Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad by Betty Deramus truly illustrates that love conquerors all. Even is a despicable system such as Slavery, black people were able to find hope in love, marriage, and freedom.
Last month, I wrote about the bright side of quarantine and looking at quarantine through a positive lens. It’s been a really great opportunity for me to get back to ME and build a routine that pours more time into me and not just work and other obligations. I am still writing and still shooting videos for my YouTube channel. I was also asked to shoot some Tribute videos for people, which have been really encouraging for me to pour into others and show how much they mean to me. I’ve been attending a new bible study, attending virtual events and I even had time to check out this YouTube show that I had no idea existed, called The Same Room (by The Shade Room)which is a talk show hosted by Stephanie Ike, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Woman Evolve in 2018. All of the episodes are captivating to me.
I am still watching TV. Below are some of the shows I’ve been watching for the month. During quarantine, I am also making the conscious decision to get serious about my finances. Having them under control is no longer enough. I want to financially thrive. More on this journey coming soon. Other journey’s I’ve embarked on is a skin and hair journey (both have been struggles for me since I can remember). I am using this time to drink my water daily, wash my hair weekly, and moisturize my skin during the day and at night. I’m so proud of myself.
However, my mental health and productivity took a turn for the worst two weeks ago when I heard about Breonna Taylor, a 26-year old black woman who was fatally shot by police in Kentucky, while serving a no-knock warrant on March 13th. It turns out that the suspect they were looking for was already in custody. Taylor was a health care worker and died senselessly at the hands of police, who was supposed to “protect” her. My heart sank. I was unproductive when I should’ve been working and quite frankly sad. I would even go so far as to say I was depressed. I looked at her face and saw me. She was a regular black girl just like me and if her family didn’t work so hard to garner social media exposure, her story would’ve been dusted under the rug like so many others. This was coupled by only a week before hearing about Ahmaud Arbery who was lynched while jogging. It is alleged that on his daily jog, he went into a construction site or “trespassed.” He didn’t take anything, just looking around, being inquisitive. You know, black people can be curious too. Two white men, father, and son, confronted Arbery and killed him. He was jogging! He tried to run away. He left the encounter DEAD. It took over 70 days for the state of Georgia to do anything. The Attorney General did not deem the crime warranted for an arrest. Just another black man dead, big deal right? That was until social media got a hold of it. Within days, the father/son murder duo’s lawyers were pleading for folks to have mercy on them; the exact words being “Don’t Rush to Judgement”… yes, this is a thing and if you know the full scope of the story then you know the irony of this too.
Some say death comes in threes. On Monday, May 25, two egregious acts of violence and white supremacy came across our TV and phone screens. The first, I saw as soon as I woke up because there was a twitter notification on my phone from Ava DuVernay. DuVernay was asked to do a documentary on White women weaponizing their color and privilege against black people. Ava replied that she didn’t think any streamer would make a 100-part documentary (HA!) I thought that would be a dope documentary but I was wondering why such a packaged question so early?
Then I saw it on the news Amy Cooper aka “Central Park Karen,” weaponized her race and privilege against bird watcher Christian Cooper. A black man. You know why this hurt? Because women like Amy are all around us. We encounter them, we work with them, they are lethal and dangerous. Emmett Till was mutilated and butchered because of a white woman like Amy Cooper. This stung deep because you don’t have to have a KKK hood to be racist, you can be a white woman in central park with a dog and be a racist and no one will ever know! WOW!
If that wasn’t enough, that same day, video footage of George Floyd came across every TV screen and social media post. We watched as Mr. Floyd screamed for his life exclaiming he could not breathe as a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, put his knee on his neck in an attempt of restraining him. He was handcuffed. He was not resisting arrest. He was dying and I had to watch repeatedly, his slow and agonizing death. I had to hear his cries. 8-minutes of someone pinning their knee on your neck, like it’s a sport. This was haunting and deflating. I am exhausted, I am hurt, I am sad, I am heartbroken. A mind-numbing migraine began when I heard the news and has not stopped. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what else I need to read or learn about my history to give me hope because I’ve learned enough to know that history is repeating itself. The only thing that is keeping me sane is my belief in God, that’s it.
What has always bothered me about racism is that black people have been painted out to be the monsters, the kidnappers, the thugs, the looters, the angry ones, the uncivilized ones, the rapists, and the murderers but the gag is, historically RACISTS are the monsters, the kidnappers, the thugs, the looters, the angry ones, the uncivilized ones, the rapists and the murderers. When I think about the act of slavery and how human beings were kidnapped from their countries, stripped from families, a whole culture lost, just to come on a boat and be packaged like sardines, murdered and raped during the middle passage, sold off on an auction block and chained like animals at the hands of racist white people…all the while being whipped, tortured and dehumanized in a system where the workers did not profit, I am baffled. Blacks have worn the burden and taken the brunt for the atrocities of racist white people since the first slave ship landed on American soil. The other night I had to ask myself, why am I sitting here arguing with my black boyfriend about racism and when it will end, when we are not the problem, we are not racist, we are victims of racism and therefore cannot determine when it will end. When will racism end is a question that racist white people need to answer. When are racist white people going to argue until their blue in the face with their significant others, families, and friends about these issues of race that their ancestors caused and that they continue to perpetuate when they threaten to use their privilege to lie on a black bird watcher or use their knee to kill a man whose only crime was using a fake $20 bill? The fact that we have to bear the responsibility of teaching white people why racism is bad and how it impacts us when we’re not the racists is insanity, especially when they don’t understand or recognize their racism. This and everything else I outline in this paragraph is gaslighting 101 and I am fed up.
So while quarantine has it’s good times, being black in quarantine rings a whole new bell and brings with it a new burden and we are not okay.
Roots was an amazing series, which was sometimes hard to watch but overall, significant for me and I am very pleased with how well done it was.
One of the defining scenes in my mind after watching was when Kizzy, whose name means “Stay Put” in Mandinka actually did that very thing. She had the opportunity to be free and marry the man she was in love with but turned down the opportunity to stay on the plantation because it was comfortable for her. Although a pragmatic decision, it shook me to my core. If there’s one thing I learned about life, it’s to jump on opportunities when they come to you. You never want to wake up one day, thinking What If?
Kizzy missed out on love, freedom, and the opportunities that life as a free woman in the North had to offer her. I guess, too often, we do that in our own lives. We get comfortable in security; comfortable with avoiding risks; comfortable with allowing fear to leave us stagnant and then we lead unhappy lives because deep down we know that there’s more for us than what we are settling for.
I don’t want to do that. I am finally learning that taking risks, although frightening, is the only way we can grow. Not giving into our fears and taking on new opportunities, encompasses both the excitement and mysteries of life.
This scene hits home for me because I find myself at a crossroads; comfortable in the security I’ve built for myself for the last few years but ready to grow, become a batter person and unleash the inner powerhouse that is in me. I am ready for a change.
“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others…one ever feels his twoness-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, two warrings ideals in one dark body… ” – W.E.B Dubois
UndergroundWGN is Emmy worthy and I can’t wait to see how successful it becomes. Underground follows Noah, a slave on a plantation, who seeks freedom through the Underground Railroad. He realizes, that his goal may only be possible if he assembles a group of his fellow slaves to accompany him. Of course, the show gets way more complicated than that, but that’s the general concept.
Double consciousness or shifting among the characters is extremely prevalent, which is one of the reasons I watch the show religiously. I am intrigued by the writers use of this idea coined by W.E.B Dubois way back in 1903 in his book The Soul of Black Folks. Double Consciousness, is basically in layman terms the two faces black people put on in America. We have to be black and we have to be American. We have to act one way among white people and another way when we are comfortable enough being our true selves. Essentially we have to shift to survive.
Each of the characters in this show shift or have two faces. You think you know who they really are at their core, but each week, something new is exposed and another layer is added to them. Right now, we know that Noah played by Aldis Hodge has a limp because he doesn’t want the plantation owners to know that he is a threat to them. We know that Rosalee played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell is a contented house slave, who is ready to run away by any means. We also know that August Pullman played by Christopher Meloni is a white slave catcher who pretends to be for black people but will turn them in for a cash reward instantly. There’s a lot of shifting going on as a means of survival and I am here for it all.
Why you should watch
If I can compare this show to anything else, I would say it’s like Scandal, set during slavery. The writers are superb. They keep me engaged and wanting more and although this is sensitive material, they find a balance and create some highs and lows in the episodes so you’re not emotionally drained by the conclusion. Sometimes I find myself so drawn into the storylines, I have dreams about it later on.
I know why people might want to avoid a show like this; who wants to be constantly reminded about slavery every week? I thought the same thing initially, but these characters are intriguing, even though the actual system of slavery dehumanizes them. They have feelings, and dreams just like anyone else, which is the underlying theme. Also, we have to support these shows so it can open doors for more shows to educate and acknowledge our rich stories. I am hooked and you should be too.Underground comes on every Wednesday at 10PM (EST) on WGN which is on Channel 82 if you have Cablevision. WGN is a relatively new network so don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of it before. Since the show has so many twists and turns every Wednesday the cast does a twitter chat #UndergroundWGN which is awesome because you need someone to watch this show with just so you can say “Did you see that?”
The below excerpt is my first attempt at writing about the issue of Colorism, during my sophomore year in college. I’ll share with you the first three pages of this 20-page research paper. This essay along with a few others eventually helped me win the Excellence in Communication Award at Penn State. If you decide you would like to read more about Colorism, please read the book The Color Complex, it’s one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read regarding this issue:
If you’re black get back/if you’re brown stick around/ if your light you’re all right.
Being Black or being White has historically separated people in America and around the world but what many people fail to realize or even acknowledge is a gap has been bridged within the black race as a result of the differentiation and discrimination based on skin tones. Colorism is the coined word to describe the dirty little secret that our community perpetuates through its idealizations of Eurocentric beauty standards and denouncement of Afrocentric standards of beauty. Skin complexion, hair type, and body image have always been conscious issues for African American’s but it is the root of self-loathing and low self-esteem as well. This form of intra-racism has proved to be psychologically detrimental to African Americans’ sense of self. Colorism is immoral, unethical, and undeniably one of the reasons why black people do not feel accepted within their own race. It promotes insecurity and inequality because people are no longer being judged by their intelligence or capabilities; they are being judged by the lightness or darkness of their skin. If we are going to successfully progress into a bright future we need to learn and understand our history. If more African Americans took the time to understand their troubled past they would understand that colorism is essentially a construct and does not dictate the type of person you are, nor does it dictate your self-worth. Understanding the dark history behind colorism is one of the first steps towards progress. The next step toward progress is acceptance. The internalized self-hate one feels towards oneself because other members in society deem them inferior is one of the reasons why we may never advance towards a society that does not judge people based on the color of their skin. Accepting that being black is not necessarily a dilemma but an armor you should wear with pride is foremost. Continue reading “Colorism”
When I was a junior in high school, I joined an organization called Council for Unity. Each year the organization focused on an issue happening around the world to raise awareness to the whole student body in a mandatory forum. Everyone apart of this organization had a role, but the most important thing we did collectively was research the annual issue.
The year I joined, the issue was Human Trafficking. All of my life I never knew such a heinous operation was occurring in the world. We are taught to believe that slavery was abolished in 1863 but it still occurs and millions of men, women, and children are victims of this crime. Human trafficking is a billion-dollar black market industry and despite efforts to contain this problem, it’s growing rapidly.
As a result of my research while in Council for Unity, I was shocked, afraid and empowered all at the same time. I wanted to know everything I could about this issue. I became dedicated to researching and raising awareness about human trafficking. All I could think of was those poor children in Thailand forced to have sex with men, three times their age or the women who put their trust in someone that tells them they can make their dreams of becoming a model come true, only to be tricked into prostitution. Can you imagine being kidnapped, stripped of your passport and identity, beaten, and raped repeatedly, only to feel like there is no way out? To be honest, after learning about human trafficking I was never the same; a part of my innocence was taken away from me after researching these vile things but can you imagine the pain and trauma of these victims? Continue reading “Living in Purpose: Human Trafficking, Tiffany Wright and my first Docu.”