For queens & fags & dykes & fairies, for pansies and twinks and bears, for bi-babies who continually get erased, for kinksters & asexuals, and spics & hos & whores, the bitches, the cunts, the sluts, for rape survivors coming up with new ways to heal, for black goths, for brown punx, for compartmentalization, for the 13 year olds giving blowjobs behind the middle school, for exposure and education, for the demolition of censorship, for the diaspora struggle, for victims of police brutality, for the introverts in activist communities, for the witches with no money, for the suicidal ones, for the self-harmers, for teen mothers, for the bitches who eat Cheetos for breakfast, for the bitches who don’t eat at all, for femmes, for butches, for tops and bottoms and verses, for the invisible, the voice with no platform, for drop-outs, for accountability.

I’m writing with and for y’all.